Oak Park is Rotting- Do You Think Anyone Will Plant Gardens?

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A few weeks ago Oak Park experienced biblical-level flooding. People’s basements had such deluges of water that it literally sprayed up from floor drains and knocked ceiling tiles loose. My mother went into my grandma’s basement because she thought the washing machine was malfunctioning, only to find a gusher coming out of the toilet and soaking the entire bathroom. Apparently it was like a scene from a horror movie.

I suppose to fully appreciate the scope of what basement flooding is in Oak Park, I should back up and tell you a bit about who lives in the part of town that I am talking about. Families have an average of 6-10 children, and there are many people who either grew up during the Depression or lived through the Holocaust. What that means is that either people have multiple bedrooms in their basements where multiple children sleep (as a matter of necessity, since all of the homes in the area are modest three-bedroom ranches), OR the basements are packed to the rafters with any scrap of anything that maybe possibly might one day become useful because that is the mentality of that generation. These circumstances combine to mean that, when an Oak Park basement, in certain neighborhoods, fills with sewage-tainted water- it is nothing short of an epic disaster.

About 10 days ago I spoke to a close friend who told me that everyone had taken things out from their basements and put them on the front lawns for trash pick-up. The only problem was that the trash pick-up never came. And it’s summer in Michigan. That means that everyone’s sewage-soaked possessions are baking in the humid sun. Basements full of everything from furniture to bedding, and bags and bags of papers are sitting and rotting in the August heat. So Oak Park smells like a sewer gone wrong. And that was 10 days ago.

This past weekend *h was in Oak Park with one of my kids. Everyone’s former treasures are still on display, along with their sad sagging trash bags and their ripe pungent stench. Although a neighboring city has managed to pick up people’s junk, poor sad Oak Park has still not gotten their act together (I don’t know why, because I’m not there, but I would guess it has to do with the magnitude of what’s been going on. At a certain point even the most well run cities get overwhelmed, right?) *h told me that driving down our old block was like being on the set of a post-apocalyptic film. He said it seems almost deserted. Everyone’s blinds were closed (does that work to keep out smells?), the houses looked like they had been looted (but no- that was just stuff that had been dragged out of the basements), and people were nowhere to be seen (can you blame them?). He said the smell was almost unbearable, and he had no idea how people were coping with being there. Apparently unscrupulous companies have now come into the area offering to clean up in basements, but they aren’t licensed, don’t know how to treat the sewage issue, don’t deal with potential mold, and overcharge people who can’t afford it. But all of the real companies are booked solid. What a mess.

I feel awful for the city of Oak Park. I, of all people, know how terrible it is to have sewage back up in your basement! (Hello, reason for the front yard garden in the first place!) So it’s no idle coincidence that left me wondering if, after everyone’s lawns are ruined from having all of this nasty gunk on it for weeks and weeks, perhaps some brave souls might take the initiative to plant a garden instead of re-planting a lawn???

Maybe some fantastic urban ag type of organization will step in and offer residents starter gardens on their former lawn space when things have cleared up? I know the new mayor of Oak Park (shout out to Marian McClellan!!!) is an awesome fan of community gardens, and she was a great supporter and friend back when I lived in OP… So maybe this could be a garden phoenix rising from the ashes… Maybe out of the destruction of Oak Park could rise a whole new city leading the way in families taking responsibility for some of their own fresh food- wouldn’t that be fantastic?!?!??!?!?!?!?!? It would be such an inspirational story if Oak Park, who was in the news a few years back for being so draconian could now be in the news for showing the country how to turn something awful into something wonderful! For all of its ups and downs, and all of our checkered history, I have to say that I still love Oak Park and I really miss it. I wish it all the best, and I hope it can bounce back from this latest setback even better than it ever was. I think putting in a bunch of front yard gardens might be just the sort of thing Oak Park needs.

What do you think?

Gauntlet tossed, Oak Park!

Jekyll and Julie

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About a week ago a friend came over to drop off her daughter for a play-date with my daughter. She remarked that the me in real life doesn’t seem like the me she reads about on the blog, and that she always kind of expects to see a haggard sickly person looking super sick, but instead I just seem like regular me. I told her that was interesting based on some recent conversations I had been having with my kids (who see things behind the scenes) about how devastated they are about how sickly I actually am on a regular basis. It was also worth noting that, when this friend sees me, I am obviously up and around, rather than laying in bed having a bad day. But it was somewhat encouraging too, that at least when I am up and around I am doing maybe better than I think I am.

So, it was good to have this in my mind when, a few days ago, I woke up yet again, to such crippling nausea I could barely stand it. I literally just laid in bed and begged God, “Please, don’t give me another one of these days. I really can’t manage. I know you think I can, but I can’t. I just can’t do this again. You have to take this away. I can’t stand this for another day. I’m at the end of my rope with feeling like this. I’m out of coping strategies. I really can’t feel this way any more…” And on and on it went…

I had just had a long conversation with one of my children about how we don’t get to choose our challenges, but that there is always wisdom in them, even if we can’t see it at the time. I told her that even when I feel awful (a majority of the time), I know intellectually that this is my lot in life for now, so there is no purpose in fighting it. I told her the following:

Let’s say you are supposed to go on a skiing trip with your friends and you break your leg the day before. You have to lay on the couch in a huge cast with your leg propped up, while they all go on the trip that you were so much looking forward to. You could spend the weekend imagining them having so much fun on the slopes without you. You could picture them in your mind drinking hot cocoa around the fire, and wonder every minute what they are doing that you are missing out on. Or you can realize that the ski trip isn’t your life right now. You can try to make the best plan you can for what is your life. So you can have your parents get you yummy snacks and rent you your favorite movies and get you some great books from the library. Maybe you even invite over some friends who didn’t go on the ski trip to hang out with you. Those 48 hours pass either way- the only question is whether they pass in mourning what you don’t have or enjoying what you have left.

But. Here I was in bed hating my lot in life. I was just so done with feeling ill. Pain I find mostly manageable, even when it’s debilitating, but nausea and/or dizziness are so much harder for me. they are so much harder to distract from. As a consequence, I spend lots of time in bed. My house suffers, *h suffers, and my kids suffer.

And yet. I have times where I can get dressed and apparently seem pretty normal to the outside world. *h and I went to an appointment last week and I was so nauseated by the time we arrived (the place is about 5 minutes away from our house, but I wasn’t feeling great when we left) that I went straight to the bathroom to throw up. When I walked into the actual office (next door to the bathroom. Of course.), the man asked with concern, “Um, do you need to reschedule?” And *h just kind of laughed and said, “No, it’s fine. She does this all the time…”  The guy was a little incredulous and we had to remember that it isn’t a normal thing for people to just go around throwing up all the time. But I really did feel better enough to have the appointment…

So, this is my life, Charlie Brown.

In order to eke out a life, I need to push past feeling cruddy to get things done, but I also need to spend most of my time in bed. In order to have the energy to do the bare minimum for my family, I need to say no to most extra things, and that’s not easy when I look okay to people on the outside. In other words, in order to do anything, I mostly do nothing- or at least I feel like that’s how it looks a lot of the time.

One of my daughters was very very sad the other night. “What if you NEVER get better?” she wanted to know. So I said, “You’re right, that’s hard. But what if this is as good as it gets? Let’s say I’m as well as I will ever be right this minute. There is still a lot I can do: I can talk to you, cook for you, interact with you, love you, support you, give you direction, and be here for you from my bed unless I am super super sick. There are lots of ways it could be worse than it is. So if you only have 50% of the mother you would wish for, can you enjoy the 50%? I may not be a ski trip, but maybe I can be your favorite movie and an awesome candy bar…”

I told her what I believe to be absolutely true: that God always answers our prayers, but sometimes the answer is “Not yet.”

And for right now, that’s the best I can do.

 

 

 

 

Yosji Batchi

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In my family, we have more than our fair share of Uncle Joes. My kids have an Uncle Joe, My Aunt G was married to Uncle Joe, and my grandfather had a brother Joe who died before we were born, making yet another Uncle Joe, who we grew up hearing stories about from time to time.

But some time around my teen years I heard rumblings of a mysterious figure in my family’s past. He seemed larger-than-life, and it was strange to me that I had never heard of him before. He was a much adored uncle, the baby of the family, doted on and well-loved by everyone. Whenever people spoke of him, they smiled and then teared up, yet nobody seemed to have any photos of him around. It took a while to piece together exactly how he fit into the puzzle of our family, and why it took me so long to hear about his existence.

They called him Yosji Batchi, which is Hungarian for Uncle Joe. Since my Grandma was raised by her grandparents, and her aunt was only about ten years older than she was, they were more like sisters and the lines between generations was a bit fuzzy. Yosji Batchi would come over and bring candy and take the nieces and grandchildren out to play and do all sorts of fun things that the grandparents were too old or too strict and stodgy to do. He was Uncle Fun at a time when it was more proper for girls to sit inside and embroider, and it seems like all of the kids pretty much worshipped him.

When Yosji got older he broke away from the Orthodox Judaism of his youth. He considered himself a modern and free-thinking Hungarian, and my great-grandparents superstitious and behind the times. He became somewhat estranged from the family and married a stunning Catholic woman, and together they had a bunch of blond-haired, blue-eyed children. From time to time, my Aunt or my Grandma would run into Yosji, and they said their heart always ached to have him back in their lives, but he was living happily as a Catholic, and he was really trying to put his old life behind him.

My Grandma’s people came to America and Yosji stayed behind in Hungary with his wife’s family, securely blended into his new life. His robust family continued to grow and prosper and all was well, and by all accounts they were model Hungarians. I think it is likely that many people didn’t even know he had a Jewish background.

It isn’t clear how Hitler’s troops found out Yosji’s secret, but we know that his renouncing of his Judaism didn’t save him. When his family was sent to the concentration camp, away went his lovely Hungarian wife, along with his innocent children, who were “contaminated” with his Jewish blood. In one fell swoop, his new life merged with his old, and his rosy-faced cherubs went into the same ovens with the Yiddish-speaking emaciated ghetto Jews, although his kids probably had no idea why they would have been separated from their Hungarian relatives. It’s likely that while the prevalent emotion around them was desperation, theirs was utter confusion, yet their entire family was wiped out in the Holocaust, along with many relatives they didn’t even know they had ties to.

I used to sit with my Aunt G (now deceased) and look through her photos of the relatives from Europe. It was a catalogue of destruction: He was a great Rabbi, but his whole family died in the Holocaust. She was my favorite cousin, but they didn’t make it out. She was married to your Uncle’s brother and they escaped to Israel, but then we lost touch…

When I look at my family now, I see hope and rebuilding. I see a future. I see the faces of those who came before me and didn’t make it, and I want this world to do better. I have seen what people can do when they band together in kindness and caring and I KNOW we can do better. It would be so easy in the face of evil to lose hope and just throw up my hands in the face of it all, but I have faith.

At the end of The Dairy of Anne Frank she writes that in spite of everything she still had faith- and then you find out that she never made it out of the Holocaust and I used to be crushed by that. Any time someone brought up that quote as a source of inspiration, I died inside. They would say, “Listen, if Anne Frank could still have faith in spite of the evil she was up against, how could we not have faith?” And I was always appalled! Look what a fat lot of good Anne Frank’s faith did for her! But now I feel differently. Now I feel like there is a reason to have faith. Because I feel like evil does NOT triumph over good. Evil can gain a foothold here and there, but ultimately the good people rally and good does prevail.

It is so hard to look at what is happening now and know what to do. Right now I don’t have an answer, but I believe that when the time comes, I will. I believe in myself that when the time comes, I will make the right choice, whatever that will be.

When I look around me these days, and it’s so hard to know who is a friend and who isn’t, I just offer up a silent prayer: that if or when the time comes, those around me will make the right choices too.

And that’s about all I have to say.
In loving memory of Yosji Batchi

Never Again

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What would you do if you were in an office building and smoke starting pouring out of the air vents? Most of you probably think the answer to this is simple: you would alert someone, you would pull the fire alarm, you would dial 911, you would leave the building, etc. But if you are like 9 out of 10 people in a real-life experiment that was done, you would simply sit still and choke on the smoke- as long as one simple condition was put into place: An actor who was in on the experiment was put into the room with a number of other unsuspecting people. Smoke was then blown in through the air vents, and the actor was instructed to glance at the smoke, shrug, and look back down at his or her magazine. When this happened 9 out of 10 people in the room would reliably also do nothing and sit in the room as it literally filled with smoke, even to the point where they were coughing and gagging.

Often in human interactions we look to others for cues as to how to behave, or what the correct way is to deal with a given situation. We think we would make the right decisions, or stand up and be a leader, but when it counts, do we really have what it takes to be the 1 out of 10?

When I used to teach world history I would tell my students about Germany in the 1920s and 1930s. They could never understand how Hitler came to power democratically (yes, that’s true), and how the German people could have allowed the Holocaust to happen in their own backyard. Every year I would get the same sorts of questions. They just *knew* that Germany had to be SO backward and SO racist and SO ______________ (insert the unflattering adjective of your choice). I repeatedly assured them that, in fact, Germany was quite cultured. The citizens were highly educated and literate. They considered themselves respectable and mannered. Germany had pretty much everything you could have wanted in a 1st world country of its time.

When the first reports started coming out of Europe that Jews (and other “undesirables” like Slavs, nuns, and homosexuals) were being sent to camps where they were stripped naked and gassed to death, nobody believed it was true. Of course this didn’t come without plenty of lead-up. There had been intense violence against these same groups, and government-mandated ghetto-ization (some said for their own protection). There were sparse reports of people who stood up, at great risk to themselves and their families, and helped to shelter these targeted people, but these were the 1 out of 10 (in actuality less).

I was going to write a blog post about the anti-Jewish violence that has been going in Europe. There have been attacks in England, Belgium, France, and Germany (probably other countries as well, but these are the ones I can think of off the top of my head). I was going to tell you about how deeply afraid this makes me, and how the deafening silence of the world echoes back to the 1930s in a way I can only UNEXAGGERATATEDLY explain as history repeating itself.

But then this weekend a relative of one of my former students was killed in Florida. He was shot to death as he walked to religious services, for no other reason than that he was obviously Jewish, in an incident that the authorities were quick to label as “not a hate crime”. This same weekend, an Orthodox Jewish woman in New York was beaten up by a group of teenagers screaming anti-semitic things at her. Who knows how many people could have stopped this or intervened, but didn’t? The more important question, I think, is why this brazen attack happened in the first place?

When I was growing up in the midwest in a diverse community, all of the kids played together. The Jewish kids were friends with the Christian kids and the Black kids and the Asian kids and the Arabs. We had no divisions, and our parents were all assimilated enough not to put any baggage onto us about supposed differences there might be between whatever places we came from in the distant past (some more distant than others). Some of us had grandparents who spoke in haunted voices about the Holocaust and, frankly, we thought they were cuckoo bananas. They would tell us how you couldn’t trust this one or that one- how they might seem like your friend today and turn on you tomorrow, and we would try to explain to them how maybe that was like that in backward Europe, but never in America, where everyone was the same. They would freeze when they saw German Shepherd puppies romping around, and we would laugh and scratch their fur and giggle as our petrified grandparents watched in terror, remembering the attack dogs that were used against their friends and family members when they were our age. We would have non-Jewish friends over and our grandparents would gasp, “You mean they know your ADDRESS?” and we would die of embarrassment at how crazy these people were and how we must be the only kids in school with this shameful secret- that our grandparents all lived like they were in the witness protection program. Didn’t they know this was the 1980s? Things like the Holocaust could never happen again…

Flash forward to 2014. Who would ever have predicted that I would be sitting in Seattle scared to let my kids walk around in our neighborhood? Who would have thought that people would really need to decide whether it would be safer to trust the governments in Europe to clamp down on anti-Semitism or start to make plans to pack up and move entire families to Israel (where, ironically, they can be safer than in European countries where their families have lived for hundreds of years?). Who could have imagined that congregations would be locked in synagogues while groups outside shouted about wanting to kill them and attempted to set the building on fire? Anti-Semitic graffiti is cropping up like weeds all over America and people are oddly silent. Rather than mass mobilizations against this hateful behavior, local towns seem to have a sort of “huh” reaction.

I remember going to a Holocaust museum and looking at a wall that had the total numbers of Jews killed in each country. The total for Denmark was like 16. The docent told a moving story about why this was the case, even though in all of the surrounding countries there were thousands, if not tens of thousands, killed. When Hitler’s troops came to Denmark demanding that the King mark all of his Jews with yellow stars so they could be rounded up for transport to the extermination camps the citizens of Denmark did a remarkable thing. They ALL turned out in the streets wearing yellow stars. The message of solidarity was very clear and very beautiful. As a result (of this and other heroic measures taken by the people of Denmark), the Jews of Denmark were saved.

We always think that pivotal moments happen in other times and to other people. Usually we don’t know that we are being called upon to do something great until after it has already happened. Consider this a wake-up call and a warning. You can’t say you didn’t know. Now you just need to ask yourself: if it comes down to it, do you have what it takes to be the 1 out of 10 who calls the shots, or are you going to be one of the 9 who chokes on the smoke?

Baby Steps

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Over the last week or so, I have been bolstered by your comments, beaten down by my health, warmed by the love of my family, swollen with pride in my awesome children, bewildered by the situation in the Middle East, and encouraged by the very small steps I have been able to take in the right direction to get over my pettiness and bad character traits I talked about in the last post.

I have started to make a conscious effort to notice and pay attention to what I am actually doing instead of what I am not doing. I am starting to see the gains column of my life instead of just the losses. This has been a hard shift for me, especially now.

I am pretty much always in flux with my medications, but a recent significant bump in some of the stronger ones has left me pretty noticeably cognitively impaired. I haven’t had this much of a struggle with navigating my thinking skills since back when I couldn’t read. Since one of my strongest identities is that of a “smart person”, this newest incarnation has left me not only dumber, but with no clear picture of myself and with self-esteem circling somewhere near the drain. With no positive image to counter the negativity, all I find is this yawning chasm of emptiness when I “dig deep” to shore myself up as to why I am just as good as everyone I see around me.

I used to caution new moms not to compare themselves to other moms because they would inevitably hold up their insides to someone else’s outsides. What I meant was this: Let’s say Jane just had a baby. Jane knows she is sleep-deprived and feels miserable. She yelled at her husband this morning (she can’t even remember why) and wouldn’t even kiss him goodbye when he left for work. She snapped at her sister on the phone an hour later, and then put off changing the baby’s diaper, even though it was really wet. She left oatmeal in the baby’s hair because she couldn’t tolerate the thought of listening to him scream while she wiped it out, and her house looks like a tornado came through it. When she finally manages to change out of the pajamas she has been wearing for 6 days and leaves her house to run an errand, she sees her neighbor Mary, who is also a new mom. Mary is smiling and her unstained clothes match. Her baby is clean and not crying. Jane wonders how Mary can be so put together and have such a perfect baby, and assumes that she must be doing everything wrong because her life isn’t perfect like Mary’s. Little does she know that it took Mary 4 hours to find the one clean outfit she can still fit into because she still hasn’t lost that baby-weight, her husband isn’t speaking to her, and she sits at home alone eating ice cream and feeling frazzled, wondering why she can’t be more calm and happy like her neighbor Jane, who seems to have it all together. Jane knows what a wreck she is on the inside, but she has no idea that Mary is struggling with exactly the same stuff. All she sees is the nice exterior. And that is the danger of comparing.

So, back to me- because it’s all about me, right? (hahahahaha) I see other people having more (fun, brains, capacities, whatever), and especially doing more (this is a big one for me, because when I am feeling okay I pride myself on being very very productive) and it just feels cruddy. So I look inside myself, where I used to see the True Me. That used to kind of make it okay because I could say, “Well, even if right now I am down for the count, I know that deep inside I am still going to rally and get back to myself.” But now I am so medicated that I look inside and see

that.

That’s hard stuff.

Over the past few days, I have solved some problems that have been literally plaguing me. You will laugh (I hope, because some of this is truly funny) when I tell you some of what has honestly kept me awake at night:

1) My laundry room floor was covered with laundry, but the colored and the whites were mixed (no, this is not a post on segregation). I seriously puzzled over how I could get them into piles, because there was no room to sort them out. Yes, this perplexor took multiple hours of my time and brain space… how in the world did I finally end up dealing with that Earth-shattering problem? I picked up colored clothes directly from the floor and threw them straight into the machine, one load at a time, until all of the colored laundry was done. That, folks, is the stuff Nobel Prizes are made of…

2) My refrigerator was full of leftovers, some of which needed to be thrown out. The problem was, it was so full that I didn’t have room to move stuff around to see what was going on. Again, a spacial problem of epic proportions. I didn’t call a professional, because I sensed that, given enough time, I could probably tackle this on my own. And after several days of trying to get my kids to eat the old food (that was a fail), I finally found the solution: take out one thing at a time, and either dump the contents or set aside the container to be put back in the fridge after I had cleared everything else out. Pure genius! No wonder I graduated with honors, huh?

3) My bedroom, which is where I sort laundry, was full of baskets of other people’s laundry (all clean). I was feeling very crowded, and I kept looking for what could be given away (this is what I do whenever I feel like there is too much clutter around). Again, this took multiple days of intensive problem-solving before I hit on a workable solution to this conundrum: have the kids take their laundry out of my room!

Are you starting to get a sense of the kinds of things that are tripping me up in my life? When things that used to be (and should be) pretty seamless suddenly turn into MENSA-level brain-benders, you kind of know you are sinking.

On the other hand…

I am still managing to bake fresh bread and make supper from scratch every night. I am keeping the house stocked and the laundry done. I’ve washed dishes, cleaned the house (more times than I can count), and taken kids to appointments. There is plenty I haven’t done, but lots I have, and truth be told there is rarely a day that I am not throwing up so I think that is pretty darn good.

So, what’s the takeaway? I’m not sure. I don’t see any lowering of these meds in the forseeable future, which means I need to make friends with the newer and dumber Julie. I am more relaxed and more fun (who knew?), and I have way less crushing migraines so it is probably a worthwhile trade-off. But it won’t be smooth, and it definitely isn’t easy.

What’s for sure is that I will keep you posted ;)

Falling Off The Ride Before It’s Finished…

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Right now I very much want to be a person who is happy for other people’s successes.

Right now I am a person who feels like every achievement of another person is a big bright beacon pointing to a giant glaring failure in my own life.

That’s a sad and stupid place to be.

One of my daughters babysits for a truly wonderful young woman in our community who does a great job of juggling several small children and lots of responsibilities. She has a super attitude and is an excellent role model of a person who works hard on herself to be the best she can be even under immense stress and less-than-ideal circumstances. Every time my daughter comes home from this house, she tells me another inspiring story about a meal this woman made, or how organized she is, or how much my daughter loves being at her house. I used to try to mentally compare our house to theirs- ‘I also used to do this or that’… ‘Our house is also this way or that way’ (mind you, my daughter is not comparing at all, and this woman is an absolute doll, and would never compare or judge…) But nowadays I just feel like crawling under the covers and crying when she does this. Because I feel like I can’t compare. Not because I’m not a good mom too, but just because I feel like lately I have fallen down on the job…

Another of my children brought it to my attention (correctly so, and because it was relevant to a discussion we were having) that the level of interaction among members of our family has decreased dramatically. We have taken to all retreating to our separate rooms after supper and just vegging out. When there is stress, we deal with it by plugging into screens instead of each other. This is the opposite of my philosophy on how a family should be, and the opposite of how things have always been, but rather than make me want to spring into action to fix it, his observation made me want to bury myself in the backyard.

I read a friend’s blog today, because she is always incredibly inspiring to me, and has a way of setting me on the right path when my mind is veering sideways. Her post today was exactly what I needed to read (http://avivahwerner.com/ )(I love when the universe throws you goodies like that), but within a short time after getting off the computer, I was back to the same type of thoughts: Her blog is so popular and mine isn’t anymore. I used to have so many more readers than I do now. She is awesome and I am not. (Grant- I know if you are reading this you are wanting to give me a good hard shake about now, but I’m just being honest…)

I know this sounds like I am just big fat depressed, but the reality is that I’m not. I’m functioning fine, and I’m doing okay- there just seems to be a glitch in my matrix where I can’t seem to get on top of my life and I can’t figure out how to fix what’s broken. For a solutions-oriented girl like me, this is pure torture. To live with good-enough-for-now has never been acceptable. And for whatever reason, there seems to be a lot of taking stock going on right now and a lot of coming up short. I’m thinking that a lot of this has to do with medication- that I’m just not thinking clearly and I’m not processing correctly. Even on the blog, I feel like I’m writing more jibberish than quality, but I keep plunking away at the keyboard hoping that what’s just beyond that clouds of my mind will come through. But it hasn’t so far…

It used to be that when I wrote a post, it would almost knit itself together. Sometimes it was a magical thing, that by the time I came to the end, I had a point, even though that isn’t what I started with. I would read it back over and it would just feel right to me. Like I had written what needed to be said. And often, when I had something on my mind that I couldn’t resolve on my own, I would blog about it so my thoughts could coalesce more clearly, and I felt lighter after I wrote- and freer, and better for having done the writing. Now I just feel done.

And that makes me feel sad. And sometimes empty. Like I am missing an essential part of something. But I don’t know where I left it, so I can’t get it back.

Yet…

Another Bite At The Apple

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For several reasons- all of them related to the state of my health- it has seemed like our homeschooling journey had come to a close. This year, I am really happy to see that this is not to be the case. One of my children will in fact be home this year, and although I wish I could homeschool all of my kids (at least the ones who haven’t graduated yet), I am glad that at least I can still go back to being home with this one.

I tend to be a bit heavy on the self-reflection though (maybe you’ve noticed that? hahahahaha), and one of the things I have to be honest about is the ways that I fell short with some of my other kids in the homeschooling arena. While officially I strove to create an atmosphere of independence in their learning, if I am going to be 100% truthful sometimes that was just an easy way of me shifting my responsibilities onto them. It is quite correct that in a perfect world I wanted my kids to all be internally motivated to learn at all times, and to learn what inspired them- to the point that they would want to “take the ball and run with it”. And for certain kids this worked wonderfully, and for certain kids less so. Had I been well and more on top of things, I might have had the stamina to work more intensively with those particular children and get on top of what was happening, but since I didn’t, certain things fell through the cracks. And although all of my children are certainly more than literate, in hindsight I wish I had done better. But, as Maya Angelou said, when you know better you do better.

So that’s what I’m hoping this time around. I’m hoping that I will be able to keep the lessons of the past in front of me on those days when I really feel like just crashing into bed. I’m hoping that I will get the fortitude to plow forward through schoolwork when what I really need to do is rest. I’m realizing that getting a do-over in life is a precious gift that happens very rarely and I really don’t want to squander it.

But at the same time I’m a little bit afraid. After all, I am not homeschooling my little ones for a reason. *h and I chose to give up on a principle that is very important to us because we saw that it just wasn’t a viable option given the reality of what I struggle with on a day-to-day basis. I am talking a lot to the child who will be home about being responsible for learning on the days I am not up to supervising- but this time coming from a different place. I am setting up systems that I hope will be easier to manage, and will be easier to maintain. This child is now older and wiser and also in a different head-space than the first time around. Whether this year will be a success remains to be seen, but the weight that I am attaching to it as an experience of redeeming the failures of the past almost dooms it to fail now.

So I know that what I really have to do is to free my mind and just do what I do well: teach my child. The irony of this year is that in order for it to succeed I have to remember the lessons of the past without staying mired in the past. The blessing of this year is that I have so many children going away and now I have one coming back. The crux of this year is that I will need to work on self-growth at least as much as I need to work on homeschooling. And maybe that will be the best lesson of all for my child to see.

Whatever happens, I’m sure I will keep you posted…

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