Hello, Jesus

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Last week *h was in an airport in the Midwest when he found himself standing next to a man in a T-shirt that said “Jesus”.

I told him that he should ask for his autograph, since he had never met Jesus before. That’s a pretty big deal, right?

*h agreed in theory, but before he could put our plan into action, he found himself surrounded by multiple “Jesus” claimants. Then hoards of “Jesus”. It seemed the airport was full of “Jesus” pretenders.

But then something even more perplexing happened. A bunch of folks appeared on the scene with shirts that read, “If found return to Jesus”.

So I asked *h, “Does that mean they want someone to kill them?”

Because if you believe Jesus is God and you want to be returned to him, doesn’t that kind of imply you want to, um, meet your maker?

Clearly *h is not the type to kill random strangers, much less in an airport in the Midwest, but it was odd that on an ordinary regular day everyone seemed to have a Jesus fascination.

It turned out that the two groups belonged to competing Jesus camps, which still didn’t completely clear up my confusion as to what the shirts were about. Was the first camp called Jesus, or were they encouraging the campers to rename themselves, or was this a camp slogan? And was the second camp located in a place called Jesus, or was the head counselor perhaps Hispanic, or was this just something a Jewish family would never understand?

All I really know is that was a lot of Jesus for just one day, and after thinking about it for over a week I am still no closer to untangling the mystery and none the wiser after knowing there were camps involved, although that seemed to put *h’s mind to rest somewhat. If I wear a shirt that says “Michael Jordan” I obviously don’t think I am Michael Jordan, but if I go around claiming to be the son of God people just might think something is a bit off with me.

For what it’s worth, though, I still think *h should have gotten an autograph, because in this day and age you just never know who you will meet in an airport…

Julie In The Hood

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Some of you raised some interesting points in the comment section of the last post, which I plan to go back and address. But for now I want to try to shed some light on how I feel about Detroit (and the surrounding areas). By the way, if you have an inkling of where exactly we may be moving, I will just ask you now to please not mention it by name on the blog for the sake of my family’s privacy, either to ask me if you are right or to just drop the name… I would prefer to keep the exact location private, at least for now, and I hope you will respect that…

My love for Detroit is somewhat akin to some people’s love of their first car. It may have been a beater, with dents and rust, but they will always look back fondly on that car and what it represented to them. Similarly, I will always hold an unnatural love in my heart for Detroit (and yes, even Oak Park).

Forgive me if these places mean nothing to you, but they mean a lot to me. I learned to drive on Woodward Ave. I went on dates to Rudy’s Chicken Lips. My friends and I went to Belle Isle on hot summer nights to sit on our car hoods with the rest of the ghetto kids who had nothing else to do but watch each other watching each other. We scoped out houses in Sherwood Forest and pretended one day that we would all be successful something-or-others and buy houses there, and then we went home to whatever crappy housing projects or lower-middle-class suburbs we really lived in and called each other and talked til all hours of the night. I went to divey bars in Cass Corridor to hear my friend’s band play and another friend’s poetry slam and see another friend’s art exhibit at a gallery he started. I remember the magic of driving to visit someone on the East Side, even though I was a West Side girl and as a point of pride we never actually crossed Woodward…

We skipped school at Taco Bell in Ferndale and shopped at Northland Mall back when Swatch watches were cool, but only the white kids in the suburbs had them (read: not me or any of my friends ;) ). We thought we owned Oak Park park, but only certain sections (we weren’t greedy, and we never would have monopolized toys that little kids needed), and we definitely owned the library (but only the nerdy ones of us, and the ones who had no way home after school. I had my first kiss, my first crush, and my first of pretty much everything in either Oak Park or Detroit proper, and there is no memory that shaped who I am as a person that doesn’t harken back to some place in Michigan.

There is nothing about me that doesn’t carry the stamp of my home state. I am every bit a Midwest girl, from my speech patterns to my mannerisms to my expectations of other people’s behavior. And the West Coast just has never lit my fire.

My kids were all born in either Detroit or a suburb of Detroit, and now like baby turtles it seems they are finding their way back to the place they were first launched.

I have missed Detroit like a Victorian lover missed her beloved. Chastely but pervasively. I have yearned for it and idealized it and built it up to be more than it is. I have become more of a Detroiter in Seattle than I ever was in Detroit. I have bought shirts proclaiming my Detroit-i-ness and renounced ties to Seattle at the slightest provocation (sorry, Seattle). I have forgotten my early happiness with the simple pleasures of Seattle and vastly over-rated the delights of Detroit. But that’s how it is with past loves. They are always especially ensconced in your heart.

But truly I am Detroit and Detroit is me. We have been separated for too long and it’s time for a reunion. I need to be where I am the most wholly myself, for better or for worse. Each of us has a foundational element to who we are, and if that foundation is somehow corrupted then our essence does not shine its brightest.

It’s time for me to shine again.

I hope Michigan will welcome me home :)

The Light At The End Of The Tunnel

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After quite an extended period of discussions, it seems likely enough to happen that I feel like I can announce it on the blog: The Bass family is moving back to Michigan!

We don’t have a date yet, and we are looking for a house, so I don’t have specific details, but we are pretty committed to the plan.

We are insanely busy getting our Seattle house ready for sale, and making all the various and sundry arrangements that need to happen in order to move a family with various needs across the country.

Am I delighted?

YESSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I will keep you posted as things unfold, but wish us luck! :)

Our Family In Flux

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Thank you to all of you who have been so kind and supportive throughout the last few posts. I have read all of your comments, and your feedback has been very meaningful and helpful to me- more than I can express to you (part of the reason that I’m not going to try; I don’t want to attempt to say something and botch it…).

As the summer drags on, our family will be going through a number of transitions, all of them good for the family as a whole, and all of them profoundly sad for me as a person.

Oldest son and his wife will have some changes that will be keeping them in the Midwest for the forseeable future. My next two daughters will be moving out to the Midwest at the end of the summer, and one of my sons will be going away to school in a place far from Seattle, most likely on the opposite coast. All of these moves are to their benefit, but for a mom who would ideally like her family to live in an old farm house with room for extended family and grandchildren to gather at the same dining table, this is kind of a bitter pill to swallow. I joke that I would be willing to build a guest cottage in our back yard for the married kids to take turns living in, but in truth it’s no joke; I would like nothing more than to have all my chickadees roost at home and I would have no problem funding that endeavor.

But for practical reasons, that can’t happen right now.

So, we are in Seattle and most of our family is flying the coop.

I think in most families there is an expectation that children will get to a certain age and move on from their families of origin. They go off to college and get jobs and live in whatever city they find jobs and it’s good-bye mom and dad, hello independence. But that has never been our vision and that has never been the goal we raised our children toward. We wanted all of the siblings to be the closest friends, and it was a greater hope that they would stay close geographically than that they would land high-power jobs or take over the world.

The places they are moving will allow them greater opportunities for growth, and for that I am grateful, but on a personal level, I am just so sad that they will be so far away from us. I am trying to focus on being happy for them, and trying to just not think about what it will be like here with them gone, but it’s rough. It’s one more thing about life in Seattle that’s just.. just… hard to put into words…

So, that’s about it. That’s the latest news from the Bass ranch. Happy summer.

If You Think You Can Or You Think You Can’t, You’re Always Right

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Lately, I pretty much always think I can’t.

As someone who was raised on the belief that if you work hard enough, you can achieve whatever you set your mind to, my adult life has been filled with sobering lessons to the contrary. As much as I would like to believe I can fight my way through any obstacles that are put in my path, I see that this is colossally not true. At a certain point, I think it is worthwhile to stop raging against the windmills and just stop.

So I have stopped.

And I have become surprisingly good at inertia.

After years of being the most organized, the most goal-oriented, the most type-A girl around, I am now the least of everything. And I don’t really have the mental energy to even care.

Some people look at me now and say I am taking a break. I look at me now and say I am broken.

In truth, though, it’s a matter of semantics.

A few weeks ago I went outside to pull weeds from my empty garden beds. There wasn’t any real purpose to the activity, except that I was craving more emptiness and the weeds were interfering with my blank canvas. So for several hours I sat in the dirt and just destroyed one plant after another. I thought back to the garden in Michigan, and what a contrast it was to pull weeds to allow food to grow, versus ripping out stuff just for the sake of killing things. If I could’ve napalmed everything here, I might have done that too, but getting down to the dirt was pretty darn satisfying.

Last week, I went for a pedicure. I’ve never done that before, and I thought maybe if I did something that was about as unlike me as I could get, perhaps it would rattle my brains so much it would knock me into reset. I had a lovely chat with the lady there (who was touching my feet, which incidentally is icky to begin with…), but other than that, I left with the same me I went in with. I guess it will take more than $20 to snap me out of this mindset…

I took myself shopping, vowing to buy whatever caught my fancy, thinking maybe I just needed to treat myself to something or other. Like the Supreme Court’s definition of pornography, I wasn’t quite sure what I was looking for, but I was thinking maybe I would know it when I saw it. I ended up buying some much-needed clothing for several of my kids, but didn’t really find anything for myself. And after a few hours of trying to channel my inner pampered lady (which apparently doesn’t exist), I went home exhausted and with a blaring migraine.

I’m still casting around trying to figure out what might light my fire again, but so far I haven’t been able to nail it down. I guess the good news is that I haven’t totally given up on the idea that the solution is out there somewhere. I’m wondering if maybe it’s simply a function of getting older that one just becomes more blah about things, but it seems like there are plenty of people out there who are much older than I am who still have plenty of passion in their lives.

There is a Shel Silverstein poem I remember (I think called Lazy Jane) about a girl who is so lazy that when she wants a drink of water she just lays there with her mouth open and waits for it to rain. That’s kind of how I feel lately. Like I’m just in a holding pattern in my own life, waiting for something to shift, but with no clear idea of how to bring that about. Meanwhile, even though I live in Seattle, there is no rain in the forecast any time in the forseeable future.

Not sure what to do about that…

Betrayal

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Betrayal never feels good. It doesn’t matter where it comes from or who does it, the results are pretty much always the same: a sense of devastation that can profoundly shatter the sense of self so deeply that the results can last a lifetime. There is nobody who hasn’t been betrayed on some level at some point in their lives, but some people seem to bounce back whereas others just crumble and shatter. Repeated betrayals are obviously harder to tolerate than a one-time deal, and people who start out strong and intact are in a better position to weather this storm than those who start out with a more emotionally precarious foundation.

So why do some people betray and others seem destined to be taken advantage of? A few years ago, I read the ultra-famous book by Byron Katie. What I remember of her premise (other than that I DETESTED her book) is that everything that happens to you is really your fault and to your benefit. Really she is not that cold about it, and she tries to be very loving about everything she says, but- and again I am saying what I remember through the filter of me really not liking her book, so I may be somewhat off here- is that whenever you are having a thought that, “So-and-so did X”, you should turn that around and say instead, “I did X”. So, for example, instead of holding the idea that, “John hurt my feelings.” You should try out, “I hurt my feelings,” and see where that takes you. Perhaps you did things that contributed to your own hurt. Perhaps you drew a toxic person into your life or stayed in a bad relationship or didn’t speak up for yourself when you should have. What I can get on board with is the idea that in some cases you have some responsibility for parts of your own situation. What I couldn’t get to, though, was her insistence that you are always completely responsible for what happens to you and it seemed to me that it let everyone else off the hook for their bad behavior. Truthfully sometimes people mess you over. And it is bad. It is really bad.

Betrayal seems to me unique in the world of travesties in the way it strips its victims of their dignity. It is the one component of any crime that grinds its victims into the dust and doesn’t let them stand back up. People can be hit or stolen from or cursed into oblivion, but once betrayal enters the picture everything changes. Once a person feels they have been betrayed they become attached to such a sense of shame; they become their victimhood in a searing flash of pain. The filth of betrayal is the stain that is the most difficult to soak off. It is the stink that stings your eyes and taints every other thing you try to smell, no matter how pleasant it should be. It ruins perfectly good interactions and steals happiness from endless futures. Betrayal burns like no other acid.

So what is the antidote to betrayal? There isn’t one.

Isn’t that cheery? Time blunts the sharpness of betrayal, and distance helps. As with most things, truth is a great healer, and the more truth heaped on the head of a betrayal, the better and easier it will be to keep it buried. Perspective is always good, and anything you can learn from the experience will be of benefit to you, however hard won the knowledge. I think the best thing to do will be to leave you with a song. It’s an oldie but a goodie. Enjoy:

Score One For Homeschoolers

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One of my daughters has just completed a year abroad program post high school. When she first applied to this school, they had never had a homeschooled student apply before, and they were quite hesitant to accept her. They were somewhat cagey with us at first about what their objections might be to accepting her into the program, but after much persistence on our part, we finally got them to be open with us about their concerns. Not surprisingly, they had many of the same stereotypes as other people do regarding homeschooled kids, ranging from poor socialization to inability to integrate into a traditional academic setting, to not knowing how to “fit in” with more mainstream kids. We were able to get lots of personal references who spoke very highly of our daughter, and who assured them that in each of the areas of concern that our daughter was certainly able to function well, and that they would be making a big mistake not to accept her. In the end, they agreed to accept her conditionally, and off she went.

A few days ago was the end-of-the-year banquet at the school, and each of the administrators spoke about one of the students. The head of the school chose to speak about our daughter, and he started out by saying, “If I could be sure that every homeschooled student would turn out like _____________ Bass, then I would pull all of my kids out of school tomorrow!” Then he went on to enumerate her many great qualities and her long list of accomplishments over this past year. Obviously we are thrilled that she has done so well (truthfully, we knew she would!), and we have a tremendous amount of pride as parents that the people in charge of this program were able to see her for the fine person she is, rather than the image of who they assumed she might be.

What I am also very pleased about, though, is that I feel like our daughter has done a tremendous service for all homeschoolers. As the number of homeschoolers grows in our community, more and more of them will be entering similar programs, and then going on to apply to college (This is something she did also, and she faced similar challenges. Luckily, she has been admitted to her first choice, and I’m sure she will be similarly successful there. But it’s always like reinventing the wheel when you need to get a homeschooled child into a mainstream program…We are now facing the same issue with my next son…). One might think that by now homeschooling would be a common enough practice that most institutions would have some protocols in place for dealing with integrating them, but the stereotypes persist, and it is simply not the case that their paths are smooth. So any time a homeschooler can go somewhere and make a positive impact and be successful, that will leave an impression behind and make it that much easier for the next homeschooled kid who comes along.

So, I am super proud of my daughter for what she has accomplished for herself, and I am super proud of her for the trail she has blazed for others who will come after her. She will be home soon, and all of us can’t wait to have her back again- it can’t come soon enough!

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