Sadness and Gratitude

Yesterday I dropped Isaac at school knowing that I wasn't going to see him again for over a week.  He has gone off with his Daddy on their annual trek to the frigid outskirts of civilization, aka Minnesota.  Today Isaac is no doubt getting into all sorts of relatively harmless yet thrilling mischief with his 11 and 12 year old cousins.  I am glad that he has this time to climb and play in the Minnesotan half of his family tree and, to be honest, I am also grateful that I no longer am required to accompany him.  As a matter of fact, foregoing the annual week-long shut-in with my cranky, conservative in-laws was one of the first benefits I noticed when I was suddenly single back in 2005. 

Still, every time Isaac leaves this life he has with me to join again with the life he and his dad live together, I feel a very slight slide of grief in my gut.  It is not a large grief -- thankfully I have been recovered from the full-fledged anguish of my divorce for some years now.  But it is an aching little loss each time I have to relinquish my child for days at a time.  And it takes a second to rebound.  In the past, I had become so accustomed to that regular visitation of separation sadness that I did not attend to it like I should have.  I would have passed the day in a fog not even knowing that anything was bothering me at all. I would have been disappointed and anxious because of my unproductive day but I wouldn't have even touched the original feeling of sadness that made my day what it was.

Yesterday, after sending my son off, I watched myself and saw that I was a little checked out, more scattered than usual.  I had the urge to burrow and be still, to find a crappy novel and read it all the way through in one sitting, to nap and nap and nap.  In the past, that's exactly what I would have done.  But after a year and a half of skill-based therapy aimed at teaching a person to be mindful of present experiences, it has become fairly difficult to check out like I used to.  Someday I should try to express how annoying it can be to just want to take a good, long escapist coma-nap but to be unable to do so because of my damned Wise Mind.  But maybe that's something only a DBT graduate would understand.  Instead, I'll just say that I am so glad for the hard won awareness that now allows me to say, "Isaac is not here and I am sad."  I am so grateful for the new ability I have to keep company with that sadness as it inevitably fades.  I rejoice that I can connect the true and real feeling of sadness with the behavioral urges I am experiencing.  And that I know so much better now where to seek comfort when I am sad, such as in exercise and time with friends, like I did yesterday.  Every day I am reminded that being a whole and healthy person does not mean that difficult experiences do not occur or that I will suddenly morph into the first human who is exempt from the experience of grief.  It just means that I am able to do those challenges better.  Yeehaw!


Caturdays at Our House

This is our cat Atticus:

Often known as Badicus:

He is the product of an ill-advised love affair between Miss Maggy (current house mate of Kris E.) and an unidentified Old North Durham alley cat (It was a cold winter night and he was very persuasive.  Miss Maggy doesn't like to talk about it.). We met him only a few days after he was born.  He charmed Isaac immediately but I was a harder sell.  Honestly, it's been a few years now and I'm still not sold on this guy (Just kidding, Kris!  No, you cannot have him back). 

I can't figure out if his feline intelligence falls well above or well below the norm.  It makes little difference, I suppose, because the result of either is the same -- MISCHIEF!  I think he must just get bored or something.  He loves to carefully tap-tap-tap-tap a full cup of milk off the edge of a table, drawing the suspense out as long as possible.  He seems to find the floors of the house offensive, preferring instead to leap from one item of furniture to another, even scaling the tops of doors and the door frames.  Plastic objects hold an unholy allure for him so Isaac has a number of small dinosaurs, snakes and sharks with chunks that have been chewed off.  Don't even get me started on his rubber band compulsion.   He constantly harrasses our other two cats, both of whom had their fill of him about five minutes after he joined our household.  When Atticus was a kitten, my fat cat Ralphie used to sit on him to keep him quiet, but that hasn't been effective in some time. 

Ralphie has been in a perpetual state of irritation since we brought Atticus home.

When he is truly out of his mind with boredom, Atticus finds the single spot in the house with the best acoustics (the corner in the dining room) and yowls at the top of his lungs.  For being so easily bored, though, he sure is a skitty kitty.  He once ventured across the road in search of something interesting to do and got lost for two weeks.  He was so terrified by his heroic quest that he wouldn't come when called so I had to trap him in a cage I bought from Lowe's that was intended for rabid raccoons. 

For all of his faults, though, that cat loves the hell out of Isaac.  Those two chose each other, I guess.

A few weeks ago, I heard Atticus yowling from the backyard and went out to find that he had gotten himself into mischief again.  He was on top of the shed and couldn't figure out how to get down.  All I can say is it's a good thing he has Isaac at this point because my motivation to rescue is at an all time low.

Why can't he just find a cozy spot and stare into the fourth dimension like the other cats do?


History lessons from a 9-year-old Montessorian

My son goes to a trendy private school.  He receives a whole-child, internally-motivated, peaceful-problem-solving, diversity-celebrating, juice-box-and-sweet-treat-free education.  We love our little Montessori community, really we do.  But sometimes I worry that Isaac, who is developing into a stellar human being with a heart of gold, is missing some of the finer academic points.  Take our conversation this evening for example.  We dined out tonight at Chili's, which for some reason Isaac refers to as "El Chee-lays" in a fairly convincing Spanish accent. If we were eating in Chile, of course.  Anyway, here's what Isaac explained to me:

Isaac: "Mom, you know that crazy French general, Napoleon Dynamite?"

Me: (Cough, sputter, choke) Ummmmmmm.....

Isaac: You know the only thing that guy is famous for?!? Being short!

Me: Uh, are you sure?

Isaac: Well, and he was completely insane and tried to take over the planet.  Which isn't allowed. They had to arrest him and put him in a jail all by himself on an island with 1000 guards.  I think it was Alcatraz.

Me: Hmmm.  Where did you learn about this?

Isaac: Everybody knows it. Also, I heard about it when my class was at the pool for swimming lessons.  Alex said he couldn't do something because he is too short and Jovann said that Napoleon was short and he practically took over the world so being short is no excuse for anything.  Can I have some of your french fries?

I know I should have corrected him but honestly, I didn't know where to begin.  I was baffled, so I defaulted to intitiating a goofy-face-making contest across the chips and salsa.  Consequently, my child went to bed tonight with the same Captain Bizarro understanding of world history that he woke up with this morning.  And I guess it isn't entirely the fault of the overpriced-crunchy-granola education, is it?


I'll eat you up I love you so

Every itty bitty boy needs a great big boy to adore.  For Julian, all things big-boy-wonderful start and end with Isaac.  Just look at those cousins: 


Marvelous Errors

Last night, as I was sleeping,
I dreamt – marvelous error! –
That I had a beehive
Here inside my heart.
And the golden bees
Were making white combs
And sweet honey
From my old failures.

- Antonio Machado, translated by Robert Bly
(Hanging Rock State Park, July 2010)


Knitting and the Stink Eye

Guess who has knitting fever?  Here's a hint, it's not me.

I had to snap those pictures with speed and stealth because my camara and I have been met with universal loathing around these parts lately.  Undaunted, I've decided to start collecting images for my new photo essay entitled "Cross-species Stink Eye."  What do you think?



When did September happen?  Why is it that I can't remember August? For the past weeks (weeks that became months) I have hovered outside of it all, wondering if I would ever get the courage again to merge back into the busy traffic of things.  And then, just as all who loved me during this slow fearful time promised, things started to get better.  I went to see lovely Jeanette, who helped me hunt down those wounded thoughts in my mind that wouldn't let me get past the few minutes in July when I was convinced Isaac was gone from me forever.  Then, using EMDR (a technique I don't understand yet have still benefited from) she helped me build the more compassionate thoughts that lead to my favorite of all human traits - resilience.  What a gift.  I am back.  And I've started to take pictures again.  See?

Back in the saddle again:

Chasing chickens, an exercise in persistence:

Persistence paying off:

Broody Jane:
Atticus in flower pot:   

Me in a cat's eye.


Healing time

The doctors said that after a month (and today it has been a month) all would be healed.  Isaac's brain and body are strong again.  No more danger from an accidental head bump or hard fall.  We can continue as as we were before.  And Isaac agrees with those doctors.  He has been ready to forget all about his fall for several weeks now.  He is healed.  Just look at him this morning during his triumphant return to Saturday morning aikido:


  I'm finding, however, that one month is not sufficient healing time for my own injuries.  Those memories of watching Isaac fall, seeing him unresponsive when I called out to him, hearing his confused questions as he regained consciousness, and that long, long ambulance ride to the hospital.  Those memories still hold my heart so tightly sometimes that I feel my blood racing fast under my skin as if it all is happening still.  The strangest things knock me sideways these days.  When Isaac walks down our short driveway to check the mail, a chore he loves, I feel blown over.  What if someone is driving by? What if their attention wavers and they swerve even slightly? I cringe and shiver and hold my breath until he walks back toward me with his armful of junkmail, safe and whole still.  Sometimes even just watching him run as fast as he does almost knocks me flat with fear.  I want to ask him to slow down, be careful, walk gently, for me, please.  But I don't.  I keep the storms of panic tucked away for Isaac.  Don't get me wrong, I know he sees the shadows of my fears.  But for the most part those moments are mine alone.  Because he has healed, even if I have not.  In this thing, he is leading and in my own time, I hope I will follow.   


A rough day

For now, I'm going to say this little prayer and get some rest:

May I be happy just as I am.
May I be peaceful with what is happening.
May I be safe and healthy.
And take care of myself with ease.


Celebrating Nine Years

Dragon cake.




Naked cousin.

Present from Grammy.



Dustbaths and Buzzcuts

North Carolina has been an inferno these past weeks, and everybody's got their own way of beating the heat.  I'm all about the Cook Out milkshakes, but the chickens have a different strategy.   They scratch the grass away in patches and then roll around in the cool earth below.  Batty is an enthusiastic dust-bather.

Tiny Dog suffers a bad haircut in order to get a little relief from the heat.