Lost Times, Lost Places

There are some places from my past that are crystallized in my memory.

When I was a little girl, my mother used to take me to a place called Full Circle Farm.  It was a small family sheep farm, nestled in the Cascade Mountains of Washington.  Bill and Phyllis were dear, dear family friends.  They ran their farm with love and care.  They loved their animals and cared for them with great devotion.

grass-lawn-meadow-animals

It was a magical place.  I think there must have been wild chamomile growing in the fields because the light smell of apples and clean hay infused into every thing.  To this day, the smell of chamomile tea takes me right back to the farmhouse and the warmth of our friends.

In the evenings, the fog would roll in from between the fir trees, and in the mornings, it would remain, reluctant to drift off.  The red wooden barn was full of hay, and sheep, and the warm, comfortable smells of lanolin and wooly bodies.

My time at the farm has taken on an almost mythical quality in my mind.  Was it really that green?  Was the morning fog that dense? Was the air truly that sweet? Having spent time in the Olympic Mountains as an adult, I am inclined to believe that it was.

barn

Bill is still with us, but we lost Phyllis several years ago to lung cancer.  That loss still hangs heavy on my heart.  She was a deeply peaceful and deeply loving woman.  She was a mentor, a friend, and grandmother figure to me.

Last night I had a dream that I had gone back to Full Circle Farm.  Phyllis was there, but Bill was not.  They had sold the farm and the new owners turned it into a luxurious horse farm.  I didn’t recognize anything.  The farm house was a different building, the barn was in a different place.  Instead of chamomile and wool and sweet fir trees, it smelled like dust and heat and horses. And I was so sad.  I wanted to take the girls to show them the special places at the farm.  The barn, the goat shed, the kitchen, the chicken coop…

I’m not sure what my dream means.  Perhaps it’s telling me that you can’t go back.  A reminder that I must look forward.  Still, I treasure the memories of Full Circle Farm, and I hope I can find new memories to make for my own children that are full of the same magic as that place.

road-nature-street-curve

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Detoxing from Facebook, Day 6

I’ve noticed when people in the past have left Facebook or taken time off, and it’s always left me with a strange feeling.  With the exception of my HG friend, I’ve noticed that the leaving of facebook often goes along with statements about superficiality and “real” friendships and “authentic” communication, and that has always sat kind of wrong with me.  It sometimes even includes lectures about how the rest of us should or should not live our lives.

It doesn’t seem fair to the other people who enjoy Facebook to try to attach definitions to the way they communicate.  It doesn’t seem right to minimize the very real feelings of other people in order to help yourself redefine the way you live your life.

So let me be very clear: My leaving Facebook isn’t some grand social statement on the evils of social media.  It’s about me.  Plain and simple.

It’s about me spending too much time online and not enough time with my family.  It’s about me avoiding other people in real life because they make me nervous.  And most of all, it’s about me connecting with my family and my children.

It has been a strange few days.  I’ve noticed that I tend to think of my activities in terms of Facebook posts.  The minutiae of my life, that no one really cares about, seems like headline news.  The complexity that makes me who I am has gotten lost in headlines and short statements.

The temptation here, of course, is to turn to twitter.  The urge to share can be satisfied in numerous ways.  To combat this urge, I’ve reduced my twitter activity and logged out of my twitter account to make sharing more difficult.  If it’s not effortless, I remember that I’m not supposed to do it.

It will be interesting to see how my thought patterns change as this progresses.  Minds are flexible things, so I am eager to see how I grow and change as the weeks go by.

Just a note:  While I am off of Facebook, I still have my wordpress account connected to my blog’s facebook page.  Despite the fact that these are auto-posting to Facebook, I am not checking for or moderating comments, so please, if you have something to say in response to my blog posts, come here to the blog to say it.  That way, I will see your comment and be able to respond.

Pronouns, Gender, and Feeling like an Outsider

A few months ago, I read an article about a mother who read The Hobbit to her daughter. The little girl insisted that Bilbo Baggins was, in fact, a girl, and, after some discussion, the mother agreed and began reading the story as if Bilbo was a women, changing the pronouns appropriately.

Initially, I recoiled at this. I’m somewhat of a literary purist, and Tolkien ranks up there, for me, as some of the finest works around. Certainly, his work is the basis for almost all modern fantasy. Changing his work is like changing… the Bible or something. You just don’t do it.

But the more I thought, the more I wondered, “Why not?” How does having Bilbo as a female change the dynamic of the story? Wouldn’t a female Bilbo be an exciting adventure story for our little girls to connect to? Isn’t this what I ask for over and over in stories? A rollicking adventure with a dynamic female lead who isn’t concerned with finding a darn prince for once?

The more I thought, the more I wanted to give it a try. So I did. For the past few months, I have been switching the gender pronoun of the main characters in all of Cricket’s stories. I tried it with the Grasshopper once, but she can read and quickly and firmly corrected me.

It has been an interesting experiment. Hearing the female pronouns over and over is jarring. It has gotten me thinking about how othering our language is. The default for everything is male. That can leave non-males feeling like outsiders and that’s not good.

Slowly, I’ve been getting used to hearing and saying female pronouns. It doesn’t feel as awkward as it did at first. I take that as a positive sign that thought patterns can be changed.

Words are powerful and I want the words my daughters grow up hearing to be about them. I don’t want them growing up feeling like outsiders.

I woke up this morning to see these thoughts from a friend of mine who is a school librarian.  What are your thoughts on teaching children respect?

Yesterday I had a conversation with a kiddo that led to some rather profound realizations. The child was frustrated because he’d gotten in trouble for disrespect. When I asked him about it, he said that he wasn’t aware he was being disrespectful. Further questioning led to him providing the following definition: Respect is treating others the way you want to be treated.

Sounds good, right? Except in this case, that led to the kid getting in trouble. He is a kiddo that wants to be able to joke around, not be taken too seriously, and have a rapport with someone that leads to banter. It’s the kiddo who, when asked to write similes, will write, “Mrs. A is as old as dirt,” or “My teacher is as mean as a starving T-rex.” These comments aren’t meant to be taken personally, and are his way of saying, “Hey, I like you as a person.” The problem is, not everyone is okay with those comments, and to the wrong adult, things like that come across as disrespectful.

That’s about when it occurred to me: We tell kids to be respectful, but we often forget to tell them two things: 1. What does respect look like to me? and 2. Respect looks different for each person, so you need to determine what their definition is very early on in your interactions with them.

I see a lot of posts complaining about kids these days not having respect. The thing is, they do have a lot of respect. It just LOOKS different. Just because a kid doesn’t meet your definition, doesn’t mean that they’re being disrespectful. As teachers, we’re told to reteach when a child has a behavior problem. I think, at least as far as respect is concerned, I will REDEFINE instead.

–Caroline Burkhart Askew

Why I Ferment (and why you should too)

Last year, I got started with fermenting. I started small. It began with home brewing kombucha, a fermented tea, and expanded to sauer kraut in an amazing crock my grandma gave me for my birthday.

I had heard an an interview on NPR with Sandor Katz who had just published and new book called The Art of Fermentation the year before, and was intrigued. I did a bit of poking around, remembered that the friend who taught me to brew kombucha had mentioned a book called Wild Fermentation. After I looked it up, and realized it was by that same guy who had caught my attention so strikingly on the radio, I decided to pick up a copy.

You should do the same! Even if you don’t ferment!

Wild Fermentation is so much more than a cookbook. In it, Sandor Katz offers his expertise in getting you started. It’s less a cookbook and more of a helping hand. He gives quite specific recipes, but encourages the reader like a friend would, to go out and find your own ferments.

What really connected me to his style of fermentation, though, was the spiritual aspect of it. Yes, fermented foods are full of probiotics. Yes, they have lots of readily absorbed vitamins and nutrients. Yes, fermenting is a practical way to preserve a garden harvest. But for me, thanks to Mr. Katz’s gentle guidance, it’s also about connecting with other living things.

When you allow foods to ferment wildly, that is, to pick up the natural flora and fauna in your own space, what you are doing is forming a partnership. You’re not going to the local brewers’ supply and buying a strain of yeast. You are offering a comfortable home and hoping that new friends take up residence. You can’t make them grow. You can’t put them in the jar yourself. You have to close your eyes, reach out your hand, and wait for the microorganisms to reach back.

The last chapters of the book especially moved me. In those chapters, he talks about life, death, and social change, and he draws a comparison between wild fires and fermentation. Like Katz, I’ve seen the detestation of fires, although not a close as he has. I will never forget watching the fires burn down out of the mountains and down to the sea when we lived in California. The change in the landscape is dramatic and undeniable, painful, and destructive, despite the new life that rapidly rises from the ashes.

But, as Katz says, there is undeniable change in fermentation also. Flavors become stronger, foods become more nourishing, spoilage slows or ceases. It makes me think of Nonviolent Communication and how we can peacefully create change through partnerships without tearing everything down to ashes.

Dr. King, Love, and Nonviolence

It seems appropriate that on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, I was reflecting on love and nonviolence.  Dr. King did, after all, reshape an entire country nonviolently because of his love for his fellow human beings and the tragedy of segregation that separated us and limited our ability to fully love one another as people.

I mentioned previously that I intend to start reading Nonviolent Communication by Marshall Rosenberg. Getting through the first few pages was a real struggle.  When I read his words, I found myself thinking, “What about me? What about my needs?  I’m not a doormat.”  There were several times that I put the book down and just walked away after reading only a few paragraphs.

As I progressed (slowly) through the chapter though, my thoughts evolved from, “What about me?” to “Hmm, so I can use this to get people to do what I want?”  And then I felt horrible because, really, doesn’t that seem pretty manipulative?  And that’s not who I am at all.

But I stuck it out.  As I got to the end of the chapter, the puzzle pieces began to fall into place and I realized what I am getting myself into.  This isn’t a book to learn a different way of talking so you can move through life more easily.  This is a complete shift in how you think, feel, and respond to others.  This book isn’t about dealing with other people.  It’s about inner change.

That scares me a little.  I don’t want to lose who I am.  In a lot of ways, I am a fighter.  I’ve got a stubborn spirit, and I believe in standing up for what’s right even if that means ruffling some feathers.  But then I think of my friend Paris who stands up for what’s right every single day and who inspired me to learn more about this whole nonviolent communication thing, and I go back to the quote I posted the other day from Dr. King:

Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars… Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.

Paris truly loves the people around her.  She surrounds herself with love.  She doesn’t do it to get people around her to change.  She just truly and honestly loves her fellow people.  She manifests that love by reaching out and empowering other women to nurse their babies.  Yes, really.

My dear friend Paris
My dear friend Paris

Look at it this way, what is a more basic act of love than nourishing a baby at the breast?  When you do that, you are flooded with love hormones.  It’s hard to be angry while you are nursing.  And that place of love is where Paris builds a sisterhood.  We are all sisters in motherhood.  We all go share so many experiences.  And there is a tremendous power to change the world when so many loving women come together.  We gave birth to our babies.  We feed them with our bodies.  We are physical manifestations of the divine.  We certainly can change the world with our love.

I am so grateful to count Paris among my friends.  It is people like Paris and Dr. King and Gandhi and others who shape anger into love and create peaceful and lasting change.

 

Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars… Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.

~Martin Luther King Jr.

Transitions and Nonviolence

It’s 6:30 AM on a Saturday.  The family is asleep.  I’m partially asleep.  The world is covered with snow from a late night flurry.  Or whatever you call it when snow falls.  Was it a storm?  Who knows.

It’s quiet in the way only an early morning with a fresh snow can be.

It’s been a hard few months.  The transition from California to the Midwest, from perfect weather every day to summer heat to winter cold,  from working in an office to being home with the kids, from being home with the kids to job hunting (because the cost of living actually went up out here), from spending all day with Cricket to sending her to daycare a couple of times each week (which I hate), has been tough.

My counselor back in California will tell you that I don’t do well with transitions.

And it’s true.  I don’t.  I don’t like them.  I’m tired all the time.  I feel disconnected from my friends back in California for whom life is moving on.  I feel defensive with my husband who seemed to forget what a horrible housekeeper I actually am.  I feel frustrated with the kids who certainly have their own agendas most of the time.  I feel sad that I am so caught up with the daily grind that I can’t seem to find time to make friends here, which in turn leaves me feeling isolated and lonely.  I feel attacked and criticized and sad.  The kids are fighting, my husband is pissed off at the kids, the dog is sick, and things are just generally not going well.

I’ve been thinking a lot about my friend Paris.  She’s a labor and deliver nurse, IBCLC, soon to be midwife, and someone I look up to.  She always knows how to say things just right.

She’s been talking for ages about this Nonviolent Communication thing.  I don’t know that much about it, but I guess it’s part of what helps Paris always know what to say when things get tough.

I haven’t wanted to learn more about it.  Wanting to learn more might be an admission that something is wrong with me.  It might mean that I’ve got a weakness and someone might take advantage of it.

Recently on a facebook group for moms that I moderate, some drama broke out.  There was gossip, backstabbing, and general nastiness.  A dear friend from grade school who is Muslim (you are in my heart every day Afifa) taught me that in Islam backbiting, talking nasty about people you pretend to be friends with, is one of the greatest sins.  That is something I have carried with me since 7th grade, and so when I started seeing that in the group, I started trying to shut it down.  There was a backlash, and in the end, I was so hurt by what happened subsequently that I ended up leaving the group.  A group I created.

So now it’s a double-down situation.  Learning more about Nonviolent Communication means that I may need to bear some responsibility for how things ended in that group when I feel completely victimized.

I ended up messaging Paris and very casually asking, “So if someone wanted to learn more about NVC, where would they start.”

Now, I’m here with three books all staring at me like accusing cats:  Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life by Marshall B. Rosenberg, Nonviolent Communication Companion Workbook by Lucy Leu, Connecting Across Differences: A Guide to Compassionate, Nonviolent Communication By Jane Marantz Connor, Dian Killian

(By the way, here’s a link to the books in my Amazon Affiliate store. Purchases through here earn me a very small commission.)

I want to start reading these books, but I don’t want to admit that I want to start reading them.

Also, to be perfectly honest, I really stink at finishing non-fiction books.  There generally aren’t enough dragons in them to keep me interested.

But something needs to change.  I want a peaceful, happy home.  I don’t like feeling hurt and defensive all the time.

I’m tired of feeling sad.

Have any of you read these books?  Did you feel like your outlook and home life changed at all? Did they make a difference

Guest Post: How Steubenville can make a positive difference

After reading Monday’s post, a dear and anonymous friend of mine (someone who I think of as a mentor), asked if she could share her thoughts with my readers on Steubenville and the rape culture that is so pervasive in our society.  Here, she tells her story.  Please be aware that this may be triggering for rape and abuse survivors. Please also be aware that this is a mature topic, so please approach it accordingly.

 

When I read accounts of the Steubenville rapes, my stomach turned, not only because rape is a horrible thing to happen to a young girl, but also because the whole account hit way too close to home. Over fifteen years ago, my best friend was almost a Jane Doe. The only reason she wasn’t was because I was there. I’ve had many terrible things happen to me in my life. I sat and held my mother’s hand as she took her last breath. I rushed my daughter to the hospital with what I thought was a brain injury. I have endured every kind of abuse, most at the hands of my (now ex) spouse. And I still define that night as the worst in my life.

My friend, who I shall refer to as Mary, became very intoxicated at a party. That night, a young man neither of us had seen before showed up, and seeing me try to haul around my puking, semi-conscious friend, offered to help me “sober her up.” He laid down next to her, and I placed myself on the floor close by, also laying down, and then watched as he mounted her and began kissing her. She was too drunk to refuse him, too drunk to know who he was, too drunk to consent. She was not, however, too drunk to return his affections. A former flame of hers was there that night; for all I know, she thought it was him she was making out with.

I remember watching this, and finally from some deep inner reserve I’m still awed I had at sixteen, I said to him, “Why don’t you mess with someone who’s NOT too drunk to function?” This was the late 90’s, and I was wearing my “uniform” of baggy sweater over an ankle length broomskirt. When the guy heard me say those words, he grinned, said, “Okay,” and then rolled towards me and began sliding his hand up my skirt along one thigh, higher and higher, very slowly, watching my reaction. It took all of my strength not to react. I did not move. I did not make any noise. I lay stock still and waited to see what he’d do next. He was about four inches from seriously molesting me when he spat out some comment about me not reacting to him, and I said, as coldly as I could and with a supreme effort not to let my voice shake, “I want you to be fully aware that what you’re doing is to someone who doesn’t want it.”

His reaction was two-fold. He leaned over, licked my face, and then punched something nearby in anger. Then he stormed off.

I wish I could say the night ended there, but it didn’t. The rest of it is a blur, but he made no more overtures towards Mary or me. In the morning, he tried to hug me and praised how strong I was for staying with her all night and taking care of her. I do not think he meant when I told him, more or less, to leave her alone. I remember him comparing me to his grandmother, even. I remember friends joking about how hot and heavy things got, and lots of lewd jokes about threesomes.

The next afternoon, after we’d all returned home and I’d finally slept and had washed Mary’s puke out of my hair and clothes, she called me. And she said, shakily, “I don’t remember much from last night, but… thank you. I think that guy would have raped me.”

Here’s the thing, though. Despite my own bravery (because looking back now as the mother of two daughters, damn, that sixteen year old me had some nerve I hope my girls inherit!), despite the sacrifice I almost made for her – I did not think she would have been raped. Don’t get me wrong – I thought she would have had sex with that guy. But my sixteen-year-old, raised-in-today’s-rape-culture brain did not realize that what almost happened to Mary – what almost happened to me, even – would have been rape.

That’s the importance of Steubenville, and despite the terrible, terrible things that happened to Jane Doe, and continue happen to her, this should be her legacy. People are talking now about what rape really is. People are realizing that rape is not ignoring the word no, but rather, absence of the word yes.

I learned a lesson that day, and the seed was planted in my mind as I dealt with the aftermath and humiliation of my friends thinking that I’d put myself in a position to have sex with my best friend and a complete stranger, despite nothing happening that night. It was a slow lesson for me to fully absorb, though – a few years later my then-husband told me that he was absolutely disgusted that I’d “wanted” the sexual abuse I’d suffered as a child because I had not told my molester no. Those words cut me more deeply than the original abuse did, and I know that Jane Doe faces that same intense shame and second-guessing and self-hatred, and just as strongly as I know that, I also know she is wrong. Society is wrong, and it’s time to change that.

On her behalf, and on Mary’s behalf, and on behalf of all girls and women out there that have been raped or almost raped or have thought they might be raped, please spread the word that consent means saying yes and being able to do so without reservation or pressure or alcohol. And without that consent, the answer is always, always no, and no woman ever deserves to be shamed or humiliated when that message is misinterpreted, just like any man who chooses to ignore it does deserve to be labeled appropriately: as a rapist. Jane Doe deserves at least that much. Mary deserves at least that much. Your daughters and sisters and cousins and friends deserve that much. But most of all, society deserves that. Be part of the change.

Women, Cycling, and Butt Grabbing

A good friend of mine, posted this article on her newsfeed:

Slovakian cyclist Peter Sagan rapped for bottom-pinch on podium after Tour of Flanders

HIGHLY rated Slovakian cyclist Peter Sagan has been accused of sexism and harassment after he was pictured pinching the bottom of a podium girl after the Tour of Flanders.

Sagan, 23, smirked towards the camera as he grabbed the bottom of a blonde hostess, one of two girls giving congratulatory kisses to race winner Fabian Cancellara.

Poor Sagan.  So charming and cheeky.  Just having a bit of fun, right.  He even non-apologized:

Having had my ass grabbed in a club and at school, let me take a minute to assure any men who might read this who might be inclined to shrug off butt-grabbing as a harmless little prank that it’s anything but.  It is really scary.  Really, really scary.  It leaves you feeling shocked, violated, and afraid.  It is assault, plain and simple.

That said, in the context of this, I am having a hard time understanding the furor that this has caused.  Why is anyone surprised by this? Let’s take a step back for a moment and look at the context of this situation.

What I find far more disturbing than the fact that Sagan assaulted that woman is that “podium girls” exist in the first place.  Do race organizers really pay women to stand on the podium and kiss the winner of the race?  That is objectification at its mightiest.  These nameless women exist purely as spoils of war here.  No wonder Sagan felt like he could grab a little ass.  They’re not people, just podium girls.

Does this excuse Sagan’s behavior?  Absolutely not.  But let’s be sure to focus some attention some attention on the bigger issue here: The institutionalized degradation of women in sport.  It’s not just cycling, and it’s not just Sagan.

Rape culture is rampant in sports, and until we as a society stand up and start treating women as human beings and stop promoting this kind of degradation, the Sagans and Steubenville rapists of the world will continue blundering along assaulting women and apologizing for getting caught.