Friday, January 23, 2015

Climbing Mountains

The past couple months have been difficult for me on a very personal level.  Apparently all my studies and personal growth over the last couple years were preparing me for this huge task of confronting my inadequacies, accepting them, and learning how to live with the knowledge that I may never truly change certain aspects of myself.  In keeping with my desire for truth I'm not going to share with anyone my real fears.  It doesn't matter.  What matters is that they exist and I'm working on them.  No matter what it is the process is the same.  The struggle is the same.  Not knowing will keep everyone unbiased and hopefully introspective.  That old serenity prayer that everyone knows... I finally get it.  It's about external influence, but it's also about self discovery.

There are things I have always known about myself that I accept because they're easy and they're nice.  The truly difficult part is confronting the things I don't accept, which are the mean and fearful parts.  I have been confronting my huge fears (fear is what makes people mean).  At first I found a few that had a beginning and an end.  I started being fearful after **event** and those I can change.  They don't change immediately, mind you.  It's a constant struggle.  I have to remind myself of everything I've learned and try to act on truth rather than fear.  It's exhausting.  It's emotionally draining and it's very difficult to stay motivated and non-judgmental of myself as I constantly slip into old patterns.  I had to invent cleansing rituals that would solidify a sense of completion... a little bit at a time.  Every time I take a meditative bath I let go of a little more of my old thoughts and patterns, inching closer to truth.  I have mantras and quotes and exercises.  I take classes and write.  All this work and support and it's still some of the most difficult tasks I've undertaken.  That's the courage.  Courage isn't about doing what scares other people or what gives you adrenaline.  Real courage is confronting an old demon that no one may even know about and deciding to fight it until it goes away.  It's silencing an old voice in your head that has been telling you that you can't do something so you shouldn't even try.  It's pulling yourself out of depression or keeping yourself from slipping into it.  It would be easy for me to bungee jump.  But, confronting my old gremlins who tell me I'm not **whatever**... is so... damn... hard.  It's doable though and I'm making progress every day.  Even the smallest steps will eventually get you up the mountain. 

Then there are other fears.  The ones that have no beginning to pinpoint.  The ones that will keep me from realizing my dreams or living a fulfilling life because they're part of my personality.  What I have learned is that the serenity to accept the things I cannot change doesn't mean giving up.  It means accepting the fact that no matter what I do, some things will terrify me.  They may terrify me less, but I will always be afraid of **this**.  It will make me anxious and may even make me cry every time.  However, I still do it.  That's the thing... I stopped trying to fix it.  I let myself cry and be anxious, but I still do it.  If my initial thought is "I want to do this thing" immediately followed by a million excuses why I can't, then I should do it.  God was talking the first time, the rest was all me and I need to just sit down and be quiet.  I accept these fears the same way I accept my nose, my hair color, my eye color, my age.  This is what I have to work with.  This is what I am, and I can do **this**.  I have to confront them and deal with the fear as I would deal with any other emotion.  Feel the fear and do it anyway.  

So that's what I have been up to... a lot of self-realization and change.  A lot of challenging myself.  A lot of successes and failures.  A whole lot of crying and anxiety.  I thought as I conquered fear there would be this sense of accomplishment and pride.  Maybe a little, but mostly I felt drained and discouraged... mad that certain things are so difficult for me in the first place.  Encouraged that I'm taking steps to be better, but extremely exhausted as I climb my mountain of fear.

If you find yourself in a similar situation I have some advice.  Be kind to yourself, change takes time and every tiny step is significant in moving you towards a better you.  Don't worry if you aren't successful the first time.  When you're truly ready, you will be able to do it.  It took me years of confronting some of the same issues and fears before I was even able to see they weren't true.  I was sure I was right!  Be patient with yourself.  Don't rush change.  If you rush it, it won't stick.  I told myself I had conquered a certain fear and... no... but, I kept telling myself anyway and it only made it much worse.  Commune with whatever higher power you believe in: your inner voice, God, Allah, the Universe, Mother Earth, energy... it will help you find the answers you need.

Now, I'm going to get ready for painting class :)

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Beaches in Winter

Growing up in a landlocked state like Ohio means that I am fascinated with beaches.  A beach in winter to me is like some kind of bizarre unnatural spectacle that must be seen.  So, I went to check out my local beach in winter.

There are waves crashing into ice-covered driftwood, you guys.  For me it was like watching a ferocious lion play with a baby hamster or something.  The juxtaposition of winter in a "summer place" made me giddy.  It was cool.

I saw seagulls sliding around on a frozen lagoon.  They would glide overhead, land and slide around a bit, and then they slammed their beaks into the ice to break through and grab what little morsels they had spotted from the air.  I saw ice sheets covering the sand with ripples in them.

I saw shells filled with slush.  I can't wait to go back when there's snow... snow on the sand.  That's just crazy talk!  It was a lot of fun for me (if you couldn't tell).  Hopefully my editing conveys the sense of contrast and awe that I was experiencing.

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Shame and Self Control

I had to read a book for my Latin American Lit class that got me thinking about how shame and guilt shapes society.  My first reaction is to be completely against the guilt and shame forced on women.  It's ridiculous how we were treated as weaker and dumber for so long.  Then I realized something else.  Men taught us how to have self control by oppressing us.

:: DISCLAIMER - don't bother with "not all men" or "not all women" statements because duh ::

Men are awful at self control.  They're never told to deny themselves any impulse.  The culture tells them to drink in excess, have sex with whomever they can, eat whatever they want, dress how they want, watch porn and go to strip clubs, pleasure themselves at any moment or any place.  Men get to be celebrated for taking naps on the couch with their hands down their pants.  If a man stays at home with the kids it's some huge event!  They know nothing about the kids' schooling or doctor's appointments... all Daddy needs to do is discipline.  Everything seems to be their "right" as men.  They're defended constantly like they are somehow less evolved.  The poor things can't help themselves.

Women are taught to be modest and demure.  We're told to keep our legs together and be picky about who we let into our beds.  We're bombarded with body images that require self denial and dieting.  We're told not to draw attention to ourselves, lest we invite rape.  The expectations of motherhood demand we sacrifice all our time and energy into teaching, cooking, cleaning, nurturing.  Our entire social structure was based on self denial, which is a constant practice in self control.  We're masters of our impulses.

So what do I see happening now?  Women aren't demure and silent anymore.  Men aren't slaves to the whims of testosterone anymore.  We are partners and we're teaching each other valuable lessons.  Men teach women how to be confident and give ourselves breaks and how to say yes to our impulses sometimes.  Women are teaching men self control and self sacrifice and how to let themselves feel emotion.  We're rewriting the social norms to fit our new lifestyles and parenting styles.  We are evolving together, which is the only real way feminism can be successful.  You can't remove women from traditional and vital roles in our culture without someone filling that gap.  Now we all are stepping up.  It's cool to see.

Society is in a constant state of evolution.  At any time YOU are part of amazing changes taking place.  Everyone is always a part of history.  We're all important :)

Saturday, November 22, 2014

The Law of Superposition and Context

It wasn't until yesterday as I was speaking with a college rep that I realized my passion for geology and storytelling have endless parallels.  No wonder I love them both.  Let's see if I can put it into words.

In Geology sediments stack up and are compressed to form sedimentary rocks.  The Law of Superposition states that older sediments will be beneath younger sediments.  Simple.  Common sense.  Now, using knowledge of various natural processes we can determine how the rocks formed, what they were before, what the weather and the atmosphere was like.  The general ages of the layers give a timeline to those processes.  The processes shape the rocks and they can tell a story about the past.  So can we.  So can everything else in nature.  If we understand what we are looking at and what rules made it happen.  What are our rules?

Storytelling for me is no different.  The environment of a story is made up of the other characters, the mood, the events... these are the processes that shape the timeline and the characters.  They provide the context to how our characters came to be who they are.  If you think about metamorphosis with either rocks or people the general idea is the same.   You can have 3 siblings who start off as different "elements" but are placed in the same environment and shaped by the same processes.  However, because they started off different to begin with, the end product is also different.  I was watching Cosmos the other night and I saw a side-view of the projected universe since the big bang.  Layers. Everything effects everything else.  One product yields another and time, pressure & heat shape what happens next.  I see this applying to everything, living or non-living.

When I tell a story about an area I love to dig deep to provide context.  I think it's important to provide a sense of the environment at the time when the character was being created.  When I researched my family tree I didn't just look at the people, I looked at where they lived and the current events at the time.  My great grandparents weren't just living in Chicago, they were living in Little Hell, the Sicilian area named for the black smoke that poured out of the factories into the air.  They were there when Al Capone made his debut around the corner.  I looked at old maps and saw where my great grandpa worked.  I even researched the church that baptized my grandmother.  I saw Death Corner, the favorite hangout spot for Sicilian mafiosos on the same street as that church and school, one street over from where my family was eeking out a living.  I saw the bars a block away that were bootlegging for Capone.  I could see why they moved when they did.  Their story is so much more interesting when you have all that context.  This wasn't just a tale of some Italian immigrants that had a census, and then another census, and then moved and showed up in a different census.  Every change has a reason and consequences.  Every action has a reaction.

When we dig deep and look at the environment of our ancestors we're seeing our base.  What they did lead to what we did and their environment at the time is what shaped their decisions to act.  Our history... all of it (biological, political, social)... is in layers.  Concentric circles that spiral outward and grow more and more as time goes by.  Change is not only inevitable, it's vital to the next layer.  You can't continue to build a future if there is no past as a base.

I am interested in absolutely every single layer of time and how it all relates to everything else.  I love learning about the formation of the universe, evolution, geology, fossils, archaeology, ancient mythology, civil wars, the dust bowl, global warming, ice ages, literature, politics, social experiments, primitive medicine... everything.  Because it all shaped us and it's the base for the next part of the story.

This is how my brain functions.  I see all the connections and how they relate to each other.  I see it clearly and it makes me feel insignificant but incredibly important all at the same time.  When I think about everything that exists I see infinite bigness and infinite smallness: every tiny thing is made of tinier things and those tiny things are part of big things which are parts of bigger things.  I apply this to  matter.  I apply this to time.  When you think of these things in infinite terms it means exploration and discovery will never cease.  One day we'll be able to see further out into the universe.  One day we'll be able to see the smaller bits that make atoms.  It all just keeps going and going... I love thinking about it.  I love researching it.

So, that's what I've been doing over the blog break... a whole lot of thinking and research.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Six Year Old Tristan

It's taking me a lot longer than I had originally planned to do these updates.  But hey... better late than never, right?  So... Tristan turned 6 back in mid-September and we had a nice little party for him with our friends and neighbors.  He wanted a rainbow cake and we found a mix that was just right.  It turned out really cool!

He started Kindergarten and is doing very well.  He gets on blue (which stands for role model) almost every day!  Tristan loves school and is learning so much.  He loves to carry books around and "read" although it's still pretty difficult to convince him to try and actually read, I love that he is interested in books in any way whatsoever.

He wears ties and vests to school all the time so we had to go get him some more fancy clothes.  He looks adorable!  Apparently some of his friends are starting to copy his fashion and wear their dress clothes to school as well.  Our little trend-setter :)

He gets chased on the playground by girls all the time and loves it.  They love him too... I saw it in action on parent-teacher conference day.  Tristan is still our "sports" kid.  He is constantly in motion no matter where he is (except for school I guess).  He is always jumping around, riding his skateboard or his bike, racing, throwing, kicking, jumping on the trampoline, sledding.  We are going to put him into soccer or gymnastics or something.  One day Noah took his training wheels off for him and taught him how to ride his bike in about 5 minutes.  Tristan was SO DANG PROUD! and so were we :)

Tristan got a guinea pig for his birthday and he takes amazing care of her.  Since then we got him another one so they could keep each other company (they're used to living in groups).  He does a fantastic job making sure they always have food and water and attention.  We never have to remind him.  He named them Carly and Sam (from iCarly) :)

It used to be really difficult to get Tristan to do anything artistic, but lately he has been painting and crafting with the rest of us.  He gets a little insecure because his brothers are so much faster than he is at creating art.  I think being in school, surrounded by different levels of artistic ability and varying speeds of creativity has really helped him overcome a lot of his insecurities.  His handprint Christmas tree hung proudly on our front door this year.

So, our Tristan is growing-up quite wonderfully.  We're very proud of him and of his great strides towards becoming a self-confident, accomplished little kid.  He started school at the perfect time!

Monday, November 25, 2013

Nine Year Old Noah!

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I'm so very very behind on updating and I figured the best way to remedy that situation is to dedicate one blog post per family member.  Sure, it'll be a long grueling process but, hey... you're worth it ;)  Let's start with the eldest cherub, shall we?

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Noah turned 9 back in mid-August and we had a wonderful time with our good friends and neighbors.  Josh and I had a bit of a revelation when we asked ourselves a simple question.  Why are we saying "no"?  Noah would ask us constantly if he could bake cookies and we always replied "no" and then... wait... why?  I can't tell you how many times we told our kids "no you can't" about something they were perfectly capable of doing, which probably felt a little disheartening for the wee poppets.  So we said yes and we've been holding onto that line of logic for all three of them since then.  It's been amazing.  Gone are the days of "no you can't"... now if we have a real reason to say no we back it up with an honest "why" like "because I don't want you to make a mess right now" or "because I want it to be quiet in the living room" or "I think it's dangerous and it makes me really nervous".  Look kid, it's not you, it's ME.  Let's face it... it usually is US.  Make sure your "NO's" are for real reasons!!  Anyway, back to Noah.

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Since the whole parental revelation Noah has finally been allowed to tackle all of these amazing adventures we'd been holding him back from accomplishing.  He built his own lemonade stand, started baking and cooking breakfast on his own with no supervision (and he very sweetly involves his little brothers in the process).  The only help he needs is the step stool.  I even shared some of my college math with him and allowed him to try some of our grown-up games.  He whittled and sanded his own magic wand.  Josh taught him how to play Magic the Gathering in one sitting.  We let him draw huge Chinese dragons on his wall (it's just the same dragon but waaaaay bigger; it doesn't show up in a photo very well).  They look amazing.  He did it all freehand.  He's flourishing.  He's so awesome!!

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Back to Skewl

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Remember when we used to spell cool like "kewl" because it was unquestionably kewler?  No?  Before your time?  Then you would be very comfortable at college because you're the right age for it.  All you "old folks" like me would be branded as NONTRAD's (non traditional students) and you may even have a professor who is younger than you.  I am not old, but when it comes to college I'm a bit more seasoned than the average attendee.  Lemme paint a picture of my arrival to college life.

My first day of math class went like this.  I arrived early and talked to Bob, the shepherd of the hallway.  He was literally leading students to their classrooms with a long stick.  He was a former professor and retired from Air Force after 33 years of service to which he quipped "I damn near made a career of it" HA! good one, Bob.  Time passed and Bob got a little busy with his flock so I was back to my own devices again.  Standing there all old and moldy, surrounded by people with at least a decade to go before they develop their crow's feet.  I turned and I saw another non-trad.  I swear to you we both lit up like Christmas trees when we made eye contact.  Bells rang, angels rejoiced, trumpets sounded, sparks flew... we are not alone!  So, of course I walked over there and talked to her... nooooooooo.  It's the first day, you guys!  You know I'm like that piece of Voldemort hiding under the bench in the train station when I start something new.  Gimme a couple days!  I was even more (secretly) ecstatic when I saw yet ANOTHER non-trad in the bathroom wearing an Ohio State shirt, no less!  OMG!  Now I am really not alone!!  Then.  As luck would have it.  Both my glorious non-trad soulmates walked into room 143 with me to start our painful reacquainting with the lost art of college mathematics.  Oh that class was... how can I even describe this.  At one point I swear all I saw was a bright light while she was talking.  I couldn't even figure out how to ask a question because I had no idea what she was talking about.  I thought about crying, but took a deep breath instead.  I kept reminding myself it will eventually end and then I can look at it on my own and have Josh help me.  I will survive.  My professor is an amazing woman and she's laid back and fun so eventually my fears subsided and I surrendered to the numbers.  I understood at least one problem.  I got one right answer.  HOLY CRAP!  I GOT IT RIGHT!  More followed.  In the span of an hour I went from not even being able to formulate a question to being able to answer them correctly.  WOOOO!

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Since then I have actually participated in all my classes and talked to my fellow students, nontrads and trads alike.  I'm thoroughly enjoying school and my brain, though tired, is jumping for joy as it gets back into shape.  As I got acclimated to being back in class I finally started talking to people, even my non-trad soulmate who admitted feeling the same sparks and calling her hubby immediately after finally seeing another non-trad (aka ME).  Guess the feeling was mutual ;)  ALSO she happens to be former military like me and we have a lot in common.  My favorite class is Politics.  I have had many conversations with the people in my class, even my professor.  I feel like I have something to offer now that I'm older and wiser.  I've learned a lot about the education these teens have received and I'm actually pleased most days.  I'm not surrounded by dumb kids.  They have opinions and ideas and they are respectful and open-minded.  It's refreshing and inspiring.  I am getting all A's and have already signed up for next semester.  I've switched my degree to Education and I plan on teaching 4th-6th grade.  I'm so excited to get in there and see what the education system is like from the inside.  I'm very passionate about attacking our education problems and I figured it was the best place to start.

There is so much more to talk about.  We have changed so much over this past year, all for the better.  Our family is growing by leaps and bounds and we are all extremely happy with the changes we've made.  We spend a lot of time together playing games and talking.  We have extended Saturday Unplugged to 3 days a week.  We started a chore chart and allowances.  Josh found his dream job and his health has improved due to lack of stress.  Everything is fitting together perfectly.  It reminds me of Tetris.  We spent all this time fitting shapes together perfectly and we finally have our long line to drop.  TETRIS!

Thursday, August 08, 2013

Improvements Complete

After refinancing the house, we decided to use the mortgage payment we saved on some much anticipated changes to help make our house a home.  We painted... well, I painted the boy's rooms while Josh was out working and I did a damn fine job :)  Noah helped a lot with his room.  He did all the taping and most of the brush work around the trim.  They all picked out their own colors.

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We painted the whole entire basement and the main hallway and the bathroom as well.  Everything looks fresh and new and inviting.  It has a nice lived-in feel to it now :)

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We also finally replaced some light fixtures we've never been fond of (like the chandelier in the dining room).  I have a few more framed photos and wall art to hang in the basement, but other than that I think we're done.  Everything feels amazing.

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