Saturday, June 23, 2007

Saying good-bye (and other safety rituals of parents)

This morning, two days after his high school graduation, I sent my son off for six weeks, after which time he's home for two weeks, then away to college, so it really felt like sending him off to adulthood. I said to him, "Don't be a stranger. Call your mother." That's just what my mom would have said to me.

I had been talking with a friend about the things we do to try to keep our children safe, including these kinds of statements, which she called "safety rituals." A few months ago, TJ said he felt that I wasn't treating him like an adult because I peppered him with admonitions like "drive safely," "the roads are icy," "be careful." T. let him know that I talk like this to everyone I love. She's right, of course, but I will admit that my kids get more of that than my other loved ones. After all, in my mind, I've been keeping them safe their whole life. How could I possibly stop trying to protect them now?

And that's what the safety rituals are...they're my version of a magic spell...somehow if I say them, everything will be okay. They're borne from the deep knowledge that sometimes everything isn't okay, that I can't truly protect them from all the things that would hurt them--disloyal friends, romances gone wrong, any number of accidents and illnesses, their own internal struggles, disappointments in their pursuits and passions, global warming, you name it... and since that's too heart-breaking to contemplate, the safety rituals are my defensive armor against that knowledge.

I'm not the first to notice that parenthood is all about saying good-bye, letting go, from the very beginning...

But this year, and especially this week, TJ has let me know in a million different ways that it's time...In the past year, he's gotten his driver's license, been accepted into a great school, won competitions with his chamber ensemble and his school's national orchestra award, overcome some tough personal stuff, and generally learned how to manage his life.

In the past week, wow...his recital was amazing. His opening chords of the Elgar cello concerto literally brought me to tears. I don't have a tape yet, but you can go here and click on May 13, 2007, to hear him play a Bach cello suite.

In the words of his uncle, he doesn't play the cello, he makes love to it. He is completely focused, fully present, and intensely passionate when he is playing. It is a sight and sound to behold.

He played that recital, maintaining a rigorous schedule of rehearsals, while also taking his final exams, keeping his part-time job, graciously spending time with parents, siblings, and grandparents, and doing a serious amount of hanging out with friends.

At his graduation, I watched him and other kids I've known for over 10 years walk across the stage, remembering when he played soccer with that one, did school projects with this one, was good friends with another one. Now they are young men and women, and they will do what young men and women have been doing since eternity...leaving their parents, going out to make their way in the world, and simultaneously filling their parents' hearts with pride and breaking their hearts.

So yes, it's time to say good-bye. Good-bye, my dear son, my firstborn, my baby boy, my young man. You are ready for adulthood. Eat your vegetables, go to bed at a reasonable hour, don't forget a jacket, be safe, and above all your mother.

p.s. More pictures from graduation here.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

My definition of a family

Includes: one soulful cellist, one charismatic trumpet player, one soulmate. And today, at the aforementioned cellist's senior recital, I realized it includes much more.

My definition of a family also includes:

--a mom from Indiana who may not have a sense for classical music but knows what to do when there's cooking and cleaning to be done

--friends who left their families on Father's Day because they knew it was important for me to have some of "my people" around

--older, wiser friends who understand the bittersweet realities of being parent to a young adult

--family members from my kids' dad's side who greeted me with hugs and graciousness

--people who've helped me get through day to day life, as colleagues, as support people, and by taking care of my kids.

It's been quite the day, and I really wish I'd gotten pictures. DS and his step-brother played wonderfully--great musicianship, technical skill, and adept handling of the little things that didn't quite go right. I made some excellent and beautiful food. And I was so busy connecting with family that taking pictures was the last thing on my mind.

More big events to come as the week unfolds...

Friday, June 15, 2007

Do something TODAY about violence against women

Larissa is running for Congo women, who are living in the midst of the deadliest war since World War II, coping with rape, torture, and the death of their children and husbands. Go here to read more.

She's running on June 23, and her goal is to raise enough money to sponsor four women. She's asking for just a donor a day to give $14 .

I just it's your turn. Hurry and run (metaphorically) to her site now so that her (literal) run will be that much more meaningful.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Bee sex and other news from the garden

Bee sex

So I'm literally sitting in the dirt in my garden, putting in new plants and pulling out unwanted plants (sometimes called weeds by the un-thinking). And I hear this prolonged "Bzzzzzzzzz." I mean for minutes. So I look around, and on the cosmos next to me I see one bee on top of the other.

Unlike others in the non-human animal world, the bees apparently take their time. At one point, another bee came up and tried to join in, but the male buzzed him away. Finally the female had gotten what she wanted and flew away...when the male tried to chase her, she buzzed HIM away.

Wren courtship

Unlike the bees, as far as I can tell, the house wrens seem to have quite a period of courting before they get down to it. We've had a bird box in our yard for years, and the only thing that's ever nested there were wasps, which met their untimely end after chasing me from the garden to the house.

The male wren leads the female to potential nest sites, singing his bubbly song all the way, and he is really trying to convince her that our nest box is just the place to raise a family...good neighborhood, lovely garden, and no cats. She doesn't appear to be convinced, but I'm still holding out hope.

Garden sweetness

Is there anything sweeter than pansies?

Yes, pea blossoms!

Wait, I found something even sweeter in the garden!

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Bedtime for WMD's?

Do you know about the WMDcozy project ?

Go check it out...the idea is to create conversation about disarmament by creating a cozy to fit a real weapon of mass destruction! Now why didn't I think of that?

Is anyone interested in a WMDcozy knit-in? (after the current rush of major life events happening in mine and friends' lives, of course! maybe even in the fall?)

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Mother-daughter yoga

DD and I have been taking yoga classes together at this lovely place for the past several weeks. I've practiced yoga off and on for ten years; she just started, first at home with my yoga practice tapes.

While our classes have been good, last night's was OUTSTANDING! It was a much smaller class with a different teacher, and I knew it was going to be good when he started by first poking the small of my back, then hers, to see how alike or different they were! (Different at the beginning, alike by the end, as she learned about proper alignment.)

The teacher was so attentive and provided just the right amount of challenge. By the end of class, my whole body felt like it had been stretched, straightened, and strengthened. WOW! We walked in feeling tired and like we probably wouldn't have come if we weren't doing it together. We walked out feeling energized and inspired!

I'm so glad we can share this experience. Recently T and I discussed the fact that, because our spiritual practice is meditative in nature, it's not exactly easy to pass along to the kids. I like yoga because it is physically, intellectually, and spiritually challenging.

For me, spiritual practice is about mindfulness, or presence, the ability to be fully present with your body, heart, and mind. Yoga is great because the practice, if done with attention, REQUIRES such mindfulness.

Of course, Toni Packer and many other spiritual teachers say that such presence is always accessible.

She says: Awareness, enlightenment, wholeness--whatever words one may pick to label what cannot be caught in words--is not the effect of a cause. Activity does not destroy it and sitting does not create it. It isn't a product of anything--no technique, posture, activity, or nonactivity can create it. It is there, uncreated, freely functioning in wisdom and love, when self-centered conditioning is clearly revealed in all its grossness and subtleness and defused in the light of understanding.

For those of us who need a little more revealing of our self-centered conditioning, though, yoga can be a great path, and I find that the more I practice mindfulness, through yoga, sitting, and regular life whenever possible, the easier it is to get to that state of awareness.

Friday, June 1, 2007

On knitting for others...

Above, some finished objects for the Dulaan project. If you're not familiar with Dulaan, let me give you the synopsis.

Dulaan was started by Ryan over at Mossy Cottage Knits. Her cousin is a Buddhist monk in Mongolia, and they got their heads together and realized two very important facts. Fact 1--there are lots of cold children and adults in Mongolia, many of them homeless and living in heating ducts during the frigid winters.

Fact 2--there are lots of insatiable knitters around the know the kind...they've knitted hats, scarves, sweaters, gloves, tea cozies, socks, and more, for all their loved ones, and even for some people they don't particularly like. So much so that family, friends, co-workers, and strangers passing on the street stay away for fear of receiving yet one more knitted item. These knitters can be convinced to knit for good causes rather than beleaguered loved ones, rather easily, in fact.

I happen to know a few knitters like that, so I got together with the lovely and charming Molly (pictured above) to organize some knitters. Thanks to Amy, Monica, Saundra, Tanya, Ginny! (did I miss anyone?)

Seriously, we knit for Dulaan because we love to knit, yes, but also because the stories that Ryan posts are heart-breaking. When I was a young adult, I truly believed I could "save the world." Or at least make a significant impact. I still believe that there are people who have big ideas that have a big impact on the world.

But I also believe that these small acts of compassion are just as important, just individuals making the time to do something for someone they don't know, halfway across the world, to say, "We know that you are cold. We wish we could do more. We wish we could make sure that you and everyone else had a warm home to go to. We don't know how to make that happen, but we're thinking about it. Meanwhile, here is something to keep you a little warmer. We hope it will help a little."

And by the way, this is not 'charity.' This is a small portion of the debt owed by those of us who happened to have been born into circumstances where we can turn our heat up to 80 if we want. Dulaan reminds me that the lifestyle which I take for granted is unsustainable from a global perspective, and is mine at the expense of others.

Excuse me while I get back to my knitting...