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Election Cake

2020 November 3
by Rachel Turiel

I am self-soothing by making sauerkraut; by planting more kale than we have cold-frame space for; by looking at all meals as vehicles for pickled jalapeños and melted cheese; by baking cake for breakfast.

Election Cake! It’s healthy! It’s delicious! It’s a snack, a meal, a balm! Recipe follows.

My friend Rebecca’s kraut hands; also, turns out processing food with friends restores something human in me.

Today is Election Day in America and for the first time possibly ever, people that I know, respect and genuinely like are voting for the person I’m not. At times this feels like a great opportunity to understand people who are different than me. Other times it feels like a stumbling through a house of mirrors with tacks in my mouth, disorienting and painful.

Col came home from school yesterday reporting that it was not a good day. He sparred with a friend over politics. “We got into an argument,” he said. “So no one won.” This seems to sum up our country right now, or at least my Facebook feed. When everyone is talking, no one is there to listen.

I’ve noticed we have a lot of ways to explain why people think differently than us. We’ve become so polarized that our most generous guesses tend to be, “they’ve been brainwashed by their lie-spewing media.” Our less generous guesses are the verbal daggers cleaving apart friendships. 

A few weeks ago, my mom and I pondered what might lead someone to vote for Donald Trump in their words, with the most dignity and generosity we could muster. Honestly, it was a challenging exercise, the point of which is to remind myself that people whose decisions are bewildering to me have their own stories that are full of dignity and good will and hope and love. If my votes come from a vision for a better world, so must theirs. 

Charles Eisenstein says, “Part of the tactics of war is to characterize and dehumanize the other side. It’s almost an act of betrayal to really seek to understand them.” Wouldn’t it be revolutionary if the folks who condemn the Black Lives Matter movement were curious about what matters to the human hearts behind the protests? Maybe this is why something in me flares up when white, middle class people say “Can’t they ask for equality in a different way?” Wait, I want to say, have you listened to what matters to them?

And yet, when I see a clever meme excoriating certain politicians, a small, hard part of myself cheers. This is the place that wants to believe people can be slotted into evil or virtuous columns and if I just align myself with the right side, I will be safe and seen and belong. This narrative keeps me separate and polarized.

(Recently, I wrote off some behavior of Col’s I found annoying as “surly teenage boyhood.” A day later I got curious with him and he helped me see how what he did was out of care for someone else. It all made perfect sense when I opened myself to his experience. Righteousness fuels me like empty calories, whereas understanding nourishes connection).

I have a good friend who leans conservative. We have long, sometimes tense ideological conversations punctuated with light, personal sharing about kids and work. He and I are really fond of each other. Sometimes we check in with each other in heated moments. “Hey – are you triggered? Did that just make you mad?” I have come to realize we want the same things, namely, an equitable society and healthy planet, a world where we can share our gifts and receive the gifts of others. We just have wildly different strategies to get there. But we’ve influenced each other, listened to each other, and every time I talk to him my heart grows a little.

This weekend Rose and some girlfriends had a little verbal skirmish about politics, finding themselves on different sides of ideologies. Everyone said their piece and then they ate Halloween candy and went ice-skating. “It was a little annoying,” Rose reported, “but I love my friends.” 

In the spirit of expanding our hearts and minds, I am offering 4, free 30-minute sessions in which together we look at what may be motivating someone whose behavior seems bewildering with the most generosity we can muster. This could include anti-vaxxers, pro-maskers, your ex who feeds the kids donuts for dinner, the gun-toting “patriot” at the BLM march, your father-in-law who has cancelled your vote forever. First 4 people to email me at sanjuandrive(at)frontier(dot)net are signed up.

See y’all on the other side.

Love and cake,

Rachel

In other orbits,

:: Col’s been cooking his own meals. In the microwave. Slay me.

:: Col and I got to help Dan pack out a buck deer past bedtime! Col carried a shoulder and both rib racks. Rose was invited too, but declined, “You know that’s not really my thing.”

:: The teenagers carved pumpkins!

“I just love that you two are still willing to carve pumpkins!”

“Mom, you’ve already said that twice.”

Col working on his Black Lives Matter pumpkin

:: Not squirrels, but elk ankle hocks. “For projects,” Dan says.

:: Family photo #1: Is this thing on?  Kids are not amused.

#2:One kid is still not amused.

:: Arlo turned one years old on Sunday. One of his presents from Rose was letting him lick her as much as he wanted for one day.

Every night we all pile on top of Arlo, the kids snuggling him like he’s both the family medicine man and the goofiest baby brother. It’s so funny because Col and Rose are about one centimeter away from each other, gushing love at the dog, and I just have to think some of it is spilling out onto each other.

ELECTION CAKE RECIPE -sweet, nutty, dense, fruity, spicy.

Ingredients:

1 cup grated apple

1 cup grated carrot

1/2 cup applesauce or 1/4 cup yogurt

1/2 cup shredded coconut

1/4 cup raisins

1/3 cup sunflower seeds

1/3 – 1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup melted butter or oil

2 TBSP molasses

2 eggs

1 1/2 cups flour (if gluten free, almond flour is fab)

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

to taste: salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves

Preheat oven to 350F. Mix everything except flour together thoroughly, then fold in flour lightly. Bake at 350F for 35 – 45 mins depending on how unreliable your oven is, like ours!

the magical formula of physics in which the more you give the more is available

2020 October 20
by Rachel Turiel

Last night, after a full weekend of butchering Dan’s bull elk, the kids joined us for the finale of packaging up the elk grind. It wasn’t quite like the old days when Rose skipped around the solarium draped in cheap purses and wielding a sharpie, delightedly scrawling her name across a bazillion packages; no longer was Col poised on a chair, belly to the butchering table, saucer-eyed and aiming a sharp knife at raw muscle meat , all the adults slightly awed and terrified. 

No, this year I tried to pull the teenagers out of their rooms via text message. “Would you be willing to help for an hour to finish up packaging?” I typed out, feeling extremely attached the outcome I wanted.

“I’m working,” Col replied, referring to his eBay research involving Pokemon cards and a very dubious wealth-building scheme.

“I would, but I’m folding laundry,” Rosie texted back. 

I was staring down a dizzying mound of ground elk, pork fat and spices, which needed to be thoroughly mixed, hand-shaped into 1-pound patties, wrapped in plastic wrap then butcher paper, taped up, labeled and sunk into the freezer. It was 9pm, the hour at which we’re all usually tucked into bed, the house quiet and free from any aspirations of effort. I had been at this butchering table all day. My body ached, a certain panic settling into my joints.

In the paradigm that permeates our parenting culture, I had two choices. I could give up on my need for support, which would likely involve telling myself that my kids are selfish and unwilling to help others. This discouraging story would embed itself in my consciousness, becoming the explanation for why the bathroom floor still hasn’t been swept after 3 reminders, or why the house is peppered with dirty socks, flung from sweaty, selfish feet. 

The other option would be to fight for my need for support by motivating them with guilt or bribes, which still involves telling myself the same story: I need help and these selfish, self-absorbed kids will only make room for my needs if it benefits them.  

I’m interested in something different.

I showed up in person at their bedroom doors, blood-smeared apron, hair disheveled, and said “Hey, I know you’re busy with others things, and I wish Daddy and I had planned better so we would have finished up during daylight. But I’m super exhausted and would so love your help. It would make this final stretch so much more bearable to have all four of us in there. Would you be open to giving us an hour of help?”

And then I paused with a silent prayer about their willingness to stretch and my willingness to hear no gracefully.

Soon all four of us were in the solarium, each of us focused on a task, all contributing to the whole. “It’s a family affair,” Dan sang as he dumped another grinder-load of meat in front of me for spicing. I shaped patties of meat, while Col ripped squares of plastic wrap, into which Rose swaddled the meat. Over and over. I could feel my burden lift, carried now by four sets of hands. A small balloon of celebration rose in me for what’s possible.

Col and Rose weren’t excited about helping, but they were willing. And contributing to others’ happiness actually boosts our happiness because we’re wired for interdependence; interdependence runs on mutual generosity. It’s the game where everyone wins.

And yes, I could have insisted they help. (And, there are daily and weekly contributions that we each have agreed to). But when we help out of obligation we miss out on the beneficial feelings generated by true willingness to give to others. This willingness creates the scaffolding that supports cooperation, creative problem-solving, fearless honesty, and the trust that everyone’s needs matter. This is the fuel I want our family to run on, rather than the hope of reward or fear of punishment. And willingness to show up is sometimes enough to get a bull elk in the freezer.

The next day, I got this text from Rose who was biking home from her job at a coffee shop, “I’m five minutes from being home. Wondering if you could prepare a snack for me so I could get right on my schoolwork? Something like chips, vegetables, fruit roll and something sweet?”

I was in the middle of writing this, but yes, like a magical formula of physics in which the more you give the more is available, Rose’s willingness to care for my needs creates more willingness in me to care for hers.

The willingness snack plate.

How to Make a Request using principles of nonviolent communication

  • Requests are clear and specific. Rather than, “Can you give the dog some exercise?” You might ask, “Can you throw the ball for the dog for a few minutes before you go to school?”
  • Requests express what you want, not what you don’t want. Instead of “Please stop flinging your sweaty socks all over the house,” you might ask, “I’d love for all dirty socks to go in the hamper. Can you do that?”
  • Requests are doable. A successful request won’t compromise anyone’s values, and usually doesn’t contain the words “never” or “always.” 
  • Unlike a demand, a request maintains everyone’s dignity and allows for honest assessment of capacity by allowing for the option to say no, or for negotiations. “I’m willing to help package the meat but I’d like to be able to  listen to music/join you in ten minutes/choose the butchering tasks I do.”
  • Requests are more enjoyable to meet when we know how it will contribute to others’ happiness. “If you could silence your phone while we’re chatting for the next half hour I would so appreciate a chance to have your full attention.”
  • Sometimes finding willingness, rather than a big YES, is enough. And, willingness is a muscle that grows in proportion to its use. “I know you’re enjoying reading right now, but do you have any willingness to throw the ball for the dog for five minutes this morning?”
  • If someone is hesitant to say yes, get curious about the obstacle. There may be an easy solution.“Yes, totally fine if you follow up on some texts before silencing your phone for half an hour.”
  • If it’s not a request, don’t phrase it as one. We all appreciate honesty.
  • If an alternative solution can’t be found, and it is a true request, accept the ‘no.’ When people are free to say no without consequence, trust will build, which leads to willingness and the joy of knowing a ‘yes’ is a true yes, which is the best kind of yes.

p.s. New Class Announcements here . For non-locals!

p.p.s. These movies were so, so good: Ladybird and Ali

celebration is an extreme sport

2020 September 15
by Rachel Turiel

DAY 1

We are cruising towards the San Luis Valley after dipping in the Rio Grande, our wet bathing suits standing in for air conditioning in our elderly Subaru. Col is plugged into music while reading Gone Girl; Rose is ceaselessly texting with friends she’s been efforting to keep up with since we left home 2.18 hours ago. Though we have granted unlimited access to music and texting, the phones are like extra personalities in the car; I try not to catastrophize. 

Dan is methodically shelling acorns in the passenger seat, and I am talking talking talking to him, trying to cover everything while he is captive here beside me. This has less to do with kid interruptions and more with the rarity of finding Dan stationary for a couple hours. 

The acorn hulls start to split on their own as they dry and mature

Col unplugs long enough to ask, wariness coating his voice, “So, what exactly will we be doing on this trip?”

“Oh, swimming, hot springs, hanging out, relaxing, eating well, hiking, you know, just being together before you two go back to school.”

I am hoping this registers somewhere in the realm of not as good as hanging with friends but as long as I can keep the Gangsta Rap rolling, better than staying home and doing chores. 

“You guys aren’t like typical Colorado parents,” Col notes. “You know, you’re not like mountain bikers, climbers, skiers, rafters, like a lot of my friends’ parents.”

“True. But I once broke 400 points in Scrabble,” I tell him. 

Dan throws a few acorn hulls out the window into the sagebrush. “And, I know when the acorns are ripe.”

DAY 2

We leave Joyful Journey Hot Springs, which is an unbelievable bouquet of relaxation (see above: not so much extreme sports). The night before I take a picture of Rose in one of the hot springs with a pinked up sunset lighting the Sangre De Cristo mountains behind her. This is expressly for her Instagram account and she asks for my editorial assistance coming up with a caption.

Rose and I are tinkering with the exact wording, when I realize that social media is a little like how dogs find a really good stick and parade it in front of each other. Did you see this? Isn’t this a good stick? I found a good stick so I belong, right? RIGHT? I want to implant this insight directly into Rose’s brain so it appears to have originated from her. We all want belonging, but it doesn’t live on social media. But, no hearts have changed from a mom-lecture. I wrestle my agenda to the ground, and help her spell Sangre de Cristo.

We drive to Salida, both kids plugged into music, giving Dan free-reign on R-rated innuendo from the passenger seat.

~BACKSTORY~

This year the kids were ambivalent about going on our annual end of summer trip. They’d miss their friends, they don’t love our style of camping, they’re afraid of endless hours of boredom, filled only with acorns and Scrabble. We decided to ask them what would make our end of summer trip fun for them.

“Not camping,” one said, 

“Stopping in towns for cold drinks,” the other said.

“And thrift stores.”

Part of me was in full blown panic: we’ve ruined their love of camping! And another part was like, Seriously? That’s all it’ll take? Deal! Col and Rose did go backpacking and car-camping with us this summer, and though I love the stripping away of complexities and dubious American culture when we’re in the woods together, more important is the being together. Always.

We stop for our first cold drinks before we even leave Durango.

(And, still we bring two coolers containing eight jars).

DAY 2 cont..

Rose makes a project of outfitting us at the Salida thrift stores. (Not altruistically; have you seen our style?) She finds Col several bathing suits and Dan a snazzy shirt that he puts on immediately and hardly removes for the rest of the trip. Col selects a black, felt fedora which quickly becomes an appendage.

We swim in the Arkansas, slurp ice cream and head to Monarch Pass, acorn shells flying out the window. Dan and I sing along to the Rolling Stones’ Angie (he replacing Annn-geee with Rach-ieeeee) and the kids are stone-faced in the back, likely trying to tamp down the visceral possibility of their old, non-sporty parents in mutual passion. 

New(ish) bathing suits from Salida thrift stores!

We arrive at the Monarch Mountain Lodge, a cavernous ski hotel, outwardly decrepit and suspiciously empty. Eerie comparisons to The Shining’s Overlook echo in the empty stairwells. The kids descend upon our hotel room with the enthusiasm of people who’ve spent hours shivering under tarps in the wilderness rain. We get permission to set up our cookstove in a vacant banquet hall, and Dan and I crack beers and cook elk fajitas, our dog Arlo woofing protectively at every sound, while the kids watch Simpsons reruns in our room.

The memory of having kids underfoot is so distant, when I turn my head towards the past I can barely make out those days. Now, Arlo and I make regular trips up and down our home hallway to see if anyone needs us. “Just checking in!” I wave, when their bedroom doors open to me, like a friendly guidance counselor, available but not pushy. Used to be there was no separation between us; any thought that bloomed in their heads was headed my way. Their small bodies needed regular plugging into the large recharging station of my own.

Now, I hear the clock ticking. Everything’s recalibrated. Every connection is a celebration, as if any day now these kids will don their parent-repelling armor and shut us out completely. At the end of the day, like our own governing board for the project of raising teenagers, Dan and I review the small celebrations: she held my hand in public; he asked me to wrestle with him on the couch; she shared her feelings without blame; he asked for a salad.

Empty banquet hall at The Overlook, Monarch Lodge.

Dan ceremoniously sets a table by the enormous heat-leaking windows, and brings the kids in. They are sweetly awed by the cooler-sponsored buffet line. Col, who often admires Arlo’s life of sleeping, eating and playing, leans into me in our corner booth, all doped-up from TV, and says, “How did you guys make this dinner so good?”

“I may not have a kayak, but I can cook, right?” Dan replies.

After dinner we take a walk on the trails, each parent walking with a kid and then switching partners for the walk back. Col grabs my hand, like an involuntary reflex from a different era. I inquire if I can ask him things. Things regarding upcoming school, soccer, girls. Sure, he says. I try to engineer a curiosity that’s attentive though not over-bearing, like hey, if you wanna tell me about the girl you’ve been texting, cool; if not, we can talk about Tupac and Biggie. He tells me things I didn’t know, which I meet with casualness, rather than taking notes for a future board meeting with Dan.

DAY 3

Morning in the banquet room, we fry a cornucopia of an omelet while the kids snooze. Later, we take another walk, pack up and head towards lovely Gunnison (cold drinks, thrift store, and our favorite town park for lunch and soccer). When we hit cell reception, Rose gets deluged by texts, so much checking in, keeping up, what are you doing? eating? wearing?

“It’s hard to see what my friends are doing without me, but I’m always going to be missing something,” Rose announces bravely, trying to convince herself.

“Do you have to ask your friends what they’re doing?” I ask. “Cause, it seems like knowing makes you feel worse.” 

“Well, I have to ask because then I know what I’m missing and can prepare myself rather than worrying about what it could be.”

Col shoots her a bewildered look from behind his headphones.

Sometimes it seems like all we can hope for is progressively less suffering.

It gets hot quick and we plunge into Blue Mesa Reservoir, no gear, no sports, just us, human-powered in the deliciously clear cold Gunnison River water. 

Why are swimming dogs so cute?

My new(ish) bathing suit, found by Rose at the Gunnison thrift.

We check into our cabin on the Little Cimmaron River, where we’ll be the next two nights. Rose announces that there is no wifi nor cell reception. “It’s probably a blessing in disguise,” she proclaims with shaky faith. 

Dan and I spot muskrats in a nearby pond and bring the kids back after dinner to view the scruffy little aquatic mammals. We creep around the pond, certain the muskrats will come out at dusk, but the water is still. We crouch at the shore, wanting the kids to be compelled by the possibility of wildness, and wishing, as always, we could have a few more moments with them.

DAY 4

At our one room cabin on the Little Cimmaron River, acorns are drying on every surface. Arlo is woofing protectively (and embarrassingly) at our neighbors. Col is all amped up, wanting to snuggle-wrestle everyone. “At least he’s not being Quiet, Surly Teenager,” I say to Dan. 

“I’m going to become Quiet, Surly Teenager very soon,” he deadpans.

We plan a hike into Black Canyon of the Gunnison, wait for the kids to riot, and when they don’t, we paste on our ‘hiking is a perfectly normal family activity’ smiles.

It’s quiet on the trail, and we descend into the canyon, steep, dark walls enveloping us. We spot trout in the river; butterflies flash orange and yellow like summer’s last flowers. 

“I’m just really happy we’re doing this,” Rose says grabbing my hand. 

We reach the Gunnison river, shimmery clear and cold. Swallows dip and race over the water. We throw sticks in the river for Arlo, sit in the sun and Dan asks, “Can I get mushy with you kids?”

“No,” is the general response. But Dan pushes on. “As your dad and a person who loves you very much I want you to feel belonging, significance and happiness. And as the challenges come, I recognize you won’t always be happy. I know it’s not my job to fix your sadness and I just want you to know I honor your process to meet those challenges in your way.”

Is he actually listening? Who knows.

Back at our cabin, Rose discovers a tiny sliver of cell reception between two cars in the parking lot, and immediately gorges from the banquet of what everyone else is doing (reminding me of when she’d wake from a nap at two years old, disheveled and disoriented, and immediately ask, “What Col doing?”)

I’m annoyed that she tracked down the cell reception like a junkie needing a fix; worried about the emotional costs of trying to make meaning about our own worth and belonging through following others’ lives; and sad, because I want her to find enough in the present moment to hold her. And I remember what Dan told the kids. There will be challenges, and we can’t fix them. We will be here to hold your painful feelings with you, but not for you. 

We eat elk burgers outside on the picnic table while hulking semis, rerouted off Hwy 70 because of forest fires, lumber by. After dinner Dan pulls out our annual end-of-summer questionnaires, and we sit around scrawling in our answers: What surprised you about this year? What are you celebrating about this past year? “How many weeks did I run that summer camp?” Col asks.

Later, after spending 20 minutes at her wifi spot, Rose is ready to visit the muskrat pond. “I guess I didn’t really need to catch up,” Rose concedes, though has a FaceTime call scheduled for tomorrow. The swallows launch circus dives through the cottonwoods, but the pond is still. We crouch in the thistly grass, waiting for the charming dog-paddling rodent to surface.

There is a campfire roaring in the community fire pit when we walk back from the pond, muskrat-sightingless, and we grab seats. A young man strums the guitar and sings passionately about murder, mayhem and LSD. An older couple who look like they just got dropped in from America’s heartland nod along appreciatively, and the owner of the cabins sips a wine cooler and tells stories about her worst guests ever. Col and Rose take it all in, each kid leaning against a parent, and I could stay here forever, semis rolling by into the night.

DAY 5

It’s our last day. We pack up the acorns, the last dregs of our food, wet bathing suits and books, and I keep wanting to invent reasons to stay a little longer. One last trip to the muskrat pond! The kids, who can smell home, grudgingly agree, though they no longer believe in the possibility of muskrats. We walk past last night’s fire pit, under the mammoth cottonwoods, and over the drought-anemic Little Cimmaron River. I update the kids on the plot twists of the book I’m reading, and like it’s old-days storytime, each kid grabs one of my hands unselfconsciously.

Yellow warblers in willows are spotlit like exquisite statuettes in the sun. Cows laze in the grass beyond the pond. I miss the kids already, because I know they will keep leaving us in different ways. Two muskrats, so small they must be babies, cross the pond, and we point and shout and laugh and celebrate. 

Acorn waffles with applesauce. Hells to the yeah.

and I will

2020 August 12
by Rachel Turiel


Col and Rose scoping out a herd of mountain goats across the gulch.

August is coming in hard and fast, each evening reclaiming a sliver more of daylight, and everybody is feeling it: Rose, who has two potential ‘back to school’ outfits in the works, the intergenerational house sparrow flock thundering their invasive selves around the yard, the garden tomatoes aiming for ripeness.

The clouds just paused after a generous monsoon season, the meteorological IV to every living thing in this high, arid place. For a couple weeks I became bystander to the magic, the rain coaxing every garden plant to be its best self; there was nothing I could have improved upon despite my big primate brain and ersatz tools. Please, more of this.

It has been a weird and wonderful summer, as usual, but more so. I can see myself on the spectrum of parenting—having begun at you are responsible for keeping this child alive every second and moving at a rapid clip towards some other point on the trajectory, like, outta the way, this is not your life.

Col actually sat me and Dan down recently and said, “I want you to trust me to make my own decisions, even if you don’t agree with them.”

Long pause. Inhale. Exhale. Whomp.

Part of me was like, You go, beautiful teenager! Love the clarity and self-advocacy of your expression! Yes, tell me what you want!

Another part was like, Well, does this include when you leave for the whole day to jump off cliffs into the Animas river with no food, towel or water bottle…?

Col’s request has actually created a threshold question for me, which I ask myself 50 times a day: “do I need to interfere here?” (Interfere, meaning: suggest, remind, correct, advise). I was surprised to realize that approximately 48 times a day, the answer is no. (And, the last 2 are debatable).

Sometimes I make deals with myself. Ok, Col’s camp starts in 30 minutes (he’s running a very small neighborhood summer camp) and he’s still not home. I will do my childbirth breathing while waiting 15 more minutes before I text a reminder. In he saunters 14 minutes later like the king of timeliness.

Some of Col’s recent art (you are invited to follow him at artbycolhinds on Instagram):

Tupac Shakur

Eazy E

The King

For the last month Dan and I have been stationed in the kitchen, pitting cherries, freezing serviceberries, cooking apricots down to a splattering orange gruel. Meanwhile, the kids come and go, earbuds in, social micro-dramas swirling in their heads. Sometimes, someone will sit down, chow some fruit and tell us about their lives. We take any morsels given. You can talk to us about West Coast vs East Coast rap and we will give you our full attention. You can tell us about how confusing texting with friends can be and we will turn towards you, cherry-stained and empathetic, wanting to understand your world.

Cherries + earbuds

We will do our best to empty the pockets of our parental fears and frustrations with each other, so what’s left, dear teenagers, is the spaciousness to see you and give you the acceptance and understanding you crave. We will fail; and we will try again.

There is a hummingbird sipping from the Rocky Mountain bee plant, the gorgeous native that planted itself amongst the tomatillos, which I couldn’t pull, even if they took a little something from some future tomatillo salsa. 

Everyone is stretching into new territory, though I think Dan and I have grown the most this summer. Somewhere between wanting to live off roadkill/apricot kabobs and trying to see the world teens live in, we said yes to smartphones (for the kids, we still have our flip-dinosaurs). We’ve applied firm limits (thank you Screentime app) and oodles of trust. And it’s surprisingly fine. Yes, you can tell if Col’s home by the presence or absence of rap music coming from his room, and there are Instagram-stimulated emotions that arise for Rose, but I’d rather be available to support those emotions than bubblewrap the kids or force them to live in my world. They know my world, they’re always welcome there. I want them to visit willingly.

Dan tells me, after pitting thousands of plump cherries, “I think this is the most human thing you can do.” Next day, I wake up with a long legged teengirl nestled into me, asking, “Will you pay for the headphones on Amazon?” (“We’re done with $%#@ Amazon,” I tell her, wishing it were true). Both kids are studying teen culture like they’ll be tested on it. Then, at night they skateboard down to our neighborhood park where kids and dogs meet up and play games, games that require their full presence, their bodies, their unstoppable energy (cell phones set aside in the wood chips), the same games I’m certain kids have been playing forever.

Selfie gen.

Every day a handful of tomatoes ripen. I push myself to savor them exactly right now, even though I want a pantry full of tomato sauce in December. This savoring is sort of how I feel about the children. Although they no longer orbit the planet of my doting motherhood, I don’t want to get lost in savoring what is no longer true. Today Col invited me into his room and played me snippets of NWA and Wu Tang Clan, offering his commentary. “They’re really good storytellers,” he says about the lyrics which make me wince. Rose spent this morning texting a million people like she was president of her own small country, periodically including me in her emoji-filled missives, from 20 feet away in our house. I loved every minute. This is what’s here to savor now. And I will.

P.S. Chi-An, you won the book giveaway. Please send your mailing address!

P.P.S. Loved these 3 fiction books: Sea Wife, Homegoing, Separation Anxiety 

2 new classes, resources, solidarity, and book giveaway

2020 June 4
by Rachel Turiel

Dear dear friends,

There is so much to say right now; my head is swimming with it. And there is even more to which to listen. As a teacher and practitioner of Nonviolent Communication, I am deeply aligned with nonviolence, and I recognize that I live in the privilege of never having been systemically, historically oppressed and dehumanized.*

The relevant question, in my mind, does not center around the legitimacy of the protests against police violence. The question is why are people of color so exhausted, discouraged and outraged, and why haven’t white people been listening?

Author and activist Ijeoma Oluo says in this stunning interview, “There’s no way to avoid absorbing our American culture, which was designed to benefit white males. We absorb American racism in ways we’re not fully aware of.” In essence, the soil of our country is poisoned with racism. And this is the soil we eat and drink from. And yet, many of us have been taught that we’re not racist, but are the “good white people.” No wonder we come across as racially fragile and defensive when presented with our impact.

Waking up to privilege is uncomfortable and liberating. Here are some resources I’ve appreciated:

Facing Privilege Free Conference Calls  – Miki Kashtan does a beautiful job of holding all with care while pressing our feet to the fire of transformation.

White Awake combats white supremacy by focusing on educational resources and spiritual practices designed to engage people who’ve been socially categorized as “white” in the creation of a just and sustainable society.

A couple resources to learn more about racism in this country:

So You Want To Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo BOOK GIVEAWAY – THIS WONDERFUL BOOK WAS GIFTED TO ME AND I’D LIKE TO GIFT A NEW COPY TO SOMEONE. LEAVE A COMMENT TO BE ENTERED IN GIVEAWAY.

Mindful of Race by Ruth King

How to be an Anti-Racist by Ibram X Kendi

Post-traumatic Slave Disorder video – Dr Joy DeGruy

Suggestions from POC on what white people can do to support:

Performative Allyship is Deadly and What to do Instead

The Untold: Talk to your white children about racism

I am no expert. I am likely to cause pain from my ignorance. And, I will care for my discomfort and keep trying because a world that works only for some is not a world that works.

*********

As always, there is a lot of eating:

Two New June Classes:

I am offering two online classes in June, one for parents and one for anyone. 15% of all proceeds will go to Bryan Stevenson’s Equal Justice Initiative

The Revolution Starts at Home – for parents of tweens and teens
~ sponsored by La Plata Family Center Coalition
This series consists of four stand alone classes using principles of Nonviolent Communication to address issues relevant to raising teens with the goal of maintaining connection, dignity and trust for parents and kids while holding your limits and values.
You can sign up for all 4 classes, or pick and choose.
Classes are Tuesdays, June 9th – 30th, 4pm – 5:30 MST on Zoom.
 
More detailed description on these classes here.
Offered on a donation basis; 15% of proceeds to be donated to Bryan Stevenson’s Equal Justice Initiative.
To register email me at sanjuandrive@frontier.net
Effective Dialogue for Uncertain Times – 4 spots left
These are uncertain times. I’ve seen friendships strained over mask-wearing, acquaintances “break up” on Facebook over differences in perspective. Sometimes a respectful “goodbye” is an apt strategy, other times something greater is lost, which may be simply the capacity to stay in dialogue with someone you care about. Most of us weren’t given the skills to navigate conflict in a way that maintains everyone’s dignity while striving for solutions that work for all. We often reach for blame, shame, appeasement, and power-over to “win” conflicts when tools of listening, perspective-taking, dialoguing, and sharing power can wrap relationships in connection and trust like a security blanket. In times that are uncertain, building resilient relationships is some of the truest security I know.
Three Wednesdays, June 17th, 24th and July 1st, 4pm – 5:30pm MST on Zoom
Cost: Sliding scale $75 – $50. Scholarships available. 15% of proceeds to be donated to Bryan Stevenson’s Equal Justice Initiative.
To register, email me at sanjuandrive@frontier.net
Testimonials on my work here
Wishing you inner strength, love and power,
Rachel
* although being Jewish, historic oppression, displacement and genocide has been a part of my ancestors’ not so distant past.

Enter the book giveaway for one copy of So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo by entering a comment below.

And, if all else fails with your teenager, turns out getting a dog addresses at least half your problems.

no one is ever alone anymore

2020 May 14
by Rachel Turiel

Outside, the flip just switched from spring to summer. Fruit trees got all dressed up, partied hard, and now are disrobing in thousands of pastel teardrops. A male house sparrow wakes up the neighborhood at 6:32am, a lusty, one-note symphony on repeat. Tiny wild mustards sing their yellowness on the shale hillsides.

Pre-drop:

Post-drop:

This is our new puppy, Arlo. He’s da best baby buddy boy.

Inside, there are so many people. People who are stressing about isosceles triangles at 7am. Other people who remember at 8:30pm that they didn’t actually start their past-due humanities assignment. Some people have set up work stations in the living room, hissing at family members who are “making disgusting noises” while online math meetings are in progress. And all these people are constantly eating.

And I am in my office bedroom offering support and coaching to a parent hundreds of miles away, trying to be somewhat professional. Outside my door, someone is spelunking in the cereal box and asking very loudly, “scalene triangles have no equal sides, right? RIGHT?”

Which is to say, everyone’s world has shrunk to this small space, and no one is ever alone anymore.

“They never leave anymore,” I cry to Dan after three mother-child conflicts before 8:30am. “Make them leave!”

For a week, I sit in a bathtub of grief, fear and anger. And I know that if I don’t care for these emotions they will metastasize into aggression towards myself, my family, the world. How do I know this? Every time I open my mouth, something ugly and judgmental flies out. My kids duck. I cry.

Snapchat notifications ping into our shared space like children, issuing urgent pleas for Rose’s attention; it seems Col could play video games until he loses circulation. I’ve lost touch with what I’m supposed to be doing. Protecting kids from the ways social media erodes their self-love? Accepting that social media is how kids communicate these days? Finding the middle ground? From where I stand the middle ground looks like a crevasse.

I meet with two friends who once worked for a local wilderness therapy program for adolescents. They tell me that the biggest common denominator in families whose kids need treatment is the parents inability to set and hold limits. 

I think of how so much on the internet offers a drop-kick of dopamine to our brains, or a shiny distraction to sitting with ourselves in fear, grief, boredom, awkwardness. Or even, the illusion of connection and belonging, needs so integral to humanity it’s no wonder we mistake “likes” on a post for being liked. I think of how setting limits for ourselves, for our children, is an act of love, of protection, of valuing their time, creativity, emotions, connection with themselves.

At a certain point, I meet what is with as much love as I can. And, this is what is: My children are teenagers exploring society and their role within it, while being raised by two people who thrive outside of many societal norms.

We start to talk. 

I have cared enough for my grief, fear, and anger that I no longer come across as a predatory animal, striking with fear-driven agendas and demands. Now, I can come with curiosity and care. Rose tells me that even though she “snaps” with some girls several times a day, it doesn’t seem like they’re actually becoming better friends.

Col shares that video games distract him from boredom; and with friends less accessible, he’s not always sure what to do with his time.

We keep talking.

Rose tells me that when she sees people commenting “you’re gorgeous” on a friend’s Instagram selfie, but not hers, she wonders if she’s pretty.

We set some limits together, and I can actually feel the kids relax. I feel all of us relax. The next day Rose deletes Snapchat; she whittles down who she follows on Instagram.

We all commit to shutting down devices for the evening as often as possible, which feels like freedom, not restriction.

Today is day 60 of quarantine and bizarre things are happening. Col invites Rose to take a walk around the neighborhood kicking the soccer ball. They bicker and insult each other all the way to the door, but walk out together.

Col is illustrating the headline Chimp seen Sucking Brains from Monkey. He plays Black Sabbath, both of us singing along to War Pigs. All this, at 11:30am. Later, I tell Dan, “it’s OK that I don’t like all of Col’s art, right? I mean, I like that he’s doing art.

I like that he’s *doing* art…

In the garden, it’s the season of leaves. Spinach, chard, kale, bok choi, lamb’s quarters. Everything else is under cold frames, dreaming of their future. 

Lamb’s quarters – like spinach, but free!

Chard plus smoothie

After spending all week together, we often go hiking on the weekends, together!

We celebrated Rose’s 13th birthday last weekend. Rose wrote a menu for the day and Dan performed a parody (on the tennis racket guitar) to the Flaming Lips song “She Don’t Use Jelly”

Well, I know a mom, her name is Rachie

When she gave birth, she was happy as can be

Cuz she didn’t want a puppy

She didn’t want fleas

She didn’t want another boy

Or any of these

She wanted Ro-oh-oh-sie

She got Ro-oh-oh-sie

By the end of the night, full of spaghetti and cheesecake, we all gather in the solarium. Rebecca, who lives upstairs, and sits exactly between me and Rose in age, bridges our worlds. She serenades Rose on guitar, playing Taylor Swift, seasoned with earthy funk. Rose throws her smooth and strong 13 year old legs over my unshaven and strong middle aged legs. And I feel the power and love we are, intertwined, mutually influencing each other. 

I think this is called homeschool P.E.

Love,

Rachel

p.s. If you are a parent wanting support in communication with your family, let me know. I’d love to support you in caring for all the emotions that get triggered in these weird times so you can respond with love, creativity and wisdom to your children.

it’s not about the sliced turkey

2020 April 3
by Rachel Turiel

Yesterday, out of the blue, Rose announced that she’d really like if we could put more effort into our front yard, like picking up sticks and planting grass. “It’s just so ugly!” she said. A tear rolled down her face. This wasn’t the time to explain how I feel about tending grass, nor to point out how I’ve put a prepper’s lifetime of effort into growing food, flowers and fruit trees in our backyard. 

The backyard is not ugly. Not showing you the front yard.

Next, Rose opened the fridge and stared into the well-mapped depths, hoping for new discoveries. Alas, it was our same old food and worse, there was no sliced turkey for lunch. (Nevermind that we almost never have sliced turkey for any meal). Then our furniture came under fire. Everywhere her eyes landed she found something to criticize. It was like she was giving me the underground tour of her own mind, through the dark corners of overwhelm, the jagged edges of fear.

Cheering myself up with garden photos: washing greens, 2017

When in distress, our minds look for an easy path to feeling better (sliced turkey! a tidy lawn! new furniture!), though it may come out as an attack on others. I’ve learned that this is not the time for pep-talks on emotional resilience, nor explanations on how criticism doesn’t motivate anyone’s generosity.

This is the time to get physically close. To become a first responder, creating a safe haven for all feelings. To increase my resilience and self-compassion so I can accompany Rose through her inner landscape without taking it personally. Because it’s not about me. And it’s not about the sliced turkey.

Together, Rose and I traveled through the surface layers (our neglected front yard and lack of easy lunch meat), and eventually discovered what was at the core: grief around losing a sense of normalcy, confusion and stress around how to navigate online school, fear about the unknown.

Together, we cared for those feelings, and we named what was important to her (predictability, ease, clarity) and surrounded these needs with all the tenderness we could muster. Wanting predictability, ease and clarity makes sense. And, being heard for the pain of not getting what we’re wanting makes it easier to live with those unmet needs, and to see the moments where ease might actually be available. About ten minutes later Rose jumped up to make lunch, no sliced turkey needed.

Squash in root cellar: fall harvest 2016

That same day we had a full family conflict, 3 v 1. I was the 1! Being on the receiving end of the others’ anger was painful. Working it out was prickly and hard. It required all of us staying in the messy arena of dialogue rather than deciding to “let it go” or “pick our battles and just move on.” We took our time, each family member expressing what was up for them until feeling fully heard and acknowledged. There was fresh understanding and regrets expressed. “Oh, that’s how it was for you; I regret my impatience.” “Now I see how my actions affected you, I wish I had given you more choice.” Our connection and trust increased, which comes from solving conflict  so completely there is nowhere for resentment to take hold, as it often does, already building for the next conflict.

These unpredictable times and subsequent close quarters will take their toll on us in different ways. We might nit-pick more, we might have less resilience to deal with everyday frustrations, we might think that if we only had the sliced goddamned turkey, everything would be better. 

However, when we can apply—like medical instruments—care, curiosity and empathy to the wounds of fear, uncertainty, grief, overwhelm and confusion, we can help our children regulate, self-connect and grow in their resilience and empathy towards themselves and others.
What if we could come out of quarantine with strengthened relationships?
Parents, grandparents, caregivers, please join me in a 3 week online class:
Connected Parenting through Unpredictable Times. More details here.
Tuesdays, April 14th, 21st, 28th. 1pm – 2:30 MST
Cost: sliding scale $75- $50. Scholarships available. 20% of proceeds donated towards COVID-19 related medical equipment for the Navajo Nation.

the essentials

2020 March 27
by Rachel Turiel

Dearest dear ones,

Last night as we all sat down to dinner Rose said, “we’ve been eating so well since the Coronavirus.” Dan and I looked around at the latest iteration of deer sausage, bulk-bin grains and kid-friendly vegetal back up, which looked a lot like what’s been on the menu since the kids began eating solid food. 

“Do you think it’s actually that we’re enjoying our meals more?” I asked. 

It’s strange, really, to be in the middle of what seems like one of Col’s post-apocalyptic dystopian novels, and to recognize that we’ve been enjoying our meals more. The kids are no longer arriving at the table as a quick stopover between decelerating from soccer practice and groaning off to do homework. (Homework! What a weird thing to be doing with your one precious life). Last night, Col finished dinner, washed his plate and came back to the table to hang out and wonder, “what would happen if I snorted salt?”

Suddenly our world is smaller, which, as someone who’s never been very geographically ambitious, suits me ok. And though when I run into friends in the neighborhood I have to hold the hugging animal of myself back, being in the live company of others feels sacred. Even at six feet away. Even for fifteen minutes. In the absence of physical contact, and the presence of shared uncertainty, I can feel our human hearts arcing towards each other. I hope we can remember this.

One of the most impactful things my teacher Miki Kashtan has pointed to is “Capitalism wants us to solve non-material needs with material goods.” Meaning, we meet our needs for belonging, fun, connection, purpose, rest, choice, etc… through consuming things that can’t touch what we’re actually longing for. You know what I’m saying? And, in the process, the mining, manufacturing, advertising, and shipping that surrounds these goods creates profound harm, most of which is invisible to us, the consumer. And, the happiness of buying things has likely never touched the happiness of being connected to people and the natural world, for anyone. 

And now, we are asked to stop buying what is non-essential, and we are asked to be with ourselves, and in some ways, life seems saner. Or, maybe it’s that the essential is rising to the top, so we can really see it. The daily mix of chickadees, house finches, juncos, and goldfinches are like gifts I’m privileged to open with my eyes, even if we’re going a little broke feeding them. The first hugs of the morning–when we’re all reunited back into the light of these bewildering times, called upon to make sense of another day–these are essential. Last night, after eating (and praising!) deer stew #563, we stood outside watching the crescent moon cradling the brightness of Venus, each of us silently in awe.

Why were we so busy? 

Right now Col and I are sitting together in the living room; he is writing a paper on the effect of Coronavirus on the U.S. Census (thank you online school!!!) while listening to what the church lady in me likes to call “explicit rap.” I give him periodic shocked looks over language, which I think helps him feel like he’s fulfilling his role of teenager. He’s also writing and illustrating the new comic strip, Epic Olympic Fails. Sucks when an olympic slalom ends with an ill-placed ski pole; the sound being splurch.

Deer stew #563:

Lots of Scrabble happening, as per usual; though we’re adding new challenges like: stay in plank for as many seconds as points you just earned. So far, challenges are PG due the new, perma-presence of children. Notice the Scrabble “lazy susan” Dan made me for Hanukkah so we can just spin the board without disrupting words!

Dan, working from home:

Why not remove all our outlet and switch plate covers and paint them in our very small kitchen?

Table football. We are really digging deep here.

I’ve been planting a prepper’s fortune of seeds. The usuals like kale and tomatoes, and also the poppy seeds that I collected 17 years ago, and the lemon gem marigolds, that I’ve given up on ten times because they haven’t germinated, though this could be the year. Every seed I plant feels somehow sacred, and also like the most ordinary and practical thing I could do.

Oh, and books. We stocked up before our library shut down, and I highly recommend Know My Name, by Chanel Miller, a phenomenal young writer, who was sexually assaulted by Brock Turner, the Stanford swimming star, and who can finally tell her story. Also, Such a Fun Age, a complicated, engaging novel by Kiley Reid, about race, class, parenting and belonging and not-belonging. (Until Jeff Bezos starts donating ventilators to hospitals and laptops to underserved children please support independent booksellers).

And if it sounds like it’s all wholesome Waldorfy projects here, don’t be fooled, my kids are imbibing screen-time like Amish teens who’ve just left the farm. A week ago we lifted all screen limits as an experiment. Maybe they’ll reach their own natural limits Dan and I said to each other with all the naive hopefulness of parents of newborns who say he’s just so mellow. 

And, honestly, we were sick of policing screen-time. And curious about what would happen if we took that factor out of our relationship. I’ve enjoyed the sound of Col’s friends voices coming through the screen as they’re inexplicably traveling in the same Minecraft world simultaneously, one of them asking, “Do we need more iron, Col?” And snapchat seems somehow less nefarious now with Rose’s friends sending goofy videos recounting their days in isolation. 

Also, I know not everyone has been able to enjoy the Coronacation. My dear friend who is head of the 911 call center in a neighboring county has responsibilities which mean she is never not working. For some kids, school is safer and more stable than home; for many students online learning is not an option; health care workers are seeking donations of protective wear so they can stay safe. Clearly this is not a world that works for all, or even most. And what even the most privileged and generous of us can offer is simply a bandaid. I am grateful for those bandaids, and we need systemic change.

I have a crick in my neck that seems to have materialized sometime between the end of hugging and our libraries closing. It’s like the fingers of helplessness and uncertainty have clamped down on my soft tissue. Part of me is desperate to get back to normal, and another part is terrified that we will actually go back to normal, not having learned from this global pause.

Today it is snowing lightly. Rose, who, in her earnest way showers and dresses for online school, is doing an art assignment while chatting with her friend Isabel, who’s doing the same project in her home across town. Our outlet covers are being beautified. Every day I get closer to launching online classes (“Communication skills for close quarters.” Anyone interested?). Col was just spotted trolling for chocolate in the pantry, which is exactly how we work from home.

Today, Dan and I are butchering a deer and making sausage to give to out of work community members. So many friends are checking in. A hotel in Durango just offered up rooms free of charge to anyone in need. I speak to my parents more often than ever, and this is for my sake not theirs. When we play street soccer later, we won’t have to worry much about cars.

We are lucky, so so lucky. And I hope you are finding the ways in which you are too. 

Stay safe and nourished and send news from your place in the world,

Rachel

conflict is practice for all future relationships

2020 January 23
by Rachel Turiel

Outside, in the sun’s negative space, the shadows cast long, bluish shapes across the snow. Chard and kale hang on under the cold frame through single degrees, perhaps detecting the minute—one minute!—of daylight we’re now gaining every 24 hours. Thousands of crab apples dangle from our trees, and I watch expectantly, like the empty-nester who’s filled her pantry, for the robins and waxwings to come home and feast.
The human-dog puzzle; there is always a way to snap together perfectly.

Inside, the dog sighs, spoiledly, from the couch. The kids are home, spinning their wheel of choices to decide what’s happening now. Options: ignore each other and do their own thing; get curious about what the other is doing and insert oneself, perhaps successfully, perhaps annoyingly; full-on brawl; collaborate for glorious moments on which Dan and I quietly eavesdrop, like explorers having discovered a rare, lost tribe.

Before tonight’s knock-down, drag-out over a Garfield comic book, we were all gathered at the dinner table eating grilled deer backstraps, Rosie asking “Is this from the roadkill you found today, Daddy?” as wide eyed and appreciative as the 1950’s daughter wondering if the bread-winner had brought home filet mignon again. 

Ravine: our new go-to game. It took us a few rounds to realize it’s a cooperative game; i.e. hoarding and scheming against each other doesn’t actually work in our favor.

It was a Saturday, and the kids and I had walked downtown to hear some live music and when the folk duo (Sheryl and Beau! Yeah!) sang they are one person/they are two alone/they are three together/they are for-or each other in their sweet voices, I grabbed both kids and pulled them to me, arugula glinting in my teeth, knowing this song was written for us. “Awkward,” Col said, rolling his eyes, as required, though not pulling away an iota. I remembered Col’s most recent bedtime confession: “I love you and Daddy the most and the same amount. And next, Rose and Rocket.” Being on par with the dog is a lofty place. These raw expressions of love are unwieldy to wrestle with in the light of day.

Later, we’re all gathered around the pellet stove (central source of warmth = a great strategy for forced togetherness), Dan and I playing Scrabble (sorry honey, “Zumba” is a proper noun), Rose snuggling the dog while reading Garfield (foreshadowing), and Col devouring a Stephen King book before his self-imposed scary book curfew of 7pm. I am thinking to myself, this family life is so sweet. 

Post-bedtime, a four alarm fight breaks out over the Garfield book. I have to physically separate the kids, and then do the kind of mediating that takes place at high decibels, everyone’s nervous system twanging with intensity. Somehow I’m able to remind myself, people are mad and exhausted. Siblings fight. Sometimes staying vigilant to accurate observations keeps the balloon of me from floating off into anxious projection.

Later, I do my bedtime rounds and check on each kid. I am an empathy vending machine. Press my buttons and I will stroke your forehead and care for your feelings. Rose tells me “I’m sick of being Col’s book supplier! And if he had been a little nicer about giving me my book back, I’d probably bring it to him because I’m ready to go to sleep.” My arms extend finding the softness of her scalp. “You just wanted some kindness, huh? A little consideration and appreciation for bringing this book into the house.” 

Next door, Col tells me that The Shining is so scary he wanted to read Garfield to relax his mind. My arms extend. “Oh honey, you just wanted some peace for your mind. You wanted to be heard about how important that was to you.”

It’s never about the book, is it.

The next morning I ask the kids to make an agreement about what do to next time Col wants to read a book that Rose checked out of the library. Together they make a plan, write it up, sign it and stick it on the fridge. Why have the same damn fight more than once?

Later that morning Col is reading the Garfield book on the couch. Rose is making a smoothie ten feet away and the sibling weather seems calm and stable. I realize that for them conflict is not a rift in their fabric; it’s part of the pattern. It’s not a problem, it’s practice for all future relationships.

Now, they’re in Rose’s room collaborating on an art project, which looks like this:

Col: Can I draw something in your new art-prompts book?

Rose: No, I want to save the pages.

Col: How about I just draw the parts that are hard for you?

Rose: Can you draw a cow?

Col: Sure.

Rose: Ok.

Col is too cool to tooth it up for photos these days, but I guarantee you, he’s happy to have been invited into Rosie’s habitat.

Dan is in the kitchen marinating a deer heart, shuffling pots of other marinating deer parts in the fridge, the roadkill pipeline having been quite productive this winter. I’m contemplating heading out for a cross-country ski with the dog, though am moving Sunday-slow, wondering how to wring all the sweetness out of this last weekend day. 

Maybe there’s time for a Scrabble game before I head out. But then we’d need more coffee.

“Are you making another pot of coffee?” I ask Dan. 

“Oh yes,” he says. “I’m making coffee great again.”

Another freaking birthday. Such a damn nice kid.

the tactical role of raising teens

2019 November 20
by Rachel Turiel

October:

The leaves are going up in fiery, breathtaking flames. We amble around stupored and awed, recycling appreciative phrases from every past autumn, which feels reassuring and maybe like humanity at its best. 

I’m at the thrift store with Rose, because here it’s easier to say yes to all the things she “needs” like black leggings and nice sweatpants. 

We meet up and her cart is full of non-sweatpants and it’s like a game show, getting past her fast talking challenges while tracking my own thoughts. 

“This doormat is so cute and would last a reallyreallyllongtime!”

“We have two doormats already.”

“I know but it’s so cute and wouldbereallyfun!”

“I’m not going to buy that.”

“Okay, these pants are a little big but half off and…”

“Yes.”

“This sweatshirt?” (that she’s already wearing)

“Don’t you have one just like that?”

“Yes, but not this color.”

“Ok.”

“So, these shoes,” which she is also already wearing, “would be my exhibition shoes (school presentation) and theyfitperfectly!”

“Whoa. Those have a really high heel. No. I’m not comfortable with that.”

“Whyyyyyyy?”

“Well. My take on high heels is that they were developed to accentuate women’s sexual appeal and I’m not comfortable with you putting that message out there at 12.”

Meanwhile I text Col at home, remembering that he’s been biking to school in sub-freezing temps with no jacket because he’s outgrown his and hasn’t taken any steps to replace it.

“Can I get you a jacket at the thrift store?”

“Yea”

(There is one really warm jacket in his size. I buy it. He loves it. End of Col shopping).

Dust bunny and the Witch:

November:

Next, all those flaming leaves float to the earth, coating the ground and when I let the dog out to pee at night, I track him by the crunch crunch crunch.

I’m in the kitchen, recalibrating my role as parent. Turns out parenting a 12 and 14 year old requires more of a special ops tactical role. Like, I’m here making dinner if you want to tell me anything, like anything about the boy you’ve been texting, not that I need to know or have any opinions, I’ll just be here chopping onions. And then it’s my job to tamp down all the questions that are actually igniting a bonfire of curiosity and just casually chop the onions.

She says, I wish there was something between having a crush and actually dating.

I say, do you mean like just being friends?

She says, Mom, you don’t understand. 

Just keep chopping onions.

It’s a weekday morning, that time where paradoxically we all want to move slow, savoring drinking coffee, snuggling the dog, and yet we are on speed mode, dashing around, all of us inefficiently clogging the kitchen, except the boy who waits for food and winter jackets to be delivered.

Me to Col: Would you be open to either putting away dishes or doing dishes this morning?

Col: Sure. Whatever would help you more.

PAUSE to re-hinge my jaw.

Me: Oh, honey! I come towards him with outstretched arms.

Col: MOM. DON’T MAKE A BIG DEAL OUT OF THIS.

Me: (Tactical response): Ok, cool. Thanks for helping.

Most days, if he’s not working a carpentry job, I find Dan in the solarium, engaged in some ancient art. “So, about that thing I was telling you about over breakfast…” I start, following him outside as he moves a bucket containing an elk hide soaking in a slurry of brains. “I’m wondering if you have time to give me some empathy about that interaction last week…” Now he’s applying sinew to a bow with warm hide glue. “cuz, I’m still so confused..,” Now he’s softening a deer hide by hand. Now he’s grinding up pinyon sap with mortar and pestle.

Applying pinyon sap and turpentine with heat gun to a bow to…um…strengthen it?

Sinew-backing a bow (after pulling tendons out of deer legs, drying and pounding them, then pulling them apart into thin threads) to increase bendiness.

We’re playing bocce ball in the back yard when Rose notices the roadkill deer hanging from the back shed. She is horrified, despite the fact that she is made of roadkill deer.  Perhaps she’s imagining a brigade of middle school girls showing up and seeing the weirdness that is her dad, who hands out his card to people who regularly commute on county roads. If ya happen to see a deer down…

That same night Rose devours grilled deer tenderloin, and the next night ribs, announcing “these are the best deer ribs I’ve ever had.”

I’ve been facilitating empathy sessions amongst the clients at our local soup kitchen. We meet for an hour weekly to “share struggles and celebrations and be held in care and support, while practicing tools of listening without judgments or solutions.” I know, when you don’t have shelter, empathy seems like placing a ragged bandaid on a gaping wound. And yet, people are making a point to come weekly, leaving happy to have been heard, to have their humanity seen. Seeds are planted.

If things look different it’s cuz we moved back downstairs, after 16 years upstairs, so the kids could have their own rooms and Dan and I could have enough space for TWO cutting boards on kitchen counters simultaneously.

There’s big snow in the forecast, the kind that puts the whole town on pins and needles of expectation. The root cellar is stacked with potatoes, carrots, apples and winter squash. Dan and I butchered the deer while the kids were at school, with precision, celebration and multiple coffee refills.

Last night I found Col eating candy corn from a half pound bag in bed. The tactical move was to swallow down every judgment, crawl into bed with him and ask for a piece.

Rose has been wanting to decorate our new house, thank goodness, because the rest of us are hopelessly utilitarian. She’s put up rotating seasonal decor in her room. Puffy, foam autumn leaves are on their way out; snowflakes coming in. She wakes me up talking about living room rugs. Or, “that bathroom linoleum is so old, you just can’t get it clean. How bout a new bathroomflooroverThanksgivingbreak?!!”

Dan has been out on his November “buck drives,” (November is the rut, meaning a lot of exciting animal dramatics). Yesterday he saw both “eastside obsession” and “westside obsession.” Living with him is so fun.

It’s all so good, really. Not in an I love every second sort of way, but in an I’m in for it all, the whole wild, magical and bittersweet journey.

Rose borrows a pair of shoes for her school exhibition. Turns out they have a substantial heel on them, as do every other girl’s shoes in her presenting group. I am reminded that she’s her own person, finding her way, and doing a beautiful job. And I make the tactical move of breathing in the full, gorgeous mystery of life. 

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