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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. 

waking up

2019 September 18
by Rachel Turiel

While I was making plans (i.e fiercely procrastinating) to find a ladder, climb the ladder and pick all the out-of-reach chokecherries, the robins came and stripped our tree bare.

I think there’s a lesson here, which is something like: if you want something, go out and make that shit happen. I have enough self-manufactured resistance (love affair with my comfort zone, self-doubt, not wanting to risk my belonging) that keeps me on the proverbial couch, and all that couch-comfort is actually getting quite uncomfortable.

I’ve been super inspired by Greta Thunberg, the 16-yr old climate activist, who says “Everyone says climate change is the greatest existential threat and the most important issue of all and then they just carry on like before.”

I’ve been thinking about what makes us “just carry on like before,” see: love affair with our comfort zone, self-doubt, not wanting to risk our belonging. And I’ve been wondering what our human lives would look like if we all woke up to our collective societal illusions: that we are forever, hopelessly deficient without some new product; that our belonging is contingent on fitting in; that we can avoid pain by acquiring more stuff; that being liked = being accommodating.

As my dear teacher Miki Kashtan says, “Capitalism wants us to solve non-material needs (belonging, freedom, connection, purpose, play…) with material goods.” I’m kind of wondering what we’d find if we stopped looking for love, meaning and excitement at say, Target? Or, if we stopped suppressing parts of ourselves to fit in? Maybe we’d stop “carrying on like before.” Maybe this world would look different. Maybe things would start getting really fun and interesting. It’s possible we’d find that we need less shoes. This is liberation, not deprivation.

This is the good news, really. I am going to hoist myself off the couch, with all my awkwardness and self-doubt. There’s work to be done. And also laundry. I’ll go to the Citizens Climate Lobby meeting tonight and then come home and watch Strangers Things with the kids; go to my White Women Waking up to Whiteness group and then come home and cry because my dog is a total project. I think there’s room for all of it. No one has to do it perfectly; but never doubt that your voice and effort matters.

Snaps:

:: Dan and I snuck off for some amazing backpacking trips this summer.

My kind of trip, drinking wine in a can by the fire: (you know there’s a book in my pack. This one, actually. Hard cover).

Dan’s kind of trip, keeping tabs on the big bulls:

Ptarmigan!

Total amazement, finding this (and leaving it):

:: Dan made a big ass drum out of rawhide that he made out of elk skin:

:: Dan driving to hunting camp with fresh willow to make a sweat lodge with his Diné buddy:

:: From the dep’t of The Kids are Alright: Col hung out with a friend who he hadn’t played with in over a year. During that time, unbeknownst to Col, the friend’s sister transitioned from female to male. “How’d you figure that out?” I asked Col. “Oh, ‘cuz my friend referred to his sibling with a boy’s name now,” he shrugged.

:: I am trying to convince Col to create a zine (which he thinks is some unhip throwback–wait, is it?–because you can’t find it on YouTube, and because it’s my idea) in which he draws and narrates life from a teenage perspective. Like, how his mom always manages to, when referring to future romantic partners, say: “your future girlfriend, or boyfriend, or you know, both or either, it doesn’t matter to us…” to which he interrupts and says, “MOM, I know. And this is awkward.”

:: I’ve read some excellent books lately. You will cry through the first 50 pages of this wrenching and beautiful memoir, but it’s totally worth it. Both of these books invite and challenge white people to see the racism that we absorb by virtue of growing up in a systemically racist society (which white folks can choose to ignore, at high cost to POC and our very hearts and souls). Lemony Snicket for adults: odd plot, but breathtaking writing.

:: And, I’ve written some things. This piece for High Country News on wanting your children to feel life’s aliveness calling to them, except it’s the Dollar Store they hear. And some food related stuff (with underlying messages and recipes), herehere, here and here .

:: New class offering for locals: Connected Parenting: the revolution starts at home (Class info here; join us!) 4 Wednesdays, starting 9/25, 5:30 – 7:30 at Manna Soup Kitchen upstairs conference room.

I am the worst at promoting my work (and thank you HEAPS to all the folks who’ve shared my classes), but I want to say this: listening to and respecting children as full human beings promotes trust between parents and children, which would be enough for me to invest in this work. But there’s more.

Giving children the sense of being heard, the sense that they matter, and the language to express what’s true for them may be a safeguard against the poisonous societal messages they receive, like: girls should be nice and pretty and accommodating; boys should be strong and tough and capable.

When a child has space, freedom and care to examine painful feelings (that inevitably arise for any of us socialized under impossible standards) it is easier for them to call “bullshit” on societal norms while listening to their heart and forging their own way.

I so want this for all youth; for all of us.

:: Signs of fall: siskin, upside-down on sunflower.

Anyone interested in Col’s zine? (pressure welcome!)

Tell me about how you’re waking up from our collective illusions; or, what you’ve been reading and writing and cooking and thinking.

xo

Rachel

what remains

2019 August 30
by Rachel Turiel

Day 1

We set off as usual for our annual end of summer family trip, though this time with a dog wedged between the kids in the backseat, giving Col and Rose something to alternately fight about and fuss over. 

We stop on Wolf Creek Pass to eat lunch and look for mushrooms. I distract the kids from the fact of actually hiking by asking them questions about the upcoming school year. The part of me that wants access to their inner lives is somehow fed by their enthusiasm to share, well, anything. I sleuth around for hidden messages behind discussions of Rose wanting a new backpack, one that’s more “7th grade-ish,” and Col’s certainty that “it’s all pretty boring, but the 8th grade teachers are really good.”

The kids have been wading through the depths of our culture’s messages via perky YouTubers who seem to personify gender roles while evangelizing on fave brands and make up tutorials. Add the structureless freedom of summer (i.e. time to peruse the cultural offerings) plus a mom on high alert for anyone succumbing to the media’s shrewd marketing and well, things have been a bit tense. I recognize that this is my problem not theirs.

We arrive at Joyful Journey Hot springs in the San Luis Valley where the sky is fluxing in and out of thunderstorms. The Sangre De Cristo range slices open the sky to the east. Rabbits dart around the sagebrush and nighthawks dive and whine. We bring sautéed bolete mushrooms to the dining hall and soak until the stars come out.

At Joyful Journey Hotsprings; also white people appropriating other cultures, i.e, tipis, as we tend to do so frequently and blindly.

Rose affixes herself to my side in the hot springs; maybe she feels my full presence and availability because she starts revealing the layers of her mind. We start with the top layers: I really need black leggings and get all the way down to: I’m nervous about who I’m going to hang out with at school this year.

Col announces “I think we should have a family game night once a week.” Dan and I raise discreet eyebrows. We’re slowly cohering after a summer of everyone going separate ways, of the kids wringing as much fun out of the fabric of summer as possible, where they’d return after a day of free-roaming with friends and I’d have to heel the eager puppy of myself—who doesn’t like the pack separating—from jumping on them, begging them to tell me everything.

Walking back to our tipi Col grabs my hand and says, “I figured out which organ you’d most want removed.”

“Really?”

“Your taste buds.”

“What!?!”

“The ones that detect bitter flavors.”

I want to tell the kids, who were ambivalent about this trip, but have now arrived with their full hearts: “this love nurtures us; we need this,” but I am hoping they will just feel it.

Day 2

We arrive at a sagebrushy knob above the Saguache river where pronghorn bucks suddenly appear like mysterious wise men on treeless hills.

We have almost completely set up camp before realizing Col is still in the car reading, being the connoisseur of leisure that he is. He emerges announcing the hardship of getting ones shoes on the exact right feet. “Someday I’ll invent shoes that go on either feet.”

“Wow. That could be a really impactful contribution to humanity,” I tell him. “Maybe after you invent the bitter tastebud-removal surgery.”

We hit a small snag when Rose tells us there’s nothing she’s really looking forward to, now that the hot springs have passed a whole 2.43 hours ago. “Can we just go home now?” she asks. I swallow a thousand mini-lectures about staying open to the mysteries of life and instead try to understand what’s true for her in this moment. It’s hard, because I seem to have this weird parental translation tool that translates English into the language: “anxiety.” I hear I’m just not excited for anything right now and translate it to: I need constant fun, excitement and entertainment. Please pass the cocaine. And new shoes might help, too.

“It’s fun to feel excited, huh Rosie? To have something on the horizon to look forward to.” I can’t provide her with insta-fun, but I can offer a nonjudgmental landscape in which she can explore her own mind. If she has to defend herself against me, she’ll just hold on tighter to her position. Then we all suffer. Ultimately, I want to be someone with whom she can share her uncensored inner and outer life, whether it’s currently “I’m not excited for anything,” or eventually “I’m too drunk to drive.”

Later, we all ramble down to Saguache creek. Dan and Col fish upstream and Rose plunges into the creek, shrieking and laughing and begging to take Rocket off leash. The dog, whom we’re still getting to know, was found on the side of the highway at 15 months old, un-neutered, skinny and alive by his own wiles. Taking him off leash is a crapshoot, i.e. he’s great until he disappears. Rocket and I roam around, his mind exploding over snakes, chipmunks, pronghorn poop, and a hundred things I can’t see.

Back at camp, for dinner we eat four beautiful brown trout, pan-fried boletes and butternut risotto on fire-grilled tortillas. Everyone is tired and grateful for good food. I am wishing life could be this simple more often. Maybe it’s how our modern complexities fall away so we can be more available for each other. The stars come out. I read to the kids by headlamp, while Dan does busy, productive things, including taking endless photos of the one pronghorn buck that seems to be circling our camp. 

Day 3

The kids sleep like teenagers, past dawn, through Rocket barking at distant cows, and into the explosion of sun over the horizon.

Dan and Col go fishing again. Rose and I walk the dog through the hilly folds of sagebrush; between the profuse yellow flowers are a rainbow of other stunning colors. I ask Rose which friendships she’d like to grow this coming school year. She thinks about it carefully and names six girls. She likes this line of questioning. “What else do you wanna know, Mama?” she asks. Anything and everything you want to tell me.

The kids are leading the way forward into a shifting family constellation. This is the way of things. 

They’re saying trust me and l’m saying I do, but this world is crazy. They’re saying but this is our world, we need to understand how we fit into it. I’m saying remember the world we gave you, that’s the good world. And the kids are saying, but we need to see all the options, so we can choose. I find myself wanting to draw a line in the sand: this is the good world and this is the bad one. But I might find myself on the opposite side from my children. 

Dan and Col return, Col carrying one brown trout. When asked how he caught it Col replies, “It bit and I reeled it in.” Apparently he runs on something other than excitement.

Later we fry up that one trout and everyone devours it. 

Day 4

We drive to Blue Mesa reservoir, after a stop in Gunnison to resupply on food and beer. The reservoir stretches forever, glossy and blue, and our campsite is at the farthest end, in a quiet pocket of juniper and sage. The kids are flummoxed by heat and mosquitos, which dominate until the afternoon wind kicks up.

Col is back in the car reading; Rose is begging to go to a hotel, or better yet home. I am trying to tell myself that we haven’t failed. We haven’t failed to instill a love a nature in our kids, nor to provide a fun trip. 

“We’re just planting seeds,” Dan reminds me as the emotional storm brews.

I recognize that what I want most with Col and Rose is connection and trust, two things that once came effortlessly with their dependence on us. I remind myself that the connection is always there, but if I expect it to look like all of us making chokecherry jam together on a September afternoon I won’t find it. If I can can metabolize my grief over everything changing then I will see more clearly what remains; because the connection that remains is enough. Different, but enough. I’ve heard several parents say “I will always love my kids, but they have to earn my trust.” Yes, and we have to earn theirs as well. 

The cold water is a balm for the heat, bugs and the emotional pain of wishing things were different. I swim to the opposite shore and back again. Seagulls flap overhead, land on the water and eye me curiously.

Day 5

Our family is headed out to walk the dog when our friends arrive at the reservoir with 1 van, 6 fishing poles, 4 bikes, 2 boys, 1 stand up paddle board and a deck of cards. I am happy they’re here and apprehensive about Col and Rose shifting their focus to their friends. 

As our friends set up camp, the four of us head out on that walk. The kids position themselves on either side of me, each grabbing a hand to hold. Here it is, I tell myself. This is connection. Don’t miss it, don’t evaluate it; savor it. Rose tells me “I just felt a bit of excitement about school starting.” Col asks, “do you think Rocket would taste good, I mean if you had to eat him?”

The deck of cards magnetizes the four kids into a fierce game of poker in the van. Col and Rose return to our campsite several times to gather items for the pot. Rose pulls candy out of some unknown place and Col lays down packets of hot chocolate that he lifted from the hot springs dining hall. 

That evening we all gather at our campsite for grapefruit cocktails, food and many hilarious rounds of telephone pictionary, in which the teen boys teen-ify everything to 11. Dan lights piles of dried cow poop on fire to smoke out the mosquitos and strategically places them around the circle of camp chairs, announcing, “the dung has begun.”

Day 6

The kids are ready to go home. We’d like to stay another night. We try something radical, in which we each take turns speaking about what is motivating our particular preferences. i.e. I want to stay because camping brings simplicity, connection, and the beauty of the wild. Rose wants to go home because it brings comfort and the possibility of seeing friends and organizing herself before school starts in two days. We listen to each other with the hope that care for each other’s positions may generate some internal willingness to stretch closer to one another. Then, we each propose a solution that meets the most needs.

It takes almost an hour and we agree to this: go home tonight, though stop for one more mushroom foray, and then reunite tomorrow afternoon to take a walk, go out to eat and write our celebrations of the past year and our goals for this year. 

We pack up and drive home, through brutally hot Montrose, where we say yes to sugary drinks in throwaway plastic cups; through Ouray, where we stop to play soccer in the park; and over Red Mountain Pass, where we make dinner out of what remains in our cooler, while Dan goes off on a quick mushroom search.

In our final stretch, the shadows becoming long, and a certain warmth settling in the car from perhaps the gratitude of togetherness and trust, Col says, “you guys are really lucky to have us as kids.”

Me: “What makes you say that?”

Col: “Well, because we’ve learned a lot of good things from you. I’m a good listener to my friends, we’re kind to you, we know how to be social, we’re independent, and I’m pretty nice to Rose.”

Yes. There are whole sections of their childhood that have come and gone. There are cultural influences that will shake their souls, that they will roll the dog of themselves around in before they can decide if they like the smell. Our configuration of family will change and evolve. Some things will be lost and some will remain. And, there is a 14 year old boy who considers listening to his friends and being kind to be of high value. I breathe that in and we cruise towards home. 

p.s. we’ve had a “family game night” weekly since coming home as per Col’s request.

the gift of paying attention

2019 May 24
by Rachel Turiel

The lilacs are overdoing it, drooping under the weight of their own perfumed purpleness. The fruit trees have had their 15 minutes of flowery fame and are now settling into the more serious business of making fruit for the masses.

The robins, who just last month (photos restored on last post!), were part of the dominant paradigm, have vanished. The black headed grosbeaks are now flashing their outrageously orange breasts, while the year-round residents patiently make room for the showy tourists. Yesterday I got almost no work done because two white crowned sparrows navigated their way from California to our very crab apple trees.

Serviceberry enjoying the 225% of average precipitation this month.

Rose turned 12 on a very pink day:

Col created an imaginary recessive squirrel mutation called “Squirrelentia,” in which affected squirrels become particularly rabid, prone to ripping the hands off humans. Yay, science class!

Dan is apparently still learning when to say when on elk antlers.

Mother’s Day came and went with promises for more comically-altered newspapers. Just what a mom wants.

We had (invasive) Eurasian-collared dove for breakfast.

I have a new garden apprentice! Rebecca lives downstairs and has a special way of caring for everyone on the property. When I’m ready to pull out the volunteer yarrow and toss it in the compost she gently suggests, “maybe we can replant that somewhere else.” Of course we can! Here we are planting tomatoes just before a predicted low of 29F. Because you know how wild I can be.

We adopted a dog! Rocket’s been with us for almost three weeks and has exponentially increased the flow of love in the house. His main focus is loving everyone exactly as they are and stashing bones under the peach tree (though occasionally a stinky deer leg ends up in Col’s bed). Dan and Rocket have been sharing elk liver (raw for Rocket, sautéed in cream and onions for Dan) and I think they both feel a particular kinship in their shared culinary appreciations. Rocket is really here to help us through the teenage years, to deliver the message that we’re each worthy of love just as we are. He is allowed on the couch because it’s important that he take his message to where the people are at. 

Today, Rocket is snoozing on the couch after dunking his children in love and sending them off for their last day of school. I am thinking about a training I did for liberal activists this week; I learned a lot from them, but did notice they did not seem to enjoy the activity of connecting with our Republican senator’s humanity (However, I love trying to see the humanity in everyone while remaining strong in my own truth and passion. Call me for a training!). The lilacs I cut yesterday are counteracting any circulating dog smells (we now blame all bad smells on Rocket). And the brave tomatoes made it through the frosty night.

Yesterday the kids had end of the year Presentations of Learning. Col communicated his personal growth through comic illustrations.

“So, my friends and I were throwing edamame shells at each other and I decided to clean up the shells on the ground even though no one else was.” Col’s take on integrity.

In Rose’s presentation, she shared the quote she created last year: There will always be someone who does better than you, and someone who does worse, but that doesn’t mean you can’t try your best. This year, she explained, she refined her guiding quote to better fit her 6th grade self (her 6th grade self!!!): I want to focus on the positive and celebrate my accomplishments without comparing myself to others. Me too, Rose. All of us, too.

These were the last 3 books I loved, even though each was painful to read in its own way. Maid. A Mother’s Reckoning. Little Fires Everywhere (this last one was fiction, at least).

Last night I was giving Col a back rub, which seems to counteract all the misfiring neurons, the testosterone-sponsored boundary-pushing, the sister-directed snark, the spontaneous beatboxing (which I’ve come to love…after coffee) and he said, “that feels so good. If I could stay in one moment forever, this would be it.”

I kind of feel that way about spring, how it comes on so slow and mysterious, the wild lupine creating breathtaking purple tributes to themselves and then naturally fading into their own seedy background. The land is waking up into a procession of awe: vining clematis, pinkest phlox, and macgillivray’s warblers flashing yellow as they flit into the cottonwoods.

This daily parade of awe-inspiring life feels like the gift for paying attention.

p.s. Dan explaining why we didn’t get the kids easter baskets this year. “We’re Jewish, we passover Easter.” (Only some of us thought this was funny).