unpacking

Started 29 June and finished 1 July.

I always underestimate how much time it takes to “unpack” from traveling. There is the physical unpacking — the last vacation wash was folded and drawer-ed yesterday, books, toys and nonpermanent items in the toiletry pouch were homed on Thursday. There is the catching up on sleep — can one every really “catch up”? — made acute by the unlocking the door to home just after 3 in the morning. And then, there is the other unpacking which in our house means establishing a new routine and re-establishing the discipline necessary to be comfortable together. On that point, we’ve stumbled.

Julia woke up on Wednesday and seemed to have lost the power of hearing where I am concerned. I needed to ask for anything, including joining me at the dinner table, three, four or five times. Considering that I was in no way well rested, my response was not always compassionate and enlightened. Julia seemed centered on her iPad and on the Harry Potter Lego game that one of her caregivers had put on as an indulgence. I don’t think the game has any intrinsic value — I tend to look for something, at least logic and problem solving in her games — and regardless of the value, it became an obsession during traveling. I took away the iPad for the remainder of the day which is our usual consequence for not listening. Julia got mad and was mean to me. I took it away for another day. She continued mean behavior and disregarded any of my directions and soon we were up to a two-week iPad furlough. It was then that I realized that the deprivation was opportunity. Julia needed iPad separation — during any travel, I let her spend much more time on the iPad than usual and the only way to change the habit no matter how short a time it took to establish is cold turkey withdrawal of the machine.

And so, we are in our fourth day iPad-free and it is almost lovely. Julia is drawing more, reading more and knitting more. She reaches for her Rapunzel doll or her dragon instead of the machine. She decided to do some sewing on her Rapunzel doll’s clothes. I don’t remember writing about her interest in sewing. A few months ago, Julia decided to mend her socks. I offered very brief instructions — she wanted no more — and provided needles and thread in a sewing box. Since that time, she had mended holes in socks and sewed up seams in shirts. She wants no advice from me and I have no problem letting her explore this on her own. There was a small tear in Rapunzel’s dress which she repaired and then she made the hem of the dress more secure. Again, I offered to show her a few things about sewing and offer was refused. Perhaps some material and a good pair scissors will appear near the sewing box.

One of the tasks I had not gotten to this spring wa s to finish the basement cleaning begun two years ago. I’ve worked hard on it and I’ve worked casually. Since the beginning of this year, however, I’ve put far too many things in the basement which should be on their way to be thrown away or recycled. Thus, the need for some plan to get rid of or store what is piled in the middle of the floor. A portion of that pile consists of old computer parts — 2 CPU’s — does anyone know what a CPU is? — two printers, monitors, 4 keyboards and numerous speakers. David and I were early computer buyers and traded up at appropriate intervals; however, in the last few years I spent no time in front of my little flat screen console and after Julia got her iPad, there was no reason for her to be on it either. When we first moved to Madison, we had two stand alone computer set ups — David’s upstairs in the third bedroom and the family computer, or my computer, in the playroom. I disassembled David’s computer when the floors were to be sanded and never put it back and one of this year’s tasks was to clean up the CPUs and get rid of the equipment. I did the clean out in the Spring and then stored put it downstairs. My current resolve is to do something, however small, everyday in the cellar to get it cleaned out and up. On one hand this is kind of silly. Sweeping in front of the dryer or picking up all of the ZhuZhu pet runs to put in one container do little towards an clear-of-unnecessary-junk cellar, but I do get rather overwhelmed when I look at what seems to be a great mess. Even an easy task clears away or organizes a little mess. Eventually . . .

We had some unaccounted for time on Sunday and I looked up places to recycle computers. The almost local Goodwill takes most components and Julia and I loaded up the trunk and went to make the drop off. I had a moment of breathless hesitation. A spot of Grief passing over an otherwise productive activity. One of the fascinating, ugly things about grieving is how unexpected places or people or things trigger the punch in the stomach response. At almost four years since David’s death, it is more of a twinge than a punch but it was something. During that year “of magical thinking” after David died, I imagined that had he walked back into the house at any time, I could have caught him up on our everything in a few minutes. Then it was over dinner. Then suddenly, it would take much longer. I know, I know, he is not coming back but the space between us, the time, the articles of living the way we always lived change, morph, grow into such differences as not to be recognized.

Yes, we were early computer owners but David was very late to the laptop world. He liked sitting at a desk and so he found no need to move on to what was portable. I bought him his first notebook the Christmas before he died. I had not thought as carefully as it might seem but it was a good gift. He had plenty of hospital time, beginning that January, and portable began to make sense even to him. By the beginning of 2010, I was ready to replace my 4 or 5 year old Dell laptop. I bought my MacBook days before the heart transplant and spend the days of the hospital vigil learning to use this machine. I remember wishing that I had waited because taking in anything new seemed impossible at that time but my need to constantly tap on keys probably pushed me into efficient use sooner than had the time been ordinary.

So, now there are no stand alone computers in my house. I have my laptop, Julia has her iPad. I am looking forward to getting an iPad full size or mini in the next year to travel with. We also don’t have a landline phone and no fax machine. My router and modem – also new – are connected to everything via WiFi. My house seems to be less wired than my parents. No landline phone would surprise even my grandmother. And of course, it has been this way for a few months and growing in this direction for a few years but it was the separation of me from the machines in the basement that forced the discovery of this revolution.

And it makes me a little sad. Perhaps because it is July, perhaps just more change, perhaps because, although feeling stronger and full of energy there are still embers of grief ever ready to spring back into a roaring blaze — well, a small camp fire in the woods at this point. And it is the beginning of July.

solstice

written 21 June 2014

Almost summer.  Or is it summer?  Solstice day or night is when the season changes.  We are preparing to go to Tulum today.  Intent on using a tour company but our local taxi driver convinced us to use another local driver who speaks English.  We are getting the same tour for a third of the official tour price.  Will we be disappointed?  From experience, it appears that having the “official” anything does not guarantee proficiency or knowledge — a real tour guide may have a graduate degree in history or may have visited the site once.  It would be great to have a fantastic guide — a naturalist who guided us around a park in Costa Rica taught us a great deal — but we’ll bring our guide book and just a few facts and ruins themselves feel sufficient.

Having Cheshire here to speak Spanish is an incredible help.

We are having a good time.  I am having a good time.  Yesterday, we were lazy.  We had our equivilent of not leaving the resort for most of the day.  We lounged around our little pool, took frequent dips — I am in love with out tiny pool! — watched a midday movie and napped, and finally made it out of our house to go downtown for dinner in two restaurants and an ice cream bar and shopping.

Julia is spending a lot of her time relatively alone.  That Is, she is with us physically.  Always.  But not always interacting.  Instead, she is drawing, playing with leaves or plants or sand, reading or asking to play with her iPad.  I need, desperately and not so much, the interaction with adults that my dears, Cheshire and Alice, provide but I also have felt incredibly guilty not constantly interacting with Julia.  And yet, Julia’s time is not ill spent.  This morning I feel a gentleness come over my feelings.  Realistically speaking, the time away from interaction is not in some dark corner but within hearing range, physically together, and available for interaction.  This is not different from how all young children are raised.  I have wanted to shovel everything that was missing from Julia’s first years into our lives together so that she could “catch up.”  At the gut level, I have wanted her to become typical.  I am still learning.  As I contemplate art lessons for her this summer — art, the last quarter in which Julia does as she wants — I am drawn to think about respecting her integrity, her spirit that expands at its own rate and in its own way.  Her not quite appropriate interactions with us and with the people that we encounter are her own becoming herself.  I am aware, acutely, that I have the power to squash her soul and suck the creativity out of her.  How, in a much, much subtler way, that was done to me.  I cannot do that to her.  If she be an artist, if she be human, she deserves more than correction and fitting into some box that I have imagined.  I am here for her, to protect and defend, to teach but also to be taught.  This is a fluid relationship — like all relationships — and I can never allow myself to forget that.

arrival

At best, travel is for exploring yourself.  That is how it has always been for me.  Not that I’ve found nuggets of wisdom in every jaunt to the Jersey shore or expanded my inner vision with every overpriced ride from an airport, but going to and being in some unfamiliar place pulls my spirit hither and yon.  Nothing can be assumed, nothing is on automatic.  Perhaps it is the jolt into the present moment.   Perhaps that points of comfortable recognition are not available to hang on to.

This is one of the mornings that I cannot type fast enough.  I want to get so much down on this screen and I know that when I follow any thought path, I will leave others, equally important to me to die by the wayside.  Sometimes when I travel it takes me days to get into this mind set and when I don’t feel the click into this intense desire to settle into a book, journal or do some mindful exercise, I am very disappointed.  When the switch is thrown (although the mechanism is still unknown to me) quickly, I celebrate.  This morning is one of those experiences.

We — Julia, Cheshire and I — are in Puerto Morelos, a small town south of Cancun.  A bit more “real” than its  ersatz developed neighbor.  We are in a very sweet walled house, the house developed for tourists like us — little pool out back, BBQ, very nice linens, good kitchen, big screen tv — on a street where dogs back and some properties are falling into ruin while others are being built.  Mexican people walk and ride on motorcycles and in cars.  We saw another tourist couple in the convenience store but without Cheshire’s Spanish and some pesos, it would have been harder settling into our digs last night.

We arrived in late midday into the stifling heat that is both unpleasant and recognizable to me — Vietnam and China, even Costa Rica — I have traveled in this kind of heat before and my body know, even when my mind refuses to believe, that this is a place of slowing down and tending to the body in a way outside of my normal day-to-day.

Monday night back in Madison, there were fierce storms, tornado warnings and alerts.  We spent a good deal of our night on the living room couch and in our basements.  There were trees down and houses ripped up, not in our part of Madison but close by.  As I looked at the pictures online much later I was very much aware of how life changes in an instant — how different Tuesday would have looked had the storm claimed our neighborhood.

Julia and I had a place at 6 a.m. in Milwaukee which is about an hour and a half from our house.  I know, crazy time, but I never sleep well before a trip and always sleep on planes — it seems a good use of time and energy but how crazy it was!  Monday, I had very little planed outside of Julia’s activities.  We packed, cleaned out the frig, checked in with Amy (whose kids are cat sitting) and were both in bed early — she before 9, myself before 10.  The thunder and tornado alarms woke up before midnight.  Julia first climbed into my bed.  She can sleep though a moderate thunder storm now, but there was no sleeping though this one — thunder, cell phone alert squawks, town alarms, and emergency vehicle sirens.  When the storm seemed to keep coming, I checked the weather on the lap top and tried to decide what to do.  After all, we were waking up at 2 to leave before 3 to get to the airport.  I had “planned” on those four hours of sleep to get me focused enough to drive.  My initial mental gymnastics were about how I was going to get back to sleep in order to stay on course.

Ah, how the gods laugh at mortal planning!  If there are micromanaging deities, I could believe that they present us with lesson after lesson, usually on the same topic.  Almost ad nauseum, waiting for some learning to happen.

After a few minutes of wild storming and the warning to get into a safe place NOW, I had Julia put on clothes and we sent down to the first floor.  Amy, bless her heart (friendship lesson #5,009,234.671), texted me asking if I was ok.  Yes, this was serious weather.  We stayed on the couch in the living room which is not as safe as the basement but from which movement to a safer part of the house would be easy.  We snuggled together for an hour or more, neither of us sleeping, me worrying, Julia very quiet.  When the alarms stopped and the storm became merely heavy rain, we climbed the stairs and collapsed into my bed.  I would have time for a nap before hitting the road.

The alarm went off at 2 and for a moment I imagined it a dream.  I willed myself out of bed — when David was alive he would have done the willing.  Yes, I have learned.  — grateful for the shower that woke me up and the time to rouse an exhausted Julia and get us out the door on time.  And then on the road we hit more intense rain.  Optimistically, I must admit that although I hate driving through rain and hail, there was no possibility of falling asleep at the wheel.

The trip down was uneventful.  We slept on the planes — I much more than Julia and arrived in Cancun with flocks of American and British tourists lining up for immigration as if they were Noah’s cargo of feathered and furred pairs.  Julia had been cooperative on the planes; however, she denied needing to go the bathroom when I did during our second flight.  And she is still not always aware of her body.  Where that leads is predictable but always surprising to the mother who juggles too many inconsequential lists in her head.  The long walk from the plane to the immigration lines which is not lined with conveniences was too much for her and mid way there she stopped with pee streaming down her legs.

My initial anger leads me to humiliation  which would work well for most typical kids.  I am not proud of this, ever, but my first impulses with what I see as baffling behavior is not necessarily the most helpful or loving.  To my credit, I deeply see that there is no intent in these situations, there is just poor planning on her part.  We found a rest room before the immigration line, Julia changed into the clothes packed in her back pack — always a change of clothes incase of travel mishaps — and she washed her good sandals before we went into the lines.

I am struck by the Velveteen Rabbit realness of living with Julia — we can have no pretense, no false pride.  We find joy where we can and we are not humiliated by what occurs.  That did not come out as profound as it is clanging around in my brain.  Not that many wiser people have not taught the same thing but I am so much Dorothy who needs to discover how those ruby slippers work for myself.

The house, as I said, is lovely and it was heaven to spend the evening and night with Cheshire!  We can talk — we might do it non-stop for the entire week if mouths did not need sleep or food.

There is a convenience store  of the 7-eleven variety and two restaurants within walking distance of our house.  We bought cereal, milk, bananas, cookies and Julia’s longed for chips there and then retired to a very empty restaurant which served very USA food.  It was very good — Julia’s fish and chips was as close to healthy as that dish can get, my burger was perfect and the calamari, “Brooklyn style” was fresh — but not the Mexican experience that Cheshire and I travel for.  Julia was hungry!   Understandably so since we split a bagel before the first plane and had little else except for plane snacks during the day.  I was still on adrenaline from the last 24 hours, she simply needed food in a way that she rarely does. She ate her own food, had bites of my burger – rarely does she care to taste what others eat, rarely does she really care about food! — and some of my and most of Cheshire’s fries.  We then returned to our little house, exhausted but not tired, and watched one of the Star Trek movies on the largest tv screen that I’ve ever lived with.  Julia went to bed protesting a little, more a formal protest than with any passion, hit the pillow and was out cold within minutes just after 9 which under normal vacation circumstances would have been early.

Cheshire and I indulged and dozed in front of The Wolf of Wall Street which is an incredibly depressing movie.  I have little interest in dissecting my reasoning but suffice it to say that perhaps some spiritual awakening has penetrated my core.

This morning I woke up just before 7 — I am still on school year time and 7 is sleeping in on a school morning.  I came out to our walled back garden, did Japanese Crane, took a dip in the pool sans clothing, made myself some tea and have been tapping away on a lounge listening to birds that do not live in Wisconsin and the rustle of palm trees.

And now, I hear the murmurings of Julia who may have found her iPad before she decided to find me.

eggs, tarantulas, travel

I begin blog entries and get dead ended after a paragraph or two.  I’ve been writing letters and trying to complete a scholarship application for the online course that I want to take next.  Also, it is tax time.  I have my way of preparing and I usually get down to it at exactly this time of year.  How predictable is that?  I always imagine that I am getting started this year much later than last year, but looking at my prep documents from previous years . . . Yes, same process, same time.

Julia and I are making eggs in the evenings a few nights a week.  Julia finished her first egg and I cleaned off the wax.  She was satisfied with the result, not astonished, not disappointed.  She had already started a second egg and while that was in dye last night, a third.  She has no interest in looking at pictures — I’ve said this before.  I am so dependent on the traditional designs.  Julia has her own ideas.  I’ll post pictures soon.  I’ve made three eggs and ready to begin challenging myself.  I am not using any guiding elastics on the eggs to begin designs this year.  It is changing what I can and want to do.  Again, I’ll put up pictures. Continue reading