Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Sptting in the eye of God

Feeling unease as I type that title because it seems so...irreverent.

Someone told me that once, that "being bummed out is spitting in the eye of God."

Somewhere else I read, 'if there is only one prayer you say let it be
"thank you." '

In a lot of ways I think I've been too afraid that any good things I've been given will be taken away to really experience gratitude. Hence my remark below; my fear that this marvellous good fortune in the form of a teacher who is willing to work respectfully with Scott was too good to be true. In a sense that was a sort of refusal to be grateful. Especially when considering how elegantly it was brought about.

I've been feeling a lot of dismay at the array of seemingly incompatible choices floating along with me and narrowing down to a decision point. Cringing away from what seemed inevitable: choosing one option had to be at the loss of the cherished goals of another.

Last week I saw Sharon and expressed my fear that I would be forced to choose soon and someone's needs were going to be sacrificed. It's interesting how sometimes I don't get the gift of that deep sense of Presence that I crave while in session with her, but in the week following when I consider what was said. I felt rather dissatisfied as I left, except for one thing she had said: to keep my focus on the outcome. "This (meaning my situation) will move, and you want to stay focused on what your life will be like afterward. You know you want to end up at a place where Scott's needs are being met, and you are doing work that includes and reflects the lifelong work you've done on yourself, a setting that supports this. A stable and peaceful atmosphere for your sons' backdrop. That's what you want as outcome, and you just have to trust that things will arrange themselves in order to provide it."

What was interesting was that in considering my situation from that perspective, immediately there was a drop in anxiety about the conflicts among the various needs. The very next day was when I went to the charter school to meet the teacher and see how he runs his classroom. The day after that was when I took Scott and witnessed the miraculous production of the sailboats.

Those boats have been a metaphor for me of just what Sharon said, keeping focused on the desired end. There were so many side dramas going on that I'd believed it was impossible that they could do it. Yet somehow all those eddies and crosscurrents were included and swept along in the process and at the end were these boats.

This morning on the NPR webpage I was intrigued by the title: "The Universe Is Conspiring to Help Us" by Kevin Kelly, co-launcher of Wired magazine, and editor/publisher of the Whole Earth Review. It is the title of an essay that was submitted to "This I Believe", the series where listeners are invited to share the beliefs they cherish. (I'm new to blogging, and I'm not sure if I can quote passages from it. However, it is in the public domain, and I've given due credit, so I believe I'll chance it.) He describes the reciprocal relationship between the giver of a kindness, and the receiver (the Kindee):

...the stance of receiving a gift – of being kinded — is vital for everyone, not just travelers. Many people resist being kinded unless they are in dire need, or life-threatened. Since I have had so much practice as a kindee, I have some pointers on how it is unleashed.

...I believe the generous gifts from strangers are actually summoned by a deliberate willingness to be helped. You start by surrendering to your need for help. That we cannot be helped until we embrace our need for help is a law of the universe. ...It's a move from whether we will be helped to how: how will the miracle unfold today? In what novel manner will Good reveal itself? Who will the universe send today to carry away my gift of trust and helplessness?

...The eternal surprise is being funneled to us daily, hourly, minute by minute, every second. Yet, we are terrible recipients. We are no good at being helpless, humble, or indebted. Being needy is not celebrated on day-time TV shows, or in self-help books. We make lousy kindees.

...I've slowly changed my mind about spiritual faith. I once thought it was chiefly about believing in an unmeasurable reality; that it had a lot in common with hope. But after many years of examining the lives of the people whose spiritual character I most respect, I've come to see that their faith rests on gratitude, rather than hope. They exude a sense of being indebted, and a state of being thankful. When the truly faithful worry, it's not about doubt (which they have) but it's about how they might not maximize the tremendous gift given them. How they might be ungrateful. (Bold text mine)

Go here to read the essay in full:

This was a good time for me to read this.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Dare to hope? ????

Oh man.

I'm pinching myself because I can hardly believe it. There's a part of me that is superstitious and demeans this gift by being afraid that if I rest my weight on it it will collapse under me.

The short story is that there appeared to be a good fit between Scott, the school, the class, the teacher.

The long story is I got another view of this class in action, and it appears, at least in this class, that 'democratic education' is a serious commitment. It's not lipservice. Billy really puts it into action. Fridays they have a class meeting; complete with the children taking on the role of moderator, time-keeper. They called it to order, and the moderator made sure that children spoke in turn. The children can bring a concern or a proposal up for discussion. If something is proposed that affects the class, there is a vote and majority rules. Participation is optional, but the non-participants can't vote and they're expected to be quiet and respectful: write in their journals or read a book. Billy subjects himself to the same rules of order and truly does not impose. He raises his hand along with the children to venture questions to help clarify proceedure, although he will smoothly step into an adult role if some guidance is needed. For instance, the moderator recognized herself to speak, and kept speaking in the presence of lots of children with their hands up. Billy said, "Moderator, there are a lot of hands in the air". She called him on being out of order, but then yielded the floor.

The real miracle was after snack. Billy kept talking about an 'assembly line' he had planned for them. during snack the kids who weren't out on break opened 18 sailboat kits and separated the parts into bins. After break the plan was unveiled: they were to cooperatively assemble 18 sailboats, complete with sails, rigging, paint. He had a list of the job positions needed for the production of these, from sander to quality control officer. He had them apply for positions. I would have bet money that this was going to be impossible and completely fall apart. One child wanted to be a sander but had failed to volunteer when the position was being offered, and he left the group and went into a sulk. Other children would volunteer for one position and then change their minds. There was a cacophony of "Billy! Billy! Billy!" that rivals any "Mommommom" blues I've ever had. Some children degenerated into squabbles. But somehow positions were filled and everyone standing at their places. I thought, "Surely this will fall apart at this point" because they were bumping and crashing into each other. A lot of kids had to wait while Billy explained the 'job' that one group needed to do before moving on to the next. I didn't think it was possible that they would remain at the table and not disperse. The process was delayed again when one child erupted into tears and it was revealed that another had bitten her. With great firmness Billy took the two of them off to the side and had them sit down apart for a while. At this time there were still a number of kids who hadn't received instruction and yet they still held together. And, by 12:00, by God there were 18 finished and painted sailboats. Scott's is upstairs. I'm still stunned at the self-confidence and belief it took for Billy to hold this all together and move it forward. (Not to mention courage. There were many points that I would have considered 'give-up-it's-not-going-to-happen' moments.) Here are the many parts of this assembly machine: sanders, glue technicians (one to glue on the bowsprit, which was Scott, one to glue on the cabin, one to glue in the rudder), mast assemblers, sail assemblers, someone to place the sails on the cabins and rig them, a team to paint them--someone to do the sails, someone the cabin, someone the bowsprit, someone the deck. Someone to oversee and facilitate the process, and someone to inspect them for quality and sign off on them. I am still beyond amazed. Not only were these children able to work together, but they were able to sustain the effort until all the parts were assembled and painted.

Scott will start Monday. He wants this.

It is my cautious side that's scared to rest on the conclusion that this could possibly be a solution...perhaps there's some sort of down side. Maybe he needs more structure than this school will provide and I'll end up with an illiterate child with miles to go to catch up. But traditional education wasn't serving him. All I know is that my heart feels better, so that seems a good indication that this is the right step to take. A first step anyway.

Thursday, January 24, 2008


Today starts with yesterday when an option that hadn't seemed like an option suddenly seemed worth looking into. When we first moved from St. Louis Scott had attended a preschool that was housed in a K-12 charter school. The teachers had an educational philosophy that seemed very appropriate to that age group, with an emphasis on treating children with respect. In fact, that's part of the overall mission of the greater school, "democratic education":

The school seemed to be a haven for unconventional kids and families. I had thought that it would be a friendlier environment for Scott. For a long time he's seemed like he had his own drummer, and any beat outside of him had to be pretty insistent to penetrate. In a less-than tolerant atmosphere it could easily be framed as a problem. I worried about the decision to send him to our neighborhood school which seemed to have its kindergarten in flux (one of the classes had had quite a lot of teacher turnover). Furthermore, it seemed to operate on a more traditional model of expectations of students' behavior and I feared Scott might not thrive there.

In the end I crossed my fingers and sent him to the neighborhood school. Trillium is about a 20 minute drive on the other side of the river. In contrast there's a bus to the neighborhood school that picks them up and drops them in our driveway. (There are other obvious advantages to having siblings in the same school; on the other hand there are some hidden disadvantages to having an older sibling in the same school.) It was the prospect of a commute that had kept me from seriously considering Trillium as an option.

At one point when I was trying to think of what to do the idea of homeschooling seemed like the only option open (and I was dismayed about that.). It seemed it would be too disruptive and too late to transfer him in to a new classroom as the new kid. Connor's a child who fairly easily assimilates himself into a new setting, but Scott is different. Then it came to me yesterday that many of the children who had been in the preschool with him had continued in the elementary school. Scott wouldn't necessarily be a stranger there.

I called the school; this is the last week where they are enrolling new students and there is space for one student. I went over this morning to observe the classroom he would be in. The teacher is Billy.

My first impression was, "no". I got a feel for what the details of transplanting a child might be like and it seemed it could be truly disruptive to a point that would overrule the benefit. There are nearly as many children in this class as there are in the neighborhood school (but 6 of the kindergartners go home at lunch), and it's possible the room may be smaller . It's a school in an inner urban setting with graffiti on one of the walls. The children range in age from around 5 to 7 (K thru 2 grades). There's a lot of agitation in this classroom too, though the kids didn't seem particularly unhappy or irritable like in Scott's current classroom. There is carpet time here in an area that's pretty small, but I didn't see the children pushing each other or hitting. The playground is rudimentary and asphalt. In some ways it seemed a transfer here would be a sort of lateral move, if not a slight downgrade (our neighborhood school is a country school, up on a plateau that overlooks the Tualatin valley and the coast range mountains.), at least setting-wise.

So the setting and classroom structure alone aren't really worth a move. However, Billy seems like he's a teacher with the flexibility and curiosity and interest that could make a difference for Scott. He seemed quite tolerant of the children's various eccentricities and was always respectful even in fraught situations. I told him that what I had observed about Scott was that he seemed pretty calm and self-controlled during the Christmas break. When school re-started he had vision therapy the afternoon of the first day. His vision therapist remarked that he'd seemed silly and unable to focus. This was very different from how he had been during those 2 weeks at home and that's what started me wondering if school itself had an adverse effect on him. I wondered if it might be the overstimulating effect of children in a group...Billy replied that he wondered if Scott might be 'not getting what he needs'.

So what does Scott need? Does he need to be shielded a while from the over-stimulating effects of a group until he can develop a bit more skill in self-regulation? Or, does he need a teacher who is mindful of his different drum and is willing to find ways to reach it?

I'm taking him tomorrow to the school to see what kind of reaction he has to the teacher, the room, the children. It just seems like the thing to do, to see if this might open into a way, or rule it out as an option. It could be a viable compromise between leaving him in a situation I'd have a bad conscience about, and having him home full time. I guess a 20 minute drive isn't as much of a sacrifice as full-time homeschooling. It's worth a look-into.

As a bit of a P.S., Gary visited Scott's class today at the neighborhood school. He came home disgusted with the set-up, said it was a depressing atmosphere and he didn't see how anyone could learn anything there. He said it was a waste of time and there were still 4 and a half months left of the school year. I felt relief that he saw it too.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Where things stand

Vision therapy is nearly at an end and it appears that Scott has behavior issues that are going beyond his vision issues. And I feel very, very afraid that this is setting his pattern for school, and how people see him and treat him and the whole vicious cycle. I’m waiting on a message from his teacher (just in case he has noticed a remarkable change in Scott’s behavior and learning and just hasn’t mentioned it—which really doesn’t seem likely), and I’m waiting on Gary’s input from when he volunteers in the class Thursday. As well as what I observe tomorrow.

I had a horrible dream a few months ago where I'd put Scott in a crevice in a rock to sleep. There was a cliff below it, and in the dream he started to turn in his sleep. He was so heavily asleep that my shouts didn't wake him up and then I saw him fall and screamed. Perhaps this is what my dream is referring to. Scott IS on an edge and doesn’t realize the peril he is in, and he’s starting to slip off…

He doesn’t realize how his behavior at school impacts the way people assume his character to be—and then they treat him that way. I feel very afraid that he’s going to be convinced that he’s someone he’s not—sneaky, hurtful, poor learner, poorly disciplined. I don’t like his behavior at school.

So, just to summarize how things stand:

I’m in a very unhappy marriage. My husband makes it clear that he doesn’t like me, and I don’t like him either. I don’t like him because I don’t like the way he treats me. And it doesn’t look like it’s going to get better.

I have a child who is struggling at school. He has behavior problems that are at risk for becoming an established part of how people see him, and how he sees himself. I’m not sure to what extent the environment between his father and I is contributing to his behavior problems. I don’t know if it does him more harm to continue in this atmosphere, or if the trauma of a divorce would have worse impact.

I have a powerful need to be alone, and even the time I have when the boys are at school doesn’t seem to be enough. I’m feeling pressures to do things that would sharply curtail this alone time: go back to outside work; homeschool Scott. (Subtext to that is I feel some residual unease about this need to be alone, its intensity and its quantity).

I’m in therapy and it’s expensive. And we are living right up to the end of our paycheck and then some—supplementing from an ever-thinner margin of savings. We may need for me to start contributing to the bottom line of our family financially.

I feel fear that the needs in the environment on the ground around me that are based in fact are going to overtake and trump my need for this solitary time. That I will be forced to give up this nourishing time before I’m ready to. My hope was that by now I’d know I was ‘ready’. And I don’t seem to be: I don’t seem to need this time any less—yet the demands of reality are beginning to press in—and they must be dealt with. And dealing with them means giving up this time; I don’t see any way around that.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

The Dog's days are numbered

Sort of a bad-ish day anyway. With a slight hangover from yesterday--

1) Still haven't received vaccination records from the rescue service that I had requested over a week ago. I had signed Kody up at Petsmart with the understanding that I'd have the records at the 2nd lesson. So I'm a bit perplexed at having not heard from the rescue woman...this on top of having had some doubts as to whether she'd oversold him beginning to make me wonder if I'd placed a bit too much trust in her. Petsmart said go ahead and bring him in.

2) A warning light on the dash had caused me to stop and look at the tires, so we were a few minutes late walking in to a very full class with a barking dog and the uneasy feeling that the other class members had wished we weren't coming. We were unfortunately positioned directly in front of the glass separating us from the doggie daycare. ALL the dogs in doggie daycare clustered to the spot where I was restraining a nearly uncontrollable, hysterical, lunging and plunging Kody.

Called AAA when we got home; they came out and changed the tire.


Gary's still gone on the mountain.

Took Connor to a friend's for 'garage band practice'. Because Scott had done so well with cooperating with vision therapy, I was going to take him to Toys R Us to pick out a transformer toy. On the way the tire warning light came on. Around that time Scott is saying something to me, not understanding that just because he knows what he's saying doesn't mean I can hear or understand him. When I ask him to repeat he yells so loudly that I jump. So I'm rattled with him as I pull off this country highway onto a smaller country road and look for a slightly wider place in the road where I can stop and reset the tire pressure. I'm always a little self-conscious stopping in front of houses, so I pull a little forward of a driveway. After resetting the pressure I back into the driveway to reverse direction, and, distracted by my irritation with Scott I misjudge my angle and get wedged into the culvert that's just to the side of the solid part of the driveway. Can't drive out. Get out to look and get yelled at from the house, "Are you enjoying marking up our yard?" "I'm really sorry" I replied, and get "That's what you get for using other people's driveways to turn around!" Awwww, sh*t. No mercy today. She slams into her house in a huff and I'm at least grateful that I remembered to bring the cell phone so that I don't have to throw myself on her scanty goodwill to ask to use her phone. I call AAA, 2nd time in 2 days. The dispatcher at least is nice, but I'm discouraged that it may be 40 minutes before a tow truck can get there. I say, "If there is anyway they could make it sooner, I'd sure appreciate it, because I've really irritated the people whose driveway I'm in." He said he'd see what he could do.

After a long 40 minutes of entertaining an impatient 6 year old the truck comes. When the driver rolls down his window I said, "Do you think you'll be able to pull me out without doing any further damage to these people's property?" To my dismay, he took offense and thought I was saying he couldn't do his job. He wanted to know if I preferred to have someone else come. It was clear that this was one of those situations that had gotten off to a bad start and that just about anything I would say was only going to dig me in deeper--how ironic. I did say I was only asking because I was hoping he could tell me that he could, since I was worried about having done damage to these people's driveway. Somewhat mollified he commenced to hook me up to his vehicle (which to my further dismay he'd positioned behind me in their driveway rather than in front of me on the public road). I was so rattled that I forgot to put the van in neutral (though I DID remember to remove the parking brake) and so left a divot when he winched us out. He said, "I'll get this cleaned up. You're good to go." I hesitated, thinking maybe I should walk up to the house to apologize again and maybe offer some sort of restitution, but he said again that he could fix it.

So I left, unhappy about the whole thing. Wondering if I should come back later and apologize again, and if I should call the AAA dispatcher and ask him to tell the guy that I really hadn't meant that I thought the driver was incompetent; I was just anxious and embarrassed at what I'd done.

By the time we were done at the toystore it was time to go get Connor anyway, so I drove back past the house. The driver actually had done quite a nice job of fixing the damage so I decided I'd eaten enough crow and that no more was required of me there.

So (and this is where the dog comes in), home at last, 3 hours after leaving. Home to plaster on the floor where the dog had chewed the molding off the front door and dug a significant hole into the drywall surround.

The day before yesterday I had been writing and he had been pacing so restlessly that I thought he needed to potty outside. I put him on the leash (no fence) and put him out for a while. When he barked I went to get him but he didn't want to come in. I really didn't want to leave him out there because I wanted to be upstairs and I was afraid he'd get tangled in the leash and hurt himself. When I took his collar he set his feet and pulled backward. I manhandled him through the door but when he heard the lead release he redoubled his effort and overpowered me. Corkscrew maneuvered, raking my face with his paws in the process. Broke free and ran like hell. At that point I was angry enough to hope he'd get hit by a car and be done with it. I do not want a dog I have to walk every day! I do not want yet one more demand in my life. With a great effort my responsible side resurfaced and I tried the ruse that had worked the last 2 times he'd broken free. I went and opened the car door: "Want to go for a ride???" (high, squeaky voice). "Go for a ride???"

I'll admit it may be the shadow of a very awkward day influencing my response to coming home to our damaged door, but I don't think I'm the one to do the work it's going to take to reclaim this dog from being nearly unmanageable. Maybe in the context of a life that was a bit happier and a bit more stable. Hopefully the rescue service can find him a home with a fenced yard or a lot of property to run on.

Saturday, January 19, 2008


Scott's got a buddy over. A kid from his class. Gary set it up, worried that we needed to balance out Connor's playdates with some for Scott. Then Gary conveniently disappears, a mountain ski trip for the weekend.

I'd explained to the dad yesterday that I had to take the dog to obedience class at 2.

When he dropped him off at 10 he said, "I'll be back at 2." Horrors. I asked if we could make it one, since I wanted to walk Kody (and wear him out a bit) before class. Fortunately the dad hadn't scheduled himself right up until 2, so he agreed to come at one.

There is such a difference between 6 year old and 10 year old play dates. This is not low maintenance. "MOM!!!!" "MOM". "Canweusethehottub/canweusethehottub?" "Howboutnow/howboutnow". "Now" arrives and I explain the rules: no jumping, no splashing, no going underwater. Connor went out with them too so I figured he'd be the enforcer. Sure enough: "MOM!!! Scott and Richard are splashing, and jumping, and going underwater!" Sigh. Out I go on the deck above them: "If you can't follow the rules you'll have to get out." Moments later some other disturbance takes me out on the porch and I hear the splashing and a jump. "OUT!!! Both of you, out!"

And that was before I had to ride herd on them picking up all the tiny legos and other toys that they had dumped out of several bins. It truly would have been easier if I'd just done it myself, but I wanted to establish the precedent. I had to stand there and give a command for nearly each and every piece, because they'd get distracted and start playing, or stop cleaning up altogether. Infuriating. In the meantime the dog's outside on the leash, refusing to come in but barking.

I felt like such a shrew. I had to be sharp and severe and I didn't spare Richard either. I often fear that my dislike of kids shows. At this point I start doing some serious clock-watching: "Where is he?"

Still, Richard asked if he could come back, so I must not be too much of a deterrent.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Tangled Decisions

Several decisions are coming up:

return to the job sector

keep Scott in school or home school

stay in this marriage, or leave

It may be necessary to return to the job sector if I'm to continue counseling, because we are living paycheck to paycheck. And Gary just took on some more overhead: drum lessons for Connor.

It will certainly be necessary for me to return to the job sector if I leave this marriage; I will need a full-time income and the boys will need after-school care. I would no longer have this time I cherish for writing and reflecting. (I think it's more than 'cherish'. It's possible it goes beyond that to 'need'.) It's possible that leaving this marriage will mean leaving this house, though I harbor an optimistic vision of the boys staying put, and Gary and I doing the rotating from house to house. It would mean certainly a period of upheaval, both foreseeable and unforeseeable. It would mean fielding input from the larger circle of family: mainly parents. There's a good chance it will mean very unsettled children and behaviors that go with it; there's a good chance there will be a deleterious effect on their psychologies.

And I'm worried about Scott. I've been volunteering in his classroom one day a week, a couple hours. And I don't think he has a foundation in place yet to be able to meet the expectations of this classroom. To be able to learn in this classroom would require from him: a linear style of learning, for one thing.

To learn from his teacher's style requires a level of self-control and emotional maturity that he doesn't have. And putting him in this classroom without those skills is like expecting him to run on a fractured leg that is not far enough along in its 'maturation'(that is the healing process) to be able to bear the stress. To be in this classroom which is full of restless children presents a challenge to his ability to screen out distraction that he's not equal to.

He's too young to be able to succeed in this class. It just seems very clear. And I can think of no other option than pulling him out of school, homeschooling, and waiting for the very basic skills to mature. He needs to be able to sustain himself when a situation is tense, so he doesn't react with misbehavior. He needs to be able to screen the sound of a teacher's voice from background noise and be able to attend to it. For sustained periods. Otherwise he can't even begin to take in information, let alone be engaged by it. He really doesn't understand what is expected of him; he doesn't have the link between a teacher's instructions and what they have to do with him.

If he's not up to those challenges in that classroom, then those are conditions for developing major behavior problems. He's prone to some already--such as knowing how to get attention through being aggravating. As a younger brother I think he's also prone to some misbehaviors by virtue of his relationship with Connor: Connor has not been nearly as careful with Scott's self-image as we were with his. I think this potential makes Ray's classroom gasoline to a flame.

If I homeschool I lose my precious solitary time and I lose my time that's free of children (they really do drain me--and I've been so glad for school). I lose this time to write that I crave so much.

This is something that will require a choice soon. It won't serve to leave Scott in that atmosphere longer than necessary--and it looks like just having him tough it out until the end of the year is asking for real trouble.

My need for large chunks of solitary time seems non-negotiable. But so does Scott's need to be out of an environment he's sure to fail in. I have a need that a marriage not be caustic, and it seems clear that any shift is not going to come from Gary's side. It seems more and more likely that the condition of an emotionally corrosive atmosphere is not going to be stopped from his side, but left behind by my side. (Or put up with by my side, which doesn't seem like an option. To put up with it I would have to be anesthetized, and that's probably like running on a broken leg with a localized pain medication that keeps pain from delivering its message to stop.) (Or, maybe it is to be 'put up with' by me. It seems that Scott's need must trump mine, because I'm not willing for him to continue to suffer.)

So these are choices that each have an unpleasant cost to some area of my life: the well-being of my son, the ability to continue counseling, the strain on our income, the need for this solitary time, the need for a peaceful atmosphere.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Dog Training--another Project

On Christmas Eve I got a call from the woman who runs the dog rescue service that united us with Riser. Riser's prior owner works with her and had told her about Riser's death.

She said she had a dog who would be 'perfect for us'. He is young (2) another golden retriever, sweet, no bad habits, low maintanence. His name is Kody.

Ah, the dangerous pictures some words paint. Especially when you're vulnerable. I saw us reproducing the Riser experience, only with a dog with better odds of having longer. Furthermore, the words created a sense of urgency: this is our *only* chance--there is a dog who is *perfect* for us--don't let him get away. There'll never be another dog that's perfect for us.

So she oversold the low-maintanence quality a little.

We've gone from having the best-behaved dog in the room to the...worst. He barks. He chews. He torments the cat. He's clumsy and loud, gangly and gawky. He tugs miserably on the leash. That was nearly the deal-breaker and I put the boys on notice that I was going to give him back. Well, a friend lent me her 'halti' collar, a gentle-leader clone. When the dog tries to tug his own force pulls his chin down toward his collar. It became possible to walk him. Trouble is, if we'd meet another dog he'd nearly pull himself out of the collar in his frenzy. And lord, is he strong.

The boys love him. So we're committed. I enrolled him in obedience school. I co-enrolled myself as a trainee in dog training.

First day of obedience school. Gary wants it to be a family affair. In theory that's a good idea, since the boys will need to implement the things I learn. But talk about dangerous pictures. Talk about the classic schism between men and women: "men are pathologically optimistic and women are realists" ('pessimistic', 'negative' say men). *I* know that having Scott there is not going to be a warm-fuzzy fanatasy of an attentive adorable little boy. He will get bored and restless and be a distraction. I agreed to doing it as a family for a shameful ulterior motive: Gary had just informed me that he'd invited his mother over--THAT DAY--'to see the new dog.' (We are captive to her when she comes over. She overstays. The threat of hurting her fragile feelings prevents Gary from suggesting it's time for her to leave, and its really best that it not come from me.) Her house is not far from the Petsmart--I propose that we stop by HER house on our way to the lesson. A time limit is built right in. Ah well, she wasn't home. And she still hasn't seen the dog. This will come up again.

I went into the Petsmart to pay for the class. I warned the instructor that this dog was a rescue, and so far had not seemed to deal well with other dogs. She assured me that this didn't disqualify him.

What a gamut, taking him from the car, through the entire store to the back where they do the trainings. If anyone knows anything about Petsmart, you know that dogs are welcome there. So there I was, halter on Kody, threading through the aisles to try to avoid him seeing another dog. By the time I got him to the back he was nearly hysterical from barking, my ears were ringing, and he was making a valiant struggle (and nearly winning) against his collar. He spent the first ten minutes of the class barking until the instructor calmed him by pushing a shopping cart decked out with an afghan between him and the rest of the class. In the meantime Connor is oblivious to the teacher's mission to teach and he's regaling her with cute stories about Cody and Scott is walking around asking the other class participants if he could pet their dogs. Gary is oblivious to the distraction they're causing and I finally have to ask him to take the kids out.

The instructor is a true dog lover. Never once lost her calm or her compassion for Kody. She advised me to not be embarrassed, that lots of dogs are like this on the first day. Indeed, he HAD quieted down by the last half of the class and was even responding to the "Watch me/good boy!/all done!" session. AND, he was entirely quiet when Gary walked him back through the store to the car. Exhausted I guess. Like me.

Gary's gone this weekend. I need to find someone to leave Scott with for this next class...

Monday, January 14, 2008

A Project

OK, so I'm a Soul in this world, and I think part of my job over the past 51 years has been to fully get this. Among other things counseling has opened my eyes to this and I think I'm at the very beginning of living practically with that awareness. Sort of the 'applied science' of Awareness.

So right on the heels of that awareness, that I can fully and consciously engage my Soul in this world, comes another awareness about the influence of Other People. I suppose it's Other People that test our commitment to and our connection with the Truth.

(Immediately the doubts that have hampered me in my lifelong efforts to get at the truth of something: "what if *everybody* goes around asserting their 'truths'--wouldn't there be anarchy in this world? Wouldn't people run amok? If it's not possible for everyone to 'assert their Truth' without tremendous conflict, does this get into the dangerous territory of "some people's truths are more valid than others" --with apologies to Orwell--? Leading to the conclusion that some 'truths' rightfully overpower others'? Is it naive to think if all 6 billion of us on this earth live in integrity with our individual Truths --undistorted by tradition, authoritarianism, trauma, 'beliefs'-- that there will be true harmony?)

Anyway, I've observed something that looks like this: there seems to be a sort of schism in humans between those who venerate an outside authority and those who do not. (I don't know what to call those-who-do-not. There's probably some very obvious and common term. Freethinkers? ) There seems to be such a split at least in American politics and I guess that's why the whole 'Culture Wars' concept has taken off. It touches deep emotional roots and attachments. It appears that conservatives feel under siege--that the very American Way Of Life, or the traditional middle class American values is under attack by 'secular progressives.'

My father is a conservative and he gave me a book to read: "World War IV" by Norman Podhoretz. It's subtitled: "The Long Struggle Against Islamofascism". I know who Podhoretz is, that he's founder of a very conservative magazine ("Commentary"). So I know that he's to the right of mainstream conservatives.

I dislike authoritarianism. I think that the sort of nationalized version of Christianity that informed the 50's 60's culture that I grew up in was an agent of authority that put internal restraints on questioning authority. For me it has a very distinctive feeling climate, like being in a room full of bad air, and my very thoughts have been constrained by it.

So being presented with this book is to be presented with a sort of challenge. First, does my 'antiauthoritarian bias' prevent me from even reading this book, and if so, can I say I've been fair and open-minded?

I had some doubts as to this guy's claim to credibility in the introduction, and then in the first chapter he asserts what seems to have become an article of faith for the right wing: The "Wall", "Gorelick's Wall", that Jamie Gorelick (9/11 commision member and former deputy attorney general in Clinton's administration) supposedly erected, basically caused 9/11 because it wouldn't allow members of the intelligence and law enforcement communities to talk to each other.

I feel like I can't proceed further in the book until I resolve for myself the merits of this. Did a member of a 'liberal' administration erect a barrier that kept the country's defenses from being effective at a crucial time? (And erected it for legalistic purposes that tie the hands of real people just trying to protect the country?) When I pause from the book to look into this I see that it's going to take a considerable amount of time to research fairly...that charge can't be answered in a quick aside. Which is discouraging. How will I make it through this book if I'm having to check every assertion? (And would I do that in a book that took a more critical view of the Bush administration?)

It occurs to me that another area where doubt was successfully stirred up was in John Kerry's being a war hero. Frankly, that issue still remains gray for the little bit of reading I did (VERY little) it seemed the Swiftboat Veterans for Truth group may have raised some serious challenges to the assumption of Kerry's hero status. I suppose that the fact that this area is still fuzzy for me attests to the success of their operation.

OK. My project:

1) Read Podhoretz's book and give a voice of the right wing a fair hearing.
2) Follow up on the merits of the charge against Jamie Gorelick: valid or not?
3) Follow up on the merits of the Swiftboat Veterans for Truth challenge to Kerry's hero status

I'm usually daunted by stuff like this. It can take so long to follow the path of what leads to an assumption. I've been put off by the time commitment it would take to look at every strand that makes up what's presented as an assumtion. Still, it would be an exercise in following the Truth where It leads--which is ultimately what my life should be about.

Friday, January 11, 2008


I'm starting to realize the extent that obligation to others has in one's own conception of Self. It's as if immediately following the realization of "I Am" comes "where does my I-Am fit in with Others"? I guess I'm learning what everyone else already knows--that our dealings among others are an important component of who we are spiritually. Duh.

In the post-Christmas-season of obligation-kids'-first-week-back-in-school-decompression-period I've had a chance to reflect on this. The holidays are a concentration of obligation, so it's been in my face. I seem to be learning something about doing more than just suffering from it.

So it seems humans are often in a confrontation of realities: and in a position of determining whose reality will prevail, whose will defer.

Over the holidays I had guests spending days in my home. Classic family stew. I identified a number of points where there was a collision of realities (a soft collision--the kind that doesn't even rise to the level of an argument). One example is the point where requests become excessive to me, but seem perfectly reasonable to them. Yeah, what was being called on from me was to a) meet requests b) do it in such a way that validates someone's self image by not indicating that it cost me anything. My guest's reality: what they're asking is reasonable for a guest to expect from their reality: it is not.

And, I'm being asked to preserve their belief that it's ok to keep asking for things. And that it's ok for them to be people who ask for things. I am not only being asked to do the thing, but to protect their belief that it is ok.

I suppose part of what has driven this whole dynamic, and why I’ve had to confuse myself about it is FEAR that when that other person’s ego-defenses are activated that they will punish me to my core, and I will feel ashamed to my very core.

And so I’ve weighted the Voice of perception (that informs my reality) with all kinds of doubts and guilts, and fears-that-my-senses-mean-the-worst-about-me…and so I try to suppress the Truth of what I'm experiencing..Because it will hurt to know the Truth and not do anythiing about it, and to Tell the Truth risks an explosion. I guess the basic fact is that people are often invested with their lives in maintaining their ego’s illusions. And any threat to those illusions will bring on an intense fire-fight. So I have deferred my reality to others’ because I have feared I would lose such a firefight. I guess I fear a confrontation that might mean that I’m revealed as the worst I can be and have to admit it. I’ve been protecting myself from a confrontation that might force me to admit that I’m horrible. Rotten at the very core of my being.

Can anyone ever ‘make me’ feel that I am totally and utterly Wrong? I guess I’ve been afraid to test that.

I have a self that I split off from. I’ve known this concept in theory, but I now see how it worked/works in my life. I’ve feared my whole life being brought back into contact with that Self, and I’ve particularly feared that confrontation with another person would do that. (The fact that I consider the prospect a horror to be avoided at all costs reveals the extent to which I’ve loathed this part).

There are several people in my life who believe they have a legitimate claim on me to not contradict their version of reality. That preserving their ego should be a priority of mine. That to do anything that shakes their ego’s self-perception = rudeness, discouresty and disrespect of the most offensive kind (the kind of rudeness that only my Worst, most Disowned Self would be capable of).

It might be a little rough transitioning to someone who does not defer to other people’s realities—that is, the delusions people carry about themselves--if it’s going to cost me something I don’t want to spend.

I can be open to being *convinced*, though. However that implies a process more open than most people are willing to be. Usually the assertion of a reality and the decision to defer or not happens in a flash that's hardly noticable. A covert 'agreement'.

I suppose getting to this makes these past several weeks worth it.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Original Sin, or Turning Away From True Self

The real story about last week which kind of gets lost in the Christmas whine is some new insights from Sharon.

Once upon a time there was a little girl, who was around 5 or 6. One afternoon she was playing in a field behind the houses where all the neighborhood's children played. Her mother and a neighbor woman approached. They asked if she had taken a puppet toy that the neighbor woman's daughter had received as a gift. (It was wooden, and pulling a string above and below made the 'legs' jump). The girl was confused by the question and the nuances of meaning: did they mean had she stolen it? Did they mean had she held it in her hands? Did they mean had she taken it from the girl, played with it briefly, and given it back? They seemed to want an admission that she HAD taken it. She tried to remember, but all she could think of was having 'taken' the toy from the neighbor girl, playing with it a moment. She couldn't remember if she had given it back or not, but these women seemed sure that she hadn't. So perhaps it was true, and so she did what was a point of honor for her: she 'told the truth'. (Truth in a 6 year old's world is not the Truth as adults comprehend it. The contexts before for 'telling the truth' generally meant admitting to something even if the consequences were unpleasant. This situation seemed to match those prior contexts, so she admitted to something she hadn't done.) She then waited for praise for having done the right thing.

Instead, the women grew angrier and began to demand that she produce the toy. The girl's mother began to swat her and it hurt so much to be hit like that. The little girl began to try to guess where the toy might be, and wandered aimlessly around the field, saying, "Maybe I put it here. Maybe over here." In the meantime her mother followed swatting her and she tried to stay ahead of her mother's reach, and tried to protect her bottom with her hands. It grew dark.

Then the girl was home. Apparently the adults had given up for the night. The mother kept demanding to know where the toy was. At one point she threatened to call the police to take her to jail, and even took the phone off the hook as if to dial.


There are several points of Truth in the story. One was the child's inability to understand what the parents had been asking her for in the first place. Another basic Truth was that she had not stolen the toy, though she'd held it briefly and couldn't remember anything else. She turned from the Truth when she admitted to having taken the toy, because it seemed the field was tipped strongly toward her doing so. The next Truth was that her mother, whose job it was to protect her and advocate for her instead was joining the accusing voice and indeed hitting her as if she deserved punishment. On some level the child realized that she could not count on her mother to protect her. She could not count on the one upon who she depended for life itself. And, the Truth was that her mother was trying to torture the 'truth' out of her by frightening, threatening, and hitting her; and therefore was punishing her for something before knowing the facts, and was punishing her for something she hadn't done.

So was this truth too painful to comprehend or acknowledge? To protect herself from the truth that she could not rely on her mother she had to turn from the Truth and live in a world of doubt, where it was *plausible* that she had done it: maybe she had taken the toy and just didn't remember. The two women seemed so positive she'd done it. She was given a choice, to turn from the Truth to placate this Adult on whose good will her life depended, or to stay with her own Truth which felt so very harsh. Living with that Truth and the feelings it would engender was so painful she chose instead to turn from It; however to completely embrace the lie was also intolerable. She chose a middle ground--living in the realm where it was *possible* she'd done it.

In some ways it's too easy to view this episode as a 'root cause' in the formation of one's personality and foundation of Being. It seems easy to scorn the notion of a child bumbling along in her child-paradise and BOOM--an incident like this changes the course she's on forever. It does seem plausible though to consider that this was one event that stands out of a climate from which events like that can happen. (A climate that believes that a mother's self-worth is dependent on the behavior of her child, or where an accusation is equivalent to guilt and punishable, where it is assumed that a child's conception of reality is equivalent to an adult's, a climate that says another's point of view--"your child stole my child's toy"-- takes precedence over one's protective impulse toward her own child, a climate that believes that children aren't entitled to the same respect that would be accorded to an adult, a climate that believes that violence can result in solutions.)


An interesting analogy. Years ago my father and I were watching "Star Trek: The Next Generation". In this episode Captain Jean-luc Picard was being tortured. It went this way: he was asked how many fingers the interrogator was holding up. When he said the truth he was punished and it was demanded that he say a different number. And he refused and was punished again.

My father was very interested in this episode and we talked some during commercials and afterward. He said that as part of his training for combat the possibility of capture and torture was covered. He said that many would think it intuitively obvious that the tortured should lie, lie right away and say whatever it was the torturer wanted to hear. There was a reason against this that was counter-intuitive. I can't even remember it now, but it was compelling. I'm going to e-mail him and ask, to see if he remembers that conversation and what the reason was to endure torture instead of giving the tormenter what he wants to hear.

It would appear that as a child I 'broke' pretty quickly and started telling the adults what they wanted to hear in order to stop or prevent physical violence. And the consequence of that is that I've lived in the half-world where I *might* be wrong and at fault, but it wasn't certain. And the consequences of THAT are demonstrated throughout my earlier diaries. I have an idea about posting them: demonstration of the consequences of turning away from the Truth. A demonstration on what a decision to turn away from one's True Self means to the most intimate moments of one's life.

I guess this is enough for now.