Saturday, 8 December 2012
This and That
It's a Saturday night on one of the shortest days of the year and we are nesting, grooving on doing less and staying in familiar habitats and sticking with familiar habits.
We were watching a video of a lecture by psychoanalyst Salman Akhtar the other day and one phrase he used (with fondness and in solidarity) was "colored people's time" (CPT).
When we had our place in the Catskills, there was another variation of that, called "country time" (it meant the plumber would come, maybe next tuesday, so just be chilling).
When we visit the Simplicity Parenting site we see yet another version of this idea. It's called "Maui Time", and yes, that's when you get away from it all and start to appreciate your family more, etc.
Here at Lisablog headquarters, we can't currently afford to go on Maui Time. (There's only $53 in the South of France Fund, and $1.61 in the envelope titled "change found on the street". There are 32 pounds in the "UK fund" envelope, but going to the UK is never like country time for us because there's so much to do and so many people to see, like they say.)
So, we ponder Colored People's Time, and wonder if it's also TT (Toddler Time), since the Beast will leave the house when she's ready to leave the house, which is after certain Barbies are arranged in some weird voodoo fashion, and also after there has been an inventory of marbles, and a packing up of various trinkets to be taken with us wherever we go. And then when we do get outside there are so many things to look at, so don't expect to get anywhere fast.
All of this must be okay, because really there is enough time to do everything there is to do. How is this possible? you ask; yes, I know.
My first question is How Important Is It?
Years ago a friend pointed out that the world will not collapse if you don't check your email every day since you're not Superman and you don't have superpowers to resolve any world crises anyway. We've found that to be true. And usually it's disappointing to come back to email after two or three or four days away. Why? Nothing has happened.
As for Facebook, do you really need it? I don't know. Probably not.
As for learning things, yes it's great to learn things. The school model for learning things is the cramming model. You take five classes a semester, read eight books in each class, and commit a bunch of information to short term memory. Two years later it's gone. So why not learn things well and slowly? (For example, here at the Lisablog offices we are studying Old English, one word at a time at a pace of one word per day. It's a dead language, is it really that urgent?)
The same with exercise. It doesn't have to be a big production. Our new schedule includes a 10 minute run every morning. Hey, it's exercise and we're doing it. And we're not paying a gym or a personal trainer.
What about simple food? We're lucky here in NYC. We have green markets around town every day of the week. The Sunday morning green market in Jackson Heights provides eggs, milk, cheese, bread, meat, fruit, vegetables, and honey and maple syrup. One big shop (take the rolly cart), and voila, a week's worth of food is in the house. Yes, we supplement (rice, nuts, coffee, etc.) at the local health food store.
Not enough variety in local food? How about mixing up the meals with some canned and fermented treats from across the seasons. I'm not talking about buying cans of food. I'm talking about canning foods. Tomatoes in February. That's our desire. And as for fermentation, we just scored the most excellent anaerobic fermentation set up: mason jar, recap-it BPA free plastic lid, cork, and airlock. Here are the carrots (about to be shredded) and here are the jars where they will reside, anaerobically, to become carrot sauerkraut:
Simple kitchen? Two more words: Crock Pot. (Find one without lead in its glaze.) Also remember to make breakfast, lunch, and dinner in one go: tea kettle boils while toast cooks while lunch is packed (yesterday's leftovers) and jam everything else into the crock pot. You get home, dinner is there.
Okay, one other note: we just got this Big Berkey Water Filtration System:
The filters in this dude take out fluoride, chlorine, lead, arsenic, copper, creepy crawlies, and so on. Tap water goes in at night, and clean water comes on in the morning. If the city won't agree to take the fluoride out of the water, we'll do it ourself. Very satisfying.
Stay tuned to Lisablog for more tips on transitioning to CPT. And Peace.
Saturday, 24 November 2012
This and That
It's six a.m. and Lisablog comes to you from Jackson Heights, Queens. We inhabit a new homestead, or as the Beast says, we have a new habitat.
As always, moving shakes things up and we've been thinking about new unschooling possibilities. Learning Spanish seems like a good idea. In Sunnyside Bea picked up a little bit of Spanish from our friend Zenado at the bodega on the corner of our block. In Jackson Heights, the immersion will be even more intense. Sixty percent of our neighbors are from Central and South America, with Ecuador, Argentina, and Colombia high on the list of home-countries. So, Spanish it is. And very good food, of course.
Leaving behind the Americas, we have Asia. We're a stone's throw from the 74th Street strip of Jackson Heights that is dense with Indian groceries, restaurants, sweets shops, and fabric stores. Maharaja Sweets is our favorite for Indian burfi:
Burfi is made with condensed milk and nuts (cashews and pistachios). Trivia note: the Persian word of origin is "Barf" meaning snow (and these are cold white treats), and really you can call it barfi, if you must.
And hopping on the subway we can be in Flushing's Chinatown in ten minutes. My understanding is that Flushing Chinatown is a Mandarin community, where as Manhattan Chinatown is a Cantonese community. When I was a youngster (21 or so) I spent three years living in Oakland's Mandarin Chinatown and it was life-changing. (Being white meant being a ghost, and it was quite fantastic, and strange, to walk crowded streets and always be invisible.) And of course there is the lure of cooking delights: raw water chestnuts, five spice powder, and winter melon for soup.
Now, as my 45th birthday looms, I can really say I have the best birthday presents anyone could have. A share in a cooperative housing project (80 shares, that is), a Burmese Prince and a Beast, and a shift in the voting patterns of this country that finally brings us closer to an integrated civilized world. (I know, the last one is a little bit utopian, but at least the Mormon didn't win.)
And a final note about the neighborhood: we're walking distance from Malcolm X's house over near Laguardia Airport. So, that will be a pilgrimage too.
Tuesday, 30 October 2012
And Now We're Back
Hurricane Sandy howled through yesterday, giving us enough time indoors to knit, sew, and even now, yes, blog.
This entry comes as a simple plea. Please vote next week. And vote for the muslim. No, I don't like the drone strikes either, but please vote.
Here is inspiration in the aftermath of yesterday's fourteen foot storm surge—
(thanks to the Burmese Prince for alerting us to this speech snippet)
"President Obama promised to begin to slow the rise of the oceans and to heal the planet." (laughter from Republican backers) "MY promise … is to help you and your family."
And if you don't want to vote to save the planet, can you at least vote to save the rights of the women who you love?
Friday, 28 September 2012
Why We Are Away From The Blog
We are away from the blog these days because we started using a typewriter. The article in last week's New York Times on carbon emissions and the internet actually made us kind of sick. And then we stopped over-using the internet. We, meaning not the whole household, but me, Lisa of the Blog. But actually Bea stopped asking to watch Winnie The Pooh when I stopped checking my email during the day. This was really interesting. What do we do? The daily email check is at 8 am and usually takes about 15 minutes. Business gets caught-up-with, and then the computer is off for the rest of the day. Bea and I have been using the typewriter, knitting socks, sewing (yes, the sewing maching is up and running), and tomorrow we pick up our raw milk delivery so that we can make some yogurt. We're not shunning technology, but are trying to use it more wisely. The result, for me, is better sleep and better concentration. Go figure. And peace out.
Thursday, 30 August 2012
Love Thy Neighbor
Thinking today of something Bob Dylan said in a telephone conversation circa 1971 to A.J. Weberman that great gentleman junkie Dylanologist who routinely picked through Dylan's garbage when he lived in the West Village. Dylan was complaining to Weberman about his scavenging activities, since Dylan's kids, toddlers, would watch out the living room window. Weberman said "The kid didn't look scared," and Dylan said, "no, my kids aren't aware of this or that."
Having a three-year-old means living with someone who's not aware of this or that, but is aware of everything. My kid knows the phases of the moon, she can scout out tiny mushrooms across a field, and she remembers the exact conversations of Tin Tin and Captain Haddock inside the frames of 80 pages cartoon books. Today she matter-of-factly recounted seeing a guy with no legs, and she often cheerfully tells strangers about our cat Harry who died last summer. But she isn't aware of the waves of bloodshed in the Middle East, or death by lethal injection in Texas, or hate crimes against queer and transgender people [and Sikhs, and fill in the blank].
It occurs to me these days that my energies are so consistently funneled into the daily orders (as Robert Duncan would call them) of raising a child, that another part of me is missing. It used to be that I could read the New York Times and check in with Democracy Now and see what Noam Chomsky was saying and I even had the time and desire to exchange letters with those guys down there in Texas on Death Row.
Those guys have since been executed, and it's not the time, of course, to bring my kid into a conversation about all such things. It may be that there never will be a time or a reason for her to know about Anthony Nealy who possibly robbed a gas station and killed two clerks. I never asked him during the course of our letter exchanges. Mostly we talked about appeals, about what he read in the newspaper, about what he could and couldn't get with the few bucks he had in his snack bar account.
Sure, I'd like my kid to know that marching on the pentagon in 1987 to protest American policies in Latin America was a highlight of my youth. But who knows if that will be meaningful to her either. Perhaps what I hope for is more of what Alfred North Whitehead called "a feeling state." I'd like her to know that she's loved and that she can love other people. I'd like her to have some cosmic empathy for all the creatures in the universe, without any indoctrinating influence (or forced viewings of Eyes On The Prize) on my part. Perhaps I've set the bar too high.
This morning one of our neighbors across the street here on 39th Place stabbed his wife. Bea and I went out for our trek to the park at about 9 and had to wade through a little crowd gathering on the sidewalk. "What happened", I asked? "A guy killed his wife; he's on his way to Boston, but they'll get him." My first thought wasn't to "get him," but there it was. We made our way up to the train platform at 40th Street and strolled down to our regular spot at the end of the platform (less crowded at rush hour with a stroller). And there he was, about my age, barefoot, sad, weary, wearing a white tee shirt with the red streak of a bloody hand-print across the shoulder. He was sitting on the white metal box at the end of the platform, looking at me while I looked at him. Everyone else was busy as usual with their personal devices. I thought to say something to him, as a gesture of reaching out, or figuring out if he was who I thought he was, but there I was with the kid in the stroller who was not aware of this or that, my little bundle of joy who I protect from trips and falls and sugar-rushes. So I stood there, and looked at him, and called Thomas to ask him to mention to the cops crowding our block that here was the guy they were possibly looking for. And then the train arrived, and I pushed the stroller through the doors and took one last long look at him, who was still looking at me, not in any particular way, except for in some deeply empty human despair that simply called for compassion. Ten minutes later he jumped off the platform onto Queens Boulevard and died there. It was probably about the time we were pulling into Queensboro Plaza and I was trying to decide if the kid and I needed to get off the train because she was shrieking, an ear-shattering shriek, loud and sustained, that came out of nowhere except for the morning crankiness that sometimes takes over.
Now we're at the end of the day; the New York Post reporters are gathered on the street eating potato chips waiting to take photos of the family coming into or going out of the building, because someone has to show up to clean the place up and make sense of what happened. One murder, one suicide, one kid who's not aware of this or that, and me, still not understanding the chasm between me and my neighbor as I watched him making his way out of the realm of human relation.
Tuesday, 31 July 2012
A few photos here from the Old Manse in the pre-dawn hours of Sunday. We've moved out, moved on, are moving on up to a new apartment in Jackson Heights, but our hearts will forever be in the Catskills.
Now we say farewell and thank you to that small piece of land and little bit of paradise and musty mousey cabin in the woods. Thank you Esopus Creek for quiet fishing interludes as dusk descended and the trout were jumping and Herb the heron was soaring overhead. Thank you little patch of lawn for the opportunity to watch wild turkeys turkey-dancing their way into the woods behind the house. Thank you beech trees, sugar maples, red maples, hop hornbeams, shagbark hickories, cherries, black oaks, red oaks, hemlocks, white pines, and sweet birches for being yourselves looming all around. Thank you Mount Tremper neighbors for being friendly country advocates rather than noisy city adversaries. Thank you rolling hilly roads (Wittenberg, Old Wittenberg, Winne, Sickler, Mount Pleasant, Upper Ohayo Mountain, and Riseley) for being the best marathon training course in the universe complete with romping deer, crispy red and gold foliage, and wild grapes. Thank you bears for scaring us. Thank you Emerson Spa for being so weird and having hot water in winter and martinis year-round. Thank you rare spice bush next to the ancient red maple in the far corner of the back yard for being scented as you were. Thank you tipped tree for the tree of life root system awe. Thank you cabbage whites and swallowtails for dilly-dallying around the deptford pinks, the soapwort, the joe-pye-weed, the bergamot, and the chickory. Thank you agile garlic mustard of May who made an appearance in a poem and on a plate. Thank you Jotul woodburning stove for crackling through the midnight hour while ice crept on the windows. We shall return, sometime, as soon as possible, to hug all the trees in our forest.
Wednesday, 11 July 2012
New Class for the Autumn
Hey all, here it is-
An Autumn Sunnyside Queens Poetry Reading/Writing Workshop revolving around the poet's notebook. We will start new notebooks, accumulate notebook topic ideas, re-visit old notebooks, create notebook projects, and study other writers' notebooks (Bernadette Mayer, James Joyce, John Wieners, Allen Ginsberg, James Schuyler, etc). Beginning September 2012, Monday evenings 6 pm-8:30 pm, 10 sessions, $300. Limit eight students. Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Monday, 2 July 2012
Parenting and How It Got That Way
The last week has been filled with more questions than answers. Partly this is because every other word out of the kid's mouth is "What?" Not as in "I didn't hear you." but as in "Repeat the sentence you just said in images and ideas that I understand." Meanwhile I've been volleying lots of whats to our Central Park Forest Nursery Moms and Dads (that motley crew of parents who continue to challenge all of my ideas about food-eating, kid-raising, and dentistry and medicine.)
The big "what" last week was food coloring. It's not like we didn't know about the problems with food coloring (when the Beast was little we threw out all the pink baby tylenol and went with the undyed stuff). (Yes, I know, if we had been really hip back then we wouldn't have given her Tylenol at all for those baby fevers.) Now as summer rolls around, so does the ice cream truck. Our kid particularly loves the blue and red Spiderman ice cream pops. And what's not to like? They have bubble gum eyes. (And yes, I loved blue and orange Superman ice cream as a kid.) But sadly Red # 40 is not really good for humans. (The blue dye is equally sucky— more on this later.) As for Red #40, even the FDA has admitted that it exacerbates emotional disorders (increases ADHD responses) and is potentially carcinogenic (at least in lab animals). It's not used in Europe (they mostly go with beet coloring). But how to get our little lab animal away from the Spiderman ice cream that we've always said yes to? (At Forest Nursery we've been talking about the ongoing process of "re-evaluating our choices".) We had some luck last week on the ice cream front, switching to a vanilla-based cone. It still has the same old sugar and god knows what other chemicals, but it feels like a good gradual change. As for me, I'm trying to temper my love for snow cones and M&Ms. I can't exactly tell the kid I don't want her eating food dyes when I'm wolfing them down on the side.
The other big what for the week has to do with kid spoilage. Will our kid spoil because of our parenting techniques (or lack of them)? This is the question. It came up first when the kid was nine months old and we went to a pediatrician who suggested we sleep train. She said "It's your choice. You can have a princess or a tyrant." We didn't sleep train of course (and promptly switched pediatricians). Fast-forward to life with a three year old. Princess? Tyrant? Both, of course. And this seems to be what three is all about— the fierceness of "yes, I am lovely and kind and bestow my blessing upon all of the stuffed animals of my kingdom" and the rage of "yes, you will understand that I need ice cream and that you must buy it for me now." It has not been my habit as a mom to call in the UN or NATO or even to issue any statements of censure against our tyrant. It's rare for me to make an executive decision with my kid. (Sometimes I slather her shoulders with sun screen against her will.) And I do sometimes voice my humble opinion ("you should eat some lunch before you have ice cream" or "I'd prefer that we didn't start the day with ice cream" or more recently "I'd like to try the ice cream that is not bright red because the bright red ice cream has artificial food dyes in it.") Sometimes we bicker, sometimes we come to a compromise, and sometimes we get the ice cream because it seems really important to the kid. There's a part of us (the social superego part) that whispers "you are totally going to screw up your kid" and there's another part that says "this is how I want to raise my kid." What? (As the kid says.) My intuition as a mom is to form a certain kind of companionship with my kid— it's a companionship that allows for us to both experiment and make decisions and make mistakes and even sometimes get stomach aches from eating too much ice cream. It's true I envy moms whose three-year-old kids have never eaten sugar. It's true I strive for an all organic kitchen (and it's true that the kid doesn't eat packaged food at home and doesn't have sugar in her real meal food ever). But we have these glitches that have to do with entering the world, exploring it, and figuring it out together. It's not a particularly unique idea. Any unschooler can tell you that this is part and parcel of the radical unschooling philosophy. For me, it has a little bit to do with anarchy and a little bit to do with democracy. Ultimately I would like my kid to make decisions for herself about the value and comfort related to eating well, cleaning the house, and learning, loving, and working.
Hashing this over with my fellow-moms this week I wondered "will my kid be spoiled?" "will she not be able to negotiate the world?" My instinct again is that she'll probably be just fine. I get little inklings here and there of the person she's becoming. She doesn't yet say thank you when a store clerk gives her a treat, but we have our moments here at home where I put a plate of food down in front of her and she says with genuine unprompted enthusiasm "oh, thanks mom." We don't expect her to help with housework or cooking, but she loves to sweep, organizes her toys (into weird color coded rows with all the dinosaurs facing the princesses), and the other day she made us some lasagna (kale, feta cheese, milk, and cashew lasagna). My guess is that as she gets older she'll continue to take part in household rituals in new and more complex ways.
I fall back on Marx's statement "From each according to his ability, to each according to his need." (This is also very helpful in marriage I think where it just doesn't make sense to always demand a fifty-fifty split of any responsibility— we all have different needs and abilities from week to week.) Do I envy my friends who are building more structured households with their kids? Sometimes. Yes. There's also a part of me that loves little charts with stars for good performance (I make those for myself). When I was a kid, I marveled at family scenes that ran smoothly with father-and-mother-know-best parents. I loved those television shows like Little House on the Prairie where there was some order to the universe and kids had chores. There's a part of me that would like to train my kid to be a particular person. Of course my influence on her looms large anyway, and my prejudices flow into her life whether I like it or not. But my goal is to see who she becomes with as little traditional parental intervention as possible. As she says, "Be yourself!"
Friday, 22 June 2012
The Duncan Biography is Here!
Tuesday, 19 June 2012
On Being A Mom
Today's rant is pretty simple. I spend four hours in the park with my kid and she's tired and cranky and my back hurts from lugging around kid food, water bottle, kid. We wait for the M1 bus on Fifth Avenue. When we try to get on, the bus driver says "What happened to that child's clothes?" (She's wearing her dress native style, tied around her waist, because she doesn't like the dress and it's the only compromise we could come to.) He says "You can't ride the bus." So the mom and kid can't ride the bus because the three-year-old is showing her boobs. (If you want to call them "boobs" on a three-year-old.)
The kid and I come to another arrangement (she'll wear the dress in a more standard fashion, but without the straps up, because they are itchy.) So the dress is on, but it's below the "cleavage line". (If you want to call it a "cleavage line" on a three year old.)
We walk down Fifth Avenue and several people comment that her cleavage is showing. We get on the subway at 59th Street and while we're on the train a woman comes up to me and says "her dress is low." I say, "She likes it that way" and the woman gives me an odd look.
Can I say What The F*** now? The kid is three. It's a hot day. We're trying to get home. Why is it everyone's business to take issue with her bra line? (If you can call it a bra line on a three-year-old.) Thank you weird repressed puritans of New York for making the afternoon so difficult.
Coming next week: Four thumbs down on underwear, winter hats, Jesus, and school.
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