Up On The Roof

Alchemist In The City

Long Live The Weeds And The Wilderness Yet

I'm out of words.
I used to look at my personal writing as a sort of therapy. The fact that I no longer do it -- in any form -- is either a sign that I'm whole and well or that I'm not inclined towards introspection anymore.

I write all the time for work, so for a long time I used to simply say, "I'm out of words." That was my excuse.

The words were all used up.

If I'm not writing non-fiction blog posts for Food Renegade, then I'm writing self-published fiction.

After that, there are no words left for me.

No words left with which to understand myself.

After the betrayal I felt by the ladies of St. John and my priest there, I no longer have any desire to write *anything* personal for the public eye. Even my fiction, which is fairly popular, is done under a pseudonym because I feel it reveals too much about me.

So, I'm not sure what all this means, if anything.

There is a small part of me that misses it -- that misses writing about my kids, writing about my quiet moments, writing about The Big Questions. So maybe I'll do it again.

Maybe I won't.

"Promise me you’ll always remember: You’re braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think."

~ Christopher Robin to Winnie the Pooh, by A.A. Milne

War on Wisdom
Wisdom This Way
I love this talk! It not only helps me as a teacher, but also as a parent. Barry Schwartz discusses "practical wisdom," and shows how relying too much on rules and incentives wages a war against wisdom.

Rules, he says, wage a war on "moral skill." People often obey rules at the expense of doing the right thing, even when they know better.  He gives an example of a father who buys his son lemonade at a baseball game, only to end up having his son taken away from him and put in foster care for a couple of weeks. Why? The father didn't realize the lemonade contained 5% alcohol. Everyone involved -- from the police, to the CPS workers, to the paramedics all said they didn't like doing what they were doing, that they knew the father wasn't a danger to his son, but that they had to "follow the rules." So, by letting rules make our decisions for us, we are losing our ability to act wisely, with moral skill.

Incentives, he says, wage a war on "moral will." People will often choose to do the right thing out of a sense of duty, virtue, or social responsibility. But, if we offer incentives, we often cloud people's ability to choose the right thing by suddenly adding a new value to the equation -- one that's self-serving and asks "what's in it for me?" He gave an example of folks being surveyed about the possibility of having a nuclear waste dump put near their neighborhood. When simply asked if they would allow it, 50% of respondents said yes, that it had to go somewhere, and so despite the fall in their property values and possible risks to environment health, it was their civic duty to say yes. When also given an incentive (we'll pay you an annual amount of money to have it near your neighborhood), the amount who said yes dropped to 25%. Why? Because suddenly the focus wasn't on what's right or wrong for the community, but what was best for the individual. In that case, the money incentive actually had the opposite effect of what was desired by those conducting the survey because respondents now weighed the extra incentive income against declining property values, environmental impact, and personal desires.

As a parent, I'm often prone to respond to a character problem in my children by creating a new rule or a new incentive. It only seems natural. But Schwartz' talk has left me questioning that immediate response. If my ultimate, long-term goal is to raise a wise adult, able to navigate the world with moral skill & a sound moral will, then rules & incentives aren't always the answer.

Interesting, no?

Watch the talk:


Say Hello to Alina Mae
Up On The Roof
Hello sunshine.

They say that every labor is unique. In many ways, that's true. The one constant in my three births has been me. I, at least, always labor in the same spirit -- one of quiet, concentrated, peace. I don't speak. I don't like being spoken to. The words "Baby's coming," are usually the first I speak in more than an hour there at the end, and that always takes me and those around me by surprise. My midwife is lucky to get her gloves on, for I speak the words at the beginning of a contraction, and by the end of that contraction my baby is born and in my arms.

That said, Alina's birth was bizarre by my standards. I've never begun labor with anything dramatic -- no water breaking, no bloody show. I just have regular, increasingly frequent labor contractions. When they get to be about 9 minutes apart, I think: this is it. I'm having a baby today. Then they keep increasing in frequency over the next hours, and before I know it they're right on top of each other and a baby is born. Not so with Alina.

Her labor never announced itself. Contractions were random and stayed that way until probably 2 hours before she was born. I'd have mild contractions that I could barely feel, followed by intense contractions that required me to be still, relax, open up, and think welcoming thoughts in order to stay sane. I'd feel them at 8 minutes apart, followed by the next one at 20 minutes, and the next one at 3. Really, the only reason my midwife even came was because I followed her advice and called her the moment "anything changes." I'd been having contractions about 30 minutes apart for more than a week before The Big Day. I could get them closer together by doing things -- going for a walk, grocery shopping, bending over, standing up. But as soon as I sat down, they'd fall back into being 30 minutes apart.  Well, the morning of July 14th, that something changed.

The contractions became random, and alternatively intense and mild. So I called her. Later that day, she came out "just to check on me," and decided to stay. I said, "I sure hope this is labor. I'd hate for you to be here, getting ready for birth, only to have these random contractions peter out."

"Oh, this is labor. Baby's coming today. I have a feeling," she smiled.

Good thing she stayed, because not long later, Alina came out of me and into the world.

My biggest disappointment in this birth (there's always something, isn't there?) was how long I had to wait for my pool of water. With Samuel, I asked for the water, and within 15 minutes the pool was filled and I was in it, laboring in comparative bliss. With Alina, I asked for the water, and an hour and a half later it was barely full. Apparently, my little apartment hot water heater is not very well maintained. They used more than half the water just trying to get it clear of calcium deposits, so they had to fill the pool BY HAND, filling pots of water and bringing them to a boil on the stove.  That hour and a half was very intense -- perhaps my most intense labor of any of my three.

At some point, I'll write a real birth story. In the meantime, feel free to admire the beauty that is my new little girl.

Love It
Apple Picking

The cloud is free only
to go with the wind.

The rain is free
only in falling.

The water is free only
in its gathering together,

in its downward courses,
in its rising into the air.

In law is rest
if you love the law,
if you enter, singing, into it
as water in its descent.

Or song is truest law,
and you must enter singing;
it has no other entrance.

It is the great chorus
of parts. The only outlawry
is in division.

Whatever is singing
is found, awaiting the return
of whatever is lost.

Meet us in the air
over the water,
sing the swallows.

Meet me, meet me,
the redbird sings,
here here here here.

-- Wendell Berry

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I love BOYS
Moo Cows
Samuel: Guess what?
Me: What?
Samuel: Chicken butt!
Me: Oh, that joke again! Maybe you should try to tell a different joke.
Samuel: Knock Knock
Me: Who's there?
Samuel: Monster
Me: Monster who?
Samuel: Monster chicken butt!!