Radiation in progress

August 30, 2017 @ 6:40 am | Filed under: Homeschooling, Tidal Homeschooling

The sign that greets me outside the treatment room is ominous, and in context the words are sobering. But as I lie there on the table—for only a few minutes; the procedure is beautifully streamlined—I think about the words on the sign and realize the core message is one worth embracing. Radiation in progress…in philosophical terms, it’s really only a stone’s throw from Education is an atmosphere, isn’t it?

***

I just went on a little stroll through my archives, looking for an atmosphere post to link to. I didn’t find the one I wanted, but this one popped up and gave me a few happy pangs: This First Day, about Rilla’s first day of High Tide back in (gulp) 2012. The timing pierces, because today is S’s first day of school and that means the tide is shifting for the rest of us, too. This was a good passage for me to revisit this morning.

I used to waffle about methodologies: was I a Charlotte Mason homeschooler? An unschooler? Something in between—eclectic, perhaps? But it was all just groping for a label—and not even a label for my kids; it was about how to characterize myself in conversations with other homeschoolers, so that we might better understand one another. All the while, my kids and I went on simply doing what worked for us. If something stopped working, we did something else for a while—usually this has meant facilitating a child’s need to immerse deeply into a single passion or pursuit. I grok that; it’s how I love to learn, too. This blog is a chronicle of my own sudden immersions, some of them finite, some recurring at intervals: breadbakinggardeningsewingIrish pennywhistleBritish period drama…it’s a long list. My kids have lists of their own, each one different, some interests overlapping.

Always, always, after one of these immersions, the diver comes up for air eventually. And there’s a restlessness, a pacing at loose ends, that has, for us, always been cured by a return to morning lesson time. Rose has told me she likes having the structure there to push against: knowing there are things she is expected to do fills her with ideas for things she longs to do. One of my jobs is to keep ears open for the longings, and drop resources and opportunities in her path to help her realize them. I love that part of the job.

After this summer’s upheaval, I’m ready for a return to some of the old rhythms that have served us well for so long. Of course, everything is constantly remaking itself, and the ‘old rhythms’ are overlain with new melodies.

***

Addendum: here’s another 2012 post that turned up and gave me a smile (and a pang) this morning.
This one’s for the curriculum-junkie homeschooling mothers of 2002. I’m going to try not to think about the boatload of books and things we left behind in San Diego—it’s time to go shop my shelves and rediscover the treasures we did bring with us. We made a lot of packing decisions in a tearing hurry and I’ve had moments of wishing I hadn’t been quite so ruthless in the purge. But we still have shelves bursting with literary riches, and my job this morning is to stock the living-room shelves with a few dozen gems. And where’s the giant world map, Huck wants to know?

Big day

August 23, 2017 @ 5:50 am | Filed under: Patreon

Today’s my first radiation treatment—but that’s not what I’m talking about. After much urging from friends and readers, I’ve decided to launch a Patreon.

It’s a way for readers, if they are so inclined, to support my creative pursuits such as this blog and my fiction. In return, I’ll be sharing weekly behind-the-scenes posts with subscribers ($1/month or more)—peeks at my work-in-progress, my planner pages, my sketchbook, my studio. At the $3+ level, you get access to a live monthly chat. You can read all about it here.

Since my diagnosis, so many of you have asked how you could help. This is a means I’m comfortable with, because it lets me give something back. And it will allow me to put more time into Bonny Glen as well, which will make me really happy. I’ve hated having to neglect this poor old blog in favor of time-devouring grantwriting projects. 😉

Become a Patron!

august 21: eclipsed

August 22, 2017 @ 7:23 am | Filed under: Family, Photos

Shortly before maximum eclipse (which was 99% for us in Portland):

And moments after:

I was captivated by these shadows during the whole event. Loved watching them change direction.

We had a magical day. A feast prepared by friends (including homemade pecan sticky buns, oh my!), gorgeous weather, music, laughter.

Photo by Larry Deal

Then home for a long nap (well, for me, at least) and late in the day, a visit with a longtime online friend—one of the first people I connected with on AOL homeschooling boards back in the day. We had 22 years of conversations to revisit. So good.

Removing Confederate monuments doesn’t “erase” history. It reveals it.

August 19, 2017 @ 7:39 am | Filed under: Alabama, Current Affairs, History

My roots are Southern. There are both Confederates and Unionists on my family tree. The Unionists are the ones I’ve spent five years trying to write a book about—complicated in more ways than I can express. They were a bunch of Northern Alabamans who wanted no part of Secession. Their county delegate to the January 1861 Alabama Secession Convention, a schoolteacher named Christopher Sheats, was beaten and jailed for refusing to sign the ordinance of secession.

These Winston County folks—led by my direct ancestors, the Curtis brothers—passed a resolution saying that if Alabama could secede from the Union, Winston County could secede from Alabama. Many Winston County men joined the Union army, including my 4th-great-grandfather, John Curtis. Others were killed in various gruesome ways by members of the Confederate Home Guard—their own neighbors. Another of my 4th-greats, one Wiley Tyler, died of starvation and infection in a Confederate prison camp. He’s where my pen name comes from.

I wish I could say that these devoted Unionist ancestors of mine—who fought and died because they refused to be traitors to their nation—had been passionate abolitionists. They weren’t. But they did know that the reason behind the War was slavery. Frank discussion of that reality is everywhere in their letters—just as it is in the letters written by the leaders of the Secession movement. In 1860 and early 1861, a number of men were appointed by various Southern states to be secession commissioners. These men traveled far and wide, speaking and writing in favor of Secession. You can read their letters. I have. They don’t beat around the bush. They believed that Lincoln was going to destroy the institution of slavery. You can read these letters—this primary source material—in a book called Apostles of Disunion.

When we get our information second-, third-, tenth-hand—when it comes to us filtered and packaged by people with something to sell—it can be difficult to get at the truth. The myth of the Lost Cause is one of those packages. The Confederate monuments, most of which were put up in the 20th century, long after the War—including many that were built in the 60s during the Civil Rights movement—are part of that mythology, that package. And it’s a package that was designed for and marketed explicitly to white people.

Those monuments celebrate men who went to war against the United States of America. Men who went to war because the Republic was finally moving to end the practice of enslaving other human beings.

Enslaving. Other. Human. Beings.

My friend Lydia Netzer wrote,

A statue of General Lee is NOT the same thing as a concentration camp turned into a museum.

A concentration camp turned into a museum would be like a slave market turned into a museum, or a slave plantation turned into a museum.

A statue of General Lee would be like if you tore down a concentration camp and left up a statue of Hermann Göring on a pedestal.

Removing these statues—moving them, perhaps, to a museum where these men’s own words could provide context on their intentions in declaring war against their own country—is in no way “erasing history.” We must not let pat phrases like that cheapen the way we talk about and think about these grave matters.

We must go deeper than the talking points. If you are bothered by the idea of history being “erased,” then READ that history—the primary source materials that clearly, directly, unequivocally laid out the reasons for the war in the first place.

Such as this address made by William Harris, a sitting Mississippi Supreme Court justice, to the Georgia state legislature, in his role as a secession commissioner:

“They [Lincoln’s Republicans and the North] have demanded, and now demand, equality between the white and negro races…equality in representation, equality in the right of suffrage, equality in the honors and emoluments of office, equality in the social circle, equality in the rights of matrimony…

“Our fathers made this a government for the white man, rejecting the negro, as an ignorant, inferior, barbarian race, incapable of self-government, and not, therefore, entitled to be associated with the white man upon terms of civil, political, or social equality…[Mississippi] had rather see the last of her race, men, women, and children, immolated in one common funeral pile [pyre], than see them subjected to the degradation of civil, political, and social equality with the negro race.”

The push to remove Confederate monuments isn’t an attempt to “erase” history. Quite the opposite. It’s an effort to expose the truth that has been papered over for far too long.

Tuesday

August 15, 2017 @ 6:24 am | Filed under: Assorted and Sundry

I’m up early, enjoying the quiet morning light in my studio. The neighborhood crows woke up about the same time I did and immediately jumped on their social networks, which seem as well populated as Facebook and as heated as Twitter. I haven’t dipped into mine yet. Lately I want to preserve the peace of the morning as long as possible. I’ll catch up with the news over breakfast, in an hour or two.

Today is my radiation planning appointment—a dress rehearsal of sorts. They’ll figure out how best to position me in the machine and give me a tiny dot tattoo to mark the zapping spot, a little blue freckle. Or maybe two. I’m amused by the cliché of it all. Move to Portland, get a tattoo. 🙂

Things we have seen growing in our neighbors’ front yards on our daily walks:

• corn, including a thick stand of it along the road across from our nearest park;

• figs, ripening;

• raspberries, lots;

• blackberries, growing wild at the edge of the schoolyard fence;

• plums;

• apples;

• tomatoes in abundance;

• vegetables of all kinds, often in large raised garden beds on the strip of land between sidewalk and street;

• giant Russian thistle, utterly to swoon for;

• countless pollinator plants, thrilling me no end;

• loads of Queen Anne’s lace growing like weeds in the grass and along the verge;

• walnut trees, including two in our next-door neighbor’s yard;

• and all sorts of interesting things.

Yesterday Scott and I had just arrived home from the store when a car pulled over in front of our house and the driver took a picture of it. I got out of our car, and the driver saw me and rolled down her window. “I’m so sorry,” she said, “it’s just that I lived here when I was a little girl!”

Her grandparents were the original owners of the house. She and her mother moved in with them when she was eight years old, 61 years ago, because her mother was dying. After her mother’s death, L. continued living with her grandparents and aunt for another five years. She had lots of stories about her neighbors from that time, including the family who had refused to sell when Fred Meyer bought up a bunch of house lots to build a store on a main road nearby.

Image source

We gave her a tour and she told us all about what the house used to look like before some remodeling was done. Turns out my studio was her childhood bedroom. The spot I’m sitting in right now in my comfy gray chair used to be a doorway. “A glass door that led to my grandmother’s bedroom,” she told me. “The closet is exactly the same.”

The big old tree her bedroom used to look out upon is gone, but many of the neighboring trees are the same—the very same treetops serving as a morning gathering-place for the local crows. From my cozy chair I can hear three or four of them gabbing away, probably telling stories they learned from their grandmothers about the little girl who used to live here sixty years ago.

Sunday, August 13

August 13, 2017 @ 8:23 pm | Filed under: Assorted and Sundry

Today:

–I grieved and fumed over Charlottesville;

–We have been in Portland for a month;

–It rained for the first time since we arrived;

–My older girls went to Powell’s (another first);

–I made final tweaks to the September Arrow on Esperanza Rising;

–I finished a chunk of work for one of my other jobs;

–We passed wild blackberries growing through the schoolyard fence on our walk;

–I did my weekly planning and paid bills;

–I watched bees tumbling in and out of oregano blossoms on the hanging basket I assembled; and

–I grieved and fumed over Charlottesville.

august 7: turning the page

August 7, 2017 @ 7:00 pm | Filed under: Assorted and Sundry

early bird

The early bird gets breakfast in Mom’s studio…

1.

The calendar says we’ve been here 3 1/2 weeks, but in some ways today feels like the Beginning. A new tide, I guess. The first page of Chapter 1, after an action-packed Prologue. We arrived on July 13th and spent a few days waiting for the moving truck. Then it was a blur of unpacking—surgery—recovery—arrival of my younger kids and my parents—follow-up appointments—recovery, still—a work day in Salem—and finally, the mustering of enough brain power to finish writing the September issue of The Arrow, which I turned in last night.

It sounds overwhelming when I write it out like that, but the truth is, next to my surgery, the recovery time has been the hardest part. I loathed the mental fog brought on by pain meds. I’m not a patient patient.

I hardly knew what to turn to first, this morning. Our readaloud, neglected these past six weeks? The unpacked boxes in the basement? The garden store, for a few of the pollinator plants I require for peace of mind? Eventually, I decided on a walk with the younger kids. The rest of the family has explored a lot more of the new neighborhood than I have. We walked down our long street and across several short blocks and back up the long block a few streets over, and on the third corner of the rectangle we met some neighbors, including this rather fabulously coiffed chick.

Disco Chick

Her name? Is Disco.

After lunch, I retired to my studio to work for a bit. Work feels good right now. I’m at the beginning of some new projects—and you know how beginnings thrill me. And for balance, there are some old, ongoing tasks to take back up—calm, steady work, as comfortable as picking up a scarf you started knitting ages ago.

My sketchbook sat idle for weeks, but I returned to it once or twice last week and am itching to resume the daily habit. Perhaps I’ll do a spell of nature journaling as we get acquainted with all this new flora.

2.

I spent the first hour of my work time making lists.

—A list of clerical chores that need doing (phone calls, insurance paperwork, and so forth);

—A list of houseworky things to do or assign;

—A list of little fun tasks like making labels for the storage drawers in my studio, or setting up research files for the New Project;

—A short list of things we need to get for the new house (chiefly: a vacuum…we had no carpets in the old place!); and

—A list of work-related tasks that need attention this week.

There’s a big juicy High Tide list to be made, too, but that wants more time than the hour I’d allotted for the joys of listmaking. Anyway, High Tide lists are best developed Here in the Bonny Glen. 😉

3.

It stays light so late here!

What I Did on My Summer Vacation

August 4, 2017 @ 6:45 pm | Filed under: Family Adventures

Those of you who followed our previous interstate move in 2006 know that it’s highly unusual for me to have said so little, thus far, about this new adventure, our move from San Diego to Portland. If I’ve been quiet here, it’s because there has been so. much. to say. Too much!

The move had been under discussion for months—years, really, some pieces of it—and in early June we decided that this summer, mid-August perhaps, was the right time. For one thing, there was a job calling me, one that will fit more amiably into a writing-teaching-homeschooling life than grantwriting did; and further, it’s an advocacy job made more imperative by this year’s perpetual threats to disability services budgets. Another consideration was the timing of our older girls’ college plans. And then we had long since outgrown our little San Diego rental, but had no prospect of moving into a bigger house at SoCal prices.

SoCal kitchen

She was a lot shorter when we moved into that house

Long story short: it was time to move. I booked a ticket to fly up in late June to look for a rental with the help of Ron, one of my closest friends.

I was feeling pretty swamped in June. Lots and lots of work on my plate, and the idea of getting the household packed and ready to move by August seemed darn near impossible. When the appointment reminder came for my mammogram, I came very close to canceling it. After all, I’d had one only six months earlier. But the reason they wanted to see me again so soon was because that December one had been my first, so there was no baseline, and there had been a few little calcification specks that the radiologist wanted to keep an eye on. So I heaved a sigh and dragged myself, oh beleaguered me, to the appointment, grumbling all the way.

The cluster of specks was a bit bigger. Nothing at all to worry about, they assured me; these are quite common in women who breastfed; but we can’t send you on your way without doing a quick biopsy just to be extra, extra sure.

That was June 5th. The biopsy was scheduled for June 16th. On the 6th or 7th, Ron spotted a likely-looking rental prospect on Craigslist. He arranged for a showing on the 8th, bringing me along via Facetime. The house hit all the marks on our wish list—location, number of bedrooms and bathrooms, good work spaces for Scott and me, a nice little backyard—except one: it was available on the first of July, not August, meaning that if we wanted it, we’d have to pay for it to sit empty for a good six weeks.

But we’re a big family, you know, and the Portland rental market is fierce—and likely to get fiercer as the summer rolled on. We decided to apply for the house. I still had my ticket for the end of June, so I figured I’d fly up and see it in person. I made a call to the special education department of the Portland school district and set up a meeting to see the school Stevie would be likely to attend. Scott and I began to consider moving a wee bit earlier, perhaps in late July, right after Comic-Con, to try to cut down on the overlapping rent. I would begin telling people, I decided, after that late-June trip.

I said I wasn't going to bring the Wedgits. I brought the Wedgits.

I said I wasn’t going to bring the Wedgits. I brought the Wedgits.

The biopsy was on Friday, June 16th. I wasn’t worried about the results. Too busy with deadlines and panicked thoughts of the impossibility of getting us packed and moved in late July—and highly frustrated by being laid up for a few days to recover from the procedure, which had left me in more pain than I expected. I also had a new section of my four-week Comic Strip Capers class starting at Brave Writer on the 19th, so I was occupied in prepping for that.

To my utmost annoyance, I had to had to go see my primary doctor in person to get the results of the biopsy. When she broke the news (rather clumsily, truth be told), I had trouble believing it at first. Scott too. It took us a good 24 hours to wrap our heads around the reality of the words invasive lobular carcinoma.

Things I learned in the next few days: it’s a slow-growing cancer (whew), but it’s sneaky. We caught it very early—perhaps as early as it was possible to catch.

That was June 21st, the diagnosis. A Wednesday, and I was due to fly to Portland on the Saturday. We’d been flung into a whirlwind. What to do? Scrap the move, stay in San Diego? What about work? What about everything?

My doctor set up consults with surgery and oncology, but she couldn’t get anything earlier than July. I reached out to a doctor friend in Portland, who, bless her, connected me with a breast surgeon there. Here. And this surgeon was amazing. She understood my predicament, this preposterous timing, and arranged to see me on the Tuesday of my Portland trip, if I wanted to go ahead and get on the plane on Saturday.

So that’s what I did. On the Friday, Scott and I made the 45-minute drive to Torrey Pines to pick up copies of all my films and records. That long, traffic-congested drive certainly factored into our decision-making later. So did the July consult dates.

On Saturday the 24th, I flew to Portland. Ron took me straight to the house and it was even sweeter in person than on Facetime.

On Sunday, we went to the Rose Garden and I had a chance to breathe a little.

International Rose Test Garden in Portland

Photo by Larry Deal

On Monday, I met with the special ed administrator and principal of Steven’s new school. It was a good meeting and I was pleased with the program.

On Tuesday, I met with the surgeon. She was awesome. And she urged me to have the surgery as soon as possible, ideally within a month of diagnosis, whether in San Diego or in Portland. It looked like we had caught the cancer before it hit the lymph nodes, so the sooner we removed it, the better. That complicated the timeline more than a little, because Comic-Con began on July 20. And the vacation schedules of the San Diego doctors were pushing things into a much later space if we chose to stay there.

I could keep going with the blow-by-blow, but you already know how it played out. The house that had been going to sit empty for six weeks was ready and waiting for us. We decided to give up Comic-Con and move to Portland as soon as possible. Which, thanks to hours and hours of help from our TRULY AMAZING San Diego friends, was July 11th.

moving day

My parents took the younger kids to Colorado for a couple of weeks during the move and the surgery. The rest of us arrived in Portland on July 13 and waited for the moving truck. My Brave Writer class wrapped up on the 14th. The truck arrived on the 17th. On the 20th—the first day of Comic-Con, when we would have been enjoying our annual curry date with our dear friend Jock, and then the Scholastic party and the CBLDF party—I had my surgery. We spent the two days before the surgery unpacking like mad. I knew I wouldn’t be able to do it afterward and I wanted home to seem homey when my parents brought the younger kids to join us on the 24th.

Rilla makes a friend

Photo by Murray Brannon

The surgery went well. I was a little blue that weekend—I hated the way the pain meds fogged my brain, and I was sad to miss our 8th annual SDCC Kidlit Drinks Night—but the flowers and dinners and notes from friends and helped perk me up. And on the Monday, there was the fun of showing the new digs to the younger kids and my parents.

SDCC Kidlit Drinks Night 2017

This brought a big smile to my face, too. Love you guys!!

So here we are in early August, still weeks ahead of our original move schedule, unpacked, post-op, and settling in. The younger kids and I got library cards (and eclipse glasses!) this morning. Rose has already found a temp job.

Ever since that first awful news on June 21st, the news has been good. Caught early. Removed before it spread to the nodes. Very small. Last week the pathology report came back, and I learned that I won’t need chemo. That’s huge. I’m so relieved.

big old Portland horse chestnuts

They grow ’em big here

Since I chose the lumpectomy option, I’ll need radiation—daily for four weeks, beginning the end of this month. Before then, I’ll go in for my radiation planning appointment, which means, yes, I moved to Portland and am getting a tattoo straightaway. How cliché is that? 😉 Just a little bitty dot, though, I’m told.

Right now, I’m still recovering from the surgery (am mostly better) and look forward to being able to do some adventuring with my kids. I’ve been setting up my little studio, which I already love like an old friend. I’ve read nothing but comfort books since the diagnosis—The Railway Children, The Uncommon Reader, lots of Agatha Christie and Josephine Tey.

studio 1

I can’t believe I have a studio

studio 2

And with such light!

To sum up:

1. It all still feels a bit surreal. Cancer! Portland!
2. I am astoundingly fortunate in my friends, here, there, and everywhere.
3. I am overwhelmingly glad I didn’t cancel that mammogram.

Crater Lake, Oregon

Crater Lake feels like an apt metaphor for our past six weeks

So, um, how has your summer been so far?

august 1: looking back

August 1, 2017 @ 9:46 pm | Filed under: Family, Photos

Here we are. New city, new house, new life. There’s a lot to tell. For now, tonight, just a few glimpses of our July.