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Anne Deeboyar

learning as I go

His Last Sleep

Cicadas buzz the restless air

And twilight turns to dark.

Wind moves through the trees,

Stirring leaves and swaying branches,

Whispering an eternal lullaby

To Chester, who lies buried in a stand of cedar,

Content, perhaps, with his cat’s Thanatopsis:

An orange tabby curled in his magnificent couch,

Sixteen years old, a lifetime spent on two acres of land

House cat

Barn cat

Porch cat

Our cat, draping the evening’s pleasant sounds about him as he sleeps.

Morning Trip to Abashi-Kaikyo Bridge, Japan 1999

akashi-kaikyo-bridge-view-from-bottom

We sit on the bench
Looking at the bridge
As it disappears into the mist

You with an engineer’s fascination
Marveling at the intricacies
Of weight
Of balance
Of strength

Intrigued by the cables that bind
And the struts that support
The longest bridge in the world

You have an engineer’s understanding
Of how it was built and what it is made of
And you are awed by the genius of it.

But Dad, there is a gulf between us
Wider and deeper than that bay

Your mathematics cannot span it
Your science cannot cross it
My words cannot speak it

And so we sit
Side by side
And stare into the fog

 

Image Credit: Abashi-Kaikyo Bridge. Digital image. Famous Wonders. N.p., n.d. Web. 27 June 2014.

 

Participant Ribbon

 

3042450612_12890b995aPhoto Credit: Altus Photo Design via Compfight cc

Written in June of 2011

Seeing the cover of Newsweek brought a smile to my face. There was Mitt Romney’s head pasted on the now-familiar figure of the exuberant Mormon missionary from the Book of Mormon Broadway musical. Yeah, I thought as I drove the mile home from the mailbox, I’d have to read that article. The Mormon Moment? How the Outsider Faith Creates Winners? Hmmm…wonder how much truth it would tell about the church…and how much it would leave out. I wondered, but didn’t dwell on the question. After all, the Mormon church isn’t my fight anymore.

This is an anniversary of sorts for a Mormon Moment of my own. I’ve been officially outside that faith for one year as of this week. My husband, children and I all wrote our letters of resignation at the same time: short letters of five or six sentences, no list of grievances, no explanation given. We’d lived the explanation—spent so many thoughts and words on it already through years of struggle ever since our son came out at age fourteen—and it was finally just time to leave.

There’s really no explaining it anyway. When someone leaves the church, it’s just a given that A) they’re offended or B) they’re trapped in sin. There’s no fighting what the members will think—I figured it was best to just leave them to their thoughts and to move forward. My life was just that—mine—and I didn’t want to spend it in arguments that couldn’t be won.

I know that the nullification of our church membership has been sad news for some family and friends. I get that. I really do. I used to worry about other people in that way, too—about questions of eternal salvation for them and for me.

I don’t worry anymore. I think my salvation actually lies within me, and it is not a thing that will be decided by another. I think that I have the power to save myself from suffering and ignorance—and that in fact, in breaking from the church I have already saved myself from a good deal of it. I suspect that even the concept of exaltation is within my grasp—except that I won’t call it exaltation. I have no desire to be exalted above others. I think I just want to be among others…a part of the human experience. No glory, no crown—just belonging.

What’s that award given to those who don’t win contests? A “participant” ribbon? Yes, that’s what I want: a participant ribbon. Yay for me! Congratulations to me…I participate enthusiastically, courageously, generously in my own life and in the lives of people around me.

When it’s my time to die, I’ll be content if these are the words that greet me when I get to where I’m going: Good job! You tried hard. Messed up some, but succeeded plenty. Laughed a lot. Loved much.

Welcome home.

Why I Won’t Pledge Allegiance to the Texas Flag

Written in spring of 2005

I was in a discussion a few nights ago in which the subject of the Texas pledge came up. A teenager in the group was commenting on how loosely his school practiced the law requiring the Pledge of Allegiance, the Texas pledge, and the one minute of silence be observed each school day. The man sitting beside him was incredulous.  “Pledge to the Texas flag? There’s a pledge to the Texas flag?” he asked. Dan had only just recently moved to Texas from Ohio.

The high school student and the two of us who were teachers recited the words for him:

“Honor the Texas flag, I pledge allegiance to thee, Texas, one and indivisible.”

I know the words, but I don’t say them with my students. The law says I have to make sure they recite the Texas pledge, but as an adult, I’m allowed a choice they do not have. I do say the pledge to the American flag, but I do it because I mean it—because words matter, and those words come from my heart. Saying the pledge can sometimes bring tears to my eyes, and the singing the national anthem almost always does. My throat catches at “rocket’s red glare” and by the time we get to “banner yet wave” my voice shakes.

Where does it come from, this depth of feeling? This intense emotional connection to those words? I mean, I know I have patriotism, but sometimes I’m surprised at myself for feeling such a sudden, strong shot of it in those moments.

I know I didn’t learn patriotism at school, though we lined up every morning in my California elementary school and said the Pledge of Allegiance. I didn’t learn it through my family, though I’ve always known both my grandfathers and my uncle served in the military. I guess it’s just that there were never any stories, no family lore associated with their service. They just didn’t talk about it.

I think I learned my love of country largely through teaching. I don’t think you can teach WWII without being awed by the enormity of the sacrifice, and the magnitude of the evil that we were combating. I learned it through teaching the Civil Rights Movement, women’s suffrage, the founding fathers…And I even learned it through studying issues like Watergate and Iran-Contra, feeling the outrage over events like that which threatened our American ideals rather than upheld them.

I’ve been thinking about my children’s feelings about America. My two older kids are so angry these days. Right now, my son is on the steering committee of a national group that has pledged itself to exposing what they feel are the abuses of the current government. His political views are to the left of mine—sometimes I’m surprised at just how far left—but I am proud of his passion and his commitment. I worry, though, that in his finding of all that is wrong with this country or its government, that he is not seeing so much of what is right. He doesn’t yet understand that while a Watergate or an Iran Contra is an example of government at its worst, that it is that same government that held the hearings, ordered the investigations, tried to make right what had been done wrong. I don’t know—maybe his patriotism will grow through his dissent—grow through his participation in the government of this country by actively questioning it.

I wish that he would have the experience I had last March. For the first time, I volunteered to be an election judge. After an evening of training, election day arrived and I reported to my rural precinct to get ready. Setting up the voting booths that day, the sky still dark at 6:00 a.m., our feet crunching on the gravel parking lot as we went back and forth carrying supplies from our cars, the road silent and still, my Republican counterpart, our clerk and I talked about how the whole thing starts here—in these little precincts all across America, with ordinary citizens setting their alarms for 5:30, unlocking the doors at 6:00, putting together the voting booths and readying the equipment, reviewing for the tenth time all the procedures to be followed, nervously going over that checklist once more…

And then, at ten minutes to seven, with a few rays of light barely peeking over the horizon, we raised our right hands—just the three of us in that little room—and administered to each other the oath of office—the oath of an election judge—promising to protect this process that would unfold over the next twelve hours in this three-booth country office off a two lane road at the edge of a county. It was humbling to say the words of that oath. We were so conscious of the big picture:  this was how presidents were elected, how history was made, how the government of the most powerful nation on earth was perpetuated.

So yes, I love my country, and I love my adopted state. I’d rather live in Texas than anywhere else. But, pledge to the Texas flag? What allegiance could I pledge to Texas that would not already be part of my allegiance to the United States? Am I more Texan than American? And what about the students who have only been here a short while? The displaced Katrina student who would be here for just a short time? The law says that they have to pledge their allegiance to Texas, too. I wonder, does each state require its youth to pledge their allegiance to that state, and doesn’t that seem counter to the United States pledge of one nation, indivisible? Doesn’t it somehow lessen the solemnity and significance of the words we say in the pledge to the United States?

Words are important. We teach children the value of words, and so I won’t pledge allegiance to Texas until I understand inside of me what that means, and agree with it.

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Photo Credit: CC Rogers via Compfight cc

Film Fest: A Celebration

I’ve mentioned my girls several times during this challenge. Easy to do: they are college students still living at home. They figure in my daily slices of life. My son, however, graduated college in 2010 and rents a house in town with his boyfriend and a couple of housemates. He visits every few weeks, but we just don’t have that daily contact anymore now that he is an independent adult–and of course, that’s a good thing!

I miss him sometimes, but mostly I just love him. On days like today, when we all end up hanging out together, there is a special appreciation for the time we have to spend in each other’s company. Our family attended a screening of a film at SXSW, a documentary that covered an issue my son has been actively engaged in. In fact, he is in a few scenes of the movie. I was proud of his activism at the time, and of the fact that he had enough courage of conviction to devote weeks of his life to volunteer for a cause he believed in. Today I was all the more proud as I watched that work be presented in a larger context on a movie screen in a venue as significant as this film festival can be.

Have I mentioned I love my boy? I used to spend time worrying that he wasn’t using his college degree, wasn’t trying to find a career job that paid benefits and required the more groomed, 9-5 discipline my friends’ kids have achieved post-college. I confess that I am mother to a new age hippie…a sun-worshipping, smiling, bronze Adonis of a kid who wants to office in the great outdoors. He works hard…at gardening. And landscape design. And block-walking for a political cause. And writing his poetry or speeches or blog posts while sitting under a tree. And calling his many friends, networking for the next action or just giving support in personal relationships.

My son is living his authentic life, and no one else’s. I had to let go of my expectations for him. His life is his, and I’ve come to appreciate that it’s rich in many ways.

His life is one of community organizing, organic gardening, and bicycle riding. It’s one of friendship making, good book reading, and mindfulness seeking. It’s a life in which he plants and harvests vegetables not only in his own backyard, but in the backyard of the elderly woman next door so that she can have “her own garden.” It’s a life in which he is always studying, always learning, always searching for ways to better himself and the world around him.

Yes, I was proud of my boy today as we met the people with whom he fostered relationships of respect and lasting friendship during that very difficult time covered in the documentary. His choices and politics are not always mine, but they don’t have to be. My child has integrity and courage. He has a good heart. I’m not going to ask for more.

SXSW

We live about 25 miles from downtown Austin, where once a year 25,000 extra people gather in our fair city for the ten-day festival of film, music, and technology that is SXSW.

I normally don’t attend the events, preferring my Spring Break on a hammock under the oak trees of my own rural property, the peace and quiet of the Texas hill country all I want for company. This year, however, there were two factors that pulled us into the crowds: a daughter who adores Game of Thrones, and another daughter who adores
Jared Padalecki.

The latter is an actor on the CW’s “Supernatural,” a part time resident of Austin, and a lover of the ATX music scene. He’s here and hanging out around the venues all week, and daughter knows it. Search Twitter for “Jared Padalecki SXSW” or “@jarpad #sxsw” and you’ll see that many young fans also know it and have been lucky enough to get photos with him, so daughter begged to go Pada-stalking.

We obliged because other daughter was so excited to go to the HBO Game of Thrones interactive exhibit. Costumes, props, scale models–so many unique and original items from the series were on display. The throne itself was there! Daughter and Dad had their pictures taken on it. Each then waited in line the 90 minutes to don virtual reality helmets and ascend The Wall to see and feel all that such an experience could offer.

It was such a fun afternoon. Parking hassles? Yep. Long lines? Sure. Crowded cafe at lunchtime? Of course. But the weather was Austin’s best, the people were relaxed and all there for the same good time we were, and the food was fabulous. Daughter #1 didn’t find Jared that day, but she had a blast fangirling with other celebrity trackers she spontaneously connected with. Daughter # 2 didn’t get to buy a GoT souvenir (shop closed while we were in the exhibit) but she did win a small prize for answering so many GoT trivia questions correctly (do YOU know the name of Daenerys’ unborn child? the name of The Hound? The name of The Hound’s brother?). She enjoyed the camaraderie with other George RR Martin fans.

And hubby and I just enjoyed our kids, enjoyed each other, and enjoyed our city. Our little six-hour slice of SXSW wasn’t very big, but it was satisfying.

Three Pines

Second day of Spring Break, and that horror of a bedroom I mentioned in a previous post is clean now.

Pretty painless, actually. My favorite way to tackle a large housework project is with my iPhone in my pocket, earbuds in my ears, and a great book on my Audible app. Listening to a wonderful novel is the spoonful of sugar that makes the medicine of cleaning go down. I’m pretty sure I was actually smiling as I hung up clothes and cleared clutter, as I sorted laundry, dusted surfaces, and scrubbed the bathroom.

I was listening to my second Louise Penny this month, both of them books I’d heard before–pretty crazy for murder mysteries, right? I mean, why read if I already know whodunnit?

I read (and re-read) Penny’s Inspector Gamache series for the characters. I enjoy the people so much. Three Pines is as much a comfortable home in my head as Avonlea was in my Anne of Green Gables childhood. Clara, Peter, Myrna, Ruth, Olivier, Gabri–all of them are a delight to me, and I so enjoy their company that I go back for repeat visits now and then.

Best of all is time spent with Armand Gamache, chief of homicide for Quebec. Wise and calm, with a wry sense of humor and an ability to read people, he fascinates me–maybe because he is fatherly, and I never had a father. I’ve heard Inspector Gamache’s voice for seven years now, listened to him through the wonderful narration of Ralph Cosham. Penny’s words and Cosham’s voice (a voice which has become more rich in the decade since he began narrating the Three Pines mysteries, as the books are also called) combine to make Gamache a layered, nuanced character whose own acknowledgement of his vulnerabilities makes him stronger. I like Armand Gamache, and I like having his voice in my head and in my heart.

If you’d like to spend some time in Canada with Inspector Gamache and the inhabitants of Three Pines, start with Still Life. You can take a listen here before you buy.

Dawning

That feeling when you wake up on Saturday morning and for just a split second ask yourself, wait–did Meg get home okay last night?–because you fell asleep before she and her friend got home from their night on the town (hubby stayed up to wait for them) and there’s a little moment of panic because maybe they didn’t make it home and dawn is peeking through the windows and you should have stayed awake and what if something happened? and the house is so quiet–can’t anyone else hear how wrong that is? and you knew you shouldn’t have let two eighteen-year-old girls go downtown to that festival but you were overruled and now you feel that stab of where’s-my-kid-oh-my-god-I-fell-asleep-on-a-Friday-night-what-if-I-check-her-room-and-it’s-empty?

And then you breathe, and think, and remember that you woke up for a minute last night to the sound of Meg’s laughter as she and Bailey were fixing a snack in the kitchen and telling hubby what a great time they’d had.

And so you smile and count that blessing–really feel the gratitude and acknowledge the moment–and go back to sleep.

A Good Man

Dinner has been made, eaten, leftovers put away. The dishes are now done, the counters wiped. The floor is swept, the lights turned out.

And all thanks to my wonderful husband, who takes care of these duties the vast majority of week nights. He understands that for nine months of the year, I bring work home…that I spend a couple of hours a night responding to student writing, connecting with parents or other educators, and creating lessons and compositions of my own.

It’s part of the job of being a middle school English teacher, and it doesn’t leave as much time in the evening as he has for household chores. So, he figures it’s only fair that he take care of the cleaning at night. I’m very grateful!

Bless him, he can’t do anything about my share of the bedroom mess. It’s one day before Spring Break, and I haven’t taken the time in two weeks of school grading/blogging/planning/reading/writing to put ANYTHING away. The sitting area between bed and master bath has been my staging ground for getting ready for work/evening work/sleep/work and nothing more. Clothes, shoes, book bags and ? are piled on chairs. On the desk are unopened mail, folders of income tax stuff, unopened packages of toiletries and who-knows-what I bought but haven’t had time to put away, and magazines I bought at the grocery store but haven’t had time to read.

Then there’s the master bath. Poor hubby has not an inch of counter space left. He couldn’t clean in there if he wanted to, because my arsenal of hair products and curlers and make-up and contacts and cleansers and creams is spread out everywhere. There’s also yesterday’s breakfast plate (hubby cooks bacon and eggs for us; I eat on the run as I race to get ready) and some diet Coke cans.

I’m telling you, the bedroom is a wreck. I don’t even wanna think about my closet. It’s a horror of more clothes and laundry that I just don’t have time inclination to do. If I’m not working on the weekend, I’m spending a couple of hours reading or writing outside or hanging out with the family. Sometimes we watch a movie together and I actually WATCH the movie, no student essays or papers in my lap!

Yep. Spring Break is a day away. Then I will attack this bedroom and clean it like my husband cleans the rest of the house!

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