Predicting the Weather

Feb 2018

Fact: bitter cold can be Bracing! Energizing! but by Groundhog day it gets kinda hard to take. Hang in there everybody. Most of my energy seems to be going into the basic need categories, 1. food  2. washing 3. finding sweaters 4. watching old Downton Abbey episodes.  Not so much writing. So, today I offer you a wander down memory lane. A re-post.  (Here:  Drained)

Attempting to prepare to write this week, I read back through the blog. It was encouraging, which is far better than the alternative!  Have you ever done that? Looked through old journals or letters, and been surprised to see growth in yourself? When I discovered a post from August 2015, I was amazed at how much my attitude and life have changed from that soggy moment. What I wrote there still has the zing of truth for me, but I could not have imagined in August 2015 how happy and content I would be in my life as it is now in 2018 — with all our other kids moved out leaving Edward, Owen, and me to make a go of it.  I couldn’t see . I could not have known.  Frankly, I love being reminded how little I know.  This limitation is a huge relief.  Wow, I am not In Charge of All Things? I love being smacked gently on the head with remembrance that people have ideas, situations arise, and things happen that I could not have dreamed up. It isn’t my responsibility to run your life! (Aren’t you glad I remembered?) 

Every year I seem to learn greater appreciation of life with an Owen to care for in it.

I don’t want to sugarcoat this. Regular readers have seen enough of our adventures-with-Owen to know how hot and gritty things can be around here. I simply could not be Owen’s caregiver without the support that we get, without regular breaks, without respite for each of us apart, and together. We are grateful for every bit of it. Human beings are meant to grow up, and when they do not, extra supports are required for caregivers to maintain that kind of high intensity care.  I am acutely aware that many who need it do not get it.

Owen is enriched by breaks from us too, I think. The outings with his wonderful sitter Kathie — the wanderings, the parks, the please-touch display at the Patuxent Wildlife Refuge, the turtle at the Nature Center — are stimulating to his brain and hisimagination. He is still growing and evolving. His parents are still growing and evolving.

I take comfort in not knowing, but the well-known cycles are comforting, too. Winter can be bitter, but underground roots are growing slowly in winter, too. Time moves forward, never back. And spring is always coming.

I hope you enjoy a peek back into 2015, when I was feeling Drained…

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Photo by Kathie Constable, January 2018

 

Owen the Plastic King

 

 

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If you caught my last posting for Suburban Growing, you know that plastic has been much on my mind. How could it be otherwise, you might ask, when you live with a guy who is a plastic connoisseur?  A guy who chops up plastic for an occupation – a mission – a passion? Too true, Owen and I are both passionate about plastic.

Ok, ask the next obvious question: how on earth have you, a plastic hater, allowed so much plastic into your son’s life anyway? Until the floor of your house is gritty and lumpy with chopped up bottles and dismembered toys, and dissected plastic bags swirl by a the ankles (hey, only on a bad day) as you pass through the room?  Ah well, that is a very different kind of question, and the answer has something to do with fatigue and giving up in the face of the storm. Something any mom or dad gets.

Heck, until recently Owen’s morning bathtub could be swimming in plastic –  multi-colored hard plastic shards, or shimmering plastic bag ribbons and banners. Sometimes there was hardly room for him in there, if the baskets went in too. Owen enjoys taking things to extremes. I had to pick plastic out of the drain regularly to keep the water moving.

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But no more. After I listened to that pivotal NPR program about pervasive micro plastic pollution last November, I gathered steam to put my foot down. In a very nice way (of course!). It is one thing to allow a person to make a mess, but it’s another to hurt the environment and poison his body thereby.  I may be a hippy, but I have limits.

I told Owen, “Plastic is great for cutting, but not for baths. Plastic in your bath will make you sick. Wooden things can go into the bath.”  Owen was naturally not all in with this new regimen. Yet I have been amazed at how much he has accepted the new rule for plastics. He didn’t get mad. He didn’t stamp his feet. I was prepared for those things. Maybe designated chopping times and locations makes his life a little more interesting.  I know that his life is boring to him, an issue of much greater concern. The other explanation is that Owen understands when I say “This will hurt you.” That would be wonderful.

Every morning he brings his plastic basketful of plastic into the bathroom, and every morning I say cheerfully (of course!) “Oh plastics are great for cutting, but they don’t go in the bath.” It is easy to be cheerful when Owen is co-operating with me, when I getting things my way. It is a great relief to get those piles of plastic out of the one most sensitive areas of Owen’s life.  If only there were a way to get it out of our lives all together! Don’t worry buddy, no chance of that any time soon.

After putting my foot down, Owen and I took a trip to the local Goodwill, and perused the shelves for wooden objects. We had a good time. Owen loves wandering the Goodwill.  Besides a wooden rolling pin, and a weird wooden and metal agility toy, I found a whole set of wooden alphabet  blocks.  Apart from being non-toxic to Owen and the waterways, the switch to wooden bath objects has yielded an unexpected benefit.  Using some giant wooden letters I found at Target and the secondhand alphabet blocks I am taking a few minutes each day to talk to Owen about  letters and their sounds while he is in his tub. Keeping it fun. Am I imagining it or does he seem to be listening?

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You can’t do much to manipulate wooden alphabet blocks though, and manipulation is exactly what Owen loves about plastics (and aluminum cans too, if he can get one)  To be able to act your will on something and alter it –  the whole broken down to bits, ripped, chopped. Those large and brand new letters from Target are (were) more intriguing since they can be broken up. Now our E is an F, and the S has been deconstructed into two lower case “u”s. But I am not giving up – I sense cognitive receptivity in Owen that I do not remember sensing before.  Maybe his brain is maturing, on its own maverick arc? Maybe if you are bored enough with your life when opportunity presents itself you respond?  Could it be that standing up against plastics is the spark for an entirely new journey for me and Owen?

Or is it possible that by fixating on plastics so obsessively, Owen has been making that point all along?  Look at this horrible stuff that I am dragging into the house, and piling in the corners, and finding in the fields and in the woods, and the parking lots!  LOOK MOM! LOOK!! Isn’t this GROSS!?!

(Read more about impact of plastics on human health here Invisibles, Orb Media , watch here Drinking Microplastics?  or listen to an NPR program here Plastics Are Forever, November 1, 2017 .)