A Tale of Two Mommies

…because more seems excessive…

Stagnation and Process

(Image description: A close-up assortment of colorful Aaron Blabey The Bad Guys books spread throughout the image.)

Seven-year-old Little Man has been reading, which has been quite a thing. I read all the time and I’d hoped that my kids would too. I wasn’t sure how to make something like that happen, but I hoped for it anyway. I was barely literate into college, so reading wasn’t really my thing growing up. I pretended it was, but I hardly read anything. It was too hard. I could skim okay and get highlights for things, but otherwise I avoided it. My son, however, clearly doesn’t need to wade through the struggles I had.

The Bad Guys series is his favorite right now, though the content is meh. It’s mostly toilet humor, but whatever. I’ll buy him a box set of five, and he chews through them all in a day. He’ll completely obsess over them, and for the following week will reread them all several times over. Toilet humor aside, I guess that’s a win? Little Man reads other things as well; things that are a marvel of his Autistic brain. When he was potty training, he wanted some anatomy books. They are essentially medical school texts with copious pictures and captions. My son will spend hours reading these captions and describe to anyone who will stand still the function of each organ he’s reading about. What’s especially cool is that he will describe things using accurate metaphors so the rest of us will understand what he’s talking about. Here and there he will compare a body system to something pertaining to prisons. That’s probably because of me and my work. It’s funny what kids will take away from things. As Warrior Queen enters Kindergarten soon, it will be interesting to see what she picks-up and how.

(Image description: Crocheted blanket random colored and thickness striped stiches in the round with a book in the center for a size reference.)

I’ve totally wrecked this blanket. I increased my rows too much and ended up with massive amounts of pleats. I’m grateful I have a friend to consult about this process, so now I’m in the throws of the arduous process of trying to fix it. I hope when all is said and done this thing looks okay. It would be devastating to spend so long doing this project to have it look shoddy.

My kids are killing each other, spending too much time in each other’s presence. It’s not so much that they aren’t getting a long as it is how they get along. They wrestle. All the time, and it’s all fun and games with Warrior Queen begging her big brother for the rough stuff before something goes amiss and the whining starts. It’s maddening, and I haven’t been in the mood to deal with it. I’ve been a little out of sorts in a way that’s completely predictable, but annoying nonetheless.

In the final days of the House race I was phonebanking for, I’d reached my limit and stopped. What started off as me not hearing back from campaign people with a link, turned into a completely exhausted shutdown. I’m not happy with myself, but I’m just at my end with it. I can’t really concentrate so well these days, and phonebanking can be a hard mental process for me, even if it’s the more low-key VPB format where I’m dialing the numbers myself. I tend to sign-on for campaigns and feel most motivated when it’s a kind of long shot or it’s important. This race was plucked from obscurity about when I stopped my volunteering. It’s some comfort that my participation is negligible with what is probably now a more robust effort to get this candidate elected. The entire race has been epic. I don’t usually buy campaign garb, but I did for this one. I wanted to always remember it for the outrageous process it’s been, and know that I was helping when it was hard to get help. I still feel guilty, but I can say that my small role existed.

Have I mentioned that my remote creative writing program started in June? This is a type of correspondence program designed for solitary confinement, though I use the term loosely. I try to focus my personal corrections work targeting populations that are otherwise unreached. When I expand this program to other states, my priority is for maximum security levels or higher. Within those facilities, my hope is to intervene with those who experience either solitary confinement or some kind of restrictive setting because they don’t function well enough to attend programs in person.

My program is going well, amazingly so. I had twenty-two enroll for the first month with eleven submit the work to receive the sentence reduction. That’s a solid participation number. Midway through the month I learned there is a waitlist twenty deep that just sort of emerged suddenly. Everyone who submitted work chose to participate in July. The enrollment for July was thirty-two. I’m in the process of getting the work submission numbers. I’d expected around fifteen; about half. I’ve received ten journals so far, and I’ve been told that another ten to fifteen are on the way. Absolutely phenomenal. I’d been feeling a little low in a mostly inexplicable way. I’d needed this kind of news. The good feels won’t last, but I’ll take whatever I can get. I’ll spend the next week or so responding to my writers. I knew my program would grow. I didn’t think it would happen so quickly.

I’ve submitted a proposal for a correspondence book discussion remote program. Like everywhere else I’ve reached out, there is a new programming freeze, at least for a system outsider like me. I’ve been tasked with developing programming from internal sources, so I’m not quite sure what’s happening in that respect. Lately I’ve been hearing or reading about various people or activists that do whatever big things for criminal justice reform, and I’ve felt so small and insignificant. It’s not so much about recognition for me, rather I want to have an impact in what I do, regardless if it’s my prison work, political stuff, or whatever other thing I’ve been volunteering for. I don’t feel all that accomplished most of the time. Now that I’m almost back to square one with the literacy class I’d hoped to teach and have been working toward for a good couple of years, I’m generally feeling disappointed. I tend to focus too much on what needs to be done, and almost no time living in the success I’ve had. On the one hand it keeps me driven, but on the other hand I drive myself bananas. I’m not just waiting for bad news, but waiting in general is hard and I get myself in a mindset that I’m on the cusp of missing out on everything I’ve been working toward. And, yes, I intellectually understands that this is crazy.

I’d been assuming I’d go back to in-person teaching in September. I’m not so sure that will happen with the Delta variant reaching its tentacles everywhere. I’m relieved my remote program is underway. In a way it’s small consolation, but it’s consolation nonetheless. I’m grateful to have it. I’m grateful it seems to be making a difference.

In the meantime it felt like yesterday my husband and I were lamenting how the summer would feel very long, and within a handful of weeks it will be over. Not the most memorable for the kids, I’m afraid, but it is what it is. They probably see it differently, and there hasn’t been much we could do about it. They smile a lot, laugh a lot. They love me; they hate me and love me again the way children do. And onward we go…

One response to “Stagnation and Process

  1. Cynthia Prehar August 11, 2021 at 11:55 am

    Love the last line: “They love me; they hate me and love me again the way children do. And onward we go…” Amen.
    Adrienne is complanining about having to go to camp, but as I restrict her screen time in preparation for school, she also tells me how horrible a parent I am.

    Last night, in a fit of frustration, she even called me an idiot. That’s not ok with me and she knew it. I chased her once around the car and then just gave her the cold shoulder (passive aggressive much?) She stepped up her kindness and listening behaviors the rest of the night. At one point she asked if I could help her with something, and I lightly quipped “Do you think your idiot mom can figure that out?” She gave a small smile and then volunteered an apology.

    We were finally paired with a child therapist after being on a wait list for 6 months. She and I talked last week and I had a good feeling about her. She and A talked for the first time via Zoom last Wednesday, and Adrienne has been eager to have their second appointment this week. I told Adrienne it was her choice if she wanted to discuss anything they talked about with me, but I wouldn’t push it. We close her bedroom door for privacy, too. I was supposed to have a parent check-in on Monday with her but with both kids at home we rescheduled for tomorrow. (A knows I’ll be talking with her). I am relieved and eager to hear what she (the therapist) has to say.

    I also resonated with your sentiments about not relishing achievements much, and quickly moving onto what else ‘should’ be getting done. I’m there right now as the school year approaches. When I supervised employees at the Univ of Pittsburgh, they gave me similar feedback after we would finish a (successful) large group event. This mediation mantra, written for me by my former therapist, helps me a bit with that habit:

    May I feel my feet on the ground.
    May I savor moments of joy and contentment.
    May I care for my heart in the midst of things as they are.

    Thanks again for sharing your blog with us, Cindy



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