Underwear Gardening

This story begins with him walking around in his underwear. Of that fact you must be clear.

Yeah, that sounds unusual, but this is morning wear for this guy, this 7 year old who hasn’t learned that modesty is supposed to be virtuous.  “Supposed to be,” though I’m not sure who dubbed it that.  Like most all values, these kinds of things are learned, not intuited, so we’re gonna let him just walk around in his underwear in the mornings until he doesn’t want to anymore, hoping he’ll be more body positive than the majority of the world these days.

We allow this even to the chagrin of his grandparents who shake their heads, smilingly, at a little boy who shuns clothes.  But a value we’ve learned is the value in making your parents shake their heads like that. 

Values are learned…

Anyway, this kid who traipses around in his briefs like he’s some sort of superhero saving the morning from itself has learned that the wild brush and the high fence of our backyard means that the backyard is not a place where anything more than underwear is necessary for outdoor excursions.

This spring we planted two large 4×4 planter boxes and packed them full of seeds.  In a pandemic, this gardening adventure served two purposes. 

First: it was a good project and has kept us all busy.  So exciting are these planter boxes, that we’ve since added three more of them, compounding the excitement by, well, 3.

Tomatoes big and small, squash, pumpkins, beans, kale, eggplant, peppers hot and mild—literally five boxes of potential that require a bit of attention and inspire a whole lot of hope in these Covid days.

The second reason these vegetables were planted was because his father, a bit of a dreamer and avid reader of stories where the endings aren’t ideal, imagined that, should the grocery supply lines be broken, the Food Lion markets laid waste, and the world fall into dystopian hell, well, they’d at least have a garden to eat off of or bury themselves in.

Yeah, that’s dark.  That’s how it is, folks.

Anyway, so it begins in his underwear, and this is significant because this boy, not even bothering with shoes, goes out every morning, often before 7am, to inspect the garden and harvest what he can find.

Now, 7 year old hands are not very big, friends, so you can imagine what kind of harvest can be taken by a little boy who has an aversion to doing things more than once.  What I mean is, he’s not making a few trips to the garden, back to the house, and then back out to the garden. “One trip Finn” is his name. 

You can imagine how frustrating it is to go for walks with him: we’ll often get somewhere, but getting back from somewhere becomes a fight because, well, we did that already!

One trip Finn.

Anyway, so in his paws he collects a few peppers, a few tomatoes, and then when space gets scarce in those palms, you’d think the kid would come back for some shorts, preferably with pockets, or one of those aprons we have hanging in the closet with that large marsupial pouch out front.

But no. 

The only logical response he has, obviously, is to eat the beloved offerings as he goes, lest he run out of room and the fruit die on the vine.

In hindsight we are all grateful this is his choice as opposed to stuffing the produce in his underwear, which would render it inedible altogether…

So, he comes in, hands full of peppers and tomatoes, with red liquid dripping from the sides of his mouth and a trail of seeds down his chest, the remnants of the best tomatoes, no doubt. 

“Here’s the haul for today, Dad!  Looks good, right?” He announces this with such pride and glee that I can’t bring myself to note that those vines should be producing a lot more than this…

I smile.

“It does, buckshot,” I say, soaking a towel so he can wipe off the yellow dots running down his torso. “Want breakfast?” 

“No thanks,” he says turning, “not hungry.”


In Support of a Gap Year. For Everyone.

gap_year_sign-1588301549We live in Raleigh, North Carolina.

Our Covid numbers keep rising. We’re trying (well, some of us…looking at you, Rowan County), but they just do.

Schooling this Fall will be tough. It’s just going to be. For everyone, not just those in our county.

As parents, we have a few options.

A) We do virtual schooling.  They’re proposing 5-6 HOURS OF INSTRUCTION PER DAY with this option.  Supervised by…?

Right.  My partner or myself.  Who both still have full-time jobs. From home.

Even if we call in reinforcements, our regular sitter and some parental help, this is unimaginable.

B) On-Off option, where they’ll go to school for one week, and then are virtual for two weeks.

What fresh hell is this?!  So, we’ll risk lives for one week, and then we’ll somehow magically put everything on hold for two weeks to monitor them at home for 5-6 HOURS PER DAY.

Did I mention that this is PER DAY?!

And look, it’s not the teacher’s faults, or the principal’s fault, either (we love our local school).  It’s not even the school board’s fault…there are no good options here.

No. good options, Beloved.

Except this one, and I’m serious: everyone–students, parents, workers of all stripe–all get a gap year.

For workers? No performance reviews.  You try giving your all in a pandemic, dammit!  It’s not possible.  And if you have kids at home?  Let’s just say you are working about 40 minutes out of every bankable hour, if that.

That’s on a good day.

And workers without kids?  Please, can we not pretend this is easy for anyone?  And not just not easy, but seriously, mentally, emotionally, socially, and physically unhealthy?

None of what is going on right now is healthy.

For students?  We do the best we can and fit as much as we can in two freaking hours a day.  Seriously.  Do the basics. Reinforce the bare minimum, especially for elementary students.

And High School?  No SAT or ACT for college acceptance this year.  Do your best, get in, and prove your worth.  Then maybe we can phase our those terrible tests, anyway…

College Seniors regularly take a gap year between their graduation year and their first year of gradschool or workforce.

This year?  We all get a gap year.

For everyone. Even after we get a vaccine…everyone gets some leeway.

This is not fair to students or teachers, and it doesn’t work for parents who are trying to keep their lives from crumbling while keeping everyone healthy.

And just a quick reminder: it didn’t have to be this way.  Had we had competent, organized leadership from the top, this all could have been different.  It may not have been perfect, but it wouldn’t be the life-threatening disaster this is today.

Vote in November.

**There seems to be some confusion on this, so I want to be clear:

-When it comes to the education of our children, I am not proposing we just take the year, or even the semester, off of school.

-I am suggesting that we suggest realistic solutions to learning in a pandemic that adjust educational metrics and standards to reflect the current time.

-Focus on necessary basics for the semester.

-Be clear about benchmarks, and make those the main thrust of education for the semester.

-Don’t over-schedule or try to over-compensate for lost instructional time.

-Be lenient with grade advancement, and dismiss standardized testing for the year.



I’m Done Saying “I’m Trying”

imagesWhen I miss something with work, a detail of some sort, it’s terribly frustrating. Perfectionism is a plague upon the human soul…I know this. I used to preach about this.

But it’s a disease I have all the same.

“I’m trying,” is what I usually tell myself. In this pandemic, being torn in a million different ways, everyone gathered in the same space, the ability to have attention diverted is multiplied by an infinite number of possible distractions.

Or when it gets to be 5pm, and your kids come up the stairs to the home office, calling your name. “You’ve been in here all day!” they say, even though you’ve come down the stairs multiple times in response to multiple calls for assistance, or to make lunch, or to turn on the sprinkler, or to…

And so that 5pm stopping time can’t really be stopping time anymore. You look at them and say, “10 more minutes. Promise.” “Hurry!” they implore.

“I’m trying,” you say.

Or the weekend comes, and you’re wracking your brain trying to figure out how to do something as a family when you can’t really go anywhere.  You look at your parenting gauge and you realize you’re already running in the red, because there’s really been no time off…for anyone in the house.

“I’m trying!” you tell yourself as you stare into your eyes in the mirror.

And that workout you had to skip? “I’m trying,” you say, pinching an inch.

And that morning you slept in because you stayed up too late the night before watching episode after episode on streaming TV because it’s the only damn time you get a second to yourself anymore.  “I’m trying,” you groggily sigh as you rise to make breakfast.

And not working 24/7 because now the commute is 4 minutes instead of 40 and that long list of possible projects to fill up the empty itch that normalcy used to scratch (though, if you’re honest, it didn’t scratch it that well, either) calls to you? “I’m trying,” you say as you sit down again at your desk on Saturday morning to just “do a few things…”

Yeah right.

“I’m trying” is about the best any of us can realistically do these days, but I’m done saying it.

I’m done saying it because it suggests that we’re lacking here.  That there’s some sort of official mark that we’re missing.

Look, in a pandemic, we all need to seriously embrace a total reevaluation of every benchmark, every previous measure of success (and, maybe, when this is all over we don’t move those marks back).

Every measure of success is now history, Beloved.

Instead of, “I’m trying” I’m resolved to instead say, “OK.”

Because, really, it has to be OK right now.  It’s OK right now.  I’m not striving to meet previous benchmarks, I’m OK with these new ones.  I may not love them, but fighting against them is swimming up a stream that will overwhelm us all if we keep it up.

And you’re at the end of this really short post, thinking to yourself, “It’s going to be hard to stop this kind of mindset.”

And my response?