something beautiful on a wednesday

I listened to this little NPR Tiny Desk concert of Sam Beam and Jesca Hoop on the airplane home from NYC this weekend and fell in love.. particularly with the last song, “Every Songbird Says” . and these two. there’s something about their voices together, the complex harmonies and the way the air floats around them so they almost feel suspended in all of their magical tones.

If you don’t know, Sam Beam is the frontman behind Iron & Wine.. I spent many a day feeling anxg’st ridden and listening to his music while rain fell. While I think you can find some hints of his old flair in here in the first song or two, this new creation of songs with Jesca Hoop are something unique and stunning.

As long as people out there in the world are making things like this, I think there’s a lot of hope and delight to be found.

enjoy.
xo

a cocktail recipe for real life: insect-infused wine.

A gnat landed in my wine this evening.
I pulled the drunken bug out of the red liquid, squished him between my thumb and index finger, wiped his guts on my pants, and went right back to sipping.
I feel this is a pretty accurate representation of life right now.
It’s not ideal but, amidst the chaos of the buzzing, I am determined to still drink the wine, to not let any good thing go to waste.

Right now I’m listening to jazz, have been reading a great book from the library, drinking insect-infused wine (give it five years..it will be all the rage) and now.. am writing this. I’m also sitting opposite Zion as he is passed out snoring on the couch, sleeping off the effects of what may have been another minor seizure. For awhile this summer, these came every two weeks, then every three days. As a result of never knowing exactly when the next one would hit, or when we would have to take another emergency trip to the children’s hospital, this summer was really hard. I finally admitted that to a friend this weekend and then had to excuse myself to go cry for a few minutes.

We’ve had about a month now where things have gotten better. The anti-epileptic meds he is on seem to be working and we’ve even had a couple date nights where we didn’t have to come home for an emergency, and a trip to NYC this past weekend for a wedding. The past couple of nights, however, Zion’s been showing some signs in the night that might be another type of seizure beginning to take hold on top of the ones he’s being treated for. It’s scary, it’s disruptive, and we didn’t get much quality sleep last night as a result.

Jeremy and I are rarely in the same hole at the same time, but this morning we were. Instead of one of us trying to be the “strong one” or him taking his usual optimism spin, we just sat in that hole together and talked about it. We were honest about how sometimes we feel sorry for ourselves. We commiserated how, in most marriages with healthy kids, their bedtime means you unwind and the night is all yours. Last night, we finally find let down our emotional guards and felt a bit normal, only to find Zion may be having another seizure, or cluster of them.

This is why a gnat in the wine just has to be dealt with like the little mofo he is, and I have to go on enjoying the glass in front of me.
There won’t be much because there’s a chance we will be in the car any minute now, rushing to the emergency room. That’s just what this season of life looks like. It can all change in a flash.

For now, jazz,
two pre-teen kids quietly reading in the rooms near me,
a husband in the kitchen making soup for dinner, God bless him,
and Zion.. five feet across the room, snoring away while his little body twitches every once in awhile.

(and a quick side note: In moments like these I think, “Thank God we’re not on social media anymore. how would one go about sharing such a complicated picture within such small and confining parameters?”)

That time I almost quit homeschooling after the first week.


thanks, Nate, for the wonderfully dear image of the brothers.

I almost quit homeschooling this weekend. Truth be told, I may end up quitting yet. But this past weekend I spiraled down into a pit of overwhelm and I’m just beginning to see what some of the real reasons were.

If you ask our boys how their first week of homeschooling went, you will see stars in their eyes and giant smiles. They had the best time, you guys. Literally, the best. I was amazed at how much they loved it until I realized it was because I was depleting myself of everything I had in order to teach them. I went into the week armed with my giant box of curriculum, got my lesson plans in order and then began my Super-Teacher-Mommy homeschool program. Copy work and dictation, reading, writing, math, physics, economics, word building, vocabulary, memorization, etc. etc. I’ve done it all this past week, y’all.

Wanna know how it was? It sucked. so. much. Not all the time, no. But the end of the days brought complete exhaustion and despair. I underestimated how much work it would be to homeschool two middle schoolers.. who are in two different grades.. who learn according to their two very different temperaments… who are happy to take all I can give them until my creativity and energy are flat as a tit that has been suckled at for five years straight. I forgot we still have a special needs kiddo who would get home from his kindergarten every day and need an engaged mom. I forgot there has to be something of me left to have a marriage and to be a wife. I forgot what a vital role I play in our business and that, when I’m giving every waking minute to teaching or lesson plans, I can’t work!

I am a strange person. If you know me, you know this. I’m an all or nothing gal. (a huge downfall of mine, and something I hope to grow out of in my .. sixties?) There is a drive in me to make and create spaces of beauty and silence and reverence .. and then to make something new and beautiful in those spaces I just made. If this part of me doesn’t have it’s place and outlet, I lose my shit.

Which is how I got to the end of last week, on a razors edge of crazy, listening to jazz and drinking wine in my trailer out back hoping that none of our kids would find me. They did find me and, when they did, I felt claustrophobic and tired. It’s hard to be Super-Teacher-Mommy and also just be “mom” and Jeremy’s “one and only” and, oh yeah, ash.

This weekend, God showed up in my life and did exactly what he loves to do – remind me of how good he is and how much I am loved by bringing me the stories of other people. I had THIRTEEN different conversations this weekend that gave me new strength and a new focus for the days ahead. That’s a lot of people to “randomly” be there at the right place and right time to give wisdom and encouragement. Seriously, our creativity has nothing on the ways God orchestrates people and relationships.

Thanks to these friends after week one, here are some things I am trying to learn and act out in order to not burn out:

a. It’s homeschool, so I don’t have to be Super-Teacher-Mommy.
The more homeschool folks I talk to the more I hear the same thing, “One of the biggest joys of homeschooling is the freedom from the rigor of a pressure-filled academic schedule.” Sure, I have a responsibility to make sure my kids work their way through the curriculum. But I am free to determine the pace and the means in an effort to preserve my sanity.

b. I can slow down and wade into these waters gently.
I spoke with a district teacher this weekend whose kids are homeschooled. When I asked him why, he explained two things: 1. middle school has become a bunch of kids in a building sitting in front of little glowing screens for eight hours a day. 2. the schools spend at least a month of the school year focusing solely on standardized testing. He reminded me that taking it slow is fine because a good bulk of the year is spent in time wasted on “pointless testing”.

c. I can’t be perfect, but I can be present.
I can’t be perfect at this thing.. not for my kids, not for the schools or home educators out there, not for myself. I can do my best to be present to the person I am made to be, and the roles entrusted to me. This looks like prioritizing time for my own rejuvenation and creative + spiritual development, then my marriage, then the kids. So although homeschooling is a part of my life, it can’t get the best of my days or I won’t have anything left for what’s most important.

d. It’s good to remind my kids that I’m not perfect.
We talked with them this weekend. I shared just how tired and burnt out I was already on the homeschooling thing. They were surprised and sad to hear it, but it made them more eager to embrace a new and sustainable way of homeschooling. They grew in empathy, in maturity, and in the ability to take their heavy hearts to God. I reminded them that their Heavenly Father is the only perfect parent and that this is one of many times I will fail them. Never miss an opportunity to be honest with your kids about how jacked up you are. It’s a beautiful grace for both of you.

e. My kids can learn to take responsibility and initiative through homeschooling.
I was reminded by a couple of adults who used to be homeschool kids that their parents set them on a trajectory to be responsible for their work each day. The parents were available to answer questions throughout the day but the kids were responsible for staying on track and completing assignments. This was so freeing for me, and today we tried it. It turns out, my boys are smart and very motivated to homeschool so they took right to the idea of being responsible and doing the work without me having to walk them through every little step!

f. If I am inadequate or need something to change, that’s ok. ALL IS GRACE.
all is grace, all is grace, all is grace. I’ve been reminding myself of these words all weekend long. If I choose to send them back to a conventional school, all is grace. If I homeschool but need time in the mornings for prayer and a long walk, all is grace. If we decide to go to the art museum tomorrow instead of doing art class, all is grace. If I need to hide away in my trailer at the end of a school day with a glass of wine, all is grace. I believe God loves me fiercely and that love doesn’t waver with my behavior or circumstances. So there’s grace for all of it.

g. I’m growing to accept the fact that I’m strange… and weak
It’s taken me a week away from having the freedom to create and be present as an artist in our business to remember that I love being a creative entrepreneur. I love this thing that Jeremy and I get to do together and I love the work we’ve made. I believe in our vision, I think we have something real and potent to say to photographers in our industry, and I am thankful that I am wired in such a way that I get depressed when I can’t live out that creativity. I am made this way for a reason and just because I homeschooled two of my kids today, doesn’t mean that’s negated. I’m also ok with being weak in this new area. As someone I recently heard said, “In God’s economy to lack confidence in yourself is to grow confidence in God.”

h. The right people and conversations make all the difference.
God has been so kind to putt people in my path this past week who love me and support the choice I make, no matter what that is. To My loving husband, Jaclyn, Amy, Nicole, Liz, Nathan, Katie, Elizabeth, Jessie and Jordan, Taylor, Susan, Mops, and Amanda: I can’t thank you enough. You all are the reason I didn’t jump ship when I was at the end of the plank this week. Thank you for your love and support and for being the kind of people who would care for me equally no matter what happens with homeschool.

.. signing off at the end of a long, but more fulfilling, hope-filled day.

with care,
ash