Thursday, June 14, 2012

Sea Snapshots and Silhouettes

It's a short walk to the beach, but one family member in particular often looks like quite burdened as he lugs what he deems an unreasonable amount of weight.

Still, once we hit the corner and see this--
it's funny how his trudging becomes more of a delighted scamper.

Jackson and Alex never tire of time in the ocean, and Kenyon spends time in the water or busying himself in the sand.  We are all aware that wiling away a few hours at the beach is much more logistically difficult in our normal life back in Colorado, so we make this short trip as much as possible.

Last weekend, I gingerly brought the camera into the water, capturing moments that we can look back on in the coming years.  I need to choose a couple that are wall-worthy, so I'm all ears if there's one in particular that you like.

These first ones are of Al Pal...

...and Jackson...

...and Sam.

Friday, June 8, 2012

The Frustrated Buddha

There are many words that could be used to describe who I am as a human being in this world.  Ones that spring to mind would likely be different depending on the person doing the describing, and I'm humble enough to know that some may not necessarily be complimentary--but I'm certain that the word 'pious' or any of its even somewhat-related synonyms would make it into the Top 100 that anyone, friend or foe, would choose.

I recently heard a statement that nature is not cruel; it's indifferent.  I grasp hold to this statement as I make thin attempts to make sense of this world, a world where my friend Summer struggles to come to grips with having so many hospice patients under the age of 50 dying of cancer; a world where Maya Thompson channels her overwhelming grief at losing her perfectly gorgeous youngest son Ronan into action; a world where my friend Meghan isn't here to raise her three babies.  I should not personally know two completely unrelated people, one in his thirties and one who was only five, who have died from brain tumors.  And three more under the age of 40 (including my own brother) who have had cancer, but thankfully the roulette wheel turned up a non-fatal kind.

And cancer aside, of course there's a whole host of other devastations that could turn any eternal optimist into a Debbie Downer.  

I can only make sense of this life and its everpresent attendant, grief, with reserving my...piety, if you will...for life itself.  For our Earth, and how lucky we are to be here with the people we love for the time we're given.  
A friend gave me this in college, and it hangs in my bedroom by my closet back in Denver.  I can't think of a more true statement.

. . . . . . . . . .

I think the first tape I ever bought was Beastie Boys' Licensed to Ill (it was either that or Huey Lewis' album Fore!, but I'm going to go with Licensed to Ill to keep my street cred).  During a road trip that summer of 1986, my brother and I tortured regaled our parents with our rendition of Paul Revere (that to this day I still know every.single.word. to, even though I can't remember what I made for dinner last night).

Adam Yauch, Beastie Boys band member and practicing Buddhist, passed away last month after a three-year battle with throat cancer.  I read a Rolling Stone interview with Yauch's friend and fellow band member Adam Horovitz, and this statement caught my eye:

Did the comfort he took in Buddhism help you deal with his illness and passing?
I don't believe Adam was afraid.  Bummed out, yeah.  But I can't think when I ever saw him afraid.  We got jumped in Brooklyn one time, so we've been afraid in that sense.  But, man, he hadn't been afraid in a long time.  That gives me peace. Read more:

. . . . . . . . . .

Scripture is offered in Australian schools, so I signed the boys up for Buddhism.  I don't care for attaching myself to any organized religion, and I feel strongly that the boys should make an informed decision if they should ever decide there is (or isn't) a particular belief system they should follow.  That aside, Buddhism feels less like a religion and more like a philosophy, and there are principles that are useful for making one's way through life.  I know you could in theory say that about any religion, but Buddhism seems to lack the absolutes and judgment about how one should live their life that have soured my view towards the rest.

Alex has expressed frustration at attending Buddhism classes, but he unfailingly cracks me up in his earnest, wholehearted protests.  Imagine a true, verging on teary-eyed, complainy voice as you read these gems:
  • "We watched a cartoon movie about the Buddha and it was so fake!  He was born and then just started walking right away; that would never happen in real life!"
  • Him: "All we do is chant 'Lumbini Garden'!!"  Me: "What is Lumbini Garden?" Him: "It's where the Buddha was born.  I saw a picture and it's just grass; there's no flowers at ALL--what kind of a garden is that???"
  • "I can't even tell my Buddhism teachers apart!  They dress the same and have the same hair!" (they are monks who wear robes and have shaved heads)
Still, I catch him incorporating little Buddhist things into his day now and then, more so than Jackson.  And if it can help him navigate his way through the world, deal with grief, and be a better, more conscious person, then I think it's time well-spent.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

The Three Rs, With Some Misery Thrown In For Good Measure

We had a couple weeks of tough behavior coming from Jackson, which after a lot of prodding came out as frustrations and difficulties he'd been having with school.  The school...oh, this school.  My nephew has learned to politely say that certain foods are not his favorite when he's faced with something he intensely dislikes, so I've taken a lesson from him and I'll just say that this school is not my favorite.  I don't want to generalize about an entire country--it's hard to say which frustrations simply stem from differences in educational philosophy that I would find at any school here, or which ones are related to this school in particular...either way, it has been a challenging experience to find a well of patience deep enough to get through the school year.
Jackson's well had run dry--he began saying he hated school, that he wished school was never invented, which was so hard for me to hear.  Back home (and this is no exaggeration), he would excitedly say as I drove him to school in the morning, "I wonder what we're going to learn today!".  It was hard for him to feel as well, and it was coming out in agitated, unacceptable behavior around the house and towards us.  One night, he finally confided in me that a couple of weeks earlier, he had been repeatedly taunted by older students to throw a juice box at them--and he did--and the principal at school happened to be walking by and told him he was being an idiot with the juice box.

An idiot?

Throwing a juice box at someone is admittedly not the best choice, but I would expect more out of someone in a position of authority than to demean a child by using such an insult.  Again, I'd like to not chalk this up to being reflective of Australian culture as a whole, but when I told another Australian about this incident, he said that when he was a kid, his teacher wrote on the board "Idiot 1", "Idiot 2", and "Idiot 3", and would have children stand under those labels if they were misbehaving.

Simply opening up about his feelings has helped Jackson tremendously--he also took the initiative to speak to his teacher about his feelings towards the principal.  This all coincided with being able to choose his own project for this school term; I thought this was a great opportunity for him to get engaged with something he was interested in.  The boys spend many a pre-bedtime evening sitting in a dark room listening to Sam read the Lord of the Rings books by headlamp, so he decided to make Bilbo Baggins' hut.  Jackson's interest waxed and waned throughout the development and creation of the project, but he had an undeniably proud grin on his face as we carried the hut in all its paper mache glory into his classroom.  

Since then, his attitude has changed; he is striving to be Student of the Week and is making a concerted effort to be helpful in the classroom.  He and Alex both will still freely express frustration and dislike for their school, but it doesn't seem to be a dark cloud hanging over every moment like it was for a while there.

Just this morning as we walked to school, Jackson said, "I'm just taking it week by week, Mom.  That's the only way I'm going to get through this school year."  Wise words, kiddo.