Swimming

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We are lucky to have kind friends with a backyard pool.

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It is like being somewhere in the Mediterranean. Which is a great experience for east Texas Forney people.

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Helen and Amos bob about like excited fish, and James and Corrie do a few laps and take breaks to just float and enjoy the water. I walk back and forth in the shallower end, enjoying the feeling of weightlessness and how easy it is to move my hurt foot in the water. On days when my foot gets swollen from trying to be useful again, the water feels cool and wonderful.

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It is a gift to be there.

-Katie

Amy Olles

My sister Amy recently attended a protest in downtown Ft. Worth, TX. She wrote about her experience and I asked permission to post it here. The following is from Amy.

“I was one participant of hundreds last Sunday night at a March/Protest for George Floyd in downtown Fort Worth. I’d like to share my experience. More pressingly, I hope to give you an idea of what happened before the incident at the West 7th bridge that captured the headlines on Monday’s news cycle.

I have been to protests in downtown Fort Worth before. They start on the courthouse lawn. People gather, signs are photographed and fawned over like costumes at a Con, speakers address the crowd thru Audio systems ranging from middle to mediocre, and people wave at traffic – enthusiastically air pumping if the car honks in solidarity as it rushes by. All ages, all races, all types gather. Once the speeches has concluded, the crowd sets off down the streets of fort worth, escorted by a myriad of police officers on bicycles. The police ride ahead and behind the crowd, ensuring intersections are managed so marchers can pass through safely. They are seen, not heard, and incredibly good at making sure everyone gets through the march safely. Downtown is an efficient, pedestrian friendly grid that allows marchers to go in a loop around end up back where they started. From there the crowd disperses and go back to their lives. Or perhaps a nice brunch after a late morning march.

I was there for this particular march due to a deep sense of anguish and overwhelm after the latest senseless murder of a man by police. I have conflicting thoughts; they jumble and tears threaten, and I’m going to struggle to write concisely here. The thought that George’s family, and so many other black families are mourning the death of a child, a brother, a dad, a husband, an uncle, a loved human person who died for no discernable reason, with little to no justice served,  is- I don’t know. That situation is enraging and I can’t process it. And please don’t forget the women who have been killed – the daughters, sisters, aunts. This thought battles with the knowledge that I have a relative who is a police officer, whose mother worries mightily about him, because “my son deals with people on their worst day.” There are reasons police carry arms. These thoughts fight for my compassion and understanding. These thoughts demand my action, or inaction. Brush it aside or commit to doing something?

Over the weekend I struggled with the news and the fact that what I am doing is not the same as getting closer and grappling with this personally. Publicly. Where other people might actually hear my white self say “black lives matter” out loud. Where someone else might ask me why I said that when I’ve not done much up till now to show it.  I felt I need to face my many prejudices and inherent racism, privilege and all that stuff so few in my life talk about. That I don’t talk about. I must also acknowledge that these protests are NOT ABOUT ME, nor are they events for me to assuage my particular guilt.   Enter the last-minute notification from a friend that there was a march at 6pm downtown. OK, I’m going!

I got there at 6pm, and scribbled out a sign on poster board hurriedly purchased on the way over. BLACK LIVES MATTER and “here is something I can’t understand, how you can just kill a man” to cover each side. Thank you Rage Against the Machine for dropping bite sized political lyrics and allowing me to co-opt them. “Your Anger is a gift” someone’s sign said. Rage and I probably agree that’s a damn good sentiment.

There was a healthy crowd composed of all different races, ages, and genders. Lots of people attending with friends, kids/family, or significant others. I was looking for the white people out of curiosity and was pleased to see the same spectrum: families, couples, friendly groups, all ages gathered on the lawn. One young man held a sign stating “If the Amish can protest, so can the Introverts!”. Another man stood on the court steps and held a sign saying “suck my d*** racist cops”. I was surprised and my first thought was to blow him off for being rude. Second thought was given how I know nothing of his life, who was I to declare he was being out of line? The introverts and defiant ones are needed for this march. And here they are. 

The speakers had a small bullhorn to address the crowd. In quick succession 3 or 4 people spoke passionate words I couldn’t hear through the crowd. And then we were off marching. Chanting quickly commenced. Not what I was used to: “This is what democracy looks like!” (though it is). Harder things to speak (for me): “I cant breathe”. “No justice, no peace”. “Say his name: George Floyd”. And then, the hardest for me “F*** the racist police”. This statement was thrown up by the crowd even as the policeman bicycled to the next intersection to stop the traffic for our safe passage. Does that statement offend me? Is it possible this statement rings true? I struggled with this as I marched. I choked up several times as I spoke “I can’t breathe” with the crowd. How panic ridden and terrifying were that last few minutes of George’s life? 

We knelt as a group, hundreds of people kneeling in the intersections as the police kept traffic at bay. Cars honked their horns and drivers raised fists in solidarity. I’m older now and kneeling isn’t comfortable. I also don’t typically kneel for anything in my daily routine. Kneeling feels vulnerable.I wondered at the bravery of Colin Kaepernick. That simple, noncompliant act to highlight injustices. I choked up some more.

We walked through more of downtown Fort Worth than I ever have for a march. It was both chilling and exciting to see waitstaff, patrons, pedestrians, and drivers react to us. Our march was filmed by press and populace. Some were enthusiastically supportive, other just stared, or tried to look away. Chanting was amplified by the awnings of the hotels we walked under. We traversed southeast past the water gardens, to the point that I wondered if we were going to end up under the bridge of the of Lancaster and I-35/30? At that point I noticed armored vehicles stop on the road, and heavily armed police gather, blocking our progress. They stood still, and did not react to any of the chanting, including “F*** the racist police” that seemed to gain momentum after the armored police appearance. They did act like a wall rerouting our flow back to the downtown area. As we changed direction, the bicycling cops started continued with us.

We kept moving, retreading some streets, and finding new ones along the way. There was more kneeling, chanting, defiance, hope, fury, fervor, enthusiasm and unity compelling the throng of people forward. Maybe I am projecting, but the emotions at this march felt intense. Raw. Pressing. I overheard a participant declaring the revolution is starting as they live streamed their march.

Just short of the courthouse we took a hard left and walked off to the north west corner of downtown. The energy of the crowd seemed to dissipate as we stalled at an intersection. The leaders were talking amongst themselves. People stood with their signs and friends waiting to see if the walk would resume or not. A mother called for her son in a tone parents take– “get back here now” was the unspoken part of her cry. At that point I left the march. I learned later the crowd had decided on a new location to walk to and proceeded to the west 7th street bridge. There they ended up in a stand off with police for several hours and later, between 10 and 11pm the incident occurred that grabbed the headlines the next day.

I’m writing this account to tell people the protest vibe was powerful and uplifting. It appeared to me that the witnesses and participants were united in solidarity and that the call for change, for justice, reform, and for a better future for the systemically oppressed was loud and clear. I’m writing to encourage the timid, uncertain and sedentary here. Are you grappling with feelings of outrage for the tragedy and the weak, reticent response of a just outcome for situation? Come gather with other people in protest. Stand with them and observe. Be present to their determination and frustrations. Walk with them a few blocks and experience the energy and purpose. You don’t have to say anything. You don’t have to stay past your bedtime. Go. Try on the perspective of someone else’s experience and see how they might feel what they do.  If you, like me, empathize better when you can relate to the situation, then please go to this situation, and participate in the often messy and uncomfortable process of change. We who have the luxury of breathing easy need to put in the work to ensure that others can do the same. That work may start with showing up to a protest, and continue with each marching step you take.”

-Amy Olles

Zoom-bombing

img_7937Everyone Zooms now. School has finished, so there are no longer Zooms for classes, but the kids are Zooming for music lessons. James Zooms for work, as do I. I also get to Zoom for Morning Prayer with an Episcopal Church in Chicago that I really love.

Helen is a Zoom-bomber. She hides under or beside the table and reaches her hand or wiggles her fingers right inside the camera range, making it look like the person in the frame has suddenly grown a third hand.

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It takes people a while to notice this. Sometimes I take my two hands and tickle her hand down; we play like this until I see a random smile from my Zoommates.

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Helen is an EXCELLENT playmate. 🙂

-Katie

Abbey has moved

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Abbey

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moved in with Emily and Yuki.

She has two whole rooms! at our house, it is a minimum of two people and one animal in any given room, so we’re feeling some jealousy…

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And exhaustion from effort…

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Abbey has three jobs and is doing summer classes, so the space and quiet will be nice. We will all adjust…

-Katie

 

 

Rob

He cut his hair again. The post-quarantine cut.

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And occasionally wears clear glasses just for the hell of it. (As a person who must use glasses to keep from falling down or veering into walls, I find this adorable and maddening.)

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How on earth did he come from two doofy people like me and James?

-Katie

Summer

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Summer has officially begun. Barbie is wearing her swimsuit,

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has dyed her hair the usual summer-pink,

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Peaches are starting to be on sale,

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people are tanning in the backyard (with a fresh round of ankle-bracelets),

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and everyone is gaming. Except Mom. Somebody has to hold out.

-Katie

Hedgehog

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Corrie was given a hedgehog. We now have one dog, two cats, the occasional surprise lizard, and a hedgehog.

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It is a male adult hedgehog named Bessel, after Bessel Van Der Kolk.

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He looks really cute but is feral as heck. He won’t tolerate any interference from any people or animals who already live here, and if you get too close he makes a weird hissing cough to scare you off. He eats mealworms and hedgehog kibble. (Yes. There is such a thing as hedgehog kibble. You can get it, along with 10 million other things, from Amazon.)

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Luckily for him, Corrie is very fond of him and she is the one human he tolerates. How does he know she is the right one to be nice to?

Hedgehogs are nocturnal, so he sleeps most of the day under a washcloth in his cage, and then shuffles out at night to vacuum up his mealworms and run on his wheel.

In these pics, neither Corrie nor Bessel are smiling, but he has been a good addition. They feel they belong to each other.

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-Katie

Dandelions

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Amos mowed the backyard, and before doing so sweetly chopped a whole dandelion plant for me as a bouquet. For a 13-year-old-boy, he has the occasional charming moment.

Here’s the strange thing: all the blossoms immediately closed up, and every morning for a week they changed one at a time into dandelion puffs.

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Just think of this magic; happening all the time, in everyone’s yards, all over.

-Katie

Chicken leg and superleg; or, Change

SOMETHING SO EXCITING HAS HAPPENED! For me. My broken foot has healed to the point where I am allowed to take the orthopedic boot off from time to time. And in the house, I can move around on a lighter foot support called an air stirrup.

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For 5 weeks I have been the person clomping along like Long John Silver. Ducks startle and fly when they hear me coming on the sidewalk around the neighborhood lake. Our pets tuck their tails safely underneath their prone bodies when I pegleg into a room.

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I feel much freer now. But something funny has happened: when I take off the orthotic boot, you can see a dramatic difference in the thickness of each of my calves. (I will spare you this sight.) Helen and I are calling my new look chickenleg (the weak, atrophied one), and superleg (oh, yeah, the powerhouse). Don’t even make me kick you with superleg. 🙂

It is strange how much things change where you can’t see it happening.

For instance, Amos took on the job of reorganizing and cleaning the bookshelf next to the dinner table.

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When I have the time and energy, I love this job. It’s like sorting your friends into catagories. Do you organize by type? By size? Alphabetically? By weight? How much can you get through before it becomes overwhelming and you have to take a nap?

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I was away at church practicing while Amos worked, and when I got home I was astonished at the result – I could hardly recognize the books we had when the location of every single one had been changed. Even some of the covers looked different sitting between new shelfmates!

The change reveals things I thought I had (but don’t), and things I didn’t think I have (but do.)

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In these last Texas days of spring rain before we arrive reluctantly at the punishing summer heat, I put the houseplants outside for a day. When we brought them back in, one had change to being home for a large stinkbug. She was enormous.

Wait, I must digress. Here is another example of change where you can’t see it: I have spent a lifetime defaulting to male pronouns, I think largely due to my age and the fundamentalist culture in which I was raised that elevates men above women. For most of my life I have referred anthropomorphically to every inanimate object, natural creature, and children’s toy as ‘he’; Mr. Mosquito, Mr. Cat, Mr. Mushroom, Mr. Slinky Dog, Mr. Houseplant. (And, I understand, anthropomorphic naming is crazy in and of itself, but in my defense I live and work with many children.) This default to male pronouns has been pointed out to me by none other than my own enlightened daughters. So now, if I have the chance to refer to something in a gendered way, I say ‘she’. On purpose. I am even trying occasionally to refer to God this way.

Back to the stinkbug.

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Helen noticed her bowlegging across the window, and we agreed to allow it to live there in the kitchen window and not tell Amos. (Because then there would be screaming and running.)

Each morning the stinkbug would move to a different plant on the window, working methodically through her terrain-mapping work. About a week later Helen noted her dry carcass lying in the bottom groove of the window.

More change. The quiet death of insects. Mostly in unseen places.

I went to bed last night thinking about my foot and music and pandemic safely precautions, and woke up to news reports from Minnesota of fire and anger and people pulling at the civic fabric, fighting for justice. This is the type of thing that makes me feel helpless. Things had changed (or maybe not changed! maybe that is the very problem) while I slept and did not watch.

And finishing my own preparations for the day, I walked through the house, noting many sleeping forms and one alert middle-schooler awake and glued to a Simpsons episode on the gaming TV in the garage.

And Abbey was lying in her bed texting with tears in her eyes. Somehow in places where I cannot see the cautious and responsible oldest daughter is changing into a person training herself to fight for social justice.

I sit on the edge of the bed, careful with tea and orthotic boot and her long limbs entangled in the blanket I made for her while I was waiting 19 years ago for her to be born. She starts talking in a low voice about George Floyd (we honor him and say his name out loud) and angry tears fall. How can we be accepting things as white people that are denied to people of color? What can we do in the face of things that are widespread, that are systemic, that are so ridiculously, incredibly bad? How on earth can we be so safe and others be in such great danger?

“I am so tired of this. I’m angry that I can’t change it. I want to know what I could change that would make things be different.” Abbey says this to me. I have tears of my own; I mirror her frustration at our white privilege and the difficulty of knowing where to go and what to say. We are lucky to live in a neighborhood with as many people of color as white; I know these people are a blessing to me at the same time that I know their sons and daughters are apt to be treated in a way that mine will not. I would like to try to treat all these children as equals – sometimes their own acceptance and consistent behavior to each other is the best teacher for me.

We will both do the small things. The small things with as much great love as we can. Like Mother Teresa; we can do no great things; we can only do small things with great love. We will keep trying for the great love. And asking for things to change where we cannot see. Let that change we want to see be something that can start inside…

-Katie