Just working

September 22, 2022 (The Autumn Equinox)

“When I was lil girl, I played piano, but not no more… I’s got nothin’.  I not finish my school, you know…  when the war start, no! — I was start workin’. I jus’ been workin’ all my life.”

Kate — a maid in the BOQ at England Air Force Base, Alexandria, Louisiana. She was a Philipino/Japanese woman who had married a GI.

(From my journal, May of 1972)

I often think of Kate and what she said to me about working. Although my life has been vastly different from hers, I sometimes feel that the same is true of me, that I “just been working all my life.”

Although my Social Security records show a large gap of more than a year after I got out of the Air Force, I have mostly always worked. And I have worked at a very large number of very diverse jobs.

So I decided to try to come up with a list — maybe some description — of most of the various work situations I’ve ended up in over the years.

Childhood

My parents always stressed working, and we kids always had our chores and a little allowance, and were expected to help out with house and yard work. I remember I really hated picking up pecans because of the dryness and how it made my hands feel.

When I was old enough to reach the counters and push a broom, fifth grade I suppose, I was working Wednesdays (paper day) and Saturdays at my daddy’s newspaper office, The Claxton Enterprise. I helped move the folded papers to the table for mailing, and I often rode with Daddy to the nearby post offices when we had to deliver them.

On Saturdays, I swept the back shop, collecting up all the big sheets of newsprint that had been trashed during the printing process. Occasionally, I washed the big windows up front and helped out in the office supply business. I also collected the lead slugs of type and helped with the process of melting them down into ingots for setting the next week’s paper on the Linotype. Plus I wrapped and delivered job printing around town — on foot. Later, I helped out with some of the news work, covered a few football games, and did whatever was needed.

Delivery jobs

During high school, I also had a couple of other jobs, though how long and what the schedule of those jobs was is a little blurry in my memory now! I worked Saturdays delivering dry cleaning for Smith’s Dry Cleaners, which was owned by Frank Smith, the Mayor of Claxton. It was an exciting job, as the old panel truck would occasionally lose brakes and I had to learn how to stop by switching off the engine and popping the clutch in second gear, then snatching up the emergency brake. I also worked delivering the Savannah Morning News, first in a car with the old guy, a cab driver, who had the contract, and then, when I was 15 I think, on an old Cushman Husky, which was also exciting to ride. The brakes on it tended to lock up, and I turned it sideways in the road once, which sent my flying thru the air and landing on my hands and knees on the pavement. Fun. The other interesting part of that job was that I occasionally had to ride with the old guy out to the county line to pick up whiskey for a customer.

Bookbinder — Georgia Southern College library

When I went to college, I worked in the bindery at the college library. I also worked on the college newspaper and the yearbook staff, and I helped the college sports publicist keep stats at basketball games.

Pilot — US Air Force

I was in the US Air Force for about four years, flying airplanes, but that’s a whole ‘nother story. It’s in my other blog, A War Journal. That chronicles my experiences related to the Air Force and a year in Vietnam.

After the Air Force, I took a few months off to recover my sanity and then I was back at the newspaper business.

Reporter — Tifton News Examiner

I helped my uncle, Dan Eden, publish a little newspaper in Tifton, Georgia, for part of a year, but things were a little difficult there, so he moved to Gray, Georgia. That really didn’t work out for me, so sometime in 1973 I moved to Orlando, Florida, where my brother, Stewart, lived.

Photo processor and greenhouse worker

I had two jobs there, though I’m not sure of the sequence or the duration of the two. I worked the 11-to-7 shift at a photo processing plant — Champaign Color — in the color-print darkroom, loading big cases filled with 35 mm negatives into a machine that made prints. I also worked for a commercial plant nursery watering and fertilizing greenhouses filled with ornamental plants all day.

Those were both short-term, very strange jobs.

I was on the road for a few months after that, ending up in Phoenix, Arizona. I worked as a graphic artist for a “shopper” — a newspaper that’s mostly ads and is given away. I mostly did ad layout, but I did a little darkroom work, which I had learned to do at my daddy’s newspaper.

Press operator – Medco Jewelry Company

I moved from there to Independence, Missouri, and got a job working in the in-house print shop at Medco Jewelry Company in Kansas City. I started out doing darkroom and graphics there, but learned to run a small offset press and worked into being one of the pressmen.

Press operator — Center Stake office, RLDS church

I had to ride a bus into downtown Kansas City every day for that job, so soon I moved to being the pressman at a church district office, doing all the printing for several churches, mostly Sunday bulletins. Later, I began to work for one of the churches in the district, doing all their printing. My first child was born during this time, and as our horizons expanded, I decided to go back to college.

Social Studies Teacher

I eventually got certified as a teacher in several states and started teaching in Crownpoint, New Mexico, where I taught Navajo children social studies. I only lasted a year there, and then I taught for two years in Jesup, Georgia, at Jesup Middle Grades.

Assembly-line worker — motor home plant

Things again went awry in my life, and I ended up in Eugene, Oregon. I worked for a time there as an assembly-line worker, building and installing dashboards for motor homes. A crazy job that I quit so I could hitchhike back to Georgia for my brother’s wedding. I also did day labor for an organic farm outside of Eugene, planting garlic and digging potatoes and whatever else needed doing. I got paid very little, but I could bring home large bags of vegetables for our family group. The guy who owned it also took me out mushroom hunting, and I learned how to identify chanterelles and Shitake.

Organizer/officer worker — Eugene Council for Human Rights

I got involved with an activist group, the Eugene Council for Human Rights in Latin America, and before long was working as an assistant in their office, doing graphic arts and lots of other things.

Typesetter/Print shop manager — The Siuslaw News

I moved from Eugene to Florence, Oregon, where I was a nanny of sorts for a first-grader while his mom went to college classes. Then I got a real job as a typesetter, doing classified ads for the newspaper in Florence. I worked into doing some graphics and then into the print shop. I did darkroom work, job layout and printing.  I eventually became the manager of the print shop, running the 11×17 AM press and the 17×22 Heidelberg press. The Heidelberg was a project! The boss bought it used and abused — all the rollers were stuck together from being shut down all inked up and left for a long time, so I had to pull everything out and replace them with new rollers. But it was a wonderful press once we got it working. I also did all the darkroom and plate work for the print shop operation.

Reporter/Editor — The Press-Sentinel, Jesup, Georgia

After my dad died in 1986, we moved to Jesup to be with my mom, and I got a job as a reporter with The Press-Sentinel, a weekly paper that my dad had worked for from 1973 through his retirement in about 1985. I did news and sports reporting, and I was sports editor and later news editor. I also did all the reporting for The Ludowici News, a small paper that the Press-Sentinel published in a nearby town.

Teacher — again — Jesup schools

After a few years in newspaper work, I went back to teaching. I taught at Jesup Junior High, Arthur Williams Middle School, and Wayne County High. Social studies, science and English at the middle schools, civics and advanced composition at the high school. After retiring from public school teaching in 2007, I taught GED and ESOL classes for a few years for the technical college.

Newspaper reporter — again — The Press-Sentinel

When a job at the paper opened up in about August of 2017, I moved back there on a part-time basis, sharing the week with another reporter. When things slowed down with the COVID-19 pandemic, I became the only reporter, working with the news editor to produce the paper each week. And that is where I am today, working three days a week plus event coverage as needed.

It’s been a wild ride.

Life with the children, 2020

March 29, 2020

June’s almost two now… already interested in numbers. She definitely says “Two, three, two…” as she’s putting thing into rows, which she loves to do! Toys, coins, any objects she is playing with may end up all lined up on the floor… But she’s doing rudimentary counting, at least she’s got the concept of saying numbers while placing the items. The first and most critical part of this whole numbers thing!

And she’s beginning to name the pictures in her books, not just say “What’s this? What’s that?” There are lots of new words that she understands… too many to remember.

April 10 (or so), 2020

Am still worrying about the grown kids/grand kids/kids…. this pandemic is getting serious. Makes me question what world will there be for them when it runs its course… Of course, I’ve always thought it’s gonna come down to us vs. the viruses.

I do find such joy in the kids, all of them, now! They are so amazing and endearing. June’s vocabulary and skills are growing by leaps and bounds every week! She is developing quite a temper, though. If she’s tired and doesn’t want to do something — like put on pants — she can be inconsolable. Just screams and screams.

May 20-22, 2020

Trying to keep up is hard lately, as we’re pretty busy. June is changing and growing so fast, some new little thing every day! She says so many things now – hard to remember them all!

The sweetest thing lately is her little “butterfly song.” She says “fly-fly-fly” (very quickly) for butterfly, and she’s made up the whole very sweet little song, in which the only discernible word is “fly-fly-fly” but is complete with hand gestures and waving arms, looking up and pointing, so clearly it is all about butterflies, which she loves and is very excited by. Marvin says they are June’s favorite part of nature. When we were at Granny’s, I asked June if she could sing her the fly-fly song. She immediately started singing and dancing around singing the same things she says when singing it for me. I think the word “high” is definitely in there! She sings other songs, but nothing as identifiable as the butterfly song.

She really loves music and always starts dancing when music plays. She also loves playing my guitar — and singing along. She gets the idea of melody and seems to sing notes in the chord I’m playing.

June 21. 2020

We had June’s fly-fly birthday party (she’s two) last weekend. She had fun, and Stewart, Kay & Jaap, Granny, and Andrew (Taylor’s friend from Jax) here for our first social event in Screven — all outside, on account of the pandemic. June related to everyone very positively during the party. She’s such a big, smart girl now! She speaks in complete sentences now, at least when she wants to! We were going out the door in our hats and she said, “Oh no, I don’t have my hat on!” Several other sentences lately. And — she’s getting very stubborn about getting dressed. Most of the time, she’d just rather not. Oh boy!

She has a huge vocabulary these days. Way too many words for me to keep up with. And she continues to be so sweet and happy most of the time! She did go on a string of unhappy days… sick and unhappy, maybe teething as there were stomach problems. But she’s good now, tho still some digestive issues.

Marvin and June are getting along so well lately! He’s better at playing with her and doesn’t get so frustrated. We do enjoy them so much and are so amazed at all they do! Though they are a challenge at times!

June’s throwing skills continue to improve. She can throw a ball right to you, judges the distance well and is right on target! She can throw pretty far, too. Also can run and kick a soccer ball over and over. She’s a ball girl! She loves for me to kick the big ball “so high!” and she does really well at throwing and catching it too! She just loves to run, climb, and play rough!

July 18

Language development continues… rocks are now rocks, not “row-ies.” We have such sweet times together! She really loves t play with me, hang with me. We just did lots of “A’s and flowies” in my journal… she loves to draw on my pages… and potty training is proceeding well, so proud of herself.

She is so responsive to our reactions to her. She was writing in my journal, made a wild stroke, and I reacted in a startled way. Then she looked at me with such sorrow, said, “Sorry!” very genuinely and hugged me. She also loves to bring all of us snacks whenever she is having them. I was still in bed and she came knocking on the door to offer me goldfish crackers. She always makes sure “Bubby” has a snack too if she’s having something — same with the gummy bear vitamins. She’s truly a sweet child! Very unselfish and caring. Though she’s lately becoming very stubborn as well and given to getting her way about things.

Sept. 9, 2020

Yes, she’s getting very headstrong. Very determined to do what she sets her mind to do, but she can be fairly easily distracted and gets over things quickly too. But she does cry and scream if thwarted. She’s also been very sweet lately, saying, “You home!” to us, holding our faces and being so sweet and huggy! The highlight of my day is coming home to the family and hearing June say, “Daddy home!” She often comes running to hug me and smiles so sweetly up at me. It has been hard with the ‘Rona — I have to stop her, strip and shower as soon as I get home, so I can’t respond to those sweet greetings! She also loves to give us all little kisses.

Another little sentence she says now is, “Ahhh! I broke that!” She’s a bit rough on things, even the books she loves, so things get broken. She’s rough and tumble right along with Marvin and stays all bruised and banged up. She loves to play outside, loves throwing, catching and kicking the balls, and she can play catch with me for quite a while with the little basketball.

Marvin’s growing up too, though he still has some issues with anger and screaming. He’s doing much better with most things, like bedtime and playing nicely. He and June have lots of fun together being wild kids. He is very protective of her and is usually letting her play with him now.

On the other front, I never get to see my older kids. Everything together has made it near impossible. It’s been very hard for me. I’m still non-grata with Liana, though there are some hints of a response occasionally… They all seem to be doing well, okay at least, despite the crazy times. I miss them terribly! I’ve tried to let them know how much I love them, but I’m not sure the message gets through. Life is so…. hard sometimes. Damn hard. I miss my Mom and Dad…

Sept. 26, 2020

Liana called to wish me happy birthday yesterday! The first overture she’s made to establish contact! It was wonderful to talk to her at last! But sad. We did not really resolve the break, but it was a good talk and it gives me hope that it will get better. It’s good to know she’s doing well, is happy and safe. I miss here, all the kids, so much!

June had her first real beach visit yesterday — St. Simons. We played in the waves and she just loved it! Squealed for a solid hour!

Oct. 10, 2020

A tiny connection has been established with Liana! I renewed her car tag, so I had to ask her for her mailing address, and she was appreciative, we exchanged texts, and things seemed nearly normal. Much improved, so I have a glimmer of hope… The birthday conversation seems to have helped.

A few notes on June and Marvin… June’s vocabulary is growing so fast I can’t keep up! And it’s so cute! She says “yep!” and “nope!” a lot now! She calls Granny “Bramm-ma” and calls Kay “Grammy-Tay.” Oh yes, now she knows her own name! If you ask, she says, “Anna June!” And she told me, “You John!”

Marvin continues to be challenging for me. He is pretty amazing in lots of ways. Very smart. He can recite the story of Wall-E from the book, nearly completely, and he does so, frequently looking at the book and pretending to read it. He really wants to read! He’s certainly an auto-didact, like Lucy. Drawing robots is his daily obsession now, and he’s filled hundreds of pages with Wall-E, Johnny 5 and others. He can keep up a narrative on something for half-an-hour as he draws, though it’s sometimes hard to know what he’s narrating… His defiance continues. I’m trying to be better but not very successfully. I am able to avoid the power struggles, though.

October 18, 2020

A Sunday in the cooling-off days… playing ball with June this morning. She can now throw the soccer ball up in the air and catch it. She’s so proud of herself when she catches it! She does love to play catch with me! She’s so coordinated! She says, “Three, two, five, go!” and takes off running across the yard. We have fun! She is starting to count a bit. She got 1, 2, 3 yesterday in counting something with me.

October 24, 2020

Now she is moving to “1, 2, 3, go!” a lot lately! And she knows the word, “sad.” I said something about Mommy would be unhappy if she broke the plant, and she said, “She sad?” Seems I often find myself wondering how much of our nice, sweet times together she will remember. I guess I wonder if I will live long enough for her to remember me at all. That makes me sad. At least she’ll have some positive emotional grounding for her life. We spend a lot of time playing! (She just drew a little face in my notebook and added eyebrows — she told me they were the eyebrows… and then she asked me to write, or “show her the ppi’s” — her word for letters — for her name.) A few new sentences: “I put this in the trash!” “I can share with you!” Lots of quality time on the porch lately… also lots of stinker behavior! Ya gotta watch her every minute! She’s into everything!

The kids… May-July 2022

[A few current entries in my journaling of this voyage with children on board. These are recent June and Marvin notes… plus some comments.]

May 14, 2022

June is so happy she’s going to be in school this coming year! She asks about every day, ‘Am I going to school tomorrow?’ She does seem to be a bit ADHD at times… like the other day, when she wanted to play and I told her she had to put on a shirt first. She said, ‘Oh!’ and headed to the bedroom. A few minutes later, she came back, still no shirt, but with the red massage ball I had asked her about sometime last week! Then she want back to the bedroom but never came back shirted… likely got distracted.

She’s playing some elaborate game on her own now. Yesterday she set up a store in the living room with lots of toys and her little play cash register. I do hope the Screven Pre-K is ready for her…

Marvin has done well in kindergarten there, so it seems a good school. Marvin is really into video games these days, and interestingly, it seems to calm him down. Occupies his restless mind I guess. Certainly being in school has helped most of his issues improve, but the games seem to help too. Things are better all around, anyway.

June 3, 2022

June said that when it’s her birthday–which is in six days!–she thinks there will be an avalanche! I asked her if she knows what an avalanche is, and she said, “I know what an avalanche is. It’s when a rock falls down from a cliff, and it kills you.”

Several days ago, she grabbed my hat, tipped it back on my head, and proclaimed, “Now you look like a ‘Bro!”

June 12, 2022

We had to cancel the party ‘cuz the kids were exposed to COVID at vacation bible school. Just had us for cake and ice cream, but it was nice.

June 24, 2022

Marvin has come through his heart procedure well, we’re home, he’s fine! Such a relief! He’s remarkably the same despite this intervention and the whole two-day ordeal. We are exhausted! But happy!

July 10, 2022

All going well the past couple of weeks… hot summer is full on here! Had a great conversation with Liana yesterday! She seems to be doing well, getting some help with medical issues, doing well at work. She’s planning to come to the Gathering in October.

July 16, 2022

Disturbing news on my vision from my eye doc this week… but nice trip to St. Simons. Taylor and Marvin climbed the lighthouse again. June was not so hot on going up those steps, especially after she heard the ghost stories in the video presentation! She and I watched mom and brother walk around on the balcony and were happy on the ground.

June has just been so WILD lately! A little out of control at times, doing that old defiant thing a lot. Trying to talk to her, and we’ve given her a few spanks lately, but nothing seems to be working. We need a new approach…

July 22, 2022

Mom’s off to a workshop today so me and the kids… hanging out. June’s in her bedroom pretend reading to herself, one of her favorite things to do. She ‘reads’ off and on when I’m reading bedtime stories to her… amazing how she remembers the words to the stories, even over weeks later… And the complexity of her play with little characters and stuffed toys is narrative driven.

An amazing comment from her the other night: She hugged me and said, “I love you so much!” I responded, “I love you too!”

Then she said, “Usually, I love the whole world!”

I think she does!

June and the kids…

August 13, 2019

Last night was terrible.June got all croupy, couldn’t breathe or cry, so we took her to the ER in the middle of the night. She got steroids and a breathing treatment — so hard! Poor baby cried and fought, just couldn’t understand what all those people were doing and why we weren’t stopping them! The ER people all remarked on how strong and determined she is! It took three of them to hold her still for the blood-work and breathing treatment. Hard to watch!

She got pricked about four or five times for blood — they couldn’t get an IV in, so they did a heel stick and a finger stick! Poor baby! But there was no bad infection. She’s at the doc’s office now, doing much better, breathing fairly clearly.

Mommy and daddy had a hard time seeing her so mad and afraid, those eyes pleading with us to help! So hard! So scary!

We’ve got meds and a breathing device so if this happens again, we can treat it.

September 15, 2019

I’ve not been keeping up very well. June is growing and changing so fast! She’s quite a climber! We can’t keep her off the table, or wherever she can get. She loves standing in the chairs.

But she also loves books and drawing with markers, crayons and pens. Not sure if she’s favoring her left hand, but sometimes is seems as if she is…

A breakthrough of sorts with Liana! Sadly, my cousin Bill Stewart died, and I sent Liana an email to let her know. They all loved Bill! She responded with a nice message, which is a first since the breakup… It gave me renewed hope for eventual thawing of our relationship. I’m not sure how to proceed, but I want to try to keep things opening up with her. I do miss her so!

October 30, 2019

Making a (partial) list of the words June knows or says… hard to keep up! She says chicken, hot, Da-da; she knows and sometimes complies with bath, diaper, Marvin, Mommy, ‘give it to me’, eat, highchair, ‘come see Daddy.’

December 5, 2019

June is continuing her language acquisition! She really understands most everything we say to her, and is mostly very cooperative, too!

Thanksgiving was hard. The other kids all came to the old house, but I didn’t even get to see Lucy and Li. I had a nice lunch with John and Manna and the kids and hope to see them this weekend. All this is being so hard.

And things continue to be difficult here. Marvin in out of control often, frequently unresponsive to anything. He is really pushing my buttons. That’s the basics. The emo is beyond capture here.

January 13, 2020

I often wonder at the delightful ways of this little one! At 19 months plus a week, Duney is a constant joy to me, and the closeness I feel with her is so sweet! She seems to really understand me and to enjoy being with me most of the time. Of course, I am second to Mommy, but I’m okay with that!

She is truly amazing in so many ways! Her play is very advanced, and her coordination is also. She stacked four little odd-shaped blocks one night, and she is very adept at towers with the big Lego blocks. She understands nearly everything we say to her and picks up on what’s about to happen from our conversation. She’s also very sensitive to non-verbal communication — subtle facial cues and such.

She loves playing with Marvin! They play with the trains and other toys together, and they run around the house and rough-house on the floor!

Still struggling to get moved to our new house — so stressful!

Things are also stressful on the Liana front. It seems hopeless at times! Gene is doing our sibling reunion in February, but she said she won’t be attending. It’s really so hard and painful to think she’s just never going to forgive me. I don’t think I deserve forgiveness, but I do think she will regret hating me. I have been slipping into depression lately… am trying to deal with it, but not much is working.

Lucy’s not coming to the reunion either, but at least she explained that she has a very busy weekend, working gigs, so it’s a little easier to take. It may be a difficult day.

January 19, 2020

June’s new words and expressions are so endearing and cute! She says “Love you!” so sweetly, usually in response to us. And if we ask her if she wants to do something, she says, “Yeah!” so enthusiastically and raises her eyebrows up so cutely! She only shakes her head to say ‘no.’ A lot of her communication is with expressions.

Getting closer to our move-in. Giving up on a new tub for now.

Feb 16, 2020

June is 20+ months now, so delightful but such a little stinker sometimes! She’s very active, very talkative, and says so many things — plus a lot of unintelligible sentences! (Which she seems to think we should understand!) She loves playing in our new yard and runs all around the house full speed, rough-housing with Marvin, playing with the trains and being pretty wild.

She won’t stop climbing on things that scare Daddy! And standing up in her highchair. But she’s still so sweet to me and just loves to play with me! A little problem with hitting us and throwing things at us, which we’re trying to deal with constructively.

We had the sibling reunion yesterday, so the family met Taylor, Marvin and June! Was fun and good connections! Marvin and Orion played a lot, and June and Sophia hit it off well! Everybody loved Taylor and the kids! Taylor says it was a little uncomfortable at times, but generally okay and easier than she expected.

February 21, 2020

I hope the ice is broken and we can see some of them in more intimate settings, develop family relations… I really want the kids to all be family! Speaking of, I talked to Lucy today. She’s very busy but loving it and feeling fulfilled. Nothing developing with communication with Liana… from her IG posts it seems things are okay with her… I hope so. It is hard on me, never getting to talk to her. I had really thought from the beginning that it would work out.. I just don’t really understand. And I don’t have any better ideas of what might help. I fear alienating her further if I try too hard…

Oh yes, I forgot to mention June’s lovely little songs that she sings to us now. So sweet and really tuneful. She loves it when I play guitar and sing, and she has been singing along for a while now. Just recently though, she started just singing her own little songs whenever it strikes her. Very calm, sweet little songs usually. So adorable!

I sent Liana a text and IG message on her birthday. Haven’t heard back. I do keep up with her on IG, and Lucy fills me in on her occasionally. I keep trying.

June got her bangs trimmed today — her first haircut! Taylor saved the hair in her book. Marvin is getting so big, and getting better at listening, though he still has his moments! He’s enjoying our new yard and his trike! He loved playing in the little trees I had cut today, said he was looking for Totoro in there! We’re getting the yard cleaned up and hope to get the big pecan trees trimmed soon. I worry about the limbs falling… Things gradually coming together with the house.

March 1, 2020

A sweet day with the family, though I’m so blue I can barely breathe. But I want to put down the latest June thing. She’s been the “what’s that?” girl for the several days now! Started with the picture books and expanded to virtually everything she sees. At first it was “what’s that?” about everything, but yesterday, it began to be “what’s this!” for things she’s holding or close to — and repeated over and over and over endlessly for the same things — but so endearingly that we never even get cross.

I am on the verge much of the time, barely holding it together… not sure what’s happening. Going thru changes… June was going back and forth between me and Taylor a bit ago, kissing us, so sweet and happy. I do hope she will remember, or Taylor will tell her, all the sweet days we had together. Whatever happens, I will do what I must to keep her happy, to keep all of them happy. Ah, this life!

March 20, 2020

Amidst all the craziness of this Coronavirus pandemic, I am switching to a new journal… June notes here. She’s got new words all the time, understands almost everything we say to her. “Mommie, mommie, mommie!” is her favorite! And she’s still really into the “what’s that?”!

Am really worried about Lucy and Liana, in Atlanta, all this pandemic! Talked to Lucy, no gigs for a while… hope she’s okay thru all this.

From May 18, 2019

The politics of control

[I posted this on my War Journal blog on May 18, 2019… and now its come to pass. The Supreme Court has fallen into the fascist grip, and, like India, we are beginning to crash into an authoritarian government ruled by the court. If the Dems don’t do something strong and fast and solid, it’s going to get worse and worse.]

As it seems everyone must know other than those who are willfully ignorant, these reactionary Republicans around the country who are passing Draconian abortion laws are not doing it out of any love for children, unborn or otherwise.

They are doing it for the love of control. They want to control the behavior of women, especially poor women, by intimidation and threat. They want to make them afraid to have sex and punish them if they do.

And ultimately, they just want to drive the issue before the Supreme Court, which they have now gotten suitably packed with like-minded reactionaries who may–unless their humanity somehow reasserts itself under the pressure of realizing what insanity it would be–reverse Roe V. Wade. Thus affirming their need for control. It’s really pathetic.

Life with the kids… the ’90s

[This is the eighth entry in my series on The Children. This is excerpts and  connecting comments from several journal entries during the 1990s when John, Lucy and Liana were all together in the Hickory Street house in Jesup. Some of the entries are from a “writing journal” that I was keeping as part of a class I was taking on using journaling with students.]

September 17, 1994

John Nelson went off to college today.

It didn’t quite feel like he was gone until I turned out the light and closed the front door before heading for the bedroom for the night. As I closed the door, I realized I wouldn’t be leaving it unlocked for him to come in late anymore. Locking it had a strange sense of of unpleasantness to it, as if I were locking him out. Realizing… he’s not just spending the night with a friend, not just visiting his mother, he’s now living on his own.

Certainly, he’ll be back to visit lots, I’m sure, but — he’s gone.

If I haven’t spent enough time going in and sitting on the edge of his bed and talking, saying goodnight, I love you son — if I haven’t said it by now, it’s likely too late.

I think I have tried, I hope I have tried enough… Now I hope I can turn him loose and not drive him away by trying to do what I may come to feel I should have done and didn’t. I love him too much to do that.

It’s really incredible that this moment is actually here now. It doesn’t seem so long ago that he slept all night on my chest night after night, that I walked up and down the floor of that apartment in Independence to keep him sleeping, that I ran around playing football with him in Granmommie’s back yard, the he walked down the sidewalk with us, that he came here, a serious but smiling eighth-grader.

How could all those moments have become this moment?

September 18, 1994

We had dinner with John in the ‘Boro tonight… took him out for pizza with all the kids… it was pretty normal. The whole process has been pretty normal, actually. Except things were a little strained at his dorm room… his roomie a little stressed maybe… but we sat and watched a movie and it was normalizing, I suppose. Stacy popped in and out, pretty normal for her…

But it all sorta served as a formal break, a little goodbye, although not so dramatic as when I “went off to college.” John has been so self-contained and confident in all this, not seeming dependent on us for much. It’s been a good transition…

September 20, 1994

Ugh! Tough soccer game for my little guys last night! Lost 5-0 and looked pretty foolish doing it. The opponent was a new coach, but he had three strong, very fast boys. I love my kids! They had a grand time losing and are ready to play again and score a goal!

Liana loved her first soccer game, though she was a little nervous about it…. but I need to work on my attitude! I didn’t like losing… work to do. Mainly in my little mini-Zendo on the screen porch.

But Lucy’s team won tonight, so now I feel better!

September 22, 1994

A busy week! Tonight, Liana had her second soccer game. My little team did great, though we lost again — one or two very fast players on the other team. But we’re getting into it! Amazing!

And tonight, Liana sat in the middle of her bed holding up her two bright orange soccer socks, holding them together, carefully evening them out, running her fingers down the full fuzzy length of them. The look of loving wonder on her face as she experienced the joy of her first pair of soccer socks was the pure expression of a child encountering life, finding unexpected joy in its little things,  a selfless moment of experience, a wordless wave of life…

September 26, 1994

Tonight, tho we lost ignominiously, Lucy had the half of her five-year soccer career! We were down three or four goals and striving mightily to score. Lucy was at forward, striker position. Over and over she dribbled the ball in to the goal box, going around much larger defenders with almost no help, to bring the ball within scoring range. She almost scored once and turned the ball around at mid-field numerous times! She took the ball from the opponents two or three times, as well.

She was darting around, in and out of traffic, running down players from behind, and once she even knocked down another player who tried to steal the ball! It was great! She played so hard, but we just couldn’t get our other forwards down the field. Sarah was doing great, too, but the two of them were not enough. Lucy did make a great pass to Sarah to start an attack, but the defense was too strong. Lucy felt, quite rightly, proud and good after the match!

Anna June’s second year

July 2019

Ann June is progressing so rapidly in every aspect of growth that we seem to be remarking g on some new amazement daily! She walks, and runs and spins, with great dexterity, maneuvering through doorways and up and down steps well. She’s also beginning to say words as well as make long non-word sentences.

Her first word was definitely “chicken.” I had thought for awhile that she was saying that whenever we looked out the window at the chickens, but I wasn’t sure. Now, when I take her out to look at the new chicks in the chicken tractor, she says it as she’s pointing at them – says it over and over, so it’s clear she knows what she’s saying! She also said, I think, “out there” as she was pointing out the window. I always ask, do you want to go out there? Which she loves to do!

Other words will be coming soon! She does very well at letting us know what she wants or what she does and doesn’t like! She really LOVES ice cream!

And of course, she loves books! She will often come to me or Taylor, book in hand, and plop down in our lap to read. She’s quite adept at flipping pages with her little thumb and sometimes kisses pages with pictures of sweet bunnies (Beatrix Potter is a fave!) or other animals. She does really respond to the animals, especially our chickens.

Ah, yes, another couple of words that she clearly knows, though she doesn’t say, are ‘bath,’ ‘ high chair’ and ‘Marvin’. She does say ‘Granny’ or something close! She and Marvin play so well together now!

August 3, 2019

June continues to amaze us with her antics! Her newest little thing is a big smile with her nose all wrinkled up, laughing and being coy. I think I’ve mentioned her eyebrow antics. She’s always had very expressive eyebrows – flashing them up and down — but she also does that little right eyebrow raised expression just like my dad used to do! I always tried to do that – lifting one without lowering the other – but never could. She just does it naturally, and uses it so appropriately, too!

She does look a lot like my dad in his childhood pictures, Taylor has pointed out.

She’s also doing this little thing with her tongue while wrinkling up her nose and grinning – hamming it up for sure! She loves to write on my journal pages, as well as drawing and coloring.

John Nelson Eden…

[I probably should have begun with this one! My first child, so the beginning of this whole saga… but, like my war journal, it’s an exploded timeline here, developing perspective as it unfolds. This is the sixth post in the series on The Children.]

October 7, 1976

John Nelson Eden was born this morning! I can’t begin to capture the torrent of emotions and thoughts. The love, the joy, the awe and wonder of it all is perhaps best, and surely forever, emblazoned in my memory in that moment when I first looked into his red, screaming, screwed-up little face as the doctor held him up and said, “Hey boy, say hello to your mommy and daddy!”

That contorted little face was so beautiful, and that cry has to be the sweetest sound I ever heard!

It was an experience of ultimate magnitude, transcending anything else in my experience. Now I need some sleep real bad! Just a few more thoughts and I must go to bed…

Connie, his mom, was just beautiful through it all! Even as nothing prepared us for the experience as a whole, so not even the suggestions of veterans about how it brought them closer prepared me for just how meaningful it really is for the bond between us.

The effect on my perspective clear. There is a great difference between planning and thinking of “a child” in the abstract and planning and thinking of John Nelson, this actual precious bundle of potential!

November 17, 1976 (A Wednesday night)

To John Nelson:

As I sit here in the loofa with you, son, I can hardly contain my feelings! You’ve been having colic almost all afternoon, and mommy is all worn out, so I’ve rocked you to sleep, and now, you’re sleeping, fitfully, here beside me while I study.

Every now and then, you have a gas pain or something, and I just reach over and pat you on the tummy and murmur a few comforting words, and you settle back down, sometimes with with a little sigh that is sweet in that gentle, innocent way that I suppose only babies have. Sometimes, when you have these bad nights and mommy is so tired, you sleep on my chest while I read, and so I feel very much in tune with all your little pains, your cries and whimpers, and your little sighs as you try to sleep. You’ve always been a noisy little guy! High level of spontaneous vocalizations, in technical terms. But all of this is just a preface.

Tomorrow, you’ll be six weeks old by the calendar. In the last six weeks, you have made a profound and lasting impact on me as a person, and I just want to record a little of my feelings now for you to maybe read one day when you understand and appreciate my feelings. Joy and wonder and love have been the main things I’ve been feeling. This love for you is so strong there’s just no way to really express it! I feel so close, so in tune with you and your needs and responses, and so committed to you in the way that only this love can inspire, and so proud of you! Yet all of this fails to really describe the feeling!

This tremendous love that I have for you, John Nelson, is more than just an emotion. In it I find the key to the understanding of existence, for it is in response to this internal feeling — part of the relationship between you and me — that I will be to you all the things that will become my contribution to your humanity, to your personhood and thus to all humanity.

The degree of my awareness of this feeling and my response to it is the measure of my own humanity. The degree to which I allow the external and internal problems and pressures of life — and there are pressures: work, school, church, home life — to interfere with my response to you is the measure of my failure of you.

But if I, and your mother, and your grandparents, your relatives, and all of the people with whom you live in relationship are half-way able to be real persons to you, you will know all this. And you will know what I mean when I say, “Son, your daddy loves you!”

January 9, 1977

It’s almost hard to believe that it’s 1977. Somehow, I always thought things would be different by 1977, if we managed to make it that far! But here it is and here I am — I’ll be 31, thirty-one, this year, a settled family man by all appearances, yet not knowing what the coming year will bring.

I begin student teaching next week, should be certified after summer session, with 20 hours of graduate credit… had thought I’d teach her in Independence, get that master’s degree, but now I don’t know. Maybe I’ll try to get a job in a tribal school in Arizona, go to school there. We just kinda need to leave Missouri… lots of reasons.

John Nelson’s birthdays:

[In the journal I began in 1979, is this list of where JN lived for each of his first 13 birthdays. It is a pretty clear picture of how our lives were a bit nomadic for those years.]

1976 – born in Independence, Missouri.

1977 – Crownpoint, New Mexico (Eastern Navajo)

1978 – Jesup, Georgia

1979 – Jesup, Georgia

1980 – Koinonia Farms, Georgia (near Plains)

1981 – Eugene, Oregon (West Broadway St.)

1982 – Eugene, Oregon (West Broadway St.)

1983 – Eugene, Oregon (West Broadway St.) / Dad in Florence

1984 – Eugene, Oregon (West Broadway St.) / Dad in Florence

1985 – El Cajon, California

1986 – Ramona, California (spend 2nd half of 5th grade in Florence)

1987 – Ramona, California

1988 – Ramona, California

1989 – Jesup, Georgia (with Dad)

August 7, 1979

(In Winter Spring, Florida visiting Uncle Stewart.)

John-John got his second set of stitches today. Fell or something while we were in a health food store, split his forehead open, blood all over his face again, took ten years off my life and three stitches to close it up. It was all about two inches from the three stitches he got last summer.

After it was all over, I had to go into the restroom and cry. I still could cry just thinking about it. He doesn’t much like hospitals or doctors now for sure! But it didn’t even slow him down. Half an hour after the stitches, he was laughing, running, jumping — and kept it up all afternoon!

[The stitches last summer came after he ran into a metal band in a health food store in Machias, Maine on a summer trip there. Someone in the store took us to the local hospital, and I’ll never forget holding him along the way and realizing I could see his bone through the split in his skin. A very sweet doctor there wrapped him in a cloth and sewed it up and he was calm and not crying before the sewing was done.]

Lucy

September 14, 1985

Returned Wednesday from our trip to Ga./Fla…. was a good visit, but sure good to be home to Canary Road. Lucy was quite a hit with my family! We got to meet the four new additions to the family as well… all very cute kids!

Lucy was born here in Florence, July 29 of last year. Loves it here, as do we… life in these trees!

Will I remember… Lucy’s little squeals, imitating birds, her first symbol sounds for the animals in the book? …the murmur of her attempts to moo like the cow, quack like the duck, and saying “ffsh” — so lightly on the vowel sounds — for “fish”? I fear no construction my mind can reproduce will be so dear and wonderful as her beautiful presence. So precious to the heart of man are these growing signs of life’s light in the eyes and laughter of a child! Especially this child, this Lucy, this expression of love.

Will I remember? Will I remember the “sniff, sniff” for “flower,” and her blowing for “candle”? I’m sure Grandpa will remember her very Italian shoulder shrug with elbow in, palm inverted, eyebrow raised gesture as if to ask, “So, who knows!”

I don’t know if I’ll remember, but I know I’ll remember how much I love her…. One of life’s ironies is that children can never appreciate how much they are loved by their parents until they have children of their own. And then it’s sometimes hard to communicate that understanding… as I have tried to do with my mother. I often think of how much Lucy’s grandparents would love seeing her interest and absorption in the little tasks — like putting the little toy fish in the big green fish with a removable head…

November 8, 1985

And tonight she’s learning to drive her little car/trike around. Of course, her favorite word is “booby.” And she’s trying to play games with us. Kissing her finger after Mom clips her nails as if it hurt… Then smiling so slyly…

Lucy’s words — she knows and understands so many words now, at 15 1/2 months — hard to even list all of them. Words she says or tries to say are easier to list: penguin, hot, socks, uh-oh, bye-bye, boobies, mama, daddy, fish, more, hi-ya! — all these she’s been saying for some time now. Plus others that I forget… Last week, she said “water” and then “wow!” (with great gusto!) — and, of course, “mine.”

December 22, 1985

Lucy’s second Christmas is shaping up well — she says “Tris tree!” and is very excited, although she cried as if her heart would break when I cut it down in the woods!

February 16, 1986

My Sunday afternoons hanging out with Lucy are, for the most part, a very enjoyable time together. She has a hard time accepting that Mom is right there in the workshop but she can’t have her… Things are going pretty well, though, and we’re having fun. Today, we went up to the old cabin up the slope. Lucy climbed up the steps to the porch and said, “Round.” I couldn’t figure out what she was asking until she said, “Round, open!” Then I remembered suddenly that, last week, we went up on this porch, and when she wanted to go in the door, I had said, “I’ll go around and open the door for you.” She remembered, and that’s exactly what she wanted me to do again. She’s too much!

March 12, 1986

Another one of those events in Lucy’s progress as a child that needs to be recorded for future amazement! Tonight, she discovered how to really jump up from flat-footed! She was so pleased with herself that she kept doing it over and over, just reveling in that feeling of being able to get both feet off the ground at the same time under her own power!

She is quite a live-wire these days, running around the house and the yard, bumping and rolling and tumbling and laughing and having a ball. She is lots of fun to play with and so sweet-natured and happy most of the time. She can be a bit stubborn still and doesn’t want to be controlled. And a little mean streak, too! Her favorite book now is the Big Fire Engine Book, which she is very into. We’ve read it about four times tonight, but she keeps picking it up again and carrying it around. I guess it’s pushed Good Night Moon out of first place at last!

At times I feel that watching a child grow and change is life’s sweetest joy! Though always tinged with that little ache that is life.

June 20, 1986

Lucy can count to four! She asked for four cookies, so I said, “Hold out your hand!” and counted “one” as I put the first one in her hand. Then, as I put the second one in her hand, she said, “two.” Then as I gave her another, she said, “two, three…” and then “four” as I gave her the last one, obviously quite aware that she had what she had asked for…

She’s growing up

(This is the third installment in the series The children. See The children… intro for an introduction… These posts are all in the category The children…I think I will try alternating between journal entries on June and Marvin and entries on the others, keeping the June/Marvin entries chronological and the others more random, time wise. We’ll see how that goes!)

January 20, 2019

A busy season, not kept up here… writing with my new real fountain pen that Taylor gave me for Christmas! So smooth! So much to catch up on with Anna June’s life! She’s so close to walking and talking it’s scary… can stand w/only a little help balancing, and she takes little steps if you hold her hand. She’s also eating a little solid food, with predictable results for diaper changes… She’s a big girl now!

Her quirky personality continues to delight us and continues to add new little elements. She’s been a little sick with a cold and cough the last couple of weeks, so has a hard time sleeping. I’ve been doing a lot of walking and rocking, and she’s slept many hours on my chest or cuddled up to me. It’s so sweet!

She’s also quite a brave and rambunctious kid! At the moment, she has a big bruise on her cheek and a knot on her head from falling — usually because she tries to do too many things at once, like standing up and reaching down to pick something up. But she’s a very happy kid too! She loves to laugh and seems to know what’s funny! She laughs when I tease her and tickle her tummy, or when I snort and chase her across the floor, and she always laughs like she’s really proud of herself when she pulls up on a chair.

She’s a real explorer, too! She bears close watching, this one. Especially when she’s playing on her own, as she’s tried to go out the back door, and she loves to push any door back and forth. She knows how to push toys back and forth too, and slide or throw them across the floor! She is almost eight months old now, so I guess she’s gonna be developing even faster in the next few months. Taylor and I are enjoying her so much, trying to be aware of how quickly these precious early months go by, and not miss a moment. I’m home five days a week, mostly, other than a few meetings or games, so I’m involved, deeply, day-to-day, and loving it, loving them, my sweet, sweet family.

January 27, 2019

June has been a wild-baby-wild baby tonight! Crawling all over Granny’s house, carrying a little pink sock. Up and down the steps from den to living room and back over and over, laughing and playing with me, so sweet! She pulls up on everything and is sitting in her highchair eating bits of food and bread, which she loves. And she loves to drink water from a glass. She’s close to holding it herself, too.

Her little cooings and babbling and spitting sounds are so sweet that I hardly want her to start talking! But that will be sweet too! We all enjoy her so much! Marvin is doing better with her, though still some issues.

I’ve not yet done anything re: connecting with the kids… I guess I’m afraid. But Liana’s birthday is coming soon…!

January 30, 2019

June’s energetic little forays into the world around her are so delightful! Tonight, upstairs, she was crawling about with a little tin of sleep balm in her hand, making her little “aaargghh” sound, chewing on it, throwing it across the floor, then crawling after it and banging it and rubbing it vigorously on the floor. And intermittently looking at us, smiling with delight over her new toy! She does love to go on stroller rides around the pond and watch the chickens peck about. She loves to be outside, even just to look out the window. It usually calms her if she’s upset or crying just to look out at the chickens or whatever might be in view. She gets excited whenever the back door is opened and loves crawling around in the grass.


Still trying to figure out what to say to Liana. I don’t understand why she won’t communicate with me, so it’s hard to know how to break through. I need to start with saying how important she is to me, and how I love her and miss her so much and want to be connected… or do I need to apologize abjectly for my stupid failure to confide in her from the beginning? My fear and weakness in not just being open about it all… I guess some combination of these two approaches… I think I don’t need to say too much, which is my tendency, but I definitely need to say something.

April 7, 2019

April already and things are much the same. I discussed it all with Therese last week, and she suggested I keep trying, meditate on what to say and how to say it…

June continues to be a darling child, 10 months old in a couple of days. She loves to walk around holding my hands. She just laughs and crows when she walks. We went to the park, and she walked, with help, all over, crawled a very long crawl across the lawn. She’s almost saying words at times and loves playing with Marvin. He’s gradually learning to share, thought it’s hard. Most things are better with Marvin, though some things are worse. His defiance is really hard for me to deal with. Bedtimes and mornings are a lot better usually – though sometimes mornings are hard.

I never hear from anyone, but I guess I rarely call anyone… I guess we’re all drifting into separate lives…

May 2, 2019

Anna June is totally walking! Not yet 11 months old, she can go all over, change directions, almost go up the step. She took the first few tentative steps from chair to couch at least two weeks ago, and walked from Granny’s chair to the kitchen counter, almost 10 steps, about five days ago. She’s been getting braver every day, and yesterday walked all the way across the big room. She is so proud of herself and so cute when she walks, with her wide stance and determined attitude!

She plays with Marvin like a big kid, and they have so much fun. He’s gradually learning how to be careful of her, though he still wants to grab her and has hurt her a few times. He’s doing much better at bedtime now, going to sleep on his own after a few books. And better, usually, in the mornings. He had a great fourth birthday — four kids to play with plus Uncle Stewart! (Whom he loves and who has the same birthday!) And Kay & Jaap, plus Taylor’s friends from Cherokee, Kiwi and Sarah, who brought her six-year old daughter.

Anna June continues to be such a sweet girl, hugging us and saying HI!, waving, saying Da-da and Mommie and Nanny — we think! She seems to understand so much of what we say that we think she’ll be talking soon. Well, she is talking, just not in words that we know! And she loves to sing!

Also clearly loves music! Any time I play my guitar, she immediately zooms over and wants to play and dance! She notices music on TV and dances to it, too.

She loves drinking water or tea and can hold the glass by herself to drink. Sometimes she spills, but she is really good at holding a glass and drinking. She also loves to go outside. She asks to go out, pointing and making sounds, and loves to play in the grass. She also loves to chase the chickens and push the gate back and forth. And eat dirt.

One of the cutest things about her is the variety of little expressions she makes. Hard to describe, but she’s been doing this little quick eyebrow raise for a long time, since very early on… plus she nods and shakes her head and makes animated expressions that are so endearing. She just came over to me and climbed up into my lap and read my little red notebook, tried to put on my glasses, looked for the pen, and smacked her lips when she found my empty cup. And was just generally charming!

She continues to find sleeping on top of me or in my lap her favorite nap-time place. But I haven’t had to walk her at night for several months now. She also plays well alone. She loves to put things into containers and then take them out again. She loves to play with Marvin’s trains, cars, trucks, etc. She tries to put the train cars together like she sees Marvin doing… So many things she does in imitation of what she sees us all doing that it’s hard to describe — or remember!

Stewart was here for the party, and I talked to John and Orion on O’s birthday, but otherwise have had no communication with anyone. Will try again to talk to Lucy and some of my siblings — and still trying to find a way back in with Liana. She is, according to her IG, starting up her herbal consulting practice. Hope to talk to her about it, as I’ve been making lots of tea, tinctures, infusions and salves for the past two years. Maybe she’ll talk to me about that…

May 16, 2019

Almost a full moon…. Life goes on. I was resentful of the lack of response to my comments on Li’s post about the consulting practice. I needed to confess that. Trying to understand. Therese suggested I work on a letter, even though it may never be delivered. Working on beginning that here. Maybe and un-ID’d blog post or something…

On the Anna June front, things are great! She is so energetic and loves to play and walks so well now! She walked all the way around the garden today! A long way! Curious and investigating everything! And so sweet and charming to everyone. She does love to eat, though she has no teeth yet.

June 8, 2019

Anna June is ONE tomorrow! She’s eating blueberries by the dozen tonight, just loves them! Taylor’s friend Irina just brought them to us, so we’re all enjoying them. Stewart, Jaap and Kay are to come here for the birthday party tomorrow, so we should mark the day well! Taylor’s making another amazing cake, a vanilla-sprinkles cake, and lasagne like we had when we brought her home. We looked for buttonbush flowers and mallow today, like the ones we found on the way to the birthing center, but no luck. Maybe later.

Am working on writing something to Liana. And thinking about doing a blog for the kids… a way to make it current. Maybe start with selected bits from this journal.

June 9, 2019

Anna June’s birthday! She’s a happy girl! Slept thru the night last night! She’s a beautiful and very special child. She’s been walking for more than a month now, can almost go up and down the steps without sitting down, and she can crawl all the way to the top of the stairs – which gives me no end of worry! She can also drink from a glass and eat with a fork — which she loves to do! Her manual dexterity is unparalleled She also has excellent balance and strength and can walk backwards! She seems to understand a lot of what we say and communicates her wants very well. She points and vocalizes with clear intent. And she does have very definite wants!

But she’s usually happy and lots of fun playing with Marvin. She knows just how to play with cars and trucks and trains and all his toys, complete with the sound effects. She can put the Duplo blocks together and tries to hook the train cars and tracks together.

I so so wish my two families could be one! I think John and Manna and kids would love these two, and Lucy and Li would be a good relationship for June and Marvin to have, and ultimately would be a positive thing for all of them. I don’t know how to make that happen, but I keep hoping for a way, at least an opening in the wall. I guess it will take time. It’s been two years now since things were pretty much over, and the kids began to be aware of that, but I guess that’s not long enough for them to adjust.