Freedom to Choose

As a parent, I do my best to allow my child their own freedom to choose and trust that a child is capable of making the best choices. But also as a person I must make my own choices. And whether I intend it or not, I will serve as a model for my child. Even if I free myself from making choices that control their lives, I am still making choices about our lives.

I might strive to fill my world (our world) with the richest options possible. I might stack the shelves with delicious fresh healthy food. I might line the walls with beautiful paintings, fill the air with joyful songs, and the kitchen with wonderful smells. I might choose to surround myself with other grounded, beautiful and caring people, each a window onto intriguing, lovely and enchanting worlds of their own. I might spend my own time grounded in each step, looking into eyes as a I speak, taking time to care for myself, the people and things around me. As the children grow older, others will vie to place options in their way. While I am in this place of power, what wonderful things can I bring to surround us?

My friend’s life graces me regularly. Her room is full of plants. A meal comes with a napkin, each piece of food colorful served beautifully on handmade plates. Chalk drawings and love notes in the hallway. Photo collages and paintings from her heart. A scarf in her hair and shoes that match, on her way to the park to play in the sun. It is a life created, a life full of little choices she has made. Her son plays joyfully in the middle of it all.


Chef Julian

Chef Julian

Chef Julian

A few weeks ago, my son, Julian was written up in the Oregonian for a cooking show that he created. At first I was able to keep up with the comments on the site, and various other blogs that linked to it, but when it was posted on AOL and Yahoo’s homepages it became difficult to digest and respond because of the sheer quantity. Through this opportunity to interface with others who I might never have had the chance the experience has clarified a few things for me.

Yesterday we read through Julian’s emails with a map in hand to see where they were coming from. (There were 107 in the inbox when we checked yesterday. Hah! He always complained before “Mama, how come I never get any email?”) Many young people, many parents with children, and a few older people as well who said that watching Julian’s show inspired them to go out and make their own cooking show, or to take on some other task that has been of interest to them. These emails delighted me because I felt there were others out there who truly heard and understood Julian‘s intent and who shared an understanding of what this was all about.

As to why he made a cooking show, Julian expressed his intent to me, and to the reporter very clearly, “I wanted to have fun.” Those who think he did it  to entertain the public, to create fame or fortune, to please others, to put out a quality cooking show on a national network, or to garner coos of affection will be sorely disappointed.

Others referred to him as “cute”, “a genius” or a “prodigy” or expressed disappointment that he didn’t meet those standards. They seemed to think that the real draw to this video was that Julian is a small, young person doing something that is somehow incongruous to his age. Or that he was somehow exceptional, or claiming to be.

In fact, Julian was doing what all of us have the power to do: decide something is interesting and try it out. This is not an exceptional skill. Everyone can do this.  I am equally inspired by Julian’s choice to wear red pants, or to stay up till 11 p.m. as by the cooking show (though the latter was a bit more work for me).

There were many others who were very concerned for his safety (using kitchen tools, hot stove, standing on a chair, etc.) or his lack of a formal education. I too share a concern for health and safety, and I respect the hard work it takes in many cases to collect a degree, certificate or title. Of greater importance to me, however, is the protection of the innate sense that we all have to seek out what we need, and to protect ourselves from danger. In a real crisis situation, regardless of how many safety features we have installed, or how many degrees we hold it is our presence of mind and connection with ourselves and others that keeps us safe.

For those of you left disappointed, who came looking for something that you didn’t find, perhaps there is still something that you can use: that we are all beings with great potential, empowered to make our own decisions and write our own stories. Go make something in your kitchen. Or go make your own tv show. Don’t worry if you make a mess or if it doesn’t taste good. Clean it up and try again. Or at very least, if something is boring and wastes your time, go find something more meaningful.

PS. For those who are curious,  TVP stands for textured vegetable protien. It is available at Bob’s Red Mill.

Recipality allows for authenticity

To be true to my commitment to being authentic and honest, its time I come clean that this blog business grows uncomfortable from time to time. Up until now I have only included reasons why I wanted to do this, or what I hope may come from it, which is part of what recipality itself hedges at. However for every reason and word seed I’ve put in here, there are other feelings of self doubt, suspicion of my own motives, fear that no one will visit the blog, fear that a lot of people will visit and see the transparency of my shortcomings in my writing, ego and old baggage, perfectionism, insecurity that this is not rewarding me with dollars, prizes or food pellets, or that I am not setting clear and specific goals, embarrassment that I am out here writing what has already been written and figured out by every Joe with a myspace page, and did I mention, if I really wanted to connect with someone why don’t I just get off the computer and do so?   Hey, did you see? Someone left a comment! Thanks Susan.


Getting closer, here is a definition of karma taken from the 2003 novel Buddha Boy:

Karma means that what you do today, and why you do it, makes you who you are forever: as if you were clay, and every thought and action left a mark in that clay…

Language and money

Since I left my full time job a year ago I instantly turned my attention to money. Will we have enough? Where will it come from? How much is enough?

I took classes on playing the stock market and business skills, wrote a business plan and read a plethora of personal wealth books. I was surprised to learn that, for the most part, it is really a quite straightforward process to becoming a multimillionaire – the greatest obstacle for many is the commitment.  As one author put it, to be rich, you really have to want it. Perhaps a bit naive and oversimplified, coming from a wealthy author’s point of view, but put it that way, I had to ask, well, what do I really want?

 I noticed several things while examining my economic position:

  • I shopped for relaxation and escape (I’m not a big shopper here, but I even derive pleasure from going out to buy a loaf of bread)
  • My outings were legitimized by commercial transactions. (“Lets meet for coffee. How about lunch?” rather than “Lets go for a walk.”)
  • Giving and receiving seemed always to be colored by some invisible reciprocal equation. (“She watched the kids for two hours, I should bake her a cake” “Of course we should bring something, they brought us flowers last time they came over.”)
  • My choice to give was often motivated by what I might receive in return. (“We should give some tomatoes to that neighbor since we might need to ask him to watch our place when we are on vacation.”)
  • I had an overreaching tendency to calculate, quantify and categorize, to place value on actions, objects and relationships. Everything– used clothing, time, talents, information—became a commodity, something that attained a certain value and could be exchanged for something else. (In social interactions I often felt inferior unless I had to have something to offer, be it a joke, a book recommendation or new restaurant tip)
  • My day-to-day behaviors were often determined by either the hope for some reward or the avoidance of some punishment. (“If I can just finish cleaning the kitchen we can go out to dinner.” “I’d better call her or she’ll give me a hard time.”)
  • My personal worth, as judged by myself, and others, was clouded by my economic status. (“Oh, you don’t have to take the bus! I’ll drive you.” “I’m the only one here who’s not wearing nice clothes!”)

Being raised in a neat, tidy capitalist, catholic and hierarchical structure with clear exact markings for what is wealthy or poor (in terms of money, possessions, titles and degrees) was interfering horribly with my ability to genuinely be me. I was being stifled by a system. I couldn’t stand up for myself in a meeting with a supervisor, or express my opinion at a dinner table of executives, or think that (heaven forbid) maybe I didn’t really want to be wealthy in that way. 

As Napoleon Chagnon divulged to Steven Pinker, the Yanomamo of the Amazon, who only have a few number words (one, two, many), “don’t need exact numbers because they keep track of things as individuals, one by one. A hunter, for example, recognizes each of his arrows, and thereby knows whether one is missing without having to count them. It’s the same habit of mind that would make most of us pause if someone asked us how many first cousins we have…”   I wonder what do I really need to quantify exactly? What would my world be like if I didn’t count, calculate and balance to the extent that I do? What do you think?

Search for words- help wanted

Part of my motivation in creating this blog is to look for some answers I’ve been seeking for quite some time. Specifically there are a couple of words, perhaps concepts that I can’t quite place my finger on. I’ve been chipping away at them through books, informal conversations, personal projects, art and even formal studies, but I still can’t juggle them with ease, and really don’t know of many others who can toss them back and forth with me.  Here are some temporary monikers for the two concepts, till we can find our way to something better.

  1. Connection
  2. Recipality

Most likely someone somewhere has come up with and plays with these concepts on a regular basis. Where are you and what do you call it?