Pasupatidasi's Blog

thoughts, poetry, life as it is…


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learning twice

i heard a saying once that goes something like “to teach something is to learn it twice”.
that is most certainly true in my experience.

altho i’m not a certified teacher, i have homeschooled three daughters, one of whom is ziona. i have volunteered for Project Literacy U.S, tutored in college while i was pursuing my own education, helped adults seeking their G.E.D and participated in some of my older daughter’s classrooms as the poetry parent, for lack of a better title.

it is exciting for me to learn how another person learns! and it just so happens that it is a good way to be effective as a teacher. much like neuro-linguistics, finding out how someone learns makes it easier to know how to present materials to them. so it is that one truly learns twice that which they would teach. even the most reticent of students can have their curiosity piqued in something if it is presented to them by making it understandable from their own bent of mind, or areas of interest.

but some, like ziona, have naturally questioning minds. the things she asks, born of her own curiosity upon being introduced to a concept remind me of my own childhood school experience, wherein i drove many a nun to the brink of anger with my inquiries

“if god made everything, what did he make it out of?”
“what was there before god made everything?”
“who made god?”

anyone who has a scientific mindset who has been schooled in a catholic or other religious school well knows that such questions are not answered, and one is immediately made aware that asking the questions is totally inappropriate,…even sinful maybe!

ziona asks very interesting questions.

when we were first studying cells, she wanted to know where and how that very first cell happened. when we were delving into astronomy she was curious about what there was before the big bang, and from what or where did all that energy which later was to become stars, planets and moons, the stuff that was spewed and exploded by this big bang to the point of creating space,time and all the dimensions, originate.

so i faithfully dig into my own knowledge, and search out other good sources online, sometimes documentaries on youtube, learning what i already know all over again, so that i can satisfy that thirst in her for answers. she has a much easier time of posing questions than had i in my elementary school experience, needless to say.

a couple of days ago, after her bath, she had another really interesting question, one it may not be possible for me or anyone else for that matter, to answer.

she asked if it were possible that “since i got the boy parts even tho i am a girl, maybe another transgender kid got the girl parts i should have gotten, even tho they are a boy”

at first, being hopelessly cis-gendered, i didn’t get what she meant. then it hit me! we had been talking about the fact of the conservation of matter, a lesson that began her thinking about the whole big bang thing since it means that all the matter and energy present today have always been around, only changing forms, never just blinking out or into existance. she likened this to the notion that if there are x number of boys who should’ve gotten female bodies, perhaps there are also x number of girls that should’ve gotten male bodies. like her real body was out there somewhere, as much a problem for the would be boy that was stuck in it as is the boy body she is stuck with for the time being.

i couldn’t answer the question of course. i told her that for a completely balanced ‘mix up’ like that to be true one would expect to find just as many trans-males as trans-females…and to my knowledge the numbers don’t bear this out. upon hearing this she immediately offered,

“well maybe some of the people who are transgender don’t know it yet. you know, like some of your friends who didn’t know it until they were grown-ups.”

so now i will be absolutely bothered until i do a lot of online research, to see just what the ratio is of transgender females to transgender males. not learning something twice this time, but learning something new! not an uncommon thing for me since the day i started raising this very special child.

because of ziona, i have learned about autism, about balanced trans-location of genetic material from one chromosome to another, about seizures, about juvenile polyposis syndrome, and about transgender children, just to name a few of the things i have become aware of because of her. all these things in addition to the many things she’s taught me about love, patience, compassion, and even such as video games and dinosaurs.

i love being her teacher/student!


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Arrrrrrrrgh!

gentle reader…as you have no doubt deduced from the title of this post, what follows isn’t gonna be some sweet susie sunshine, isn’t life wonderful, type of post.

quite the contrary! it will be a genuine, good-for-nothing, get it out of the system rant.
one to which only other parents homeschooling a neuro-diverse autistic, good-temper-tantrum-throwing, stubborn nine year old can possibly relate.

it started at about 9:30 a.m.
our usual time to begin lessons for the day.

i know it is an hour later than most public schools get going,
(and as i point out to ziona, the kids are generally waiting for and riding a bus for at least one hour before that)
but that is the time we shoot for so that she can unwind the night, its dreams and such, eat breakfast and then, after many threats from me that unless she get over to the lesson area and start she’s gonna be wasting her ‘after-school’ game time she usually condescends with only a few grunts and grumbles, and sits down to her work.

usually…

not today!
today she decided to be most uncooperative! way more than the normal slow-walked foot-dragging that i’ve come to expect.
no, this was different. today she seemed to prefer to fight
(and i’m talkin’ a literal fight here, not just some argumentative resistance to the inevitable, she hits, swears, tears up her worksheets, punches holes in the lessons with her no. 2 pencil.)

to put this into some sort of context, we started at about 9:30 a.m., as i said before, and it is now about 6:30 p.m. and she has only just finished the seven worksheets, which only are one-sided, and consist in fill-in-the-correct-circle types of questions, except for the math which was the final worksheet, and for that there was a graph to plot.

that is 9 hours to do 7 worksheets!
doing a quick estimate with my mommy math brain, that is less! yes less than one side of one worksheet per hour, roughly.

but, and this is a big one, but it isn’t just that she dawdled, lost focus and was generally more uncooperative than a well-fed mule. oh no! she screamed, called me names, laid down on the bench and refused even to pick up her pencil for most of these 9 hours! she attacked my hand when i tried to put her pencil back on the table, from the floor where she had thrown it. stabbed me with it! not that hard, i mean she didn’t break the skin or anything.

my mom happened to call me sometime in the middle of all this and heard the ruckus. as usual she told me that she is certain she’d have killed a kid that did such things…long ago.

she wouldn’t of course…she’s a very nice woman, and even with 7 of us little demanding and unruly kids running around the house, she managed always to keep her cool. altho, every one of us remembers, and not too fondly, the “board of education”, hanging above the kitchen door…hanging there, until its use on our backside for whatever infraction we committed knowing that this was the likely consequence.

my one big threat, when she flat out refuses to do her lessons is to tell her that if i am not able to teach her at home, that i have to send her to public school. (even tho i’d no more do that than leave her on the steps of a catholic church in a basket, with a note attached) i tell her that the law requires of me as her parent to see to it that she gets an education. i tell her that furthermore, that if i don’t provide her this, the ‘state’ could take steps to ensure that she gets one.

ominous!
and yes, i use ‘the state’ as a bogeyman and even tell scary stories about how they have taken children from their parents and put them in ‘group homes’ then made sure to send them to ‘public schools’ (and yes, i use ‘public school’ as a bogeyman too. because in my experience these ‘lord of the flies’, bully-filled brainwashing factories are probably worse punishment than i could ever bestow on a kid, no matter what the offense.)

ah, well..
this isn’t my first rodeo, as they say.
i homeschooled my now 27 yr old daughter all the way through to graduation…and she was no picnic either, even without an autism diagnosis and the other hindrances ziona has going on.

we will survive.
after finishing her worksheets she had to read some more of a book we’ve been trying to get done for the necessary book report. and then, she will be going off to bed.

on her way to her room, she asked me if she had spoiled her chances to play video games tomorrow.
i smile at her and told her…

no, tomorrow is a brand new day!

shit! i need a vacation!


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by heart

i love homeschooling my kids. especially this late life child, ziona!
our sociology lesson for yesterday was the movie “samsara” (just click on create streaming link, type in code it gives) or here it is from youtube

this beautiful and moving film shows life as it is. the good, the bad and the ugly of it all. the sameness and differentness of the people of our world. the daunting majesty of nature juxtaposed with the works of man.

watching this, with the only narration being me answering any questions ziona had about certain places or things depicted, took slight over an hour and a half. it was the discussion afterward that proved the effectiveness of this film.

public schools aren’t able to pursue this sort of methodology in teaching. aren’t able to or just don’t try to…not sure which is a truer statement of the facts. but the practice of education as a mere ‘pouring in’ of information into containers overlooks the reality that young minds aren’t empty cups. they are mini-processors already involved in decoding and encoding much of the experience taken in through their senses, information cued by their surroundings, by their observations, or inspired by what they see, hear or to which they are exposed.

sociology can’t be a mere exercise in rote memorisation of the main export of this or that country, its population, or the major languages spoken there. it is, after all, the study of society, and the social constructs that pervade it. any attempt to understand the subject of social arrangements that concerns itself mainly with the gross national product or the governmental and religious systems of a place will omit the most important things: the actual people that comprise the population. sociology fails miserably if it overlooks the historical and cultural backdrop behind the facts.

the beauty of ziona’s mini-processor upon having taken in this film (which by the way, everyone should see) was on full display as she led the remainder of the lesson by stating her observations and asking the questions pertinent to her own understanding of what she had seen.

ziona’s autism hasn’t given her savant-like powers to memorise facts and numbers. to date, spelling and multiplication tables still give her the most trouble, altho she reads at a grade level 2 or 3 years above her own, and is beginning to learn algebraic mathematics. but like every other child, she has an innate curiousity and propensity for arranging information and thoughts in her mind. lessons that take into account the beauty and complexity of ways a child learns don’t rely on force-feeding.

yesterdays lesson was a glaring success. no, ziona didn’t learn what language is spoken today in brazil, or what religion is most practiced in the world. what she learned can’t really be summed up in words, can’t be assessed in an ordinary test…she learned to see the world with new eyes! she grew aware of the realities that other people on this planet experience. she began to take note of the samenesses shared and differences between the inhabitants of her world.

this is something not easy to impart with text books, charts and graphs. it is truly a lesson she’s learned ‘by heart’.


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happy new year!

so, here we stand on the precipice of another year. or at least that is how one is supposed to look at it. but time isn’t like this for me. it moves in neither line nor a circle, (which is really just a line joined end to end to itself). i’m synesthetic with regard to time. for me it is something more akin to prioperception, a sense of my self in relation to space. and yes, time is space in terms of physics too.

so for me time is more like a spiral of space, a mobius spiral binder holding together all the pages of life that pertain to this ‘me’. at any given place along the spiral, memories tethered by that particular place, open like a side room leading through the corresponding experiences. so the mobius spiral is also like a staircase within a mansion of many rooms. time is a continuity of places my self has traveled here in life… at death, i imagine that the mobius loop of spiral space is unaffected, but a different self will begin riding its curves and waves.

at 58 years old, well over half of this ‘time’ has been governed by parenthood. my days revolve around caring and providing for these awesome creatures. ensuring their physical growth and well-being through acts of love such as cooking good food, and encouraging activity. seeing to their mental growth by providing materials in many different mediums that touch them to a broad spectrum of things to learn. and most of all, helping them to develop as the persons they are, by allowing their lotus being to unfold, unhindered and protected.

each of these awesome creatures has in reality taught me much more than i them. everything i’ve been required to teach them, for example, has of a need required me to learn how to best do this. children help to expand us from within, stretching us and molding us as they once did while inhabitants of the womb. in a way, as a mother, one is ever a womb. always growing to accomodate the child’s needs… always changing in order to provide what is needed, when it is needed.

for 33 years, the mobius spiral has moved me along through this mansion, with one fact of life determining everything else: the care of a child.

i can’t imagine life without this potent inspiration. and i may not have to. because ziona is autistic, and tho considerably high-functioning, i likely will be providing care for her well beyond the usual 18 years that a child tolerates a parent. her particular idiosyncrasies may make living on her own difficult at best. still, a mother bird must somehow fledge her young, preparing them for flight.

for now, it is all about homeschool lessons (against which she battles me), tickle-fights, and tackle-hugs…and bumping our rear-ends together for a ‘butt-kiss’ at bedtime. and altho aware of the places that this mobius spiral will carry us both someday, it is bliss to dwell in the moment, and even more so when spending one’s days with a child. it is this place called ‘now’ that continuously unfurls the future. therefore, every ‘now’ well-lived leads unto a thousand well-lived tomorrows.

so happy new year! to everyone…no matter how you experience time, may your going forth be pleasant and fruitful. and above all, whatsoever your life requires of you, remember this: each moment experienced for itself alone is time well spent.


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and now for something completely different…

or is it?

came across this story today, in of all places, the morning yahoo offerings online. and while at first blush it seems more sensationalist than informative, it is just another link in a chain of stories about transgender people that recently have broken in the square mainstream media.

i for one think that la leche league needs to alter their policies in light of 21st century gender politics and the reality of people, like the subject of this story…

what say you?


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blazing a trail

tomorrow is mother’s day!

somehow, magickally, i find myself still in that honorable role.
it has been a 32 year running engagement. three lives, three girls
with whom life has entrusted me…for a time.

tomorrow we will go over to my mother’s house. one of my sisters, two brothers, my daughter and i. we’ll share family stories no doubt as is common for us to do when gathered. we’ll laugh, joke, and whatever pain we may still carry with us from our childhoods, from our children, will be forgotten for the time, in lieu of celebrating that most hallowed of relationships –

as i write this many things are on my mind.
the 3000 mile journey upon which my daughter and i will embark cross country to our other home; the things we will get to share along the way. and the thunder overhead tonight as i ponder the wonder of life.

sitting out on my front stoop, watching the skies grow nearly black long before the sun has set, feeling the wind rise violently to thrash the boughs of trees and drive the rain at odd angles, no sense of doom fills my thoughts. storms for me are always omens of good.

journeys and storms don’t scare me, they don’t give me pause, or imbue me with anxiety. instead they remind me of life, which is the great journey, fraught with many storms. some people have preferred their journeys to be along well-travelled highways, with guidebooks available to preview the way. some prefer not to get purposely lost, or frequent the roadside attractions. and while no one i know is anxious for death, the journey’s logical end (or is it?) many seem to have forgotten or lost the sense of adventure.

life is a grand adventure! no matter how predictable a day might seem, there is always something surreal in each one for me. i have been clinically dead twice, and revived, put on life support then survived the experience, only to pick up my rucksack and sally forth anew.

maybe it is this spirit of adventure that let the universal weaver know that my tapestry could include such things as my various children would require of me. especially true of my threads being woven into designs that allow me to be ziona’s mom.

she is special in every way and has taught me so many things. even without the fact of her being transgender, her autism has given me new eyes, a different aperature through which to perceive the world. she has opened me like a book and written my own story in words i could not have imagined.

together each mother, each caring parent, alongside their child is given the rare opportunity to blaze a trail. to go where no one else has gone! no matter how mundane the world and all its days might seem, no one moment or situation is ever the ‘same’ as another. as it is said, “you can’t step in the same river twice”

so here i am, a mother still, feeling all the newness of life despite the apparent sameness.

in two days, like every year ziona and i along with our small dogs (i call them accessory dogs)will again drive cross-country between the panhandle of florida, to the mountains of northern california. we never take the same way twice.

it’s just like life!


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parental bliss

today is a special day.
it is my daughter’s ninth birthday!
as per an old family tradition, the birthday girl gets to choose the meal (or where to eat), she chose ‘red lobster’.
the girl’s got taste!

my mom came with us. and before we left together to the restaurant, she produced a wrapped gift for ziona, compleat with a card in an envelope. inside the box was a ‘girl’ outfit. something my mom has grown to feel comfortable about is buying girl things for zee.

but zee couldn’t get over the name on the outside of the envelope. remarking excitedly “she even got my name right!” it was more important than the gift. it was validation, it was recognition of who she is.

of course, being autistic, she missed that she could’ve thanked my mom outright instead of referring to her in third person, for not just the gift but for the whole name thing, so i reminded her gently to do so. then made sure my mom understood just how important, how big of a deal it was to have the name on the envelop right. zee hadn’t even bothered to read the card inside, until prompted. once again her eyes brightened with anticipation as she openend it.

it reminded me of a scene in the movie “splash” where tom hanks’ character presents darryl hannah’s character with a wrapped gift. being a mermaid, she isn’t familiar with a ‘present’ and gushes about the beautiful ‘box’ she holds in her hands, until he tells her to open it. and she, genuinely surprised says, “there’s more?”

so zee opened the envelop to find a gamestop giftcard inside. she was unfamiliar with what a gift card is. i had to explain to her that it is like money that she can spend on things at that store. she was thrilled all over again.

i love being a mom!

is there anything quite as heart-warming as the genuine innocence of a child’s heart? it is like peering into the mind of an angel, seeing the world through the clarity of their pure eyes!

of course, there are moments of our life together that get pretty messy. the tantrums mostly…the ocd of her anger at feeling dirty and the constant insistence upon hand-washing. the low threshhold she has for the slightest frustration. but even in those very volatile instances, she is nothing less than completely honest about what she is feeling.

the other day she asked me if i wished she were really a boy, (ironic since her body says she is) and if i wished she didn’t have autism. i quite nearly cried at the beauty of her inquiry. she simply needed to know. despite the many times a day i tell her how dear she is to me. she had to know that i not only accept her, but wouldn’t have her any other way.

of course, i reassured her that i would love her no matter what, but sensing her need i added the “but i love you the way you are, and wouldn’t change a thing”.

she smiled, then looked worried, “but what about when i get my body changed?” referring i guessed to the ‘wouldn’t change a thing” remark.

i reminded her that we are all constantly changing. new cells replacing old ones, getting taller, hair getting longer…getting older. then asked her “do you think that there’s anything you could do or say, or become, that would make me not love you?”

a big hug was the reward!
i melted into her love.