The Knowledge of Good

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Whether you think it’s allegory or history, you’ve heard the one about Adam and Eve eating that apple from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.

For years, I’ve felt like the bulk of the knowledge I gained has been that of the evil humanity commits against itself and against its only known livable habitat. We turn a blind eye to bad behavior by trusted people. We cluck our tongues at the latest mass shooting and then wrap ourselves in our cocoons until the next horror appears in our social media feeds. 

And I’ve been guilty. 

I’m guilty because I let fear of that evil, for me spawned in the aftermath of a crime, keep me mummified. I work at home because I’ve been afraid of the world. I’ve tried to keep my kids safe on a mountain, hidden from the world and life.

That fear has been shrinking over the last few years.  As I’ve rediscovered my art, I’ve rediscovered the better things about humanity. I’ve seen my son stand up for someone who couldn’t stand up for themselves. I’ve seen people expend enormous energy raising money to help people they barely know.

And last summer I had a chance to pay it forward a little.  

I was raising money to buy art supplies for children who were refugees or in foster care. Then a friend who had helped spread the word to raise money for kits for almost 100 children asked if I would lead a drawing workshop for the children.  I said yes immediately, even though the only thing I’d ever taught anyone to do is wash their hands after using the potty.

The afternoon started with 15 boys assuring me they couldn’t draw. I know everyone can draw so I started them on a free drawing exercise I had learned.  

It took less than 30 minutes for the boys to kill their inner critics and start experimenting.  

As they began drawing from their hearts, we saw abstract trees, scenes of and an occasional portrait emerge.  We saw art doing exactly what it was supposed to do – open the door to healing.

That workshop was a gift.

I got home and started investigating paths to becoming a teacher, something I’d just been considering for the last year or so.  

I neglected the blog through the months of researching certification options and reconfiguring my schedule. The drawing just about stopped.

The education, however, was just beginning.

My own history with mental illness, as well as the experiences of friends who were sometimes at the margins of school society, made special education seem like a good place to make a difference. I got a second experience-building job at an elementary school, and, as I felt like I was starting to be a small part of a small solution, my knowledge of good started to grow.

I’m breathing a little life support into my blog this afternoon, but the reality is that as I watch kids learning to accept others who are not like them and have the chance to give support to kids who might be having a hard time with the business of growing up, my creativity is thriving. 

All creativity isn’t an expression of hope, and that’s okay.  It’s an expression of how someone feels. But I knew that, for me, constantly feeling afraid of the world was stagnating. 

Acquainting myself with a bit more of the Knowledge of Good has prompted ideas for future children’s books. It makes life more colorful.  It forces me to engage with the world.  And when I stop for a moment to breathe, it makes me aware of how blessedly creative – and hopeful – engagement can be.

 

That Mom just isn’t Right


At the beginning of the summer thing one and I traded spaces. He wanted privacy in the attic office/guest room (translation: at least one story between him and T2),  I wanted a workspace with a window downstairs,  and T2 wanted me close enough closer to him.  

So, for the second time this year, I relocated my desk and printer to a new home. The first time I moved them out of a tiny windowless room with a small skylight whose main selling feature was a two walls  of books.  now I know somethings not right in my head, because it took less than two months before I decided I’d rather be surrounded by the books and paintings then look out the window.

Now I know somethings not right in my head, because it took less than two months before I decided I’d rather be surrounded by the books and paintings then look out the window.

And as John Lennon might’ve said if he had been a nerdy hermit, you might say I’m a bit goofy, but I can’t believe I’m the only one. I hope someday you’ll join me (in your own little cave, of course) and the world will unwind with a few books or even just one.

Decisions, Decisions 


Like most families in the US with a high school senior in the house, we’ve acquired an impressive stack of college brochures over the last few months since Thing1 took his SAT’s.  
T1 is very methodical in his evaluations of potential schools, but when we opened a flyer from the University of Chicago, Thing2 introduced a foolproof criterium for putting a school in the ‘must apply’ pile.
As it happens, the library at U Chicago looks strikingly like the dining hall at Hogwarts when photographed in bad light.  
Recognizing that life is full of difficult decisions, Thing1 is still reading the fine print and trying to figure out if it goes on the ‘more research’ pile. Thing2 is trying to decide if he wants the school put him in Slitherin or Gryffindor.  

Process and Procedure


“Dweezil’s Big To-Do” is the working title of a kids book that started as a way to learn the procedure of storyboarding and laying out a children’s book.  As it happened, it was also a way to document the processes by which Thing2 manages to avoid ever truly cleaning his room.   

I’m planning on offering signed copies of the book using grey ink to match my hair.

Rules to be Broken


One of the great things about DIY publishing is that you get to break rules when you feel like they need to be broken.

One of the rules in traditional publishing it’s the children’s picture books should be 32 pages. There are a few exceptions, but not many. The irony is that those exceptions often tend to be exceptional.

As I’m perusing books pilfered from Thing2’s bookshelf, some of the most dogeared titles — The Giving Tree, Where The Wild Things Are — break rules with regard to page length. 

As I dig deeper, I also notice that the books that still stand out for us are those that may not have perfect “story book” endings but are somehow still satisfying. They may hint at a darker side of life but enlighten their readers. 

They do something truly exceptional. They trust children.

As I’m whittling words and laying out spreads, I’m keeping in mind that there is at least one rule I don’t want to break – and that’s to trust kids.

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