This Week: An Ending

“It’s more of a negotiation now,” says Chuck to Timo, on the far side of the makerspace. It’s project time; they’re building longbows, which are clamped to the tables in front of the window, waiting for a cut by the circular saw.

On this side of the room, Siena is painting a flower and Saylor, next to her, is painting a waterfall. Lili is repairing her checkerboard sweatshirt with green thread. I’m here, writing. There is New-Orleans-style jazz playing quietly. The afternoon sun is shining, there’s a wind rustling the leaves of the sapling across the street. A fan is on, whirring quietly. The air is light and warm. We all give our consent for the longbow-builders to use the circular saw. The sound rips the room; roars and then suddenly ceases. Now Lili is pretending to be hard of hearing. We all laugh at her joke. I feel content and present.

The new moon is tomorrow; our last day in the space is tomorrow. So much has happened this year. The kids are growing and I am growing too. My relationship with time has shifted. I am learning to hold all my selves – past, present, and future – in love. I am learning to take up the right amount of space. I am learning what it means to live as an artist, as a traveler. I am learning the names of my demons. I have been wounded; I am learning to heal. My being has shifted but my words haven’t, yet (have they?).

I just got sidetracked by a conversation. Saylor asked me a question and, in response, I shared a framework my painting teacher gave me: painting is a physical meditation. You are present, holding the brush, moving the paint, mixing it and observing its hues, making strokes and observing their forms, having the patience to be in your painting, your hand, your arm, your body, your mind. This is what a meditation is.There is no other way to do it than to paint. Saylor wasn’t as interested in the framework, but Lili was, so we talked through it. I made a gesture of offering, my hands open, placing it on the table between us.

I am aware of how much is lost in this retelling. The space that our relationship opens is ephemeral; the space we make in conversation is discovery. I could transcribe my experience. It could be true. But would it be real?

It’s time to go now – I’ve promised Siena we could read Frog and Toad Are Friends at 2:30 in the hammock. I love you, I am grateful that you read me. This has been an incomplete report.

This Week: June Feels, More Field Trips, a Carving, and Where the Wild Things Are

For the last two weeks my countdowns have felt anticipatory, excited, tired, what-else-can-we-squeeze-in-before-we’re-done frantic; today I feel bittersweet and tender. There’s a week left of school but the goodbyes have already started – Beth’s last day was today – and yesterday at the Assembly meeting the parents held a gratitudes circle just for the ALFs and we all cried at the beautiful things they said to and about us. We’re here at the end; I feel relieved because I am tired, I feel satisfied because I see the growing we’ve done much clearer than I could previously, I feel sad because a cycle is ending and mourning is valid.

I was talking to Abby last night after the Assembly about cycles and time, and we’re in agreement that three years of facilitating feels significant. We’re approaching the end of my second year of ALFing – three-years-ago-me didn’t even know that this could be my life yet. Three-years-ago-Mel was working at a corporate job that I hated and couldn’t yet imagine my way out. Two-years-ago Mel knew they were leaving the safety of the path laid out by schooling and normie-culture expectations but didn’t yet know what that would entail. Last-year Mel thought they knew a lot and, though they’d grown a bunch in this work, they weren’t yet ready to sit comfortably in uncertainty. I don’t know yet that I’m comfortable with uncertainty, but I feel comfortable recognizing there are so many things that I don’t yet know – about how to be a good facilitator, a healthy human, a fulfilled person, about how all those things are connected – I feel wiser in my unknowing than I ever felt in my (many) years of chasing certainty. I’m not wise, but I am willing to play.


Alright, that’s enough navel gazing. Here’s to the week:

Monday we played Blind Horse Tag in Acro (a kid sits on an adults’ shoulders and covers the adults’ eyes with their hands/steers their “horse” around in a game of tag) which is both stressful and very fun – it makes me feel strong. We were trying to do a straddle-bat lift, but Ash and I kept talking about our meat and bones and laughing and falling over. After, he and I made a Sim of me, which was just as fun as I remember it being 15 years ago. Siena and I read Where the Wild Things Are – she’d never read it before, which meant I got to share in the joy of her first reading of it. Even and I did Philosophy – we talked morality, psychology, concrete examples, Leia and the trolley problem. Chuck and Timo started building a bow; Ry took Joy Burger and Central Park trips; Katherine made a great save in kickball. We all hung out with sleepy Chova the dog.

On Tuesday Sterl had a bit of a meltdown about Seb taking apart his lego creations and I mediated. It’s not the first conflict on this topic between these humans – in fact, we have a “no hoarding shared resources” agreement because Seb got sick of Sterl telling him that he was using all the pieces and came to Change-Up to do something about it a couple of months ago. What was interesting about Tuesday was how I felt different in my mediation than I had previously; how I could feel myself holding it lightly. We wound up talking about how entropy is the state of the universe, how stasis is impossible because everything is changing all the time. Even if you stay perfectly still, your muscles will atrophy. Are you moving towards growth or are you hoping for stasis? I’m not the only one who’s been growing – Seb, who came here two years ago, has developed a level of patience in mediation that his two-years-ago self didn’t know he was capable of. I’m really proud of him and, while I’m sad to say goodbye, I’m so excited for him to continue to grow his skills and talents at Special Music School next year, where he’ll be a vocal major for high school.

Wednesday we had visitors – Megan and Liz, who are hoping to start an ALC in the Philly suburbs, and their kids – and it was quiet enough in the space that Abby and I could spend two hours in the afternoon answering their questions. I was feeling kind of weird when I got home that evening, so I wrote a list of good things that I did in my day notes: “Reading Far from the Tree in the lobby w/ Chova the dog curled up on me & seeing Siena discover asparagus & laughing w/ Nahla about the first three questions everyone asks & getting surprised with biodegradable glitter gifted by Abby & a full gratitudes meeting & a smooth cleanup & Jiji and Roan playing tag in the hall…”

Yesterday was a two field trip day – Abby took Xander and Jiana to the Rockaways, and Chuck & I went mini-golfing on Pier 25 with Erez, Demian, Hannah, Beth, & Siena. Mini-golf was very fun, but I forgot my water bottle and so wanted to go back to school right after we were done. Demian opted to come with me, and we spent the subway ride talking about Harry Potter spoilers, King Arthur’s sword, metaphors, the Elder Wand, and swapping book recommendations.

After school was the final potluck and Assembly meeting of the year. Like I said, the parents surprised us by holding a gratitudes circle for everyone to tell us ALFs how grateful they were for us and I got ALL the feels. Honestly, I still can’t believe I have the incredible privilege to wake up every morning and come to work here; I cannot describe my gratitude.

Today was quiet – we had our final check-in and change up of the year. I finished carving my rose block and test-printed it; I’m very pleased with how it turned out. We had a culture committee on trolling, which felt really efficient (and we decided the consequence of not being able to troll responsibly is getting removed from the troll whitelist and not being able to troll at all for the rest of the year, which feels so fair to me…). Beth and I chatted for a while about the growing she’s done this year and decided we’d be pen pals again this summer. The next thing I knew it was cleanup and blog time and here we are…


This Week: Routine Interruptions, End-of-the-Year Chill, Beach Trips, Blooming Roses, and a Dog Friend

Another week has gone! Only two remain! The roses in my neighborhood are blooming already! What even is time!

This week felt a little strange the whole time, because Monday was Memorial day and we didn’t have school. I spent the day with my family in the suburbs, which was lovely (and very green) but my rhythm was all off afterwards. It’s as if the calendar doesn’t care about my personal qualms with messing up my routine, which I think is very inconsiderate of the calendar. Regardless, no school Monday (and no Acro!) so not much to report there. Here’s the suburbs, seen from my mom’s front lawn:

Tuesday we were joined by Chova the World’s Chillest Terrier. Savannah is her human, and we’ve been testing what it’s like to have a student bring companion animals into the space. So far so good; she’s honestly one of the sweetest beings I’ve met (which makes her a great match for her human!). Currently she’s sitting on Savannah’s lap next to me just gently licking her arm. Honestly. This dog.

The rest of Tuesday was really chill – I spent a lot of time reading Far from the Tree by Andrew Solomon, which is a wide-ranging exploration of the duality of illness and identity, and the ways those overlapping concepts play out in relationships between parents and their children. There are 10 chapters – Deaf, Dwarfs, Down Syndrome, Autism, Schizophrenia, Disability, Prodigies, Rape, Crime, and Transgender. It’s not light reading (and it’s nearly 900 pages long, including all the notes and references) but it’s nuanced, well-researched, and compassionately communicated. It’s not the kind of book you necessarily need to read cover-to-cover, (I started with Autism and have been jumping around) but I find the more I read of it the more I want to read. I’m only about halfway through, and I highly recommend it.

Wednesday we took a beach trip to the Rockaways! Ry met Beth, Saylor, Zoe, and Siena there, and I brought Xander, Erez, Aniya, and Hannah from East Harlem on the ferry. It wasn’t perfect beach weather but it was a great day anyway – the ferry was especially fun. Also, despite heavy cloud cover, Ryan, Beth, and I managed to all get sunburned. Just another reminder to always wear sunscreen!!


Yesterday I was so tired after Wednesday’s tripping – I wound up riding 9 total subways and walking 5 miles, on top of the ferry, because I went to acupuncture after all that. Chuck took Even and Doug on a field trip to the Museum of the Moving Image that sounded super fun. I wound up doing some more reading, and making art with Roan in the lobby (we’re working on a book!). I also wound up talking to two different groups at length about the weirdness of having a body, a subject near and dear to my heart. I’ve been thinking a lot about how we are our bodies, how our bodies are our minds, how we turn food, through the complex process of digestion, into electricity in order to operate our meat, which in turn allows us to experience sensation and time and relationships. There are more cells in your body (about 37 TRILLION and that doesn’t even include the microbes that live in your gut!!!) than there are stars in the Milky Way galaxy. We are galaxies, each of us, we are superclusters. It’s pretty amazing.

Today has been quiet. There were no new awarenesses in check-in (a first for this year). I started carving a lino block inspired by the roses on my city block. It won’t capture their color but it will get at their lovely, loose shape. I love roses, even though I know it’s cliche – I love their variety, and their boldness. I love how flowers be, and I’m trying to be more like them; to trust that existing as my full, colorful self is enough to attract what I need to help me grow.  I’ve done a lot of growing this year, and I can feel this cycle coming to a close…


Bonus photo: Ry wanted to go to the park but kids weren’t ready yet so I walked out in the lobby and found…