Archive for the ‘On a personal note’ Category

Welcome to the Country

A sailboat is going by and it very much looks like a pirate ship.  It’s progress is steady though it seems to only drift along the water, a solitary vessel.  The mountains are a shadow behind the clouds.  I’ve gone outside to sit and be, to take a few moments to allow my mind to slow and remember the feel of my roots.  Each time I have attempted this, shortly after settling in my chair and sheltering my body under a blanket, it has started to rain.  My initial reaction is to go inside, but I resist and stay where I am.  It feels good and it is what I need.

Learning to listen to what I need is something that I have been working on for years and that I will probably continue to work on my whole life.  As life changes, as it is constantly doing, I have to keep in step; adjusting my ears to tune into my new needs.  This is something that may come easily to a lot of people, but not to me and I find myself, more often than I would like, executing self-care clumsily.

Recently, Kendall, Finn, and I moved out of the city to an island just north of Seattle.  This was something we needed as a family and it has been so good for us!  We are slowing down and spending time together.  Much of our life had fallen into instability and chaos.  We were sad, scared, and didn’t have much direction.  However, there were a few areas where we felt we had really clear direction, but it meant totally scraping our lives in some ways—moving out of the city, cutting expenses drastically, selling a lot of our belongings, and placing ourselves on an island.  To many, I think it probably looked like we were creating more chaos and upheaval in our lives.  Yet to us, it was the only thing we felt sure about.  As a result our marriage, our family, and each of us individually are flourishing.  Joy and immense thankfulness well up inside of me regularly as I witness our lives steadying and moving through the waters like a pirate ship.

Opportunities

I have gathered different bits of information over the past few years about this plot of land.  Though I do not know for a fact that any of my conclusions are true, but my observations are.  We have walked by this place regularly for years and have seen its evolution.  All things change and we can help direct that change for good.

First, if you can imagine, there was a house here.  The house was torn down and soon after hand made signs were put up expressing anger, sadness, injustice, and grief over what took place.  Some of the signs were written as apologies to the person that lived there.  Her home was gone and now so was she.

Very soon after all the small hand-made signs were torn down and replaced by a large city council sign:

Land Use Action Site

Proposed Development Permit

Or something like that.  Anyway, the land had been bought and what they hoped to build was another set of tightly packed, 3 story town homes, each probably being budgeted to sell for at least $500,000.  This has become pretty standard here—probably not just here.  Well, it did not take long before the sign was covered in graffiti, some of it protesting the newly proposed construction.  Fences were put up and the lot set empty for at least a year.  The next thing to happen was that the land continued to sit empty, but one day the large sign was down.  Then again, nothing.  Just an empty lot.

From the beginning you could tell that something in the neighborhood was stirring about this piece of land.  Since, we were mere walk-by observers and remained to be (it wasn’t our fight, sometimes you just know) the signs were our only guide to what was happening.  We just kept hoping the good guys would win….to me that meant the community winning!

The next thing we know, we walk by and there is a notice that the City of Seattle now owns this property.  That still could mean anything.  They could sell or they could turn it into a community space.  But, it wasn’t long before we walked by and saw that it would be a future neighborhood park!  As of right now they are still planning out the space.  There are meetings and discussions, but the lot is not longer vacant.  They have opened it up for temporary use (before the official park construction actually takes place) and it is great.  The community has very respectfully taken advantage of this opportunity.  At first it was just a rocky patch of weeds, which Finn and I played in!  But it is growing.  Now, people are growing food. There is a picnic table.  A table and chairs.  Chalk and a big wall which people of all ages draw on.  Finn and I love going there and I actually like it better than most designed public parks.  It feels like a community backyard.  I kind of think this is the way a lot of things are supposed to work.  People being involved and caring.  It gives the community an opportunity to take ownership and pride in it.

I know I could have gotten involved in this or at least used my curiosity to do some research, but I didn’t.  One thing I think we all need to know are the battles we are and are not going to fight.  We can’t fight them all and sometimes it’s just nice to go for a walk, observe, and wonder.  Remember, this is important too.  Balance.

However, when something does stir in you and pull you toward it…go after it!  There are opportunities and sometimes it works out!

Thank you for all those who created this pleasant and peaceful space.  I already have many lovely memories of time spent here.

Links for more detailed (and accurate information):

Capitol Hill Seattle Blog (CHS): Post #1 Post #2

Seattle.gov: Federal/Republican Park Info

Yahoo Groups: Federal/Republican Park

Happy Birthday, Mummy

Today is my mom’s birthday.  She would be 58 years old.  A few weeks ago Mummy died unexpectedly.  Cancer, it seems, had quietly ravaged her entire body.  There has been so much to think about regarding her life, her death, and our relationship.  Our relationship was really hard and for over a decade I did not have any contact with her.  The exception to this was through my writing.  She read every post I wrote, looked at every picture I posted, and wrote comments in response to what I shared.  Other than in our minds and hearts, I think it was really the only space where we were able to have a positive relationship.

She and I are alike in many ways.  Through her death I have been able to get to know her in a way that I never was able to while she was alive.  I have been, and continue to be, discovering her.

Mummy always loved adventure and fun. And, even though we were going to Mexico to say goodbye to her, I feel that she took us on a great adventure.  She lived in a town about 6 hours south of Mexico City; with Jaime at the wheel we got there in about 5.  The drive was beautiful.  We curved around mountains and hills covered by green trees and shrubs with roots digging down into burnt earth.  The road was carved out of the mountain; the edge of it dropping off into a valley.  The eight of us were in thought-filled and peaceful silence for most of the journey.  When we did talk the conversation ranged, but I was most content to listen as Abi spoke about my mom.  I wanted to be with Mummy.  Hearing her spoken about brought me closer to that.  I knew I was too late to look into her eyes, but I was ready to be with her body.

As we drove my gaze drifted between my husband, my son, all of us who had gathered to take this journey to see her, and out the window to the land we were traveling through.  I thought about her always.  I thought that her eyes had seen this very land and she had taken this very drive.  She had come to this place and I was now following her to it.  As we were driving, the night of her death, I saw one of the most beautiful sunsets I have ever seen.  From behind mountain peeks, the sky went from blue to lavender to fiery pink.  It was as breathtaking as the sunset on the day my son was born.  My heart ached for her to see it.  Yet, nature has always powerfully presented the Spirit of God to me.  So, as God magnificently brought a close to the day, the entire sky blooming, swirling, opening up, and then bowing into the night, I felt He joined us in honoring her life and saying goodbye to a woman whose presence in this world cannot be captured by words.

I know her better since her death and I am glad to be able to celebrate her life today.

Happy Birthday, Mummy.  I miss you.

April 22, 2011: Earth Day

Earth Day.

This year for the first time I celebrated St. Patrick’s Day.  I never remember celebrating it growing up and I don’t know whether this is true or not, but I have always remembered thinking that all the wearing green, dying rivers green, and drinking green beer was for Americans.  And, that most American’s used it as an occasion for getting drunk.

I know it’s judgmental.

But I was born in Northern Ireland.  Most of my extended family still lives there.  We moved to America when I was young.  I am Irish, but I have no accent.  I used to have to “translate” when my mom spoke because people couldn’t understand her English through her accent.  My full name, with my maiden name, is “very Irish” as people say.  I never say that one of the interesting things about me is that I am Irish.  Growing up whenever people asked me if I was Irish I would say, “yes”…because I was and still am.  And I would always hear in response that they were also Irish, but I wanted to say, “No you’re not.  You’re American!”  Instead, I would say, “Oh.”

I know, this is a very snotty side to me.  Looking at it now I see that what I have really wanted was to hold onto my roots because I felt like I had lost them when we moved here.  I am not American, but I also felt like I wasn’t exactly Irish either.  No accent.  No history.  Very few memories of growing up in Ireland.  Americans even seemed to know more about Ireland than I did because they traveled to see and explore Ireland.  We traveled to see family that happened to live in Ireland.

This year, however, I understood the desires of Americans to hold onto their family history, their family stories, their family roots.  I came to this understanding because I wanted to pass that part of me along to my son.  I wanted him to know that part of his story, part of the history of his family, part of the blood running through his body is Irish.  And, in sharing that with him, telling him stories and checking out books from the library, I also found more of my own roots.

 

My son has the ability to completely change my perspective.  And, while I can be jaded and cynical about things.  I can also choose to see things as opportunities.  I think Earth Day is one of those things.  It can be an opportunity to reflect, to learn, to celebrate, to become aware, and to do something.  I hope that many of you will see tomorrow, Earth Day, as an opportunity for yourself and if you have them, your little ones.

Cheers!  To growing roots.

Financial Sustainability: Our Attempt at Living It

As we have come to realize that living a financially sustainable life is important to us being able to living a holistically sustainable life, we have arrived at a method that works for us…most of the time.

We have put all our debt on a dry erase board with the total at the top and have it visible in our home.  It is a reminder to us that we have debt we are working to pay off and an encouragement when we feel discouraged that our choices are making a difference to the financial well-being of our family.

In pursuing this we need to remind each other often that we are limiting our spending so that we can pay off our debt.  We are changing how our brains think about finances and that does not happen quickly or easily.  We are creating new grooves in our brain!

Having a budget that we are legalistic about does not work for our family. So, in the stead of a budget Kendall and I talk to each other about finances, spending, and our debt regularly.  After trying many strategies we have found that this is what works for us.  We often ask the question when it comes to spending, “How does this fit into our No Spending Spree?”  It means that we are regularly evaluating priorities and doing cost-benefit analysis when deciding whether or not to spend money.  It means that we take into account the whole picture of what sustainability means to our family; looking at all the pieces.  In order to do this well we have to know what our priorities are.  There are many things that are important to us or that we really want, that we just cannot afford to pay for right now.  And, when we feel frustrated about this situation we remind ourselves or each other of the importance of acceptance, that this is the path we have chosen, and that it is not our money.  We try to gain a greater perspective on what it is that we are so upset about not being able to have and usually find that there is some greater underlying reason for our feeling.

It also means that there are things we do decide to spend money on. However, it often takes on a different form than it did before.  We are more thoughtful and creative about our solutions:

  • We shop at home.  This is a phrase that I learned from a friend and I love it.  We use what we already have and supplement (often creatively) what we don’t.
  • We have found that when we open our eyes, that living in the city is a great place to just find things for free (Also, knowledge gained from friends).
  • We do a lot more repairing, fixing up, and mending, which often turns out to be fun.  Before we would have thrown or given the item away or not thought to purchase a certain item because it is not exactly what we had in mind.  Now, we get to learn all this new stuff.  The kind of stuff I used to always ask people, “How’d you know that?”.  And when, what needs to be fixed up or repaired is out of our league we pay a tradesperson who is great at their job to do it.

This path is long and often it is hard.  This path has also unintentionally led us to lead a more environmentally sustainable life.  It has caused us to choose do what is better for our family and in many ways that has resulted in providing us with better time together as a family.  This path led us to go camping for our family vacation last summer with our then little 9 month old baby and it was one of the best times we have had together.  It has also opened us up to our community.  We have needed others to help us financially at times and we have also received great amounts of generosity as those in our community spontaneously shower us with help, love, and fun gifts.

We live a more mindful life now and as a result we live a life that is closer to the ideals we value.  I will not downplay how hard it can be and how much we feel like we are missing out sometimes, but without even the slightest hesitation I can say that this is by far better for our family.  Through a ripple effect, living a financially sustainable life has brought us a much richer quality of life, whereas, the life we were living “mired in debt” bought us a life of stuff and stress.

Financial Sustainability in Our Home

Kendall and I have been working on paying off our debt.  We have quite a bit of it.  Most of it is student loans, but there are other significant bits of debt too.  It has accumulated over the years, in various ways for various reasons.  While I have never felt that living in debt was okay, and have constantly been stressed out by our debt, we have treated debt as normal. We saw it as being a normal part of adult life.  So, we made our monthly payments, but we have also made many trips to visit our families, gone on vacations, and spent money as if we didn’t have debt and it was our money to spend.  All the while, doing our best to be financially responsible.  Credit was our way to live the lifestyle we wanted and at the time, it was outside our realm of thinking that this was anything but acceptable.

Over the past few years though, this has been changing.  We began to understand that living a sustainable life extended beyond “being green”.  We finally realized what debt actually was: we owed people money.  This way of living was so completely normalized to us, that this completely obvious fact was hidden from our awareness.  The money that we were earning was not ours, we owed it to other people, even if those “other people” were creditors. Coming to this understanding has completely changed the way we live and it is HARD.

While debt did not exactly sneak up on us, it has taken us years to figure out the impact this debt has on our lives.  Interest rates, monthly payments, the accruement of debt, etc. has bound us.  We were living beyond our own financial sustainability. For years now we have been working (increasingly, as our understanding has increased) to free ourselves from our own debt.  There are times when we want to quit and there are times when we do (but we always get back to our “No Spending Spree”) .  But, our main financial objective is to live a sustainable life and to provide our son with an example of financial responsibility that we never had growing up.

Happy New Year!

This New Year’s Eve Kendall and I were having a small conversation over how the New Year that we celebrate does not internally feel like we are entering a new year; we join in the tradition, but it feels like forcing a puzzle piece that does not fit.  Perhaps, it is simply that we want the time to soak in the Glory of Christmas AND to not rush into the precious, tender, and joyful act of seeing and recounting the movement of our life thus far and ponder over–dream, wish, plan–the year to come.  Maybe, it is also because the symbolism and meaning we have associated with the turning of the calendar to a New Year resonates with Kendall and I more at the turning of Spring- a time when we emerge from the low energy of Winter and are greeted in our awakening by new life.

So, this year we did things a little differently.  We relaxed, did a little reminiscing, a little looking forward, a champagne toast at midnight, and a lot of enjoying the company of one another.  Kendall and I would love to hear some of your traditions and where you are in life.  If you would like to, make yourself at home and share a comment below.  We are looking forward to hearing from you!

Give A Gift

Being a mama has taught me that the most important thing I can do to care for my son is be present and available to him.  It has also shown me that that is really what all of us need.  We need people to be present and available to us. Sometimes that takes the form of showing up when there is a need, being there for one another, and giving what we can.

If you visit the site (versus getting it in your RSS feed or as an e-mail), you may have noticed a new addition to the site!  On the right hand side of the site you will notice the addition of “Give A Gift”.  We have chosen to highlight World Vision, Heifer International, and Partners in Health.  These are not ads and at a later point I will go into why I have decided to use that space on my site to support non-profits in lieu of ads.  Each of these images will bring you directly to a page on their site where you can choose to give a financial gift to the non-profit organization.  There are many great organizations out there, but these are ones that we know really well and trust.

The day after Thanksgiving has become a Holiday spending spree, so much so, that it has been dubbed “Black Friday” because it has become the most profitable day of the year for many businesses.  I know that there are very complicated economics involved here regarding businesses “counting” on shoppers to shop.  However, our vision of Christmas has evolved slowly, but rather dramatically, over our years together.  In fact, it has changed so much so, that even what I mean by vision has changed.  In the past, I strained to create The Vision of Christmas with hope that if I did so, I would be able to feel the warmth and love of The Vision inside myself.

I wanted so badly to feel that warmth, love, and closeness of family.  I thought the gateway to all this was to create the ideal picture of Christmas–presents, lots of food, holiday cheer which, was best created by having the right atmosphere… stockings, christmas tree, christmas lights, snow-hot chocolate-fireplace, the smell of food.  What I didn’t understand was that I got it all backwards.  That warmth and love came out of being close to Kendall and now also to Finn.  I now know within me (although my brain is still being re-trained), that when I give myself over to loving and being loved by these two people and other loved ones, and that when we have our need for food, shelter, health, and other basic needs met, that my life is bountiful.

I want to be clear, I don’t think there is anything wrong with giving gifts to those you know and love–you know yourselves and your loved ones best.  However, I would like to ask you to join our family in giving to those who are not able to rest in knowing their basic needs are being met.

Time

Time flows differently now since the birth of my son.  Its meaning has changed, as has its texture, feel, and presence in my life.  I mark time differently and I feel its mark on me as having fresh strokes; wet, earthy strokes against my skin.

With the birth of my son, a door opened for me and as I stepped through I was greeted with new life.  Not just the new life that I held in my arms, but a new life for myself as well.  At the same time, the roots of my inner self, my life experience which I have carried with me since my own birth, began their journey of burrowing deep into the earth.

I find that my brain, my spirit, my flesh, and my bones are knowing what only my heart knew before; that there is a Time for everything.

Before Finn, my relationship with Time was full of fear.  It was a dark cloud that told me that I was behind schedule, that EVERYTHING needed to be done RIGHT NOW.  I still experience this, but with a growing infrequency.  Now, time is more about creating space for what is truly important to me and trusting that everything that needs to happen will happen in its own time.

What is most important to me is the well-being of my family—my husband, Kendall, my son, Finn, and myself.   Kendall and I are both discovering and unveiling this shift in perspective.  We want sustainable, healthy relationships with each other and what that means to us, is that each relationship is rooted in a foundation of love, trust, care, respect, and attachment that we can then branch out from.

What this sustainability means relationally is, that we are available for each other.  Kendall and I are doing, what for us is, the very hard work of being wholly present in and committed to our marriage.  Doing whatever it takes to make our relationship flourish!  With Finn, I pick him up and comfort him when he cries no matter what else I am doing, I feed him when he is hungry, I change his diaper when it is dirty, and I play with him.  We rearrange our schedules (meaning we rearrange our time) so that we can be available.

There is a preciousness to relating to Time in this manner.  It takes it out of the realm of battling Time and being desperate for 30 more hours in the day.  Instead of running faster to beat the clock, I have begun to slow down, breathe, and evaluate what God has laid before me and to, as wisely as I can, pick up what is most important.

My Job

For most of adulthood I have not known what I wanted to do with my life.  Well, that’s not completely true.  What I didn’t know was what job I wanted to apply for.

I knew a lot about myself. I knew I was good at taking care of people and took great pleasure in doing so.  I knew I was passionate about human beings, the Earth, and the well-being and holistic health of both.  I knew I was smart and loved reading.  I loved learning and teaching myself how to do anything that I decided I wanted to know.  I also knew, that I loved learning from other people whose knowledge surpassed my own and who were willing to generously pass there wisdom on.  I knew that I was good at collecting things, whether they were tangible objects or intangible thoughts and ideas, and piecing them together to make them my own.  I knew I loved God and that I wanted to live a life that glorified Him, but that I also held in tension with this undying love for Him, various struggles to understand His Purposes and Ways.  I knew that I was an extremely complex person, one not easily grasped.  I knew that creativity and movement were important to me, as was passion, love, kindness, and connection.

Knowing all this and more about myself however, didn’t teach me how to translate those things into one job that would satisfy me.  Because, what I also knew about myself was that I needed to be satisfied and rooted in a job.

I have been comfortable with the self-knowledge that I do things in my own time and my own way.  Others, though, have not been so comfortable with Intuition acting as my guide and not a “five year plan”.  Although I am getting much better at discerning whose thoughts I care about and consider when it comes to my life, I have not always been this way.  Up until recently, I have allowed myself to be weighed down and to stray from who I am.  Without much support and understanding that following my Inner Guide is actually the opposite of what most people think it is and the fact that I easily fall into the big black whole of unrootedness that begins with innocent ponderings including the word “should”, after graduating two years ago, I began to grasp for “that” job that would satisfy me AND stop the “what” and “when” questions.

I researched and made phone calls regarding starting a Bed and Breakfast.  I began the application process for a Public Health internship in Boston, Americorps, Teach for America, and many other positions.  I also applied for an internship in Seattle Tilth’s Children’s Garden.  The position was mine and I was truly excited about it.  I knew it wasn’t quite right, but hoped that it would lead me to what was.  I knew inside of me that there was a job that I was made to do.  Again, my Intuition told me so.  I just couldn’t find it.

As is usually true for me, when I stopped looking for it and sat in the place of waiting, listening, taking my life day by day, and learning to be comfortable with not knowing “when” or “what”, the job came to me.  On a sunny autumn day, just over a year ago, it was literally placed on my chest with the utmost gentleness.  It was the best day of my life.  My son was born and I knew from the moment I saw him in my midwife’s arms that this was what I was born to do.

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