Barn's burnt down
I can see the Moon.
~ Mizuta Masahide

Saturday, March 24, 2018

March Madness

It's remarkable how tempting it is to over-stuff the weekend when so many opportunities and priorities compete for the limited waking hours. There's so much life to cram in.

I had hoped to help register voters at the March today but I have A LOT of cleaning to do ahead of my kid's 8th birthday costume dance party tomorrow: my costume to layout, her costume to mend (thanks to Cocoa, our Rabbit with Bad Habits), baking, shopping, my first jog after three days of crud, cleaning and more cleaning still.

I wanted to march in remembrance. But as I ease into gear today, I'm going to try to exorcise my memories of pulling the van over on the way to my kid's preschool, on my Mom's birthday, to ugly cry at the news of Sandy Hook. I'm going to try to exorcise my memories of the gallows humor I began to develop in the early Nineties when "going postal" entered the national vocabulary and I had already attempted to bury memories of the shooting at my Mom's work a few years before, under layers of other drama (mostly involving Butthead, my stepfather, who thankfully never had a gun). 

As I bake Z's favorite sheet cake and scatter rainbow sprinkles over the buttercream frosting she loves, I will rehearse how to ask family and friends - without judgment, just due diligence - whether their kids know the combination to the family gun safe, or know where the concealed but unsecured guns are. I don't want to seem nosy or judgey - because finding and keeping Mommy Friends is hard, y'all. I'd just like my kid to keep living to see another play date. 

And as I whisk and rehearse, I will remember that one time she won at hide-and-seek when we visited some friends. They lived on an island where break-ins were common but no alarm service seemed to operate, and both violent crime and vicious wildlife were practically non-existent (well, except for that one cougar who had swam across the inlet and laid low, except for a couple chickens...unless that was the raccoons). After the other kids couldn't find her, I joined the search and found her in the parents' bedroom closet (Ugh! Kid!) - giggling quietly, one hand on her mouth, the other grasping the door jamb ready to spring from her hiding place. She was utterly unaware that her little hand was next to a shotgun -- barrel up.

I have since repeatedly reminded her about staying out of grown up spaces - for so many reasons. I don't know what to do about our new friend's gun safe in the family fun room where the computer and family pets live. Why is it so much easier to compare and align strategies for holding our kids accountable during play dates in our respective homes than it is to discuss the steps we each take to insure that our children are safe in each other's homes? How do we talk with friends and family who seem to be responsible gun owners and parents? We are all raising kids who also seem pretty good...until they're not. 

We are raising human beings who are learning everyday, how to be good people. And they often, heck, almost always learn by making mistakes. Don't touch the fireplace grate, it'll burn you. Check. Walk before you run, or you'll face-plant. Check. If you grab the cat by the tail, she might scratch you. Check. Don't eat the yellow snow. Ever. Ugh, check. Don't throw sticks or play shovels, someone could get hurt. Check, which is why my dear girl has a third dimple thanks to the teacher's kid who will forever be That Little Sh*t, to me. 

But at least he didn't have access to a gun with which to kill her as he overreacted to her hoarding of that swing. 

On the spectrum of bad choices when kids can access their parents' guns (not because they should or are allowed to but because they are physically capable of finding or stumbling across damned near everything we don't want them to find), we have: 

  • the two year old boy who broke the rules, unzipped his mom's concealed carry purse, and accidentally killed her
  • the six year old who shot a classmate, 
  • the eight year old who played with a poorly concealed family weapon and accidentally killed himself - apparently one of three such kids in that weekend
  • the twelve year-old girl whose show-and-tell gun shot two classmates - one in the head -when she accidentally dropped the backpack
  • the sophomore at my high school in 1992, who shot himself in the head playing Russian Roulette in a car in the school parking lot (though, to be fair, I'm not sure where he got the gun); 
  • the "love-sick" misogynist teenage boy just last week, who couldn't handle rejection, so he shot and killed the "Object" of his "Affection"; 
  • and the list goes on and on and shamefully on. 
The gift of childhood as fought for and created and nurtured in America requires that we create environments for our children that foster Failing Forward into being better individuals, better citizens, better friends, better family... better people making better choices. That means minimizing their exposure to the dangers that are not age-appropriate. That means creating opportunities for learning - and failing - that can help the children we know and love without hindering or killing the children we don't know (or even the Little Sh*ts we don't like).

Guns are the third biggest killer of American children. And the majority of children killed by guns in the developed world, are Americans. While most of that death is intentional and caused by their own family and friends, or themselves, a non-negligible amount is accidental. And more than 80% of the accidental gun deaths occur in the home, with unsecured guns. There are nearly 2 million children living in homes with unsecured guns and I can guarantee that the vast majority of those kids go to and host play dates. 

I don't want any more children - but especially my child - to be exposed to that degree of risk. And yet it feels increasingly like too many of my gun-enthusiast friends and family prefer to protect their weapons more than our children. The tools they have embraced for protecting their children have become more precious than all of our children. As adults, he have failed backward and our children - all of them - are being dragged by the backdraft.

No wonder so many are marching. And crying. And screaming. And acting out. It's what our children do when they are hurting. And scared. 

I miss the days when my girl was only afraid of zombies because I may have prematurely shown her Michael Jackson's "Thriller". So far this year, she has brought home a flyer from school featuring the NRA's Eddie Eagle, and parents have received two incident messages THIS WEEK with allegations about creepy dudes and kids from her K-2 elementary school talking crap about guns. None of it was true but all of it caused anxiety.

No wonder my girl is desperate to be homeschooled. At least with homeschooling, she's unlikely to be normalized into accepting the risk that a kid, a parent, a neighbor, or a teacher might go rogue (with a gun or withoutand kill her while she practices her cursive. 

But homeschooling does nothing about play date safety, which ever since she won hide-and-seek, has taken on deeper meaning for me.

And as a single parent, working for a nonprofit, I cannot afford to homeschool her or hire an old school tutor. So...I guess I'll just bake an effing cake, prep my Mommy Pirate costume, pregame my knees with ibuprofen to prepare for garage dancing to KidzBop with a dozen of my kid's friends and parent-friends, who will also hopefully be in costume. 

The life-and-death matters that should plague me today are how we are going to get through the pre-tween years without me having a heart attack, and whether the party will wrap before the late afternoon hangries create an elementary Battle Royale. Instead I remember the ones lost, the ones we could have lost, and the childhood innocence my eight year old is rapidly losing. I could march but instead I'll bake a cake and try, one more day to keep the anxiety of this worsening Normal at bay. 

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Grief and Gratitude

Today I learned of the loss of a Coulda-Been-Friend. And I am so...very...sad.

She whisked into my life at a time when work and purpose and my sense of self were all swirling in a fog of passion, gratitude, uncertainty, and malaise. And one day, over a bed of weeds at an urban farm, she graced me with the gift of compassionate listening, and generous mirth.

In the months that have passed since we met, she would periodically check in on me, and I on her. We would exchange anecdotes and mutual encouragement. And when my journey brought us both into the same state again, we made tentative plans to meet and catch up.

But there was always work. Or vacations. Or illness. Or simply the impatient and speedy passage of time.

And so we never met up.

And now, we never will.

Just two days and about a dozen emails. But those two days at a conference and those dozen or so emails were an encounter with Grace. For that, I will always be grateful.

Rest peacefully, Seana. I know you walk with the angels.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Springing Forward...with Stubborn Persistence

I am a fair-weather morning person. So like so many people, this was a rough week. Late winter gloom, Daylight Savings Time and early allergies have made mincemeat of my energy, sleep pattern and focus. 

And yet, I am also jazzed, with clarity about a single-minded mission: becoming a flower farmer and farmstead entrepreneur.

Sure, I just began a new job I love (and which, sadly, is under acute threat if 45's budget hit list is to be believed). But it is 3/4 time and is values-aligned with my stubborn desire (going on eight years now) to start and grow a farm-based business.

A property I have been eye-balling for almost two years went back on the market a short while ago, and my wheels began to turn.

I began communicating with the owner, visited the snow-blanketed property, and went into feasibility research mode in every spare moment. 

This week, my meeting with the local Small Business Development Center went very well, and while I have more homework to complete before our follow up meeting next week, I am reassured in the feasibility of the concept AND my ability to execute it. 

Over the years, I have developed a number of business projects that usually got to the capital raise stage and petered out. I used to lament these but I stopped doing so once I realized that with each effort, I learned more about myself, the markets, and the nature of business itself. But I also learned that it is so much harder to build a business without being rooted in community. 

We are home. 


And this community is one I love and have loved for years. 

It's telling that when I envision the Farm, I don't just see the fields and the canning garden or even the canning kitchen - spaces of meditative work for me and my soul. I envision people coming as guests. People integrating the story of the Farm into the narratives of their lives. Communities planted through seeds of commerce and cultivated through the humus of hospitality, memories and joy.

And so I persist...with spreadsheets, the business plan, and preparing documents for loan applications and prospective investors.

The seed has been planted in good potting soil. It's incubating in the greenhouse, with the seedling beginning to break through. By the grace of God and the stubbornness with which the Divine has gifted me, this is the year the seedling will transplant well and the Farm will finally bloom. 

Monday, December 26, 2016

The Ones That Sing in Winter

I stepped out
Expecting silence to swallow
Each crunch of my pensive steps.

The hubris of my forgetting
Your songs and feathers 
Tumbling the snow 
dust from the leaves

Your lilting melodies 
Indifferent to my progress
As you soar freely above.

Embracing Hygge, Solstice and Faith

A short while ago, I came across two writings - an excerpt from a book and an article - that have struck such a chord with where I am and who I've become. While not driving the decision I have made, they have helped me better understand it as more than an act of mothering and self-care. The decision was a necessary pang for new birth.

The birth of a divine child and savior at the winter solstice has formed a central part of spiritual beliefs throughout the world since the beginning of history — in ancient Egypt as the birth of Horus, the birth of Mithras in Persia, the birth of Jesus at Christmas, the birth of the divine Son at Alban Arthan of the Druids, etc. These celebrations have tapped into a universal spiritual principle that is just as relevant now as it was then. 
They speak to us of a mysterious and universal understanding of spiritual transformation. All things which come into being must first be born. Even as creation was borne by the great Mother of the universe, so too must we be born of the spirit to become spirit. The winter solstice is a celebration of being born again — not of flesh, but of the spirit. It’s a celebration of the birth of the spiritual Son, the Christ, within a person’s consciousness in the process of awakening. 
Symbolized as a child just as the winter sun is at its weakest, it will grow until reaching its full strength at the summer solstice—just as the spirit grows within a prepared individual to transform them completely from inner darkness into light.
And so the Winter light begins to return, with ever increasing clarity.

Friday marked my last day working for an organization I have admired for many years and worked for, for nearly two. I made the bittersweet decision to resign as the Best for Colorado Campaign Manager because - despite my love for and success with the work - it was becoming increasingly clear that for my family, and my own heart and soul, we need to return to Washington state. 

And so, I return Home, not to the state of my birth but to the state of my becoming. Where I became an adult more fully than I'd ever been before. Where I reconnected with my bucolic heart. Where I became a mother. Where I became better attuned to the resonance of my soul.

I don't know what's next. But I know my kid is happier than she has been in months.

Professionally, I have an interview scheduled with another organization I have admired and with which I have wanted to work for several years.

Residentially, I have a few leads on rentals in the notoriously tight rental market.

But thanks to the parting generosity of my former employer, I don't have to act with immediacy on the first "Next Gig". And we have friends who have offered interim shelter until I am able to find us a home.

What a rare and precious gift.

I have resources to take the time to release, relax and recalibrate. If my interview on Tuesday doesn't work out, then I will fail forward into other opportunities, as I make myself fully at home in a community that I have adopted, a community that brings Z closer to her paternal family and to which we have regularly returned as our True North since leaving Washington in 2012.

And while I HATE moving - especially cross-country moving, which I've done twice in the last 18 months for opportunities with B Lab  - and I have never moved in the dead of winter, I find that I don't entirely mind.

I have embraced my professional down time and even the move as an exercise in the spirit of the Danish tradition, Hygge.

Now, I'm pretty sure there is no Danish in my family history. But when I read an article about Hygge, a light bulb of recognition went off. Hygge describes what I'm looking forward to. Hygge describes how I plan to spend at least the next two - three weeks (well, depending on the move timeline).

“Hygge, during the short, dark days and long nights, is akin to wintering. To slowing down, allowing the year to fold in on itself, and tending to ourselves and to each other."

And it has six core elements.

1. Slow Down

My last year has been a case study in Marathon Busyness. And since I'm more of a 5k with Sparkle Dust kind of gal, I need to Slow...The Frak...Down.

I will slow down by taking snowy walks and finally some cross-country skiing lessons for the first time in almost seven years.

I both need and want to recalibrate my sense of Now, with a greater focus on presence and an unlearning of the disease of "busy." 

2. Create a Circle of Warmth

Hygge is "sort of a full-on embrace of all things toasty, cozy, and restorative."

I look forward to the warmth of old friends and the joy of new ones. And the introvert part of my extraverted introversion equally looks forward to the comfort of my favorite sweats. I might even see if I can find one of those sensory deprivation pools in dark rooms for a little Womb Return reenactment.

3. Soothe Your Senses

But I don't want total sensory deprivation. I want and need a sensory reset with familiar landscapes, and favored flavors (Cave B CuvĂ©e de Soleil, Chukar Cherries and all things Tillamook ...I have missed thee). All at an altitude that doesn't still have me wheezing.

And then there's the Sister Santa massage gifts and some day soon, a pilgrimage day to Olympus.

4. Embrace the Small Stuff

A small home in a small town can root and grow big dreams.

5. Celebrate the Season (and not just The Holidays)

Unlike the cacophony that often takes over the Holidays, the Winter season - especially in the mountains and high desert - has a majestic silence when we turn off the gadgets and allow ourselves to fully embrace the season. It creates an unavoidable encounter with Self.

6. Know That It Won't Last Forever

Having never been unemployed, with a child before - without also being a full time student - the most comforting part of Winter may be the reminder that This Too Shall Pass. One can survive Winter and just be glad to get through it. Or one can decide to thrive during Winter and commit to making the best of it. Slowing down, scaling back, and turning inward need not equate to coming to a stand-still, giving up and shutting down.

I am cocooning for a few weeks. And like all cocooning, mine is a stage in active transformation. It is not without its risks. But it's also not without its opportunities. And I know that it is the best choice for me, my daughter, and our family.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

The Inelegance of Grief and Vulnerability in the Seismic Age of Trumpence

 New Yorker Cartoon, Dec. 2, 2016

How is a person to act when the first rumblings of seismic shift begins and s/he realizes s/he is standing on shifting sand rather than bedrock?

Having lived in California or Washington for nearly thirty years of my life, I have experienced many earthquakes, most so small that I barely took a pause ("Meh, that's like a 3.0 and I've GOT to get this laundry done"). A few - the Loma Prieta and the Northridge quakes, in particular - were doozies ("Oh, Sweet Lord, is this the day and place where I die?"). 

My one comfort during those bigger - dare I say, "bigly" - earthquakes was that at least I was on solid, if rocking ground. If I made it to a strong doorway or under a solid desk that could withstand the weight of falling debris, I knew I would be okay.

But for folks whose homes and work and and schools and lives were built on landfill (the approximation of equity in property development and urban design) they found out quickly, brutally, and totally just how illusive the security for which they paid dearly truly was.

 25th Anniversary of the Loma Prieta Earthquake

These days, I've been thinking a lot about earthquakes, given the preponderance of seismic imagery in analyses of the Trump Electoral College victory. And I can't think of a more apt metaphor for the pace and scale of the threats, and the importance of situatedness in determining one's perception and vulnerability to those threats.

I am reminded of this video by Brent Kooi, who was a missionary in Chiba City, Japan, a few hours away from Fukushima when the earthquake struck.

Elsewhere, Mr. Kooi has stated that he was able to stay calm in the crisis because he did not know the scope of the damage further north. What I find striking, however, is not his calm but rather the reactions of some of the others in the video: both the dog and the Japanese citizens at 0:40. While Mr. Kooi admits to feeling disoriented as he continues to meander towards the train station, while recording the liquefaction of the park, the people at 0:40 waste no time leaving and the dog sounds like s/he is having none of it. It's not until 2:26, after noting the rapid expansion of the fissures, the sprouting of lakes where there was once lawn, that Mr. Kooi admits to feeling "a little nervous" because, oh yeah, the park is built on landfill.

It's personally hard to reflect on the seismic nature of the coming age of Trumpence and not react like the people at 0:40 or holler like the dog. Over the last few years, I've noted regional insurgencies and wretched Supreme Court decisions that have made it very clear that core human and civil rights, necessary for a successful free and fair democracy, are not bedrock rights for anyone who isn't straight, white, wealthy, or evangelically Christian. And now, the candidate who campaigned peddling contempt, ridicule and hatred for The Other, is queuing up a Cabinet full of hateful True Believers determined to enshrine their white supremacist, heteronormative, Inquisition-style Christianity into every chamber of government and into the highest law of the land for at least a generation.

How am I to act when the first rumblings of seismic shift begin and I realize I am standing on shifting sand rather than bedrock?

I know there are many who believe that the best way to react is to follow Mr. Kooi's example: stay calm in the crisis; make note of the changing landscape; look to the reactions of others as guidance for how best and when to react; don't panic; and don't disturb others with your nervousness. 

That's a lot to ask these days when the fissures of injustice are undulating and threatening an era of constitutional and humanitarian liquefaction.

Not only does it ignore the messiness of grief and legitimate fear. It fails to create space for the very productivity that it requires. How does a vulnerable person create a plan to alleviate that vulnerability without engaging those who may be inconvenienced but who purport to "empathize"? That's not a rhetorical question. That's my dilemma. If I follow the example of the dog and loudly announce my concerns, I am histrionic in my personal life and unprofessional at work. If I follow the example of the people at 0:40, I am uncommitted. 

I and others more immediately vulnerable (e.g. Muslims, Hispanics and sexual minorities) are now profoundly inconvenienced by the need to create exit strategies that may pull us away from homes we love, communities we enjoy, and work that inspires us.

And resolving those two inconveniences -- the one for those adapting to the liquefaction of their human and civil rights; the other for those on higher, more stable ground who want to help but also need the vulnerable to function as if they too are on stable, unchanged ground -- is a conundrum that many communities and workplaces will need to resolve.

Survival strategies for vulnerable people in the Age of Trumpence are not something that can be gradually evolved in wonderment at the rapidly changing terrain. And their genuinely empathetic but inconvenienced neighbors and colleagues who are less vulnerable to Trumpence priorities have a right to try to maneuver through the transformation with calm. 

I wish I had the answer. I suspect it begins with authentic heart-to-hearts between the vulnerable and the inconvenienced, focused on discerning mutually beneficial pathways towards continuity where possible, and towards escape where necessary. But those heart-to-hearts must be predicated on a shared understanding that while there are always tremors with change, seismic tremors (like the rise of a President openly allied with white nationalists) are different. And the discovery that some principles once believed to be bedrock are in fact landfill in the early stages of liquefaction is a living nightmare.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Holiday Gift Guide for Anti-Fascists in the Age of Trumpence #GrabYourWallet #SmallBizSat

Image result for love peace gifts

If you didn't so much as vote for Trump as hurl a Molotov cocktail of rage at the current economic system, and are now finding yourself perplexed and appalled by the explosion of hate crimes emboldened by the flame you helped start, then this gift guide is for you.

If you are a progressive, unsurprised by the explosion of hate crimes leading up to and following the election, and are therefore inclined to throw a Molotov cocktail at your friends and family who voted for Trumpence, then this gift guide is for you.

You see, there are many thousands of companies that demonstrate better ways of doing business than the exploitative, discriminatory and often illegal approach favored by Trump. And the collective power of holiday spending can help draw attention to these exemplars.
If we value the fair treatment of workers, neighbors, and contractors, it's not enough to just boycott the Trumps, we need to also support those companies that treat their workers well, support equitable local economies, and operate as responsible environmental stewards (but at the very least, skip New Balance).

You can find excellent options here, in the B Magazine directory, or you can buy from locally-owned and locally-sourced companies as a way of creating a stronger local economic impact in your community.

For your beloved who looks with horror upon the kitchen, gift them with GrubHub gift cards. And while you prepare your holiday meals, consider using flour, butter, wine and cheese from these companies (note: A to Z's Pinot Noir is quite tasty and pairs addictively with many Cabot cheeses).

If you're not in a benevolent gift-giving kind of mood (believe me, I get it), and would rather support organizations that assist those most vulnerable to the incoming administration's priorities, then by all means, reallocate your holiday spending to make donations to those organizations.

But here's the thing, since calling someone out directly as a bigot or heterosexist doesn't work, perhaps using the gift as an opportunity to create empathy might. If you choose a mission-driven donation in lieu of a physical gift, try not to do it in spite. Realize this is a teachable moment between you and your beloved. For example, if you make a donation to the Trevor Project, include the personal story of another person you love or respect (note: get their permission first OR choose someone whose sexual orientation is already known).

Remember Dr. King. He wasn't all kumbaya, rainbow character love, he was an astute economic strategist who understood that civil and human rights are intricately connected to economic priorities and opportunities. When he was killed, he was supporting a workers' strike in Memphis, calling for a boycott of discriminatory Memphis stores, factories and banks and preparing for the interracial Poor People's March on Washington. This was when he became truly dangerous to the ruling elites. It was fine when King and other modern civil rights leaders insisted that overt white supremacy was anathema to the country's moral authority in the rapidly changing world of the Cold War and decolonizing black and brown nations. But when King began with increasing fervor to connect racial injustice to economic predation, he "had" to go.

I'm not suggesting that engaging in guerilla gift-giving will result in That Cousin passing you the mashed potatoes with a side of anthrax. Rather, I am saying that you should be prepared to have your guerilla gift-giving used as Exhibit 1 in the case that you are petty or are a socialist whiner who lacks empathy (even King was accused of being tone deaf, impatient and heartless towards white people). Give anyway. And if - unlike me and others who have experienced racist vitriol and are therefore less inclined to be magnanimous towards those who have gloated about Trump's White America since the election - you can give your guerilla gifts with love, please do it. For love of the best that America can be, for love of your community and for love of your beloved.