Tag Archives: family


Put a fork in it, three years later I’m finally done with the quilt for my parents. (Okay, wait, after all that work, if you put a fork in it I’ll have to hurt you, so just admire it from afar! ūüėÄ )

It occurred to me a couple of weeks ago that if I got it done in time, I could get it in the mail and it would make it to California in time for Mother’s Day and my father’s birthday, which is the day after.

So I’ve been driving myself and my family crazy working every spare second to get it done.



I keep thinking about how the post office will ask if I want to insure it. Whenever I hand make something, I always think to myself, there isn’t enough money in the world to replace however-long-it-took-me.

Anyway, I hope they love it, and feel the warmth and love that is stitched into it.

Now I’ll just pack it in a box with a framed family portrait we just got taken, buy a couple of cards, ship the whole thing off to the other side of the continent.

Then move on to the next project…

Survivalist Lifestyle

Although I hope I will never succumb to outright paranoia, I think that living a survivalist lifestyle of sorts is a good idea for me and my family. (And by this I mean: coming up with strategies specific to our situation; stockpiling some resources; learning and practicing various essential skills for day to day survival.)

1. We will be prepared if anything happens: natural disaster, political unrest, even personal financial ruin.

2. It gives people confidence and security to know how to do basic things like start a fire and identify edible plants.

3. It puts people in closer touch with the Earth to know how to accomplish the basic tasks of daily life without electricity and complicated gadgets. The closer in touch with Earth, the more harmonious the walk through Life.

4. It might bring us closer together as a family to learn and master different tasks together, and to know that we can rely on each other and each has vital skills to contribute to the group. The older kids especially might learn a greater sense of responsibility toward the family and their younger siblings as they realize how much more they are able to do, and how much they would be depended on in an emergency.

5. It is something to pass on to children that can never be taken away from them: the skills and confidence to survive.

We’ve been watching some shows together, such as “Man, Woman, Wild” and “Dual Survival.” It’s kind of funny because there are so many harsh environments out there that they strand themselves in and sometimes have to give up and just say, “Okay, we would have died,” but an episode of “Man, Woman, Wild” we recently watched was set in the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee, of which we live in the foothills, and it was like a paradise. They were essentially camping and hanging out. Made me feel super confident about our location.

A kind of “reward system” I thought of for the lessons with the kids is to get them each a “go-bag,” which is some type of backpack or satchel that a person would grab in an emergency situation and have all the tools they need to survive.

As we accomplish different lessons, like fire starting, they would then get their own piece of equipment to keep in their go-bag. (Of course, it would be understood that the go-bag isn’t for playing, and that it has to be kept somewhere safe, but they could take it out and practice skills with supervision.

I certainly would guard against scaring the children with doomsday scenarios (I remember how frequently I dreamed of nuclear annihilation as a child), but I would present it more as something fun, challenging, useful for camping, etc.

Anyway, so if anyone has any great ideas, websites or experiences to share, I’d appreciate it. I’ll update on this project as we get started (It seems like we should wait until it warms up some. I’d think practicing in the cold would be more intermediate level, and beginners might be afforded the luxury of not fighting the elements as well as their own ignorance.)


A few years ago my husband introduced me to the idea of having “tentpoles” for a vacation, big events, outings and activities that sort of define the entire period of time. ¬†Myself, I am fine with spending every day at the beach building sandcastles, but I generally defer to his wisdom, and (almost) never regret it.

For some reason I never got a visual on that word. ¬†Yesterday I finally did. ¬†The tentpoles are the things that hold up the big canvas for the circus that is life, so it doesn’t fall on your head and suffocate you. ¬†Which is how I feel when my life starts to overwhelm me.

At those times, I feel a horrible panic, a gasping for air, a sense that the world is crashing down.

Yesterday it occurred to me that I need tentpoles in my daily and weekly life.  I need to acknowledge that the elements of my routine are holding up the rest of my life, and allow them to reassure me and give me space.

I made a couple of lists, which is my favorite way to organize. (Of course there are lots more things I do every day and every week, but these are the ones so far that make me feel like I’m gettin’ ‘er done…)

Daily Tentpoles:

  • Tea/coffee and read something inspiring with my husband
  • Morning and evening sun salutation (yoga)
  • Storytime with the kids
  • Evening show or movie with the family
  • Yardwork

Weekly Tentpoles:

  • Tuesday – Coffee/Brekkie with friends
  • Thursday – Playgroup
  • Saturday – Farmer’s Market, then library
  • Sunday – Phone call to Mama

I want to add blogging to my daily tentpoles. ¬†I’ve got some ideas on how to add content even if I’m not terribly inspired that day, such as doing a Top Five post, a blast from the past journal entry, sharing a blog link, an anecdote, tripping on a good quote or meditating on some engaging topic.

Do you have tentpoles that hold up your day or week? ¬†Are they things that weigh heavily on you if you don’t do them or are they things that lighten you if you do get them done? ¬†How often do they change?

What Kind of Neighbor Are You?

I was raised to keep to myself, and I’ve been searching ever since to find some kind of community in which I could participate and feel a sense of belonging.

Civil War Reenactment - Hickory, North Carolina - 2009

The representation in film and literature of tight groups, whether composed of soldiers, medieval villagers, gangsters, prisoners, or some other version of interdependent coexistence, I find irresistible.

Here in cyberspace it’s easy to be the perfect community member (although it’s near impossible to find the perfect community); you can edit your posts and comments before anyone ever sees them, you can show your best face and even avoid the internet altogether on those days that you know you would just be a bear on a rampage.

But in a real neighborhood, you will see each other on your worst days.  You will see each other chasing the dog across the yard in your p.j.s, you will run across each other on that day that you just wish the whole world would be vaporized, you will have to make nice when you just wish everyone would shut up and go away.

Roanoke Rapids, North Carolina - 2007

Our impending move has me pondering — besides thinking ahead to where to put the furniture, how to decorate, what to do with the yard, and all the physical details, I have to wonder, what kind of a neighbor will I be?

Now certainly this depends partly on what kind of neighbor everyone else is.  Everyone will be part of the Habitat for Humanity program, so we will have at least one thing in common, some sort of foundation for introductions.  Almost all of us have kids, and since I have a whole age range myself, I should certainly be able to relate to most people on that level.

What makes this really different for me is, I’ve never owned a home before. ¬†I’ve always rented, and been around mostly renters, in which case, there is a lot less pressure. ¬†You can think to yourself, maybe one of us will move soon, so why even strike up the first conversation with that weirdo over there? ¬†You have the luxury of tolerating the temporary.

But we will all be there as homeowners in our Habitat neighborhood. ¬†Not to say people won’t sell and move someday, but the possibility exists to a much greater degree that we will all be neighbors for the rest of our lives. ¬†Like marrying someone you’ve never met, only it’s not even an arranged marriage where your parents see some kind of merit to the relationship, but an almost purely random wedding between complete strangers.

San Francisco, California - 2006

But we Americans are used to dealing with strangers, especially out in the Wild West of California, where we know just how to treat neighbors – like the suspicious strangers they are. ¬†Don’t get me wrong, I did have a few good neighbors over the many years and in the many neighborhoods I resided on the West Coast. ¬†I got a taste of what it might be like to live among friends, or at least comrades, or perhaps just among other individuals that you’ve established a polite civility with.

But it has to start with me. ¬†What will my attitude be? ¬†How will I present myself and my family? ¬†How open or guarded will I be on a day-to-day basis? ¬†Will I encourage bonds between my own children and the neighbors’ or will I try to be a barrier to keep my kids safe against the unknown?

Snow day for the neighborhood kids at Family Student Housing - Eugene, Oregon - 2007

Will I give in to my idealistic desires for community and try to be everyone’s great friend, or will I give into my ingrained fears of people and hold everyone at arm’s length? ¬†Or will I walk a wise way balance somewhere in between?

Tell us, what is your neighborhood like?  Have you dealt with much conflict?  Have you developed techniques for dealing with the more unpleasant aspects of being a neighbor?  What kind of neighbor are you?

“To Suffer Is Not Enough”

I was taught by my mother and grandmother to be a martyr to the cause of the family. ¬†They had to constantly worry, fuss, struggle and work to make sure everyone else was happy. ¬†Their own happiness was just a shy smile to see others enjoying life, and then it was back to the grindstone. ¬†They’ve been shining examples of selflessness, which is a difficult act to follow.

So when I read passages like the following by Thich Nhat Hanh in his book “The Heart of the Buddha’s Teaching,” it is like a total release of all the anguish built up over the years of believing that suffering is a sign that you are caring enough, doing enough, loving enough:

The ocean of ¬†suffering is immense, but if you turn around, you can see the land. ¬†The seed of suffering in you may be strong, but don’t wait until you have no more suffering before allowing yourself to be happy.

Being allowed and even encouraged to have happiness as one part of your reality is a dream come true.  Not just my own happiness, of course, but the happiness of all beings.

And we don’t have to get rid of suffering entirely to be happy! ¬†What a concept. ¬†How many of us are waiting until conditions are perfect before we can be happy, whether it’s getting the bathroom sink fixed or having our child cured of his cold, we feel we must not allow ourselves happiness while there is still something amiss.

Hanh continues:

When one tree in the garden is sick, you have to care for it. ¬†But don’t overlook all the healthy trees. ¬†Even while you have pain in your heart, you can enjoy the many wonders of life — the beautiful sunset, the smile of a child, the many flowers and trees. ¬†To suffer is not enough. ¬†Please don’t be imprisoned by your suffering.

“To suffer is not enough!” ¬†I will suffer, and I will feel that pain, and things will be amiss, and I can work towards eliminating that suffering, but while I’m traveling that road — I am allowed to be happy! ¬†I am allowed to appreciate what beauty and pleasure still exists!

I am reminded of the story of the man chased by a tiger.  He falls over a cliff, and realizes that he is hanging by a root which is slowly pulling out of the dirt, with a snarling tiger waiting on the cliff above, and sharp rocks far below ready to make pulp of his flesh.  In the midst of this, he sees a little plant growing right beside his cheek, smells the perfume of the plump, perfectly ripe strawberry, plucks it and savors its juicy sweetness.  Who among us has the courage to find and appreciate joy under such pressure?  How do we cultivate that kind of awareness and focus?

Do you suffer from a martyr complex? ¬†Have you found any ways to overcome your tendency to color the whole world with the pain of the worst thing that’s happening in your life right now? ¬†Can you care for the sick tree while drawing inspiration from the healthy ones? ¬†Are you waiting for an end to all suffering before you experience joy?

A Big Resolution

On this New Year’s Eve, I have lots of small resolutions I could list: projects I mean to finish, people I mean to keep in better touch with, ways I mean to take better care of my family.

But if I could just make one resolution come true it would be this: to develop a core of wise calmness with which to respond to people and situations instead of my current strategy, which is to give into the temptation to lose my cool and stomp around hollering like a crazy person.

I fully sympathize with the pressure I’m under on a daily basis. ¬†I frequently have many people clamoring, often not so quietly or politely, for my attention and my assistance. ¬†I can (after the fact) look back at myself in a certain situation, say, with two pots working on the stove, my husband calling to have me edit a story, my three year old refusing to listen to his 8 year old sister’s demand that he stop whacking her with a dinosaur, all the while having a screaming baby beside me, and I can say, wow, no wonder you started hollering when one of the kids wrinkled their nose and said, “Ew! I don’t WANT that for dinner!”

But the reality is, I don’t want to excuse myself, however much I may understand that my angry response is natural. ¬†Stressful situations are a part of everyone’s life. ¬†When my kids are grown there will still be something that tries to push me over the edge. ¬†I want a new response. ¬†One that might not fix everything, but which will truly be the best response possible, and one that I won’t have to feel like crap about afterwards.

A few years ago, I went through a dark emotional time where I was intensely jealous of my husband.  I used to have to get out of bed and take my stewing to the living room, because I was absolutely consumed with pain throughout my heart and my body.  I sat with the horrible feelings, I wrote about it, I talked to people, I prayed, I desperately tried everything.  I have no idea what did the trick, but that nasty agonizing jealousy went away.

I believe the same thing can happen with my anger.  If I can only have one big change this year, I want it to be a connection to Oneness so deep that love and joy cannot help but infuse themselves into the world through my heart.

From Essential Sufism edited by James Fadiman & Robert Frager

“Some Israelites insulted Jesus one day as he walked through the marketplace.

He answered them only by repeating prayers in their name.

Someone said to him, “You prayed for these men. ¬†Do you not feel anger at their treatment of you?”

He answered, “I could spend only what I carry in my purse.” — Attar