Not for me.

I am #blessed to be able to be a stay at home mom. And I choose to do so. Because I want to watch my child grow. We don’t get many opportunities for that in this isolated iculture. But at the same, time I am driven past the limits of my sanity on a regular basis. 

If you don’t know what I’m talking about either you don’t have kids or you have one of those that just sits there and googles cute baby drool and giggles until they fall asleep peacefully and you lay them down and breathe a sigh of contentment that all is right in the world. Well I’m here to tell you, it’s not.

For example, my baby does not usually sleep unless I’m laying with her. That translates 4-6 hours most days that go down the tubes. So I am not capable of doing all the things that are needed on my own. Something is always falling through the cracks. Whether it’s my lunch or her need for emotional support or social interaction or fresh air and exercise or my marriage’s need for time or my need for support and inspiration or living in an environmentally sustainable way or or or… As a result I lost my shit a long time ago.

Some moms sacrifice themselves, some the babies (yes, I think CIO is literally baby torture). Some voluntarily go back to work and let a babysitter deal with it. I suppose some find a happy medium. But try as I might this has eluded me. And I’m not alone. 

You see there are these groups on FB that I didn’t know we’re there…until I became a mom who nursed all day. These groups? They are FULL of moms freaking the fuck out. Sometimes it’s blatant sometimes it’s a passive aggressive call for help…”hey mamas, I can have a glass of wine before noon if the baby is asleep, eh??” Ha fucking ha. That shit is messed up and a serious call for help. And we’re supposed to then be able to nurture the most vulnerable members of our society??

The thing I keep coming back to is that we really messed it all up when we moved away from the tribe. The fact is, babies need mommies AND mommies need community. Whoa! AND babies need community! Whoa!! We need the space to do our own work AND we need to work together and be made aware of how our actions effect others. Because we are (interconnected). And because healthy interdependence grows us. 

When living communally we can live more efficiently. We don’t need stupid life sucking screens because we have real interaction. We heal the divide between race and political parties and religion because we witness and work with the vulnerability that is neatly tucked away most of the time in our current system.

I’m here to say: it’s not working. Not for me, not for the babies, not for the environment, not for anyone. And I’m heading for the commune as quick as I can.

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Both…and. Goals Achieved and Wanting More.

In 2015 I reached a goal. Communal living had been in my heart for many years and finally the planets aligned and we made it to Higher Ground.

I am thankful for this wonderful co-housing community. I am thankful for all of the inspiring people that live here (everyone!) and make our lives truly rich. I am thankful to have been watching this goal unfurl over the past few years. It has been so affirming, which is the true gold.

But as I explore this new lifestyle, with all the wonders it brings, I still find it lacking. I hate to even say that. It is such an amazing improvement from normal and I’m sure it is just right and quite ideal for many if not most. But I continue to want more overlap in my life with others who are open.

Right now that overlap looks like scheduled play dates, cooking coops, babysitting, regular weekly dinners with friends…And I want more! Knitting nights, music playing nights, dance parties…my Google Calendar – with the appointments of different colors, Troy’s calendar, my calendar, our calendar, the commitment to organization and changing things around when an opportunity or misfortune arises – is insane!

I want to scale it WAY back. I want to allow for inspiration and flow. To some degree, within structure we are free. I want a minimum of that, the back bone. The cooking the cleaning the admin. And beyond that I want friends and family around me so we can flow to whichever activity we are moved to at the time – playing music together or some of us going for a hike while whoever is not interested can oversee the kids. It sounds like a fucking fairy tale. But, it literally WAS the human experience until relatively recently.

Working as a group takes commitment, communication and time. But I believe it is well worth it and ultimately the most healthy way forward for our world. As we have moved away from the tribe we have lost a lot of interpersonal skills and wisdom. But the process of learning that has been one of the most rewarding parts of my life. I highly recommend it.

Beyond the loss in relationships/connection/communication our independent lifestyle is killing us. The stress of the rat race to maintain our private abodes takes a tole on our personal and shared (environmental) health. Yep.

So I think my ideal is this. Tiny tiny private family spaces (just a small bedroom or two and a micro bathroom) connected or close to a grand common house. Due to pooled resources the shared space can be quite luxurious. Obviously there must be a large kitchen and dining space. I also want: office, music room, kids room, craft room, tool shop, theater plus a beautiful garden and space for livestock. I think I would choose pretty rural but I’m not certain.

I think we can start by buying property together. Either with an existing house or not. We buy old trailers to live in temporarily while we build the common and tiny houses of our dreams. Mine will be made of organic materials. Currently in Deschutes county having several tiny houses requires an agriculture business. We can sell eggs at Locavore. Whatever. The kids can run wild plus a little homeschooling.

If you are interested in joining me, please read Nonviolent Communication by Marshall Rosenburg, then get in touch…

Much love to you and yours in 2016! May you reach your goals whatever they are…

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Good bye to the Westside. Hello faith…

As I prepare to move my life across town I want to pause in appreciation. I have a lot of wonderful days and moments in my life. I know I complain a lot on the internet and I am sorry my expression is often so unbalanced. I do have joy and immense gratitude in my life. 

I am so grateful for the lessons I have learned. I dearly love the sweet and amazing and inspiring people who I have around me and have crossed paths with. I dearly love the people who have challenged me with envy and hate. And of course I am thankful beyond belief for this soft precious baby girl who gives me kisses and giggles joyfully when I snorffle her neck. My life is truly beautiful, a gift to be sure.

Maybe that is why I have such short patience when something feels wrong. I am getting really close to a place of faith that ultimately it is all good – even the really messed up stuff like Hitler and babies born into unhealthy families. These things break my heart but logically I can see perhaps it is all part of our spiritual evolution. 

My meditation and dharma teacher, Valeta, says mindfulness is unbiased. I see that. But likely I have a long way to go to grasp it and to be at peace no matter the circumstances. I want enlightenment but I want it my way – through a happy tribe of loving committed souls who are there to help when I need a shower. But those are not my conditions! And probably if they were I would be pissed about it for some other reason!! Ha!
So I am learning patience. I am having my heart broken open. And we are leaving a beautiful house to live in community. There is much to celebrate! Thank you all dear friends and family for your contribution to it all.

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Negative Nancy

I know no one wants to hear it. I don’t even want to hear it! But I just get so angry at how things are. By conventional measures things are actually pretty amazing for me. But often all I can see is how SO messed up it all is. 

I used to be mad at the environment destroyers, the rich and the bigots. Now I see all that as symptoms of the breakdown in community and human connection. So I am just mad at God, I guess. Which ultimately, if I believe in God (and I do more and more), doesn’t even make sense because if she does exist then there’s nothing to worry about! Yet there it is- the anger and of course below it the sadness. 

I am sad that it’s just us three alone in our house most of the time. Yeah, we have play dates (although they are frustratingly difficult to fit around naptime), have friends for dinner, go to the park etc. But the park? It’s a bunch of strangers- Ellie doesn’t know the kids, why the hell would she play with them, like I used to imagine she might. Sometimes an older girl will take Ellie under her wing and it is the sweetest thing. Then we wave bye bye and never see her again. 

Obviously this is my problem with myself. I don’t have any close regular friendships. It’s probably because I am always sad about not having any close regular friendships. But also it seems like without a work community or a church community or something it is nearly impossible to have regular connection. I would go to UU if it weren’t in the middle of fucking naptime. 

So I guess I am mad at God that in our society it is so hard to socialize with young children. These years that are probably the most precious of my life are tainted by isolation and thus EXTREME frustration and anger. And this to me is a tragic tragic loss. I am not sure how to make lemonade from these lemons.

Great, so move to a commune. Easy right? Well, we’ll see. First we might try a cohousing community. Because it is more accessible to us immediately. There won’t be regular friends around every moment but likely at least there will be more familiar faces at the shared playground and over dinner at the weekly potluck and maybe I can kick off a regular Sunday morning waffle breakfast in the common kitchen…

I know truly the point is to achieve peace wherever I am. But I just can’t quite get there from here. And that really is the true frustration, that these precious moments are being wasted to wanting it to be different. I can’t quite put my finger on what how to get past that. But I hope I figure it out soon. Suggestions are welcome. In the meantime thanks for bearing with me while I work it out. 

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contrived and empty

Here we are again. It’s Monday. The dishes are overflowing, clutter fills every horizontal space and the to-do list haunts me. 

We rush out the door first thing to make it to the gym in time for our reserved daycare hour. I don’t want to go today but childcare is limited so it gets booked two weeks ago. I head to the weight room and the elyptical thingies. So boring. I would love a Zumba class or something but none work with the nap routine. And I have an out of control phobia of the pool, so I put on my headphones and This American Life or Freakanomics. Ira Glass is probably my closest friend.

We make it home just in time for the nap. Hunger waits. She cried on the drive home, there was a brief pause while I carried her in but she wails again as I put down for a fresh diaper. This time it has that defeated ring to it. “I’ve been trying to tell you for 15 minutes, I need to be in your arms and now you’re putting me down again!?!” she says… I nurser her to sleep and stroke her sweet baby legs. Today I am lucky – she is out in 20 minutes and stays asleep for nearly an hour and a half. Other days I am there the entire time, often 2 hours, trying to escape every 10 minutes.

I spend the time trying to figure out where to start and settle on whatever jumps out at me first. There’s probably something much more important I should do first but who knows what it is…I try and fail to be that organized. I hear her cry just as I am delving into the dishes. I take off my gloves. I take off my apron. I take off my shoes. She’ll probably want to nurse and snooze another 30 minutes.

When we get back out to the living room I probably ought to make her lunch but there are so many dirty dishes I can’t think straight let alone consider making space on the counter to put lunch together. Luckily we have balloons left over from the party yesterday. I know they will be a hit and sure enough, she’s playing and I slip off to do the dishes. Back on go the gloves and the apron…But she is sooo cute. I can’t just spend my days ignoring my baby, so I watch for a second. But I should capture this moment! The grandparents want videos. Off go the gloves. Where’s the phone? Oh yeah. Go get the phone. Take a video. I’ll upload that someday…Back on go the gloves. The balloons, thank God, keep her entertained til the dishwasher is going.

But now she’s fussing again. It makes me sad because I know she is bored and lonely. I wish we were in a tribe with a gang of kids and some elders to watch them. I would gladly do all the work…She is still fussing fussing fussing. That word does not properly convey the high pitched nails on a chalk board squeal and cry of frustration and disappointment. Nothing does. It makes me want to break things. So impulsively I am putting her in the stroler and we head for the park. At least there we can strike up brief and shallow conversations with strangers we’ll never see again. That always cheers me up. 

No, no it doesn’t. But at least Ellie is distracted. For about 60 seconds. Again she wants up. Have I mentioned how heavy she is? It’s been a while since our 9mo check up, she was 28lbs three months ago. Imagine picking up and holding 30+ lbs in your arms on and off all day. It’s really heavy. 

So we go back to our blanket and sit down. And she cries. And I want to cry. But I choke it back. Nothing like almost  crying in public to make you feel alone. We’ll try the swing. She hates it. I struggle to get her back out. It’s impossible. 30lbs tangled in a swing – this is great for my still recovering pelvic floor, let me tell you. 

She is happy to toddle around a bit now. So I pick a spot near some other moms and take a breath. I ask a woman about her carrier. Her other kid is doing something dangerous, off she goes. I suppose I should have arranged a play date for this exact moment, a week ago. We had a group going for a little while but I guess the nap routines aren’t lining up right now. It was always a little strange any way, most of us hardly knew each other. And even though you can immediately lock on to a conversation about baby led weaning it’s been hard for me to really make friends that way. 

For a couple weeks now I have been trying to set up a babysitting exchange. I posted about it in the Facebook play date group. I texted a few moms in my neighborhood who I have been trying to build a relationship with. Finally I put it out to a bigger FB group. I have a couple appointments with complete strangers to talk about leaving my child with them. Probably a good idea. Not to worry, we keep having to reschedule due to sick kids etc. 

I check my watch, oh thank God, almost time for the next nap. This is the most precious and important time in my life and I am counting the seconds until it is over. It’ll get better they say. Soon she’ll grow up and you will miss picking her up they say. And I know they are right. I love this sweet girl more than anything, she has exploded my heart with love. But I suppose because of that I am that much more affected by how contrived and empty this way of life is…

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Thankful and happy birthday 

I am worried that  this post  will come off as self righteous. So I need to start by saying that I really believe nurture trumps nature. I believe I am nothing more, nothing less than the result of my specific and unique collection of experiences and conditions. So anything that I am glad for in myself I don’t claim as mine alone, it is thanks to my parents my teachers my friends and my enemies (which of course I don’t believe in but you get the point). 

Today my daughter is a year old. Since the second she entered this world I have been a changed woman. I went from 9 years of depression and anger to new mom bliss in an instant and have generally been in good spirits ever since. At some point early on I realized that even though I had never felt certain I really wanted children Life had been preparing me for it for a long time. 

There were a lot of things I did and was interested in just in case I might have kids some day- my concern for the environment, my health, and world peace…All the years of reading self help books and cleansing, the great man I held on to who I knew would be a good partner…at some point in my youth I stopped eating tuna because I had learned the high Mercury levels were especially bad for developing fetuses! I think I was like 17 at that point!!

And for all that preparation I am so thankful. It has given me and my precious baby such an amazing foundation of health in various ways. It has given me the strength and the faith to stick by my motherly instincts and stand up for what my baby needs. 

An example: as a mom who is lucky enough to be home with my baby most of the time my resolve to avoid TV and other blinky-noisey-hyperactivity-inducing-toys has been severely challenged. But I know that the tranquility of her environment  contributes to her wellbeing. So I found a way – strongly motivated by my experiences and knowledge. Because I know that this first year is fundamentally foundational for Ellie’s physical and mental (same same) health. So again, so thankful. 

Of course I am far from perfect. I do plenty that is harmful. But again, thanks to my experience I can have peace with that and face it without judgement but with the resolve to grow in those places too.

I have so much love for this perfect little person that I am blessed to get to grow with hopefully for the rest of this long life. Happy birthday to her, happy birthday to me and Troy and many many thanks to our community and families and everyone ever for doing your best to in this crazy world!

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Personality test 

This personality test has me pretty dialed! It was neat for me to read this because though it says I am very intuitive and feeling for some reason I have had a very hard time trusting and knowing that. So This was very affirming. Anyhow, this is me!

INFJ – Introverted intuition feeling judging- the protector 

INFJs are kind, mindful, complex and highly intuitive people. This is the most rare personality type of all, only 1 percent of the population has it.

They like to organize their outer world in categories and priorities they never stop redefining. However, they have a great intuition and deal with their inner life very spontaneously. They perceive and understand things very intuitively and are very rarely wrong about their intuitions. This dichotomy between their inner and outer life may result in INFJs being less organized than other Judging types.

Because of their great instincts, INFJs understand people and situations very easily. They often feel when something has happened to some of their friends of family members even if they cannot really explain to themselves how they perceived it. Those strong intuitive capabilities may lead them sometimes to stubbornness and ignoring other people’s opinions since they trust their instincts above everything else. This attitude should not be perceived as arrogance as INFJs are perfectionists and think they should always improve themselves and the world around.

INFJs set up a strong value system for themselves and always care about living in accordance with their values and ideals. They are warm and easy going as long as they do not have to compromise their values.

Warm and caring, they hate conflicts and will avoid hurting people. They will generally internalize their anger which can be a source of stress and health problems for them.

In the work place, most INFJs show up in creative and independent positions. They are good at art and sciences where they can use their intuition at best. They are generally bad at dealing with details and prefer working on the big picture.

INFJs are natural nurturers, protective and devoted. They make loving parents and build strong bonds with their children.

Take the test!

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Respect and CIO.

Recently I got into with some mamas over CIO (cry it out, to the non-recent parents). On FB of course…The most common reaction to my critiques of CIO is offense. People feel negatively judged when I state that I believe leaving a baby to cry (because they feel abandoned) is emotionally harmful. They assume I am implying that because it is harmful, the parents who do it are baaaaad. But I don’t! I truly believe everyone is doing their best. Read that again. EVERYONE…..BEST!! Radical empathy, I’m into it. Not that I’m necessarily good at it, but I’m trying.

So, with my empathy comes great respect, for everyone. Like I said, I know you are doing your best. So even though I may harshly critique your approaches, I still respect you as a person. Again and again, I know you are doing your best with what you have. Please let that sink in and know that I think you are wonderful and beautiful in spite of my disagreements. That way we can have honest discussions about what is ideal for our children without getting wrapped up in guilt, shame and offense, yeah? Then we can really talk about how to get there!!

So, CIO, it is a complex issue. Different families do it for different reasons. Some because mom hasn’t been able to nurse for various reasons so baby will not sleep peacefully when she smells mama and cannot nurse. Some because their MD says they should. Some because everyone in their family has done it that way in recent history. Regardless of why, I think most if not all moms have a hard time doing it at first. And that is what I want to highlight. If mama’s instinct says NO! why do we stuff that and push through? I believe doing that is damaging for mama, baby and thus…EVERYONE! A lot of people do it because everyone does it, and “we’re all fine”…I’m sorry, but I hate that response…we’re not fine. Our society is an emotional health wreck! Even if it is not apparent on the surface, many people have repressed psychological issues that manifest in not so obvious ways. Emotional health effects physical health…There’s a tangent…

ANYHOW, one major thing I want to point out is that I wish we could change our expectations to match what is best for baby (yes, I am assuming CIO is not best for baby…I know that many believe the emotional damage is outweighed by the sleep training at a young age. I am happy to hear respectful critique of this assumption but my heart and many professionals tell me it is wrong…). So, if baby doesn’t sleep peacefully alone in the crib how do we facilitate what baby needs? I know that many parents are pushed to CIO because they spend all night rocking or bouncing or swaddling or whatever to get baby into that crib and are exhausted beyond reason, but there are other options. Instead of giving up and doing CIO let’s reach out and get the support we need to do what is best for baby, which in my opinion is not leaving them alone to cry.

Understandably people react strongly when I use harsh language to describe CIO. But be honest. What does CIO feel like from the baby’s perspective? From a biological perspective and for the vast majority of human existence and still in most of the world young babies sleep with their parents till 2…3…4? It seems crazy, to me, in perspective to leave a baby under 1 year (often as young as a few months) alone, crying for mama. It breaks my heart.

To close, I want to emphasize, I don’t think that parents who have done CIO are bad. I have just as much empathy for the parents as I do babies and I do not want to shame anyone, at all. But I hope that everyone can truthfully examine the effect leaving a baby alone to cry might have. Imagine you are that baby. What else can you possibly think is going on if you cry and cry and cry and no one comes to you? As a parent, please do not feel guilty, but do truly consider the emotional effect of doing that to a brand new person. I know your MD probably says it’s ok, but does considering CIO with real words (abandoned!) make you cringe? Does it TRULY sit well in your heart? And if not, what do you need to make that feel right? Please, share. With me and with your community. Let’s get the support we need to do what is best for our children and thus everyone.

Thanks to you all for doing your best. Much love and respect.

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My dream commune!

I fantasize about communal living. I have for years now. We have visited several groups and I have come down to a pretty clear picture of my ideal set up.

The Community Space

“Whatever we possess becomes of double value when we have the opportunity of sharing it with others.”

Jean Nicolas Bouilly (1763-1842);
Writer, Politician

I’ll start with the super fun part: there is a BIG community space –  kitchen, dinning room, library, lounge, yoga room, movie room, craft room, play room, bathhouse, garden, greenhouses, shop… I love the idea of shared appliances. I think it is unfortunate  that we all need a toaster blender oven vacuum lawn mower. There are so many great gadgets I want but most of them don’t even make sense for single family homes, there just isn’t the counter space! But when I have a shared kitchen I am finally getting that citrus press…

The shared spaces will of course be non toxic eco friendly energy efficient and beautiful. Or as close as we can get to that…

If we are designing our own building there is much inspiration available for passive solar, re-purposed grey water and natural materials. I have seen some incredible examples of (mostly cob) earthen homes on the communes we have visited and I want one, a big one!

Dinning room at Full Bloom commune

Art at Full Bloom

Individual Spaces

Individual family houses will be small and personalized and can be very minimal (read: affordable) thanks to all the shared stuff in the common house. I might market this whole thing as a place to park your tiny house.

#portlandia #tinyhouse

my house will be cob!

House Alive, an earthen home building education center

How we will live 

Most meals will be shared as will cooking and cleaning and group chores. We will work together to figure out the best strategies to manage it all. Naturally a group business idea or two will develop for those who are interested.

We will take care of each other, inspire each other, learn from and laugh with, entertain and support one another. We will pool our strengths and trouble shoot our weaknesses. I make an awesome loaf of sourdough bread. I would really love help meal planning. Oh and medicinal herbs, will someone help me with that when I am sick?

Of course it will be difficult. Working together requires serious intention, investment, communication, personal sacrifice (actually, I’d say that is debatable but in the conventional sense anyhow). But it is one of the worthiest of goals and there is much to be gained. I am so ready for this and many others are too.

Please comment. What do you like or dislike? What does yours look like? Would you or wouldn’t you? Whyyyy?

Thanks for reading!

one of these days i will take a sketching class…

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Separating depression and shame 

The human condition is wrought with suffering. Buddha said there is no way around it. Well, sure enough over the past 10 years or so, as I was finding my way to adulthood I too hit a wall of suffering. And then another. And another…

Anger over inequality and my ties to it. Pain. Loneliness. Sharing my gifts within the confines of capitalism…these have been my struggles. And oh how I have struggled. Deep dark depression plagued me on and off for years. It is a lot easier to say that out loud with some distance from it. But even while it lasted I was coming to terms with honesty around it. And I am so thankful for the influences in my life that helped normalize it. 

I’m not sure if society in general is opening up to the reality of depression or if I just see it that way right now. I’ll mention a few key influences that have helped me see that I am not alone…My dear friend Angela sharing belly laughs over the similarities in our neurotic tendencies (she is currently traveling in Baja, see her blog here). Another amazing girlfriend Erin (nutritional therapist, fitness coach and intentional liver extraodinaire) gifted me Brené Brown’s book, Daring Greatly. That book has been a huge positive influence on me, helping to banish shame from my head. Lastly my counselor and meditation teacher, the wise Valeta Bruce, sharing radical empathy. Thanks to these women I am no longer ashamed and can reach out when I feel low and break the hold depression used to have on me. 

Oh, and of course my mom 🙂 Thanks for never giving up on me. 

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