I’m not sorry

This is home. My grandparents picked up this property around 1961. 80 acres on one side of the highway, 80 acres on the other. This is what my first idea of a “hobby farm” looked like.

I love, so much, the outpouring of support, love, prayers, and friendly thoughts to me and my family in this time of grieving. The kindness in the thought expressed, “I’m sorry,” means a lot. But, I need to acknowledge that I am not sorry.

I was sorry when Cristi died. Hers was a life cut too short, unfinished. She was my sister, and I felt robbed that we didn’t get a chance to adult together. I was very sorry when she died. And, I really appreciated the sentiment expressed, then. No one really knows what to say in times of such a tragic situation.

I found the words, “I’m sorry,” were the best choice for others also experiencing grief. “I am sorry that this thing is happening that is causing pain.” But, pain is life. Life is full of promise, joy, pain, happiness, tears of sadness and gladness. So, in a sense, I am far form sorry that you are experiencing that we are experiencing this human existence to its fullest. I am glad that we have the opportunity to feel sadness and grief over a life no longer with us, immediately right now.

How lucky am I that, in this immediate instance, I have a grandfather that lived to be 93 years old. Though he wasn’t always lucid the last ten years of his life, by all accounts he lived a full life. He married his high school sweet heart, he served his country, he raised a large, boisterous family. He provided for his needs, his children’s needs to the best of his abilities, and supported the next generation. I am so happy that I get to call him my grandfather, and I am so happy that he had this rich story cultivated around his values and his expression of life.

I am not sorry he died. I am not sorry he lived. I am not sorry for his story, as it was a glorious one.

In reflection, there are a few things I am sorry for. I am sorry that Alzheimer’s consumed his existence these last ten years. I am sorry that dementia made him into a man I didn’t recognize. I am sorry that old age brought bloating and other ill-health side affects that mostly made him unrecognizable. I am sorry that the last time I saw him, five short minutes, was largely spent with him sleeping.

But, I am not sorry I did get to see him in his end of life. I am not sorry for that last hug. I am not sorry that his life helped me reshape what I think about aging and the aging process. Like leaves that wither and die in the fall, all life has a season, and I truly believed my grandfather and grandmother lived their season to their fullest. I am not sorry I got to witness so much of their life.

Thank you, Grandma and Grandpa, for continuing to show me what love and life can look like, even past your end of days.

In memory of…

I took this picture September 2004. I came over, from Oregon, a long weekend to celebrate (surprise!) Grandpa’s 80th birthday. The cool, beautiful September, with the crisp temperature and changing colors. This is how I will remember my grandparents.

It’s Thursday. It started out as a normal Thursday. But, now, it will forever be known as the day my grandfather died. He was 92.

He lived a long life. He met his sweetheart in 7th or 8th grade, and they courted through high school. He served as a nurse, stationed in Germany, during World War II. We didn’t call it PTSD back then, but I was instructed never to ask about the war (to any of my grandparents), rather to listen kindly if they shared stories. Grandpa Woodaz didn’t share any stories.

Uncles talking, about what? Does it matter? This is a common occurrence. Groups of men gabbing, outside, on the farm.

Growing up, I thought of him as fierce. Like my grandmother, he was always there. We spent a lot of time on the farm when living in the UP, where I was born. One entire summer, we lived with my grandparents. I remember being told our car needed to be fixed.

We would wake up and go to bed with the rest of the farm, which included my grandparents and my uncle. He was the youngest and finishing high school. Together, they had ten children, never loosing any, within an almost 30 year span. That uncle, Danny, was an uncle when he was born. Their legacy includes over 40 grandchildren and many, many, great and even great-great grandchildren.

My grandfather offered me my first beer. It was likely Pabst Blue Ribbon. I was 8. I had a sip, because, why would you say no to Grandpa? I hated it. And, boy did he laugh. His Polish blue eyes twinkling, and the smile that lit up his whole face. Contrasting with his deeply tanned, brown skin, and white hair, always short in a buzz cut. We often saw him after he came home from work at the paper mill. And he always asked, “Do you want a whisker rub?” The worst kind of cheek-to-cheek kiss a child could ask for, with his five o’clock shadow, like sandpaper on your baby soft, childhood skin. And he would laugh, and laugh.

Munising Paper Mill

Sometimes, he wouldn’t laugh, and the fierceness would come through. When I was about 5, my cousin, Darryl, did not obey my grandfather, and he climbed on a flat bed trailer that was on the property. The wood was rotting, and Darryl fell and cut his lip. The next thing I knew, Darryl was in Grandma’s chair, in a timeout in the living room, a little blood coming from his lip. How could he be in trouble when he got hurt? He did not listen to Grandpa, and that’s why he got hurt.

They had 10 kids. TEN. Can you imagine? I can’t. We’ve stopped at one. I’m guessing that’s one reason why it was a never-ending parade of weddings when I was a little girl. All the weddings were held at the Hall. This was a community building, and every single reception was held in this hall. We had a formula for weddings. From my young eyes, it looked like: potluck made by all the gray haired aunts, kegs of beer, and a DJ who played polkas. The building was like a large pole barn with hard, concrete floors. They were perfect for dancing, and boy did our family dance. I have memories of begging to polka with Grandpa. Why? Because you didn’t actually need to know how to dance! He would spin you around, and you would fly. Uncle Tommy was the only other person who would dance with you, like that.

Eventually, Grandpa retired. And, then, he was home all the time. But he never stopped moving. He was always puttering to and fro. Coming in the house, periodically, for another cup of coffee. When I was younger, he’d open the fridge when the day was done and get a beer. That stopped after some time. Coffee, though. Never ending coffee. After my Uncle Danny returned from his tours in the Navy, the coffee got better. You see, Danny spent time in Seattle. So the Midwestern, watered down brew turned into good coffee. When it was the Midwestern brew, we had a church coffee pot in the kitchen. And it was never empty. The coffee was always on.

Sherry shared this photo. This is a GREAT way to remember Grandpa.

Eventually, age settled in. But, it was after they both turned 80. Though I’ve heard that the human body has the capacity to live to 120 years old, because our life expectancy is in our 70s, I was amazed they made it that long. That feels like a long, full life. The end of life cycle turned into a challenge as health related issues arose. That’s not how I will choose to remember either of them. This image in 2004 is how I will remember them. Vibrant and full of life. The laughs – everyone always laughing. The big, giant bear hugs (and yes, this is why I’m a hug person), the traditions old and new, the pride of our Polish heritage. I miss my grandparents, as they were, every single day. I cling to hope they are reunited, maybe ready to recreate their love story.

Thank you Grandma and Grandpa for showing me what love can look like.

More on youngin’ emotional identification

I did get this one of him, though
I did get this one of him, though

Using oils to help my son isn’t something new. I started applying them on me and Levi as soon as I got my first package.

What is surprising, though, is how often I use them in conjunction with helping him find emotion. He got in trouble, again, at school. Sure, part is the age, but part — why can’t he just remember?

Then, I have to consider. It’s taken me how long to learn to identify and name my emotions? And, he is only eight years old? I must give this young one at least a grain of salt.

This particular week, he had two days in a row where he was disrupting his class in some way. His teacher purposefully addresses the outcome that wasn’t met to incite a conversations with parents or care givers. She marks off the one of four student-learning-expectations that were not followed. Often, though, our darling son “cannot remember” what happened.

Levi has a very distinctive “flight” response when he doesn’t want to talk about a thing. He clams up. He freezes. And, he runs away. Usually, he runs to his room.

As he’s gotten older, Peter and I have gotten more stern about telling him to stop, come to us, and try to talk.

I have tried to articulate emotions – attempting to model by showing him through me, like this action makes me MAD. We sometimes try to name what we think he’s feeling, choosing a few different words to see if we land on something that resonates with him.

This particular time, those strategies weren’t working.

So, I went to my oils and grabbed Balance and Citrus Bliss. I told Levi to take his socks off, and we both sat on the living room floor. I grabbed his feet and I massaged a drop each of the oils on each foot. I talked, specifically, about something other than the bad behavior.

Within a few minutes, he started to open up, and he was able to remember that he talked out of turn in class.

I love this power of touch, this power of aroma, this power of these gifts of the Earth.

Coaching Levi through Emotions

Levi walks into the church with his class.
Levi walks into the church with his class.
Levi participated in his First Communion last Sunday. He has accepted this rite of passage I’ve introduced for him, but he hasn’t had any particular high or low emotion about it. He certainly loves getting dressed up for church, always insisting on wearing his Sunday Best.

So, in many ways, this Sunday was no different. The biggest difference was that this was First Communion, so we had to arrive early for set up and photos.

He was excited when we arrived. Most of his 2nd grade class was also participating in this rite of passage. I had to read, so I had to leave his group 20 minutes before mass started. The typical, “Mommy, don’t go!” commenced. I pealed myself away, and readied myself at the church.

I saw him, and his class, again just before church started. We were all waiting outside, for our cues. Levi asked me to sit with him, and after getting permission from his teacher, we arranged a way for me to join them.

What I hadn’t noticed at the time was the sort of typical emotional roller coaster my son ventures on, daily.

After I was done reading, I joined him in his pew. His behavior wavered from paying attention to mass to small misbehaviors. Small misbehaviors that I worked on correcting. Pay attention to this. Control that. Mind yourself. It’s not time for questions. It’s time to pay attention.

First Communion went without a hitch. Levi couldn’t help but tell me that the wine was less than desirable. The small misbehaviors continued, along with the small corrections. Usually, we don’t allow treats post-Mass when small misbehaviors are so consistent. But, today was special, so full participation in the reception was, in my mind, mandatory.

We walked over, and it was quite full – both First Communion families and regular Mass attendees. So, I found a space next to one of his friends, and pulled up a chair for only Levi at this already crowded table.

One mom invited us to brunch, knowing we didn’t have plans. I made a call to check in with my husband, but there was no answer. I checked in on Levi, and everything was buoyant and fine. Then, I needed to chat with another mom. I was gone, maybe, 45 seconds. When I walked the 20 or 30 feet across the school hall, Levi had leapt from his chair in tears!

I escorted/chased him towards the bathrooms. I wanted to be able to talk to him, privately, without any onlookers. He walked into the men’s bathroom. I scolded him to come out, and we went to the unisex bathroom. Tears, quick breaths, red face. Finally, he says, “She took your seat!”

The best I could decipher was that his friend’s sister took the last remaining seat. A seat that Levi had assigned to me. A seat I never knew was vacant and certainly didn’t assign to me.

Levi helping me frost the cake.
Levi helping me frost the cake.
We couldn’t even leave because there was always someone else to chat with. Levi only wanted to go home. I told him if we went home, we’d miss brunch.

After two brief chats, both with parents (and principals!) who assured this was a normal phase, we went to the car.

The poor boy was still a mess when we got home. We tried to help him name what he was feeling, offering sad, mad, frustrated, to no avail. We gave the poor boy time outs hoping he’d be able to ponder more, to no avail.

Finally, we settled on making him sit in my husband’s for some parental snuggles while I made frosting, all of us in the kitchen.   I also took him aside and rubbed his feet with Citrus Bliss and Balance – the goal to help him be more open to his feelings and even them out. Soon, his mood changed. He was never able to fully tell us what was going on, but he was able to lighten his mood.

We were able to finish the cake, he changed, we lunched, we had cake.

Then, almost two hours later, Levi wanted to know when we were going to brunch. Among other connections we are still working on – cause and effect tops the list. Although we ended in a good mood, the progress always seem slow trying to help him make these emotional connections.

Diffusing Citrus Bliss

Citrus Bliss in its 15 ml bottle.
Citrus Bliss in its 15 ml bottle.

I no longer remember how I got Elevation and Citrus Bliss. I’ve scoured my past invoices, and have resolved they must have been a promotion.

I cannot imagine, though, a life without these two oils.

Previously, I learned I have vitamin B and Vitamin D deficiencies. One test clocked in my Vitamin D at “11”. A friend exclaimed, “What do you have rickets?!”

I haven’t asked for a new vitamin panel, so instead, I go off how I feel. After learning that a symptom of deficiencies in both vitamin B and D can be “low moods”, I was keenly aware of my mood when I decided to stop taking my Walgreens supplements.

But, how was I going to support my moods to get my “cheery” stasis consistent?
I decided to wear Elevation daily, as a deodorant. I also diffuse Citrus Bliss when I am home.

Aside from my husband commenting, the other day, how much he’s appreciated what a good mood I’ve been in the last few weeks, I immediately noticed the difference in our home.

Citrus Bliss in my nebulizing diffuser.
Citrus Bliss in my nebulizing diffuser.

After diffusing Citrus Bliss a few days after that initial package dropped on my doorstep – it was so clear how much “lighter” our moods were. We were more open to talk about whatever – our days, our feelings, what’s for dinner. We were less tense, and the mood in the house was joyful.

It’s amazing, this realization… that bringing plant-based oils into our home has allowed us to be more open. I enjoy the scent, like smelling a fresh rose blooming in a garden. I enjoy watching the moods. I enjoy learning about how the oils can clean our homes, ourselves, our lives.

It’s joyful knowing the empowerment that comes with this oil and all its brothers.

I will not be ashamed

Refusing to be photographed in Italy.
Refusing to be photographed in Italy.

We do what?

A photographer friend noted how common it was for her women clients to refuse photographs of themselves. They are too ashamed of how they look, so they erase themselves from their children’s lives for shame. What happens is that children, when as adults looking back, children then have no photographic keepsakes of their mothers. Their mothers have been erased from their lives.

I was horrified at the thought of my son looking back when he becomes a young man only to find no pictures of me or his father. Sure, we’re not model beautiful. Yes, we have our own identify issues, but to erase ourselves from our son’s life because of shame of how we look?

I was simply horrified.

Begrudgingly accepting I need to be in photos.
Begrudgingly accepting I need to be in photos.

Until that day, I had accepted that I needed to be in photographs. But, that need was limited to special occasions. At Levi’s birth. His birthday parties.

When I heard that anecdote years ago, now, I resolved to be in Levi’s photos unashamed.

I have tried to make a routine of taking little selflies whenever Levi and I do something. Maybe we’re getting coffee or playing in a park. Maybe I’ve taken him volunteering or brought him to a social justice something. Maybe we’re with friends.

On the coast with family.
On the coast with family.

I also take pictures of Levi and my husband, lest that stage be forgotten.

I always cringe looking at certain pictures. Criticizing myself for my looks. Continuing to be very uncomfortable while trying to be unashamed. I try suppress the shameful thoughts while I embrace the things I love: my son and my husband and the moments we share.

I am my son’s mother. My husband and I are his immediate role models. I want my son to be able to express his emotions. I want him to look back at his childhood with fondness. It takes a sense of courage I never considered.

It takes acceptance of where I am. I cannot figure out how to get more movement into my days. If I can’t get more movement into my days, and I eat a moderately healthy meal, and I know there are obstacles stacked in front of me, then I need to be somewhat okay with what I present.

I am not sharing this to say: do this. Rather, I am sharing this to capture this journey I am on. How I have faced hating how I look, being ashamed, facing the model I am to my son, and trying to assess how I want to show up in life.

I am trying to remember that I like it when I am truly cheerful, despite my (perceived) flaws. I am trying to remember that I like having even emotions so that I can be present to whatever situations arise.

I can’t be present when I am dwelling on things I cannot or am unwilling to change. So, I must face them with owning who I am and being unashamed about that person. I have a story, just like we all have a story. I am living my story, and it is unique to me. It is special for my family to share, and I have to be present for them. And, to be fully present, I will not be ashamed.

Last week in photos

This week, we just got by. Peter started his new schedule. Seven years after working at TriMet, we have finally been besieged by the dreaded midnight schedule. In large part due to TriMet management’s refusal to understand scope of work and fail to fill 7 retiree jobs. So, our schedule is upheaved, again.

Here are a few pictures of a few moments that captivated our attention during this adjustment to upheaval.

Daily Post (1/6): My favorite

Farmhouse 2

A view onto the vineyards from one of the 5 farmhouses on the property.

What’s the most time you’ve ever spent apart from your favorite person? Tell us about it.

I was in Italy. Well, first I was in Michigan, then I was in London, then I was in Italy, back to London, back to Chicago, and home. I was gone nearly 4 weeks. It was a Sustainability Tour of Tuscany. It was absolutely divine. But I was gone, away from my beloved Petey Pie. So, we had to establish some ground rules.

First, let me begin by expressing how astonished I am that I haven’t taken the time to write about this experience in this venue. Granted, I started this space a few years after I took the trip, I just would have assumed I had done enough retrospective writing that this amazing opportunity would have been included.

Alas, I cannot find proof, so I will begin anew with this veil of thought. How did this trip effect me and my favorite? What did we do to overcome the distance.

Millenium Walkway

The Millennium Walkway in London.

It must have been April of 2006. I was on the heals of figuring out that my goal in life is to, “educate people on the importance of a sustainable society.” Once I figured out this focus, it seemed like everything fell into place. shortly afterwards, PSU announced a “Sustainable Urban Development” minor. Classes were popping up everywhere – specific to my interests! I was able to find so much opportunity, and then, I saw the advertisement for the “Sustainability in Tuscany”. It was a two-week study abroad that studied the ins and outs of an agri-tourismo property near Siena, Italy – in the heart of Tuscany.

There was no way I could pass up this amazing opportunity. So, I applied, I scoped out loans, and I secured airline tickets. Soon, the date approached where I would fly out. In September, I was armed with my luggage, my cell phone, and my international calling card. First, it was Portland to Chicago. Cristi picked me up from the airport and drove me back to Greenville where I spent a few days with family. Then, it was back to Chicago to London. I spent a few days in London, walking the streets, exploring the museums, drawing in the park  (Hyde), and learning the tube system.

del Campo

The Plaza in Siena, one of the last great public spaces.

Next, I was onto the smaller, Standsted Airport where I flew to Pisa. From Pisa, I was on a train to Florence then a bus to Siena. That was probably one of my worst travel days – ever. I had nearly missed connections, I ran out of money, couldn’t find my train, had difficulty finding the bus, and I got off at the wrong stop! At one point, I tearfully called my Petey Pie. Prior, we had been talking once a day. I was almost to Siena, but I didn’t speak the language and I barely knew the city where I was stranded! Very soon (maybe 45 minutes), I figured out the inter-city bus fare lasts quite a while. So, I just needed to wait for another bus. As soon as I was off the bus, the horrific uncertainty of the day was behind me, and I was walking the streets of beautiful Siena. I learned the most important Italian word (dove for where), found my hotel, and soon met with my group. After a few days in Siena, we embarked onto the rest of our journey at lovely Spannochia.

Here is where the rituals really began. There was one phone and one expensive internet connection. The phone was off the main entrance in a small booth with tiny wooden doors. If the doors were closed, you assumed someone was making a call, and you had to wait. Not only was I across the American Continent and over the Atlantic Ocean; I was also a 9 hour difference from home. I sketched out a chart of when I could call, and got in the habit of calling at 9:00 am and 6:00 pm. I would call, when my morning began, just as my Petey Pie was going to bed. Before dinner, I would surmise my days events just as he was starting his.

Volterra

The weekly market in Volterra.

But, occasionally (twice maybe?), someone was using the phone when I was scheduled to call. And, my opportunity for calling subsided as I was whisked away to the day’s activities. When I had my nighttime call, my dear Petey Pie expressed sorrowful worry. I missed my check in! And, I am 9 time zones away! He can’t fix this problem!

As we were riding through Italy, all I wanted was to share this experience with him. I wanted to rent a little Fiat, and drive the windy, white lined roads through wine country. I wanted to get lost with him in the streets of Volterra as we both explored the various carvings and Estruscan ruins.

But, this adventure wasn’t for him. It was for me. So, we called twice a day while he fixed bicycles back home and I explored Italia.

Daily prompt: A plot of earth

Farm Shot
My brother carrying his daughter on the Farm.

You’re given a plot of land and have the financial resources to do what you please. What’s the plan?

Simple. Acquisitions. You see, there is a book, and it explains who all the owners are. They are neighbors to the plot of earth. They are longtime, and sometimes new, residents to the area. They might have had kids grow up and move away. They might be treating the space as their vacation home.

Regardless, I thought the earth was infinite as a youth, and it’s my dream to make it seem more so.

There is something that churns at my stomach when I consider those who have second and third homes. On one hand, I am envious. And, perhaps that’s the only hand. Because, then I consider all those who have nothing.

Peter is fond of saying, lately, that he does not think Levi will have the resources when he is an adult to purchase his own plot of earth. That is, the housing prices will have increased so dramatically, that Levi will be Out of Reach.

Growing up, I always felt out of reach. I suppose I was vaguely aware of aunts and uncles who owned versus those in our predicament, seemingly to always be on the cusp of another’s wishes.

So, my dream is to acquire the plot of earth. Rather, aid in its tending, and grow it. Currently, it sits at 160 acres, divided by a highway. I’d like to pick up the properties adjacent, one at a time, until everything is owned abutting the state and federal lands. Then, I would like to purchase the land Mead used to cut down trees when I was a teenager. Then, I would like to buy out the second homes. All the land would go in a preserve, an extension of the existing trust. And, we would learn from it.

“Land is to be loved and respected, is an extension of ethics. Land is ecology, ethics, and history.” – Aldo Leopold

My uncle told me that my grandfather is the first tree hugger. My uncle told me that he nurtured a certain grove of trees on the land the entire 40+ years he lived there and was able to care for it. My grandparents, in my estimation, were kind of like the original homesteaders. (Granted, this is not possible since they were born of the 20th century, but to me, this is what I’ve known.) They gardened. They husbanded animals. They churned butter. They pasteurized their own milk. They made bread. They shoveled. They tended. They nurtured. And, they grew. They grew with each other, on the land. They grew their family, together, on the land.

I want that legacy to live on, but showing it to others.

Once our food buying club coalesced into an amazing group purchasing food together, it was very evident how much knowledge was within the group. It was also evident how much we had to learn. We needed to know how to cook with the food we were procuring. We needed to understand its nutritional value. We needed to understand the land that fostered its growth. We needed to understand how to preserve it for the off-season. And all those things require a space in which to sit around, learn, do, and teach.

In this plot of earth, I would create that space. We would resurrect the old barn into a community kitchen. Perhaps we would do some sort of agri-tourismo, though not in Italy. Perhaps we could have interns from the nearby high schools and colleges, and from far away. I don’t envision a strict back-to-the-land curriculum, more farmsteading. We would study how to plan, plant, tend, and harvest a garden. We would discuss the benefits of farm animals and varied ways to husband them while also nurturing the earth. We would explore cottage industries and economies. We would make soap together. We would make bread together, and we would break bread together. We would share knowledge, and meals in this preserve so that our children don’t have to worry about whether they can afford the next thing. They would have a space, in the family, that would help them take care of themselves.