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.

Hi! It’s me. It’s been a while. Let’s connect.

I love writing, but finding my blogging voice has been quiet, silent, for a long time. I had an amazing experience a week or so ago, so I thought I’d write about it.

I have friends all over the political spectrum, but your vibe attracts your tribe, and my tribe is left-leaning women who resonate with creating a women-empowered economy, and even smashing the patriarchy. We know that it’s our time, and we want to do this journey together. A journey where we create a more love-centered, compassionate world. A world where we seek win-wins, instead of wars.

This election has a lot of us riled up. RILED UP. I have confessed, multiple times now, that during Obama’s administration, I fell asleep politically. Instead, I chose to focus on my family, things near to me that I could control. I missed out on great speeches, some political decisions I think are disastrous and don’t represent my values, and some political decisions I would have appreciated celebrating.

An old man was elected to the presidential office. Again, someone who espouses values that I do not agree with, at least they come across as the opposite of compassionate, win-win decisions. The campaign, from that vantage point, seemed to be a campaign of anger, hate, and riling people up for violence. Again, values that I do not espouse, nor do I want represented in the office we hold most dear in this land.

So, what’s a girl to do? We march. And, march we did. The early estimates, for Portland, guessed that 20,000 to 30,000 women would show up. The final estimates guessed that over 100,000 people showed up to say, “NO,” to the current administration and the policies that have been promised.

When Bush was president, another president whose values I did not hold in similarity, we marched. But, then I stopped. Much like falling asleep to the Obama administration, I fell asleep to the things I didn’t feel like I could change.

Hopefully with age comes wisdom. And, this time, the people who have chosen to help organize these marches have also organized actions. 10 actions in 100 days. I have cultivated a left-leaning tribe, and the people in my tribe are ACTING. Some are signing and sharing petitions, some are making calls, some are attending town halls, some are protesting injustices, some are doing all these things. A friend and I hosted a Huddle (action number two), and that felt great.

Though we invited a handful of people close to us, the majority who showed up were strangers to us. Other concerned women who want a world that is more compassionate, loving, and inclusive of all of our differences. We talked, and I had the opportunity to serve, gifting the group my facilitation skills.

Joy! Bringing women together, who showed up, ready to engage! Joy! Listening to all their varied stories while we thought of what we want our world to be. Joy! Seeing the actions that sprang up. For example, a committee formed around one woman who is interested in exploring a political office! Joy! A group was created so that we can stay in touch and engaged.

If you want to know more about the Huddle or other events that we have planned, send me a message. I would love to connect with you. Stay with me, as I continue to fine tune and realize my own story. As we connect together, we will share our stories together and create a world we want.

Question Authority

Two of these friends, being silly, in front of our decorated picture window. It reads something like "Make Love... Make Peace..."
Two of these friends, being silly, in front of our decorated picture window. It reads something like “Make Love… Make Peace…”

The last time I eagerly uttered those words, it was the spring of 2003. I was living in Lansing, Michigan. I was in my early twenties living with other white people who were also in their early twenties.

A typical Friday night for us was sharing a meal, inexpensive wine, and stories. We were all left of the center. And, we all agreed that George W. Bush was not our president.

On the day, in March 2003, when Dubya declared war against Iraq, it was one of these wine nights. We sat around our friend’s small living room around their even smaller television. Some on the floor; some on the couch. I felt like the TV was so close it could touch our noses. The live declaration was announced, and suddenly our country was launched into war, despite lack of congressional approval.

The last declared war I had heard in my lifetime, was by Dubya’s father. I was in 7th grade. I remember calling my early teenage boyfriend, aghast, that our country would send young men to their death. I have relatives that have served, many proudly. Many who have been affected by some sort of “shell shock” or now “post-traumatic stress disorder”. Why would we willingly send loved ones to “fight for our freedoms” when they came back broken and hardly free of acquired demons? The irony was not lost on me, and the only conclusion I drew then, and now, was that there has to be another way.

I was living with a group that also felt there had to be another way, so we did the next best thing we could think of. We participated in what was called the largest ignored protest. We made signs. We marched. We chanted. We felt validated in our questions by surrounding ourselves with other like minded left of the center, socialists. I joined a group, The Greater Lansing Area Network Against the War in Iraq (GLANAWI for short). How can this be happening in my lifetime? Didn’t we learn the lessons of WWI, WWII, Korea, Vietnam? Apparently not.

And there was a chasm – support our president because it’s the right thing to do… Or?

Have you ever had a boss you thought was out to lunch? Maybe this boss was even chosen by a bunch of smart people. Yet, you watch them railroad meeting after meeting and shoot down idea after idea. You watch them fail to listen, repeatedly, and you see this is why they are not succeeding. You see them handle communication awkwardly, or not at all. You see how they make staff divisive, instead of loyal. And, then, you watch them lie.

I’ve had a few bosses like this. And, when my friends and I watched Dubya, that’s what it felt like. Clearly a clever man for having reached the presidency, but how could he be making so many poor choices? How could he be sending people he’s never met to their sudden death under the guise of freedom?

And, there, I was validated again – our role was to question. Our role is to never stop asking questions. If we don’t understand something, our job, with all respect, is to ask questions and never stop asking questions until we get satisfactory answers. And, even then, we can’t stop. Our job is to push them to be their best. Even when their egos are so inflated they cannot see that we are truly helping them because we do believe in a greater America. We believe that we can be our best selves and this is not it.

When I was in my early twenties, we declared our message through childish posters drawn and hung around our craftsman, duplex, bungalow. Now, I write in this forum, and I actively question and challenge when face to face. I’ve learned some things about interrupting oppressions, and I use those strategies with a guarded heart.

Join me in questioning. We deserve to live in an America that truly does embrace all, all of us with our warts, our varied colors, and our varied ways of doing this thing called life. No one person is more important than another, and we all have an important role to play. You matter. I matter. We matter, and our job is to remind them that we matter. And we will not shut up until they listen.

Peace in Grief

I wanted Hillary Clinton to be the first woman president. I admired her grace and stamina since she was the First Lady of the United States. I never really understood why she was vilified so much in the press. I never understood the severity of the scandals like Whitewater. When it came to her husband’s more solicitous affairs, I chalked that up to what most politicians do, he’s just being vilified for it.

I find it interesting, now that Hillary served as FLOTUS, to being elected two terms as a senator in New York, and then serving another five as Secretary of State, that Politifact and other sources mark her as one of the most honest politicians. A few theories explain that this idea of her being a “liar” is basically the same lie being repeated so often that it felt like truth. [1][2][3][4]

So, we have a woman, unfairly caught up in scandals, made loud by the media, and trumped up as truth because the lie is repeated over and over. It’s hard not to see that as misogyny. And, when men tell you that it’s your imagination, it’s hard not to see that as more misogyny and “mansplaining.”

I feel pain for this. I am so sad that the greatest glass ceiling I know of is still unbroken. I am confused that 53% of white women voted for the candidate who was known for misogynistic comments throughout his celebrated career. I am heartbroken that this vilification continues. I am devastated that we can’t seem to come together to find a solution that works for all of us.

So, this is when I turn to my essential oils. Right now, I want forgiveness and peace. I firmly believe that President-Elect Trump deserves a fair shot. I believe in our constitutional democracy, and that we need to trust in the process, no matter how flawed and unfair it seems. I believe that we owe him respect as our future president. I believe we owe ourselves acknowledgement that he is smart and clever for having won this tough seat. I also believe that we must stand taller, prouder, and louder in the face of oppressions and interrupt them. We can do it with peace. But, we must do it.

We must interrupt women hating comments with a loud, “Ouch! Would you say that to your mother?”

We must stand up for our neighbors when they are being bullied.

We can find courage in our secret groups, but our courage needs to be outed and loud.

We need to talk about our beliefs.

We need to ask questions to others about THEIR beliefs. If we really want to affect change, we must first seek to understand, and then be understood. I have oils for that too. Start with Lavender, the Oil of Communication. You might be surprised at its calming effects while you find words you need to say.

We need to understand that we have far more in common than things that divide us. And, we need to find conversations around those commonalities. Then, we can pick apart proposed solutions until we find one that fits.

I envision a future where clean air and clean water are no longer fought for because we all agree they are inalienable rights to every single human on this planet.

I envision a future where we have robust gardens of nourishment in every food shed, so local places can support themselves.

I envision a future where we stop digging in our sacred ground and we turn to energies that move and shine all around us.

I envision a future where we bring up leaders who love learning and who are excited about affecting positive change for their own futures.

I envision a future where our basic needs are met so well that we can all work on our dreams and goals with fewer hurdles, barriers, and upper limits getting in the way. (I have an oil for that too… start with Wild Orange, the Oil of Abundance.)

I envision that we all honor the divine in you and the divine in me. That we all recognize life is precious and must be taken seriously, with light hearted fun to pepper things along the way. We all deserve to be here. We are all Children of God. We all have purpose, and we can do this together. We can do this with love.

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What Makes America Great

The husband and I were discussing this after running errands prior to picking the kiddo up from school. In 2004, I came to some conclusions. It doesn’t matter what end of the political spectrum, or grid, you are on. What matters is that most people simply care about those they love, however they define it. And, most people, want those they love and care about to succeed. In 2004, after deals were struck for oil barons, I theorized GW cared about his oil friends.

I care about my farmer friends and family. I care about my union working, manufacturing friends and family. I care about those who serve in a variety of ways. So, it was hard for me to relate to someone making deals that didn’t directly affect those I care about. Or rather, it was hard for me to relate to someone making deals where the side affects adversely affected people and things I cared about – environment, local wages, etc.

I firmly believe our common values unite us. We don’t, however, spend enough time talking about those values. Sometimes, we come to solutions before seeking to understand the other side, and those solutions are at odds. I often think that’s what we’re fighting about.

I get that there have been many stories showcasing horrific examples of misogyny, racism, homophobia. I have hope those are rare examples. Horrific. Awful to those who had to experience first hand. Yet, I hope those are rare instances. The last surge of hate before real, loving change happens.

In light of this thinking, watch Ellen’s take on “What Makes America Great.”

The Only Constant Is Change

I love exploring sites like 27o to Win or Nate Silver’s 538. Places dedicated towards numbers, polls, and results. And, I also like to remember that things rarely stay the same.

Living on the “Left Coast”, California, Oregon, and Washington are foregone conclusions for the election. Growing up, the states around my home state of Michigan were thought of blue too. But, what do the results say? Times change. Take a look at 1904 to present.

1904 to present, presidential elections

make action GIFs like this at MakeaGif

I’m excited to see how this year pans out. I’ll be donning a sort of #pantsuit on Tuesday expressing my hopes and desires.

I’m with her

As posted on Facebook…

WARNING: This is a political post. I know not all of my friends are the bleeding heart liberal as I identify. I know there are Trump supporters in my list. I know there are Johnson supporters. I know there are people who support Jill Stein and not Hillary.

I am called to cheer this election though. I am so thrilled to be casting my ballot for Hillary Clinton. I first became aware of Hillary when I was a freshman in high school. She was the wife of the saxophone playing, democratic presidential candidate, another white man in a long list of white men along side and before him. I remember thinking how different she was than Nancy Reagan, who I thought of as proper and a proponent of the DARE program that visited my school in 6th grade. But, Hillary, she was a LAWYER. Law is a profession I have long admired. And she was a woman lawyer, something that felt rare and unattainable.

Then came the scandals, and I felt horrified for this graceful woman who stood there, and watched as the scandals lit fires around. I remember her being graceful above it all.

I have since learned that Hillary has been a long time proponent of issues affecting women and children. Issues affecting women and children are central to my life then and now. And she is one that has stood tall to defend and strengthen and empower. Women, children, and healthcare. Issues she has now worked on for DECADES.

Today, I am voting. Today, I am voting in a state that does “vote by mail”, so I can get my ballot in early. It’s not electronic, it’s paper, and it will be counted by hand and aided by machine. And, today, I am proudly casting my vote for a slew of women candidates. Hillary, Chloe, and Teressa.

Choosing Joy

"The love of a single heart can make a world of difference." ~ Immaculee Ilibagiza
“The love of a single heart can make a world of difference.”
~ Immaculee Ilibagiza

I was “supposed” to be at convention. I was not there. I was home. My sister-in-law was there, and I was supposed to go and be there with her. And, I did not go.

The amount of guilt and concern that I was letting people down, no matter which party I chose, made me cry for three days.

I pieced together the trip, purchasing items as funds allowed. But, the last bit didn’t come through, and I chose not to discuss the full finances with my husband. Because of that choice, he didn’t know what significant amount I had already invested in my business trip. And, I chose not to go. And there was lots of sadness around.

Finally, after a few days, the husband told me he was sad I wasn’t going. I was shocked, as this was not an expected outcome. This was a breakthrough in our communication, where we opened up on some of these desires. We discussed the true cost. And, we set aside a plan for next year, that is budgeting the money as it comes in to forecast for the future.

This was and is an emotional time, for me, for many. And, with all the sadness and guilt over the choices I made, I am ultimately choosing joy for this decision. I am choosing joy for a lot of reasons. Mostly because, though the other emotions are informative and help me take responsibility, guilt doesn’t allow me to see and express love. Guilt gives me comfort in wallowing. Guilt pigeonholes me in a place where I regret and tell the same awful story over and over.

So, I would rather choose joy. I would rather recognize where I could have made different choices, and work really hard to communicate my needs and desires. And, I will work on asking for help.

Help was offered on loan. And part of choosing into joy in deciding not to go was to choose into getting ourselves out of debt. The company is a debt free company, and my husband and I desperately want to live debt-free lives. We want to pay for any future cars and houses in cash. We want my school loans paid off. And, we want any borrowed money from family repaid in full with extra for the burden carried.

Walking into convention with more debt did not feel like a joyful decision. And, that reason plus so many more, I sat at home as my plane took off with a group of women I longed to get to know better. I cried for three days until my husband and I had a breakthrough in communication. And, I worked on breathing into joy. I worked on breathing into love.

Choose joy.

Make Your Own Body Butter

Body-Butter A few weeks ago, I ran out of lotion. I sort of despise going to the store to buy new personal care products. The labels confuse me. I don’t understand all the ingredients, what I need, why, what it’s good for. The longer and more chemically the name sounds, it raises more red flags than I care to admit.

So, my lotion ran out. But, I have sensitive skin that needs routine hydration. I have autoimmune issues that exacerbate that sensitive skin, so no matter how hot or cold or wet or dry it is outside, I need hydration for my skin.

What’s a girl to do? Well, not unlike my cooking, I went for whole ingredients. Herein lies the confusion, how do you make lotion? Why do you need certain ingredients.

Confession: I love to read and I love to research. But, if it’s not easily understood, then I pass. In college, I loved digesting complex ideas and trying to understand them. As my son has grown, and my family and I have settled into these roles, though, I find the more complex something is the more of a turn off it is.

So, when looking at a recipe, I found I want simple, easy to understand, just like my cooking desire of 5 ingredients or less.

Lotion added water. Body butter was straight plant fats, which meant simpler though there was a bit in the process. I opted for the body butter, because the whole thing felt simpler. Comparing some recipes, the ratio seemed to be 1 part plant oil to two parts plant butter, and for every 1 cup of body butter about 10 drops of essential oil. I decided on my amounts not unlike making soap. You figure out how much you want in an end product, and adjust accordingly. I figured 3 cups of finished product would be enough. And, I then proceeded to make about 4 cups! (Oops!)

Recipe & Technique

Materials

  • 1 bowl filled with ice
  • 1 bowl, smaller, to nest in iced bowl later
  • I crockpot for slow melting of fats
  • Container(s) for finished product
  • A stick blender for mixing

Ingredients

Butters

  • 1 cup mango butter
  • 1 cup shea butter
  • 1 cup coconut oil (counting as a butter because of consistency)
  • A few shavings of coconut butter

Oils

  • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ cup jojoba oil

Essential Oils

  • 10 drops clary sage
  • 10 drops geranium
  • 10 drops lavender

I found this didn’t scent my body butter as much as I wanted. Next time, I’ll up the geranium and lavender to 15 or 20 drops each. And, next time, I’ll maybe have ⅔ cup each of the mango and shea butters and coconut oil.

Process

Add all plant butters and oils (except essential oils) to your crockpot. Put on low, and let sit until all oils are melted. One blogger noted that letting her oils melt together for 20 minutes refined them enough that the finished product wasn’t grainy. I forgot about my crockpot for a bit, so my oils sat for nearly two hours. Note, many recipes instruct you to use a double boil method. I don’t like it. Something about the steam and hot bowls that turns me off. I found the crockpot method works best for my “fix it and forget it” world.

When the oils are sufficiently melted together, you now need to cool them. After they had been in the ice bath for about 5 minutes, I added my essential oils and I began mixing with my stick blender. I didn’t have enough ice, so while I was using my blender to mix up the oils, I noticed it wasn’t coming together as well as I liked. I refrigerated the mixture for about an hour. Some recipes skip the ice bath and say to refrigerate for 2 hours.

I compared the process to making a meringue or whipped cream. The oils cooling, the mixing to change the texture, it felt the same. So, that’s what I used as my guide to know when I was done. Once the oils were cool enough, whipping them up was quite fast. The yellow color quickly changed to the thick white you see pictured above. I made enough to fill that container plus another.

About the Essential Oils

Clary Sage

The oil of clarity and vision, it gives courage to see the truth, see limiting beliefs, encourages openness to new ideas and perspectives. The body system affected by clary sage is largely the hormonal system, which is why it can help balance hormones and soothe monthly discomfort associated with menstrual cycles. Clary sage also soothes nervous tension and lightens mood. I chose it for this body butter because of it’s calming properties and how it is soothing to the skin.

Geranium

The oil of love and trust. Need I say anymore? It seems so obvious to me that for something I am putting on my body, it should absolutely include proving love, trust, and emotional healing. Geranium can even encourage forgiveness, and it fosters human love and connection. Geranium primarily supports emotional balance and skin. With skin, it promotes clear, healthy skin. It can also helps calm nerves and lessen stress. And, as a bonus, it supports liver health! We like to say, with using essential oils there are side benefits.

Lavender

Lavender is widely known for and used for its calming and relaxing qualities. But, did you know that it’s also the oil of communication? While it can soothe occasional skin irritations, helps skin recover quickly, and even ease muscle tension it can also promote emotional balance. It encourages positive emotions of open communication, being released, expressive with emotional honesty, and being heard.