10 Years – a Quiet Reflection

My son’s age is a constant reminder of how long I’ve been without my sister, Cristi. This year, he turned ten. This year is the tenth year of her not being here. This day is the tenth year of her not being there, though we found out ten years ago tomorrow.

Every time I think about this, I think about an image of a 29-year-old woman on the brink of blowing up her career (for good), touching all the lives of the students she worked with, and the laughter she brought to my family. Forever frozen in time, and now we only have her memory to hang on to.

We are back, traveling again, celebrating family, sites, and death. Two of the deaths we are going to celebrate are the lives of my grandparents, my maternal grandmother, and grandfather. We will have a memorial around the family farm, celebrating their lives, their legacy. At the same time, our immediate family will hold tight to the memory of our sister, daughter, friend, who died ten years ago, much too soon.

In the midst of this intimate memorial will be nearly 4 generations of people. People who wouldn’t be here or have come together without my grandparents. And, then, of course, there will be the people who couldn’t make it. Maybe it was money or time, or in the case of Cristi, maybe it was because a life was taken too soon. We will celebrate. We may cry. We will share stories. We will laugh.

Then, we will depart and go back to our regularly scheduled lives. Some of our travels will take us to exciting new adventures. Some of our adventures will take us to the normal routines of daily life. Wake up, go to work, go to school, get dressed, eat a meal. We go on living while the dead do what dead people do according to your respective beliefs.

I was raised in the Catholic church. My husband and I are raising our son with Christian (Protestant) – Catholic views. Yet, I hope for an afterlife that is kinder and more loving than that which these religions preach. I dream of an afterlife where our loved ones are walking with us, guiding us, our guardian angels. I dream of an afterlife where we’ve made pacts with each other, and we are each others soul mates. Where we are learning some spiritual lesson, every day, and we have the support of those around us. There is no accident when it comes to where we are.

In this moment, I am writing this at a yummy café near where my mother’s new job is. Near where high school friends are employed and helped me with certain esthetician tasks. Near where I’m meeting another old friend for lunch. Near where I’ll meet up with my family at a beloved fabric store (that happens to be having a tent sale today). None of these things happened the way I envisioned. And, it’s all working out perfectly. I will take this sign on this tenth anniversary of my sister’s death that no matter the heartache we’ve had or is to come, everything is unfolding as it should.

States My Son’s Visited

After summer travel completes, we’ll be able to add a few to this… So, far, here are the states Levi has been able to visit.



For the states I’ve visited, check out this post.

Connecting Women: Why This is Our First Priority

I’ve written about this before, but this is a topic so near to me that I think uncovering and unpacking the layers is relevant, important, and necessary. When I go back to what it is I do, connecting women and holding space for women is the common theme. So, why is that so important?

Connecting to Sustainability

Years ago, I identified that my goal is to educate people on the importance of a sustainable society. This was a beautiful moment because it allowed me openness to opportunities that had just been created and were now available to me. I was able to declare Sustainable Urban Development as my minor at Portland State. I was able to travel to Italy on a Sustainability Study Abroad. I was able to co-author a book on Sustainability. Because my bucket job explorations in sustainability didn’t lead to a paid gig, I kept unpacking what sustainability meant for me.

The Triple Bottom Line is the common definition I use. It’s easy to understand, wrap our heads around, and generally gets the point across. I’ve called it the Three Es, until this new definition. It means that you balance three things equally instead of just one.

In business, the norm is to balance the books. You know if a company is making a profit, or not. You balance the profit books, the economic books. In the Triple Bottom Line definition, you add two books: people (equity) and planet/place (environment). With how we’ve measured environmental success, this piece is easy to measure. We know if we are polluting the environment more than cleaning it up. We know if we are cutting down more trees than planting. We know if our food is contaminated, or not. We know if our water is contaminated, or not.

Connecting people

But people, that’s where things get messy. Because people are messy. We bring all of our junk, or baggage, to the table – no matter what the table is – work, family, volunteering. If we had a bad day at work, it’s often hard to hide it from our families. If family life is stressful, it affects our concentration at work. We are a society that likes easy things, so we don’t deal with the people aspect because it is hard.

And, the hard thing is exactly what we need to deal with. If we want our society to be a better place tomorrow than it is today, we have to tackle the hard thing. I want society to be a better place. I want my son to grow up with kindness, compassion, and opportunity within a setting of health, wellness, wealth, and awesome choices. I want the next generation to have even better opportunities. If we collectively want that, and I think we do, then we have to work together to figure out people.

Connecting with Women

I am focusing on women for many reasons. I am a women. I was raised by a women, who served our family as a single mother using social services, until she remarried. I have sisters. One sister is the mother of a special needs child. One sister was killed by her boyfriend. That is, one sister was a victim of domestic violence.

I watch all the women in my circle: gay, straight, single, parents, black, hispanic, white – and they all have spaces where they need support. Many women I see are not the sole breadwinners of their families, and that directly affects choices they make. Some women face exclusions that I, as a white women, cannot relate to, and it’s unfair and unnecessary.

So, I see a need for us, women, to come together like we never have before. I see a need for us to cross race, political, and economic lines and see the potential in each of us. I see space for us to thrive together.

When women support each other in joy, we do amazing things. We love. We share. We are kind. We show up with compassion. We gift, and we support. I want to create a society that honors the feminine to bring these necessary things back into our world, massively. Join me. Let’s connect.

Dress Codes as Privilege

A few days ago…

I’m putting on my gifted black skirt. I’m eyeing my favorite black shoes. I put on a shirt I bought, new, a few years ago, buttoned and collared. I grab my trusty black and purple argyle vest out of my closet. I am privileged to have this opportunity. I am dressing for an important meeting. I am dressing to impress.

I bought these clothes, the ones purchased, at mid-level stores, affordable to my budget. None of these clothes came direct from a thrift store. The gifted skirt was from my sister, and sports the name Calvin Klein. I am wearing the embodiment of privilege.

I sillily consider this my school marm outfit. There is something 1880s about the shoes, that I adore. Even though this outfit doesn’t say “power suit”, it is a power outfit for me. Even though the skirt is now too large, and my shirt needs a good iron to it. None of it would be considered, probably, in fashion for the current trends.

But, I sit in the embodiment of privilege. I have many clothes to choose from in my closet. I have a range of colors and styles. I have dresses and more button up shirts. I have skirts, some from thrift stores, but they always get compliments. I have a range of shoes, and even one pair of knee-high boots. All this choice screams privilege.

I am white. My husband and I are college educated. We live a middle class life, even if it’s not as squarely middle class as we’d prefer. We own our home. We own multiple cars. Privilege. Privilege. Privilege.

I am so aware of my privilege, I am actually shocked when others aren’t aware of theirs. Maybe it’s because I didn’t grow up economically privileged. Maybe it’s because I didn’t feel as if life was handed to me on a silver platter. Maybe it’s because I’m fairly intuitive, and I can feel the pain others have gone through and I know suffering occurs in our world, sometimes, often, needlessly. So, I am actually even angry when others exert their privilege and they disguise it for the greater good.

Where expressing privilege is a problem

I was sharing this topic with a friend, today. She shared another way we have to be aware of how we dress. She recently began volunteering for a group that provides food and toiletries to homeless women. She was told, very explicitly to be aware of her privilege and hide it when volunteering. She had to dress down, jeans and a t-shirt. She had to remove jewelry, even her wedding ring. She had to appear plain and nonthreatening so as not to incite unnecessary jealousy from those she was sent to serve.

Part of my calling is to raise awareness of how others live in this world. By raising our awareness, we can take better stock of where we are individually to justify where we want to be collectively. And, when we are a part of groups that sit in a corner of privilege within a place that suffers, and then we ask attendees to showcase their privilege, we create a space that is NOT inclusive of all those we hope to attract and serve.

Are you aware of your privilege and when you might ask others to showcase theirs, whether they want to or not?

More perspectives

The Unspoken Messages of Dress Codes: Uncovering Bias and Power

You Call It Professionalism; I Call It Oppression in a Three-Piece Suit “In office environments especially, standards of professionalism are the law of the land – and they reinforce social hierarchies that value white maleness above all.”

And, “Dress codes make room to turn a lot of “isms” into policies – especially since typical standards of professional dress are, at the core, racist, sexist, classist, and xenophobic.”

Dress Codes: Myth versus Fact

Ladies, Take Off Your Makeup

March 2011, driving to the UP, sporting a rocking red drugstore lipstick. It pretty much only looks this awesome when you put it on.

Last month, in my educational newsletter to my fellow oilers, I talked about the importance of spring cleaning, and I related it to the chemicals on our face. Women are exposed to a range of 150 and 500 chemicals, daily. Most of which we do not know the direct effects. A risk averse person might suggest that the average women is a chemical concoction away from disaster.

Societal norms, aside, maybe it’s time for women to take off their make up?

Societal norms, considered, what does it say when we wear make up every day? Men don’t, in our modern age. If we are going to a play, a night out on the town, both genders are generally expected to dress up a little, comb their hair, brush their teeth – societal hygienic and grooming standards. But, aside from a blip into metrosexuality (isn’t it all beards now?), only a woman is required to cover her face, in a painted on mask, to be considered put together.

Let’s take a pause. I actually love wearing make up. I enjoy the whole process. I equate it to art. I think it’s fascinating the shapes we highlight and create and the colors we play with, with paint for our skin. I even find that a powdered foundation keeps my oily skin feeling fresh, all day. Me and make up? Love it. (The more research-intensive part is finding toxic-free varieties.)

What I would like to link together, though, is this requirement that women put a mask on to look their best. It’s a direct implication that women do not look their best without new skin, new eyes, new cheeks, and new lips. Men can simply walk out of their house, and they are applauded for buttoning their shirts or not sagging in their pants. The expectation is different for women.

What does that continue to say about our society? Yesterday was Equal Pay Day for Women. Yesterday marks the day that white women begin to earn as much as their male counterparts in the workforce. If you add other aspects, such as being black, or Hispanic, their day is not yet here. What does it say, about our society?

It continues to reinforce the message that women cannot and will not be enough. It says that we don’t look the part, and we don’t deserve to play the part.

Clarification, I don’t choose to believe this. I feel that if we succumb to this victim mentality we allow the oppressors to win. And, I will not allow the oppressors to win. Everyone deserves a fair shake at this game called Life. Everyone deserves to be treated fairly, no matter what their skin or gender, or choice of make up. Instead of being a victim, I will, however, kindly challenge these micro-oppressions.

Women are not required to wear make up to look their best. Women are not required to wear a dress, or a pant suit, to be presentable. We, this generation and beyond, are shaking the old beliefs and creating our own, because the old beliefs, the old suit, it just doesn’t fit anymore.

I believe our job is to shake those suits that don’t fit anymore. Our job is to challenge these micro-oppressions when they are, again, layered as norms. Our job is to say, “No, that really isn’t how it is and couldn’t we consider it a different way.”

And, today, I’m saying that about make up. Not only is it generally quite toxic to our skin, it can mask who we really are. If we are to truly show up and change this world, we need to show up as we really are. So, please, take off your make up, and change the world.

More to consider

Men like women to wear less makeup? No, they don’t

Make up at work – from the abstract, “Although many women find pleasure in wearing makeup, the authors conclude that the institutional constraints imposed by the workplace effectively limit the possibilities for resistance.”

We Need to Stop Making Assumptions About Why Women Wear Make-Up — Here’s Why – “At some point – probably high school – I believed that learning how to ‘put my face together’ felt like a necessary right of passage because I am a woman.”

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.

The Shop is Updated

A few weeks ago, we worked with some of the pieces of walnut and oak we have, and we updated our shop. Check out the new pieces on Etsy. Most are one of a kind. Get yours today!

Stained Walnut Oil Holder
Finished with a salad bowl finish, this oil holder holds 11 9 or 10ml roller bottles. The salad bowl finish brings out the dark, beautiful richness of the walnut. This piece was designed to accentuate the natural beauty of the grain. It’s great to fit in small places.
Walnut Oil Holder
This unstained walnut oil holder, with its butter soft finish, will hold 12 9 or 10 ml roller bottles. This is a one of a kind piece. Fit your diluted touch kit or your emotional oil touch kit with ease!
Massage Kit Oil Holder, White Oak Massage Kit Oil Holder, White Oak Massage Kit Oil Holder, White Oak 🔎zoom  Request a custom order and have something made just for you. Item details 5 out of 5 stars.      (1) reviews Shipping & Policies Do you have your favorite massage oils in 5ml bottles? This holder was designed specifically for dōTERRA's AromaTouch Technique Kit, including space for fractionated coconut oil. Keep your massage tools at the ready to offer the healing touch of massage and oils! Will hold any 5ml bottles or 4oz bottle in the center. This holder is made of white oak. Meet the owners of BalanceShared Learn more about their shop and process  Michelle Lasley    Peter Lasley Massage Kit Oil Holder, White Oak
Store your 5ml AromaTouch oils and Fractionated Coconut Oil in this oak holder.

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.

States I’ve Visited

Hoping for another trip across country, I began thinking about all the states I’ve visited. I found a cool mapping function that allows this easy creation. Many states were just a drive through, and we didn’t visit as long as I desire, but I’ve driven through each and every one of these states. No simple airport layovers, actually getting a small sense of the land. How many states have you visited?