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Hey friends. I decided it was time to move this journal over to a new site, to kind of consolidate things. It had been nagging at me a while, so I took the plunge. Follow me over there from now on! I'll post here when I update for a while as a reminder.


A new house with a spruce tree out back

It's been about a month since my last post. Since the last update we have signed a lease and moved out of Jeff's dad's basement and into the top floor of a house, back in the heart of Ypsi where I need to be. Lindsay and Eli are back with us, and the six of us are already pretty settled, although we're all more comfortable leaving most of our things in boxes than actually unpacking them. We all got used to living much smaller and I don't know that we want to change that just yet. Lindsay parked the RV for the winter on the land, and the plan for now is that we're going to hold tight here until our house is built. It's a bright cozy space with just enough room. It doesn't have a lot of things that I'd normally want in a space (namely a big sunny yard to putter around in), but I had to remind myself that this is a time to hold and be comfortable and not to worry about those details because bigger things are to come. It's simple and I like it and I'm happy. This move also instantly brought me out of the transitional funk I had been struggling with. I'm figuring out what exactly it was that got me into that funk and what pulled me out, but I think much of it has to do with how important a sense of place has become to me. I also need to feel a lot of agency over my home and space and the energy it produces. I'll probably want to flesh this one out in writing a little later, but it's been an interesting thing for me to study and is giving me some new insight about what it is that I need.

A good friend recently told me that when my clan and I make decisions we move very quickly. I often don't feel that way in the midst of it, but then suddenly I look up and I have a whole new living room, just like that. We relax plenty, but when it comes to getting things going we just execute. I have to keep that in mind in the coming days. This quality has surely benefit us in a lot of ways, but it also means we have to be wise. Which brings me to my next point.

We haven't yet settled on a plan for how to get out to the land. At this point Jeff and I are so emotionally tapped by everything that's happened that we are feeling pretty guarded. We had our second meeting with the zoning guy this past Monday, and we went in hopeful but left feeling pretty dosed by reality. The truth is, we don't have a lot of money or time to make this a reality. There are a lot of rules and various factors that stand in the way of people without means achieving this goal. It pisses us off, but it also is what it is. We actually have started talking about whether or not it's really wise to go forward in this way right now, and that's been sobering and scary for us. We want the ideal, but we don't want to be stupid. We've put on our hopeful and creative hats and have been really trying to figure out how to pull this off without spending years compromising the very quality of life we value that started this whole journey. It's been tough and we are digging deep and trying to be honest. Ultimately, I know that whatever we do, we'll be okay. We'll be happy, we'll find our security in the stuff that matters, and we'll accept whatever version of our lives manifests. I had to center myself and remember that I don't want a result later, I want live the good life I want *always*. This doesn't mean we don't ever work hard or sacrifice or feel pain in our process- but I guess it does mean that we a)put our relationships with each other first, b)that we value our time over money, and c)that we continue to work towards our individual and collective purpose. Some of the options in front of us were threatening to compromise some of those priorities, and I became worried that we'd get lost in a flurry of pride and stubborness and find ourselves in a spot we didn't want to be. At the same time, I do want to push forward and be brave in this. I do. If we can. I want the version of this process that works, and that means considering the holistic goal in addition to the vision of a little house on some land. All that said, we are working with our friends and family to see if we can make this happen, and we're currently trying out a plan that just. might. work.

This morning Vera climbed the big spruce tree in our back yard. The bottom of the trunk has had the branches trimmed, so all that's left are these little stubs until about six feet up. Vera discovered that she could use these stubs to get to the lowest branches. I watched her from the kitchen window, scaling this tree like a rock climber. She reached the lowest branch, swung herself up, and proceeded to climb until she was far up into the tree. My mama-instincts made my heart pound a little, but I was simultaneously swelling with pride. She's always been so brave, daring to test her limits and learn her own strength. Sure, something bad could happen, but she's not a reckless kid. In the grand scheme of things, I think it'd be worse if she played it too safe. At the same time, sweet Eli (with his own strengths and struggles) saw her achievement and wanted to follow her up the tree. He nervously tried to climb in the same way she had, but he quickly was overcome with doubt and cried for help. We all cheered him and praised how high he'd gotten, but he was discouraged and angry and ran away.

I was grateful to watch these two kids this morning, because it felt the perfect metaphor for my situation right now. As the parents, we talked about knowing that they both could do it. It was interesting for me to reflect on the idea that, despite my knowing what they are capable of, these kids do not know yet themselves. Also, despite my knowing, the possibility of failure still very much exists. They have to risk themselves in order to discover their own power and limits. I was able to see, through this example, how much of our perception of success depends on our surrender- it takes our willingness to just move into action and to temporarily set aside our attachment to the outcome.

Suddenly I can see the appeal of envisioning a higher power for myself through this particular stage of my life. Something watching me from above, in perfect knowing and without interference. I have a choice about how I move, how I perceive my failures, how I use my unique abilities, how I participate. As I watched Vera and Eli from the window, I was no more in favor of either outcome. I was proud of her achievement and I was proud of his shaky attempt. From my vantage point, it was all good. Perhaps the universe loves me to find my way up and also to fall. Perhaps the universe just loves me.

I wanted adventure...

I've been wanting to write here for days, but our circumstances change like the wind and I can't seem to get my bearings. I really love this space to write, not only for its therapeutic value, but also as documentation of our journey. I love going back an reading my birth stories on my kids birthdays, or sifting back through entries to settle a bet. This is such a big time in our lives, it clicked for me that my silence here is perhaps a disservice to myself in the future. So, to get things going again, I've got to run through the story.

First, it's worthwhile to say that yesterday we finally closed on the land. We officially own 6.32 wooded acres, sitting right beside some of our best friends (the 9.6 acres just to the north of us, who will be breaking ground on their house shorty!). It was 2.5 years ago that we entered into this deal with our friends. I have come out the other side feeling that the whole thing was a testament to the strength and flexibility of our friendship. Not everyone can have an awkward deal surrounding money and land and liability and lost partners and whatnot and still feel secure afterwards. I am very grateful for that. Yesterday we sat across the table from one another and signed papers and held cashiers checks and it was settled. I was happy, but Jeff and I went out to lunch afterwards and lamented our lack of... I dunno... excitement? We'd been so anticipating this exchange for so long, but after everything we've been through lately, we just felt kind of relieved and calm.

Two years ago when we started this adventure, we didn't know how we were going to get out to the land. It sort of didn't matter. We were going to make it happen eventually. We manifested a variety of routes out there, and as our circumstances changed, so did our plans. We settled on landing out there in a single wide used trailer while we slowly built our forever house. We would have loved to build small and affordably right from the start, but zoning regulations are such that whatever we need to build is outside of our means- at least in the short term. This didn't sway us, because the township official who is the expert in such things gave us the unequivocal thumbs-up to hang out in a temporary dwelling for as long as we fancied, provided we were making some progress on our house build. This was basically an ideal scenario for Jeff and I. For me, because I don't care what we live in so long as we're together and on the land, living the good life we want. For Jeff because the opportunity to build our own house slowly and within our means is something he had only dreamed about doing.

We found a used trailer in our budget, although it took a little doing because we didn't realize what a vested interest the parks have in keeping all their mobile homes on site. We also were concerned that the ones in our price range were in such poor shape that we'd be selling ourselves short. We got scared we wouldn't find one in our budget, but ended up finding a guy who was happy to hook us up. It was old but clean and moveable and just the right size and price. We considered buying it right away, but took an extra day to price things out and set a preliminary meeting with that zoning official to iron out our plans. He had an appointment open for the very next morning, so we excitedly put together our site plan (including our house design we've been putting together over the past few months). The next morning we sat down in front of him and we told him we were set to move our trailer out to our land as soon as the land sale was done. He smiled and flipped through his big binder full of rules and read them aloud. Then he said "Huh. Looks like you can't have temporary housing on your site. Woops." Or something along those lines. I kept visibly calm in that office, but everything inside me screamed and panicked.

We scrambled in front of him, asking about rezoning and potential variances. He regretted the situation and his mishap, but told us we were likely to lose all of those battles. We cut the meeting short and thanked him, and left the building. I lost it before we got to the car. Jeff held me while I sobbed. We had no other viable plan- temporary on site housing (of some sort or another) was *the way* we could make this happen. We don't make the money needed for a project like this, and now we don't have our house. We made some profit on our house, but it would only get us so far and we planned to save and build as we could. We called to see about a construction loan, but given that they take into account the cost of living while you're constructing the house, we didn't qualify for much.

It's been a little over a week since we learned this. It feels like a month. We've been throwing around scenarios daily, getting excited and then deflating when we realize this or that limitation. It's just not great. We have some viable options. We are quick with ideas and full of energy for whatever is next, but ultimately I feel a bit cheated. We bought our house as a foreclosure at the bottom of the market, and even that was at the very top of our price range. That great neighborhood and garden and all that space to share? It came as sheer blessing. Things have changed, which is why we were so fortunate to have sold it so quickly, but what that means is that there are no take-backs for us. We can't get that house back, and we can't buy one that's comparable now. I don't necessarily think that, had we known what we know now, we wouldn't have sold. But I'm not sure. We might have come up with a different plan- rented out more of it or saved for longer. We might have stayed.

All of this has bred in me discontent. I also feel anger- towards the township for having overlooked something so major for us, towards the beaurocracy that bred such ridiculous classist rules (nobody wants a trailer in a nice neighborhood!). I'm mad at money and the fact that this process is so inaccessible to people who don't make very much of it. We work hard! We are good people! We just don't want to go majorly into debt on schooling or spend most of our time away from each other. I don't want more money, I just want to live how I want on my land (picture me with a rocking chair, a pipe, and a shotgun, and you've got a pretty good illustration for my state of mind right now). Even getting the land in the first place was born out of the generosity of our friends. I just feel like nobody really *earns* anything, the scales are too messed up. And yet at the same time, I don't want to begrudge people their good things just because they made different choices from mine. Anyway, I feel guilty for feeling angry, because I know how fortunate I still am, even with all the unknowns. We even have a kind of fun plan, but the timeline and the details are all still too fuzzy for me to feel anything more than skeptical. At the same time, I realize that we are very resilient, having picked ourselves up, dusted off, and worked to come up with plan after plan in only a week. Well, I wanted an adventure, and that's what I got!

Yesterday, at dusk, I had the chance to stop by the land alone. I went and dumped compost and walked and breathed her in. This land always smells so good. When I am standing on that earth I always feel peaceful. I am trying to meditate on what it is that makes me feel happy and secure. I am finding that it's a bit more complicated than having my family near and a good roof over my head. I am reminded of this little wooden thing that Lindsay had hanging up at the old house that said "Peace is not the absence of conflict but the ability to cope with it." What was it that I had before that allowed me peace? How can I realize my own peace, no matter where I am?

I don't have a ton of wisdom right now. I feel a little beat up and sad. I know that I will come to value days/weeks/months like this in the future, simply because they will be part of my story. I am working on my gratitude. I think a visit to the land a couple of times a week would do me good. I know I have so much.

A year older (and grayer)

The past two weeks saw me through into a new decade. I celebrated my 30th birthday with lots of smiles and my sweet family by my side. I also celebrated my 9th wedding anniversary with Jeff. So many big things, big feelings. I was asked what I felt about it all, and mostly what I could think about was how much gray area there is in this life. I keep running up against situations and moral dilemmas and hear friends speak so firmly about what the right things are, and my wheels just keep turning. I mean, it's an old cliche, right? That the more you grow the less you know? Something like that. Anyway, it's true and it's profound to me. It's reassuring in a way. I'm so glad I don't have to hold all the wisdom of the world, you know? I just get to play my part and live my story, and to do my best to appreciate others and remember that they are living their own. I'm coming into situations and ideas that are genuine in a way I haven't experienced before- less influenced by a desire to please or defend but more to understand. I'm feeling my age starting to free me from some of my old worries (oh, to be replaced by others, surely). I like it. It's a little scary. But definitely awesome. Scary awesome (my favorite thing).

While in this transitional time, I've dealt with some discouragement and feelings of sadness that can't really be placed. I'm also simultaneously kind of elated about everything. I'm sure it's a really complicated thing. Moving is hard, uncertainty is hard. But living out our desires and working towards this life we want is nothing short of a dream for me. I'm finding that I'm doing better and better at allowing these kinds of complicated feelings to exist all at once without trying to banish one or the other and "make sense" of anything. But of course the ability to sit with the strangeness gives way to strange feelings, and so I'm weathering some personal storms. My hope is that with trust in the process and the deep love and support of my people, it will all benefit me in the end. I'm just doing the soul-work needed to open this new big chapter of my life.

Actually, on that note, I have a story about Jeff and I that felt really wow-we've-been-together-a-long-time. We went to my grandmother's funeral. It was a small thing with just family about an hours drive away, and I was really looking forward to it. Not the funeral, exactly, just having us all together as a family. Jeff had a meeting scheduled for that day in the evening, and so we'd hoped to have time for the funeral and the lunch afterwards to visit with folks before we had to leave. Things ended up taking longer than expected and we needed to leave before people even left for the restaurant. We said our sweet goodbyes to family, but as soon as we started the drive home scowls appeared on our faces and tension filled the space between us. I said something about how irresponsible it was to keep a meeting on the day of an important family event. Jeff said something about how he'd checked with people on timing and that this really should have all worked out, how was he to know it would all run long? He then felt bad and wanted to cancel his meeting and turn around. I told him he couldn't- people would be there and he was needed. It hit us. There is no good answer, it just feels bad and didn't work the way we wanted it to. We are disappointed and that's all there is to it. I talked about missing my grandma, he talked about being sad to not fulfill the day we had planned to honor her. We held hands and determined to stick together the rest of the night. We all went to the meeting space together and I got the kids milkshakes and macaroni and we took a walk while Jeff did his thing. We ended the night feeling together and grateful for our full lives.

I guess it seems like nothing, but it's amazing the things we used to bicker about over just generally crappy feelings about things we couldn't control. We'd scramble to make sense of things and unintentionally try to pin it on the other. It sounds mean, but it just happened- a product of defensiveness and youth and fear and lack of introspection and empathy. What do you do but work to grow? But over the past few years? We are so much better at holding each other through the awkwardness and discomfort. We're so much more compassionate and forgiving. I'm so grateful that we ended up in that kind place together, rather than some of the other alternatives. This year I felt really grateful for our relationship, particularly because I've witnessed a lot of other relationships fall apart. For better or worse, it's not my place to say. It just gives me a better grasp on my own real gratitude and the "whys" of all of it, for me. Each time I see someone around me say "no more" I've had to turn to my partner and say "yes" again. It's no small thing to me, and I now know how precarious these things are in a way I think I took for granted before.


I love the things we happen upon after hours. The kids have enjoyed a full day of play, and we've gone about our own day dealing with all that grown-up stuff. So often I find remnants of their sweet silly stories after they are tucked into bed and my mind slows enough to see and appreciate them. Tonight, Strawberry Shortcake was apparently taken hostage!!

Day 5

Baby toes. You're welcome.

Dark, juicy, healing abundance.

Last night Vera had gathered these things from a friend's garden, including a dozen or so unidentified seeds that she found on the ground. She put them in a cup and declared them to be for her fairy garden. This morning she got to work, spreading compost out in a carefully planned spot and planting the seeds, then laying out her stones and sticks and leaves. She watered it well and checked on it several times throughout the day. My girl makes me smile. Before bed tonight she asked me if she'd done a good job with it and if I thought the seeds would grow. I told her I hoped they would, but that in growing things we have to just do what we can and then let nature do what it needs to. I told her we don't always get what we picture, but that it will always be something we can learn from and something that is good.

One of the weirdest things for me this year is not having a garden. I'm watching fresh tomatoes show up at market and the co-op and onto people's counter tops, and I just can't quite make sense of the fact that I can't just grab one twenty feet outside my door, all juicy and warm in the sun. Ah well. I was telling a friend about this at a party yesterday and she said (in all her 30+ years of gardening wisdom) something about how gardening really is about the sum of the practice. How funny that I didn't realize this before! Whenever I think of anything that I've helped to grow- my children, my partnership with Jeff, business stuff, friendships, etc., it's always about the whole rather than a slice of time. I like this meditation, too. It's beautiful to think about my relationship with the earth and with this whole growing-thing I'm working on as being a practice and a relationship rather than a seasonal outcome. It's so true, too! I just haven't ever approached it like that in my mind in any consistent way. I wonder what might change in my perspective if I remember that as I go.

I think about my days without "my garden" and it's still full of all the same relating and communing that I crave. I get to witness beauty and growth constantly, and I get to play my little part in all of it.

My friend recently tipped us off on some elderberries nearby, and today we were driving by the spot he mentioned and I saw them right away. I pulled over with the kids and we jumped out. I found a big bag hanging around in the car and we all got to picking.

I remembered today that I actually prefer a less managed relationship with nature. My kids love it too- they'll often eat bushels of foraged greens with the utmost gratitude, but the minute those same greens wind up on the plate the magic seems to have gone. This is a phenomenon I can relate to but have yet to fully understand. I remember the thrill of finding some slightly wilted flowers and a bag of oranges in the dumpster outside a local grocery (only one moldy one!). These things do not fill us with such gratitude when set up on the shelf under the glaring fluorescent lights. I recently saw a wild turkey in the woods and I practically squealed with delight. Turkeys are nothing exotic in these parts, but something about the unplanned interaction with one in the woods made me feel so happy.

Seems to me to have something to do with seasonality, a lack of expectation (and thus the absence of any entitlement), a deeper sense of gratitude, and the simplicity of it all. Less choices, more contentment. Anyway, we had pink stained hands today and were surrounded by abundance. Dark, juicy, healing abundance.