Transformations

5 Nov

I haven’t written in what seems like forever – but I have good reason. I am out there in the world doing things with little time to write about them! C’est la vie. But I am taking some time tonight to write about this past year because I want to record it, I want to be able to look back and read what this year meant to me at the time.

DSC_0001We moved from the city to, literally, a village. We moved into the guest cottage on my parent’s 100+ acre gentleman’s farm on the foothills of the Olympic Mountains. A magical spot complete with three creeks, pasture and forest flanking it on all sides and a bay under a mile away. My parents moved here the summer after I graduated from high school so I have never lived here but have visited quite a lot and definitely more frequently once the kids arrived. So, why did we move?

We needed a change, a shift, a jolt to our systems. The routine of commuting, missing buses and lack of exercise was weighing on my husband. The traffic, the confined spaces and the general rat race were getting to me. We needed a change of scenery. Within a month of suggesting a move, we packed up our house, set it up with renters and shipped off on the ferry. Would we miss the city? The restaurants on every corner, the walkable grocery store, our friends…? Only time would tell and we could always come back.

The kids didn’t even flinch at the move – they were happy to play in the plethora of cardboard boxes littering our new living room. They could walk up to Gramma and Grampa’s house whenever they pleased, there was tons of land to explore and play, their cousin lived across the street and no more ferry ride to Nana and Poppa’s. What was there not to love? It turns out, we felt the same way. Leaving the comforts of our routine and our perception of what our life would look like on a day-to-day basis was immensely liberating. I feel as though I am entering a new era, I am shedding some layers.

IMG_3979This doesn’t come without its fair share of tough realizations though. It’s hard to let go of people you have known for a decade or more and beliefs that you have fallen back on time and again. Earlier this Fall an actor died at a very young age (my age actually) and I took it hard. For weeks I couldn’t figure out why I was mourning this person – a perfect stranger. So why the weeks of sadness? A close friend told me that it wasn’t necessarily about the person who died; it was just something my soul needed to go through. Only recently have I come to understand that the loss I was mourning was my old life. We are living creatures, bound to transform a handful of times throughout our lifetime but even though these transformations are exciting and fresh with potential and love, you are still leaving something behind. You are moving on.  It’s like when you first leave home for college – I remember leaving my mom in a bus station in Boston as she set back to fly home to Seattle. It was such a sad moment – I was off on my own for the first time, a new era. A new exciting era and one that I had anxiously waited for all summer but even though I was embarking on this wonderful adventure I still had to say goodbye to what had always defined me. I said goodbye to my childhood and it was a deep, deep moment. How can you feel excitement and sadness at the same time?

So I believe that is what my soul needed to go through – I was mourning the city life and the day-to-day routine that defined me. I was heading in a new direction, one that was (hopefully) more fulfilling and happier, but I still had to say goodbye to the old ways. Sadness and excitement at the same time.

IMG_3679This move has turned out to be so much more than upgrading our space and proximity to nature and the activities they inspire. It has provided so much room for self-improvement, self-definition, allowing us to jump in a new direction. I have met such wonderful people and kindred spirits out here in the boonies. I have ignited that part of my core that I have ignored for a while – the sentimental, full of light and life person. This is who I am.

So. Onward.

 PS - A friend’s new site, Waiting For Saturday, couldn’t have come at a more perfect time. She chronicles the stylish outfits people wear on Saturday – ie comfy but cool clothes. Exactly what I need everyday. Fashion may seem frivolous but I think it is a great window to your soul. It is your outer shell. Time to start shining again.

PPS – I would love to start the Family Profiles series again – if you have suggestions, feel free to pass them along. Hopefully time will allow some more posts on those inspiring families out there again.

Finding the Key

11 Jul

DSC_0113Last year I wrote a Smith Voices letter, which praised the SAQ’s reporting on burgeoning careers, but wondered if they may print something to inspire me in my new career as Managing Partner of Household Affairs and Crisis Management, otherwise known as a stay-at-home parent. The letter generated some interesting responses, notably the assertion that motherhood was commonplace and did not deserve mention in a magazine that was intended to praise success. Motherhood as a commonplace profession is a sensitive subject and one that deserves its own space, but what captured my attention most about this response was the notion of success. By choosing to stay at home with my family, did I give up my chance at being successful or noteworthy?

Just this past week, while visiting with a dear friend from my hometown, this same discussion came up in conversation. We talked about my Smith Voices piece, the differences between men and women, the latest hot-topic book, Lean In, by Sheryl Sandberg and finally about how Smith seemed to produce a different breed of women. He mentioned that he had always thought us Smithies to be a bit intense. He had visited me a few times in college and has continued friendships with some of my friends post-graduation so I feel he knows us well enough to make such a statement. Let it be known that this is a guy who jumps off cliffs for the fun of it and flies across the world to summit dangerous peaks so he knows a few things about intensity.

He’s not the only one to make such an astute observation. I think Jane Lynch explained this intensity the best in her 2012 Commencement Address, You are the women of Smith. You are fiercely independent, wicked smart, trail blazing, uber confident and shockingly entitled.” And it’s true. The moment we stepped foot on campus, we were told time and time again that Smith women can accomplish anything they set their mind to and that we are only capable of success. In other words, alongside the education we soaked up from the classroom, we were pumped full of confidence. Not a bad way to be sent off into the world.

So you can imagine, as I am kneeling on the floor of my laundry room folding a few dozen washcloths that are primarily used to clean up the urine artfully sprayed on our floors by my potty-training son, why the idea of success and whether or not I qualify as one, is still rumbling about in my head. Have I let my alma mater down?

I think not.

The intensity that my friend touched on (and that Smith cultivated) is still there. The desire to learn and master is still alive and well. I have simply chosen to channel this energy in a different manner than most of those triumphant women in the pages of SAQ.  I don’t think the fact that I quit a Wall Street job to live on a farm and spend the majority of my time outside digging in the dirt or that I find great joy in making my own jam surprises any one of my classmates. I am grateful to Smith in many ways, but ultimately it was the confidence drilled in me there as a student that allowed me to quit a promising career and explore a new life.

My definition of success has changed over time and it will probably continue to evolve but at this stage in the game, I can only trust that if you are happy with your days, you are most definitely a rock star. Honestly, what can be more rewarding and telling than the smile you wear on your face?

Clean as a Whistle

13 May

DSC_0040I think we have officially made the switch from city kid to country kid – although I doubt they could have qualified as nice, clean city kids, they have never been one to shy away from dirt and I have never been one to discourage it. But today definitely reminded me that I live on a farm.

We start the afternoon building bow and arrows out of string and tree branches – they will be used against the bad guys on our walk. Maya has decided that she wants to collect some more llama fiber that is scattered all across the pasture from when said llama was killed by the cougar a few months ago. Nothing like a mission to collect fur/hair from a dead carcass.

We get sidetracked by the (living) llamas and horses  at the barn and before I know it, Sebastien is sitting, naked-butt and all, happy as can be in the horse water trough. The dirty, grassy water trough. Maya dutifully strips down to join him. (Remember, we walked out here through piles of llama and horse poop, which I can only imagine ended up on their shoes – shoes that are now jumping up and down in said water trough.)

So here she is, splashing water all over her body and scrubbing her face, all the while gleefully telling me how she will not need to take a bath tonight since she is cleaning herself now.

Uh huh.

I look at them and giggle a little. Oh to be a kid and enjoy these little moments of pure happiness, totally unaware of the grossness of the situation.

DSC_0038We then march across the fields to collect fiber and check on the skeleton – luckily we are distracted by one of the creeks where Maya picks a big bundle of skunk cabbage leaves and instructs us to stick them in our shirts as they will be our fairy wings. So now in addition to the possibly poopy but definitely grassy and dirty sheen to their skin, they stink like skunk cabbage.

The clincher is at dinner when Maya grabs a raven feather out of her hair (she stuck it in her pigtail buns) and starts playing with it while eating her food. Nick is so disgusted. He attempts to explain to her why feathers from birds are quite filthy, but she retorts that it is clean since she found it by the water trough.

Naturally.

Les Saisons

30 Apr

Another difference that I have noticed from living on the farm: the seasons are quite apparent.

The first signs of Spring could not be missed – the chatter of the birds intensified, the slight warmth in the afternoon was appreciated, we had a pair of mating eagles visiting us for days on end and the slow changes of the flowers, plants and trees were clear as day.

This was the first year that I can remember not pining for Spring to arrive – the Winter didn’t seem to bother me as much this time around. It probably has something to do with the gazillion ski weekends and the fact that I have two very active youngsters who seem to keep me quite busy and therefore, perhaps I just didn’t have the time to wish away Winter. In any event, despite the fact that I wasn’t looking for Spring, it was hard to miss it around here.

I think in the city our activities didn’t change as much throughout the seasons – we were not tied to the earth and weather as much as we are now. There are no zoos to hide out in or daily story times to partake in out here, so when the weather turns from cold and rainy to slightly less cold and slightly less wet, you tend to notice. No more rain gear for outside adventures – although the boots are staying put. 

My parents grow a pretty diverse and large garden, so the Spring means work. Seeds to sow, seeds to plant, greenhouse to clear out, weeding to do…you get the idea. We try to help as much as we can, but basically at this point we are only good for the consumption part of the equation.

Which brings me to my next observation – these kids are suckers for anything they can pick themselves and eat. They eat a fair amount of veggies in the winter, but the greenhouse full of leafy greens reminds me how much more they eat in the summer. I could dip spinach in honey and spread chocolate sauce over carrots and they will not touch them – but fresh carrots that they pick right from the ground? Gone in a second. Chard or kale leaves from the greenhouse? Eaten like candy. I have no idea why this is, but I am taking full advantage. We make daily trips to the greenhouse to munch and graze.

 

 

Here Kitty Kitty

28 Apr

In the city I did not to notice a huge difference in safety, security or activity when dusk turned to night. The street lights popped on allowing us to see almost just as well as during the daylight hours, the number of cars driving by didn’t slow down all that much (until much later in the night) and the daytime noises seemed to carry on save for a few bird tweets who settled into bed somewhere and the honking of the boats pleading for the bridge to open, now all docked and done for the day.

But here, dusk is a very different time. The hundreds of birds and their endless daytime chatter shack up for the night. The frogs take their place with their croaking harmonies. The owls may start to make themselves heard. Sometimes you will hear the yips of the coyotes. But mostly it gets dark. Really dark.

This is no jungle but their are plenty of creatures out there. And my mind has a nasty habit of grossly over-thinking what lingers beyond the illumination of our porch light.

Turns out, a cougar does.

Well, not exactly outside our house – more like on the other side of the property, acres and acres away. But still! Holy shit Batman.

A few weeks ago while doing barn chores, my mom noticed that one of the older llamas (one with an injured leg no less) was lying down way off in the wooded area in the horse pasture. All the animals usually come straight in during this feeding time so the lying llama was a concern. As she predicted, it was dead. Killed and dragged about fifty feet and “hid” under some brush. Classic cougar kill.

So we hooked up a night vision camera on the tree overlooking the general area and collected some photos of the cougar coming back night after night just around dusk to feast on her kill. She ultimately dragged the llama a few hundred yards, under a fence and closer to the wooded area behind said pasture. Cougars are beautiful animals and ones that you rarely see, let alone capture on film. Needless to say, we were all pretty amazed at the images.

While the cougar sighting wasn’t a shock – we know they are out there along with bears – it was a reminder that we no longer live in a predictable urban neighborhood.

We live in the wilderness.

Back in the Saddle Again

27 Apr

Wow, it has been quite a while since I sat down to write about our life on the farm…you may think that I am just way too busy but in fact, I got lazy. You see, we didn’t sign up to have internet in our cottage – so in order to check my email or browse online or post, I needed to walk a whopping hundred yards to the office to do so. I was pretty good about this in the beginning but then, well, I got lazy.

So, after nine months of living out here on the farm, I finally decided it was time to plug back in to the world wide web. I avoided doing so for a variety of reasons – but mainly because it’s a pain in the ass. And this exercise did fair any better.

I dialed up the phone company to hook us up, hoping that it would be a simple switch (the cottage has had internet in the past). Of course, this was not to be, but not for the reasons I expected.

This little town I now call home did not have any more portals for me to hook into. I had to have the poor guy on the phone explain this to me several times – no portals? So, you are telling me that all the people behind me that may move to this town or decide one day they want to be connected to the outside world simply cannot? Are you serious?

Yes, as he so patiently explained, indeed they cannot and either can you.

Toto, we are not in Kansas anymore. I guess this is one of the oh so subtle downsides to living in a small town.

In the end, I purchased a router extender to extend the service from the office to our house. Et voila, I now have the whole world in my living room again.

It feels good. It feels new and fresh. I can look something up in a click of a button again! Hooray for technology!

In any event, I hope this allows me to start writing again….so if you are still out there dear readers, I’m baaaaaaack!

The One Where the Princess Takes Over

2 Mar

DSC_0170It was only a matter of time.

I have avoided all things Disney (ok, most things…I did embrace Pooh) for four whole innocent years. It’s not that I have too much against Disney – it’s just that they are so commercialized. Once you enter the Disney world, it is hard not to find yourself surrounded by all the millions of Disney objects one can buy and to a toddler, must buy. That was my main reason for avoiding the famous cartoons…but I was also trying to avoid the whole Princess fiasco that comes with them.

And then she received a pair of sparkly pink shoes with three Disney princesses blazed on the insole. And we quickly slide down the rabbit hole…who is this and who is that? Why does that one have a red ribbon in her hair and that one have a crown?

To explain who the raven-haired lady was, we read a Snow White book that I found at the library, but as my astute toddler pointed out, this was not the same Snow White she saw on her shoe so, naturally this must not be the real Snow White. Disney must lace their images with visual crack – there was no turning back. She wanted to find the story with her Snow White in it. So, we watched the Snow White movie one day…I found out the hard way that it is a very slippery slope, this Disney Princess thing.

IMG_0171So with help from Gramma and the library, she learned about Snow White and Cinderella (although to Gramma’s credit she also mixed in Mary Poppins and the Wizard of Oz). Last week on the bookmobile I saw a big fat book called The Disney Princess Collection and proceeded to hover over it the entire time as to hide it from my daughter. Today I had no such luck – she got to it before I could. And so it sits, on our coffee table, with six doe-eyed ladies looking up at me from its cover.

After reading Cinderalla Ate my Daughter, I was determined never to let these sneaky beauties in to my house – the luring eyes, the suggestive poses, the body images and single goal to find her prince – yuck! But here’s the thing, I grew up on these same stories, I watched these same movies…I can probably sing every Disney song word for word. I don’t remember it locking in a certain image of what a woman should be, although maybe it did subconsciously. I also grew up in a household where women were deemed very powerful and useful and went on to go to a very powerful and useful all-women’s college. And here’s the other thing, isn’t it our goal in life to find our “prince?” Now before you jump up and down on your couch with rage, think about it in a larger context. Isn’t our goal, as human beings, to find a true love to procreate with and live happily ever after? Isn’t that built in to our DNA? While it may not be PC to wish for a prince to come and sweep you off your feet, we all yearn for a companion to share our lives with or at least part of our lives with. Every “happiness” study you find out there says that the number one determiner of lasting happiness is relationships – whether that be with your family, friends or companion.

DSC_0224Ok, so the Disney stories don’t encourage the Princess to build her own castle and gain her own skills, but they don’t necessarily  promote these Princesses to sit back and let the Prince make all the dough while they shop online and get their nails done either.

So after watching Cinderella with my daughter the other day, singing along to all the catchy songs throughout the whole film, I have changed my opinion – I figure, as long as the mother teaches her daughter (and son for that matter) to be a strong, independent person, what is the harm in a little love story at the end?

 

Taking a Breath

7 Feb

 
IMG_2758Today is a gorgeous sunny and crisp winter day. Full of blue sky, chilly breezes and the chatter of robins. On my way out to the barn this morning, an eagle soared above me. I never get tired of seeing eagles. In that moment I felt so privileged to live on this piece of land.

 

 

Enchanting Tales

5 Feb

I have avoided the “princess phase” for nearly four years…but alas, here we are in full princess mode. I suppose it was inevitable. So, since the princess world is not to be skipped I need to find some stories that do not revolve around Disney characters and being saved by a prince. Because she has already latched on to Cinderella, Snow White and Sleeping Beauty, I am on the hunt for cool renditions of these classic tales…more on that later. (Still on the hunt for the perfect ones)

But I did find some great princess stories that didn’t involve a prince rescuing the poor lass in the end.

rootchildren3 sibille_olfers_blackberry_smallThe first is The Princess in the Forest by Sibyille Von Olfers about a princess’s day in the forest and all of her friends that help her and play. No mention of a prince and no moral dilemma to solve. Just a simple lovely story. She has a whole series about nature children – the snow children, the wind children, the root children…they are all so adorable I am having a hard time picking a few to purchase.

Elsa Beskow In the forestThe second is Princess Sylvie by Elsa Beskow about a princess who wanders off into the wood and befriends a bear. This is the best children’s author I have found yet! I am going through each and every one with great delight. Again, having a hard time choosing just a few. I highly recommend looking these up at your library…I find it hard not to fall in love with the beautiful illustrations and story lines.

danie Kunstdruck_Zwergenmuetzen_A3_grAnother author worth mentioning is Daniela Drescher. Talk about magical! The pictures take you to another world and the stories are full of fantasy that my children fall right into. Fairies and elves are big in our house now too.

Farm Life So Far…Winter

28 Jan

IMG_3004

IMG_1027How is farm life so far? Well…it is officially Winter. We have seen snow a handful of times already. While it is indeed as cold and wet as I remember it to be, it is not that dissimilar to the weather in the city…we just have to play in it more here. We don’t have the easy escape of the zoo or aquarium…we are forced to make do with snowsuits and raincoats on a daily basis to play in the creeks and woods. While we do have a library that is great for when you really just don’t want to mess with the hour ordeal of dressing and undressing in outdoor gear, we have yet to use it this season.

IMG_0988The draw of living out here hasn’t waned yet for me. I still find solance in the vast land and diversity of play areas. I still find it easier to manuevor through the day without having to pack everyone up in a car to get a break from our small city lot. I still appreciate the drive to the grocery store and it actually seems shorter now that I have driven it may times over. The dark wet days don’t seem so bad when you have plenty of land to explore under the protection of the trees and it reminds me of my childhood playing in the woods year-round.

IMG_0999While I sometimes wonder if I am missing out on the social aspect of living in the city nearer our friends, I am assured that I am not. We make it in to the city for parties and get-togethers and I find we see our friends just as much as when we lived a short mile apart. The visits seem more intentional and appreciated now that we know we cannot just stop by on any given day.  We spend quite a lot of time up at the ski mountain so that balances our lives out pretty fairly I’d say – plenty of friends there, plenty of snow and fun. (Hence all the mountain photos!)

So, alas, I am happy to say that we have decided to stay…

 

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