Crafting is for lovers

Last weekend I was a vendor for the first time in my life at the Tacoma Is For Lovers craft fair. I was selling my originally designed earrings and I even designed my display table complete with spray painted twigs to hang the earrings on. I decided to participate mainly because I wanted to try something new and to do something that I was a bit intimidated to do, sell my craft. What I learned was more than I bargained for.

I was originally thinking, “I’ll go and maybe sell ALL of my stuff and pocket the earnings and live a life of self inflated ego trips like the rest of my crafty sisters. Or maybe I’ll just sell half of my 50 plus pairs and, in the end, never do it again but enjoy the experience of it all. What really happened was that some people bought, most didn’t. I sold some stuff and met some great people but really, I had a pretty quiet two days.

I’ve been writing for years now as well as showing my photographs and a lot of what I write and shoot gets a great response from people who read or see my work, so I’ve felt fairly comfortable and encouraged with my artistic expression. But when people don’t want your art it takes a huge hit on your ego and you MUST maintain the right self talk or it totally deflates you. I had to conclude that my jewelry wasn’t for everyone and my display was pretty rustic compared to some of the more pro crafters. Also, I’m not good at marketing myself, I tend to feel like a used car salesman when people pass by and I have to comment on their scarves or sweaters in order to get them to look at my work. “Oh, I love that sweater. Where did you get it? Really? Well what do you think of this color to go with that beautiful sweater?” It feels phony. But “phony” sold one women a whack load of jewelry.

I kept imagining how other artists must feel when they throw themselves out there. Crafting is definitely art. There were some amazing creations at the event! But people who put out a project whether it’s their music, an album, a movie, a painting, a book…whatever it is, if people don’t want it, even if you think it’s the best you’ve ever done, you have to wrestle through what it does to your emotions and you have to make a decision: “Am I done trying to create or shall I continue to make more art?”

I love what Glen Hansard says after he won the Oscar for the movie Once. If you’ve ever seen The Commitments you know he had a small and slow start to his music which began a long, long time ago. On the stage at the Oscars he ends his speech with simply saying, “Make art! Make art!” So tonight I went back to the drawing board, literally. I grabbed a photo that I took of my daughter dancing in the living room and it’s such a lovely shot of her that I drew it. I even hung it on the wall. I’m even thinking of doing another craft fair in February but this time I think I’ll skip the spray painted twigs and I’ll put a little more effort into my own art.

Very inspiring. Happy Thanksgiving, readers. Make art!

Now

My friend, Leslie, posted this article and besides the fact that it’s incredibly moving and heartbreaking I was trying to figure out why her story seems sort of freeing to me. I don’t mean to say that I’d like to be in her situation. I don’t think any parent would want that.  I’m intrigued that her journey in having a terminally ill child has freed her from a heaviness that a LOT of parents struggle with; parenting for the future.

She mentions that her style of parenting isn’t typical because her son has no future so their family must focus on now; enjoying kisses, naps together, cuddles and kisses and little milestones that will be very short-lived. Over the past six or so years I have come across so many books, magazines and blogs that try to point a parent towards a better and brighter future for their child. In the end I have literally thrown books across the room because I’ve felt that I can’t possibly live up to the standard that’s set before me by “experts” or just mommy bloggers who seem to have it all figured out. “Homeschool your kids in order to ensure they will actually be smart and creative. Teach them to read at age four, so that they can live a productive life without the likes of Elmo and Power Rangers. Give them enrichment classes and enable them explore their inner creative genius. Spend every waking moment intentionally investing into your kids to ensure they have a better future, you know, the one you wish you had!”

Dramatic? Me?  I don’t believe any of these models are wrong, per se. But I have felt an enormous pressure to do it all properly, to have thought through any and all of the implications on how I parent. What lies behind all of this intentionality seems to be so future focused; so they don’t end up screwed up; so they change the world by how well I’ve trained them! It makes it hard for me to relax and enjoy today with them.

I recently read The Idle Parent and had a good laugh. For a few days I even felt so free to be ok with my own imperfections as a parent. It was glorious to not feel the daily pressure of parental failure. I’m certain most of the message comes from the Western-cultural view that we are to make our mark and leave the world different than we found it; become Steve Jobs! “He changed the world, what’s your excuse”….slacker!

This article moved me in a variety of ways. It must be unbelievable to lose a child. I have a few friends who have and the grief they carry is alien to me. Yet, her language suggested a freedom to live and enjoy her child now; to let the future take care of itself and to deal with it when it comes. Something else that is total alien to me. I am trying though. What’s your excuse?

Sometimes, you just have to wear poodle slippers! You know?

Why did we do it?

Today was one of our lovely, sunny, Spring days and it’s been such a dreary winter that every sunny day is an opportunity for our family. I’m still digging up grass in the front yard, trying to expand a garden. Today, after visiting a friend who had a brunch complete with children, fake plastic eggs, copious amounts of candy for the wee ones and young Asian girls who were taking their photograph with my baby in the shot, we came home and I started to dig. There are a few gardeners on our street and as I drive through the hood I can see people, here and there, who have taken to growing things in their yards. It didn’t use to be like this, back in the day, when Hilltop was the biggest hood in Tacoma you’d find the old couple who have lived here for 40 years that kept a garden nice and tidy but it was a rare treat to see a home that was cared for. These days the pockets of homeowners who are breaking ground outside are becoming larger and it’s great to see the place shape up.

I’m out digging up the yard to make space for corn and raspberries when the mail lady who I say hi to all the time approaches me and asks, “Why is it that YOU guys decided to get a house here, of all places?” I just laughed because of the fact that I almost started to wonder the same thing myself after a massive and ugly party broke out next door this weekend. I told her that we aren’t wealthy and even if we could have found a 300K home in the posh North End I’m not sure it would really fit who we are anyway. She kept pleading that we surely could have found something somewhere else. Her gold teeth were shiny in the sun as she kept smiling at me and asking why we picked this street in particular. She talked about the block and the people who own dogs that don’t mind the fact that she has rules about mail delivery and dogs. They are the ‘irresponsible pet owners’ and they are also the ones who don’t understand why she won’t deliver if the doggie isn’t on a leash.  I told her I understood how it must be such a different perspective for her as a mail carrier and how she views dogs. She looked a bit surprised and said, “Thank you. No one gets that. I so appreciate you.” I think deep inside we all just want to be understood….anyway….

So why did we get a house in the hood? Well the short answer is, “Be damned if I know!” Seriously! It was something we were aware of before we said yes to the house. We knew the area’s reputation and also could see the potential but we didn’t have a grand plan or a mission in being here. In fact when the reality of living here hit us in the face we were a bit shell shocked and fear overtook us for a moment. There are still days that I can’t quite believe we did this….but we did it! I remember looking at a children’s book with my kids a few years ago, when we were still in Madison, and the book had a profound effect on me. It was a picture book without any words so it reached even deeper in my own interpretation. It was just drawings from a view in a little girl’s room, looking into her backyard. With each page turn the scenery changed and it was a story that took place over many years. You could see the beginning of the home when they moved in and the yard, ugly and filled with rubbish. The alley behind had drunks, graffiti and more rubbish. Behind the alley was crime, more graffiti and ugly, run down buildings. As each page turned it represented years taking place and each new page showed slow but noticeable change: a fence in her yard with plants, flowers and food growing. The alley now showed someone painting over the graffiti and there were a few more people around cleaning up. Then the next phase showed an empty lot turning into a community garden, more of the neighbors taking care of their gardens and buildings being turned into businesses. It was a slow and gradual shift that showed an entire community being changed through the perspective of the girl’s bedroom window. The family seemed to stay and live there and invest into the place; they owned it. It really spoke deeply to me just in the sense that I want things done NOW but real change takes time! I’m impatient but I long to go the distance with something, to see the process unfold through time. I’m a perfectionist but at my core I want to see slow and lasting change and that is usually very messy and uncaged.

We never moved here with this huge plan in mind so today I really didn’t have an answer for our mail lady. It really did, and still does, feel right to us to be here. I’ve done random things that just seem to be changing me and how I see the world and it’s only through living here that I’m able to do it. A few weeks ago I took a kid in the neighborhood to the beach with myself and the kids. I didn’t really want to just because it’s work and I wanted to take a break. But we took him and he said this was his second time ever at the beach. He’s nine and he grew up here but he’s only been to the beach twice. The beach is maybe a 20 minute drive but if your mom doesn’t have a car that 20 minute drive might as well be hours away. Life is different when your only option is the bus, so I’m learning.

This is a very peculiar part of town and it’s not always easy to live here. There are people who yell and sometimes even at their kids. There are some people who are drunk in the middle of the day (our neighbors shot-gun beer at around 11am). But it seems like everyone knows everyone here. People know their neighbors and if your neighbors like you, and I know ours do, they really have your back.There is a sense of community and longevity here that I’ve never experienced anywhere I’ve lived. We borrow, not really sugar and flour, but pitch forks and power tools. So far quite a few of my neighbors have sat down next to me and told me pretty personal things about their lives while I’m out in the garden digging (again, I think most of us want to be heard). There are still pockets of instability in the air but it’s so good to see beauty come out of ashes; dig up dirt, glass and beer tabs from the ground and put in food and flowers. Have a chat with a neighbor about life and raising kids, maybe even take a kid to the beach.

I heart living in the city!!!

Cars

I was speaking with a friend today about our move to Hilltop and all the emotinos it’s bringing up in me. She mentioned that she drove by the house, thought it was cute but worried for us in the neighborhood. Funny that this was her first set of thoughts about the house. I keep driving around the area,  just checking out the houses and getting my bearings for the neighborhood. I find myself looking at the cars, the types of cars seem to signify the quality of the street (so goes my rationale). In the past I’ve looked at cars as well as upkeep on the houses when we’ve been searching for a new home. This is our third house and while we look around, scouting out an unfamiliar area, I rationalize that the cars parked in front of the homes say a lot about the type of area we are in. Most of my reason has been because, in the past, we’ve bought a home in order to sell it soon after so I was always trying to look for curb appeal and resell-ability; would someone else want to buy in this area?

If I was unfamiliar with an area I had to do my best to take it all in and decide if this was going to be a place that other people wanted to live. I’m not an expert on why people buy the homes that they do but I do know when buying a home the three main things you look for are 1. Location 2. Location 3. Location. So in my detective way I have found myself sniffing out an area and looking for visual cues on what will sell again. It’s sort of trained my eye and now I can’t seem to stop noticing cars when I drive around Hilltop. There’s the 77 Nova with a brown door and yellow body (I actually had one of those as my first car- haha). There’s the Jeep Cherokee that was uqibitous in the 90’s. There’s a lime green beetle with a vase for flowers in their car. Who needs to put fresh cut flowers in their car? There’s a shopping cart! And another one!

I often find myself judging the area based on the quality of the vehicles parked on the street. If it’s got some up to date transport it must be up and coming. Right? If all the cars look unkept then the neighborhood but be unkept. Right? Well there is some truth to that way of thinking but it’s all a personal judgement that I do inside my head to scope out whether or not I feel clean, secure and and justified where I live with my little kids. I’m sure it’s something we all do without thinking about it but I’m very aware how much I’m doing it as I drive around my new house. There’s a 2008 minivan. Must be a stable family with wee little white kids. Ahhhh….my people. I guess it’s just little pockets of fear that wants to stick with people I’m familiar with that still reside in my core. I’m sure more will come up as I live in one of the most diverse areas in all of Tacoma but I am committed to engaging with the unfamiliar emotions, fears and cultural stereotypes that come into my mind by habit.

The irony is that I actually like the diversity. I’m comforted by the colour and the culture of Hilltop. I find communities that aren’t strictly caucasian to be very welcoming and hospitable rather than standoffish the way a lot of suburban areas can be  can be. Yet I still find places in myself where I don’t feel like I relate or understand ethnicity. I try to but there’s a lot of areas where I feel lost and incredibly white around people of color, sort of like the white girl trying to find her groove at a good dance party, but failing miserably.  I was raised poor but I wasn’t raise a poor, black child (I just had to throw in a bit of Steve Martin there) so I am trying to relate but still feel I have a lot to learn. I do know that, regardless of our racial or cultural differences, we all want the same things in life. If we have kids we all want the same things for them, even the roughest of parents really want their kids to succeed and want the highest for them. Don’t believe me? Try messin’ with Shaquita’s kids and see how fast she lays into you!

It’ll be interesting when the weather warms up and I start to bring my kids to the parks and out to community events. That’s one thing I’m  looking forward to. I’m looking forward to meeting people in my community and making friends as we push our kids on the swings.  Out in the suburbs people just sort of keep to themselves but in the city there’s usually so many community events that bring everyone out pot-lucking. Sometimes these hard areas bring people together in ways that are unique to any other setting I’ve ever lived in and I think our little world is going to become very large in just a short span of time.

We’ve moved….to the hood!

When I lived in Tacoma, back in the day, Hilltop was one of those areas that us white folks didn’t venture into for leisure and if we did have to drive through, we always rolled up the windows and locked the doors. Seriously, your car might get jacked if you didn’t. It was notorious for gang violence and it was hit hard by the crack epidemic. It was a shame because there was/is so much diversity in this historic area. The houses are lovely, classic craftsman homes, and it was prime location sitting at the top of the hill before you ebbed into downtown.

Tacoma has seen a huge transformation in the past 15 or so years. People have begun to invest in real estate, jobs and giving the city a bit of an aesthetic facelift. Even Hilltop has had a renissance lately and a lot of working class families have rushed into to scoop up cheaper real estate in order to drive some of the crime out. The locals have also had enough! They have formed watch committies and chased a lot of the crime away. Yet….here’s where the Bonjours enter the picture… there seems to be a lot of work to be done.

 

We were searching for a house before Christmas and found this lovely craftsman in the Hilltop area. I am aware of the area’s reputation but I have heard and seen for myself the changes. Still, we moved into our new home, the one we tend to grow old in, and already we’ve been hit by the reality of where we live. We didn’t really anticipate urban ministy as we moved here. In fact we’ve been in full time ministry for about 15 years only to take a break from it around two years ago. Now we’re finding ourselves thrust right back in and without warning. We didn’t really have time to prep emotionally for what we are getting into so some of these adjustments feel a bit like whip lash.

The third day after we had keys in hand we noticed someone had tried to kick our back door in. Thankfully the latch caught it. Two days later I was calling the cops on our next door neighbors who were shouting, physically fighting and throwing furniture out the back door. I normally won’t call the poe-poe just because it doesn’t really build community in the same way that face to face confrontation does, but I don’t know these crazies yet and I was NOT going to go over and ask if they wouldn’t mind keeping the noise to a light hush. Cops came and hauled off two people out of the six that are all crammed into that tiny house. Then today someone came to take photos of our house for our homeowners insurance (nice lady) and she informed us that they are keeping a dog (pit bull puppy) locked in a windowless shed. She called animal control to have them come and haul the dog away. I told her to let them know it wasn’t us just in case they feel the need to get even with the person who snitched on them. Another day in the hood.

Matt and I have always wanted to do urban ministry, for whatever reason. He’s had an interest in urban planning and I’ve wanted to do more to empower low income families (start a community garden, for example). When we bought our house we weren’t searching for it with that in mind. We sort of wanted a place of rest and beauty. It’s becoming a place of beauty with every new coat of paint but having all of these troubles with our neighborhood has brought up a lot of my classic inner struggle, fear! It’s brought a lot of fears to the surface about raising a family in a rough area, about being home with kids and without Matt while he’s at work, getting our car jacked in the middle of the night, getting our home broken into (that’s the biggest one for me- this area has a high theft rate). It’s a work that we weren’t anticipating when we moved but it’s one that we are thrust into. There’s no turning back. We have the home, we love the home. We want to be committed to the area and seeing it change. That’s the only way anything changes, when people love and invest into their own community.

We left full time ministry two years ago. We stopped traveling around the world with our kids and working with the poor and the marginalized. I haven’t taught college age kids or high school students on the validity of the gospel in over two years. My time working with short terms missions ended in 2009. We moved to Hilltop one week ago where we have been placed into the most striking and raw mission field where we get to raise a family and see a neighborhood changed. So begins our life building a community. I’m sure more colourful stories will follow so stay tuned.

The tension

A friend of mine, whose blog and family I adore, recently posted my exact sentiments about wanting to write as a place to process, reflect, and update on my life with children yet feeling the time is so limited to do so. This has been my tension since Sylvie was born. We moved to the West coast eight months ago while I was in my last month of pregnancy and since then we’ve had our third child, I’ve taken a break from homeschooling my son to put him in part time Kindergarten, we recently bought a house and we still have yet to move all of our stuff into it. Don’t forget the holidays and three birthdays plus an anniversary. It’s been a full eight months. It’s been so busy that I’ve even been too busy to cook and I’ve opted for pre-made foods from Trader Joe’s. What is my life coming too?!!!

Still these transitions aren’t the largest zap of my time which is keeping me away from blogging. God knows I have a ton to say right now. There have been major life changes for me, some too personal to share in an online journal form, so I would love to write out what is going through my head these days but the biggest form of time-zap is my family. I’ve reached a place in my life (maybe “reaching a place” is a bit more accurate-I’m still in the process) where my family is the MOST important thing in my life and spending time with my kids is the way I want to invest my time. This is the main reason I’m not writing, I want to invest deeper into my kids because they need this with all of the transition in our lives. This is not to say that women who blog aren’t spending enough time with their kids. For some moms their children are older or they have kids with different needs than mine, allowing them a bit more free time to write.

Here lies my tension! I want to write because I feel I’ve learned more in the last few months than in the past few years but there just isn’t enough time in the day right now. Maybe when we move and get a bit sorted I’ll feel that I can give more time to my ruminations. I also started to invest more time into jewelry making in the evenings as a creative outlet and that has taken away  from writing, but if there is one thing I could communicate about these past few months it would be this: Family is the most important gift there is. Time is very fleeting. We get one go around so don’t waste time with mindless tasks that keep you busy but never accomplishing anything. Love! Yes, indeed….LOVE!

Oliver just turned 6 and I can’t believe his feet are so big and his body so grown up. He’s not a baby anymore, never again. Someday he will marry (I hope) and want a family of his own. Someday I’ll be a grandmother and that day will likely come closer than I would even realize. Someday my teeth will stop working as will my eyes and the changes will come to my body like a hurricane. Someday Matt and I will be no more and these days I’m not so concerned with the ‘legacy’ we leave behind as I am about the time we were given to love and create. So here we are in a very normal life with very normal activities but I’m very aware how extrordarinary our lives are while we are here.

Perhaps I’ll write more on this tomorrow….

Getting Old(er)

After I hit 30 I noticed that certain things began to change. When I was 29 I was probably in the best shape of my life. I was getting married so I did what most people do….worked out a lot right before the wedding day. I was going to Hawaii for honeymoon and also going to be ‘neked’ in front of the husband for the first time so I wanted to look all splendid and stuff. I look back at photos of our honeymoon and think ,”Dang! I was pretty hot!”

I got pregnant four months after being married so watching my body shift and morph into a house for a baby was very surreal. I loved the preggy look but it was strange to share my space with another human. I’ve had two more since then and I’m closer to 40 than I am to 30. I’ve noticed a lot of changes since I was married and some of them are very profound. Some are pleasant, some are welcomed, some are very unpleasant and some just are. I want to see a bumber sticker that reads, “Cellulite happens” but I’m sure no one is brave enough to stick it to their car. It’s a lot more daring than throwing up “Obama ’08” or “I heart Pat Buchanan”

I find that there are areas that I buy into culture like the next shmuck when it comes to body image. This culture idolizes youth in a variety of ways but the young body is probably the most pervasive. Every check out stand I go to (except Trader Joe’s) I find magazines shaming female celebrities who dare to go out to a public beach with saggy thighs. There are also times where I really don’t care what is happening to me as I age. I like my grey hair and my wrinkles. I dye the grey sometimes otherwise I’d rockin’ the bride of Frankenstein look. It’s only greys on the sides. I also like my crows feet and laugh lines. I like my narrow face and the fact that I don’t look like I’m 25 anymore. I think there’s a certain dignity in getting older and watching things change.

The other areas that are hard to accept are back problems and various pains through the body. It seems like you hit 30 and your body turns on you. It slows down it’s metabolism so you just look at food and gain weight. Seriously, what is with that? Seems as you get older you actually need energy to keep yourself from atrophying. I have also noticed how my teeth are failing me. After nursing three babies they are really not as good as they should be. Now that I’ve had so much work done on my mouth I’m thinking of my teeth everyday. I think of how much sugar I eat and how it’s effecting my teeth. I notice other’s teeth like some sort of obsession. Just the other day an old man, maybe in his 80’s, was talking to me and I was noticing he had his original teeth….and, they looked great! Great for being in his 80’s. I can’t believe how much I’m noticing teeth now that mine are becoming weaker and weaker.

I don’t lament the loosening of my skin or the changing of my body as much as I’ve actually been heartbroken thinking of more pain, sickness and decay as I get older. The beauty of age is wisdom, peace and experience. I want to be one of those old women who smile a lot and drive so slow that everyone behind them gets pissy. Those slow drivers have all the time in the world to take it easy. They’ve rushed their whole lives, it’s time to rest and enjoy now. Ah, peace! Come to me in my old age! But can you please just leave my teeth in tact?

If there is one piece of advice I could give the youth today I would tell them…. Floss!