Absentee

Aside

Why haven’t I written in a while? I have a few good excuses and a few lame ones. Lack of inspiration? Not really. Lack of material? Not at all! Having little kids in your home and living in an urban setting? Unusual stories and great material abound. Laziness? Perhaps. Busyness? Definitely. Self induced busyness? Absolutely! 

 

This has been my year of realizing that I keep myself busy with stuff that needs to get done but I’m not at all making time for the things that I actually enjoy doing. Ask anyone….there’s NEVER enough time! Right? If only we had just a few more hours in the day to get done what we really want to do. I’m a firm believer that if we had a few more hours we would all die of heart attacks by 26 and also, we’d still never make time for real living. 

 

I’ve been reading a lot of Wendell Berry lately and I appreciate his approach to modernity and his commitment to living a slow and enjoyable life. From what I’ve read he doesn’t own a computer and types all of his poetry and manuscripts on an old-school typewriter, when he’s not using a pen a paper. A what? Pen and…what? He doesn’t really email and he’s likely not on friggin’ Facebook. He moved away from NY and left a potentially successful career as a writer to move back to KY and work on his farm with his wife; to work the land and write. Not for everyone, sure, but man! Doesn’t it just sound dreamy? It does to me. 

 

So I’m realizing that I’ve let myself get busy with so much ‘stuff’ over this past year and it’s left a bit of a hole inside. You’ll always find ways to fill your time but you really have to MAKE time for the things that you  want to do. 

Hilltop is getting a new sandwich shop!

This spot (a few doors down) is soon to be a Euro style breakfast spot

I couldn’t be more excited about this news. I’ve been telling people since we moved here that our main street, MLK Blvd, is ripe for more retail. This is such a ripe area and I am stoked about more development. Now all we need is:

Garden Shop, Bakery, Cafes, fruit stands, food carts and vendors in the winter (think chestnuts and hot dogs out of small carts), a few restaurants, apparel and shoes and yadda, yadda….. I could go on.

 

I remember when Sixth Ave was just a spot where you could get some of Tacoma’s ubiquitous teriyaki, some funky Winchell’s donuts and hit any number of dive bars that stretched about eight city blocks, all peppered between empty retail buildings. The ave was a pretty lame spot for a number of years. As soon as Starbucks planted their corporate arse smack in the middle of Sixth Ave business picked up and people started to open shops. Say what you will about big business but it really can help an area out when it’s in decline. Hell, I’d welcome a Starbucks here on MLK Blvd. It would do huge things to the area.

 

So back to how thrilled I am that two brothers are opening a sannie shop on the Hill; I think we should ask them to call it Sandwich Masters and the logo could be two twelve foot subs jousting each other. Who’s with me????

I want a lush garden

Tracie Bonjour 2011

Yesterday we headed to Seattle for a family get away and ended up taking the kids to the Arboretum just off the highway. It was amazing to be in this lush, fragrant space in the middle of a concrete jungle. You could hear the faint sound of the cars on the highway and could also smell pine in the trees. It was a moment that I wished I could come back to, sans children, for a bit of quiet time. When you have children life takes a new twist on moments of solitude. Basically, there is no solitude! I was strolling through thinking, “I should come back here some day after the kids are grown and married and then I’ll stroll through the garden and just think, or read or smell things. We ended up picking and eating berries and pretending the willow tree was a tent. It was a good time….after the boy stopped complaining about how much we had to walk.

We hit Capitol Hill for an Indian Buffet where the man charged us for four plates even though my daughter only ate a bite of chicken and three chunks of watermelon. That’ll be $8 each, please! My kids aren’t completely use to the city where anything goes, in terms of fashion and apparel. We passed two “girls” holding hands (one was a large man dressed like a woman-complete with lace up boots, make up and a wig) and Chloe said, “Those two were really silly, mama”. My kids also kept staring, wide eyed, at most everyone on the streets as if we were a Tree House family that lived outside of civilization. It was amusing.

We then went to B&O espresso and Matt took three sips of his double espresso before it fell to the ground. We found a little vintage clothing boutique that sold a dress for $185 yet it had a large tear down the back. I let my voice be heard!

Lastly, we found a cute little community garden in the middle of the city where we walked through with the kids and I pointed out to them all of the flowers and veggies that were growing. They are super interested in how things grow so this is actually where we spent most of our time yesterday. It was a lovely, lush getaway in the center of the crazy city. Sunflowers, tomatoes, cosmos, strawberries…..We walked through pathways and I felt a little like I was in a jungle. Maybe this is the imaginative child in me; the one who still pretends I am on a tropical adventure whenever I get around a garden that grows flowers as tall as myself.

It made me think about how I’ve been taking back my own yard bit by grassy bit this year, and so far I have three raised beds in the back and two, large patches in the front where the grass has been overtaken by veggies, berries and flowers. Slowly but surely I want that wretched grass out of there and a haven of gardening goodness in it’s stead. I want pathways and stones for the kids to step on and winding ways for them to walk through as they pretend they are in the forest or Eden or something like that. It’s one of the ways I find rest in our urban jungle.

I love the city and all of the buildings; the sounds of horns and sirens, close housing proximity, accessibility to cafes, restaurants, museums, libraries, parks, pubs and bakeries. Yet, in the midst of my urban life, I want quite; beauty, refreshment, color and scent (good scent). This year I am on a mission to take back more of my yard and turn it into a place of rest for myself and my kids who still play-pretend they are on a tropical adventure every time the neighbor’s grass grows over two feet tall. How does your garden grow?

Tracie Bonjour 2011

The End of Summer

This summer wasn’t completely what I had hoped in terms of the weather. It’s really hit or miss here in the Pacific Northwest. Some years it hits the high 80s for three months and that’s when everyone’s grass turns a crackly brown and it feels like you’re walking on tiny spikes when you go into the yard barefoot. The smell of sunscreen is ubiquitous and the spray grounds are packed to maximum capacity. In fact it might even be a good idea to invest into a harness just so you can locate your child amongst the mosh pit of swimsuits.

Then there are years where you find yourself sitting near a quiet beach with a single tear streaming down your face as you try to suck the life out of a day in the high 50s, gray clouds hovering above as you pretend it’s summery outside by eating juicy peaches (that were NOT grown here this year) and donning sunglasses in hopes that the day will actually require them to be worn. You day-dream of trips to hot and sunny places like Arizona or Utah because honestly, would you ever go there in August otherwise?

This was my summer:

Green tomatoes in July….AND August!

Tiny butternut squash on the vine because the heat didn’t help them

Cold days at a local beach

And gray skies in July!

BUT….

August sent me outside with a tan, camping all over our amazingly, lovely state, and it lathered me with sunscreen for an entire month.

I have freckles on my face that show proof of those sunny days, a handful of red tommys that are truly the underdog this year, and kids with sun kissed highlights in their hair. We had a rad summer, even if it took a while to come. She finally graced us with her presence and then, just like that, she was gone.

Welcome the yellow leaves and orange pumpkins; sweaters that itch your neck, socks, spiders coming in from the cold; firm butter in the cupboard, heated house in the morning and feather duvet at night… all of this I’m not yet ready for but, in the end, what I can do? Here’s to fall!

All photos by Tracie Bonjour

Finding the time to create

Daisies in my garden

 

Today I came across this article  by Carey Wallace on making time to create art. In this article he’s talking about writing, which I feel a strong connection to but feel like I’m utterly dropping the ball since I just can’t seem to find/make time these days. I even commented on his article in that I was encouraged and discouraged in the same breath. In some ways I do believe it’s easier to make time for things when you are either single or sans little children.  I do find there are a lot of mommy bloggers out there who write for fun (that just sounds so ‘cute’-they write for fun), maybe write because it’s a passion is a better way to phrase it. Then there are some who write to try to make money off their blogging. I understanding why the latter would carve out significant slots of time if they are trying to be home with kids and make some serious cash from their writing.

It’s the former, the ones who make time to write because it’s their passion, that just kills me. Maybe it’s the season I am in, life with three small children who have a lot of needs. I have a one year old who is just learning to walk for goodness sake! There are days where I feel like I’ve completely failed in making time to write, take photos or read and I really don’t understand how these women who stay home with kids do it. Maybe it will mellow once mine get just a titch older “and then (she says) I’ll find the time to make art” (end quotes). Or maybe I just need to bite down and carve out some serious time to create the things I want to create. I miss telling stories with my photos and getting out the stuff that’s in my head. Lord knows there is a ton in there these days. I feel I’ve been going through some major life transitions in the past six months and there is so much swirling around in there that wants to come out. Not that I need to write so people will read but there is something about the process that helps me to learn and to decompress a bit. It’s the creative process that we all need to churn in ourselves to feel we are spinning properly, like the cog that drives the wheel (thanks for the definition, Biker Husband).

 

Personally I was born to communicate in a variety of forms so when I spend most of my day answering what the difference is between a bunny and a rabbit (which, by the way, I really don’t know) I feel deflated and tired in the end, if that’s all I have done. If I haven’t engaged in something that makes me also feel alive as a unique human with a unique expression of life I feel like I lost a bit of the day. I’ve felt this way for months now. This is why, I think, a lot of stay at home moms struggle with depression, addictions, and horrible loneliness.

 

This excerpt, which hopeful isn’t breaking some sort of copywrite, is incredibly profound to me and seems to strip away a lot of my excuses for not making time to create, whatever it is that I need to create:

 

“This is what undergirds my discipline in my best moments: the dazzling beauty and variety of the things God wants to speak into this world, the honour of being able to repeat some of them in my own voice, and the shortness of my life relative to the size of the task. It requires discipline to stay tuned to these truths in the crush and noise of each day, but when the division between creative and spiritual disciplines is removed, the reward becomes not just another page written, or another lonely hour stared down, but a meeting with God himself, who restores us even as He leads us on.”

– Carey Wallace

 

 

Party in the hood

Once again I’m left with a busy week(s) where the days blow by faster than sand in a windstorm and at the end of the night I’m sighing a breath of relaxation after my kids go down for bed. There’s so much to do now that spring is here. I almost can’t stand how undone my garden is. I have things planted but not nearly what I wish due to the fact that I’m digging up heavy, wet sod to tear back the grass, making way for real soil. It’s like I’m pulling hair out of the ground just to make way for food to grow. The perfectionist in me is cringing every time I look outside my window at my half-made garden. I’ve been trying to put form to it because I have to grow a lot of my veggies in the front yard where most of the sun will be. I just didn’t want my front yard to look like a farm came and landed on the lawn. I wanted some decorative flow to the beets and lettuce. Circles, half moons, pathways rather than just rows of carrots and corn. So I’m undone inside with all of the unfinished-ness in our lives.

Matt is also building a chicken coop, something we had wanted to do in Madison but interior work on our house always prevailed. Now we finally feel ready for this (we also go through so many bloody eggs that it just makes sense for us to get chickies) but we’re still fairly busy with life and three children. We’re getting there though. Slowly but surely….that’s the mantra that keeps chanting in my head. Better that than “get ‘er done”!

I still need to re-register my son for the homeschooling academy, figure out what I want his curriculum to be, order seeds that my dear friends The Shatsi’s made possible through a loving birthday gift through Seeds of Change, attend a child’s birthday party tomorrow, book camping spots for the summer (they fill up fast and who doesn’t want to see where Twilight was filmed?), take advantage of my sunny days to work in my garden and read to my kids on a regular basis. I’m falling asleep just re-reading all of this. What I would rather be doing is sitting on a sunny beach, eating fruit wedges and picking sand out of my turkey sandwich but this stuff has to get done. I still have panicky days where I wonder if my kids are getting all that they need to grow into amazing, secure and delightful adults. Somedays I recall the events of the day and it seems like I’ve only said three sentences to them at all, just because I’m so stuck in my head, thinking of all the tasks (I’ve always been this way) and just when I think they’re likely going to end up, as skinny jean wearing Emo adults, writing grim poetry while sipping black coffee in a dim lit coffee shop, I catch a glimpse of just how rad they are.

Today our next door neighbors who have several people living in the same house while most of the dudes living there don’t work during the day (if at all) and shot- gun Coors Big Mouth cans at 11 am, they told us one of the couples are celebrating their three-year old’s birthday and my kids were invited to come over. All my kids heard was the word “cake” so of course they HAD to be there. I think they’ve seen her once so they seriously aren’t the closest of friends to this girl. Alas, a youthful sweet tooth shall drive them and the excitement of other kids around drove them running into the house screaming, “Mamma, we get to go to their house for a party”. In my mind I was picturing them playing around all the adult dudes that live in the house while they smoke, drop the F bomb and drink straight out of their 40 oz of Old E’ (this really happens). That’s when I decided that I’d be chaperoning them.

We also have a tradition in our house: when it’s someone’s birthday the kids make the person a card and sometimes a gift. If it’s another child they often give them one of their toys. I started asking them to do this so that they would learn how to give a gift to someone else. The beginning lessons were hilarious as they would run upstairs to grab the rankest, most beat up toy that they haven’t played with in years and try to give it to the birthday child in question. I would try to help them understand that their dear friend would never want a Strawberry Short Cake doll with a severed arm and nappy hair or a Lightening McQueen car that had no wheels. We’re still learning….

Today though they both came inside, made the girl a card, Oliver made her a potato person (one of our recent projects that he really liked), Chloe made a butterfly and then grabbed a glow in the dark lion from her room (that last one was, once again, a lame “I never play with this yucky thing anyway” toy). I was really proud of them because I didn’t ask them to do it and they just couldn’t wait to go next door and give it to her. She’s only three so I don’t think it’ll go down in history as one of her more awesome gifts from the neighbor kids, heck her parents may even think it was a dorky gesture and that I could have at least run out to Walgreens to buy a damn Polly Pocket! But again, I was really proud of them for wanting to give…not only that but wanting to create something for her.

In the big scheme of things….I think my kids are going to be ok….