Nagoonberry

This world. This place. This life.


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How was the road trip?

We’ve been home for two and a half weeks, and we’re still settling back in.

A few days after we got back to Girdwood, Liesl came down with the flu, which changed the math around here. Instead of two adults taking care of a baby and a dog, it was one adult taking care of a sick person, a baby and a dog. Now that she’s mostly on the mend, we’re making progress on the daunting, never-ending task of bringing order to our 1100-square-foot condo.

So, how was the road trip?

It’s a hard question to answer, because we didn’t have a clear goal when we set out.

At some point on the trip I posted on Facebook that “there, and back again,” might be the measure of this trip’s success. And we’ve done that.

It was quite an accomplishment to take the ferry from Whittier to Bellingham, and then put more than 5000 miles on the truck getting back to Alaska via the AlCan. Particularly with a baby (and a dog, for part of the trip).

But what was it for? Why did we go?

As I wrote before we went, we were stuck, and we needed to yank ourselves away from here so that we could imagine a new future for ourselves.

We did that, too.

Liesl began to see the giant boulder of grief she’s been carrying around about leaving her job, and possibly leaving Alaska. Now that she knows the boulder’s there, she can set it down once in a while.

I found space to take a chance on a new life, daydream about entrepreneurial ministry, and expand the work I’m already doing.

The trip propelled us into a liminal place. Not into a new, rooted place. A liminal place.

And we’re still there.

It’s uncomfortable.

We’d like a new house, and new careers, without all the constant questioning and considering and good god all the waiting.

We’d like a home with more room for Willa to play, with plenty of space for Brady to run around outside, with a place for Liesl and I to shut the door and remember who we are, apart from our parental roles.

We’d like for both of us to have daily work that feels meaningful, purposeful, satisfying.

We’d like to expend our energy in the present, not in planning for, imagining, and trying to get to the future.

It’s uncomfortable.

We’re restless.

We get cranky with each other. And with the dog.

But then we watch an episode of HBO’s Vice, about Sudan.

And we remember how privileged—and small—our struggle is.

We remember to be grateful for our happy baby, who has enough to eat, and a place to sleep.

It puts our search for meaning and purpose in a larger perspective.

We’re looking, not just for work that makes us feel valued, but work that actually is valuable, work that helps to make a dent, however tiny, in the terrible, terrible things that happen every day around the world, and right here in Girdwood, and wherever you are.

So that’s how our trip was.

We may be sleeping in the same place every night now, but we’re still on the road. We’ll let you know when we arrive.

If we ever do.

 

 


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U-Haul moment: anger and anxiety

In our family, we talk about U-Haul moments—dating back to the time when Liesl suddenly figured out that U-Haul meant, well, “you haul.”

Yesterday I had a U-Haul moment.

For the past few weeks I’ve felt an unusual amount of anger. Rage, actually. It flares up quickly, rising up like a whirlwind from my gut, and it takes all I’ve got not to lash out.

Fortunately, Willa doesn’t trigger it. Usually it’s our dog Brady, whose in-your-face, high-strung energy gets on my last nerve. (He gets a lot of time-outs, when sometimes it’s me who needs one.)

Yesterday I figured out that the anger was anxiety, boiling up and spilling over.

Huh. Go figure.

I’m not very good at anger. Not good at acknowledging it, not good at feeling it, not good at expressing it (appropriately or otherwise).

At most, I get snippy. When I describe an incident where “I was really mad,” my friends laugh at me.

So this anger, and this anxiety, they’re opportunities. Opportunities to learn to live in my heart.

Almost twenty years ago, a career assessment counselor wrote about me, “Heather is a feeler who thinks through her emotions.”

That annoyed me—and stuck with me.

And yesterday, for the first time, I really understood what he meant. I always knew what he meant about keeping my emotions at arm’s length, about projecting them on the wall of my mind rather than living in that messy feeling space.

But yesterday I caught a glimpse, just a tiny one, of what it might be like to live in the messy space.

And have that be OK.


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Don’t imagine me drowning

So much of what I read about parenting young children focuses on how overwhelming it is. And it is.

But I’m grateful for every blog post that helps me remember the love and joy Willa brings to my life.

Because the truth is, even though I’m flailing around in the water, I’m not drowning. I’m learning to swim.

So I want to ask you—please, don’t imagine me drowning.

No matter how exhausted I may feel, I parent from a place of privilege. We can afford to have me care for Willa full-time, and I have outlets for the not-mama parts of my brain. For lunch today, Willa will eat ground lamb, butternut squash, zucchini, homemade yogurt, organic rice cereal, and quinoa; it takes a privileged amount of bandwidth to pull that off. Do I need support? You bet. But let’s save the lifeguards’ attention for those who really are drowning.

cubes

I have never done work which demanded so much of my creativity. All day long, every day, one problem-solving opportunity after another comes my way. Every solution lasts only until Willa’s next growth spurt. She keeps me on my toes, and I’ve never felt so alive. Who knew that “helping” with the laundry could begin at eight months? Or that it would be so much fun?

laundry

When you imagine me drowning, I imagine myself drowning, and I lose faith in myself. I focus on what’s hard, rather than imagining what’s possible. Liesl and I spent long months agonizing about taking a road trip with Willa, because we were afraid of how hard it might be. Will it be hard? Yes. No doubt about it. But I want to raise a daughter who faces challenges with courage and determination, with a sparkle of anticipation in her eyes. And if I want to do that, I have to model courage, not fear.


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Choose your kiln

I suck at self-directed change.

I’ve fallen off more bandwagons than I care to count.

I’ve broken so many New Year’s resolutions that I just don’t make them anymore.

When I see a blog post that promises me change in six easy steps, I roll my eyes and move on.

But by any measure, the trajectory of my life includes dramatic changes. I’m a Jersey girl living in Alaska. I was a fundamentalist kid, and now I’m a non-theistic Unitarian Universalist.

How did these changes happen?

I chose life experiences that changed me.

kilnPick any metaphor you’d like—a kiln, a crucible, a glacier, a forest fire—there are forces that will apply pressure to us from the outside, changing us in lasting ways.

For me, it has been: attending college and seminary; working as a minister; choosing a relationship with Liesl; moving to Alaska; adopting our dog, Brady; writing the Interdependent Web; and becoming Willa’s mother.

Next month we’re headed off on an open-ended adventure. It’s daunting—and it will change us.

I’m counting on that. Liesl and I need something to change us, because we’re really stuck—and we’re tired of it.

We’re putting ourselves in a kiln for a few months. Then we’ll open the door, and see how we’ve changed.

Are you tired of being stuck?

Choose your kiln—or your crucible, glacier, or forest fire.

Make it something big.

Make it something that will change you from the outside, in.

 

Photo by bptakoma, used under a Creative Commons attribution license.


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We’re leaving, on the ferry

Liesl, Willa, Brady and I are about to embark on an adventure.

We’re going to load up Liesl’s pickup truck, and board the Alaska Marine Highway’s cross-gulf ferry from Whittier to Bellingham, Washington.

Ketchikan visit

We’ll pick up a teardrop trailer in Portland, hook  it to the back of Liesl’s truck, and hit the road.

Liesl’s dad is coming from Ohio to condo-sit for us. He’ll be here to spend time thinking about next steps in his life, and we’re hitting the road to do the same.

We’re planning a two-month trip, but have no idea how Willa will travel. It could be a much shorter trip!

We have no post-ferry itinerary yet. We’ve talked about driving to Michigan, where Liesl’s mom lives. We might take it slow, and just spend time exploring Washington. Our mid-range plan is to make a loop through the Mountain West.

We have friends and family we hope to see along the way, and places to investigate where we’re thinking about settling down next.

Whatever we decide to do, it will certainly be an adventure.

“It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.”― J.R.R. TolkienThe Lord of the Rings

 

Photo by Jay Galvin, used under a Creative Commons attribution license.


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Baby’s best friend

Willa was out of sorts yesterday afternoon when she woke up from her second nap. She was standing by the side of her crib, let go of the rail, and fell down. It made her grumpy.

She and I sat down in the recliner next to the crib for a bit of a snuggle, but she was still snuffling.

Brady can’t stand it when Willa is in any kind of distress.

He saw one of her toys on the floor across the room, went and got it, and brought it to her.

“Here, Willa,” he seemed to say. “Have a toy. They always make me feel better.”

And it worked.

As a thank-you, Willa gave Brady two cookies. She thought about eating them herself, but changed her mind (with my help).

Brady and Will


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There is no such thing as Facebook

Really. There is no such thing as Facebook.

Facebooks, yes. But no Facebook.

I was reading a particularly charming status update posted by one of my friends, and suddenly it hit me: no two people have the same experience of Facebook. (In our house, we call this a U-Haul moment—when you suddenly see something obvious, like “you haul.”)

Each of us has a unique combination of friends, groups we’ve joined, and pages we’ve liked. And Facebook does god knows what with its algorithms to vary the content in our newsfeeds, based on what we’ve “liked” or commented on that day.

So if I have witty friends who tell charming stories, and you have annoying friends who badger you about playing games with them, how can we debate the value of Facebook?

If the pages I’ve liked constantly try to sell me something, while the pages you’ve liked offer helpful information, how can we discuss a common experience that doesn’t exist?

And if the groups I’ve joined have given me a new outlet for creativity and connection, while the groups you’ve joined are conflict zones—or dead space—how can we decide if Facebook is a waste of time, or a productive tool?