Sips and Smells

I had a wonderful experience last Saturday. Two best buddies and a new buddie attended an event together; “Sips, Senses, and Goals: A Vision Board Party With A Twist.”

There were mimosas, goal planning, lots of laughter, women telling inspirational stories, and new friends. It was a splendid day. I learned new things about my friends and heard personal, uplifting stories from women who are driven to achieve their goals and change the world. I love events like this, and this one was well done.

The added bonus for me is that one of my friends and I were the only two white attendees.

I’ve been pondering this from a variety of angles.

I’ve been pondering my privilege. The event was presented by all Black women, so it wasn’t shocking to me that it was majority Black women attending. I purchased my ticket and sauntered in the door of the event, expecting to be welcomed. That is privilege.

That is an assumption I unconsciously carry with me every day, all the time, everywhere. I’ve carried that attitude around the world, from Italy to Costa Rica, from Ireland to Mali. From tiny villages to fancy restaurants. I expect to be treated well any where I choose to go.

I guarantee that is not the case for some of the Brown and Black women I enjoyed spending my day with. I’ve learned enough to recognize this, and I’m listening and learning more. And what a sickening lesson it is.

I also saw some of what I miss. The spirit of connection, of Sisterhood, was palpable.

Events like this certainly draw women of a certain “type.” We’re a pretty readily motivated crowd; but the energy and enthusiasm had a very different feel than events with all white women. I’m trying to be careful to not stereotype; hence I’m truly speaking from my own experience here. I have spoken to groups of all white women; and support will be offered through soft murmurs or a touch on the shoulder to encourage a speaker who is sharing something difficult. We may even break into spontaneous applause if especially thrilled by a comment.

The crowd we were with was more verbally supportive; more vigorous head nods, more “Baptist Preacher” phrasing, “Am I right, my sisters?”

I loved being “a sister” for this one afternoon.

My personality craves open, honest connection with people, and this group of women was ripe for delightful, splendid conversation. I learned new things about my friends I came with, new things about new friends, and new things about myself. I listened to entrepreneurs discuss their business beginnings and the ups and downs. We heard from people who have turned their lives around; women who have grabbed hold of their internal power and set it on fire to light up the world. Amazing, fantastic, interesting women.

What if my presence changed the experience for other women? Simply by being white, did I possibly steal some of the richness of the event for anyone? (Notice I am assuming that my personality would not be repugnant in and of itself. You may choose to disagree.)

I pray I didn’t cause any feelings of anxiety or anguish for anyone. The day was splendid on every level, and I hope others felt the same.

But, it’s worth considering. I certainly know Black people who have dealt with such frequent ill treatment by white folks that white folks no longer get any benefit of the doubt. I can appreciate that.

I certainly won’t lose my inner belief that I can go anywhere and do anything, but I am going to continue listening and learning and being willing to be lead by Women of Color and the many lessons they have to teach me.

Sips and Scents

Where’s The Line?

The children and I have been looking for social justice/volunteer opportunities that fit our personalities and time. After gathering suggestions from various folks, we settled on two ongoing roles that we will all feel comfortable participating in.

Open Table Nashville is one of the non-profits we’ll be supporting with our time and talent for bed making.

This is very similar to the offering we support through our church. The children and I will be setting up the space for the un-housed to sleep safely. Beds, tables, etc.

The second volunteering decision we made was to support an outreach program through Catholic Charities. We had several choices with them and we decided that putting together “Welcome Home” baskets to be given to families transitioning from homelessness into homes would be the task that most resonated with us.

The children and I had a lovely time this afternoon packing up the supplies we had already purchased into the new wastebasket and deciding how to spend the leftover money. After some great discussion and a little tension around who liked which sheet colors and why, we picked out a handsome microwave and some comfy, cozy sheets to go with this first “basket” of our creation.

The “line” referenced in the title comes from a discussion Buds and I had last night. We needed to reach consensus on what our family could afford to donate for each of these welcome baskets, and I’d had an idea bubbling inside all day that I wanted to talk through with Buds. I was pondering if Catholic Charities was an organization we should be giving our time and donations to.

Catholic Charities here in Nashville is doing great work. Their offerings for the refugee and immigrant populations are inspiring. Their website is very clear that they offer their services because they are Catholic, not because recipients need to be Catholic. That was critical for us; but we do have grave reservations about Catholicism and many, many of its aspects. Birth control and and abortion are only two of the issues that come to mind.

Where is that line? When is the good works enough of a counter-balance to some of the horrific ideas they spread? To be clear, I’m not judging those who are Catholic. Every organized group has good and bad aspects. I’m proud to be a Unitarian Universalist, but our history is filled with extensive stains of inhumane treatment.

I’ve been kicking this ball around with a couple friends and general consensus seems to be that the good work being done locally by this particular group is something we can feel good about supporting. Supporting local homeless folks or formerly homeless families who so desperately need help is a tremendous blessing to us.

Obviously, if the local neo-nazi group runs a can drive for the local food pantry, they can kiss off. There’s a line for when local good isn’t enough. And each family needs to decide that line for themselves.

I am still pondering this on a larger scale. Where our money goes does matter, and how much time, thought, and effort should I put into figuring out how we are invested? What sort of policies does Starbucks have? Is Aldi’s actually a good company? What do the Koch brothers actually own and can I not give them any money at all?

And then my mind wanders to the other end of the spectrum. Monkey and Buds are both actively supporting creators and artist through Patreon. How fantastic is this?! When your teen decides to use some of her allowance to support work being done by people she has learned from and finds interesting and motivating, that’s a new world order.

Lots of ideas to toss around. We’ll keep working to lighten the load of folks who need a hand and work toward the day when homeless shelters disappear because there is no one to sleep in them.

Comfy beds ready to go.

Merry Christmas To Me

It turns out that if you call the webhosting service where you’ve had your blog for many years and you tell them you are leaving because it has gotten too expensive, they will find a way to help you stay.

The great news is that Buds has done a big back up of the blog so it’s completely safe in an undisclosed location, just in case anything happens to our webhost.

And, I learned some new ways to use google drive.

In case any of you missed it, here’s this year’s Christmas Card:

Bast Christmas Ever!

To explain: Buster doesn’t care for posed picture-taking at this particular point in his life. We respect that. And since we firmly believe that laughter and fun are essential to a joyful life, we brainstormed our way to this year’s Christmas card.

In case you don’t know, Bast(et) is the Egyptian Goddess of home and domesticity (and cats.) And since Buster loves home, this is a delicious head nod to him.

The cat featured is Monkey’s cat Waffles. Buds had a fun time figuring out how to give the picture of Waffles a neck and shoulders that would work with Buster’s shirt. The ear bracelets are my favorite part.

We wish you laughter and love and peace this holiday season. And we pray our world finds its way there, too.

Merry Christmas.

For the complete photo album of our year, check this out.

Into The Trees

Monkey’s off at Girl Scout Camp.

Her co-Cadette asked if she wanted to do a camp together, and Monkey was willing to give it a shot, so they are away together for the week. We’re not really sure what the week will hold for activities, but it sounds like tree climbing and zip-lining might be part of the plan.

She and I headed out on Father’s Day afternoon to take her to Camp Sycamore Hills, about 45 minutes north of us.

Let the adventure begin.

We had a lovely drive together. Lots of heart-felt sharing on both sides, and we stopped to save a turtle that was trying to cross the road.

The line to get into camp was already long by the time we arrived.

Excited to begin their adventures.

We dropped off her luggage in this shed:

The house elves will be along to take the luggage to the “dorms.”

Monkey’s cabin “Hilltop” is the empty row with the paper plate attached to the hale of bay above.

Interesting mental exercise for me: The counselors pulled up to load the luggage for Hilltop into the wagon behind a tractor. The tractor was being driven by a female Girl Scout counselor, which surprised me at first, then I was surprised at myself for being surprised, then I thought about how glad I was that Monkey-and all the girls-have the week to be with strong, hopefully kind, intelligent women in ALL the positions of power, including driving the tractor.

After the health check and dropping off Monkey’s meds., we met one of her two counselors, Ziggy.

One of Monkey’s counselors, Ziggy.

Ziggy is in the center in the picture above. She’s Australian, so Monkey will have that delightful accent to listen to all week.

I asked if I could see Monkey’s cabin before I left, and Ziggy walked us outside the mess haul where the girls were gathering to point out the directions to us. In that few minutes of quiet time with just the three of us, Monkey succinctly explained to Ziggy that she has some anxiety, and here’s how she wants to handle it and how Ziggy can help.

Ziggy was so understanding and respectful, and I could not have been prouder of Monkey for explaining so honestly and thoughtfully how Ziggy could best support her in having a fantastic week. This young woman never ceases to amaze and impress me.

Ziggy suggested we drive to Hilltop because it was a long, long walk. To a woman, every counselor who gave us instructions about Hilltop got big eyes and expressed their version of, “It’s a great cabin and beautiful, but it is a long, long way up.”

They weren’t kidding.

It’s a long way up.

Looks rustic: has great bathrooms and A/C.

We found Monkey’s co-Cadette already settled in, and she’d saved Monkey a lower bunk right next to her bunk so they could visit into the night.

Ready for a great week.

Co-Cadette’s mom and I have been talking about how strange it feels to have our eldest kids away for the week. I’m glad they are together. They are both wonderful, wonderful young women.

The house is missing a vital life-force, but I’m so excited to hear about the fun she had when I pick her up Friday.

Why No Posts?

Tempting fate.

It sounds superstitious.

It is superstitious, but part of the reluctance to post has been a concern about tempting fate.

This life we’ve chosen, it’s outside the norm. Our children; their path is different from that of the vast majority of children.

We obviously think the path we’ve chosen is best for us or we wouldn’t have chosen it.

Our children are happy. They have lovely, laughter-filled, learning-filled, interesting-to-them, family-filled day after day.

I’m happy. I’m living the life I want.

As part of hospice and end-of-life doula training you think about your perfect end-of-life options and how you would need your life to change to bring that about. What people would you draw close to? What people would you stop seeing? What activities would you finally do?

This life I’ve got; this is it. These people, the ones I spend time with and learn about, these are the people I want. The ways we spend our days, the trips we take, the hobbies I have; this is it.

Buds would have to write his own vision of the life he wants, but most days seem to be a chosen path he loves. Certainly this family space is his favorite place to be.

This bubble around our life, it is sacred space to me. It can vanish with a too-quick left turn in front of a distracted driver, a visit to the doctor with unusual blood test results, or harsh light from a society that does not welcome alternate paths.

Our family will spend several days in Massachusetts this summer as we gather with Buddie’s co-Ephs for his 25th year college reunion. In preparation, the reunion committee published an updated “Facebook” with autobiographical essays from those who chose to submit them.

Buds and I have been fascinated by these 25-year snapshots of human lives. You can read Buddie’s essay here.

This morning, I read Denis Gainty’s. I’m not sure if Buds knew him at Williams, but if they had met, I think they would have been friends.

We won’t be meeting Denis at the reunion this year because he died unexpectedly on March 26, 2017. He sounds like he was a splendid human (as most of us do after we die.) But, I really believe we would have all gotten along from the final paragraph of the essay he submitted for the reunion book before he died.

“I’m including a picture of me with my kids. Here’s hoping that, through some happy chance, they get to find their own Williams.”

How beautifully that complements Buddie’s final paragraph:

“My time at Williams was sweet. In this open, internet world, I don’t know what Williams my children will find. Change comes and we try to meet it with an open heart.”

This understanding of children as people, not simply an extension of ourselves; acknowledging that life is a series of events that, if we are truly blessed, may lead to happy outcomes.

How delicious it is to me that these two men, one of whom has finished his journey, recognize that their children will/may find their own Williams; their own peaceful beautiful path, if they can.

I fully reject the idea that children should be putting off living the lives they envision until “later.” There may be no later, so supporting them as they wander through all the different ideas and options and travels and adventures, that brings me joy.

And sharing that joy via the blog, to a wider audience, that feels tenuous to me.

Am I tempting fate by broadcasting this joy? This diversion from the typical?

Processing that is part of the journey.

Addendum: I talked with Sarah at Williams this weekend about Denis. She didn’t know him well, but her memories of a splendid, joy-filled human indicate my instinct was right. He and Buds would have gotten along well.

Williams Weekend

Editor’s Note: Post contains video. View at the website for best experience.

Buddie’s 25th Reunion was last week at Williams, and I’m sufficiently recovered from the epic drive home to write about it.

We attended the 15 and 20-year reunions, and this one was the best so far. In part because the children are older and that makes it more relaxed and interesting for everyone, and in part because we didn’t cram all five of us into one dorm room. (This year we had a whole wing of five rooms to ourselves.)

Buddie’s parents drove down from Vermont to spend the four days with us, which means we’ll have gotten time with them three times within 3 months, which is a great benchmark to reach.

Buds loved his time at Williams, and his college friends are splendid folks. Added bonus that we like all their chosen partners, too, so it makes for a fun gathering.

We left early on Wednesday for the first-leg drive to Buffalo, NY. (It was also Bud’s birthday, so the karmic payback of making Yessa spend 11 hours in a train for her birthday in Italy.)

Loaded up and ready to head out.

The quick drive over from Buffalo to Williamstown gave us time to check in then wander around campus on Thursday. (The full festivities didn’t begin until Friday.)

Buds lived in “The Old I” (stood for “the old infirmary”) for part of his Williams tenure. He lost his room key so he would climb in this window to get in his room.

Buds looking at the window he used to climb into.

We headed to the gym and wrestling room to see what had changed…not much.

The indoor track.

Buddie’s mom brought a cake to celebrate his birthday.

It’s says “46” and “25.” Perfect topping for the weekend.

Mary’s almost been caught by all three grands.

After a rather painful night in the dorms, we headed out to the Mass MOCA Museum in North Adams, MA.

(Note to self for the reunion in five years: Rent a house off-campus with college friends. Staying on-campus was fun and easy, but not comfortable. Do not forget the horse-hair blankets and slippy sheets.)

A quick breakfast snack together.

MOCA was fantastic. More time to explore would have been wonderful. We can do that in five years.

The grands trying out VR for the first time.

The musical art room.

Hanging out before the next exhibit.

Buds and Buster went down to Spring Street for a Magic Tournament on Friday night, which they both loved.

Telling us of their adventure.

Peter, Sarah, Ellen, and Eric were Buddie’s best college friends. Ellen didn’t attend the reunion, but we got to spend time with all the rest and their families.

Playing games.

Dining hall meals

Walking in the parade.

We swam in the pool. (Sarah was a college swimmer, so we all enjoyed the pilgrimage with her.)

Buds and I got in a workout.

We enjoyed exploring the new Sawyer Library, which was stunning.

I loved the various carols for all different types of studiers.

There may have been attempts to crush each other in the movable shelves.

The joy of being on this beautiful campus as Buds and his Williams tribe shared stories, pointed out buildings, laughed, and reminisced, it was delightful.

Buds, Mike, Peter in front wrestled together. Eric in the back.

They’ve all known him since before me:

The first time I met the gang in NYC in 1994.

Peter served cake at our wedding.

Sarah and Ellen wore those huge lapels with a smile.

We heard a hilarious story from Eric when he and Peter went to the grocery store in the small town I grew up in. They got asked if they were models because not many men dressed like them in our town.

Williams folks at our wedding.

And we’re all still here, 25 years later.

I watched the 50-year folks with special appreciation this year, and Buds and I visited with some 40-year alum. You don’t know what life holds, but having good folks with you along the way; that’s what matters.

One last note, we drove straight home after the reunion, setting a new family record 18-hour drive. The children, Chip The Dog, and I held the previous 17-hour record. Buds was proud to be part of this new record-setter.

See you in five years, Purple Cows.

All the alum from 1992:

Buds on the bottom right in a gray-looking shirt.

Belle Meade Civil War Experience

The classes at Belle Meade (the plantation down the road from us), are always so well done.

This time was especially fantastic. Gorgeous weather, wonderful re-enactors, fun activities.

Great explanation about women’s roles during the Civil War.

These faces.

Roll those bandages for the front lines.

This dress…

Then we learned about communication in wartime before cell phones and satellites.

Flags and telegraphs

Explaining the process.

Practice decoding the flag shorthand.

For you to try at home.

At this point, Buster and Monkey sat under a shady tree to tell each other stories while Yessa and I learned about the infantry.

The dedication of this Belle Meade gentleman; He did a fantastic job, and the kids loved it.

After the program was over, we headed down for Monkey to get her allergy shot, and I caught one last photo.

Yup, he’s taller.

Lovin’ this life.

Buster’s A Teen

He turned 13 a month ago, and it doesn’t seem to have changed him much. He’s still the same thoughtful, kind, sensitive soul he’s always been.

We had plans for a little birthday party, but Yessa started spiking a fever a day before and we had to change up our plans. As is his way, Buster wasn’t disappointed, just ready to enjoy the time with the five of us. (Four, really. Yessa watched from the couch.)

She was not alone on the couch:

They offer furry comfort.

Tough to tell, but Waffles has snuggled himself under her arm to offer warm love.

Whipping up one of the two cakes.

The vanilla cake Buster picked from Lindsay’s website, Moist and Fluffy Vanilla Cake, was amazing. We have never had a batter that was so moist and delicious. It was like mousse. Buds and I would have eaten all the batter, but that was frowned upon.

This batter…

It makes me faint from deliciousness.

He also requested a red velvet cake, which Monkey took on.

There was a plan to decorate both cakes to look like books; Yessa in charge of one, Monkey in charge of the other. Once Yessa fell ill, we gave the book cakes a raincheck and focused on enjoying our weekend time together.

We still frosted them.

Some sculpting.

Crumb coat in place.

He wanted pizza.

Cake #1

Cake #2

He’d gotten gift cards and money to choose presents from his grands and aunts and uncles, so on his official day, he had a couple presents from the family.

One gift was a set to make round ice balls. An odd gift, it might seem, but he became entranced by the set at Kel and Paula’s, so we wanted him to have his own.

Overall, it was a lovely birthday.

And with Waffles’ loving ministrations, Yessa was soon well, too.

He thinks he’s helping.

Happy Birthday, Buster. We love you, now and forever.

Build A Bridge

Today was the last meeting of the Girl Scout year for the girls’ whole troop. (Monkey will still be meeting with her sister scout and leader, but Yessa is done for the year.)

The four leaders organized a beautiful ceremony on this sunny, comfortable day.

The big pan of choco chip bars Yessa and I made to share.

The delicious spread.

Helping each other get ready.

This made me smile. So loving and helpful to each other.

Yessa will be a Junior Girl Scout for one more year, but Monkey bridged up to being a Senior Scout.

Their bridge

She’s bridged up to Senior Girl Scout.

They received their annual pins from one of their leaders:

Watching the ceremony.

We enjoyed the ceremony, shared some food and shared stories, a few final pictures, then wrapped up the year.

One last photo booth shot.

Though at times we felt like strangers wandering in a foreign land with this troop, I’m very glad Monkey wanted to give Girl Scouts another shot. It was a fantastic experience before, and though this new troop feels very different, it has brought many great things, too.

For a brief throwback, Monkey as a Daisy Scout:

Streak Breaker

Note: Post contains video. Read at for best results.

I broke a long streak of many months with at least one post when I didn’t post anything in April. Living life and not writing about it.

Buds and Monkey are still working on moving the blog over to a private server. I’m a little mentally stalled by that since I know it will mean changes to how things work and look.

Many things going on with the our crew. We’ve had trips to Vermont, Virginia, Florida, Iowa, and soon to Ohio. We’ve had birthdays and Girl Scouts, and love, laughter, and tears.

And I was the target for musket shots at a Civil War Homeschool event because I teased the Lieutenant.

Please note that Yessa shoots at me with much less alacrity than many of the other children.

A few random photos with explanatory posts to follow eventually.

A few long drives.

Beautiful day for being out and about.

All getting so big.

So tall.

Saturday workouts.

Beloved nieces come in all heights.

The new game store space.

Monkey’s smile/look intrigues me in the above picture. She’s an enigma.

These “smiles.”

That’s better.