Posts Tagged "community"

On Grief and Dying

Posted on Apr 29, 2013 in Featured, Parenting | 6 comments

On Grief and Dying

{I haven’t talked a lot about the details of our living situation here on the farm, partly out of respect for the privacy of the farmers but for other reasons too. Today I want to talk a little about it, but primarily as background information to discuss my current emotional journey.} We came to the farm in a mutually beneficial arrangement. We were looking for a rural alternative living situation that would be more cost-effective than the urban too-big-for-us houses that we were renting. The farmers were looking for help on the farm. A young couple with a brand new baby, a day job, and a property over 100 acres—they  had a lot on their plates. We spent several months writing up a lease, through multiple dinner meetings and conference calls (as our respective kids took turns fussing in the background). As if being able to live on a working farm for reduced rent and creating community with another young family wasn’t great enough, there was a bonus. The farmers’ mother was actively involved in farm life. My heart has been seeking a local wise woman to play a part in our family for some time. We are alone here; no grandparents or other extended family are nearby. Our parenting sometimes feels lonely. I wish our kids had someone local to bake cookies with (in addition to me). I wish I had someone local to ask questions about canning, knitting, or gardening. Oh so stereotypical isn’t it? Still, I yearn for more of a multi-generational influence in our day-to-day life (rather than only in those intense spurts when our families visit). Not that this woman (with family of her own here) would have become our own personal wise woman, but I looked forward to getting to know her better nevertheless. I enjoyed her presence at our meals as we imagined and fine-tuned the terms of our lease. She is a vibrant, zesty and loving personality and I looked forward to the inevitable familiarity that would develop as our two families ventured into partnership together. I felt so blessed that the couple we had found to explore a collaborative living arrangement with was not another of the many young families that we know who are going it alone. Then, a month after we signed the lease and began developing the site where we now live, this vibrant woman was diagnosed with cancer. And here we are, a year later, watching helpless on the sidelines as these young farmers, now our friends, go through the final exhausting and heartbreaking days of losing their mother. We never did get the chance to get to know her. Shortly after her diagnosis, she began her treatments and we’ve seen very little of her since then. I find myself going through a grieving process for a woman I don’t know. I grieve what might have been more than the loss of something I already had. I grieve for all those hopes and expectations that went into writing that lease last winter. I also grieve for our friends who are in the thick of the process of caring for a dying family member, something that is foreign and intangible for someone like me who has never been through this, who is blessed to have all four grandparents and a step-grandmother still living. Some days I watch their little boy so they can go care for their mother. I hold him and we wave at the window wishing Mama a good day before I remember where she is headed. The reality of her days suddenly contrasts sharply with mine. Spring has arrived here. The sun warms our skin now, the flowers are blooming and there are three new lambs in the fields. Yet, there is a certain heaviness blanketing the farm, as the exhaustion sets in. This young couple stay up all night delivering lambs and leave in the morning, for work, and to care for a mother who mostly sleeps and no longer eats. We try to make sense of their grief, of their tiredness, but...

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Nurturing Your Self as Mother

Posted on Feb 14, 2013 in Featured, Parenting | 1 comment

Nurturing Your Self as Mother

Last month, in my post Seasons of Mothering, I wrote about my decisions to willingly give up some things temporarily while my kids are young. Then, last week, thanks to Facebook, I was blessed to read I Became a Mother, and Died to Live, where the author eloquently (and accurately) describes how the process of becoming a mother changes us irrevocably, to the point where our old self is actually gone forever. It can be particularly difficult to maintain a sense of self through those years of intense mothering, especially if we are also parenting in a way that sees us making considerable sacrifices for our children (as most of us do in one way or another). Yet, it’s important to remember that the seasons are temporary. Certainly, we have been re-born as totally different people than we were before motherhood, but we do still have identities that should be nurtured. In my post, I said: “Just as the grasshopper was unwise to play and fritter away the summer without preparing for winter, it would be unwise for me to get caught up entirely in this season with my children and to forget that there will come a time when they will need me less. It is important to nurture myself through these times of caring for my children, to make plans for when I have more time and resources and energy to devote to my dreams and goals.” Not only is it a blessing, when we feel resentful or overwhelmed, to remember that it won’t be this way forever, it’s also important to not lose sight of the fact that in the future, we will become less central to our children’s daily needs. In my opinion, it would be a shame for that time to come and catch us unawares. That is the stuff that identity crisis is made of. It is so easy to get caught up in the daily stuff of parenting; just trying to keep the house clean and everybody fed takes up a lot of time. Plus, we’re supposed to nap when the baby naps, and forget the dishes so we can get down on the floor to play with kids. Too often, it’s not the dishes that get forgotten in the endless loop of playing, cleaning, grocery shopping, diaper changing, sleep fighting, and date nighting: it’s ourselves. Finding a way to fit in meaningful self-expression and self-nurturing while also in the trenches with young kids is no easy task. Our interests might excite us to the point of competing with our children for our focus, and we can begin to resent the sacrifices that we’ve made, or to wait impatiently for our kids to grow up so we can get on with it. It might be tempting to chuck it all and just focus on our kids, “for now.” We might have been lulled into complacency by the early days with an infant when it seemed we barely had time to brush our teeth and shower, so we start living our life in stolen moments between everything else, texting, facebooking, playing Angry Birds (that’s so 2011), or watching mindless television after the kids are finally asleep. It must be a conscious decision, and a commitment to carrying on even if we don’t always get it right. We CAN make choices to live more authentically even in this time of intense mothering, to let our new self live, rather than submitting willingly to a second death. At this point, I am loath to invoke the dreaded word ‘balance’ but in humans, it isn’t like balancing stones where a static moment of balance is achieved and only maintained by staying still, which I’m telling you now is the reason why balance feels forever unachievable. Balance for us is more like balancing on a ball or a rail fence, where we can only maintain it through constant readjustments, continuous movement and compensation. This means, that there will be times when we feel that to gain balance we need to drop back on some of our interests...

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Connect with us

Posted on Nov 6, 2012 in Featured | 0 comments

Connect with us

After thinking about this for a year or so, I’ve finally decided to start a Facebook page for this blog. I didn’t think my audience was big enough to justify a Facebook page in the past, but my subject matter and audience has broadened recently. I have also quite enjoyed my work maintaining a Facebook page for a local midwifery clinic. I am a frequent Facebook user and a bad blogger so I anticipate posting more frequently on Facebook than I do here. I like the flexibility of format in Facebook: shorter posts (than my notoriously long blog posts) or longer posts (unlike twitter) and the ability to share pictures and pretty links (not just urls). I will be sharing my own blog posts there, but likely other things as well so I hope that you will find the content rich, varied and interesting. Come on over and join me in any of these venues: Like us on Facebook Check out our pins on Pinterest Follow us on...

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Shelter

Posted on Oct 27, 2012 in Eliza Brownhome, Featured | 6 comments

Shelter

When we moved out of the bus and into a house in July 2008, I found myself often pondering the difference between home and shelter. At the heart of it, our walls and roofs are there to shelter us from the elements, and I suppose, from danger (animals, strangers, thieves, and so on). For most of us I’d wager that they are far more than that. My thought when I first made the transition from bus to house was that our modern world has taken this concept of shelter much farther than is perhaps necessary. In our duplex, I was so completely sheltered that I no longer had a daily, intimate connection with the outside world, including the weather and the neighbours. The living space was at the rear of the house and the side facing the street (and our neighbours) was dominated by our garage. Other than when we chanced to see someone as we came or went from our front door, we had no interactions with our neighbours. We also felt completely cut-off from the natural world, behind our double-pane windows and cozy with our electric baseboard heaters. In the bus, our lives were intertwined with the weather. We could hear the rain dripping, tapping, drumming, slamming on the metal roof (only a few feet above our heads as we slept). We had a woodstove to stoke and a propane furnace to feed (40Lbs of propane—two BBQ tanks—every 4 days in the winter). We monitored our propane usage to try to avoid the dreaded scenario where we would run out in the middle of the night, which meant waking to see our breath in the morning and no chance for hot tea (propane stove) or a hot face cloth (propane water heater). Without leaving our home, we could tell when the temperature dipped or climbed outside. We could tell if it was stormy by the sound of the rain on the roof and the rocking of the wind. In the winter, we had to wrap our water lines with insulation and cover our 26 windows with plastic. In the summer, every window and both doors would be wide open to circulate air as the temperature in our metal box home climbed to the 40’s. Those rows of single pane windows also put us in touch with our neighbourhood. We learned quickly the value of curtains, living on the corner where a city bike route intersected with one of the most well-used East Vancouver parks. Being an unusual sight in the city and being in a high traffic location put us in touch with our community: the dog-walkers, the families, the bicycle commuters, the Farmer’s marketers. We certainly didn’t blend in, try as we might. We felt as if we were an integral part of a vibrant community. We heard stories of people in other parts of the city talking about the bus at Trout Lake. Our community included strangers who would only nod as they walked by, it included the regular passers-by that we would recognize around the city or on The Drive, it included the neighbour who babysat for us, the neighbour who brought back gifts from Bali, the neighbour with a hat collection. We lived in our duplex for a year and never really got to know anyone in our community. Our street was a cul-de-sac but there were no street hockey games, no block parties. Often when we got in the van to go somewhere, nothing would be moving, no life would be visible. The duplexes around the cul-de-sac were all the same. We disappeared. Our neighbours disappeared. Once inside, we were sheltered, cut-off. No chance to create or feel a community. Our time living in that duplex felt like a year of sensory deprivation.  Our duplex never did feel like a home because homes are not meant to shelter us from community. Our four walls don’t just ward off danger; the keep family together. They embrace us. They connect us. In most parts of the world, homes are not built in isolation, but...

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Why We Do It

Posted on Oct 25, 2012 in Eliza Brownhome, Featured, Simple Living | 8 comments

Why We Do It

The Tiny House Listings blog recently asked Why Do People Fall in Love With Tiny Houses? I have a lot of thoughts on this ranging from financial freedom to humans are wired to like cute, diminutive things. Tonight, I would like to explore the question a bit and give some of our history at the same time. I’m sure for most people who meet us or stumble across our story, there is a big silent (or not so silent) “WHY?!?” hovering in the air. On more than one occasion, there has also been some question as to whether or not we are doing this because we are poor, as one lovely 8 year old put it. Why do we live in a converted school bus? Is it because we are poor? No, we’re not living in a bus out of financial necessity per se. It wasn’t  a case of losing our home and having to move our family into a bus or be homeless. In fact, our previous rental was $1200/month and we were managing that. And yes. We are too poor to buy into the housing market where we live. One of the “mistakes” we made was not getting into the market earlier with a starter home (a condo or an 800 sq ft 1 bedroom bungalow). Now, with three kids and a business with multiple business vehicles, our needs in a home have put us in position where all the suitable homes are far above our income level. Furthermore, with the rental market the way it is, we don’t have much opportunity to save a down payment while we’re busy paying the mortgage on someone else’s investment property. We also can’t afford to buy property and build our own home. Property values in our area are inflated by out-of-province and off-shore interests to the place where raw land is almost as expensive as buying a home in town leaving no extra funds for bringing in services and building a home, and the required down payment on land without a house further prices us out of the market. Still, in a lot of ways, we don’t see any of this as a mistake, but rather a choice as I’ve discussed before in my post Just Renting. We have consistently made decisions to prioritize our family, rather than the financial success–whatever that means–of owning a home. Why have we chosen to live in a converted bus? For Fun!! Yes, our initial motivation was because it seemed like a fun project. We were caught up in our new relationship (read: we were suffering from the impulsiveness of those newly in love). We were excited by the idea of doing the project together (as opposed to buying an RV). I personally (I don’t speak for Aaron here) was in a place of needing to do something different and shake up my life a bit as I was stuck in a rut.  Aaron had lived in a van for a couple of years while treeplanting and had seen some bus conversions. My parents had talked about bus conversions when I was growing up in the 70’s and 80’s. Aaron’s neighbour was a journalist who had recently interviewed some folks who lived in and around Vancouver (off-the-grid) in converted vehicles of all kinds (milk trucks, buses, etc.) and we were inspired and intrigued by what they called the Urban Technomad movement. This was before I had ever heard of the Tiny House movement and I can honestly say that our initial motivations didn’t have much to do with saving money or living lightly on the earth. Thankfully, all these years later, despite the inconveniences, we still do it because it’s fun! Finances. While the conversion itself cost more than we would like to admit (to the point where we actually stopped keeping track), we did appreciate the financial benefits that came with paying less rent. In the five years we lived in the bus in Vancouver, we paid off more than $30,000 of joint student loan debt. We could never have done that...

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