Category: family

When I left Twin Oaks, my partner and I were clear about our mutual desire to live in community.  I imagined he and I would quickly gather a group of people and start the process of forming a new community together.  A week or two after I left, I asked him when we should organize the first meeting and see who was interested.  “Meeting?  It’s gotta happen organically…”

A prime example of our different styles, and beyond that, a source of vital frustration for me as I struggled to align my yearning for community with our isolated nuclear family life.  I resented his lack of focus on creating a life we both said we wanted.  He thought I was impatient and unsatisfiable.   We’ve grown, though, and over the last 6 years something has indeed unfolded as we merged organic and intentional…  we’ve welcomed friends to live in our home for months, sharing tiny spaces with multiple adults, toddlers, and teenagers.  We’ve deepened connections with friends from around the country who gather for festivals a few times a year.  We’ve found ourselves as part of a “tribe” of freaky circus performers who get together several times a week to either practice or socialize (or both) — while our kids of all ages play together.

(Edited after a night of sleeping on it: It’s not just that we now have friends and deeper connections — it’s what we do together, and how we do it.  We cook group meals, help each other move, watch each others’ kids, celebrate birthdays and holidays, share the often chaotic waves of our lives… not just as friends one-on-one, but as a group, as a collective.)

Even though it doesn’t look like I thought it would, it’s working… in a different way than the systems and Bylaws of Twin Oaks does.  There’s a lot about those systems that I miss (like income-sharing… especially when our rent is due!), but I’m being challenged to translate the lessons from the commune into life in the larger world… and it’s working in beautiful ways.

This, I think, is the new direction this blog is finally taking — reporting to you live from Bohemia with my adventures in and reflection on cooperation for the masses.

working together

figuring it out...


lots of fire!

Tomorrow is my 30th birthday — it feels pretty big, much more than any other birthday since 20, I think.  21 was no big deal because I already drank alcohol, and not much of it, so nothing really changed.   There’s something about my sense of self that changes with these decade birthdays… a shift in my perspective on who I am in the world.

30 feels like turning outward, after spending my 20s learning about myself and testing out my ideas and ideals.  My 20s was about experiencing and experimenting, opening up to new possibilities and pushing perceived limits… and then noticing how I felt, how other people reacted, and how I felt about other people’s reactions.  Data collection, my 20’s.

And now I have a sense of a mandate to act on the information I’ve gathered.  I know myself fairly well — I know my tendencies, my emotional and mental “gravitations”.   I know the well-worn paths and the traps that lie therein.  It’s my job now to take responsibility for all that, and navigate gracefully around the traps.

I know how to open when I’m shut down, and I know how I justify not opening up.  I know that I have a tendency to be controlling, and I know the power and the danger of that habit.  I know the things I need to do to take care of myself, and I know I enjoy life more when I do them:

  • EAT WELL– avoid wheat and sugar, and don’t skip meals
  • DRINK A LOT OF WATER — I need a beautiful water bottle that I carry everywhere, otherwise I forget to drink
  • GO TO BED EARLY — I can’t let Facebook suck me in night after night… I need to give myself a bedtime
  • WRITE IN MY JOURNAL DAILY —  I need a daily routine where I write at the same time every day (right now it’s when Aurora naps)
  • WORK WITH TAROT CARDS REGULARLY — I need to give myself over to magical experience to get out of the illusion that I’m in control here
  • GET OUT OF THE HOUSE WITH AURORA — I need to plan things the day before so in the morning we get up and GO!
  • WALK IN THE WOODS — I need to have time surrounded by the creations of raw nature, rather than the creations of people
  • WORK WITH PLANTS — I need a garden, and I need to be making medicine from herbs
  • DANCE — I need to have a regular date with myself for dancing, otherwise I let it slide
  • CHALLENGE MYSELF — I get bored if things are easy… I need to be challenging myself emotionally, physically, mentally, and spiritually if I’m going to feel satisfied with my life, because I want to be growing.

And the purpose of all of this is shifting to be more outward now — not just the development of self-awareness from my 20s, but now shifting outward to being of service, making my life a contribution to the communities I’m a part of.  This family, my circles of friends, this city, this world… humanity.   I feel like I’ve been scrambling since Aurora was born (15 months ago!) to reconfigure my modes of service.  It’s hard to be an “activist’ as I wash diapers and dishes at home.  As it’s all played out, though, I find myself focusing on theater and ritual as my contributions.  Jeffrey has supported me in performing in 2 shows in the last 6 months, staying with Aurora during rehearsals and performances.  The stage has always called me… from my first role as Goldilocks in kindergarten, right up to tonight’s opening night for Godspell.   Yes, this is a clear path for me.  Sometimes it seems like it’s so obvious that I forget I’m an actress, when I’m in angst about not having a focus, not having a “profession”.  I do, it just doesn’t pay.

Then the other path, more recently acknowledged, is that of holding space for ritual.  Being by my Grandma’s side during the last days of her life inspired me to pursue work as a chaplain, after I was already in training to become a doula.  Holding sacred space for birth and death (and marriage, and divorce, and other life transitions) is another clear path that stays lit when I’m confused about everything else.

I think writing all this out here helps me claim it, helps me say “YES — this is who I am right now, on the eve of my 30th birthday”.  Of course I have no idea what comes next, what I’ll learn in this next decade.  But, controlling as I am, I know I thrive when I have a clear and tangible plan for where I’m headed… even if it turns out to completely change.  I’ve learned that much about myself… so I move forward with that information, doing the best I can.

The Gift of Attention

At home with my "family-of-origin" for the winter holidays… Aurora and I took the train to Cincinnati, an 11 hour trip.  She was the star of the traincar, and the youngest on the train by many months (a 14 month old was the next youngest, at least in the coach class seats).  I’m delighted by how well she travels when she’s not in a car seat!  It’s being restrained that she resists… go figure.

We arrived in Cincinnati at 3am on Christmas morning, and Mom heroically picked us up at the downtown train station.  Since then, we’ve been eating chocolate and drinking wine almost nonstop, with some eggs and soup and turkey and chinese takeout in between.  My family does well together — no major battles or unresolved issues, even between my parents who have been divorced for over 20 years.  Mom’s boyfriend is a recent addition to family gatherings (over the last few years), and I think we’re all still getting used to him being a part of things.  But other things have changed, too — like celebrating holidays together instead of bouncing back and forth between Mom and Dad’s houses.  I’m pretty amazed that we get our parents in the same house for hours at a time now, interacting amicably and even joking with each other.  Like my chinese takeout fortune cookie said: "Time is the wisest counselor"… not sure if that directly applies to this situation, but anyway, time has done amazing things for my parents’ relationship.

Tonight we continued a practice that we started this past Thanksgiving, when the whole clan came out to our place in Virginia (and all slept in the same house!).  Mom had arrived with a request of us: that we take some time to help her brainstorm about a new project she had taken on.  This summer she returned to Sierra Leone, where she had served in the Peace Corps 33 years ago.  She visited the school where she taught, and learned that they were in desperate need of funds for renovation. She decided to take on the task of raising $30,000 once she returned to the US.  At Thanksgiving we sat down and talked through possible sources of support, from the practical to the creative.  We asked her questions to help her think through possibilities and concerns, and tried to come up with a name for her endeavor.  We spent about an hour focused on the project, and I think we all enjoyed being able to help.

When we were talking about what to do during this visit to Cincinnati, I threw out the idea that we continue the practice of supporting each other’s projects — and I had one to work on!  Tonight, over more wine and goat cheese, we examined the idea of a children’s book I’ve envisioned.  We talked copywright laws and and child development, and they asked questions to help me hone in on my specific vision and goals. 

I’m struck by how easy it is to give the gift of attention.  It takes no money, just time… maybe a little wine.  And what a gift it is!  At the end of our 45 minute session tonight, I felt encouraged, supported, and confident moving forward with a relatively enormous project.  The fire of my vision and passion was fed by my family — no warm socks or iPod can match that gift.

Yesterday Jeffrey and I woke up stressed and anxious.  "What are we going to get the kids? We have no presents, and no money, and Solstice is tomorrow!"  We took turns calming each other down by listing the few presents we had acquired already, and the ideas we had for other gifts.  One day loomed before us — to drive an hour and a half away for a good deal on a ping pong table, to come up with better ideas for smaller presents, to see if last-minute online purchases actually got delivered, to get treats for stockings… not to mention attending a school play, making mashed potatoes for the class party, and wrapping all the gifts (whatever they might be).  We spent the early morning tense and frustrated with ourselves for not having it all together ahead of time.

At one point, I asked him, "What do we need to do to be less stressed about this?  Should we just move Solstice?  Celebrate on Sunday?  Or Christmas Eve?  Or really buckle down and do it today, just figure it out and go with it?"  We decided to go for it, to make the best of it and stop being stressed about what we hadn’t done beforehand.  We talked by phone every hour, bouncing ideas off of each other and me searching Craigslist while he drove around town.  And it worked!  This morning was full of suprises for the kids (including a ping pong ball wrapped in a big box… just enough of a clue to send them running to find the table in the back room, where we had forbidden them from entering all yesterday evening).  Best of all, Jeffrey and I worked as a team to make it happen, stepping out of blame and anger ("Why didn’t you think of that earlier?") and into acceptance of the reality we were dealing with… and dealing with it together.

Today I’m resting in the awareness that marriage and family are about persistence and patience, not perfection.  It matters less what our lives look like right now — instead, it’s the direction we’re headed in together.  This is my training ground for keeping faith, for stepping forward even when I feel lazy or scared, for breathing through challenges with the belief that deeper strength and connection lie on the other side.  These life partners (Jeffrey and all the kids) are the perfect motivation to push myself to be more loving, more patient, more understanding, more aware.  And then I’m more of who I want to be.

a new way

A lot of my friends these days are focused on “old ways” of doing things, “primitive” skills like hunting and skinning their own meat, making fires without matches or lighters, wild food and medicine, living in wigwams… I’ve found myself attracted to a lot of this, especially collecting wild edible and medicinal plants.  I love being sustained by the earth, instead of by an exploitative system (exploitative of people and the planet).  “Primitive skills” also came into my world of childraising, through the book “The Continuum Concept”, a popular book about one woman’s observations of childraising practices of a South American indigenous tribe.  I read it while I was pregnant, on my self-imposed retreat in the Smoky Mountains last January.  Curled up in a cozy cabin outside of Gatlinburg with an ever-expanding belly, I earnestly read about the ways the Yequana Indians nurtured their children, who never yelled, cried, or peed on the floor.

The book is a convincing argument, and I’ve spent these first seven months of Rora’s life looking to the “old ways” for guidance in parenting my daughter.  I joined the “CC” email group, but the daily digests quickly piled up, as I’m spending less time in front of the computer than I have since the internet became widely available (my junior year of high school, for the record).  I’ve found alot of insight and useful perspective from asking myself, “what would the Yequana do?”, and a lot of frustration as well.  I don’t live in a tribe — nothing close to it.  We are at home, Rora and I, quite often by ourselves.  Our home is modern, with tables and electrical outlets and flush toilets.  I’ve found myself sometimes caught up in an anxious critique of my life, thinking “this isn’t how it’s SUPPOSED to be!” and “if we lived in a tribe, <current challenge> wouldn’t even be an issue!”

Jeffrey and I had a conversation today that went something like this:

me: I’ve been noticing that Rora likes it better when I’m doing things on her level, like when I fold clothes on the floor, better than when I do things up on counters and tables, like chop veggies in the kitchen.  If I were working around a fire pit, I’d always be on her level and she wouldn’t get frustrated!

him: A lot of tribes had fire pits built on mounds so they could work standing up.

me: No, they didn’t.

him: Yes, they did.

me: unh uh!

him: unh huh!

So the conversation about how we should design our lives hinges on an argument of what other people did in the past.  I woke up tonight with a shift in perspective — not sure where it came from, but it hit me hard, right in the center of my chest.  Now as I sit in front of the screen it seems simple, but here it is: instead of looking to the “old ways”, or to the newest child development literature, I want to look to my deepest self for the answers to the questions of how to raise my daughter.  I want to ask myself “what do I want to do?” instead of “what should I do?”.  My perspective is informed by that “old way” wisdom, and also by the things I learn about “cutting-edge” parenting techniques (which don’t actually seem so different)… but I look for answers within instead of from the outside. This will keep me working with what is, the raw material of our lives, instead of longing for what isn’t, some ideal I’m trying to hold myself to.  I want to be constantly asking myself “what resonates with my spirit?”, having faith in the answers that come, and in my ability to live by them.

I started working on my first few doula training assignments after Rora went to sleep last night (and after I woke up 2 hours later, after falling asleep nursing her).

One of the first assignments was to write about an experience of someone dying, and look for similarities with the process of birth.  After writing until 2am, I realized that it’s Halloween today!  What a treat, to be exploring death on the day we honor the spirits that have crossed over!

Here’s what I wrote:

I was able to be with my maternal Grandma in the last two days of her life, through her death, and afterwards with my family as we processed the experience.  Being with her as she transitioned out of her body brought me to a deeper awareness of that sacred time between the spirit world and the physical world – and in fact, taught me tangibly that there isn’t such a clear distinction!

She was in a bed provided by hospice, set up in the living room of my aunt’s house.  We tried to make that space quiet and focused, but too often we became chatty and irreverent – and she clearly let us know that it was “TOO MUCH!”.  She didn’t like people casually talking or moving too quickly.  She wanted things done to her slowly, ever slower.  She wanted water, right up to her last hours, after she had refused food and medicine for days.  She wanted sunshine, and fresh air in the room.  Over the last two days, she wanted less and less restricting her body – first the pillows around her had to be a certain way, then no blankets covering her legs, then her shirt needed to be unbuttoned, then it came off altogether.  The oxygen tube around her neck was a constant irritation, and we finally removed it so she could be more comfortable.  She was adamant that she didn’t want anything to prolong her death – “Why is it taking so LONG?”

She often seemed frustrated when we didn’t understand what she was talking about, when she spoke out in the midst of a trance/sleep state.  She was experiencing something that none of the rest of us were experiencing, and we could often only guess at what she meant.  When we “got it”, she was clearly relieved and grateful.  She liked to be sung to, and gently touched.  She didn’t want to be alone.  She wanted to make sure she wasn’t being a burden to any of us, and at the same time, she clearly asked for what she wanted and needed.  “I might never taste carrot juice again if I don’t get some now!” Her social inhibitions mostly evaporated, making clear requests without politeness.  “I’m being myself for the first time.”

The day she died, the energetic shift in the hours beforehand was tangible to all of us on some level, though I don’t know how consciously.  We didn’t know she was going to die that day, but we all made significant changes that, looking back, indicated some awareness that everything was changing.  We spoke more softly, moved cellphones out of the room, and cleared the bedside clutter that had accumulated, replacing it with a few photographs and flowers.  We hung a blue curtain in the window, to soften the light.  Two of my aunts spent the day finding peace with each other, and were honoring each other over my grandma’s body when she took her last breath.

In the moments immediately after her heart stopped beating, we gathered in the room and celebrated her transition.  One aunt yelled “Hallelujah!” in a loving mimic of my faith-filled grandma.  I felt her spirit throughout the room, filling the space in a slow expansion.  I felt her on my body, in my body, and growing to encompass and permeate the whole house, then the city and the mountains and the globe and the stars and eventually the Whole Universe.  As I felt her spirit, I felt a taste of that Wholeness, an awareness that the only difference between the physical world and the spirit world is a perceived experience of the limitations of space and time.

I see clear parallels between death and birth after being with Grandma through her journey: the absolute need for sacred space, the slowing of time, the need for us to let her do and be and say whatever she needed and wanted to.  We were there to serve her, to honor her, and to witness her journey.  We responded to her requests and tried to intuit what she might want, but never forced her to do something that we thought she should do.  I guess the big difference between birth and death is that once you know someone is dying, there’s no need to fear death, or work to prevent it.  With birth, there remains the possibility (and thus the fear?) that the mother or baby could die, so we walk the balance between pursuing life and accepting death… while with someone ready to die, it’s just about surrender.

But then again, maybe birth is a different kind of surrender — surrendering to life.

The Wedding…

Today is the one year anniversary of our wedding! I figured in honor of the day, I’d post the script from the ceremony for your reading pleasure…

SETTING: summit of Sunrise Mounain, Stokes State Forest, Western New Jersey (the beautiful part of the state)…

1pm, sun shining, dark rain clouds in the distance, thunder in the background throughout

People will be milling around meeting each other and chatting until we show up at the top of the mountain. The band will be playing, and when Jeff emerges, the bandleader will stop the music and explain that Jeff is going to hide among the guests until Kate finds him (a Nigerian tradition). Band will then continue playing. When Kate finds him (and is able to touch him, not just see him in the crowd), the ceremony will begin. Tony will have the job of encouraging people to find their seats so that we can begin.

Juniper will start everything off by standing and explaining her role as “smudger”, and then she’ll light a sage smudge stick and walk around the circle while Faith and Moose play “Give Yourself to Love”.

JUNIPER: In ceremonies of all kinds, it is common to cleanse and purify the people and the space at the beginning of the ritual. My favorite word for this is the Native American practice called “SMUDGING”… My name is Juniper, and * I * am your SMUDGER!

It is believed that the smoke of sacred herbs wards off evil spirits or unwanted energy. I really want my Dad and Kate to have a nice wedding, so I’m going to burn a bundle of sage to protect the sacred space.

When the song is over and the smudging is done, Juniper will ding the chime. Tony will stand and begin.

TONY: Welcome to Jeff and Kate’s wedding ceremony! I’m Tony, Jeff’s brother, and I’m honored to be your Master of Ceremonies this afternoon. We’re here to celebrate the partnership that Kate and Jeff have chosen to pursue together, as well as to honor the human capacity for love.

Love knows no boundaries, no borders, no time zones. People all over the world love each other and celebrate partnership. Throughout their lives, both Jeff and Kate have been influenced by the cultural traditions and spiritual beliefs of people around the world, and they’ve created a wedding ceremony that reflects and honors many of these traditions.

With our help, Kate and Jeff will take part in several tasks that couples engage in during wedding ceremonies in different cultures. Some of the customs are playful, some are practical, and some are sacred. All of them are meant to celebrate the experience of joining in marriage.

We’ll start off with a task from here in North America, from the Navajo people of the Southwest.

CHRISTY: My name is Christy, I’m Jeffrey’s sister. In the Navaho tradition, a bride and groom would begin a marriage ritual by washing each other’s hands. A Marriage is the beginning of a new life. The individuals known as Kate and Jeffrey are washed away by the cleansing waters, no longer just individuals, but also bound as one.

Wash hands in wooden bowl…

AYDEN: I’m Ayden, and Jeff is my Dad. We now set forth to honor the parents of the bride and groom. It is not simply the gift of birth which makes it possible for Kate and my Dad to be here today, but the years of love, dedication and nurturing required to raise them. We witness today that wisdom has been

passed on as well, for how else could such great love come to manifest itself?

In both Chinese and Tibetan cultures, it is traditional for the bride and groom to hold a tea ceremony for the parents. The task given to Kate and my Dad is to properly honor their parents with such a ritual. The ingredients used in the tea symbolize fertility, and the tea is sweet to foster sweet relations with their new in-laws.

Serve tea to parents…

TALLY: I’m Tally, Kate’s aunt on her mother’s side of the family. My father’s parents came from Norway in the late 1800’s, and Faith and I grew up in a household that was rich with Norwegian influences, from lefsa to legends about trolls. The solier (sol-ee-ay) that Kate is wearing is a piece of traditional Norwegian wedding jewelry, passed down from our father to Faith, who gave it to Kate to wear today.

There’s a folk tradition in Norwegian weddings that typically happens on day four of the six-day wedding celebration, on Skaaledagjen – The Day of Toasts. Since a lot of us have traveled a long way to be here, we’re not going to wait around for three more days! Kate and Jeff, your task from Norway is to dance together on the top of a stump, so we can all see how well you work together in difficult circumstances!


DANELE: I’m Danele. I’m Ayden’s mother and a close friend of both Jeff and Kate. I’m going to describe one of the most well known traditions from Africa: “jumping the broom”. This tradition originated in Ghana, where the broom was used symbolically to sweep away past wrongs. In America, the tradition of jumping over a broom became used among slaves, who weren’t permitted to marry legally. “Jumping the broom” was used by slaves to declare marriage to their friends and family, proclaiming a commitment to each other despite legal prohibitions.

Many sources say that jumping the broom symbolized the wife’s commitment to keeping a clean house, but since both people do the jumping, I’m sure it’s not just one person’s responsibility! It’s also used as a test to see who will be the leader of the household; whoever jumps the highest gets that reward.

Let’s have the kids come up to hold the broom, a few on each end.

So, Kate and Jeff, sweep away past wrongs, and let’s see your commitment to a clean house! And remember, whoever jumps the highest is the decision-maker in your home…

Take turns jumping broom…

WESLEY: I’m Wesley, Kate’s uncle on her dad’s side of the family. There’s another tradition that determines who is going to be the head of the household, so there’s still a chance to get even! This tradition is from Russia, where Orthodox weddings included a race between the bride and groom to be the first to step on a white rug at the other end of the church. The rug symbolized wishes that the newly wed couple should have wealth and prosperity and never need to face poverty standing on a bare earthen floor.

Kate and Jeff hope for wealth and prosperity, and also for an earthen floor someday! Instead of a rug, I’m going to lay down this circle of rope for them to race to. Whoever steps inside first will be the head of the household. On your mark, get set, GO!

Race… (whoever won broom jumping looses this time)

DAVID: In the Pygmie tribes of Africa, the groom has only one obligation to the bride’s family: to find a female in his family who is willing to marry a brother or male cousin of the bride. I’m David, Kate’s only brother, so I guess that means that Jeff is supposed to find me a girl! I’m just reading what’s written here on the card – this wasn’t my idea! Just so you know, I’m not really ready to marry anyone yet, so a hug or a kiss on the cheek will do just fine.

Free finds volunteer…

THEA: Hello. My name is Thea, and both Kate and Jeffrey are good friends of mine. One of the most common folk traditions is known as handfasting. Among the most ancient handfasting rituals are those of the Druidic tradition, where it was believed that the bride and groom embodied the Goddess and the God. I now call forth the divine in Kate and Jeffrey. Listen well and answer truly!

Hail, Goddess, Lady of the Earth! Holding in your secret heart the promise of plenty within the endless cycle of time’s stately dance, we salute you! Hail, mistress of abundance and wholesome, healthy life. Hail, Sister of us all.

Are you, our divine Sister Who Is All, prepared to open the abundance of your love and whatever crops you may harvest, be they physical, emotional or spiritual, to your Brother Who Is All to tend to his needs and seek his greatest growth in the richness of your soul’s richest soil?

KATE: As the Sister Who Is All Sisters, may it be so!

THEA: Hail, God, Master of the Fire! Purifying all within the bright, clean flame of passion, and the light of truth, we salute you. Hail, master of prosperity and good works! Hail, Brother of us all.

Are you, our divine Brother Who Is All, prepared to focus the flame of your desire for love and light, your passion for truth and right, on the well-being of your Sister Who Is All, casting out the shadows of the unwanted and unwholesome past and using your heat to warm, not burn and your light to guide, not blind your beloved?

JEFFREY: As the Brother Who Is All Brothers, may it be so!

Thea takes the handfasting cord and wraps it around our hands…

BETH: I’m Beth, one of Kate’s good friends. I know that both Kate and Jeff have been significantly influenced by Buddhist wisdom. One of the most important traditions in a Buddhist wedding in Thailand is the water ceremony, known as ROD NAM.

During the ceremony, the bride and groom kneel together. They are connected by a holy string around their shoulders or hands, symbolizing their spiritual union. One by one, guests walk up and pour water over the couple’s hands while offering a blessing or marital advice.

The water ceremony is usually performed by all guests older than the couple. Today, everyone here is invited to participate! You may speak your blessings and advice out loud, or participate silently. I’ll begin, the person to my right will go next, and we’ll just follow each other around the circle.

Water ceremony…

DAN: My name is Dan, and I’m a friend of Kate.

Perhaps the greatest gift that Jesus brought to the world was the message of Love. Your task, Kate and Jeffrey, is to hear these verses from the Bible, take them into your heart and Soul, so that they may always sustain and nourish your marriage.

1 Corinthians 13:1-12

I may speak in tongues of men or of angels, but if I am without love, I am a sounding gong or a clanging cymbal. I may have the gift of prophecy, and know every hidden truth; I may have faith strong enough to move mountains; but if I have no love, I am nothing. I may dole out all I possess, or even give my body to be burnt, but if I have no love, I am none the better.

Love is patient; love is kind and envies no one. Love is never boastful, nor conceited, nor rude; never selfish, not quick to take offence. Love keeps no score of wrongs; does not gloat over other men’s sins but delights in the truth. There is nothing love cannot face; there is no limit to its faith, its hope, and its endurance.

Love will never come to an end. Are there prophets? Their work will be over. Is there knowledge? It will vanish away; for our knowledge and our prophecy alike are partial, and the partial vanishes when wholeness comes. Now we see only puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we shall see face to face.

TONY: The ring bearer may now step forward with the rings.

Ruis gives rings to Kate and Jeff

TONY: Kate and Jeff have completed many tasks, from many cultures, symbolizing the power of the partnership we’re celebrating today. Now it’s time for them each to share individually about what this wedding means to them.

Jeff and Kate, as you speak, you’ll hold your partner’s ring in your hand. Let the power of your words fill the ring, so that as your partner wears it for the rest of their life, it will echo the words you speak today. Kate, we’ll start with you.

Kate speaks!

TONY: (pause) Jeff, now it’s your turn.

Jeff speaks!

TONY: (pause) Now it’s time for us to take these intentions that you’ve just spoken, and seal them with sacred vows. God has called us to live in union with the Holy Spirit and in communion with each other. The gift of marriage cultivates our ability to share happiness and sorrow, to give and receive, to understand and forgive, so that we may carry these lessons into all that we do in the world. In the presence of God and these witnesses, I ask you, Jeffrey, will you have Kate, who stands here before you, to be your wife? Will you love, honor, and be true to her, in plenty and in want, in joy and in sorrow, in sickness and in health, for all of your lives?

JEFFREY: Yes, I will.

TONY: Likewise I ask you, Kate, will you have Jeffrey, who stands at your side, to be your husband? Will you love, honor, and be true to him, in plenty and in want, in joy and in sorrow, in sickness and in health, for all of your lives?

KATE: Yes, I will.

TONY: I now invite everyone to stand.


TONY: Jeffrey and Kate have invited you here because they want to share this day with you, and because they desire your support and encouragement. You all have a role to play in their relationship. I now ask you as family, friends, and congregation, will you do everything in your power to support them in their marriage and give it your blessing? If so, please respond by saying loudly, “Yes, we will!”

CONGREGATION: Yes, we will!

TONY: Kate and Jeffrey, you have declared your intention to share with each other your joys and sorrows and all that the years will bring. Now it’s time for you to accept these promises from each other, by accepting the rings onto your fingers.

(rings on fingers and kiss!)

TONY: And so it is done! Let the whole world celebrate the partnership of Jeff and Kate!

Juniper dings chime!

TONY: The most universal of all wedding traditions is eating and drinking together! You are all invited to the reception at the Kittle Field Picnic area at the bottom of the mountain, which will begin as soon as we’re done with photos up here.


Then the rain came while evryone drove down the mountain, and soon dissipated in time for dancing to great Klezmer music by the Vulgar Bulgars. After the reception, the more daring guests stripped down to skinny dip in a beautiful mountain stream (my favorite part of the whole day.

Tonight we celebrated by jumping over the broom again, this time with a baby in my arms…

Babies and Poop

More on baby Aurora…

The childbirth experience was a mixture of sweet ecstasy and intense physical and emotional work. And in the end, a baby came out… in the bathroom, because I thought I had to poop.

Free: “I see something!”
Me: (screaming) “It’s poop!”
Free: “No, it’s the baby!”
It turns out that I wasn’t going crazy… lots of women have this experience.

Aurora and I have been having a sweet time getting to know each other as we lay in bed together. I’m on orders to stay in bed for 2 weeks due to a tear in a tricky place — ugh! I’m trying to enjoy the rest as a luxury… but I miss working in the garden and being a part of daily life around here. Free and the kids are treating me like a queen, though, so I can’t complain.

This baby is pretty delightful — lots of sleeping, nursing, and wide-eyed observation (during the few hours she’s awake). She doesn’t have a last name yet, because Free and I haven’t figured out how to balance practicality with idealism (isn’t that the quintessential struggle?). So for now, she just has two middle names, two ecstatic parents, and a lot of poop.

tickledspirit and Aurora (Rori, Froggy, Sugar Snap, Pea Pod…)

My dad wrote me an email today, asking if I’ve hooked up with a gynecologist/pediatrician yet. I realized that maybe I hadn’t been clear about my intentions with the birth. Here’s what I wrote back:

I have a meeting with a midwife this week, kind of like an interview. I’ll be meeting with a few others, as well, and then choosing who I like best. She’ll be my main source of biological support, and then I’ll get blood tests at a doctor’s office (to check my iron and hemoglobin levels, among other things). I have a lot of herbal support from friends and my own knowledge — I’m drinking my raspberry/nettle/alfalpha/oatstraw/red clover tea every day!

It’s important to me that you know I’m following a non-medical model of pregnancy and childbirth. There are many reasons why, and I look forward to talking with you about it all! Something that isn’t well-publicized is that homebirths with midwives result in fewer complications/infections/deaths than deliveries in hospitals with drugs, forceps, vaccums, and doctors.

Beyond that, I have a deep belief that giving birth is as natural of a process as breathing. My body knows how to do it — I just need to take care of myself during these 9 months and have the support and wisdom of a midwife, who will know how to tell if something is out of the ordinary.

There are many resources available that talk about the problems associated with hospital births and the medicalization of preganancy. I haven’t read this one, but Free reccomends it; it’s a book by a French doctor called “Entering the World: The Demedicalization of Childbirth” by Michel Odent. Another book that a friend of mine from Twin Oaks suggested to me (she’s reading it now) is called “Birth: The Surprising History of How We Are Born”, by Tina Cassidy. That book just came out last year.

I hope I don’t sound too defensive or preachy. I just know so many women who weren’t supported by their families in their choice to have a natural homebirth with a midwife, and I want us to be on the same page about it.


I wrote a post almost a month ago about how things have been going better for me, how I got a massage table for Solstice and how much I enjoyed playing “Santa” on Solstice Eve after the kids had gone to bed.  It was a long, happy, hopeful post… and somehow it didn’t ever make it onto the blog.  I think I hit “preview” and never hit “post”… alas.

So today, we’re back to the doldrums.  I’m stuck deep down in my  muck. I wrote an email to a group of friends this morning, and I figured I’d post it here, too, since I have friends who check here periodically.  I wish I could write a more thoughtful or insightful post after being gone for so long… but this is all I can offer right now:

Hi there, lovelies…
I’m struggling pretty deeply these days, and this morning I had the brilliant idea to (gasp) ask for support.

Here’s my story: I’m in grad school, and at best I mildly enjoy it.  At worst, I’m miserable and see no purpose in my life.  There are many days I want to quit… and I don’t, because a)I’m worried that I’m just looking for immediate gratification and I’m impatient and if I quit now I’ll have wasted this year and if I stick it out for one more year I’ll have my Master’s Degree… and b)I don’t know what else I’d do.  This was my “plan”.  Other things I might want to do feel inaccessible because I’m partnered with an amazing man, and he has 3 kids and is tied to Central Virginia for at least 10 more years (becuase the mothers of his kids live here).

I’m feeling limited and scared and stuck in fear.  I’m not looking for possibilities or asking for what I want and I miss the me that I know who knows how to do that.  I miss myself.  I’m not passionate, and I’m not smiling.  I’m crying a lot, and I don’t want to get out of bed in the morning.

I have lots of self judgement about being such a mess about all this.  There are so many people struggling with so many other things (poverty, cancer, oppression)… I feel petty.  And, it’s what’s true for me right now.  I feel stuck and I feel hopeless about getting unstuck.  I’m scared of being in this stuck place for a long time.

I’m suprised about how difficult it is to ask for support.  All that self-judgement makes me worry about judgement from other people.  I don’t want other people to think I’m petty or weak… and of course, I know that those are stories.  Who cares if other people think I’m petty or weak? And in this dark place, that fear holds so much power.

I also think one of the traps of monogamy for me is getting focused on my one partner for all emotional support.  I’ve been doing that, and it’s stressing both of us and the relationship pretty significantly.  And then I remembered, I have other friends and lovers and people who want to support me!  And this group is full of them!

Asking for what I want:
Please write to me.
Questions help me a lot.  Questions help me acknowledge what’s really true for me.
I also welcome your perspective, reflecting what you see in me and hear from me.

whew.  I feel a raw and vulnerable, and I’m scared to press the “send” button.  I want to present a more powerful and wise self to you all… but I also want to present an authentic self, so this is what you get.