Hope’s Kitchen Window

The kitchen window conjures up images for me of looking peacefully out into one’s immediate world, watching birds at the feeder or snow gently falling. You might catch a glimpse of deer coming through in the evenings to seek out morsels from a garden. Perhaps if you live in a neighborhood you watch the neighbor children playing or maybe even your own. It’s carefree and meditative, warming and centering.

I do not have my own kitchen window to peer out into the world but I always find myself automatically gazing out of others’ when given the chance.

Recently I was at the kitchen window belonging to my friend, Hope. I was cooking in her kitchen to feed a community that was coming to help other dear friends who’d just lost their home to a devastating fire. As I looked through her kitchen window and over the fence to the burnt shell of the house I was overwhelmed by emotion, caught off guard. I have a long history with those people, with that house. I have decades of memories of them and their children, who when I first came to that place were aged one, three and five and are now in their mid-twenties. My first meal shared around their table was peanut soup eaten on the bench that sat along the backside of the small kitchen table where there was always room for one more. I witnessed the house grow three times its size with wood and craftsmanship, each nook bearing the fingerprints of love. I lived in their home, as did many others over the years who were in need of the physical and the emotional space they’d offer freely.

And on this day as I cooked and cleaned I watched the family through Hope’s kitchen window slowly picking through and salvaging what they could, to remember those years, to save some fingerprints. There were tears, so many tears.

But that wasn’t the only thing I saw.

I saw people. A growing gathering of people who carried charred treasures and wiped away those tears. I witnessed friends holding up this family with strong embraces that comfort and heal. I heard laughter, deep, meaningful laughter. And as I watched and listened and talked and fed I realized that what I saw through Hope’s kitchen window was indeed Hope.

Hope that seeps through the cracks of the darkest times.

Hope that carries you through the muck to get to the other side.

And they will be carried; of this I have no doubt.

Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul – and sings the tunes without the words – and never stops at all.

Emily Dickinson

Spring Break – Wooooooo!

Spring break 2014!  Relax, unwind, find warmth, take inspiring pictures of new blooms and melting snow!

Or…

photo 2You get a phone call while you’re traveling states away “hey honey, the foundation crumbled”.  Let’s be clear, that was not the word for word conversation we had.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When I get home I will be greeted by this:

photo-2 And I will begin playing the lottery.  Happy Spring break 2014!  Bring on the tequila…

 

The Things We Carry

I started working at camp in 1987 when I was 16 years old. My first two summers consisted of cleaning bathrooms and the kitchen and basically being psyched out of my mind that I was at camp for the whole summer with my best friends.  Getting paid $200 was a bonus (yes, that’s for the whole summer).  The summer of 1989 was my first as a counselor, it was a blur!  There are things I remember here and there and my eyes were certainly opened to many things about kids, the world and myself.  I actually used to have a fantastic memory but it has become sort of a ridiculous joke of late how much my memory has deteriorated, be it age, raising a child, stress or what have you, I don’t know.  But I’ve noticed that as I go through the days, months and years of life and details I used to remember are no longer recalled; there are things I carry.

In 1990 I was working my second summer as a cabin counselor at Mission Meadows.  One week in July I met my cabin full of girls and one girl, Regina Slater from Kane, PA, was more quiet and reserved than the rest but I could tell she was happy to be in this place.  I think I felt a special connection with her given that I myself am a quiet type but there was something else that I didn’t have a connection with because my life growing up had been so different from what she knew.  As the weather cooled off in the evening I realized she didn’t have anything with her to keep her warm…I loaned her a sweatshirt.  My “day” off happened to fall on her birthday, so I got her a cake and a card for the cabin to sign and during cabin time that night we had a surprise birthday party for her…she cried!  I was naive.  I went up to the dining hall after the girls went to bed where I told the story of her tears and I didn’t understand.  The camp nurse, Marleen, had knowledge of the family situation and she told me that it was probably the only birthday party Regina ever had. She turned 13 that day.

At the end of the week Regina had to go home and although I didn’t really know what she was going home to, I knew I didn’t want to send her there.  I gave her my sweatshirt to keep and I hoped that I would see her the next summer.  I cried. We wrote letters for a few years, she told me about her time in foster care, her parent’s divorce, she asked me to intervene with her brother who was doing drugs.  I can only imagine what my thoughts were as I read letters about a life so foreign to me.  I never saw her again – she never came back to camp and eventually the letters faded, as letters often do.

I have been lucky in my life to have kept in touch with many friends. The gift of the internet is sometimes being able to connect with pieces of my past.  In this last year I was re”united” with a long-lost dear friend by way of the internet, I have been able to see pictures and hear stories of other former campers who have children of their own.  Over the years I have carried Regina with me, the clear memories of our brief time together are so precious to me as I have hoped that she knew that she was loved, by God and by me, and that love had in some way helped her to find peace in her world.  Occasionally I would attempt to locate her online but never had any success.  Last Thursday morning I decided to try again.  The first hit in the search results was an obituary from more than three years ago for a Regina Slater from Kane, PA whose birthday was in July.  She died in an early morning car accident.

Since finding this and confirming that this is indeed “my” Regina, I have been able to piece together very little of her life.  She leaves behind a young daughter, Sydney, which is perhaps the most heartbreaking part of the story.  The pieces of her life that I have been able to find don’t point to ideal circumstances and it makes me terribly sad, but I can’t know if she was happy as circumstances don’t always determine that, character does.

I’ve realized that I will now carry the grief and sadness for Regina along with the hope that she had found peace.  And I will carry Sydney as well.  If the Universe sees fit I hope my path will cross with Sydney’s one day and I can tell her that she is carried, and loved.

Community

So, this is happening right now.

communityA true demonstration of community!  A couple of weekends ago Jordan was tackling our massive woodpile and hurt his back quite badly.  He’s slowly recovering but is not up to snuff.  Last weekend he was going to try to get more done and I wouldn’t let him because his back was still quite bad.  Unbeknownst to us, a friend was organizing a work party for this morning to help Jordan get this massive job done.  So, at 8:30 this morning Ken, Grandpa Dave, Uncle Jason, Kyle and Phil showed up with splitters and chainsaws and selflessness to cut, split, haul and stack the wood that will keep us warm this (and probably all next) winter.

It’s a hard thing to accept help like this, but I find that being able to accept help graciously is as much part of being community as reaching out to help.

photo 1Here is Lilia having her breakfast, learning what community is all about.  Thanks, guys, for helping show my daughter that we live in a world where this still happens.

Summer Blooms?

DSCF3101

After three seasons of attempting to grow one of my favorites, my cosmos finally bloomed!  On October 22…

In other news, i’ve started a successful fruit fly farm in my kitchen.

Home project #2

After living in a place for 5 years i’d hoped to have had more projects, but baby steps I guess!  After improving the porch a little earlier this summer, we (Jordan) were finally able to install some steps leading to the basement, which only has an exterior entry.  We’ve all been victim to the slippery grassy slope…this is an amazing improvement!

Before

Before

Structure is laid out

Structure is laid out

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Best Supervisor!

Best Supervisor!

Helping fill in the dirt

Helping fill in the dirt

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After

After

 

 

Just need to get some plants in the garden!

Just need to get some plants in the garden!

And While I’m At It…

…I may as well keep going.  I am not sleeping anyway!

Today LE needed a morning bath (if you’ve ever parented a potty training toddler you know why) so while I was getting ready for work she was playing in the tub.  In the midst of her typical bath banter about Bob in his boat, etc.  I hear “Mama, i’m going to beat you!”  Now let’s be clear, we’re not talking “beat” as in hit or strike but rather to win or triumph over.

So I think to myself where in the world does a two-year old get a hold of such a not-so-awesome-proclamation-of-competition?  It’s certainly not something we have ever had any sort of conversation about…and granted she has watched a few sporting events with her Papa, but he is not generally vocal about winners vs. losers.  Hmmm…

Oh hello Washington DC.  Let’s see…you are shutting down the government because people refuse to be “losers” of elected positions or majority status and you don’t want to back down lest you appear to be weak or to have  someone else “win”.  So it becomes more about making a point and winning at any cost than doing what is right or best.

Now I am the last person to get in political debates and it’s not really my point.  My child at two should not be worried about winning or losing and to be sure she didn’t really know the meaning behind what she was saying.  But she has the vocabulary so how far behind can the sentiment be?  Competition itself isn’t the problem, I believe it has a place and can be an excellent tool for growing and learning.  I hope that LE will enjoy healthy competition in various outlets throughout her life, but I hope more that she learns that winning isn’t everything and that losing isn’t a bad word.

Dear World, any help you can be with this I would totally appreciate.