Thursday, March 27, 2008

Please Help me Help Others - AKA I Ask for Money for a Good Cause!

Some of you may know that last summer, I went down to New Orleans to help rebuild houses with Habitat for Humanity and some other organizations. After that, I decided I wanted to do more work with Habitat, but reasoned that, instead of flying 2,600 miles from home, I could do more good here in my own community.

To that end, I’ve signed up for Habitat’s “Build-a-thon” to be held over the Earth Day weekend (April 19-22). This project will involve completely framing six homes in East Oakland, and will eventually transform a former auto salvage yard into a healthy community for 54 families.

All I know about framing is what you do to pictures before you hang them up on the wall (or what often happens on cop shows), so this will be interesting. Of course, before I went to New Orleans, I thought “mudding and taping” was something kinky, and that hanging drywall looked sort of fun.

This is Habitat’s largest fundraiser of the year, so all volunteers are required to raise at least $200 per day that they work. That’s only 10 people pledging $20 a day! I’m working April 19 and 21, so that’s only $400, although I set $600 for my goal. You know, going the extra mile and all that.

I’ve very helpfully put up a fundraising website so you can donate to my efforts with only a few clicks. You can visit the site here: You can also click on that groovy icon in the top right corner of my blog, and don't let the fact that I've made my goal stop you from donating! Now I'm shooting for $1,000 (my original goal was $600, but $800 was donated, so what's a measly $200 more?!) And of course if you have friends with deep pockets and philanthropic sensibilities, please feel free to send 'em on down to my site!

Thanks in advance for your help. If I survive, I’ll regale you all with tales of my incredible building prowess.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Dear Soul Mate –

You know, I just realized I’ve been seeing you in my dreams for years. Ever since I was a teenager, I’ve been having dreams where I meet you and feel such sweet, warm, all-encompassing love – a love I’ve never felt in ‘real’ life. The funny thing is that you look different in every dream: dark, fair, skinny, stocky, once a dentist, once a botanist. Maybe that’s just dream language, maybe it’s because I love everything about you – all of your aspects. But there have been some consistent things throughout all the dreams: the love I feel for you and my amazement and joy at having found you. Your love makes me smile, makes me ache, makes me feel strong and proud, makes me feel safe.

I love your huge grin, your gorgeous laugh-lines, the depth of your eyes, the strength in your hands and your back, those lovely arms. I love your wide, wild spirit that reminds me to drink every moment as if it were my last breath. I love your commitment to living in love, to living lightly on our Mother Earth, your desire to make the world better and how this is reflected in the choices you make every day. I admire how you’ve let go of bitterness, grimness, and self-righteousness and instead have chosen hope, compassion, and abundance. I also love that you can fully experience the depth of your sadness, anger, and fear, but that these things haven’t poisoned the world for you – in fact, they make your life infinitely more complex and lovely. I love your eminent good sense and your goofiness. Your ability to say something silly and serious in the same sentence. I love that you can hold all of life’s contradictions and are comfortable doing so. I love your love for me.

You love my eyes the color of denim or grey seas, depending on the light and my mood. My quick smile. You love my love for color, my stubborn refusal to believe anything truly without experiencing it first, my deep care and compassion for all creatures, my wanderlust and the travels that we share – because traveling together is like never leaving home. You love my awe at the most ordinary things: the sun rise, the moon, the flash of a crow’s wing, the soft breezes of October, the white profusion of February flowers. You love that my little house is yellow, that my backyard is bigger than my house, and that I like weeds, especially, right now, all those bright yellow flowering ones that close up when the sun goes down. You love that I planted milkweed for the Monarchs and that I share my vegetable patch with the snails (but not with the aphids).

Together, we search for balance: joy and attention to the sadness of living, hedonism and moderation, dark and light, activity and relaxation, reaching out and drawing in, commitment and freedom. I love that you can share this all with me, that I can learn from you and you from me, and that we don’t complete each other – because we’ve always been complete – but that we magnify each other’s strengths and balance each other’s weaknesses. We know that a relationship isn’t about each person giving 50%, but about each person giving 110%. And we aren’t just twice as good together, we’re 1000x better together. Together, we can do anything, accomplish anything, can bring about a new reality for the planet that includes joy, awakening, laughter, love, justice, sustainability, creativity, and peace for all. I love that we’ve found such joy on that path. Our love fills the world with love.

In Love-


Thursday, March 06, 2008

Why the Housing Market Crash Has Been Good For Me

So one of my dreams has always been to own my own home. Even as a teenager, I used to dream about having my own place. It would be some old farmhouse, with a big yard, and maybe a big old tree. My friends and family would come over and we’d cook food together, share stories, create stuff, laugh a lot, drink wine, and maybe even change the world. Yes, I did spend a lot of time daydreaming back then.

A little over three years ago, I finally decided to do it. I had a good professional job in my chosen career, I lived in a moldering old practically subterranean apartment run by a slumlord, with a sunken kitchen that flooded every winter when it rained, and a shower with a drain that was open to the sewer (I kid you not.) Every once in awhile, my neighbor’s toilet would overflow into my shower. I had lived there for ten years, believe it or not. It was time to get out.

The choices were to move to another apartment, or finally realize my dream of home ownership.

When I owned my house (not an old farmhouse with a tree, but a circa 1943 shipyard worker’s house with a yard), I was not as ecstatic as I expected. Anyone who owns a home probably knows how I feel. It’s work! And money! And I pay a crapload of property taxes!

For awhile there, I regretted my decision, or at the very least was ambivalent about it. I loved having my own place, I loved the place, I loved the big yard, but I didn’t love the money, or having to keep the place up, or having to look at the horrible neglected weedy lawn every morning knowing I was the one neglecting it. I didn’t like living in the 9th most violent city in America, without a car, and having to walk under a freeway underpass every morning to get to the train station to go to work.

For about three years, I had one foot out the door, metaphorically anyway. I still fantasized about living somewhere else, the way I had when I rented my apartment. I imagined I’d sell the house in 3-5 years, and rent a nice place somewhere warm. I still grew veggies in my yard, had parties, and planted flowers, but I didn’t do anything major or permanent. Why should I, when I didn’t know if I was staying?

Right after I bought the house, the market slowed, then stalled, and of course now it’s pretty much in freefall. I was smart and lucky: I got a nice rate on a 30-year fixed mortgage, so no balloon payments or foreclosures for me. But slowly, I’ve been realizing that it would be stupid to sell the house now, and that things aren’t likely to be rosier in 2-3 years, either. And about four or five months ago, it finally clicked: I’m staying. Like it or not.

Once I made that commitment, my outlook shifted. I’m paying more attention to the house now, keeping it up. I hired my neighbor to install a drought-tolerant native garden in the front yard, and got the city to plant a tree in front of my place. It’s like I decided that, rather than give up what I have in order to keep looking for what I don’t have, I’ll do my best with what I’ve got. One of my goals has always been to live somewhere I love, but I’ve turned that around now: I want to love the place where I live. And this had been a major change for me. Eye-opening, actually.

I’ve started interacting more with my neighbors, trying harder to support local businesses, and planning as if I have a future here. Rather than thinking about how to manage to move closer to work (which just happens to be in one of the most expensive metro areas in the U.S.), I’ve started to think about alternative ways to transport myself, including getting my old, crusty bike out of the garage and fixing it up.

It isn’t lost on me that this new way of seeing things extends to my personal relationships, too. I feel like I appreciate my friends and family more than I used to. Despite their quirks and flaws, they’ve been there for me, with all of my quirks and flaws. Getting new friends isn’t the answer; appreciating the ones I do have is.

So, I thank the housing crisis. It made me sit down, take stock, and take responsibility for my own life. Not to downplay the amount of pain and suffering that others are experiencing around this situation (foreclosed homes are a dime a dozen in my town), but for me, I’ve been lucky enough to be able to take advantage of it. Because I can’t move, I will stay here and make this the place that I want to be.