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In spite of all the challenges of parenting during a pandemic while schools are closed, I was feeling hopeful about the future during my last post. However, the past week has been extraordinarily difficult. As wildfires rage throughout Oregon, including one only about 25 miles east of Eugene, my community has been experiencing some of the most dangerous air quality in the world. At the beginning of the pandemic, my 90-year-old grandmother, who has dementia and short-term memory loss, told me over Facetime that “the air outside is poisoned,” and now her words are accurate.

Where I live, in Eugene, our air quality has been literally off the charts at above a 300 rating for the past week. It has been unsafe to go outdoors since Labor Day. This situation was manageable for a few days. We did Cosmic Kids yoga. Spencer spent hours playing Monopoly with Marie. We watched some fun Disney movies, like The Sword in the Stone, and the live action versions of Cinderella and Beauty and the Beast.

But now, as the National Weather Service keeps prolonging our air quality emergency, it’s difficult to maintain a hopeful attitude. This morning, Paul started wheezing during a tantrum, and I worried that poor air quality inside our house might be impacting him.

In addition to the poisoned air we’re trying not to breathe, we’re all deeply saddened by the impact of the wildfires on those who have been evacuated or lost homes — which includes people all around the state. It seems as though everyone knows someone who had to evacuate their home, and my mom had conversations with multiple friends and relatives around the state who were under an evacuation preparation warning. The wildfire situation in our state is an unprecedented emergency, and coupled with the COVID pandemic it just feels like its too much to bear. The McKenzie Fire near Springfield isn’t expected to be contained until late October, so it’s possible that air quality may continue to be poor for some time.

Oh, and school was expected to start this week — ahem, “school,” because online school is not quite the same thing. But it’s been delayed another week. As I’ve been learning more about the expectations around online school, I’ve been feeling discouraged by the amount of things that families are required to keep track of. For example, Paul will have a 15-minute Zoom meeting with a small group three days a week. He will also have weekly home visits with a teacher. On another day, he will have a weekly phone check-in with his teacher. There are also two additional Zoom tutorials that parents are required to participate in. This is all in addition to any schoolwork that he is expected to do. And this is just for my kindergartener — last spring I spent hours with Marie every day trying to get her to complete assignments for her second grade class.

So, what can we do expect muddle through this mess, and try to hold our breath until this is over. Because in 2020, we all can’t breathe.

I guess what I can say about this awful time is this: It is a remarkable opportunity for spiritual growth. We would be wise to receive it as such. I have a mental picture of humanity entering into a chrysalis and eventually emerging transformed into something better and more beautiful. The transformation process itself is painful, but there can be something beautiful waiting for us on the other side if we allow change to take hold.

I know that we are all antsy for things to reopen. We’d like to move on from this and go back to the way things were before. Unfortunately there is no going back at this point. Reopening is not a magic wand that will make this all go away. If not done wisely and with an abundance of precaution, reopening will simply lead to a lot of unnecessary suffering and death.

I have compassion for the desire to reopen because I am feeling that as well. Even though I do not agree with the decision for faith communities to reopen, I understand the desire to do so.

And yet. While my faith is essential, attending a large church gathering is not. I like going to church and it has been an important part of my life for more than 20 years. I especially like dropping my kids off in childcare so that I can breathe for an hour without being pestered. But it is not necessary for me to attend church in order to connect with God, or even to connect with other people in my church. Since our lockdown began in March, I have stayed connected to my faith community through zoom chats, phone calls, texts, and YouTube livestreams. I have dropped off groceries for homeless youth at our church building (while wearing a mask) and chatted with several other women from church who were also masked. The church can continue and even flourish without a large public worship gathering. God will not be stopped by our sheltering in place. God is not confined to a church building. God is with us wherever we go.

When considering whether or not to attend a church gathering, I would urge you not to look at it through the lens of your constitutional right to gather in worship. Rather, look through the lens of how Christ’s teachings can inform your decision.

“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” — John 15:12-13

How does this verse speak to you in light of the question of whether or not to attend or reopen your church?

Different interpretations are possible, but in the current context it speaks to me of laying down our rights to gather in order to protect the lives of the vulnerable in our community. I would also point out that choosing to reopen church doors may not be the best way to share Christ’s love with your community. Many people have been choosing to shelter in place not out of concern for their own health, but as an act of kindness to slow the spread of COVID and save the lives of the vulnerable in their community. Reopening churches = more community spread = putting vulnerable people at greater risk even if they are not choosing to attend gatherings. Alternatively, why not consider gathering with a handful of church friends to watch a livestream of your service or study scripture together?

My family and I will continue sheltering at home for now even though this is making me lose my freaking mind. I will use this opportunity to become more grounded in my faith and emerge on the other side of this stronger and more resilient. At least, that’s what I’ll keep telling myself.

Hope to see you on the other side, butterflies.

 

 

 

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P.S. Not sure why exactly, but this post makes me think of the song Let Go by Frou Frou from the Garden State soundtrack. “It’s alright, cuz there’s beauty in the breakdown.” What song would you choose for this chapter in the soundtrack of your life?

Greetings from Coronavirus Lockdown, Day 12:

Oregon officially started its “Stay Home, Stay Safe,” mandate yesterday, March 23. As far as I can tell, this is a shelter-in-place mandate with an less-scary title. Our family has already been self-quarantining since schools closed, to err on the side of caution. We’re all under 40 and in good health, so I’m not concerned about our health — but I would hate for any of us to be carrying the virus and pass it on to someone else.

In order to maintain sanity, I’ve been trying to maintain a fairly consistent routine with my two kids, ages 7 and 4 (with birthdays comings soon!). Here’s what we’ve been up to:

Daily Schedule for Kids

  • Morning yoga via YouTube (Cosmic Kids for the littles, and if I get up earlier I will do other yoga videos).
  • Breakfast
  • Schoolwork
    • Language Arts & math for my 2nd grader. My preschooler works on activity books which include coloring, connect-the-dots or letter and number identification. He can also have free play time during this time if he chooses.
  • Outside Play Time. Thankfully, we have a backyard swing set and slide. Sometimes the kids ride their bikes.
  • Lunch
  • Free play quiet time (no screens).
  • Science or piano or art
  • Chores
  • Screen time (We try to do educational activities and then give them some free screen time).
  • Dinner
  • Outside, weather permitting
  • Baths & get ready for bed
  • Stories (We are reading Charlie & the Chocolate Factory with P, and Harry Potter 6 with M).
  • Goodnight! zzzz (Maintaining the same bedtime we had before).

The weather was nice over the weekend, so we went hiking one day and for a family bike ride the next. We rode along the W. Eugene wetlands and saw lots of ducks and geese, two red-winged blackbirds, a hummingbird, sandpiper cranes, and a great blue heron. There weren’t too many people around, so it was easy to maintain a 6 foot distance.

Another thing I’m trying to do is maintain some sort of housekeeping schedule. Sure, it’d be great to get a bunch of deep cleaning done. And maybe we will. But as I adjust to this situation, I’m just trying to maintain a basic level of cleanliness:

Housekeeping Schedule

  • Make beds (daily)
  • Dishes (daily)
  • Laundry & put away (daily)
  • Sanitize kitchen sink (daily-ish)
  • Sweep kitchen floor (daily)
  • Wipe down kitchen counters (daily)
  • Clean bathroom (weekly)
  • Vacuum (weekly)
  • Clean up toys in living room (daily)
  • Investigate bad smells (as needed – ha!)
  • Clean mirrors (weekly. My kids enjoy doing this. I use a non-toxic vinegar and water mix).

There are many other potential housekeeping projects we could work on. Too numerous and overwhelming to list. However, my strategy for tackling those kinds of overwhelming decluttering projects is to just pick a spot to work on for 20 minutes. But for now, I’m giving myself a pass on that.

Self-Care

How to make time for self-care while on lockdown with kids? This is a tricky one, but as this season pushes most of us to the edge (or beyond) of our ability to cope, self-care is essential. I’ve been trying to do my own yoga videos and go for runs a couple of times a week while my hubby watches the kids. I’m also enforcing a consistent bedtime for the kids, so that I have a little bit of free time before I go to bed. Usually I just use that time to write in my journal. I need to get some new books to read.

And, squeezing in time to write these blog posts is an important form of self-care for me. Writing helps me to process my feelings, and it also leaves us with a record of an unprecedented experience.

Lastly, spending time in prayer is helping me. Rather than just continuing to talk to my husband about this crisis, and speculate as to how much worse things will get, I’m trying to focus on praying through my concerns. Praying is better than worrying and complaining.

During our bike ride on Sunday, I noticed a piece of graffiti on the railroad bridge. It was just one word, “Relentless.” That word could speak a lot of things to different people, but what immediately sprang to my mind was, “Be relentless in the pursuit of hope.”

In a time that feels hopeless, be relentless in the pursuit of hope.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you. Plans to give you hope and a future.” – Jeremiah 29:11

We have a future beyond this pandemic. These times may feel threatening, but we will make it through to the other side.

With Love,

Ursula

P.S. If you’re also on lockdown, what are you doing to stay busy? How are you practicing self-care right now?

 

 

 

Greetings from Coronavirus lockdown, Day 7.

I have a vision in my mind of my house as an ark, carrying my family and I along through these uncertain times. In the Bible story, the rains continued for 40 days and nights, but after that it was still 150 days before they found dry land.

We don’t know how long we’ll be in the midst of this crisis, or when it’s subsided, how long the recovery will take. As scary and disorienting as this is, all we can do is focus on the present rather than letting our anxious minds spiral into worst-case scenarios.

I did a quick run to the Albertson’s pharmacy to pick up some medication that my insurance wouldn’t pay for until today. The lady in line in front of me wore a face mask and gloves. There was a sign up that said “This store is out of toilet paper, hand sanitizer, rubbing alcohol, and thermometers.”

I’m wavering between anxiety for the future, acceptance of what is, and grief of what’s being lost. I’m currently grieving the loss of all of my routines and social structure. But even more, I’m grieving for my kids, who (I hate to admit this) will likely be out of school until September. This was my son’s last year at his beloved preschool, and all of his little buddies will be going to different schools last year.

And my daughter, a chatty extrovert, is used to being highly scheduled with school, sports, ballet, Girl Scouts, and church. For now, all of that is gone. I am so thankful that her ballet class is continuing to meet via Zoom. I almost cried yesterday when we downloaded Zoom and were able to log into ballet class. Marie was so excited to see her teacher’s face.

These are the things I’m grieving now, before the full force of the health crisis has hit our community. Our community will have plenty more to grieve as hospitals reach capacity and fatalities rise in the coming weeks.

Still, in the midst of this storm, I am finding pockets of joy. Carving out time to write is a joy. Finding that my friends and family are still readily available by phone, email and FaceTime is a joy. I’m deeply thankful that we are going through this in a time when we can stay well connected via technology. I’m hoping to schedule some phone calls or playdates via FaceTime or Caribu for my kids.

I’m thankful to have time now to focus on exercise. Sunny weather has made it easy to get outside for walks and runs lately. I’ve also been doing yoga along with YouTube in the mornings.

I’m thankful that I have a background as an elementary school teacher, so homeschooling is not entirely outside my wheelhouse. I’ve been able to stick to a schedule and keep us pretty busy at home with reading, math, art, piano and outside play time.

I’m thankful for the gift of perspective, knowing that someday this will pass, and we’ll move into the joys and challenges of a new season.

I’m thankful for sleep. I have been through other challenging seasons of life, and at times, good sleep was not readily available to me for months/years (any other moms out there?).

Thankful that we’re all in this together.

With love,

Ursula

 

P.S. Just curious, what will you do if you run out of toilet paper? What did people used to do before toilet paper was invented? Hmmm.

 

 

Dear everyone,

On February 28, I read about the first COVID-19 case in Oregon. The next morning, on a shopping trip with my kids to Fred Meyer for a birthday gift, I threw in a few random items: extra boxes of oatmeal, Clorox wipes, children’s ibuprofen, and homeopathic flu medicine.

On Sunday, March 1, I sent my husband out to the store in the early morning to stock up on groceries and find hand sanitizer. Hand sanitizer was not to be found. That day we also had tickets to see the Lady Ducks basketball team play their final home game. Go Sabrina! They were scheduled to play University of Washington. We opted to stay home thinking it best not to mix with a large crowd that would include folks from Seattle and Portland.

That week, I gave my colleague a ride home after we taught our parenting class. We’d taken care to sanitize the tables, and chatted casually about the coronavirus. “I don’t think it’s going to be as bad as they say,” she said optimistically as I pulled up to the curb in front of her house. I had a sinking feeling, but I didn’t want to worry her. “I really hope you’re right,” was all I said.

Fast forward two weeks of obsessive hand washing. I can count everyone whose hand I’ve shaken during that time. One old man at church. Two parents at a birthday party. One co-worker. One at a business meeting. I knew it was a bad idea — but somehow I felt the risk of being impolite was greater than the risk of illness.

We’re taking a break from seeing my parents to avoid the risk of getting them infected. The NCAA tournaments have been canceled, the NBA has suspended its season, and schools throughout the state of Oregon are temporarily closed until April 28 (at least). I’d been reading enough news to know that school closures were an inevitability. Last Thursday, when I picked my 4-year-old up from preschool, I realized I’d left his lunchbox in the classroom. I considered taking him back in to get it. But it hadn’t exactly been a cooperative school pick-up experience (not that it ever is). The possibility of school closures loomed in my mind, but I assumed I could still pick up his lunchbox the next day.

Thursday evening, we received notification that Paul’s preschool would be closing until after spring break. Still, I figured they’d let me come by and pick up the lunchbox. No — they didn’t want anyone back in the building. The preschool director sweetly picked it up for me and dropped it off at my parents house.

I wonder about all the other personal items left behind at preschool. Do parents need the coats and water bottles? Will they be able to pick them up after April 28? In June? July?

I like to over prepare for things. I typically spend months planning for summer break, scheduling camps, swim lessons, and other activities. But I’m certainly not prepared for this. At least we got the lunchbox back. At least for now, we have food in the fridge, and money in the bank. For now, my aging laptop supports WordPress so I can write to you.

I’m trying not to worry to much about the “how longs” and the “what ifs” but of course I am. Not much to do except focus on the things I can be grateful for.

Today I’m thankful for

  • A sunny day
  • The ability to FaceTime with my parents
  • A St. Patrick’s Day visit from leprechauns last night! They left green footprints in our kitchen and bathroom, baked “gold” (cornbread) muffins, and even green pee in our toilet! Those silly little leprechauns.

Be well!

With love,
Ursula

 

 

 

The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness, on them light has shined…For a child has been born for us, a son given to us; authority rests upon his shoulder; and he is named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” Isaiah 9:2, 6

My children and I noticed Christmas lights popping up around town just after the switch to standard time in November this year, which seemed earlier than usual. Why are people putting up their Christmas lights now? my daughter asked me.

Maybe they want more light, I told her. It’s dark so early this time of year.

 When the above Scripture talks about darkness, it is talking about more than a lack of light. It is speaking of a deep spiritual darkness, one that is relevant to us today as well.

Last year I gave up reading the news for Lent, and continued my ban on news for several months longer. It was great. I could have happily gone on that way indefinitely, not knowing about migrant children being separated from their parents at our border, or the random episodes of violence that so often make the headlines. Ignorance can be bliss, at least temporarily.

But we are not called to live in ignorance, cut off from the troubles of the world. The world’s troubles continue, whether or not we recognize them. And at some point, we are all affected. We might choose not to think about climate change, for example, but it’s hard to ignore when our air becomes heavily polluted by wildfire smoke every August.

In a poem titled Good Bones, writer Maggie Smith proclaims that,

Life is short and the world
is at least half terrible, and for every kind
stranger, there is one who would break you,
though I keep this from my children. I am trying
to sell them the world. Any decent realtor,
walking you though a real dump*, chirps on
about good bones: This place could be beautiful,
right? You could make this place beautiful.

*expletive replaced

 We can’t ignore that we live in a land of deep darkness, as scripture says, or as Smith puts it, that the world is in large part terrible. But in spite of it, I do have an unshakeable sense of hope. I always picture a positive future for us on earth, just as it is in heaven.

Advent is here and with it we remember the coming of our King. Two thousand years ago our God chose to enter into our world in the most humble of ways, born in a manger because there was no room in the inn.

Do you wish that Jesus was here among us now, that you could sit across the table from him and get a straight answer about your big questions? I know I do. But Jesus wouldn’t give a straight answer anyway, preferring to teach through story and metaphor. Preferring to answer with a question.

Jesus was a light in the darkness. He came as our Savior, and he came to bring hope. Scripture tells us that when he left our world and ascended to heaven, we became his hands and feet.

This is an immense responsibility. We are Christ’s hands and feet. We are called collectively as Christians to be the light to the world. On a bad day, when we’ve read too many sad stories in the news, or when tragedy has touched us directly, we may say it’s too hard. We may say it hurts too much, there’s too much work to be done, I don’t know where to begin.

I imagine that if Jesus were sitting across from us at the table, he might simply say, This place could be beautiful right? You could make this place beautiful.

 Friends, I invite you to partner with Jesus this Advent season in bringing hope to the world. Here are a few concrete ideas for how to do just that.

Do random acts of kindness. Brighten someone’s day with an unexpected act of kindness. Write an encouraging text message or email, leave quarters at a laundromat, bring cookies to your neighbor, take time to recycle, send a Christmas card to your grandma, donate your used winter clothes to a homeless shelter. Small acts of kindness to others (and the planet) do make a difference.

 Serve your church or other local nonprofits. If you have a heart for service, there are many opportunities within our church as well as in the community. Food for Lane County, the Eugene Mission, and Habitat for Humanity are just a few local organizations that often need volunteers.

 Give relationally. If you’re like me and you haven’t yet completed your Christmas shopping, consider giving fewer material items and more relational or experiential gifts. This serves to strengthen relationships and create positive memories as well as cut down on waste — and it may even save you money. Relational gifts can vary widely depending on your budget, but it could be as simple as cooking a special dinner for family members.

Donate globally. Consider a donation to a nonprofit that helps the poor and marginalized in the developing world, where your dollars can make the biggest impact. One of my favorites is the Fistula Foundation, which provides life-changing surgery for women with devastating childbirth injuries in parts of Africa and Asia. Look for charities with high ratings from a reputable third party like Charity Navigator.

Visit adventconspiracy.org for more resources on living missionally during the Advent season.

P.S. What’s your favorite part of the Christmas season?

This post was originally published on the CitySalt church blog. Visit citysalt.org for other posts on this topic. 

 

“Tattoos and no-tattoos can be friends,” my 5-year-old daughter interjects into our small group’s conversation about tattoos on a Tuesday evening.

Yes, I assure her, we can be friends with people who look different from us.

We live in divided and divisive times. We can categorize our neighbors into endless groups. Red states and blue states. Christians and “non-believers.” Protestant and Catholic. Evangelical and mainline Protestant. Blue collar and white collar. Black Lives Matter and Blue Lives Matter.

I met my childhood best friend when she invited me to her sixth birthday party, as we stood together on the steps outside our elementary school. She was friendly and open in that way that only young children can be. I eagerly accepted the invitation and began a friendship that would last through high school and into the early years of college.

She was brown-skinned and I was white. Race wasn’t something we ever talked about, unless she brought it up in a joking way. “I don’t like white people,” she sometimes said, “except you and my mom.” She called herself a Nigerian princess.

I remember lots of sleepovers, Michael Jackson dance contests, endless rounds of Monopoly. I remember playing soccer in the Oregon rain. I remember going to see the Dave Matthews Band play in the Gorge, and the time the WOW Hall advertised our theater troupe on the same poster as a Slick Rick show. I remember writing rap songs for the band we started in third grade, and in college when our drunk friend got locked in a dorm room stairwell overnight I remember never laughing so much as I did with her.

I don’t remember ever asking my best friend about race, about what it was like to be one of the only brown-skinned kids in our school. Was it hard for her? If it was, she never let me know. Our high school group was a microcosm of diversity for Eugene, with three of my closest friends being ethnic minorities with immigrant parents from Nigeria, Korea, and Mexico.

Our friendship ended as suddenly and inexplicably as it began, with her one day choosing to stop returning my calls without any falling out or slow drifting away.

In college and beyond, my friendships seem to have become more and more homogenous. We are a 99 percent white, upwardly mobile, advanced degree holding, NPR-listening group of folks. We like to talk about social justice. We have backyard chickens and drink kombucha. We go to church, or used to before becoming disillusioned with organized religion. If we do have tattoos, they are discrete.

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Backyard chickens are so trendy right now! Too bad they attract rats.

I tell myself that my friends are similar to me because I don’t have many opportunities to get to know people who are different. But is that entirely true?

“You are the light of the world — like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house.” — Matthew 5:14-15 (NLT)

It’s certainly easier to be friends with people who share similar backgrounds and interests as ourselves. But Jesus calls us to be a light to the world, something I can’t do if I remain cloistered in my kombucha-drinking, NPR-listening corner of the church. For my part, I want to be more intentional about widening my circle of acquaintances to include more diversity of race, religion, socioeconomic status and sexual orientation. Within the Church as a whole, we also need to do a better job of promoting dialogue between Christians with different political views and scriptural interpretations.

I wish I could go back to the openness of childhood, when it was so easy to make friends with anyone regardless of what they looked like or who their parents were. Fourteen years after my friendship with my Nigerian princess best friend ended, it still hurts to write about her. I wish we could go back to being friends like we used to be, but time has changed us, and we can’t ever go back to that place we stood, two first graders on the steps outside our elementary school, fulfilling Martin Luther King’s dream without even knowing.

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I wrote this post as part of a series on “Seeing the Other,” for the CitySalt Church blog. 

photo credit: numstead rooster via photopin (license)

 

The ancient Egyptians believed that a solar eclipse was the work of a giant snake attacking Ra, the sun God. In Viking lore, it was the work of sky wolves, and in China, a dragon. It was a terrifying and mysterious event that the was fended off by drumming or throwing flaming arrows towards the sun.

In Eugene we experienced about 99 percent totality during Monday morning’s solar eclipse. My parents came over with pinhole viewers, and sunflowers from their garden. I provided Explore One’s SunCatcher Solar Eclipse glasses, purchased several weeks earlier from Fred Meyer at $1.99 a pair. First it looked as though a bite had been taken out of the sun. Slowly the day turned to dusk and the temperature dropped. The neighbor’s chickens started squawking and someone lit off fireworks. My husband called to share in the moment — and then quickly the moon’s umbra started passing across the sun’s other side.

Who knew that the moon’s shadow could create such a stir? Some 25,000 people flocked to prime eclipse-viewing territory in the small central Oregon town of Madras, staring in awe at the sun’s vanishing act before quickly rushing off to create a massive traffic jam.

For my part, as fairly major nerd and nature-lover, I would have liked to have seen totality. But I felt I made the right choice with my kids to keep things simple and stay at home. Maybe I’ll see it in 2024, when it passes through my mom’s home states of Indiana and Kentucky, and northwest Arkansas where I used to visit my grandparents each summer.

At any rate it was nice to have a break from the relentless political media coverage, which has exposed us to shadows of another sort. Thanks to our modern understanding of our solar system we no longer have to fear the moon’s shadow, rather we can appreciate it as a majestic and rare phenomena. The shadow of the human psyche is another matter. It is something we understand very poorly, and in this case, what we don’t know can harm us.

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[A person familiar with their own shadow side] “knows that whatever is wrong in the world is in himself, and if he only learns to deal with his own shadow he has done something real for the world. He has succeeded in shouldering at least an infinitesimal part of the gigantic, unsolved social problems of our day.” – Carl Jung

 

All the talk of the eclipse, and the recent events in Charlottesville, have stirred up my emotions. The wonders of our universe. The horrors of human hatred. At one time I thought we lived in a post-racist society, but I see now that I couldn’t have been more wrong.

All shadows and light, shadows and light. And here we are, caught somewhere in between.

Did you view the eclipse? What was your experience like?

 

Thanks to my mom, Alice Evans, for taking the photos at the top of this post.

 

 

 

 

 

I hadn’t been quite sure where home was for awhile. After Spencer and I got married we moved every few years to a new apartment, from Eugene to southeast Portland, to Beaverton, back to southeast Portland, and finally back to Eugene. We rented a month-to-month apartment in Portland for three years, just waiting for the next step as we continued applying to jobs that we hoped would offer more stability. Even when I was pregnant with our first child, and during the first year of her life, we continued to apply to jobs out of the area, ready to move whenever needed. We even considered an offer I received to teach 5th grade girls in Kuwait, before (wisely) rejecting the idea for logistical reasons.

I knew that we were not home, just in a sort of limbo.

As a mom, I couldn’t survive in this rootless state. I needed deep connections, support, and stability. Ultimately I decided I needed to return to the place that was foundational in my life, the city I had lived in from birth until getting married at age 22. Eugene.

I didn’t know how much I loved Eugene until we moved back. I didn’t appreciate how many places around town were integrated deeply into layers of my unconscious. Memories were everywhere. Going for a walk at the Arboretum, for example, transported me back to early childhood, when I was close friends with the daughters of the groundskeeper.

In Portland I had felt so far away from my past, having virtually no ties left to childhood other than my parents. I didn’t have siblings, and I was no longer connected to any of my childhood friends.

I didn’t realize that you could love a place, that a whole town could be your companion in the absence of friends. Eugene had been with me through so much, in a way that no human being ever had. In Eugene I had learned to walk, ride a bike, climb a tree. As a child, I spent hours in apple trees in my backyard reading books. I had climbed to the top of Spencer’s Butte countless times. I had skinned my knees on the blacktop at my grade school, and gotten covered with mud during soccer games. I had made best friends and lost them, fallen in love, graduated college, gotten married.

So it was that when we moved because I needed to escape the devastating isolation of my life as a mom in Portland – I found refuge not just in the support of my parents but in my hometown itself. I knew this town, and somehow it seemed that Eugene knew me too.

And slowly I returned to myself.

Still, it took three years before we were able to buy a house. Three more years of living in a month-to-month rental. First with one toddler, who quickly grew into a preschooler, and soon our son was added to the family. We were a family of four in an 800-square-foot apartment with a tiny concrete deck as our yard. It helped that we were near many nice parks in our southeast Eugene neighborhood. Still, I was thrilled when we began our home search last summer, and overjoyed when we signed for a house, a modest three-bedroom in a quiet southwest Eugene neighborhood, several months later.

We moved into our new house the week of my 33rd birthday. My family and I had finally found our way home.

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Spencer and I take a selfie after signing for our first house. So happy!

 

We had an ice storm last Wednesday, rare in our temperate western Oregon climate. I sat on the couch in our living room watching as freezing rain coated the trees outside, and icicles grew on the power lines. I heard the bang and saw a flash of light as a transformer exploded somewhere in the neighborhood. Thankfully our power stayed on.

Later that evening, as I continued my couch vigil, watching the storm outside, I said a silent prayer that our electricity would stay on through the night. We don’t have a fireplace, or gas, so electricity is our only heat source. At the moment that I finished my silent prayer – the lights went out. My heart sank.

Spencer gathered flashlights, we put on extra layers of clothing, and I told the kids we would all get to sleep together in our king-size bed that night. They’ve both been finding their way into our bed by the middle each night anyway, so it wasn’t too out of the ordinary. It was a little fun, a bit like camping on a cold night.

Waking up in the morning with no heat and light was not very inviting. I was thankful that my parents, a few miles away, still had electricity, so I packed our bags and we headed to their house to stay as many days as needed.

We were lucky. My parents’ next door neighbor, and all down the street to the north, lost power and didn’t get it back until yesterday. The electricity at our house ended up coming back on Thursday afternoon. At Marie’s dentist appointment Friday, the hygienist told me she was without power at home, that it was an inconvenience but she didn’t mind too much. She was looking forward to barbecuing a steak that night.

My husband, who maintains parks in Springfield, has extra work now with all the downed trees everywhere. Ice storms are hard on trees. It made me think of the poem Birches, by Robert Frost:

When I see birches bend to left and right
Across the lines of straighter darker trees,
I like to think some boy’s been swinging them.
But swinging doesn’t bend them down to stay
As ice-storms do. Often you must have seen them
Loaded with ice a sunny winter morning
After a rain. They click upon themselves
As the breeze rises, and turn many-colored
As the stir cracks and crazes their enamel.
Soon the sun’s warmth makes them shed crystal shells
Shattering and avalanching on the snow-crust—
Such heaps of broken glass to sweep away
You’d think the inner dome of heaven had fallen.
(You can read the poem in its entirety here.)

The storm made me realize how fragile we are against the forces of nature. But oh, the beauty!

I may not know much about how the world works or why things happen the way they do. But I do know this: Life is full of fragile beauty. And I am here to be a witness.

“Sometimes I need only to stand wherever I am to be blessed.” – Mary Oliver