Post #2 – Giving and Receiving “it’s not just about a free ride”

Kevin St Onge(Kevin)

I think it is interesting what is valued and undervalued in our society today. Even more intriguing to me is how those imposed values affect us.

For instance, we value independence and self-sufficiency. From the youngest of ages we are taught to do for ourselves and not to be looking for a “handout” or a “free lunch.” Ain’t nothing comes for free in this world. Right?

Admirable to be sure, but could all that independence and self-sufficiency that has been preached at us had some possible unintended consequences?

I’ve been pondering this question more and more in the last year or so. For me, it started as a result of my wife’s cancer. The cancer was ravaging her body and the care that I needed to provide her at home increasing. Then, eventually came the grieving from losing her. But, the latest teaching moment came under far less dramatic of circumstances. My lawnmower broke.

Yup! My lawnmower broke a few weeks ago and despite my best efforts at resembling a mechanic, I could not resuscitate it. Money has been a little tight lately, and I couldn’t afford to go buy another just yet. So, my lawn began to grow like a weed. (See what I did there? Sorry, I’m a little punchy tonight.) In fact, it was getting so bad that my female dog was now having accidents in the house because she didn’t like the long grass messing with her girly parts when she peed. I was seriously beginning to question how one goes about selling hay.

I considered all of my options, but they all included asking someone for help, ugh!!! We weren’t raised that way. You don’t ask for help, you pull yourself up by your bootstraps and carry on.

That’s my question: why is that? Why is it undervalued to ask for help? Most things that are valued are held in such high regard because they aren’t easy. We value that which is hard to achieve. Well, asking for help is fucking hard!!! So why isn’t it valued???givingreceiving

Once Kristin’s care required round the clock hydration and pain management, I needed help; I had to suck it up and reach out to our family and friends and ask. When she passed, and the wake and the funeral were over, and everybody had returned back to their lives, I was left all alone with my pain. At times it became too much. I again had to ask those that love me, “please help me?”

Oh, the lawn? Yup, I had to ask for help with that too. I asked my neighbor to borrow his mower. And, Abbie can now pee again without the tickle of grass on her underside.

But, despite my eventually asking for help in all of these instances, I am still left to ponder why is the asking so hard?

The best answer I have come up with for me is pride. It’s humbling. It makes me feel inferior and that I have somehow failed at life.

But, I don’t think that’s actually true. I think that all those years of having self-sufficiency drilled into me put that lie there. It doesn’t make me weak to ask for help, it’s actually a testament to my strength. I am strong enough to recognize when I don’t “got this” and I need help.

A thread that you will find weaved throughout my thoughts and writings these days is the interconnectedness of the universe. We have different ways of approaching it, explaining it, and experiencing it, but all spirituality and all religions speak to this universal truth. We are all sourced from the same universal life energy.

I think about this as it relates to helping one another. If our energies are really all interconnected then doesn’t it make sense why you feel so good when you are the helper for someone who needs it? I think that maybe that “love” that you put out into the universe when you have turned you intention to the betterment of another just comes right back to you. In other words, we are ultimately the receiver of any love we send out, even if it was intended for another. Maybe, by asking for help, we are allowing another to feel that love come back to them?

So, can we start to value that more? Can we start to value the strength it takes to ask for help? Imagine what the world might look like if it were full of people getting what they need and people feeling good about helping them get it?!?!?!

So, the next time you need help, ask! Who are you to deny someone that reciprocal love? You might just make their day by allowing them to make yours.

Author Jen Parker(Jennifer)

As I read Kevin’s post a zillion images came flooding in. I’ve struggled with this concept as well. No place more than sitting on the oversight committee for Health and Human Services in state government where money is always at the crux of the issue. As we listened to hundreds of hours of public testimony on various safety net programs, the opioid crisis, mental and behavioral health needs, hospital and health management, public health, and prevention of all types, the common response was that individuals need to take responsibility for their own situations, dig in, and pull themselves up. The state is not in business to provide handouts to those not willing to do for themselves. I spent the better part of two years as a State Representative in hives. It was as if my father had returned from the grave and was painting his broad stroke on humanity which he charged was built from freeloaders, beggars, and the undeserving. As much as it physically affected me to sit on that committee I knew there was a reason I was one of the lucky thirteen.

Giving has been raised to the level of sainthood in our society. At an early age we are taught how important it is for us to share, to assist, to give. It’s a lesson that begins with toddlers and continues on throughout our education system. We share our feelings, our snacks, our toys, we learn to take turns to give others a chance to experience an activity. As we grow older we are encouraged to give can goods to food drives, coats and toys to tots during the holidays, and hours of community service in order to get our diploma from high school. Yet, the one thing we are not taught is how to receive whether or not something is a gift or a helpful hand up. If we cannot receive than how can we give? It is a circle, both existing in the same moment yet somehow we have landed in the place where we very much value one action and denounce the other.

I’ve been fortunate in life. I’ve had extraordinary experiences, traveled to far away lands, achieved successes throughout the years, and met some of the most incredible individuals. I’ve also fallen into some of the darkest recesses where I felt as though I was drowning and isolated from the rest of the world. There were nights when before I could read I wanted to scream out for help in the dreaded darkness but was left silenced unable to escape. As I grew older, I ran from what I didn’t remember had happened and wanted to end the pain but remained isolated in fear of being judged or shamed. As a single mother during the recession, I scraped to keep food in the cupboards while working three jobs but struggled to ask for and receive help. It was always my mom that seemed to show up when I couldn’t stretch myself any further and felt myself ripping from the stress of trying to hold it together. Since my earliest memory it has always been her consistent rhythm of stepping one foot in front of the other without doubt or worry that life won’t work out in the end. Yet as many times as she came to my aid, I never quite felt okay in accepting her hand up and often shamed myself as being undeserving or unable to figure life out.

It wasn’t until I met Kyle that I began to realize there was a different way of experiencing giving and receiving. Just as I believed I finally had my life smoothed out and I was sailing through with my head above water instead of constantly being dragged under, Kyle appeared out of nowhere. I had determined that life as a single mother was where I wanted to be and dating was more of an albatross than anything else. His bright eyes and generous smile appeared and after a month of back and forth dialogue he asked if I would meet him for dinner. We met, it was good but not earth shattering. He was kind, gentle, and understated. A second date was planned, I had already decided we would be friends at most but something connected us in a way I wasn’t prepared for. Now six years later I am still learning that giving and receiving is very much a dance and requires two willing partners to be all that it can be. Where I am guarded, he is giving. Where he is weak, I am strong and in the places we both fall short, we are united. I still struggle with receiving. It’s most difficult for me to lean into his unconditional love which never falters or waivers. He is always there committed where I am always waiting for the ax to drop, the earth to open up and swallow me. Our love can only be as great as I am able to receive it and then return it back to him. I realize that now. It’s been an incredibly hard lesson to endure. To own up to the fact that my experiences are a direct result of my conscious choices as a person, wife, mother, and friend. I have no one other than myself to determine to what extent I will allow myself to exist in the fluid motion of giving and receiving and to what extent I will continue to block the magic of it all in my life.

Kevin, thank you for shining light on the need for us to value receiving just as much as giving. This has been helpful to wonder out loud how they exist and have existed together in my life.



  • Post #1 – It all starts here

    (Jennifer)

    Author Jen Parker

    I’ve always been a seeker. Since my earliest memories, I’ve known there was something more, something that I couldn’t describe or touch but wanted so desperately to find. I never felt quite enough or that I was who I was supposed to be. It was as if my skin didn’t fit and I knew that there was a another way to live life, another way to be.

    The Way of the Peaceful Warrior by Dan Millman was given to me when I was a young teenager. That book sparked decades of an unquenchable thirst for self discovery and healing. I found myself on every continent reading works hundreds of years old and a lot that had just been written. They offered a glimpse to a way of living I never knew existed, a peaceful loving way which instead of being built on chaos and fear it was nurtured and enriched with love and grace.

    As I read more, I began to bump into people in airports, the grocery store, and other unexpected places that would have just read what I did or were asking some of the same questions. A close friend of mine and his mother introduced me to reiki and reflexology in my early twenties. One day I looked up and a little less of the fear and anxiety was taking up space in my life and although I was far from figuring it all out, I began to breathe deeper.

    Decades later, now in my late forties, I have multiple friends who are mediums, psychics, and healers. I am in a loving relationship and have established goals of peace, certainty, and allowance in my life. It hasn’t been a cake walk to get to this point but there have been extraordinary moments within the struggles that encouraged me to take just one more step forward until I was ready for the next.

    In my early twenties, my friend Joe was receiving countless messages from my father who had recently taken his own life. Initially I refused the messages, I was still very much in a state of fear. I would hold up my hand with my palm facing Joe and say, “no, I don’t want anything from him.” Joe was relentless and would blurt out that he simply wanted me to write every day, just write every day. That was the repeating message I received from my dad for years. It angered me, made me resent him even more. It felt like a total disregard for the way he had treated me as a child and young adult. The years of abuse had taken a toll on me and the last thing I wanted from him was advice.

    Now as I sit here in my forties, I realize he was trying to connect the dots for me. It was his apology. It was his way to help me get to my authentic self, a writer who shares. So I began writing every day and as I did life began to change in the most extraordinary way and continues to do so. Just recently I was introduced to Kevin, a reiki practitioner. In just a few weeks we discovered a couple of common threads. We’ve both experienced a parent committing suicide and we’ve both used writing as a way to find our way through.

    So now in this moment my intent is to write along with Kevin to share our worlds of healing ourselves through thoughtful actions and choices and share our ups and downs, struggles and triumphs as the choices lead to love not fear, healing not disease, and building connections instead of isolation. We hope that you will join us as we continue to move forward and create the lives with our loved ones and families that we have always dreamed of living.

    (Kevin)

    Kevin St Onge

    From our first wobbly baby steps, to our last whisper of breath, I’m starting to think that maybe T.S. Eliot was on to something when he wrote, “We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring, will be to arrive where we started, and know the place for the first time.” Maybe that’s what it’s all about, maybe that’s the secret?

    Maybe this life is just a journey back to self, an inward odyssey to find that purest, most authentic version of “us” that we hide away and protect from the harsh, unforgiving, unrelenting world? I know it has been for me.

    My journey began in earnest when a caring man named Joe took a wounded, and angry young man, under his wing and sent me to a clinician in my college’s health center named, Sharon.

    Having never “done” therapy before, I sat down on Sharon’s couch (I just assumed that’s where the one needing therapy sits.) and I began to tell her about Mum. I told her how she was diagnosed with bipolar and how she would exorcise her anger and frustration with the world by beating on me when I was a child. I told her about how my mother’s favorite, and most stinging, line was, “You’re a hateful little shit.” She just sat there and listened. When I was finished, she looked at me and said, “Kevin, do you know that you were abused?” Of course I didn’t, that was the only way of life I knew.

    Years later, Sharon and I were reflecting back on that first meeting. She said, “You went on and on, story after terrible story, never once showing an ounce of emotion.” How could I? Life had taught me to build an elaborate defense system, complete with what we colloquially call “walls” and “masks.” My public face was one of confidence; only now can I truthfully say that it was cockiness, not confidence. Internally I was a mess and I was building a mighty fortress to protect my true self; brick by brick, every hurt added to my defenses. The strange part about building walls, is once they get big enough and strong enough, you either lose contact with what is outside of those walls, or you lose contact with that which you were trying to protect in the first place. For me, it was the latter. I spent a long time and a lot of heartache walking around those fantastic walls, having long forgotten who that beautiful soul was that I was trying to protect.

    After lots and lots of time on that “couch,” and the unconditional love of my beloved wife, Kristin, I have found my way back into my fortress and began its disassembly. Through Kristin’s love, and my healing, I have come to believe that we have unlimited untapped power within us as individuals and collectively as a species and a planet. That power is the purest of love, it is an energy that binds us across genders and races, across sexualities and religions, across the confines of time and space. There is a common energy that flows through us and around us, and with it, we are capable of manifesting a true heaven on Earth. We need only to find our way home. Back to our true selves.

    But, we need to clear the debris that lies on our path, we need to begin to dismantle our walls. Each of us has had so many constraints placed upon our true self. From the time and places of our birth, where we inherit the yoke of societal rules and expectations; to the individual family units we are raised in. Each life event brings yet more potential obstacles. It is my intention to explore, and overcome, as many of these obstacles as possible through a written dialogue with my co-writer Jennifer Parker. Reiki and energy work will surely be among the threads with which we will weave our tapestry, but in the end, all roads lead home, “and we will know the place for the first time.”



  • Almost beautiful enough…Cricket & Tucker

    Sabattus, Maine

     

    As I learn more about Cricket and Tucker and their many adventures in Sabattus, Maine with Pam and her family, I find myself relating  their story to pieces of my own. I have a strong urge to somehow transform their journey into an adult novel but know that first it is a children’s book in the making. Cricket, a duck with a slightly misshaped beak was in line to be culled. It’s a deformity that one has to look intently upon to notice, it seems a stretch that it would mean that she was not worthy of being sold to a farm or as a pet. Still, having an unsymmetrical beak changed the course of Cricket’s life and in it’s own way would unexpectedly affect many others .

    Jamie-Rae Brown

    Color portrait of Cricket : Jamie-Rae Brown

    Cricket is a soft and loving supporting role in our series. She is noble and kind and never seems to ask for anything in return for the support and strength she offers daily to Tucker. Her presence in the barn in Sabattus, Maine allows for Tucker, born with a genetic defect like Cricket, to exist. He was hatched with a neck that is unable to extend and is bent over. Cricket is his crutch, his leverage to move about to and fro, from the barn to the yard and provides him with unconditional love, wrapping him in warmth and support as he faces many challenges each day.

    Tears formed gently in the corner of my eyes as I read Pam’s text describing one account of how Tucker would be lost without Cricket, that no other duck from any flock will accept him. Tucker not only has Cricket, he has Pam and her family. Pam is humble and would never say that her animals would be lost without her love and caring. She shared with me that due to her own struggles in life she gravitates to animals that are “unwanted” and are pushed aside as if they are disposable. Sharing these thoughts here, there is a lump in my throat and a heaviness sitting in my stomach. Is it possible that certain groups of animals and people in our world have become disposable, a population that doesn’t seem to matter or share the value of others. What makes certain animals or people less desirable or worthy?

    As I begin writing the story of Cricket and Tucker, two undesirable ducks, I find these questions swarming and asking me to check my own compass to see where I sit with these matters of heart and mind. There were many times in my own childhood in which I felt cast off or on my best days, almost beautiful enough to fit in and be a part of the whole. What causes each of us to create these invisible standards for ourselves and others and why do they apply them to animals?  Cricket is a special duck who seems to be able to rise above it all.  She runs out to greet Pam or Christian, Pam’s son, when they come to the coop to feed the ducks or change out their straw. Tucker is slow and always last. He takes much longer to greet Pam and Christian but he never stays behind, he always makes the effort to be a part of the flock. Cricket lovingly waits for Tucker while the other duck have departed, long before he can get there.

    While Cricket’s only difference is her slightly misshaped beak, Tucker is severely handicapped and is vulnerable to predators. Neither duck can fly, they are too big. Tucker makes a unique whistle sound with every breath he takes because of the position of his neck being in a constant downward slump since being born. He can’t lift his head or even stand up straight and needs Cricket’s body to help him stand up or lay down. Somehow Cricket knows that Tucker needs her to survive and she makes herself available to him, always sticking by his side. Both were born with a genetic defect which will prevent either of them ever being able to be used for breeding are finding their way through life with the help of Pam. If not for her saving them both from being culled their story wouldn’t even exist. Pam’s ability to love all animals gave the two ducks a second chance at life, at being able to be each other’s support and companion.

    It’s this innate knowing, unconditional love and admiration that we are going to place in the heart of the Cricket and Tucker series. They are not the only animals that Pam and her family watch over in Sabattus, Maine. How could they be? As I begin to learn their names and hear their stories from Pam, the urge to write their stories into books for children grows stronger and stronger each day. This journey has just begun but it has already taken over my heart and I hope to do their story justice as we share it with all of you.

     

     

     



  • On Our Way…a special side of Cricket and Tucker

    Sometimes at first glance, everything seems normal just as it should be. We are accustomed to sizing up life and quickly placing each of its pieces into compartments giving us a sense of organization and relief that somehow we are in control of our days.  Yesterday I asked Pam if she could send me some information about Cricket and Tucker, her two ducks.

    I had intended on finding pockets of time in the store to write but was pleasantly surprised by visits from friends, family, and shoppers who were just coming in to check us out for the first time.  Throughout the day my phone would light up alerting me that I had a new text from Pam and as I glanced over would see that she was sending me information that I couldn’t  ingest or even respond to properly with people in the store. It made my heart beat a bit faster knowing that I would eventually be able to sit down and begin ready about how Cricket and Tucker came into Pam’s life and how she had saved them both from being culled.Cricket and Tucker

    When I first heard her use the word cull, my mind pictured  a lobster. I grew up working in a restaurant in Pepperell Cove and quickly learned about one armed lobsters that were used for their meat in lobster rolls. I admitted my ignorance and asked her what she meant by culled in reference to the ducks. My stomach sank a bit, I knew it couldn’t be a pleasant thing. As she described the process, the dark side of farming emerged. It’s the side of having a farm that mostly goes unspoken; when chicks are born with splayed legs, predators get into the pastures and barns, and animals become ill or hurt beyond repair.

    A beautiful sketch of Crickett  - Jaime-Rae Mason

    A beautiful sketch of Cricket – Jaime-Rae Brown

    Cricket was born with a deformed beak, barely recognizable upon first glance and Tucker with a broken neck.  As Pam described them both her eyes lovingly painted them in a way that could be nothing but endearing: Cricket’s beak seemed normal to her and Tucker reminded her of the hunchback of Notre Dame but she would never refer to him by the name not wanting to draw attention to his slumped over neck. As I listened to Pam unravel how she couldn’t let the two ducks be culled just because they weren’t perfect something caught in my throat. My mind began to wander as she delved deeper into her journey bringing the ducks home and taking gentle care of them as the grew from ducklings into full fledged ducks.

    As we sat and talked about Pam’s animals and the reasons she took them into her home, I couldn’t help but acknowledge the urge to write her words into a story and in that moment a new project emerged. Pam’s incredible journey of nursing special animals into a safe, loving space and her incredibly talented daughter, Jamie drawing them into memory. So here I sit in South Berwick in our new store sharing a new adventure of Cricket and Tucker and their many friends from Sabattus, Maine.



  • We’re On OUR WAY…a journey of love, hope, and the pursuit of happiness

    Unwanted and waiting to be culled

    Unwanted and waiting to be culled

    The magic of life often happens when we least expect it.  Out of nowhere, it suddenly appears and gives off the feeling that somehow it has always been there. Why should I expect that on a hot, humid Thursday in South Berwick, Maine, it should be any different.

    I left our farm earlier than usual and drove the short distance to our new store in town just off Main street. The girls were at their dads house and Max and Sophie had both stayed at friends’ houses. I pulled into the furthest space to the right and turned off my ignition. The heaviness of the August air met me as soon as I opened my door and stepped out onto the pavement.  I brushed a loose strand of hair behind my ear and grabbed my briefcase and keys.

    I’ve created a simple routine to opening the store each morning; the lights, music go on first and fill the store. Then I carry out the bright pink and deep red geraniums along with the open flag and old wooden deck chairs to welcome people in. I flip the open sign and place it over the bright yellow wreath on the door and then finally heave the white tent sign with our logo down to the busy corner to catch a passerby’s eye or two.

    I opened my laptop armed and ready for a slow day of sales, determined to psyche myself up to charge into bookkeeping and marketing. I had even promised myself that after I had gotten caught up in QuickBooks I would dedicate some time to writing. As my computer powered up, I talked myself into a large cup of coffee from Madison’s. It would only take a minute and it felt good saying hello to my old friend and new neighbor. I love cutting through the alley and simply  appearing on her side patio always walking up to customers having breakfast alfresco. Before I can even see their faces I am almost always greeted by the wafting scent of fresh maple in the air. It feels like I’ve somehow come home.

    After getting a freshly brewed cup of morning blend and saying hello to an old friend and making two new ones, I quickly stepped back through the charming alley to our store and opened the cash register and returned to my laptop. Before I could even get the program open the door alerted me to a visitor and I was off in friendly conversations for the better part of the day. It wasn’t till after lunch when I found myself sitting with Pam and her daughter Jaime,  having a conversation that would not only just change the direction of my evening, but curiously seem to have an affect on the next few months as well.  As they sat in our “comfy community chairs” we caught up on life since we had last parted and I was able to listen and get to know her amazing daughter who looks like a new teenager but is actually in her twenties.

    As conversations go, ours took an unexpected journey towards creating a story about their two ducks, two dogs, and cat named Homey. The idea dropped down from nowhere in between us and began multiplying, growing, and becoming its own living, breathing project. That is where I find myself tonight, laying in bed next to Kyle as he listens to Jerry and I’m typing feverishly to get everything out and down before I forget the many delicious details. A blog post already much too long doesn’t even scratch the surface of the magic that continued to unfold this afternoon born from a story of two  ducks who were to be culled. I can tell you that they were rescued and are living and breathing a beautiful life. Tucker and Cricket are their names and their story dark, horrid, and inspirational beyond words is still left to be told. I sense a new blog coming on…well suffice to say that I will be back soon to begin the story of Tucker and Cricket and their friends Sadie, Sully, and Homey. Please join us on this new magical adventure of love, hope, and the pursuit of happiness.



  • Finding You…A wish for a friend

    images

    Today, I sit here in the quiet imaging the very same for my friend who I’ve known for more than twenty years. I’ve watched her struggle, play, and grow over the years into a phenomenal woman. I’ve felt her caring sensitivities to life and want the very best life has to offer for her, so this is my wish for her. It’s a simple wish, a magical wish but one in which she is so deserving.

    Here is my wish story for my very dear Swedish friend:

    I wish and hope that on a day in the not too near future, sometime before mid August that my dear friend will meet face to face a certain person who will make her smile inside out and know that she has found someone to join on an amazing adventure in life. This certain person will come in to life almost as if by complete accident but the coincidence of the way in which it happens will be too serendipitous to dismiss. It will be a simple moment, turning around to leave after paying at a cashier, bumping into someone in line at the movies, or stopping to pick something up that someone dropped and almost bumping their head as they do they same. This will be how you meet. Typing this into words on my screen makes me smile and gives me goosebumps across my arms and into my heart.

    Undoubtedly this person, this man, will be kind with a heart full of grace and good natured spirit. He will be quiet in his way and will have a knowledge of what it means to allow others to simply be.  His mischievous smile will give hints to the many adventures you will embark on together both being out going and social.   There will be so much laughter and joy as you find yourselves in situations of comedy and unexplored territories which are filled with breathtaking scapes and skylines.  And at the end of each day he will always remember to say the simple things that mean the most and  fill your times apart with simple notes of love and beauty. He will know love and will nurture it between you both in the most healthy of ways. You will have no doubt that you want to take the next step with this stable, solid individual because every cell in your body will be telling you to, that it is the direction best meant for you, for him.

    This is my simple wish of love for you my friend, today as I sit at my keyboard in a quiet space and think of you and your lovely future just ahead in the coming months.  Life is a beautiful thing, especially when shared with someone you find to love in the very best way.



  • Day Two – July 15, 2017

    the beginningIt’s a quiet still morning, day two of my new writing adventure. I’m excited to be back at the keyboard finding my way back to the place that has always felt the most comfortable for me and the sea of calm that appears when I do.  We’ve opened a little storefront in the past weeks and in its space I’ve rediscovered the space to write.  One of the first things we brought to the store to fill it after we finished painting, was a pair of comfy overstuffed armchairs. We positioned them facing outwards in the back corner of the store with the intent of creating a place for friends and family to sit and stay awhile, a place to gather for conversation.

    In the short weeks that the door has been open for business, some of the most interesting conversations have already taken place. There have been bits of serendipity, friends popping in at the exact right moment to find our way around thoughts, feelings, and happenings in our life and new faces getting to know one another and make connections and ties from other parts of our lives.  Having a store creates and unpredictable pattern of experiences and that bring forward a simple joy. When Kyle and I were exploring the idea of opening a storefront in South Berwick we left ourselves open to exactly what it would be that we would create for a business together. We had toyed for years with the idea of bringing back a bakery to Main Street even though neither of us had a ton of experience in creating confections and waking up at the crack of dawn to do so.

    Then one quiet afternoon, sitting outside at Madison’s café, we saw an open storefront and began to wonder out loud with one another. We started speculating what it could be that we could do that would be something we could create and that would also fulfill a need of both our town, community, and would attract people from surrounding towns. We started joking at first, dreaming out loud of how we could transform the space across the street next to our friend’s law firm into a viable business that we could grow slowly and develop into a family business. I picked up my phone and smiled and said to Kyle, “let’s ask facebook.” I took a picture of the row of shops including the empty space and quickly posted the question, “What is South Berwick missing?” Kyle shook his head a bit.

    We had talked about how fun it would be to have a gift shop for months in the making. One of our favorite pastimes has always been discovering new shops along the coast that showcase local artisans and carry funky antiques and pieces that were loved and used years ago but now were being repurposed and brought back for a second life instead of being thrown a way.  I can’t remember the exact moment that we agreed to do it and actually move forward with a store or how we discovered that the space that used to be Curves was available but I know that it wasn’t a straight line. Even though it happened at the speed of the light there were moments when we decided on a space and quickly discovered it wasn’t available. The space across the street from Madison’s had quietly been secured by our friend to expand his law firm, the space formerly known as Curves was being looked at by two other interested parties, so for a few days we put our idea of opening a gift store on the back burner and switched our focus back to daily happenings which were full enough in their own right.

    And then a few days later in Augusta I received a call asking if I was still interested in the space formerly known as Curves. It had been a heavy day at the State House and I was mentally and emotionally exhausted from the full day of testimonies. As I listened to the person calling out of the blue saying the space was ours if we still wanted it, I felt a sudden charge of energy. In the moment of possibility of starting something that would be ours to grow in a town we are raising our children, I felt a sense of homecoming and endless opportunity to be back developing a business in South Berwick with the man I have grown to love and cherish.

    So here I am, starting a new business and writing about our journey doing so. It feels good like a place I would like to stay a while and grow some roots. Yet for those of you who know me and my story you never know where this will take us or where we might find ourselves in five years.  We never know…only that anything is possible.

     

     

     

     



  • In the moment after – SeaStar Farm

    14333158_1039745379466761_2140918983132429788_nComing home has never felt so good. A bit worn and torn but also filled with hope, I pulled into our driveway in the wee hours of the 4th of July. It was pitch dark as I grabbed my briefcase and closed the car door quietly to not wake up our dog, Ruby. I used my phone to light the way up the moss covered pathway to our back door. Our farm was quiet and still, far from the exhausted energy that swirled within my mind and body. The darkness engulfed me and made me pause. It  felt as if I had never left South Berwick and taken part in this new adventure which had claimed the better part of me and my family since January. The girls were sleeping on the couches in the living room. The air had cooled and I brought the blankets up over their shoulders and made sure their toes were covered. I bent over and gently kissed their foreheads and hesitated over each just a moment to take in their sweet smell of innocence and youth. Their troubles in life are still easily smoothed out with love and listening. I turned off the t.v. and glanced at the clock, it was nearly 3:00 am. “Happy 4th of July”, I mused and tiptoed out of the room and made my way upstairs. Ruby jumped off the bed and waited behind the bedroom door as I opened it. The room was dark. The light from the hall fell upon Kyle as he asked, “Did you guys get it signed?” I nodded and whispered, “the Governor signed it. I’m home for awhile.” I dropped my things, changed and slid into bed as Ruby jumped up and claimed the space around my legs and feet. I sank into my pillow and felt as though the ride had come to a full stop and the park would be closing for the night.

    I guess that’s how I can best describe the past seven months spent in Augusta. It was a ride filled with thrills, chills, moments of hesitation, courage, and times in between when we just waited. I rode the ride with new friends from all over Maine and quickly developed relationships I could lean on in times when I asked myself, “why and how?” As I moved through the highs and lows and  learned that creating and voting on policy would never garner everyone’s support, I fell back on a few important things I’ve learned along the way in school and life. You are never going to please everyone, so it’s best to not even try. Listen to all sides of the story and be open to a change of mind and heart when it’s deserved and right. Put your self in someone else’s shoes, maybe even take them for a walk, and when you’re done listening speak from your heart with an authentic voice. There were times when I voted for my district, my party, the other side of the aisle, small children, small business, and for some Mainers not supported by most. I received gratitude, disagreement, and even a voice of disgust at times, but looking back I know that I would not change a single vote I took. I learned that news shared in politics is always spun in a hundred ways and often what you hear or read is not the entire story.

    It’s impossible to be able to form a true understanding of a bill or piece of policy from simply reading a headline, a shared post, or a sound bite. In fact they are often used to sway a vote, bring down opposition, or paint a light on a situation to favor one side or the other. To truly know what is a foot, one must be willing to read and grow their own understanding of all available information and form an opinion. When I found out that I had been elected and would be taking votes on behalf of my district and the entire state of Maine I went to my much older and wiser sister and asked her to share how she would approach voting.  She paused and said, “I would want to take my vote, press the button, before looking to see what anyone else did so I knew that I would be voting from a place that wasn’t impacted by another’s wants, expectations, or motivation.”  I smiled. She’s always been incredibly logical and pragmatic. She’s a programmer by profession and has built a career on well thought systems and finding the cleanest and  quickest path from point A to point B.

    Policy like life, can be messy and chaotic, winding around testimony, facts, opinions, and passion. I quickly realized that working towards a unanimous committee vote can be exhilarating, frustrating, demanding, and hopefully in the end, rewarding. You hardly ever get everything you want and often take votes on policy that aren’t clear cut or clearly defined. If you are in your seat whether on committee or in the chamber than you must vote. I missed one vote this year at the beginning of session. I was needing a signature on my bill from a Senator and gauged I had time to run to the other end of the hall knowing the Senate had convened. Not knowing I couldn’t hear the bell from their chambers I missed my one and only vote.  I stood that day and stated if I had been in my seat I would have voted, yea. It was a lesson learned early and from that point forward I took every other one.

    As the year ramped up and it became increasingly apparent that politics as I had experienced as an onlooker from the comfort of my home were indeed messy, I found myself engulfed by a world in which my words were taken out of context and my votes were misrepresented by omitted information or testimony. At the same time, I  found myself becoming resilient towards the negativity that rose up intent on knocking me down and out of my seat. There were definite times when my face became flushed and hives appeared as I imagined my family reading political rhetoric and frustrated posts directed at me and my votes by people that have never met me or reached out to me personally to ask about my positions or the decisions I made and why I came to the place I did. I also became incredibly hopeful as I continued to meet some of the most articulate, intelligent, and compassionate people on both sides of the aisle. Politicians often get a bad wrap and maybe rightly so but in Augusta, the legislators are people just like you and me who have families, businesses, careers, and are trying to do good for their communities.

    We are individuals with our own unique experiences, ideals, passions, and dreams of what life in Maine should be and the very best policy is created somewhere in the middle with collaboration and compromise. So today, I sit here in the store on my first day back in over a week. There is a reassuring calm as I begin to write for the first time in such a long while. I’ve landed this morning perhaps a bit tried and tested but also with a knowledge that I am still able to stretch  and learn a bit about myself and others around me.



  • I stood in Boston and listened, and then I marched.

    Boston MarchAs my alarm went off, I pondered for a moment excusing myself and staying in bed just a little bit longer. My week had been busier than normal, three days at the State House in Augusta and three days at my normal job. My husband’s rhythmic breathing lulled me into justifying why I shouldn’t drive to Boston with friends, neighbors, acquaintances. My mind reasoned why my time would be better spent with my two girls bringing them to their activities and listening to all their rants and raves about school. Our dog stretched out at my feet and pushed her entire ninety pounds against me, nudging me out of bed. At least one of us seemed to be intent on me getting out of bed.

    People usually tilt their head to the right when I try to explain that I’m an introvert at heart. Doubt fills their face and their usual response is, “really?”.  Large groups, parties of more than just a hand few of friends have always been the most challenging for me, and I usually find a way out before it’s time to commit to joining in on the festivities.  When I had read that someone I knew was driving by herself to Boston, I quickly reached out to her and said I would be her wingman. Before I knew it she had opened up the invitation to Facebook and a group of eight of us were slated to march together in Boston, we would be referred to as Sobo Women.

    As I turned on the hot water in the shower, Ruby, our dog began barking excitedly. I quickly jumped in the shower as I heard a strange voice in the kitchen. I must have gotten the pick up time wrong. I lathered and rinsed as quickly as I could, leaving no time to opt out of this adventure. I pulled on some jeans and a sweater, grabbed my boots and swept my wet hair back into a knot. I raced down the stairs apologizing for not being ready. We had celebrated a friend’s birthday the night before and I missed a string of emails changing the time for departure. I gazed quickly around the kitchen, we had missed clean up the night before as well. More apologies flowed from a guilt ridden mouth as it kissed my husband quickly and called out last minute directions for drop offs and pick ups and I was off to March in Boston along with millions of others feeling the need to just do something.

    It’s now weeks after the march and life has refused to slow down. I’m traveling to Augusta Tuesday through Friday and continuing to work my full time job remotely. The kids have adjusted as best they can and my husband has quietly taken over our home with nothing but words of encouragement and little notes left to inspire me along the way. As the girls and I were in the kitchen tonight, making dinner, doing homework, and getting caught up on constituent emails, I received a message from a dear friend. She requested that I share why I marched in Boston and then email it to Senator Feinstein via Sean_Elsbernd@feinstein.senate.gov and Caitlin_Meyer@feinstein.senate.gov. So after reflecting a bit as I drove and picked up my daughter from Student Government this evening, I’ve finally settled in for the night and ready to share why I marched in Boston.

    When I was a little girl, I believed if I pulled my blankets up tight enough over my head that they could protect me from all the monsters in the world. I knew they couldn’t. Harm could come to anyone, at anytime. I learned what hate, rage, and violence could reap before I was even old enough to know how to read. I quickly lost my voice in favor of a quiet respite as I counted the days to the next upheaval. When I was a little girl, I believed that if you were good enough, and did everything that you were told to do that you would be safe from the harms that existed.

    When I was a teenager, covered in acne looming over my peers, I learned that names do hurt and cut through you like a sharp steel blade. I felt judgment’s eyes pierce my soul and make me wonder if I was good enough to speak up and ask for my share of the world.

    When I graduated from business school and began working in an environment where I stood out like a sore thumb, the only woman except for the CEO’s secretary, I would pretend that I was one of the guys on the sales team and would simply say “you’re so funny” when they would ask me to grab coffee, or make copies for them when I had sold just as much as they had if not more.

    When I was a mum for the first time, I remember people having more interest in whether my baby was Mexican or Italian, than him being able to walk before nine months old. I refused to believe that people couldn’t see past the color of his skin, I preferred to stay in a place of denial like I always had.

    There are so many things in life for so many of us that are simply just “unfair”.  Whether we like it or not, it’s just the way it has been and most likely will always be. So knowing this, accepting this, why did I decide to march in Boston? With everything that life has thrown at me, and believe me I have had my own fair share, I was always able to hold tight to the ideals of our nation as it was intended by our founding fathers and those who marched and fought for the advancement of civil liberties for all. I knew that as a nation we were not perfect but yet I always felt movement, progress forward in the ideal and realization that we were moving  towards equality.

    “We hold these truths to be self evident that all men are created equally.” As I watched these truths that form the very architecture of our nation, the genetic make up of our citizens being chipped away at by hateful words,falsehoods supported by circular reasoning, and fear driven sensationalism, my heart began to ache. If I could no longer believe in a government that would strive to care for all people not just certain archetypes, then where and what would I stand for? Why would I stand instead of simply lying down and accepting that in the face of uncertainty I truly had no voice at all.

    I marched in Boston to be heard. I marched in Boston for the little girl inside who never felt quite safe enough. I marched in Boston for the teen who hated her own reflection because it brought nothing but torment and teasing her way. I marched in Boston for my bi-racial child who is as just as deserving as any child next door. I marched in Boston for my daughters so that they might not be asked to get coffee or run errands for their male equivalents in their work place. I marched in Boston so that I might finally hear my own voice proudly say that this is my body and you cannot choose or decide what will be done with  it.

    I marched in Boston because if I had stayed in bed and slept in that Saturday morning I would have been left with regret that I didn’t stand up for what I believe is each of our own god given rights to be heard and be justified in the pursuit of liberty and happiness.

    It’s late and I’m the last one up in our home. This has turned out to be much longer than I ever intended and messier in its presentation than I had hoped, but for what it’s worth, it is my story, my truth of why I marched in Boston.