Thursday, October 11, 2018


It's not the first time I've said it, but gardening does my heart, soul and body good.  All summer long, I ignored my garden and it was almost as if the tomatoes got offended and just stopped growing.   The Bermuda grass is an unruly spidery sprawler that overtakes whatever neat lines you draw with mulch.  By far, the worst offender in the garden rebellion was the wisteria.

I didn't know when I planted that vine that it was the wrong kind of wisteria;  I should have chosen American wisteria which grows in a slow and controlled manner. Instead, I planted not one but two asian versions that grow violently, climbing everything in its path, and overtaking my hefty pergola so completely that I routinely had to cut my way out from underneath it.   It never bloomed.  It just grew and grew and grew, greedily taking over every empty space it could.

I am a grateful gardener -too grateful.  I often let things grow where they don't belong because I'm so happy to have a plant.  Ten years have passed in our house now and what was once an empty patch of weedy grass inside an expanse of privacy fence is now quite a jungle of pampas grass, seedling trees that have surpassed the height of the house,  iris gone mad, and morning glory vines that will not be stopped. One day, looking again at that hairy mess of a wisteria, ducking underneath it and hoping not to scratch my cornea once again with a wispy vine, I realized something.

I realized I didn't want that wisteria growing in my yard any longer.

There are things that work for you for awhile.  They give shade. They block an uninspiring view. They give you a place to hide beneath. But then they grow too large, gobbling up resources from other plants that you would like to grow.  They require so much maintenance that you never get a chance to sit beneath the shade anymore because you have to fight the vines just to be able to make the simplest move.  And what once felt protective begins to feel smothering; you can barely see the light through the heavy over-growth.

In a recent podcast, I heard a business leader say that we must be brave enough to break our own rules.  It has been my rule for a long time to be a nurturer, a thoughtful pruner, a planter.  I don't kill.  I don't destroy.  I don't take down.  But my rules were making the yard a much less enjoyable place. The grabby vines brushing at everybody as they tried to pass through the walkways grew more rude by the day, its power un-checked.

And so, I put on my protective gear and took out a lopper, a hatchet, two pruners, a bow saw and giant tarp. I began to cut and cut and cut and cut some more.  Half way through, while yanking and pulling at the monstrous tentacles, I got a phone call and had to go pick up a kid at school.  I know I made an inspiring sight in my short flowered garden booties, bare legs shredded in scrapes, and my t-shirt salted over with sweat.  I returned to the task, rested and determined and began again, hacking at a clump of 5 tangled stumps thicker than my arms.  And I began to pull again and again, hand over hand, pulling the vine from over the pergola, out from the chimney and gutters, tangled into other bushes.

As I made progress, I thought about the news of the week.  I thought about the way I used to feel sheltered by my political party and its family-focussed ideals. I remembered how having a husband meant I could shut out the glare of politics and problems that seemed too large and far-removed for me to concern myself with.  The thick vines of patriarchy were familiar and comforting for many years and I let them grow around me, ignoring how intrusive this powerful plant was in the lives of my neighbors,  intruding unwanted into their yards, pulling down the privacy of their fences, popping up without consent in their personal spaces.

But in a moment, it became clear to me that our little sliver of the world would be better without this invasive plant.  It would be better to give other plants the space and resources to see the sun.  It would   be better to make the spaces safe to walk through.  It would be better to eradicate the roots that took what was not theirs to have.  And as soon as I knew, I had to act.  I would not let this go on one more day.  I broke my own rules and I cut that thing down.


Saturday, September 01, 2018

Someday, Maybe Soon, I will blog again.

For almost two years I have been working on a massive mosaic installation project.  The installation date has been set for October 19th, 2018, and when it is done, I intend to write about the whole process, the election,  and all the things I thought about in that time.   So if you are here, click on some links.  I post on Instagram every single day.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

When You Wonder How the Campaign is Going

When people hear that my husband is running for Congress, I can see the curiosity and confusion on their faces.  There are so many ideas about what that must mean for us. They try to connect the presuppositions about running for office with what they know to be true about us and the questions start....

Don't you have to start small? Like local politics? No. That's just the way things often happen in established parties.

Don't you have to have a lot of money?  No.  You need enough money to file and then you need to run a campaign.  Campaigns can be run a lot of different ways.  Having lots of money helps, I suppose, to a point, but when it crosses the line of buying a candidates votes through purchased lobbyists, the process turns dirty.  (We certainly welcome your support)

Don't you have to go door to door to campaign?  That's a traditional approach, but think about how you feel when a politician comes knocking on your door during dinner.

The truth is, a campaign can be run as creatively and non-traditionally as you want to run it. What matters most, I am learning, is your heart for the work.

The truth is that things were going along pretty well for us for several months, and it was fun.  But then in September, Robb's day job with a start-up company ended unexpectedly, throwing us into the choppy seas of tremendous insecurity.  We are regular people.  We try to be good stewards of our money, but we couldn't thrive for long without a new financial plan, especially with our first kid in college.  Robb has always been a strong provider for our family, allowing me to be flexible in the ways I support the family.   For as long as I have known him, he has had as many as three jobs, using his time wisely and still being here for his family.  As the time of receiving a regular paycheck began to slip away, the future was just not coming into focus for us.  I am usually buoyant in these times of doubt and scarcity, but for some reason, during this season, I was frankly scared.  I gave in to a scarcity mindset and for a couple of weeks grouched at anything that suggested holiday plans.

The brain craves predictability.  When normal routines of thinking, planning and acting are upended, it is exhausting, because the thoughts try to proceed as usual, hit roadblocks, bounce backward and then try again to fully absorb the new reality.  There were more than a few sleepless nights while my brain tried again and again to plan, and could not proceed.  It didn't help when the final paycheck from the last job was delayed for almost two weeks with no guarantee when it would come, if at all.

The campaign at that point began to seem like a cruel joke.  How could we help other people when our own needs were in such an uncertain state?

As the month drew to a close with no paycheck, I shopped at Aldi for groceries and rationed my trips out to save on gas money.  I refused to turn on the heat in the house.  I asked my friends to pray and cried on their shoulders.  I switched to ground coffee instead of fresh beans, and contemplated how at some point a budget gets ridiculous.  But somehow, against all odds, we were making it.  Unexpected resources appeared:  we had accidentally paid our home insurance twice, and they sent a refund.  An adoption subsidy we had submitted paperwork for a million years ago came through for Charleigh's braces.  I sold one of the most expensive things in my Etsy store.  All of a sudden, we looked at each other and realized that we had made it through somehow.  We stopped white knuckling for a minute and enjoyed Thanksgiving with our kids and friends.

There's not a doubt in my mind that nobody currently in Congress is double checking their personal budget to see what they can cut back on.  None of them are wondering if they will make it through next month on their current salary.  They aren't stressed about signing up for a new, much more expensive health insurance plan.   But most of the people I know are in that position regularly.  People are working as hard as they ever have and their dignity is being worn away wondering why it doesn't seem to be enough.  Our month of uncertainty was a gift to me.  It reminded me of why we are running in the first place.  I was reminded that we need representatives who know how it feels to live with financial uncertainty and have the motivation to give regular people fair circumstances to help them move forward.  

About the same time I first heard about Brand New Congress in January of 2016, I received a message from an art curation and procurement company named Kalisher.  They work with designers and architects to either create or find artists to make art for public spaces.  For the past year, we have worked to narrow down the vision for a 25 by 7 foot mosaic created from Blue Willow and other blue and white Asian themed dishes.  The further we have gone in the process, the more confident I have grown that this is an ideal project for me.  And as the pieces finally fell into place for me to receive the down-payment for my work,  it slowly dawned on me what was happening: I would be able to support our family while Robb turned his attention, energy and creativity to the campaign.

Back in October, when we were interviewed by Rob Bell for his podcast, I had expected to speak briefly at the top of the show to set up the main story of Robb's campaign.  I never expected Rob to become so interested in my part of the story and his enthusiasm was a confidence booster I didn't know I would need.  Many times in the coming weeks, though, I would play over in my head the words he said to me: "There's a feisty, scrappy thing about you."  When I would get tired, or discouraged or wondered if I could really do anything to help or make a change in the world, I  would remind myself of those words and find the strength to dig a little deeper and keep going.

It is a curious time to be a woman.  Never in my life do I recall feeling more aware and more impacted by the national conversation.  The equality of women, their right to being treated with decency and respect, their place in roles of leadership in the world and in the church is my daily concern.  Try to understand how proud I am that in this year, I was ordained, took the front seat of leadership of my church and now am supporting my family financially with the work of my hands and my heart.

My theology leads me to believe not that I made this happen on my own, nor that God is using me as a puppet to play out some agenda, but rather, that God and I are in this together.  I feel doubt at times, and God encourages. I show up and God magnifies the effort.   I make no cocky claims about the results of the campaign and election, but I hope you feel inspired by this part of the story.   Do not be afraid.  You have more agency than you know.  Ten years ago, I started cutting up dishes and creating art.  A decade later, I'm helping to change the world.  

So how is the campaign going, you ask? Well, in the words of our friend, Rob Bell,   - So Good!  

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