Friday, March 29, 2013

Hard Boiled Eggs and the Resurrection

Me Hunting Eggs 8 or 9 years old

Back in the early days of life in the commune when all of us children were very young, we did not celebrate birthdays. The adults told us we were all eternal beings, that we were ageless and would never die. This belief was even taken to the extreme of putting it on driver’s licenses and photo ID. I remember thinking this was a strange concept and even as a young child never quite believed it. So this ideology literally stole my birthday.
But that is not my point, my story has to do with the big party we did have every year, Easter. This was also called the Fish and Honey Feast in the commune as fish and honey is what Jesus ate after the resurrection. As a major celebration geared toward the children, there was a huge egg hunt (with real hard-boiled eggs, sometimes they did not fare so well), and everyone dressed in bright colors, sang, danced, feasted on fish and honey (and hard boiled eggs of course). I remember having a distinct dislike of fish for many years, it seemed no one knew how to properly cook fish in the early years; it was always bland and dry. I’m also pretty sure I ate a few “bad eggs” because of the following stomach ache.  But it was all worth it because the rest of the day belonged to us kids. On this day everyone was in an all around jovial mood.
After the egg hunt there were prizes for the children, in the early days, the prizes were all handmade, we did not know how lucky we were. People must have spent endless hours sewing dolls and carving wooden toys. I clearly remember one Easter when it was my little brothers turn to pick his prize he had eyes for only one thing. A very odd choice for a small boy, I always thought, but it’s what he wanted most. A hand carved and painted wooden giraffe, and it is still among his prize possessions today. If you asked me all those hours crafting handmade toys was time well spent. I know many of us commune kids have a few prized possessions from our childhood still today.
My little Bro's Prize Giraffe 

The biggest prize however, was granted to the finder of the Golden Egg. This was like a legend to us kids. The finder of this Egg not only got first pick off of the prize tables, but also got a huge party thrown in their honor in which they were crowned king or queen for the day. This was something every one of us children wanted so badly we could taste it.
One of the rules of the hunt was you could only hunt until you were 13 years old. So, on Easter of my 13 year, when the shofar (or conch) was blown to signify the beginning of the hunt I set out full speed to find this majestic egg for the last time. I was never the type of child that thought I could find it or ever thought I would, but luck was on my side that day. I scrambled through the mud, blackberry brambles, over stumps and logs following the clues that were given out one at a time throughout the day. Cold and wet due to the lovely North West spring weather with my hands covered in brightly colored egg dye, I finally spot under a rock, nestled in the moss the glorious Golden Egg. Victory was mine! I would be Queen! Cheers erupted, my family was overjoyed for me, and I believe many members were secretly glad this honor was going to a “back of the lake” kid. This was the term we used for those of us who lived farther back on the ranch where there was no electricity or flush toilets. I guess you could liken it to a hippie ghetto. 
To this day finding that egg is one of my fondest memories, and we (second generation commune kids) carry on this tradition to this day with our own children, in one form or another. It is a highlight for my boys every year, they search for that egg with same enthusiasm I'm sure I had in my day.  My eldest was also a golden egg finder and king for a day, an experience I’m sure he will also never forget. Happy Easter everyone!
My son's proud moment finding the Golden Egg 2009

Friday, March 22, 2013


Me, my older sister, a step brother and my older brother via 1980

I don’t remember a significant pain associated with losing my brother, sister, and father to a bitter divorce, perhaps I was too young to recognize it. As I grew older and began to understand what had occurred however, I think I experienced a sense of something not there, not being whole. While the memories of my father tended toward fearful and scary experiences my older brother and sister always held a place of companionship in our different but same experience of losing a parent. Almost as if I understood even from a young age that they were the same as me, innocent bystanders of one of life’s uglier experiences.
My father being determined to “rescue me” from a cult also participated in the tearing apart of my childhood. My mother’s fear of him permeated my younger years and was contagious. I was a fearful and timid child. On several occasions, lawfully and unlawfully I was taken from my mother, and my very foundations were shaken. Court dates, visits to child psychologists, pressure from my father to say that something was wrong with my life, or with my mother, all compounded my insecurities. I have also realized that so much moving around from one parent to the next and from home to home was very degrading to a child’s sense of well being and security. One specific occasion will always be ingrained in my memory.
We lived in an army tent in the back of a lake on the Love Family’s 300 acres. My father with a multitude of police came to take me to the “safety” of his custody. With him he brought gifts no young child could resist. And when it was time to go, my mother clung to me crying while my father took me, physically pulled me from her arms. I can remember clinging to my mother both of us in tears as he pulled me away. At this point I knew he was my father but he was basically a stranger to me. I must have been about 5 years old at the time. To compound my fear and confusion all the men from The Family stood in the path of the police officers and my father to block them from leaving. Two extremes of authority in my childhood, opposing each other.  I have learned since then, extreme measures were taken to prevent my father from leaving with me, a load of logs was even dumped in the road to prevent  my abduction. Thankfully the Family men moved aside and the logs were moved away, when pressured by law enforcement.  Looking back now I know if that was to happen today in these reactionary times, a violent and ugly outcome could have occurred.
Despite my early associations of fear of my father, and my always frightening separations from my mother, when I was finally settled with her I began to build a “knight in shining armor” image in place of my  “only human” father. This is the person I missed terribly in my pre and early teens. Where was the man who was supposed to teach me to drive? Buy me a prom dress? Ruffle my hair?  Did I look like him? Did he love me? So in the end his absence and that of my brother and sister deeply impacted my life.
Years later, after being reunited with my siblings, a joyous and fulfilling experience, I also learned there was no Knight in Shining armor.  My father was another flawed and broken human who struggled with the demons in his own life. It was a blessing to have been left in my mother’s custody.  However, the relationship my siblings and I have forged since is worth every moment of pain I may have had. Two wonderful souls having survived a very different yet similar journey to mine.  A journey that gives us a bond that holds us fast, gives us pride in our oddly shaped family and our ability to not only survive but to persevere, despite adversity. 

Friday, March 15, 2013

In the Begining

My Mother and I from a newspaper clipping regarding my custody 1975?

I have always been aware of being different. Not different as in having some sort of physical disability or different as in having some sort of genius, but the kind of different that comes with painful self consciousness. A difference that prevented me from ever feeling like I belonged. I begin my life in a storm of love gone wrong. My mother, the epitome of a small town American girl running off to marry her very first prince charming. As we all know, there really is no prince charming, and worse yet hers turned out to be a broken boy with no where to put his brokenness but on to her. Being a meek and gentle person this is not something she tolerated well and left her with her own set of wounds to lick, the scars would haunt her for many years.
This ugly and violent storm resulted in three children, I being the youngest. When the storm left its wreckage, my mother fled with me leaving behind two pieces of her heart with my father. My older brother and sister left to him and I with my mother, were now the refugees of this broken love.
Beaten down, guilty for leaving my siblings, and full of fear, my mother struck out with me to save herself, falling immediately into anther controlling and damaging relationship. This relationship however was not with a single man, but an idealistic community, a kind of community that most people refer to as a cult. It was the 70’s and I am sure this seemed like a reasonable thing to do. Who in their right mind would turn down sanctuary to heal within a community who believed in peace, love, and we are all one? Initially this place was one of healing, being at peace. Being different from that other world that started wars, and separated people. But slowly, incrementally, her identity was stripped; this of course was for the good of the “whole”. (the “whole” being the community in its entirety). She no longer needed her worldly goods, or her given name, or money. None of these things mattered now that she was part of something bigger. This community I will from now on for the sake of ease, refer to as The Family, for that is exactly how they saw themselves. But this family of course had to have a father. He, I have been told, was handsome and charismatic. (I however never found him to be either). He and a small group of his carefully chosen elders held absolute power. (I know I don’t have to tell you what absolute power does).
This utopia, I can imagine only lasted a few sweet years before revealing itself as having every flaw of worldly life imaginable. I will start by addressing the issue of women. Although I understand during this era, women were really just stepping into their own power and so it must have been an easy backslide to give it up again. They were expected to serve the men in every way. I can only assume this was a comfortable place for my mother to be at this point in her life, handing over her power and direction, allowed to just be quiet. (She was later given the name Quietness as her virtue name, as was the tradition in The Family). I, a small blond headed girl was going to be raised in this environment. Being quiet, seen and not heard was valued for both the women and children so I can’t help but think this had great impact on who I am today. I now value the ability to speak out, have your thoughts and opinions be heard, I disdain too much meekness especially in women.
Next of course was power, (women and children having none) and very few of the men having very much. The Father of the family was fairly lavished with the finest to be had, food, lodging, and women. Because this of course was the respectful thing to do wasn't it? I know this had to puff up his inflated ego, I believe he began to see himself as actually deserving of all this respect, as if he was somehow something special among mere humans. But this as well suited my mother, being naturally soft-spoken, and already having been broken down, she wanted no power.
So mother and daughter over time, settled into this way of life, we became it, and it became us. And no, it was not all bad. This life style gave us many things including the familial friendships of some of the most beautifully souled people I have ever had the pleasure of knowing. All of them seeking the alternative to the work a day world, something more harmonious and peaceful, cooperating to ensure each other’s survival.
And it also gave us a place where both my mother and I have always found peace. A place, literally a piece of ground. Located on the Columbia river, covered with tall pines and wild creatures, and far removed from anything that could remotely be called bustle. It was to this encampment we were stationed for some of the best years of my life. Miles away and protected from much of the comings and goings of the “The Family”. Only a few Family members were stationed her in this remote valley on the river, and lucky for us, they were all hard working, lovely, and peaceful people. We thrived on just surviving, no electricity, no cars; we lived in yurts like nomads and made our kitchens in two pioneer cabins.
Looking back now I realize it was not all coming up roses during this time for my mother, who had gotten herself involved in one of those notorious polygamist relationships you always hear exist in such a community as ours was. This man, was I think a true love to her, and happily still is, as a dearest friend, the kind that you carry throughout your life. He however fell quickly and madly in love with a spirited and beautiful woman that he could not deny. While the love triangle did not work out (as they never do) a unique and solid friendship was built from the rubble. I know there must have been pain and anger, but the resulting friendship is as solid as any I have ever seen. That couple have been my mother’s nearest and dearest friends and am honored to consider them as my family. My mother’s brief relationship with this love resulted in a son, my little brother. To this day when he refers to his mom, I have to ask him if he is speaking of our mother or his dad’s wife, who has been a mother to many of us children in so many ways. The friendship that was forged in that relationship is a beauty to behold in and of itself. It should be an inspiration to lovers everywhere.

Friday, March 8, 2013

A Woman’s place is…in the woodshed?

Women and girls had an interesting role in the commune, it was very much one of servitude. Right down to brushing out the luxurious or not so luxurious Jesus-like locks of their men.  They were meant to be seen and not heard, to be meek and submissive, always deferring to the men in their lives. All the stereotypical women’s work was of course theirs to complete as well. This included child care, cooking and housework. All of these things were not easy for many of the women who lived in the very rustic locations such as “The Ranch” which was an outlying property in the country with very scarce amenities. Many members lived in tents and rudimentary shacks, some with running water, very few had electricity.
I think this role may have been easy for my mother’s generation to accept, their own mothers did much the same thing as feminism was just beginning to blossom in the main stream. Unfortunately they were modeling this submissive behavior to their young daughters as well.
Ironically, in addition to women’s work, it seemed to be common for them to be responsible for things that typically a man would be expected to do. They would haul heavy buckets of water for housekeeping and bathing, chopping and hauling firewood, and other such physically difficult labor, and with all likelihood, a baby on their hip and a toddler in tow.  This however I am grateful for! The commune women were a strong bunch, tanned, toned, and ironically independent as running the basic needs of the household would often left to be her responsibility.
This brings me to my teen years and the things I knew a “girl” was capable of doing. My very earliest job, along with my female peers was bucking hay and firewood. This included heaving the bales of hay into the trailer as it rolled through the field, and chopping and loading cords of wood into the back of a huge dump truck. And I enjoyed it! The smell of the hay, the chainsaw, the sap of fresh cut wood, it was all very satisfying. We did these jobs every summer so we could buy school cloths. We did not grow up a bunch of soft handed women, that’s for sure.
I am grateful to have learned, however oddly it was presented to me, that I did not have to be the weaker sex. While yes, it was modeled to us to be meek and submissive; on the other hand rather unintentionally, we were also shown we could be strong and independent. I find myself to play both roles and feel like I have found a balance in my own life as to when I want to fill in the “woman’s role” and when I would just rather not. I definitely make myself heard, and I am the first to admit I will dig in my heels if I feel a man is telling me what to do. (Or anyone for that matter thanks to a fairly prominent independent streak).
Ultimately I was given a choice for which I am grateful for. I do miss chopping wood…but not that much, and if my husband had hair to brush, I would be sure to let him know he can do his own grooming thank you very much.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Does This Broccoli Make My Butt Look fat?

My Peak Condition Summer 2012

I know this has very little to do with “Growing up Flower Child” other than the fact that I was taught from a very young age, intentionally or unintentionally, about healthy eating and living in harmony with the earth. The two are inextricable to my way of thinking. Regardless, it’s this week’s inspiration.
The other day when I was out, I ran into an acquaintance. During the conversation she says “how much weight did you lose? Don’t lose any more!” However well intentioned she may have been, when I got to thinking about it, it’s just about as rude as asking “how much weight did you gain? Don’t gain any more!” when I thought even further about it, I have had this said to me on numerous occasions. Since when is being a healthy weight and reasonably fit a bad thing?  I earned my body, I have always thought of food as fuel, and feed myself using this belief.
What do I need to feel good? Lots of green food, fruit, healthy whole grain carbs, and protein, very little of it from red meat.  Most of the time I pass on things I know I really don’t need, such as fruit juice and fatty condiments such as sour cream.  Water is my main beverage and I drink a ton of it, and yes I enjoy my beer and wine, I live a “whole life” and don’t believe sacrificing everything for the sake of being “skinny” is the way to go. I don’t restrict what I eat; I don’t weigh my food, or use any special diet, just common sense. If I want a steak I eat one, if I want to eat cookies, I eat them, but not every day. One of my favorite things in the world? Maple bars. Eating them is a once or twice a year occurrence, but I may eat two in one sitting. I don’t feel remotely guilty about indulging when the time is right, because I know most of the time, I fuel my body with what it needs.
I exercise, I hate it, but I get up and do a little, 20-30 minutes 3-4 times a week, sometimes I have a bad week, and I feel it. I know I need to move, and I like to feel strong.  I hate being out of breath, hate pushing past where it gets difficult, none of those things float my boat. But I do like looking at a healthy body in the mirror, knowing that it is just as healthy inside as it is out. Yes I lost a few pounds about a year ago, due to taking up a very modest running hobby to manage stress, but it wasn't a lot, I was healthy before and I am healthy now. I am NOT "too skinny" My body is not perfect, there is room for improvement, but it does represent the care I give it, and I am proud of it. All of my hard work, means I get to wear a red bikini and high heels!

I don’t believe everyone should be the same shape and size, that is ridiculous. There are many shapes and sizes of healthy. It's a dirty rotten shame the pressure society puts on women and young girls especially, to fit into a narrow box, and link it directly to their value. Ideally, it would be nice if young people were taught to respect their bodies, take care of them and fuel them with nutritiously sound food, and moderate exercise. Also to respect different body types and accept every healthy body as a beautiful body. That is healthcare reform.
Lastly I would like to give fair warning to the next person that tells me “don’t lose any more weight” I may just tell them not to gain any more. Now I’m going to have a glass of wine and eat a piece of chocolate.