(Written on our cross country train trip May 24 2012)
From where I was sitting, he looked 75. Maybe not a train enthusiast, he surely was a believer in traveling long distance by train. Throughout the years he had traveled along almost all the routes Amtrak and some of canada rail as well. From his stories, it seemed that he had quite a few children, all my parents’ age and grand kids and he had traveled with and encouraged them all to noting travel but travel to far away lands.
This fascinated me, because he was from Lake George area in NY and in my experience living in western NY, he represented a demography that didn’t believe in moving or seeing counties other than their own. This was what one of my WNY coworkers called the hunting-fishing-NASCAR watching-Obama bashing-FOX news watching people who believed that China and Mexico was taking away their precious livelihoods.
“originally from the city” he said ” when Broadway was a prairie”. He had driven far and wide when he was a truck driver. Showed me a stackable train car and a new house being constructed in the horizon. In short, everything that technology had changed and thus robbed his community of employment.
When Broadway was a prairie, he said that driving into Rochester, the sky was laden with smoke from all the factories and people had jobs. Now the air is clean and there are no jobs. Apolitically and decidedly unbiased, I felt bad for him. Is it other people’s greed or his age, that makes all progress seem backward?
Conversations turned toward his recent Alaska trip and to his God-Mother who many years ago (When Broadway was a prairie) taught him to travel, took him to Lancaster, PA and introduced him to Amish cheese and rye bread. And all was well again. As long as we have parents and God parents to cart us around and as long as grand-parents like him are willing to pass on to their grand kids the travel bug, communities will grow, thrive and frankly go places – despite white collar greed, clean air, Mexican labor and Chinese manufacturing… Oh and of course everything technology.
TRAVEL: When Broadway was a Prairie January 1, 2017
(Written on our cross country train trip May 24 2012)
How Buying Nothing saved us October 30, 2015
The last time Buy Nothing was in the news, two things happened: our group (along with some others) got flooded with requests to join because everyone wanted to be the Frugalwoods (who are very inspiring by the way) and on the other hand, my beloved “Opinionated Cambridge” quickly polarized with one self-righteous group started an uproar of discussion criticizing the Frugalwoods… among other things, for graduating debt-free and owning real estate in Cambridge. Go figure.
I will just say that I have met the Frugalwoods and especially Mrs. F seems like a delightful person and their journey could be very inspirational to some people. But the biggest takeaway from her blog and lifestyle is “to each, her own”. So why copy and/or judge? Now to jump on to my own Buy Nothing story.
The local Buy Nothing group is my village. You know, sometimes, living in a country where you were not born in, is not easy. No matter how long you’ve lived there or what your legal status is or how connected you feel to the pulse of the socio-eco-political culture. If you don’t look like them, dress like them or go to their church, it is easy to feel a little ostracized from time to time- don’t let anyone tell you that doesn’t happen. You see a somewhat muted version of that in places where most people are transplants or where the natives are so used to seeing transplants, it bothers them that much less. That is only one of the reasons we embraced Cambridge and it, us. The mildly eccentric, thoroughly opinionated, deeply activist nature of super diverse Cambridge amused us, the dog-loving, Nature-enjoying, somewhat down-to-earth fraction of it attracted us and eventually the Buy Nothing group is what made it whole-. it turned my neighborhood into my community.
I was intrigued and inspired by Buy Nothing right from the name; and then some more because Liesl Clark and Rebecca Rockefeller (the women behind Trash Backwards) have time and again produced and implemented phenomenal, globally applicable, community-transforming ideas. Trash Backwards was so close to my heart, lifestyle and for a brief period, livelihood too.
Finally my grownup world was recognizing my familial culture, embracing the principles I had grown up with. The Buy Nothing Project might be a newer initiative, but minimalist, less greedy, frugal living is age old; and I grew up with parents (and grandparents) who taught me to value what I have, ask less and never waste. Living a life of gratitude is my everyday motto. Please don’t get me wrong, I did not grow up in deprivation, in fact, I had everything I needed and then some. I grew up in a family that could afford wishes and wants. I know people who’ve had delicious treats like career connections, real estate and generous child care support handed to them on a golden platter, my gifts might have been modest in comparison to theirs, but what I got, more than sufficed.
Buy Nothing did more for me than reinforce my frugal mindset. Yes, both my son and husband got not-bought gifts this year. (My son got a “Where is baby’s birthday gift?” book that he still loves and reads, 10 months after his 1st birthday and my husband got a semi-functional telescope, which kept him excited for a while, which was totally worth it)
Buy Nothing gave me friends and a safety net. When we were being harassed by someone enough to have to report to the cops and consider moving, a couple Buy Nothing members I felt comfortable sharing these incidents with, offered me solace and acceptance. They offered prayers and hugs and the option to temporarily move in with them (we didn’t), so we were safe from the harassment.
When we were staging our home for photos, we needed a place to store some of the clutter (home – clutter = museum). Storage pods were not a possibility because the narrow city street we lived on was undergoing a long construction project. Our Buy Nothing neighbors opened up their basements to host the odd things and kid’s toys.
As we needed to upgrade appliances, our new fridge was scheduled to arrive the day of our first open house, DURING the open house….and we were unable to reschedule it. So where were we to put the meals that we cooked in advance so the house wouldn’t steam up during the weekend-long open house? Buy Nothing to the rescue again. A neighbor who was up late saw my frantic post, lent me her ice boxes at midnight and saved the deliciousness that nourished us and baby for the next few days.
One neighbor helped me make cuttings from the tree I couldn’t take with me. Someone else offered to watch my bunnies, when our temporary apartment threw a surprise at us last minute and said they wouldn’t allow them.
Several offered to watch my son while I packed. A couple offered to cook us meals. (We didn’t ask for any of that and didn’t take them either but the gesture, the thought itself warmed us!)
A few dropped off items for me that I had no time or means to go and pick up, some picked up items on their way from me to donation drives- errands I was stretched too thin for. Two neighbors hosted my plants.
One dropped off flour and cocoa on my porch because it was my birthday and I had already packed up all my baking goods. (If you’re reading this, you already know you’re more than just a Buy Nothing member.)
Yes we have friends and neighbors outside of Buy Nothing, who’ve helped us a tremendous amount and I definitely would not be able to survive this time without my mother’s support. But this group needs to be called out with special accolades, because they owed me nothing, they were not not friends, coworkers, classmates, they were “just” neighbors, distant ones too, some I had met only a couple times, most only virtually (online). They knew nothing about me but my scanty, curt public Facebook view. And I truly have no words big enough to capture the generosity they showered on us.
Besides the harassment and the subsequent angst of readying our home just to let it go, the emotional tear of selling our first home, the exhaustion of moving with a toddler + 3 pets while starting a new job and the desperation of leaving the nest I had my baby in, we were dealing with logistical roadblocks in every direction, which included the sudden loss of a close family member. Among other things that meant, single parenting + fire fighting while my husband attended to his family half the globe away. Wherever it could go wrong, it had. Push-backs and stressors were ample from every conceivable direction.
However, now that a lot of it is simmering down, it feels like it turned out ok. Maybe not all of it, but some of it. Bottom line- we got through it. Almost. A lot of sleepless nights and dead-on-the-feet afternoons, but a lot of trust restored in humanity in the process.
Even before the crazy months started, the generosity had been diverse, sometimes surprising and always heartwarming…from hand-knit hats, to bread-making classes. They were banding together for donation drives and helping each other move mountains, survive crises and change the world for each other, on a daily basis. These neighbors gave more than their things, they offered rides, shared home brews, swapped recipes, lent tools, went on mom dates (sometimes without kids), shared interests, connected on commonalities and became friends. (Trust me, when someone offers to bring you chocolate after hearing you’re on your couch struggling through PMS, she is your friend, not just a Buy Nothing member. Yes, you- thank you!)
Buy Nothing enriched us as a community. Not only did we get the opportunity to connect with like-minded people but this little project about a gift economy had a much wider impact- It made generosity a habit.
By making it easy to give, it also made it easier to ask…. especially, by taking away need-based choosing of recipients. Asking, for so many of us, can be a huge cultural and/or psychological burden; sometimes being tainted with the notion of “need”, it gets even harder.
Buy Nothing made it easier to give up things too. It made us less clingy about our stuff and not just what we want to offload, but stuff we often hold on to for that future what-if-we-need-it-again scenario. Sound ludicrous? Imagine this: I’m temporarily quitting coffee (hypothetically speaking, of course) and I have no use for my espresso machine anymore, so I can gift it to someone who can use it now, rather than holding on to it for that uncertain future, when I might want coffee again. I know if and when I do, the community will have a machine that will brew me the perfect cup. Buy Nothing offered a sense of security in the form of a community, something we tend to want from our belongings. And with that sense of trust, a tiny population slowly but surely, is moving towards less holding on to stuff and more on to people around them. Buy Nothing made trusting cool again. Of course, this will help lower the burden on landfills somewhat, of course it will save money if you didn’t have to buy it, of course it will lengthen the life of goods. But more importantly, it makes “giving” a second nature, an action that doesn’t need deliberate thoughts. Giving begets giving, generosity breeds itself.
And that is how Buy Nothing saved us.
Home September 22, 2015
Free to follow my passions and purse my dreams and go wherever I please and keep flying… Truth? I have been chased out more than I have been chasing anything. Others have it worse, of course. Others running from being hurt, rights impeached, robbed of choice and options and things, forced to act against their will.
Free will.And my heart breaks for them.
See you’d have to stay and suffer the consequences. But me? I can always leave. I never stay. So I never reap benefits, I never have to see it through. My flowers never bear fruits. My trees don’t shade me. Too many fresh starts and potted plants.
You’d have obligations. You have strings that pull you. I do too, just that those strings don’t cocoon me. I never go home. I never miss home. I never let myself miss home.
I have always prided myself on the fact that I am not bound anywhere. I can quit any job, move to any city, leave anyone- anyone but baby. I have outwardly prided myself on my ability to let go, painlessly. But the truth is I never do. And the truth is it hurts like hell.
I give away things easily but I don’t throw anything away.
I make the quickest decisions but rarely are they unplanned. I’ve prided myself on being a professional traveler, a global citizen but the truth is I never travel, because I don’t have a home. I simply float.
You might romanticize my way of life and I hope you do. You might even envy the supposed flexibility, but sometimes I yearn for that sense of forever. The sense of a go-to. Maybe I wouldn’t mind a little binding, a little bonding.
I form new bonds fast, I assimilate effortlessly. But I have no old friends left. I have no traditions to fall back on. I don’t have a village. I cling to my languages, but words evade me. Mostly because I have no one left who’d listen. You see, the last of my 3 childhood angels died last Saturday.
Also, I am moving again. Mostly, because I can.
What could have been my own, never owned me. So leaving was left as the only easy option- maybe even the only option. Every. Single. Time.
See, I tried to root myself. I nested, I birthed but now baby and all, I have to go. Again. Go find another seat to warm.
Is it still an empty nest when you’re the one leaving it?
It’s not leaving that hurts, it’s knowing you’ll have to do it all over again, where you’re going next. My home will never be my home. It is someone else’s investment.
My will is never free.
Chasing and escaping make up my circle.
I hope that cycle breaks for baby.
For him and him- let peace coexist with the want for more, higher, better. Let "here" and "now" trump "elsewhere", "anytime". Let him always have a home to go to. Let me always be their home.
Design: baby shoe organizer July 5, 2015
30 minutes to a easy, cute IKEA hack. No you don’t have to be a power tool yielding DIY-er. (Although it doesn’t hurt) you just have to believe, every item has the potential to become almost anything else it wants to.
It’s a place to add embellishments- you know your bugs and butterflies, or cars and dinosaurs, or beads and pompous.
And most importantly, it’s a way to organize your entryway. Especially with those tiny shoes that are always scattered and lost. Can I just take a moment here and say, no matter what I make and how I design anything- nothing, absolutely nothing, are as cute as baby shoes.
How do you organize your baby shoes?
Hand eye coordination: On driving in MAsshole land December 26, 2013
I can’t sew aka operate a sewing machine and have been complaining to my mother and to whoever would listen, forever. My Mom thinks however that I totally can if I wanted to since I have good hand-eye coordination.
Wrong, I said.
But you drive well, she argued (she doesn’t drive).
I was going to counter that with “but you don’t need hand-eye coordination to drive”. Then I remembered I live and drive in Massachusetts. And Masshole-nation needs way too much use of the middle finger and rolling eyes. Hence hand-eye coordination.
Maybe I can sew after all.