Monday, December 11, 2017

The Year We Went Wild

This was such a different year for our family that it seemed impossible to send the normal, Happy Holidays card. So I started writing a card, but then realized that I was just incapable of writing something sterile or formal enough to send out as a Christmas greeting.  So I’m posting here.

Instead of imposing my journey in the mailbox of my friends and family.  I’ll just post here, in my space, any maybe it will help someone have a good year too.  

This year Mariano and I have been married for 10 years, which we celebrated with a way-too-short epic trip to Thailand, Cambodia and Dubai. If you haven’t been, Thailand is very easy to get around and friendly. Everyone speaks English and the landscape and temples are captivating.  

Before we left for Thailand, Mariano quit his job. Which sounds kind of crazy right? But the decision was planned and socialized with his office for a long time. After a year of average 12 hour days plus a two hour commute, he was totally burnt out, and so he gave three month notice on the decision to leave. We had saved enough for him to take a break, spend more time with our kids, and take his time finding a position closer to home with reasonable hours.

But then only a week after we returned from our anniversary trip, I was laid off in a massive RIF. At first, I felt like a failure.  Kaio worked hard to bring me out of it, excited that I would be able to go to his school events again and be home more. The kids were really supportive actually, they even stopped asking for toys and crap.

It was scary but instead of jumping into a job search, we took a look at our savings, and planned how to make funds stretch out long enough to spend the summer in Brazil. We wanted the kids to make lasting memories with family there. Because of the cost to fly all five of us there, I hadn’t been in five years. Tori had never been. We ended up taking Kaio and Nalini out of school two weeks early so we could leave as soon as possible.  

Most of Mariano’s family and friends live in a big city named Belem, about 1 degrees south of the equator.  The weather averages 99 degrees day and night, rooms are full of mosquitoes, and the streets are full of robbers. For two months, we slept all five of us in one room with three beds, sometimes even on top of each other. So you can imagine that’s a hardship from the A/C bug-free and kushy life our kids are used to living. There was a lot of complaining. But what really mattered in the long run was the time we spent with our wonderful family.  Mariano’s parents, sisters, cousins, aunts, uncles, second cousins, etc. He has a big family. And everyone is so fun and generous, excited and unconditionally loving with the kids. We were able to really slow down and spend quality time visiting with his extended family, as well as travel around the region from jungle to farm to beach and back.

Taking the sabbatical really gave me time to think about the trajectory of my life, our life together, and the future of the kids. We brainstormed a lot about how to maintain the joy that we had solidified and not get sucked back into old negative habits that are completely draining. It felt like we hit the reset button on life and had a chance to start again.  

At first I didn’t really know what to do with all that calmness, and actually it felt lost to be so centered with no mission to execute.  But then we found cacao beans and started making chocolate, and the mission began to expose itself.  I felt drive and purpose.  I  entered into a bean-to-bar international training course. We came back to the US and started building the business.  

Since then I've been dividing my time between caring for the kids, cannabis plants, and making chocolate. Soon I'll be teaching yoga again back at one of the studio's that I used to teach at. Mariano has been taking occasion consulting work. We are pretty broke right now, but over-all happier and in a better place than last year. I have a lot of hope and faith that our chocolate business will be a success. And by success I mean yielding enough revenue that we can pay a nice living wage and support our kiddos.

Wishing you a quiet and peaceful passage of the holidays. Hugs and kisses,

Friday, September 15, 2017

#Farm Life

Picking the yellow leaves off the cannabis plants, I have a lot of time to think. Lots of times I think about revenge to my past corporate job employer. I think about taking a selfie with my Bugatti, printing it out, and leaving it with a Post-It note that says "Shove it, I found something better to do" on the desk of the demented Bolivian deputy program manager with round-tipped red nails and who fired me with a smile behind her over-lipsticked face.

Then I quickly think about how those thoughts are not very Yogini-like. I check myself.  For a minute, enjoying the sun and the Cold Play streaming out of my back pocket. Then I go back to daydreaming about rubbing my awesome life in her face. Wait, back to yoga thoughts. It's a nice little cycle really.

I think about my kids and Mariano.  I fret over whether Oregon is the right place for us or Washington DC.  I weigh the options as I talk baby talk to the plants, "Doesn't that feel good girlfriend? Doesn't that feel so much lighter?"

It's rather nice actually.  If I consider this my job, it's a nice job to have.

Today was the first day where I felt like this could be my job.  I felt like I could spend my mornings tending the garden, enjoying a long lunch break during the hottest hours of the day and finishing the tasks in the late afternoon breeze. I get to Macgyver and ghetto rig contraptions around the farm. I get to possibly make big sums of money if we run a smart business. It seems so much better than the boring document reviews and death by meetings work I did in the IT world.  

My back doesn't hurt, I get to be outside, my own boss and make my own hours.  Actually I think I would love it if only I had the kids with me.  But that's the problem: the kids are in DC and this work is in Oregon. And we have such amazing family and neighbors in DC that I don't want to make the kids leave.
So I'm stumped on what to do. 

Monday, July 10, 2017

The Amazon River - What Does Home Mean? - Brazil Diary

Watching as we pass the boarded up wooden homes, the loud chug of the engine and sweet warm earthy breeze maintain their presence for hours and hours. This is my third time taking this boat trip up the Amazon between Santarem and Manaus.  The last time was 12 years ago, back when a second generation iPod was a great Christmas gift, and W was president. It seems like so much has transformed since then in the world and in me, but the scenery on the river looks unchanged.

The lush plants in greens and shades of pink, the elevated homes with colorful soccer team shirts hanging out to dry, the dug out canoes and occasional cattle pasture, the horses sipping river water with ibis perched on their backs. 

I've been inside some of those houses over a decade ago. Back then they were bare on the inside, mostly just the straight lines of wood panel walls and corners of a box with hammocks hanging inside. The hammocks serve as chairs, sofas, and beds. The kitchen is in the back and has the most furniture, maybe a table for cooking and eating, or maybe not and the eating is done on the floor.  

Mariano and I start to joke about building a house here, property rights, and how people would come visit us, "You go up river about 3 hours and then make a left at the big Brazil nut tree.  The house with the blue door."  How do people get mail? How do kids go to school? The School Boat must pick them up in the morning.

As we approach within 3 hours of Manaus, power lines begin to run above the river bank.  The houses remain simple looking on the outside, but I fantasize about the inhabitants having 25" LCD screens and Xboxs inside their homes.  After all, even poor people in the US have iPhones and SUVs.

In the Southern Hemisphere, July corresponds with the water level swell and some houses are boarded up because their pastures are inundated. I imagine they are rustic summer homes for people who have moved to the city.

Passing by I find my thoughts drifting and I start to long for a home.  Ironic because literally the day before I'd stated to Mariano how comfortable I was with living out of a suitcase.  In 2017 already we've visited Thailand, Cambodia, Dubai, Suriname and Brazil. I drove across the country from DC to Oregon and DC to Florida. My love for traveling is not a daydream over morning coffee; it's here, it's actualized.  I can have everything in my possession neatly packed up in a suitcase and a backpack in 20 minutes or less.  

Lunch on the Boat
Seeing the little homes speckled on the river bank pass by with a melodic rhythm, like cords of lullaby, I think about what 'home' means.  Mariano's parent's home is a forever home. It's protected in a gated villa of about 35 houses set in a busy part of town that used to be sketchy but in the last 15 years has turned hip. Since I've known him in 2002, the entrance was always lined by gossiping woman sitting in patio chairs, he says they've been there for at lease 20 years. 

Mariano's parents have made modifications to their home many times, like changing the layout,  adding rooms, taking away rooms, dividing into a rent-able one bedroom home. Currently Mariano's sister is running a cake business out of the front of the home.  So the house morphs and serves for all stages of life.

The kitchen table is the spot. The meals filled with smiles and laughter congeal the meaning of home.
After the sleepy morning we landed and had breakfast with Mariano's sisters around the table, he commented to me that the experience was priceless. Worth the thousands for plane tickets, overnight with three kids on four flights, two trips through security, and a feisty 2 year old pulling an all nigher. It was rough, but it was worth it.

I want to give a place like that to my kids. I want them to have a sanctuary base that they can return to at any point and feel welcome, safe, and protected. I'd like to create a space the kids can create happy memories in and return to for years to come.

But I realize I'm far off from settling. In my mid thirties and I have no idea my life purpose. I know it's weird that we actually live in the house I lived in from 2yr - 11 yrs old. My home should be that home, but it doesn't feel like it to me. Maybe it will be but I'm not ready to accept it yet. Maybe I have more to do and grow first, I don't know. 

So I'm still searching for the place to plant my family. I worry I'll never grow up enough to get there, and their home will be decided by default. Because life does not stop until you're ready to make a decision. It keeps going and everyday is your opportunity to be intentional with your actions.

Down the rabbit hole of thoughts of home and I remember a book that was gifted to the kids called Casa. It had really cool pen illustrations of all different types of people and animals in their homes. With words like, "Some homes are sweet, some homes are on your back, some homes are loud, some homes are where you rest your head, some homes are in dreams." Like everything in life, there is no perfect right answer. People find satisfaction doing things in different ways. 

I wonder what does home mean to you? What do you seek in a home?  


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