happy thanksgiving, carie.

November 24, 2011

i got to sleep in this thanksgiving. and i get to spend it in larche… unfortunately a whole 2,500 miles away from my family. i went downstairs to lots of merry making around the island in the kitchen, a beautiful table setting, a “tree of thanks” hung on the wall waiting to be decorated with the gratefulness of 30 people, a huge turkey in the oven, a hug from my good friend kate…i went downstairs to my family. i walked into my friend caries’ “nook” where she sits many days in the quiet of her personal and beautiful space. i sat down with her, admiring her cute thanksgiving outfit and the smile on her face. and i just said…”happy thanksgiving carie!” and this feeling came over me, quite strong and powerful – this feeling that this moment was full, and it held so much for the both of us. so many thoughts and emotions rushed through me. i thought of my family and all of the pictures of food and togetherness they have sent me already today, i thought of choosing to be with them or choosing to be in larche – and how difficult that is for me, i thought of carie and her life here…all 20+ years without “family” in the traditional sense of the word. i felt an overwhelming sense of honor, to be with carie on thanksgiving, and what a gift that was to my life. and i said to her…”i choose you, carie. i choose you.” to which she responded with her huge and beautiful grin and the intentional blinking of her eyes, which is her way of saying “yes.” here i sat with this beautiful woman who has taught me so much about trust and patience and forgiveness and gentleness and just “be-ing”. a woman who has never known family in the way that i have and still do. living with her now “family”…a lot of whom get to choose to leave and be with their own families for holidays such as this… and the ones she is in the company of when it’s all said and done are those who have chosen her. and all of the possible feelings of regret and “missing out” on time with my family that was happening across the nation as we sat…completely disappeared, and peace to be exactly where i was totally covered my entire being. what a gift to tell carie happy thanksgiving. what a gift to be able to choose carie. what a gift to be with her and to see her joy on this day, knowing that she is loved, and that she has been chosen.

i am so grateful.


life in anawim house.

November 18, 2011

“where the heck does allison live nowadays, and with whom?”
+ L’Arche Tahoma Hope – Anawim House.
+ E 45th street, tacoma, WA, to be exact.
+ aka “the city of destiny” and “the evergreen state.” where it is always green [and grey].
+ more specifically, i live in a larche community. in our community there are four homes…three of which are together in one location along with our main office and our farm, in the southernmost part of tacoma. i live in Anawim house, which is set apart by about 7 miles from main campus, and only about a mile from downtown tacoma. we sometimes refer to our house as “the island.” which presents opportunities and challenges.

Anawim stats:
– huge and old – 2 stories, 14ish bedrooms, and a full basement.
– it originally functioned as a convent in the olden days.
– it works well for the 9 of us who sleep here, 11 who live most days here, and all the others who stay over and stop through due to all of our extra bedrooms. it is sometimes referred to as “hotel anawim.”
– i live with five core members (three men and two ladies) and six live-in assistants. two of our assistants are long term so they actually “live out” and come in during the day. we have five female assistants and one male.
– all of the core members in our house are generally from the area, one is originally from hong kong. all of their families/guardians live closeby.
– the assistants in anawim hail from vermont, ohio, tacoma, canada, the philippines, and florida.

” ‘Anawim’… ‘L’Arche’… so what?”
“we are people with and without developmental disabilities, sharing life in communities, belonging to an international federation. mutual relationships and trust in god are at the heart of our journey together. we celebrate the unique value of every person and recognize our need of one another.”
“our mission is to make known the gifts of people with developmental disabilities, revealed through mutually transforming relationships; foster an environment in community that responds to the changing needs of its members, while being faithful to the core values of our founding story; and engage in our diverse cultures, working together toward a more human society.”

“but what do you really do every day?”
wash dishes. mop floors. go to meetings. get out of the house and have fun! (i.e. church, fro-yo, library, park, shopping, dr. appointments, you get the idea). fold towels & napkins. fold more towels & napkins. talk in metaphors. tie shoe laces. administer medications. have dinner guests. assist to shower/shave/brush/toilet. sing songs. say prayers. clean rooms. advocate. write daily logs. balance checkbooks and money ledgers. brush teeth. make appointments. sit on the couch. go to the bank. mend clothes. read books and watch movies. make breakfast, lunch, dinner – and eat it together. build relationship. recycle. make crafts. “create home.” empty trash. wipe counters. clean bathrooms. make tea. walk the block. swim. “check in” each morning. laugh, tease, joke. redirect. be present to one another. “gab gab gab” around the kitchen counter.

and other tidbits…
– it takes me a lot less time to run my cell phone battery out these days…because i don’t really have it with me or use it much for most of the day.
– im very in touch with my body. our bodies tell us a lot.  a lot of my day has to do with bodies. i’m around a lot of bodies. and a lot of people who don’t really care what you think of theirs…or what you think of what they do with it. we take our bodies with us everywhere. our bodies are aways changing and causing us trouble and frustration or making us laugh. bodies are smart. bodies are funny. bodies bodies bodies.
– bodily functions/waste/fluids don’t really phase me as they once did. everybody poops.
– my bedroom is my favorite place on the planet. i’m in it as much as i possibly can be in my scarce “away time.” i like to keep it super clean. it’s quite cozy, calm, me, and covered in photos. if ive taken one of you in the past couple years…your face is probably on my wall.

– random dance parties, animal noise competitions, maniacal laughter, “fluffing”, radios playing in multiple rooms, doors slamming, and nudity are a part of the everyday here.
– i live across the hall from my hilarious, intelligent, hard-working, sneaky, and extremely capable new friend. and she sometimes thinks she’s a cat. but not really. but sort of. ok, most of the time.
– there is an entire language in larche which you start to realize the longer you are in it. i’m starting to speak in larche. hopefully i can still relate to the outside world and be understood with this newfound lingo.
– mount rainier is my back yard. i mean…it’s about a 2-hour drive, but it doesn’t feel like it when you see it. when the sky is clear enough… i get to see it whenever i want. THAT is pretty wonderful.
– tacoma is a pretty great city with a lot to offer. lots of local flare and much value placed on supporting local. it’s growing on me. if only i had more time to go check it out. i do enjoy the farmer’s markets, art museums, parks, waterfront, and a couple of chill bars (especially “red hot,” which has vegetarian hot dogs! yum!). i look forward to frequenting more local coffee/tea places and the local indie film theaters.
– im officially a tacoma cyclist. “i bike tacoma” – just like my sticker says. i love it. i love my bike. i love the freedom to go wherever. i can get to the furthest parts of tacoma in under an hour. the location of our home is fairly central which i am thankful for. and thank goodness for rain pants. i have invested in a red blinky light, gloves, helmet, and u-lock. next on the must-have list for biking in the pac-NW: fenders. it is so stinking wet. and it will only get wetter.
– it is very rare that i eat a meal alone these days. i like that a lot.

we eat well here. i cook dinner once or twice a week for usually eight or more people. im really enjoying learning to be creative in the kitchen and how to cook for a lot of people. the other assistants i live with rotate cooking meals as well. we are getting the last of our beautiful and scrumptious CSA (community shared agriculture) from our larche farm where a bunch of the folks work. two people in our house are employed and/or volunteer there…pretty cool that most days, they get to eat food they saw from seed to harvest.  we also get eggs weekly from our chickens on the farm…whom we feed our food scraps to. it all comes full circle. i love that about our life together here.
– “house money manager” = me. i am responsible for the personal finances of 5 people. no big deal. aaaaaahhhhhh. it’s going quite well thus far. no huge mess-ups. it just takes time. i get a lot of satisfaction from things that make sense and balance out and always coming up with a solution or answer. i think im going to like being money manager. also, my introverted self gets to be alone in the office listening to pandora for a few hours a week. that’s a nice change of pace.
– “community council member” also = me. i am now a part of a group of eight folks who meet twice a month and talk about the bigger picture stuff of our life together as a community. i’m looking forward to being in the presence of these rad people regularly and playing a role in our bigger story together. 
– there are so many deeper parts to life in larche. learning about your own disabilities. learning gratefulness. learning to listen…to really really listen. learning about your needs and gifts and “growth areas.” one word: community. i feel that i am getting more settled into what the day to day looks like…and i hope to be more open to really see the deeper parts of what we’re living here. i see that i have so much to learn and so many areas to grow in…

the hardest part…
balance“…it is a myth. there is no such thing. especially in regard to life in larche.

a friend here told me today…”when you say ‘yes’ to larche, you say ‘no’ to a lot of other things. except you don’t really know that you’ve said ‘no’ to anything until you move in…”

im finding that this is true. life in larche demands a lot of each of us. for me, right now, it’s mostly time and presence (emotional, relational, etc.). so i am learning. and i am grieving the time and presence that it is taking from the other parts/people of my life – while still holding them [you] close and lovingly in my heart and my days and my story. one morning i was “checking in” with the long-term assistants i live with…trying to express how badly i want the people i care about to understand larche, and to understand my life in larche. they both laughed and reassured me that this is impossible. i can dream.

i am grateful to be here. i am surrounded by some really amazing people. i am challenged daily to love myself and to love others…regardless of our ability or disability – and to celebrate both in us all. i laugh a lot…a lot a lot a lot. we have a lot of fun. we are a family, with all of the joys and disfunction that go along with it. i have some really sweet, intentional, and caring friends here. many aspects of my geographic location and transition into life in larche are really challenging for me. im trying to not be so focused on “my future” and “what i want to be when i grow up”…and just be content and present where and with whom i am…trusting that it’s right and good and true for me for right now.

we’re all pretty strange creatures, you know?
some of us just hide it better than others.

our community leader once said…
“life in community will give you the opportunity to comfort, and to be made uncomfortable.”  

uuummm…yep. it’s doing that! 🙂