Author Archives: tamischwerin

About tamischwerin

I run a non-profit (Abundance NC) that builds community resilience including health of the earth, our bodies and our spirits. I also am active in creating an Eco-Industrial Park community in Pittsboro NC.

5 YEARS

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5 YEARS

It seems that 5 years is a big milestone to get through when one has lost a precious love. In my healing, I knew it was coming up and I decided to go proactive rather than reactive.

I envisioned my family coming together and cooking, sharing stories and photos and laughing and crying and spreading out the grief so that it is more bearable. A monumental loss such as Zafer causes a change in course in lives. Some for the better, some for the worse.

I wanted us to make apple sauce en masse and make gift boxes to send out to the hundreds of people that helped us get through that first day, week and year in 2016. Zafer used to drink apple sauce straight out of the jar, he loved it so much. I ordered a Z stamp with stars on it to stamp on the bags and boxes as I pictured assembly line work in creating these.

It really helped me having a focus of a gathering rather than thinking of why the hell Z is not here to enjoy this beautiful spring we are having. The crisp air, the massive pollen, the diversity of birds, the redbuds, daffodils, dogwoods, that light green of the trees new leaves, the smell of grass and dirt. All the senses of spring bring me back to 5 years ago when I got the news and to the week that we held a wake for Z. It is exactly the same except the pollen is much worse.

Jess and Kaitlin agreed to travel from Arlington VA and Louisville KY to be here. No small feat now that there are babies and jobs.

Arlo and Zach decided to cook a suckling pig from Lilly Den Farm. “This family has a suckling pig problem” the girls casually say.

We wanted to keep it as small as possible so that we could really focus on the art of the gathering and that is to remember Zafer, appreciate him and also discuss his eclectic side. He has been canonized but it is fun to remember his quirky sides and some of the very inappropriate viewpoints he had.

It’s important and healthy to feel all the feelings. I’ve realized that it’s much easier to push down the grief and put it in a box. When I do that, it comes out in physical pain or embarrassing outbursts and triggers. Setting aside time to go into the memories and photos and feelings takes intention and a lot of courage. But then you move through it rather than getting stuck. And your body thanks you. So much of our feelings are unconscious. It’s a miracle that we can get through any of this trauma.

Jess came up with the idea to send out cards to Zafer’s close friends and family and ask for memories and to post using #missingZafer. We did and the stories that came in were poignant and new.

As the week approached, we made plans, cleaned the house and prepped for family. The day before our gathering, I drove to Whole Foods for a few special items. The entire day had been incredibly smooth. Some hard conversations became easy, work items fell into place and I could feel Zafer. I came around the corner at Whole Foods and there was Mystic dressed in a big orange robe. Mystic is an incredible soulful man that has performed at Death Faire a few times. He belted out “I’ll Fly Away” as the sun set a few years ago and sent chills through me. There he was and he looked at me “Can I check you out?” I told him who I was and about Zafer and that Zafer’s favorite color was orange.

He said “Honey, he is speaking to you right now!” I could feel it.

Mystic and Eliza at Death Faire 2019

Jess drove Aidan Zafer, now 7 months old, down from Virginia. Kaitlin flew in from Kentucky.
Lyle and I went into grandparent mode happily.

It’s a different dynamic with Jess, Kaitlin and Arlo being adults. They can all cook and host, but we still fall into the old dynamics. Who is a “big” and who is a “little” is a constant theme. Kaitlin adds a wonderful mix of comic relief and sets a pretty big agenda. Jess is trying to juggle work, baby, grieving and sleep. Arlo is fabulous Uncle and amazing at cooking and cleaning. Lyle is G-pops with the top hat and takes Aidan Z on adventures in the stroller and to swing by the Bunkey. It truly takes all of us to keep Aidan Z fed and napped while Jess works via zoom.

Aidan Zafer is about the happiest baby I’ve ever seen. A huge highlight of the week and a reminder of the cycle of life.

We ditched the idea of hundreds of gift boxes and instead, Kaitlin and Jess outsourced to Fair Game and created gift crates to be sent to some of those angels that stepped in back in April 2016 to selflessly help them and this family.

Angelina and John helped Zach cook the pig overnight at their shop and Kaitlin made a small batch of apple sauce. I started the biscuits and then delegated to Ally and Kaitlin. We developed the “Zafer cosmo”. Zafer loved girly drinks whenever we went on exotic vacations. He would drink a pina colada or cosmopolitan with me…anything with an umbrella. So Ally went into mixologist mode and served up fancy drinks. Uncle Michael went by Bojangles for a sweet tea in Zafer’s honour. Z’s favorite fast food place. Grandma Anne and Melissa brought “Pup cookies”. Zafer’s beloved beat up diesel pup truck that he bought. Salad from Little Pond farm was gathered and served and we lit 5 candles for every year we have missed our boy. We read stories from afar.


We cried, but we laughed even more.


One thing about Zafer was his humour and his strong beliefs and his love for friends and family. He was unusually conscientious about connecting with people for a boy of 19. His soul knew that he was here for a short time. He made the most of it for sure.

As terrible as it is, I am grateful for our 5 year celebration of having Zafer for 19 years. I am learning that everything is impermanent and I am learning to be more present and appreciative of the moments we have here with our loved ones and on this beautiful earth.

Thank you for giving me that Zafer.

Power of the Bower

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Power of the Bower

I’ve been working at The Bower all week…our little round AirBNB in Moncure.  Painting, repairing, improving, and working on the experience of the Bower Guest.  Most of our guests are the adventurous, nature seeking, environmentally conscious types.  They come for respite, for special occasions, for honeymoons, for time alone soul searching, or to just get out of the city.  A few have really not liked the spider webs in the woods or the artist in residence that accidentally scares them. Sometimes there is a leak during a summer storm.  For the most part, there have been very sweet appreciative people and a lot of healing and connecting done in that space. 

We’ve had over 200 guests since March 2017 when I brought it online.

If these walls could talk. The things that go on there are spectacular and special.  I know because of the trash and recycling.  And some of them tell me.

As I scrubbed and fixed things this week, I couldn’t but help feel gratitude for all the local artists and vendors that are part of the vibe of the Bower. I’m kind of riffing off of Lyle’s Art Walk @ The Plant. An outdoor walk with descriptions of the artists, stories and guide.

Lolly made kitchen shelving with the Durso twins in Scott’s shop out of their old bunkbeds.  It made me choke up a bit to know that Scott was probably watching over this undertaking in his fully equipped shop.  Truly special shelves made with love. (Scott left this world, his wife, Amy and twin boys in January 2019 after a horrific car accident. He was a beautiful soul.)

Some of the local artists and vendors that make the Bower special:

Salinda Dahl, painter and ceramic artist from Chatham County.
Julia Kennedy, abstract painter from Pittsboro.
Stillman Browning-Howe, potter and Lara O’Keefe potter, Pittsboro.
Janice Rieves, lighting, mosaic and sculpturist; Moncure.
Anne Schwerin, color and paint artist (and my Mother!)
Phyllis Burns, watercolor artist, Moncure. Died in 2019.
Mary DeMare, pastel artist; Pittsboro.
Carolina Hemp Tours at The Plant in Pittsboro carries hand sanitizer.
Jonathan Davis, glass blower and light artist; Pittsboro.
Vortex Roasters is at The Plant and DELISH. Pittsboro.
Stephanie Fay of Solstice Herb Farm in Pittsboro is our local soap maker.
Lyle Estill, scrap and metal artist created “Morning Glory”.
Ben Schikowitz, Stacye Leanza and Morag Charleton, painters.
Lyle Estill, metal artist: Choir Boys.
Hempsmith Company provides the hemp robes.
Jigsaw puzzle from the biodiesel days…real people from our project.

Come visit, or send your relatives to The Bower for an eclectic, artistic, local experience.

Clafoutis!

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Arlo was just starting NCSU and I would drive him into class every Monday morning.  We were still raw from losing Zafer and it was our time to laugh and cry and talk about big moves on the way to Raleigh.  Our tradition was to go to a coffee shop on Hillsborough Street and get lattes and breakfast.  One day we walked in and I bought us this amazing pastry and asked the owner what it was.  He was a sweet man and said it was “clafoutis”.

We had never heard of that and it was AMAZING.

Every Monday after that we came in and asked for clafoutis.  He never had it again for some reason.  Sometimes I would frown at them and ask where the clafoutis was.  They still never had it.  Arlo and I started calling Raleigh “Clafoutis-town”.
It became a hilarious joke and we still never got our clafoutis.

So, I looked into it and found it was popularized of course by Julia Child herself.  It was french peasant food.

As I reinvent myself, I believe this town (PBO) needs a Clafoutery.  And I intend on creating that after we get through this pandemic.  When life will slow down perhaps and we can cook, and see our friends and pick berries and have time.  Lots more time for our delights.

Here is the recipe until then….

Clafoutis—for 6

  • 1 1/4 cups milk
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 Tablespoon vanilla
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 3 cups cherries, or any seasonal fruit…or pepperoni if you are Geo.
  • 1/3 cup sugar (optional)
  • powdered sugarIn a blender blend the milk, sugar, eggs, vanilla, salt and flour. Pour a 1/4 inch layer of the batter in a buttered 7 or 8 cup lightly buttered fireproof baking dish (important:  use PYREX or it will shatter on the stove)
    Put on a burner on medium for 2 minutes…it will brown the bottom.   Remove from the heat and spread the fruit over the batter. Sprinkle on the 1/3 cup of sugar. (or not) Pour on the rest of the batter. Bake at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes to an hour. The clafouti is done when puffed and brown and and a knife plunged in the center comes out clean. Sprinkle with powdered sugar, serve warm.

bon appetit!!!

 

The Weaving, Cannibals, Myth and Reality

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The Weaving, Cannibals, Myth and Reality

Emotions and memories from Colorado were intense.   I’m happy that Zafer fell in love with those beautiful, majestic mountains.

It seems your heart will only let in what you can process. 

This was a mixture of acceptance and another dose of denial.

Zafer had the flat irons tattooed on his back unbeknownst to his parents.

I pulled into Niwot, Colorado.  (adorable little town next to Boulder and means “left hand”) to stay with my hilarious cousin Charlie, Allie, their kids, Julian and Hudson.   I always looked up to Charlie when I was a kid.  He would take us out in his car in the cold night, drive fast and roll all the windows down while Bruce Springsteen was cranked.  I continued the tradition of “freezeouts” with my kids.

When Zafer and I first went to Boulder to check out the school, we got caught in a huge rainstorm before the days of Lyft and showed up at my cousins soaking wet.   Not knowing Allie all that well at the time, she warmly welcomed the two wet rats into her house and dried us off and fed us.  I never imagined that she and Charlie would have to pack up Zafer’s belongings and pick out his clothing to be buried in.  Allie is one of the most nurturing people I know.  Zafer became very close with the whole family.  One time Allie gave him the job of looking after Hudson who was about 5 while she put on a stressful school event…the annual Sock Hop.  Zafer thought Hudson was fine with her friends and so he left to take Julian to get pizza with his friends.  Allie lost her shit on Zafer.  Zafer called me to tell me about the “situation”.  I laughed.  He laughed because I’ve done the same to him around PepperFest time.   Z adored that family and I’m grateful they had their short time together.

Charlie and Allie go out of their way to make you feel at home and before I knew it, they had arranged for massage, a facial and of course a hair cut to get the knots out of my hair.

Lunch with Kristi, Kathie Russell’s beautiful sister was a highlight. She too had a sweet relationship with Zafer.  She once took he and Greyson and another relative hiking in the Grand Canyon.  It was one of the super hard hikes that lasts about 8 days.  Not for the inexperienced.  Zafer called me to tell me he was skipping class for a week to go on this hike.  It seemed like he knew what he was doing, so I encouraged him.  He packed bags of rice, beans and a special plastic carton to keep a dozen eggs.  This was not particularly helpful for a week in the canyon.  Kristi told me stories of how Zafer would go ahead on hard climbs and help the others up.  When Z got out of the canyon and had cell coverage, he called me screaming in the phone “Mom, I LOVE YOU!”.  He said he almost died a few times, but he made it out and was so happy to be alive.

Big snowflakes fell while Kristi and I cried a bit in a lovely Boulder bar.

Niki, Zafer’s roommate and dear friend has become part of our family.  We have a bond that will never be broken.  She unfortunately found Zafer the morning of his death.  Niki was like the housemother.  Andrew, Max, Zafer, Ally and Niki were a family.  They cooked together, hiked together and had a full band in the basement of their college house.  Zafer picked up guitar from Andrew.
Niki came up to Boulder.  She also hooked me up with a local Shaman/Reiki practitioner.  The woman worked on me for awhile and moved some energy.   She told me I needed to forgive myself.  My biggest block.  As I left, I was dizzy as hell.

Niki was in class one day when her roommate Max texted her that they had found a new roommate and he thought she would like him.

Strange name:  Zafer Estill.  But cool dude.

Niki, obviously bored in class, started checking social media for Zafer.  Nothing.  She googled him and up comes tamisgreatadventure.com (my sabbatical 6 years ago) and she gets pulled into the blog.  Again, class must not have been that intriguing.  She finds Zafer’s photos…his baby photos and then his current photo.  She realizes to her horror that he is sitting behind her and getting up to leave.  His photo is big on her computer screen and she doesn’t want him to know she is stalking him.  But that is how she met Zafer.  Through this blog kind of.

Almost seems mystical.

My little cousin, Anabel is graduating from Colorado College and her senior art project just happened to be about the same time I was there.  So, luckily, all my cousins were in Colorado for this event.  Pamela, Pat and also Arlo flew in for the long weekend.  We drove down to Colorado Springs in the snow.  Niki found an Alice in Wonderland restaurant in a cave and formerly a mortuary with the perfect drink menu.

We casually walked over to see Anabel’s set up.  I was not expecting much being out of the loop.  I thought it might be a few paintings or a couple of sculptures.  We walked into a gallery at the school where the entire room was woven together.  I cannot explain how beautiful and unexpected the art was, as the humble soft spoken Anabel explained her process.  She had gathered tons of recycled fabric, people all around school donated to her, she hand-dyed all of it.  She then wove it on a loom in sections and then spent Six 13-hour days hanging the show.

There was an abstract video accompanying the show.  As you walked through, it was like floating in a huge woven cloud.  We were part of the installation.  We helped put on the reception and a crowd gathered.  She was graded and critiqued.  The show had to be taken down right after the event.  We all volunteered to help this massive project.

Zafer’s roommates all drove down with a truckload of musical instruments including a full drum set and electric guitar.  They pulled in and quickly set up as we pulled fabric off the walls.
Arlo jumped on vocals and guitar.  Niki naturally played harmonica and drums, no problem.   Hudson and Julian and Pamela sang.  It was a little hectic at times, but filled my soul up.  We all agreed there was a metaphor here….Between Anabel’s show and how Zafer brought us all together.

The day after Zafer died, Lyle reminded me of the Fates from Greek mythology.  One fate would cut a thread here so that something up ahead happened.  It was all choreographed.  It made me feel a tiny bit better.

From Colorado, I went to La Jolla/San Diego, California.  There was a plane involved.  This country is HUGE.  My old body needed time out of the car.  I was whisked from the airport straight to a birthday celebration for Charlie, one of the sweetest men I’ve ever met.  Phifer had put on a tennis round robin for him and I now know a lot of Phife’s friends and they are awesome.  It was non stop in California.  Going from snow to sunny and 70 did not suck.

We hit the massage and pedicures, then the beach. We had several dinner parties and went for a hike in a nearby town.  One day we spent at Balboa Park, sort of the Central Park of San Diego.  Tons of small museums including the Museum of Man; Cannibals, Myth & Reality.  I don’t know why I was so interested in this exhibit, but it was fascinating.  Basically there are reports of most cultures eating their people for either religious reasons or to gain the power of their enemies or just to survive.  Also, calling people savage cannibals made it easier to enslave them.

Lyle called to talk about a situation at home and I explained to him that all our ancestors have been cannibals, had an uncontrollable laughing attack and he had to hang up on me.

There may have been edibles involved. 

Phifer has a way of making everything fun.  We wore ourselves out a bit, but it was well worth spending a week with that rowdy crew.  Including the rowdy pets and her son Edward who is growing up like a weed.  Fabulous pianist and has a depth about him that most teens do not.

Back to Colorado, a night with the cousins and on to Canyon, Texas with Zafer’s skis and boots shoved in my beetle.
Bringing them home.  Surreal.

I’m learning a lot, gaining clarity and extremely grateful for the hospitality and kindness of all of these beautiful souls.

Louisville, Chicago and Omaha….yes, Nebraska.

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Louisville, Chicago and Omaha….yes, Nebraska.

Leaving Montgomery, Alabama, I knew there was going to be some weather, but I had no idea there were torrential thunderstorms and tornadoes.  I had this feeling I needed to get out, so I grabbed all my stuff and started throwing in the car.  By then, it was pouring.  I was drenched and the car was drenched with wet luggage.  For about 4 or 5 hours it was extremely difficult driving. Sometimes I had to put on my flashers with the other cars so we could see each other.

What was supposed to be a 6 and a half hour drive became a 9 and a half hour drive with lots of accidents and it WAS NOT FUN.  I was so happy to get to Kaitlin’s apartment. She and Samir put on a lovely dinner.  They are passionate about their work to say the least.  I got an inside look at their organizing to help workers in Louisville and at Walmart.  I learned some things from Kaitlin as I always do.

Louisville is beautiful and a very cute city.  I stayed downtown in an adorable Beds and Bikes airbnb.  We went to a rare Picasso art show in town and the Muhammad Ali Museum The Ali Center was incredible.  It was an extension of what I had just seen in Montgomery.  Of course, Muhammad was the pretty, heavy weight boxing champion that came home from Italy and was given a heroes welcome in Louisville.  He was still not allowed to eat lunch in a restaurant.

I loved the story of how he refused to go to Vietnam.  He gave up his title and his passport and was possibly going to jail.  4 years later the Supreme Court set him free.

 “Why should they ask me to put on a uniform and go 10,000 miles from home and drop bombs and bullets on Brown people in Vietnam while so-called Negro people in Louisville are treated like dogs and denied simple human rights?”


A stop in at Angel’s Envy for some bourbon and a walk on the 4 Bridges under a full moon…it was a fabulous visit.

Next stop was Chicago.  I rolled into town just in time to get to Kelly Anchor’s play “Deep Fried Refried” at the 31st year old Rhinoceros Theatre Festival, longest running fringe theater in Chicago.  Kelly juxtaposed Tennessee Williams with her southern family trauma around addiction and physical abuse.  Unplanned pregnancies, love, passion, dreams, indiscrepancies, were portrayed with humour and sadness.  Kelly’s family were the actors in this astonishingly brave play.  Her southern mother, Lynn, Mike, her husband from Chicago and her son, Max.  The talent in that family is stunning.

I think something Kelly and I have in common; when we are going through something, we want to share and bring everyone along.


Kelly’s day job is an elementary school counselor for a very diverse school with all types of ethnicities.  I had the privilege of attending her grief group where we built things out of play dough and talked to the kids.  One young boy had just lost his mother, another little girl was a Syrian refuge and her father had been assassinated.

Kelly is the most humblest badass I’ve ever seen.  Not to mention she knows every delicious restaurant to eat at in Chicago.

I’ve just realized that I’m 54 and driving across the country is actually really hard on your body.  I stayed an extra couple of days to recoup and had the chance to go tour the Frank Lloyd Wright House in Oak Park, IL.  Fascinating architect, not my style but he was brilliant.  All his furniture he designed looked terribly uncomfortable.  He was known for building a room within a room and making small spaces go into larger spaces (compression to expansion) among other things.  He actually sounded like an arrogant asshole.  Quite the eccentric influencer.

From there, the Art Institute of Chicago was a must see.  When Zafer and Arlo were little we used to play the board game “Masterpiece” and they learned the classic art pieces.  I took them to the Art Institute when they were quite young and they ran from room to room like they were finding Easter eggs with all the Matisse, Renoir, Cezanne, Van Gogh, Seurat paintings.

A quick dinner at La Sardine’s with my cousin’s niece, Stella.  A sophomore at the University of Chicago.  What a joy to visit with this adorable young woman focusing on environmental science.

To solve the sore back issue I went to the Relax my Back store. A tutorial with Tim, the back man, and many dollars later, my car is SET for a road trip.  He had me upside down, laying on mattresses with multiple pillows. I swear…they worked wonders.  He explained posture, muscles, lactic acid, astronauts and gravity like no other.

Next stop is Omaha Nebraska.  I’ve never been to Nebraska and why not?  Who wouldn’t want to go to Omaha in February? Well, I get in late and it’s cold.  I wake up and it’s negative 6 degrees.  I seriously had to google to see if it was safe to go outside.  This southern girl has never been in this kind of cold.  The wind chill they said was more like -45.  I put on all my clothes in my suitcase.  I was a little freaked out that the car wouldn’t start, but good German engineering, and all was fine.  I made it to a critically important massage at the most beautiful healing center in Old Market, a cobblestone part of downtown Omaha.  The cutest place ever.


Tomorrow, I leave for Boulder, Colorado.   A bittersweet place.  A beautiful town that killed my son.  I’m lucky to have all my sweet cousins there, Zafer’s roommate, Niki to process with, Kristi, and Arlo flying in.  I think it will be really really hard and also very healing.

On the way I’ll stop and visit the 600,000 Sandhill Cranes migrating in Kearney, Nebraska.  I’m pretty sure Zafer will be riding with me.     

Sacred Ground

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Sacred Ground

Today I’m in Montgomery, Alabama to see the The National Memorial for Peace and Justice Museum.  I also went to the Rosa Parks museum which had this cool as hell time machine in which you sat on a bus and it took you back to the 1800’s.  It described the history and where the character of Jim Crow came from and exactly why we are where we are.

Going to the Peace and Justice Museum was heavy.  I knew it would be and yet I was not prepared for the deep punch as I walked into the memorial.  I didn’t quite get the large rectangle cubes with victim’s names and where they were from as I walked in.  I spoke to a staff person who said they researched 4000 lynched victims and they had to have 2 forms of documentation to put their name on the monuments.  Of course that is a small amount of names as most had no documentation or record.  As you continued through the memorial the rectangles became more and more elevated and then I got the symbolism and it was horrific and well done whomever came up with that design.  It made the point about the terror that has been going on since the 1800’s.   They have no way of figuring out the real numbers of lynchings, but it is just a fraction of what are recorded.

The Equal Justice Initiative is about facing the hard facts and history in order to move on.  They are taking on racial and economic injustice.  They just put out the movie Just Mercy written by the founder, Bryan Stevenson. They have taken on the biggest issue in America.   It is truly horrific to think of what these humans had to deal with, and still have to deal with.  I’m humbled and grateful to learn even more.  I’m also grateful to our ongoing Chatham Social Justice Exchange that prepared me for this.

PEOPLE, EVERYONE SHOULD COME HERE TO UNDERSTAND…no matter what color you are.

I had to go to the Hank Williams museum to blow off some steam next door.  He died at age 30.  He made quite an impact in just that time.

Montgomery has a lot to offer.  As I sat in a beautiful farm to fork restaurant tonight where the staff were mainly of color and the customers were mainly very southern white people.  I couldn’t help but think that we have still not come that far.  I overheard conversations of men discussing political strategies and at the same time, the staff seemed happy and empowered and my bone marrow and Caesar salad was amazing.

I started my 6 week journey by going to Charlotte, NC to see my Aunt Julia and cousins Greg and Eddie.   I had not seen them in about 2 decades.  These cousins were adorable as children, albeit they got in a lot of trouble…2 boys and I very much looked up to them.  Fast forward to 2020 and they have two beautiful wives.  Teri is doing amazing work with textiles and also works closely with the homeless population of Charlotte.   (They call her the everyday hero) It was really fun seeing them and I brought them a bottle of Fair Game brandy.  I hope I get to see them again sooner than 2040.

Onward to Atlanta, GA.  I drove in at sunset to that dramatic skyline and came into Vanessa and Doc’s place.  They threw me a party and it was an incredible evening of connecting with Maurice Small and his family and women that I had never met but, will all be coming up to NC soon I’m sure.  They put on a spread of food and drink and we exchanged stories.  One woman was losing her beloved husband to ALS and I could relate because of my neighbor Chris.  We had a raucous evening. When I told them that I was driving across the country they all paused.  Vanessa’s dog, Caesar slept by my side that night.

We headed to Vanessa’s country cabin in the town that Alice Walker is from (Eatonton, GA)  and took a hike by the creek.  Visiting with Vanessa is always incredibly healing.  She is a soul doula and it was perfect to start the sabbatical with this intuitive woman that calls it as it is.  Vanessa has a way of distilling things down and then she makes a potion to make it all work.  I left with 3 potions and a mini cauldron for the trip to burn some sage and bay.  Not to mention her words of wisdom that literally will change my trajectory.  Vanessa only made me cry a couple of times. She has an infectious laugh and energy.  Her mate Doc is super supportive too.   I brought a few of the fresh off the press Hempsmith beanies for them.

A very special urban farm tour was with Maurice Small.  Maurice has been a speaker at Abundance’s climate change conference and has a special place in my heart.  He relocated with his family to Atlanta and is leading the Atlanta Urban Food Forest.  Maurice is serious magic with plants and kids.  He understands the importance of teaching the next generation and they actually listen to him, because he is cool as hell!  I believe he can take discouraged kids and teach the beauty of dirt and plants and solve climate change along with food insecurity.

Bonus was getting to see Jaime at her place of work.  A renovation of a Sears and Roebuck factory into a multi use project of retail, food and beverage and living and co-working space.  So cool to see this as we are embarking on The Plant and Chatham Beverage District in PBO.  Jaime was an early employee of Abundance NC and one of the smartest and most energetic women I know.  Next was my bff from 2nd grade Melissa who just so happened to be working in Atlanta.  We are basically sisters and it was so fun to connect for dinner.


I’m off to visit Kaitlin, my step-daughter in Louisville, KY next.  Can’t wait.

This sabbatical is exactly what is needed.  Magical in fact.  Every person I meet seems to offer
insights to the next step.

Sabbatical REDUX

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Sabbatical REDUX

“oh, baby, never ever forget how magical life can be, or is about to be.  Open your eyes, open your heart.  Things are coming.” Tennessee Williams


I really related with this pic of Mona and obviously need a break!

I am setting out tomorrow morning for another epic sabbatical.   6 years ago I embarked on a journey.  I started this blog then as an archive for myself, and it became a way to connect with friends and family and even strangers.  I was completely naive and a different person then.  Many changes have occurred in these 6 years and I feel the need to go find myself again.  I am so grateful for the support and love from everyone and even the understanding.  And the jealousy!  Ha!  So many have said they were envious.  Which is so cute.

I’m driving in my little convertible VW beetle this time.  Last time was an old VW bus; Baby Blue.  She broke down on the reg.  It cost a fortune and I had callouses on my hands from the steering wheel.  The plan is to go to California and back.  I’ll visit friends and family and also have a ton of time alone to think and process this crazy beautiful life that I have created.  I think we all go too fast and don’t really get a minute to think about what is happening and all of a sudden we are old and our kids are grown and I just want things to slow down.

Driving through America is quite a different experience than just touching down in big cities.  You see the poverty, the beautiful countryside, the glory and the struggle.  I’ll do a photo journal of what I see.  And the amazing folks I’m visiting all have astounding stories.

I have a harmonica and a ukulele to learn, about 15 books and all the yoga gear you could imagine.  Radical self care.


My duties have been delegated and I’m clear to go!  I’m grateful to Arlo and Lyle for having my back.  For Ally, Paul, Amanda, Marcela and Alisa for holding down the fort of Abundance.  I’m excited to see the board of Abundance steer the ship into a new sustainable direction.  Hope is taking care of the airbnb’s.  I’m truly blessed to have this privilege.  I expect to have a new clear vision when I get back mid March.

Giovanna bought me a tool that can cut the seatbelt or break windshield glass or act as a flare.  (In case the car goes over a bridge into a body of water) and Carol bought me airbuds for the phone so I can call Ally and mentor her!

Wish me luck and I’ll write of my adventures every week here.  See you in the spring!

A Community of Unity

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A Community of Unity


I was told the Ku Klux Klan might be coming to Pittsboro this morning to protest the taking down of the confederate statue.  The Chatham County Commissioners voted 4-1 to take the statue down last month.  The KKK is known as an American white supremacist hate group. It’s very disturbing to think that they would appear in our progressive county.  (For a long time, I didn’t think they were still a thing).  They did just show up in Hillsborough a few weeks ago.

We have been working on bringing whites and people of color together every month to learn more about white privilege.  LaShauna Austria is our force of nature leader and we call it the Chatham Social Justice Exchange.  Abundance NC and RAFI are partners.

“Fish don’t know they’re in water. If you tried to explain it, they’d say, “Water? What’s water?” They’re so surrounded by it that it’s impossible to see. They can’t see it until they jump outside of it.

This is how I feel about culture. We’re so surrounded by it that it’s impossible to see. Many things we think are true are really just our local culture. We can’t see it until we get outside of it.”  Derek Sivers

We white people don’t know what it’s like to feel oppressed, to fear for our lives, or anything about what it’s truly like to be a black person, a latino, or anyone outside of our white American culture.  And it’s not the job of others to educate us….we must do that for ourselves.

Today was truly inspiring and actually made me cry to hear the stories from my neighbors of color.  One very tall black man and I were buying coffees together.  We recognized each other from just being around town.  He told me about growing up in Moore County and driving through Pittsboro when he was younger.  Pittsboro had one stop light then and it was pretty dark and he would round the corner of the courthouse and there was the looming confederate statue.  This sweet man was scared driving through our town of Pittsboro.  I’ve never felt that fear.  I’m a privileged white woman that can do anything I want.  I can walk anywhere I want, go in any store without someone thinking I’m stealing something.  Little old ladies do not clutch their purses when I walk past them.


Today, Del Turner, Stephanie Perry and many others organized a counter protest to the group coming out.  The local police and sheriffs were out in force to make sure everyone was safe.  There was a lot of fear on the liberal side of the street.  I understand the fear because of all that has happened in our nation, but I think this needs folks to show up.  Let’s not manifest violence in little Pittsboro.  Let’s listen to each other.  Let’s talk to the confederate statue supporters.  I think they believe that taking down the statue is “historic cleansing”.  Maybe it is.  We only have one statue in the county that I know of and it doesn’t represent our whole history.  We do have an incredibly bizarre monument erected to honour the heroes of September 11th.


I believe that this is an opportunity to bring all the people together in the county.  Let’s get the leaders together on all the sides, form an Equity Committee, figure out either a beautiful piece of art to go at the courthouse or a tree or something that represents this loving community that we really live in.  I personally cannot stand down any longer.

It’s hard truths that need to be heard.  It’s not all pretty.  But we owe it to ourselves to finally be a model of what a united, diverse and equitable community can look like.

Stephanie Perry gave a powerful speech and quoted Muhammad Ali:
“Impossible is just a big word thrown around by small men who find it easier to live in the world they’ve been given, than to explore the power they have to change it. Impossible is not a fact. It’s an opinion.

Made me cry.  Please join us.  It will take everyone of us to reverse this trend of systemic, institutionalized, implicit racism and inequity.

Lobster with Barbara

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Lobster with Barbara

The first time I met Barbara Lorie, I was knee deep in mud and many years of someone else’s trash; meds, mattresses, bottles and cans.  I was cleaning up around the tar paper shack that would soon become my home of 20 years.

She took one look at me and told Lyle that I was a Princess.  So, we didn’t get along very well for awhile.

Barbara was a force to be reckoned with and she met Lyle and our roommate, Jenna at a Thomas Berry workshop.  Barbara lived in Pittsboro and was thinking of starting an intentional community.  There was talk of the intentional community being right where I was cleaning up the most nasty crap from the former owners.

I don’t know when I fell in love with her, but it was a slow build.  I wasn’t used to someone who spoke her mind and was so opinionated. I do know that when she spoke, people listened.  After we came home from the hospital with Zafer, she sent the word out in the community that this young couple needed food and the food kept coming.  Some people we had never met.  We finally had to say that we were capable of cooking and the lasagnas stopped coming.

Less than two years later, when Arlo surprised us and the delivery didn’t go that well, my uterus and other organs ruptured.  I was bedridden for weeks with a catheter and a newborn.  Zafer was not happy about the situation and Lyle was juggling keeping it all together plus building us a pond because it was so damn hot in the house.

Barbara came over every day and cared for me and Arlo.  She managed the guests and turned people away so I could rest.  She would have them drop their food and gifts and tell them to leave.  I have never felt so protected, even if I did want to see those people!  Barbara took me to the hospital for follow up procedures and would yell at the doctors and the nurses about the care I was getting.  They asked if she was my mother.  I said my mother would never speak like that!  Once again, I got excellent service.

Over the years, Barbara was a grandmother to the boys and girls, she taught Jessalyn to drive stick shift, she could keep up with Kaitlin, she certainly taught all the kids the alphabet of curse words.  Barbara and Uncle Mark were incredibly close and for her 80th birthday party Mark and I broke into her house and stole her photo albums and pictures off the walls to make a movie about her.  Doug and Yvonne kept her away for an entire day so we could scan everything.

Barbara would even go visit Lyle’s parents in Canada. The contrast was big.  But they all had a love and respect of one another.  Her intellect and political knowledge could not be beat.

One year she gave me a huge stack of papers to take to the beach.  It was her memoirs.  I thought there is no way I was going to read through them.  I couldn’t put it down.  Her memoirs were wild and a page turner.  Barbara has lived an incredible life of adventure, love and pain.

Another year, Barbara’s spirit was down.  Her body was not delivering.  She wanted to go.  One thing on her bucket list was to go to Mattamuskeet to see the migration one more time.  We made a date to go down and stay in a B&B.  Her stories can keep you spellbound for hours.  We dropped in on my friend, Alisa and met her family and husband Chris.  Alisa joined us the next day at the lake to see the birds and we learned about her hunch that her husband had ALS.  Well, Barbara said on the way home, we must get that family to Chatham County to help her and to see Chris out.  And that is what happened.  A very long story on it’s own.

When Zafer died, it was like she lost her own blood.  She is one of the few people that I could fall apart with.  I remember one day when the autopsy report was emailed to me and I had to read about the tag on Zafer’s beautiful toe.  I read about every part of his body externally and internally and I drove straight to Barbara’s and freaked the hell out on her.  She could handle it and she could listen fully.

Barbara would adamantly give advice.  After listening to my drama du jour, she would say:  Go check yourself into a mental institution right now.  And she would give me the number to call.  And she was always right.  I never did check in, but I should have.

She told me when my skirts were too short, when I hadn’t handled something well, when I was not taking care of myself, and she also gave me tons of praise.  She told me how I was changing the world with my work at Abundance.  She encouraged me and sometimes gave me that extra bit of courage to keep going.

One day Barbara called me so excited.  She had just read “Proof of Heaven; a neurosurgeon’s near death experience”.  She said I MUST read it right now.  In her 90 some years this really spoke to her and she knew that she would see Zafer soon and this was just a transition.  It made her so happy and therefore it made me so happy about her seeing Zafer on the other side.  We laughed about the two of them having lattes together as soon as she got there.  That phone call and the fact that this 90 year old believed this got me through some tough months of grieving.

As Barbara’s body started giving out, we would come up with foods that she wanted.  I wanted to be able to make her whatever she wanted.  The first exotic dish she asked for was duck.  It took me months to get a minute to bake her a duck and the night I scheduled it, Doug had to take her to the hospital.  I thought, shit…I have to get her this duck before she dies.  Well, she didn’t want just any duck, she wanted the Asian market duck where they have it precooked and cut it for you.  So, I went and got the second duck and we had a successful dinner party last fall.
I realized it wasn’t about her having the duck, she wanted me to have that crazy experience of the Asian market.

Standing rib roast was the next dish.  Tony was in town and I went and bought a 4 rib standing rib roast.  It was bigger than a fat baby.  She didn’t trust me with that, so she ended up cooking it and we had another amazing dinner party.

A few weeks ago as she weakened, I came by and she was sleeping.  She opened her eyes and told me my dress was too short.  I asked her what dish she wanted next and she said “lobster”.

It has been refreshing to talk bluntly with her about death and what she wants.  She built this community to see her out.  And we are.  Her legacy is Blue Heron and the sweet community that is giving her 24/7 care right now.  So many people are helping Doug and Yvonne:  Davo, Stacye, Elaine, Sally, Jean, Sue and the list goes on.  Barbara has vision and she created this.  She is a woman that knows what she wants.

I know that soon she’ll be somewhere really fun, being extravagant, with Zafer and Mark and all the other soul families.

And tonight let us eat duck, again.

Popping up like a Prairie Dog

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Popping up like a Prairie Dog


Arlo, Lyle and I flew to the desert for some deep soul searching.  I was scared at diving in deep to do some major internal work and I was proud of Lyle and Arlo for joining me.

Los Alamos was on the way to Golden Willow Retreat Center in Taos, our destination.  We stopped by the Bradbury Science Museum and took in some history of the nuclear bomb. Was it really necessary?  They named the first two bombs Little Boy and Fat Man.  Seems like a lot of young men naming the most destructive tool after their insecurities.

As contrast, we went to the Earthships in Taos.  This is a famous passive solar housing community made of tires, bottles, aluminum cans and natural materials.  Evidently the founder did a lot of acid in the 70’s and 80’s and created these amazing structures that took into account passive solar, greywater, blackwater, trash, was off grid and the average person could learn to build.  They are all over the world now.  And I think he stopped doing acid and began building these beautiful structures en masse.

I remember Lyle building many of the systems we saw at the Earthships or inspiring them at EMJ, The Plant, our house and the early days of the biodiesel coop.

Arlo was jazzed.

Finally, we pulled into the Golden Willow Retreat Center which is about 12 miles outside of Taos.  A beautiful adobe home turned into retreat center with a little chapel in the yard.  We were beginning our custom grief retreat with a team of people that knew our unique issues and had been planning for our arrival.   This team is lead by Ted Wiard who unfortunately is one of the most qualified individuals to host a grief retreat.  Ted lost his dear brother to a fishing accident in the sea.  He pushed it down and had his second baby with his beloved wife.  She died shortly after from an incredibly rare cancer, leaving him with two beautiful young daughters.  His mother in law picked his daughters up from school and accidently rolled through a stop light and they were all killed by a garbage truck.  This man almost ended it to join his family (anyone that has had a traumatic loss has thought of ending it, by the way).

We were well taken care of by the nurturing Diana who came in and cooked for us (she prepared our meals at home on her woodstove) and even made special exceptions for my all fat, no sugar diet that is saving me from my neuropathy.  We awoke to Clint, the intuitive yoga teacher that took us to the chapel and lead us through yoga class.  He had a knowing and a sparkle in his eyes.  Clint was open, honest and I immediately bonded with him.

“Don’t cheat the transition” he said.

From there, immediately into individual therapy sessions for all of us.  We had to spread out.  The team knew our story and each therapist fit us perfectly.  Lyle had Jim, the wise elder shaman that also lead our ceremonies.  He smudged us, was gentle and had a wisdom that could relate to Lyle’s spirit.  A sweet man, Ted D. was Arlo’s therapist.  I didn’t have much time with him, but I know that Arlo fell in love with him.  I was so grateful for that.  And I had the lovely Lindsey who was so refreshing.  She felt like someone that would be a very good friend of mine in Chatham if she lived here.  She gave me permission to feel my feelings.  Sometimes I don’t have compassion for myself and she was great at helping with that.

The first assignment was to write a timeline of our lives, the good, the bad and the ugly.  I was surprised at what made me sob.  Losing Uncle Mark, realizing how my best friends must have felt when we lost Zafer, the pride I felt at being born in a trailer, the “crucible” I have created.  Burning everything down and starting anew.

From there, we were asked to write letters and to go to that childlike emotional state and let your emotions flow.  I went out to the chapel and sat by the fire and started writing.  I had lots of letters to write.  As I was writing one to Zafer, the 400 year old doors creaked open and a white wolf like dog came in and licked me.  I gave him a pat and he walked back out the door.

It felt great to write those letters.  A weight was lifted, although it was emotionally exhausting.

Jim, the shaman, gathered Lyle, Arlo and I back into the chapel and we had a ceremony around the 7 directions.  I had only heard of the 4 directions.  He explained East; New Beginnings, South; Finding one’s truth, West ;Going within, North; where the veil is the thinnest  & our loved ones, Father Sky; Potential, Mother Earth; Healing and Abundance, and Unknown; Trust and Faith, Forgiveness.

We made prayer tobacco ties and tied cloth and tobacco into 7 specific colored cloths.  We prayed into each bundle as we built and tied.   I put the most amount of tobacco into the unknown which was a purple square.

Lyle and Arlo had a ritual of walking each night after dinner into the snow and the first night they happened upon an elk.  It had a huge rack and just watched them.  When they described it they said they were talking about Zafer,  the good times and being grateful for him.  The shaman mentioned these are no coincidences.


There was so much going on in my mind and so much to process that sleep was difficult even though we were in this cocoon of complete care and warmth.  I woke up one night at 3am and just put on my mittens, hat and boots and went walking into the night.  The stars were a bazillion more than at home.  I walked out of the house and the vastness overcame me and I just started laughing and running and jumping in the snow.  Something about nature, the universe, the cosmos, being so much bigger than us tiny humans made me so happy even in my sorrow and troubles. I love that walk and the spirituality of the desert.  Incredible healing.

The second day of yoga, Clint came and he clued in that we had sorrow, grief, difficulties, perhaps some anger and he choreographed a beautiful class of partner poses.  Poses that are about support and connection.  We were deeply moved and I believe it was a turning point in our healing.  He snuck out so we could have family time as we were a puddle on the floor.

We met with our therapists every day and the second day we read our letters to them.  And believe me, they were not pretty.  There is something about witnessing the pain with no judgement that helped me release the feelings.  An acknowledgement that I felt that and it was my truth.  Might be far from the truth, but that is MY TRUTH.  My story.  It was another deeply healing session.  And someone to witness and reflect with made it that much better.

The next task was to get to Taos to have massage.  OMG.  Essential Massage in Taos, I highly recommend.  We were all stoned from such great bodywork.

Ted Wiard, the founder joined us that evening for a “Ted Talk” and he explained the story of the Chapel.  Ted is a joyful, full of light mischievous character, and also has a depth to him that he was gifted from his losses.  He immediately connected with Arlo because of his love of youth.  I appreciate his special attention to Arlo knowing what it’s like to lose a brother and knowing where many people head after a tragedy (betty ford center etc.).  Ted built the chapel with 10 12-year-old boys that he homeschooled.  He took on this challenge.  The chapel has so much love and symbolism built into every crack and door and cross. It has a story about the boys, the stories, the losses, the meaning and it draws people from all over that need to honour their dead including Zafer.

And I found fascinating the research and studies that Ted has embarked on with his ministry background.  After a traumatic complicated loss, the brain reacts like a physical brain injury with loss of short term memory loss, confusion, concentration issues, irritability etc.  The neural pathways start to work differently and we go through a process of denial/insulation, anger/protest, bargaining/cognitive understanding, depression/sad surrender, acceptance/acknowledgement of a fact, the unknown/spirit connection and forgiveness of self, relocation/service-concrete to abstract.

Loss causes us to dig deep into all of our childhood losses and bring those back up.  We tend to go back to infancy and early childhood behavior and sometimes have tantrums.  If we embrace it, we can heal those areas and it becomes a super power.  We are given a gift from this horrible situation which makes sense.  There has to be something positive from such pain.

But we need to accept grief and do the inner work for this to happen. 

If we push it down like nothing has happened or it is too painful to deal with, we will not realize the potential magic and spirit that is there for us.

Ted told me that people that experience traumatic loss often start popping up like a prairie dog and just peeking out of their hole at around 2 and ½ to 3 years after the loss.

I think I’m popping up.  I think I’m seeing the light out of the hole just a little bit.