“Community and home are synonymous.”

the following is part of my home project. i met natalie on my roadtrip with eli; they grew up going to camp together. we stayed with natalie at her relatively newfound home base in austin, texas. natalie is currently finishing her prerequisites to go to nursing school. she is a full-spectrum doula, hospice volunteer, and jewytch. she likes to sing, dance, and play with her kitties.

IMG_5414.JPGWho are you and where are we today?

My name’s Natalie and we are in Austin, Texas.

Do you have a place you consider your home of origin?

Sonoma County, California.

When you hear the word ‘home’ are there immediate sights, sounds, or smells that come to mind?

The first thing I think of is the red couch at my friend Jacob’s family’s house. Jacob’s mom, Miriam, is the most loving, warm mother figure to me and to many others. Growing up, I found any excuse I could to go over to their house. We would all just have tea or coffee or sweets and all snuggle on the red couch together. That’s still one of my favorite places. It was really important to me to have the red couch and Miriam as a refuge and sanctuary. My house was very chaotic. My parents fought all the time. Once I could drive I left as much as I could. My three best friends growing up — Rio, Zoe, and Jacob — those people, their families, and their homes are what I think of when I think of home.

IMG_3130
natalie with chosen family on the red couch.

When you talk about trying to get away from the chaos, what are the feelings you were trying to move toward? How did you feel on the red couch?

Calmness, peacefulness, love, connection, and community. Situations that create opportunities for heart-to-heart connection.

Having moved on from that time in your life, in what ways do you see the common threads of connection and love since then?

My response to living and growing up in chaos has been creating peaceful spaces. I lived in punk houses that were chaotic all the time, and I do love that, because I am an extrovert and I love being around people. I’m good at adapting to different environments. I go through phases where messiness or clutter bother me or they don’t. Right before moving [to Austin] I had finally arrived at a house that was totally clean and peaceful and that did make me feel more at ease. I do feel at home here because there are people around who have my back and who I can hang out with and connect with. But what makes me feel most at home is my room space, [my partner] Charlie, and Jellybean [the cat]. I talk about our microcommunity and our family — the three of us — it makes me feel at home to go to sleep and wake up with them every night and know that no matter what’s going on, they’re my home base. 

IMG_4144
natalie’s micro-community with jellybean and charlie

What does Jellybean have to say about that micro community?

You know, I actually can’t speak for Jellybean and I don’t know what he’s thinking. I think he likes spending time with us and he likes to cuddle. It’s so hard because you can’t speak for animals and they can’t really give consent really. But Jellybean seems to also love calling our room home base. He’ll go out into the world and do his thing and then he runs through the cat door and jumps into my arms. It’s so sweet.

It seems like you’re in the process of trying to balance your coexisting needs between craving a lot of community and people, while also needing a peaceful and clean space.

Yeah. Alone time is crucial for me, but having that in a social setting is difficult. The ultimate dream is the queer land project. I really want to have kids in community. I don’t want to raise kids by myself or in a nuclear family situation. I want to have my own cabin or four walls on a piece of land.  I see myself in California and I don’t know how feasible that is, with land being so expensive, and with the drought. I don’t know exactly what it’s going to look like but I know that living in a community with shared values and visions that I feel safe with is really important to me.

Tell me more about your vision for your dream home.

I have a lot more research to do. I don’t know where it’s going to be. I think about Northern California but it might just be too expensive. I don’t want to close that door. I want to put it out there and believe it can happen. I see it being community that’s rural but not too far out, maybe an hour away from a city. I’m interested in living in community where we share resources, where we collaborate together on projects and on life. I see there being a farm, I see there being children, I would love it to be a summer camp.

I would love it to be a full spectrum clinic. I would love it to be a place where people could come to die. Humans and animals. That’s my dream. I’m a hospice volunteer and I’ve been working with people who are dying. The medicalization of death makes me really sad. I would love to have a place that  could be set up for old folks and other people who are dying to come and not have to give away their autonomy. I would love it to be a place where my parents and my friends’ parents could come during their last days. I’ve talked about this dream a lot with another friend who works with old and disabled dogs. It would be so cool to have everyone — the rejects of society — come and be safe there.

That’s really cool because I feel like so many people talk about the queer land project dream, and so much of what automatically pops into my head is young, able-bodied folks. The vision of a more intergenerational and inclusive place to be is a beautiful one.  

Yeah. And I would want it to be a collaborative project, a place where everyone can have their visions happen. 

Are there ways that you feel like your queerness has played into your idea of home and the ways that you seek and make home?

For sure. In general I prefer to be around queers. I feel safer and more seen. I have mostly lived with queers in the past and I’m not right now. I’m living with one queer person. So many insecurities have come up around my queer identity, being in what looks like a hetero relationship. Something that I’m really trying to believe is — being with him doesn’t make me straight, it makes him queer. (laughs) I just feel more seen around queer people and being seen is something that’s coming up for me a lot in this chapter in my life, moving out here and being in the world with Charlie. I’m so terrified of being perceived as straight. There’s this certain sense of ease when I am around queers. Even if that’s kind of imagined, because of course queer isn’t just one thing.

The one question that I’m asking everybody — is in what ways do you seek home, and in what ways have you found home?

Community is the number one most important thing to me. In looking for community and in making community I’m looking for and making home. Those two things are synonymous. ‘Home’ is about family and when I think about family I mostly think about my chosen family.

natalie and mom home
natalie and her mom

I love my family of origin, but it was really chaotic. I’m an only child, and my parents were fighting constantly. I’m also adopted. I think about how that influences every single part of who I am. I often feel like an alien, or an outsider, even with my family, with my parents. Even though ending up with my mom is what makes me believe in something greater. We’re so connected, we’re best friends, we even look alike. But I still have that complex of feeling someone didn’t want me, and gave me away. Having that at my core. If I’m in an insecure place or in a hard place, I’ll go about the world feeling like I’m unwanted or not at home anywhere.

The way I can make myself feel at home is by creating community and connecting with people. I love to create experiences for people and facilitate experiences where everyone can come together. I see myself as a mother or a matriarch. The best feeling in the world is when everyone I love is together — eating a meal, or singing songs. Nothing else matters to me when that’s happening. That’s how I seek and create home. Now I’m in this spot where I’ve just moved here, and I have some friends and a partner. But it’s really hard for me because I’ve gotten used to having lots of very close friends not too far away, people who have known me my entire life. I don’t have that now. It’s a good project for me to try to create home feeling in community when I’m far away from that. Something I really want to do is, I want to have a Seder here during Passover. I think that’ll be a good way for me to create home community feeling.

IMG_1943. (1).jpg
Post-interview, Natalie shared this photo of Seder in Austin.

for now, i am home

i haven’t written in a while and i suppose it’s in part because i’ve been kinda overwhelmed and sad. it doesn’t always feel like the most natural thing to share those vulnerable feelings in a public way. sometimes i question the wisdom of doing so, especially in an age where surveillance is being used to target and repress people, by the government, alt-right jerks, and TERFs alike. still — the power and connection i find in vulnerability and authenticity and my hope for my writing reaching others in a meaningful way keeps me sharing.

18222437_10209762396044069_1616808143073369599_ntoday is the 10 year anniversary of the death of my close friend, lauren. last year i decided i would follow her brother’s lead to move on from honoring that day, and instead focus on her birthday as a celebration of life. of course, my body and heart deeply remember that day. still i grieve. when i was younger, i misguidedly attempted to stay exactly as i was when she died, thinking that was the truest way to live out my loyalty and love for her. it took me a few years to realize that living fully and authentically as myself was a much better and truer way to honor lauren, and that like all people, i am dynamic and have the capacity to transform. moving on in this way helped me to push away doubt and shame about being queer and trans, though of course i wish she could know me as i am today.

10 years is a trip. i’ve been without her in my life twice as long as we were friends. her family and i will always be family to each other, for the love and grief we share and stay connected to. (a while ago i published a serious tearjerker ‘home’ interview with lauren’s mom susan – one of my favorite interviews in the project.) today, i cried and felt her absence more than i expected to. there are ways in which time heals our wounds, and there are ways time only buries them. for a few years there, losing lauren defined my life. thankfully, it’s not like that anymore. still, no matter how much i heal, grow, and transform, loving lauren — and losing her — is formative in making me who i am.

UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_10bb.jpg
the albany bulb in full bloom this morning.

i recorded a new version of an old song i wrote in the year following lauren’s death – it’s called massapequa and it’s about the first year i didn’t go home for the holidays, seeking and finding home in loved ones.

i’ve been in a strange place lately. there are ways and moments in which i so deeply yearn and strive for connection with friends, comrades, and community. the moments in which i feel seen, heard, and embraced make my heart swell, they make me feel strong and solid and okay, they make me wanna make music and be brave. i especially appreciate moments of connection around political building — i guess it’s just that feeling and knowing of being connected to something bigger than myself. the world keeps getting scarier and if we don’t have each other we don’t have anything. i’m still figuring out what my role can be in movement work. i’m still working at stepping into my power and approaching this work with humility, groundedness, and deep love.

there’s lots more i want to share about in here, but i think i will leave it at this for now.

hope the sun has been shining where you are.

xo freddie

ps – i felt cute yesterday so here’s a selfie.

IMG_4565.jpg

“There’s something beautiful about places that are a lot of people’s home.”

the following is an interview with my friend margot as part of my home project. i met margot on my roadtrip with eli. we stayed with her for a week, making music, pitching in at soul fire farm and the watershed center, and scheming for margot’s then-upcoming chicken project, linke fligl (‘left wing’ in yiddish!). margot did her own project on ‘home’ after a house she was living in burned down in 2014. listen to margot singing a lovely folk song about home with friendscontent note: the following conversation discusses general trauma around fire / physical loss of home, and ancestral trauma. 

12654302_898571673146_9210887163455600702_nWho are you and where in the world are we?

My name is Margot, and we are in Millerton, New York.

Do you have a place you’d consider a home of origin?

That’s a question I am continuously trying to answer. I grew up in Elgin, Illinois, an hour from Chicago. My parents grew up there, a lot of my grandparents grew up there. It’s where my great grandpa came when he left Lithuania and he started a synagogue there. I’m technically very rooted there, but it doesn’t necessarily feel like a home of origin. At the end of the day, it’s a suburban neighborhood, lacking many of the values and types of community I hold dearly.

Jews are diasporic people. I’m a queer radical Jew. Where’s the home of the queer radical Jews? It was New York City, for a while. That’s where the queer radical Jews have held it down in recent decades. More recently I’ve been like, oh what if New York City is my home? It’s the place where I feel most connected to the history, in some ways.

My understanding of diaspora is there’s no physical origin of home. How does that tie in to a physical location?

It’s both that I manage to build home wherever I am, and it feels important to feel oriented to some location. Otherwise it feels like I’m just kind of constantly moving around and trying to find that. I need a north star. I need to understand why I’m in upstate new york. Otherwise I feel like I’ll always be wondering and lost. Maybe that means I need to do a lot of work rooting, in that sense of diaspora and finding home in myself. But I think that can only go so far. It feels important to really commit to community and people.

Can you tell me about the current ways you’re building home where you are now? img_1006

Something that feels exciting to me is that this physical home has the possibility to feel like home to a lot of people. Before living here I was living at Isabella Freedman Center. That’s a place that I continue to feel very much at home. There’s something beautiful about places that are a lot of people’s home, places people continue to come back to. There’s something powerful in everyone knowing, this is the place we go. That leads to such beautiful magic and intersections of different kinds of people. In this day and age where there’s so much scheduling and overbooking and planning, there’s something magical about being able to have a kind of space in which that connection organically happens.

As much as it’s about having a space that feels like home, whenever I move into a place I immediately make it feel like home. When I was at Isabella Freedman I lived in this cabin for a month and I immediately put down a carpet and put up artwork. People would walk in and assume I was there for years when I had just moved in. But that’s only so important. When I lived in the Bay everyone came to the home of these two women who didn’t have a lot of money, and their house wasn’t the nicest or most amazingly decorated, but it was home. You walked in and you could feel this was a place people wanted to be and came back to. Creating the sense of home through the way the space feels can only go so far.

margot-in-the-coop
margot tending to the chickens at linke fligl. photo by zahara zahav.

I wonder if you could talk to me about the experience you had where your home burned down in a fire.

That was a big opportunity to rethink home. The space I was living in that burned down felt like home more than any other space I’d ever been in. I loved the space, I loved where it was, I loved having people there, I loved being on my own there. It was the first space I’d been in where I loved being alone, and didn’t feel lonely. It was just my home, my space. When there was a fire and it burned down, I could feel it in my core. This complete disorientation of not knowing left from right. I couldn’t imagine how I was going to exist. It was intense. It brought up a lot of what felt like ancestral things. Like, oh , I know this feeling. Maybe I haven’t felt it personally before but this is in my bones, this feeling of losing home in a traumatic way.

When it burned down I was in a somatics course in Seattle. The answer that came to me now feels obvious. I realized home is in my body, home is in relationships. I knew that theoretically but it was an embodied sense. People really came through for me, both emotionally and to fill my life up with beautiful things. I just felt really held and cared for. Once I was able to recognize that I was like, oh yeah, it’s okay. I still can feel at home and I don’t need that physical place even though there’s obviously a lot of grief and loss in losing that. Something opened in me. I had gotten so attached to that physical place that it could have been detrimental. I could have stayed there for years. It gave me the opportunity to move on and start this new journey, which has a lot more potential for a long-term building of collective home.

I can see how that would contribute to your feelings of diaspora. Do you mind talking a little bit about your healing process through that loss and rebuilding? 

I was lucky because I was in a somatics course at the time and surrounded by people who had been trained in somatics. I was able to let myself feel a lot of grief, which is something I usually don’t do. I was able to let myself cry for a week straight. When I came back, inched myself back into it little by little. My friends had taken all the little things that had survived and spread it all out in the arts and crafts room. The first thing I did when I got back was to go in there and connect with those things. That was the only time I was actually able to grieve once I was back. I had done so much grieving before I got back, by the time I got back I was kind of done. It was like there was no more left.

There were lots of beautiful moments and opportunities for ritual. The first time I went back to the house, I brought some people from the community with me and we did some rituals. What was also intense was the building stayed there for eight months after the fire and I had to walk by it every day. There was a numbing out that happened to that place. My body just couldn’t handle having to feel things about it every time.

img_5193.jpg
photo from margot’s blog.

I also did an art installation. I put out an ask for people to respond to the prompt ‘home is’. People sent back all sorts of things. Sukkot was coming, which is this Jewish holiday where you’re celebrating in a temporary home. I wanted to create a space that reflected that everything is kind of temporary. The building was basically to the ground. There was one wall standing. I took paint and wrote on the wall, “Home is…” and collaged art out of pieces of wood from the fire. I’d never done an art installation. It just felt natural to interact with it in that way and reclaim it as beautiful. It went from this burned down dilapidated building to this beautiful art project. It was cool to transform it back into something that felt life giving.

In what ways are you seeking and making home, and in what ways have you found home?

Over the last three years, really grounding in Jewish community, and specifically, radical queer Jewish community… I have this general sense of feeling at home wherever I am that feels really different than before I was connected to that community.   Home feels like all of the places we come together, the songs we sing, the prayers we create.  What feels hard and what I’m really longing for is just to have that in a more consistent way here. It feels like a struggle sometimes to continue to be in deep relationship with folks who don’t live in the same place. I really want to shift to having relationships be more in person than not.

 

“What even does it mean to try to survive in places where people are telling us we don’t belong?” Brawny on home.

the following is an interview with my friend brawny, as part of my home project. believe it or not, i met brawny on instagram after a friend found their #freddiemercorgi hashtag, and eli and i stayed with them in decatur, georgia. content note: the following conversation discusses general trauma around grief, loss, and queerness, as well as white supremacy and colonization.

screen-shot-2017-01-09-at-8-50-23-amWho are you and where are we?

My name is Jillian, or Brawny, and we are in Decatur, Georgia.

Is there a place you consider a home of origin?

Probably Shorewood, Wisconsin.

What sights, sounds, smells jump to your visceral memory when you think of Shorewood?

I think of water. Big bodies of water. I lived about a block and a half away from Lake Michigan. Going to the lake was really my first process of working through my emotions on a tangible, physical level. Almost every single day after middle school or high school I’d just walk to the lake. I spent a lot of time crying and looking at Lake Michigan. It was so cold, just this sharp bitterness. Your senses are almost sharpened when it’s that cold. The sun hits the snow and colors seem brighter. It’s just like whenever I go somewhere that cold I feel a sense of home, and feel more alive in this way.

Since I’ve lived there I’ve lived predominantly in the southeast. The mugginess and all that is so distinct. The texture of the air really quantifies different types of home to me.

If I could get a little bit woo, which I know you’re down with…

Let’s go all the way.

IMG_0563.jpgWhat does home feel like in your body and soul?

I’ve been processing a lot with the feeling of emptiness and loss. Feeling like I’ve lost so much of who and what was home to me very recently. I feel it in a wholeness. Like if my body was a pitcher, how full am I with water? Is it up to my kneecaps, or up to my chin?

I’ve had a lot of experiences lately with myself about gain and loss at the same time. What I’ve found is what so many queer folks have found about coming into your identity as a queer person in the world, as a radical person in the world, the painful reality of losing so many people in your life. The ways in which people are still holding on to the “who” they thought you were instead of embrace the current you.

I’ve had a lot of understanding the imperfection of my upbringing, and trying to come to terms with the love that my parents were able to give me was incomplete and imperfect. It’s what they could give. It’s not that they were bad people or it was bad love. It was just realizing in myself I need and deserve more. I’m coming into that and realizing that my concept of whole-ness is shifting. Being a female-assigned-at-birth person and being perceived as predominantly female in the world, you’re taught how little space you’re allowed to take up. I’m in a process of reclaiming and the love and respect and all the good things in the world that I need. I got a long way to go. But I’ve learned a lot about giving that to myself, which I did not have when I thought I had wholeness.

It sounds like there’s a lot of grief and joy at the same time.

Yeah, and it’s also coming into politics. When I think of home, I think a lot about my political home. That’s really where I’ve found so much healing from my own trauma and found the words to explain what is going on in the world — being like, okay I’m not the only one seeing this. I’m not out of my mind to see the systematic oppression that exists for myself and my comrades. I’ve got my political home, and learned that, too, is imperfect. Right now, home, for me, is figuring out the healthy balance of conflict and struggle and love and respect.

1960905_377363125773455_52311822735008645_oWhen you talk about your political home, what are you talking about?

I’m mostly talking about specific groups and specific ‘who’s.’ The people that I’m closest to right now are people that I’ve done political work with. Girls Rock Charleston is definitely a political home where we all kinda came up together and created this organization off the ground. Just the like-minded people talking about like-minded goals, and just the feeling of coming home, where you get to come in and immediately take off your pants. It’s like, political home is where we get to come and don’t have to be sitting on the edge of your seat waiting to deconstruct someone’s racist comment, or be misgendered by your friend.

Can you describe the home and world that you and your comrades seek to create?

My political people are my home and we’re thinking about who we’re gonna be when we grow up, and how to actually decolonize our life. We think a lot about communally raising babies, and the dreamy stuff like that. You get some land and you get off the grid. We’ve always been thinking about the ways in which the nuclear heteronormative family has failed us, so what can we create to not fuck up our kids as much as we were fucked up? That’s on a small level.

In a grander scheme of things, decolonizing the world, and all that means. Breaking down white supremacy and the heteropatriarchy in every single space that we can while knowing that it’s probably not gonna be in our lifetime. What does it mean to continue working with that on an interpersonal level, at the very least? That’s the kind of world I want to live in.

I’m curious to hear about your thoughts and feelings about forging home in something tangible, like a land project off the grid, when we are talking about indigenous land, and trying to address colonization and de-colonoize our lives. Have you gotten anywhere on that? Because it’s something I feel pretty overwhelmed in thinking about.

Yeah, I think about that so much. A friend of mine in Charleston was really invested in making what he called a ‘cool space,’ but how to not gentrify by making this sort of space. Most of us are working class — people working in food/bev, or working in non-profit movement work which pays very little, so what would it mean to be able to have a piece of land? What does it even mean to own a piece of land? I don’t know how to completely decolonize, except for like, go back to the Czech Republic where my people are from, and create a habitable community outside of Prague. Maybe that is the answer. I really don’t know. As a white person,  I think a lot about trying to live as intentionally as possible and actively invest in what it means to leverage and give up my privilege, instead of just being like, “I have privilege, that sucks, but aren’t I a great guy to say I have privilege?”

And this concept of identifying and being a white person but also knowing white isn’t a race. What does it mean to reclaim where you’re from as a white person? The way in which whiteness and the privilege that we benefit from creates this vacuum of culture which then leads to appropriation. What does it mean to actually fill yourself up with where you’re from in this way that doesn’t center your white experience, to the people around you at least?

I think one answer is reparations, in any way. What does it mean to give back this land? Of course you can’t undo the terrors and the horrors that were enacted by our ancestors, but I just can’t subscribe to so many white people’s tendency to throwing up their hands and being like, ‘we didn’t do this, what do you expect us to do?’ Because it is our burden to bear. When white people think about being intentional people and giving back to people of color can get in this whole white savior complex as well. I like to focus on the more spiritual piece of decolonizing and understanding that in every system of power and oppression, the group in power is spiritually bankrupt in ‘having’ this in this way. So many white people, even in movement work, don’t understand the spiritual burden of white supremacy on them. I think a lot about breaking that down.

Thanks for getting into that, it’s a really layered question.

I basically just said a bunch of words that amount to, ‘I don’t know.’ But I’m interested in knowing and I’m interested in struggling. I think that’s an important piece. What I admire in people doing this work is the transparency and willingness to fail, and failing and showing up and knowing it’s not gonna be beautiful but it’s just trying the best you fucking can.

12087256_10204969369826315_8122654721586557946_oI’m gonna shift and ask about — obviously you have a special relationship with your dog, and I wanted to ask if your relationship with your dog has impacted or helped create or had any kind of interaction with your relationship with home?

Yeah, a lot. My dog Freddie Mercorgi is very much home, in all the definitions of home. Like the Hallmark card, sunset picture, talking about home, that’s me and Fred. But she also really helped me with taking back feeling good in my physical space of home. Growing up I had very chaotic parents. My home was always a mess and my parents were prone to outbursts so I never really felt good bringing people over. I didn’t spend a lot of time at home. I’d go to the library, I’d go cry at the lake. The fact that I have this dog at home waiting for me has really brought me back to the safety and comfort and being welcome and excited to come home. I got her when I was 24, and the 24 years before that I never had a reason to come home in that way.

Well, she’s a perfect angel baby.
You talked a little bit about the world you envision and the space you kind of stride toward in your political home. And I wonder if you could also talk about the home you’ve envisioned for yourself in a more physical sense. It seems like you’re in transition and I wonder what you see when you’re in a more — I don’t know if grounded’s the right word, but in a place where you’re like, yes this is where I wanna be.

I don’t have a lot of depth into that for myself. Lately I’ve just been fascinated with this concept of home ownership. A few hours ago when I was driving home, I was looking at these houses and thinking, wow, it would be amazing to feel rooted and feel investment in a particular space, both a specific home and a city. I also think about the exhaustion of capitalism and the money that I pay for rent just disappearing. It’s too hard to think about.

Most of my relationships are tremendously intimate and platonic. I don’t have a lot of partners. I spend most of my time being single and in that I’ve really been able to reconstruct romance and polyamory and the ways in which we can connect with one another that doesn’t involve prioritizing romantic and sexual partnerships. Whenever I envision myself being an actual grown up, I envision collective living.

Can you paint me a picture of dreamlife, or the thing you want to struggle for in making home, even if you don’t know where that would be, or how?

I don’t know what my dream home looks like. I’m in this process of completely deconstructing my life. It seems like I’ve lost so much. In this way that doesn’t take loss as an exclusively bad thing. I have let go of so many things to shift what I’m looking for. I was just thinking about how I have a lot of desire that’s just not directed. I’ve been struggling with deep depression and this feeling of desire is new and exciting in this way that I don’t wake up and just go through the day and go to sleep. It’s funny having this desire without any sort of direction. But definitely creating a home and knowing what that looks like is something that’s on the way. I desire to know what that is, even. I’m at square negative two.

In what ways do you seek and make home, and in what ways have you found home?

I’ve definitely found home in Freddie, and in a few pieces in my life. One of them is my groupchat that has been named in my iPhone as ‘Cry Club’ with Salter and Cole. Cole actually texted me and Salter. They were listening to an interview with Janet Mock and she said — her eloquence is beyond me, I can’t, so I’m gonna completely butcher the quote — she was talking about home being people you come to completely empty so they could fill you up. I felt that so much.

screen-shot-2017-01-09-at-8-44-29-am
one of brawny’s embroidery pieces.

I’ve found home in creation. I’ve found home in my weird fiber art things. I’ve realized I am very self conscious of calling myself an artist. I had drinks with this older butch the other day and she was going through my instagram and pointing out pictures and being like, ‘this makes you an artist.’ It kinda reminded me of the first time I was called femme. It was not by myself, it was by a butch who was like, hey, you’re a femme. Okay butches, you can tell me who I am, but give me a break, so I can be the one to say it.

Even though I hate working in food/bev, I like the process of making coffee and using my hands all day. That’s a way I’ve found home in my body.

I’m really seeking a home where I feel both useful and fulfilled. I’ve had a lot of trouble in my past with codependent relationships, and the way I’ve given so much of myself to situations and relationships where I’ve not sustained me or filled me. So I’m looking for about where can I come to be filled up, and where can I too fill other people, places, and things up, like the Janet Mock quote. Sustainability is a big word when it comes to home. I’ve been thinking of all the tag phrases of being a millennial, and doing political queer work, especially in the south. How can we be sustainable when we’re trying to chisel a life out of the bible belt for us? What even does it mean that we’re trying to survive in places where people are telling us we don’t belong? What does sustainable living look like? Even in doing collective liberatory work, what does sustainable living look like when you’re always in the battle?  I’ve been thinking a lot about that — what’s the answer to sustainability and anti-capitalist self-care and preventing burnout.

“I know where I can go to feel welcomed and wanted.” Alli on home.

the following is an interview with my friend alli as part of my home project. we became close friends as similarly closeted queerdos at our catholic high school in portland, where alli still lives today.

download_20161021_182757.jpg
alli & huckleberry

Who are you and where are we?

I’m Alli and we’re in Portland, Oregon.

Do you have a place you consider a home of origin?

Yeah, I guess so. The Bay Area in California.

What do you think of when you think of that home of origin?

You know how when you’re driving on the freeways of the suburbs around the bay, the retaining walls on the side have greenery that grows on them, but it’s usually always brown and dead? That always reminds me of home. I remember when I moved to Portland the first thing I noticed when we were driving up here was the freeways were different.

When I think of my home of origin, I think of my childhood, the way I grew up, and the way home was talked about as a child. But now when I think of home I think of it as more of an abstract feeling as opposed to a place.

Can you tell me about that transition of the idea of a childhood home and how that’s talked about, versus how you think of a home now?

Once you start being given the freedom to choose your own home, and create your own home, you realize — I should say, I realize, I’m in control of what home is to me. As opposed to being a child when you don’t pick your home, or decide what the definition of home is. When you’re a kid everything is so literal, right? Every word has a definition, and the definition of home is the place that you live.

So, what is home to you as you are choosing your own home?

It’s hard to put into words. I call where I live my home and I feel like that’s my home. I’m a nester so it’s important to me to have a place to retreat to. But when I’m with people or surrounded by things that put me at ease, I don’t feel like I’m away from home or missing home.

Tell me about the ways that you are building home now, either abstractly or literally.

I think I’m subconsciously always working to build and create spaces where I feel safe, whether that means physical spaces or just spaces in my heart. I correlate safety with home. But it’s hard to think about how and what I’m actually doing to build that because I’m doing it so subconsciously.

Because certain people were in my life, I was feeling I had to present myself in a certain way and be a certain type of person around them. I have recently weeded all those people out. That’s allowed me to sink in deeper into where I am, which makes me feel like my feeling of home has spread out further because I feel safer in more places.

What do you think makes you feel safe?

Being in a familiar place and being around people I know will keep me safe is important. I’ve lived here for so long, I take for granted how important the time that I’ve lived here plays into my perception of Portland being my home now. It’s familiar, and I know it, and I know the places where I can go and see people to feel welcomed and wanted. I feel home in Portland because I know where those places are and I have enough of them to feel comfortable and safe here.

Can you imagine yourself leaving and making home somewhere else?

I would like to believe I can pick up my life and go make roots somewhere else, but I really don’t have any interest in it. The only reason I would like to want that is because there’s a little bit of ‘what ifs’ — like what if that is gonna be better than here, and fear of missing out. But really, the thought of leaving terrifies me. That’s part of why I want to want to go too, because it’s terrifying, and I want to feel like that’s okay, and I’m stronger than this feeling of fear.

13924930_10207501898693048_3226716610178452391_n
eva and alli

So regardless of whether you live here always or go somewhere else, are there ways you envision any sort of future home?

Well I know that Eva, my wife, will be with me wherever I go. I feel like it’s so corny and I’m conforming to what we’re told about love in movies when we’re kids. As scared as I am to leave if we have to leave, if we go together, we’re gonna be fine. ‘Cos we have home in each other. We’ve moved to three different houses in this neighborhood and every time we move, we create the same feeling of coziness. People tell us that when they come into our home. I think the home feeling is about us and what and who we choose to surround ourselves with.

The one question I’m asking everyone is, in what ways are you seeking home, and in what ways have you found home?

I’m quite literally in the process of looking for a house. Not a home, but a house. The intent is so Eva and I can start a family, and in that we are hoping to grow our home.

I feel like I’ve found home. Sometimes you can meet somebody and you’ve never met them and you feel at home with them. I had an interaction with someone I met a couple months ago. We’ve only hung out twice but both times, it’s like we’ve been friends for so long. It’s interesting you can find home in people. But I’m not sure I’m looking for that. It’s so nice whenever you meet people and feel at home with them, but I feel like I’m so content with where I’m at that I prevent myself from looking. A friend told me they knew someone I’d get along with really well, and they asked if they could introduce us, and I said, no that’s alright, I’ve got enough people around, I don’t want to carve out space for anybody else, you know? In that way I’m rejecting something that could possibly be. I don’t know that I am seeking home because I feel like I’ve already found home.

So it feels like a complete journey to you in a way?

I mean, no, but complete enough for me to feel comfortable being here and calling where I’m at home. I’m plateauing. Maybe not staying forever. (laughs).

That’s one way to look at it.

I mean, I’m not afraid of the word plateauing. I think people think plateauing is a bad thing and I can see thats how it’s intended to be used, like being stuck. But I don’t see it that way. I see it as being comfortable where you’re at. I’ll push off again at some point. But I’m happy to plateau. I feel like I’ll go up again some more. Maybe I’ll go back down again, who knows. I’ve got so much more life to live. This is not going to be my home forever, this feeling or this place. But it’s super great to be here right now.

Is anything else coming up for you in this conversation?

I’m interested in this resistance I’m feeling in declaring that home is so engrained in the life I’m building with my partner. I’m so happy being where I’m at, and I wouldn’t change anything, but I feel like part of me that wants to pull away from saying what I know— the person who wrote, like, “A Walk to Remember” would be so happy to hear me saying. Just so conforming! But it’s true and I’m not gonna feel shamed for that. But it’s funny to want to feel like home is more just about me. It’s empowering to feel like I am my own home, it’s me and I’m creating it. But I’ve always been somebody who does better alongside somebody else. So I’m okay to admit that my home is paired with Eva’s.

I mean, you guys are also making your life your own. Just because it has these elements of the ‘white picket fence’ doesn’t mean it’s not yours.

It just all ties in to conformity. I’m conforming to the get married, buy a house, have a baby life path. But then in so many other ways I feel so non-conforming to what society wants us to see. But on this like path of how things are supposed to happen, I’m nailing it.

I think you’re nailing it.

I mean — every night when I go to bed, I smile, and every morning when I wake up, I smile. So I feel like that’s a pretty good way to live.

hari ziyad on voting, & beautiful quiet times between rainstorms

i’ve pondered writing many a blogpost connected to the outrage, injustice, and circus tricks around this country’s 2016 presidential election, but honestly my hot takes are better in person. i’ll share the best thing i’ve read in relationship to the moralizing around voting in said election. be sure to read “not voting is not a privilege” by hari ziyad via black youth project:

The fact is: Black, poor, queer and Indigenous people have made the strongest arguments for divesting from this two party political system, and always have. Many of us who do not occupy the margins of the margins of these spaces—especially, I have noticed, middle class Black people and white women—blame “privilege” just so we don’t have to reckon with our own privileged proximity to whiteness by engaging with them.

It is a privilege to pressure those for whom violence will rain down unimpeded, regardless of who occupies the mansion at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, to do something that may benefit you but won’t do anything for them.

It is a privilege to disregard those whom both parties have no problem bombing, locking away, and dehumanizing; those in Haiti and Honduras and Palestine; the poorest of the poor, the Blackest of Black, and the margins of the margins, just so you can defend the scraps thrown to you in screeds written on thousand dollar laptops at jobs that allow you to keep from worrying if you might die tomorrow because of policies Democrats have upheld.

It is a privilege to erase the history of Black thinkers like Assata Shakur, James Baldwin, and W.E.B.  Du Bois, who have questioned the validity of voting for the liberal party for numerous well-thought out reasons, just so you can continue the lie that their thoughts are wrapped up in whiteness.

It is a privilege to call not voting a “privilege” while 5.58 million people and counting are disenfranchised because of a racist criminal justice system, and neither party intends to do anything about it.

While the masses having little impact on this country’s governance is obviously something the “privilege” of whiteness desires, divesting from the political system is not.

important thoughts to consider, in my opinion.

and now, i’ll share some photos of my walk around the land on the farm this evening. it rained hard off and on through the day, making everything around me seem super nourished, peaceful, and gorgeous. (click to enlarge)

til next time,

xo freddie

“I had her, and she was mine.” Susan on Home.

the following is an interview with my friend and honorary mom, susan, as part of my home project. it was a special and emotional conversation for both of us. my connection to susan is my close friendship with her daughter, lauren, who died in 2007 after battling a rare form of bone cancer.  content note: the following conversation discusses trauma around death and illness, as well as substance abuse.

1919062_1327244897527_7294322_n.jpg
susan and rugby visiting the tree planted for lauren at camp caldera near sisters, oregon

Who are you and where are we?

My name is Susan and we’re in Portland, Oregon.

Do you have a place you consider a home of origin?

Los Angeles, California.

What kind of sensory memories come to mind when you think of that home?

The good memories involve growing up outside. My mom’s home cooking, and the smells of growing up in the San Fernando Valley: olive orchards, eucalyptus, horses.

Can you talk about how your relationship to home has shifted or changed from childhood to adolescence to adulthood?

As a young child I had a strong sense of home. I was number five of six. I was the youngest for seven years, so I had a good sense of closeness in the family, mostly due to my mother. My father was like one of the kids. I grew up loving my dad, but he drank, and he would act out periodically. I have some scary memories about that. As a teenager, home became someplace I wanted to avoid, mainly because of my dad’s drinking and never knowing what he was gonna be like. My home in southern California was someplace I wanted to leave but didn’t know how. I sought education to get out.

I have a strong connection with my family, even through my dad’s dysfunction. I’m still very close with my siblings. We don’t talk deep talks or call each other often, but when we’re together we have a lot of fun. As I got older, I got married and had kids, and that became my purpose. My children were my home. I loved being a mom. I just did. I didn’t understand the fact that my ex-husband chose to be gone all the time. He was driven by career. I wanted to have a good sense of home. I didn’t grow up with a lot of other relatives or knowing my grandparents, and I wanted to provide that for my kids. We bought this big ol’ house on the hill. I became the hub for my family gatherings and wanted to create that home for my kids.

I’ll back up for a minute. We lived in this tiny little house when I was growing up. It was 1200 square feet, and there were eight of us. That’s why we basically grew up outside. When I was 12, my oldest sister went off to college, my oldest brother went off to the navy, and we moved into a new house. It was just a tract home, nothing big or fancy, but it was bigger. My dad was a truck driver, and my mom worked as an office assistant, so we didn’t have a whole lot of money, and it was quite a big thing for us to move there. We had a pool in our backyard, which was like living in high hog heaven! Shortly after we moved there, my dad got into an argument with his boss at the refinery he worked at. He dealt with that by going to the bar, coming home drunk, and calling up his boss and lambasting him on the phone. Surprise surprise, the next day he didn’t have a job. We almost lost our home and that had a big impact on me. I hated my dad at the time. As a result I knew I needed to always be able to take care of myself.

Back to my life with my kids. My home got disrupted pretty significantly when my husband left me for another woman. Right around the time we got divorced, Lauren was 12. We had to move out of that house, so I moved into this house. My realtor who found me this house was a dear friend. She gave me a card I still have framed that says, a house is not the structure, it’s the people inside. This became our home.

When Lauren got sick, my home changed again. As close as I was to my family — we never talked about stuff. Frankly, they weren’t around much through Lauren’s cancer. You guys [me and other friends of ours] were, and that’s the reason you’re part of my home. So many of the kids Lauren was around became our home. It was the home that Lauren loved. It became much more of a home than being with my siblings. I struggle with some of that still, in terms of feeling let down. But I’ve forgiven them. I know how our family is. It was a big lesson to me, going through something like that. People you think are gonna step up for you don’t step up for you and people you wouldn’t think of at all are there. You learn that people who are there for you become part of your home. It’s not always through the good times you develop those relationships, it’s through the trenches.

Scott entered the picture, and he became my heart and was there for me and Lauren and that became my home. This home is our haven. I’d like to think of it as a safe place for people. Now, these last couple years have been really hard for me for a lot of reasons. I’ve retired. I’m trying to figure out my purpose. Missing my kids. Missing Jon and Sara, missing Lauren every moment of every day.

226437_509330256133_9664_n.jpg
susan & lauren, 2006

For the sake of wanting to share this interview with people who might not know you or Lauren, do you mind explaining as briefly as you feel like who Lauren is?

(Deep sigh). She’s my heart. She still is my heart. I love [my other kids] Jon and Sara to the death. That’s one thing as a mom. Each child is so different, and you learn to love them for who they are. Lauren was a surprise. She came along at a time in my life when I was very lonely and unhappy. I was not happy when I found I was pregnant and my husband was like – oh yeah, we’ll take care of this, we’ll deal with this, then he disappeared. I knew I was on my own on this one. When I saw the ultrasound, I looked at that little thing and thought, this one’s mine. She was mine. (Crying). There was nothing like her to me. She was there for me during the divorce. We became the best of friends. She was the person I could be real with. I knew I could screw up. I could be a bitch. I never had to fear rejection. Never. God, I miss her.

You guys really had a home together for a while.

Sara was here the first few years , but then it was just Lauren and me. It was just the two of us for those few blessed years. It was so easy with her. I mean, we fought, but we hated fighting.

She was sneaking boys into her bedroom—

Or having parties! But we couldn’t stay mad at each other.

It’s almost easier not to think of a higher being, because it’s like, how can you be so cruel? But I try to think, she was my gift for 20 years. I had her, and she was mine. She never was mine, but she was mine. She belonged to everybody. But it’s still hard. When it happens, you have the grief, and the newness, and this energy to be strong. After a few years that goes away and you realize the rawness there. The pain.  As a mom, I deal with Jon and Sara’s grief. When I’m with Jon and Sara — anything we do, like Sara’s wedding — it’s always bittersweet. There’s such a hole. We all feel it, we all know it. And we deal with it. She was such a light. I know I’m her mom, but I don’t think there’s many people like her.

A lot of times I still flounder about where I belong. I don’t know what I’d do without Scott. He’s my rock. That was where I found the true meaning of love and family.

Tell me about what home is for you today, having done some healing and rebuilding and obviously, still feeling lost in lots of ways.

I’m part of a blended family, which comes with its challenges. We have one grandchild on Scott’s side. It’s not what I dreamed of in terms of what my later years would consist of, other than finding a soulmate in Scott. We truly love each other a lot. We really enjoy each other.

I’m searching around right now about what I want to do. I’d like to maybe do some freelance writing or something to earn a little bit, since I retired fairly early. If I had my druthers, I’d have half a dozen grandkids, and I’d be having the kind of life my mom had. I’m not going to have that, and I’ve accepted that. You make your home with what you want. We want to do things. We want to travel. I’m trying to define that in my life right now.

10641055_10203038940841891_3329683655928159096_n
Susan, Scott, and Rugby at home

The one question I’m asking everyone is, in what ways are you seeking home and in what ways have you found home?

I’ve found home with Scott. From the day I met him, I thought, I could love this man a lot, and I do. We have our ups and downs, but he’s got such a good heart. He’s where I found home. I feel very good about my relationships with both Jon and Sara. I don’t have a good relationship with their dad, but I know they have relationships with him, and I’m glad about that. I also know they both care very much for Scott. That feels like home for me.

I’m seeking home in trying to find a place, a meaning. I have an ache. I need to feel better about myself. I need to find a purpose. I’ve thought a lot about it. I want to do something of value, in terms of an employment type of thing. Part of that is just because of the experience I had growing up and not feeling very important. I’ve dealt with a whole lot of my feelings around my dad the last several years, now that my mom’s gone too. The home I’m looking for is in myself, where I can find some peace. I’m still working on that one. I function, I’m not curled up in a ball, but I have episodes of significant grief. I’m figuring out what she would want me to be doing at this point in my life. That’s what I’m searching.