Hello my friends!
We have been in quite a time in our country, in our state, and in many of our families! I have not been great about keeping my people updated, nor do I want to bore anyone with story to clog your brain space!
If you are here, you likely know that Niels, Leah and I have been in a battle with black mold for a couple of years now (actually, for much longer, but we’ve known that’s what we were battling for about 2+ years). Those of you who have known me for a very long time, may know that I have had “mystery illness” for about fifteen years. Well, mystery solved! My genetics and exposure with black mold don’t go well together, and for fifteen years, I’ve lived in houses with varying degrees “sick building syndrome” due to the most toxic varieties of mold.
The great news is this: We got out! We are doing great! My recovery is slow, uneven, but unmistakable. I have an amazing healing team including an integrative MD, a trauma therapist (black mold creates brain trauma it turns out because the amygdala gets stuck in “fight or flight”), and the Bay Area’s premier mold experts for sick houses have been hard at work.
We are living across Berkeley at The Parker (that she-she building at Parker & Shattuck), paying rent through the nose…. but finally, in a safe space. And healing is underway (still a road ahead for me, but SO much better). We tried to go back home to the house once the mold reports all came back “squeaky clean” but my immune system is in such overdrive that I react to even miniscule amount of the strains that infested the house before remediation.
We are still figuring out what to do about our sweet little house and property. In the meantime, a dear friend and her daughter are renting it (it’s perfectly healthy for them!), and we are still reviewing our options about what to do next. (We are very attached to this historic little house. Here is a link to a story I wrote about the property, if you are interested).
Leah is doing GREAT. She has been pretty much head-over-heels in love with school since she recovered enough in a semester of BUSD independent study and started full-time fourth grade at Cragmont. And fifth grade was even better. But not as good as 6th grade, where she started Middle School at Willard. This child has blown my mind with her tenacious appetite for life, learning, reading, friendship, music, art, and still understands the nuances of human interactions better than any adult I know (including me). And, I am still practicing “warm and firm” limits to keep up with her, as every mom has to.
Niels finished an intensive year in chaplaincy training at John Muir Medical Center in Concord in September where he utterly amazed everyone with his capacity to stay present, listen, hold complexity, and build authentic relationships with the sick, the dying, the nurses, the docs, the administrators, the janitors, the security guards, the other residents…. and all the children he encountered. He is starting a new 2-3 day/week position in late November 2018 in hospice chaplaincy in Petaluma. He will commute from Berkeley, and spent his other 2 days a week building our local work together.
In the year since we’ve left our house, my work has changed, deepened and expanded in surprising and not-so-surprising ways. Some local partnerships are still in the works, so I won’t say more just now, but soon, soon….
We’ve been away from our sick house for a year and three months, and in that time, we have come to believe that we will live through these harrowing years as a family in good enough shape to really thrive.
Just in time to participate in building some local capacity for the work ahead: raising adequate resilience across our community to address the needs of the most vulnerable children, youth and families among us. The tough times will keep on coming for awhile, it looks like, and it’s time to circle the wagons around the most at risk. I feel lucky to be finding ways to bring my gifts (informed by caring for my own severe limitations) to serve my community’s children.
Send me your updates whenever and however you can! I am not always great on email, but I read everything my friends and family send with grateful tears… for your lives, your love, and your children.
All my heart,