Tag Archives: United States

Adventures in Babysitting

10 Nov

It’s a cool Fall afternoon in Philly – threatening to act like winter.  Once again we had another prediction of a great storm this week and once again Philadelphia was left practically untouched.  We had just a few snow flurries earlier this week on Wednesday and by Thursday, while it was still chilly outside, the weather had us wondering what all the fuss was about.  And so, no snow and no great winter storm for the Philadelphia area.

It’s felt like a busy week for me.  This is a high energy household and often it feels like once I climb on board the wave of  activities for the day, it’s a wild ride.  I continue my new-found happiness… much to my surprise… in cooking and preparing evening meals for the family.  Last night I made homemade burritos served with fresh guacamole with organic cooked carrots on the side.  I have to say it was all really yummy!

I had some new adventures in babysitting earlier this week with the four-year-old, the  youngest of the two boys here.  He had the day off from school on election day so he and I took off for the afternoon to give the work-from-home parents some refuge to get their work done.  We went to what must be the “latest” in parenting… a cafe-like place set up just for kids and parents (or parent-like folks).  You enter with a simple entrance fee and once inside the “gate” there is an indoor playground with an amazing spread of toys and indoor activities.. a slide, a clubhouse, and toy grocery store… you get the picture.  The other half of the place is a parent friendly cafe where one can lounge, do a little reading or computer work while the kids happily make a mess in the room created for the purpose of making messes!  Ah what a difference that makes!  Additionally they have kid-friendly meals and organic and healthy snacks.  You run a “tab” while you are there… so both child and in my case babysitter are free to snack and play and work and then pay the bill on the way out.

I have been somewhat hesitant with taking on childcare in the ensemble of services I offer within the agreement of my exchange here.  But I know full well that often this household really just needs someone willing to take the kids out of the house and give them some space to have a little fun.  The youngest when out of the house and on his own is really quite good and I know he gets a kick out the time and attention.  We had a fair amount of fun at our cafe outing.  I watched him play and when he seemed a bit sheepish on his own I joined him in playing.  We read a book together in the clubhouse and played tag in the tumbling room downstairs filled with mats and basic gymnastic equipment –  a room that it seems no matter how old you are invites you to play! At the very least I got to be a voyeur into contemporary motherhood for an afternoon and my hosts got a quiet afternoon to work.

The youngest and I took another little outing yesterday afternoon.  After the threat of the storm it was a gift to have a bright sunny blue-skied day that was brisk but still inviting to be outdoors.  The youngest gets home early from school on Fridays so I took him for a little outing that was a real treat – a trip to the Morris Arboretum.  It’s just up the street from their home and a favorite of the family’s to visit.  This was my first trip there.

The little one was my enthusiastic tour guide giving me clear directions once we pulled in past the ticket guard.  He let me know to follow the cars in front of me, that the cow-shaped creatures off in the hills were in fact not REAL cows, and led me safely to the parking lot.  It was such a beautiful day the hills just called to us.  He was off and I was not far behind him.

First stop was the tree house.  Wow, what a magical construction with fun inviting places to visit – like a giant bird’s nest and netted pavilion high up in trees.  Of course I did feel the panic of my fear of heights which I greeted lightly and tried not to take too seriously.  Luckily for me he didn’t want to stay up there too long and soon we were off.  We wandered next to the fernery, a steamy room filled with lush plants and fish.  Then to the log cabin and playing and visiting with the nearby stream.  His enthusiasm to be there leapt and peaked until… it was gone and the next question from him was… “can we go home now?”  Of course we can… although my spirit could have wandered through the Arboretum for hours!  Still, my first visit would not have been the same without him as my guide!

I stopped in on a little neighborhood Kirtan chanting session last night.  Led by a local man at the near-by Unitarian Church, it was a cozy and intimate event with just a few of us there to sing and chant.  His chants were beautiful and simple and he had an assortment of instruments for us to use.  It was fun for me to grab the tambourine or the rattle and join in.  Kirtan is a call and response style singing… so the leader sings and then the group responds.  With such a small group my voice was often the only one I heard when it was time to respond.  Sometimes it was fun to actually hear my voice in the midst of singing with others and other times it was daunting and I was sure nothing was going to come out when I opened my mouth.

Today is a laid back Saturday.  I have had a lazy extended morning and have taken advantage of not having much to do.  Tonight we go to a lantern ceremony for the oldest son, age 7,  who goes to the local Waldorf school.  All the kids make their own lanterns in school and tonight they will light them and do a silent procession on the school grounds.

My Reiki teacher, Elizabeth Ohmer Pellegrin, will be arriving next week to teach a first degree Reiki class here in Philadelphia.  How excited I am!  My friend and mentor and great guide on my journey, it will be wonderful to see her!  I haven’t seen her or anyone else “familiar” to me since I left to travel a year and a half ago.  If you are interested in being in the class or have questions you can contact me.

And for now, more of an extended laid back Saturday.  “Thriller” by Michael Jackson has made it’s way onto my Pandora station. Perhaps in a bit I will take a walk in the park.  It’s good to have some time on my own and time to the enjoy the brisk fall air.

Photo of the ever energetic blue-hooded boy and youngest son here in the home where I stay, skipping blissfully through the Arboretum on a beautiful Fall day.

The wake of the storm

5 Nov

It’s a chilly evening here in Philadelphia.  While Hurricane Sandy didn’t bring much damage or activity here, she did seem to bring the colder weather.  I suppose I will take it in exchange for a generally quiet hurricane experience.  On Monday, the Eve of Sandy’s arrival, I went to bed about 10:30pm content that I wasn’t going to miss much action by going to sleep.  The next morning I awoke to conversations of “did you hear that wind last night?”  And learned that for a period of about an hour and half the winds were so strong my host considered waking me up and moving me out of the third floor bedroom for safety.  Alas, I slept soundly and in its wake, generally here all is well.

It’s the weekend, which is my free time here in my world of work and exchange.  Last night I had the pleasure of attending the Krishna Das concert at the Mind, Body and Spirit expo held at Lincoln Financial Field, where the Philadelphia Eagles play.  For those of you not familiar with Krishna Das, he plays what is called Kirtan music, that is call and response chanting of spiritual mantras.  It was my second time seeing Krishna Das, the first was time back in New Orleans.   In addition to his beautiful and devoted music, voice and chanting, I have to say that I like the guy!  During his performance he shared stories of his time in India and he was earnest, compelling and funny.  I was grateful to be able to attend the concert in exchange for helping Krishna Das sell CDs at their CD table.  What a treat!

At the end of the night, as I was among the last of folks to leave I decided to take a minute to find my train ticket back home before heading out into the night darkness.  And guess what… I couldn’t find it!  I looked everywhere… emptied out my purse twice, checked all of my pockets.  The trick of this situation was after purchasing the return ticket on my earlier train I only had $1 cash left on me, not enough for a new return ticket.  Not my favorite situation to be in, but I trusted my gut and while I was eager to resolve the situation, I didn’t panic.  I headed up the escalator in search of a cash machine.  As I was going up there were two kind looking youngish men heading down.  I eagerly asked, “Do you by chance live in Mt. Airy?” (the neighborhood in Philly where I reside)  “Yes we do” they replied… Unbelievable!  I quickly explained my situation and asked if I could catch a ride.  My request must have caught them off guard as they seemed hesitant and a bit perplexed by my request… but after a moment or two…  I was invited with them for a ride home.  So I hopped in the backseat of their Honda Fit and were were on our way!

The ride home was quite amicable.  My temporary companions were friendly and good company.  The “driver”, we’ll call him,  is a teacher of yoga and meditation as well as an interfaith minister.  His loyal companion is in Seminary school studying to be a Lutheran Minister.  And so it seemed I was in good hands!  We shared our tales and adventures of working at Universities in Residential Life, an experience we all had in common.  And before you knew it, we were in Mount Airy and I was happily home.   What a gift!

Today I spent some time with a Reiki friend who I met in New Orleans, originally from and now living again in Philadelphia.  We spent a few hours connecting and giving each other Reiki treatments.  It has been at least a month since I have connected with others to share Reiki.  Today was a great reminded how a little Reiki from a friend goes a long way.  There is nothing like a Reiki treatment to turn down the dial of my anxiety, stress and generally being “wound up”.  I left her apartment feeling all is well and grounded a bit back in my body and my being.

After that I made my way to the Art Museum.  The first Sunday of the Month is free at the Philadelphia Art Museum.  It was such a treat to get to head downtown in the brisk fall air and be out amongst the masses and go to the Museum.  I spent most of my time there enjoying a contemporary dance peformance.  What a treat!  Not long after I made my way back to my host’s car that she generously lets me use, and found my way back to Mt. Airy.

It’s been a big week.  Hurricane Sandy, Halloween, a busy weekend and a brief adventure with strangers.  I am still in the midst of plans for a new adventure but things are taking longer to come together then I expected.  So, for now, I am still in the US and, for now, in Philadelphia.

Tonight I cooked a simple but yummy dinner of black beans and rice for me and the fam.  I am now up in my third floor “hen’s nest” chilling to some tunes on Pandora, one of my favorite things about returning to the States!  Good night for now from the post Hurricane and thankful to be safe and sound world of Philadelphia.

Photo of Philadelphia Art Museum

Being at home

26 Oct

It is around 7pm on a school night.  I can hear the kids outside up to some sort of mischief with neighborhood friends.  I am seeking a bit of refuge up in my room on the third floor.  The chaos of full on busy family life has its interesting spins and for me, sometimes, it is exhausting.  I have to laugh as I find one of my primary roles here is the evening meal cook, a job I scarcely thought myself capable of holding.  But it seems that I am doing okay.  After spending 8 months in the busy but capable kitchens of the Seminar Haus in Germany and four months mostly a witness to the beautiful meal preparation of the kitchens of Les Battees in France, it seems, to some degree, I can cook.  This is a revelation for me.  Tonight as I was preparing dinner the oldest son, 7, said to me a bit sheepishly, “I have to say, I don’t know what recipes you’re using but… you sure are a good cook.”  From the mouths of babes.  No better compliment.

I am still finding my way a bit in this home…. As a “helpxer“, or living with folks in exchange for room and board, I find there is an ebb and flow to each new experience and my job is to learn to ride the wave.  I have found you can try to set parameters, do you best to set some boundaries, but in the end the experience is its own creature.  Here in this home in Philadelphia I am still exploring how to make the most of my trade in service to them in balance with my own independence.  Some days I feel that “I’ve got it” and other days… I wonder. It’s a dance and every new experience has its own rhythm.

In this home, in the midst of some chaos of a family of good people with “too much” on their plate right now, it seems being here is also a place of healing.  Living here I sometimes hear the cries and yells of children and parents doing the best they can in a stressful situation and I find my “inner child” shrieking and shriveling in response reminded of similar echos from my own childhood.  As my travels and experience are ultimately a journey of healing, it has been useful for me to get present when this happens, get clear that what is happening in this home at this moment is not about me… that it is not my “fault” and that while I can contribute to the well-being of this home, it is not my responsibility to “fix” what is going on here.  And so it continues…

Being here has also given me a profound new understanding of the complexities and challenges of being a parent…. up close and personal in a way I have never experienced before.  At the age of 42 with no kids, I had no true idea of what it takes to be a parent and the limits that children can stretch you to… even in their innocence.  I have a new perspective of my own parents and my own childhood.  I am now thinking that parents are miracle workers to do it all… even the basics of clothing, feeding and educating a child.  And if there are challenges in the environment, it is now easier for me to understand, while those “challenges” may not be an environment that is best for the child, that the parents are often doing the best they can.

And so I continue the syncopation of my gypsy ways currently in family life in Philadelphia.  As someone who has spent a lot of my adulthood alone and independent, I appreciate the ways it is stretching and growing me.  And that said, I also need and love my time tucked in my bedroom, or at the yoga studio, or strolling through the neighborhood.

Last weekend I had a wonderful adventure!  A few weeks ago at a neighborhood festival I heard a Samba group play and the drums just made me feel alive!  It turns out that they were from a local class taught just a few miles away from where I am staying.  Last Sunday I took a leap and joined the class… and I LOVED it!

It was so amazing, everyone playing there was filled with such joy, beaming smiles on their faces as they played.  As I became more familiar with my drum and my role, I let go of my concentrated effort and allowed my own beaming smile to join in with theirs… moving and grooving as we played collectively.  It was fabulous!  The teacher was a wonderful leader and I am welcomed back in the future while I am visiting in town.  It is so great!

I also discovered a BEAUTIFUL park just a few miles from here.  The park is called the Wissahickon and my hosts here guided me to a friendly and beautiful walk down a road in the park called Forbidden Road.  It was … amazing.  The fall leaves are in peak and the road runs along a gurgling river.  It was truly one of most beautiful parks I have ever been too.  The magesty of the surrounding trees just took me in and brought me home to that place where I feel nurtured.

The adventures continue, it’s fun, it’s beauty, complexity and simplicity… .  Life with a family… its blessings and its challenges.  I suppose its all just a part of learning to be…at home.

Photo just a little slice of Fall!

Life with the “fam”

18 Oct

It’s another day in Philadelphia.  The weather is getting cooler… nothing too alarming, just a fresh reminder that it is Fall.  I am preparing for a good night sleep to wake up “early” tomorrow to go to Yoga class.  I am attending a gentle yoga class lately as my left ankle is still on the mend from my spill down the stairs in May in France.  I am encouraged by friends saying that, alas, it takes a long time for these things to heal.  I am really fortunate that there is a sweet little yoga studio walking distance from where I stay.  I have been going once a week, but would love to go more often!  A yoga class always provides the time and space to treat my body and my yoga practice with the honor and attention that it deserves.  I love yoga!

Tonight we went out for a little dinner…. me and the family I am staying with – mom, dad and the two boys.  Wednesdays is kids eat free night at one of the local restaurants.  I am finding this community is quite a “small town”, already running into familiar faces at the coffee shop and the yoga studio.  The restaurant we went to last night is run by the husband of the owner of the yoga studio I attend.  Yes, it’s a small community feel.

I have continued my balance here of house attendant, quasi-chef, and marketing/small business assistant extraordinaire.  On a good day you can add Reiki Practitioner to the mix.  It helps to keep it interesting to be able to mix things up a bit… yesterday preparing dinner and grocery shopping while today designing “apps” for my hosts’ Facebook fan page.  All in a day’s work!

My hosts have created quite an interesting world for themselves here.  With two boys age 4 and 7, the oldest boy attends the local Waldorf School and the youngest attends the local co-op nursery school down the street.  In Waldorf education, the oldest is learning unexpected things like how to knit.  I’ve learned a few things about Waldorf schools since I have been here… like they don’t start teaching kids to read until third grade and all students are asked to have no “screen time” (television, computers) during the week.  From what I can see it is an enticing learning environment where the child I stay with seems to be thriving and exploring on his own… including reading very well at the age of 7.

These boys here are really quite something. The oldest is so bright and attentive.  A few weeks ago from the back seat of the car he said to his mom, “Turn off your brights!” when she had forgotten and left them on when an oncoming car approached.  I don’t remember doing that at the age of 7!  The youngest, age four, is full of mischief!  On the car-ride home tonight I was sitting next to him in the backseat.  He got the hiccups and I offered to use my sisters method of getting rid of hiccups when I was a kid – tickling!  Of course he loved it, squirming and laughing… but it didn’t get rid of his hiccups.  He’d scream, “stop”, so I’d stop tickling him and then a hiccup would escape.  And then of course he would say again “tickle me!” until he couldn’t take it anymore.

But for now, it is my private quiet time at the end of the day.  The boys are in bed… and likely the parents too… and the house is quiet until the greeting of the morning noise of the boys.  So I’ll sneak a little quiet time for myself… tucked away with a family in Philadelphia.  Yet another unexpected stop on my unplanned  journey!

Photo taken of 2nd National bank in the historic district of downtown Philly, neighboring sights like Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell.  It’s great to be so connected with our nation’s history here.  Things and places that were like ideas in a story have now come to life!

Being in Philly

12 Oct

Here I am… in Philadelphia continuing to stretch and grow.  My life is filled with an interesting variety as I find ways to be of service on my journey.  For the past month, I have been living with a busy family in Mt. Airy, a neighborhood in Philadelphia.  It’s a great place to be with plenty of mature trees, historical homes and a progressive outlook.  How lucky I am to have landed in such a good place!  The family I stay with is a couple building their developing business from home while raising two young boys, 4 and 7.

Living in a household with kids is a shift for me!  As someone who has spent many of my recent years in quieter contemplation, the reality of life with children is quite a wake up call.  I live with a family with two beautiful boys.  As the saying goes, when they are good they are very good, but when they are bad… well, I’ll just leave that to your imagination!  It’s been fun to be here and help out with the simple things in their life… doing laundry, organizing cupboards, keeping the kitchen tidy.  I get a quiet satisfaction from helping this busy family get a little more form and structure to their sometimes chaotic life.

Recently I have been enjoying preparing meals for the family.  I like considering what I might cook that night and exploring what food is left in the kitchen to whip something up.  And even better, they appreciate what I am cooking!  That makes it even more fun!

I have been taking stock today of how grateful I am for all of my experiences over this past year and half.  I have learned so much and I can feel each day how much better I feel about myself with my growing confidence of being able to contribute wherever I may be.  It’s fun to feel like I am a part of something… a business, a household, a family, and see the ways I am comfortable and confident participating that, before I left on my journey, I was not.  Much that I have learned is really quite simple like in Germany learning to contribute and be part of a community and paying attention to what needs to be done, even if it’s just preparing  a simple meal for those around you.  In France, I learned how to make a great bed and set a nice table.  I see these little seeds of experience  blossom in my time here in Philadelphia.  For example, today I had the opportunity to do a little work at my host family’s local food co-op, Weavers Way.  I worked for a few hours to help the organization set up for a fundraising dinner.  I showed up to be of service and found myself in charge of decorating and setting the table.  How fun it was to create beautiful centerpieces from the assortment of gourds, leaves and flowers and also great to feel confident that I could set a nice table for them.  It’s the little things, they add up!

Tonight I am on my own for a bit.  The kids are tucked in bed after a post-dinner dance party featuring the boys as glamorous performers.  My host and I each had play money to use to pay admission to the show and then the performance began, with flashlights for spotlights and all.  It’s been a beautiful full day with yoga in the morning, some housework during the day and the co-op shift in the afternoon.  I am fully engulfed in the activity of each day and am amazed at how each experience on this journey fully pulls me in…  I become totally engrossed by what is happening in the here and now.

And…in the here and now I find I am tired after this full day!  A good feeling.  So I suppose I will seek a little rest in my comfy bed in my quiet room on the third floor.  Good night from Philadelphia!

Photo taken from the beautiful countryside in New York State near the Catskill Mountains where my host’s family lives.  I spent last weekend here.  Don’t be fooled by the serenity of this photo.  With 6 children collectively, it was a wild, wild ride.

%d bloggers like this: