Tag Archives: relationship

You Get What You Pay For

While I haven’t written here for a while, I feel an update is definitely due.  This is not that update. :-/

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I’m writing to extol the virtues of the Local Hardware Store which will heretofore be referred to by the acronym LHS.

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Big Box Stores (BBS) like Lowes, Home Depot, Friedmans, Amazon…They have everything a consumer could possibly need! It’s cheaper than going to that little store on the corner, right?  Plus, they present options beyond your wildest dreams, right? How could an LHS compete with the shear magnitude and inventory at one of these places? However, I’ve proven again and again that, in the long run, getting something at your LHS is a lot less expensive than the cheaper big-box store.
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To wit.
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We’ve been dealing with a tricky septic situation here on the ranch for the past month or so, and it finally looks like it might be resolved in the near future. I needed some pretty specialized items and went to Maselli’s, our beloved LHS.  Upon walking in, one of the owners (actually, I’m not sure if he is an owner, but he certainly takes ownership and knows everything) asked if I needed help.  It felt a little like if a major league ball player asked if I needed help with my curve ball.
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YES! I DO! I told him exactly what I needed, and he showed me to the PVC fittings.  I picked out what I thought I needed, asked a few more questions about possible hacks for a flotation ball that popped off the septic pump (I’m currently using a tennis ball…which everyone approved of) and went to check out.  The guy at check out noticed that I had grabbed two different pipe fittings, though they were both three inches in diameter.  He explained that one is for drains, and the other for pressurized systems, and pointed out that the drainage one was noticeably smaller.  Then I held up my pipe, and he asked if I had all purpose glue.  “Regular PVC glue won’t work?”  No, apparently my pipe isn’t the regular type of PVC, so I ran back and got the “290” glue like he said and came back to finish checking out.  He further mentioned that my pipe plug was 6”, just in case, and I told him it was for a different project completely.  He nodded and wished me a good luck.
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This visit to Maselli’sMead Clarke, or my childhood LHS, Smith and Strebels, would have been the same.  The professionals throughout the store offered their specialized help, and the checkout people knew what they were looking at and helped troubleshoot my problem before I had one!
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Based on previous experiences in the BBS’s, I can imagine I would have wandered around without any help, left with different size fittings (even though they’re both three inches), inappropriate glue, and the wrong size pipe-plug.  I’d get home, try all my fittings, glue the ones that did work with the wrong glue, spend time figuring out where I went wrong,  ask Google perhaps, call dad, go back to the store and, after about eight hours, maybe get it right the second time.  Instead, I solved it all the same day with the friendly, non-judgmental help from some real pro’s who love helping other people DIY.
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So yes, BBS’s are cheaper if you don’t count time and frustration.  The prices are lower and so is the quality.  We’ve decided, unequivocally that buying something at an LHS for a little more money, makes up for the time, gas, and soul-drainage spent frequenting BBS’s.
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For the sake of length I’ve refrained from enumerating my BBS follies, and LHS triumphs, but would love to hear about yours! Go LHS!

 

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Wow… is that a new post?

We’re back!  Sarah and I took a hiatus from blogging and building and are just now getting back into the swing of things.  The last three months have been a whirlwind of blustery New York weather, Christmas trees, and baby lambs.  Yes, baby lambs and don’t worry… I come bearing pictures!

Anne Bo-Leymb
Anne Bo-Lamb

Every year (for the past three years) a friend and I run a Christmas tree stand at St. Marks Church in the Bowery in Manhattan.  It’s a month of preparation followed by a month of fourteen-hour days slinging conifers in the cold.  The stand is open twenty-four hours a day from Black Friday until Christmas Eve, and is such a unique, enriching community-building experience.  This year a highlight for me was having Sarah come work with us at the stand.  She not only heaved Fraser firs over fences with the fellas, but also put her superb eye towards making wreaths for us.

Sarah Making Wreaths
Sarah making wreaths
Joseph and Sarah + Wreaths
Joseph + Sarah + wreaths
One of Sarah's Wreaths
beautiful wreath!

I also realized that as part of my work for the stand I’ve been building a “tiny house” on the street each year. It’s a 4x8x8 structure that can cozily hold three people making espresso (yes…there’s been an espresso machine).  This year I upped the ante with my newly-acquired building skills, and framed this little house in panels, built in a loft, and salvaged and installed a real door (in the past the door was hinges on a warped piece of plywood).  Next December…when our house is finished…who knows what new additions will be found in the tree stand shack?  Sky-light?  Running water?  H-VAC? We’ll see.

Tree Riders 'Hobo Shack'
Tree Riders’ “Hobo Shack”

Christmas trees wrapped, we flew back to California for some R&R at Tassajara, then back to the sheep ranch,where we had forty new baby lambs to keep track of. Laaammmmbbbiiinnggg Speeeeed! Out of the pot and into the fire we go.  Two of the new babies didn’t bond with their mothers (a pretty common occurrence with first-time ewe mothers) so we are feeding them twice-a-day by bottle.

So the last month has been spent catching up on work with the sheep and lambs and observing the cycle of birth and death (to be continued in another post I’m sure).  We’ve also been tying up loose ends from 2013, and doing some all-important planning for 2014 – house planning, work planning, well-being and health intention-setting, financial planning, and more.  We erased our window, re-categorized some things, and believe that we now have a plan that will take us at least until July of this year…if not Christmas 😉

The tiny house is back to being built nail-by-nail, and Sarah is studying to be a certified interpreter (English-Spanish), and we’ll be posting here as we go…

Now…some sheep.

Our little wether, Cupertino.
Our little wether, Cupertino.
Cupertino and Anne Bo-Lamb relaxing by the tiny house.
Cupertino and Annie relaxing by the tiny house.
Lullabies from Lamby-bies.
Lullabies from Lamby-pies.
Cuper grillin me, as Annie looks on approvingly.
Lambie yawn
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Lambs napping in the shade

Making Space for Unconventional Alternatives: An Interview with Michaela O’Connor Bono

by Sarah

Michaela O’Connor Bono and I met when we were both Zen students at Tassajara Zen Mountain Center the summer of 2006.  Michaela was coming right out of post-Katrina New Orleans, and I was just touching down from years of human rights work in Colombia; we bonded immediately and have been friends ever since.

I just returned from ten days in New Orleans working with Michaela, her partner Koji, and their Zen Center. In this interview, I talked with Michaela about their growing Buddhist center, building a community, and how it is to work with your partner on your life project.

Michaela and Koji
Michaela and Koji

Michaela is now a resident priest at Mid City Zen in New Orleans, and has been practicing Zen Buddhism since 2003.  After evacuating New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina, she lived and trained at both Tassajara and Green Gulch Farm Zen Centers. Michaela was ordained as a Soto Zen priest in September 2010.  Besides leading a Buddhist center, she is active in restorative/transformative justice.

I was in New Orleans to help Mid City Zen set up some systems so they can do their work more easefully. As we worked together to build the structure of their organization I found myself thinking a lot about structure.  When I’m at home, our tiny house build feels very tangible to me–it’s about boards and beams, nails and screws.  But out in New Orleans, I was able to see the big picture again, and remember that this build is not just about building a house; it’s about building our life together.

While we talked, Michaela made lunch for us (black-eyed pea salad with dill, sautéed kale, grilled cheese) and I sat at the kitchen table taking notes.

Sarah:  What are you guys doing here at Mid City Zen in New Orleans?

Michaela:  We’re trying to balance religious life with secular life, for our own benefit and the benefit of everybody else we talk to.  Right now we’re operating a zendo out of our house, offering daily meditation, classes, and visiting teachers. We’re simultaneously building a temple from the ground up, which will offer more of those things, and a residential life.  Having left the cozy, loving, and disciplined monastic Zen practice lifestyle that supported us for many years, we wanted to see if we could take that into New Orleans.

Which aspects did you want to take with you to New Orleans?

The supportive community and the benefits of Zen practice.  I wanted to share those things outside of the monastic setting.

What kind of benefits of Zen practice?

Seeing your own thoughts, mind, and heart, and being grounded, And just having a practice.

What does community mean to you?  What are the things from your previous experience that you’re trying to bring to life here?

Sharing resources, sharing common goals, supporting one another to have a spiritual practice.  It’s really hard for me to achieve anything on my own.  So it’s important to find a way to work together and be in harmony with each other so that it supports all of our spiritual practice.  That’s why people go to a church or go to a temple.  People can have their own spiritual practice but it’s more supportive when it’s in a group with others.

Is supporting spiritual practice the central thing that community does for you?

Community is an alternative to the alienation that a lot of people feel in their daily lives, and to the highly individualized way we sometimes live our lives. It’s about sharing a life together as opposed to everybody living separately and doing things separately.

Any thoughts about community in New Orleans specifically?

Well, it’s been quite an adventure to try to promote discipline in this city.  There are so many more fun things to do than sit still.  But I think people really appreciate taking a break from the chaos to check in with themselves and to meet other people who are interested in meditation. I had always had the dream of having a zendo here but doing it with a partner is amazing.  I can’t imagine doing it on my own.

Tell me more about working with your partner.

Even right now, Koji just went away for three weeks and I notice the difference; it’s so much easier to share the responsibility.  Also there’s that same thing about not being able to do things on your own, being in a relationship is like a mini-community within a community.

Can you put into words how it’s different to do something like this with your partner rather than with someone else?

There’s two aspects of it–what’s it like to be in a relationship when you have a shared goal versus when you don’t?  And–what’s it like to work on a project with your partner as opposed to with not-your-partner.

Yeah, I am really interested in both of those aspects.

What’s it like to be in a relationship and have a shared goal?  I don’t want to sound negative but it’s really hard.  You have to figure out a way to work with each other and not let your relationship dynamics get too much in the way.  On the other side, knowing each other’s dynamics so thoroughly can actually help your working relationship.  Everything that’s a challenge about being in a relationship and working together is also a benefit.  The things you know about your partner, how you’ve communicated in your relationship, can help you communicate about the project you’re working on.  You are always learning how to communicate–communication is the biggest thing, in the relationship or the project, at least for us.
It’s tricky when you ask someone to do something for the project, you have to be aware, you have to check, “Why am I asking them to do that and how am I asking?”  You need a lot more awareness.  And, it’s a real joy to have a partnership where you have a shared goal.  A lot of couples come to that point of, “Are we compatible?  Do we have a shared idea of what our life is supposed to be like?” Some people answer that with having children or living in a certain place or a job.  For us it’s really amazing because it’s a shared spiritual path, it’s a shared location path, and it’s a shared existential path: why we do what we do.

That is really great.

Of course we have discussions about the details of what that will look like but we don’t have to spend too much time wondering what’s the most important thing.

Or negotiating what the thing is.

Right.  We have this really solid amazing tradition that’s been handed down to us for thousands of years, and we can rely on that and trust that, and we also have to make it our own.  And I think we’re doing that in our relationship as well.  We have a shared understanding of how to treat each other, how we can study ourselves and take responsibility for our own minds and hearts, and take care of each other.  That understanding comes directly from our tradition and our practice.  And we have to make that our own too, “What does that look like?”  But we have a solid, ancient support system.

I feel that in my relationship too.

It’s amazing.  I can’t imagine it any other way.  And a side note, I have this constant faith and trust that my partner is always working on what they need to be working on, in the personal, internal… that they’re always going to be self-reflecting and taking responsibility.  I don’t ever question that, which is very different than in other kinds of relationships I’ve been in.

We had that conversation the other day about how you and Koji are building a Zen temple and Joseph and I are building a tiny house and they seem very different, but there is actually this similarity.  We are each doing what is true to us, somehow our paths are sprouting from the same place.

It’s setting up a place from which we’ll do the work in the world that we need to do.  It offers us an unconventional alternative to the conventional options.  You can use the tiny house in many ways, especially since you’re building it off the grid.  You can take it to where you want to go which is important to how you want to live.  And for us we want to live sharing our lives with a larger community, with more people, so we have to set up the space we can do that.

I think what I’m trying to get at also is how we are each responding to our different causes and conditions.  And the response looks different because the conditions are different, but we are actually doing the same thing, which is to find what is truest and deepest, what is at the root, and to try to prioritize that.  And for you that is being in New Orleans, living with other people, and sharing a Zen practice together.  And for us that looks like financial freedom which allows for creative life, mobility for now, and also having a home.  So those responses look different, but for each us they are the true root response to our conditions.  It sounds obvious now that I said it, but I actually just realized the similarity being here with you.  I had thought we were doing very different things.

Yes.

outside shoes

If you want to learn more about Michaela and Koji’s project, please visit: midcityzennola.blogspot.com.  Their website is in development, so check back often for updates.