Sunday, August 30, 2009


I wrote this earlier in the year, and thought it was worth sharing. Enjoy!

I have found a tribe, a network, a community. They are my family. Only a few are blood-related to me, the rest have been collected over the years. As far as collections go, it totally blows away the goofy teapots my mom tried to foist over on me during the early 90’s.

My original first tribe member, Annie, was a great adventurer. Between trips to the Great Wall of China and the Australian outback, she taught me the importance of surrounding myself with people who give a damn. “You gotta have a network, honey, it’s important! Friends and fellowship, remember that.” I’d listen at her feet as she packed for her next trip-Annie had numerous nephews and nieces, friends in far-flung places, and sisters to boot. When she wasn’t visiting with her relatives, she’d take time to stay with me. When we first met, Annie was in her fifties, and I had just been born.

My sister Maria, in her infinite wisdom, arranged for Annie to guide me spiritually throughout my childhood. After praying for my existence, she got busy with the task of finding me a Godmother. When she was a small child, Maria chose Annie and her husband Jack to be my Godparents. This in itself was unusual for my family. My mom was and is an Atheist, and my dad dabbled in Christian Science, so there was definitely division there. It always astounds me that even though she didn't know me yet, or know what I'd grow to be like, that my darling sister would care that much to hope for me to be born. In her sisterly pureness-of-heart, she has always watched out for me and encouraged me, no matter our differences. At times she questions my actions, not to chastise and disagree, but to check my compass so I stay true to my path towards happiness and well-being. I am grateful to her. It was Maria who first taught me to read and love words.

Shortly after I was born, Jack died. I don’t remember him. Annie, however, grew to be my good special friend.

There were many good things about Annie, but the best part is how she talked to children. She would never insult a child by talking down to them. She was always honest and assumed you would either know or would be clever enough to figure out the big words she would use in conversation. Annie taught me many things-how to find the treasure in an average day, how to cope with loss, and the beauty of relationship. Annie was completely devoid of any ‘holier-than-thou’ attitude. She was real, and nice, and giving.

She was no doormat-she expected me to treat her well, too. But, and here’s the rub, she never forced it out of me. She simply displayed the qualities she valued in a friend, and modeled them. I felt it only just to return her honest conscious efforts, and treated her with respect and dignity-not because it was ‘the rules’- I was a kid and she was an adult- but because I wanted to.

I think community should be like that. Like my Annie.

To have within your reach people who care, who treat you kindly, is priceless. In my experience, it’s even more joy-inducing when those same people expect reciprocity-to know others can rely on you is priceless, too.

This is my community.

At the base, the bedrock, there is my husband, Bill. He is warrior-strong, yet tender at his heart, and possesses a delightful dry sense of humor. We met when we were yet children, and grew up knowing we must band together, to become the stronghold. To hold each other up and defend our kingdom against the villains called ‘past’, ‘hurt’ and ‘neglect’. I cannot imagine another man by my side. Thoughts of his strong scarred, face and jet-black hair fill my mind daily. I value his opinion and seek it often; for his input is fair, wise and often funny. Bill can make me laugh when no one else will try. He knows my deepest fears, and also how to put me completely at ease. I look forward to the future with this man, not because I must, but because I want to.

We have a little daughter, Olivia. She will inherit the stronghold, for my love and I will surely pass on someday. We try, my tribe, my network, my community, my family, to teach her the skills she will need to survive and flourish. Each year we freely give her the choice: public school or homeschool. Each year she elects to stay home. We learn together. Weekly, she composes and sings, solves and dissects, steeps herself in historical fact, explores literature, and puts up a fuss when it’s time to write something. Olivia would rather give an hour-long oral report on a subject than write it out. She likes to tell, to relate, to express her thoughts instead of create a copy for posterity. Her mind is alive, constantly growing, and extremely inquisitive. She is the original child of a thousand questions. Her father and I give her truthful answers to her direct questions, and if we don’t know, we try to find the answer together.

Don is my brother. I met him through my husband, who knew Don through a school friend. After a while, we spent so much time together, he felt more like a brother than a buddy. We adopted each other in 1995. Over the years he has enmeshed himself in our lives, and we have celebrated birth, mourned our dead, bolstered each other up through hardships, shared joy in accomplishments, and encouraged each other with artful sarcasm. He was present at the birth of my daughter, and reassured my husband during the scary time afterwards.

As I lay in the hospital bed hemorrhaging and suffering a beta-strep infection, Don stayed with my husband, listening, encouraging, reminding Bill to eat and sleep. I was too weak with fever to get out of bed, so my husband and my brother diapered, held, walked with, and whispered to my new, wonderfully healthy daughter. “Soon we can go home, kiddo, mommy will be fine…I love you…” came from the hallway as they paced the floor in turns, holding the newly-pink bundle which was my girl. Shortly after I was released from the hospital, Don surprised us with his new tattoo-Olivia’s name and birth date on his back, in hot-pink. (His look of shock and horror was priceless as I fibbed and told him the artist got the date wrong.) Well, now we had to keep him…

I am lucky to have many people like these three in my life. I have several spiritual sisters. One of them is about to become a grandma, quite unexpectedly, and we will all lift this surprise baby up in our strong arms and teach him how to find the treasure in an average day, how to cope with loss, and the beauty of relationship. He is a gift, a yet unopened present for our growing tribe. He will have new eyes to behold-new baby fingers to hang on to. He is the promise of the continuation of our network, our community, our family. I am so excited to meet this little guy and have the chance to pass these things on! Maybe when he grows up to be a big strong man-person, he will remember all his crazy aunties and uncles, and extend a hand to the next generation.

When times are tough, I can rely on my tribe to help me. When my fields are full and I have something to give, be it time, talents, or opportunities, I share them freely with my peeps. Not because I have to, not because it’s the rules-“I take, therefore by some twisted set of objectives I have to give back equally or I’m some kinda guilty sponge”-but because I want to.


  1. What a beautiful post and how lucky for you to have so many wonderful people in your life. May we all be so lucky to live in a community full of Annies.

  2. I wish I had an Annie when I was growing up. I love this post