It’s been a while since I’ve written a personal post on this blog, isn’t it? I’ve been pretty busy with the lists and resources and things that are useful.
But I realized that I haven’t caught up with all of you who are my friends and who have been with me for so long here. I haven’t told you what my plans are, and what the impetus behind revving up everything on this blog has been.
Do you remember The Inn? Some of you might.
5 years ago, we left the San Francisco Bay Area to travel the Pan American highway to find our forever home. The goal was to find a place that we could start an Inn, which would be a disability employment center/retreat/inn space. My dreams for it all were pretty fleshed out; it was just a matter of finding the right place.
We had to abort it all for a number of reasons, all income-based. An investment hadn’t worked out. The biggest reason, however, was that we were in Mexico and I was the one who was most able to make money but my husband was not capable of taking care of our kids while I worked.
I couldn’t take care of them and make money. Right at the time we were realizing this all, my brother Dana bought a farm in Northern California and asked us if we wanted to come up and work it.
So we left.
When we arrived on the farm, I started wondering if that was the place to start the Disability Employment/Training/ Retreat Center. I mean, it was gorgeous up there on the Lost Coast, absolutely stunning!
And I had one neighbor on one side who was Deaf, one neighbor on the other side who had Down syndrome (- “neighbor” on the Lost Coast being highly relative of course). It seemed like A Sign From God or something – what are the odds, right?
I talked to my brother about my idea, and he loved it.
We set up a Pinterest board for our shared ideas of what we could do – have little hobbit homes built into the mountain? infinity pools carved out, with natural spring water! Oh man, we had so much fun dreaming together. I’m crying now as I remember our Pinterest board.
Then Dana died. He was killed in a horrific, senseless act of violence, 4 guys trying to rob him (- my brother had nothing to steal on him), they shot him, Dana went into a coma and never woke up.
I spent a year just trying to walk. Trying to find some kind of balance with my brother gone – I don’t even have words to describe how hard that’s been.
My marriage had always had issues, but the issues grew steadily worse. The final straw was when I found out that my husband was lying and cheating on me. I took the kids and left, filed for divorce, and moved back to Hawai’i.
Now, I’m a third culture kid – we moved all over the place while I was growing up.
We moved to the Big Island of Hawai’i from Fiji when I was 13. I went to high school and university here. A big part of growing up for both Dana and myself was here.
Coming back, everywhere I looked I had happy memories. You know? I’d look there and oh yeah! That’s where Dana peeled out on the grass that one time! I’d look over there and, oh yeah! That’s where we went looking for guavas!
This is what I needed. I had had dreams while on the Lost Coast of driving down the Hamakua Coast on the Big Island and seeing Dana in the water, and the feeling to go back and live in Hilo was so strong I can’t even say.
Hilo/The Big Island
Here I am and I look around the Big Island and I see that it’s an absolutely perfect place for my disability employment training + retreat center idea.
I mean, it is PERFECT:
- lots of land, fantastic soil
- employment and training opportunities for people with disabilities here is almost non-existent
- programs here for people with disabilities are few and far between
- there is nothing unified or cohesive for people with disabilities here
From setting up a retreat center point of view:
- there are 2 international airports on this island
- the roads are fantastic
- Hawai’i! everyone loves coming here!
- there are no fully accessible retreat centers on the island right now
My Plan Now: Blogging My Way to an Employment/Retreat Center
For the past 9 months I’ve been busy getting my kids settled in school, adjusted, happy, stable.
I’ve been processing my grief – over my brother and my marriage. I’ve been making healing a high priority.
I’ve been getting myself back on the grid, both literally, figuratively, and professionally.
I’ve been trying to figure out exactly how to proceed with this idea of mine, and how to support my kids at the same time, and be here for them.
Blogging was always something that I did, but I didn’t do it for real; I didn’t try and make an income off of it in a focused way. I see now that blogging is actually a great way for me to make money while providing service to my communities (d/Deaf, Down syndrome, disabled and parent/ally communities).
Blogging is also a great way to tap into and expand upon the areas that I’d like to do more of in person: career counseling with disability in mind, teaching (website development as a means of income production) and so on.
Since I can blog at any time of the day or night (or bring the laptop with me to after school activities), it gives me a lot of flexibility and ability to be present for my kids; something that a 9-5 wouldn’t.
It also gives me time to do research and figure out all the pieces for moving forward with the employment/training center + retreat idea.
The DANA Center
My dear friend and mentor Corbett O’Toole came up with “DANA Center”, an acronym standing for – The Disability Activity, Nurturance and Action Center.
The DANA Center would be:
- a farm that trains people with disabilities in growing food, animal husbandry and sustainable agriculture
- a restaurant that takes the food grown on the farm and trains people with disabilities in how to work in the food industry
- a retreat center that provides fully accessible space for small conferences and events
- employment training for the hospitality industry
- an accessible housing/intentional community space
I need help
Of course I need help!!
I need encouragement and support. I need ideas how to find funding for this. I need financial support. I need ideas on how to make something like this happen. I need someone to know someone who has an uncle who wants to do something with their land on the Hamakua coast! I need someone who knows all about intentional communities to holla.
There are a myriad of things I need. And this dream feels really good to me, right and solid and huge and golden and rainbow-y. It’s something that comes from my heart and I think helping it unfold is what I want to spend my energy doing.
But that’s it. I just wanted to send this out and give you all a personal update.
Meriah Nichols is a career counselor. Solo mom to 3 (one with Down syndrome, one gifted 2E). Deaf, with C-PTSD and TBI, she’s also a gardening nerd who loves cats, Star Trek, and takes her coffee hot and black.