Gone Off the Grid

patty and kidsUUFE’s Patty Hamsher talks about being raised in a red/blue family, going off the grid for 3 years, coming back, cobbling together a flexible work schedule, and the joy of running UUFE’s dreamy day camp for kids.  And she answers UU liFE’s Five Big Questions


UU liFE:  Where were you raised, and how?

Patty:  My family moved from the suburbs of Bucks County, PA, to a tree farm in Kent County, MD, when I was 10 years old. My mom and dad still run their own nursery/landscape business there. My older brother and I grew up in a Presbyterian Church. We have always been a close family, even if we don’t vote in the same primary.

How have you made your living?

I have made a meager living teaching at non-traditional schools and writing for small, local publications. I now teach English to adult immigrants in Easton and Sudlersville, and I write quarterly for an arts magazine out of Annapolis. Sundays are spent supporting children and families at UUFE.

My thirties have been an awesome decade. There are the scary parts of adult responsibilities and overthinking my parenting, yes.  But I’ve managed to cobble together three part time jobs that allow me to give important skills to people who need it, engage with children and families in a comfortable community, and tap into my own creativity. Most importantly, it is flexible enough that I can be present for my home life and family.

What’s the most remarkable thing you’ve done?

The most remarkable thing I’ve done is to get off the grid for three years. In late 2005, Doug and I left secure jobs to spend a year in Belize. We taught at a primary school, we explored and traveled, we extended our “year” to three, and then we had a baby on an island 30 miles from the mainland. Spending three years working and living with the Caribbean Sea in eyesight, in a place where life is so much more simple, provided such a great chance for us to grow together and gain important perspective on life.

Doug and Patty Belize 700x

From the Caribbean to a Craftsman cottage in Cordova … How was that?

We bought our house after renting it for three weeks, because someone else was about to put in an offer on it. We had fallen in love with so much about the house’s character, and 1,300 square feet with a big yard was a huge upgrade from the 500 square foot casita we had been renting in in Belize. As my parents had warned we have outgrown the house and are busting at the seams most days. Once a year we entertain proposals for an addition or mull over comps from a realtor, but I’m not sure we’ll ever get up the nerve to change it or leave it. It’d be a great home base for a traveling family.

Patty's Craftsman 700x

“Traveling family”.  Is that the Next Big Thing for you?

I’m always looking for ways to travel and see the world with my family. Within the next few years we’re hoping to experience the southwest, coastal Spain, and hopefully explore some National Parks and Caribbean islands.

Patty, Doug, Gabriella, and Sariah in Shenandoah Park
Patty, Doug, Gabriella, and Sariah in Shenandoah Park

How did UUFE and you find each other?

We found our way to UUFE on the recommendation of Jake Jacobs, who came to do our home inspection when we moved to the area in 2008. Jake noticed the Obama bumper stickers on our fridge; he was certain we’d find friends at UUFE. We popped in for a few Sundays for about two years, but I really began attending when I was pregnant with Sariah (now 6). It was a rocky pregnancy, especially in the beginning, and I found the sanctuary on Sunday morning, literally and figuratively. I joined the RE committee soon after. Doug and I signed the membership book, because we knew it was something we wanted in our girls’ lives. And Jake was spot on about finding friends.

How do you serve UUFE and why?

I am currently the Coordinator of Religious Education at UUFE, AND I get to run Peace Camp each summer. Peace Camp is this dreamy day camp where kids and adults come in excited to spend each morning doing projects and playing games that expand our sense of purpose and peacefulness in the world. Throughout the year, I love working with others to roll out children and youth programming that is exciting and fulfilling. We get to focus on the core values kind-of-learning and life experiences at UUFE, and the freedom to express ourselves outside of the confines of school day standards and curriculum.

Peace Camp 2015 (65)

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