Category Archives: learning

Temporary

Photo Credit: Ivo Ivov

Photo Credit: Ivo Ivov

I’ve been sick for the past six months.

I’ll spare you my laundry list of symptoms, both because it’s boring and because I’m so tired of thinking about it, but they concerned my doctor enough to order a CT, an ultrasound, and blood work, and eventually led her to send me to an oncologist. HE was concerned enough to order still more blood work – 12 vials in fact – and a whole-body PET scan.

None of the above gave us any answers.  On paper, I’m the healthiest sick person that ever lived.  My next step is an infectious disease doctor, not because anyone really thinks I have an infectious disease, but because they do the kind of detective work necessary to diagnose these weird and hard-to-figure-out whatever-the-heck-this-thing-is that’s been making my life miserable since last spring.

It’s frustrating feeling terrible and limited every day and not knowing why.  It’s even more frustrating to feel like you’re going through it all alone.  This summer was truly one of the loneliest summers of my life.  And that doesn’t sound right, does it?  Feeling lonely in a house full of six people?  But it’s exactly how I’ve felt. And I’ve learned that feeling alone amongst other people is a far more harrowing feeling than feeling alone when you’re actually… well, alone.  I never feel lonely when I’m by myself.  But when I’m around other people?  I’ve become an expert at it.

And I can never figure out if it’s actually real life  (Is it real?  Have I really created a life with so few people to support me when I need it?), or if it’s simply a product of manifestation….combined and created somewhere in the abyss of physical pain and the inevitable depression that comes with it.

Whatever the case, I’ve been resting there:  Holding on tightly to the simultaneous frustration and safety of my own self-pity.

I don’t recommend it.

I have missed writing so very much (just one of many things I’ve missed in the past several months) but even when I have gotten the energy to sit at my computer, I put my fingers to the keyboard…… and there’s nothing there but a wordless, guttural whine.

Then yesterday I finally heard something that helped, if only a tiny bit.  In a classic case of “the right thing at the right time,”  I was watching a movie with my groom, and what was meant to be entertainment ended up being inspiration.   Between me not feeling well, and him being exhausted from work, and the both of us spending all our spare minutes getting everything tied up for the conference, we’ve been desperately clinging to our lazy Saturday morning movie-while-we-drink-our-coffee dates whenever we can get them.  Anyway, yesterday we were watching this movie, and there was a scene where one of the characters, an angst-ridden teenager, was standing on the precipice of a cliff, contemplating ending his life.  His panicked family had all gathered around, and were literally trying to talk him down from the edge.  They were delivering a fairly standard issue, “you have so much to live for” motivational speech, and eventually told him,

“Shit’s temporary!”*

And in that moment, those words were the much-needed balm to my weary and battered soul. It’s temporary.  It’s ALL temporary.  And yes, I get that there’s nothing new or revelatory about that observation, but it was something that I’d forgotten…. and forgotten so deeply that I didn’t even remember that I’d forgotten it.  I’m always the first person to reassure new moms that their toddler’s frustrating experiments with biting or throwing or shoving things into the DVD player drawer is but a season.  It’s temporary.  Why on earth wouldn’t that apply to adults as well?

Trials are temporary.  Frustrations are temporary.  LIFE is temporary.  And I needed the reminder to sit tight, put on my galoshes, and get out there and dance in the storm.  It’s a season, bringing whatever lessons it’s going to bring.

I feel like I’ve spent so much time chasing things.  Chasing answers, chasing peace, chasing rest.  And I think that sometimes you need to just stop chasing.  Stop moving.  Just stop.  Stop and remember that it’s all just…. fleeting.  I’ll feel better, or I won’t.  But either way, it’s still temporary, because it’s ALL temporary.

I don’t know what’s going to happen next for me, or this blog, or all my plans that have gotten put on hold with my health issues.  But for the first time in a long time, I’m pretty okay with not knowing.  And the next time I’m not okay (because I do know there will be a next time), the next time I give in to the stress and the fatigue and the frustration of it all, I hope I can remember that no matter what it is… whatever negative, stagnant yuck I’m feeling…

that it’s only temporary.

__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

*(Sorry I said shit.  Sorry I said it again)

 


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Choosing Joy

I made a little video.  I’ve never made a video like this (and don’t plan to do it again) but I don’t know…. I started thinking about talking about fear, and I kept seeing the words in my head as little blurbs instead of one long written-out thing.

I apologize for the unprofessional-looking video, but it was my eighth attempt and I finally decided that I was just going to believe that you’d appreciate the message and forgive the imperfections.  🙂


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Filed under learning, life, parenting, trust, unschooling

The Hard Things

 scrabble

I’m really bad at Scrabble. So bad that on the rare occasion that I dare play with my husband, he doesn’t just beat me. He demolishes me, with double or triple my score. And no matter how many times he tells me it’s a puzzle game, NOT a word game, it still bothers me that I – someone who lives and breathes for words – can be so dreadfully awful at a game that revolves around… well, making words!

I’m bad at chess too, and all my kids who play can beat me easily. I don’t have the attention span required to think two, three moves ahead (to be honest, paying attention long enough to think through one move is pushing it), and I can never remember the rules.

I’m good at baking, but I can’t fry a decent egg to safe my life.

I like sports, but I’m incredibly clumsy. I ran track one year in high school, and the coach was so frustrated at my repeatedly bungled attempts at the high jump, that he finally said, “You know what, this event isn’t for everyone. Maybe you need to think about trying something else.” I did eventually get the hang of the long jump and triple jump, although doing so gave me life-long shin splints, so I’m not sure it was a fair trade-off.

I struggle with math. Once I go beyond the basics, something inside me cries, “Too hard, too hard!!” and a little switch in my brain shuts off. Refuses to even try.

I have a terrible sense of direction. I’ve lived here in Phoenix for over 8 years now, and while I never truly worry that I’ll get lost-lost (mainly because the layout of the city is very gridded, and I know I’ll eventually get to an area/street/highway that I recognize) my track-record outside of my own normal stops is… spotty. The thought of going anywhere I’m not very familiar with, especially without my little sticky note of directions (I tend not to trust the GPS) makes my palms sweaty.

So why am I sharing this list of shortcomings? Because, about a month ago, I started taking a karate class as part of my 40 for 40 list of goals for the year. I always thought it’d be fun, and it is fun. But it’s also really freaking hard, at least for me. It doesn’t come naturally. I keep getting my left and right confused, I’ll start a middle block and some how end up with a high block, and when my hands are finally doing the right thing, my feet forget what they’re doing. I get flustered and embarrassed and I have to work really hard to mentally get past my mistakes.

But I keep showing up, and I keep working at it.

Twenty years ago – probably 10 or even 5 years ago, if I’m being honest – I would have quit. Gone home after that very first class, made some sort of declaration about karate being “not for me”, and never gone back.

I stand before you a recovering perfectionist. For most of my life, if something didn’t come easily to me, if I couldn’t do it well right from the get-go, I simply didn’t do it. I avoided anything that was hard at all costs, anything that would make me feel stupid, or incompetent, or… human. And you know what? It’s really no way to live. I mean, sure, I did some worthwhile things. I wrote! I made art! I played music! But the things I missed out on… the things I really wanted to try, but avoided because deep down I was afraid of failing? That list is longer than I care to admit.

Some of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done as an adult have been things that were terrifying. Things that took me way outside of my comfort zone.  Things that were – or continue to be – really, really hard. Over time I’m learning to embrace the challenge, stare the fear in its face and say, “You’re not going to stop me this time.”

My kids? They don’t need to learn how to do this. They’ve already got it. When I interviewed them for my blog last year, and asked the question: “Some people think that unschoolers will only learn things that are easy for them, and will not ever challenge themselves. So do you learn things that are difficult, or do you just go for easy things that you know you’ll do well?” Spencer was quick to answer, “I like a challenge!” Right now he’s currently challenging himself with a two-year long small engine repair course that’s going to mean assignments, studying, and formal tests.  And just last week, when Everett and Paxton started a fencing class, their first comments after the class was done were, “That was SO HARD!  And so fun!  I can’t wait to go back.”

They’re not afraid of doing the hard things, and I’m finally, after 40 years on this planet, understanding why.

Because that feeling you get when you finally get that triple word score, or solve that polynomial equation, or smoothly execute the low block – middle punch – upper cut without getting tangled up in your own arms…

That feeling is pretty damn awesome.


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40 For 40

Today, I turn 40.

 

This is 40

This is 40


I haven’t done New Year’s resolutions for a long time (although some of what follows will definitely sound resolution-ish) but I do so love a list of goals.  This year, as I approached 40 and my brain started tickling with all the new things I wanted to experience this year, I decided that a “40 for 40” list was in order.

It’s a year of celebrating me.  Of self-care.  Of creativity.  Of honoring the 40 years I’ve been on this planet.  40 years is a long time, and yet…. God willing, sooo much life still ahead of me! So much to do and see and try and taste and experience.

40 is also the year that I let go of the last few holds of perfectionism.  The need to DO ALL THE THINGS, and do them all “right.”  To that end, if I don’t do something on the list, it’s okay!  If I decide I don’t want to do something after all, that’s okay too. Maybe it’ll get added to the 41 for 41 list.  Or maybe it’ll get replaced with something even better.  I have no doubt that it will all work out exactly the way it’s supposed to.

And without further ado, my list (and my commentary):

 

  1. Start gauging my earsMainly because it’s just something I always wanted to try.  So I did, a week ago today.  I’m a tiny little 14 gauge right now, and plan to go up to 0.
  2. Get another tattooThat’s done too!  Thanks to my lovely friend Erika coming to visit at the last minute. Tattoos are always better when you go with a buddy!  It made tattoo #5.
  3. Take a karate class Another thing I always wanted to do.  My class started on Wednesday.  It is fun and fast paced, and so much harder than I thought it would be!  It made me feel so clumsy and uncoordinated, it’s amazing I can put my own pants on in the morning.  I was telling my sister, who is taking the class with me, that it’s a good thing I waited till now to take it.  The old me would have been too intimidated, too embarrassed to go back after my muddled first attempt… but the current me is shouting, “YEAH!  A challenge!!”  I can’t wait to learn more!
  4. Go back to school – I’ve taken various classes over the past several years, took a nutrition program, earned my RYT to teach yoga, etc.  Earning a degree has never held any importance for me (and it still doesn’t), but ASU recently expanded their online offerings, and I found something called Healthy Lifestyle Coaching which combines fitness, nutrition, yoga, anatomy… all those things I get super geeked about, all in one major. And well, given the fact that I get a ridiculous discount since Mike works for them, I just couldn’t NOT do it.
  5. Put on a successful conference I’m not gonna lie.  I’m nervous.  Possibly as nervous as I’ve ever been about anything.
  6. Draw something.  Hang it on my wall.  – I took art classes all through high school, and a few in college.  I liked painting, but I loved drawing and sketching.  Pencil, charcoal, pen and ink… loved.  I’ve missed it.
  7. Knit a project from start to finish – I taught myself to knit a few years ago, but got bored before I actually completed anything.  Thought it’d be fun to pick it up again.
  8. Get back into doing a handstand – even if it’s against a wall.  My shoulder’s ready. And, 
  9. Learn the scorpion pose – They worked on this a bit when I was in my teacher training a year and a half ago, but my shoulder injury dictated that I sit it out.  🙁  Fast forward through surgery, and a L O N G recovery, and I was never able to work on it.  I’m ready for that now, too.
  10. Sit down at the piano, and practice and learn a new song  –  One song, any song. And not just the intro.
  11. Get back down to my drivers license weight – Okay, so, I am the first person to tell you to ignore the scale, don’t focus on numbers… that you should gauge your progress by how you feel, how strong you are, how your clothes fit, etc.  But.  There’s something powerful about having a specific, concrete goal (such as do x number of pushups, or run x number of miles) rather than a general, “get healthy.”  Well, too many pushups blow out my shoulder.  I only run when chased.   But I can control my weight.   Some of the 20 or so pounds I’ve put on over the past few years are due to a changing metabolism for sure… but much was also due to injury, depression, less activity, ::cough:: too much alcohol, and just plain not taking care of myself the way I should.  I won’t beat myself up about the past.  My body has – mostly – served me well exactly the way it is. But I’m ready to do something else with it now.
  12. Finish my parenting book  – It’s time.
  13. Take myself on a date to the movies – Once upon a time, I would have been way too self-conscious and embarrassed to do something like that by myself.  But last year, I accompanied Mike on a trip to Chicago for business, and needed to keep myself occupied when he was busy at his conference.  I went to two movies by myself, and I LOVED IT. Seriously loved it. Like, “Why on earth haven’t I been doing this all along??” loved it.  So I need to do it again.
  14. Spend an afternoon drinking coffee and wandering around Barnes and Noble – Because books.  And coffee.
  15. Re-read Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance – I was in my early 20’s the first time I read it, and am curious how my 40 year old self will relate in comparison.
  16. Read Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking – I’ve only fully embraced my introvert self in the past few years, and have been recommended this book over and over.
  17. Read The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Just because everyone’s always shocked that I’ve never read it. So I put it on my “see what the fuss is about” list.
  18. Paint a picture – Hang it on the wall, with my drawing.
  19. Take an overnight trip by myself – I just need to decide who I’m going to visit!
  20. Take an aerial silk class – Because it’s awesome
  21. Learn how to make a really good homemade pad thai – Because it’s delicious
  22. Get some new eye makeup and learn how to use it –  I’m 40, and have no idea how to use makeup.  I’ve been a mascara and lipgloss girl forever, if I can be bothered to use that much.
  23. Spend a day at the zoo, just to take pictures – my favorite place to play with the zoom
  24. Get rid of all my clothes I don’t love/don’t fit – My drawers are stuffed, and I wear just a few favorite things.  This makes no sense?
  25. Hike at least 20 new spots in the valley – It’s sort of criminal that I live here, surrounded by all these great views and hiking trails, and I barely venture out of the house unless it’s in the truck to go off-roading. And, bonus, this is one my family can enjoy with me.
  26. Make a blogging schedule, and stick to it… whether it’s once a week, every day, etc – I try to give up blogging sometimes, but it keeps calling me back…
  27. *Don’t* do Nano, and feel good about skipping it – For the past 4 years, November has meant I was writing like a crazy woman, trying to get in my 50,000 word novel before the month ended. I loved it and hated it and got a lot out of it… but this year I’m focused on other things.
  28. Go to a concert – Christina Perri is coming to Tempe.  I’m a little bit obsessed with her.
  29. Sew something – Finish it.
  30. Make myself a chain mail necklace and/or bracelet – So far I’ve only made them as gifts, but I really love doing it.
  31. Aim to do yoga *every* day… but feel no guilt if I skip it – I need to do this if I’m going to be successful at #8 and #9
  32. Go back to a paper planner, and do this with it. –  I’m on week two so far, and loving it!
  33. Actually cook/bake/create some of the things I’ve pinned on Pinterest – Because there’s too many cool/delicious/fun things on there to let them just languish away on the interwebs.
  34. Get Melt: The Art of Macaroni and Cheese and work my way through it  – Don’t care that’s it’s all carbs and dairy.  Sigh. Garrett of Vanilla Garlic.  I’m a little bit obsessed with him too.  
  35. Get some Earth Boxes and grow some vegetables.  Try not to kill them – I’m sadly the only one in the family who was not blessed with a green thumb.  I kill Christmas cactuses.  I kill things that are supposed to be impossible to kill.  I’m not going to get crazy, but surely maybe I can grow some tomatoes.
  36. Do the purging challenge at least for one month http://www.theminimalists.com/game/ – DO IT.
  37. Take the Personal Trainer test – I’ve had the book for at least a couple of years now.  I just need to study it.
  38. Find a really perfect pair of jeans and a really perfect hoodie – Everyone should have jeans and a hoodie that they really love and feel great in.  I don’t currently have any that fit that criteria.  🙁
  39. Ditto for a skirt – I’m not a skirt person.  But I think it’d be fun to be one sometimes.
  40. Pay off one credit card – Because, ugh.  Enough already.

 

And there’s my list.  Phew.  I can’t wait to cross the next thing off!  Happy birthday to me.


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Slowing Down

My kids are my greatest teachers.

One of the biggest lessons that my daughter has taught me (and continues to teach me, again and again) is to slow the heck down.  Breathe.  Live in the moment.  Forget about life’s distractions.  It’s strange to me, an introverted homebody, that this is a lesson I would so desperately need to receive over and over… but I do.

The past two months have been incredibly busy ones, and I’ve sort of prided myself on rising to the occasion.  Keep moving.  Keep checking.  Keep doing.  Go, go, go.  I’ve become very adept at taking care of Very Important Things while simultaneously tending to other Very Important Things.  Is it weird to balance your checkbook sitting on the wings of the community pool while your kids are in swimming lessons?  Or work on your grocery list while waiting for your son in physical therapy?  I don’t know.  But I’ve been doing them both, in my – mostly successful – quest to stay on top of everything when I’ve got a million balls in the air.  Can’t stop moving.  Can’t drop the balls.

This morning Tegan got up early.  Well, it wasn’t exactly early.  It was 8:00.  But that’s early for her lately, because  she’s been staying up late, and sleeping in the next morning.  Which works out well for me, because it gives me plenty of time to work on my ever-growing to-do list before anyone gets up.  But this morning she got up at 8:00, and in her sleepy little stupor, immediately sprawled herself out on the couch.  I knew she was about to fall back to sleep, so I asked her if she wanted me to get her blanket.

“No,” she told me.  “Come back to bed with me.”  Her eyes were nearly closed already.

“You want to go back to bed?”

She nodded with her eyes closed.  “Yes, but I want you to come with me.  Come lay with me.”

I knew if I waited about 30 seconds before I got up that she would just fall back to sleep again on the couch.  I also knew that it was a moment I wouldn’t get back.

“Come lay with me.”

My first instinct was to grab my tablet (I’d been catching up on emails) so that I could use it in bed after she’d fallen asleep, but I knew she wouldn’t like that.

My daughter.

My need to do. all. the. things.

I acted before I could debate it.  I left my tablet on the couch, and walked her back to bed.  I tucked us both in, her little body happily curled against mine.  It was only a matter of minutes before she was asleep, her head heavy against my arm, her breathing deep and even.

I slowed down.

I breathed.

Her timing was, as always, impeccable.  In many ways, life is about to slow down for the next month or so.  Swimming is officially over, ballet ended for the summer last week, karate ends on Saturday.  And with so many of my clients with travel plans, even my yoga class has taken a hiatus for at least the next month.  But because this is, well, the real world, in many ways life is about to pick up as well.  Lots of plans, lots of projects, lots to do.

But not this morning.  Not right now.  There’s a place for stillness too.  A time to slow down.  A time to breathe.  I laid with my sleeping girl for a long time, savoring the moment, drinking in the lesson.

Slow down.

Breathe.

After she woke up, we hung out in bed for another hour, to-do list be damned.  We watched TV, read about 7 Dora books, and talked about the important things moms and daughters talk about. I snuck out of the room just once when she was asleep, but I came right back.tegansleepingI just had to take a picture, to remind me.


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the kids, the housework, and me.

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It’s a series of questions I hear a lot.  A lot a lot:

Do you really not require them to do chores?  Do they still help around the house?  How do you get them to help?

Yes, I really don’t require them to do any particular chores.  Yes, they all still help around the house.  As for the last question:  It’s the wrong question.  It’s not about getting someone else to do what you want them to do.  If something isn’t working, it’s about changing what you can change about you, and letting the rest fall as it falls.  But I’ll get back to that later.

Not too long ago, I had a bit of a breakdown (and a resulting breakthrough) when it came to housekeeping.  I’ve admitted this here on my blog more times than I can count, but I’m not the most naturally tidy person out there.  I pretty much make a mess everywhere I go.  For most of my adult life, I’ve tried to make peace with that. I thought the answer was to embrace it.   Messes are good!  Messes are happy!  Life is a mess!  And while I still agree with that when it comes to many, many things, I finally faced the fact that I personally function so much better when my home –  my haven – is running smoothly.  When things are organized.  When my desk is tidy.   When my counter is shiny.

The problem was, none of that was happening.  Nothing was running smoothly.  Nothing was organized.  Nothing was tidy.  Nothing was shiny.  My own house was a source of stress, and a big one at that.

I eventually realized that 1)  This was MY issue.  (Well, mine and my husband’s, but he already works like 17 jillion hours a week outside the house, and contrary to popular belief can’t always put out my fires too) 2) Making desperate, impassioned, embarrassing speeches begging people to help me didn’t work… and made us all grumpy in the process, and 3) The only person I had the ability – and the right – to control was me.

So I decided to do something.

Borrowing and adapting ideas from both Flylady and Motivated Moms, I started digging my way out.  (“Borrowing” and “adapting” instead of flat-out following because I took what worked for me, and chucked the rest, with no apologies.  Put on shoes in my own house??  What kind of crazy crap is that?)  I started with baby steps, and am gradually working my way to household sanity.  My own personal 12-step program for slobs.  I didn’t do it to prove anything, didn’t do it for anyone else, didn’t do it for any other reason than because I wanted to.  As with any other new habit, the first few weeks were painful difficult, but now it’s all second nature, AND my house doesn’t stress me out anymore.

This is the daily plan that works for me (your mileage may vary):

  • Tegan sleeps in our bed about half the time.  If she’s in her bed, the first thing I do when I get up is make the bed.  (Otherwise, I just do it later) For most of our marriage, the bed’s been unmade.  I sort of never saw the point, if you’re just going to unmake to get into it again.  But lo and behold, it’s really really nice to come into a pretty and freshly made bed every night.  If your home is your haven, your bedroom should be your haven’s haven, right?  Plus, it gets me in the “tidy-up” mood I need for the rest of the morning.  So I take the time to do it.  It takes approximately 8 seconds and makes a huge difference.
  • Next I go into both bathrooms, and grab the toilet brush.  Quick swish of the toilet, and then a quick wipe down of the sink/counter/mirror with a damp cloth.  Two minutes.
  • On the way to the kitchen, I stop at the closet to grab a fresh dish towel.  It’s nice to have a fresh towel every day… and plus there’s that whole issue of kitchens being germier than bathrooms.  Which is gross.  So a new towel it is.
  • I start the pot of coffee, because I must.  While it’s brewing, I:
  • Empty the dishwasher
  • Run a broom just over the kitchen/dining area
  • Wipe down the counters, stove, and sink
  • Put any stray cups, etc, from the night before in the dishwasher.
  • If there’s laundry to do, I’ll throw that in then too.  (I’ll fold it later with a cup of iced coffee and Netflix to keep me company)

BAM.  Ten minutes from the time my feet hit the floor and I’m ready to sit and enjoy my coffee and answer my emails.

The only other thing I do housework-wise consistently every day is spend 15 minutes (yes, I set a timer) on cleaning … something …  whether it’s putting toys away, tidying up the living room, or working on decluttering.   I’m convinced that getting rid of the superfluous “stuff” in the house is one of the biggest natural highs in the world.  Right now my big project is the room that was originally built to be a formal dining room that has since become a computer room slash play room slash dumping ground slash all-around thorn in my side.  It’s not where I’d like it yet, but it’s looking a lot better, 15 minutes at a time.   15 minutes is nothing.  I could easily spend four times that much watching TV, or working on a blog post, or ::cough:: checking Facebook.

One day a week, I do the bigger jobs:

  • Properly clean the bathrooms
  • Sweep the whole house
  • Mop
  • Vacuum
  • Dust
  • Clean end tables, etc
  • Change everyone’s sheets
  • Take out the trash

The whole thing takes about an hour, less if the kids help me.  And speaking of the kids:  Last night after dinner (because he likes to give me real-life examples for my blog posts without even realizing it)  Mike asked Everett – 9 at the time of this writing – if he’d take out the recycling bins.  Spencer does it more often than not, but his shoulder is still not quite up to it.  So he asked Everett.  And that’s how it works… no more complicated nor more simple than just … asking.  As is the case I’d say, oh, 75% of the time, Everett said “Sure”, brought his plate up to the sink, and went to get the recyclables.

20% of the time, the answer is “Sure…” followed by a, “when my show is over” or “after I finish this level”, or “in a little bit.”  And 5% of the time, they decline.  Because they’re too tired, or busy, or just plain choose to opt out.

In the past, that 5% caused a huge problem.  But not because of the kids.  Because of me.

The kids don’t exist to be at my beck and call.  We’re a family… we’re all equals here.  We’re on the same team, the kids and me.  I knew all of that intellectually, but until I’d fixed my own messed-up relationship with housework, my words might have been asking, “Would you please help me with xyz?” but everything else about me was screaming, “Kids!  Help me with this unpleasant task that I don’t even want to do myself!  I’m going to frame it like it’s a question, but I’m going to get all grumbly if you say no.  Stupid housework.  Stupid messy house.  If I could just get some HELP every once in awhile, instead of doing it all myself.  Grumble grumble grumble….”   I mean seriously, would you want to help that person?   Once I’d adjusted my own frame of reference, it changed everything, and that 5% became a non-issue.  Now when I ask, I’m honestly asking, and if the answer is “Not right now” or “No thanks” or “Can someone else do it?”, I’m cool with that.  Because things are running much more smoothly overall, it’s not a big deal for me to do most of the cleaning projects myself… and it’s also not a big deal for others to pitch in:  sometimes when they’re asked, and sometimes just because they want to help.   And it should go without saying, but it’s also a whole lot more pleasant to deal with housework in general when it’s with someone who’s calm and cheerful about it instead of, well, stressed out and scary.

Most days, I’m honestly happy to do housework now.  It feels good to create and keep a nice space and a happy unschooling “nest” for my family.  It’s easier to find things and work on our various projects, and I’m no longer stressed out by all the inevitable – and often necessary – messes.  Messes are easy to clean when they’re made on a fresh canvas.  It’s the messes that fall on top of messes on top of messes that are overwhelming.  Am I always cheerful and happy about cleaning?  Well, no.  This is the real world.  And some days the best I can do is recognize that it’s a necessary part of life, and something I can still choose to do without complaining.  And on “those” days?  The rare days when I’d rather stick a fork in my eye than pick up a broom or handle a dirty dish or run one more load of laundry?   I give myself the day off, and I don’t feel guilty about it.

Do I think my kids are going to be stellar housekeepers when they’re out on their own?  I have no idea.  I’m not nearly as concerned with how they “turn out” as I am with their living in a happy, cohesive, peaceful household right now.  If I had to guess, I’d say that it’s largely just a matter of personality, and how they’re individually hard-wired.  Some of my kids have always loved to keep everything around them neat and tidy… and some have always been, well, more like I was as a kid.  And neither is right or wrong until or unless THEY decide it’s right or wrong in their own life.

I do know that they’re finally able to see and experience a mom who is happy to do it, to do her best to take pride in, and take care of this place we call home … humble though it may be.  And on a deeper level, a mom who recognized a problem within herself and is taking steps to fix it.

Surely that’s got to count for something.

 


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Filed under about me, family, learning, organizing, unschooling

That Which Makes Me Very Grumpy

I blame Flylady.  Well, Flylady and my good friend Jess.

If you’re not familiar with Flylady, it’s basically a housekeeping system that teaches you to get in the habit of doing a morning and evening routine every day (dishes, laundry, swooping the bathroom, etc), along with one bigger chore, with the goal of getting and keeping your house running smoothly.  It’s the exact opposite of anything I’d naturally be drawn too… but it’s actually quite perfect for people like me: people who’ve admitted to themselves that they function a lot better in less chaos, but who tend to make a mess everywhere they go.

Anyway, on Friday my job was to mop the floors.  Actually, it was technically just to mop the kitchen floor.  But if I had out a wet mop all ready to go, why stop at the kitchen?  Why indeed.  So I get my mop ready, fill the sink with water, and get started on the kitchen (which, if I’m being honest, was WAY overdue for a mop).  That’s when all four kids – who’d been happily involved in their own projects up until that very moment – suddenly desperately needed me, in four different directions.  It turns out that mopping is sort of like going to the bathroom in that regard.

I put out their fires, with less patience than I would have liked, and went back to mopping.  I was grumbling for no reason before I even left the kitchen.  There were spots everywhere, I kept having to stop to put something else away, and there was another *&%$ fruit sticker stuck to the floor in front of the fridge.  If I could get some help once in awhile… grumble grumble grumble.

By the time I’d made it out through the pantry into the other room, I lost it.  I was tripping over Tegan’s latest 27 costume changes all over the floor.  I needed to put in another load of laundry.  Someone had to clean the mice cage.  Something had clearly been spilled and only halfway wiped up, and there was another something that I can only guess was once gum or Silly Putty that had hardened into a black, concrete mound of glue under Spencer’s desk.

Before I knew what had happened, I’d had a totally unwarranted Jekyll and Hyde/Bruce Banner and the Incredible Hulk transformation.  I was snapping at everyone, I was flinging stuff around, and I nearly burst into tears when I found one of my favorite pens without its cap.  Spencer was – rightfully – looking at me like I’d gone crazy, and Paxton was still staring straight ahead at his computer screen… his only defense sitting as absolutely still as possible.

And that’s when I saw my raving lunatic self,  took a (rather mortified) big breath, apologized to the kids, and said to myself, “What is wrong with you??”

Then I remembered.

The day before, I’d just begun a juice fast.

Breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

Breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

I like to do a good cleanse/fast a few times a year.  It’s really important to detox, especially if you’ve been eating a lot of sugar or processed foods (or, in my case, a ton of NSAIDS)  Plus, it’s February, and the new year, and I was still carrying 5 holiday pounds.  I knew from experience that a week or two of juicing would do wonders.  So when my friend Jess said, “Hey, want to do a juicing blitz with me??” I said “Sure, sign me up!”

Now if you’ve ever done any type of cleanse, you know that the first few days are unpleasant:  I get headaches and a host of other physical detox symptoms.  I crave things.  I feel foggy.  I sometimes get dizzy.

All child’s play compared to just how GRUMPY it makes me.

By day four or five, I feel fantastic.  Lighter, mentally clearer, more energetic, ready to take on the world.  But day two?  I’m a beast.  And I always forget that part.    So while Jess was writing a lovely blog post about the juicing and all its benefits, I couldn’t write anything, largely because I was too focused on wanting to inflict major bodily harm on any and all inanimate object that got in my way.

So, my advice to you, should you ever choose to do a juicing fast (and you really should;  It’s so good for you.  And I’m on day 5 now, so I’m very much in the zone of “WOOOO HOOOO, juicing ROCKS!!”):  Go easy on yourself and the people around you.  Treat yourself gently, and with patience, and with grace.

And for the love of all that is good and holy, don’t even think about mopping.

 


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Filed under about me, food, learning, life, natural health, nutrition, rant

I Am Not a Christian

Waldo

We have a ball python named Waldo. We named him Waldo for the late great Ralph Waldo Emerson (and also because people seemed to find the idea of being able to lament, “Where’s Waldo??” in the event of an escape side-splittingly funny.) He’s a wonderful pet. He’s playful and friendly, and loves to slither around our laps on the couch. It’s fun to watch him eat too… striking out to catch the – already dead – mouse we dangle from the tweezers, squeezing it until it’s good and dead, and then ever so slowly and deliberately swallowing it whole.

One of the coolest things about snakes though is their ability to shed their skin. I’m fascinated by this. They outgrow their old skin, it turns white and brittle and loose, and here is this new skin: beautiful, bright, and vibrant, ready to take its place. Ideally, the old skin comes off in one long complete piece… so intact that you can clearly see where the eyes once resided. Sometimes though, they have a bad, or an incomplete shed. The skin comes off in stages and pieces. When that happens, the retained skin can cause problems for the snake, so it’s important to have rough items like branches, bark, and rock in the cage so that the snake can rub against them to help snag and remove the remaining skin. That’s exactly what happened the last time Waldo shed. His cage was filled with pieces of skin of varying length, and we wondered if we’d have to do something to help. But he worked it out: he used the rough bark of his hiding log, and eventually it was all gone. He was fresh and new and shiny again.

I am a snake.

For the past several years, I’ve been on a journey to slowly shed my outgrown skin in many many facets of my life, but particularly in my walk as a Christian. For so many (So. Many.) years I was bound by rules and regulations and legalities, and as I grew and changed and evolved… it just didn’t fit anymore. I started to crave freedom and grace and freedom again, and I just wasn’t finding them in my old skin.

I am thankful, honestly thankful, for the painful church experiences of my past that started the process, that tore off that first big piece, the one that gave me the glimpse of the beauty that lay beneath. Just the taste, just the possibility of the freedom that was to come gave me hope. And those final bits of skin? The stubborn ones? Well those eventually came off too, thanks to the people I’ve encountered along the way; the ones who served as those rough logs, sloughing off the old meaning of the word, “Christian”, and replacing it with something new. Those people are the ones who helped me see who I am, who I’m not, and who I so desperately want to be.

If a Christian is someone who uses a Bible not as a source of strength or knowledge or information, but as a weapon, something from which to cherry-pick scriptures to clobber others, to prove a point, and to win an argument…

I am not a Christian.

If a Christian is someone who thinks he can say with any authority who is and who is not going to go to heaven; who arrogantly thinks he knows the status of someone else’s walk with God, let alone his salvation…

I am not a Christian.

If a Christian is someone who disparages others just because they happen to be a Democrat or a liberal or someone who voted “the wrong way” in the last election…

I am not a Christian.

If a Christian is someone who doesn’t let another Christian into their group or club or school because they’re the wrong kind of Christian, or because their beliefs or interpretations of God and the Bible may differ from their own…

I am not a Christian.

If a Christian is someone who stands as judge and jury of someone else’s lifestyle; someone who finds it appropriate to go onto someone else’s Facebook page and just tell her, point-blank: “You are not a true Christian if you XYZ”…

I am not a Christian.

And riiiiiiiiip, there it goes, the very last little thready bits of skin. Except it doesn’t hurt. It feels good. It feels freeing.

That skin didn’t fit. And it hadn’t fit for so long.

I have no anger towards those people either. No bitterness. Only gratitude. And I’ll fully admit that that wasn’t always the case. I have one faithful friend who can attest to the number of, “Have I mentioned lately how much Christians annoy me?” texts I’ve sent her over the past year. It’s only now that I can see them for what they were… just people on their own journey, people who may or may not have skin to shed of their own. How they’re living out their own personal walk is none of my business, and likewise:

No one else but me gets to decide my path for ME.

I’m free.

Does that freedom then mean that I just live my life all willy-nilly, devil-may-care, any old way, and if God doesn’t like it that’s just too damn bad? Of course not. On the contrary, as someone who does truly love God, I am always learning, always growing, always examining, always questioning. Christianity is actually a lot like yoga (which, ironically, is another area that’s garnered me the, “You can’t be a true Christian if you do that!” comments) in that you never know everything there is to know. You’re never finished learning. You’re never finished getting better. By all means, even though I’m a teacher I’m still relatively new to yoga. And even though I’ve been a Christian my whole life, I’m still very new to the idea of grace. Of real faith. Of freedom. For the first time in, well… ever… I can’t wait to learn more.

So am I a Christian? The only words that come are: “It just doesn’t matter.” I am me. I love God. And I’m okay with that answer.

I’m pretty sure God’s okay with it too.


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Filed under about me, church, faith, freedom, judgement, learning, life

Day One

New Years: The day that makes me all mushy and sentimental and jazzed about things like fresh starts and blank slates and clean new Day Planners (even though I finally gave those up a couple of years ago in lieu of their digital cousins)

2012 is not a year I’m terribly sorry to see go. I spent a good portion of it in physical pain, from the time I injured my shoulder in early May, through physical therapy, surgery in November, and well… right now, as I type. But there was good too:

I dreaded my hair.
I finished my yoga training.
I wrote for a homeschooling magazine.
There were trips and experiences and growth and challenges… both as an individual, and as a family.

The year ended on a high note too, when we took my visiting inlaws on a whirlwind and somewhat impromptu tour of the northern part of our beautiful state; a state that we’re still very much having a passionate love affair with, seven years after we moved here. (Pics are here) The fact that the trip ended with a wheel flying off Mike’s truck when we were going down the highway at 75 mph? All part of the adventure. And just another reason to be thankful to be here, alive, and able to seize another day.

I stopped doing New Years resolutions some time ago, but specific goals… well those make me just about as excited as those clean new Day Planners I mentioned above. And I’ve got a few, in no particular order:

1) Return to blogging daily. Which isn’t really about blogging at all, but about me. Whatever this year turns out to be, it’ll be a journey. And journeys need to be put into written words. At least mine do.

2) Get physically stronger. I don’t know what that’s going to look like just yet. A few weeks ago I thought Couch to 5K was going to play a role, but after giving it an honest try for two weeks, I realized that it was way too much jarring, way too soon, on my shoulder. But I’m going to do something to meet that goal… and when I figure it out, I’ll share that too.

3) Pay off our debt. This is HUGE. I might even have to dust off my long-neglected Ditching the Debt blog to document it and keep myself accountable. We’re in a better position to make it happen this year, and it feels. so. good.

4) Eucharisto and simplicity. Those are my two words for the year. Eucharisto is a greek word meaning “to give thanks”, and it’s something I’m ashamed to admit I’ve never really thought too deeply about, beyond vague pronouncements and platitudes. Reading the book, “A Thousand Gifts” has changed that. And to tie right in with true thankfulness: Simplicity. Less stuff, less clutter, less baggage. More of the important things like family, relationships, experiences, LIFE. Again inspired by a book, this one called “You Can Buy Happiness (And it’s Cheap): How One Woman Radically Simplified Her Life and How You Can, Too.”
Now, none of this is new information. In fact, a quest to simplify has been a theme of my blog for a long time now. But I don’t know… sometimes you need to hear something at the right time, in the right way, to make it “stick.” And boy howdy, has it stuck. I’ve never been so excited to downsize in all my life. It won’t be an overnight project, or even a few-months-long project, but a baby-stepping, one day at a time, breaking it up into small manageable chunks kind of project. I’m gonna do it, and I’m gonna write about it.

Happy New Year, friends. Blessings and good wishes and a happy and healthy and clutter-free 2013 to all of you.


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Filed under about me, learning, life, money, New Years, simplifying, Uncategorized

2012 Top Ten

What a year for parenting. Between Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest, there was no shortage of avenues for crazy ideas. Laptop-shooting dads, public shamings on Facebook, and negative and anti-kid “pins” were all the rage this year.

As I went through my stats for the year to get this post together, I realized that once again my most read pieces were those that responded to these popular trends.  I’m not sure how I feel about that.  On the one hand, it makes sense…. these are things that people are thinking about, and talking about, and are just generally in the public’s consciousness.  On the other, it bothers me.  Bothers me because they’re also the posts that garner me the most negative attention, the most “Why don’t you stop judging everyone else and worry about your own family” kind of comments.   It was not too long ago that I was told I should stop picking on everyone.

That’s not who I am, and it’s not what this blog is.

Still, there were things that I think needed to be said, and with few exceptions I don’t regret saying them.   I do imagine the blog going in a bit of a different direction in 2013, both as a conscious decision and just because I’ve gone in a different direction.    As an authentic extension of myself, this space is a growing, changing, fluid organism.  And thank God for that.

Here are my most read posts for the year, in order of most to least views:

Not My Idea of a Hero:  My response to Tommy Jordan, the man who gained his 15 minutes of fame when the video of him shooting bullets through his daughter’s laptop went viral on YouTube.   I took a lot of flack on this one… for “judging” him, and for not respecting him and his decisions as a parent.   But the man took a gun, shot it through his daughter’s property, and used fear, intimidation, and public ridicule as a way to discipline.  I stand by this one.

I stole your stuff.  Now I’m holding it for ransom:  My take on the popular Pinterest idea of collecting your kids’ things that were left lying around, putting them in a big bin, and then having them do chores to earn them back.   A lot of negative responses to this too (people hold very tightly to their treasured pins :)), especially to my use of the word, “steal.”  But in my house, my childrens’ things are their own, and taking something that doesn’t belong to you is stealing.  I stand by this one too.

Dear Chick Fil A, I Love You But:  Dan Cathy, the CEO of Chick Fil A, made a public statement about gay marriage and what he called traditional family values.  People boycotted, people supported him, and everyone went crazy.  The brouhaha on both sides of this issue was just too much to ignore, so I had to say my piece.  My only regret on this one?  That I wasn’t brave enough to say how I really felt about homosexuality.  That I hid behind hypotheticals and political correctness and the same “traditional family values” that had started the whole thing.   What I didn’t do was come right out and say that yes, I’m a Christian who absolutely loves God and loves Jesus…. and doesn’t happen to think that homosexuality is a sin.  I didn’t say that I think that the way homosexuals have been treated in the name of Christianity is absolutely abhorrent, and I didn’t say that I think something needs to change in a HUGE way in this country (and that that change should not involve denying gay individuals the same rights as their heterosexual counterparts.)  I didn’t share that I too was once an adamant “It’s a sin, but…” Christian, or the journey that it took for me to feel otherwise, or the years of researching on my own, trying to find out what the Bible actually did and did not say, or my gratitude for people like John Shore, and other Christians who were brave enough to question the status quo – and write about it – long before me.   So there it is.   And in 2013, I won’t shy away from talking about it anymore.

Mom’s Rules and Is it Okay to Let Your Child Cry?  and The Problem with Facebook Parenting:    I don’t want to keep repeating myself, so I’ll comment on these all together.  Some things are worth taking a stand about.  The way children are treated is one of them.

Unschooling, Christianity & Other Misconceptions and The Five Rs for New Homeschoolers and Unschooling:  Don’t You Worry That They’ll Miss Something?   I’m glad these made the list.  I’m in a season right now of not wanting to really talk about unschooling so much as just LIVE it.  I know that people are still out there looking for information and reassurance though, and I’d love to think that they’re able to find some of that in some of my past posts…. if nothing else, as a jumping off point for further research.

The Boy Named Johnny:  About an awesome, energetic, different kid in Everett’s cub scout troop.  I’m glad this made the list too, especially in light of the Connecticut school shootings, and the attention being paid to the fact that the shooter had Asperger’s.  I think it’s an important conversation to be had.

And a bonus number 11:

When is it Okay to Judge?:   When I saw this was in the number 11 spot, I knew I had to include it.  Please read it, especially if any of the above posts make you want to call me judgmental.  🙂

Love you all, and I can’t wait to see what 2013 brings.


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Filed under blogging, christian unschooling, discipline, gentle discipline, gentle parenting, judgement, kindness, learning, life, mindful parenting, parenting, unschooling