May 08

The Boy on The Corner

Photo by SamPac

Photo by SamPac

I’ve lived in Phoenix for 8 1/2 years. I’ve seen a lot of homeless people. In fact, as terrible as it may sound, they’re part of the landscape. They’re there every time we go out. They’re there under the bridge. They’re there at the end of the frontage road. They’re there on the median at the exit ramp. They’re there at the entrance to the Walmart parking lot. Particularly lately, it’s difficult to venture out into the city at all and not encounter at least one homeless person.

I’ve given water to a homeless person before. Or money. For a time, we kept kits in our car filled with things like non-perishable foods, water, warm socks, and toothbrushes that we could give out when we passed someone in need.

And in all those years, and all those days, and all those stops… I don’t think I ever saw, really and truly looked into his eyes and SAW, a homeless person until very recently.

I was coming home from a yoga class, waiting at a red light about to get on the highway.  The first man I passed was shuffling up and down the median, his head down, and his hands holding his sign.  There was another, sleeping or passed out under the bridge, a rolling cart of his possessions on the ground next to him.  And then I saw the boy.

I say “boy” because he just looked so very, very young.  He looked like a teenager, but he could have been in his 20′s.   All I know is that I could have been his mother, and he could have been one of my own boys.  He was carrying a sign that said that he’d lost his job and his housing, and was homeless and hungry.   He looked right at me as he passed my car, looked me right in the eyes, and sort of waved.   I smiled at him, all the while panicking that it was the wrong kind of smile. Did I look pitying?  Condescending?  Kind?   Sympathetic?

He smiled back …a sweet, tired smile … and I’m not kidding when I say I felt my heart rip right open there in the middle of the street.  In those few seconds that passed before the light changed, I felt…. heartbreak and desperation.  There are no other words to describe it.  I looked around my car to see if I had something, anything, to help him, but I didn’t.  I had no cash (I almost never carry it), no water nearby to hand to him, nothing to eat.  I honestly think if I’d been wearing my watch I would have taken it from my wrist to give him something to sell.

But the light changed, and the seconds passed, and there was nothing to do but follow the line of cars getting on the highway.  To him, I was undoubtedly just another car that passed by and didn’t help.   But to me, he was the human face of something I’d witnessed but never truly seen until that day.

I won’t ever forget his face.  I really won’t.  He had big soulful brown eyes that had undoubtedly seen too much. Crazy, wavy dark hair that stuck out at all angles.  Freckled skin that had spent a lot of unprotected hours under the scorching Phoenix sun.   Innocent.  Young.  So very young.

I found myself fighting tears the whole way home.  Not just because I’d done nothing to help him, but even more because I suddenly felt like a giant, inadequate, ungrateful ass.    Driving in my big SUV, after a nice yoga class, in my over-priced Lulu clothes, going home to my safe, middle-middle-class neighborhood, where I’d enjoy a nice home-cooked meal and a couple of glasses of wine, before I retired to watch some meaningless drivel on one of our house’s five TV’s.

While that boy would still be standing on the street corner.

I tried to relate my experience when I got home, but it just didn’t translate into words.  I found myself completely unable to explain why such a brief moment, containing just a look and a smile,  could have such a profound effect on me.  I was still shaking when I walked into the house, but no one really understood.

 

Well, I saw this homeless kid

We see lots of homeless people.

I know, but I really SAW him.  We made eye contact.  He smiled at me.  And I didn’t help him.

You can’t help everyone you pass.

 

And around and around  it went.  Intellectually I know that yes, I can’t physically help every single person out there.  My husband, who is used to and patient with the occasionally spewing from my poor bleeding heart (but who is absolutely not driven by his emotions the way that I am) said something to the effect of, “What are you going to do, give away all your money?”  There’s a balance, and I understand that.   I also understand that no good can come from feeling bad, or guilty, because we have things that other people don’t.  I never want my kids to feel that way, so it’s not something I”m going to model for them.

I can’t help everybody.  But Good God.   I see that kid’s face, and I want to.

Where is the balance?  Where is that “sweet spot” in between driving past a homeless kid and giving away all of your possessions to help?  IS there a sweet spot?  Or is there always more to be done?  Always another way to help?  Are we supposed to give away all our possessions in order to aid others?

Those aren’t real questions, at least not questions that I expect anyone to answer.  Just a cosmic wondering, going out in the great deep void.   I need to do more, and I don’t know what that means yet.  Today, when I finish this post in fact, I’m going to go get the package of bottled waters in the trunk of my car and put it in the front seat. It’s getting hot in Phoenix, and if I put them in the front, I can quickly and easily grab one to give away the next time I’m stopped at a light.  It’s a small thing, but it’s something I can do.

And the first time (and every time) I’m able to hand somebody a bottle of water, I’m going to look them in the eyes. I’m going to look them in the eyes and think of that boy, that face… and do it for him.

 


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May 05

Phone Fear and “Real” Relationships

I saw this link about a dozen times on my various newsfeeds before I decided to watch it.   Titled, “Look Up”, its tagline reads that it’s a video “everyone needs to see.”   It would leave me “speechless” with its important message, it promised.  And if some of my friends were to be believed, it’d leave me in tears as well.  It’s heartbreaking!  It’s life-changing!

Well.

I hate to spoil it if you haven’t already watched it, but it didn’t leave me speechless.  It certainly didn’t make me cry. It didn’t break my heart, and it didn’t change my life.  Mostly, it just left me…. annoyed.

Designed to emotionally manipulate people into giving up social media, it was extreme, presumptuous, and steeped in fear.

Look up from your phone or you’ll miss your entire life!  You’ll never have a real relationship! You’ll never fall in love!  You’ll never have kids!  You’ll never see what it’s like outside!   I think my favorite bit was the part that showed a sad empty playground, because – of course – kids have lost the ability, desire, and skill-set necessary to play on the playground since the advent of modern technology.

In short, it is ridiculous, short-sighted fear-mongering.

One thing I will not argue is that relationships are important (absolutely!!), and that they need and deserve our full attention.  And I won’t deny that if anything is taking precedence over said relationships – no matter what it is – that it needs to be checked and evaluated.   This is true if it’s your phone, or your knitting, or a book, or your time spent at the gym.   Relationships matter.

But that’s where the author and I part company.  Because while he states (rather insultingly I might add) that any connection we make online or through the phone is not a “real” connection, I find that my connections are richer and fuller and more meaningful largely because of the aid of this new way of communicating, not in spite of it. Particularly as an introvert, the ability to be able to meet, talk with, and yes…. connect with other like minded souls in so many ways is a God-send.  Indeed, most of my and my kids closest confidants are those we mainly communicate with online.  Whether it’s Facebook, Instagram, Skype, or text, having someone there who you can reach out to in an instant is nothing short of a blessing;  not a curse.

Does that mean then, that we never see anyone offline?  (I’m purposely avoiding the oft-used term, “in real life.” IT’S ALL REAL LIFE.)  Of course not.  I love spending face-to-face time with family and friends.  I love playing outside, hiking in the desert, and camping in the woods.  I love going for long walks with my husband and my kids. I love joking and playing with the family around the dinner table.  I love pushing my daughter on the swings.  I love laughing over drinks with girl friends.  I love being a shoulder to cry on, and I love being an ear to listen.

I also love that when life circumstances or finances or geography prevents the above from happening in person, that technology helps provide the next best thing.

Just a few weeks ago, I made a new friend.   Tegan and Everett made fast friends with her children as well, and it’s been really lovely chatting and getting to know each other while we watch the kids splashing in the pool and jumping on the trampoline.

Know how we met?

She found my blog… which showed up in her searches for unschooling because I’ve promoted it through social media. Which I manage through my phone. Which, when she happened to meet another of my friends, made it super easy for the first friend to quickly contact me through text messages.  Which made it convenient to invite us both to her house at the last minute for a get together.  Where we exchanged numbers and emails so we could keep in touch.  Which promptly led to the aforementioned pool splashing and trampoline jumping.

I love my phone.  I love the internet.  I love social media.  I do.  They are truly blessings in my life, for which I am grateful.   They do not however, take the place of real relationships with real people, as this video suggests. Because what it fails to recognize as it attempts to shame everyone into giving up their devices, is that at the other end of that text, and on the other side of that screen…. is a real person…. a real friend, a real connection, a real relationship….  deserving of our attention just as much as anyone else.


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May 02

To Everett… On Your First Full Decade

Ten Years

Ten Years

One of my favorite things I ever post on my blog are the posts I do for my kids’ birthdays.  For one thing, they are non-controversial (no one ever has a negative word to say about a happy birthday post :)).  But more than that though, is that they are a celebration of these amazing lives… these incredible kids that I have the privilege of raising… and another reminder to not take a single day that I get to spend with them for granted.  Today, I celebrate Everett, who is somehow turning 10 years old.

Dear Everett,

Ten years old.  An entire decade.  I am having trouble with this one.  Maybe because you’re the third (third!) to hit double digits.  Maybe it’s because your sister, the baby, just turned 6.  Or maybe it’s just because you’ve always been the little one, and your turning ten is forcing me to realize that you’re growing up.   Whatever the case, in the midst of my excitement, I’m finding myself feeling weepy and nostalgic and emotional.  

Ten years old.

You were such a happy, sunshiney baby and toddler, Everett.  A complete and total joy. You’re a happy and sunshiney 10 year old too.  There were a couple rather rough spots somewhere in the middle there… but you came through them stronger.  More confident. More self-assured.  More YOU.  I admire you and your spirit, in so very many ways.

At ten, you’re a loving, kind-hearted, gentle-spirited, faithful brother, son, and friend. You’re fun-loving, goofy, and full of energy.  But If I had to pick just one adjective to describe the Everett that you are today it would be enthusiastic. Your enthusiasm for life, for the people and pets and things around you, is so, so inspiring.  

Whether you’re practicing your karate, playing with your friends, jumping into a pool, opening your arms up for a hug, or showering affection on the cat, you are ALL IN, all the time.  I love that you’re a lover of life.  I love that you love to try new things.  I love that you love to meet new people.  I love that you love to physically express yourself in different ways (can’t wait to bleach your hair for you again later!)  

I love that you’re you.

Thank you, for choosing me as your mom, and for blessing me for ten beautiful years.

I love you Eb, more than you’ll ever know.

 


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Apr 27

Five Words & Phrases We Need to Stop Saying About Moms and Motherhood

It’s a tricky thing, parenting.  We’re often our own worst critics, berating ourselves for our mistakes, and second-guessing our choices.  Add to that the near constant barrage of opinions from society at large, and we have a recipe for confusion, self-doubt, and self-flagellation. In this current era of blogs, social media, and instant information, we have the unique opportunity to be able to connect with and support other parents like never before. We can help each other explore new ideas. re-examine old ones, and make healthier choices for our children and families.

But we’re sabotaging the conversation, in a big way… and it might not be the way you think. The following are things I hear on my Facebook page on a regular basis, comments that are not only not helping, but are actively hurting (and in some cases, outright stopping) the dialogue on parenting, and preventing others from hearing new perspectives.

1.  Mommy Wars –  You guys.  We really need to retire this phrase.  ”Mommy Wars” just don’t exist. There is only a war if you choose to engage in one.  Motherhood is a journey, not a competition, and every mother you meet is going to be in a different place in her journey.  If you come across a person or an article or a blog post with a different opinion than your own (which, by the way, is not the same thing as a “war”), and it makes you angry, you have a CHOICE. Every time.  Remember, you don’t have to attend every fight you’re invited to.  You can walk away.  You can realize that one person’s perspective is not the same thing as a personal attack on you. You can take an honest look at yourself and try to determine why your feelings and reactions were so strong in the first place.  You can open yourself up to learning something new.  You can use it to further your own dialogue on good parenting.  Oftentimes the best, most productive discussions arise from people who disagree and can do so kindly…. people who can put aside their own egos, discuss the issue at hand, and learn from it. But that can only happen if you stop crying, “Mommy wars!” every time someone has a contrary opinion to your own.  We are not in a war, and continuing to insist that we are only stops you from being able to move forward.

2.  ”Sanctimommy” - This ridiculous word is like “Mommy Wars”‘s modern day cousin.  A mom shares an opinion or a perspective or a counter to some popular bit of advice, and toes get stepped on.  A nerve is struck, and someone inevitably says it: “Stop being such a SANCTIMOMMY!”  It is silly and juvenile.  No good ever comes from name-calling.  Let’s just start there.  It’s pretty much just good manners 101.  Beyond that though is this pervasive belief that the sharing of an opinion that may make you uncomfortable is the same thing as being sanctimonious, or judgmental, or out to prove that “my way is better than your way.” This is not a competition. (See number one)  Just a couple of nights ago, I shared a popular parenting article about a “creative” way to ground your kids, along with my reasons for choosing to do things differently.  A respectful conversation followed, until it was abruptly interrupted with, “You need to butt the hell out of other people’s lives.  Stop being so judgmental, and making others feel inferior.”  Clearly, I struck a chord.  But here’s the thing:  I can’t make someone feel inferior.  Can’t do it.  No one can.  The only person who’s in charge of how she feels is the person who owns said feelings.     If you’re feeling judged or uncomfortable from something you’ve read, those are your feelings to have and to examine.   Sharing opinions does not equate to being sanctimonious and judgmental, and frankly, if it did, the accuser in this scenario would be just as guilty as the accused (actually, moreso, because she was rude on top of it.)  Do people ever share things in an inflammatory way?  Sure.  And if and when it happens, we can choose to walk away.  Let’s stop this.  Let’s choose to stop taking everything as a personal attack.   Let’s choose to assume positive intent.  Let’s choose to help one another.  Let’s choose to actually dialogue. Let’s choose to stop throwing around words like “Sanctimommy”  and “judgmental.”   The reason I continue to write about parenting issues (quite honestly, sometimes the only reason) is that I want to help new and/or questioning parents to find healthy ways to have closer, more joyful, more connected relationships with their kids. The only way any of us can do that is through conversation…. conversations that peel apart ideas, question the status quo, and really dig into why we do and do not make certain parenting decisions. Effective conversations simply cannot be had with people who come out of the gate calling names and making inflammatory accusations, and such behavior does nothing to help other parents.

3.   To each his own.  I completely understand why people say this.  I do.  It’s important to respect individual decisions when those decisions aren’t infringing on anyone else.  And there are many, many areas in which it could apply….  what a family chooses for education;  where they live;  whether or not they choose to practice a religion;  what kind of jobs they have, and whether or not they choose to have both parents working or one of them staying home.  Etc. But “to each his own” can be a remarkably unhelpful comment when it comes to parenting, and this is why:  it encourages complacency,  a shrugging of the shoulders, and an attitude of “Eh, whatever works for them.”  And when kids are being treated in disrespectful ways, we should never be satisfied with complacency.  Children unfortunately aren’t often given a voice.  We have to be that voice on their behalf. A lot of times parents aren’t aware of alternatives.  A lot of times they haven’t received the support or the resources to realize that they have other options. A lot of times they just haven’t stepped outside themselves long enough to really see what it is they’re doing, why they’re doing it, or what kind of effect it’s having on their relationship with their children.   The way – the only way – we can help each other with solutions is by talking about it.  And that can’t happen if the conversation is summarily dismissed with a flippant “to each his own.”   

4.   Different methods work for different kids.   I understand why people say this too.  I have four very different children, which is what I imagine parents are referring to when they say things like this.  But while they all have different personalities, different ways of relating with myself and others, and different learning styles, my core value of aspiring to parent gently and with respect remains unchanged among the four of them.     Much like “to each his own,” falling back on a “different methods work for different kids” as a reason to spank for instance, can lead to a failure to investigate other options.  People will tell you that some kids need to be spanked, but that is not the case when you’re aware of alternatives.  And while lots of things may “work” in the moment, it doesn’t mean they are the healthiest, most respectful choices. As an aside, my one child who conventional parenting would have dictated “needed” to be spanked is now the most gentle, laid-back teenager you could ever hope to meet.    Our kids are not ours to experiment with.  They are human beings, and our “method” of relating to them should be treated with the same care, attention,  and respect as it would with any other loved one.  Our efforts are best put towards partnering with them and helping them come up with solutions, not in trying out new ways to punish them.

5.   I was _________ and I turned out fine.

Oh how this one frustrates me.  Often used in defense of spanking, it rings as a very strange and stubborn refusal to learn something new.  First, I would argue that if you’re advocating for something like using physical force against a small human being who is 1/4 of your size, you’re probably not as fine as you believe.  Secondly, don’t we want better than “fine” for our own kids?   I know I do!   Previous generations have done all kinds of things that we now know to do differently.    Babies used to be held on their parents laps in cars, not secured in car seats.  We now know that car seats save lives.  I used to drive my bike all over creation without a helmet. We now know that helmets save lives, too.  My mother in law tells a story of how she remembers being in the hospital after giving birth to my husband (in the 70′s)…. her new baby in one arm, and a lit cigarette in the other.  Of course, that’s no longer allowed, because we know that it’s not exactly good for the baby.   And I say this not to fault our parents…. not at all!  I have great parents.  My husband has great parents.  Like the rest of us, they loved their kids and did their best with the information that they had at the time.   But one of the wonderful things about life is that there are always new things to learn, always new information to be absorbed.  And when we know better, we should do better.  To refuse to do so in an effort to cling to old ways is categorically unfair… unfair to ourselves, unfair to our kids, and unfair to the generation that’s coming up behind them.  We can do better.  We can always do better.

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Despite the naysayers who continually try to get me to feel otherwise, I have faith in my fellow moms.  I do.  I believe that everyone reading this is smart, and strong, and willing to cut through the BS, drop the ego, and ask the hard questions.  I believe that we can put our focus on parenting, and parenting well; and that we can do away with the unhelpful words and comments up above, which, at the end of the day, are nothing more than noise.

 


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Apr 13

Following Water and Watching Ants…

A stomach bug is currently trying to take over our household, and as completely miserable as that is (seriously, how utterly lousy is a stomach bug??) the forced break and sort of “reset” on life is timely and important. Tegan was sad to have missed a fun field trip on Friday, I had to cancel plans with a friend yesterday, and finally accepting the inevitable, we cleared the calendar for today as well.

For the moment, we’re home. As long as we need.

We’ve been busy lately. A good busy… but busy nonetheless. A friend recently asked me what we’d been so busy doing, and I didn’t have an immediate answer. It’s just been an active season all across the board. More playdates, more field trips, more activities, more plans. Which always leads to a not-so-subtle reminder of the importance of living in the moment. Otherwise, I make myself crazy.

There was a time when even two things scheduled in the same day would stress me out. I couldn’t enjoy a playdate in the morning, because my head was too wrapped up in thinking about getting them to gymnastics in the afternoon. Oh but these kids, especially Tegan… if they’ve taught me anything, it’s that I can’t live that way. Life is in the moments, not in the plans.

Last week, the kids helped me wash the car. Tegan had been asking for awhile, and it’s finally been hot enough to want to get wet lately.

tandewashingcar

One of the girl’s favorite things to do after we wash the car is to put on our shoes, and follow the water down the street.   Like a stomach bug, but without the misery and ick, that walk always serves as a little time-out from life.  We chat and laugh and follow the stream (sometimes walking in the stream) as it goes to the end of our street, around the corner, across to the other side, and down down down along the curb until it finally stops – usually spreading into a thin little pool in the cement wash between two of our neighbor’s houses.  We stand and watch while it reaches out and eventually disappears, thin little fingers of water evaporating in the sun.

This most recent time, our water walk took even longer than usual, because she stopped to examine some ants along the way.

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We’d had plans that morning, and plans later again that day, but right then, in that moment… the only thing that mattered was following the water and watching the ants.  That’s it.  Not to-do lists, not errands, not playdates, not field trips, not yoga classes.

Water and ants.   A happy girl,  a moment, and a memory.

And I think that when you strip it all down, beneath all the flowery language and philosophical soap-boxing, all my parenting and unschooling advice can be summed up in those few words:

Follow the water.  Watch the ants. 

Say yes.  And be there, with your whole heart.

I have regrets as a parent to be sure.  Things I wish I’d done differently.  Things I wish I’d said “yes” to.  Things I wish I would have researched more carefully and didn’t say yes to.  But I have no doubts that I will never, ever regret taking the time to follow the water and watch the ants.


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Apr 07

Whatever You Did for One of the Least of These… Some Thoughts About World Vision

Alice is a 6 year old girl who lives in Rwanda.  She has big brown eyes, her favorite thing to play is ball games, and she likes to sing.

Jordan is 4.  He lives in Ecuador, has a sweet smile, and loves to play soccer.

Dominic is an 8 year old from Ghana.  His pictures show a gentle soul.  His favorite pastime is rolling tires, and his favorite thing to learn about is science.

All of the above are real children, waiting to be sponsored through World Vision.  I share this with you not to make you feel guilty.  The truth is, I don’t sponsor a child.  In fact, I’ve never personally sponsored a child through World Vision or any other organization.  We’ve mostly chosen to give our money locally, and/or to causes or people that we know personally.  Also, the decision to sponsor a child is a commitment, one that needs to be honored, month after month.  Making such a commitment wasn’t always the best choice for our family, especially during the months and years that we ourselves struggled to make ends meet and put food on the table.

Now though, I’m seriously considering it.  Not just in response to the recent fallout, but also because I think we have a responsibility…. not just as Christians, but as living, breathing, caring human beings who share this planet… to step in and help those who are less fortunate, especially when they’ve been turned away by others. Of this, I am sure.  And I’d certainly like to think that the vast majority of people reading these words would agree. We’re here to help each other.

So where on earth did we go wrong?

Here’s a bit of timeline, for those who are unclear on the details:

 

On March 24th, World Vision (an organization started and run by evangelical Christians) announced that – after much deliberation over the years – their new hiring policy would allow them to hire those in same-sex marriages.

Over the next 48 hours, they were inundated with messages, phone calls, and Facebook posts from angry Christians who disagreed with their decision, and who promptly pulled their sponsorships and support of World Vision.

On March 26th, faced with dropping sponsorships in the thousands,  the people of World Vision felt they had no choice but to officially reverse their decision.

All told, 10,000 children were abandoned by their sponsors.

 

I truly don’t think I’ve ever been as heartbroken or disappointed by my fellow Christians’ behavior as I am over this. And make no mistake.  This is not about homosexuality.  This is about people hurting hungry kids to make a point. This is about taking food from the mouth of a child to take a theological stand.  It’s about people who are clinging so tightly to a belief…. so desperately… so stubbornly… that they’ve completely lost sight of what it is they are holding. How sound is your theology if it causes you, in any way, to take food from a hungry child? How is it showing God’s love if your stance against a group of people – any people – is so great that you’re literally willing to use an impoverished child to make your point?

What difference does it make if Rachel in payroll is married to a woman??

10,000 kids.  I’ve already heard people saying, “Oh that number must be exaggerated.”  I do tend to trust the number, especially since it was given by the president of World Vision himself, but for the sake of argument let’s say it’s exaggerated.  What if it was “only” 1,000?  Would that be okay?  What if it was 100?  10?  What’s an acceptable number of hungry kids left without a sponsor?

The Bible tells a parable of a lost sheep, and a shepherd who so loves and cares for every individual sheep that he will leave 99 sheep behind to go find the one that is lost.  (Matthew 15) Every person is important. Every life is important.

But the more I think about this, the more I realize that the “lost sheep” in this scenario are the ones who honestly believed that the Christ-like thing to do was to take their money away from these children.  I have no other way to reconcile this in my mind.  Those people are lost, and I don’t know how to reach them.

I hear a lot of comments to the effect of, “What’s the big deal?  So they’ll just take their money to another organization whose morals line up with their own.”  Well, first of all, you won’t find one.  These organizations are made up of people… imperfect people, every one of which is going to do something in his or her own personal life that you deem inappropriate.  Second, and most importantly, it’s not just a hypothetical, abstract organization that you’re pulling away from.  It’s a child, with a name, and a face, and a real need that you were filling.

It’s Alice from Rwanda.

It’s Jordan from Ecuador.

It’s Dominic from Ghana.

I’m tired.  I’m tired of these difficult conversations.  I’m tired of trying to explain something that’s unexplainable to my kids.  I’m tired of people using a God that I love to defend some pretty horrible things.  There are so very many shades of grey in this world, but this isn’t one of them. God does not approve of turning your back on a hungry kid.  Jesus does not approve of turning your back on a hungry kid.  In fact, it is the absolute opposite message of that very same Bible that you’re using to justify this.

 

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

 

I am devastated right now.  I am angry.  And to be totally honest, my first reaction when I heard about all of this was truly, “I. Give. Up.”  But I know that’s not the answer.  Now more than ever is the time to stand together… Christians and non-Christians alike.  Gay, straight, conservative, liberal…. everyone who can see this situation for what it is, and to recognize that there was a clear right and wrong here.  Stand together, speak boldly, and say,

“No more.”


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Apr 02

Trips, Unschooling Conferences, and a No-Spank Challenge

I am writing this from a fancy hotel, the kind I’d never stay at unless someone else was paying the bill.  The kids and I accompanied the husband on a work trip, and will be visiting friends, hiking and site-seeing while he’s at his meetings.

The view is not half bad.

tucson

 

Every time I go away, even if it’s just for a day or two, I always think I’ll catch up on reading, on writing, on all those little things I never get to do.  But nope, it turns out this mama’s TIRED. So all I can bring myself to do is just… sit.  Rest.  Regroup.  Be.

Two super important things before I get back to “being” though:

1)  Have you signed up for the No-Spank Challenge yet?  This is a free, collaborative event between over 25 gentle parenting advocates (myself included), and will give you daily tips, tools, and resources to help you out on your gentle parenting journey.  It lasts throughout the entire month of April, and it’s not too late to register!  Get daily inspiration delivered right to your email box.  And,

2)  If you’re planning on joining us at the Free To Be Unschooling Conference in September, April is a GREAT month to register. From now until the end of the month, for every family registration we receive, we will be putting $10 directly into our scholarship fund.  This means that it doesn’t cost you any extra, but you will know that you’re directly helping another family get to Free To Be!   We want to help as many people get there as possible, so this is a great way to work together to make it happen.

That’s all.  As always, thanks for being here and being awesome.  Happy April!


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Mar 26

Finding Balance

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For the past month, I’ve been participating in a yoga challenge on Instagram.  There’s a new pose every day, and the idea is to simply share of photo of you doing said pose.  It’s been a fun little challenge, if for no other reason than because I really didn’t have any pictures of myself doing yoga, and now I do.  I obviously love all kinds of yoga, or I wouldn’t have become a teacher.  I love how strong it makes me feel, how connected and in touch with my own body. My favorite poses to learn and work on though are the balance poses, the ones my teachers affectionately referred to as the “party tricks” of yoga.

For one thing, they’re just super fun.  More than that though, is that natural high you get after trying and trying, that moment when everything’s aligned, your body is just humming, and if even for just a second…… you balance.

That feeling is amazing.

And because life is one big interconnected circle, the same holds true for parenting.  My biggest personal challenge for the entire 17+ years I’ve been a parent has been finding and maintaining balance.  It’s the great question that no one else could answer for me….. how do I do it?  How do I fix my alignment when its off?  How do I balance being a present and involved mom to my kids, and a present and involved wife to my husband?  How do I balance taking care of the kids, and the house, and life… and still have time for my own hobbies, my own professional or personal pursuits, my own self-care?

What I eventually realized (after a lot, a lot a lot, of stumbling followed by unproductive self-flagellation) is that you can’t have perfect balance all the time.  Life doesn’t work like that.  Life ebbs and flows in seasons. Sometimes one thing or person needs more or less of our attention than at other times.  Equilibrium is found in the overall journey, but only through a million little ever-changing, in-the-moment decisions.   Even now, just choosing to take the time to write this blog post means I’m not emptying the dishwasher, or answering any emails, or doing any conference planning.

And that’s okay!   It absolutely has to be okay, because the alternative is to believe that I can do ALL the things, ALL the time, and to beat myself up if I don’t.  And that’s really not acceptable to me.  So for now, I write.  I write with 100% of my being.  And in 15 minutes or an hour when a sleepy little voice calls out, “Mama!  Come!”, I’ll go to her with 100% of my being too.  And the dance will continue.  Some days humming along, as well orchestrated as a symphony…. and others an awkward limp, full of stops and starts and missteps, the saving grace being that there’s a new moment, a better moment, coming down the pike.

Much like finding balance in yoga, finding balance in life is an ongoing process.  Sure, you learn some “tricks” along the way, things that make it easier, but there’s always more to learn. Always a need to up your game. Always a new trickier pose as it were.  It’s a fluid, living organism, one you can only understand if you’re right there in the moment.  Not worrying about tomorrow, not stressing about yesterday, but being right here. Right now.  Breathing… Trusting…

Knowing that if you just stay with it, you’ll eventually have it.  Those toes will eventually come off the ground,

and you’ll balance.


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Mar 18

#100HappyDays

If you’re on any kind of social media, chances are you’ve been seeing the hashtag #100happydays (or one of its variants) over and over. I ignored it for the first several weeks, for no other reason than the fact that I’m stubborn, and have a tendency to dig in my virtual heels at the first sign of new things coming through my feed. “Lalalalala, I can’t hear you. No, I do NOT want to join in on your challenge/group/club/whatever-sort-of-100-somethings-in-100-days that you’re promoting.

It’s clearly one of my best qualities.

Anyway, as is usually the case, I got over myself and went and looked at the link. I’m so glad I did! I’ve done projects like this before (in its simplest form, finding and acknowledging something – large or small – that makes you happy every day for 100 days), but never through pictures. It’s been so amazing! I’m not even 30 days in, and I’m finding that the hardest part is just narrowing it down to which happy thing I’m going to share.

My days are full of happy…. even the not-so-great days. And focusing on the happy moments likewise makes me see more happy moments.

If you’ve been having trouble finding your happy, give it a try. You can start any time.

Here are just a few of my pictures from the past month. I can’t wait to see what I’m going to add over the next 70 something days.

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Girl’s night

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Quiet time in the morning

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Some of my favorite things.

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Science Center and new friends.

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Glasses that finally fit right.

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Hatched butterflies!

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An arena football game with my guys.

And the happiness goes on….

You can follow my journey on Instagram here.


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Mar 14

First Impressions, and The Worst Part about Blogging

A happy bird.

A happy bird.

I realized something sort of huge tonight.

All this time, I thought that the thing I liked least about blogging was the negative comments.  If you asked me, even this morning, I wouldn’t have hesitated.  ”The negative comments! The people who call me names, the people who call me judgmental, the people who make unfair assumptions!” And don’t get me wrong, I don’t like that part.  It’s not enjoyable.

But it’s not the worst part.

Tonight I was told that I “justified judgement, arrogance, and condemnation.” Now that’s certainly not the worst thing anyone’s ever said about me (heck, it probably wouldn’t even make it into the top ten), but it still stung.  Because while I can intellectually realize that what strangers say about me doesn’t matter, and that what other people think about me is none of my business, and all those other cliches that everyone likes to remind me of when I start to feel beat down by the negativity….. emotionally is another story.

Us introverted writers are a sensitive bunch.

But after I followed a dear friend’s advice and hugged a kid, hugged a cat, and had a drink (in exactly that order) I realized that I’ve been bothered by the wrong thing all along.  I really didn’t care what this stranger had said about me.  What I cared about was the fact that in that moment, in that blog post, to that woman…

I had failed.

When someone follows a link and comes to my blog for the first time, I have ONE chance to win them over.  And I don’t mean “win them over” in a slick salesman, motivational speaker kind of way.  I don’t profit in any way from my blog, and I have never written with a goal of getting more readers.  But I do want to connect.

I don’t like superficiality, I’m terrible at small talk, and I’ve never been accused of being the life of the party.  But if you want to have an actual conversation?  I’m your girl.  Which is why, when someone comes to my blog and promptly decides I’m judgmental/arrogant/a generally sucky person based on one post…. I feel like I failed. Conversation’s over before it started.  ”But she doesn’t even know me!” I’ll often lament to husband, who will respond with something to the effect of, “That’s right, so why would it matter?”

It matters because maybe we could have had a conversation.  Maybe we could have connected in some positive way.  Maybe you hated, absolutely HATED the first blog post you read by me…. but would have loved the next twenty.  Maybe you would have discovered I’m not so awful after all.

I’ve carried a little metal link on my key chain for the past several years.  (It was given to me by a Church of Christ minister, lest you read my story and I think that I only harbor negative memories.  I don’t)  It serves as a reminder that we never know when God might use us as a link for somebody else.  A link to God, a link to kindness, a link to compassion.

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The really great thing about blogging is that it allows me to be that link fairly often.  Connecting with others and supporting each other on our journeys is sometimes the only thing that keeps me from pulling the whole thing down.  I get that not everyone is here to connect, and/or thinks I’m a terrible writer or has zero interest in anything I have to say.   That’s cool too, when you leave quietly and I don’t have to actually be made privy to anything I just mentioned.

Oh, but the ones who come out of the gate with the insults……

I try to give the benefit of the doubt, because their first impression of me is also my first impression of them. But, well, it’s hard to shake hands with a fist.

And so, I’ve nothing to do but to think of the quote from What About Bob:

 

You know what I do? I treat people like they’re telephones. If I meet somebody who I don’t think likes me I just say to myself ‘Bob, this one’s out of order. Just hang up and try again.”

Out of order phones. I just need to think of it – of them – as out of order phones. If for no other reason, because it’s a whole lot better than thinking that I failed.


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