It's my birthday month, and last week I celebrated my 48th trip around the sun! Whoohoo!
I'm late in writing about it because I've been busy actually enjoying it~ which is kind of the whole point!
The beauty of the day, this year, and this stage in my life is that for the first time in my life, I pretty much just focused on following joy.
I mean, it's not like I've been chasing money or power up until this point or anything~
I've always been pretty keen on pointing towards what makes me happy,
BUT, there's this expansive sense of freedom now in knowing that I'm not actually responsible for anyone else.
I know I never actually was, but having kids can give one the illusion that you're supposed to somehow be in control~
We all know the reality is you're only in control of yourself, and in all honesty, that's a struggle in itself sometimes.
Still, the delusions of misplaced responsibility sometimes spread and you start thinking you're somehow responsible for all kinds of things, which can be frustrating, depressing and downright futile.
While my logical mind has understood that I can't control everything for years, the depths of my psyche still continued to fill with countless hours of stressing over things that I had zero control over.
Now that the kiddos have flown the coop, there's this much bigger and more obvious understanding of it on a cellular level that I can feel in my bones.
I'm Only in Charge of ME!
Coupling that with having fewer effs than ever to give about what other people think (another amazing bonus of growing) can leave a Grown Arse Woman feeling downright giddy!
I literally spent the day walking around with relieved sighs and a full toothy smile just following the joy.
I took the day off work and headed to the mountains with my SweetHeart to avoid the oppressive heat.
We browsed cute shops, and when trying on clothes, I had an epiphany-
Even though I'm physically bigger than I've ever been in my life,
I'm happier with myself and care more about my body now than I ever have in the past.
In other words, I was nice to myself as I grabbed a bigger size!!!
This is revolutionary stuff, folks!
Next, we went for not one but two hikes, and spotted dozens of late blooming wildflowers.
We not only ate cheese and chocolate, but we delighted in them.
We lounged on a beach and read and I had wine and we would have gone kayaking, but thunderstorms closed the rental shop.
I was OK avoiding electrocution, and besides, we realized the beautiful snowy mountain on the horizon was less than 20 minutes away.
So, we went up there to play too.
I've never had a beach and snow in the same birthday before, so that was pretty awesome!
As the day wound down, I realized I didn't actually want to go out to dinner, even if it was my birthday.
I wanted to watch the sun go down over water and go home to eat lobster ravioli made by my Love and with my furry friends at my feet.
And so, I did.
And it was wonderful.
Within a few days of me feeling all free from worrying about other people though, both of my kiddos texted about navigating upcoming housing changes and issues they'll be dealing with.
And I pretty much forgot that I was no longer stressing about things I couldn't control.
The good news is, I only came up with less than a half dozen "Oh NOOOOO!" scenarios before I remembered that I'm supposed to be in my new chill phase, and realized they were already asking for what they needed and figuring out the rest.
I'm definitely learning all the time, and the best I can strive for is progress, not perfection, right?
Anyhoo...Back to my Birthday~
I'm only 2 years from 50 and there's so much I'm scheming.
Society acts like growing older is supposed to suck, but for me, it's been pretty freaking awesome!
Life is Great at 48!
Here's to another year of living and learning, growing and loving, and exploring this big beautiful world!
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And wherever you are, I hope you're chasing Joy, too!
Last week, a good man was buried.
I suppose that around the world as a whole, many people were probably buried, but the one that my heart is thinking of spent more years than I know coaching kids, including my Boy Child for 4 years of basketball.
We didn’t even know Coach was sick until we found out that he’d died.
From what I understand, he didn’t have much warning either. He was diagnosed with cancer, started treatment and was dead in just a little over a month.
JUST OVER A MONTH.
And he’s gone.
Just like that.
I still haven’t really wrapped my mind around the brutal speed and sudden ending, but I can easily share how much I appreciated that man’s influence on my Boy Child.
I never would have guessed that I would have a kid who liked sports.
We’re not in the least bit athletic or sporty people. We don’t watch, play or really give the smallest bit of care towards any of them.
Except, of course, if my kids are playing. Both of my kids participated in low key community leagues as little kids, mostly so they could burn off some of their crazy wild child energy, or because a friend was playing, but by the time he reached junior high, my son wanted to play in competitive ways with the big boys.
I don’t know why or what happened. Maybe my kid got some long lost recessive genes involving muscle and speed along with some inexplicable desire to compete? I don't think it came from me, that's for sure.
I never figured it out, but like a good deal of parenting, I just tried to point them in the right direction.
We were free ranging homeschoolers at the time, and while local charters could help with classes and books and such, none offered competitive sports.
Spending life energy and time equivalent to a full-time job in a classroom for a chance to play ball didn’t seem like a worthwhile proposition when we had an otherwise good thing going.
Thankfully, through our homeschool community, we came across a small private school that opened the door by allowing other homeschoolers to participate in their team sports program.
My Boy spent the next 4 years - spanning 9th through 12th grade - as a part of the basketball team. I was continually amazed by the dedication of the other parents, but most of all, the Coach.
We went to countless games, many of them hours away on winding mountain roads to towns in the middle of nowhere on long and stormy winter nights. Coach never made a big deal or made me feel like a loser if I couldn’t drive because of work and had to send my kid with him or another family.
I found out that Coach actually lived over an hour from where the kids practiced, and in the mountains where it snowed, so he was doing many times as much driving as any of the rest of us and often in unpleasant conditions.
But he was always there. Even in the offseason, he had open gym nights so the kids could still gather and work on their skills.
I can’t imagine he was getting rich off of this endeavor, as our fees were really reasonable, even for a single mom. All I could figure was that kids getting to play sports really mattered to him.
He apparently had been doing it for decades, and from what I saw, he was unique and different from a lot of other coaches out there.
He yelled, of course, but not in a berating way like I saw other coaches do.
He was actually a good sport, which I noticed is often missing in organized athletics. I never saw him throw a giant man fit or encourage dirty play, which I witnessed more than once from other men coaching other teams.
I sometimes took the opportunity to mom-style shame those bad sport / awful role model coaches because it seemed like someone needed to point out their awful behavior, and I’m OK being that person. But, that’s another story.
Our coach treated the kids, refs, and parents with respect. He called the boys out on nonsense, had high expectations and consistently pointed them towards the importance of having a positive character. I guess those are all the things you'd want in a coach.
While he also wanted to win, you could feel the focus on the boys growing into good men.
And, grow they did- both as players who won enough of the time to make it entertaining and as young men who were refreshingly nice to be around.
We watched the team develop from being so polite they practically handed the ball to the other team and moved out the way so they could shoot, to becoming a competitive force that went a ways into the finals by my son’s Senior year.
The first season was bizarre. I’d spent 13 years telling my son to be gentle, and I suddenly found myself screaming, “Take the freaking ball!!!!”
The time when the Coach came into our lives was right around the time of my divorce. My son was in full-on early teen boy mode, and his dad was out of the country, so I was especially grateful for the male role models we had.
The private school that sponsored the team was a really conservative religious one, and I wondered in the beginning if we'd be accepted at all or be deemed unworthy sinners and my son cast out because his mother is an “unmarried woman with children” who also happens to enjoy margaritas, occasional drops and F bomb and even though I consider my self a Christian, (or perhaps because) I had to alter the statement of faith before I could sign it so that it matched my actual beliefs.
While my personal understanding of Jesus is that he hung out with, supported and defended a lot of diverse people, encouraging us to be nice to each other, rather than judgey like Pharisees, I’m well aware that not everyone sees it that way. In some circles, not everyone is welcome.
For the first couple of years, in the back of my head, I felt maybe we’d somehow slipped through the cracks and would be outed from the team for not being appropriately religious (because that thing seems to happen) but my worry was for nothing.
The wonderful thing is that we never had any issues. The other families were kind and Coach seemed to stay focused on the thing at hand- playing basketball, with character.
Despite 4 years of games, I never really grasped all the rules and was often confused about what actually constituted a foul or why the refs were or were not blowing whistles, which often felt inconsistent to my untrained eyes.
I did learn that I was very wrong in thinking basketball is a non-contact sport, and that gangly boys will grow into giant-sized young men full of testosterone and bravado who smash into each other at high speeds.
I had to pop homeopathic calming tablets whenever I remembered to bring them and was thankful that I have naturally low blood pressure, because I may have otherwise had a heart attack watching the intensity of some games.
During the last game of the finals, a sweet old grandmother sitting next to me in the stands suggested that I might do better with Valium, which I found hilarious for several reasons. One, you can never tell who might recommend prescription sedatives, and two- maybe my relaxation methods weren’t working as well as I’d hoped.
Anyhoo, the main thing for me was that it was always a safe place where I felt like my kid could go and be with other young men being mentored by older men, and that’s something that’s missing for a lot of kids.
He got discipline in working his body and his character.
What Coach offered was something that I could not have provided for my son in other ways, and for that, I’ll always be grateful.
I only knew him in the capacity of coach, so that's all I can really speak for, but he sure seemed to be the kind of man who actually acted like the Jesus he worshipped.
That in and of itself felt kind of revolutionary to me.
I don’t know what will happen with the sports program now, whether someone else will step up, or whether it will end with him.
I do know that we were really lucky to have had those 4 years with him.
Coach showed me a nice side of both sports and conservative religion.
I tried and can only hope I was able to express it while he was alive, but thanks, Coach! Your steadiness, dedication, and commitment to the kids made more of a difference than you could probably imagine and you will be missed.
Aside from the kids, you helped make my intro into being a sporty team mom as smooth as it could be for a rogue non-player like myself.
I can only hope more people get the kind of positive experience with sports and adolescence that we did.
I know your family and community have expressed their faith in what comes after death, and my wish is just that your heart is happy and that maybe you can play ball again.
Thanks Again Coach. You were a true mentor and a good man. I hope you know that the world is a better place for the work you did here.
For those of you who are alive to read this, if you happen to coach kids, thank you so much for that! Please be nice and focus on character too.
And, if you're a parent whose kids have a coach, please thank them. No matter what you do for your day job, coaching kids is work that matters.
Thank God for people like you!
Rest in Peace Coach Rust.
Last month, I had the most human-infested nature experience in my life.
It was amazing and awe inspiring~ full of ooohs and aaahs.
It was also full of more time sitting in traffic than I'd spent in 2019 altogether up to that point.
Anyone who has been to Yosemite... and also been to other places where you can actually experience the natural world without a bazillion other people next to you, well, you can probably understand what I'm talking about.
Yosemite is like one of the Disneylands of the National Parks.
Most of the time, nature is my retreat from peopling, but in going to Yosemite, I knew the two of them would be intertwined quite deeply.
I'd found a pre-season deal on Travel Zoo for a cabin just outside of the park and chosen the last weekend it was available, hoping that the weather wouldn't be freezing and that some combination of our combined offspring could join us.
We scored on beautiful weather and two out of six kids were available.
I'd only been through Yosemite once, my Partner hadn't been in years, and the kids had never gone.
I LOVE exploring new places, and was pleasantly surprised that the kids were excited to spend a weekend adventuring with us, despite the known likelihood of spotty wifi.
My previous trip went around the valley rather than into it, and while I thought that it was pretty and all, I live near beautiful mountains, so I didn't really grasp what the big deal was.
This time, I got it~ Holy Cow~ those valley views were spectacular.
I can only imagine how wondrous it must have been to gaze at all the granite and water before all the people and cars and buses invaded.
Speaking of which, if you hear that it's a good idea to go early in the day and take the shuttle buses, it's no joke.
For real- driving there was lame.
The number of cars trying to navigate the village area was absurd. We were literally stuck in traffic for probably 2 hours to go less than 5 miles. Thank Goodness my SweetHeart is a patient man and he was driving, so no one had to endure my Road Rage.
Also, we had snacks, and the views were lovely.
I got out several times to walk ahead and move my legs since my butt was falling asleep.
I've never really experienced "nature" in such a way where I could actually get around 10 times faster on foot because there were bumper to bumper cars.
But, being surrounded by gorgeousness made it better, at least
Had there been some sort of natural disaster where we needed to move quickly though,
say a wildfire or Zombie Apocalypse,
well, it would be mayhem and most people would be toast.
These scenarios in my mind always give me a moment of gratitude and hope that the early homeschooling years of playing with swords and bows & arrows all day instead of sitting in classrooms would give our pack an advantage, but who knows...
Anyhoo, seriously, if you go to Yosemite, for the love of all things holy,
take the freaking bus.
You'll be really glad you did.
This was at the end of April, so I can't even imagine how much more crowded and difficult to maneuver it would have been during summer.
Frankly, that sounds like it would kind of kill the joy in the whole thing for me.
It was a Saturday as well, and one of the first sunny and warmish weekends of the year, so we clearly weren't the only ones out enjoying it.
It made me look back fondly on the days when mid-week excursions were easier to pull off (and started causing me to scheme how to get back to more of that)Eventually, we made our way out of the madness and managed to park the car. We had to walk on a narrow road where cars had just gotten their speed back after being stuck at a standstill, so that was a little nerve-wracking, but thankfully no one was squished or maimed.
Our wet winter had made the waterfalls ginormous. Every direction there was another one, too, and they were all explosively flowing ~ no little trickles at all, just full force thousands of gallons of water raging over rock.
When you got close, it was like the waterfalls made their own climate zone with wind whipping and so much mist it was pretty much raining.
Despite my preference for being around fewer humans when I'm in the outdoors (or indoors, really, most of the time at least) I was in complete awe of the showy displays of the power, force, and beauty of nature.
So. Much. Wow.
We came back to our cabin tired and grateful for a real kitchen and a shower that we didn't have to share. Since it was such a short trip, we didn't get to play with all the amenities on the property, which was really an RV park with cabins and yurts, mini golf, volleyball and the like.
We did get to walk along the creek and enjoy a nice fire.
It was a big step up from camping, but a ways below glamping- a good fit for a fast trip with teens.
Also, all the tent sites I saw in the actual park were packed in tight, something like an apartment building with fabric walls. That kind of thing makes me feel like I'd need to be medicated to get anywhere near relaxed, which is not what I expect to need on a camping trip.
So, the next day we hit the road to check out the southern section of the park, which was delightfully less populated. At least in the morning.
But by the time we exited the southern entrance just around noon, we could see crowds forming lines there as well.
I pondered how many people in the crowds had only ever experienced this version of nature where you waited in line and contended with so many other people and cars and trash.
I imagine for some, this is as "wild" as they will ever get, which is sad in a way, but I'm glad they at least get that.
We all need nature.
It made me thankful for the whole National Parks system and the people who want to actually make sure there is still some nature for people to experience, because even if there are other humans everyplace the eye can see, it was still pretty magnificent.
Most of all, I was thankful to live in a place where I can see nature on a regular basis without so many people or cars or trash.
On the way home, we came across this random obelisk monument in a tired-seeming small town with farms and boarded up shops.
I just so happened to have read about it on Atlas Obscura while looking for oddities on the trip.
Basically, we learned that a wealthy man chose to spend a bunch of his money to have himself memorialized in this way when he died. Some locals asked if the money could go to the library in his honor, but the family apparently said, "Naaaah- what he wanted was a huge tower in the middle of nowhere." And so, he got it.
I know it was his money and his choice and all, but I'm pretty sure books and literacy would've been a more meaningful legacy...whatever...
Anyhoo, all in all, we had a lovely time exploring despite the 12 million other people who had the same idea.
These kids are getting to be great travelers and I'm looking forward to the next adventure.
This Mother’s Day will be my first one without having any offspring living at home!
That in and of itself it a strange thing to even contemplate.
I could stay home and lament, that I miss my kiddos, but instead, my SweetHeart and I are headed to a Massage Retreat in Ashland where I plan to relax and enjoy celebrating that I raised some awesome young adults.
In the parenting world, we talk a lot about raising kids, but the real goal is to raise grown ups. It helps, if we ourselves know how to be grownups in the process, but that's not always the case.
Holidays like Mother’s Day can open up all kinds of stuff, getting us thinking about and over evaluating how we were mothered and how we mothered our own kids.
Sometimes, there’s this sense of idolatry, especially when our mother’s are no longer with us, as though she was the Saintly Mother Mary whose every act was of charity and love.
Sometimes, families are estranged and there’s deep sadness and grief if we didn’t get what we felt we needed.
The thing that bugs me most, is that often, there’s this glorification of martyrdom coupled with a ridiculously high expectation of perfection when it comes to Motherhood.
I just have to laugh at that craziness.
Mother’s are humans, for the love of God. Where did we get the idea they’re supposed to be perfect?
Maybe the best Mother’s Day gift we could universally give each other is a break?
The one thing that I think is true, no matter what, is that we all mess up to some degree, at least some of the time.
Some are more patient, (not so much me) some are more nurturing (eh, sort of, maybe, sometimes) and some bring glittery crafts or carry healthy snacks (heck yeah! That's me!)
Sadly, some really didn’t really have the skills they needed to mother in the first place and so sometimes other people have to step in and other times people will have to figure out how to mother themselves in some ways because no one ever did.
I believe most of us are genuinely trying though, but none of us is going to be perfect.
If we’re going to be honest, all our moms messed up in some ways, and we messed up in others and if our kids become parents, well... they’ll likely do a bit of messing up as well.
Hopefully, we keep learning and growing as a species and are able to objectively look at what worked and didn’t work for us, and try to do better with that knowledge.
Hopefully, we can acknowledge our mess ups and say sorry.
And hopefully, we can forgive~ ourselves and our moms too.
Mostly, I hope we can say thanks to whoever helped mother us. If you haven't already, and you're able, just go hug your mom!
I hope your heart is full, the appreciation for you is abundant and someone brings you flowers and good food, and best yet, cleans up all the messes for you this weekend!
Happy Mother’s Day!
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Did I mention that while I was on my social media sabbatical, my Boy Child turned 19?!?!
He’s giant and funny and kind and running at life full speed ahead. He’s chasing all kinds of dreams, some of which make no sense to me at all, and I’m a super proud mama.
He came home at the last minute for his birthday, and it was great to hear him laughing and being a goof. My only complaint was that he (or one of his friends) put a Sprite bottle in the trash instead of the recycling. I mean, what were they, raised by beasts?
Kids these days….
Do they not know the plight of overburdened waste facilities and the awful mess made of God’s Green Earth by the last few generations of throw away consumer culture?!?!
Oh, they also left a cap off one of my Micron art pens. Sheesh…
As I capped my half dried out pen, I laughed and laughed like a madwoman. The lesson here is to count your blessings, my friend!
And also, if you're anything like me, you might occasionally need to laugh at yourself, pull the stick out of your butt, and quit rolling your snooty eyeballs.
If the only blatant misdoings of a 19 year old celebrating his birthday was a recycling faux pax and a dried out pen, I think things are going to be OK.
If any other mischief ensued, it was kept on the down low- making my life really easy, which I really appreciate. (But, of course, I'm sure the angelic youngsters did nothing)
Mostly, I appreciate these kids (even if they forgot to put the obviously recyclable bottle in the equally obvious recycling crate.)
I’m grateful that they like to come home and for mature conversations and late night laughter.
And I’m thankful that I get to see them head out to make their ways in the world while I cheer them on, offer flax seed infused brownies (because fiber is important and their colons will thank me later) and shout for all to hear “Make good choices!!!”
Earth Day came and went while I was on my Social Media Sabbatical for Lent, but I wanted to share some thoughts before the month is completely over.
The shirt on your back may not seem to be connected to the state of the planet, but really it is. I’m wearing a Wonder Woman pajama top as I type this, and as cute as it is, the process of getting it made and to a store where I could buy it for less than $15 probably wasn’t a good or healthy one for the people involved or God’s Green Earth as a whole.
Fashion is more than a way to express yourself or a way to try to fit in. It’s not typically thought of as something serious, but it’s actually a powerful economic force that has generated more money than top automakers some years.
It’s also, unfortunately, a major source of pollution, waste and human rights abuses. Cheap clothing that’s made by exploited people and falls apart is the norm, and when you stop to think about it, well, it feels kind of gross.
Check out this for a glimpse of the True Cost
I’m happy to say that there are people and companies who are trying to shift the polluted tides on the fashion industry and even if they’re baby steps, they have potential to grow into greater change for good.
Since I’m all about trying to focus my choices on how they make me feel, I’m looking for better options than the cheap, albeit cute, crap, which isn’t the easiest thing for a bargain hunter like me.
I don’t have a complete solution, but am definitely trying to be more conscious about where and how I spend my money because that after all is a vote. The more I’ve been open and paying attention, the more cool things I’ve discovered.
For the last 2 years, I've helped coordinate and hosted an Eco Fashion Show at the Whole Earth and Watershed Festival in Redding, California. We showcase both students and professionals designs including:
Trashion (making wearable art from things that were used and headed into a waste bin)
Upcycling (creating new one of a kind pieces using parts from existing used garments) and
Sustainable Fashion (made with fabrics, dyes or processes that are easier on the earth)
It’s both a lot of work and a really rewarding opportunity to share creativity and ingenuity in the community. People come up with and create so many fun things!
This year, I got more than I bargained for in terms of responsibility, and we had lots of last-minute issues, dropouts, weather forecasts threatening thunderstorms on our outdoor show and more. In all honesty, this led to a few minor meltdowns at home complete with wailing and gnashing of teeth and a desire to run off and call the whole thing quits.
Fortunately, the director of the entire festival is an awesome woman who doesn’t really let you bail on your responsibilities. I pulled myself together before going public, put on a big “on with the show” smile and managed to fool the people who participated into actually thinking I was calm and organized! Ha!
Seriously, the show was great in the end, and I appreciated all the contributions, from the hardworking kids and their parents, to the last minute models and designers who jumped in and shined.
Hopefully, we opened a few eyeballs and minds to considering different ways of creatively re-using things, avoiding fast fashion and supporting local artists. I know we had some proud and inspired kids, so that made all the work worth it.
It’s also great to see other companies (fashion and otherwise) making choices to do business in cleaner and less destructive ways.
Like this Dutch company that has come up with a way to dye fabrics without using water which could save millions of gallons of water and a whole lotta energy each year.
There’s also more technology being developed to recycle used fabrics in new ways~ like this project in Australia that repurposes used commercial textiles giving new life to old hotel sheets, towels and more by reducing them to their raw components and making them into new fabrics.
Zero Waste Daniel is a designer who makes one of a kind pieces using scraps from factories that would otherwise end up in the dump.
I also found this awesome creative re-use store in a rural Northern California town that is inspiring creativity and has diverted over 17 tons of usable materials from the waste stream last year! 17 tons!!!! That’s crazy huge! It's also a lot of fun, and I found goodies for hatmaking, trims and all kinds of fun stuff there for my own studio.
They’re all inspirational and the best part is, there’s so many more ideas, people and companies who’ve realized we don’t have to be so destructive just to get dressed.
I hope you’ll check them out and find a few things you can implement into your life. Whether you let your kids make costumes from your old clothes, shop at a thrift store, make yourself new skirt from an old tablecloth, buy something from a small handmade sewer, or, just buy less altogether, it all adds up, and it all feels pretty good too.
Let me know your thoughts in the comments below, and as always, please share with a friend!
Hope you had a Happy Earth Month. Until next time~
Wondering what six weeks off of social media feels like? Fan-freaking-tastic, that’s what.
If you happened to have noticed that I’ve been pretty quiet and absent for the last bit, that’s also why- I’ve been on a very satisfying social media sabbatical.
Every year, I’m in the practice of giving up something for Lent, and this year, it was going to be my habit of being judgy. While that’s a noble idea, and I could probably benefit from some variation, a few days before the season began, I started feeling like my judgy-ness is actually handy and useful for me in some ways right now.
At the same time, I started noticing that my tendency to check social media was feeling habitual and rarely if ever leaving me feeling happier or more productive.
One day, I’d popped on Facebook for “just a minute” as I was getting ready, and whoopsie- TWENTY SIX MINUTES LATER I noticed the time! I had to rush like a madwoman and found myself needing right about a half hour more time to do what I actually needed to do, but I had unfortunately wasted it on Facebook.
And it wasn’t even the least bit satisfying.
In fact, it was mostly annoying as I there was so much stuff that really didn’t matter to me in the least bit, yet I’d been somehow sucked in.
That was frustrating for sure, but then came the creepiness.
I was up late one night talking to someone about some relationship issues they were having. THE NEXT DAY, there was an ad in my Facebook feed about a program to help with relationship issues.
Hmmmm...I hadn’t done any searches on the topic, nor was I actually using my phone or laptop during the conversation, so this seemed a little weird, but I figured it could also have been coincidental.
Most people have relationship problems at some point or another, so it’s not like the topic was all that specific towards me. It felt “off” but I didn’t want to go all full force conspiracy theory about it.
A few weeks later though, I’m in the bath, and my SweetHeart brings me a glass of wine, and we chit chat a bit. He tells me about a really unusual medical condition affecting a kid we know. This isn’t your everyday run of the mill condition, but one I’ve never actually known anyone in my 47 years on the planet to have. I’ve only read about it in a novel once, And, my phone was IN THE NEXT ROOM.
So, the next morning, I’m scrolling through Instagram and bam, there’s an ad “Does your child have “Fill in the blank with the exact freaking unusual condition we had been talking about the night before?””
Coincidence? No freaking way. It was way too specific, and also way too creepy.
So, without even realizing it was the day before Lent began and without really telling anyone aside from a few close friends, I deleted the social media apps off my phone.
And so began my six-week sabbatical from social media.
I realized quickly that almost everyone I know over the age of 25 seems to have some sort of love/hate relationship with social media. Sometimes, it’s more of a hate/hate relationship, yet still, most of us still use it.
For the younger ones, many don’t even know a time without that dopamine hit of seeing who liked your selfie and some aren’t even the least bit creeped out by being listened to.
The first part makes me sad and concerned about what that does to the brain, communication skills, and relationships.
The second makes me wonder if they’ve never read or watched any futuristic sci-fi books or movies and how they could possibly NOT think this handy technology can and likely will be used against us?
This makes me want to yell “Resistance is NOT futile!!!!!” and to force a mass binge watching of the kind of movies that will activate the paranoid parts of their brains.
But, since that’s probably illegal, and makes me sound crazy, I’m focusing on my own relationship with technology first before I go freaking out on everyone else.
I am, however, immensely grateful that my kids grew up on the cusp of the smartphone era and got to be little kids and play with toys and run around and have a childhood of their own before the world came at them on a tiny screen in their teen years. It’s whole different world for younger kids and my hat’s off to the parents navigating how to use the technology wisely.
What I noticed myself right away in my time off social media was how often I would unconsciously pick up my phone on autopilot in the first few days and look for those little icons. But they were gone. My twitchy fingers and ping pong brain had to find something else to do. I was actually a little shocked and how much I distracted myself.
Standing in line, I was forced to just wait, or I could text a friend, or get out a notebook and make a random list or if I was really bored, I could talk to strangers. Eventually, I quit picking up my phone so often.
It reminded me of something my Girl Child observed on her gap year in Ecuador. Her iPhone was stolen fairly shortly into the trip and she didn’t have an international data plan anyway, so she was left to use a flip phone for emergencies. This forced her to go old school on her hour-long bus rides and just stare out the window. She commented more than once on how nice it was to just zone out AND how rarely that happened back in the US.
For me, having more time with my own thoughts rather than the random ramblings of everyone else was like an exhale. I felt less anxious and less rushed. Even though my responsibilities and routine hadn’t been reduced at all, I felt more peaceful.
Freeing up my brain space to focus on what I was actually wanting to accomplish was like some flashback to an earlier time, and I really liked it.
During the time, I took 3 coastal trips, and read books and wrote at night. I stared at the ocean and big trees rather than my phone. I did a lot of thinking, started a couple of new projects and did a whole lotta work on others. I also communicated directly with people a lot.
The downside was that also during the time, I was coordinating an event and 2 workshops leading up to it- you know....the kind of things that get promoted on social media. I did pop in 2 times to post a link and sent some messages to people I thought might be interested, but otherwise, I just left it up to others involved to get the word out.
That felt a bit weird and detached, but since my exodus wasn’t really planned out in advance, it was the best I could do. And in the end, it was enough. The show went on and was a success.
I did keep the messenger app as it’s the primary way I communicate with a few people, so the creepy mic listening has probably continued, but at least I wasn’t seeing ads targeted towards my conversations.
The evening of Easter came and went and even though Lent was over and so was my sabbatical, I found that I wasn’t really feeling that interested in social media. I opened Facebook and scrolled for about a minute, and found, for the most part, I just didn’t care.
Yes, it was nice to see a few faces I hadn’t seen in a while and to smile at their happy pictures and cute kids and vacations. Other things, like what people were having for lunch was still as uninteresting as it had been before and the bombarding of ads had a new feeling to it. Less frustration, and more, no thanks. I don’t need to scroll through all that. I don’t want to spend my life there.
I’m not under any illusion that I’ll be off social media for life because I do miss the sharing and connecting possibilities that can come through it. I’ll just be finding my way to get what I want and leave the rest behind so that I’m using the technology rather than it using me. I’m not sure what that means exactly, but I do know I like the feel of my own thoughts.
How about you? How do you feel about your relationship with social media? Do you love it? Hate it? And how do you navigate it with your kids? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.
If you liked this essay, please share it using the very social media that I just took a break from! Ha!
And in whatever capacity works for you, I’d encourage more time in real life and less on screens.
Enjoy the day!
It’s the last day of January and I’m finally feeling ready to jump into 2019. My free trial month is over, so I guess it’s time to commit.
Yesterday, I finished the last bit of work on my Command Central Wall Planner and picked her up at the printers.
Isn’t she lovely?
I started this idea of making a full year at a glance wall planner a few years ago based on something I saw Jennifer Lee of Right Brain Business Plan did. She had this whole wall full of sticky notes where she could lay out everything and see the big picture of what was going on in her business and life.
As a woman with 3000 notebooks and sticky notes all over the place, I loved this concept. (Thanks Jen!)
I’ve been making myself some sort of big giant wall planner ever since and lemme tell ya~ the ability to see the whole year at once is brilliant when it comes to dreaming and scheming.
Being able to spread out for a big overview shows me when I have gaps or am overcrowding, and just all around helps me figure out how to keep this ship afloat.
My SweetHeart started calling it Command Central, and since it was pretty much a perfect name, I kept it.
Yes, I have a digital calendar too, and it’s wonderful for reminding me of appointments and meetings I might otherwise forget. But, I have to stare at screens a lot for my paid work and I like the hands-on feel and look of “real” things whenever possible.
Since I don’t want to add my to-do list to a screen, I have a paper planner that is great for daily and weekly stuff, and to some degree for months as well.
But Command Central is where I can figure out the whole big shebang~ and I love it.
Seeing it all in one shot helps me tell if I’m actually doing what's important to me versus just being busy.
Am I seeing my friends in real life? Having regular adventures with my Love and my Kids? Learning and Exploring?
Am I doing too much and going to lose my shizzle sticks?
Every year, my wall planner artwork has a different theme, depending on my mood, and since I’m making it all up as I go along, every year has been a learning experience.
So far, I haven’t managed to plan ahead enough to actually have my full year planner done by January 1st, but I’m more of an ease into the new year kinda gal anyway. Maybe someday I’ll manage, but today, I’m just happy to have it up now.
Isn’t she pretty? Did I ask that already? She takes up a lotta wall space, but I'm liking how she fits on the closet doors of my new studio.
Truth be told, I wasn’t crazy about some of the paintings, but I just let that go because time isn’t going to stop while I improve my skills, and in this case, done is better than perfect.
My goal was to just try to paint 12 different watercolor flowers, and I did. I scanned them in, added a grid, text, and numbers (which Good Lord, I hope I got them all right…) and sent them off to be printed.
She was up in her polished and new state for a very short few hours before I started filling her in.
It makes me happy to see my year unfolding and feel good about my chances of prioritizing what's really important to me.
To spread the joy, I was thinking about offering this years’ planner in PDF form as a free download, and if there’s interest, I’m happy to do it.
It’s easy to get printed (or print yourself) in color on cardstock (each month is standard 8 ½ x 11”) and you can get your own command central going too.
If you’ve got wall space and are inclined, let me know in the comments below if you’d like one for yourself. I’d be glad to put it together to share.
I’d also love to hear how you’re planning for an awesome 2019? Paper? Digital? Or just keeping it all in the noggin?
Hope it’s great, however you go about it.
As for me, I’m off to plot….let me know if you want a pdf!
Until Next Time~
If all goes right in your parenting journey, there will come a day when your offspring will spread their wings and fly out into the great big world.
That time came for my happy household last year, and in the most cliche of ways, it all happened much sooner than I expected.
The good news is that our kids all headed out in ways that are moving them towards new and exciting things, even if I didn’t see those things coming quite so soon.
That’s the thing about raising children to believe in chasing their dreams~ they grow up and do just that~ and perhaps sooner than you think.
Which is exactly what our kids are off doing, leaving my SweetHeart and me with what the world refers to as “an empty nest.”
The term seems to conjure up two distinct images. Either he parental units are wailing and weeping, no longer having a life purpose, or they’re whooping it up and grateful to finally have those pesky kids gone.
For me, it’s not really either. Although there might have been wee moments of both.
For the most part, we’re still getting used to the idea that kids don’t live here, and actually, there’ve been assortments of our kids and their friends visiting multiple times in those few months.
So, even though the house has had lots of kids here, technically, none of them actually live here now.
And with that, everyone seems to be asking me just what I’m going to do with my empty nest.
We’ve just started to ponder this new phase, and it’s such a ginormous and crazy change that it's strange to even wrap my head around.
But, when I’m posed with the question of what I’ll do, the first thing that comes to mind is….
“Whatever the heck I want!!!!!!
Because I’m a grown up and no longer responsible for other people!
I can eat cake for breakfast now and I’m not even being a bad example to anyone and come to think of it, I don’t even have to wear pants at home anymore if I don’t want to!”
The response, along with the following “Bwahahahaha!” type maniacal laughter usually only happens in my head..(thank goodness for that)
In real life, I don’t actually know what to say.
It’s a strange time, and while I miss connecting with my kids on the daily, I’m also really excited for them AND me.
Since daily momming has been my job for over 20 years, there’s a bit to process and figure out, but I realized there are few distinct things I found that are really helping me in the transition.
If you have kids flying the coop soon too, maybe these will be helpful for you as well.
I feel like I can breathe this huge sigh of relief because I raised competent people that I actually enjoy!
For 2 decades, I’ve been responsible for the daily food, shelter and upbringing of other humans!!
And now I'm not....
AND they’re not just OK, they’re pretty awesome!
“Momming” is pretty much embedded in my DNA at this point, and I'll admit that it’s really weird to not have it as a part of my daily rhythm. I find myself talking to the dogs and asking how their day went more often than I should admit.
Thankfully, I haven’t resorted to giving unsolicited advice and healthy snacks to random teenagers on the street, even though I know it would be helpful. (But, be warned, I may on occasion do this to kids I actually do know)
I’m just grateful that my kids are happy and kind people with strong connections to other good people.
They’re mostly able to figure out and deal with the stuff of life (and they know they can call or text if they need help.)
Of course, I still worry sometimes, but for the most part, when they’re big and need to be making their own decisions, if you don’t have to see every single choice they’re making, it’s a heck of a lot more relaxing.
Does that mean they’re doing everything exactly the way I think they should?
They’re living their lives and they’re making choices for themselves. They’re doing their research and they’re figuring it out as they go.
And I can take a deep breath and let it go. And celebrate and give thanks, because I did it!
And now, without those 3 extra full-sized humans in the house, I have sooooooo much extra time and space to relax into~ which brings me to the next step.
The mass exodus of teens leaves a lot of openings. There’s both physical space and chunks of time that I’ve never actually had all to myself before in this way.
I do miss their laughter and comradery, but I'm also really enjoying figuring out what to do with what I have in front of me.
The best part is that I get to do it creatively and consciously.
I know some people leave shrines in their kids’ rooms for years after they move out~ but, uh...not me.
No offense kids, but that’s valuable real estate.. and I’m paying for it, so I want to use it!
At some point towards the end of the year, I realized that with all of the transitions in our home, there had been both furniture as well as people moving in our house for half of 2018!
It didn’t just feel like a year of disarray~ It actually was.
Now that the teens are off, I’ve been clearing and cleaning, restructuring and decluttering to try to make this space work the best it can for where we are now in life.
I’ve worked at home for 20 years and had my workspace in some open to everyone space the whole time. Now that the kids are gone, I’ve taken over the biggest of their rooms for my studio and office.
I’m ridiculously giddy about my new space, with its VERY OWN DOOR! And it shuts! The concept of a room of one’s own has been one that has intrigued and eluded me since I first read Virginia Wolff’s words about it decades ago.
And now, here I have it! I have to lean back and sigh every time I think of how wonderful that concept is.
We still have a guest room and a couple of futons for the kiddos to sleep on when they visit, but I’m expanding all over and claiming the good space for me to use daily.
And that brings me to the next step.
I am seriously enjoying so many little things~ like the ability to leave out good chocolate and margaritas right out in the open…..and I don’t even have to consider if they’ll be there when I return.
It’s a wonderful life, indeed.
One blessing I’m needing to learn to navigate is that there’s food galore in this house!
Seriously~ So. Much. Food.
I found myself eating all the time in the first months of the transition.
I don’t want to talk about whether or not I need bigger pants as a result, but I will say. I do need to figure out buying and cooking for just 2 people.
There are some real perks with the abundant food scene though, like being able to enjoy my own leftovers from a nice dinner out, and the ability to sometimes get the super delightful kind of treats which I would have felt were way too expensive to feed so many people (especially when some of those people wouldn’t even appreciate the delicacies they were inhaling any more than they would some cheap sugar fix.)
But now I can buy good ice cream! And I actually get to eat it myself!
And as I mentioned~ I can leave my treats out~ like right out in the open!
And if I leave and come back, they’ll still be there for me to enjoy!
So, I'm celebrating that I don't have to inhale or hide my Really Good Goodies by enjoying lots of them.
And they’re all right out in the open baby!
Again, bigger pants may be in my future, and I'm actually curious as to whether or not I'll feel less inclined to drink margaritas now that I'm only responsible for myself, but have no idea how that will pan out....
Anyhoo, raising humans has been an amazing journey and a heck of a lotta fun~ along with a whole lotta very worthwhile work.
So, now, I feel like my job is to ENJOY.
Are things I wish I’d done differently?
Things I wish I'd done better, more of, or sooner?
Things I wish I’d never done at all?
Of course! Like a bazillion!
But I know I did my best with the tools and resources I had. I also tried to say sorry and learn from times when I blew it, just like I'd want them to do.
And now, they're on the own paths. Some things they talk about, some things they ask about, and some things they just want to figure out on their own.
Of course, I can freak out about that at times, but mostly, it makes more sense to trust the people I've raised, to let them live their lives, and use some of that energy on my own life.
So, I’m not feeling sad about this empty nest. I'm more curious and open to what’s next.
That brings me to #4 on my list:
It’s a big and beautiful world and I’ve always been a fan of exploring as much as I can. For years, the majority of that exploring was done with my kids~ through our homeschooling and life learning adventures.
While I know we’ll still do family adventures, the reality for a few years has been that when everyone is on a different schedule, it’s not easy to coordinate such things. So, my explorations as an individual have been growing slowly for some time.
I’ve always had my own interests and passions that I follow on the side, and now I feel really open up to the possibilities of what else I can learn, do, see and explore.
So far, this empty nest life has been pretty full. Travel, creating, work, play. Good Stuff.
And I know that there’s lots more where that came from.
I’ve said before that of all the jobs I’ve ever done (and there have been quite a few) raising humans has by far been the most meaningful. I’ve gained skills and learned lessons that will serve me always. I’ve done a lotta things and gone a lotta places with them in the process, and most importantly, I’ve had a heck of a lotta fun.
I’m proud and I’m relieved, and now, I’m ready to explore for myself what else I can find in that great big world out there.
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And, if you have any thoughts or ideas to share on the post parenting life journey, please do so in the comments below. I love to hear what my readers are thinking.
Until next time~ Enjoy the day!
I’m always a fan of dreaming and scheming, but the clean slate of a brand new year seems to offer an even more magical time for plotting what’s next.
As much as I like to plan my possibilities, I’m not much for New Years Resolutions though.
I do enjoy a healthy self-imposed challenge, but full on winter just doesn’t seem like a very good time to start something that requires a lot of effort.
I mean, come on….it’s the coldest and darkest season of the whole year.
After all the celebrations and excess of the holidays, my body and mind would rather be curled up in a cozy cocoon and recovering after all the weeks of gluttony.
All these ads are telling me it’s time to be a skinnier, healthier, more productive, all improved New Me, but honestly, I just don’t have the desire or fortitude to go barreling full force towards some lofty fitness or lifestyle goals right now.
It just doesn’t seem natural for me to go high speed in winter. So, I'm not.
If you’re not feeling like taking on extreme sports style resolutions either, but you still want to get in on the New Year energy, consider joining me in a little season of relaxed dream incubating.
You don’t need to go as far as to shut yourself in a cave for months to hibernate, but it is nice to go with the flow of nature and get under some blankets with a cup of tea, light a candle and go inward to think about what you really want and need (not necessarily what’s being sold to you).
Before the planning starts, I always like to do some reflection~ you know, looking back before looking ahead.
I had all intentions of doing this on December 31st with my SweetHeart so we’d start the New Year ready.
But, as life would have it, I got sidetracked all day and used up all of my available brain space on other tasks. Then, by the time we were ready to get around to it, I didn’t have the energy or mental capacity to do it anymore.
So, when I woke up on New Years Day without having done any reflecting or planning or anything towards moving ahead, I started to get really bummed at myself for “being behind” already when the new year just started (New Year, Same Old Me, indeed)
But then it occurred to me that the whole calendar thing is just a man made invention and it really didn’t matter to me exactly what day these things happened on~ as long as they actually happened.
So, when a few days later I found myself feeling rather ill and needing to be in bed, which as I indicated, happens to be a perfect place for contemplating. And, when I found myself bored in between shivers and pains and bouts of nausea, that’s exactly what I did.
I started looking back and contemplating.
2018 was honestly a really hard year for a lot of people around me. We had some of the worst wildfires in the history of California and my area of the state quite frankly got its arse kicked.
I would have thought a person might meet one family who’s had their house burn down in the course of a lifetime, but within a few days, at least 9 families we know personally lost their homes due to fire. There were also thousands we don’t know left homeless.
Then more fires came, bringing even more devastation and loss.
While my family and home were safe, and I’m grateful for that, it was a lot of tragedy to take in.
Aside from Mother Nature’s fury, there were also some very unpleasant political situations and a rather terrifying health crisis in a close family member.
But the big thing I noticed, was that as awful and sucky as all that was, still, 2018 was overall a pretty great year for me.
There were lots of trips and adventures, growth in personal and professional endeavors and milestones for the offspring.
By far, the strangest thing that has happened to me, not just in the last year, but since I began the parenting journey 21 years ago happened this year in that ALL of the kids we had living at home spread their wings and flew out into the world.
Within a few months, we went from 3 kids living here to none.
And with that, in the blink of an eye, I said goodbye to momming on the daily.
What world even is this?
My in and out everyday role for the last 21 years suddenly shifted to a super part-time, telecommuting consultant gig on an as needed basis.
The full-sized humans that I raised and love to offer helpful advice to aren’t here to try to pretend they don’t hear it.
It’s the kind of thing that requires waaaay more than I can say sum up this moment, but obviously, it’s a game changer.
For now, I’ll just say that it’s quiet, and there’s so much food and did I mention that it’s really, really weird?
But it’s also wonderful and really feels expansive. And I’m really freaking proud.
To be honest, we’ve actually had various assortments of our offspring and their friends visiting and staying for a good deal of the time since everyone flew the coop, so it hasn’t exactly been empty full time, but it has given me and my SweetHeart a lot more space and time to think.
The day after my sick in bed day, my SweetHeart was home. It was raining and cold and I was on the mend, but still recovering. It was also a new moon and we decided that all of those things were good reasons for an all-day lounge fest.
We stayed in PJs, gathered the biggest pile of fuzzy blankets (which are still everywhere from kids being home for the holidays) on the couch and made a cozy fire with the help of Netflix. We made tea and lit candles and dreamed and schemed all day.
We shared our reflections of 2018~ wins and losses, what worked, what didn’t and lessons learned.
Over the course of the day, between reading and writing and random things online, we talked about what we want more of and less of in life, what we want to take forward into the New Year and what we want to leave behind.
We both scribbled lists in various notebooks and discussed possibilities. We bounced around ideas and options for where we each might want to go in life.
Such big-picture scheming is the kind of thing I’ve always done by myself or sometimes with my kids, but usually based on a specific thing like a trip or adventure or an area of education, rather than all-out life.
Doing this type of widespread overview of curating the future with my partner felt really grounding and supportive.
Despite the fact that I’m a strong-willed woman with equally strong opinions and voice, who sometimes gets excited and has trouble remembering to take turns when speaking, it was actually a relaxing and positive day for us both.
Maybe the fact that I was recovering from a near vomiting illness, not really drinking coffee and moving a good deal more slowly than usual helped?
Either way, we both shared our thoughts and hopes and encouraged each other as friends and partners. No, we don’t have our whole year or even this whole month all lined out, but we have shared goals together and individuals goals that we shared.
Most of all, we ended the day feeling positive and pointed in the same direction.
And that’s what a partnership is all about.
If you’ve got someone that you’re going through life or even just a certain project with, it just makes good sense to spend some time reflecting, dreaming and scheming together.
As for us, we’re in a whole new season where parenting isn’t on the forefront of our every day, and that’s an exciting time to plan.
In respect of the rhythm of winter and sanity, I’m not plowing full speed ahead but will be taking baby steps and doing research. Some ideas need to germinate and get evaluated while new questions arise and we find answers.
It may not have the pizzazz of a big shiny resolution, but I think that using the season to plan and map out will increase the likelihood that we’ll actually find the paths to where we want to be.
Warmly saying my goodbyes to 2018 and enthusiastically welcoming in 2019 with my cozy yoga pants and an assortment of journals and colored pens ~ that feels exactly like where I need to be right now.
How about you? How do you like to dream and scheme for the New Year?
Please share in the comments below, and if you enjoyed this post, please share it with a friend!
Happy New Year!
Writer, Artist, Empowered Living Advocate, Wanna-be Organic Gardening Foodie, Travel Loving Life Explorer, FunSchooling Facilitator / Former Goat-Herding HeadMistress for our Mostly Happy Homeschool, Semi-Crazy Chicken Lady and Mamacita Extraordinaire to a couple of Cage Free Kids.