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!
Friday afternoon found me in a huge funk~ you might even call it a state of despair.
I tried sitting in the sun and watching my chickens and dogs and eventually resorted to stuffing Almond Roca in my face. But I still felt dismal in a way I couldn’t quite find the words for.
So, I looked up antonyms to “hopeful” because the opposite of hope was pretty much what I was feeling.
A good many of the 270 words I found, courtesy of Power Thesaurus, were really good matches to my mood. But, reading them wasn’t helping improve it at all.
The reason I was feeling so bleak?
Because no one seems to care.
If they do care, it’s not enough to actually do anything about it.
When I was young and learning about atrocities throughout history, I would always wonder how things like that could happen. I mean, how could NO ONE say anything? How could everyone just seem to go along with things that we all look back on in horror?
I never could figure it out, so I just chalked it up to some old fashioned hesitance to question authority or something. But it still bothered and baffled me.
Well, in the last couple of years, I feel like I’m seeing how exactly a society can become that way.
When people who do participate get so caught up in taking sides and attacking their perceived enemy but never stopping to hold their own side accountable, they start letting things slide.
Things that they know are wrong, but they’re too busy being defensive to look in the mirror and tell their people to get their act together and quit acting like idiots.
Watching all the mud slinging leaves a lot of people disenchanted and cynical with the whole thing.
And, maybe because they’re busy trying to figure out their own lives, they don’t have the energy to participate in what feels like a stupid and pointless fight?
I’m guessing, because I’m a voter and I’ve always been a voter.
I may not believe in the whole thing in the way I once did, and I’m certainly disenchanted, but it’s the best and only shot we have to use our voice and have a say in the future of the part of the world we live in.
Politics are ugly, but they affect us all. And really, the reason they’re so ugly is because we’re letting them be.
We’re gobbling up all the divisive and angry rhetoric we can eat.
We’re allowing our leaders to act in ways that most of us would reprimand our children for when we should be holding them accountable~ ESPECIALLY if we voted for them.
A vote or a party affiliation shouldn’t be a free pass for a lifetime of unquestioning loyalty.
People in leadership positions should be representing us in ways we respect, and if they’re not, we should be calling them out, not blindly going along because they’re on our team.
That just leaves us with a couple of awful teams. And how do we explain that to our kids~ especially if we’re NOT DOING ANYTHING ABOUT IT?
I love my kids more than anything, but if they were misbehaving, you know they’d be hearing about it.
And if they tried some lame line about how the other side was behaving, I might agree that it sucked, but I’d still hold them accountable for their own actions.
Why are we letting our leaders act worse than children?
Politicians aren’t our kids, but we still have a responsibility in what we allow them to do. They make rules, but we pay them a lot of money, so we get to hold them accountable. Why aren’t we doing it?
They work for us, so why are we allowing this mass of embarrassingly bad behavior? And why are we trying to defend them by deflecting to what the other side is doing?
We all need to look in the mirror and be willing to tell our own people to do better.
And if we don’t have a side and find the whole thing confusing, we should at least find the things that we do believe in and speak up.
That means voting, because just saying things on the internet doesn’t change laws.
The things you vote for won’t always win, but if you don’t even try, then there’s really no hope. It feels like just handing the future over to a bunch of greedy people who don’t care and act horribly.
We’re all appalled when we hear of places and people who don’t get to use their voices or have any choices, so why on earth wouldn’t we use the one thing we have?
So, the other day, when someone close to me, who I have a lot of respect for, and has a huge heart and big mind seemed like they were NOT going to vote in the upcoming election, I just about lost all hope in humanity altogether.
I felt discouraged and grim.
I don’t think I’m being dramatic when I say that it’s getting uglier and worse all the time.
Good people who actually have a lot in common are acting terribly to one another in the name of political affiliation.
No one is stopping and looking at their neighbor, thinking that these are all real people, most of whom have families and people they love. They’re resorting to thinking in black and white and not as one human to another.
A future like this feels ominous and foreboding at worst, and just plain depressing at best.
I'm going to try to hold out hope that we won't let that happen.
Today is the last day to register to vote in California for the midterm election, so please, please, please use your mind and your heart and your voice and VOTE.
Lord Have Mercy!!! (as my Grandma would say) Here it is, actually autumn~and I’m realizing that I’ve been absent (at least with writing and sharing online) for most of the entire summer.
If you happened to notice, have no fear~ I’m still here, and doing well. I’m missing the rhythm of regular writing, and connecting.
But as the season is shifting, and I’m feeling called back.
This summer has been full of mostly amazing and a few really awful things. I feel like I want to write to tell you about each of them, but it's so much.
So, for now, I'm mostly sharing pictures and a few words. You know I'll be back with more words later, because I have a lot of them, but for now....
The best parts of my summer have been the adventures galore~ Like Costa Rica with my kids~
I've always loved travelling with these 2 and this was a great "last trip" before they flew the coop. We were soooooo grateful to my Pop for inviting us for a family visit to paradise.
We were home for just a few days and the Boy Child launched himself into the world and headed to the Big(ger) City to chase basketball and college dreams with friends.
Then I went to Denver to attend the Outdoor Retailer Summer Market Show for work.
So much cool stuff and such a fun city! The whole thing was inspirational and I ate enough good for for 14 people. The street art scene is also fantastic!
While I was there, my hometown caught on fire, which was awful and scary and traumatizing.
The weeks of toxic smoke in the air, the loss of so many beautiful places and the feeling of communal shock were awful..
Thankfully our home was fine, but that wasn't the case for about 1000 other houses that burned.
But soon, it was time to help the Girl Child launch into her next college chapter in sunny So Cal. That Girl is gonna fly!
Then, this magical thing happened...
To celebrate life and Love, my SweetHeart and I went to London and Paris~ which was the most romantic and wonderful and amazing adventure. It was the first trip to Europe for both of us, and I'm so glad we got to go together. I LOVE adventuring with this guy!
Last, but not least, I decided to participate as a designer in Redding Fashion Week.
That was a great creative challenge filled with lots of learning and just as much seam ripping along with a few hot glue burns as I attempted to teach myself hatmaking~ which is the most fun ever! (The hatmaking, not the burns..)
In the end, I loved the collection I created, and my models ROCKED the vintage look.
So, that's been what I've been up to this summer, which may explain why I took some time off writing.
But, autumn is here and as I move into finding my new rhythm for the season, writing and connecting with my people are high up on my list of important things. I've missed it, and I'm back!
What was your summer like? Hopefully full of good things! Let me know in the comments below~ and if you're not already on my newsletter list, sign up now!
Facebook is great at a lot of things, but reliably sharing isn't one of them, and I'd like to make sure we can actually connect directly.
Until Next Time~ Lots of Love ~ Talk to you Soon!
I had big plans for this blog and this summer~ I was going to share travel posts galore, albeit some recycled from travels past, it was still going to be a theme of adventuring with your kids, and enjoying the journey.
But, I’ll have to write about those things another day, because today my mind and spirit just needs to breathe and process.
I won’t be taking too deep of literal breaths though, because the normally blue skies and fresh air of Northern California are currently brown and orange and constricting my asthmatic lungs.
I was in Denver when the fire started burning up the shoreline of the lake near my hometown~ 1200 miles away from home and my return flight was days away.
My heart hurt to hear the trees that shade the beautiful places that making living here tolerable in the summer were being blackened, but there was nothing I could do.
I was physically far from the flames~ but emotionally so near to the mess at the same time~ it was burning up the lakes and mountains where my kids grew up, where my family plays, the places we treasure and love. Our home town.
The fire grew miles every day, hot and fast and humongous. It didn’t stay in the forest, like you might think wildfires are supposed to~ It raged its way into town, crossing concrete and roads and roaring through neighborhoods and subdivisions where this kind of thing doesn’t happen.
But, it does. And it did. It came through burning and exploding and randomly picking which homes would stand and which would be ash.
We started getting word of people losing their homes~ but they weren’t just people you see on the news. These were people we knew in real life, friends, people who had taught my kid or worked with me, or sat in a women’s circle~ and they were all suddenly homeless.
Homes that my kids had played hours of games in and we shared dreams and plans in were all destroyed.
My own home wasn’t in the path of the fire, but as it grew and moved wildly, no one really seemed to know what would be burning next.
My Girl Child was home at the time, with our pets. She packed a fire box, grabbed important documents and some photos, the pet food and leashes and was ready to go if need be. Thankfully, she is a smart and logical one, but that’s still a lot of pressure for a kid.
As I was on my train to the airport, the news starting get worse~ the fire was growing and moving towards us.
I’m not normally a weepy person, but everything I was seeing made me want to break down.
The lines to get through airport security were huge, hot and crowded, and I’m glad I had the forethought to not look at news while in them. My anxiety was bad enough without seeing more of the endless images of flames and destruction.
I knew our little town had made national news when I heard other people at the airport looking at their phones and talking about the tragic fires in Northern California. I resisted the urge to grab them and shout “That’s My Home!”
My flight was delayed, and I made the mistake of looking at my own phone. Everything I saw was awful.
I didn’t cross the line into public wailing, but I did make a few random people regret asking “How are you today?” by responding with an intense teary eyed stare and saying “My hometown is on fire. Everything beautiful is burning up right now.”
By the time we got on the plane, put devices in airport mode, flew to California and landed, things seemed to be improving. Or maybe I had just had a chance to calm down.
I was still a 5 hour drive from home, but I was at least in the same state. The relief was short lived as the news started showing the fire gaining ground and moving closer to our home, and I began to see panicked messages on social media about evacuations getting too close for comfort.
I needed to be with my kid and my pets and to deal with whatever came our way and to see where we could help in the meantime.
Finally, finally, finally, I walked in my own door. It was such a relief to finally get home, to have a home.
In retrospect, I realized that some of the panicked posts on social media were misunderstandings, and while that was annoying, we were safe.
There’s an ongoing sadness as we hear more and more stories of loss, as we’re bombarded with a continual slideshow of pictures of fire, posts about fire, loss, recovery after the fire, donations for the fire, so much burning, burning, burning~ overwhelming destruction, smoke, ash.
I began to feel so weary and overwhelmed, rotating between grief and gratitude, the damage was so massive, but the support and love in the community was equally gigantic.
This rollercoaster has started to take its’ toll, and I’ve begun to feel like a bit of a wimp for being overwhelmed by fire when I’m safe, my family and my home and my pets are safe.
And so many people aren’t.
But I can feel in my bones that I need to take breaks from the intensity of this fire.
I don’t mean taking breaks from helping. Washing dirty linens and walking dogs at the evacuated pet shelter is tiring and sad and smells awful, but it is helping, and that I can do.
What I can’t do is to keep scrolling through my social media barrage of the same awful images and stories over and over to the point where I can feel my nerve endings constrict as soon as I open the apps on my phone.
So, I took a day off social media altogether and I could feel a positive difference by noon. Clearly, some ongoing boundaries are in order for my sanity.
For now, I’ve rambled long enough. There’s still work to be done.
The fires are still burning. Lots of people are getting to go back to their homes but at least 1000 families don’t have homes to go to. And other homes in nearby communities are still in the path as the fire rages on.
People are trying to get back to normal life, but it still feels a little surreal. And no matter how much we try, we all know it’s not over till it’s over.
I hope to be back to writing about cheerier things soon, but I never really know what’s going come out until I start typing.
For now, hug your people and your pets, and if you’re prone to sending out prayers or positive thoughts, the people of nor cal could sure use them. And if you need a break yourself, please take one.
Summertime…. and the livin room is full of boxes and suitcases.
Packing for trips, packing for college, packing up junk that we once thought was good stuff and we just don’t need cluttering up our lives and home anymore.
Our home and our lives are in a state of major transition, and while I don’t want to be so dramatic as to describe it as chaos, the truth is that it is pretty friggen disorderly.
The changes are good ones, but they are still big and we’re in this weird space of in between right now.
Things aren’t where they used to be, and are on the verge of changing again,and in huuuuuuge ways to the next phase.
It’s all happening any minute…. but it’s not quite happened yet.
So, we wait,
and we pack.
I try to clean up and organize little spaces of peace~ like clearing and wiping the kitchen counters, even though I know in 47 seconds there will be crumbs and wrappers and keys that no one but me seems to be annoyed by, or vacuuming the living room couch, which I have to immediately blockade with other furniture to keep my incontinent old dog from disobediently hopping up on to nap, and subsequently leaving a wet spot.
I take boxes to the Goodwill and trash to the curb. I fill the recycling can to overflowing. I check our passports for the 84th time to make sure they didn’t suddenly disappear or expire. I wonder what furniture I will move where. I Google for answers to random questions on logistics, costs, and everything my busy mind can come up with.
Being present has never been my #1 skill, but I want to enjoy this time right now.
This next few months, we have teenagers moving, a trip with my offspring to Costa Rica, a business trip to Denver, and then Europe with my love. There will be trips to Sacramento, San Diego and even Fresno inbetween. (The last one makes me laugh every time I say it)
Plus, there’s work, and the garden and animals and life.
I can’t (or more truthfully I don’t want to) commit to writing and publishing new stuff on any regular basis with all this living going on.
So, while I’m enjoying my current family adventures, I’ll be sharing some oldie but goodie vacation essays here on Zesty Mom.
Reading them again myself makes me simultaneously wonder what in the heck I was thinking a good deal of the time while being so glad that I came up with and went along with so many hare brained schemes with my family.
It’s been a heck of a ride with these people, and I’m excited for the journeys ahead.
It’s almost June and the days of summer will soon be here. That means vacation time combined with sweltering hot weather.
Lazy days of summer can be a wonderful change in the family rhythm, but too much time trapped inside together, especially when your norm isn’t seemingly endless amounts of unstructured time together, well….
The transition can be a bit rough.
A lot of parents start off the season with fresh excitement and dreams of family vacations and laughter.
Sadly, within a few weeks, there are fights and complaints of “I’m bored” that leave all of the parental units longing for autumn and the structure of kids back in school.
In my house house, where school wasn’t a thing until the older started community college classes at 15 and the younger started charter school classes at 12, we've had more of an ever changing rhythm than a firm structure.
But still, with all the free time of summer combined with the oppressive heat found in a place that feels like the surface of the sun by July, well...
Tempers just seem to rise with the temperatures making it a home full of sweaty, snapperheads.
So, how can you happily cohabitate with your family at home all the time this summer without wanting to strangle each other on a daily basis?
For the best advice, I turned to people who are used to spending lots and lots of time together:
I posed the question to my local homeschooling group, and got a variety of great ideas on how to survive the summer months, and really any extended time you have with your pack.
Miciah who has 2 kids at home says “What helps our family is having a space for each person to call their own and everyone respecting the household basic rules.
She adds, “Sometimes reminders are good when life's circumstances have changed. Standard, sit down family talks are established so that when something is amiss, it can be dealt with before issues arise.”
Miciah’s family also takes advantage of “lots of outdoor fun, even if it's just sprinklers or kiddie pool in the yard. We keep reading happening too, reading outside on nice nights with kids.”
As a mother of 2 boys, Jessica finds that keeping them active is key.
“I kick them out of the house a lot and they fight much less.
We have a pool, so we're lucky to be able to spend 75% of the summer in water. On the flip-side, lots of physical fun means exhaustion, so we also have rest time.”
The family also continues homeschooling during the summer, so just like the adults, the kids in the family still have work to do.
“Honestly, the heat and how often we go camping is the only thing that really changes during the summer. I love that about this lifestyle!”
Josie has 4 boys and will admit, “Life is crazy!”
She recommends avoiding hangry children (or parents) while also shunning a hot kitchen by planning easy meals.
“Think cheese sticks, salami, and fruit for lunch or snacks. Pasta salads and BBQ for dinner.”
She adds, “Sometimes kids get picky in the summer because it's too hot to eat heavy and hot meals. I find it makes everyone's lives easier if we keep it simple.”
Her family takes advantage of the local library and it’s amazing summer reading program, noting “We can easily kill several hours there.”
They’ve also found it worthwhile to invest in a family pass to the local aquatic center, going regularly in the hottest, and often crankiest, time of the day.
While they enjoy having fun things to do, she tries to avoid too many set activities or organized sports that create a rigid schedule.
“Summer is a time of relaxing, not rushing from one hot practice to another.”
Josie added, “One day our kids won't be able to enjoy summer anymore. Let them now. Go find a creek away from the hustle of life and just chill. Explore. Let them be kids. I guarantee they will have way more fun.
Diana has a whopping 11 kids. Yes, you read that right.
The oldest few are out of the house, but there are still a whole lotta little people running around her home, and lemme tell you~ she rocks it.
One of her top tools? Meal planning. “Let them help do that. Then, they are more invested in your day at home.”
Another thing she didn’t mention, but you can tell within 5 minutes of being around her people~ they like each other. They spend time together, working and playing and they kind of have it down.
And... I’m not really sure how she does it but they somehow manage to have less clutter than we had in a house with just 3 teens.
They keep it simple. Anyway~ getting off topic here, but I really think the lack of stuff under foot helps keep people more relaxed. (It’s a theory anyway~ I haven’t tried it myself…)
Amy has her boys do a list of chores every morning in the summer before they can go on electronics.
Naphtali also advises limiting screen time. “The more time my kids spend watching movies and playing videos games the more they fight and bicker!”
Kristi agrees. “When our TV was broken, within 2 days my son said it was the best thing that ever happened.”
They get along much better when they don't have screen time - although they don't want to say it because they like it.”
She adds, “When I take it away totally, they'll fight more the next day, and then turn to playing by the second day. It also makes a difference what shows they are watching....
Me limiting my time on technology and being present with them is another key component.”
I definitely agree with everyone on finding balance with screens. I’ve seen them increase short attention spans and dissatisfaction (not just in kids~ in myself as well!)
I know as a parent, it’s easy to be judgy about kids and their devices, but I’m just as guilty and actually put restrictive controls on my own phone so I can’t “accidentally” waste time mindlessly scrolling.
Kristi also asked her 6 year old what helps her get along with her brother better and she said, "Eating healthy food”.
Wise words from that young lady! Kristi notes “It’s so true and not even what I was going to write, but it's key. My kids do much better on whole foods and no sugar.”
The food theme has come up so many times, and we all know it’s not a coincidence. Food really can make a difference~ especially good food.
Her daughter also mentioned the importance of quality time, and Kristi encouraged learning about the 5 Love Languages so that you can know and speak to each other in ways that are most likely to be heard.
“We have to be intentional with it, making sure everyone feels loved.”
Kristi concluded her family gets along better when they have time out in nature and play dates with friends and notes. “When there are times of conflict, one thing we do to shift the atmosphere is play music.”
Mikki, who has one grown and one nearly grown girl recalls the importance of teaching her kids to get along, rather than just trying to find ways to keep them apart.
“I always told them that "a house divided will fall" and since there are only 4 in our family, if 2 are in conflict that's half the house!
We each took turns choosing an activity per week. We may not always like the choice of the other person, but that's part of the lesson as well.
Since her family liked to read, having good reading material helped, along with good family friendly movies to watch.
“I can say that the time I took with them in their younger years has truly helped them be life-long friends.”
And that’s what we’d probably all like to hope for with our families~ that even when they are grown and we don’t have to live together, we still like each other enough to want to hang out together.
I hope this has given you some good ideas to get through summer. Who knows, maybe you’ll like it so much, you won’t want to send them back to school in August?
Either way, good luck, and enjoy your family!
If you found this helpful, please share it with a friend, or better yet, on Facebook!
And if you have any tips on not killing each other over the summer, please leave them in the comments below!
As I crammed what I hoped were the last of my things into my car to hit the road with my family, my kids waited~ semi patient, and refraining from rolling eyes and sighing.
They'd already loaded their stuff and were ready for whatever was ahead in our journey.
As per usual, that started with waiting for me.
This scene has played out a million times with my pack, and in every one of them, I realize just how grateful I am to have adventurous offspring.
They can pack their bags, deal with whatever they forgot to bring, and roll with the unexpected, whether it’s food choices or places to sleep.
Of course at their ages, I’d seriously question my parenting if I still needed to pack their bags or they threw fits about not liking what was for lunch.
What I’m actually happy about here is not just that they're competent, but that they’re also curious and open to learning from whatever new and different things they experience along the journey.
They’re ready to check out the world.
They are explorers.
To me, having children who know how to travel was definitely one of the most important lessons from our homeschooling years. I actually think it’s up there with reading as a basic part of a well rounded education.
Of course, I think reading is really, really, REALLY important, and I’m not diminishing it at all, or suggesting any kind of "We don't need no fancy book learnin" mentality.
Obviously, reading is fundamental and a basic understanding of how to do it is pretty well required to get by in modern American society. I love books and we've read a bazillion of them as a family, okay?
The thing is, that not everyone is going to actually enjoy reading, nor will everyone be particularly skilled with it. Still, we make (or encourage, depending on your school of thought) kids learn to read because we know they will benefit throughout their lives.
Hopefully, the lessons will be fun, but either way, we know it will come in handy and we focus on helping them figure it out.
The more important we think something is, the more we work to incorporate it into our lives, and as a culture, we seem to have deemed reading as pretty important.
That said, to me, knowing how to travel is pretty important too.
I guess I should specify, I mean that learning how to travel without being a whiner, complaining, self absorbed butthead or high maintenance joy sucker is what I think is really important.
In any case, the lessons that come with travel are life changing~ and you really can't get them any other way.
Like reading, travel can open doors and show you new things. It’s an incomparable hands-on way to get an education that you could never get from the pages of a book, or a movie or even the interweb.
I've learned a lot through all of those other mediums as well, and so have my kids.
But, whenever possible, actually doing something beats reading or watching or listening to what someone else says and does any day.
Travel gives us first hand experiences with different world views and new ways of doing things. Whether it be food or language or just what’s outside your window, things look different when you leave your space that you already know.
It gives you practice in doing things that can be a little uncomfortable or are maybe even a little scary (not legitimately scary where you need to trust your gut, but the kind of scary that keeps you from growing)
Travel helps you to grow.
Often people associate travel with resorts or cruise ships, and immediately find reasons why they “can’t”~ often involving money.
Yes, adventure can certainly be pricey, but it really doesn’t have to be at all.
I’ve been a seriously low budget traveler for most of my life and when I chose to make homeschooling my primary gig for a decade, and putting money schemes on the back burner to simmer in small quantities, well...that didn’t exactly put my family and I in the First Class section of any airplanes.
But I loved homeschooling and the time learning with my kids was worth more to me than the money I could have made.
Thanks to my own mom, I learned at a young age how to hustle with whatever money I did have and make it work towards the kinds of experiences and things I've wanted in my life.
I certainly wasn’t going to give up adventuring just because my income was in the minuscule range.
So instead of pricey tourist traps, I watched TravelZoo for hotel bargains~ or more often, we just used a tent or slept on couches of friends and relatives.
That practice alone helped my kids so much with flexibility and going with the flow.
Sometimes it rains and your tent leaks, or you drive a few hours and the campground is closed. Sometimes your friend has a smelly dog that drools next to you on the couch or they get up crazy early, clanking dishes and talking loudly.
Sometimes you have to make a whole new plan b on the fly, and sometimes you just laugh and laugh about the absurd situation you’re in.
Sometimes, your adventures make you more grateful than ever for your home life.
In any case, you learn to roll with things.
When you’re not at home, you kind of have to learn to be open to new food and be ok with the fact that not everyone makes dishes the same way your mom does.
You learn that some things taste better than they look, and some don’t, and you learn that because you actually tried them.
Eating foods that you’re not used to helps you realize that it’s not that big of a deal if what’s on the menu isn’t your favorite, because you’re probably going to eat again in a few hours.
You learn to consider other people and appreciate what they offer and realize that you really don’t need to complain about what’s different because it’s not always about you.
You also learn that bringing plenty of your own snacks is a good idea.
Self reliance, gratitude, empathy and acceptance are all a built in part of the curriculum.
And then there’s the ability to find entertainment for oneself. A lot of people seem to think that if they don’t have the extra cash to buy everyone tickets to Disneyland, they might as well just stay home and watch Netflix.
I find that sad and untrue.
In almost every place we’ve lived or visited, there have usually been all kinds of things to check out and do for free or on the cheap.
You just have to do a little research, which is absurdly easy in this day and age and most importantly~ be open.
Check out Atlas Obscura or just Google “Free fun with Kids” and whatever city and time frame and viola~ just like magic you’ll come up with things you never knew existed.
We’ve found giant trolls under bridges and huge walls covered in chewing gum this way, not to mention a museum dedicated to the existence of Bigfoot.
Just like everything else in life, some of these things are cheezy and some are awesome~ and many are a mixture of both.
I never found it all that hard to find something interesting for us to check out, and my kids seem to have gotten the idea that all kinds of things in life and the world have potential to hold some interest~ not just their current passions or the latest fad or the most expensive theme parks that are advertised all over.
What I love about this is that they are open, and much more likely to say “sure” when it comes to trying something different than to just write it off as a no because it’s unfamiliar.
They don’t necessarily have the same love for all the same things I do, and they may want to spend more or less time in a place than me, but they're open to learning, and that’s huge.
There are times when you really want to do the popular touristy things that come with the hefty price tag, and that’s where you have to learn to be creative.
We got Disneyland passes for our whole family by volunteering to help at a local soup kitchen. We used the reciprocal privileges from our membership to the local science museum to visit tons of museums in other towns~ some for an hour and some for a day, but all for free.
Most of the touristy things we did were off season and on sale. That was another of my favorite perks of homeschooling was the freedom from a school calendar and the flexibility to go places off season when the crowds were gone.
I miss that so much now that they are taking college classes!
In their younger years, distance travel was harder, but when we could, we went for it, visiting my father in Costa Rica (thanks Dad!) and family and friends in neighboring states.
Much more often, we just took frequent little day trips to explore what was closest by, and hopefully free or cheap~
the kind of thing that most people can pull off if they actually want to.
Instead of buying fast food or Starbucks, I would put the money in my gas tank and pack a basket of snacks and we would hit the road to explore our own backyard.
The main thing was they went places and they saw things and did things and got used to the idea that it’s a big, beautiful and most of all, a wildly different world.
And with an open mind and some creative planning, there’s a whole lot to see, even without much cash.
It's been noted that traveling with kids can be a bit of a pain in the arse. This can be true, and helping them learn can be a lot of work for you.
But really~ life with kids can be a pain in the arse. Teaching them to do chores or wipe their own butts can also be a lotta work, but if they never learn, it's not going to get any easier.
You've just gotta figure out how to do what's important to you in the big picture, and point towards the easiest and most fun ways to make it happen.
If you're at all a wanderer or have a nomadic spirit, and you tether yourself down because it might be "hard to take your kids"~ well, you're gonna miss out on a lotta fun memories and you might end up bitter and resentful, which nobody wants.
These days, not all of my trips are with my kids, and I’m not along for all of their travels anymore either. They are bigger and have ideas and adventures of their own, which are really exciting for a parent to watch.
The skills of planning ahead and being flexible were planted as seeds when they were tiny, and have been nurtured their whole lives, and I can see them paying off now.
Each time any of us heads out, whether together or separately, I count my blessings, knowing that we’re all explorers at heart, and we know how to find our adventures.
Just like reading, not everyone will end up loving to travel, but knowing HOW to do it will sure come in handy.
Let us know what creative adventures you're planning with your family this summer in the comments below.
And as always, if you enjoyed this piece, please like it on Facebook, and better yet, comment and share it with a friend!
Back in my bed by myself after a breakfast that was not only made by my offspring, but actually looked AND tasted good, I enjoyed the luxury of thinking in silence.
Change is on the wind.
As I was sipping coffee that wasn't even reheated but still hot and fresh (a miracle of sorts) I pondered the realization that this will likely be the last Mother's Day like this.
The time when I have humans I created under my roof whom I'm responsible for is coming to a close.
At some point soon, the only person I’ll have to provide food and shelter for is myself. (Yes, even when the kids all move, I'll still have 2 dogs, a cat, 6 chickens, 3 fish and my SweetHeart living here, but that’s different. He's a grown arse man and my Partner who pulls his own share, which is a whole different ballgame than kids~ and the rest are not humans, so they can only complain in barks, clucks, meows and the occasional destroyed personal property. Again, nothing like children...)
Our brood will soon be flying the coop and out into the world.
It's a strange place of transition that I'm not quite sure what to make of.
There's this vision I've seen (both in real life and popular media) where mother's at my stage of the game are mourning and lamenting the soon to be empty nest as though somehow all meaning is leaving life with the college bound kids.
The thing is... I'm not really feeling that way.
There are also the parents who are just done and can't wait for their kids to leave~ whether they are 17 and full of hormonal angst or 26 and playing video games in the basement.
I'm definitely not feeling that way either.
This place that I'm at feels a bit more complicated than that.
Thankfully, I still enjoy having them here. And I also know they’re almost ready to go.
I definitely have some nerves along with the occasional doomsday, “I’ll tell you what could possibly go wrong” type of what ifs running through my head (and sometimes out of my mouth.)
There are also the times of nostalgia for days past, when they were smaller and life seemed somehow simpler.
There are times when I panic that I still have so much I want to share with them that I go on a speed-talking caffeinated rant about tips on adulting until their eyes glaze over and they run into another room to “do math homework” rather than hear anymore.
And there are times when I know that there are things they’ll just have to figure out on their own, no matter how much I want to help.
But mostly, I feel.... Content.
I’m a little surprised that I’m not feeling like I need to stop the clock or wishing I could go back or even jump ahead.
I don’t know if all the self help, make-yourself-all-zen-like books I’ve read have finally kicked in or what, but for the most part, I’m at peace.
More than that, I’m actually really happy with where we’re all at.
And mostly, I just want to enjoy what’s left.
There’s definitely a jumble of emotions~ but overall, I feel like I did my job of helping them become self reliant adults~
AND the best part is that they turned out to be pretty awesome and extremely competent people who I actually really like hanging around.
They're also people who are ready to go and do their own things in the world, and from what I can see, I feel like their odds of soaring high are really strong.
After spending so many years with my kids~ funschooling, finding opportunities for creativity and expression, to connect with animals and people of all ages, to delve deep into interests, to travel and explore, to be immersed in nature and exposed to all kinds of culures, to make food and grow plants and care for creatures both very young and very old, to witness first hand the circle of life, I feel like they had a great foundation~
At least it was the best one I could give them.
They've been full sized people for some time, but now they're adults in the legal sense as well, and they're on their way to go do their own things.
Some things they want to do sound like great ideas that I can fully understand and enthusiastically support.
Other schemes they come up with make my eyeballs pop out of my head, and are really, really hard not to freak out about (I may actually fail that part…)
But in the end, I know that they're smart and competent.
They won't just be fine~ they'll be awesome.
And my life won't be over or empty when they go.
It will be awesome too.
I'm a little nervous for them and a whole lot excited for all of us.
And I’ll always be amazed that I've made these awesome human beings.
If you connected with this post, please connect in the comments below, and share it with a friend on Facebook! Thank You, Thank You, Thank You!!
If you have any encouraging tips, I'd love those too!
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.