I’m moving my blog to Sett. I just love the community feel, plus the simple layout appeals to my non-techie side. I don’t do facebook anymore. I haven’t deleted my account, because it’s nearly impossible to do so, but I never log on. (I have facebook messenger on my phone so I can still chat with friends.) So, because I’m not using facebook socially anymore, I have decided not to use it to ‘advertise’ my blog either. This is another reason that being part of a blogging community makes sense for me. I hope you’ll come over and check it out!
I had a pretty wild experience this week. I started Monday doing some major cleaning and purging on our house, as I do in big sweeps a few times a year. I had been digging into cabinets and drawers and corners, which are already pretty organized in the first place but had the traces of lazy minimalist effort of the last few months. Living the way I strive to takes constant vigilance over what comes in and out of the door, and because I choose not to lose peace over it, I get fairly lax with it at times. But then a few months later I freak out and sort everything again.
We live in the house my grandparents bought 60 years ago. The house my father and his siblings grew up in, all six of them divided between two small bedrooms. It’s an old house and hadn’t been well maintained for the last 24 years since my grandpa died. We did some renovations to it when we moved in, but there are a lot of spaces in it that are just plain old and ugly. I love the history of this house and feeling connected to my grandma. But I have struggled to make it cozy and ‘my own’ and find ways of loving it in spite of the fact that I’d rather be living in a tiny house, or a 5th wheel traveling, or a cabin in the woods or tiny beach cottage, or a downtown loft, or, or, or…
In all those years, my grandmother accumulated enough Stuff to feed, clothe, house, medicate, and give dowry to an army. For real. It was a lot. It took my sister, father and I a long time to sort through everything after she had a stroke and went to hospice. I had already been well rooted in my love for simplicity, but that experience may have tipped me over into die-hard. It was so overwhelming and painful and frustrating. It reminded me of when we took our first dive into minimalism and purged 75% of what we owned and moved from a big house to a small apartment. It reminded me that I never want to live like that again.
Anyway, this week I was making short work of things and taking pictures of my progress as I went along, planning to start a blog series about being a minimal-ish family. I was feeling great about what I was accomplishing, but still struggling with all the parts of this place I don’t like. And the underlying feeling of sadness that this isn’t where I want to be.
On Thursday I had been at it a few days already and I spent the morning elbow deep in the kitchen cabinets, drawers and shelves. I had to pry myself away because our son had a homeschool group gathering to go to at a new friends house. I followed the directions on my phone and drove there, but my mind was still at home making piles of stuff to get rid of. We pulled on to the street and drove past the corner house, which happens to be my Favorite House of All Time. I’ve loved this house for at least 15 years. It’s green, and it used to have a pink/purple roof. I fell in love with it long ago and my mom calls it Brianna’s House. We drove down the street and couldn’t find the address, so I made a u-turn and realized, it’s the green house. On the corner. The one I love. “My” house.
We pulled up and I just sat there staring at it for a minute. This is the house I drove by for years whenever I was within a 5 mile radius. I would look at it and think that anyone that lived there must have the perfect life. And that if I was ever fortunate enough to live there, that would mean I had been successful. My dream come true. I was fighting back some very confused tears, but I had to pull it together and take him in. We went into the yard where everyone was gathered. The kids were building a giant marble run in a tree and hanging out by the chicken coop playing with the baby chicks. I sat outside with the other mom’s and composed myself. I had only met the woman who lives there a few times, but it’s funny because I told Bo the other day that I get good vibes from her and wanted to get to know her better. Now I know, she has fabulous taste!
I kind of avoided going inside but needed to eventually. I walked through the living room and family room, dining room to the kitchen. And it’s even better than I imagined. The fireplace, the brick, the wood, the built-in features that are old and lovely. *sigh* I stood in the kitchen and took stock of my feelings. I was really emotional and tears were stinging my eyes. I realized at once that I wasn’t upset at all. I kind of had no idea what the hell I was feeling. I went back outside and after a few minutes I finally said to the owner (AKA my new BFF, she just doesn’t know it yet) “So, I have to tell you that you live in the house that I’ve wanted to live in forever.” And then I told them the story and she said something like “Sorry I got it before you” and I blurted out really rudely “That’s OK, I don’t even want it anymore, it’s too big!”. I felt like an ass, because hello? It’s the best house ever and she lives there and obviously loves it! But that’s when I understood.
I wrote this message to some friends when I got home-
—–I stood in my dream house, my literal dream house and…didn’t want it. Not one part of me. It’s not my dream anymore. Surreal. Reaffirmed what I know, which is that everything that’s right for me is already in the works. My dream is waiting for me and just because I don’t know what it looks like wont stop me from moving towards it. Because I’ll know it when I’m standing in front of it. I’m so glad that I’ve been open-hearted and open-minded to growing and receiving detoured paths. I am sitting in my grandparents 60 year old beater of a house in a shitty neighborhood. Broke. Miniscule savings. No future stability. But I’m confident this is the right place for me right now.—–
It’s hard to be in limbo. It’s hard to see how things are going to work out when you’re just trying to get by. But so far, my life has taken so many twists and turns and paths I never could have expected. Curves and forks in the road snuck up on me and forced me to make split-second decisions. Decisions which have changed my course forever. And there’s any number of them still out there. That kind of thinking *could* leave me feeling like it doesn’t matter what I do, so what’s the point? But what it really leaves me thinking is that the dreaming is more valuable than the dream. I love to be inspired and cook up a plan and go for it. I love setting goals and busting my ass to accomplish them. But I don’t want to be so attached to the end result that I miss the chance to veer off the road and onto a side street if that’s what I feel called to do at any given moment.
Right now, I want to keep working on this old house and making it cozy for as long as it takes for us to be in a better financial place. But in my head I’m dreaming up all kinds of other options. And I’ve got my heart wide-open for any new dreams to wander in and make themselves at home.
Performing at Tucson Pride was a really great experience. I have re-capped the whole event over here. What I left out of that post though, is how I fell while on my stilts.
My stilts make me 7’4″ and if you have never experienced falling from that height, let me tell you, it ain’t fun!
The first thing you (should!) learn in stilting is how to fall properly. Falling forward is important to prevent injury. Doing that intentionally over and over again helps you get over the fear of falling, and drills what to do in your head.
I am a total novice stilter. The first time I got up on stilts I agreed to perform at a show taking place 3 days later. I just happen to have good balance and picked it up quickly. But, that was back in June and I hadn’t done it again until the day of Pride!
When I got up I was a little wobbly but not too bad. I was mostly nervous about walking through the crowds of people and the uneven park terrain. Once we started walking, hooping, dancing and mingling I was feeling great. We took pictures with a ton of people and several people asked “have you ever fallen???”, to which I replied “only on purpose!”. I should have known those words would jinx me!
I was feeling solid. And maybe, a little too comfortable. We made our way back to our booth and one of my cohorts was tossing her hoop up in the air. That’s when the brilliant idea hit me- “You throw it up really high and I’ll catch it!”. She threw it, slightly out of my reach. I reacted quickly with a response that, had I not been on stilts would have been OK. But I was.
I started stepping forward, trying to regain balance but I couldn’t do it. I stumbled probably 15′ in my attempt to save myself, but the inevitable was upon me and I was going down. Riiiiiight next to/on top of a tree. I started to panic and then in a split second, my instincts kicked in and I leaned into it and fell, somewhat gracefully. The hoop I had been holding got stuck in the tree on my way down and dangled way out of reach above my head
I assessed myself for injury. Nope, all was fine. Not a scratch on me. I said a quick prayer of gratitude for knee pads. I heard someone laughing, which could have been at something else, but c’mon! People kindly rushed over to check on me. I’m on the ground, my hoop stuck in a tree and now I have to get up.
Picture yourself on the ground with stilts on- how do you get up? It’s HARD! I had to crawl, on my hands and knees across another 10 foot stretch of grass to get to a tall light-post I could hold onto. Then I did a super sexy just-born-giraffe pull, squirm, shimmy, climb move up on to my stilts again. Then, I walked over and pulled my hoop out of the tree. It was quite a site, I’m sure.
I waited for the embarrassment to hit me but somehow, it didn’t come. I mean, I felt silly but I was actually relieved! I got my first fall out of the way. I didn’t hurt anyone. I didn’t get hurt. Now I know what it feels like and I don’t have to worry about it. Maybe I’m totally wacky, but I take comfort in the worst-case scenario happening first. I just want to get it over with! (Like the time I did my first performance at a fancy club. We were up on this balcony, a few stories in the air. I was so afraid I would throw my hoop off the side of the building. And sure enough, I threw my friend’s $400 LED hula hoop. It first landed IN A FIRE PIT, and then fell into the crowd of people below. Now *that* was embarrassing.)
I stilted long enough to get comfortable again so that falling wasn’t my last experience.
Later that night we rocked our hoops at a club after party. We all got back up on our stilts and hooped, and danced like happy fools. I felt so confident! I was inspired by my other stilting, hooping friends who were able to move so fluidly with these awkward, heavy legs. I started doing things I didn’t know I could do! It was fantastic. Until…
We ended up in a pretty tight space dancing closely together, with a bunch of people on the ground below us, also dancing. One of the other stilters and I were dancing together. And all of a sudden, our knees did some bizarro knocking into each other thing and she lost her balance and had no choice but to fall, right at my feet. I had gotten bumped when she started falling and now I was going down, for the second time! She was on the ground right in front of me. I had the choice to throw myself sideways and risk wrenching my knees, or land of top of her. I totally chose her.
I proceeded to make my slow-motion dissent to the ground, my impact cushioned by my fallen comrade. Now in the middle of this big ole party, are two bedazzled, costumed stilters in a laughing pile on the ground. We managed to detangle our intertwined long legs and then we both had to crawl through the dancing crowd in separate directions to find something tall to grab and just-born-giraffe pull, squirm, shimmy, climb move back up. Again.
I was so glad she wasn’t hurt, so glad I wasn’t hurt, so glad the crowd parted and let us fall without hurting anyone else, and so glad that none of our lady parts came out of our costumery. Because while I managed to remain collected in the face of such steep downward trajectories, I’m not sure I could bear a nip slip or booty short split too. ;-)
I waited again for the wave of humiliation. I don’t know if I was just having so much fun, or if the life lesson analogy is true and I have come to a place of handling failures with minimal ego bruising and a sense of humor. Or maybe it’s because I can’t take myself too seriously when I’m covered in glitter, dressed in a mock marching band outfit and fake eyelashes, surrounded by a bunch of joyful, celebrating, half-naked (not to mention drunk!) people. For whatever reason, I just kept on dancing, hooping, loving life and loving myself. For taking the chance. For being brave. For allowing these opportunities in my life, and stumbling through them even when it’s hard to stay balanced.
This coming Halloween marks 5 years to the day that N left school and we jumped headfirst, into Unschooling. When we embarked down this path I didn’t know what our lives would look like 5 years in the future. We made the decision to change our ways based on the fact that traditional parenting WASN’T working. The picture of our lives then was full of conflict, stress, disrespect, and sadness. Not that we never had good times mind you, but underneath those good times was tension. Because with traditional parenting, lurking behind each joyful bonding moment, is the potential to have to go into authoritarian mode and punish, correct, degrade, embarrass and/or disconnect if your child does something off of your list of things they shouldn’t do.
That wasn’t working. It didn’t feel good for anyone and more than that, I could see the future of that path. I could see that our relationships would grow more and more strained over the years if I couldn’t get to place of acceptance. Every instinct I had was telling me to go in a different direction. We made the decision to stop controlling. Stop micro-managing. Stop reacting. Stop punishing. Stop nit-picking every little thing. Stop acting like we knew them better than they did.
We had no idea what life would look like without all that negativity. How sad is that? That was all we knew, and life without that was a foggy, cloudy, mystery. We hoped that it would be lovely. We trusted that it would work out. I had a few specific things I was crossing my fingers for- one was that my kids would be able to talk to me about relationships, puberty, drugs and alcohol, sex, and all those sensitive topics. To me that was a sign of a healthy relationship. Other than that, I really didn’t know what to expect.
I’m happy to report that life on this side, is pretty darn fabulous. Our relationships are strong, strong enough to weather the ups and downs. And of course, there are still downs. But you know what there is a whole lot more of? AWESOMENESS! Awesomeness in the form of:
Up all night snuggling and giggling, watching cartoons. So. Many. Moments that would have been missed in the world of “OK, it’s bed time.” Moments that would have been missed in the world of “that TV show is [insert negative adjective ie. stupid, worthless, pointless, weird, gross, brain-rotting, too violent, etc.].
Being asked to make salads and healthy snack trays every day. Even when there are marshmallows and ice cream and chips. Healthy decisions being made of their own accord, that wouldn’t happen if I forbid them to eat ice cream for breakfast when that is what they feel like.
Having your child, in the heat of an argument, excuse themselves to their room to cool off and then come back a while later and deliver a heartfelt apology. This! As opposed to being sent to their room for a time-out and then forced to apologize.
Having “I love you” shouted to you across the house, whispered in your ear, written on paper, mirrors and bodies, and said lovingly approximately one thousand times a day.
Your pre-teen pausing his game and Skype chats with friends to come and tell you the HILARIOUS things that just happened. Just the fact that he stops to come and share those moments with me is such a gift! It is a total bonus that they also most often involve lively language and sexual innuendo. Such as “Holy shit mom, there’s a level called the Orc-chasm, isn’t that funny?!”. That to me is a clear sign of a healthy and functioning parent-child relationship. Moments of sweet connection that would have been missed in the world of “go to your room for saying that word!”.
Watching television shows and discussing all manner of hot topics casually. Opportunities for having informative, honest, real conversations that would have been missed if we censored and avoided shows with exposure to that kind of thing.
Apologizing for your own moments of wrong-doing and being lovingly forgiven. This has been a huge life lesson for me. Learning to humble myself and fully embrace my imperfections, and model that to them is incredible. Receiving their love and acceptance in spite of my mistakes has taught me how to give that back to them.
Your children compassionately taking care of you when you’re sick. I remember the first time I woke up sick when we had fun plans for the day. I suffered through getting up and ready, packing bags and food etc. and feeling terrible. I didn’t want to disappoint them by cancelling plans. We left the house and had only been gone a few minutes when I burst into tears because I felt so miserable. They were both so kind and understanding and were completely fine postponing plans for another day. Then at home, they tucked me into bed and took care of me and each other!
Being greeted at the door after grocery shopping by kids eager to help bring the bags in. Moments that wouldn’t be so great if they were told they had to.
Getting advice *from* your kids. And taking it because they are so wise. Many, many conversations that would have been missed if I continued operating under the illusion that adults know better than kids.
Being awed by their sense of self and their dedication to being true to it. An adeptness at self-care that they wouldn’t have developed if they’d been told who, what, when, where, why and how all their lives, instead of being allowed the space to learn for themselves.
Being able to talk out disagreements intelligently, compassionately and respectfully. No shame. No imposed consequences. Witnessing their ah-ha! moments because they were able to make mistakes and realize better ways of handling situations without our interference.
Being asked permission for random things all the time. For example, E called me while I was out running errands today to ask me if she could color on the box of a board game. N, who has a million online games and accounts and probably knows more about the internet and technology than me, still asks me if he can download a free game, or enter his email address in a website. For a while, I thought that this was a sign that they still felt they were under my control. That we hadn’t got as far as I thought we had. But what I’ve realized is that they ask because they respect and trust me…and that is huge. Think about it- kids who can assume they are going to be told no, don’t ask for permission, they just sneak or hide and hope they don’t get caught. Or they ask and are sorely disappointed and angry and frustrated. Kids who are punished when they do something they aren’t supposed to, are much less likely to ask in the future or admit the truth. The fact that they ask me so much means they are used to having their wishes heard and granted often, and that they respect that there are things I have to say no to sometimes. Our relationship is based on respect and understanding, rather than fear and manipulation.
Something else I didn’t foresee was how close it would bring my husband and I. Having such powerful conversations re-evaluating our thoughts and ideas about our relationships with our kids, and how to be the best parents to these kids we can be. It has been an incredibly bonding experience for us.
And lastly, one of the most unexpected benefits is how healing it is for me, to wholeheartedly accept, love and embrace who these children are. Indulging in their passions and doing everything I can to make sure they are fulfilled and loved feels just as good to me as it does them! Giving myself the freedom to say “yes! you can eat that pizza”, “yes! you can watch that scary movie”, “yes! you can have an extra $5 allowance”, “yes! I will take you to get a milkshake you are craving”, “yes! I will take you to midnight release of a new game”, “yes! we can go get a new book”, “yes! you can wear that outfit that I would never choose in a million years”, “yes! you can bring that backpack twice your size full of stuff you don’t need just to go to one store for 5 minutes”, “yes! I will buy you a new flavor because you don’t like that one”, “yes! I will watch you play that video game that I don’t understand at all”, “yes! you can stop the sport/class/lesson that you aren’t feeling passionate about anymore”, “yes! we can go up on the roof just because”, “yes! we can go jump in rain puddles at 2am because it’s an adventure”, “yes! we can roast marshmallows over a candle in the kitchen!”, “yes! we can move all the furniture and have a Nerf battle!”…all of that YES! pleases me so much. And that was not something I could have imagined in the beginning of this journey, when I was stuck in martyrdom.
When we began on this uncharted territory, I had no idea that what I would learn is the value of doing things because “it feels good”. That isn’t something we are taught. We are taught to do things out of obligation, supposed to, should, fear of disapproval, not upsetting the status quo, not making people uncomfortable, upholding tradition etc. Those things don’t rule my life anymore, and I wont let them rule my kids’ lives either!
Looking ahead again, I don’t know what another 5 years on this path will bring. My kids will be 12 and 16 and will no doubt be continuing to blow me away. I so look forward to seeing how much more we can unfold and unfurl and become more rooted in what feels good.
My honey and I had the immense pleasure of seeing The Shins in concert and I’m still bubbling with excitement.
Go listen. Do it. Now! Or at least read the lyrics-
‘Til the need seeps in,
You’re low anymore,
Collect your novel petals for the stem,
Melt and flow,
Eviscerate your fragile frame,
And spill it out in the ragged floor,
A thousand different versions of yourself,
And if the old guard still offend,
They got nothing left on which you depend,
So enlist every ounce,
Of your bright blood,
And off with their heads,
Jump from a book,
You’re not obliged to swallow anything you despise,
See, those unrepenting buzzards want your life,
And they got no right,
As sure as you have eyes,
They got no right,
Just put yourself in my new shoes,
And see that I do what I do,
Because the old guard still offend,
We got nothing left on which we depend,
So we waste every ounce,
Of your bright blood,
And off with their heads,
Jump from a book,
And you’re not obliged,
To swallow anything that you despise
That song has my rebel soul woven through every word. It’s about declaring yourself no longer subject to other people’s fuckery.
I’ve been on a very personal journey to know and love and heal myself the last handful of years. It’s a lot of work. And it’s never done! That the crazy thing is that I’ll deal with something and think I’ve buried it. But lo and behold- out it pops again, to remind me to keep working.
I have thought that I was a ‘stand up for myself’ kind of person. I have taken a pretty alternative path for most of my life and that requires a certain confidence and boldness. I’ve taken criticism and judgement. I have cut relationships out of my life that weren’t healthy. I have felt like I was doing a pretty darn good job of valuing myself and making sure that the people in my life respect me.
So, it kind of came as a shock to me when talking with some close friends recently, that there is still some lingering, sneaky, ninja style baggage to deal with in that department. At first I was defensive. Which is always a red flag waving TRUTH in my face. I sat with things for a while and realized that it’s time for me to sink deeper into creating the respect and treatment that I deserve. I definitely tend to take a peace-maker role in relationships and that can be really one-sided.
I’m taking advice from the Shins song that speaks to me so much, (and my amazing, insightful friends!) and enlisting every ounce of my bright blood, and off with their heads! I’m not obliged to swallow anything I despise.
Life is too fucking short for that shit.
At the concert I didn’t know if they’d play that song. I really hoped so, but I didn’t count on it. I thought if they did I would be reduced to weeping puddle on the ground. But they DID play it. And I didn’t weep. I danced and shouted and jumped and rejoiced with the renewed bravery to really take care of myself.
And it was so good.
I am most definitely on a self love mission.
I am absolutely committed to loving myself.
I wont grow complacent or indifferent.
I will show myself care and kindness every day.
I will celebrate this life, this body, this mind, and soul.
Past, present and future me are all welcome.
And so are you! I’ll be blogging a bit about ways I’m showing myself some love, and I’ll be instagramming daily. You can find me @spinningcircles and I’ll be tagging photos #selflovemission
Throughout the summer months hooping in Tucson becomes a bit unpleasant. Between the heat and mosquitoes I was hardly getting my practice time in. There isn’t anywhere in the house big enough either and I was getting frustrated. On a random Sunday afternoon I moved our bed all the way into the corner to see if it left me enough space. It did!! Over the next couple days our room was painted and decorated and my hoop space was born.
We attached some closet door mirrors to the wall and used nails to hang poi, Palm torches and hoops. The basket on the floor has my juggling balls. The paint color isn’t coming through in the photos, but it’s zero voc paint by Olympic called Green Grapes.
I used my grandmother’s old suitcase for my costume chaos.
This is a painting my friend made based on a photo of us sitting in my hoop.
This is the dreamy, powerful redwoods from one of my best friends.
This ones a messy collage I made.
And I love, love, love my star mirror.
Add some succulents and incense and you’re looking at my own personal sanctuary.
This was a cheap, easy project that made a huge difference in my daily peace of mind.
Stop by anytime! :)
My husband and I never had a honeymoon. Between attachment parenting and radical unschooling our kids, being broke, work commitments etc. in our 8 years of marriage we’ve never both been away from the kids at the same time. So when we bought tickets to a Red Hot Chili Peppers concert in Phoenix and decided we’d also get a hotel room and stay the night, it was a big moment. There were many causes of anxiety about it, but we decided to go for it anyway. Negotiating a super sweet priceline deal on a 4 star hotel right next the arena sealed the deal. :-)
We got the kids some extra yummy snacks. Put mattresses on the living room floor, sleepover style. Did some last minute shoe-tying lessons, and made sure the art supplies were stocked.
Everything went flawlessly. The kids had a great time, without any upset. And us? Well, it was just about the best thing ever.
The two hour drive went by in a flash because we talked the whole. time. It was so nice to start long, involved conversations without fear of being interrupted!
The whole weekend we talked about feminism, to politics, to music, work, friendships, marriage, family and, and, and…everything.
We ate at grown-up restaurants, drank grown-up drinks.
We got our socks rocked by the Peppers.
We laughed a lot. And held hands. And cuddled.
We had the theater to ourselves for a movie, shared a cherry coke, and played games in the lobby.
We learned that so far, we are in zero danger of running out of things to talk about or laugh about. We came home to happy, cuddly kids.
This will most definitely be happening again, and this time we wont be waiting 8 years!