8 Years Unschooling to the First Day of Public High School

This is a really overdue blog post. The whole transition of unschooler-to-public-schooler actually started almost 2 years ago. So excuse me while I quite possibly make this the longest blog post I’ve ever written (or in case it takes you two years to read it). Because I’m sure many of you can understand, there’s a lot that goes into a story like this.

8 years unschooled, first day of high school
Let me start by saying that although the principles and philosophies of unschooling are very much at the heart of our entire lifestyle, we dropped the unschooling label a long time ago. And for a lot of reasons, but mostly because I really started to disconnect with parts of the unschooling community and the lack of respect it ironically showed. It just stopped resonating as a term we needed to use, and even more so as a community we felt we belonged to. I think this is kind of natural, and maybe even as it should be. As some point your life should stop being about the method of life, and just become about your life itself. This is the purpose of the unschooling lifestyle after all…to question the way in which things “should” be, in order to find the way in which they naturally are.

I lost that for awhile. I got caught up in the title, like a badge of honor. I was an Unschooler, and I held that up as an ideal, instead of holding up our own selves.

At this point, “unschooling” is so many different things for me – both good and bad. I’ve kept what I learned from it – mutual respect, treating all people as human beings, working with one another instead of using the top-down approach, laughter and fun, honoring ourselves and our needs. I left the rest – the dogma, the judgment of other parents (although I think I can safely say I was much more aware of not being THAT kind of unschooler, although I’m sure I still came off that way at times), the false idea that it should look a certain way, or if it didn’t, we were doing something wrong.

Actually, let’s go back to the beginning…

How We Stopped Thinking of Ourselves as “Unschoolers”

It was almost two years ago and Justin and I were still catching our breathe after The Big 12. Twelve years old was a shitty year, folks. I know, unschoolers aren’t supposed to have shitty years. Their children are suppose to fart sunshine and rainbows because of the overwhelming joy of living such a Free and Radical Life.

Like this…

What unschooling is like?

Twelve was my year of panic. Of holy-shit-what-am-I-doing-wrong. Or self-doubt and self-hatred. My son was most definitely spewing something colorful from his mouth, but it wasn’t rainbows and glitter. It was anger and frustration and a deep unhappiness and hopelessness for the state of the world, and of course, as an infallible unschooler, that meant it was my fault.

Twelve was also the year I found out the truth about raising teenagers. It! Is! Freaking! Awesome! AFTER they go through the puberty transition.

While I have met many, many teens that transitioned through puberty with their glittery eyes still in tact, I also began to meet unschooling parents of older teens, parents who are amazing and who inspire thousands of other parents, but who also raised a teenager through some unhappy years. These parents don’t often speak of The Hard Years publicly, because well, let’s face it…there’s quite enough teen bashing these days. And while that’s not at all what I wanted, I did want to find someone who could help me breathe and laugh through it. And you don’t find that kind of support in public unschooling forums. You find that shit with girlfriends and a good partner over a few glasses of wine and a late night.

Justin and I did a lot of desperate laughing that year. “Twelve” has become our code word for “you better start laughing before you cry”. We were wise enough to do this laughing privately to ourselves. But I’ll be blunt, making fun of teen drama in the privacy of our own date nights quite literally saved our family from complete annihilation. I wouldn’t want to be the parents who ridicules or taunts in front of others, but I suddenly got where they were coming from. It’s fucking hard to remain grounded, collected, present when your child is just flat out angry all the time. And especially when that anger, despite everyone’s best efforts, gets directed at you.

Zeb still can’t say where all his anger comes from. (And yes, he still deals with it. More on that later.) He expressed to us many times that he hated that he took it out on us. And that helped, too. Knowing he thought he was being a buttonhole, too. We also grew to have a lot of compassion for the eternal struggle that is Twelve. Because we could see how hard it was on him. And we could remember enough of it ourselves.

We read this book called “Yes, Your Teen is Crazy“, which despite the not-so-hot title, was actually a really good book. Well, the first few chapters were anyway. We never finished it. Because all we really needed were those first few chapters where he explained exactly what’s happening in the brain of a teenager. We couldn’t read that and NOT have compassion. But I think more than that, it gave me permission to not hold the expectation of my Perfect Unschooler to be a Perfect Unschooler.

And that was the start of it. Permission to see and support him, not the ideal I had of our life.

Yes, I totally had an expectation and an ideal, because that’s what came with the unschooling package. You see all these amazing teens, and you think “Unschooling creates that. I want that.” So, you go about creating Unschooling. But life and the human condition, neither work that way. And unschooling really shouldn’t either.

I had an expectation that he be happy, self-motivated, interested, and interesting. Instead he was depressed, angry, resistant of anything that looked like anything (even things he enjoyed), completely disinterested, and seriously boring for awhile there.

This is how I know parenting is an exercise in self-growth. Because our children give us exactly what we need to learn to love unconditionally. No freaking conditions, people. It gets hard when you look at it like that.

We were traveling full-time and he wanted to stay in his room (which became affectionately known as The Cave). He missed out on dozens of amazing places, including San Francisco, which really bums him out now. We didn’t push him out very often (generally only once per state), and he said he preferred that. He played video games and read books and while most unschoolers would say “Yay! He was enjoying himself!”, he really wasn’t. He was just stuck. He avoided new things out of fear and discomfort. He was only happy about the fact that he could avoid them, but that didn’t leave him very satisfied. He was overwhelmed and depressed and we tried to respond with more of what we thought he needed.

But more tragically, I wasn’t seeing him as a human being with real struggles and an ego that likes to do crazy shit. I was seeing him as a Super Child, as all children somehow are, completely capable of stopping speeding bullets of bullshit with their toothless grins and overcoming emotional hurdles in a single bound. And if I have to say there was anywhere that unschooling and I went wrong, it would be that. The idea that kids are not still crazy little human beings like the rest of us, that they don’t make bad choices for themselves, and can always listen to their intuition and discern their needs. Yes, we all come from stardust and Light, and when connected to that Source we are amazing beings capable of magical moves of clarity and wisdom. But our egos are still intact from before we are born and even in perfect childhoods, we still discern and create some crazy perspectives that we then get to overcome. Unschooling doesn’t mean you are blessed with the privilege of raising a Buddha or a Christ. It means that maybe you won’t get in their way quite so much, and perhaps their therapy bill will be a little less, because you were at least aware enough of your own crap, your own expectations, your own burden of “should’s” to not give them added baggage for their own journey.

But the idea that unschooling “creates” anything, except maybe a little more space to learn from your mistakes, is just false. You can give your child a calm home, help them work with their strengths and learning style, support them as they chase their dreams, and you know what can still happen? They can have the personality that sees their privileged life and the underprivileged lives of others, and still create for themselves the perspective that they are neither good enough, nor deserving enough to be so happy wen others aren’t. They can feel overwhelmed by the gift of choice. They can think you’re too wild and want to be more orderly. Or they can think you’re too soft and end up being hard. They can feel the overwhelming biological desire to break away from the nest, and just do the exact opposite of any amazing thing you pride yourself on the ability to do. And there is nothing, absolutely nothing you can do, except hope that you can keep your shit together, not take it personally, learn to roll with the mood of the day, and admit you actually know jackshit about who your cild is and what they need.

That last one? Not knowing jackshit about who your child actually is? That’s a humbling one to realize. I would know. I thought living with him 24/7, being able to talk frankly and openly (yes, even through Twelve, we still kept our ability to connect and talk mostly in tact), meant that I knew who my child is. Man, that sounds so arrogant. I barely know who I am and I hang out in my head all day long. To assume I know 1/10th of what’s actually happening in another person’s head, regardless of whether they are 3 or 12 or 15 or even after they tell me…yeah, humbling to realize that’s just not that possible, even when we’re pretty good at it.

And that realization, that I had it all wrong, is what started the mechanisms almost two years ago that had me watching as my 15 year old confidently walked into school this morning.

The Big, Fat, Aha Moment

Yes, it all boils down to this one moment. The moment that all those realizations and life-altering changes in understanding I droned on about up there clicked into place.

Like I said, it was shortly after his thirteenth birthday, still with major remnants of 12, but with full on must-figure-this-out gears moving in my head. We were at a small state park in FL. Zeb had wanted to visit family back home again, so we sent him for a month, something we were doing about twice a year. Except this time I knew his time away was going to change things.

I was walking the hiking paths in the park, thinking(worrying,stressing) about Who He Is and Where He Is and Why He Is, and putting prayers out into the Universe that clarity and understanding would smash all this heartache to bits. And just like that, it kinda did. Kinda.

I had two instant and consecutive visions in my mind that are hard to describe but said exactly this:

“What feels like open space and freedom and possibility to you has been feeling like a gaping, scary vacancy to your son. And what feels like confinement to you, what makes you itchy to squirm and run, what feels claustrophobic, like a straightjacket to you…feels like a warm embrace to him, like two arms wrapped around him, holding him when he tries to take on the task of holding the world together, like a swaddling blanket, warm and comfortable and secure.”

It sounds so silly, so obvious, that maybe what I love isn’t what my child loves or needs. That maybe, just possibly, most likely, my child is the exact opposite of me, because after all he’s not some facsimile that I reproduce on my Xerox baby-making machine. My DNA may be coursing through his body, but personality most certainly is its own dirty animal, capable and quite willing to play some dirty tricks on unsuspecting parents.

Around that time I had started hearing more things about personalities, especially personalities that just take the world more seriously. I started learning that these are the personalities that are often accused on being “perfectionists”, when in fact their strength is in noticing what could be improved, which, especially at age Twelve, happens to look like pointing out and focusing on the negative. I started to learn more about these personalities, about how they love routine and structure (OMG! The S word! Ack!), how they like fewer choices, how they feel personally responsible for the state of the world and that can often lead to a crushing depression when you want to save said world, but also feel as though said world may be beyond saving.

Personality. Ohmyfreakinggoodness. THAT was my Aha moment. I’ve known for a long time that his intensity was a personality trait, but I was still waiting for it to pass like it was instead a personality flaw that time and space would heal.

It was just this giant lightbulb moment that turned all my glittery, rainbowy, life-is-good Kumbaya stories on their heads.

My child has a personality. And it’s nothing like mine.

And therefore no amount of MY ideas of freedom and choice and love and hippie beads was going to make him happy. Because those aren’t HIS kinds of happy.

His kinds of happy? The happiest and most fulfilled I’ve seen him? Arguing politics, standing up for equal rights, canvassing for elections (I know some of you remember that…back in ’08? He was one passionate 8 year old at the State Convention!), feeding the homeless, giving away his things to a child, debating damn near anything with damn near anyone.

He wasn’t all smiles and sunshine through all of it. But he was lit up with a sense of purpose. He was making a difference in the world. Not because it was fun or exciting or even enjoyable. But because it was HIM, and necessary to his personhood.

This all hit me pretty hard. Not in a bad way, like I was devastated. But in a Holy Crap way, like how could I have been so blind? I took a step back and I just started observing. I started admitting that despite the fact that I may have helped countless other parents through their own struggles, this parenting thing through me a curve I hadn’t expected and had totally struck out on. I humbled myself. And I started all over. Except this time I didn’t come to it looking for a new label or lifestyle. I came to it looking only at my son, what he needed, and what that could look like.

Don’t get me wrong. I didn’t, and still haven’t, nailed this transition with some sense of altruistic grace. I wasn’t thinking solely of Zeb, and not at all of my own self-image or fears. I was humbled, but it hurt. I was afraid, mostly of unschooling backlash, and I had a lot of that fear to deal with. What would it look like if I stopped calling ourselves unschoolers? What would it look like if I admitted that my kid was a radically different person than the vision of unschooling we’ve all grown to accept? What would happen if I let it be known that words like “happy” or “excited” don’t fit Zeb? I was battling my own inner demons calling me a failure and a fraud as a mother and a blogger and a mentor. It took me some time to fully distance myself from the label, and from the people who lived and breathed and judged by the label. It took me longer to feel at peace with that decision and no longer worry about the backlash. (Yes, this is part of why it took me almost 2 years to write this.)

What helped me?

Realizing that we had – for six flipping years – not seen that we were LIFE-learning with a child who feels overwhelmed by the bigness of LIFE; we were making “the world our classroom” for a child who was overwhelmed by the heaviness of the world.

We thought the problem was in how intense and overwhelmed he was feeling, and the solution was in unschooling. Instead the struggle was in not helping him understand his strengths (his ability to pick up on things that can be improved) AND his weaknesses (the way these “imperfections” can overtake him), and instead trying to help him by “giving him more time”, “giving him more space”, and trusting it all to work itself out.

When Zeb came home from that month trip, we all sat down and talked. Instead of me laying it all out on the table, I instead recognized how that overwhelms him and I held my cards a little closer. I don’t remember everything we talked about, or every decision that we made, but I do remember talking about how we’d all like things to look.

One of the main surprises dealt to us from that conversation was that Zeb was ready for school. This was something we both supported and struggled with. First of all, we were still “on the road” and had some more travel plans. Second, having spent 8 years in the homeschooling/unschooling community means hearing a lot of horror stories of public school and all the reasons why our friends had become refugees of it. Third, was he prepared for the stress, the social inequalities (remember, this is the kid that sees and feels responsible for righting the wrongs in the world) the expectations, the work load, the culture? And were we?

So, we eased ourselves into the idea. We finished up the rest of our travels, and came back to the panhandle of FL to make plans. That’s when Life took over and things fell into place. Justin found work that turned into a business opportunity that turned into a rental home last fall. We debated starting in 8th grade, but Zeb felt he wasn’t prepared.

So, we took some assessment tests and found out he was on level in most areas and only about 6 months behind in math. But that wasn’t good enough for the person who most easily perceives imperfection, so he set himself a goal to be fully prepared by 9th grade.

During this time, we started preparing ourselves too. We met local families that had made the homeschool-to-high-school transition. We talked with parents of high schoolers about the teachers and faculty. We went in to meet the counselor.

Slowly, piece-by-piece, the whole thing was just clicking into place. Even to the point of being fully impressed with the student-faculty relationships we happened to eavesdrop on.

I won’t say it wasn’t nerve-wracking all the way up until next month, because it has been, but it’s no longer about “not unschooling”. It’s about “Zeb’s Next Adventure”. School feels less like the monster it certainly can be, and more like the resource it should be. And a good resource. With 7 good teachers who actually give a crap, and each with a different personality that will bring a different growth experience for all of us.

So, all this being from my perspective, lemme try to share from his…

Zeb’s Choice and Feelings on the Matter

Totally took a pic of his first day of school breakfast of champions

Ultimately, the choice to go to school was his, with a heavy influence from us. His three main reasons for going were:

  1. He wants to meet like-minded people.
  2. He’s OUT of his caveman phase and despite the fact that he’s still kind of a homebody, he wants to be OUT of the house all the time now.
  3. He wants to learn, and prefers the more structured format.

I do think if there was a democratic school in this area, he’d be much more apt to enjoy it. He still doesn’t like the top-down approach to education. He WANTS to be there, he WANTS to learn, and he’s wanting the whole experience. But he’d like it a lot more if he had more say in what and how and when and why. Maybe this will mean he runs for school counsel and fights the system from within. Maybe it’ll mean he learns radical acceptance and compromise and to not throw babies out with bath waters. Maybe he’ll get frustrated and quit. I don’t know.

We talked at great lengths about it all. What he might experience from teachers, staff, and students. How he would choose to navigate it. My biggest concern was his awareness of ageism and condescension, but thankfully we just haven’t seen a lot of that at this school. The dress codes aren’t ridiculous (a little sexist, yes, but at least they can wear flip flops) and they are allowed cell phones and tablets in class (if they are being used as is appropriate for the class). And like I said before, the student-faculty relationship is surprisingly positive. And you know I was looking for issues. ;) But he’s aware of these potential concerns and this is one of those times I get to step off and let him navigate these things himself.

Everyone keeps asking if he’s excited, but in case you haven’t gathered from what I’ve written so far, Zeb is an “excitable” kind of guy. He’s ready. He’s fully prepared, having gone over every possible scenario in his head (bad habit he likely picked up from me). At a few points in the last couple weeks he was even looking forward to it, and lamenting that school started too late in the month. And once last week, he seemed downright excited, but he snapped out of that craziness pretty fast. ;)

Mostly, he’s been surprising us.

Case in point: I was a basket case over The Day at the Fort….an upperclassman facilitated day for new Freshman to get acquainted with the school and each other. No parents allowed.

I thought he’d be his normal, quiet, reserved self. I was nervous that he’d feel nervous and awkward. Once again, Mom was wrong and he came home with a totally different story. He told me how much fun he had learning the cheers, the people he made friends with, the fun side he exhibited. He expressed concern that he might’ve turned off the more mature people he was looking to meet, but I think he took it to heart when I reminded him that mature, intelligent people also appreciate a sense of humor.

The same thing happened at the school orientation, despite the fact that we were allowed at this one. He easily talked to other students he had met, shared schedules, and made plans to connect on the first day of school. He was excited to find so many Attack On Titan fans complimenting his attire. He wore his kickass hat (and wore it again today). He looks so good in that hat. And his vest. My goodness, that guy.

Zeb's first day of school

There were a few times when he almost talked himself out of it, but those actually became less and less as the first day came closer. Talking with other students at the comic book store helped. Being bored to tears probably helped a lot too.

I don’t know what to expect when we go to pick him up from track in a few minutes, or what to expect in terms of workload (except that I’m assuming I’m going to be doing a lot of it with him the first few months), or what to expect in terms of what he’ll love or not love or want to do.

We talked about whether or not to commit to the whole year awhile back, but now that seems like a moot point. I don’t think he wants to quit. And I don’t think Justin and I will back just any decision to quit. We (and when I say we, I mean him too) have all recognized his desire to quit when things get hard. His perfectionism kicks in and while most perfectionists try harder, his natural inability to be completely perfect at everything he attempts usually makes him quit out of overwhelm. This is something we’ve been okay with in the past, but we’re not just blanketing an okay this time. A desire to quit will take a lot of discussion and a lot of sleeping on it, and no more snap decisions. Because if there is one thing we’ve learned, it’s that every time he quits he’s reaffirmed to himself that he’s not good enough and that has left him in a downward spiral that we’re trying to break. That’s not to say it’s off the table; it just means it will have to be the right decision because a better option is available that fits his needs and not an impulse decision based on frustration.

The drive to the 1st day of school

His first day!!

Overall, his mood can be described as prepared, determined, ready, slightly nervous, but mostly just let’s-do-this-already.

I’m sure I’ll have more to report on this in a week or so though. ;)

I’m gonna diverge into that logistics for a minute…

Zeb’s Classes and Teachers and Those Kind of Logistics

Zeb is taking ALL honors classes, plus cross country (with study hall), art, and debate.

The decision between Honors and basic classes was a hard one. On one hand, we didn’t want the workload and the added pressure that comes from Honors classes (definitely wanted to steer clear of AP classes). We understand the transition itself might be quite enough without adding in the extra performance stress. But one of the two main things Zeb wanted out of his school experience was to meet like-minded teens. Mature, intelligent, think-for-yourself types that have goals and make good decisions. He was more than a little worried over the maturity rate of most teens. So I talked ad nauseam with his school counselor – who was amaze balls, btw – to help discern if the Honors classes would be too much work for the payoff. We talked about his current academic level, his gaps, and his learning style, and we both came to the conclusion that Honors was a better fit. In part, because he’s used to a faster pace (not a lot of busywork in homeschool, yo), and in part, because unlike many kids who might be taking the easiest classes possible, he actually wanted to be there and that meant a caliber of student that also wanted to be there.

His first choice was a TWO PERIOD algebra class. TWO hours of algebra, because his wicked perfectionist streak was convincing him he was behind. Yeah, no. This is one of those times as a parent when you’re not sure when to allow them to make a choice or if you should step in and encourage something else. I stepped in, and as of last week we’re all glad. After talking with his algebra teacher, not only is he not going to be behind as he feared, he’s actually already ahead. Yes, of the Honors class. (Score for Kahn Academy!) That took a HUGE worry off his shoulders. He’s been busting ass with online classes, wanting really badly to be advanced. Apparently, some field he mentioned that I can’t remember is his “fallback plan” in case saving the world doesn’t pan out, and its heavy in mathematics. Particle physics? Something crazy like that. (This kid boggles my every loving mind.)

With that extra hour freed up, he could choose three electives. The first he chose was art. He loves to draw and has been doing quite a bit of progressing on his own. A structured art class will be interesting from our unstructured, interest-led stuff. Back in the day, some of the negative experience of school was in his art class. Lots of “you can’t do art that way” that created a lot of self-criticism that he has started moving past in the last couple years. So far it doesn’t look like the teacher is that “rulesy”, but of course, there is a lot of emphasis on techniques. Not a bad thing, but hopefully not a thin line between that and losing the actual joy of drawing that he’s been gaining.

The second elective he chose was Cross Country and Track & Field, which comes with its own study hall for 7th period. This might be the only class he changes. We had no idea that they practiced for 3 hours a day, 5 days a week, with meets on Saturdays (is that much running in the heat even healthy?). That means he’s up at 6am, out the door at 6:40am, and doesn’t get home until 5:15. He WANTS to run, but he’s not into competition and fundraising and all that extra jazz. He does like that the coach runs the study hall, and that extra hour to get homework done with a teacher’s help was a huge plus, but unless this team really ends up being a great fit for him (friendship wise) I don’t see him putting up with the rest. Have I mentioned Zeb is NOT competitive? Seriously, he just wants to run for the fun of running. So we talked and he’s gonna give it a week or two before we invest in the super fancy (read: expensive) running shoes. If it doesn’t work out he’ll transfer into the regular study hall instead and look into the art club and a few other things.

The third elective is Debate, and I really encouraged this one once he dropped the whole Double Math Hell (my perspective, not his) thing. He has an interest in politics and activism, and one way or another public speaking, debate, and strong opinions are likely to be a part of his future. Again, he’s not sure how he feels about the whole “competition” thing, but he definitely is interested in the class.

Biology Honors is a totally new thing for us. Other than hands-on, real life learning, we’ve never done anything from a book (not counting Google). But we LOVED his teacher! Among all the teachers in orientation, she was one of our faves. She’s upbeat, positive, and excited to have a former homeschooler. She gave us lots of information and tips. She just had an enthusiastic and excited energy, but also with a little bit of SuperWoman strength to her. I want to take her to coffee sometime.

Geography Honors is one of the classes I’m most excited to see how Zeb enjoys. We chose this one because the Honors class focuses more on current events and culture and less on maps. This was another teacher I LOVED and want to take to coffee. The fact that she agrees with Zeb that Jon Stewart is the best way to stay current on events made our day. This class really feels tailor-made for him, especially as he now has a desire to travel more (you know, AFTER we settled down) and cares so much about culture and politics. Plus, the teacher was awesome; did I mention that?

He’s most worried about English Honors. His handwriting is as atrocious as most people in 2014 who only type. And he’s still got gaps in grammar rules. He’s never written an essay, and although English is my favorite subject, I have no idea of the “proper” ways to format a sentence or a paragraph. As you can probably tell. But he likes to read, and real books too (he was kinda disappointed in the Teen Lit choices for the summer reading list). And after talking with the teacher, who is pro-technology and wears a Marvel character around her neck, she’s totally comfortable with working with him on his gaps. In fact, she really didn’t care much as long as he enjoys reading and has a desire to be there. Kinda seemed like she could work with anything after that. ;)

So Yeah, There’s All That

Holy all that is good in the world. If you stuck with me through all this you’re either morbidly curious or utterly fascinated. Or maybe just incredibly bored. Or like most people asking me to write this, you’ve got a kid that doesn’t seem to fit any mold or you’re wondering what all this looks like down the road should they choose another route.

I can tell you that this long novella is 1/10th of the emotions and thoughts and big ass shifts we’re going through. But his track meet is over in 3 minutes and I live exactly 2.5 minutes away, so I’ll have to come back with more another day. :)

Life is a Really Strange Beast. Death is Even Stranger.

My sweet man lost his mother last week, and in the worst way possible. 2000 miles away, he had to make the call to take her off life support. Because death doesn’t just slap you; when it gets the chance, it goes for the sucker punch.

It’s strange to watch someone go through something you’ve gone through. I keep remembering the Grief Bubble I walked in after my dad passed, as if I was insulated from reality. The world was there and I could hear it, but as if through glass or water. I remember how odd it was that life kept going when I was certain part of the universe had just disappeared. I remember how unfathomable it was to my mind that he could suddenly not be “here”, as if space itself could just disappear. That’s what it’s like to lose someone who brought you into existence. Unfathomable. I remember all that, and I wonder if Justin is in that same bubble.

Justin grieves differently than I did. Where I was comfortable checking in with myself, honoring my needs, asking for help, or allowing grief to take me, he’s more comfortable doing the same for others. Because his first job has always been to make sure others are happy, and I know how dangerous that is for him now. So, my role is different than his was and my job has been to become his external gauge. Seventeen times a day, as he’s making phone calls and carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders and trying to deny offers for support, I’m there asking him what he’s needing, how he’s feeling, and who he needs to lean on. I’m liaison for the really tough phone calls at the end of the day when he has nothing left. I’m caregiver, reminding him to take deeper breaths and lathering him with oils for the waves he’s riding. I’m advocate to help him remember that his grief is as important as anyone else’s. I’m facilitator to let others know what he needs when he can’t do so himself.

Through it all, as I watch Life necessarily pause for him, I watch it continue on for me. It feels odd to continue to work, in the same way he did when my dad passed and I was treading in sorrow. There is even a guilt that arises for me. I postponed or cancelled or asked for help for anything that needed doing but couldn’t give me the opportunity to interrupt to be available for him. But businesses still have to run, and we have several of them. And it’s weird and slightly uncomfortable to be walking between these two worlds, as necessary or as needed as it is.

Life is a really strange beast, isn’t it?

But Death is even stranger. It brings things into sharper focus. It uproots you from your comfort zone, spins you around 100 miles an hour, and throws us back down, dizzy and breathless and worn out, and feeling a little cracked open. Then it seems to disappear for awhile, giving you a bit of reprieve, allowing you to forget for a few hours as you watch a movie or run an errand. Until the force of your forgetfulness slams against you again, with an added layer of shame, because “how could we be laughing right now“.

I don’t understand grief. I have no answers.

But somehow that’s always felt like enough.

It’s enough to just mourn, to just sink in. It’s enough to just be present for someone without a damn thing to say, because what could be said anyway? It’s enough to just show up on someone’s doorstep, with a bag of frozen dinners and some cleaning supplies, because you know if you told them you were there if they needed anything, they wouldn’t remember what they needed in order to ask you.

Shit, I think that’s what death has always tried to teach me.

Just show up.

Show up at their bedside, even if your tongue swells too much to say goodbye. Show up at their doorstep, even if you’re not sure they like frozen lasagna. Show up for yourself, even if it’s easier to ignore it. Show up with a hug, even if you’re not sure how. Show up with a text message, even if you’d rather you weren’t so far away. Show up with a plane ticket, even if it’s awkward to stand amongst strangers.

Show up for Life, because hopefully you won’t get too many reminders like this of how necessary it is you keep on living.

We are blessed to have had so many people we love show up in these ways for us. It’s through their presence that we have learned to do the same for ourselves and others. So thank you for that, for your presence and your outpouring of love. We probably won’t ever get the chance to thank you individually, but I hope you know that every thought, every prayer, every shockwave of strength and magic, every text message, and every phone call was received, wrapped around us, and breathed in.

Justin and Kim

Our hearts are with you, Kim. You were loved and held more than you know. ♥

The Story of My Dream Car Almost Crushing My Dreams

Mama's gotta brand new ride! #minicooper #dreamcar #visionboard

I bought my dream car last week. The kind of car you give yourself permission to buy when you no longer tell yourself you have to be practical or realistic or whatever other stories I used to tell myself.

I never counted on it being such a huge lesson in patience, determination, forgiveness, and self-love.

That’s because I never counted on buying a manual. But as it turns out metallic blue, convertible Mini Coopers with my exact specifications AND with an automatic transmission are pretty rare. I know. I searched nationwide for what I wanted. We almost hopped planes to AZ, NJ, and southern FL to bring one home. But again and again the deets kept coming up bad – bad dealerships, bad CarFaxes, bad vibes man.

So when one popped up in our neighborhood that was a manual, I figured we could at least go look at it and give it a test drive. I told myself I wouldn’t settle for a manual. I want what I want and I was cool waiting until I found it. I’m past that point in my life where I give in too easily or tell myself I’m not worth it.

But she was so pretty, and she had what I wanted, and she was RIGHT THERE WITHIN REACH.

And so I changed my mind. Because that what you can do instead of “settling”. You can just change course.

I reminded myself that I do, in fact, know how to drive a manual; I’m just a little rusty, is all. Plus, this has always been one of those Bucket Lists things I’ve wanted to master. And I reminded myself that I am a strong, confident, 21st century woman, and so how hard can it really be?

That was T minus 48 hours before I found myself devastated and stranded in a parking lot.

I have never experienced so much stress and tension in my body as I did those first few days of re-learning a manual. I’ve never felt anxiety until I came up to a red light or stop sign after I’d only just got it into second gear. I’ve never felt so much pressure as when I stalled 12 times in the first hour with a pile of cars behind me. I’ve never felt my ego so bruised as that day when I decided, “I’ve got this. If every other woman I know can handle this, I can totally get to the post office by myself. Because again, how hard can it fucking be?

So I said to myself, "Suck it up buttercup. If @ficklefig can do this shizz, you totally can." So I attempted to drive to the post office by myself. It took me 6x as long and I tried to drive with the e-brake once. Then I had a panic attack and got stuck...

It took me 10 steering-wheel-clenching minutes just trying to pull out of my neighborhood. Another 10 minutes to make a drive that should’ve taken 2. Then another 2 minutes trying to figure out why I can’t reverse out of the parking spot without stalling (hello, emergency brake). Another 3 minutes cursing the fact that every place of business in this town seems to be inside a bowl, and stopping on hills is a curse given to us by the Manual Car Gods.

And then on my way home, thanks to the adrenaline and anxiety coursing through my veins at this point, I panicked before I hit the next red light, pulled into the closest parking lot (which thankfully happened to be the mall), and sunk into a pit of despair.

I waited an hour for Justin to come get me.

He sat beside me, quietly and in full presence (because I has already warned him against anything else) and then softly suggested we pull around to the back of the parking lot and practice again.

Now let me just say…there is this place inside you, when you’re feeling like you’ve bashed your head against a wall one too many times, where you don’t see the purpose of one more brain-rattling bang. It’s called hopelessness, and as melodramatic as it sounds, I was swimming in that place.

It wasn’t about the car, so much as the story I told myself about the car. About my Self. About what I thought I was capable of, versus what I’m actually capable of. About what it made me if I couldn’t get this down: Weak. Small. And countless other layers without words.

I know, I know…melodramatic.

But the thing is Life gives us a million small experiences to feel big, terrifying, overwhelming, or soul-crushing things. It’s never, ever, ever the experience itself that’s too big or too much. Each challenge is ultimately pretty small when held up against the trajectory of the Universe (or held up against our highest and healthiest Self). It’s always our perception, our thoughts and emotions that get stirred by these small things that truly shakes us up. That’s how a car that can almost fit in my closet could crush my spirit in ways I couldn’t fathom.

Because it wasn’t the car. It was what the car represented. My “Dream Car”. A reflection of myself. A deliberate decision to own my own personality. My ego. And the deep, dark story of that Ego that came pressing down on me when it had something to teach me: a lesson in humility, in confidence under pressure, in imperfection, in embarrassment, and the willingness to try again. Lessons that are never really over.

So, I sat in the parking lot that afternoon with Justin, deliberating my decisions.

I could sell that damn thing…

Or I could make the choice to not allow the story in my head oppress me, own me, keep me small. I could instead choose to take action, take a risk, and take back my own confidence.

So despite my feeling small and stupid, I began again.

It’s been a week now. I’ve only stalled once since that parking lot and although my chiropractor is gonna love our business from all the whiplash I’ve given my guys, and despite the fact that Zeb calls it a Decepticon (i.e. it’s a Transformer, but one that keeps trying to kill us every time I drive), I’m getting the hang of it.

And my own confidence is coming back. But in very different ways.

I was reading this fascinating article called The Confidence Gap, where it talked about the risks men are willing to take while women statistically hold themselves back by their own need for perfection and approval (coupled with maddening levels of self-doubt). And the thing that stood out to me was the discussion on the willingness to try and fail and try again leading to the resiliency of failure or rejection.

As I woman, I know I fear rejection…even from the strangers giving me the bird as I sputter through the intersection. I know I overthink things, imagine every scenario, and run through the steps again and again in my head. In fact, while I won’t say I fear failure per say, I do fear what failure might “say about me”. And I know the limitations these fears can create.

But I also know that when I’m awake to it, Life is always giving me opportunities to examine these unhelpful habits and refine them into something else. And maybe this is why I never felt like I “settled” for a manual I was adamant against having. Because Life brought me to it, not by accident. Not because it is necessarily fun yet, but because before it can be fun I have to master the obstacle keeping me from enjoying it – my own thoughts and the willingness to take a risk, screw up royally, and flick it off again, in order to find the resiliency and deeper sense of trust for myself.

(And as a bonus, when I master this thing, I’m gonna look pretty badass rolling in my Mini.)

The More I Know Myself, The Less I Care

The more I know myself, really and deeply know my Self, the less I’m finding I care…

I don’t care what I look like.
I don’t care that I make mistakes.
I don’t care that my thoughts go off on wild, unhelpful tangents.
I don’t care that I get afraid or triggered.
I don’t care to spend so much time Digging Deep. (Gasp! I know!)

The more I know myself, the less I find I care about others too…

I don’t care what others think of me.
I don’t care if they agree or disagree with me.
I don’t have endless opinions or fears on the choices they make either.
And I don’t care if I’m accepted or rejected.
(Yes, despite my equally strong drive to not blindly follow the norm, this was very much a big thing for me.)

Your peace of mind is always tied to your self-love and self-acceptance. - www.theorganicsister.com

I just don’t have the energy anymore, let alone the desire, to spend so much time and brain power on ridiculous or exhausting things. There is no part of me that wants to get dragged into it. And that’s a big deal folks! I can go into deep, messy, and uncomfortable places like those people on Hoarders. I like that stuff! It’s my job! So the fact that I want to and actually can so easily let it go and move on is kind of a Christmas miracle.

This wasn’t something I was expecting, although I think it makes perfect sense. When you know yourself, you come to a place of peace with Who You Are (and also, who you are). You come to a place of acceptance and trust and ease, too. And when you feel those things you just let go of the emotional drama you tend to feel, create, or get sucked into.

Because you just don’t flipping care to anymore.

This is the place of nonattachment, or pretty close to it. The place of neutrality, of things that once registered loud and clear no longer ringing the dinner bell, of being unaffected by the things that once paralyzed or catalyzed your every cell in the wrong direction.

When you get to this place your direction is clearer. You know what, when, and how to respond to the world around you. Your judgment isn’t clouded by the cares of what you can suddenly see were actually trivial from the beginning. You simply move when compelled to move; you experience a flow that is natural. There are no more blocks, barriers, or dams to impede you. It’s easier. You’re freer. You can see, feel, and react from something that is true and real, not founded on overwhelm, self-doubt, perfectionism, anxiety, or all the other words for fear.

I won’t say I’m 100% there. There are still things I care about that I’m working to let go (like the unhealthy actions of people that I love – that shit is hard). And there are some things that can only be described as my being “so freaking over that crap“, but that totally imparts a sense of annoyance, exasperation, and impatience, which tells me I’m not totally neutral or at peace with it yet, even though I’m so freaking ready to be.

Oh, I know what you’re thinking.

“How the hell am I suppose to be at peace when my child is hurting themselves or my mother is a crazy-maker? How am I suppose to be neutral when the world is falling to shit, and no one is doing anything about it?”

To that I have three responses to chew on:

  1. It’s hard work. It won’t happen overnight.
  2. Will your negative emotions help you respond better to the situation?
  3. Will a lack of negative emotions really keep you from responding at all?

The point isn’t blindness, ignorance, or even my flippant use of the term “not caring”.

The point is to not be so hot and bothered that Who You Are is negatively impacted by the way in which you respond. being at peace with what is doesn’t mean being inactive in its solutions… on the contrary, it usually means gaining access to clarity and wisdom on the Right Action.

You might just need to experience it for yourself to not think I’m crazy, though. (I know I didn’t get it until one day it clicked that no amount of despair or suffering would change my world for the better.)

And it’s okay if you DO think I’m nuts. I don’t mind. ;)

P.S. I’m going to be adding Digging Deep, Organic Parenting, etc to The Library in July and the price will increase to reflect those additions. Or you can still buy it now at its current cost and get those extras for free when it’s updated. #yay :)

The Fear of Public Speaking and What It Really Boiled Down To

Self-love and self-approval instead of self-judgment. (Follow the link to find tools to get you there!)- www.theorganicsister.comI realized recently that I don’t get scared speaking anymore. Not when I’m interviewing someone big or important, nor when I’m teaching my essential oil workshops (online or in-person ones).

I used to get out of my mind scared: butterflies, tightness, heart racing, the constant urge to pee my pants (no joke), and crazy thoughts of all kind of madness that could ensue, which usually involved images of people with pitchforks.

But without all those emotions and thoughts getting in the way I’ve found I actually have a strength and passion for teaching, presenting, and speaking. (If you had asked me that five years ago I would swallowed my tongue just thinking about it.)

I’ve spoken to some pretty amazing people in my life, people I admire or had a mild crush on – Steven Tyler (!!), Ricki Lake, Dr. Peter Gray – all with various amounts of nerves and confidence leading up to the moment. Interestingly enough, in all those situations I was never nervous IN the situation, always before when I was still in my own head about it (or after when I climbed back in there).

Part of this shift just came down to doing the work to no longer see myself as “not good enough” and holding others as “better than me”. It doesn’t matter who I’m talking to, I feel at ease because I know I’m talking to a reflection of myself, another beautiful soul, a manifestation of something wonderful. The same as me, each person.

I assume good intent now, where before I assumed judgment preluding rejection. I now assume I’m talking to a friend, because truly, beneath it all, I am.

I wrote this on Facebook the other day:

It’s a big fucking Aha moment to realize that whether people love and approve of you actually comes down to a) whether they love and approve of themselves, and b) whether YOU love and approve of YOURSELF.

If you haven’t experienced that shift in perspective, try it on for size. Start loving yourself, start approving of what you do (and/or doing what you actually approve of), start telling the BS fear-mongering stories in your mind that you are, indeed, quite good enough and quite deserving. Start paying more attention to your thoughts than what you perceive to be someone else’s.

Watch how all your relationships change, starting with the one you have with yourself.

And I think that pretty much sums it up. When I chose to love and approve of myself, my relationship with myself and what I loved and did obviously changed. But it also gave way to so much more ease and fun to be discovered in my relationships with others.

Try it on for size:

Take a pause from caring about what the drama is saying (whether it’s the drama in our minds or the drama in our lives). Start focusing more on how well you’re loving and accepting yourself in each (easy or challenging) moment. Watch how it gradually changes every relationship you have.

My tools to do this consisted of the same ones I’m always harping on ;), the ones I love and share freely:

  • Essential oils that impact emotions, triggers and stress. Namely for me, it was bergamot and wild orange. (Click the link to see why those two worked for me. It might be a very different oil for you depending on your underlying needs.)
  • Digging Deep and the tools talked about within to overcome core beliefs, resistance, and fears. (This one can actually help you find the oils that will support you too by showing you those underlying needs/triggers.)

It boils down to this: Find your triggers. Find your tools. Use them consistently. Constantly. Watch your life evolve.

When Your Good Life Makes Others Feel Guilty

I’ve been seeing a lot of those posts on Facebook, where a person apologizes for loving their life too loudly, and reassures everyone that it’s not actually perfect. They explain that they tend to focus on the good for their own benefit, but then they might rattle off all the things that suck to assure others that they are not trying to make anyone feel guilty.

I’m torn on this.

I understand the intention. I know none of us wants to portray something that isn’t realistic. And I know we want to be mindful of how our actions affect another human being. But is bringing our mindfulness practice, our personal growth, our spiritual awareness, or joy, or our embodiment of love down a level really helping anyone (ourselves included)?

You all know I share the depths of my soul, my emotional tornados, and my process through it all quite freely. You know I’m all about emotional honesty (when it’s coupled with emotional maturity and taking accountability for one’s own feelings).

But not as a means to ensure the world knows I don’t have it “too good”.

Neither you nor I am responsible for another person’s feelings. That doesn’t mean we aren’t accountable for our actions, or emotional patterns in our life, or how our actions may impact the world. It just means that it’s not our job to ensure someone else does or doesn’t feel something.

That’s an impossible for job for anyone but the owner of those emotions.

If someone accuses you of “making them” feel guilty, it’s simply not true. YOU aren’t the one making them feel guilty. Their own thoughts, their own comparisons, their own desires or choices are inspiring their own emotions. You could be a total ace, the next Patron Saint of the Internet, with your heart totally in the right place and a deep desire to heal the world, and someone could still accuse you of being an a-hole. It doesn’t have much to do with you, except that you happened to be in the right place and the right time to bump against their sore spots.

Sweet, beautiful, mindful, conscious soul who is trying hard to focus on the positive, spread love, and speak kindly in all things….don’t apologize for your healthy state of being. Don’t apologize for making conscious choices that lead you to wonderful things. Don’t apologize for working so diligently on your own growth. Don’t apologize for shining light into the world. Even when that light inadvertently shines on an aspect of something someone’s been working hard to avoid.

Don’t feel guilty that others are made uncomfortable by good things.

Feel compassion.

Don’t apologize for something that is none of your business.

Send them love.

Don’t change what you’re doing or try to convince them “my life sucks too”.

Keep yourself focused on your own inner work; not theirs.

Feel compassion.

P.S. You know The Library? Well, it’s expanding soon to include all my products and the price will expand with it. But if you jump on it now, you’ll get all the future updates for no extra cost. Cuz I’m all about the sweet deal. ;)

Miracles Happen When I Get Out of the Way

That’s been my reminder these past few weeks. (Getting out of the way.) I have a tendency when funk hits the fan to get in there. To stress. To get upset, in the very charming woe-is-me-Life-is-out-to-get-me kind of way. (Really, you should see me some time. You’d probably have a lot more compassion for your own bad days. I know, you’re all surprised. I may have some wisdom and mindfulness, but I also still have an ego to work with and she’s a tough nut to crack.)

But the past few weeks have been totally breathtaking in those subtle ways we don’t usually realize even when we are paying attention.

Let me start from the beginning….

First, Justin was in a car accident. Someone ran a red light and he plowed the poor guy over. Because I had been doing my own practice of mindfulness, meditation, and breathing, this totally didn’t freak me out. I just walked down to the site of the accident, gave him a giant squeeze, laughed about having a big truck, and took over calling the insurance and making him a chiropractic appt.

Justin's car accident

Because I didn’t freak out I actually felt thankful. I just had a good feeling about it.

Slightly sadistic, I know.

But here’s what came of it: No one was seriously hurt but the other guy was well-insured. His peeps took great care of us and gave us a hefty sum to replace Justin’s truck (veg conversion and all), plus time off work, and miscellaneous whatnots, including chiropractic care. We were thinking we might be needing to upgrade the truck soon anyway, and we were needing to find a chiropractor but had kept putting it off, and it was as if Life just had a funny way of making it all come together. (Oh, did I mention we had JUST met said chiropractor not 2 days before? And that she’s new to the area too, and quickly becoming a new friend? Yeah, thanks for that, Universe!)

Next up was the replacing of the truck….

Justin found the truck he wanted in Houston, did his due diligence, then hopped a plane, and was really pissed off when he arrived to a truck not as advertised. This poor guy had been stressing over finding a new truck for two weeks (not me though! yay!) so you can imagine how upset he was when he arrived to find nothing. Any other week and I would’ve been freaking out too, feeling like “Life is hard” and nothing ever works out and blah blah blah (my old old story comes up like that).

But we reminded ourselves that all things happen for a reason, and that he was indeed in the Truck Freaking Capitol of the World. So he set off to search Craigslist and less than 24 hours later he found exactly the truck he wanted in nearly-pristine condition and ideal for the veg conversion – better than what he had originally intended to buy! He text me how happy he was that he hadn’t settled, and I reminded myself how happy I am when I just trust the damn process.

Happy Justin!

But here’s where it gets good and I get goosebumps….

Because Justin stayed longer in Houston he missed one of his chiropractic appointments. Normally all our stress would’ve been oozing from our ears and we would’ve a) completely forgotten about the appointment, or b) cancelled it.

But by this time I was fully in this phase of just trusting the ever-loving process.

And when I’m in that place I see opportunities, not issues. I hear intuition, not fear and stress.

So I had this little inkling of an idea to ask our new kick-ass chiropractor (who happens to donate her patient’s first session to the animal shelter, I might add – seriously, how perfect of a fit is she?) if she could see Zeb instead.

Now Zeb hasn’t been to the chiropractor in ages, and he had just a physical with a holistic physician a month ago. ONE MONTH AGO. In her exam, she checked his spine (this is something we’ve always kept an eye on because of my own scoliosis) and had mentioned he needed to correct his posture because of some slight kyphosis (basically, slouching), but didn’t notice any scoliosis. Now, I know that’s no reason to not take our kids to the chiro, but taking him was actually the furthest thing from my mind. With what could’ve been all the stress we were under, it would’ve stayed furthest from my mind too.

But my mind and heart were clear enough to hear Life tell me to take him in.

And you’ll never guess what she found?

Yup, my man-child has scoliosis.

Now this is one of those things that is hard to explain. It seems minor when I try, but because of my own experience I KNOW the value of finding scoliosis early, how hard it can be to spot, and the things that can be avoid surgery or even bracing, and the devastation when it professes because of these things. These are things that when you learn too late for yourself, you never forget. But when you spot it early it is so easy to correct and avoid. And we caught it super-duper early.

The thing is, this thought to take him wasn’t a push. It wasn’t a strong feeling. It was just a gentle sticky thought that was plopped in my head and happened to sound like a good idea. Life created this little pocket of events that lined up all the pieces and parts to come together in half a dozen scenarios and in ways we couldn’t have created or known needed to be created with our heads in the way. There was no big fanfare, no gut reactions, just gentle shifts in course to keep us heading forward.

I’m not saying all this shit went down to get my kid to the chiropractor or to get Justin a truck. I don’t think Life takes such drastic steps if it doesn’t need to. I’m saying all this shit went down because it just did; because shit happens sometimes.

But because we remained firm in complete trust that it’s ultimately all good, these things were able to be used in ways that supported and blessed us in half a dozen ways (and counting).

And THAT is the long-winded point I’m getting to.

Sometimes we can’t connect the dots simply because we’re too far in our heads to even see them. Sometimes our stress or fear or need to micro-manage the outcome keeps us from seeing the opportunities ready to take place. Sometimes our entire world might seem like it’s falling apart – and sometimes it actually does just that – but there are still miracles waiting in the wings to take center stage.

Our fear, our stress, our worry, our complaining will NOT help us. Not even a little. (It doesn’t even feel good.) So it’s clear to me (right now anyway – ha) that there really is no logical alternative but to chill the freak out, take a deep breath, and lean all the way in. Because it’s all an opportunity for a miracle to take place.

6 Months In and It’s Kinda Sorta Maybe Starting to Feel Like Home, I Think

Six months has flown by. Our lease is already half up. We barely feel moved in.

We flew home to Las Vegas last month to visit family and hold some doTERRA events with our team. While we were there we rummaged through my mama’s attic, condensing the remaining artifacts of our previous life, trying to cut ties to what we no longer want to carry around with us but can’t stand to throw away.

I found my Pinterest-before-Pinterest-existed files, Zeb’s baby clothes, love letters from middle school, books upon books, 47 photo albums from back in the day when we used to actually develop our photos, memorabilia that never found its own scrapbook, and random piles of utter shit that came with no explanation as to why we stored it in the first place.

All in all we were able to pare it down to under a dozen boxes, shrink-wrap it to a pallet, and $800 later it was sent ahead of us to FL. Because apparently memories do have a price tag.

Six months we’ve been in this house but it didn’t feel real until we made the decision to unpack my mother’s attic. Until this point we’ve been slowing plodding away at creating little pockets of sacred space, finding things we love to fill our rooms, carefully choosing only the things we “find beautiful or know to be useful” as we promised ourselves.

This has resulted in a pretty empty house as we pick through what we don’t love to find the few pieces here or there, at antique stores or flea markets, that we can’t live without.

But we’ve found some things we DO love.

Like my little art space with its new paint box…

Antique handmade table for an art desk with retro orange velour chair, www.theorganicsister.com

Organizing paint, art space, antique crate, www.theorganicsister.com

And this sweet little table we picked up to keep crap off the counter… ;)

Real wood side table, found at TJ Maxx, www.theorganicsister.com

And my colorful living room with my fave rug that we discovered makes a great puppy chew toy…we’re still looking for the perfect coffee table and we’re considering hanging a hammock from the ceiling (right now the twin of my retro orange chair above is in there)…

My colorful work in progress living room, www.theorganicsister.com

And the platform bed Justin made while I’m still searching out a bedspread that hasn’t been eaten by dogs…

Handmade platform bed with cubby's for baskets, www.theorganicsister.com

And the table he also made with an old sewing machine base…

handmade rustic wood table with sewing machine base, www.theorganicsister.com

We’ve been slowing picking up mismatched chairs for it that we plan to paint the same color (we also have a couple one-person bench/stools that double as our nightstands)…

Mismatched chairs to be painted, www.theorganicsister.com

And my office space which can’t be done justice because of the sheer amount of clutter I have in there. ;) But I’m slowing building up my bookcase with old crates, and Justin’s rustic wood and steel pipe desk is amazeballs.

Rustic wood and pipe desk with vintage crate bookshelf in the making, www.theorganicsister.com

If you haven’t noticed we have the hots for rustic wood and antiques. I guess I could say the style is colorful eclectic with a heavy splash of splinters. ;)

Paint is still a headache we’re trying to battle, but I’m in love with lots of bright white. I’m just not in love with painting. (Note to self: Paint first. Move in second.)

I have to admit though, it’s been a mixed bag. There is this part of me that rejoices at the collection of things we love and the mindful putting together of a home. There’s another part of me that gets antsy as each new piece feels like a thread tying me down. Indvidually, a thread is no big deal. But collectively they have a strength to make me claustrophobic. (Bringing back our attic-full-of-stuff feels like bringing up the past, almost like baggage. We want it and we don’t.)

Truth is, I still need to travel. Not in an RV, but with a backpack (on wheels, mind you). I also want my community and a garden (neither we’ve been able to create much of yet). I want chickens…that someone else takes care of so I can drop it all and take off to South America or Bali or Thailand or India.

I want wings and roots. They seem at odds with one another but I’m insisting they’re not. ;) I get unsettled when I settle for two long. I get ungrounded when I don’t.

Wings and Roots

But overall, I am in love this little home. It’s just the right size: not the McMansion we used to have, and still a lot more elbow room than they RV, for sure. ;) And although it stretches me to remember that I am indeed free, despite the things I may fill it with, it’s a good kind of stretch. The kind that allows me to examine and let go of my unfounded fear. The kind that reminds me it’s still just stuff, even if it does make me happy.

I remember when we sold it all the first time. I walked around taking pictures of my reflection and contemplating our last night. We knew then that should we ever settle down we’d be starting over from scratch. It’s weird to start over in your 30′s, to have nothing and need to pay to restock your walls. It’s also beautiful to find the intention to find our own style this time.

So yes, these are the things that rattle around the head of a grounded nomad 6 months in. The back and forth of desires and needs fulfilled and awaiting fulfillment. It’s a curious little process to ramble through. And I know we still have a long way to go. :)

Is fulfilling your purpose and passion selfish?

Is fulfilling our purpose selfish? No, it just takes us outside of our comfort zone. - www.theorganicsister.com

I got this question in my inbox the other day. The timing seemed to perfectly match the convos that have been floating around my circles the past couple weeks.

Could you guide me a little [in regards to] selfishness, and fulfilling a purpose. Is this a balance, or full out selfishness, or a little of balancing both. They say you can’t be half pregnant, so how does one live this life, with these two aspects drawing you into different areas?

I had to actually chew on your question a little bit. At first I wasn’t quite sure I understood it. I think that’s because I don’t relate to fulfilling one’s purpose as being something capable of being selfish. I think the selfish thing comes into play when a) we’re confronted by people who are scared when others upset “the way it should be” according to their limited perspective or conditioning, or b) we’re confronting our own inner voices telling us we’re not deserving of the things we love, value, and are passionate about.

I’m sure you can imagine my opinion on both those. ;)

Anytime we’re stepping outside of the parameters of mainstream we will stir up a little spiritual dust in ourselves and others. This is a GOOD thing. It gives us the opportunity for some internal housekeeping, sweeping away old beliefs we might not have realized were there and bogging us down, things that no longer serve us. It’s uncomfortable usually, but that’s where the magic happens.

That’s not to say following our purpose, passion, or dreams doesn’t create a balancing act…but it’s not a “me and my dreams versus [fill in the blank]“….it’s more of a “how do I meet my needs and help others meet their needs in a way that honors both of us” sort of thing.

It’s a subtle shift, but a life-changing one when we no longer view things as “versus” or “either/or”, but simply a matter of curiosity…”Hmm, how can I navigate this with grace and ease?”

This conversation lines up pretty well with what I was saying on Facebook the other day….

I’m not sure whether to find it tragic or funny that people are so closed off to or judgmental of those of us who work for ourselves. I’ve been snarked to, I’ve been told what I did would be more authentic if I did it for free rather than charge for it, and told it’s not okay to “make money from friends”. (Because it’s okay for strangers to support what you do, but if loved ones support you, well…you’re not deserving of that at all, right?)

Know what I say to that? Pfffffffttttttttttttttt. ;)

I let go of my money blocks, my feelings of unworthiness, and my desire to please others a long-ass time ago. I let go of the idea that I had to scrape by to make ends meet doing something I don’t love. I let go of the idea that I had to play small instead of make an impact in the world doing work that makes a difference. I let go of the idea that wanting to pay my bills in a way that fulfills me is somehow selfish. I let go of the idea that financial independence, security, and abundance somehow makes a person greedy. I let go of the idea that it had to look a certain way or be approved by the limiting beliefs and fears of others.

THAT is called freedom. And it’s a beautiful place to be. ♥

Before We Get the Opportunity To Change Anything, We First Get the Opportunity to Love It

Life lessons on self-love and self-acceptance

I had a dream several years ago that I was describing to my doctor what was hurting in my body by describing the one thing that wasn’t: my toes.

Then I woke up and as I went to stretch my stiff joints and aching muscles, I felt it….my freaking toes were throbbing.

You have got to be kidding me.

Pain has been nothing new to my experiences. Developing scoliosis at age 10, undergoing surgery at age 14 and chronic, even debilitating, degeneration of my body has since been a history I had long tolerated.

But that summer, I was in almost constant pain. I was struggling to walk, losing feeling in my limbs and settling into a recognition that I was “disabled”, broken; that my current experience was my medical destiny.

It’s hard not to feel resentful or depressed over something like that.

I was awash in the emotional anguish of everything I could not do. I couldn’t hula hoop, play at the park with my son, make love to my husband. Everything caused pain. And I swam in the pain it caused.

As is often the case, my lowest point – the point at which I felt useless and broken and resentful, the point when all light was drowned by the darkness of my suffering – was my turning point.

I listened to one woman’s careful introspection, one woman speaking of her body as though it were her child, asking herself what it would look like to love her body as she unconditionally loves her daughters…

Her words resonated so strong as I thought about treating my body the same, treating it as I would treat my child, with compassion and trust. Instead of focusing on or pushing it towards what I want it to be, simply loving it for what it is…

What might that look like for me?

I could regularly point out its strengths.

And show my appreciation for its abilities.

I would view its pain with loving compassion.

And actively and insistently seek out the foods and resources it needs.

I could be gentle and not push it to do things.

Slow down to its pace.

And find things that made it feel good.

I would most definitely spoil it with love.

Smile when I see it.

And seek out things it would enjoy.

I could listen intently to it.

I could validate it and the other people it affects (like my son and husband) without making anyone wrong.

I could accept it and love it unconditionally, for what it is, not what it’s not.

I remember my head swimming: Could I really do that? Could I love myself and my body with the same unconditional compassion and acceptance as a child, giving it everything it needs without excuses or resentment?

I quickly found out that it takes the same challenging, mindful practice as parenting, too. Because just like loving my child, the only thing that gets in my way is my own fear and mistrust, my own stories, my own selfish expectations. And just like any relationship, when I consistently choose to prioritize my own self-love, I soon see that my body responds with the same.

When you have dreams that include Michael Cane (as your son) who turns into Jesus when hit by a tidal wave all to the climax of the song "Empty Chairs at Empty Tables" while you sob in joy and wonder of the miracle, then a giant lightbulb space ship lands

I’ve learned that before I get the opportunity to change anything I first get the opportunity to love it. 

And that’s not an easy road. It’s been three or four years since this huge realization hit me and despite the impact it made, I still find myself in self-neglect. I’ll work too long until my shoulders throb and my head aches. I’ll choose the food that are the easiest. I’ll feel frustrated when I wake up tired. I’ll forget to get up and take a walk or use my oils, or I’ll refuse to nurture my back out of nothing but pure exasperation that it’s hurting in the first place.

The patterns of love or un-love run deep. Sometimes they are attached to deeper roots than we realize and perhaps they are just the side effect of those roots, the earth that gets pushed out of the way as those roots grew. I’m learning they can change for months before slipping back into old ways of neglect. I’m learning it’s not just a habit but a practice, a spiral that takes you around and around the same topic, seeing new sides or experiencing the same things from new perspectives, maybe a higher one and maybe not.

We chastise, and we lecture, and we try to inspire one another to love ourselves better.

It’s an old story women have been telling for decades.

But maybe we ought to just remind ourselves that sometimes it just simply is and that our only real practice is in understanding it’s okay to start again. And then, without self-judgment or guilt, simply starting again.