I Carry Her Heart With Me

Ten months ago I made a mad rush north to Nashville to visit my great-grandmother, after receiving the news that she may only have days or hours left. She was turning 99, and I was honored and heartbroken to hold her hand and tell her I love her. I was also overwhelmed and joyful that she didn’t pass away. In fact, she seemed to have the life breathed into her with all of her family surrounding her. Continue reading “I Carry Her Heart With Me”

And It Shall Be Known As The Big Chill

We met and connected instantly with the Paul family and the Mattern family back at Wide Sky Days in September. Justin and I invited them to join us in January in the Keys. We weren’t sure it would come together (because how often do such things ever pan out with three busy lives?), but it did.

It may have taken us 3 hours to decide but our time together came to be known as #thebigchill13.

(You can see all the photos on Instagram with that tag).

I can’t even begin to describe how amazing it is to call these families our friends, to see our kids connect, and to have so much fun. So different in so many ways, so very much the same, all with a total love and appreciation for one another. The sheer amount of laughter, depth, fun, and support we shared with these incredible people is beyond my wildest dreams.

(Like seriously? This is my life? Every detail is one I never thought could be mine.)

I’ve sat here staring at this screen, trying to communicate what these two women mean to me, what these two families have given us in such a very short amount of time.

I can’t.

So you’ll get the photos instead.

(Oh, and be sure to catch the video at the end!)

Chilling. #thebigchill13 @heathermattern @calebabc @melimae79

More #artjournal with @melimae79 #thebigchill13

So this just happened. Took a shrimp right out of my hand. #Crane

Messy is a part of every beautiful process. #artjournal @heathermattern

Cheers to #thebigchill13 #keylargo #florida

Sunset with @heathermattern @melimae79 @justinplayswithballs @mrcliffy06 @calebabc

@melimae79 @heathermattern and a photo bomber #keylargo #florida

Sunset #thebigchill13 @melimae79 @mrcliffy06

From the Turtle Hospital #thebigchill13 #turtle #seaturtle #iguana

Me and Zeb courtesy of @heathermattern #thebigchill13 #snorkeling #ocean

Me and Zeb #snorkeling #ocean #thebigchill13

Dinner with the sunset. Missing @heathermattern #thebigchill13

Saying Our Goodbyes

How did it all come to an end?

Like this. πŸ™‚

There and Back Again {A Tale of Thanksgiving and Spiritual Failure}

I'm not sure how we chose a flight with a four hour layover with this red eye but at least the floor looks comfortable. #travel #airport #exhausted

We just arrived home from a 9 day trip back to Las Vegas.

Let me warn you now, this post may be long, meandering, and senseless to anyone but me while I try to make sense of the many things going on in my head and my heart.

{I’m also going to talk somewhat candidly here and do so mindfully and in my never-freaking-ending practice to keep my focus on my own heart, without projecting or losing sight of my own accountability. None of this is “about” anyone, hold my experience with Life and how the hell we make sense of the seemingly senseless hurt it can deliver.}

Leaving #lasvegas

Ascending on my hometown
Feeling more like a visitor this time
{than the escapee of before}
I haven’t missed this place
Haven’t missed “home”
Although I know that’s not the story for all

Those were the words I quickly penned as our plane descended on the Vegas lights. For once, I didn’t feel that impending sense of entrapment – like I wouldn’t be able to leave without getting stuck – that I felt that last time. {That was big for me, to not feel stuck or constantly pulled back to a place with which I don’t resonate.}

I felt at peace, centered, excited for the week.

Excited to watch my little sister walk down the aisle (so moving!).
Excited to see the brother and nephew and niece I hadn’t seen in 10 years.
Excited to just BE – cooking and painting and watching movies with family.

afternoons with nephews

And my mama joined in!  #art #artjournal
art with my mom

Art journaling with my niece.  #artjournal #alteredbook #art #paint
art with my niece

He loves her so. #thompsonwedding2012
Their love = tears of joy.

Do we ever stop romanticizing those ideas of how things will be?

I have memories in my head of a house full of laughter and food and playfulness. Of huge family camping trips with everyone in attendance and giant games of hide and seek – kids and adults. Monthly family dinners. And holidays that stick to your heart.

And I haven’t experienced one of those romanticized holidays in almost 10 years.

Is it that as we grow up our perceptions are sharpened, picking up on things we can miss in youth and that amazing ability to remain in the moment? Or are we simply jaded by age and expectations? Or maybe things really do change that drastically and for no apparent reason than we all grew up and in separate, incomprehensible directions to one another.

It’s not that anything major happened this Thanksgiving. It’s that my heart and my head just couldn’t let go.

I’m not proud of that.

We all know family, even family we adore, can be a lot to take in all at once. And for those of you HSP’s out there, you know how compounded the situation can be when you’re sleeping in a room with two other families, four running dialogues, at least three noisy electronics going at all times, random bouts of stress and rush, and a dozen personalities and sets of needs.

I don’t pretend to be perfect. But it’s still disheartening when every tool I want to lean into seems so far away from my conscious mind as I slip back into a role I have carefully been working myself out of for most of my adult life.

Do we ever stop reverting to what other people expect to see?

Do we ever feel and respond like the adults we are when we hear the criticism or triggers of our childhood?

They mean me no harm but it’s time that I face it
They’ll never allow me to change
But I never dreamed home would end up where I don’t belong…

That’s a Rascal Flatts song that makes me cry with heartache. Those words almost describe it except for one thing:

I don’t believe that anyone won’t allow me to change. I just believe it’s so damn hard to show them I already have.

All my best intentions for a wonderful week lead to all my expectations breaking my heart.

No one else is responsible but me.

I didn’t meet my needs. I didn’t express my emotions {until they were boiling incomprehensibly…and loudly}. I didn’t pay attention to the patterns that trigger me, patterns of teasing and sarcasm and my holding back {anything from my opinion to my own sense of style for fear of the feedback I assume I’ll receive}. Patterns of expectations, ideas in my own mind of how anyone else should be.

I placed the responsibility for my own peace and joy on what others were able to do and that wasn’t fair or responsible. It made us all unhappy.

By the time I realized it I had already excused myself from the meal, driven away – the very best I could manage. I missed Thanksgiving because I had missed my own patterns of expectations and hurt and burying the truth to keep the peace, to try to support others instead of leaning into open honesty.

Hanging with one of my very best girlfriends in the sun. Kids running around the park. Good times.  @elizabethlowery
sweet, reflective, wonderful friend

My sweet wonderful girlfriend and I had a couple long talks, and as they often do, they centered around our role in our own lives and the lives of others. And the message was the same I had been grappling with: Every time I place an expectation on someone I love, I miss the opportunity to be at peace with what is. I miss the opportunity to love them. To practice surrendering to what Spirit is showing me.

It breaks my heart to read those words. It’s the same message I’ve been receiving for the last several months, the same message I think I’ve gotten right before I realize I haven’t: Stop pushing, stop micro-managing, stop thinking it’s all your job. Let go. Surrender to the direction of where Life is flowing. Surrender to peace and love within that moment, exactly as it is, without your thoughts that it needs to change for you.

It breaks my heart because I know it. I’ve been practicing it. And I’ve been failing, again and again.

It’s fucking hard.

Hard not to offer advice, instead of holding space.

Hard not to want to “fix” it – whether it’s an actual problem, or just a bad mood – instead of extending empathy first.

Hard sometimes to WANT to do anything from love: want to DIG IN, want to speak nonviolently, want to listen, want to reach out when you have nothing to reach out with.

So I did the very best I could do…I took space for myself.

I walked out when I couldn’t find that space to listen over the screaming of my own head. I hiked a mountain and lay on the rocks and turned my face to the warmth of the sun. And I said goodbye, or even missed opportunities to say goodbye, flying home without resolve.

Sitting on the hillside talking life, plans, culture and conformity with @justinplayswithballs and looking forward to flying "home" #lifeatthismoment #lasvegas
from the hillside with my lover

As Justin and I walked and hiked he asked me the same question I’ve asked myself for almost 8 years, since my dad died before we got the opportunity to have the talk that was on the horizon. It’s the question I asked myself multiple times over the past week as I did the very best I could {which didn’t seem like much}:

If the worst happened, would you regret this choice?

And I answered him honestly.


I wouldn’t regret the choices I made to let things go, or not have conversations that I didn’t feel ready for. I wouldn’t regret walking out when I couldn’t find love or patience to respond with instead. I can’t regret doing the very best I could do, listening to my intuition and my heart when it says, “This is not going to help; you’ll only cause more pain right now.” I don’t ever regret the choices to surrender, to lay down my Ego-fear that tells me to judge or fix or change or fight or expect or even help, to “save” others or even see them as someone who needs saving.

I have to address my own heartache and hurt first. I have to unpack my own stories and triggers before I can bring my authentic love into a conversation with anyone else.

It’s no one’s job to apologize or change or fix anything for me, anymore than it’s my job to do the same for someone else.

It’s my job to examine what came up for me, and why. It’s my job to find my center before I try to find a solution. It’s my job to bring my real self into challenges like these, instead of compounding them by bringing my baggage. It’s my job to find what only I am accountable for {my emotions, my reactions, my choices} and release everything else {my expectations, my assumptions, my sense of obligation} so that I can walk in with nothing left but love.

Moments like this hold me perfectly still. #manchild
melt-worthy airport moments with the man-child

I can leave without regret,
With peace that I made the best choices I could,
but being void of regret
doesn’t mean being void of hurt.

{penned from the plane home}

It’s an unconventional, even controversial, viewpoint, that I believe it’s okay to say goodbye without first making amends. {Caveat: And it’s not always the right choice. As a daughter whose lost a father during an argument, I can attest to the anguish that comes from holding grudges, instead of taking mindful space.}

But the difference is in the mindfulness and the space {as opposed to the unconscious distance we tend to put between us instead}.

Are you paying attention? #artjournal
full attention slows the current

I’m experiencing hurt and frustration and sadness. And I’m allowing myself to experience it. No under-the-rug sweeps. No grudges held. But no feeding it or burying it either. No allowing it to overcome me, or to own me.

Some serious shit came up for me {and yes, I’m totally okay admitting that – why shouldn’t I be?} and I’m opening my heart up to what Spirit is trying to show me. I’m doing the inner work that’s being asked of me. I’m learning to stop projecting {hard} and stop blaming {harder} and meet my own needs so I can actually stand in the Truth that allows me to be – fully and unapologetically and compassionately – ME.


And even though there is a big part of me wanting to resist this next statement πŸ˜‰ I can feel it nudging me to be experienced too:

I’m thankful for this. Thankful that I lost sight of myself and damn near lost my shit. Thankful that I felt hurt and frustrated. Thankful that I screwed up. Thankful that it’s so deeply triggered and challenged me. Thankful that it’s bringing up in me the bullshit that was hiding there, because I know full well it only comes up when the timing is perfect for it to be addressed {even if I don’t like that fact}. I’m thankful for the comments that were made, the stories that were dredged, the triggers that were found. Thankful for failure in how I handled it all {or didn’t}.

I’m thankful for the nudges that keep telling me when I’m trying to do something or say something here that isn’t focused on my authentic heart, too. πŸ™‚

I love them all. They – like me – are doing the best they can as well. That I don’t feel at home says nothing about them, and everything about me – where I am and what I’m moving through with Life as my guide.

Why am I sharing all this?

Why am I “airing dirty laundry”, as culture has taught us to see it?

Because I got the most amazing messages of gratitude over the week: messages from incredible women who totally nailed it and stood in compassion and authenticity in a challenging family situation, messages from heartfelt women who struggle{d} to do the same and are thankful to be reminded they aren’t asshats for being human and unable to access that place of compassion and authenticity at the same time,or even separately.

Because I’d rather dismember the monster that tells us we can’t be honest about having a hard go of something, the monster that tells us it’s not okay to be imperfect, that tells us our lives “should” be perfect and by the book or else we’re going to hell. {Shit, I wrote a book on dealing with triggers, and my experiences still aren’t by the book.}

Welcome to being human. Welcome to trying to be that human with over 7 billion other people, many of which are our greatest, most wonderful, most frustrating teachers.

We love our families. But we mess it up. We do. I do. Again and again. And hopefully, again and again, we do the best we can to get through that moment, to get through the challenge, to learn and grow and try to love ourselves and others a little better each time. Sometimes we nail it. At least the same number of times we don’t.

My declaration is this: I’m okay with these facts. Okay with Life sometimes being messy. Okay with the fact that I’m going to make mistakes at it. Okay being open and honest and authentic about it. Finally okay with the choices I make. {And learning to be okay if others aren’t okay with it.}

Some wisdom from my mama's wall. #bestill
wisdom on the wall

This get you thinking too?
Some questions that may support you: What do I need to get still with? What parts of myself am I bringing into similar challenges with those I love? If I was fully centered and grounded first, what would I do/say differently?

Being Compassionate Toward Others {Not To Be Confused with a Doormat}

Yogi tea reminder for the day: Meet my own needs for honor.

I have been dealing with a family that I assumed was normal and was trying to be compassionate with. It turns out they are sociopaths with no conscience. πŸ˜‰ How can we be compassionate without being taken advantage of? – A Facebook Sistah

Ah, boundaries come to mind first.

Compassionate doesn’t mean sacrificial. Compassion includes yourself. It means seeing beneath another person’s behaviors to the pain or fear or (tragic) attempts to meet their needs. It means choosing to see them with empathy, to understand what brought them to this place. And sometimes it means compassionately saying “no” or “I love you and I’m not okay with this” or stepping away, removing yourself from something that is hurting you or others.

Even “sociopaths” are human beings with a long history of hurt or fear and no other tools, still doing the best they can, even if that’s not very wonderful at this point. Whether it’s your job to help them or simple love them is the question. if it’s not your place to help them, it is still compassionate to walk away…without judgment or labeling, or anger, or throwing more pain into the mix. But just simply, with love, saying “no more”.

There is probably a lot more to the work we get to do in situations like this. Things to DIG IN to. Empathy to practice. Hurt and expectations to examine. Judgment and reactions to release. But I think, for most of us, establishing boundaries that allow us to do that work comes first.

Anxiety, Overwhelm, Sorrow :: And All I Heard Was Love

It’s Sunday evening and my spirit feels spent but at peace.

It started Thursday, as we were driving the 5th wheel through the hills of Tennessee, reaching Knoxville during rush hour traffic, when the engine began to struggle for the power to pull 16,000 lbs up the steep incline.

We were on our way to surprise our family, who was gathering in Nashville to celebrate six generations, and my heart wanted to be there, not broke down in the parking lot of a Toys R Us.

It started there, but it didn’t stop there. Our weekend looked a little like this:

  • Stress: The feeling when you send the truck up the hill on not much more than prayers.
  • Anxiety: What creeps in when you almost don’t make.
  • Frustration: When it’s 6:20 but everything closes at 6pm and you realize you’ll be sleeping in the parking lot right in front of the No Overnight Parking sign.
  • Overwhelm: When the part you need is 24 hours away and you’re not certain it’s the right one anyway.
  • Disappointment: When you have to cancel clients and the Organic Tribe.

And then it shifted into something like this:

  • Sadness: When you see the stress on the face of your niece who is a new, young mama.
  • Heartbreak: When she cries in your arms from exhaustion and the loneliness that can come after having a little one.
  • Helplessness: When you see the unhappiness written on your brother’s face and peppered through his words from overwork and under-joy.
  • Hurt: When you recognize that the only way the people you love know how to connect is through sarcasm and criticism
  • Worry: When you see the lack of light in their eyes and the resistance to fun in their lives
  • Concern: When the people you love are struggling to love themselves or their lives
  • Powerless: It’s difficult to know the joy and love that are a part of your life are hardly a possiblity in the hearts of those you love.
And then the weekend hit me with this:
  • Sorrow: When I discovered that my paternal grandfather has passed away weeks before.
  • Frustration: That I heard it through the grapevine, instead of through my paternal family.

It sounds like a difficult, unhappy weekend.

Six months ago it might have been. 2 years ago it certainly would’ve knocked us off course. It wouldn’t flipped our switches to anxiety, fear, and frustration, leaving us feeling sabotaged and unhappy and reeling for days.

But it wasn’t any of that.

It was beautiful.Β It was full of joy and connection and wonder.

Because we had love.

Love we received when I sent out a text to friends and family and received support in the form of prayers, Reiki, and kindness.

Love we found ourselves surrounded by on the side of the highway, with family and offers of help just 2 hours in one direction and three in the other.

Love I gave myself when I was about to snap in frustration.

Love I found within myself to give to my husband as he struggled with overwhelm and frustration.

Love that became awe and appreciation when he turned misfortune into miracles and rebuilt the part we couldn’t order to get us into town.

Love and gratitude we gave each other in a dozen moments, in the parking lot, at dinner out, before we got back on the road.

Love we found in the form of peace as we reminded ourselves that we are safe, that we all is well, that we are exactly where we’re meant to be, even if we can’t see why.

Love that gave us the ability to access peace, lean into Trust, practice mindfulness and patience and radical acceptance.

Love that reminded us to choose fun, gratitude, and beauty at every opportunity.

It seems only right to hang our blessings up after being showered with travel blessings <3

Love that I called on and found within myself to shine light and joy into the hearts of my family.

Love that I found in holding my great-niece, dance her to sleep and watch her eyes as they tried to tell me the secret of the Universe.

She is an incredible woman this little one

Love that I saw all over my brother’s face as he held and kissed and lit up around his beautiful granddaughter.

My brother's a grandpa!

Love I felt between our hearts as I hugged longer and listened deeper and offered hope and support where I could.

Love that I continued to receive from my circles of friends in the form of texts and messages and emails and energy and prayers that I felt all weekend long.

Love that I dwelled in at the celebration of six living generations and the wonder and growth that this new little girl is bringing into our lives.

Six generations


Nieces are just incredible

Granny's Fingers

Love at the sound of laughter from my nieces as we hula hooped, visited the zoo or went horseback riding.

Love I felt with the dozens of small heart connections Justin and I would continue to make with a touch, a hug, a look, a reminder of one another and our support for each other.

Love for my husband as I saw him inspiring fun and laughter, silliness and playfulness for his nieces and the whole family in the ways that only a juggling, kilt-wearing, bike-riding-inside-Target uncle can.

Love for my son as he held my hand as I cried for my grandfather, or told us how luck he was to have parents like us, or made the whole family laugh.

And love for myself. As I acknowledged my own growth. My own strength. My own ability to remove the barriers to love I’ve held within myself and the beauty and joy accessed when I do.

My ability to continue to shine my own real self, not the person my family has known me to be in the past. My ability to continue to make my own joyful noise to fill the quiet spaces. To inspire fun and connection. To reach out. Love deeper. But not deplete myself.

I can’t tell you exactly why Life is so tough at times.

I can’t explain why we were meant to break down, why my niece gets to struggle as a single mama, why my brother has gotten to experience so much hurt in his life, why any of us have.

Except maybe that it’s so we can discover that love can still be found in those moments.

That joy can still be accessed when stress is threatening.

That beauty and wonder are always present, not despite the heartache, but sometimes because of it.

That the Truth of what is can overcome the fear of what might be.

To discover that fear needn’t be “pushed through” but simply loved on.

That peace and Trust come from within, not from the circumstances in our life.

I can’t exactly show you how all the dots of my weekend are being connected in my spirit, how the contrasting emotions played themselves out moment by moment; I can’t tell you exactly what it all means and why.

I’ve barely had time to process it myself…except to say that when I close my eyes in stillness all I hear echoing is the power of love.

And that sounds about right, the purpose of all of these messy bits of our lives – to understand what is and what isn’t love, and how and where one can and can’t access it, and how this incredible force of Nature is like the air, waiting to be breathed in or carried away on.

Being Organic Around Conventional Wisdom

For me personally, and I’m sure for some of you, one of the biggest challenges of Being Organic, of being authentic and true to your values and desires always, was stepping into a space that felt as though it challenged those values.

Tara at Pensacola Beach

I felt a lot of fear, as though I was stepping out on my own, rejecting the people I loved, rejecting the world…but also fear that they would in turn reject me. Think I was crazy. Think I thought they were crazy.

I also felt a deep passion, a desire to share what was changing my life for the better, a desire to hang onto what I’ve found and a fear of losing it.

I felt this conflict within myself when I moved toward holistic health: It seemed as though I had found something that made so much sense to me…but very few were interested.

How do I share what I love?

The same happened when we decided to withdraw Zeb from school: So much of our family was supportive, and many weren’t.

How do I find my footing without support?

And absolutely, positively I felt that challenge when we began to parent organically, trusting myself as a mother, trusting my son as a whole and autonomous human being, moving away from the fear or control that had ruled our relationship before.

How do I learn to give them the same that I wanted to give my son – unconditional love?

I’ve experienced it in big ways, like deep discussions and even arguments with people I loved, from friends to family to in-laws.Β And I’ve experienced it in smaller moments, like encountering strangers in the grocery store who shamed their child for a mistake made.

How do I honor others while standing up for my Truth?

I’ve felt the fear, the knots in my stomach, the pain of rejection of something that is such a part of Who I Am that it felt like rejection of me. And I’ve felt the hurt when the rejection of what I love turned into rejection of me.

I’ve been in both arenas, of feeling as though I had to scream my Truth from the mountaintops and then hide it in a bubble, avoiding anything that might pop it (I’m still in that one sometimes).

But neither of those is my goal.

My goal is to be grounded in what I know is real in my life, all that that is and means.

And I’m not going to pretend it’s always easy.

Or always cut and dry.

But it IS possible to remain grounded in our Truth, despite the confrontation or fear or anger it may trigger in others. Despite the confrontation or fear or anger it may trigger in us.

It’s most definitely possible to remain centered around what we know and love when others question or criticize…or worse.

Would you like to join the conversation?

Being Organic Around Conventional Wisdom is the topic of our next
Organic Tribe call.

The call is this Thursday evening, and we’re going to discuss this very tender, very sticky situation in depth together.

This is your opportunity to ask the questions you have and get the answers and support you need.

Not a part of the Organic Tribe?

When you sign up, you not only get TWO group coaching sessions a month, you also get:

  • Lifetime access to The Organic Sisterhood forums
  • Free recordings of every call to keep forever
  • Secret offers no one else will ever hear about
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  • AND…on each and every call I’m giving away a complimentary 1-on-1 session

It’s super simple to sign-up.

You can either read more about here or if you’ve already been thinking about this and know it’s a “Yes!” for you and what you need right now, just click the subscribe button below.

As soon as Wild Zen and I receive notification that you’ve joined, we’ll add you to the email list and you’ll receive call access info right away.

Are you ready for this? I sure hope so. I hope to hear your voice on our next call. πŸ™‚

Odessa, Texas – My Father’s Hometown

I wasn’t really sure why I added #8: Visit my father’s hometown, until we were actually pulling closer to Odessa, Texas. It had always been he and my brother who spoke about visiting. But as we were driving down the 20 it suddenly became very clear.

From 1953

There were quite a few gaps in our relationship, some as wide as three years of silence. Others were smaller, missing pieces that you only come to miss when someone’s gone. It is the history, the connection to his past that I crave.

Based on what he spoke about I know exactly four things about his childhood:

  1. That any good dentist could tell where he was raised, because the water there was known for the stains on his teeth.
  2. That he moved away from his hometown and to Las Vegas when he was about 12 or 13.
  3. That he developed diabetes when he was 13 years old.
  4. That he and his friends used to cruise Fremont St before it became the “Experience”.

After he passed away, I found that he was born in Odessa, a bit of history he never really spoke about (he always just bragged about being Texan). I also found I had an uncle I never knew about (I searched all the Harold’s I could find and ended up meeting him and my beautiful cousin a day before the funeral; they never stayed in touch though). I also found a letter from his biological father just after he was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes and a photo of him that I still own that looks eerily like my dad.


Odessa Directory

How strange is it to know so little of my dad before he was My Dad? My mom used to tell me stories about her and her siblings. I would visit her childhood home every summer until my grandparents finally moved. And I’ve watched home videos of her growing up. There is a history there, an ancestry I understand. I know my mother’s mother and grandmother and great-grandmother and their stories. But for my dad it’s almost as if he sprang into existence sometime in his 20’s.

So I went to Odessa, in hopes of drawing some map in my mind of who my father The Baby or The Toddler might have been. I guess in the back of my mind I was hoping to stumble across someone who had known my grandparents before they were grandparents, when they were still young and wide-eyed and bringing home a newborn baby boy. I was hoping to sit beside some old lady and hear stories of how my dad, The Baby, would cry or laugh or play with a toy truck while the adults ate together and drank ice tea in the heat.

The Archives

Sept 16 1953 Headline

Birth Announcement

Instead we found a directory that told me my grandfather was a truck driver, an address of where they lived when my dad would have been two, and a birth announcement with the address of his first home.

That home was gone, replaced with a concrete slab. The neighbors said it was a boarding house torn down in the 70’s, giving me more questions than answers.

The second home was there, though, and I tried to imagine my dad, The Toddler, playing in the yard. I tried to hear some child laughing or see some ghost of history there, but I couldn’t. I couldn’t picture what he looked like before the age of 29 or a grandmother who wasn’t in her 70’s.

1121 Texas Ave


Did I mention my grandmother died in June? No one called me to tell me. My other grandma found the obituary and my mom broke the news to me. And all I could do was sigh with the sadness of it all as that ancestral gap widen in my heart.

I didn’t know until now that I didn’t know the man I called Dad. I loved him and he loved me. But there was always something missing. Connection. History. Maybe he couldn’t give what he didn’t have.

But I can. I can love my dad for who he was, even if I’m not sure who that is. I can love the family I didn’t understand. And I can take what he didn’t give me as a gift, one of understanding just how important it is for your child to walk through the streets of your hometown and know where you once stood.

They all did the best they could with what they had. I have the chance to do better.

Nashville Nostalgia

Family for the 4th

We’ve been here in Nashville, staying with my aunt and visiting with my great-grandma, for a few weeks now. Shortly after we arrived my aunt had the idea of guilting sweet-talking my mom and step-dad into a visit. Mentioning their grandson always works well. πŸ˜‰ They came for the 4th of July weekend and we spent the time chatting, eating, playing, swimming and tourist-ing.

It was good to see them again, but I didn’t realize how hard it would be for Zeb. He came to eat with everyone Saturday night but sat with his head down for only a few minutes before retreating again. When I went to find him he was curled up on the couch.

I’ve found my role in these moments tends to follow the same pattern: 1) Help him articulate the feelings he’s experiencing and 2) Listen and validate his experience. This time it looked a little something like this:

Me: Hey, what’s wrong?
Zeb: [No answer; he just looks at me. This is my cue to find the words for him.]
Me: Are you angry over something?
Zeb: [Shakes no.]
Me: Are you disappointed?
Zeb: [Pause]
Me: Maybe that no one was ready for the fireworks before dinner?
Zeb: [Shakes no.]
Me: Are you sad?
Zeb: [Nods head]
Me: Are you sad that Grandpa has to go home tomorrow? (He had to leave before Grandma because of work.)

As soon as I articulate the right words the flood gates burst open. It broke my heart to see him sobbing with homesickness. He told me how much he misses our family and friends, how he hated the RV right then and how he wishes we could be in Vegas.

I held back my thoughts and the urge to say “You were just telling us how much you loved being on the road!” Instead I listened and validated the place he was in. I rubbed his back and reassured him it was okay to feel this way. I agreed how hard it was and how much it sucked to be away from the people we love.

Justin came in and sat down beside us on the floor and fought his own battle not to justify or rationalize. Zeb just needed to be heard in that moment, so we did our best to listen.

As is our pattern though, once he felt heard Zeb slowly drifted toward discussion. He told us how torn he felt, wanting us to have our old life and our new one; wanting to stay on the road but not miss everyone; wanting our old home without losing his Dad to a full-time job again.

Sometimes it amazes me how much validation helps him. In the past we would try to talk him out of his feelings or even distract him from them. (at our worst times, we would even tell him he was wrong for feeling that way.) It was little wonder he responded by keeping his emotions to himself. Now he trusts he can express himself without fear of our reaction; our family powwows are his safe place to let go.

With our validation he goes through a rhythm of expression slowly working his own way toward a place of peace. And then he said he wanted to enjoy the rest of his time with his Grandpa, instead of feeling sad while he was still here.

And we did. We set off fireworks, wrote our names on the ground with sparklers and enjoyed our family. And early the next morning before the rest of us were awake he and Grandpa set off on their second walk of the weekend to Waffle House for an early morning breakfast by themselves.

We didn’t and still don’t have any answers for his feeling homesick. Being together as we are and traveling full-time is an amazing opportunity with gigantic sacrifices. How do we weigh such big decisions and know with certainty we’re on the right path for all of us? One day at a time, I suppose.

A Goodbye Party

573 Miles of Icing

Another big round of goodbyes yesterday. My mom threw us a Bon Voyage party and it was wonderful to spend the day with family and friends (especially when the Life Learners hang out late, as we always do).

There were so many hiccups in the plans, it began to feel as if it simply weren’t going to happen. But I managed to only need one deep breath before I could let go of the expectations of perfection. Family in the hospital, sick babies and plenty of rain. But it was all so great to eat (the coolest cake ever!) and chat and take photos with the people we love.

Photo Credit: Sara Janssen

My parents gifted Justin with a GPS! He is super excited and has loved directing me to every location we already know. It’s going to be very helpful in finding nearby Chinese restaurants when we need a fill-up!

They also gave us a travel journal. Everyone signed their well wishes and we intend to take it with us to collect the words of everyone we meet. πŸ™‚

We still have odds and ends to finish up in the next few days and a giant Life Learners sleepover to plan for Tuesday. This certainly wasn’t the last of our goodbyes since we’re definitely not leaving on Monday. It looks like Wednesday or Thursday now.

Our first stop will be Tracey’s home in Phoenix to visit and play. Then Albuquerque…a very cool unschooling family is allowing us to intern on their organic farm! Fun!!

Bittersweet Thursday

We said our first round of goodbyes today.

One of my closest friends is also the mom of one of Zeb’s closest friends and when we went to pick Zeb up from their sleepover, we did our best to say goodbye to Elizabeth before she heads out of town tomorrow. She was one of the first real-life unschooling moms I met and her gentle, affirming interactions with her son helped propel my embrace of unschooling. She is an amazing, open and authentic person and her approach to life is so mindful and inspiring. She is always the person I call when I need someone to truly hear me but she has an amazing way of helping me see things clearer, as well. Never judgmental, always thoughtful and always in my heart. I love you, Elizabeth.

Miss you already

Then we got news that Zeb’s very best friend won’t be able to see Zeb before we go. It broke my heart to tell Zeb and it crushed him when I couldn’t offer an explanation. His friend will be sorely missed. πŸ™

Then it was time to send off my grandparents. They have a one-way ticket and their sister’s estate to care for and as much as we all wish Death could work around our schedules, it’s never quite that convenient. While we are hoping to remain in Vegas until they return, we didn’t want to risk missing them and so we helped send them off tonight. It was very difficult to feel rushed; my grandma and I held each other for as long as we could hold back tears. I can’t describe how difficult it is to feel as if I’m losing any time with them at all and yet not have the time I’d like to really say goodbye see you soon.




The goodbyes are the worst part and this is only the beginning. Justin has a breakfast date with his dad tomorrow, we still have a going away party on Saturday and we’re planning a Life Learner sleepover on Sunday. I’m sure every one of those events will be difficult in its own way.

I’m so ready to leave Las Vegas, I just don’t know how to leave the people I love.

It wasn’t all sad news today, however. Justin received the veggie oil tank a day early and they will begin the final steps of the install tomorrow (if only he had time to keep up with his blog!). I got a wonderful, albeit also bittersweet, email from a friend and former client whom I hope to see this weekend (why we were never closer or found more time to hang out, I’m not sure). And now Zeb and I have our vintage suitcase packed with a few days worth of belongings and are spending the time at my mom’s.

And the days keep counting down…