Wandering with my eyes and heart open, searching for pieces to add to my own personal big picture.

Category: Essays Page 1 of 5

Where Do I Belong? Seeking Healthy Community

Here I am still seeking community. And strangely, I was listening to a podcast just this morning about ways to build community and why we should. Loneliness is rough. Almost all of us feel it more often these days and no one comes out and says it. I’ll be writing more about that later this week.

The following is a repost, something I wrote nearly four years ago. I’m feeling defeated and sad. It seems nothing has changed.

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Talking with a friend over the weekend, I found a few things suddenly come into focus. I love the way that works. I listen, I read, I think, and then while I’m saying something over lasagna, it all comes into focus on one point…like magic. My poor friend must have thought I was insane when I stopped in mid-sentence, “Shit! That’s it!”

Belonging to a community can be unhealthy. I know, you’re thinking…she’s lost her mind! We all need to belong to a community! Of course, we do…but, it can be unhealthy. You know that. You’ve probably been there. Belonging to a community is a relationship and some relationships can be unhealthy. When we come into relationships wounded and bleeding, the community probably won’t fix that, unless it’s a community of doctors.

In my life, I’ve always been hunting for a community to belong to. My family, my school, my work, my church, my homeschool groups, they all ended up in the same way. I walked in, I embraced it, I started to feel the ideas there resonate with me and then, at some point, I began to feel lonely. I started grasping at straws, maybe if I became more directly involved? What if I took the reigns here? What if I confided in another member how I was feeling? I became needy to those around me, or controlling, and then I felt neglected and misunderstood. And then I blamed them and left.

Am I alone in this? I doubt it. I’ve heard over and over again from several different ends of the earth, “I want to feel connected.” “I just want to feel like I belong.” “I need a community of like-minded people, but I just can’t find it.”

It made me think, do we all feel this way? Do most of us walk around thinking we’re alone in this world, that everyone else is part of a group, and we are the only one outside of the circle? Several times in my life, I’ve talked to friends from my past (thanks to social media connecting everyone) and found that when I believed I was hanging on to them and their close circle of friends, they believed the exact opposite. They thought that those were my friends they were tagging along with, my church they came to visit, my family they pretended to be a part of. It’s weird how different our perceptions can be of the same events.

So…what makes a community unhealthy? You. You make it that way. We need to start with ourselves, make ourselves healthy and ready for the give and take of a relationship. The relationship will not make you healthy and that’s just what community is, a relationship.

How does one start to make themselves healthy? Look inward, that’s a good place. For me, it was meditation that started me on the path to self-discovery. Ten minutes of meditation a day, helped me begin to take control of my own mind. One “7-day free trial” of an app, led to 21 days, a month, and then a year. That ten minutes, let to twenty, led to thirty, where I’ve happily been starting my day for several years. I never would have believed it would have the impact it has, but seeing is believing and here I am.

Journaling is the second thing. Whether you keep a notebook around to write in, an app to take notes in throughout the day, or sit at your computer tapping out words on a screen, writing can be very helpful to understanding yourself better, even if you never read those words again. There’s just something about writing out words that helps one to organize the thoughts, the good, the bad, and the downright ugly. You don’t need to even write whole sentences. You can draw pictures, make lists, or just scribble. Some of my journals have pages filled with hateful thoughts. It’s as if I wrote them down to let them go.

A long time ago, I was seeing a therapist and the one thing that actually did help to bring about big changes in my life was making note of my moods on a regular basis. She had me get out a notebook and just start making a happy face, a sad face, or an angry face at intervals throughout the day. Next to the face, I’d write a word or two about my activities at that moment. No judgement, no thinking, nothing, just make a note. Happy Face: reading, Sad Face: watching the kids, Angry Face: going to bed. At the end of the week I could flip through and see my mood changes. Was the week mostly happy? Mostly angry? Was I busy? Most of the time, I would feel like my bad mood had followed me all week long, but looking back at my notes, it just wasn’t so. The more I did it, the happier I found myself. Simple and effective. I loved it. Whenever I find myself stuck in a negative feedback loop, I go back to charting like that. And guess what? Wait for it…now there’s an app for it! The one I’ve been using lately is called Daylio. It’s free but if you pay $5, you can set as many reminders to “check in” throughout the day as you want. I like paying for apps like this. I feel like it encourages people to make them. Give it a try!

And finally, for me, there was spiritual guidance. That guidance did not come from a church when I started. Church is just another community, another relationship to navigate. My guidance came straight from God. I opened my bible and started reading, not to understand but just to listen. I started making notes in my bible, writing down questions, and spending time in prayer and meditation. And then I went to reading books about specific topics, bible studies, etc., all mostly Christian based. I’m not sure how these books came across my path. I usually found them through articles I was reading, discussions I had with friends, ads (yes, they come in handy from time to time), and searches for “best books on…”

Some of the books felt useless to me, some were handed to me with perfect timing. All I did was try to keep reading, writing, and praying. I tried to keep my mind and heart open. I still do and will continue to do so for the rest of my life. Finding Jesus saved my life. I feel like he was there all along, waiting for me to reach out for him, and when I did, I felt at rest, saved. I found myself there.

I’m not the perfect Christian. I don’t pretend to understand it all. I do try to listen, and I follow my heart. I apply what I’ve learned in other aspects of my life to my relationship with God. When I feel hungry, I find heathy ways to eat. Usually I eat something good for me. Sometimes I don’t. I do what feels good, what seems right at the time. I learn from my mistakes and I forgive myself when I screw up. I don’t adhere to the dogma of one human church or another. I love my neighbor as I would myself and I love God with all my heart.

Over the years I’ve continued to try to find a community to fit into, one I would really feel a part of. I’m still searching, but now that I’ve really started to know myself and accept myself (with all my strangeness, mistakes, and frailties) as I would any other friend, I know I’ll soon be able to contribute to a community instead of use it. And that means the right one will fall into my lap just as I need it.Do you know your true self? Have you accepted that person as good? Do you love her/him?

Resolving Conflict is Complicated

Resolving conflict is on my mind today. Actually, it’s been on my mind a long time. I’ve never been very good at resolving conflict in a rational, non-harming, way. My “go to” as a child was to cry and throw myself on the floor, in the hopes of instilling guilt on those around me until they decided to do what was right, a.k.a. what I wanted. As an adult, the silent treatment worked well for a time, until I would explode with anger and unleash hell upon those around me.

If you are one that has not experienced this with me, count yourself lucky. I’m not exaggerating.

As a wife and then a parent, you’d think I would have grown up a bit, but not really. One thing I’ve learned is that we all fall short of perfection, every single one of us. Our only hope is that we keep learning, and possibly surround ourselves with people that can forgive, love, and give us space to grow.

This morning, I read this in my study of Reflections on a Mountain Lake by Ani Tenzin Palmo:

It struck me that if we act out of the root of anger, we will only experience more anger in return. The Buddha himself said, “Hatred doesn’t cease by hatred. Hatred can only cease by love or by non-hatred.” This is because if you keep putting out anger, no matter how justified the cause, you will stir up the huge reservoir of anger in your antagonist, whoever it may be. So however justified it may seem at the time, all you’ll get in return is more opposition.

It’s obvious. All anger, no matter how justified, how righteous, how holy it is, comes from the same source, which is antipathy, aversion, or hatred. Whether it expresses itself in violence or nonviolence, it’s still anger, and so however “justified,” it will never bring about circumstances leading to peace, love, and reconciliation. How can it!

Anger…you know what Yoda says… When I’m feeling angry, I know to take a step back, give myself some space, and think, “What is it that I’m not liking exactly?” And then I think about the person or situation I’m angry with, “How can I gain understanding and reconnect?” My goal is to live in peace.

It’s not easy. I am not good at it. I’m still learning. Daily meditation in the form of two twenty-minute sessions has helped me slow down and become more aware of my feelings and the thoughts that follow them.

Also, this morning, I read from Elizabeth Anderson:

We each have moral authority with respect to one another. This authority is, of course, not absolute. No one has the authority to order anyone else to blind obedience. Rather, each of us has the authority to make claims on others, to call upon people to heed our interests and concerns.

Whenever we lodge a complaint, or otherwise lay a claim on others attention and conduct, we presuppose our own authority to give others reasons for action that are not dependent on appealing to the desires and preferences they already have.

But whatever grounds we have for assuming our own authority to make claims is equally well possessed by anyone who we expect to heed our own claims.

Resolving conflict involves two people or parties respecting the rights of the others. If we cannot come to some understanding, we need to separate and live apart from each other. Where my right to be me ends, is where your right to be you starts. We can’t step on each other. Why can’t that be easy?

resolving conflict

I posted this meme to my Facebook page this morning, not realizing that it was related until after I had let it sit there an hour.

I’m not a believer in astrology, but I often identify with Sagittarius memes. This one was especially funny to me. It’s why I have such a conflict with Facebook.

There you all are, living your (to me) bullshit, and I so want to call you on it. (Sidenote: We are ALL living bullshit that others think is simply nuts.)

What stops me?

If I’m honest with myself I can say that I don’t because I know if I call yours out, you’ll call mine out, and I really don’t like that. I should be able to take it, right? It’s a good way to learn, putting forth your ideas, being questioned, and then rethinking them. In person, I’m getting much better at that, but online… yeah, you know things are different, so I take a step back and stay quiet.

That’s how this works. You’ve angered me. I think on it, take some time to put things into perspective, so that I’m respecting your person and position, because I want a relationship with you. We work together to resolve our differences and live in peace, somehow, because we are all sentient beings with the authority to run our own lives.

Now…if I can only remember that when the feelings strike. Back to meditation practice!

Surrender to the Present: Yielding

Yielding, a little known trick to driving that is more than just being polite. I came across the perfect analogy for “surrender to the present.” Stay with me a moment.

Have any of you experienced merging onto the freeway lately? I have, quite a bit, and I’ve been rather vocal about my frustration with other drivers. Do we all need a refresher course on how this is supposed to be done? Or do we know and not care; we are the center of the universe and those trucks be damned!

surrender to the present

Let me ‘splain.

I’m on my way into the big (to me) city and I need to get on the freeway. I see the on ramp and take it. Ever notice how long and smoothly curved an on-ramp is? That’s so that I can take a good look at the traffic pattern and match my speed to the cars and trucks already travelling there. My job is to speed up or slow down to get in front of or behind existing vehicles, and then think about what to do next.

It’s the safest and most efficient way to do it. If I don’t, if I insist that I am the most important player here and force trucks to move over, or slam on their brakes to accommodate my present trajectory, I wreak havoc. The rest of the freeway has to adjust itself to the lane and speed changes. This is how more accidents and traffic jams occur.

This morning while I was reading The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle, this is visual that came to me when I read, “Surrender is the simple but profound wisdom of yielding to rather than opposing the flow of life.”

Surrender to what is currently happening around you isn’t giving up and accepting the crap you see. It’s being in the moment, creating less friction, and being able to see more clearly and make better decisions.

It’s matching the speed of the cars on already on the freeway, then taking a look around and making your next move. It’s smart and it respects the other drivers.

I knew I had used that photo before and when I searched for it, I smiled. My new Drive Time Mantra came up! I could write a book on the similarities between driving and life in general.

Bringing the Mental Noise Level Down

This is going to sound strange because I have been posting more the past few weeks, trying to rebuild my habit of a daily post, but I just can’t seem to write anything…good lately. Not “good” as in something everyone wants to read or changes the world, but “good” as in significant to me. There have been a few fits and starts, but I feel distracted and a little bit lost and I’m starting to think part of my problem is “noise.”

If you saw how I live, you’d instantly raise your hand and ask, “What noise are you talking about, woman? The wind? An occasional truck? A loud scrub jay?”

No, not that kind of noise. The mental noise level. Thoughts and distractions. This might sound nuts, completely out of character, but I instantly bought a book called “Chatter – The Voice in Our Head, Why It Matters, and How to Harness It” by Ethan Kross. That podcast interview I heard with the author last week, I couldn’t help but yell to the car, “THAT’S IT!” Charlie Brown style. It’s sitting here on my TBR shelf, on top, next up, right after I finish Joseph Conrad.

The other distraction is my phone. It sits next to me while I drink my coffee and read in the morning. I’ll admit that I have a phone problem. It’s always in my hand. Always. I don’t have social media on my phone, and I get no notifications other than direct texts. What if one of the kids needs me? What if my mom calls? What if ANYONE texts me? All great, right? But…it’s distracting at the worst moments, like right in the stream of consciousness moment. No bueno. I turn off the ringer, but then I find myself glancing over to see if the light is flashing.

Why is it that I am so hyper-focused on not missing a message? I can’t imagine a text that couldn’t wait an hour or so. If it were truly and emergency, they would call. Right?

Something similar happens when I have my laptop out to write. The blank page stares waiting for me, but it’s just too easy to open up Facebook, or check my email, or even open up WordPress and read another blog. And then my own thoughts are gone, buried way back in my mind at the very least.

This morning I wrote the first draft of this in my journal thinking this way I would have no way of being distracted. If the words slowed down, all I would be able to do is stare at the wall or out the window for a moment. It worked nicely, until my phone beeped a message to me.

I know! It’s crazy! Right?

After breakfast, I opened up Instagram for a look around and found this post from @cbmeditates and it started the wheels turning.

mental noise level
“3 things to focus on in August?” @cbmeditates

I sat with my journal a bit longer, thinking about what three things I could focus on this month that might lower my mental noise level. Here’s what I came up with.

Focus #1 – Uninterrupted Morning Hours

From now on, I keep my phone on my desk back in my office until 9am. I’ll go get it to use my yoga app and then put it right back afterwards. Out of sight, out of mind. There’s nothing going on in the world that can’t wait an hour or two.

Focus #2 – Write by Hand

My morning writing time can be done by hand in my journal. That way there are no distractions. No, “I’ll just get that link.” Or “What was that quote exactly?” When that happens, I chase rabbit-holes and end up being bombarded with other people’s thinking. An hour of sitting with a pen and a journal will help me get my own thoughts on paper first. Then later I’ll transcribe what I wrote into my laptop, adding in details and links, and looking up references as I go.

Focus #3 – Less Daily Sugar

This one isn’t a writing focus. I need less sugar in my daily diet, and that includes alcohol. I’m not a heavy drinker and I’m not a dessert fiend, but throughout the day I feel like I’m always grabbing a piece of chocolate, a coke, or a handful of something sweet. I’ve done well this week, so I want to keep going. It makes my joints less achy, and I sleep better if I stay on the low sugar side of life. I’m sweet enough, right? And I don’t need alcohol to lower my inhibitions. I do that just fine right here on paper.

Keeping my mornings low tech and free from message interruptions is going to be the hard part. There’s something weird going on there. I get the feeling I’m letting everyone down if I don’t answer my text messages almost immediately, but you know, no one else I know does that. The best my circle can do is within the hour, and that’s great. I swear it’s like a security blanket for me, but it’s not helping me right now, so it’s time to change!

I’ve put my focus goals on my calendar and at the end of the month, I’ll check in and see if I’ve had any success lowering my mental noise level.

And now I’ll Start My Day?!

There’s something I often say that suddenly got on my nerves and I had to correct myself. I stopped in my tracks and took notice after writing it in a Facebook post and then saying out loud to my husband as I got ready to take a shower. What was it?

“And NOW I’ll start my day…”

Seems innocuous, doesn’t it? But it is self-defeating and ridiculous. Here’s why.

It’s not the words I’m saying that are crazy talk, it’s WHEN I’m saying it. It usually comes to me when I am going through my husband’s office, gathering my stuff, and heading to the shower. Yesterday I realized why I say it.

I’m making excuses for why it looks like I’m only now getting off the couch and moving around the house, six hours after I woke up. But what have I been doing those last six hours?

Every morning I get up at 4am. My husband’s office is our bedroom. He works at 6am. I can’t sleep while he’s on the phone talking to co-workers and clients. Besides that, I know it sounds nuts, but I like to keep the same schedule as my husband so that we can actually LIVE together.

It’s 4am. Now what? I get a cup of coffee, my book, and my journal and I sit on my end of the couch and read. At 5am, he gets in the shower and then we go for a walk at 5:30. At 6, I do my yoga and meditate, maybe read a bit more. Between 7 and 8am, I make some breakfast and journal. After that, I sit to check my social media, post something to share with my friends and family, and then I write my blog post and edit and share the one I wrote the day before.

Now, it’s around 10am, maybe even as late as 11am. I get up, get in the shower, make my bed, start some laundry, do a couple chores, and have lunch.

“And NOW I’ll start my day?” Yeah, right! My day started hours ago, no wonder I’m exhausted by 3 or 4pm and just want dinner and some time to watch my favorite TV shows with my love most days!

I sat wondering. Why do I do that? Because my superpower is overthinking! Where would I be without it? Certainly not here on my computer tapping out words for several hours a day.

Somewhere along the line, I got it into my head that being me isn’t part of my actual workday. I haven’t had a job outside my home in twenty years. I raised our kids, homeschooled, and supported my husband while he supported us. Teamwork! And now I’m retired from that career, mostly. I mean, I’m still a housewife, but that isn’t nearly as much work as it used to be, so I have time to look around for another one.

Reading and writing here is my work. No, it doesn’t make me any money, but it does make me happy and fulfilled in the same way being a housewife does.

Some people might think I’m simply taking up space in this world. I say that’s what a human’s job is, to take up space. I’m just trying to do it in the happiest way possible without putting too much of a load on anyone else.

I refuse to say, “Now I’ll start my day” ever again. My day starts when I wake up in the morning and everything I do, from reading my book to watch tv, is a legitimate part of my day. I’m happy this way.

Slightly Painful Reminders: Re-Post

Sunday means Re-Post Day and this one…well…it was a little painful for me to re-read, but I’m posting it anyway. Painful memory? No, it’s just a few painful reminders that progress can be slow and that I have so much farther to go.

Opening my old blog on Sunday morning is a lot like sticking my hand in the lottery jar and seeing what numbers I pull. I’m not sure what I’ll find, and to be completely honest, sometimes I throw the number back in and choose another.

There has been progress on the self-confidence track and I’m proud of that. I’ve learned a lot and I’m happy with where I am and where I’m headed. You can teach an old dog new tricks!


What Are You Trying to Tell Me?
July 2019

I recently woke up from a dream that was so different, so excitingly new that instead of sighing peacefully and going back to sleep hoping I’d remember it in the morning, I jumped out of bed to jot down my impressions to insure its survival.

My journal was on my desk, not beside my bed, so I slipped out of bed and quietly padded to my office. I flipped on the light and sat down at my desk to write. As I opened my book and picked up my pen my phone dinged. A message at this hour? Everyone knows I’m sound asleep and I haven’t touched anything to alert the all-seeing social media of my activity.

“Are you sleeping?”

A message from an online friend.

“No! I just woke up from an amazing dream and came to write it down. And here you are!”

“About what?”

The conversation went on for half an hour. I dreamed that I was talking with an old comedienne that looked a lot like my Grandma Shirley. She told me that I was funny, hilarious in fact, and that I should try stand-up comedy, try acting. I told her I had acted in the past but was never very good at it. She begged to differ and told me she knew talent when she saw it. She took me to a party with her and there were other famous people there, actors, directors, and such. She introduced me and they all confirmed that I had something. And then I woke up. I wasn’t startled awake, I was laying there content. I felt accepted, proud, self-confident. I wanted to remember that feeling. That’s why I got up to write it down.

Telling my friend about it, he suggested that I do what my dream suggested. I’ll admit that I’ve thought about it before. When I was teenager, I took plenty of acting classes and was in several high school shows, but I was too self-conscious to do it well. Acting takes complete self-abandonment; going up there as if you are the center of the universe, with no thought to whether or not anyone will like it. Talent or not, you can’t see it unless you throw the robes off and stand there naked before the whole audience. I could not do it. I hid myself.

These days I wonder, would I be able to do it now? Am I self-confident enough to let go? There is a small community theater here. I could go down and audition. I went back to bed with these thoughts on my mind.

When I woke up in the morning, I was still thinking about it. I’d slept soundly knowing the dream was safe in my journal and the idea tucked away in my messages. I started my morning routine thinking I’d go back in a few hours and rethink it all. Nestled down in my spot on the couch, book in hand, I relaxed into my morning.

After a bit, I mentioned the dream to my husband who listened attentively, but as I told it something started to swirl around in my head. This dream wasn’t about acting. It’s about self-confidence. I got another cup of coffee and picked up my journal.

As the morning progressed, more ideas started to fall into place. I accosted my teenage sons as they stumbled sleepily into the livingroom. I had to talk more of this idea out and they just happened across my path as it was coming together. I don’t know what I’ll do when they move out and I lose my captive audience. Pity my poor husband!

I’ve always been a dreamer, not the pie in the sky, big ideas kind of dreamer, but I almost always dream when I sleep. I dream vivid and realistic dreams generally every night, especially when my anxiety is high. While most of the time my dreams are varied and colorful, there are a few that are recurring. They revolve around being left behind, trying to be understood, or being without help in a crisis. This dream was different and that’s what got me so excited.

This dream was encouraging and left me feeling supported and loved, pushed from beyond. And it wasn’t about acting at all. It only took that form because that was my experience. Like I told my sons, I know not everyone believes in spiritual dream stuff and, to be honest, I don’t either, but I do believe in subconscious work. I’ve been working on some big things the past couple of years. For the past few months, I’ve felt stuck and unsure how or if to proceed. This dream shook something loose in me.

A side note, but related, I haven’t thought much about my Aunt or Grandmother since they passed away years ago, but over the last couple of weeks they have come up several times. I reconnected with my uncle and cousin, I randomly met someone he knows, my cousin posted about his mother, and then this dream with the face of my Grandma. Those two women were a big part of my life growing up, but I lost them in my early thirties. I hadn’t thought I had lost much until now. What could they teach me now about being in my forties? Those were strong, bold beautiful women. I’m feeling a need for their confidence and support. This dream is a piece of that.

What in the world am I talking about? I’ve been rambling on for pages! Writing! I can’t say I’ve always wanted to write or that I’ve been writing since I could read. I can’t say that I have several stories, books, or poems stored up just waiting for the right publisher to come along. I can say that I have always had something to say.

I feel like I’ve had something hidden away from me for years. Like those stories you hear about a princess raised by farmers and finds out who she really is. I’ve never felt like I fit in with the women in my mother’s family and when the women in my father’s family were alive, I was too afraid of them to really embrace them. I feel like a combination of both, not quite as crazy and wild (the slightly self-destructive that I thought they were) and not as timid and reserved as my mother’s family. I need to tap into the “training” of my mother and her mom; the quiet, calm, and respectable side; AND the wild, free-ranging, self-assuredness of my dad’s sister and mother.

I wrote these words a couple of days ago and closed my notebook thinking it all seemed like it was an idea going nowhere, just like the thousand other times I’ve felt like I had something solid in my hands but when I looked directly at it, it turned to air.

Today, I’m in a RV park in Montpelier, Idaho, reading it over again and seeing something else. That’s a realization in and of itself. I’m reminded of a story somewhere when someone is blindfolded and writes in a trance, then goes back to read what is on the page and finds someone else’s words. It does make sense. There is a message there. And if the message is there for me, the odds are that someone else might need to hear it as well, so I keep writing.

Where am I going? That’s probably what you’re asking, and exactly what I’m asking myself. I think the point my subconscious is trying to make is that “fortune favors the bold.” I’ve never been one to self-promote. “I’m shy.” I tell people, but not in an introverted way. I’m not happier when I’m alone. While I do enjoy the pleasure of my own company, while I do love making time to sit quietly alone with my thoughts so better to write them down, I am not fueled by that. I crave regular interaction with people, as if fueled by the energy of our connections. But I am so self-conscious, worried about doing the wrong thing, offending someone with my words, not fitting in with others, that it sometimes stops me from doing the things I want to do. That’s something I am working to change, and my next step is this blog.

I’ve been plagued with a few thoughts since I finished the big project of writing my first story. The first of which is, now that the story is down on paper, what should I do next? It’s memoir and very personal to me. I’m terrified of promoting it and then having to defend it. As I’m writing these words something just dawned on me. Maybe that story shouldn’t be the first thing I promote. I have so much more I could be writing and promoting.

I recently came across a Tim Hawkins sticker that struck me as perfect for what I really want to do here (on this blog).

“Live Life. Take Notes. Tell Strangers.”

He was talking about comedy, but I think it’s so much bigger. Maybe comedy isn’t just an entertainment, maybe it’s philosophy for the lighthearted. Which connects me to my dream again. I’ve always been someone who notices things. It’s probably one of the reasons I’ve always carried so much anxiety. I love to read. I love to watch, to experience. I love being among people, maybe not in front of, or leading, but quietly among them, soaking up their energy.

Throughout my life I’ve taken notes; journals and notebooks full of my thoughts and ideas, questions, and observances. When I write I rarely know where it will go, what will be the outcome of my tapping at the screen. The connections come to me while I write the same way they come to me during a conversation, spontaneously and not always fully formed. The more I write, the more I think, the more the idea takes a stronger form.

In the past, my blog posts are written on the spot. I have an idea, or want to review a book I just read, so I sit down and tap out the first words that come to mind. I immediately look back through it and post it that same hour. I’d like to change that.

As I spend my first two-week vacation alone with my husband since we had kids, I’m spending a lot of time walking, driving, thinking, and talking. With no kids to care for, and an introverted husband that thoroughly enjoys his quiet time, I have had plenty of time to think, write, and rewrite. I have been using this time as a writing retreat and my intention is to build up a few articles, like this one and others, so that I can begin posting something more complete several days a week while I work on new observations to post later.

I’ve had a terrible time putting that into coherent words!

What will I write? Observations. I’ve struggled with that for a long time and with Tim Hawkin’s bumper sticker, it finally dawned on me. It’s perfectly acceptable to live life, take notes, and tell strangers. It is simple philosophy and something I enjoy and feel confident doing. Hopefully, someone out there will find my observations interesting or helpful!


I wrote this post in July of 2019. Here we are nearly three years later, and I’d forgotten all about it. Painful reminders can be so frustrating; to have such a vivid vision and then let if fade. But it’s not completed faded, the bones are there, the direction on the map still laid out. I’ve just gotten a little stuck at some road-side attractions.

I’m printing this one out, highlighting it, and making a better plan that includes reminders! One thing I do know better than I did then is that I am where I need to be. I’ll get there when I’m supposed to get there.

Want to read last weeks walk into the past? Check out Relaxing and Philosophy: Sunday Repost

Wild Flowers: Life Without School

Life without school is a bit different than what people traditionally think of as “homeschooling.” It’s a lot like tending a field of wild flowers.

I’m enjoying this weekly repost idea quite a lot, my dear reader. It’s like reaching back into the past, pulling an event or idea forward, and looking at it again from a new perspective. It feels healthy.

Today I’m bringing back a homeschool post from June, 2016…nearly six years ago. At the time, my sons were 14 and 15 years old. We had been racing dirt bikes for a couple of years and loving it, but it took a lot of my time and energy as well as theirs. I didn’t have as much time left to connect with my friends or other homeschooling parents as I used to.

I was blogging about our journey and working on a website to help share our experience with others. Ultimately, that site failed. I have my suspicions but I’m not sure why I couldn’t make it work. Flooded market? Lack of patience on my part? I still contemplate putting my thoughts together in one place, creating a way to connect personally with parents considering homeschooling on their own, but I just don’t know. Maybe it’s another part of my past I need to let go of to move forward.

My kids are 20 and 21 years old now, and still living the wild lives they’ve cultivated for themselves. Just last night, at a neighbor’s party, a friend of ours with younger kids commented in a conversation that they envy ours. “They’re adventurous. They just DO things. Who does that?” In my mind I wanted to say, “People that are treated as individual human beings with rights to their own lives from birth. Ones that aren’t enslaved.”

Experience breeds confidence, maturity, and ability. Nothing else. Guide, advise, assist, but ultimately, it’s their life. They call the shots. Unconditional love and emotional support is a…pain.

Yeah, that’s me being dramatic again, but honestly, it’s how I feel. Maybe that’s why my home education advice falls of deaf ears.


June 10, 2016

Yesterday I had coffee with a friend while my younger son was at Crossfit.

I’m totally going to keep doing that. I feel like I’m “holding court”. I posted to my Facebook homeschool group that I would be there at a certain time and day every week, so anyone was welcome to join me and yesterday, a member of our group that I hadn’t seen in months came. We’ve only met once before, but it was great to sit and talk and get to know each other.

My only regret is that I talk SO STINKIN’ MUCH! I swear I’m trying to turn it down. Work in progress, you know.

I had an epiphany while I was explaining my sons’ passion for motocross racing. The truth is that I’m not a fan of the sport. That’s not quite right either. I’m not a fan of THEM doing it. If I had my way, they’d be musicians and rocket scientists! But that’s what my big thought was about.

A lot of people think they can find a way to educate and raise their kids that will make them into the people they want them to be. They want to mold and shape their kids into their version of a good person. One of the biggest problems I see people have with the concept of unschooling is when they ask the question, “How do I get my kids to…?” or “How do I stop by kids from…?” while using unschooling principles. The answer is that you can’t. That’s the whole point. You aren’t there to make them into “good people” or “educated people”. You are there to support them and help them grow into the people they were born to be. That might be something entirely different than what you had planned.

Kids aren’t like a cultivated garden. You don’t plant a row of these here and a row of these there and then train them up into what you want. It’s a lot more like a wildflower patch. Yes, they will grow on their own but if you tend it a bit, water it here, throw some mulch there, and watch what comes up, you’ll have a beautiful natural place for birds and bugs to live. You’re supporting what’s already growing. That’s what unschooling is like.

I may not have made the choices my kids are making. I may be able to see the path that those choices will lead down from my perspective. But that would be through my experience, my eyes, my life, not theirs. Their experience with the same world might be totally different for them because they are different people. And who am I to tell them or hold them to what my version of the world is? I’m here to support them, maybe not with all my money and time, but at least with all my heart and mind. I may not like their choices. I may think it would be better for them to do something entirely different. And if there was a way to get them to do what I think is best, they may never find what it is they were meant to be. I don’t want to be that wall in their way.


Unfortunately, I never met another homeschool parent for a coffee like that. I have met a few others over the years, people that called me through my old website, a listing on a homeschool page, or through a social group. They were mostly wonderful talks and I felt great being able to pass on my confidence that homeschooling their kids could be done and be an amazing, life-changing adventure.

This morning, re-reading that post and then sitting with a cup of coffee and a couple cookies, I realized something and wrote it down in my journal.

“I, myself, am simply another flower in that wild garden.”

No one is cultivating me; pruning, tying off, or walling me for protection. I’m out in the field, struggling to survive, wild. Sometimes it really sucks. And then I remembered that I’m not totally wild. I have family and friends, not to mention books and readers, that send help every day. They support me with kind words of encouragement, a hug or a drink, and a chance to talk things out and laugh at myself.

Things are changing, I’m growing again, and I’m not sure what will happen next. I do know one important thing, though. I’m not alone. I hope I instilled that in my kids as they grew into the men they are now. We may be wild and free, but we aren’t alone.

Want to read more posts about our homeschool/unschool journey? Try “We’re Still Learning by Living” and “5 Ways to Make Your Homeschool Day Easier.”

Get to The Root: Lessons from a Dead Tree

You’ve heard that expression “get to the root” of things, right? Maybe I think too much, but a dead tree and a stubborn stump are still teaching me lessons four years later.

I’m still working my way through the last hundred pages of I. Asimov – A Memoir this morning but I decided to resurrect a post from my old blog again today. I’m thinking I might make that a regular Sunday thing. It’s nice (for me, anyway) to go back through those older posts and find things I thought were lost. Memories come up that I don’t remember writing about. It’s like finding treasure.

The following was posted on October 29, 2018, and I entitled it Get To The Roots. Titles, my dear reader, are complicated.

There was a big old half dead pine tree in our yard when we bought this house. It was about thirty feet tall and right across the driveway from the living room. It still had some green tips on its sad branches, and its half dead branches did provide a little shade to  the house in the summer, so I decided to try to revive it. I dug a well around the base of the tree and filled it with water every day for more than a year. It struggled and grew a few more green tips, but when we took a three-week vacation, it lacked water and all the progress was gone.

Side note: I have empathy for plants and trees. I know this is strange, but I can’t sit back and watch them die. I water them and tend them, even if I don’t want them. I adopt plants when people are going to throw them out. Not watering this tree made me sad, even though I knew it was a waste of time.

It stood there dead for a few more years. The woodpeckers loved it and I enjoyed watching them from the west window. Whole families of them were constantly chattering away, poking holes in it looking for bugs. I hung some bird houses that I had in it, but no one wants to take up residence in a dead tree with no cover. It started to look like any day it might fall on the house and cause us more problems.

When we got a new travel trailer for our road trips, we found that the driveway was too narrow at that point to pull it all the way around. We’d need to widen the driveway and that old tree was in the way. It needed to go.

My husband started by cutting it down. I was impressed that he felled it so easily for an office man, proceeding to cut the old limbs off and stack them. The smaller branches were super brittle and easy to smash up and put in the trash. The thicker branches he cut into fireplace pieces along with most of the trunk. A large piece of the trunk went to the man that came to grade our driveway. He’s a woodcarver and put it in his truck for a project he had in mind.

All that was left was the stump. Naïvely, we had asked if he could knock it over with the tractor and he emphatically said he couldn’t. He was sure it wouldn’t budge. We’d have to get it out some other way before he could finish the job.

Look up “stump removal” on the internet and you’ll find all kinds of creative ways to get rid of them. There are videos galore of people doing it, from explosives and burning, to chemicals and water.

I suggested calling a specialist, but my husband is an industrious man. He insisted on doing it himself. Early on Saturday morning, he got out all the “shovels and rakes and implements of destruction” and started to dig. He cut roots and shoveled all morning long, took a break while our teenage son took a crack at it, and went back to work on it on Sunday morning.

At one point, he hooked up our VW bus to it and tried pushing and pulling to loosen it up. I took video, of course. I was not going to miss this opportunity to go viral on the internet. But, do dice. That stump was not going to budge.

“How can a big dead tree, with all its multitude of dead and breaking limbs, have such a strong and hearty root?!” I told my friend as we stood looking at it the next morning.

We all have big dead trees like that in our lives. A failed relationship, a dependence on a substance, bad habits and bad people are something everyone has at least a little of. When we lay them out on paper or in conversation with a close friend, we can see it’s not serving us, it’s actively hurting us, holding us back. We should cut them down and get rid of them.

We start by knocking it down. We ditch that relationship and move out, get another job, or leave town. We clean up the house and sell all our extra stuff to live more frugally. We go through drug rehab or get some professional help for our mental struggles. It feels great because we’re moving towards getting better, but then we hit a wall.

Suddenly, the project or recovery seems so damn complicated. There’s so much work to do! So, we stop. We got rid of it, that should be enough. And there we are with a dead stump right where the new driveway should be. It’s still a royal pain in the ass to pull the trailer around. We need to finish the job to be well. We have more work to do.

The power tools come out, the pick, the shovels, the sweat, and the aching back. We may have to resort to dynamite as a last resort. But it will be worth it.

Once the long labor is over, life will go more smoothly. The limbs of the big dead tree in your life may be easy to break off. The trunk of it may need a power tool to get down. But the root will still be there and it’s going to be a long painful process to get it out. It will be worth it though. Get to work!

That work was done nearly five years ago now. This past weekend, I felt the fruit of it once again when my stepdad was able to pull even his 30-foot trailer around that corner and down the driveway. If we hadn’t removed it, that wouldn’t have been possible.

That’s what we do when we “do the work” and get well. We can take the tree down and leave the root, maybe re-purpose it right where it is or decorate it, incorporating it into our lives, but it’s still a burden to work around. Getting rid of it, stump, root, and all, is what we need to do to move on and grow into something greater than we were.

Another side note about memory: I could have sworn I had a picture of them attempting the epic stump-pull with the VW bus, but I can’t find it. I keep fairly organized picture files and searched well but alas…no picture.

The stump is still in yard, but out of the way. You probably recognize it if you read here often. I frequently use it to showcase the book I’m reading when I post about them.

The Pause Between Moments

Even the smallest pause between moments can serve as a way to cement an event in your mind, save it for future processing, and help transition yourself to the next.

I’m sorry to leave the world of books in my posts this week, but I’m not reading nearly as much as I usually do. The world has come into my home, and in a very nice way. Isn’t that why we read, study, and practice? To use the skills we learn in the physical world?

But I do still have thoughts I want to share, so here I am. Continuing from where I was yesterday in At A Loss for Words

A few days ago, I wrote something interesting (to me) in my journal.

“What are you afraid of? What keeps you on your toes, alert, and grasping?”

“I’m afraid that if I let go of anything, I’ll lose it.”

I was referring to the ever-constant vigil I hold over my phone and …sadly still… social media, not to mention all the projects I want to get done. If I “stop to smell the roses,” that means slow down, and slow down means I’m not being as productive as I could be.

If I don’t answer that person that texted me, will they be there later? What if they forget about me?

And then there is the world news that keeps filtering into my world. When I say to friends and family, “That’s sad, tragic, etc., but there’s nothing I can do?” I feel like a bad person, but I don’t see what I can do other than be upset about it and being upset doesn’t help anyone.

I’m struggling this week, with words, with emotions, with the world outside my home. Can you tell? Like I said, it’s happened before but this time something has changed. I don’t feel so overwhelmed. I mean, I do, but I notice it and take steps to recenter. I don’t feel like I’m drowning. I’m experiencing, reflecting, and taking notes for a time in the future I can process it all.

Earlier this week, my mom and I took some of my sons’ things down to their new apartment together. As we got in the truck to head home, I stopped to take a breath.

We’re always rushing from one thing to the next, always getting on the freeway, packing up, answering a message, calling a friend, getting lunch…on and on and on. I wanted to sit and take the moment in, but I wish I had taken a bit longer.

Maybe that’s why I’m writing it here. To move my mind back to that quiet moment and take it all in again.

That moment yesterday? I can’t get it back. Those circumstances will never occur again. My mom and I had a great conversation on the way there. Seeing my sons so excited, moving into their new place, settled for a year, so close to home this time, made my heart happy. We walked around the corner to a café and had an amazing lunch together, laughing and telling jokes, sharing stories.

It just felt so good.

I needed that moment in the truck to soak it all in and remember it. I sat there, ready to make the three-hour drive home (which turned into a four- and half-hour drive because I “made a wrong turn in Albuquerque”), wanting to make it last just a few minutes longer. I took a breath, looked around, saw the street, the buildings, the flowers and the sunlight. I remember the apartment, my older son’s extra hugs, my younger looks a little stressed, probably about school. The look on their faces when they realized they’d have time to go surfing after we left. My mom’s look of love for her grandkids. I wanted more time. I wanted to cry and scream like a kid leaving Disneyland…but I can’t. I’m a grownup.

The small pause I was able to take worked. Here I am, a few days later, going back to that moment and reliving it, relating it to what I’m reading, what I’ve learned, putting it all into context. That day is now saved to my hard drive and shared with you here.

At A Loss For Words – Repost

At a loss for words this morning. Don’t laugh. It happens, even to me. So, I thought I’d search through my old blog and see where I’ve been.

The following post was entitled “Involvement” and was posted back in January 2017. It’s one of those posts or journal entries that makes me wonder if anything ever really changes.

Sometimes I feel as if the world is running around me in madness. If I “stop to smell the roses”, if I turn my focus inward, if I live to make my family’s life more pleasant, am I neglecting the good I could be doing outside my home? Is there something else I could be offering? In my heart, I know the answer is no. But sometimes the pace and frantic call of the world around me unsettles my soul. And to them, I only want to say, “Stop. Read. Write. Reflect.”

We should take care of ourselves and the people around us. Be kind and spread that love to others. Peace will spread even though we do not actually attempt to “end evil”. To pursue that is futile.

I don’t need to be directly involved with “them”, “him”, or “others”. My influence is felt through my kindness to those nearest me and continues to spread when others do the same.

Some things change and some don’t. I know why I’m at a loss for words today, I’m feeling rushed. I’ve written a long crazy rant that I want to share with you but it needs more time. For now, I’ll leave you here with this:

This moment where we are right now will never return. We will never be here again. Take a breath, really see it, take it all in.

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