Small Experiences Can Change Everything

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Photo by Element5 Digital on Unsplash

Funny the things that you remember so clearly from childhood. It was more than 40 years ago and I can still hear those words and see that small mouse-faced girl with the short-cropped brown hair. I don’t remember her name, but I can see the Kindergarten classroom and hear the snide tone of her voice. It’s my recurring nightmare to this day and a moment that shaped my life.

It was career week at my elementary school in 1978 and the assignment for Monday was to come dressed as one of our parents. If we didn’t already know, we were supposed to ask our parents where they worked and what they did at their job, and then come to school dressed as they would at work, stand up in front of the class and tell everyone about what we had learned about our parent’s jobs.

I went home with this assignment for career week full of excitement. I already knew what my Mom and my stepdad did for work. My stepdad, I called him my Ken, was a delivery driver. He drove a big truck delivering new washers and sofas to people’s houses. It was exciting for my brother and me when he would let us play in the back of the truck or pay us $5 to rub hard wax all over the wooden floor so that the big boxes would slide easily across it, but it didn’t seem to my five-year-old mind, like something exciting to tell my classmates about or to come to school dressed in jeans and a work shirt like him. My Dad did a similar job, delivering for drug stores, and although we always loved being picked up from school in his work truck and sliding around the back in crates while he drove us the one block to his house from school, I didn’t want to wear just plain clothes to school.

Yes, it was all about the clothes! I wanted to wear a costume! I wanted people in class to be impressed!

By the next day, my thoughts were focused on my mom. She worked at a bank and dressed up fancy (to my five-year-old senses) every day. She wore nice skirts and blouses, jackets and high heels. She always did her hair up nice and wore makeup. I thought she was the prettiest person in the world. I wanted to come to school dressed just like her!

I don’t remember if I worked this out with my mom. I know we were supposed to ask our parents about their work and get their help dressing as they did, and I’m sure my mom helped me with my hair (and a little makeup), but those specifics are lost to me today. I do remember thinking that I couldn’t wear her clothes because they were way too big, but I could wear my own nicest clothes and curl my hair like hers and that’s exactly what I did.

On the day of the assignment I came to school full of pride. I was wearing a frilly blue dress my mom had got me for a party we had gone to. I had white stockings on and shiny black shoes. My hair was curled, and I had a matching ribbon. And I was thrilled that my mom had let me wear just a little makeup like hers! I walked to school as if I were the queen of the world. I felt gorgeous and soon everyone would know how important and pretty my Mom was when I told them what her job was.

Parents dropping their kids off at school and kids that walked with older brothers and sisters were slowly trickling into the Kinder play area. I was too dressed up to play and waited at the door where we all would line up when the bell rang for class and soon it did. Other kids came running up to the concrete porch area in front of the door to line up behind me and another girl that was talking to me.

Most of the kids in my class were dressed up in crazy outfits that day. One I remember had a white apron on and baggy black pants with a paper hat on his head. His Dad worked at the meat counter at the grocery store. Another girl had her dad’s McDonald’s shirt on like a dress, belted at the waist, hanging almost to her ankles. One boy had on jeans and his dad’s old construction work boots. I had begun to worry. Everyone else was wearing something of their parents, no matter how big the clothes were. I was different.

That’s when I saw her look at me. That tall girl that always seemed like she was angry about something. Her snack wasn’t the right one. Someone took her pencil when it was clearly right on the floor next to her. Strangely, I don’t remember what she was wearing but I remember her walking straight up to me and looking at my dress. She gave that mousy, narrow-eyed look of a kid that’s sure you must be crazy, and said, “What are you supposed to be? Tinkerbell?”

I was instantly mortified. I had interpreted the assignment to dress up “LIKE” a parent. Everyone else took the assignment literally and wore their parent’s clothes.

I honestly can’t remember what my reply was. My memory has two versions. One is probably closer to what happened, and the other is what my older self wishes I had said.

I stammered an answer with tears in my eyes, face flushing red, “My mom dresses up nice to work at the bank.”

The other, more clever answer? “Yes. My Mom works at Disneyland and she IS Tinkerbell.”

It really doesn’t matter what I said, what was important was the “I really screwed up” feeling that stuck with me for the rest of my school life, my whole life if I’m honest. To this day, I am still afraid to stand out.

It’s embarrassing to admit that it still affects me, that I just can’t let it go. There’s no one to blame. She wasn’t a bad person; she was a child. Even as adults, people generally don’t say things to hurt others deliberately. She didn’t mean to cut me down or ruin my life, she just said what she was thinking, and I took it so personally, internalized it so much that it continued to direct my actions my whole life. That’s on me.

Strange to think that one incident can have such a strong impact on a life, but it did in my case. I can’t say that that girl’s remark about my costume choice changed me or if it just accentuated a feeling I already had. I had always been a sensitive and shy kid. Her remark was probably one of hundreds over my lifetime that shaped me. But should they have? Should anyone else’s opinion shape our choices, especially the opinions of people that we don’t really care to impress?

What could I have done differently? How could I have reacted differently? Was there an adult in my life that could have changed how I felt about it? I will never know.

Why did this memory come up? Because I want to go to the Renaissance Faire in the spring and I so desperately want to dress up! And you know what? I’m afraid to! Yes. I’m still afraid to dress up. I’m 46 years old and afraid to dress up and go to an event that is known for its costumed patrons! At what point does one get over these kinds of things?

How can I change this? How do I start doing things because I want to and they make me happy and not worry about what anyone else thinks? I do it in lots of different ways, but not with my clothes. I just can’t bring myself to stand out like that.

Brilliant Little Communicating Machines

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“Boo,” he kept saying, becoming more frustrated with me every moment. What could he possibly mean?

My young son had more thoughts, needs, and motivations than his tiny vocabulary and vocal muscles could pronounce. We had begun teaching him “baby signs” at six months old and by eighteen months he had a varied vocabulary that included many signs and several words. He could tell you when he was hungry, when he was wet, when he wanted to snuggle. He could ask for a specific “snack” and tell you that he wanted to play at Disneyland, not the park. He knew “mine,” “share,” and “go.” It was a little uncanny at times for someone so small to be so articulate.

I had learned about baby signs when he was born and was told it would help ease the frustration of the toddler years and so far, it was working like a charm except for today. Today he had a new need and was working on a new word to express it.

“Boo!” he shouted this time, pointing up at the shelf of video tapes, music CDs, stuffed animals, and other knickknacks. I moved to it, looking over each item, pointing to some.

“This?” I asked.

A small stomp of the foot. This had to be so frustrating. “No. Boo!”

“This?” I asked again, picking up a stuffed animal, a small blue bear that worked like a music box.

“No.” Shaking his tiny blonde head in sadness, then suddenly looking up with bright eyes. He had an idea. He put both his hands up and opened and closed his little fists several times, “Boo Koo!”

Suddenly it dawned on me. Blues Clues! He wanted to watch Blues Clues! He could see the light come on in my head as I reached for the correct video tape. He did is adorable “happy dance” hoping around on one foot and spinning toward the couch.

“Yes!” he said, another word he spoke so well. We were both relieved that the communication gap was bridged.

Putting the tape into the machine and turning on the TV, he points to the kitchen, “SNACK!” he says with both fists up, clenched to his body like he’s angry. That means something sweet, preferably some crackers with a few M&M’s in a bowl.

“Sure baby!” and I run to the kitchen to get us both something sweet while the Blues Clues title song starts to play.

Settling down next to him, snacks in our lap, I wonder at this little language learning machine. It’s a miracle really. Not only do they learn to hear and understand what we express, but they learn to form those words in their throat and mouth, and all the body language and tone along with it.

As Spock would say, “Fascinating.”

Thanks for the October writing prompts, Writers Write!

It’s Friday Again!

I’m back! Did you miss me?

I hadn’t planned on writing today, but since we decided to come home early so that he’d have a few days of rest before he went back to work on Monday, I’ve had a day to rest and catch up on things myself. So here I am!

Happy Friday to you!

Thing I learned: Just before I left for our first vacation without kids, I was asking myself “Where do you go when you aren’t trying to show the world to your kids? What places do you visit when you only have the two of you chiming in with preferences?” Since my husband came with a daughter, we’ve always had kids around. Want to know the answer? The same things we’ve always done but without little people dragging along behind!

We were walking along a trail at a state park, stopping to look at animal tracks and wondering about how a fence was constructed, when it dawned on me. We are still doing the same things we did when we had kids, and probably the same things we did before we had kids, before we even met each other. We are explorers! The end of parenting is not the end of our marriage. Kids are not all we have in common!

Thing I’m reading: I started reading “Paul Simon: the life” by Robert Hilburn while we were out on the road. I haven’t always been a fan of his music. I mean, everyone knows the songs he has on the radio, but I didn’t have any albums. My sons introduced me to him, and they always marveled at the poetry in his music. I’m loving the biography because reading it makes me think he, as a person, is similar to his music; down to earth, a bit deep, quiet, and relevant to all times, not just the ones he wrote in.

This quote from him resonated with me.

“I think she understood that the one who are looking out the window are sometimes your best students, not the ones who always raise their hand and want attention,” Paul said. “I always thought that was embarrassing. I wanted attention, too, but I didn’t want to be seen as wanting it. I wanted it to come naturally, by doing something that warranted it, rather than me manipulating people to look at me.”

I can understand that! The book is really speaking to me as a writer. An artist is an artist. We want to be noticed for creating something people want to see, not because we read an article or hired someone that knows about social media ads and manipulating Amazon “best seller” subjects. It has inspired me to keep writing exactly what is on my heart and not worry so much about getting seen. I’ll be visible soon enough. I don’t need to sit in the front row jumping out of my seat with my hand up.

Thing I heard: “Live Life. Take Notes. Tell Strangers.” A couple of years ago, I saw this magnet on the fridge at the pregnancy clinic where I volunteer. Funny thing is that  I took a picture of it, posted it, and then forgot all about it until I was scrolling through my Facebook Memories. This time it struck home. This is exactly what I do on my blog!

I loved it so much that I immediately made it my blog’s profile picture on Facebook. Then I searched the internet for its source. It turns out that it’s from Tim Hawkins! He was asked what the secret to writing comedy was and this was his answer and I couldn’t agree more. I hope he doesn’t mind that I borrowed it for a bit of inspiration! I bought my own fridge magnet and a notebook! Want one? Click here!

Thing I want to do: Change the production schedule of this blog! The last couple of weeks have illuminated something important to me. I cannot produce publishable output every single day, not yet anyway. I need more time. From now on the schedule will go like this:

Every Monday and Wednesday I will put up a finished piece. They will typically be observation articles, things I’m thinking about or have noticed and want to expand on. You know…philosophical stuff.

Friday will always have a “It’s Friday, my Friends!” post like this one.

As they come up, I’ll post my book reviews here as well, but they aren’t scheduled. They’ll just be up as I finish a book and get the chance to write my thoughts about it. I’ll post those to my Goodreads account too!

Tuesday, Thursday, and some Saturdays and Sundays, will be my simply writing days. Every day I’ll schedule a couple of hours to sit at my computer and think, but I’ll only post the output three days a week. I think this time frame is feasible for me right now, but I may just drop to two days a week if it overwhelms me again.

The overwhelm comes, not from the writing itself, but from having to post it. What I’ve been doing is sitting down at my computer, thinking of something to write about, tapping it out, reading it over, and then immediately posting it. It’s not very conducive to coherent writing. It puts too much pressure on me, and I make a lot of mistakes! If I have only two or three days a week to post, the rest of the daily writing time can be better spent writing and then actually editing that writing before I give it to the world. We’ll see how it goes!

Picture of the week:

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It’s me, hiking with my husband this past week. He turned around and took it as I was walking behind him. I’ve always struggled with body image. Even when I was a kid, young and skinny, I thought I was chubby and not that attractive. My husband begs to differ and thinking back, I’ve never lacked for male attention, so doesn’t that mean I am attractive?

So…here I am, boldly making the statement. I like this picture of me. Yes, I’m chubby! But I’m fun. And I love life! My hair is going grey, my skin is starting to show its age, but I’m healthy, strong, and happy. This is what joy looks like in real life!

It’s Friday, My Friends!

It’s a special Friday today!

My husband is on vacation starting today and therefore, so am I!

For the next couple of weeks, I won’t be posting anything, but that doesn’t mean I won’t be writing. I’ll be spending our on the road vacation as a kind of writing retreat. I have a short list of “to-do’s” and a couple of great books to read!

This is my husband and I’s first vacation without kids in twenty years, so we have some adjusting to do. Where do you go when you aren’t trying to show the world to your kids? What places do you visit when you only have the two of you chiming in with preferences? It’s going to be different for sure and I’m really looking forward to it.

On to the Friday list!

Thing I learned: Writer’s keep journals for different reasons and they’re NOT all very interesting. I just finished “Breathe in. Breathe Out.” By Ralph Fletcher. I’ve kept a journal/notebook for years, ever since I was a teenager. Lately, my notebook has begun to look more like a personal journal. I don’t like it. The past couple of weeks I started keeping it with me wherever I go and writing down things I see, memories, ideas, quotes, song lyrics, anything I think is interesting. When I go out to lunch with a friend, I sit in my car afterwards and write down a few lines about it, impressions I had or feelings that came up. I promised myself I’d be looking back on that more often than I used to, but I’ve let is slide again. June has been busy.

Thing I’m reading: “The Pagan Christ” by Tom Harpur. Part of me is a bit afraid to post the cover of this on my Facebook page and that makes me angry. I’m of the mind that the real God is so great that it cannot be proven false. I have no fear of reading something that might challenge my beliefs. I want those challenges. I don’t want to believe anything blindly!

Right off the bat, I know this book will be fascinating! Here’s a quote to show you exactly what I mean. “A too often forgotten truth is that you can live through actual events of history and completely miss the underlying reality of what’s going on.” There is more to the world around you than the details only you experience. We have to remove ourselves a bit to see the bigger picture, and sometimes the picture is just far too big for us every to be THAT removed.

Thing I heard: “Hooked on a Feeling” by Blue Suede! Every single time I hear that song, I see my Dad’s livingroom and his juke box. I also see him singing it at the top of his voice next to me in the cab of his Datsun pickup truck, banging on the steering wheel. It brings to mind images of Thrify’s ice cream, Saturday matinees, and 7/11 Slurpees. I’m only slightly perturbed that everyone else only knows it because of “Guardians of the Galaxy.”

Thing I want to do: Take a nap for several days. I have not gotten enough sleep lately and I have no idea why. Could it be the weather change? The sun going down so late in the day? My son’s cooking? The cat and its need for me to on the couch at 4am so he can sleep next to me there? No idea. Maybe I can get some more sleep while we are on our trip!

Picture of the week:

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The Says Phoebe’s have left the nest on our front porch! Two new birds have been raised to adulthood once again. I love them. A new couple is on our porch every spring and I look forward to hearing their twittering. I’ve learned what each different call means. One call I know is the one for, “That cat is stalking us again!” And I’m out there at least once a day to shoo him into the house and apologize for his behavior.

Interesting thing my son said…he was washing a dish at the sink and watching the mother bird fly up to the nest with a bug and then fly off a bit and start calling. He wondered what she was doing and it dawned on him. “She’s luring him out of the nest! She doesn’t kick them out, she offers him food and waits to see if they’ll join her…just like YOU!”

My sons are old enough to be on their own and they fly in and out of our nest all the time. I know when they are ready to be on their own without their mother hovering over them and asking stupid questions, they will go. I’m in no hurry, but I know the day will come soon. There is already talk about apartments and moving to the city. I won’t kick them out and see if they fly. I’ve put way too much work into this for that! When they are ready, their instincts to fend for themselves will pull them.

See you in a few weeks!

It’s Friday! Oh…wait…

And…it’s Saturday morning that I’m finally making myself take a moment to sit down and at least do my Friday post. I’ve been feeling a bit like a teenager, hormonally pulled and exhaustedly lazy at the same time. I think I’m ready for a vacation. Luckily for me, that is exactly what’s coming up for us!

So, let’s get to this!

Thing I learned: I thought that I was over being affected by other people’s opinions of me, but then found myself trying to behave in ways someone else believed is the best way to behave instead of being myself and accepting that some people will not like it and those people are just not my people. Wow. That’s a damn long sentence! Self, you are you, and you need to be ok with the fact that you are not everyone’s cup of tea! That doesn’t mean they are bad people, just not YOUR people. Keep being you in all your crazy, talkative, open and honest ways, and the people that like that will be attracted to your orbit. It’s going to take time. Some of those bodies are way out in the galaxy!

Thing I’m reading: This is dumb but I’m kind of a book snob. I tend to reject books that everyone else is reading just because everyone else is reading them. Not cool, I know. What does it take to get me to read a popular book? A cute boy told me to. That’s what I was talking about earlier, teenage behavior. I’m about three hours into the first Game of Thrones book and I’m really liking it. It’s enjoyable, easy to read, so it goes fast, and it has a lot of feeling. I have hopes that it will prove a bit of depth as I read it, but it’s ok if it doesn’t. There’s nothing wrong with an exciting adventure that you don’t necessarily want to experience again!

Thing I heard: My oldest son came home from his vacation in Germany this week and we’ve been catching up. We spend a lot of time talking, that boy and I. He’s very intelligent and I love his take on the world around him. We homeschooled and we live rurally. We’ve been home-centered, I’d say. This past year, since just before his seventeenth birthday, he has been out in the world gathering experiences on his own in big ways. Funny thing; he’s always been one to jump into things with both feet. He goes from knowing nothing of it to moving comfortably in it, no matter what he tries. It’s been the same for him leaving the nest. It’s like talking to a worldly man, a young, optimistic, and proud man.

As we sat at the table, sharing a cup of coffee and a bit of toast and cheese (Euro Breakfast), he told me something profound. “Mom,” he says, “someone told me a few years ago that if I had gone to school, I probably would have been diagnosed with Asperger’s of some kind. I did not agree at all, but the more I talk to people and work with people, I’m starting to see that I really do think differently. It isn’t that other people are dumb or that they don’t know how to do things the ‘right way’, it’s that I just see things in a different way. And that’s ok. They do it their way. I do it mine. We can help each other.” I’m paraphrasing here, of course. It was a long conversation. All our conversations are long. We love to philosophize over breakfast. I just about cried. This was exactly why we wanted to homeschool the way we did. I wanted my kids to grow up naturally. I wanted them to grow up secure in who they were as individuals, doing things the way they felt was best for them specifically, within a family that loves them. The theory works. He is not sheltered and afraid of the world. He does not hide away. He does not go with the crowd unless he wants to. He’s a wonderful young man and ready to take on the world.

Thing I want to do: Do less. I need to take some time to make a list of essentials. We’ve all heard the saying, “Time is money.” Here’s the thing. We can waste money if we like because we can make more, but we can’t make more time. I only have so much time in each day. I cannot waste it on unessential things. We cannot do everything. We cannot be everything. It’s time to take stock again and pare down. This time it might be painful. I’ve done it before and thought I had it down to the bare minimum, but I don’t. Since we’re going on vacation, just the two of us, my husband and I, in a couple weeks, I think I’ll use some of that time on the road to do that work. Without the regular distractions, I can focus on what I want to accomplish. I’ll treat it as if we’re going on one of those fancy retreats! We’ll “go dark”! Yes!

And the photo of the week is…

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A baby bird! We saved him! My husband saw him flopping on the porch so I picked him up. He couldn’t even stand in my hand, so tired. He sat in my hand for a minute, I put some water in my hand to see if he’d drink it, he closed his eyes a bit, and suddenly looked more alert. He flapped and flew up to a creosote branch. I looked him up on the internet and found he was a Bushtit and most likely a fledgling from nearby with his mom waiting to feed him.

Have a good week everyone! Don’t worry! I’ll get this writer’s life more under control pretty soon!

Real Love Sets Us Free

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I found Wild Woman Sisterhood about a year ago and have loved just about everything they post. I am only saddened by the negativity of the Facebook comments they seem to get. I’m not sure if it’s social media itself or the people that tend to follow, but many commenters seem so self-centered, immature, and negative. Then again, maybe it’s just the written word that causes the confusion. It’s hard to write one or two lines and get a solid meaning across.

When I see a post on any page that I can’t get behind or doesn’t apply to me, I just keep scrolling. I’m sure it’s out in the universe for someone. That someone isn’t me at the moment. There are times when I do make a comment when I disagree, but it’s usually because I know the person that posted it personally. I’m talking to them directly, just as if they had said something over coffee. I don’t agree and I want to talk about that. But I’d never do that to a stranger and I especially wouldn’t do it on a social media post.

Maybe I just use it differently.

They posted something beautiful this morning and I felt compelled to add my own ideas to it. I kept thinking about it all morning. I even talked about it with my son as we went hiking through the desert.

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My morning routine was broken up today because he wanted to go hiking and, since it’s warming up out here in the desert, it couldn’t wait until the afternoon. After a lunch, a rest, and the dishes, I sat down to write, and the idea was still swimming around in my heart.

Here’s the quote.

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And this was my comment.

Such a beautiful sentiment!

A caged bird is “loved” too. But the best love is the kind that supports freely, the kind that makes you feel like you can do anything, including walking away.

That kind of love is precious.

I’m bound to my love, not because I feel like I have to stay but because I want to, because here, with my partner’s love, is where I grow and thrive best!

And then, when someone insisted that a caged bird is not really loved at all…

The person who caged it does believe they love it. They love it as an object to be taken care of like a book, pen, or chair.

Humans should never be loved that way, but we often treat each other as objects instead of beings. That doesn’t mean we don’t love each other. It means we haven’t grown enough to know the difference yet.

It takes a strong person to love another human as a separate being and not an object.

Lovers that treat their partners as objects to be kept, get scared and angry when their love isn’t returned or if their partner changes their mind.

Parents treat their children as pets, something to be controlled and cared for, instead of distinct individuals with their own wants, needs, and agendas.

And sometimes we treat our friends that way when we insist that they spend time with us and only us, as if they aren’t living their own life when we aren’t around.

Loving someone and letting them go, allowing them the space to be free, to say no to us, to walk away, is terrifying.

What if they find someone better? If you loved them, you’d want them to if they could.

What if they grow away from me? If you loved them, you’d want them to be the best they can be with or without you.

What if? Don’t ruin the time you have with your loved ones worrying about the future. Love them completely right now, so if the worst happens, you have all those beautiful memories to look back on.

If you LOVE someone, something, set it free. If it doesn’t come back…

Hunt it down! That’s what my Grandpa used to laugh and say! But we all know that just doesn’t work. The caged bird is safe and secure, but it will never fulfill its true reason for being on this earth.

The caged human is the same. She will never reach her own potential. He will never be who he was truly meant to be.

Love them but do not cage them. Support them, share with them, help them, but set them free and watch what they become.

Run For Your Lives! Teens!

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I can’t really say that I feel qualified to write with authority about young adults just yet, but I can write with confidence about my current observations and how we are coping with the transition from teen to adult in this house.

Recently, something strange happens when I talk to people about my kids. When I talk about what they are doing, their new girlfriends, their jobs, etc., people get weird. I can’t put the right word on it. They act “worried” for me or them. They act as though we are all standing on a precipice and at any moment the wind could blow and knock one of us off. As if right now is the most dangerous part of our lives. Anything can happen! Our lives could be ruined with one poor choice. It takes all the fun out of relating all the cool things my kids are doing, how they are changing, and how I’M changing to my friends and family.

I say “kids” but what I’m talking about are my young adults, full grown people that live in my house more like roommates than children these days. They have jobs, cars, and girlfriends. They go to college, pay taxes, and go on adventures without us. My youngest is under 18 and races motocross, so we still take him in our truck, since he doesn’t have one, and sign documents he isn’t legally allowed to sign but other than that, they pretty much take care of themselves.

And I don’t mean they always do it well or completely on their own. They mess up, as we all do all our lives. That’s how we learn. I try to help where I can. I offer advice when they ask, and sometimes when they don’t. They also make choices I would not make and that make me nervous. I do my best to stay out of it but sometimes my mom heart feels compelled to jump in and ask what in the world they are thinking. My belief is that they will be better at living with their own families if they can live this way with us. It isn’t easy and sometimes I wonder if I’m doing the right thing.

Some day I think maybe I should be more “strict” like people say and tell them how it is around here. If they want to do things their way they need to move out and not involve me. But that breaks my heart. I want them to be able to bounce ideas off their Dad and I and know that we aren’t going to make them do anything or ridicule their choices. They should know that they can take our advice or leave it and we’ll still be there to love them.

And I want them to know they will always have a stable base to fall back to if their plans go awry.  We may not be able to buy them new cars or pay for college, but we can offer them a place to stay and food to eat. That’s a lot though, if you think about it. It won’t be luxury but at least they won’t be homeless. That doesn’t mean they have free reign to run off and be reckless. I’ve always wanted them to feel free to give things a try, to not be afraid of failing. Trying something and failing is different than doing something really stupid and paying for it. Our lifestyle of radical unschooling was supposed to show them the difference and so far, it’s been working.

Honestly, I think most people see their children begin to be adults and think, “This is where my life went downhill.” That’s when they begin to try and stop them from making the “wrong choices” they themselves made. As if there is a certain age that people get to and begin making rational “good” decisions instead of learning by living through the age and getting to the other side.

I see my young adult children differently. I think, “This is where the fun began, the adventure!” I smile in anticipation of all the glories they are about to discover. And I’m proud that we’re able to support them as they grow and be a part of their lives, even if it is from the sidelines.

What is Love?

What does being “committed to your marriage” really mean?

For us, it means we are dedicated to making each other’s lives better. We’re committed to living together in peace, respecting each other as individuals, supporting each other in reaching our goals and dreams. We have contracted with each other to raise our kids together, hand in hand, at least until they aren’t in need of parenting anymore. We’re a partnership of two whole human beings. We each have our own wants and needs, and we promised to always be honest and open about ourselves while we discuss and negotiate how we will do everything as a partnership. We try not to take any aspect of our marriage as a given, but if it is, we talk about it (even if that means we have to text each other to keep space when things get heated) and come to an agreement based on mutual respect.

To us, it’s called love. We love each other so much, we’d rather see the other satisfied than be right. It hasn’t always been easy and we have failed miserably over and over again, but we always come back to the original commitment and try again. There is little we wouldn’t do to make each other happy and little we would do if it hurt the other.

“Out of the Blue” Chapter 1

Happy Friday! From now on, every Friday morning I’ll be posting roughly 1700 words of my book. I’m planning on self-publishing it, but I could use some help and “accountability” in getting it edited and ready to publish. What better way than to post it here? I’m sure you’ll be able to spot any errors or give me some feedback! Use the comments to say your piece. I’d really appreciate any constructive criticism. 

I hate to be a beggar, but please share the post if you like it. Each Friday story post will have a link back to this one for those who want to start at the beginning.

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To start reading this story from the beginning, click HERE.


Mother’s Day Dedication

I’d been attending church for about nine months. Today my children would be dedicated to God on Mother’s Day, with my Husband, Mother-in-Law, and Grandparents in attendance.

I started going to this church at the invitation of a friend. She had been going there for years and they were trying something new. The church was a bit of a drive for me, but it was only once a week and, being a stay at home mom with young children, I enjoyed the time alone in the car. I hadn’t grown up going to church. I considered myself a Christian. I believed in God and I had an idea about who Jesus was. I had a bible and had read some of it from time to time over my life.

I have two memories of church when I was a child. The first was a Lutheran school I went to for the 1st grade. I don’t remember why I went there instead of a public school like the rest of my life but I remember being dropped off in front of the chapel on Wednesday’s before school started and needing to be quiet as I came in. The second was “Released Time Education” in the 4th grade. I signed up to go because it was once a week during math class. I hated math, so being sent to a small trailer off school property (separation of church and state, you know) with a group of kids from other classrooms was a treat. There was a Catholic and a Protestant one. I went to the Protestant one. I learned the Lord’s prayer and got a tiny bible to keep. That was the extent of my Christian education.

So here I was meeting a good friend at a Baptist church to find out what this new thing they were going to try was. It turned out to be life changing. Services were to be held in the gym instead of the sanctuary. There was a band, a coffee shop in the back, and bean bags in the back rows. The pastor rode in on his Harley. His wife sang with the band. He was passionate and loud. I heard “Can I get an amen from ya!” several times. The people were happy, excited, and outwardly worshiping, hands out-stretched with tears in their eyes. I was intrigued and looked forward to coming back the following week.

As the weeks went on I became more and more comfortable there. Other friends of ours came to Sunday services a few times when they could. I helped in the nursery once a month. I joined a small group bible study on Wednesday nights and joined the ladies for coffee and desserts afterward every week. I felt a part of the family. I began to really fall in love with Jesus and read my bible more and more. I craved to know more about the Lord. The depression I struggled with throughout my adult life, and really fallen into since my children were born, began to abate. I felt like this was what I had been missing, this was the help my heart was searching for. When the pastor announced there would be a group baptism at the church the next month, I felt led to do it which terrified me. I’m not an outgoing person and it was very difficult for me to stand up there in front of the whole congregation and be so publicly baptized, but I felt it was something I had to do, something the Lord wanted me to do, a public announcement of my faith, of my being adopted into the Christian family. I had never felt so happy and proud to be a part of something. Looking back, I wish I had made a bigger deal about it. I wish I had a picture!

I typically attended Sunday services alone. My husband usually picked up his daughter from her Mother’s house on Sunday morning, so coming with me was not an option. My sons were very young and couldn’t sit through the service just yet. The church did have a childcare option, but I was not comfortable leaving them there. They weren’t happy to leave my side and stay with strangers and our parenting philosophy was not one to force them to get used to it. We were still fully in the bonding stages of early parenting and it felt wrong not to honor their desire to stay with a parent. Since my husband was already occupied with picking up his daughter, the boys were happy to go with him. It became a Sunday tradition. I would leave for church and they would get ready to go with Dad. On the way home, they would usually pick up donuts and I would be home just after they were. But it wasn’t always the happiest day of the week for us. There was quite a bit of stress.

My step-daughter spent the rest of her Sunday decompressing. Our home and her Mother’s were very different. Parenting styles, atmosphere, expectations were all different. At her Mother’s she only had to contend with one other person. At our house, there were five of us. She was always excited to see us, but I’m sure it was a rough transition. She was nine years old and was diagnosed as high-functioning autistic when she was two. The personality doesn’t do well with radical change and she had quite a bit of change to deal with every week. We tried to make the transition as easy as possible, giving her space to relax and unwind, but with two little brothers that were excited to see her and school looming the next day, there were things we had to push and it didn’t always go as smoothly as we planned.

It’s one of the things that still weighs heavily on my heart. I hope she knows we always tried to do the best we could. Parenting is not easy. There are no directions, handbooks, or quick fixes. There are just too many variables. And we’re all growing up at the same time but in different stages. Life is messy.

We had joined households with my Mother-In-Law just before my youngest child was born. I can’t say we moved in with her or that she moved in with us. We found a big house that all of us could fit in and we shared expenses and duties. It was a good move for all of us. She was no longer alone and could live more comfortably. And we were happy to have a third adult in the house, always willing to lend a hand watching the babies or driving someone somewhere. It was a win-win situation for everyone. She attended another church in our neighborhood that she had always gone to, so she was in on the usual Sunday Morning Excitement.

This Sunday would be different. It was Mother’s Day and my church was honoring the newest mothers in the group by having a Dedication Ceremony. Everyone was asked to be there and to invite extended family and friends to witness. My Mother-In-Law was happy to skip her church service to be there. And my Grandparents drove an hour and half to be there that Sunday morning. They weren’t church going people, but they were Christians. My Grandmother had been raised Catholic (something I didn’t know at the time), so she was excited to see some kind of Christian Ceremony in the family again. It still makes me smile to think of her proud face that day.

My husband had arranged to pick up his daughter on Saturday night instead of Sunday morning, so she could attend. I had to get our sons up, dressed, and out the door by 8am, which was a feat in itself. They were three and two years old and definitely had their own way and pace of doing things. The big change for them was that I wanted them to wear something other than a camouflage shirt and black rubber boots. The very idea was insulting to them. I was just a young mom trying to show those church people I had it all together and had clean and tidy children. Couldn’t they cooperate, just this once?
The ride to the church was about thirty-five minutes long, so my young sons had already been confined for that long, an eternity for little boys. When we arrived, they sprang from the car and ran toward the grass in front of the church. Dad watched over them as they made circles around a fountain and ran up and down the grass chasing their older sister who always seemed happy to have the attention. We were attempting to wear out the wiggles a bit before we went inside. I met my Grandparents in the parking lot and told them how happy I was to have them there. I’d always been close to my Grandparents.

Five minutes before the service was to begin, we rounded up the children and walked into the auditorium. We found the place transformed into a perfectly beautiful, feminine paradise. Instead of rows of chairs there were tables draped in soft cloth of different pastels. Each table was clearly decorated for the ladies; flowers, confetti, a small gift for each mother at the table. We came in and sat down, taking up a whole table with our family and friends. As we settled in the music began.

The band was wonderful. All the kids loved the live music. Especially my oldest son. He’s always been drawn to music and he thoroughly enjoyed being able to see each of the band members play up close, with his ears covered by his hands, of course, “just in case it got too loud,” he said. The music lasted about fifteen minutes before it quieted down and the service began. As the pastor began to speak, I noticed all the other mothers in the auditorium sitting in chairs holding toddlers on their knees or standing quietly in the back rocking their babies while they listened. I know I wasn’t the only Mom praying that the children would remain calm during the ceremony or that the pastor would understand a mother’s plight and make it short, but I felt like I was waiting for a miracle. I knew my step-daughter would sit and listen for as long as the pastor talked. She was older, in school, and already a good listener and one to wait patiently. My younger son promptly fell asleep on Dad’s shoulder. Being two must be nice. Tired? Just crawl into someone’s lap and snooze! My older son was not one to sit still or be quiet when he was not interested in the subject at hand. At first, he fidgeted with the things on the table. He carefully opened a box of candy, separated each of the colors, and ate them all one by one, telling me all about it in his tiny little voice. He asked several times what the pastor was saying and when the music would start again.

The pastor talked for about twenty minutes. Not long for a church service but for a little boy and his mother, forever! My son began to fidget. Grandma tried to entertain him a bit with some crayons she had in her purse. Grandmas! God bless them! My son really wanted to hear more music and I told him they would play soon but if he couldn’t be quiet we’d have to go outside. His little face brightened, “Ok!” That wasn’t the reaction I was looking for but just as he said it, the pastor asked all the families to come to the front for the Dedication Ceremony. My son hadn’t heard that part. When we got up he assumed we were going outside, exactly what he wanted to do. He was so confused when we walked to the front of the assembly and began to cry as the pastor began talking about each family. I knelt next to him and held him close, whispering that this is the part I was waiting for, right afterward the music would start. He just stood there looking irritated. My younger son, held by his Dad, rubbed his eyes in sleepy confusion.
The pastor spoke of each family. His kind and encouraging words for each of us and the loving prayers of the whole church lifted my spirits. I felt connected. I could feel the Holy Spirit in this room full of His children. I felt invincible. Each of the boys received a small New Testament with the date and the name of the church written inside. They loved them. Small books with so many pages they could hold in their little hands. I still have them tucked away in their baby things.

We left the church and headed straight home. There was no going out for lunch for this family. That would be a recipe for disaster. The boys had sat still long enough. But Dad stopped at the donut store on the way back and we all met at the house for donuts and coffee to celebrate. Sitting around the dining room table with my family happily munching away on donuts, my sons and their “coffee” (otherwise known as sippy cups of chocolate milk). I couldn’t be happier. Everything was as it should be.

Looking back now, years later, I realize something about where I was spiritually. I believe I was in love with the church, the experience, the show, not the Lord. I was trying to fit in with a group of people I believed were “doing it right,” not being the person God made me. My focus was not on the Lord or leaning on Him for support. A lot has changed over the years. There have been many trials and some not insignificant pain. This same month would begin nine months of intense stress I never saw coming, but I know the Lord did. I know now that He was building up my defenses for something that would change my whole worldview. Like giving birth once you’re pregnant, this trial had to happen. There was no way to stop it. I was about to learn some very serious life lessons and I know He was right there, holding my hand as it happened and we worked through it together.

Read the next chapter HERE.

Old Posts Make Me Smile

They really do. When we started our homeschool journey someone told me that a great way to keep a private school record was to keep a personal blog. I started writing in 2006, the year my oldest turned six and had to be enrolled in school. I started our own home-based private school that year and this year was our last private school filing. I stopped writing on my first blog, Liberty Academy, in 2014. I had started using Facebook more and printing it as a book at the end of the year, so I felt keeping up with both was too much.

Comparing Facebook and a Blog, there are definite perks to both. I wish I could combine them! With my blog, I tend to write more commentary. I use fewer pictures in each post, using only the ones that highlight the day. I also write more about what went on that day and what I thought about, along with things they said or did that made me smile or pull my hair out.

With Facebook posts, I tend to post more pictures and only caption them. The positive, and what keeps me coming back, is the feedback I get on Facebook versus the blog. Facebook gets “likes” which tell me that my friends and family are seeing what I’m posting. My blog, well, it was more like an online scrapbook that I drug out when family was over to see baby pictures and vacation photos.

Looking back, I wish I had continued my blog along with Facebook for a more complete memory. Posts like the one I’m sharing today bring back vivid memories of my parenting journey and I hope my sons enjoy them as they get older. I’ve printed blog books and My Social Books for each year and love thumbing through them on quiet days.

The post I’m sharing today was from one of our many Disneyland visits. When we lived near it, we spent about one day a week there, sometimes more, but once we moved to the desert, we slowed down to about one day a month until the cost of an annual pass exceeded our interest in going. I love this post because it shows my interest in them and our relationship along with details about the cost of Disneyland! I did not edit this other than to correct some typos.

November 15, 2012
Yes, Disneyland Again!

When we decided to get Disneyland annual passes, we looked at the cost of the pass and budgeted for gas and at least one trip per month. That actually gave us a couple trips in some months because of black out days for our passes. So, we’re starting to wind down. We got the passes for Christmas last year and our first trip was in January, so we only have a couple more trips ahead. Tom is a little sad. It’s not going to be fun the last time we go and will probably end up being a VERY long day. Jake is easier going. He enjoys going and loves all the fun but is perfectly fine with doing something else and looking forward to the next time he may or may not get to go. Polar opposites those two are, on just about everything.

So why do I like Disneyland so much? I really couldn’t say. I grumble and complain and say I wouldn’t go if they boys didn’t want to, but then I’m there and it’s fun and there are the memories, and I’m teared up at the fireworks show. It’s strange. The down side parts are the cost (we could spend that money on doing things we’ve never done before), the crowds (not just the amount of people but the quality, blach!), and the sheer overwhelming-ness of it all. The drive down, the drive back, the bustling about all day, and then there is the recovery day after. But then there is the up-side parts! Spending the day with my boys. The drive there and back is filled with singing, talking, and laughing. Riding rides I remember as a kid, getting churros, telling stories about going there when I was little and when I worked there. The conversations we have in line are probably pretty bizarre to those around us, they pretty much cover just about everything; the physics of the ride, the capacity, when it was created, what used to be there, the theme, crowd control, funny stories of when we worked there, books we’re reading, movies we’ve watch, people in line, plans for the rest of the day, etc. I wish I could record them all! All the while I’m thinking how many people get to run wild through Disneyland so many times with their 10 and 12-year-old boys? I’m not dragging them and they’re not dragging me. We are having a blast together and there is nowhere else we’d rather be. The only thing that would make it better is if Dad could come with us. Poor guy has to work! But we always try to bring him home some candy and tell him all the stories.

I guess I’ve gone on long enough about this, so here are the pictures from our day!

On the tram again! My sons cannot just look at the camera and smile. Really, it’s physically impossible for them.

1 Jake on the tram         2 Tom on the tram

Ahh the traditional picture in front of the big Disneyland Christmas tree! They were blind from the sun. It was 85 degrees out! So much for the Christmas feeling.

3 boys at the christmas tree

4 stupid fake tree

Hey! Wait just a cotton-pickin’ minute! This tree is FAKE! What happened!? This prompted a half hour “In my day…” diatribe, which again made me feel old. I can’t wait to do this to my Grandchildren!

5 waiting for matterhorn

This is Tom trying to figure out what the crests mean on the Matterhorn while stuffing a pretzel in his face. I’m proud of this picture because it’s natural. This is what Tom looks like pretty much all the time. There is not a moment that goes by that he isn’t trying to figure something out. On a side note, the figuring things out gets crazier in the evenings just before bed. It’s as if he has to finish every thought through before going to sleep. Poor Jake has to hear them all even though he is trying to go to sleep. While we were waiting, Tom noticed a couple things on the cars that he didn’t know about. He asked me about it, but I didn’t know either. I’ve never worked on that ride. I thought he forgot about it, but as we got into the car he stopped the ride operator and quizzed him about it for the few seconds before the ride started. He got his stinkin’ answers! :))

6 splash mountain

Splash Mountain. The plan was to go on this and then the Haunted Mansion, Pirates, etc., but it was broken when we got there so we went on Haunted Mansion first. Waiting for that, I got quizzed about why “splash was down” and what could have gone wrong, how long would it take, who would they call, and if it would be closed for the rest of the day. You could tell Tom was worried that the plan would be altered. I understand though, at least this time. This is his favorite ride. So we waited around for a minute or two to see if is reopened. He wanted to ask the ride operator about it, but I told him he wouldn’t give him any more information besides “Soon.” or “Later.” and “Technical difficulties that will be resolved shortly” I know this drill. Thank the maker, it opened up and they went running off. This is a ride that I do not go on. I hate getting splashed wet and then walking around cold for hours afterward. The pretty of the ride is not worth the misery, in my opinion. So, I wait for them at the exit.

Notice the white sky? The boys did too. This is something that always bugged me in the OC. They sky is such a pale blue that it almost always comes out white in pictures. Must be something to do with the moisture in the air? Don’t know. But it makes for some ugly pictures.

We stopped for some dinner at the Mexican place, per Jake’s request. My boys LOVE Mexican food. The bummer is that they’ve never been partial to kids’ meals (seriously, kids meals should be smaller versions of what is actually served at that restaurant, but don’t get me started) and they’ve outgrown sharing an adult meal. The cost of feeding these buggers has gone up tremendously!

And then it was evening and the lights came on! That’s my favorite. I love Christmas at Disneyland at night! I swear that just seeing Main Street, the Castle, and Small World is worth the price of admission at Christmas time. Luckily, Tom and Jake still like the kids rides so we went straight to Small World when the lights came on.

Here are the highlights…

8 small world christmas

15 small world christmas

And the GRAND FINALE! The family behind us in line at Space Mountain laughed when I told the boys we had to see the fireworks from in front of the castle or I was going to cry and not be consoled. They would have to drive home because I would be crying so hard, I would not be able to drive. As if I were exaggerating! Every time I try to see the fireworks close up, it’s way too crowded. I cannot sit there holding my spot for three hours. I just refuse. But the park attendance was so light, I just knew we’d get a good spot this time and we did. Here’s my view…and I’m not zooming.

16 christmas castle

I didn’t bother taking pictures of the fireworks since they never look good that way, but it was impressive even if I have seen it a million times from my spot light. It’s pretty much the same show we did back then, but with more on the castle, no tink, and Christmas music. But, I’ll admit, I loved it. The best part was watching Tom and Jake look back at me with the “Did you see that?!” face. Totally worth being sardined.

I planned on leaving at 8pm, but the fireworks were at 7:45 and then the park closed, so we were stuck in the mass exodus. Kinda fun swimming through that. And we got a cinnamon pretzel for the road because my friend was working at the Wetzel Pretzel stand. Then we got to listen to people fight, push, and scream at each other getting on the tram.

It was another great day at Disneyland. I’m going to miss it. Passes went up $100 per person this year, so it’s not going to happen for a long time. But there are other adventures to be had!