Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Possibilities....

That change that I felt in the air last month has settled into my body in the form of, what if?  I have started exploring all sorts of options for our lives and how we can shift our perspective to get more of the lifestyle we desire. I am applying for a MBA program that is seemingly way out of my league. I am exploring moving to an island in the south pacific. I am exploring business ideas like opening a burger, fries, and ice cream shop in middle America. I am letting my mind go wild with the possibilities and it is so much fun!

I am guessing this has something to do with the 'mid-life crisis' syndrome that appears to happen to all 40 somethings across the globe. I read an interesting article that had done a study of 40 somethings across the globe and all sorts of social and economic lines. Apparently the mid 40's is one of the hardest times of your life. (read it here Atlantic mid-life crisis article )You feel the most pressure and fear around your choices and the direction of your life. You tend to feel trapped and often stressed about the future. Well, I can say that the past two years had some of that feeling. Then we started talking about what that feeling was telling us. What I heard was, what if?
What if this is it?

It was a wake up call. Is this it? Is this the life you have been dreaming of? Is this how you would love to continue. Are you living everyday with the joy and passion that is possible in this one opportunity you have to live this life?  Wow, time to do some digging and possibly some realigning of goals, perceived ideas of 'success', and the fears of our future.  What is it I really want? What is my  bucket list for this life and is it a list we should be differing until we are financially ready? Should we wait until it is a 'good time' to make a leap to a new way of living?

My answer was, it depends.  I want to just jump into a new life and manifest all my wonderful dreams and tick off my list of bucket list items. The reality is it will take some thought and planning. It will take many discussions and lots of research and more 'what if' questions.  But, the discussion is started. We have opened the box of possibilities and I am looking forward to the future.

I know even if my future self is still living in this old house I will at least have an updated kitchen and some new plants in the front yard and a list of dreams waiting for me to find a way to fulfill.
Because it is dreams that make life so fun to live...
  Those who dream by day are cognizant of many things 
which escape those who only dream at night.
                                                                                                 -Edgar Allen Poe

What are your dreams??

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

October RV Trip


This past week I did something I had always wanted to do, but felt so guilty about wanting to do it. I rented a 30ft RV and drove it down the California coast with my dad and two kids. It was a guilty pleasure and I enjoyed it very much.

My secret wish was that my husband might join us if we had an RV with a bed, stove, and bathroom included. He has some PSTD surrounding camping due to his time in the army. It is not the relaxing joyous experience it is for myself and  the kids. For him it is a stark and intense reminder of a time in his life that he would rather forget. Or it is a very believable and untouchable excuse for him to get out of camping with his family.

Whatever the reason I have come to the conclusion it is not an activity I can force upon him. He will have to decide it is worth the mental effort to overcome his past and make new and happy memories with us surrounding camping. I want him to do it now. I want him to come with us to the mountains and the coast and enjoy being away from home. But considering the stress of his job and how happy he is to be home feeling safe and secure I don't see it happening anytime soon. In the meantime I have figured out how to do camping on my own with my kiddos. It isn't the same without him, but it isn't so bad.

As I drove that bad boy out of the parking lot and started down the highway my heart was pounding and I was on the verge of tears. What in the world was I thinking! I am driving a 30ft vehicle in mid-morning traffic in the middle of Silicon Valley! I started singing to myself and worked on breathing. I stayed in one lane and went a reasonable speed. As I pulled onto our street and in front of our house I felt like I was going to be ok. I had taken on something I wanted to do even though it scared the crap out of me and I did it!

I got much better at driving over the next few days. My husband drove down to meet us one morning and we did a beautiful hike all together. He drove home and slept in the security of his own bed. My dad enjoyed the time with the kids and they had a blast exploring the outdoors and enjoying the comforts of driving down the road sitting at a table putting together a puzzle. It was a good week.

I realized after the trip that my dad had to overcome a level of stress regarding RV's and their menace to the general public and earth. He was able to put aside his bias against such vehicles and enjoy being with his daughter and grandchildren despite his negative emotions surrounding RVs'. I realized that my husband had made a great effort to support my wish even though it was not something he wanted or could even imagine enjoying.  I had overcome my fear of driving a ridiculous sized vehicle on my own. And my kids had managed to just have fun.

This past week was a reminder of how many blessings I have in my life. Often I forget how lucky I am to have people who support me.  I sometimes get caught up in my version of 'how things should be' and forget to appreciate 'how things are' and that often they are much better than I realize. Yesterday was my first day back to 'reality' after a week of vacation. I was very much caught up in 'how things should be' and wanted to forget all about 'how things are'. This morning after some mediation I realized things are just as they should be. I am moving forward, slowly staying in my lane, and working on my breath. I am carving a path of my own and I am so blessed to have the support and love of my family for every step. It isn't always easy, but it sure is fun.

I hope you are having as much fun on your own RV trip!!

Saturday, October 1, 2016

The season of change

Over the years my relationship to 'change' has evolved. As a young woman I was blessed with two parents and a relatively stable life. As a college student I found a home and stayed in the same school for both undergraduate and graduate work. During my time in graduate school my mother passed away. The ground fell out from beneath me and change became the theme of my life.

Quitting grad school, taking a job, quitting a job, moving to the mountains, traveling overseas, coming home for another job, quitting another job, moving back to the mountains and finally moving to California. One job, another job, a possible career change, deep uncertainty in my direction and feeling adrift in the world. I had become a master of change. I could pick up and set myself down and be comfortable just about anywhere. But comfortable and grounded are two very different things. I was comfortable, but I was not grounded.

One evening reading in a coffee shop in Palo Alto a handsome man sat in the seat next to me. We started to talk and have been talking for the past 14 years. During our courtship there was more change to come as he was shipped overseas in the midst of our love affair. Upon his return we were engaged and after some initial moving and shifting we settled into our current home and have raised our two children here these past 11 years. 

During the past decade we have endured the normal and sometimes intense emotional changes that come with getting married, having children, and coming to terms with your child's educational options. There were rough patches, but we managed them without too much 'change' being required. We have had a stable existence. My family would tell you that I am constantly changing things around on them without permission. I guess old habits die hard. I find change necessary. Maybe it is a therapy in itself. A constant reminder that things change, life changes. Sometimes you get to be in control of the change. And sometimes you don't.

We are comfortable here. We are safe and secure. We are grounded in our relationships with one another. But, I do not think we are grounded in this place. I am not grounded in this place. I feel the need to change. I feel the need to shake off the security blanket we have created and stretch ourselves in new and slightly uncomfortable positions. Change is in the air...

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Yoga

Ok, what happened to February! Time is flying by...

Last month I graduated from my 200hr hatha yoga teacher training course.  My teacher was Daniella Ambika Cotreau who runs Body Temple Yoga.  She is an alignment based practitioner with an emphasis on heart opening. I love her and I am in love with my yoga practice. It has helped me in so many ways. In both my physical body and my state of mind.  If you are looking for a tool to help you carve your own path I can't say enough about incorporating a yoga practice.

I decided that a fun and supportive way to practice my teaching skills would be with my friends at our homeschool park day. I am so fortunate to have such an amazing group of parents, mostly women, who are willing to engage in new ideas in such thoughtful ways. What a fantastic group of people I get to practice with, lucky me.

I know most mom's do not have a lot of time on their hands during the day and trying to find time to nourish ourselves is a challenge. Even when you do find yourself with a free 20min. how do you choose what to do!!  The busy life of a mom can be pretty overwhelming.  I can tell you from experience of an overwhelmed, stressed out, yelling, crying mom that taking time to do a small amount of yoga and meditation has changed my life for the better.

I have made the changes in my life to add that free time to the beginning of my day, but that does not mean you need to do this in the morning. It can happen anytime during the day, just do your best to make a commitment to carving this time for yourself everyday.  You deserve it!! 20 minutes to yourself is not too much to ask and all the stuff that isn't getting done...it will wait.  So, the first job is for you to explore your day and decide where you can commit to 20min.   (after lunch? before dinner? after dinner? before bed? morning?)  Find the time.

Once you find the time here is where you start. Start by creating a physical foundation for your well being. The easiest place to start in that process is with your body. The physical foundation of our overactive bodies is our feet. So, lets start by giving our feet some attention.  Stand with your feet hip distance apart and just play with your feet on the earth. Give your feet some attention and notice how you stand where does the weight fall. Is it evenly distributed or do you tend to lean back or forward, inward or outward?  Just notice and breathe.  Then notice your inner thighs and hips, your low belly and pelvic bowl. Just notice how you are standing. Play with tilting your hips and working your inner thighs. See how different positions feel. Just take time to stand with complete attention on your body and your stance, and breathe.  Once you have established a connection with your feet and lower body bring your attention to your shoulders, lift them toward the sky and bring your shoulders back and your shoulder blades onto your back.  Keep a slight hug between your shoulder blades to keep your chest lifted and open. BREATHE.  Keep your chin level with the earth and bring your head over your shoulders so it is supported by your spine and not pulling you forward.  BREATHE.

Now you can take that work down to the floor.  Find a comfortable seat where you are able to keep your lower belly engaged, your spine elongated, your chest/heart open and your breathing easy and deep.  Sit and breathe and just let you mind monkey mind race in mediation for 5 minutes. Focus on your breath. Don't berate yourself...let the thoughts come and go. Change your thoughts to thoughts of love and charity towards others and towards yourself.  Let go of the idea you will be sitting in complete quiet and that you will have a 'quiet' mind. It takes decades of practice, so just let go, and be where you are now and breathe.

Just doing this practice for 5/10 minutes is powerful. Connecting with your body, engaging your breath and connecting to the earth is yoga.  Use it.


Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Homeschooling vs 'the real world' a journey to self discovery.

If you are considering homeschooling your children there are likely many good reasons for your thinking. I imagine for every good reason you can think of to homeschool you can also come up with a pretty good list of scary reasons not to homeschool. I am with you. I was pretty scared of homeschooling and I had very little idea what I was getting myself into. But having done it for the past three years I can tell you that most of my fears were unfounded. My fears were basically just excuses to help me stay safe and ensconced in the bubble that I decided to call 'reality'.  So if you are looking for some backup in your reasons to homeschool here are a few of my arguments in favor of homeschooling in rebuttal to common reasons people say they can't homeschool.

1.   School is the 'real world' and we need to get them ready for that.

I would like a definition of 'real world'.  In my view 'reality' is fluid and the container in which you  place 'reality' is the 'real world'.  For some people I guess reality is a job that includes spending a lot of time with only people of your age and often same color,  who have completely different interests and goals, and are all trying to please a manager who has been handed down a list of goals that really have nothing to do with the individual skill sets, interests, or limitations of those in the room.  I know that a majority of Americans think this is just 'the way it is'.  For me this is not 'real' it is a predisposition that has been accepted. In my definition of 'the real world' we follow our interests and skills to provide a necessary service while finding a way to manage a core set of societal requirements. Abundance is not a requirement it is a burden that is self inflicted.  We need just enough. We need to nurture our self and to do so we must carve our own path that is directed by following our hearts desire.  It takes practice and support to find your 'reality' it is scary and often you will fail, but you will never find it if you don't allow yourself to try.  I feel I am empowering my children to carve their own path by providing them with some solid basic fundamental skills and a plethora of learning opportunities. But I think the greatest gift is the opportunity to really get to know their self, how they relate with self, and how they choose to relate their self with this world.

2.  I can't teach my children. 
   
Yes you can.  You don't want to teach your children, which is fine, but not being able to and choosing not to are two very different arguments.  Receiving one on one teaching is infinitely more efficient than group learning when you are talking about basic skill development. Because I am focused on only those two children I can easily spot issues and work them out very efficiently using a curriculum that supports their learning style strengths and weaknesses. (which is what all p.s. teachers would do if they had the time and resources) Learning basic skills does not take much time, just consistent quality practice on a linear(ish) course. In my 'school' we cover math, all language arts, history and science as the core subjects and that takes about 1.5 hours a day. The rest of learning is based on experiences with the real world and luckily for us there is a lot of world out there to explore.  The study of natural world and by this I mean being in the forest and at the beach but also out in the stores and the community at large where 'real life' is happening is some of the richest learning material that money can't buy!!  Learning from the world and then adopting and adapting your skills to match the needs of the world is powerful. You need to master some basic skills and you need to eventually become an expert or at least adept in some skill. That really isn't hard to do. What is hard is choosing what to do and why you want to do it. It is also challenging to determine what you need in return for the work you are willing to do and how much of your 'self' you are willing to part with to achieve those goals.  You can teach your children how to follow their heart and you can support their development of self.  You don't really have to 'teach' them you do need to provide them resources and a bit of structure. You do need to provide them with feedback and arguments as to why you feel certain skills are necessary. You do need to have patience and compassion. You do need to have a sense of curiosity and playfulness. You do have to let go of judgement, fear and control. You can give them the basic tools and show them how they can be used.  They will take those tools and carve their own path...and that is the best teacher of them all.

3. I need time for myself!

Me too. I get up at 5.30 am and I allow my children to sleep until 8am. I get 2.5 hours of time to myself every morning.  Time to do yoga, meditate, drink coffee, write, cruise Facebook and watch stupid videos, pay bills, take a shower, get dressed. ect.... And when the kids get up we do not have any stress, which in my opinion is a major health benefit. There is no yelling no rushing no panic feelings of forgetting something or god forbid, being late.  So that time is also a bit of time that is my own because i am not beholden to another persons schedule. Is this the 'real world'?  For those people who have managed to find a way to work from home and craft their own business, yes. This is the 'real world' for us as my husband completely supports our decision to homeschool and supports me making the executive decisions about how I will run our family.  If you think your husband would never do that for you (or your wife) then it might be time to talk. Being in a committed family relationship means everyone is heard and valued and getting the support and love they need to be happy healthy humans. You have to work out how that is going to happen in your family. It doesn't just happen, you make it happen by asking for what you need and being willing to give back in the same way.

4.   I have to work so I can make a difference and help people. 

Yes, please do. There is time to work and be a 'contributing member of society'  but the idea that you are not helping and contributing to society by raising the healthiest, happiest, most capable children you can while nurturing the relationship that will most likely be one of the longest lasting important relationships of your life seems like a pretty good investment in making a difference and contributing to a better world.  I believe the more health happy balanced people and families we have in the world the better.  I believe we have done a great disservice in devaluing the position of stay at home mom.  It is great if you want to work and do work. If your family is healthy and doing well and you are healthy and happy and doing well then by all means work on!!  But if your working is detrimental to the health of your family then maybe it is time to consider an alternative.  Does that mean it has to be mom staying home. No. In my case the decision is based on a logical mathematical equation. I can earn about 1/2 of what my husband can. Painful truth. Have we had to make some financial adjustments because I am not working. Yes. Have I had to eat some humble pie and realize that I had a prejudgement about 'women who stay home'. Yep. What I realize is I was imposing that opinion on myself. I was judging myself and causing myself misery because I wasn't living up to some precondition for being a 'successful smart' woman and mom of the current era.  Society is a bit warped in this sense. We have fallen for the intellectual trap that says to be seen as a smart, successful, independent woman you will raise a family and work a full time job. We need to 'lean in'. Well, I decided to lean into my family and my self. And that has been the best gift I could give the world. I am not an angry driver. I am not in a hurry. I am not pushing people out of they way so I can be first in line. I am not worried about getting noticed. I do not feel unworthy. In fact I feel so worthy and so valued and so happy I want the whole world to feel the same joy and sense of well being!!  When my leaning into my family creates an abundance of joy then I am contributing. My children will grow up and move out...then I will lean into the greater society and offer my service with the same joy and freedom I feel in homeschooling my children. You being happy makes a difference.

5.  They need to learn how to follow directions, wait in line, and do things they don't like, and to deal with teachers and kids they may not like.

Ok, but do they need to practice those skills upwards of 6 hours a day, 5 days a week? We are involved in homeschool park days, science classes, lego classes, art classes, ect... They have the skill to sit and follow directions. They have opportunity for free play on the playground with lots of different kinds of kids and it has lead to many discussions about how to deal with situations that challenge us. But we have the opportunity to view it as learning and as a choice vs a survival mechanism.  We have an amazing sense of freedom and it makes me so happy to live in a country where that freedom is available. I never ever want to live in a place where the above skills are a requirement for survival. Ever. Does that mean I want to be separate from people? Does that mean I do not think community and joining together as a people is important? Does that mean I don't support group learning or collaborative building opportunities? No. I just think it is more powerful when you enter into such situations with the feeling of having made a conscious and hopefully heartfelt reason for being there. Because when people come together under those circumstances it is pretty amazing what can happen.  In the 'real world' we choose what lines to stand in, what people and causes we invest in, and in general how we want to deal with frustrating situations.
School is not 'the real world'.

Now am I saying that all people should homeschool their children. No. I am posing the above arguments for someone who is in a position to homeschool and chooses not too out of fear.  There are many many good reasons not to homeschool.  But if you are not homeschooling out of fear, then I think you may want to explore that fear a bit further.

I have lots of fears. What I have the good fortune to realize is that my fears are mostly made up arguments to support my current seemingly comfortable way of existing.  Fear is mostly the response to major changes that you may not be able to fully control and really have no clear outcome.
And that is ok, just realize that you are afraid and you are creating an argument to support your fears. And maybe explore those fears....maybe go into that dark place that scares you and find out what is hiding in there.  It might be an interesting journey into self discovery. You may find yourself carving a path to you own happiness.... have fun.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

New Year, new opportunities to learn

So, the fall did start off with less stress than the previous year. I had a better sense of what to expect and how to ease into the process. After her summer school trial my daughter did decide to stay home for school this year. I was very happy with her decision to stay home, but there was the added challenge of creating more room for her learning process on top of meeting my sons special needs. After a month of wiggling and playing around with different timing, curriculum's and approaches we finally settled into a decent routine around mid-October.

I started with just the basics and have continued to focus on those as the main part of my 'teaching' responsibility. I have explained to the children I feel responsible for ensuring they receive a solid foundation in the basics of reading, language, mathematical (logic) thinking, and social emotional ethical spiritual learning.  This part of my job is not always 'fun'. I am not the best at coming up with games and playful approaches to learning basic math facts and spelling but they seem to learn despite my dry approach.

We did sign up for a few classes with a local homeschooling group that offers age grouped classes. My son took a lego robotics class and my daughter took and art and a science class. We were 'on campus' for lunch twice a week and we enjoyed being part of the homeschool community.  We also have become regulars at one of the local homeschool park days which provides the kids with a full day of free playground play with lots of different children. We love Wednesdays!

Overall I am feeling much more relaxed and happy. I am coming to the end of my year long yoga teacher training course and I feel the practice of yoga (meditation, breathing, chanting, study, and  asana) has really helped me find my calm center. It has given me the tools to allow me to sink into the chaos of learning how to 'school' my children. I am learning how to let go of being in control and figuring out how to go with the flow. I am learning how to work through my uncomfortable feelings with grace and ease of mind. I am carving a path to learning with my children and it feels great.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Freedom to choose

On Sunday night my daughter announced to me that she wants to go to school. She has made this statement off and on throughout the year. I have always maintained that my children should have the choice when it comes to public school. I imagine I could convince her to stay home, but I feel in the long run she would hit a point where she would resent my not giving her the choice. She is certainly different from her brother. She is much more socially extraverted and really feeds off of being around a crowd of people. She loved her 3 year old preschool class and has a positive association with school. So, I signed her up for the academic 1st grade prep summer school.

As I clicked the payment button my heart caught in my throat. How was I feeling? I couldn't put my finger on any one emotion. I was a tornado of emotions. My goal is for my kids to love  learning and to find their interest naturally by exploring and asking questions. How can I deny this reasonable request to try out a different way of going to school? Yet I fear her wanting to be there so badly she will sacrifice parts of herself to 'fit in'. I fear she is bright enough to know how to do enough to get by and desires attention enough to spend more energy on getting people to like her than to using her brain. I fear her emphasis on 'social learning', and it makes my heart race and ache.

I have talked to so many bright women who feel they stopped using their brains at a pretty early age. That is not to say their brains don't work, they just stopped getting exercise. The work presented was moderately challenging, but didn't really require full attention. But, the social scene that requires full presence. It is fun and exciting. It is a game and trying to figure out all the rules and how to play by them and break them successfully is fascinating. I was very good at that game, but I really regret that I stopped using my brain. I fear watching my daughter make my mistakes.

But, I guess that is what parenting is all about. I will have the opportunity to help her. I can provide some observations, support, and encouragement to stay true to herself. I can find ways to challenge her to really think. I can help her remember the person she is today and to know that person, that true self, is enough. She is bright, and funny, and sensitive, and caring and those qualities will remain no matter where she goes to school. I have to trust her and I have to trust myself.