Wednesday, March 21, 2012

My Life

Over the last few days, I have relaxed about the money situation.  It kind of goes that way with us... the ups and downs.  It's what makes life interesting, I guess.  I once asked Jason's grandmother, whom had been married to his grandfather for over sixty years, "What's the trick?"

Jason's Grandma with my kiddos.
She answered, "Don't talk about money.  If you have some, great.  If you don't, you'll get some soon enough."

I like that rule.  It's a good rule.  Every time I look at her picture on our refrigerator, I think of these words and thank her.

So, I promise I will no longer panic about money... and instead follow grandma's rule for a happy marriage.    

Often times real wisdom comes not from a book, or a link on the internet, or through the advice of an expert.  It comes from someone who has lived, experienced, loved... and who is close to us.  

I have been told recently by a friend that sometimes we need to break free from all of the "manuals" and self-help books, parenting books and well (or not so well) intended experts and self-proclaimed gurus... and just trust ourselves.  Trust our instincts.  Do what we know feels right, and don't worry about what people out there in virtual world (or reality) think about how we live our lives.  

I have long since given up reading parenting books... I could have saved a lot of time and angst if I had just listened to my folks, who always said, "Babies don't come with instruction manuals."   Apparently, Barnes and Noble didn't get that memo.  Somewhere along the line, I realized that no one else can be an "expert" on  MY children.  (With the exception of experts on specific medical conditions, of course.)

And even if you did try to plan it all out... the plans change.  Life is more like a painting than a map.  It's more like an overture than directions.  There is no one set way of getting from the "start" to the "end," but there are a million ways to enjoy the ride.

It's my life.  My family's life.  No-one else need live with the outcome, no-one else is held accountable at the end of the line.  That thought gives me peace.  It gives me confidence.

And today... for some reason, all our plans got cancelled... and that's okay.  Perhaps we needed a day to relax, to breathe, to work in the yard and do art projects, catch up on chores... to enjoy the music.  I don't need to fill up my days to have a full life.  I don't need to fill up my children's time to make sure they are learning.

Today, in this moment, these thoughts give me peace.

Monday, March 12, 2012


Thank you, man that took ten seconds at the rec center to tell my daughter how fast she is (keeping pace with his seven minute mile).  You may have inspired a runner.

Thank you, lady in the Dollar Store who stopped me to ask if that was my son singing... who then looked at him and said, "You have a song in your heart.  You are amazing, and I'm sure you will make it your career."  You, Dollar Store lady, may have inspired a musician.

Sometimes it's the smallest gesture from a stranger that is incredibly meaningful to a child, even more than the largest overture coming from Mom or Dad.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

I am going to...

"Broke (In the sense of having no money)
Many banks in post-Renaissance Europe issued small, porcelain "borrower's tiles" to their creditworthy customers. Like credit cards, these tiles were imprinted with the owner's name, his credit limit, and the name of the bank. Each time the customer wanted to borrow money, he had to present the tile to the bank teller, who would compare the imprinted credit limit with how much the customer had already borrowed. If the borrower were past the limit, the teller "broke" the tile on the spot."

Interesting origin of this simple word, which has been buzzing around in my head and manipulating my thoughts, emotions, relationships and actions these days.  We are down to the nitty gritty, and no amount of Gorilla Glue could fix that tile.  So, last night Jay and I agreed that one of us would need to get another job.  

We have tried to cut expenses... I no longer go to the salon for a haircut, I tweeze instead of wax, we cut back on music lessons, we go to the dollar show on our date night, we skip a lot of events with friends that we would love to attend... The very most unfortunate thing is that my children are not able to participate in as many classes as I would have hoped. (sigh) I honestly don't know where we can cut back any more.  

(Well, okay... we can be more careful about turning off lights and running the dishwasher less.  And probably smartphones are not a human basic need... )  

But generally speaking, we are not big money-spenders.  We rarely go out to dinner, I don't buy new clothes (unless the undies get holes or the kids can't get into their pants anymore- yes, kids grow), I've sold all the gold I've ever owned (not much), and I don't constantly buy my kids the newest video game or Monster High Dolls.  So, when my oven finally conked out yesterday, and we counted the number of electrically challenged light fixtures in the house, not to mention the non-functioning garage door and the expired computer anti-virus software, (none of which we can afford to fix), my loving husband and I decided that one of us needs to get another job.

It should probably be me.

And I am scared.

Why am I scared?  Since leaving my career up north, I have worked part time several times.  I have been a desk-clerk at a dance studio, nannied other people's children, started (and abandoned)  my own organic cookie company, sold various products through the "party" model, and taken on freelance writing projects.  Why am I so scared now?  What's different?

Two things:  One, we are now home schooling.  Getting another job with change a lot.  Two, I am right in the middle of trying to achieve my soul's dream of writing for a living- writing what I want, on my terms.  Getting an hourly job will put a huge crimp in my write-time.

Oh wait, THREE!  The last one being that Jay and I are trying to realize both of our lifelong dreams of becoming coffee shop owners once again.  

Doh!  Wait, there's FOUR!  The final reason being I'm afraid that life as we know it (and like it) will fall apart if I begin to work outside the house again.  Now, don't get me wrong on this one.  We do not live in a chauvinistic household.  I made the choice to stay at home, I respect my choice (so should you), and I'm good at what I do.  I am a household manager, teacher, event planner... We are just getting into a comfortable rhythm and I'm honestly afraid to upset it.

I have been desperately trying to study and figure out how to increase traffic to my (newly monetized) blog.  But when it comes to technical language, I might as well be reading the instructions about how to assemble an Ikea media wall- in Japanese.  I have read and re-read chapters in a very simply stated instructional book, I have gone through the web-crawler installation wizard multiple times...  I need better exposure.  I need links into my page.  I need... a glass of wine right about now.  

Meanwhile, I asked my hub to give me two weeks to get this all moving.

My two weeks are almost up... so I am preparing to write up my resume.  (gulp)

It's not that I don't want to work.  I have never shied away from a challenge, or from hard labor.  It's something deeper.  It feels like a loss... it feels like I've failed.  Myself.  For once I decided to make writing a career for me, to dedicate my rare free time to my passion, to never again be afraid to say, "I'm a writer."  THIS time, I was really going to do it.  

But life got in the way.  My momentum?  Broke (n).

How many people have had to give up their passion to work a day job, to make ends meet?  I know.  I know.  Most of us.  What a wonderful world it would be if we could all do what we loved, and survive on it.  Oh, what a wonderful world it would be.

And then there's the coffee... we were finally on track with that... Jay and I have been pouring whatever leftover energy we have into truly making a go of it.  I don't want to see that come to a halt. 

And then what lesson will I be teaching my kids?  (not the lesson I spouted all over about the other day...) Yes, I could go get a job at a coffee shop (great market research), but then I will feel like some kind of liar or traitor if I leave them to start my own place, or if I'm roasting and selling on the side.  Grrrr....  damn morals.

My thoughts are kind of spiraling out of control.  This blog is uncensored, remember?  It's where I purge my mind so I can refresh.  (I apologize if it feels disjointed... Actually, no I don't... because feel disjointed.  What comes across here is genuine.) I don't want to be afraid.  I don't want to stop doing what I love. 

I think writing this has given me strength.  I think stringing out this thought process on paper (well, virtual paper) is helping me sort it all out in my brain.  I am GOING to be a writer.  I am GOING to use my passion to help support my self and my family.  I am going to do that by...

I am going to...

I am going to edit my last year and a half's worth of blog posts into a book.  I am then going to sell it as a Kindle book.  I AM going to do this.  

There, I said it out loud (kind of), now I have to do it.  Cuz one thing my daddy always taught me is that I am not a quitter.  Especially not when everyone knows I've started something.  

This blog may be about home schooling... but in a way home schooling is just about life, and making choices, and pursing goals.  It's about looking at a problem from many different angles, and then choosing the best way to tackle it... so aren't we all just home schooling adults?  

Friday, March 9, 2012

Embracing the Reed

Yesterday I wrote a very long blog post essentially detailing everything my children did without an agenda, without a list, and without meltdowns during the course of a wonderful day.  This morning, I changed my mind (did not publish it) and wrote this instead... because that's the point, isn't it?  The reed who bends with the wind is stronger in the end, than the mighty oak whose roots are torn up in all it's strength because it is not able to change.

This morning I woke to heavy snow blowing around my back yard, white and Wintery as it has not been so much this year.  A thousand thoughts ran through my head... from "we may not make it to classes today" to "it's cold in here" to "Kk's going to want to play outside in her snow pants."  By the time my cup of Sumatran finished steeping in the French press, the sun was shining brilliantly and the mercury in our back window thermometer was rising.  Go figure.

One thing that every native Michigander has ingrained in their brain is... always dress in layers.  You never know what Mother Nature is going to wrap around her little flock at any given moment. If you're only wearing a sweatshirt, with no undershirt beneath, you might be sweating by noon. I'm learning now that we always need to be prepared for life in the same way.  [Wear your underclothes at all times.  You never know when you'll have to strip down to your skivvies.]

So, yesterday we had a wonderful visit with some new unschooling friends... who, by the way, have really wonderful and intelligent teenagers and a nine year old.  (Yes, children of different ages can and do have a great time together.)  During my conversation with my new friend and her sixteen year old son, I had an epiphany that has brought me much calm...  by providing a nurturing environment and being attuned to our children's passions, they will learn to have a wonderful and happy life doing what they love.  Isn't that what we want for our kids?

I was a very well-rounded youth,  incredibly competitive and ambitious.  Voted "Most Likely to Succeed" by my senior class, I now wonder, "By what measure of success?"  I went to college on scholarship straight out of high school.  I transferred schools three times and changed my major twice.  I settled on English with a Business minor so that I could be incredibly "marketable."  What?  Again, I say, "WHAT?"  I was a PRODUCT of my education.  And I have spend my life wondering what my passion truly was.... "Jack of all trades, master of none."  That was me... floundering in a sea of possibility, only looking at what I could do that would "utilize" my degree.

This is NOT the kind of success I want to instill in my children.  I want them to be happy, content, and at peace in their lives.  I don't care if they make a million dollars a year, or even $100,000 salary with a smart corner office with a window... unless that's what THEY want.  Instead, it's my job to instill in them a better meaning of success.  And the only way I can do that... is if I am the reed.

I need to let them explore what they love, helping them find the tools they need to prosper in that passion.  My dad always said, "If you love your job, you will never work a day in your life."  By forcing them in to a stressful schedule and an arbitrary curriculum, I feel I am undermining that very goal.  Their education should not be a process that produces a product that some employer wants to "purchase."  It should be a means to living a wonderful, happy life.  And in the meantime, I want my family to live that wonderful life, too.

My husband and I have recently dipped our toes back into the coffee business.  Our children are excited and want to be involved... but I'm not sure if the most important lesson they will learn from this is where Guatemala is on the map or the germination time line for a coffee seed.  I think the very MOST important thing our kids will learn is that pursuing your passion will make you feel fulfilled (success!)... and that the way to do that is to educate yourself.  They see us reading books about how to build our business, looking up web sites about coffee origins, planning out our marketing strategy, testing our product on a target market.  By the time we open our doors, our children will understand that we accomplished all of that through educating ourselves.  They will know, without a doubt, that they should never "settle" for being a "marketable product."

So, what I intended to be a very short post about being flexible (and really embracing an UNschooling philosophy), and how that s going to help keep peace in our household, turned into a diatribe espousing the virtues of following our passions, versus working toward a job.  Ah, well... I guess I am the reed.

But here's a last thought... the oak tree, the one that can't change in the wind... he can't help it right?  His steadfastness is ingrained in his very molecular structure... Hmmm...  I don't think I'll extrapolate on that metaphor at this very moment.  Another post altogether.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Rx: Homeschooling

If Homeschooling were a bottle filled with pills, it would
look like this!  Don't you think?
Rx: Homeschooling

When used properly, Homeschooling can be an effective treatment for childhood anxiety, learning disabilities, ostracism, boredom, decreased creativity, lethargy, over-scheduling, and childhood depression.

The possible benefits of Homeschooling can be overwhelming, and include (but are not limited to): boosted self-confidence, increase in family bonding, building of community, focused learning, explosion of creativity, increased free time/play time, and additional access to unique educational opportunities.

WARNING:  Homeschooling may cause side effects such as (but not limited to) headache, nausea, weight gain, insomnia, heart palpitations, marital conflict, loss of libido, and gray hair.

USE WITH CAUTION and only under the direct care of a seasoned homeschooler and with the support of friends and family.

Homeschooling is not for the faint of heart.