Friday, April 22, 2016

Love is All You Need

My last post was about weddings and what not to do.  This one is about some of the things that do make for a happy wedding.  Hummingbird Haven wasn't born when this wedding took place so I've gathered a few photos to share about the loveliest wedding I've ever attended.

        Kristle and Aaron invite you to attend their wedding.........

We were all so thrilled to go to New Mexico for my niece's wedding several years ago.  Kristle had brought her fiance, Aaron, out to Florida to meet us all and we planned for months in advance how we would all make it to their wedding.  Our group flew in from Florida while other family came from California and all over the southwest.

We were all invited to the lovely rehearsal dinner which was held at a restaurant not far from the wedding site with a rooftop view of the Sandia Mountains. It was in late May so the weather and the blue New Mexico skies were just perfect.

Cousins, Chelsea and Brenna, with the Sandias in the background

Broc hugging Kristle

Dad and Daughter

The wedding and reception were held at a lovely venue just outside of Albuquerque.  Parents, siblings, grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins and friends galore were there to join in the ceremony and festivities. My sweet niece, Cailin, was the flower girl.

Both of Kristle's Dads walked her down the aisle.  They were a little nervous but were all smiles a bit later on at the reception. Kristle's parents divorced when she was quite young and she grew up with her step-dad, Clint, while visiting her dad, Skip, during the summer.  Both were so honored to be part of their daughter's wedding day.

Kristle and her Dad sharing the first dance

This is the kind of family I'm lucky enough to be a part of.  It's the kind of family that has grown and  been strengthened through the years  even if sometimes marriages within the family didn't work out. We sometimes joke that you are not allowed to leave our family.  Truth is that life is too short for pettiness and I think we decided long ago to just keep on loving each other.  I give my Mom all the credit for helping us learn that life lesson.

All the parents with the Bride and Groom

Dad and Step-Dad all smiles

Weddings are not just about the bride and groom.  Entire families and many friends gather together to celebrate love and commitment and family.

 In the end, it doesn't matter how fancy the food or the dress or the colors or the photos.

 What matters is how it makes people feel.

 What matters is the kindness and love.

Grandma (my mom) and Kristle
I remember this wedding like it was yesterday and I still smile every time I hear one of the songs that was played. Skip played guitar with the band for part of the reception. Kristle and Aaron made a CD with many of the songs to share with guests which made for a lovely remembrance.

 I especially  remember the hugs and smiles and dancing and the pure joy of being part of it all.

My cousin, Wendy, and I at the reception

Kristle and Aaron are now parents to two amazing kids who are 11 and 4.  It continues to be such a joy to share in the milestones of their lives and to be part of this big crazy family.  We're lucky enough these days to have Skype and Facebook to stay in touch with messages and photos and face to face contact even though we live far apart.

Kristle sent me a few of the photos I've shared here.  Sofia, her four year old,  was so excited after seeing her Mom going through the wedding photos that she got all dressed up in one of her favorite outfits.

Sofia with the Biggest Bouquet!

So here's a toast to weddings and families caring for each other.  To celebrating and being part of it all. To children growing up surrounded by it all.  Here's to Love.  Here's to Kindness.  Here's to having  photos to help you remember some of these special times.  Much love to all my family and special hugs to my New Mexico clan for including us in your life celebrations.


Life is Wobbly

I'm writing more these days.  Writing has been my "go to" since I was very young.  Diaries, journals, letters, contests, and in the past few years, my blog.

I first majored in journalism in college but quickly discovered that it wasn't so much about writing as it was about getting the story.  That involved talking to people.  So I didn't write much for a very long time and ended up with a career as a Speech Pathologist.  Helping other people to talk.  A better fit.  However, I missed writing so I'm back at it.

 I've tried my hand at fiction and non-fiction. I've not submitted anything for publication in years but I have some things in process.  This little piece is different than my usual but I'm putting it out there.  It's more for me than for anyone else.  Sometimes, just speaking up is important even if you have no idea if anyone is listening.

 " Life is wobbly," said my yoga instructor today as he encouraged us to be okay with wobbles.  He said it means we are learning how to let go and balance and grow.   Life has definitely been wobbly for us lately.  I'm trying to balance.   Practicing and learning as I go.  Finding my voice.  Standing up for myself.  Being brave. It's been scary and hard but I'm doing it.  Minute by minute.  Day by day. I've been here before.  I know how to do this.

This grey heron was balancing for the longest time down by the lake.  He stood there watching from a small limb for half an hour or so.  I was lucky enough to have my camera with me and caught this one.

There he is just lifting off.  I feel a bit like him only I'm still on that limb.  Balancing, watching, learning and almost ready for that lift.

 I've been writing more about issues that come up with grown-up  kids. This time of life is filled with college, travel, adventures, career choices, relationship issues, weddings and maybe even grandkids one day.  New roles for everyone as we grow into new stages of life.

An unexpected and difficult issue surfaced recently related to an upcoming wedding. In true unschooling style, I decided I'd turn it in to a learning opportunity.  First I went to therapy which eventually led me down the path of researching personality types,weddings, etiquette and on and on. Unschoolers reading here know how everything is connected.

 So. Much. Information.  I could probably write an entire series or book now.  I may call it  "Wedding Blunders and How to Avoid Them."

Let me just tell you, buddy, that there is a voluminous amount of information about weddings.  I was specifically looking at wedding invitation etiquette because I had this question.

Is it ever appropriate to ask for money as a condition for receiving a wedding invitation?

Google searches led me to information about when to send the invitations, how to choose the right invitation for the type of ceremony, how to word the invitation, and what font to use.  Nothing about my question.

Barnes and Noble has an entire section about wedding etiquette

Not one single sentence about tying money into wedding invitations for family or friends.  Why is that?  I am quite sure it is because it is not done.   It would be unkind.  Friends and family who know this story have used words like crass, tacky, rude, mean, and the occasional,"Are you f...king kidding me? "   I've tried to stick with unkind but yes..... all that

Etiquette and kindness generally go hand in hand. This is not only so out of the bounds of correct etiquette, it is also just incredibly unkind.

It says, "You're presence at this wedding is only wanted if you pay to be here."

Much simpler just to not invite those people.

In general, I try to avoid using the words " always" or "never" in my interactions with family and friends and in my writings about unschooling.  A better response is usually, "it depends."  However, for this question, I'm making an exception.

The answer to my question is simple.  It is NEVER appropriate to ask for money as a condition for receiving an wedding invitation..  Never okay.  Never. Never. Never.

If you accidentally or even on purpose made this mistake and you care about the people involved, the appropriate action is to make amends.  " I'm sorry."

If your family or friends contributed money to help you with some of the wedding costs, they did not do it in order to receive an invitation. They gave it with love.  Say, " thank you."

So two simple life skills here that apply not only to weddings but to most everything in life no matter what your age.

1)  I'm sorry (no excuses)    2)  Thank You

Wedding etiquette is really very simple.  Be kind.  Be welcoming.  People will not remember your colors or the decorations or the food or the dress you wore.  They will remember how being part of your wedding celebration made them feel.  It is simply a time of love and making happy memories with family and friends. No one should ever be treated as "less than".

Never is the answer about tying wedding invitations to money.

Kindness is the answer for most other questions.  About weddings.   About life.

If you need me, I'm out on the limb balancing for just a bit longer.  Won't be long now till I fly again.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

The Sock Fireplace Story Again

I wrote this post back in 2008!  I recently was searching for this photo in my albums and couldn't find it so I'm bringing the whole post here again.  Happy Times.  So Many Socks.  These kiddos are all grown up now but I love them all and remember all those fun summers together.

Photo from 2004 of Broc and me and all FIVE of the kids and Socks

Over on the Always Unschooled yahoo list, there has been some discussion of socks. I haven't read the whole thread but it seems to be about a parent complaining about lost socks or perhaps dirty socks that they have to take care of and Schuyler responded with this:

I honestly will have a hard time keeping him in clean socks if I don't have some cooperation from him.-----------------"What does that mean? It's summer, right? It isn't much of a season for socks,clean or otherwise. Go buy tons of socks, find them on sale, don't worry about quality, get quantity. Put them near the washing machine and bring him pairs every time you wash his clothes. Fill his drawers with socks. Make him feel rich in socks. It won't cost a lot. It seems a very strange moan needing cooperation to keep him in socks. They are just socks. Just minutia. Just a small thing to make his life better and more comfortable. Not something to need cooperation to obtain...."

Exactly. They are just socks. And such a small thing. It's really so easy to make our lives better every day in the smallest ways. Buy more socks. So another post on this came from Sandra Dodd and I'm borrowing it for here also. Sandra is referring to the sock thread and why and how she see that her family has clean clothes......

"When the kids were little, I would put it folded in their drawers or on their shelves. I did that for Kirby until he left, because I understood his system well. Marty's was more mysterious and particular, so I'd put the stuff on his bed. Holly sorts shirts in certain ways, so I would give her the pile on the bed or in a basket.Lately, Holly helps me sort into baskets and the baskets might go unfolded into the correct rooms. I fold mine and Keith's in our room. I hang Marty's work clothes on a rack near the dryer.I'm telling all this because even with grown kids who could absolutely take care of themselves if I died or if they moved away, I'm still doing laundry for them because I want to free their time up to do more interesting things. I started running out of ways to express my affection and to support their interests when they had jobs and cars, but this is a thing I can still do. If I decided it was hurting me, I could turn around and hurt them. Lots of parents do that.If I decide it's a way to show affection, I turn around and show them affection."

I just love this! So many parents make their kids do their own laundry even from very young ages because.."It's good for them"....or "They need to learn how to do it on their own and take responsibility" I think its because they don't want to hire help and don't want to do it themselves. It's all wrapped up in their multitude of reasons for making their kids do chores. None of which really are going to help their child feel loved. my soapbox but I'll probably write more about this all later...On to my REAL reason for this post!

Years ago, when my step kids came to spend some of the summer with us,
there often seemed to be some issue when they went home with their mom because they didn't always get home with all their socks. I'm not sure what happened to them...maybe they went to sock heaven with all the other socks that are lost around here. I was always taken aback but if the socks turned up along with anything else they left, I would mail them back. I just never got it but looking back I wished I had just gone and bought them each a couple of dozen packs of socks to send back with them so that nothing would mar their memories of their visit with us...especially getting in trouble for not getting home with all their socks.

Anyway, that's a long preamble about the picture in this post. It was taken many years ago (maybe 5?) and was the summer after we had discovered unschooling. I used the picture on our Christmas cards that year.

I posted about the "Our Sock Fireplace" on message boards and the sock thread reminded me of it. I searched through some pictures and old files (I mean old files like boxes on the floor files!) and found this in a folder called "Unschooling" where I had printed out e-mails and articles that I wanted to save. it is again....My Sock Fireplace written July 26, 2004

I woke up a little sad this morning. My husband left on a business trip at 4:00 a.m. Brenna and Logan are still asleep and the house is way too quiet. My 3 step kids left yesterday to go back home to Texas after being with us for the summer. It's always such an adjustment for me to go from being "mom" to 5 and then back to 2. In a day or so, I'll appreciate having more quiet and a smaller grocery bill but I'm not there yet.

I was just sitting here having my coffee, reading an e-mail from my stepdaughter who wrote at 11:00 last night about missing us and I glanced over at the fireplace and just had to grin! It's covered in socks.

The night before they left, we were up late talking and folding all the clean clothes so we could pack them up. One of the boys threw a sock up into the ceiling fan as it was spinning around. It went flying and landed on my head! We all started throwing socks up there and the fan blades were flinging them all over the room. Half an hour later, we are all still laughing and socks are flying as we find different ways to catapult them across the room or gather them all together and have them all fling off at once.

One flew up and stuck to a brick on the fireplace. The kids realized how easily they stuck and before I knew it, all the white socks (56 I think) were up there along with a few bras hanging from the nails we use for Christmas stockings!

Yesterday before we took them to the airport, we took a family picture of us sitting on the hearth with all the socks. A teenage neighbor boy stopped by last night to visit and when he saw our fireplace just shook his head and said..."Man, you guys are just weird..)

Some of the socks left with the kids that live in Texas but all of ours are still up there and I'm not taking them down for awhile...It's such a reminder to me that before unschooling I would never had had socks on my fireplace...and I would not have had all these wonderful memories.

Okay, if you've taken the time to read all this, Thanks! I'm done and very happy that I found this picture. And still thankful every day that we found unschooling and that we've "stayed weird."

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Agreement versus Arrangement

In friendships, business, partnerships and parenting, I prefer the word and concept of agreement rather than arrangement.

Arrangement can easily be accomplished by one person.  I arranged the furniture.  I arranged the meeting. I arranged this event.  It can involve two or more people working together to accomplish something but that often doesn't work well without the important component of agreement.

Agreement is the kinder path.  Agreement is the better choice for relationships.  If you've followed my blog at all, you may already know that I believe relationships trump everything.

Agreement is two or more people having equal say and coming to a mutual decision that works for the benefit of all involved. It involves compromise.  It involves being open to hearing and honoring others ideas and sometimes limitations. It involves not just listening but truly hearing what the other person is saying. It involves taking that information and working together for an outcome that honors all of those components.

An arrangement where one person or persons decides on the details and tells others that they must adhere to them has no place in parenting or marriage or events involving relationships. An arrangement can be cold and one sided.  Others may go along with it simply because they see no other choice. Agreement is loving and kind and honors all the people involved.

 I've recently experienced people arranging things and acting as if it was done in agreement. I have been faced with either accepting their controlling choices or stepping away from being involved. I've found it deeply hurtful.  In this particular situation, I have chosen to step away.  I don't have room in my life to spend time with people who chose to impose their will on others. My decision is a clear conscious choice and one that honors my values and boundaries but at the same time has been heartbreaking for me.

My decision  has reminded me of why we choose to parent respectfully and why we choose to listen and honor our children's voices to work for mutually happy outcomes. If this "arrangement" has been so difficult for me, I can not even imagine what this same type of thing would be for a child.

Sometimes choosing kindness and love can simply be just peacefully walking away.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Family Update Two

Husband and Dad extraordinaire, Broc, is working hard as he always has since the day I met him.  His regular job over the years has been filled with long hours and a lot of travel.  That has shifted recently to longer hours but thankfully less travel.

In the Fall out at Far Flung Faarm

In the early fall, he started working for another division within his company. Instead of a home office with travel all over the southeast United States, he now has an office in Greenville, South Carolina which is about 1 1/2 hours from our home.  It's a bit too far to commute on a daily basis so he is in Greenville during the week now and home on the weekends.  We are both adjusting to the change and the verdict is still out on how it will work for the long term.  I miss him but we definitely don't want to move from Asheville.

He loved having both his boys visit us this past year.  In the summer,, Tyler and his fiance, Lauren, were here before they left for their adventures in China.  Then in December, I surprised Broc for his birthday by flying in his son, Drew.  Talk about a happy Dad!  Nothing brings him as much joy as spending time with the kids even now that they are all grown.

Broc works in the commercial construction industry and enjoys and is very good at what he does at his "normal" job.  However, at heart he is both an inventor and an artist.

As I write this, he is building a prototype of a recent invention.  I won't even attempt to explain it but it's very cool and amazing.  Even after all these years, he continues to astound me with his imagination and vision for creating things.

During our early unschooling years when the kids were young, he was often found helping to build worm farms, potato guns (I know...yikes!!), and a bit later on a raku kiln with Brenna that almost ended in a disaster.  Always ready for fun and adventure, this continues to be the way he lives his life and pursues his dreams.

His newest passion is in the realm of art.  He is a talented artist just like his Mom and in the last couple of years has been involved with the Body Art Guild that is based out of Eastern Tennessee. Our friend, Ren Allen, has successfully brought this art form to the area.  I have spent countless evenings being his model as he works on his latest design or practices a new technique.

Ren Allen at the recent Body Art Show in Tennessee

Broc recently was one of thirteen artists at the Tennessee Living Art competition.  After weeks of design preparation and practice, he and his assistant (and step- daughter, Brenna) painted on a live model all day long!

Poster advertising the event-   Brenna, is the model on the right and was painted by Ren Allen.
 The entire event was so professional and the five time world body painting champions, Scott Frey and Madeline Greco were there.

 Broc's design as a first time body painter with the theme Human Odyssey was exceptional.

With Spring approaching  I imagine he will have many more projects in mind so look for photos and updates as they progress.   As partner to his shenanigans, I can't wait to see what they will be.

Monday, February 29, 2016

Happy Leap Day!

Today was a gorgeous day in Asheville.   Broc moved our bluebird house a bit closer  and this couple was here off and on all day checking it out. It's a sure sign that Spring is on its way.

It's been a while since I've reported on our doings.  First up........Brenna.

She's 26 now and living in Asheville about 10 minutes from us with a group of friends.  They share a community house which is a great situation both financially as well as socially.  Many of her housemates are very active in community activism and one of her best friends from unschooling circles lives there also.

Her pottery business continues to expand as she adds more designs to her crystalline line of ceramics. This past year she was selected to join the prestigious Southern Highlands Craft Guild and is now able to participate in their twice yearly art shows.  In addition, she is very active in art shows in both this area and Atlanta.  Her work is in several local shops and her Etsy store does a brisk business as well.   My new favorites are the lamps that are available in several colors.

Last winter, she spent a couple of months in Buenos Aires and I was able to join her for a short time while she was there.  She studied both Spanish and Tango and we both enjoyed the warm weather there when it was winter in Asheville.  When she's not doing shows, you'll find her working most days in her studio with occasional breaks for swimming, hiking, dancing, baking and hanging out with family and friends.

She has continued to be involved with the unschooling community by being an advisor every Fall at Not Back To School Camp in Vermont.

NBTSC - Vermont - 2015

It is such a joy for us to have her living so close and to see her often. To see more of her work and read about her journey to become a ceramic artist check out her website.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Big Love

Thoughts about peaceful partnerships, family, love and kindness.

Twenty-some years ago, my mother-in-law and I were having a conversation and one of the things she said to me was "Family is everything."   I nodded and smiled and agreed.  I did believe family was important and was lucky enough to be part of a loving and slightly quirky family.  However, I was still in my self-absorbed busy with two young children stage of life and didn't have much perspective about the depth of her words.  I didn't realize that soon life was going to  "smack me upside the head" and in doing so would help me learn the importance of family.

Not long after our talk, my relationship with my husband, Mark, started to unravel.  Even with everything we tried, we couldn't find a way to stay together.  We separated and the following summer were divorced after sharing almost twenty years together.

During the next couple of years, it was my extended family that held me up.  I learned to do that thing about just putting one foot in front of the other .Now do it again.  It was a tumultuous sad time for us all. We didn't always handle things well but we somehow muddled through it. 

When the dust began to settle, we had some choices to make.  Our family was never going to be what we had once hoped but we still had those unraveled threads and wanted to somehow weave them back together in a way that would work for us all. 

My Mom and her 3 kids on her 90th birthday.  She is our role model on kindness and love
It was my extended family that modeled the way that would best support our children in the years to come.  Even when I was hurt and angry, they never once said an unkind word about my soon to be ex-husband.   They supported me in every way possible, but they also continued to love Mark and include him as part of our family.

Their unwavering kindness to him showed me that we could still be family even though we were no longer married. As Brenna and Logan's Dad, he would always be not only included but welcomed and loved..

As we began again to be kind to each other, we found that our common love for our children was really all that mattered.  We continued to make progress with an open invitation for Mark to come and stay with  family members or with us when he visited. The kids also visited him but he could come more often if he had a place to stay without hotel expenses. This also allowed  him to be part of their daily lives and know their friends.. The kids could see that we all still respected and cared for each other.

Was it easy?  Oh, hell no.  But we kept at it and in time it did get easier and we all enjoyed being able to celebrate birthdays and holidays together as often as we could. 

 Recent Christmas gathering with some of the family ~ Mark always brings the best wine!

I remarried a caring, big-hearted, sometimes silly and always tall man who also had children. He brought even more big love into our lives. Broc is kind beyond measure and adores all of his kids including the two that came into his life when he met me.  His graciousness and respect towards Mark was one of the main reasons we have all been able to stay close.

Both Broc and Mark worked long hours at challenging jobs to pay child support, health insurance and travel expenses to see the kids. In spite of their difficult schedules, both remained as involved as they could with phone calls and visits  Sometimes issues came up that required their immediate attention. One in particular that jumps out is a situation where Broc's  daughter was having some serious difficulties with an issue back in Texas.  We lived in Florida but he still  found the money to get a ticket and left work in the middle of meetings to fly out to support her through it. Mark made similar choices to be there for our kids. The distances we lived from each other made it harder but neither of them ever gave up trying to be the best Dad they could be to their children.

A few years back, I wrote about the two dads.  Lots of cute photos in that post!

Our commitment  to put the kids first became not only something we aspired to but something that helped us all learn more about forgiveness and love and what family truly means. It meant that none of us lost the important relationships we had with all the grandparents and aunts and uncles and cousins and step-siblings.  It meant that we could all go visit grandparents in another state because they realized that we were all comfortable with being friends and were helping to raise our children together.  I ended up with two wise and loving mother and father-in-laws that I adore.  As I look back now, I am so grateful for the special times we were able to share because we chose to be inclusive.

This past Christmas with Mark and cousin Corey

Did some people think it was crazy and weird?  I'm quite certain they did.  Turns out though, that it worked.  Big love just leads to bigger love.  Kindness ripples out in the most unexpected ways.

In the past year, we flew Broc's oldest son, Tyler, and his fiance, Lauren, here for a visit before they left on their adventures in China.  Then in December, I surprised Broc for his birthday by flying his son, Drew, here for a few days.  Nothing brings Broc as much joy as being with his kids.

Next week,  Mark and his lovely fiance, Gretta, are going to be in the Asheville area doing some mountain biking and will spend a night with us.   That means family coming to visit.  We'll make food together, share good wine that Mark will bring :), laugh, tell stories and play games.

It doesn't get much better than that.  I am so grateful to have them all in my life.

Broc gave out these painted rocks to his booth visitors at Big Love Art Show that he and Brenna did a few years ago

 Thanks so much to those of you following and those who just happened upon Hummingbird Haven.  I'm so glad you stopped by!  Wishing you big love  in your unschooling journey.