Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Breathing Room

This has been a long stretch of crazy for our family!  We were not yet recovered from the springtime trip to Texas when my dear Uncle Jim had a stroke at his apartment in California in early May.

Uncle Jim and me about five years ago in Los Angeles

Our extended family has been taking turns in Los Angeles and San Diego as we worked on getting him back to health and moving him and all his belongings to Florida so he could be closer to family.  I was first in Florida to help take care of my Mom and then flew directly to California for over 2 weeks to help with my uncle.  It has not been an easy couple of months but I'm finally home!

On Saturday, Broc and I had our first day in weeks to do something together and we took full advantage of it.  We hit up the Farmers Market, then High Five Coffee, and an afternoon movie, The Fits, at the new Independent Theater in downtown Asheville. While the movie has some good critical reviews, neither of us liked it that much.  I give it 3 stars and Broc would probably give it 1 star.  However, we were the only people in the theater at 1:30 p.m.  and it had big comfy chairs

Our sweet friends have a new two-person kayak and they lent it to us in the early evening.  We live right on Beaver Lake but in the over five years that we've lived here have never been out on the lake.  What fun!!  It was a gorgeous day and we so enjoyed just paddling around and enjoying the scenery.

A bit later on we walked down to our sunset watching spot with our wine to end a perfect day.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Two Views

Hooray for Spring!   As fans of fair weather hiking, Broc and I have been lucky enough in the last month to hit up some gorgeous trails with very contrasting scenery.

In late April, we were in Texas and hiked at Enchanted Rock which is close to Fredericksburg.  Then, in early May, we headed out intending to hike Table Rock in North Carolina and somehow ended up at Linville Falls.  After both hikes, we said, "This was the best hike ever!"  That's always a sign of a good hiking day."

My last few posts have been heavy on the writing and not very uplifting. This one is all about the images.

 We are so happy to be back in Asheville but our hike to Enchanted Rock was definitely the highlight of our Texas trip.  Here's a whole bunch of photos of our amazing day there.

Happy Feet in Texas

That little speck is Broc!

View from the top.

The wildflowers and blooming cacti  were everywhere

Broc's hand is completely submerged in the clear water

Wildflower heaven

We hiked for hours and in addition to the great trails and beautiful wide open scenery, we also saw a roadrunner, a very long snake that I almost stepped on and an animal that looked like black squirrel.

                        Only a couple of hours from Austin, this is definitely a hike worth taking.

The next weekend after we returned to North Carolina, we decided to hike out at Table Rock because it has some amazing views.  Not sure where we went wrong, but we ended up close to Linville Falls.  This is the location where scenes from the movie, "The Last of the Mohicans" was filmed.  Just stunning.  We hit up every trail out there and some of the last ones were a bit challenging.  Here's a few of our favorites shots.

           To give some perspective, we hiked to that waterfall from this spot this photo was taken.

Long before I sprained my ankle!

On our way down to the waterfall

                                       Texas may be big and it certainly has its beauty.

                                However, our hearts and feet definitely belong in Sweet Carolina.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Legacy Hideaway

We were in Texas, Y'all!  Yes, we were.

In spite of some bumps while we were there, we were so lucky to spend time with people we love, stay at an amazing vacation home and enjoy an enchanted hike on a warm sunny day.

A little history.  I lived in Austin for 14 years and loved it so much.  Both my kids, Brenna and Logan, were born there but this was my first time to stay in the Hill Country.  We were there at such a beautiful time of year.

I've known my sweet friend, Anita, since we started a playgroup when our grown up kids were toddlers. She recently made a dream come true and bought a gorgeous piece of property not far from Fredericksburg, Texas. She's been remodeling the lovely ranch home as a vacation rental and getaway retreat for her own family called Legacy Hideaway. She graciously offered it for Broc and I to have our own much needed Texas mini-vacation.

The interior is gorgeous and I can't believe I didn't take any photos! When she goes live on her website I'll stop in here and add a link..

It was so quiet and secluded that we could have been on a island. We spent a bit of time exploring Fredericksburg but mostly just enjoyed sitting outside watching all the wildlife and walking throughout the property.  It is a bird watchers paradise!

While I've seen numerous Hummingbirds and Towhees in North Carolina, this was my first time seeing a Painted Bunting.  I was like a kid at Christmas!

Very early one morning, I walked out to watch the sunrise and was greeted by deer playing in the front field and a wild turkey.

Our time at Legacy Hideway was so peaceful, and memorable. It is truly a magical destination in itself and also so close to fabulous hiking, biking, wine tastings and the lovely town of Fredericksburg with all its treasures in food, shopping and music.

If you happen to be in Texas anywhere close to Austin, take a little drive out that way.  You'll be so happy you did. And if you do as much hiking as we did, you might return feeling as relaxed as this little guy.

                                                           Thanks for stopping by!

Saturday, May 7, 2016

All Are Welcome Here

This is a difficult post to write.  I'm sharing it for two reasons.  First, I have been honest at Hummingbird Haven about not only our adventures and unschooling lives but about our ups and downs with a blended family.  We have worked so hard to be inclusive but this story is about something that didn't go well.  Second, my hope is that by sharing it, I can offer some insight that may help parents reading here with the issues of social exclusion with their children.

Broc's daughter got married last week. The wedding was in Texas and both Broc and I flew to Austin. However, out of his entire family, only he and his three children attended the celebration.

Broc and I had been looking forward to this wedding since we first heard about the engagement last year. I imagined all five kids hanging out like they used to do all those summers in Florida. Broc and I started taking dancing lessons for the upcoming occasion and making travel plans. We looked forward to a happy and joyous celebration with them all.

We have always felt our relationships with his kids were loving and solid including his relationship with his daughter.  We also thought we had a mutually respectful relationship with the other parents, the children's biological mom and their step-dad.  Even though we do not live in Texas, we would have invited them for dinner if they had ever been in our part of the world.

A few months before the wedding, we were in touch with his daughter about what and when we could contribute to the wedding expenses. She seemed very happy about it all.  However, as time got closer, we discovered  that no invitations would be sent to any of us until they received money from us. Unbelievable as that may sound, that is exactly what happened. As we couldn't contribute until a work bonus was paid,  very late invitations were mailed after they received money from us.   We knew then that we were not welcome. Paying to get an invitation to any celebration especially your own daughter's wedding?  Ummm......what?

Then, Broc's daughter called to tell him that only her step-dad would be walking her down the aisle. That was heartbreaking to him but he still wanted very much to be a part of her wedding day.   We continued to make our plans with only him attending but with me as support crew for the trip. At the wedding, he did not walk her down the aisle. He was not asked to dance first with her.  He was not asked to give any sort of a toast at the reception. Only, the step-dad was involved.   Broc was effectively and quietly excluded from his daughter's wedding except for being part of the photo taking. He was treated as less than a Dad.  Way less.

Broc has always had great respect for the step-dad and after the wedding he shared with me that he truly thought that he would step up and include him during the wedding.. He is a previous pastor and has always been very kind to Broc.  That did not happen as it did in this sweet story from a few months ago.

 I'm quite certain that Broc was gracious during the wedding and reception as he always is.  We were staying close by with some dear friends in Austin and I was so glad that I was there for him when it was over.  Tough days, my friends.  So heart-wrenching for him.  Those potential memories that could have been made with his daughter at her wedding are forever gone.

So, how do we recover from this?  We've talked it though and have both been sad but mostly confused. It truly didn't make any sense to us or to our friends and family. Why in the world would people be so unkind to a man whose children are the biggest joy in his life and who has been such a loving Dad?  Why was there not enough love and compassion to include him on this day that celebrates love and family? There were two sides....one on each side of the bride to walk. His daughter had promised him the first dance, yet she texted him to change that on the day of the wedding.  Not even the opportunity to give a toast to his daughter and tell her how much he loves her.

We are still talking and working through it as best we can. Letting go and moving on to happier times.  We were surrounded and are so grateful to  friends and family both in Austin and around the country who checked in throughout the weekend and are still holding Broc up with phone calls and texts.

One of the question posed to us and that we asked ourselves was this. Why didn't someone within that circle of family and friends step up and say "This is just not right or kind."?  I honestly don't know  the answer.  The question remains.  Why?  Why not choose love and inclusion for all your family on a day celebrating love?

 While I have no answers, I do believe that one person in a group of people can control and dominate others.  Also, if you are closely aligned with that group, as you are in a family structure, it is very difficult to speak up because then you might be excluded.  Animals and people all want to know they belong. It is human nature to identify closely with those that make sure you remain part of a group or tribe. It is not necessarily a conscious choice or one where you easily question those making the rules.  I truly don't believe that any of the kids would be this deliberately unkind to their Dad.

 Control of others  can be a big issue in families, business and politics. For some people, control overrules kindness and compassion.

So we survived the weekend thanks to amazing friends and are home again enjoying a much deserved break from weeks of stress and sadness. I'm choosing to use this experience as a learning opportunity. Also,  I'm hugging everyone as much as I can.....  Especially Broc.

 In my entire life, I don't recall a situation where I felt excluded to this extent.  Certainly not with family and I consider my step-kids a much loved part of our family.  I've spent the last few days researching social exclusion and most of what I've read comes back to the term "bullying".

"Being excluded or ostracized is an invisible form of bullying", says  Dr. Kipling D Williams, Purdue professor of psychological sciences.

This was quiet if not invisible because in a social situation such as a wedding, it is important for others not to see any breach of etiquette.  However, I am quite sure that many guests wondered why Broc was not part of the wedding.  It is common when this type of behavior occurs to pretend it's not happening.  It makes others uncomfortable and few people are brave enough to stand up and say anything. That is how bullying of any kind becomes pervasive.

The sweetest and best part of the entire weekend happened at the reception.  Broc's youngest son is getting married next year and both he, his fiance and her parents were at the wedding.  The fiance (our future daughter-in-law) is a rock star in my opinion. She was so supportive of Broc during both the rehearsal dinner and wedding by checking in with him and bringing him food and drink.  The fiance's Dad made a point of coming up to Broc during the reception and asking for his contact information. He told Broc that the kids very much wanted him to be part of their wedding and that he would be touch.  That just meant the world to Broc and to me.  Kind people reaching out and making sure we felt included.  I already love them. 

So, what can we learn from this kind of behavior in adults? How can we help young kids learn ways to navigate social exclusion in childhood and to become the person that speaks up for those that are being excluded?  How do we help them learn to include others even if it's not the easiest path and might set them apart from the favored group?

I believe the very best thing we can do is to simply and consistently be accepting and kind to them and to every single person that is a part of their lives. My kids have had Broc in their lives since they were very young.  They also have their biological Dad who is a huge part of our family.. Always welcome.  Always included.

Be compassionate.  Listen to them.  If you happen to be in a blended family, support and encourage their relationship with their other parent.  Do not say negative things about the other parent or step-parent.  Include the other parent. Speak kindly of the other parent. Give your children the opportunity to love all their parents and not have to choose between them.  Be a partner not an adversary.

As unschoolers, my two kids didn't experience the kind of bullying and exclusion that goes on in schools but they saw it within sports activities, camps they attended and classes they took.  Our message through modeling and words was that it is not okay to ignore or make other kids feel left out. I saw my role in those situations as being the one to make sure that child was part of the group in any way I could. 

Dr. Williams says, "Teach kids that exclusion hurts. Exclusion is an insidious form of bullying,  Williams believes, and harder to document because it's the absence of behavior. Talk to children about how much it hurts, whether they're victims or perpetrators."

If your children consistently see you being kind and welcoming to everyone all the time, they have a good shot at becoming the kind of adults who will stand up for inclusiveness in all areas of their lives. 

I came home even more determined to love big.  I will continue to be kind and not let this experience have a negative effect on our lives.  I only have control in how I react to this.  I choose love.

 All will be welcomed and celebrated in our home and any future weddings or celebrations in our lives.  Hopefully, bridges can be rebuilt that have been weakened.  My wish is that all our grandchildren will grow up surrounded by kindness while knowing that all the people in their lives are valued and loved.