Wednesday, September 17

Live and Learn 2008 .... part 2

I had a moment of fluster realizing I was "wasting money" on a game we already had. But it was not wasting money. it was an investment in household harmony. -Tamara Markwick, mom to Bradley and Landers

(Sorry about the delay. I was running through 4 AA batteries for every few pictures uploaded on my dial-up, so I waited to continue until we got an adapter to plug the camera into the outlet!)

Wyl was so excited when we got in the room (right after we checked in about 3:30). He took out all of his Pokemon and other stuffed animals, set them up in various locations and positions, grabbed his briefcase (the briefcase those of you who were there shall note was the one that was lost 3, 4, 5 times. :~) THANK YOU to those who helped us find it. Repeatedly.), got one of his notebooks with a good cover, the scissors and proceeded to cut out door-handle signs out of the cardboard cover (like the "Do Not Disturb" signs that were there when we arrived) and made "Do Disturb" and "Pokemon Party" signs to hang on our doorknob. :~) As he was finishing up that, we heard some folks coming in! (We had been the very first ones in Weatherford) The boys took off and met Faith, Easy, Malila and Zola a few minutes before they got to our door and Dave and I met them as well. Faith must have spent *hours* that week, pushing Storm, Wyl, Scott, Zola and Easy (and who knows what other kids in our hall! LOL) up and down the hall on the luggage cart! *Thanks*, Faith-my kids loved it! They also loved movie watching with you!

It was so cool-every time I walked to the front or came back into the hall from points further out, there were more people to meet! In the dining area, in the kitchen, in the halls-it was awesome for a sanguine extrovert like myself :~) Unfortunately, I don't remember names well, so I probably embarrassed myself many times, asking (and re-asking) people's names I'd already met. I'm sorry!

So, our trip to Olive Garden (jeeze, Cameron-I was worried the whole trip that I was going to get a speeding ticket!) gave me the first indication of what I was in for the "week" of the conference. After I got settled in and quit worrying if we were spending too much money on dinner, I got to chat with folks near me, and look around a bit. In the room we had off to the side for ourselves, it really felt like a big, Italian *family* dinner!

After we got back to the room and settled in, it was my night "out". I wandered over to the BRC (big, main building where the gaming room and chow was-for those who don't know). I wandered a bit and was kind of taking it all in when Wyl raced over to me and asked for the keys to the van. He had packed plastic and (mostly) foam swords, knives, helmets, shields, a plate mail or two and other odd bits and pieces and he brought them out for an im-promptu "ad-venture" funshop! Wow - at home, Wyl (and Storm to a lesser degree) is the only kid who can play such "involved" adventure and for so long! It was awe-some for me to see him find a huge bunch of kids that could play right along with him at his pace!! So, so cool.

The Adventure spread out to all corners of the BRC, included all ages, guys and gals and just seemed like so much fun. (Even people who were known for not hanging around with younger people were joining in ::big grin:: ) Nuances cropped up that I hadn't seen or heard of before. I watched for quite a while, chatting and getting to know folks here and there and finally after well over an hour, I realized I didn't have my camera! So, I ran back to the room and grabbed it.

Hide and seek mixed with battle mixed with tag. It was very cool. Some-where in the midst of the ob-serving, photo taking and chat-ting I managed to find a quiet moment to just *be*. I let the vibe sink in... it felt like I had come *home*. In-describ-able, but cool. ::grin ::

I got some time to sit and chat, but mostly wanted to just take it all in. I hope I didn't seem anti-social, and it really *is* pretty unusual for me to just sit and be quiet, but that's what I needed in the moment. :~)

It was a tiny bit intimi-dating to be the newbie in the hubbub of old friends reacquainting, but I knew I had a week to settle in and meet folks and find my own "ad-venture". :~D (Forgive the photo fuzzi-ness, if you will. I'm not sure if I had the camera on the wrong setting of I just didn't hold it steady enough...) It *did* feel nice and warm to be hugged hello by old acquaintances. It was cool to finally put faces to names of folks I had "been reading" for years.

Wed-nesday morning was a rush of folks coming and register-ing - I would have been over-whelmed if I'd have come Wed-nesday. I was SO glad I had come a day early to ac-climate myself.

The Adventure picked up right where it had left off the night before and actually, was a pretty steady item throug-hout the whole week. Most of the morning was just a sea of faces... I hope I didn't pass someone by that I knew! Then again, there are people that you just come together with, that feel so comfy... Scott and Wyl seemed to pick right up where they had left off 7 months before, as if they had called it quits for the night and met up again the next morning. Cool. We got to play with Scott a lot all week and really got to know him better. :~) Thanks, Scott, for the Link hat-Storm LOVES it! Oooh... I should take a pic of him in it tomorrow and put it in here... (His mouth is open because he's singing the Zelda theme music)

There was a scaven-ger hunt that was *so* fun!! We had a blast trying to find things, gather things and "fudge" things. One of my favor-ites was "Kelly Lovejoy's Badge", which Kelly *swore* she wouldn't give up to anyone and she'd even sleep with it under her pillow... ::very big grin:: There were only 2 teams that showed up with stuff and so we both won, since there were 3 prizes. We still haven't found a good day for flying our kite, yet, but we will...

The game room was cool. Not really what I'd imagined, but wonderful in it's reality. Rock Band was very popular and I'm glad 3 of us "roadied" our "equipment". :~D I wish I'd have had more time to play with other folks, but we're planning on taking it to UWWG, so maybe there. I'm in the process of setting up a home-schooler's Rock Band outing once or twice a month in downtown Akron, so hopefully, I'll get the chance.

I didn't get to all the funshops and talks I wanted to, but what I did was enough. Imagine that! I left on Monday feeling quite satisfied and content, not at all like I had missed out. Although, I do have to say, I was *really* looking forward to meeting Sandra and Dianna & Hayden. I guess that just means we need to make another road trip. Or two!! :~)

Oh, I almost forgot my trip to Lee Hall. Or should I say my *first* trip. I had no idea how steep that bugger was. I mean, you can easily see it is *up* there, but not how steep the incline is. I didn't notice the heat or the humidity that day until I was about half way up, hoping and begging the fates that my knee would hold out to the top. I slowed down after my initial pace and tortoise-like, made my way to the top, seemingly an inch at a time. I got to the top of the drive and looked up, up, up the stairs at the hall. Ohy. I made my way over to where there was a handrail, to help my knee as much as possible-even though there were folks sitting up at the top of that path. My knee really needed that handrail... So, I made it to the top without my knee giving out and as I stepped up the last stair, those folks sitting at the top (apparently having read my namebadge) *applauded* me and said, "You made it, De". I think that's what they said. My humiliation pretty much obliterated anything else in the next minute or so. I smiled and nodded and scooted off, my face would have turned red had it not already been so from the climb. I went indoors to sit and mope and pout about how *mean* those people had been to the fat person. Aren't unschoolers supposed to be better than that? I whined to myself. Completely embarrassed and figuratively licking my wounds, I sat on a love-seat kind of thing just inside the door. I looked for Dave to complain about the whole situation and when I went to get up, THEN my knee went out. LOL At least I had made it to the top. Well, after my knee rested, we got over the "emergency" of Wyl getting "separated" from us (he was at BRC and we had failed to let him know we were going up to Lee), getting snow cones for the boys and sharing popcorn, I headed out on the porch. Laura was just finishing that huge climb up to Lee and she paused and leaned on a pillar while she recovered and caught her breath. She said something about it being so hard and I noticed how hard she was breathing and it clicked. They weren't MOCKING me, it was truly a spectacular climb and they were likely encouraging and congratulating all the folks that made the climb!! Ohy... That's what I get for jumping to conclusions-and on a bad knee, yet. Guess I learned a little bit about how I feel about De that afternoon.

Dave had *his* night "out" that night and I crashed early with Storm. Breakfast comes mighty early to folks used to getting up after 10 AM....

Monday, September 15

Live and Learn 2008 .... part 1

"There is no single effort more radical in it's potential for saving the world than a transformation of the way we raise our children." Marianne Williamson

Our first L & L... Where to *begin*?!

I joined Unschooling Discussion *right* before St. Louis... I probably could have scrambled and gotten in (and it was the closest one to us!), but I didn't feel that we "could" go, being as we weren't fully committed to unschooling and we definitely weren't radical unschoolers. Ah, to have gone to a Live & Learn conference back then... Ever since, I've been interested in going-since Albuquerque, I've wanted to make it *sooo much*! It had become this Mecca, this pilgrimage in my mind. The place where, if I could just make it, I would then be A Whole Life, Radical Unschooler. :~D Well... until this past year or so, when I really seemed to find my groove. Not that it diminished my desire to be at L & L with other unschoolers, day in and day out for the better part of a week... In fact, when (during the last month leading up to 2008) money was so tight, I wasn't sure if we'd have enough money for gas for the trip and food on days we didn't have the BRA cafeteria to rely on, I was afraid to get excited about the trip... Afraid that it wouldn't happen and my disappointment would be to huge to deal with rationally. (Obviously we *did* make it, thank goodness). I had thought our tax stimulus would cover things, and it did up to a point, and then we had to dip into the remainder because of stuff that came up. Ugh. It happens too often for my peace of mind.

So, when it was clear (a couple days before departure) that we *could* actually make it (can you imagine having all the room, food, shirts, con- ference fee, etc. all paid for and not be able to make it because you didn't have enough GAS?! Ohy...), we had SO much fun decorating the van for the trip! It was hot and sweaty, but there was so much Joy in the whole process-even when I misjudged my back bumper and the whole "Warning: Unsocialized homeschoolers on board!" wouldn't fit, and I washed it all off and started over again. It worked out well, anyhow, because the red didn't show

up on the gray so well to begin with, and I had the idea to leave a bit of space and outline it with white, and that just made it *pop*. Cool.

Wyl did the Super Mario stuff,
including the mushroom, star and fire flower on the wheels.

And just in case no one can tell, that says, "Let's A-Go To Live and Learn" (as it would be said in a Mario accent :: grin ::).

^Storm did most of the driver's side behind the driver door just as high as his arms could reach! ^

Wyl thoughtfully wrote Storm's name on the window, since Storm isn't quite writing, yet.
Dave did the flags and the flames. I thought the Ohio flag was a super-cool idea. We're also kind of state-proud that it is the only non-square/rectangle flag in the 50 states.

And I did the rest. It is kind
of addicting! I kept thinking of stuff
as I drove and kept adding when we
stopped. Two and a half hours from
BRA, as we left the hotel, I added my
screennames to my door and my emotie.
I meant to put this emotie as well
but the liquid chalk was running down the
car from having washed the sponges and
not drying them well enough, so I got
distracted and that was enough for me to
forget. LOL
(Oh, and as noted on the Live and Learn Yahoo group, the liquid chalk that is made for *windows* is rather permanent on that nice, wide expanse of white van. If you don't want your artwork and words permanent on the side of your vehicle, I would strongly advise not using liquid chalk! Someone who's used poster paint before reccomends that-says it rinses off in the rain.)

I packed too much. I always do. I'm so worried that the boys will run out of clothes (how could they? they rarely change clothes!), that they will get wet or muddy or some other sticky or dirty mess and need to change into clothes I hadn't planned for... When you don't have extra money for the laundromat, and you're far from home... well, those are the kind of things my brain chooses to latch onto. I often don't have enough clothes, but I packed lots of extra and I had *just* enough. Yay!! I will have *more* clothes, now, thanks to Robyn and her sharing of "reverse tie dying" for clothes that are solid, but "less than optimal" visually. Boy, do I have a LOT of those...

The trip itself was almost uneventful. When we started out, it was so nice and cool. Low 70s. Amazing how different the air is in the *morning* (us late night folks don't often get to experience that. LOL). We kept the windows closed so we could *hear* and that necessitated a bit of air conditioning to stave off the stuffiness and the sun shining in all those windows. Well, just over half way through the trip (well past Storm's average napping time), legs were needing stretched, folks were getting antsy and Dave and I needed a bathroom break. So, we pulled off the next place we saw - Virgina somewhere - (very aggrivating exit which advertized a McDonald's, but didn't say until you were already off the freeway/highway that it was a 3 mile drive with 4 turns to get to it!) and once we pulled into the parking lot, we were ready to get out! I had the boys grab a ball to go run in the grass, and opened my door to this huge oven-blast of *hot* air! That really surprised me. For one of the first times since Storm had gotten stung, he was too gung ho to go to bother with shoes (he'd been *very* insistent on always wearing shoes outdoors after he got stung twice in one day at Goodyear Metropark), so Dave grabbed the ball while I helped Wyl find what he needed and got my own shoes on and took Storm across a drive way to the farther-from-the-road patch of grass. Not 90 seconds after he got out of the car, there was a scream and yell-crying! At first, I thought he was just super-cranky from being tired and hungry, but it was just a moment before I realized something was up. The "something" was a *bad* bee sting! Poor little kiddo... we had used up my bee sting kit on his other two stings. I only got stung once as a kid (well, once in my life so far), Wyl made it to at least 8 before he got stung, and I just didn't expect so many stings in such a short time... He was inconsolable. I managed to comfort him down from ear-piercing screams (that had everyone looking our way) to wails and sobs and each breath was, "ow.ow.ow.ow.ow.ow.ow.ow" then a sob or a moan or a wail or a not-so-piercing scream. He wouldn't let us take the stinger out (though it came out somewhere along the way). He wouldn't let me blow on it. He wouldn't let us put ice on it. And by "wouldn't let", I truly mean he made sure it didn't happen! He was adamant. No hugging, no looking at it, no stroking, no kissing, no rocking, nothing. Dave took a turn at the bathroom which gave him time to chill and calm down, then while I took Wyl to the bathroom with me, Dave took over. By the time I came back out, he was calm. It was a long 10-15 minutes of severe upset before that happened. We got the fruit out of the cooler from the back, refilled everyone's water bottles when we stopped across the street for some more sting stuff, and headed back to the road. By the time we got up the onramp, Storm was asleep. I had settled into the passenger seat for a nap and Wyl was quietly drawing, so that was it for the excitement for the day!

The novelty of a borrowed DVD player took up a lot of time, and we planned the overnight stay *perfectly*. No one was over tired or sick of being in the car by the time we got to the Holiday Inn and we had plenty of energy to swim! Only one stop the whole day. The little potty came in handy, though. That cut out one stop. Dave made his wonderful bean and cheese and salsa burritos and we got to bed at a decent hour and were ready to go the next day. We made it up in time for breakfast *and* got on the road as planned!! A whole bunch of firsts.

We only had just over 2 hours left to drive to make it to the BRA and that was a nice late morning, early afternoon drive. We're so used to afternoon, evening events *and* we tend to be late, it slipped my mind that we had arrived an hour an a half before check in. Not only "not late", but *early*!!! So, I was a bit embarrassed when the staff at the check-in window told me I had to wait until 3 PM. I *knew* that, I just never figured it would happen that *we* would be early, so it wasn't in the forefront of my mind. :~D Well, after a trip around Ashville looking for the native American restaurant we wanted to try (and finding out they're closed on Mondays! LOL), we ended up signing in with no lunch, so we were *ready* for dinner when everyone headed to Olive Garden.

The picture is kind of a fallacy, because we *forgot* to bring our awesome door sign we'd made ourselves at Kalahari, and waited until the Wednesday funshop to make a new one. Then, we didn't actually get it put up *on* the door until late Wednesday or early Thursday... I kind of forget, since about that point, the days just kind of blurred together. LOL

That took us through the evening of Tuesday. That night was cool, but since this is so long already, I'm going to start the next entry with that. Gee, I didn't know it was going to run SO very long! Hope I'm not boring everyone... LOL Ah, well. It's my blog and my perogative. Besides, I'll never ever know if you skip around or jump ahead.

Sunday, September 14

Anyone up for tutoring me on the html of blogging?

Seriously! I would love to have someone in the know give me tips and hints or be available for e-mail (or IM) conferencing to help me figure out stuff. Anyone who's up for it, please e-mail me at either


What's up with BiggWylma?!

The average pencil is seven inches long, with just a half-inch eraser - in case you thought optimism was dead. -Robert Brault, software developer, writer (1972- )

I'm astounded-nothing since APRIL?? Yikes. I guess we've had a busy summer! Well, as a little bite to get back into a (hopefully) regular posting mode, I'm going to explain where my screen name came from. Since people tend to ask (since my name isn't Wylma or Wilma or anything of the sort) often, I thought I'd put it down for posterity. (Isn't there a way to change the background color for each entry?)

Okay, so here it is. I like to play with words. I just couldn't reconcile myself to a simple version of my first and last names. The account I was creating was intended to be for my homeschooling research and general "stuff". At the time I started this screen name, I had only a son named Wyl (pronounced "Will"), short for Wyllyam. I'm his mama or his Ma. On AOL, "WylMa" was already taken. I'm a pretty big gal. BigWylma was taken already. So, I just added another "G" and it became BiggWylma. The problem *now*, is that I'm not just Wyl's ma, I'm also Storm's ma. So, I've been thinking of creating one that is something (since we often call Storm "Stormy") like: StormyWylma... but I'm not sure if we're done adding to the family... so... do I change it now and then again later if we add on? Or do I wait...? Not a big dilemma, but I do wonder how Storm might feel about it once it enters his realm of awareness...

I've been debating about how to start my post about Live and Learn (now that I'm on the downside of the conference crud)... Wondering if I should just post and then edit and add in photos and additional thoughts after it is already out there, or if I should just keep it in "draft" mode... I think I'm leaning toward "draft" mode, but if anyone shouts out and says something about having it out there and added to, I might lean that way.

Now, Wyl wants the phone line for his computer, so I'm off...

Wednesday, April 23

Fleeting Moments...

A good listener helps us overhear ourselves. -Yahia Lababidi, author (b. 1973)

Do you remember how the Flintstone's camera used to work? That hunk of hollowed-out stone with the sharp-beaked bird inside, peeking out the viewfinder and quickly etching out the image it saw?

We had visited one of the metroparks in our area today for their Earth Day celebration. We spent some time playing/sitting/lying in the grass of the meadow in the warm sun for a bit after we wandered through their booths. Dave looked through a map of the parks, trying to find Little Turtle Pond, where he wants to take the boys for a fishing activity the park is having on Saturday. He found out it is in the same park, but accessed from another side on a different road, so we decided to take a dry run so they could find it easily this weekend.

When we got there, Dave had me park so they could scope out the pond. The lot is high up a grassy hill maybe 300 yards wide, bordered on both sides by woods. The hill kind of curves around-or more to the point, the woods curve into the hill-as it slopes down to the pond, which we could see just a tiny bit of, but could see lots of reflecting twinkles of sunlight through the just-barely-budding trees. I love the metroparks in Northeast Ohio... so green... and quiet... peaceful... and the gentle murmur of nature with quiet bird calls, rustles of chipmunks in the dried leafbeds, the creak of the trees as the hush of breeze blows through the trees... the diverse smell of the woods... Unfortunately, my knees keep me from enjoying most of it anymore. My memory is good, though, and all that came flooding back as I glanced around while the guys got out of the car.

When my mind returned to the present, I looked out to see the guys all running down the hill together. Wyl on Dave's left, slightly ahead, Storm on his right, his little legs nearly keeping up with them... and my eyes filled with tears at the lovely sight as that image embedded itsself on my heart. Almost like the Flintstone's camera, just not quite as jarring or as peckish. Maybe more like a warm brand that slowly welts up... but there forever in the memory of my heart. What causes that swelling feeling? Why does it actually feel like your heart is a sponge, sopping up the joy and love and swelling with the abundance of it? Would the knowing why detract from the wondrous feeling of it?

And then, I heard them returning before I saw them come around the trees. More to the point, I heard Wyl. Is it that his voice is so "pronounced" like mine? Is it just that I am so tuned to his voice? As they came into view, a pause... funny, there's Dave and Storm...? And then the tears welled up again as I realized that Wyl decided to take the trail path up from the pond while Dave and Storm returned by their original method of the hill. It all came in such a flash... the need for him to start pulling away. The confidence he's gaining to be able to do things on his own. The stark representation of Dave and Storm without Wyl, that will someday be reality when Wyl decided to head out on his own adult path... seemingly far too soon for me.

This year has been kind of significant for me, with Wyl turning 9... Last year he was half way to his driver's licence. This year, he's half way to being an adult. Legally, at least... whatever that really *means*. It's probably still a remnant of my school/mainstream thinking. It's big, though. A big feeling, a big... idea-of-a-milestone kind of thing. It's hard to put into words. It's not like anything will significantly change on that "magical day"... and it is so, so far off, really... I'm not sure why it is hanging around my head like this. Maybe because with Wyl I have that internal clock ticking... that I have to "get unschooling right" and "make up for past mistakes" that I don't have with Storm, because we came to unschooling between when they were each born. Maybe I just like angst and I like to cause conflictive dialogue in my own head. :: grin :: I don't have it all the time, just in brief moments. Like today.

Maybe it helps to get kind of "angst-ish", because in my tendency to bungee, sometimes, it helps me to get to that extreme so I can quite obviously see that it *is* ridiculous to go there. Then I can remind myself that I am doing so much, that life is good, to live in the *now*, not dwell in regrets of the past or "what if's" of the future. To forgive myself as I would others around me. That's probably my toughest challenge. If I can keep in the forefront of my mind that I'm showing my kids to be hard on *them*selves if I am being hard on my own self, that will help immensely... I just get so steeped in that self-recrimination that it is tough to see anything else. Maybe some visual or physical reminder might help me focus... I used to have a necklace that I could grab and remind myself ... well, of whatever message it held for me in that time... I forget now what it was, but it was powerful and physical and it really helped me think the way I wanted to... So, maybe that's the answer. I wonder if a necklace would still work, or maybe a ring... Rings are so hard to find to fit me... maybe a bracelet? Maybe just a special elastic hair scrunchy or something around my hand... that might get in my way... Hmmm... apparently, this is something requiring some thought.

So... images, memories, little surprising bits of now that strike a person in such a memorable way... I briefly wished I had my camera with me (not that it would have helped much, since the memory card is full), but then the thought faded as quickly as it came. A picture would just not do the moment justice-in fact, the process of capturing the image would have interfered with The Moment... probably would have ruined it. Such a small thing. So fleeting. And yet, it will probably be embedded in my heart forever... Funny how these things work sometimes...

Tuesday, April 8

The dance of the journey

Is not dread of thirst when your well is full, thirst that is unquenchable?-Kahlil Gibran, mystic, poet, and artist (1883-1931)

So... Wyl and I talked about things today. How school is (in some, small ways), how traditional parenting can look, how friends can be torn between their parents and their friends when choices have to be made.... It was a good talk, and for a change I knew when to shut up and he didn't have to tell me!

Sometimes, Wyl gets glimpses into how different his life really is from a typical, schooled kid. Most times he has no idea. Sometimes I wonder if it would be better for him if he were blissfully unaware or if him knowing some of that just makes things easier for his parents... I've heard it referred to as a dance before and it really is. There is give and take, back and forth, harmony and synchronicity-and if someone missteps, it throws a chunk of things out of whack for a few beats. And the newer "dancer" you are, the longer things are out of whack and the tougher it is to find your place again. But, then too, I've yet to see a 4-partner dance! Dancing together with harmony and grace is tough enough with 2 people... could you imagine it with FOUR?? Granted, there is square dancing, but there are still 4 pairs of partners and I don't really see it as smooth and graceful. Maybe it is and I'm just remembering my gym class square dancing from 4th grade. :: grin ::

His empathy is starting to grow, I think. When Dave and I give him information on how others might feel, he has recently started asking why we are making him feel guilty. I'm not sure where to go from this point, as it rather took me aback the first time he said it, but I've started with the idea that no one but Wyl can make him feel something he doesn't want to feel. It feels lame and blame-passing, so I'll keep exploring other avenues. I know there's better things to say and do (or stop saying and/or doing), and we'll find it.

My "am I getting it?" angst is lessening. I'm feeling "groovy"er. It might be getting out and about and seeing folks and realizing how far we've come. It might be something someone said to me this week:

If you let them do their worst, you might find out that now that you're an adult, it's not as bad as you imagined it would be. The older and bigger you get, the older and smaller they get. If you keep acting and feeling like you're little and they're huge, you stay in the child role.

It was one of those epiphany moments. I get SO aggravated when I "know" (intellectually) something and then someone writes some words in the right way and I read them in the right frame of mind on the right day and then I KNOW (with my whole being) it. Why couldn't I KNOW it when the idea was first placed before me?! Grrrr.

At any rate, it's funny. Not "ha, ha" funny, though some might find it so... funny in that "things that make you go hmmmm" kind of way. When it was first presented to me, over two years ago, it made perfect sense that I was at *least* 50% responsible for my parents still treating me like a child. It made sense, and yet, for a long time before every meeting with them, I'd need to psyche myself up, do the "look in the mirror and repeat" and *tell* myself that I *was* an adult now... my little pep-talk, pre-parent mantra. And it didn't feel "affirming", it felt more like "girding" or armoring up.

Since that epiphany moment (after ingesting those words above), there were several moments of, "Yeah, alright!" and then I went on to other things as the moment settled into my subconscious. And yet, oddly enough, things have been different since then. I *feel* different. Not in a big way, not in a "marked" way. Very subtle-so subtle so as to be almost entirely unnoticeable. Life feels different. Micro-pleasantly. Like all those obvious markers of how far I've come in my respectful parenting, respectful *living* journey... they've *been* there, but now I *see* them. Kind of like when you notice for the first time how much your child has grown. He didn't grow in those 30 seconds you looked away. It happened so slowly over weeks and yet, *wow!* the "noticing" is sudden.

Drat. Interruptions always derail my train of thought (pardon the pun). Give me a moment to catch it again...

I wonder if everyone's journey looks like this. Not that it is important, just kind of pondering how else it could look, I guess. Possibly, since so many people know what I mean about suddenly noticing how your kid has grown. Maybe not, since my blog looks so different from others that I read regularly. Sometimes I look at those other blogs and wish mine read like those, but I'm sure that there are those of you reading *at this moment* who are saying, "NO! We like the way you write-don't change!!" Just like our individual unschooling journeys... if I changed to make it more like someone else's, it wouldn't be mine anymore.

And so the dance continues. Stumble, ramble, misstep, read, come together again and glide along to our own inner tunes.

Saturday, March 15

The beauty of hugs and flowers

We should be careful to get out of an experience only the wisdom that is in it -- and stop there -- lest we be like the cat that sits down on a hot stove-lid. She will never sit down on a hot stove-lid again, and that is well; but also she will never sit down on a cold one any more. -Mark Twain, author and humorist (1835-1910)

Ain't it great when your kid grabs your arms and wraps them around himself? Ahh... heart-swelling contentment. ...why?...

Previously, I made the analogy that looking into the "why" and "how" of a beautiful thing was like tearing apart a flower-you found out why and/or how it was, but destroyed the beauty, the experience of it. Man, I hate it when I take a stand on things... I so often have to eat my words... And so began the poking and prodding of my "why stick" into this beautiful flower....

Why did such a simple act leave me feeling so peacefully content, I began to wonder, spooned with my youngest, arms wrapped around his middle, his head nestled on the pillow of the arm against the bed... Was it because we had a relationship where he felt comfortable telling me what he needed? That he was comfortable telling me what he needed from *me*? Okay, sounds logical. What else... there's something else there... something deeper...

Is it trust? Trust so unthinking that he knows he can get what he needs? No hesitation. No wondering. No concept that I might refuse. I don't know... I've worked through so much in my brain to get to that trust, yet I'm not sure I'd know it if I saw it. Maybe I should *trust* that's what it is. :~D I damaged the trust between Wyl and I before we came to this lifestyle, and though I'm working on that with him, we're not at that point, yet. I got to start from scratch with Storm. Maybe Wyl and I won't ever get to that point, I don't know - I *do* know I haven't the experience with my older kid to go by to compare and see if that's what this deeper feeling is. I've never had that kind of trust before. With anyone - or if I did, it wasn't for long... or maybe it was imagined... or one-sided, which in its very nature would make it *not* like this kind of trust I'm thinking about. And so I keep examining the poked-apart flower... I can't seem to get deep enough into it to find out the "what/why/how" of it... maybe it's there and I just don't know how to see it... maybe I need a magnifying glass or a microscope... And I ponder on.

Something I didn't think about when I first made that analogy: plants just don't flower once. They continue to flower, whether on the same plant or offspring, and so poking apart one flower may destroy that one beauty, that one experience, but when the next flower comes along, the knowledge gained from the tearing apart the first flower helps make the wonder of the following flowers *more*... wondrous. More beautiful. More amazing in its glory. Love is like that. It never gets old, blase, old hat. It doesn't wear out. Maybe I can hope that trust is like that... maybe it can get lost and tarnished, but with love and elbow grease it can blossom again...

Wednesday, March 5

Reading, writing & politics

I object to violence because when it appears to do good, the good is only temporary; the evil it does is permanent. -Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi (1869-1948)

Does anyone else talk to the screen while reading at the unschooling groups? I'm not taking a poll, it's pretty much rhetorical....

What is that motion called? The one where you make a fist below shoulder level, palm up, pulling it back sharply into your waist while saying, "Yessss!"? Anyhow, there was one of *those* for unschooling today. I had recently read somewhere (probably a local homeschool board) about homeschoolers putting together a "mock election" for kids of a certain age (I believe they were calling for kids older than 8-Wyl's age) so they could learn about the "democratic process". For a moment, my "need to be active" corner of my homeschooling parent brain thought, "Hey, that sounds interesting!" but only a brief moment. Then my unschooler brain kicked in and said, "How pointless..." So, fast forward a couple weeks...

While we were driving in the car, Wyl said, "What does that mean? The donkeys with the stars on them? The donkeys and the elephants with stars on them." He was referring to the "elect me" yard signs all over the area. I took the simple tack, saying they were mascots for the Democrats and Republicans. He asked more questions. I answered simply and basically. He asked more questions. I started getting jazzed about this happenstance and really into the discussion. Wyl was getting into it, too, and getting excited... then Storm, beside Wyl in the backseat, shushed us. Asked for quiet. Wanted us to stop talking! Arrgggghhhh!!! I hate it when conflicts like that come up!! So, since we were less than 5 minutes from our destination, I decided to put the conversation on hold until we got there, then Storm could get out and Wyl and I could continue in the car. Only problem was, when we got there, Wyl was too excited to be at our destination. His interest in the political process discussion morphed into excitement for the thing at hand. :~/ I was so bummed!! I'm sure it will come up again, and we'll get to continue where we left off or head off into a new direction, but for now, I'm still dealing with my disappointment. I know its an expectation thing and not a big deal. Probably rooted in whatever small crumb I have in the back of my brain for "proof unschooling works"...

Storm is getting more interested in reading. We used to read to him fairly frequently, but it kind of fizzled out for a while... Six months? A year? Not sure, time doesn't have a deep seat in my brain. He's been bringing me a book at least once each day and asking me to read it-for about 10 days, now... since our several-hour stint in Border's. I'm very happy. I love books, I love to read, and I love to read *to* folks. I read to Dave (whenever he'd let me) for years before Wyl came along. I *hope* that my kids have the same wondrous relationship with books that I do, but I don't expect it. Dave likes to read, but he doesn't become immersed in books the way I do. Not that that's a bad thing, it just isn't a wondrous thing-an experience. Similar to how I experience music. But that's another post for another day ;~) But, speaking of reading....

Connections happened :~D One thing lead to another and I ended up finding my favorite poet and after a little more digging, my favorite poem. (Rod Mckuen, "Morning Three" - if it matters) In the process, on his website, I found out that what my perception of him and his work was quite off. Long story ahead. I'll asterisk it and you can skip it if you like:

***When I was in my "dark teen" period (okay, not all of it, because it was long... maybe the beginning-ish part?), for some reason, I got it in my head that I needed to read poetry. Maybe it was because I was trying to write poetry, maybe it was because I'd found J.D. Salinger, maybe it was because someone I thought I needed to be more like was big into poetry or I thought it was something "everyone does" (most likely scenario-really. I was quite a follower between 13 and 17). At any rate, I marched down to my small-town library (I was there quite often, anyway, but this was a specific trip-I was on a mission) and went into the poetry room (do libraries *do* this anymore? Did they ever? Was it just my little town library?) and spent at least an hour and a half trying to decide from the outside of the books and the sounds of the authors which one(s) I should try. That was how I picked my fiction, that and reading the overview on the back or inside cover. Didn't work with poetry. So, finally, after a long while, I settled on Rod Mckuen. I had leafed through a book or two and found a couple more that merited taking home. So I did.

I spent a couple weeks with those books. Poetry didn't really speak to me, but I liked some of the stuff in these books and I liked the way he wrote. I saw that one of the books was published in 1964 and the other one was equally old. Something in what I read made me think of a guy who was lonely, older... made me think he wasn't a prolific poet or if he had been, he wasn't any more. I hand-copied my favorite poem and hid it in my room-probably under the mattress, since one of my chores was to make my own bed and my mother likely wouldn't snoop there. She wouldn't like the content. Not that it was graphic per se, but it intimated. It was vivid in its colorful, simile-like descriptives. ;~) When I returned the books to the library, I went back to the poetry room and looked through the rest of his works-or the ones our library had, anyway. I remember seeing *lots* of old stuff (published before my time or before I was in school) and very little newer, and nothing recent. So, this added to my perception that his work was dying or dead-or he was dead. I reveled in "having a favorite poet" for a few weeks (and rather smugly proud that it wasn't Emily Dickinson or some other poet EVERYBODY liked) and then, it fell by the wayside. It wasn't *my* interest, after all, it was a kind of "keep up with the Joneses" or "do what you're supposed to do" kind of thing. In the passing years, I'd run across that poem now and again... reread it and smile, have a warm, fuzzy memory-moment, tuck it away and tuck the memory back into the recesses of my brain. I think at one point, I actually threw the copy I wrote. It's been many years since I visited there.

So, a t.v. person mentioned someone named (single syllable first name) Mckuen (likely not spelled that way, but I heard it, not read it) and my head popped up from what I was working on at the keyboard and my head whipped around to the t.v. "I wonder if it is any relation to Rod Mckuen?" I wondered. Watched briefly for a moment, then went back to what I was doing. About 5 minutes later, the realization hit me that I was sitting in front of access to a world of information! So I googled.... Guess what? (Well, I was clueless. Lots of folks probably know!) Rod Mckuen is a prolific songwriter, composer, singer AND poet! Still alive, still churning out work!! Not only *that*, but his work is often required reading for students to study! LOL I thought I had found some obscure, relatively unknown poet that no one would have a clue about, and here he was smack in the middle of "what you should do"! :~D

After I dug a bit more, I found my favorite poem and printed it out. Re reading it was superb. An old friend come to sit by my side, and yet different... Just like a childhood friend has hints in their face of your childhood together, you can see the adult friend through a different frame of reference. I still like the way he writes. I no longer see him as solitary, lonely, distant. The poem doesn't strike the same chords it did for me 25-30 years ago. I may like it more. I definitely like it differently. So, as I read through it again for the 3rd time and set it aside, feeling content, cosy and reacquainted, a realization hits me. Without intention, somehow, over the years, my writing has been influenced by his. Amazing that something perused for such a short period of time and pretty much tossed away after that has such deep, long-lasting effects. Hmmm.... there's something to be said about unschooling in that... it will come to me later.***

So. Reading. Writing. Stories. Emotional ties to it all. What will this point lead to in my kids' lives in the future? In my life? Will Wyl's waxing and waning reading continue on that path? Will it solidify-and if so, on the waxing end or the waning end? Somewhere in the middle? Will his enjoyment of writing descriptives on his monster creations turn into something huge? Just be a blip on the screen? Merge into daily writing? Will Storm's love of naming/reading signs like Walmart, ToysRUs, Target prove to be the beginnings of his reading? Will his enjoyment of being read to grow? Will HE let me read Harry Potter to him some day?? Will Wyl EVER let me read Harry Potter to him? Will any of my kids ever have a symbiotic relationship to writing like their mama? Will the look upon writing as one of life's worst chores like their daddy? If it is in the spectrum inbetween, where in the spectrum will it fall?

Yes, my mind actually runs like this. Not just about reading and writing, about so many things. It's not a worry, a fretting, a concern, it's just wondering. Pondering. Peering through the blackness that separates the *now* from the *future*. Maybe if I squint strongly enough, I might catch a glimpse....! Or, will my trying so hard to see influence today's life and effect the future? I don't want to do that. I *do* in the exposure kind of way, but not in the "mama likes this and so maybe...." kind of way. I know sometimes I try to hard.... is peering, squinting for a peek at the future "trying"? Hopefully not. Or if so, hopefully, I will figure that out before "effecting" happens.

Wednesday, February 20

Amazing Trip

"Life's like a movie.

Write your own ending
keep believing, keep pretending."-- Jim Henson (1936-1990)

Wow, I am still floating! We spent 11 days traveling and visiting unschoolers!! Well... that makes it sound like there were many unschooling homes we visited, but it was 2. And it was awesome!! I would highly recommend to ANYONE that if you can swing it, DO it!!

It was such bliss being "surrounded" by (as much as a family can surround another!) experienced, whole-life unschoolers. I was at my most content. Frankly, I just wanted to sit all day and absorb the atmosphere (and that was almost all I did! LOL). It really is wonderful to sit and talk without having to censor yourself or explain every little thing. The boys enjoyed themselves immensely and were somewhat subdued, comparatively!! (Wonder what is missing at our house??) Coming from NE Ohio (where the temps took their inevitable February dip below zero), the weather was tropical-in the 60's! The food was awesome, the company grand and I got reprimanded for trying to help clean up!! Okay, besides the "advertisement" (LOL), what the heck did I decide to post for? Hmmm....

Really, though, the experience was so lovely, Dave and I wished we had the money to be able to do that indefinitely. With him off work at the moment we have plenty of time, but referring to the previous, definitely not the cash. The boys didn't get on each other's nerves, they ate fabulously, and there was pretty much peace and harmony the whole week. Everyone slept soundly and well, we just had the best time. Amazing what getting out of the routine can do.

My head was so full of things to put in my blog last Saturday as we were on our trip home, but most of it seems to have evaporated at the moment. I guess I'll just come back and edit in stuff as/if it comes back to me.


I remember some! Over the last few weeks of travel, I've been amazed at the completely organic development of swimming in Storm's exploration. From the Ohio campout last August/September, where he was so tentative... He took almost an hour to get all the way *into* the pool. He'd get his feet wet and get out (and *man*, was it HOT-in the mid-high 90s, if I recall...), get his feet wet and get out, get his shins wet and retreat, etc. By the time we got out of the pool, he was jumping in from the side into my arms and running around the perimeter of the pool like he was going to jump into the deep end. Wyl also honed his swimming skills. Sadly, we started swim lessons with him before we found unschooling and that has effected Wyl's water confidence. He could move from one side of the pool to the other without a floatation device of any sort in water over his head and he did this several times. At one point, he was surprised to find himself in water over his head and panicked a bit, went under a moment or two, splashed a *lot* and when we got him to the side, he declared that he couldn't swim!! All my reassurances didn't help-he swam with a floaty the rest of our time there.

We started swimming with our homeschool group at the end of last year. Storm spent most of his time around the zero-entry area, playing on the slide and with the water sprayers/drippers. Once or twice, he got in too deep, but Dave or I was there to grab him before it got scary (for him). He'd asked to be carried in the deeper water occasionally, but mainly just stayed in the shallow end. We never really considered swim lessons for Storm for so many reasons, one of which being all the "unschool swimming" stories I'd read and read aloud to Dave. Then we went to Kalahari. I never noticed any real change in his relationship with water, there. There were "little kid" areas he loved, with very shallow (ankle-deep?) water, and the wave pool. The latter area we stayed close (I'm confident in my swimming ability in still water, but have huge difficulties in waves) to him, there were giant, sit-in floaties, flotation vests available but Storm wanted to stay in the shallow area when the waves were going. When they weren't, he liked to wade out to chest-height and then be carried into the deeper water. Oh, and we went on one of the family raft/floaty tube slides (very exciting IMO!!) and floated on the lazy river ride once. The next time we were at our local swim, things were business as usual, but the time after that...! Wow, I just couldn't believe how interested he was in the deep water!! Wanting to go out until he was tiptoe-bobbing, nose held high and then reach for me-but he didn't want picked up, he just wanted a hand or an arm to grab onto for leverage to get his head up into his comfort zone. He wanted to stay in the deepest water he could touch bottom in, hold onto me while I walked and he kicked, "I swim, mama, I swimin'!" He grabbed onto the edges and dunked himself under in those deep areas. We ventured back to the shallow area and I dove under and swam toward him (both boys love this "chase" game), blowing bubbles and "growling" and suddenly, *he* wanted to dunk his face and blow bubbles!! It was just an amazing day for me-watching all that develop and the complete lack of thought that anyone should be concerned about the possibility of harm or accident... It makes me glad again that Wyl and Storm are 5 1/2 years apart... I have no idea how I could divide my time between 2 learning-water-skills kids... I need to give 95% of my attention to Storm while he's exploring water and having fun-sometimes more than that! There have been 1 or 2 occasions in the past where he was between Dave and I (just out of reach of either of us) and got a little too deep or dunked under and we needed to take a couple steps to help. I don't know how folks with more than 1 little one do it...

Saturday, February 2

My Unschooling Experience

The dust of exploded beliefs may make a fine sunset. -Geoffrey Madan, writer (1895-1947)

Okay, I know its been a while and I'll address that. Later. I just had to get this out of my head and onto "paper"...

I think I've finally hit the nail on the head as to what "getting" unschooling feels like to me-at this point in the journey. Fumbling in the dark. Serious, mis-directed fumbling. You know what its like when you're walking through a dark room in your house? Pitch dark. No discernible shadows. Remember what it's like to have your sense of direction out of whack? THAT'S what it's like, right now, in this place of my journey.

I swear I know this "room" of RU. I was certain I had mapped it out in my brain in the clear daylight of the postboards/yahoogroups of "what if" and "when", but then, I find myself, alone in the dark, full of confidence that I know what's where, what to avoid and where I'm truly headed. Stretching my hands up at shoulder-height for that shelf I know that's there, stepping rather quickly (for the dark) and confidently, then *whack*, I get a low chest in the shin. {damn!} Okay, I wasn't headed *exactly* the direction I thought... regroup... adjust slightly. Now, a bit slower, but still confident, splaying my fingers out at hip level for that dresser *thwap!* there's that shelf, giving me a goose-egg on my forehead! {gob damnit!} I thought I had adjusted the right way... maybe I overcompensated-or is it that I didn't compensate enough?? Okay, full stop. Think it through, chest, shelf, rubbing my head.... Alright, I think I see where I messed up. Slowly, now, carefully.... *this* direction. Hand out in front of my face (just in case) and toes feeling along the floor, carefully... making progress... *scraaatch* {son of a biscuit!} How the heck did I get the corner of the nightstand in the hip??!! That's nowhere *near* where I was headed!! Alright, there's only one way left to go. Inching ever so slowly, eyes open beyond wide-hoping for even the teeniest hint of shadow... is that a blob over there? Hands now scanning back and forth, up and down to avoid any possible contact with anything... tense... hoping for the best, yet fearing more failure and pain... *POW* the doorknob hits me in the BACK?!?! {now jumping up and down, swearing like a sailor, yelling in pain} That wasn't even the direction I was heading-and I was walking *forward*, I know I was!! How the hell did I get it in the back from the doorway I came IN through?!?! Then my anger turns to disgust, disappointment and self-loathing as I sink to the cold floor in the middle of the dark, weeping hopelessly...

And that's how the jumps and starts of my unschooling journey go. Nothing like I picture: no smooth transitions, no gradual progress, no stunning sudden leaps of unschooling mana... Yet, sometimes when I look back, it *seems* like I've come a long way... Ugh. In a way, I hope I'm not the only one that fails so regularly and miserably, yet in a bigger way, I hope that no one else has to go through the extremes that I seem to.

So, the reason its been a while... I quit unschooling. Well, I quit the respectful parenting, radical part. I had one of those "sink to the cold floor in the dark" moments and instead of falling into despair, I got pissed and decided I was done on this "one way street", so to speak. That I was going back to being a mainstream parent, the boss, the punishing meany. Anyone gasping in horror, yet? How about disappointment? Guess what? Respectful parenting seems to be a one-way street. I found that once on this street, I couldn't turn around. I couldn't bring myself to go back to disrespecting these wonderful people in my family. I'd gone too far down the street and not only couldn't go the other direction, I couldn't even find a place to turn around. Go figure.

Since that decision and subsequent discovery, I think I've come to the conclusion that I'm having peri-menopause related PMS and mood ... swings? Nah, they're not mood swings. Swings sway gently back and forth, up and down in a gentle, rhythmic pattern. Swings are fun and predictable and comforting. I guess I have mood... jolts? That's just not *enough*... Mood collisions? Closer... Maybe mood-natural-disasters. Mood tsunamis. Yes, huge, unexpected, crashing waves of destruction that leave folks drowning in bafflement and disaster. That's what they are: mood tsunamis.

At any rate, I have a direction to go now that I have a PMS thing and methods to use to resolve it. That still doesn't have anything to do with my lack of clear direction and losing my path on the RU journey. Maybe it will come if I keep working at it. Is it *me*, or does it seem like the mentoring voices on the unschooling groups had a much simpler, shorter, easier journey?

Does anyone else picture them the way I do? Ever-gentle voices of patience and peace. Sitting cross-legged on their "mount" of a kitchen chair with a hot cup of tea steaming on the table beside them. Doling out wise advice and perfect stories of their own families with ease and kind patience to all that file through their virtual, online kitchens. Never a hair out of place, goddess-like halo of flowers on their heads, smiling warmly in acceptance as each parent begs for help at her knee... Okay, maybe its a bit whimsical and over the top, but you get the idea. And me with that whole "dirty urchin", cinder girl feeling... Its true. I've always been hard on myself. It goes easier when you're hard on yourself first-then when others are hard on you, it doesn't hurt so much. But then again, too, I'm the only mama my boys have and I want to do it RIGHT!! I don't want to get it right by the time their 18, I want to do it right-now. I kick myself 50 times over for every wrong and I fear to revel in the good stuff-even for a moment-for fear that I will get complacent in my place on the journey. Gee. I sound like a screwed-up whack-job, don't I?? LOL

I guess I need to have occasional anxt-y moments... jeeze, I wish I could find that awesome saying from Legend... the only thing I can remember is, "without dark, there can be no light"... Wonder if google can save me... Gee, I thought it was longer than this:

There can be no good without evil...
No love without hate...
No innocence without lust...
No heaven without hell...
No light without darkness.

But all I can find reference to is a "voice over", but what I remember are the words scrolling up the screen... Someday we'll have the DVD and I'll get it down right for posterity. But back to my point. Maybe I need the back slides to make progress, the negativity to help me find the positive.

And now I'm too hungry to think and type properly so I'll go and munch and ponder...

To find a person who will love you for no reason, and to shower that person with reasons, that is the ultimate happiness. -Robert Brault, software developer, writer (1938- )

Tuesday, January 1

An Inkling of Understanding

"Be careful how you interpret the world: it *is* like that." -Erich Heller, essayist (1911-1990)

*Disclaimer: I had many brief interruptions and one long one, so this may come out sounding disjointed or worse ;~)

When I have moments like this, moments when *true understanding* seeps in around the roadblocks of old tapes/status quo, I want to run to each and every one of my "voices of reason", my mentors, the more experienced folks I've learned so much from (run to them like they're in the next room, because it often feels as if they are *that* close)... folks like Sandra, Danielle, Meredith, Ren, Diana, Robyn, Schuyler, Pam, Joyce -and more-, grab them up in a huge bear hug, laugh and jump and dance and not only share the joy of the moment, but THANK them beyond what words can ever do justice.

I think I've finally come up with a passing explanation of what this RU, respectful parenting, natural learning, whole life unschooling means to me. My kids have their own path. I've "known" that in my brain, but it seems it is so difficult for what I know in my brain to seep into my heart, my soul, my being.... But today, (hmmm... why do so much of these "sinking in" things happen in the shower?? LOL Maybe because its so quiet in there... ) it really became understood *inside* me. They have their own path. I can not see where their path will lead, I cannot -or maybe SHOULD not- control their path, know what it will bring them, where it will take them or who will join them on their journey. Dave and I are here as experienced guiders, people who can explain how to judge road conditions, how to read the signs, what might happen, what our experiences on our paths have been and how we traversed the hills and valleys, the bumps and curves. We can give them knowledge to plan, a soft spot to land, a place of peace to rest when the road is too rough for them. We can help them pack tools and flares, blankets and sustenance. We can help them find ways to communicate along the way, where to find maps and guidebooks. We can fill our hearts will joy and anticipation as the solo part of their journey (solo without us, anyway, not necessarily alone) approaches. There is no way for us to anticipate every single possible thing they will ever need-nor would there be room or time to add all that. But, when it comes to that point, we will wave them off and they will go with joy, hope and excitement onto their own paths with their own experiences in their own world. The less roadblocks we put up, the more we avoid "can't" and imagine possibilities and detours around to "yes", the more prepared they will be to travel on their own. The easier it will be for them to see the wonder, the amazing sights, to get as much joy out of their journey as possible. To find the path that is right for each one of them.... And a home to come back to if they should need a haven of rest.

What is that old saying about walking side by side? Let me see if Google turns up anything... Ah, gotta love Google:
"Don't walk in front of me, I may not follow. Don't walk behind me, I may not lead. Just walk beside me and be my friend." Albert Camus (1913-1960)
That has always "said" something to me. Funny, I haven't thought of it for a long time. Funny, too, that I always thought of it as a "life partner" thing... Well, I guess it still IS-just my definition of "partner" has changed. Or maybe my definition of "life partner"...

I raise my glass, this New Year's Day, in toast: To The Journey! {clink!}