Thursday, August 17

Explanation: Our Current Issues/Problems (house) - [Personal]

Really, this isn't a "usual" blog post. It is more along the lines of: this is a place I have that's fairly convenient to direct people to if they want more information on our house situation. If you didn't get directed her, likely you're not interested. :) Feel free to move on or back or stick around - whatever suits you.

Trigger Warning: dark subject matter, depressing, potentially may come across as whiny (though not my intention at *all). If you're still here after that, know that this is part of a (personal) campaign to raise money to get ourselves (my husband, my self and our children) out of dire financial straights. 

One last chance - I figure three warnings is enough before I commence. So, if you're still here...

2008 Dave was laid off. During his unemployment job searching, his spinal osteoarthritis, degenerative disc disease, & spinal stenosis presented and was diagnosed. His condition quickly progressed and it became clear that work was out of the question, but we were glad that his initial diagnosis was *not* the death sentence the first doctor told us.

Through 5 years of struggles with surgeries, the medication trials-and-errors, clinical depression and (after the small bit of unemployment ran out) struggles to cope with raising and homeschooling 2 active boys with *zero* income, his disability turned down 4 times, he *finally* qualified for disability. Just about a year and a half ago, he started getting $700/month – which may not seem like much, but after 5 years of $0, it was *such* a relief to be able to sit down on the first of the month and actually pay our utilities! No worries about having to call any of the social help groups to pay them for us, no shut offs, just satisfaction. We still had to struggle to decide between toilet paper & toothpaste some months, but we had utilities!

During that time, we started up our business, Smithfits Bazaare Emporium, to have a creative outlet, and to try to create a way to support ourselves. (It isn’t to that point, yet, though we are breaking even.) We donate our time and skills to the community, and to others, giving back in what we have (time and skills) for our peace of mind and to offset (in our own minds) our food stamp support we get.

Earlier this year, I lost my ability to drive. Driving is one of the hardest things on Dave’s back, so he’s had to take over not only all the driving, but *extra* driving to events an hour apart (one way) when we’re double-booked with our business, to try to supplement the disability payments.

Also earlier in the year, our camera broke, making our ability to sell online all but impossible. (Setup and arrangement of stock with the right lighting takes time and space & we just don’t want to impose on folks for that very often, though we have had a friend who has helped.) Another setback/obstacle (everyone being a little more demoralizing, a little heavier veil on the self-sufficiency scale, another notch down the self-confidence scale…).

Our kids have suffered, and one has been more affected by this hardship than the other. We’ve struggled with coping with their needs & disappointments, along with our own feelings about being inadequate parents. Especially when we can’t feed them as well as we used to be able to (the oldest started out with all organic, handmade baby food).

We’ve gradually sold off anything of value we had, and a lot of things that didn’t have much monetary value, but had much sentimental value to us. Most everything left to us was given to us or we pulled out of the trash (because someone more well-off didn’t want/need it, but it was still “good”).

Throughout all that, our ONE constant, our one solid rock of hope we could cling to, was that we would (as long as it didn’t rot down around our ears) always have our home, because it had been paid off in full before the gradual decline began. We were worried about taxes, but as time went on and sheriff’s sales happened (for back taxes) and no bids were made, we felt more confident that no one else wanted our ugly, old, run-down house. We felt we’d be safe until we could start making a profit with Smithfits or until we could figure out a way to pay off the back taxes we owed.

Just a couple weeks ago, we discovered that Dave could fill out paperwork exempting him from property tax, because of his disability! That brought *so* much relief, we finally (for a brief period) felt *safe*!

About a week before we got notice, a friend told us that they’d heard through the grape vine that if your house didn’t sell at sheriff’s sale enough times, the city could take over ownership of the property. That was worrisome, but as the sheriff’s sale for this year had already happened, we figured we had the better part of a year to figure this out.

Then, the bomb dropped and everything that had just solidified underneath us, all fell out. The taxes we need to pay to retain ownership of our house aren’t that high, but all the court costs & fees from the sheriff’s sales more than double our taxes!! Our taxes are under $2,000, but our total for taxes + costs is $25,000!! So demoralizing… If we can’t afford to pay the taxes themselves, how could we afford more than 10x that??

Cue many phone calls, talking legal-speak, learning on the fly with our brains handicapped with stress, to find out there may be a slim possibility: If we can come up with a lawyer fee to file chapter 13, that will stop the process of the city taking over ownership, as soon as the bankruptcy is filed. (The city takes over in 8 days, on August 25) At that point, we have some breathing room/time to figure out the rest, but it will *not* be “solved” – not by a long shot.

At that point, the lawyer will research dates, fees & possibilities. He’ll help Dave fill out the paperwork to exempt him from taxes. Likely, since his disability went through a while back, he’ll be able to get 1 or 2 years worth of taxes removed from the bill; possibly the court costs & fees from those years, as well. Because we haven’t been getting certified mail notifications, he may be able to get rid of some more of the court costs and fees, but we won’t really know until he’s paid and started to work. Bottom line is that it is likely that the final total will be less than $25,000; how much less, we can’t say. The math on that total has us paying $400/month, which is totally not do-able on a $700 a month budget that doesn’t quite meet our basic needs as it is.

So, after the lawyer fees (whatever there is beyond the “getting started” fee of $1,310), we’ll still need help paying whatever that final bill *is*. We’re estimating $20,000 at the moment, knowing that can be adjusted later. The more we can pay off before the final amount is set, the less our monthly payments will be.

On top of all that, we don’t know if this monetary ability to pay our taxes (even though it is donated by others) is going to count against us with regard to our food stamps and set us back further. Uncertainty is just an entirely different level of stress – one that I, personally, do not deal with very well. It is something I need to deal with by putting it away until something can actually be measured or done to change it, so I work more. I focus on other things, volunteer my time more, make sure I am Always busy. People often remark on how much I do and how busy I am, but it really is just me saving my sanity.

All this above is not to brag or for sympathy or attention – I’m usually pretty close to the vest about my deeply personal stuff, difficulties, and hardships… But, when it comes to my kids and making sure they’re safe & secure, I have no shame and no limit to what I will endure. I *know* this will get passed around the homeschool community and there will be judgment and gossip - which I have endured before – but none of that means *anything* to me, if it results in my kids having a roof over their heads. (Just in case you don’t know anyone at this level of poverty, $700 a month will not rent anything and will buy only a few with enough money left over for utilities, much less necessities. If we lose this house, we will be truly, in the full sense of the word, HOMELESS. Living in a tent or out of our car HOMELESS. Literally.)

So, all this was because I know people want to know the story before they donate. You know. If you don’t contribute, that’s fine; everyone has their reasons, their morals, their standards. If you do, you will have my everlasting gratitude and a special place in my heart forever, regardless of if you write a note, share your name or remain anonymous. If you are a friend or fellow homeschooler (or worse - *both*!), I will feel vast shame with my gratitude, at the necessity of needing to take from a friend. It doesn’t mean I’ll love you any less, though. Just the opposite ♥.

And so, now I’ve bared my soul to the world – or at least my shameful predicament – and feel the need to lighten the mood, because joking is what I do to feel better. J Enjoy this funny meme I found yesterday (relevant links below): 

If you need links, see below. 

If you'd prefer to donate anonymously or through a fundraising site, our friend, Nicole, set up a YouCare site here, where you can track progress:  It takes a little longer for the money to come through and there is a credit card handling fee involved that comes out whenever the money is transferred to our account, just so you know the details.

If you'd prefer to donate directly without having fees, you can send as "friends and family" (to avoid fees) directly to our business PayPal, which has a debit/credit card we can use to pay things right from the account: (slightly different than the actual name, because aol would not let me use all the letters, so I had to cut one out when I created the account and one of the 2 Es together seemed like a good choice. At the time. :D )

If you would like to purchase one of our art pieces (that have been loaded into the Etsy store - still loading in more as we get pictures [sorry about the quality!] taken), please visit our Esty shop:  If you would like to custom order something made just for you or you saw something at one of the craft shows that you're not seeing on the Etsy, please contact us through our Facebook page, Smithfits Bazaare Emporium or through our email:

Updates will be forthcoming, though just where I'm not sure yet, but when I do, I'll edit this to let you know.

I'm still not sure about the update location, but here's one!:

Good News update! 

We just heard from the lawyer's paralegal and not only do we have an appointment tomorrow to get this ball rolling, *but* he also gave us a discount from the $1,310.00, so we just need $810.00 to get started! Just a few more bucks to go and we can get going tomorrow 10am!!

Bad News update...
Attourney appointment went well. They said if we could get the credit counseling class taken today (online) and early enough, they may be able to file today. If things didn’t work out that way today, they’d file Monday for sure. Variations on payments & length of time we have details are different than I’d hoped, but more on that later.

Headed home to do the class and grabbed the mail on the way in the door. Found a letter from the county (not certified). Order Of Forfeiture. Call the lawyer. Explain that we were SUPPOSED to have 30 days to take care of this, which isn’t up until Thursday the 24th.  Lawyer says “they’re acting like it sold”. But it never *actually* sold – they just offered it to the city for the cost of filing fees. Filing is supposed to have 30 days. Lawyer says he’s going to try to file “a motion to vacate the order”. He can’t say how it will go, it’s a new judge, it really depends on what the judge decides. Which says to me, if he got up on the wrong side of the bed, had a bad lunch or has some sort of issue with desperately poor people, we’re shit out of luck. Lawyer asks if we’ve applied for AMHA housing. O.o Says, “If you haven’t you better head down first thing Monday morning and do that. Just as a precautionary measure. But I strongly recommend it.” Excuse me while I swear.

THIS sort of shit is exactly why I didn’t want to get my hopes up. I don’t know if it just my viewpoint, but after 22 years here, ever passing year it seems more and more like the city has it in for us. They’ve been dying to tear down our house for years, trumping up charges against us for “code violations” that nobody else gets sited for, calling CPS on us, charging us outrageous fees on TOP of the court costs for every tiny little code violation – there for a while, they were coming up with a new list every month! I wouldn’t put it past them to “speed up the process” by greasing someone’s palm.

I’m beside myself right now. I’m mostly just numb… 

Tuesday, June 28

Socializing. Something that comes up in all types of homeschooling.
This one was asked in a large, international, radical/whole-life unschooling group:

Q. (my partner) thinks my kids are suffering socially.... ...My partner seems to think they need to socialize with friends a few hours every DAY.
What does this look like in your family?
A. My kids go through phases. Sometimes they really want to be with other kids, sometimes they'd rather stay home. We're lucky enough to have a park a block away and a school playground half a block away, as well as a town nice enough to walk around in, so my kids have never had a shortage of neighborhood contacts - they just prefer their homeschool friends. :)
We've also set up homeschool park day, soccer, baseball & kickball "teams" (just enough kids to have 2 teams to play against each other), Nerf battles, pot lucks, Field Day, etc. More often, my kids are asking me not to plan stuff, rather than saying they miss their friends. :)
The thing is (and this took me a long time to absorb), our childhoods were our own. Our kids will *never* have the same childhood that we had - and that's okay. Even if we set up house in the same location, even if we put them in school, even if we took the same vacations & sent them to the same camps. One, we're all different and get different things out of the same situation; Two, it is a different era - they have a different (however slight) society to grow up in, different technology, different t.v. shows, different music - and different *parents*. :)
Most people don't look back on their childhoods with regret about things they missed out on (unless they were in a seriously extreme situation), and most people remember (different) things fondly and generally remember a happy childhood - our kids will, too. Their childhood is their own and they will carry it in a special place in their hearts, no matter how different it may be from our own.

~ De Smith

Bits & Pieces - What is Unschooling

This was asked on a broad-local homeschool group. Answering this in a general, homeschooler-curious way is always difficult (for me, anyhow). There are so many nuances and intricacies that a Facebook Group-length answer just can't do it justice...
Q. Can someone please explain to me what unschooling is? Do you follow any structured curriculum?
A. Well, it's kind of hard to explain in a short comment, but basically, it is trusting in the natural process of learning. Just like we don't use a curriculum or special classes or lessons to teach our kids to roll over, crawl, walk, talk, feed themselves, etc., that idea that "it will happen when they're ready" extends into the school years. We live as if school didn't exist.
Not that it means walking away and leaving our kids to cope on their own. Just like their early years, we provide things they might be able to use (books, documentaries, experiments, games, clubs, our knowledge, etc.) to gain that knowledge they seek, but as each individual is unique and brains develop at their own pace, what works for 1 child won't necessarily (or likely) get the same results as the next child. We facilitate and support, but don't force, have requirements or point them in a specific direction, etc.
It is so much deeper than that, that I'm afraid I haven't done it justice, but I'm always happy to answer questions. :) I also have groups I can recommend, but all the groups I am familiar with are whole-life-based unschooling, rather than academic unschooling. Which, I'm still happy to pass along, if anyone is interested. :)

Bits & Pieces

Bits & Pieces

New thing I'm adding into the blog: bits I've written as I run across them again.

Maybe at some point, I'll compile them into a cohesive unit, maybe not. But at least I'll be able to find a good portion of them. Look for them under these labels: Bits & Pieces, quotes, ideas, solutions (and maybe others).

Feel free to comment, if you like, and you're welcome to share, as long as proper credit is given.

~ De Smith

Friday, April 1

Milestone, Signpost, Whatever

I'm not big on ages; never have been. It was clear from a young age that they didn't really mean much... People thought I was older when I was younger - probably because of my height. Ever since my early 20s, people have thought I was younger than I actually am. I had 2 ages I was interested in reaching: 16 to drive (until it became clear I wasn't allowed to get my licence until I was an adult and could get it myself) and 21 to drink everything (we could drink "low beer" at 19, but had to wait for everything else until we were 21). To a mild degree, I looked forward to 18 for my driver's licence, but other than that, 18 didn't mean much. After that, it didn't matter.

A lot of people have milestone ages for whatever reason... A younger friend anxiously awaited age 25, when her automobile insurance rates would go down. Another friend looked at 18 as a goal for "being an adult". Someone else was looking forward to 35.

Milestone. Not my favorite word for this kind of thing. One, it isn't really set in stone - it is only part of you for a year. As the definition has it, after reaching a certain age, there really isn't a stage of development or really any significant change, other than what an individual puts into it. "Signpost" is really more accurate in my book: it's just a bit of information that flashes by as you zoom through life. It isn't like most folks are looking to get off at the next exit after a certain signpost: it's just (insignificant) data.

Our society pulls certain numbers out as milestone birthdays: 1, 2, 5, 10, 13, 16, 18, 21, 40, 50, 62, 80, 100... Fifty seems to be a major one, though... That "half a lifetime" signpost, as our lifespan has gotten to the point where it isn't unheard of for someone to live to 100 years of age. Time to break out the black "over the hill" paraphernalia, gag gifts and old jokes. Whatever. It is mildly entertaining, but for something that so many hold up to be so significant, you'd think there would be more substance and pomp to the thing.

For me, 50 was more of a "get it out of the way" kind of thing. It was annoying to have that "looming" ahead in society's headlights and while it was a small bit of a "hey, I made it this far!" kind of feeling, mostly I just wanted it behind me, so I could get past all the "The Big Five Oh!" and other comments and jokes. It is fun, to an extent, but just like all the "Fool" jokes over the last 50 years, it gets tiresome.

Youth has much time on its hands... vast numbers of years to look forward to... little experience behind... Like many, I spent a good deal of my youth planning (read: fantasizing) about the future and what that would look like. I had semi-goals career-wise. I wasn't much interested in a career, once I'd put the idea of teaching behind me, because whatever it was was going to be interrupted by my big goal: being a mom and having kids.

Okay, I was raised in the '70s, with lots of ideas of women's lib and doors opening up to possibilities for females; I was raised by fairly progressive parents - especially older parents (they were in their late 20's when I was their firstborn) - who did a pretty good job of instilling in me the ideas that I could do what I wanted, regardless of gender. I had many career ideas over the years, from vet to machinist to fashion designer to auto mechanic to model/spokesperson, but through it all I wanted to be a Mom.

I had picked out 7 or 8 names for my kids (the father's wishes and preferences never even entered my thought process), decided how far apart in age they'd be, had hopes for which one would be born in which order and what their interests and personalities would be like. Seriously. I planned out in my head little scenarios where they'd have troubles and I'd brilliantly come up with a solution or punishment or whatever it was that the situation required - and let me tell you, fantasy Mom was Awesome! I rarely ever failed, and when I did, it was just an opportunity for me to be human and to be gracious about my failure. :: grin :: Oh, youth... ! ...I think there was just some inner writer in me that just couldn't put the character development into a workable, readable story in black-and-white. :: grin ::  But, I digress.

When our oldest was born (on my birthday), I'm fond of saying that I "tried to hold out for a few hours" until after midnight (he was born at 10:45 pm), so he'd have his own birthday, but that he apparently had other ideas. I was concerned he'd be resentful to share a birthday with his mom. Other than that, *Best* birthday present *ever*. :: heart :: But what I didn't realize at the time was that my birthday had almost ceased to exist. Not that it was a big deal, because as long as there is cake, birthdays aren't really big on my list, anyhow. There are other holidays with much more oomph than my birthday that I look forward to.

Five years ago was our 25th anniversary. Kind of big, more of a milestone kind of thing for me - definitely moreso than a birthday. Because things have changed financially in the last 6-8 years, my hopes for a big-ish party/celebration fell to the wayside. I was a little disappointed, but the goal was the important part; learning to live with someone else and merge our lives together and *keep* it that way for 25 years is a success in itself - the party would just have been icing.

In high school, I had 2 other close friends that are still friends today. One of them had a big party for her 50th earlier this year and it was pretty cool to see the friends & family who came to help her celebrate. There was fun and laughter and camaraderie and FOOD - yummy, yummy food! - a lot of music, a little dancing, old friends to catch up with, friends' kids to be shocked by their astounding growth. It was nice. It was at about that point that I started feeling a little blue about 50. We did not have the funds for a party - not that it would be right/fair, since Dave didn't get one in November, anyhow - especially with a 17th birthday to plan for our oldest!  Try explaining that to feelings, though. Still, I have so much, where others don't and I can be sad for a moment (or two... or three... ) and move on.

Then, on my birthday eve eve, a good friend (who'd been sick for a while) passed away. There are regrets there and complications of those regrets, but "Only the Good Die Young" has been playing in my head off and on since then. He was a kind, gentle soul who overcame a lot and was a great conversationalist. I *loved* exploring ideas with him and will miss those talks so much...

So, in the shower last night, I came up with an idea to make the most of what I could out of my birthday: my family & I would sit up together (whoever wanted to) and talk and plan my "fantasy birthday": what we'd do if money and logistics and normal "roadblocks" were no object. That would be fun! Then, at midnight, I'd head to bed with my youngest. As I got excited about this idea, I stared planning on what I might want to do first. There was an idea of a trip to a tropical local the night before, so I could wake up on a beach at sunrise after sleeping in to my heart's content (timeflow be damned! :: grin :: ) and a surprise party to wrap it up somewhere down the line, but then my friend popped up in my head and my need to be here to organize my oldest's celebration and I started thinking about the conflict he and I had been going through recently... Darn growing up and separating one's self from their parents, anyhow... Stupid nature. :~P And I thought, well, since we're doing this fantasy thing, I'll get the negative stuff out of the way, first! I'll wish for my friend to not just *not* die 2 days before my birthday, but instead, he'll make a miraculous recovery and live to 110! And then, my teen will come to me and say how much he appreciates me and all that I've done for him over the years and offer to focus on me this year on our birthday.... And, well, by that point, I was weeping in the shower. Happy fucking birthday. So, I went to bed, instead.

So, maybe it is peri-menopause. Maybe it is 50. Maybe I'm emotional because it is That Time of the Month. Maybe it is the hardship of the last few years. Maybe it is my juvenile childish immaturity rearing its head. Maybe it is a combination or all of those. Maybe it is something else. Next week, it'll all be behind me and I'll wonder at the extent of my upset and depression. Right now, it is the morning of my 50th birthday and I have tears running down my face with a heart full of sadness in a quiet house with no plans for myself for the day. I'll go read my birthday wishes on my wall in a little while and find some funny stuff on Facebook to smile and laugh at. I have a day of work & catching up on my craft show to look forward to tomorrow, so things will turn around here at some point. And it won't be too long until that signpost is behind me, with open road ahead to travel. But for now, in this moment, 50 sucks. And I didn't even see it coming. 

Wednesday, January 13

David Bowie ~ The quiet, subtle interweaving into our Self....

David Bowie ~ January 8, 1947 - January 10, 2016

I wasn't a "Fan". At least, not in the sense I think of the word: someone who follows the career closely, gathering what creative works by the artist that they can, has much knowledge of trivia and career and personal life facts, one who gets that special, glowing look in their eye when they talk about their favorite artist.

No, I wasn't a Fan, though I could suppose I could be considered a "fan", in the smallest sense of the word. Of course, I knew that his original name was "Jones", I liked just about any music of his I heard on the radio, in film, wherever. I quite enjoyed his look (and character interpretation) as Jareth, the Goblin King. I never collected his music, though I do have an album - the soundtrack of Labyrinth, being one of my favorite movies (though due almost entirely to the story line - not much because it was Bowie). I knew very little (before the 11th) about the numerous variations of Bowie... Pretty much Ziggy Stardust and David Bowie (unless you count Jareth) were all I knew. I'd heard him referred to as "The Thin White Duke", but before Monday, I had no idea it was a persona of his; I just assumed it was his stature and fairness of complexion with his quiet, demi-royal dignity that the name had come from. No clue about any of the rest: Aladdin Sane, The Thin White Duke, Halloween Jack, et. al.

None of his songs (that I recall) were instant cause for me to raise the volume and cry, "This is my *favorite*!". I never desired to see him in concert. I didn't watch interviews with him or read stories about him, though I did see him perform a handful of times on television. I vaguely admired his uniqueness and the quiet way he stood firm in his manifestations and beliefs over the years. Though some of his personas were loud and colorful in their uniqueness, I was never aware of Bowie hauling them to the forefront as an example or trumpeting their stance... ...I could be quite wrong in my interpretation... as I said, I never Fangirled over Bowie... and his career began before I did much of my own delving into individual artists that suited me... The point being, he was not ever a big part of my life, not much of a blip in my awareness. Just another bit of background music in my life - so vague as to not even identify an era or decade.

Why, then, has his death hit me *SO* incredibly hard? Why do I feel it so deeply - to my bones? Why, 3 days later, is my soul still heavy, my heart aching, songs stuck - ear-worm style, but *deeper* - in my brain and gut? ~ * ~ I needed a break from the grief, several hours after finding out on January 11th about his death the day before, and went to take a nap. I was a little disturbed to wake, finding I'd tossed and turned with Bowie songs of all sorts (I hadn't listened to any - that's how deep my grief was) running through my restless sleep, images of his face looking at me in that deep, melancholy way he had, slowly fading in to each other in front of my eyes... I've never had anything like that happen before - even with people I'd known... Even with people I knew well and loved dearly... ~*~ I find it a small bit frightening and quite a lot baffling that his death, for one: has effected me so strongly, for two: that it is still effecting me so deeply this long after having heard.

I keep posing possibilities to myself: Was it his reinvention, making him seem like a "new" guy each time? Was it the shock factor - his unknown cancer struggle and seemingly-sudden death? I ruled out the massive flood of outpouring, because I'd found out in the wee hours of the morning, before most were awake and talking about it and sharing grief - otherwise, I'd likely have attributed it to that. Was it his ability to seem magical? Was it his aura of immortality, weighing heavily (for me) on Jareth? I recalled, as I struggled to define it, recently finding out about his marriage to Iman (I *really* was not a "Fan" - I had no clue he was even married.) and delving into some Google-searches and Wiki reading; I'd though, "Wow! He's almost 70... that must be why he's looking a little thin and drawn, but he's still rocking. Cool" - none of my usual back thoughts of only having a limited time left to enjoy his work as I often do with aging entertainers and artists. It didn't even cross my mind, oddly enough.  None of my possibilities really struck a chord with me.

I'd been a sort of Fan of Robin Williams, who also had an untimely, shocking death... I'd followed his career much more closely and actively sought out interviews and watched anything I could where I could enjoy any of his work. And as saddened as I was by his death, it was not nearly so deep or so encompassing of my "self". (Hence my concern.)

Maybe it was a combination of all those things and some not yet discovered or named. Maybe Bowie, in his quiet way, just managed to weave himself into the fabric of our lives more deeply and more indelibly than we knew - until he died.

I'm a little relived to keep reading, days later, of others who are baffled by the depth of their grief for this man. People - who normally don't do so - bursting into bawling fits at work because of a shared tribute... People who are curling up and nesting on couches with kleenex and a library of Bowie tunes.... People who are turning to social media to find pictures and tributes and shared favorite songs of others to mourn with. People who, like me, are baffled by the depth of their grief.

What is this strange, haunting magic Bowie has woven through our souls - not just in his home town or country of birth, but around the world? Before January 10th, the term "beloved" would never have come to my mind in describing Bowie... I'm not sure it would now... And yet...

Though I've listened to 2 of his songs from the new album (Lazarus and Blackstar), and yesterday, a couple of songs I hadn't heard before, I am not listening to my Bowie favorites - *especially* not Labyrinth music. I fear it will be my undoing. I've had tears streaming down my face for the better part of 3 days - I am pretty sure listening to any of "those" songs will be my undoing, and I will end up bawling. Maybe some day.

I find my kids (16 and 11) are completely unaffected, even though they are fans of Labyrinth, too... And know a little of Bowie's music from the radio and playing it repeatedly with their parents on Rock Band. Is it a generational thing? I don't know... I *do* know I feel like a little magic is gone from the world. As someone stated yesterday, that there is less color in the world, now - that it has returned to black and white with Bowie's passing.

Though my desire to know *why* eases with each new comment I read with someone else wondering why his passing has hit them so hard, I think I will always wonder (never to have my curiosity satisfied) why David Bowie's death has effected me (and others) so deeply and strongly.

The more tired I become, the less cohesive my thoughts are, so I will quit pondering for the night. Maybe I will ponder more at a later date, but for now I'll leave you with a link to my post on Facebook where I collected some of the things that moved me over the last few days and...                            
. ............     

Thursday, July 23


Nothing to do with my usual posts. Just checking how the google image search upload/view works. Here's the image I'd like to see on Google images:
Royal Story
Although, I can't figure out how to make it searchable and public... Hmmm.... 

Well, let's try plopping it in here in a different size... 
Royal Story
Royal Story Winks

Monday, April 21

Sharing the Imperfect Moments

"Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new." ~ Albert Einstein

I guest blogged for Flo Gascon, today, and it was a tough post to write. It is about one of my worst parenting difficulties (and one that I was concerned about avoiding almost all my life). To think of it (even though it is in the past) makes me regretful, ashamed and horrified, as I told Flo, "...that I saw that train wreck coming and did not - could not - pull my children out of the way of it"; they were not kept from harm, though I hope that they did not suffer permanent damage.

It was both hard to write, because of the shame and horror (of it happening despite my fears and attempt to avoid), and yet it came out easily, because it was something I'd been keeping inside for a long time and I needed to let it go. Funny thing, writing... At least for me. It can be nearly as vivid in the retelling/reliving as the actual events/experience, bringing me emotionally to exactly the same place again. And yet, writing has always been therapeutic for me. There is something so natural about the flow of thoughts, emotions, images, sights, scents, sounds & sensations from my brain through my arm into my fingers and then onto paper or into keys and onto the screen. It is one of the few things I can't seem to describe fully - at least to my satisfaction - or convey to someone else. I don't know if it is a "writer" thing (you'd think I'd discuss that kind of thing with other writers! :~) ) or if my skills are just inadequate. But I digress...

As I also told Flo, I feel that the process, the mistakes, the flaws should be shared more with other parents. As hard as it was to write, and as hard as it is knowing that other people are learning of my worst parenting difficulty, I feel it is important to say, for the sake of others. When I first started looking into radical unschooling, I continually felt lacking and "not good enough", because all I read on the groups was perfect success stories of perfect mamas with unending patience, continual energy to fulfill all their children's needs & no lack of ideas for solutions and exciting plans and amazing games and the ability to boost their children's interests with innumerable "connections" (as in, this things leads to that thing, which leads to the next thing). Of course, I know better, now, but there was a time where I nearly gave up on radical unschooling/respectful, gentle parenting because I didn't feel like I was the right personality type, like I wasn't perfect enough to succeed. I believe that more experienced unschoolers and gentle parents need to step up and share their non-stellar moments & experiences and tell those who are just starting out, "You're going to screw up. I screwed up. You may screw up horribly, but if you keep at it and get back on track when you slip up, and keep doing better, you'll get there; and your kids will be better knowing that you're not perfect, either, that you make mistakes, too, and they'll love you more for trying to be a better parent.

That's not to say that "anything goes" and that I'm patting anyone on the back and saying, "Good job.", "You're doing the best you can.", or "Well, you tried." I am saying to keep in mind when you stumble that nobody's perfect, no matter what it seems like when you're reading about better parenting. Everyone has made mistakes, but the reason that there are folks with experience to give good advice and help others be better parents is because they didn't wallow when they slipped. They got up, dusted themselves off, and tried again - most likely, they tried harder. They looked up from the mistake to focus on the goal they were aiming for and went forward. :~)

That is one of the reasons I started this blog in the first place: because I didn't see enough of the mistakes (learning-takes) and errors and "failures" - in fact, I don't remember seeing any. Mistakes aren't optimal and they're not the focus, but knowing that those who have gone before you have fallen repeatedly and struggled to continue along the path of their journey to find success along the way makes it so much easier to pick ourselves up and find the determination to continue on when we stumble. 

Sunday, March 3

Time and Again

Time. Really, basically, it is just an idea, not something tangible… Yet how powerful it is! Like the wind or fire, it can be soothing,  destructive, beneficial, distressing… It has a definition known to all and is yet an enigma. Maybe all this is why time is so fundamental, so significant in our society. Maybe our very mortality is the cause for the constant discussion and perusal, vilifying and worshiping of time. 

I think most of us move along our path of life looking forward. Likely, this is why milestones stir up feelings of nostalgia; they are a huge mile marker that has us pause to consider, which so often includes at the least, a glance back to see how far we’ve come. When your path has been joyful and interesting, it is more likely than not that the traveler will be quite surprised at the distance, the time that has become “the past” imperceptibly.

I didn’t start out this blog with the intention of so many of my words referring to that passage, those benchmarks, the looking back… and yet, it seems that has more impact in my psyche than I’d expected – and I knew how sentimental I was long before there was such a thing as “blog”.

Our youngest, Storm, is nearing 7½. Dave and I have recently begun starting quite a few sentences with, “I remember when… “ :~) Today was another bittersweet look back in surprise of where the time has gone; far, far more sweet with just a taste of sadness at what will never be again (though as I write this, more and more of those “never again” moments pop into my brain… ).

Storm has had quite a variety of sleeping arrangements. Far more than Wyl, though Wyl’s were much more like “leaps” than small adjustments. Wyl slept *hard* through the night from birth. I was a new mama and still feeling my way and when the well-meaning doctor told me that he needed to eat every 4 hours (me, being the people-pleaser/Good Patient I was), set my alarm and attempted to schedule breastfeeding. We tried *everything* we could think of: putting the nipple in his mouth while he slept, trying a bottle, making silly voices, taking off his onesie in a cool room and making him cold, jiggling him upright, talking with him loudly, tipping him upside down, sticking his hand in lukewarm water; in cold water, wiping his face with a wet washcloth… We’d spend an hour, sometimes, trying to wake that boy – never worked *once*. We still had some old-fashioned ideas that we were trying to meld with our new ones we were picking up with attachment parenting ideals we were reading & hearing about. Dave and I are both big people – both frame-size and weight – and though we were willing to accept co-sleeping, the possibility of the 2 of us or one of us smashing our baby in the night was too scary to attempt. So, he slept in his crib in his room during the night and we co-napped in the afternoon. At 2, he was climbing over the rail of his crib and falling on the hardwood floor below. He wasn’t getting hurt, but I was worried he would. Again, I still had in-the-box thinking and though I scolded him, the only solution I could think of was to put him in his own bed, since the distance was closer to the floor and had a pieced-together rug under it. Around 4 years old, he began to fear the dark and kept turning on the light after I’d tucked him into bed. I again scolded, taped the lightswitch down, and finally removed the lightbulb from the overhead light. Why I couldn’t think of the dozens of alternatives I can *now*, I don’t know, but it wasn’t a happy solution.

About that time, I started learning about unschooling and partnership-parenting and hearing “wild”, out-of-the-box ideas and my thinking started shifting. For quite a while, Wyl slept downstairs on the couch. Or, on the floor in a nest next to the couch. Sometimes, we’d take him up when one of us went to bed, but for the most part, he slept downstairs where parents & light were. The next sleeping spot was in a bed next to ours. That kept on for several years, working fairly well (though sometimes problematic, with Wyl having trouble keeping calm and quiet enough to keep from waking other family members up) with a few guidelines coming up as they were needed to keep it a win-win situation.

Around 11-12 years old, he began moving toward puberty and somewhere in his 12th year, he decided he wanted to sleep in his own room, again. I left space for  him in our room, should he feel a need (briefly for a night here & there or for several nights, a week, whatever he needed) to come back or need reassurance. Though, once his decision was made, it seems he knew he was ready for it, because he hasn’t slept there, since – and he’s just a few weeks from 14, now.

Storm, on the other hand… I smile warmly at the thoughts… First, he slept on my chest under my hospital gown in the NICU. I was ever so thankful that the nurses either “allowed” me to hang out in the nursing room off the NICU nursery or that they “forgot” that I was there with a baby out of the crib. Sometimes, I’d get a couple hours in, dozing lightly while he slept peacefully right under my chin on my bare skin, all curled up in a tight little ball. They’d come in and take him and say they needed to get stats and I’d go lie in my room and nap for a bit until I could pump again or visit again. (Maybe some day, they’ll bring the NICU to the mama’s room, so the baby and mama can actually be together all the time… I hope…! )

When we finally got to bring him home, 5½ years of learning after the first baby, we’d come much further in our understanding of co-sleeping, but we still opted for a bassinette right beside me, pushed up against the bed. He seemed *so* frail! Wyl was a big, robust baby, but Storm, being a preemie, was so thin and different than Wyl had been at that age. He curled up in there in his “signature pose”, a tight little ball on his belly, just as he had on my chest.

The bassinette worked for about 2 weeks. Then, I could lower him into it all the way to the mattress, awake or asleep, but the moment my hands started to move away from him or he touched or sensed that mattress in there, he burst out crying! A few times I attempted to make it work, thinking it was an isolated incident, but it was quickly clear that the bassinette would not do, so into our bed he came – curled up in that tight little tummy-ball. The crib was in our room, too, along with our queen-sized bed and Wyl’s double bed (plus 3 dressers!), but I don’t remember if we tried to move him from the bassinette to the crib before he came to our bed, or if that was just a standby. (There was a lot of missing sleep and my memory isn’t the best, anyway… :~)  ) Many nights, we’d move him to the crib after he fell asleep in our bed, and on the rare occasion he couldn’t be calmed in the night, we’d bring him back.

I’ll digress at this point to mention that I don’t really know what the definition of “sleeping through the night” *really* means. Clearly, Wyl did that, by any definition of the phrase, never waking – even now, he’s probably only woken in the middle of the night less than 10 times in his life. Getting him to sleep was sometimes rough, but once he was asleep, he was down for the count. Storm, however, would fuss a bit and/or cry out, though not usually coming full awake and could be back-rubbed or cuddled (or moved to the bed) back to sleep, usually in moments. I could probably count the times my sleep was actually disturbed by his night “adjustments” on both hands. I never really counted that as being outside “sleeping through the night”, though recently, sometimes I wonder what it truly means.

When Storm was somewhere around a year old, he preferred the crib. He was happy to snuggle in the bed with someone until he got sleepy, but then he’d fuss and toss and grouch until he was in the crib and then he’d sigh, turn over and go right to sleep. After a while, he figured out to gesture & point to the crib when he was ready to fall asleep! I was so astounded at first – from all I’d read, babies didn’t *ask* to be put in a crib alone!! But, that’s what he wanted.

It didn’t last *too* long, though I’m not sure how long it was. He started coming & crawling into the bed when he stirred in the night, then he decided he wanted to sleep with us again. Occasionally, he’d want to sleep in the crib again, but most of the time it was in “the big bed”.

At one point, we got a loft bed, trying to make a separate space for everybody, since Storm was always tall for his age and *I* felt the crib was too small for him. Yet, even after the loft was there, after Wyl moved into his own room leaving even more empty space, Storm wanted his crib. It was draped with dark blankets in a tent-style (top & sides) to keep out the cats & block the light, so maybe it was the “coziness” of it, I don’t know.

Eventually, he left the crib behind (he was quite a ways into his 6th year), unsure, yet firmly deciding to put it away – he enjoyed helping me take it down! :~) He moved into the double bed & we draped it all over like the crib had been, put in a string of dark purple lights, used the sheets he wanted… basically made it *his* space to his specifications. Yet, every once in a while, he will mention wistfully that he misses his crib…

A couple months ago, he decided he wanted to try to sleep in his (single) bed in his room. Dave hung out in there with him, but after a short while, he decided it was too noisy (our room is in the back of the house, Storm’s is right in the front, just feet from the street), with all the cars going by.

A week/week and a half ago, he decided to try sleeping in his own bed in his own room again. He hasn’t said anything specifically, but I get the feeling he has the idea that he is getting “too big” to sleep in our room. Plus, he’s really wanting to have friends sleep over, and I pointed out recently that he probably didn’t want to leave a friend alone in his room while he, Storm, came & slept with me. :~)

We made things all cozy to his delight, me giving him ideas to help make him comfortable in there (like having a small fan running to help block the noise) and when my back started hurting from hunching over there, I reminded him he could stay all night or come sleep with me whenever he needed, then went to wait in bed. I only waited a few minutes. :~) He was back and disappointed and complaining the fan was too loud. I reassured him and was happy to snuggle him a while.

Tonight, he wanted to try again. I needed a nap & went up early, so Dave stayed with him while I was sleeping. I fully expected to wake with him in the next bed, but when I did wake, I was alone.

I thought about parents I’d seen on t.v. shows, struggling to get their kids to stay in their own beds or their own rooms through the night and how they’d likely cheer, but I was a little sad. Just a tiny little bit, for the time passing too quickly for my liking. I am too comforted by the ideas that this is how it is supposed to be: children growing up smoothly, making transitions from stage to stage seamlessly, happily without struggle. This is what is *supposed* to happen – they grow up with our guidance with as little stress as possible; that is my job as their mama: to make it a journey that is tackled with me, as their partner and guide.

And yet…

As Storm snuggled with me, a bit sadly (he feels these milestones, too – all too much his mother’s child in that department! :~)  ), it cheered him as I talked about all the ways he’d slept over the years. I smiled softly as I told him how much I’ve enjoyed snuggling with him and we discussed all the different ways we could *still* snuggle, even if he slept in his own bed.

And, 6 hours after he was asleep in his own bed, he’s still there. Another milestone I wasn’t ready for. It *may* not be completely past, yet, but we’re there. I am awfully pleased with the people my children are growing to be… I am ever so grateful to have them in my life and to have a good relationship with both of them… Yet, I sure would love to nurse that baby again… bathe a wiggling little chubby boy again… discover a soap bubble blown from a wand with him for the first time again… hold a tiny little newborn baby and feel the weight of importance of responsibility and the awesomeness of new life in my arms again…


As my time as a closely nurturing mama coming to a close (and new times open), benchmarks like these, replete with the inevitable wanderings through the past, spurs me to grab the moment, do my best, to make the most of *this* moment… It will be gone in a flash, with nary a chance to “do it right” again.

Now is the time.