Life Choices

Red Lights

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Last night as I was coming home from a primordial movement class I was stopped by a red light.  I sat there daydreaming through a song that had come on the radio, reflecting on the nourishing experience of the evening.  Then I clued into how long I had been waiting there for the light to change.  I considered running the red, since it was late, and there were no visible cars.  I thought better of it…being someone who does not like to chance things by breaking rules. A few cars passed by in the opposite direction.  Then the song”Renegades” by X Ambassadors came on the radio.  I listened to the song in its entirely…another 4:17 passed…the light was still red.  As I sat there, I considered running the red a few more times.  Then it dawned on me that there was a different way!  I didn’t need to sit there waiting,  I could turn right on the red, then left into the plaza on the corner, then right again onto the road toward home.  I smiled at the notion, and did it.  As I continued my drive home, I continued to glance at the light in my rear view mirror.  It was still red for the entire time it was visible to me.

I don’t need to break rules to get what I want, I just have to find new, different, and creative ways to work around road blocks.

Let’s be RENEGADES!!!!!!!!

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Equinox Blessings

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At Winter Solstice we participated in a giving ceremony.  We were to bring an item to give away to someone to set our intention for the coming lunation.  The object did not have to be related to the intention, but instead be something of significant attachment so that it was not easy to let go of it.  Since our big purge, it was easy to fulfill this requirement since there is very little in my life that doesn’t have personal significance now! The idea was to set something in motion.  To actualize a deep desire for change – change that I wanted so much that I was willing to give something away that was important to me.

Now that it is Spring Equinox, I can reflect on this past quarter with admiration for how far I have come.  My intention at Solstice was to release my fear of making mistakes.  I wanted it so much that this quarter we took it one step further listed our house before we had somewhere of our own to move to.  I want to live with integrity so much that I’m willing to part with the memories attached to this ‘thing’ which has come to represent my home.  Home is actually found inside myself and within the embrace of my loved ones.

So I set out into this Spring with determination to find the way along our new path, overgrown as it may be, it has been there all along.  I brave myself for the journey, reminding myself to be unafraid of taking a wrong turn.  For no turn is wrong when any effort to forge this path will only lead to new and previously unimagined possibilities.  The seed of change which was planted in late summer is bursting with new energy, ready to break the surface of the soil!

Blessings for balance this Spring Equinox!

What new things are sprouting in your life?

Cutting the Tethers

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Making the descent into the unknown is a scary ride.  We are currently working our way out of this wonderful home that has been our comfort for over 8 years.  I love this house.  It makes me feel good.  But it has become clear that it no longer serves us.  We were different people than when we moved in.  We wanted to live in a neighbourhood so that our future children would be able to play with their classmates.  We now homeschool our three little ones.  We wanted a large property where we could grow our own vegetables and fruits, but not too big.  It is no longer big enough to hold our vision.  I hold such gratitude for the deep and meaningful ways this home has held us.

We recently returned from a three week ‘vacation’ to Florida, where we were trying our hand at a transient lifestyle.  We thought we might be able to sell the house and hit the road for a while, becoming ‘roadschoolers.’  It was a fantastic trip and brought us a lot of clarity.  Having a napping baby in the mix made it really difficult to do much, especially since our children don’t sleep in the car.  What ended up happening is that she missed her naps for nearly the entire trip!  This resulted in some undesirable behaviour, and really got us questioning this as a longer term solution.

Two days before the end of the trip, as Rob and I sat around the campfire together after putting the kids to bed, we reviewed the pros and cons of life in an Airstream.  We could easily identify the challenges, since we were living them moment to moment.  But the benefits were abundant as well.   Living minimally was such a breath of fresh air!  We have been trying to push into reducing our stuff for a really long time, so experiencing life with few belongings was refreshing and inspiring.  It was so meaningful to take the children places to learn things first hand.  They were able to experience so much more than is possible in one place…it was incredible.  We tried not to do a lot of ‘attractions,’ but went to a Titanic exhibition and saw Winter the dolphin at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium.  Even the day we hunted for seashells along the ocean shore was amazing for the children!  They have grown in so many unexpected ways as a result of our travels.

By the end of the campfire conversation, we had decided that as difficult as it was to live this way, things would be different if we stayed in one place for much longer periods of time.  Changing how often we moved ourselves would allow us to set better boundaries for the children, fall into a nap routine for the baby, find better food to eat in each location, and generally make it plausible to find enough creative solutions to make our dream into a reality.

That night after we went to bed, there was a huge rainstorm.  We had been blessed with precipitation-free travels up until then, so sleeping through a rainstorm in the Airstream was a new experience for us all.  The dream we had created the night before were swirling around like the puddles in the children’s bedroom!  The trailer was leaking (badly) in several places and a mildew smell came to join the party.  As much as we were ready to make the jump, the rain had made it clear that this was not the right time.  Now that we’ve returned the trailer to the dealership and our lives to our version of routine, we have decided that traveling with thee children five and under is not ideal.  It seems that our family isn’t quite old enough for this type of lifestyle…yet.  We’ve filed this idea away for a few years down the road.

We did come home with clarity on a few other things as well.  It became clear while away from our routines that things in our life were no longer serving us as we had assumed they were.   We decided that in order to move forward, we needed to let go of the things that are no longer serving us.  We need to cut the ropes which tether us to the shore.  We identified that our mortgage/house and the number of hours that Rob is working outside the home needed attention.  We have a beautiful vision of where we want to end up…living debt free on a rural property somewhere with gardens, fruit trees, livestock, and joy.  The trouble has always been what steps we should take to get us there.  So, we are cutting the tethers in order to take a first few uncomfortable steps toward something new.  Toward the unknown.  The house will be listed shortly.  The hours of work are being negotiated.  We would rather choose to make an uncomfortable change from a place of security than to wait for it to be imposed upon us.  I also believe our finest human creativity is born of necessity.  So it is with courage and determination that we begin to drift from this beautiful life we know and continue watching for shadows dancing upon the horizon to guide our journey.

 

Clearing Space

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Now that we have decided to sell our home, we are working hard to clean the place up.  We have so many things!  Being a homeschooling family with a permaculture (make no waste) outlook means that we have a hard time letting ‘useful things’ go sometimes.  Like the pile of bricks lovingly brought home in our Honda Civic that have sat stacked against the fence ever since.  Or how about the pile of tree intended to become hugelkultur beds?  The piles of baskets?  Where did they come from?  The…list goes on and on.

The items we’re purging are from the life we are slowly leaving behind.  As I pick up each item and consider whether or not it brings me joy, I am realizing just how much we are moving away from our days and home being filled with consumer culture.  I have been trying hard to pare down our possessions for a very long time.  But the idea of leaving this home has given me the gumption to look at these decisions in a new way.  I’m tired of living my life from a place of fear and scarcity.  Saving things for one day when we ‘might’ need them doesn’t make sense for the majority of the things we have been stockpiling.  Could we get by without the excessive stock of egg cartons, should there one day be a shortage in the world?  Did people not do without them once upon a time?  Although we don’t want to make waste, having all of this stuff is actually wasting the most precious of all things to us…our time.   I will not be wanting for vinyl tablecloths in the future, nor will I care about that book I never read.   If life comes to a place where we exist in a place of scarcity…and by this I mean real hard times, I have a hard time believing that the luxuries of a consumer driven culture will be of much benefit for survival.

A major time vacuum in our home is laundry.  We have been trying to think of ways to reduce this task to it’s minimum.  I read a great blog post about converting one room in the home into a shared closet/laundry room, which sounds wonderful!  But given our current trajectory, and wanting the problem fixed now, I opted for something different.  I have reduced the children’s wardrobes significantly instead.  Their drawers now hold  10 pairs of pants, 10 seasonal shirts (long sleeved right now for winter, but we kept 10 short sleeved shirts and 10 shorts for summer), 10 pairs of socks, 10 underpants, and 3 sweaters – since these are easily reused and also very bulky.  I have struggled with how many articles of clothing a child really needs, and how few things we can ‘get away with.’  I decided to settle on 10 as a trial run.  Although admitting to 10 items per category seems high, it reduced what was in their drawers by about half!  This alone was a big step…recognizing just how much excess there was!  Why did I choose 10 items per category?  I thought it would allow laundry to be done once a week, with a few extra items for good measure…because mess happens a lot around here and sometimes a wardrobe change midday is required!  The first week I thought about reducing down to less, but I’m going to give it a while first before pushing ourselves too hard.  Our laundry tasks have been drastically simplified, but that hasn’t made up for the fact that I still need to get it washed, folded and put away!  Amongst the other (never ending) tasks of the home, laundry still gets left by the wayside sometimes…as we deem it to be less important than other things in our life.

Numerous bags and boxes of stuff have already been moved out.  How did we have this much stuff?  And how is there still so much left!?  There is no shortage of things left to purge!  We’re trying to reduce the contents of our home by at least half.  Which is no small feat given how much our cupboards contain!  I have to keep reminding myself that this upheaval is just a storm, and when it passes the water will look even more beautiful.  I have to remind myself of this often, because the mess that is created as our carefully packed possessions explode into the living spaces.  What I have learned is that clearing out, while decorating for the holidays, while also experiencing real life with three littles can be very hectic at times!  The laundry isn’t getting folded for a reason!

I love my home to look tidy, and I also have some ace packing skills…which together have created a problem.  Cupboards are stocked neatly but excessively.  Being good at packing means I can always find space in the dishwasher for one more bowl…but it also means I can make room for that ‘thing’ in the cupboard too.  Finding that I have stockpiled 10 shower gels at the back of the bathroom closet was a bit of a surprise.  I knew I had extras, but could only see one since the rest had been carefully hidden lined up behind it.  In cleaning out the bathroom, I also found upwards of 15 toothbrushes!  These ‘useful things’ end up not being all that important for a family who uses one bottle of body wash a year and use an electric toothbrush!  We’ve decided to donate our excess to a local charity that helps homeless women get back on their feet.

I don’t want to spend my time tidying and cleaning.  It’s not that I dislike these tasks.  I actually find immense reward in completing a cleaning project!  But these tasks do not define my life.  The more things I have, the more they distract from the things I actually want to spend my time doing.  Each stolen moment I spend trying to cram too many bibs into the tiny drawer in our kitchen.  Each second I spend staring into the overcrowded closet looking for the thing I need.  Each minute spent re-configuring and reorganizing spaces to fit all the stuff.  This is all wasted time.  If I were to add up those moments, seconds and minutes, and I’m sure I’ve spent at least a year of my life shuffling stuff around.  It’s time for it to stop…because the less stuff we have the better our life gets.

 

Pushed out of the Nest

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Before…

There are times in life where it becomes clear that you need to move on.  I have been imagining lately how difficult and frightening it must be for baby birds to be pushed out of the nest by their mothers.  But if it weren’t for the mother’s gentle nudge, would the baby bird ever have fledged?

So it is with us.  I have been elusively writing about ‘dark times’ and feeling stretched.  It is now time to come clean about what’s been going on around here.  I finally feel ready to share this difficult journey, as I know we’re not the only ones.  It has been an emotional roller coaster for us, but one that needs to be talked about and examined for what it is…

In August, a letter arrived from our municipality announcing we needed to ‘clear our land of weeds longer than 6 inches by Friday.’  We had a week to mow down our forest gardens.  Our lawnmower grunted in anguish as it attempted to mulch the scythed remnants of our former orchard meadow.  The trees still remain, but many of the shrubs are out.  Apart from the plants Rob saved in pots, all of the herbaceous and ground cover layers are also gone.  Years of work to regenerate and re-wild the plot…mowed down in a few days.  Once a bylaw infraction has been made on your property, you are required to come into compliance for the full property, regardless of the nature of the complaint.

It is a week I will remember forever.  My heart was broken.  Our gardens were gone.  I had been betrayed.  Better still, I didn’t know who reported us (and still don’t) other than it was a neighbour.  During the process of removing the vegetation, I overheard comments from two separate neighbours, celebrating the destruction.  It felt like the world was against us.  I have never felt so powerless.  I have never been so angry.  I wanted to post nasty signs on my lawn.  I wanted to return the wagon my children inherited from the couple next door.  I also wanted to shrivel up and die.  I wanted to be invisible as I mowed.  Unseen as I cried while murdering our plants.  Unnoticed as I hurled unripe squash across my yard after they were snapped too early from their vines in an effort to clear the neighbouring plants that qualified as infractions to the bylaw.  My mind was concerned with who was watching us and when.  I felt scrutinized.  I worried and still think about what other aspects of our lives are the concern of others.  For the most part, I have been able to move through the darkness, finding my way to the other side.  We are blessed to have a very strong community of like minded permaculture types to call our friends.  It has been so helpful to be held and so deeply understood through this process.  We also had the unwavering support of my mother-in-law, who watched the children, offered tender words and hugs, and was out in the garden with a sickle, while I cried.

The reality is that we live in a neighbourhood.  Over the 7 years we’ve lived here we’ve engaged in numerous conversations about what it is that we’re doing, and why.  Usually we were answering a question inquiring about our property, but sometimes conversations were started in defence of our yard’s appearance. But you can only go so far with a conversation that is one sided without sounding like you’re trying to convert people, or like you’re nuts!  We have neighbours and a municipality which values mowed lawns and manicured gardens.  We have since learned that the bylaw in our area even applies to rural agricultural properties!  So if you are reported, you must come into compliance, pay a fine or hire a lawyer.  We could have fought it.  We could have spent our income on a lawyer to make our case for forest gardening and provide bountiful uses for the plants we were growing which reside on the ‘noxious weeds’ list.  But it was immediately clear to me that I was not prepared to take on a fight for a property we no longer wanted.  Feeling unwanted in your own home is not something I am willing to fight for.  We don’t belong here.  We have chosen instead to find joy!

We have been pondering for a while how to make the jump to a farm.  There were many pull factors, things that made us want something different, but nothing that was pushing us from our current home.  Well, now we have had our own nudge out of the nest.  We’re not fully clear about what we’re jumping to just yet, but we’ve got some interesting ideas and are more motivated than ever!  It is now time for us to spread our wings and fly!

Our Candy-free Halloween Party

Last year I wrote about what I wished Halloween could be for our family.  I dreamed of a day when we could enjoy the spirit of Halloween in community without the abundance of candy and general tone of consumption.  I wanted it to be filled with joy, excitement and good wholesome fun.  This year, with the help of a friend, we were able to realize my dream!

Our gathering went like this:

4:00 – Gathered and greeted each other
4:15 – Made Halloween lanterns using recycled jars, tissue paper, wire and watered down white glue
4:45 – Ran Races, including a monster eyeball race (carry an olive on a spoon), three legged race, and potato sack race.
5:05 – Played Games, like tossing a beanbag through a pumpkin’s mouth, pin the tail on the cat and a spider ring toss.
5:30 – Pot Luck Dinner
6:00 – Bobbing for apples
6:15 – Pumpkin Pinata that was filled with raisins, fruit leather and non-edible treats like pencils, erasers, stickers and stick on moustaches!
6:30 – Spooky forest walk where we followed the trail to view the candlelit pumpkins each family carved and brought with them and the children carried their Halloween lanterns!
It was a busy evening for me, being the one to direct the action.  But it’s what I love to do.  Sometimes I struggle with the balance between being the leader and being the mom.  But Rob was there with me, so he could be there for the children when I was otherwise occupied.
The races were a riot!  There were no prizes, and that was fine.  The best part was that the adults wanted to be part of the fun too!  One of my friends requested an adult sack race – what fun!
The pinata was a great success!  The boys and I made the pinata the week before Halloween by using paper mache over a balloon.  We were sure to make it strong since we knew there would be lots of children wanting a turn!  We painted it orange and added a traditional pumpkin face.  The children had a great time taking turns to whack it.  Seems we made it strong enough, as it was the fourth round through all the children when it finally burst!  I will never forget the look in the child’s eyes who burst that pinata.  She was so excited and pleased with herself!  The children were each given a small bag to collect one of each of the things that had fallen.  They were so wonderful about it.  There was no pushing, shoving, crying, or any other negative feelings.  I saw children sharing and helping each other choose what items to take home.  It’s amazing what candy frenzied sugar greed does to an atmosphere!
The children really loved bobbing for apples.  This is a holiday tradition that isn’t done anymore for ‘safety’ reasons.  I’m not too sure what the safety concerns are…drowning?  swapping germs?  eating healthy food?  This was reported to be my children’s favourite part.
The forest walk at the end of the evening was particularly magical for me.  With the ‘work’ done, I was able to be more present to enjoy the experience.  The children’s lanterns flickered down the path as we stopped to admire each others pumpkin carvings.  The children enjoyed seeing the pumpkins so much that we decided to walk to trail twice!  This was a beautiful shift for me from what is usually a rush to knock on a door to trick-or-treat, completely ignoring the pumpkin sitting to the side of the stoop.  We were able to enjoy each others artistry!
Despite the rain and cold damp evening weather, after the last family had left, we decided we needed to do it again next year!  Perhaps next year will be bigger and better!  Getting more people involved will help to diversify the event, and take a bit of the performance pressure off of me.  I am ever grateful to my friend for helping me put this together and hosting this party.  Not only that, but her willingness to contribute and participate full force in my vision was amazing.  I hold deep gratitude for all who attended as well.  Those families willing to step into the edges, making bold choices to diverge from mainstream culture.  Halloween night this year was everything I had hoped for and more!  I feel truly blessed…

Child’s Play

We went to the park this morning to meet the children’s grandmother and great-grandmother.  It was a beautiful summer morning made better by being together with four generations of people we love!  The playground was bustling with children running feverishly from activity to activity.  My children participated wholeheartedly in the slides, monkey bars, and teeter totters.  The gross motor activities were great for my boys, who enjoyed testing their agility on the rock wall and pushing their limits by daring themselves to run the steep slide by themselves.

What I noticed about my children is that they were not engaging in activity at the same pace as the other children.  They were content to stand aside and watch another child race past and down the slide.  They were happy to observe another child use the spinning chair first before deciding to try it themselves.  Some may view this as an inability to engage with other children.  I see it as a healthy connection to their inner voices.  They are already observing and interacting with their environment.

Less than an hour into our visit, my eldest was drawn to a small creek that ran through the shade of an old willow tree alongside the edge of the playground.  The buzz of a gas powered edge trimmer held by a man wearing protective ear and eye wear was working it’s way along the opposite bank.  I tried to redirect his desire to head to the creek.  When the worker had made his way down near the end of the creek, I allowed my son to play in that area.  He was so happy, so much more engaged.  It wasn’t long until his younger brother and sister came to join him.  They were still observing and interacting…but this time it was with the rapids, the plants, the water, the crayfish and the frogs.  They befriended some (much older) children who were catching crayfish upstream, taking a peek at their latest catch.  They fell in the water and got muddy.  I heard many other parents and caregivers distracting their children away from the creek, worrying they would get hurt, wet or dirty.  Isn’t this what childhood is all about?  Risk taking to build self-confidence?  The learning my children had in that creek was of far more value to me.  Especially as they coaxed their grandmother under the footbridge to check out the huge crayfish they found down there!  What a beautiful moment.  They were drawn to the natural space.  They were happy to be muddy and wet on a hot day.  And it wasn’t just the water drawing them in, since following their creek stomp, we headed over to the splash pad where again they stood mesmerized by the flurry of activity around them.  I don’t think my three year old went in the water, he seemed content to run around the outside of the concrete pad splashing in the puddles.  I have to admit that a rocky stream with critters seems much more appealing to me than water jets spraying at eye level in unpredictable ways.

I’m so pleased to be raising children who value nature and unstructured play!  I am satisfied with their desire to play in the shady creek instead of the sun drenched desert-like play park. I admire their ability to follow their hearts and sources of joy rather than worry about trying to fit in.  I want to preserve that for them for as long as possible.  In all honesty, this is what I wish for myself…