Clever joy, you are a fickle friend: The truth about happiness

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It’s like I can feel what happiness is all about, what it’s truly about.

I can sense it when I see it, like prickles on the back of my neck.

It’s a bit allusive though, like I can’t grasp hold of it.

I can’t keep it in a jar and hold onto it tightly.

It’s like sand or leaves on wind.

It’s like water between fingers or time–

it moves, morphs, changes form, leaps, transforms and flows.

Right about the time I feel confident that I’ve mastered joy and happiness

or gotten to it’s roots, I lose it.

I think that’s part of the attraction.

It’s not ours to have, it chooses us.

It waxes and wanes before our eyes, as an experience in the moment.

Nothing permanent, always changing.

I can’t own it, nor can I invite myself over.

But when it floats into my heart I am grateful.

And when it leaves I still seek it, looking outside my body for stolen treasure.

Clever joy, you are a fickle friend.

Law of Attraction: Why I want to fully believe but I can’t

Hasn’t everyone seen “The Secret”? Or read it? Or heard of Law of Attraction? It’s old news in the new age community. I love it. I get super sucked into it. Here’s why….

I LOVE ENERGY! I believe in it. It’s proven. We’re all energy. All mass is just energy in disguise. Everything is just tiny swirling, moving particles that move together and look like mass. Even the particles are mostly space with tinier particles moving around together to look like bigger particles. See, I love it! And it makes sense to me.

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So it makes sense that if I push my arms out in front of me, the motion sends out energy that impacts the things and people around me. It’s the whole butterfly wing theory but on a smaller scale. So when I think about the law of attraction as energy that I’m putting out into the world and receiving back, it makes sense to me too. But here’s where it falls apart for me…

How does the law of attraction explain children getting cancer? You might be able to argue that adults getting cancer have decades of emotional energetic shit causing dis-ease in their bodies…which I don’t like that argument either…but children? Children I know are pure rays of vibrational goodness. It doesn’t get more in alignment than that. How does the child vibrate at a frequency that causes that level of disease in their body? How do they put that kind of energy out into the world? This is when it gets even more worrisome- some would argue that parents are vibrating that shit into their children. Out of fear, worry, control, or stress, or some other low vibration. And who does that help?

No one.

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That’s where it falls apart for me. It doesn’t sit right with me. You can refute me…but here’s where it gets interesting.

Lots of theories have been proven or disproven by science. Universal laws have been replicated in experiments over and over again. Some things have yet to be explained. We don’t have any irrefutable evidence or lack of evidence that proves what happens after death. We don’t have any scientific proof of God existing or not existing. There are still things we just can’t comprehend and so many unknowns that are left unknown.

So why hold on to a theory that hasn’t been proven if it tortures you. Life is short. Find your own truth. Find what resonates in your heart and makes sense. And if you can…find what feels true and brings some peace, some hope, and maybe some joy.

What I choose to believe for now. (I reserve the right to change my mind and so should you).

I still believe in energy. I believe in something greater than myself. I believe that something orchestrates the massively complex and beautifully delicate systems that rule our universe. I don’t have the foggiest idea what that something is….I feel like something of that magnitude can’t be understood by me in this physical form because my body and brain limit me…in a good way. Otherwise my brain might explode. I want to believe that the universal powers that be are at the very least benign, I hope those powers are allies.

For some reason, I do believe that in some spirit plane, somewhere, we choose the life we’re living. We choose the time we are here on this earth and the parents we are born to. I think we even choose the lessons we want to learn. I think souls come to earth with contracts to play certain roles to better humanity as a whole…sometimes through massive tragedy. And I don’t think the lesson is always some glittery, joyfully teary, Hallmark moment where everyone stares knowingly at one another as they all receive the lesson at once. I think sometimes it’s gritty and painful. Sometimes the lesson might seem so muddy and so hard to tolerate that it cracks us open and tears us down to the depths of human suffering. But that just might be the lesson. The depth of our own souls. The depth of human suffering and where it leads. The understanding that only comes from walking the path that results in the ability to reach out and pull someone else out of that same hell.

That’s the only explanation so far that my brain can use to make sense of the drop dead beauty and the earth shattering hurts that occur in this crazy world. And I’ve seen major transformations occur from both those places. It’s like a ripple in a quiet pool. Energy…going out from moments…changing all those around us. I guess someone could still call that law of attraction…whatever.

If we get the choice to believe what we want to about our world, why not believe something that brings meaning to the chaos. Call it pollyanna…I’m fine with that too.

Educational Choice: Why I worry about sending my daughter to public school

Many people don’t spend a great deal of time thinking about educational choice. Sometimes…I wish I were one of them.

I don’t mean to say that parents don’t worry about their child’s education or spend a great deal of time thinking about where they want to buy a home in order to be in a quality school district. I’m just saying most parents don’t think about their choices beyond those decisions.

I spend A LOT of time considering my options. Guess what? There’s a lot of options.

My therapist has mentioned that this may be what’s causing suffering for me- all the choices. Too many choices. I agree with her. But I also have real, personal concerns about public schooling right now. And that’s not easy for me to say because I love public education and I think it’s vital.

I’m a public school teacher by trade before I became a stay at home parent. My mom was a speech and language pathologist in public schools for 30+ years. Both my closest cousins went into public education. I love public education. And I also have some deep concerns about public education.

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First and foremost- I want to say something about teachers. Teachers are amazing. They should be paid $100,000/year for what they do for our most precious people. They do so much with so little and for very little. Most people go into education because they genuinely love children and care about education. Believe me, it’s not for summers off and paid holidays. Most teachers don’t make enough to take summers off and many teachers are still working on school holidays- I know I was!

This is not about teachers- this is about a big huge system that makes change at a snails pace and doesn’t have enough money, time, resources, support, and efficiency to run effectively. Teachers and students pay the biggest price for these issues. It’s why I became so disenchanted with public education and fear sending my children.

My biggest concerns-

  • The expectations are not developmentally appropriate. This is backed by tons of research and current best practices but it’s being ignored.
    • Behavioral expectations are not age appropriate (i.e., sitting in chairs at desks listening to lectures for far too long, short recess, short lunch, tons of transitions, too many students per class, too much focus on academics, not enough movement, etc.)
    • Academic expectations are not developmentally appropriate. We now teach kindergarteners what was originally taught in 2nd grade. They are now expected to write paragraphs with topic sentences by the end of kindergarten. There is so much pressure on non appropriate academics that the cut off date for starting school is an ever moving target. Kindergarten teachers now recommend red-shirting (or holding back) your child if their birthday is anytime after March the year before school starts. Most kids are turning 7 in kindergarten now.
    • Kindergarten used to be 1/2 day with early and late birds…it’s now a full day, 5 day/week program.
  • Parents are so concerned with the rigorous academic expectations that they are holding their children back from school so they can receive private tutoring to prepare them to read, write, and learn arithmetic their first year. And students are still failing at alarming rates. Many students, that are typically developing, are receiving remedial support and being pulled out from class due to these unrealistic expectations.
  • Students are being rigorously tested on a regular basis. Tests now start before school begins. All incoming kindergarteners are tested so that teachers can receive a baseline of all students. They are then tested again twice by October on math and reading. They are then pulled out for remedial support if needed. We then have standardized testing for which all students must prepare for.
  • All the testing and developmentally inappropriate expectations lead to a snowball effect in which there’s very little time for art, creativity, music, movement, recess, non-adult directed activities, project based learning, getting messy, and generally being a child.
  • There’s also no money for extracurricular activities like music, drama, language programs, character development, community based projects, etc.
  • There’s very little focus on the whole child. The child is not an empty pail to be filled with reading, writing, and math concepts to memorize. There’s very little need for children to spend such a huge amount of time memorizing formulas and facts when we have ready access to all that information at the touch of our fingers. There’s very little focus on teaching practices that help students deal with the world they live in- like mindfulness, environmentalism and conservation, character development, resiliency, emotional intelligence, public speaking, working in groups and teams, collaboration, budgeting and real world mathematic application, critical thinking, problem solving, entrepreneurship, internet etiquette and growing up with social media, social skills, conflict resolution, human behavior, psychology, computer skills like coding, building skills like imagination and creativity, spirituality and world religions, tolerance, languages etc.
  • We’re no longer preparing children for the world they will live in. The old formula doesn’t work anymore. The idea that you focus on academics in grade school, graduate with good grades, go to a good college, get a degree, get a good job with benefits and stay in that job till you retire is out of date. Most people I graduated college with are not working in their field. Most couldn’t get jobs with a bachelors degree and many are struggling to find jobs in their field with masters degrees. The money people are making in these so-called “good jobs” isn’t enough to afford a home or the cost of living increase. Most people are changing jobs and moving between states and even countries more than they ever did before. We live in a more accessible world now. Everything we would ever need to learn or remember is always available on the internet. You can take Yale and Harvard classes for free online. You can open an Etsy store and make millions selling boot socks. People are traveling the world writing blogs, selling online courses, and pinning on pinterest.

Now…are most people making millions on Etsy or writing blogs? No. But the world is changing more rapidly in the past 10 years than it has in the 100 before that. And we’re always at a disadvantage in trying to prepare children for an ever changing future that we can’t even imagine. We’ll struggle with this even more as technology advances at higher speeds. It doesn’t mean we continue with the status quo because it’s easier or because we’re dealing with a huge cumbersome system that can’t keep up.

Some schools, some teachers, some districts are doing amazing things. They are forging ahead and breaking walls down and completely revamping the way we do school. I commend them for trying and making such quick change.

I’m of the school of thought that less is more.

 

Let’s children be children. They have their whole lives to be stressed about jobs, responsibilities, economies, etc. Let them move their bodies, play, climb, run, and dance. Let them be creative and express themselves. Allow them opportunities to make mistakes and cultivate their natural interest and hunger for knowledge. Make learning engaging and interesting. Research supports programs that encompass the whole child and multiple areas of interest (outside of core academics). Such programs actually increase scores on academic standardized assessments. Children learn valuable, translatable skills in play.

So as we get closer and closer to the age where we must decide what we’re going to do with little bean and kindergarten- I will keep you updated on our choice.

For now, we’re considering homeschool hybrid programs, homeschooling, private schools, and the like. Not everyone has those choices and I understand that public school is one of the best choices for most families. I’m just expressing my concerns and ideas for the future of education. It all starts with a conversation.

California native raising babies (and myself) in the south….part 2

Let’s continue, shall we?

Where did I leave off? We had moved to TN. We had hit a relatively low bottom. We were utilizing the resources we had left to get help….and we found out we were pregnant.

Oh yeah, and there wasn’t any family around for hundreds and thousands of miles.

Cut to- little bean is born.

Everyone oooo and aaahhh!

Things started getting easier. Mostly from hard work in our programs, lots of soul searching and personal growth, and tons of desire to change.

As a stay at home mother, I was so fulfilled in so many ways. I had always wanted to be a mother and it was more amazing than I had imagined. It was hard as hell…but also amazing. This is the start of what I will call “The World of Mom’s Mixed Emotions”.

Here’s the deal- Being a stay at home parents is becoming less and less of an option for people and I get it. We live in a world of dual incomes and the cost of living is climbing steadily. I think all my friends in California work while raising children. Most can’t afford not to. I know it’s a huge amazing gift to stay home…but there’s sacrifice too. We don’t live in California any longer, nor did we move back because I did not want to give up being home with my daughter.

Living in TN has been a huge lesson for me. More like a continual stream of lessons…

It was harder to find a like-minded group of friends in TN. I found that most natives kept their friend groups from before children and although TN has some of the friendliest people I’ve ever met, they weren’t always inclusive of newbies. There are tons of transplants…and when I say tons I mean thousands. Every day more transplants move here. Which is wonderful. Adds to the diversity and opportunity to meet and make friends. But many of us still feel isolated. I think this is partly the culture shock of moving to somewhere so different but I also think it’s motherhood.

Motherhood (parenthood) can feel isolating. It can feel like a series of naps, meals, household chores, and errands. And when your baby is still taking 3 naps a day….how the heck are you supposed to leave the house?? You get out for 45 min. increments of time….just kidding…you don’t.

Finally when your baby switched to 2 naps a day or even 1, you can go out for baby and me classes or the park. But here’s the deal with that…when you finally leave your house and get out in the real world with other living, breathing adults…you are hella awkward. And desperate AF.

You stare, longingly, at other mothers pushing their babies in swings and you try to think of how to invite yourself to their play date next week. Or you overhear a mother giving her phone number to someone else and you wonder if it would be weird if you just texted her….

Ok, I’m kinda kidding…but not really. Which is the sad, hard, lonely truth. It’s hard to make new friends. Especially when you’re an adult and you’ve kind of outgrown that preschool phase of running up to someone, waving awkwardly, and asking them to play on the slide and be your best friend. Man, I miss those days. Things were easier then.

So you join some meet up group or Facebook group and the first 5 groups you go to are just not quite right. You’re too soggy for the crunchy hippy group and you’re too crunchy for the mainstream groups. You’re way too out of shape for the jogging group and you’re too straight and white for the lesbian black mom group. WHY???!!! *Arms stretched out to the sky in dramatic frustration*

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So you just baby wear your tiny at home and clean your house…again. And wait.

Now…I’m not saying I never had any friends during this time. I did. Some really good ones, actually. I met one mom at our birth class group that became a great friend and we hung out a couple times a month. The two of us met a mom at a La Leche League meeting and she joined us a few times a month. I had a few very dear friends at my 12 step meetings that I would go out with several times a month. I just don’t consider that the village that I so desperately needed, especially in those early days of being a mama.

We eventually stopped renting and wanted to buy a house. This was a big turning point. Buying a house makes a difference when it comes to making friends. It’s also super hard to buy a house when you feel like you live somewhere that stretches you and your views and values on a regular basis. But it was time. B wanted land and space and I needed roots to get over the hump of putting myself out there. It’s really easy to commit 40% to making quality friendships when you’re renting and it just doesn’t feel permanent. It’s a lot harder when you’ve committed to living somewhere 100%.

So we moved. Bought a house in the suburbs of Middle TN. Even more conservative, religious views than Nashville…but again, you sacrifice for what you desire and value more. If we wanted a house we could afford, on land, in a mature neighborhood…on one income…we had to move further out from the city. We found a house we loved. So we bought it.

I joined a new meet up group right away. I was going to commit 110% to making friends and getting out of my isolation. I finall

y found my tribe. A meet up group in my new city with tons of transplants from Chicago, Miami, New York, Colorado, Japan, Canada, San Diego, etc.

 

SPECIAL NOTE TO NEW MOMS LOOKING FOR FRIENDS (ESPECIALLY IN A NEW PLACE)-

Give yourself time. This is a phase. It will pass. Trust me. It’s lonely for everyone. You’re not alone. Even when you reach out to new groups to make friends it’s always awkward. The first several meetings will be awkward. Give it time. You will meet people if you keep putting yourself out there and getting over the hump of being new. It takes patience and commitment. Don’t give up. I’ve been there! You will get through.

to be cont….