Science vs God

What are the big controversies between evolution vs creation and climate change vs not? What does proving one side over the other really prove or really matter? I’ve been immersed in both sides before and I have to say I don’t really think its a big deal in the long run and people waste entirely too much time arguing about it.


Evolution isn’t going to disprove there is a God. Creation isn’t going to disprove evolution or prove the world is only a few thousand years old. I think a God can certainly create mankind from a big bang and love them just the same. I don’t think the book of Genesis has to be so literal to be truth. God is probably quite creative and poetic too so he probably knows how to use a metaphor. And there is still so much that science can’t do that God may be just beyond its laws-or at least ones that haven’t been discovered yet. Maybe God lives in those black holes we know so little about or in the parts of the brain we still don’t understand. God and Science do not have to be separate. Both are still highly unknown and still left with lots to discover. They’ve both been misinterpreted and used to manipulate and control the masses. From my perspective they could be one in the same.


And so what if climate change proves to be real-its not like it can be stopped either way. So what if its going to make life difficult for billions of people. Those who believe are preparing and will most likely do all right and those who don’t believe will either adapt or die-that’s survival of the fittest and isn’t such a bad thing.


And I’m tired of both sides making generalizations about the other. Not all creationist parents will raise ignorant kids who will forever bow down to one way of believing. Not all scientists are poor souls doomed to hell because they ask to many questions.


Its okay to use science and believe in what its found. Its okay to believe in God. There is a whole lot about both that can still be discovered. And because both can be interpreted many ways, both are viewed through lenses of culture and time/advancement then neither are ever going to prove  one exists and the other doesn’t. Both are in the hands of humans which makes them both fallible.


ps-I also think these arguments are flamed by those who want the masses fighting-who don’t really care about them but pretend to so they can be in control. Many of the arguments (about anything) are turned into political stances so that one side can make the other look  evil or ignorant and it no longer becomes about true science or true spirituality anymore.

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Beloved Little Hill

I chose the email address belovedlittlehill for one reason. My first name, Amy, means beloved and my mom’s maiden name Barry is another term for little hill.  Even though that’s not my legal last name, I wanted a way to have a connection with that part of my family.  Since then, beloved little hill has come to mean more than that. It represents my connection to my much beloved Black Hills of SD. I was born there and it will always be my home. In another post I listed what I’ve found to be my key components of Happiness. The Black Hills has been a primary factor in what makes me happy. As odd as it may sound hilly forests play a big part in my sense of well-being. It’s a connection that seems foreign to some but I’ve known other people, who’ve grown up in the mountains, express the same feelings of needing that rejuvenation that such places provide. This doesn’t mean that I’m miserable everywhere else. It doesn’t mean that I don’t like other places or that I feel superior for being from the hills. Beyond simply preferring the visual geography of forested hills, I feel more whole and balanced when I’m among them. Because I lived there, the Black Hills specifically played BIG part in shaping me.

As a child I was bound to that that area by my dearly loved family. I spent summers and holidays on the Barry farm. When I think of the happier moments of my childhood it often took place on those visits, playing with my cousins, spending hours outside lost in imagination and exploring nature, or learning domestic skills at my grandma’s side. Sometimes, the things that she introduced me to are the ones I’ve developed and what keeps me going. They lived an hour drive from the hills, close enough that one can still see the hills nearly the whole way. Another fond memory is the many drives my mom and I took through the hills. Sometimes we’d play tourist at one the many tourist spots. Keystone taffy, Mt. Rushmore, needles highway, grazing buffalo, Roughlock Falls, and reptile gardens were frequent destinations as I grew up. The drives themselves took us by towering granite rocks, beautiful mountain lakes, warm scented pine, and clear blue skies.

In High School I became active in the Wesleyan Church. I’d attended churches before and had fond memories of Vacation Bible School as a kid. I decided to go because a new friend invited me and because I’d considered myself a Christian even though I didn’t have a church home. My new friend became my best friend and that church became my home church. Not long after I joined, the location of the church switched to a camp nestled in the hills. I met new friends and we made fantastic memories of exploring the hills and cave systems but a lot of our time revolved around church. I was active in the youth group, attended camp, and became camp a counselor. All this took place in that beautiful secluded location. While my spiritual-self did grow in the church services it was the actual location itself where I developed a deep connection to Spirit. Christianity provided the framework but my time alone in nature filled in all the spaces. On the property, there were lovely paths and striking rock formations to explore but a favorite spot for many was a rocky cliff that overlooked a tree-filled valley. To get there, one had to a follow a path through trees and native grasses. I would walk to that cliff, picking up small stones along the way. When I got to the overhang I’d sit (or lie) on one of the large flat boulders and listen to the wind and wildlife and breathe in pine air. I’d think about everything and I’d let my emotions flow through me. If I was holding onto a thought or emotion that was getting me down, I’d infuse it into one of those small stones and toss it into the valley as a symbol of my release. Sometimes I went there with friends and we’d talk and laugh and just hang out in a really beautiful setting. I’d even sit there enjoying the stillness of the night in wonder of the vastness and sparkle of the sky. Immersing myself in nature, especially among the trees and cliffs, was like coming home.  Problems seemed smaller and I felt everything was as it should be. Later I drifted further away from a Christian based spirituality though still consider some of its key teachings as a core to my beliefs. But nature has stuck fully with me. Nature is my church and I feel free to worship however I wish. When my emotions feel in turmoil, or when my brain can’t see past my problems, all I have to do is take a walk in the woods and my spirit is soothed and my mind sorts itself out.

Despite the beautiful things the Hills offered, I did eventually wish to leave them. I wanted to wander the states, and find where I fit in. Most young people are on a path that leads them away from family and the familiar, at least for a time. It’s part of growing up, gaining independence, and figuring out who you are. I felt I was the type of person who was adaptable to a variety of environments and I wanted to experience and learn from them. Over the following four and a half years I attended a very Christian University in northern Indiana, lived with family and worked a summer in SW Michigan, and married and lived with a man from Southern Indiana and Louisville, Kentucky. I was at home in those places for a good part of those years. During that time I travelled to friends’ homes in Michigan, Illinois, Iowa, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, and Ohio. I went on road trips to Florida beaches, Edebeviks in Chicago, the artsy neighborhoods of Louisville, Cornerstone Festival in Illinois, various trips to neighborhoods and shops in Indianapolis, a wedding in New Jersey, a spontaneous search for bugs through Tennessee and Georgia, a visit to a friend in Oklahoma, and various small towns and punk rawk shows in Indiana. For a May class we took a trip through Chicago and stayed at a hostel in Toronto to explore the neighborhood and the diverse churches, ministries, and outreach organizations. Finding friends in College was fairly simple. Finding places to explore nature took a little more time but once I did I felt more complete. Many of our outings and overnight trips were to a ravine, the local park, and a nature preserve. We camped and swam searched for bugs, and explored forests. It wasn’t the rocky,hilly forests I was accustomed to but I had some nature and other key components of happiness like friends, physical activity, mental growth, and a spiritual practice.

After I married we moved to Southern Indiana. Our friends and my family lived far away, we’d become disillusioned with Christianity as we knew it, and we were going to have a baby much earlier than we’d expected. Even though I’d felt at home experiencing new things, I felt myself ill prepared for this path. My life was going in a direction that didn’t feel right and it became overwhelming. Eventually we moved to the Black Hills, which was my first home yet I soon realized it didn’t feel like home anymore. Besides my mom, family wasn’t as close knit and supportive as I remembered. Cousins were busy growing up and living their own lives.  I didn’t have friends or much time and opportunity to meet and hang out with new people. I was unable to figure out how to go hiking with a baby (this was before I knew of baby carriers). I didn’t know anymore what I liked to do or what made me feel alive. I started working nights and raising a child during the day which really screwed with my stress levels and my sanity. I did try to find my spirituality again in my former church but it never clicked and my husband wasn’t interested in joining me. Over time he became uninterested in anything to do with me. I was lost. I felt completely alone. And I didn’t know who I was anymore.

Then I got sick of it. I didn’t like myself. I didn’t like the emptiness I saw reflected in my daughter. I began the search for my lost sense of purpose. I knew I had to recapture my happiness for myself but also for my young child. I read old letters from friends to remind me of a better time. I attempted to do things I knew I enjoyed, the most important being hikes in the hills. I opened myself up to meeting people I liked and who wanted to hang out with me. I made the decision to leave a sad and lonely marriage and I started reminding myself what I liked about myself. Slowly over the next 11 years I built relationships, got to know me, re-connected with nature, and put more focus on my interests.

During those eleven years I really settled into who I was and wanted to be. I had a steady boyfriend and together we explored the hills, fine-tuned our cooking, opened our house to guests, dug deeper into our spirituality, evolved as peaceful parents, set goals, discovered new hobbies, and opened our lives to 3 new kids. I committed myself to raising my kids peacefully and providing them with a well-rounded and playful education outside of the school system. Learning about homeschooling opened a whole new realm of interests. It also led me to some of the greatest people and parents I’ve met and befriended. Among these people I found a great number who shared similar viewpoints in other areas of life and who introduced us to new things. Getting to know those other great parents took place mainly at lakes and natural parks. I was once again in a setting that felt like home with people who enriched my mind and my life.

My boyfriend (who casually became my husband) and I built a home and a life in the hills. We lived nestled high in the hills. All we had to do to breathe in fresh air was open a window or step out our door. The pine trees hugged us on all sides.  Big boulders and rock crevices, which in my opinion radiate with energy, could be viewed from just about anywhere. Day hikes, a variety of swimmable lakes, and hidden picnic spots where a short drive away. One of the most memorable things about the hills was that I was able to have three children in a comfortable empowering way, with mid-wives, one of them even at home. It was not that unusual in that area to meet families who practiced natural child birth, natural weaning, and peaceful parenting. I felt comfortable knowing many people were aware and open to the idea of living in a non-mainstream way. There were a variety of social events and learning opportunities for my oldest and she tried many of them. While there weren’t a lot of kids here age who were also homeschooled using our method, there was one that was a true kindred spirit.  Before we moved I’d started meeting more and more potential friends for me and for the kids and even more learning opportunities were appearing on my radar. There was a variety of restaurants and café’s we frequented that had quality food, good service, and were child-friendly. Local and organic food was easy to come by. I considered shopping for food at local markets a social outing because the people who worked them were friendly and uplifting. In fact most people I encountered were genuinely laid back, friendly, and accepting of all walks of life. I was very much at home and comfortably happy with our life.

When he and I started having kids I became more of a homebody. We took drives, did easy hikes, and visited kid friendly lakes and parks. While I missed physically challenging myself on hikes, being at home wasn’t necessarily a problem. Even though those years, when the kids are young, seem like a long time, it’s really not. Each time one of them grew more independent so did I. Even with kids we’d still go on a few hikes, maybe not strenuous all day hikes but enough to soak in the nature. It is not always easy to see when in the deep end of diapers, short little legs, and even shorter attention spans, that they soon grow out of it and the limits of babiness gradually ends. Already, as my son, and probably my last child, is growing older, I feel the desire to escape to the woods for a while. I want to leave the kids on the beach with my oldest and canoe with my husband on a crisp mountain lake-I want to rent a cabin and have my mom come up while we have a wine dinner at Custer- I want to leave the kids with a babysitter while we scale boulders and hike steep ravines for a day. I miss being able to take the young ones stomping through a creeks, splashing in lakes, and easy treks through the woods. I was looking forward to increasing our outings as they aged. Though we were home most the time it was pretty okay because our house was still surrounded by trees and hills. I turned our small front yard into an inviting play space full of pretty edible flowers, herbs, and plants. I made peaceful areas for relaxing and stimulating environments to explore, all in a postage stamp size yard. It was perfect for young kids. We dreamed of a bigger house and a bigger lot because we wanted to provide more food for ourselves in the form of eggs, chickens and gardens. The downside to our house in the hills was the size, the lack of sunlight, short summers, limited space, and city regulations. We longed for more space for our growing family but at the same time I’d really felt like I was at home.

I’m not really sure what prompted us to move this far away; I don’t remember. Life was never an idealized version of perfect. We still wanted things. We were still human. But I consider those years to be beautiful. We grew together and we started our journey to become better versions of ourselves. I thought we had a good life. We rationalized a lot of our reasons for moving here-they were good reasons. We needed more space but couldn’t afford the prices of homes and properties in the hills. We wanted to garden but the climate and growing season and the dirt wasn’t as ideal as elsewhere. We wanted to be closer to family who could occasionally help out with the kids and be a good support network. We thought there’d be homeschool groups and learning opportunities close by. We convinced ourselves that we’d find people like us. I knew there would be a whole mess of negatives; everything from weather, to bugs, to geography, to different people. But, believing happiness comes from within, and knowing I had my favorite people with me, and being open to new adventures, I thought I could find a way to make a good life on the prairie too. All the negatives have yet to reveal their positive, and our expectations haven’t…well haven’t all lived up to our expectations. For a year I cried several times a week, it was strenuous mentally to maintain a positive attitude and a hope that I would feel at home.  The only thing that made me feel alive was going back to the hills for a visit. The winter was long and cold. Our house, though full of living things, felt empty and lonely. Minor distractions and trying to be present for my kids brought some respite and kept me going. I looked long and hard at myself and what creates happiness. I’ve come to some conclusions but for the most part I’m still not there yet. The hope that I’ll one day be able to travel to the hills often enough that I won’t feel the need to live there, comforts me. The possibilities of things we can do with our unique property motivates me. The miner distractions have evolved into bigger distractions. I have to keep myself busy with the things and projects that do bring me joy or I get depressed thinking about the life I want to have in the Hills.

Do I regret moving here? It’s hard to say at this moment. That’s not a question that can be answered easily. It’s not as simple as, “I miss the hills because they are my home.”  The reasons I miss them span the range of simple weather preferences to it being where I connect with my core spirituality. I prefer the Hills for the community, general attitudes of the people, opportunities for us as homeschoolers, and the outdoor activities. I do still have hope that it will work itself out and I’ll find my groove or at least a strong support network. I feel that at the time it was what J really wanted and seemed to bring out a life in him that was dulling. I fear that he would’ve resented me if I’d not allowed it-which is worse, regretting or being resented. I still cling to some the reasons we decided to move, though some have had to be revised, put on hold, or thrown out.  I do feel like it was a decision made too hastily. I wish that I’d looked more closely at what was so good about the Hills and if a move would really have improved our life. As my kids get older I’m afraid I’ll regret it more because of all the educational and social opportunities but I have hopes we will at least be able to travel in the future and have other great well-round and diverse experiences. With the exception of Ayan, the kids are young enough that they still primarily only need home and for now that makes it easier.

If I understood some of what I wanted for the kids throughout their lives then I probably wouldn’t have been so quick to move.  I couldn’t see it then because the kids were young and I was stuck in that moment. It was only a few short years for me to forget myself and their potential needs as homeschoolers. I believe very young kids only need a strong, enriching, and loving home-life to thrive. But as kids grow they need to expand their world by exploring outside of the home and the family.  In comparison there was much more educational and enrichment activities in close proximity.  Here we have to travel quite a distance and factors like weather, finances, and mood keeps us home most the time. In the Hills, we were starting to meet more potential friends and a really wonderful homeschooling community was being built. I was coming out of wanting to nest with the little ones and be more social able; wanting to re-connect with old friends and make stronger ties with the new ones. My oldest already had a kindred spirit to pal around with as well as opportunities for learning. She hates it here, hates it with a sadness that makes me sad for her. Hates it with the mind of the young who can’t often see beyond tomorrow nor has the wisdom of years to find the joy where it seems invisible. It’s hard for me to comfort her and help her find her happiness. I’d kinda put her homeschool needs on the back burner when I had two very young ones but we were starting to re-connect with opportunities for her too. Unlike here, there is a myriad of educational opportunities offered from an assortment of teachers and mentors-from the arts to the academic to the physical to the spiritual. There is a large all-inclusive group of homeschoolers to develop friendships and support that we no longer get to be a part of. There are pools and lakes and hills and trees and trails enough to try out and challenge ourselves in different outdoors activities. A heterogeneous population, educational experiences, and geography makes for a better homeschool learning environment.

I miss my family too. I miss my mom a lot. I’m an only child and have her only grandchildren and I really feel bad that her regular visits were taken away. I didn’t have many mom daughter issues that hadn’t been resolved so there was no need for a geographic distance. She is wonderful with the kids and so generous of her time and attention. Her grandkids will know she adores them because she gives them her full attention and is willing to just hang out with them on their terms. She is a truly nice and honest person who rarely speaks ill about anyone. She accepted my differences long ago and I’ve always felt comfortable being myself around her. I feel bad for my gram too. I wanted to help take care of her as she aged. Having little kids prevented me from doing much for a while but I helped when I could. I wanted to be there for my caretakers. I like the family I saw on a regular basis and wish I could have spent more time with them.

I miss other Hills People. The people I knew, the people I could fairly easily find anywhere, were genuine. Most people I knew were accepting of differences. Finding a tribe of like-minded people wasn’t difficult.  It’s frustrating to start from scratch to build a network of supportive, alternative-living friends and frankly I fear there isn’t much for that kind of network here, certainly not in the area of homeschooling (non-religious based), attachment parenting, and organic/natural living. The hills seemed to attract an eclectic group people and so people were fairly tolerant of differences. My hope is that we will eventually find a network of diverse, genuinely kind, supportive, and accepting people here.

I also love the outdoors and though summer is longer here, it’s also humid and so buggy my skin crawls.   I am trying to create a space outside where we feel comfortable enough to relax and to explore. It’s actually one of the distractions that keep me motivated to stay in my happy place. It can be hard when my skin itches every night and the house has to be shut up to keep the stickiness out. Even when the house is open, the smell is different-not all bad though sometimes it smells like swamp.  We’ve made some improvements. Being able to work outside is a key factor in maintaining my well-being. I’m excited with each natural play-space created and the fresh homegrown food. Gardening is therapy. Watching chickens is some of the best entertainment. Creating natural places to immerse ourselves in gives me joy.  I’m thankful we have large lot, a spacious home, and a unique out building (an old church) with lots of potential. I like imagining and carrying out plans to make it ours.

I don’t hate it here. Not all the time. My heart feels heavier and the landscape doesn’t bring the joy of a hilly region. But I can find things here that I love. I hold onto hope that we will still be able to offer the kids a lot of unique opportunities as they grow and want more from their life then our home. I’m thankful my mom is healthy enough to visit and that technology allows us to skype once in awhile. I appreciate that we have a lovely home and gardens and food on the table. I’m genuinely happy for J that he has many of the things he’s wanted for a long time. This is where he grew up and I imagine for him, the comfort of the prairie, brings him the same kind of comfort that the Hills bring me. But I am a Hills girl. It’s not an easy label to explain and it’s hard not to offend the people who don’t get it. I wasn’t happy there 100% of the time but I felt like I had more of the building blocks to create my happiness. In another post I talk about those building blocks  to my happiness. I came up with them after a period of great sadness and deep reflection. They are: feeling a part of a community and having a support network, mental growth and creative outlets, physical health and being active, a spiritual practice, a love for self and confidence, and finding happiness from within. I felt like I had those things in the Hills, maybe not all the time but I at least knew where to find them there. Even if I can eventually find all the components here, I will always be strongly connected to and think of home as The Black Hills, my beloved little hills.

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Demon Tech

Hey! Look down here. I appreciate your perspective of the extremes of technology use-I really do and I can see some of your points are valid… in extreme cases. I agree, some people use it to their own detriment. I agree people could be missing out on other things…just like you’d be missing out on things when you do just about anything else. Some people may need a little push to create more balance. But I’m not going to let this extreme belief that technology and screen time is bad, make me feel guilty for allowing me and my kids to use it. I hope you aren’t letting people make you feel shamed for using tech if it suits you and your family. I’m a big girl. If I’m feeling more lousy using it, or feel like my kids don’t have enough of my attention, well then I will decide to balance it out more. The conspiracy theorist in me has to ask, “Is the whole demonizing of tech spearheaded by paper and newspapers/magazine companies?”  So that maybe people will get back to ignoring each other with paper copies of biased news-and kids will keep more contained in public with coloring.  I’ve learned-am learning -to balance, and so can all the people who are feeling guilty or shamed into believing the screen is the devil.  Balance! You all have to do what feels right for you but I’m happy letting my kids(and myself) have fairly unlimited screen time. It allows me some “just me”  time- I don’t want to spend every single moment engaging my kids-I need time to get lost in a story, be entertained, be inspired , learn something, or write. My kids need that as well as skills to entertain themselves. This can be done when they or I or both are using technology. I do encourage my kids to play outside, I do initiate some handy crafts, I let them help me in the kitchen and with projects, chores, and errands. I read to them, and chat with them, roughhouse and cuddle with them. I feed them, bathe them, sleep with them, and wipe their butts.  Often, those are the things I do when other people aren’t looking-just like most parents. So when I’m in public I won’t feel bad about checking facebook, using google maps instead of asking directions, sharing photos, or distracting my kids with apps. When we are at home I’m going to quite happily enjoy playing video games, watching shows, blogging, or writing long ass fb statuses. Technology allows me time to myself but it also really does help me be more sociable and engaged with people including my kids. With screen time (computer, internet, gaming, and television),I’ve been able to unwind, question my own lifestyle,  laugh, learn new things, be inspired, share with far away friends a peak into our day to day lives-and me into theirs, and make memories with my friends and family.  Yes, sometimes I do feel so lonely it hurts, but social media didn’t make me that way. I’ve made friends, real friends and stayed in touch with others, using the internet. Facebook has this button that allows me to hide all the friends that aren’t really friends and I use it. Sure there are people who are probably using it too much, people who would be better off finding a balance. But someone using a smart phone on the street, or on a bus, or in a restaurant does not always make that person sad or bad. Sometimes I do need a reminder to look up and so do other people. But I don’t really need to be shamed into feeling my life will be ruined for using it.

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Shame on you for not being Happy


Happiness Facebook Status On Cliffs Background

There it is again. Another FB quote insisting that if I’m not happy that it’s all my fault-that happiness comes strictly from within. I don’t find those quotes encouraging, I find them shaming. I’m not blaming the people who post. I’m not saying they shouldn’t believe that or that they shouldn’t post and spread their joy. I’m not saying I wish they’d all just go live on their happy little islands and leave us sad people alone. I know its my own internal shame that makes me feel…well shamed. I was once a full fledged member of the positive thinking club. But I lost my card, didn’t pay my membership dues or something. Maybe I’m just too rebellious to follow the rules and got kicked out. Seriously though, I’ve really tried to figure out why I can’t just be happy. I know it takes a big commitment to take responsibility and be happy from an internal place. But I’m not so sure I believe anymore that happiness comes strictly from inside. I have to wonder, do the people who believe that, have an external motivator? Is there really some loved one who is encouraging them with lovely words and warm hugs? Do those people have a support system in place? Do they get good sleep and plenty of sunshine? Is there gut flora in balance thereby ensuring their hormones are regulated? Are their basic needs for food and shelter being met without too much stress? Basically, is there more to  happiness then simply believing in it?

Don’t get me wrong. I do get it..sort of. I know that a certain amount of happiness comes from our own perspective. There is a lot of power in how we look at a situation and react to the haters, the doom and gloomers, and just plain negative and unsupportive people. We can find silver linings in dark clouds by just shining a little light on them. Sometimes we have to walk around a little, or change the batteries in our flashlight but often with a little work we can get that light too catch on the silver lining and reflect its glorious glow back at us. We can find adventure by being adventurous. We can see beauty by choosing to look for it. We can be a calming influence by practicing staying calm. Yada yada yada.

I’ve attempted to re-examine the times when I was full of happy. Back when I was totally immersed in my happy place I would tell people to find one happy thought, do one simple thing that made them happy and when they were doing it to think of another thing that made them happy and do that-and to keep doing it til they were doing more of things they liked than not-then joy would follow. I’m not retracting my words. But I am saying that it might not be that simple. I’m sorry I wasn’t more empathetic back then. I probably left people to be alone in their despair while I lived it up on the island. I’m not sure if I’m really sorry for that or if that is exactly how I should have lived. People have a right to their happiness, to find it where they can and hold onto it as long as they can. Happy people have no obligation to the ones who are seeking or who feel alone. They may even feel they ARE helping with their joy-from-within quotes. Happy people should not feel ashamed to declare their joy (with those quotes or otherwise) because that is their truth. I’m just saying that I’ve realized, from being on this side of things, that those words are empty and don’t actually do much for helping ME find MY happy place.

So, what WILL help me find my happy place? Well, I’m still trying to figure that out. I know some things that don’t work. I know some that do bring me a certain amount of contentment, excitement, and joy. I know of some external and some internal motivators but no longer believe its strictly internal. And I definitely know its not empty support and encouraging quotes. I’m not hopeless or faithless. I’m not teetering on the brink of suicide. I’m not looking for parentheses (hugs) or less-than, number 3s, or links to Byron Katie and Wayne Dyer. I’m just writing, just trying to figure it out.

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Death of a Stranger

I dealt with the loss of my dad a long time ago so his recent death has not really affected me much emotionally. I never felt emptiness or a gaping hole from his absence. I never had the stereotypical issues that a lot of misguided people say are supposed to accompany a fatherless household-like sexual promiscuity,  behavior problems, and fear of emotional intimacy and commitment. I never felt abandoned though that’s basically what he did to my mom and me when I was a baby. I never knew him but was aware from an early age that my life was probably better for not having to deal with his often cheating on my mom and his many addictions which would also have caused severe financial strain (not that there weren’t financial hard times, they just would have been worse). I know he had his positives. In the brief encounters I had with him I was able to recognize (from an observers perspective) qualities of a creative, talented, and funny human- I will probably always remember his distinct laugh. I didn’t hate him or wish any ill will on him. I never blamed him for anything or held bitterness toward him. My feelings for him were and are basically what I feel for a stranger. I can respect that he was another human, that others loved him, that he had good times and bad, that he made good choices and bad, that he most likely lived and loved and struggled and learned. But I never formed an emotional attachment to him. I wasn’t offended that he chose not to be a part of my life but I couldn’t muster any deep love for him. Growing up I never wished I’d had a dad. I was well loved, respected, and supported by my mom. My home life was stable. Communication was good. I had family and friends and I had faith in something bigger. I grew up knowing his sisters and my cousins and I treasure those people and their influence. I feel sad for their loss- to them he was valued and loved and known. Their memories of him are mostly good. Because of my love for them I am sad for them. I don’t regret not having known him like they did. There is no way I could have known him like that. I know enough about relationships to understnad the dynamic between a parent and child is different than one between siblings  and different between uncles and nieces and nephews and different between mates and different between friends. Neither he nor I ever seemed to know how to begin a conversation because there was always that pesky reality that we were in fact father and daughter. It was always awkward and avoided.

I suppose as an adult I could have reached out more to him and tried to form a bond. But honestly I didn’t want to risk the eventual disappointment that comes from having to take care of a person who chooses unhealthy addiction over anything else. I’m sure a part of me did fear I’d be taken advantage of financially or emotionally because his dependence on drugs (and I’m almost sure depression) always won. Some have the opinion that family is blood and you care for your family no matter what.  Maybe that’s what some people were taught but I didn’t grow up believing that. Maybe that is one thing he inadvertently taught me with his absence.  I may have been his daughter… But not really. He and I were strangers with our mutual family in common and for them I grieve.

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Princess, I Adore You


Princess Vivian and her magical creatures

Every once in awhile I will catch a post expressing disdain for  Princesses. Whole blogs saying how princesses are a bad influence. comments from parents who say things like , “my girl is very into princesses but its okay because she also likes building things and capturing bugs.”  I think most the posts and thoughts behind them send a bad message. Not allowing a child an interest in all things Princess is in essence telling your child that the feminine is lesser than the masculine. It’s like telling your child you love her but not that part of her. Or telling your child that it’s okay to dabble in girly things but only if they focus on the better more manly aspects of life.

Many times the hate on Princess is due to the hyper-sexualization of them and their influence on a kids body image and gender roles. I do feel its important to not put all a child’s worth on her looks or how feminine she is. I can see how, if the first thing you say to a girl revolves around her looks ( you look pretty in that dress, your hair is so cute) it can condition her to seek approval in just one area of herself. But I don’t think looks should be dismissed completely. I see nothing wrong with wanting to look and feel pretty. It’s perfectly natural, instinctual, and universal to most species of plant and animal. I see it as my responsibility to nurture my children as they are. Princess merchandise may send a negative body image and sexual message but as a parent I can be a stronger influence.

What I’m referring to is the hate of the femininity of princesses. Some objects, actions, and interests are more feminine and some more masculine. Sometimes things are considered more so because of shape- what looks more like a certain gender body part. Some things are more so based on a trait that is generally associated with a natural hormonal action such as the gentle caring of mother and her baby.  Some are cultural (and really variable) such as Men being doctors and Women being teachers- it wasn’t long ago that healers were often women and teachers or mentors in a trade were more often men. Princesses are feminine. Being a princess goes beyond looks. They are gentle and caring. They are diplomatic and listen calmly. They always present themselves properly with beauty and grace. Princesses are feminine and to dislike that your child likes princesses is like saying you are disgusted by the part of her(or him) that is feminine. A part of your child that is just that, a part of her. And to dislike the femininity in a person is basically saying that it is lesser than the masculine.

I don’t want to act as if a child, boy or girl, is lesser because she(or he) has has strong feminine leanings. Both genders should be allowed to follow their interests and curiosity without being shamed. Feminine and Masculine may be different without being in competition.  I don’t have issues with anyone having more of one trait than another. I feel that all the princess bashing is symptomatic of a society that has come to view the feminine has less than by elevating a woman  (or a man) only when she does something masculine. Or demeaning a man (or a women) when he does something feminine. Many parents are extra proud if their girl children can swing a hammer, climb a tree, catch bugs and snakes, play with trucks, compete in sports, and find careers of high position. All because these are seen as better. If their boy children show an interest in sparkly dress up,  caring for dolls or stuffies,  playing house, or if they enjoy domestic skills and personal grooming, then they are encouraged to grow out of it or labelled with a feminine word (pussy, prissy, girly, or something more crude). It doesn’t matter which gender people still treat femininity it as if its lesser.

My goal is to encourage my kids to follow themselves without assigning them roles that could trap them or make them feel less than. Sometimes it takes breaking my own programming and habits. Yes, being a role model does need some in depth self-reflection and work. With conscious effort, hopefully I can help them see the value in both feminine and masculine qualities. That its perfectly okay to be interested or tend toward one over the other or both. That sometimes in life they will need a little more of one or the other and much of the time they can find a balance.

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Why We Homeschool- We Live This Way Because…

I recently read an article after seeing it popping up everywhere on FB. It’s titled “School is a prison-and damaging our kids” by Peter Gray. This title isn’t the best, it puts people (more accurately those who went to school, have children in school, or work in the school system) on the defensive. But the article does a good job expressing why school isn’t all that great for actual learning. The author has researched further into the science of child development and natural learning. The article outlines many of the reasons we decided to continue to homeschool our children. In part it introduces the growing evidence that children do not learn best in the artificial and often stagnant environment of school.
We also have come to the conclusion that a school, nor a school at home, approach is the best way to educate our kids nor does it lead to the kind of accomplishment we wish for our kids. While many find pride in their kids growing up to get a job that pays extremely well or comes with a certain amount of status, this is not what we see as successful. To us, success means a true inner happiness. We model this search for true inner happiness and believe it comes from within. We’ve found that what aids us in finding our happiness is strong supportive relationships (which we provide our kids from the beginning), a desire for expanding oneself  (in the form of learning and spiritual growth), following our passions (which can easily lead to careers if their creativity and ambition is not squashed), and taking responsibility for emotional well-being.
While we do wish to impart certain beliefs on our kids we also want them growing up with the freedom to explore many schools of thought, philosophies, and religions. However we also wish to keep our kids sheltered from a school system that can be too heavy an influence on both WHAT kids grow up thinking and the WAY they think. We desire a future (and a present) for our kids that is not so heavily influenced by the mainstream. We don’t want our kids to be part of system run by the government who continues to push agendas that normalizes the taking away our freedoms and right. We don’t want our kids to be forced to spend most their childhood in a  false environment and social structure that can’t provide an intrinsically rewarding learning experience. At home we can instill a love for learning, give individual attention, and cater to each their learning styles and personal passions and goals.
The article also talks about democratic schools based on the Sudbury Valley School. This is a fantastic option and is similar to what we want as  a homeschooling family both in our home and through the relationships with other homeschool families.
We realize that our children will have to function in an America that is not brought up with these ideals. However we don’t want them to give into what has become common. We don’t completely shelter them from the rest of the world. We do however provide a strong foundation of support, the freedom to explore themselves as individuals, and the tools for critical thinking so that they can function in the world without blindly and thoughtlessly succumbing to forces that could hinder their happiness.

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We Live This Way Because…No to CIO

Fourteen years ago when A. was a baby her father and I didn’t have much experience with babies nor were we familiar with different methods of parenting. Most of our information came from pop culture. We’d recalled an episode of Mad About You which centered around the parents training their baby to sleep at night by letting it cry alone in a darkened room. I remember how difficult it was for them going against their desire to go to the heartbreaking screams of their child. I remember how relieved they felt when the baby finally settled into slumber. They’d won. In real life, we didn’t win. When we tried it, I couldn’t escape the feeling of horrible guilt, that with every minute, my child was losing trust in me to provide for and comfort her. I’m so glad I lost that battle. What I gained in losing was a deeper connection with my natural instinct and ability to connect with, rather than train my child.

Ten years later when my second child was born, my parenting instincts were more finely tuned. I’d also had some decent science to back up a lot of my decision. Here’s An article on The Dangers of Cry It Out

And here are my personal reasons for not practicing CIO:
I’m not against it so that I have more intelligent, less anxious, and independent children- and I haven’t noticed they are more so. I responded to my babies cries because it felt intuitively wrong not to, because I knew they didn’t understand the world or how to soothe themselves, because I think babies deserve to be comforted not trained like pets to behave, because I LOVE holding my babies anytime day or night, because I felt like they would learn they couldn’t depend on me to care for them and help them thru any situation, because I didn’t want them to grow up thinking they were alone in this world, because babyhood is relatively short and I want to savor every chance to give them the cuddles they deserve, because I had children knowing that it would change me and my routines, because I knew they didn’t cry to inconvenience me but because they needed something and needed someone to provide it, because there is absolutely nothing wrong with a baby who wakes and wants to be with the sounds and smells and movements of its caregiver rather than alone in a quiet room.
Series disclaimer:my answer to anyone who want to argue it or thinks I’m shaming parents who have chosen CIO: Do I think its wrong for you to let your baby cry it out? What the eff does it matter what I think…If what you want for you and your kids is what you are achieving then it doesn’t matter what I think or how I raise my kids. This series (hell this whole blog) is about ME and how I raise my kids, how we live, and what makes us happy.

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Finding My OWN Style of Living

Its been a long time since my last post-a lot of living of life instead of writing about it. In between moving across state I’ve been busy defining and re-defining areas of my life. In my last post I talked about coming up with a new label since that of Radical Unschooler was in too big a disagreement with those who are considered or who follow the gurus of the label. In that time I found this article, at The Living Free Project, very befitting of some of the reasons I’ve, for the most part, abandoned the label.

Instead of just attaching a dogma to my life I’ve been getting to the core of my beliefs and writing my own rules for living. All rules are malleable depending on situation and personalities involved. Over the next few posts I’ll be sharing MY rules and core beliefs. When convenient for me I’ll find studies or other articles that fit in with my subject. For the most part, however, this is how we live based on us living it and finding what works for us. Its in no way intended to be a blue print for you whoever you are. These aren’t one size fits all rules that produce a perfectly harmonious household. Rather its a guide for me to create connection with my kids and people in general. As I continue to question, as my children grow, as I evolve, the rules will probably change. While I remain open to different ideas, I also remain steadfast in beliefs I’ve given a lot of thought (for instance, no hitting, ever).

To start off, here’s my list of
CORE BELIEFS-which may change slightly and be added to over time:
*Everyone is equal and has the right to be respected.

*Rules need to be continuously questioned and formed as they pertain to the situation,  personalities, and developmental stages involved.

*Each person has a right to earn and own possessions/property and use it however they wish as long as it doesn’t cause harm to others.

*Shared spaces and possessions need rules drafted and agreed upon by the majority.

*Everyone has the right to their own body and what they do with it and how its should be treated. There are few exceptions to this-which will be explored in depth later.

*Each person is responsible for their own Happiness…Happiness comes from within and can be felt in any situation. Happiness is a matter of perception. Feelings happen, but you can choose what to do with those feelings and how to react.

*People are not born evil and do not need to be trained to be good. However, children are sponges and will absorb the behaviour and beliefs which are continuously presented to them.

*In order to teach Kindness I must BE KIND.  dot dot dot begets dot dot dot

In later posts I will write about the rules for living I’ve come up with based on those core beliefs.

One of the reasons I wrote out my beliefs and rules and choose to share them here is as a reminder to myself. It can be difficult, under stress, tiredness, or the heat of the moment to live up to my own ideal. Keeping it fresh in my mind helps me to remember who I want to be and know I can be. I also wrote it as a guidebook I can share if I should entrust the care of my children to someone else-they are used to being parented with a certain amount of respect and I wouldn’t allow someone to care for them who isn’t willing to try to treat them that way.

I don’t intend to live this way in order to have perfectly behaved children. Many types of training can produce a well behaved child but I’m not setting out to Train my children as if they were pets. I desire connections with my children and other people. I intend to live this way to build respect and show my kids that I love them unconditionally. I’m not preparing my children to accept the bullying, the biases and isms, and the status quo. I’m setting out to raise my kids to know I love them and will support them in finding their happiness. I am helping my kids to develop deep roots but feel empowered to branch out on their own. I hope to share with my kids the skills to survive in a changing world. I intend to foster the drive to learn and be imaginative. This can get messy, it can seem hectic and chaotic to someone used to a schooled or authoritarian life. It is challenging at times but rewarding too.

Yes, in many ways we can still identify with Radical Unschoolers. Our education is going beyond the walls of a school and set curriculum. We follow our rhythms, pay attention to our passions, and honor our distinctive personalities and learning styles. We differ from them in ways that I won’t go into now. I feel its enough of a difference that I’ve had to put some distance between me and many of them and follow a path that comes more from within. In the following posts I’ll share more of that journey.

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Just Not Radical Enough

Ha! I keep thinking I have it figured it out but then I keep mulling it over and I come to new conclusions. Here is what I have so far:
From certain Radical Unschooling forums, one could very well come to the conclusion that Radical Unschoolers seem to believe:
1. Raising free children means there is no place for passing on a parents ideals outside of unschooling
2. Its okay to be mean to adults while espousing the virtue of kindness to their children
3. Community isn’t all that supportive or communal
4. Raising free children to the Extreme Radicalness means there is no place for parental control

There’s a divide in the Unschooliverse and I think I figured it out. Well I at least figured out why I feel the divide. Just maybe I’m not Unschooley enough.  At least not for the Radical kind. I’m thinking of maybe coming up with a new name, a hybrid -does that imply better because that’s not my intention?  I’ve already established that Unschooling has more to do with a way of life then anything really to do with school. It goes beyond school and has evolved the way I function day to day, how I interact with my kids (from birth, not just school aged), and the way I think. Life learner, world school, natural learning, child-led learning, and a few other terms have been adopted by people. But I’m looking for something else, something that better describes our way of life and not just how we educate ourselves. More on that later.

First I want to talk about why I must not be a Radical Unschooler. It has to do with core beliefs. It took me awhile but I think I’ve discovered that my core beliefs don’t quite jive with that of a Radial Unschooler. I believe children are autonomous but not to the extreme degree that Radical Unschoolers do. I believe children are individuals who have a RIGHT to their own bodies, their own emotions, their own thoughts, their own possessions. and they need to respect that right in others. I do believe that people benefit from having community and that children need to learn to function in a beneficial society-this means from a society as small as a two person family to society in a global sense. I don’t think I own my children but I do feel I have a right to raise them as I see fit. I do feel they can and should make decisions for themselves-to a limit. And that limit is one of the biggest contentions I have with  Radical Unschoolers. I’ve come to realize that what I term “guidance” they term as “control”.

It was over the course of a few days that brought me to that conclusion. I’ve been a member of a couple forums, one of them for several years. They are forums for Radical Unschoolers moderated by well-known figures in the Unchooliverse. I haven’t posted to the groups and I rarely check them. Why? Because every single thread I’ve followed on the forums have left my gut feeling heavy. They’ve rarely sat right with me. For one, the people giving advice seem rude. I understand  they try to maintain a standard of Radical Unschooling Ideal. I get that they push people to question every area of their lives in order to help people with allowing their children the kind of freedoms they think is ideal. I get that. I think there is a lot of value in their words-those on the forums who have websites and books have been a great resource for me and countless others to learn and apply unschooling to our lives. However, and this is a big however… they are mean. They bully and gang up on people. They take things out of context, attack grammar and semantics, and they always tell people to stop writing and just listen. I’ve never known anyone personally who’s been the victim of their criticizing. I don’t idolize the so called experts or get giddy if one happens to notice me. I do have friends who personally know  a few of the moderators and contributors and I am FB friends with a few members of the forums. But basically I have been an unbiased observer of this behaviour and have found it do be horribly rude. I discovered I’m not the only one.

I’d recently FB friended a new member of the Natural Learning Network of SD of which I co-moderate. It’s a site for SD locals to build community, meet one another, find support, and post events. I noticed one person because she found our site through another site I belong to The Libertarian Homeschooler. Her comments on Radical Unschooler showed up in FB feed so I started following the thread. It quickly turned into the same old stuff I’d seen before. Someone posts a question-some good responses-some accusations-some deeper explanations from the original poster-some taking words out of context and more accusations-some criticizing the grammar and the semantics -some twisting words-some telling questioners to stop getting defensive and quit posting-some copying and pasting on other sites in order to make fun of posters (she admitted it)-some blaming the poster for wasting HER time. Basically what I saw was bullying and since I happened to be a FB friend of one of the victims,I happened to see her post that she did indeed feel bullied and it had gone beyond what I could see on the thread. It left me feeling so disgusted that I left that group and unfriended a moderator. I didn’t want to be associated with such mean people and I didn’t want to be exposed to that toxicity. I could fully understand now why some of my real-life friends have chosen to not be a part of online communities.

Not everyone who feels attacked is a newbie to Unschooling. But a lot are. Unschooling is still pretty fringe. Its a difficult concept to wrap ones head around. In order to fully understand it and live it they need to see it up close and personal. People get online and try to find others like them. They want information but they also want the community. They want to be assured that they are doing best for their family because the majority of people in their lives do not support it. So they seek out the people who’ve been doing this awhile. Certain names get brought up and of course newbies go to them. But these particular forums aren’t there to build friendships or play tour guide to newbies. They are militant boot camps meant to push and break. Some  newbies feel so hurt they leave, some fortunately find support from, well from more SUPPORTIVE groups. Some stay and a community is built but its based on abuse and control-the very thing the Radicals promote not instilling in their children.

I’d been mulling the threads around in my head. It really bothered me that the bullys were trying to silence people from explaining details any further. As if circumstances don’t matter. They would insist that the parent was trying to impose her own beliefs onto the child and therefore controlling the child. And there I had it. The Unschoolers were not only being mean, they were attacking people for what seemed to me perfectly reasonable beliefs. These Radicals have a set of ideals they think applies to every situation. Not only did I have a problem with the delivery of their message but I decided I have a problem with the message itself. The very core belief of Unschooling is freedom for kids to follow their own passions and interests when it comes to learning. Sounds great! I believe that. But Radicals tacked on “Radical” I think to take that freedom to a whole level that is beyond me. Not simply, as they claim, to apply it to life outside of education, but also to areas outside of parenting. They want their child to be able to make choices, discover circumstances, and come to conclusions completely on their own. Sounds Radical right? To me it does and here’s why.

Kids’ brains, bodies, and experiences are still developing. They absorb information. They model behavior they see. They believe, often without question, what they are told. They react to their feelings without understanding them. They trust their caregiver to be  right whether their caregiver is worthy or not. I believe they are not yet in a position developmentally to make every single decision themselves. I believe children do need some guidance, some limits, some encouraging. (I think even adults need these things when learning something new.) It doesn’t have to be strict or authoritarian. It is possible to have both limits and plenty of freedoms and choices and to offer them kindly. I think it all can be highly individualized for differing personalities and situations. But its not a one size fits all rule of learning or living. And beliefs do play a part in parenting. Beliefs are going to be passed down, whether its a homeschooling family or not. One reason I chose to Homeschool is because (at least in their younger years) my beliefs are the predominant ones they are exposed to. I prefer those of myself and my circle of friends as opposed to the media and the state run schools.

I would like my children’s developing brain and body  not be exposed to the dangers until they can navigate them. That means after they’ve learned to question and reason, after they’ve acquired the tools to research, after they’ve experienced and  practiced using their own intuition. I can be there to hold there hand literally or metaphorically. I can be there to show them how to do some things and direct them where to learn other things. I can be there to share my own passions and discuss my own beliefs. I can introduce them to mentors that respect children and their developmental stages.  And I can do it while allowing them freedoms to draw their own conclusions. I believe that children need some guidance-not control, not overly sheltering, not void of discovery. I believe that an environment has the potential to affect a developing person both positively and negatively. I don’t wish my child to be exposed to violence, acts of control (physical or psychological) government bias, media bias(socialist and otherwise), strict religious dogma, humor that makes it normal to degrade. And I don’t want to sabotage my child’s physical health with food that does harm.

So if I believe kids will learn what they are exposed to, why would I expose them to danger beyond their comprehension. Its no secret that marketing plays a part in convincing us to be wasteful consumers. Its coming to light that food companies are basically spiking their foods with addictive and harmful ingredients and convincing us its nutritious. The media continuously pushes the messages that I don’t agree with. These are dangerous enough to adult minds- I especially want to avoid it for developing brains and bodies of my children-to start them off not brainwashed to comply. As they get older and can see the correlation between food and feeling icky they can make some choices about what they consume. When they are old enough mentally to talk about marketing and media bias then I will expose them to more of it. Is that control? Yes, I suppose one could call it control and I’m okay with that. I think a certain amount  of control is paramount for the safety of my children.

I don’t think all Radical Unschoolers (or whatever they choose to call themselves) are the same. I have very good friends who identify with that spectrum of Unschooling. What I am referring to is the based on the behavior I see on the Radical Unschooling forums. Do I think these Radicals should change? No. I do think there is a place for it all. I think many appreciate the advice and like the way it is delivered. But maybe those places should be more upfront with what they are about. I know some have info and rules posted but obviously they are not clear enough about it because I’ve been seeing more and more people who’ve felt hurt and bullied after seeking guidance on those sites. I get that different forums are for different things. I personally like Unschooling plus Libertarian because those are some of my interests and I like to see how they connect and how people make it work. But those sites make it pretty clear what they stand for. I’ve left some groups (not just unschooling ones) because I’ve been disgusted by the treatment of others. While I believe there is value to those sites for a certain type of person,  I think it can be really discouraging to people especially those new to Unschooling. Those who are looking for community, information, or just trying to wrap their heads around the concept do not need to be treated as ignorant. Those who practice Unschooling but are not Radical about it should not be treated as inferior.  The internet can be a strange place to navigate social networking but sometimes its the only thing a person has-not everyone is as fortunate as I was to be introduced to Unschooling by real-life non-judgmental and kind Unschoolers.  I’m thankful for all the Unschoolers because it means we’re raising more and more kids who are more connected, free thinking, respected, and with the potential to find their own happiness. I just wish there was more acceptance for the various ideals on the spectrum of Unschooling.

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