Lessons in Creative Confidence

Unschooling Myself

“Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.” – Pablo Picasso

When did you stop playing? Do you know the moment when you began to question whether you were really creative? I remember the college English Professor who had a profound negative effect on my writing. I stopped writing for anyone other than myself.

I still love to write. I love the stories that unfold, even if I don’t know the rules. I am brave when I write, but lately self-doubt was creeping in. My interests were changing and I did not know how to shift my interest on my blog.

About a month ago, I walked into the boy’s room as Austin was drawing this beautiful scene above in markers on his dresser. It is not a fancy dresser, but a cheap IKEA Pine dresser. He looked up at me and stared. I took a breath and then did one of the smartest things I have ever done as a parent.  I said, “That is beautiful! What else can you draw?”

He beamed and told a story of a secret village and villagers. He and his brother have now drawn all over their dressers and pine beds, and I love it. Every day a new story is unfolding.

I honestly don’t know why I was not upset that he drew on the furniture. I saw something in his face when he looked up at me, waiting on my reaction. I cannot explain it. I just knew he needed me to be proud, not frustrated.

Where does confidence in something come from? I think it comes from validation, sometimes from a someone else and sometimes we have to find it ourselves.

We began homeschooling for Kindergarten in September, but I had no idea what I was doing. I had all the tools, but zero confidence. I did know what is expected by cultural norms. “Send them to school already”, was dancing through my head. I began to get frustrated as we dove into homeschooling. Was I teaching them enough? Is this the right thing for them?

I had a conversation with a friend and homeschooling mom of three. She was in a shift in their journey. Her oldest was in middle school, her youngest was having trouble with phonics, and she was having doubts. I was having doubts too, but we realized our doubts were about stories we were telling ourselves about what education should look like. She is back in the grove, and as a confident as ever.

I embraced that our style is really an unschooling style, but the person being ‘unschooled’ is me. The boys only know their experience. Their only truth is what is happening to them at this moment. They have never been to a formal school. It is the purest view of learning you can have. Everything they try is new. There are no stories attached.

As parents, we have to be able to embrace the organic process of learning, because our children already have. They will teach us so much, if we can only trust them. They have no plan, and that is the lesson.

The Ultimate Way to Choose Yourself, Is To Save Someone Else

The One Who Saved Me

The One Who Saved Me

Yesterday, on my way into the grocery store I saw a dog rescue group. Although we cannot adopt another animal now, I stopped to say hello to the dogs and their saviors, and drop a few dollars in for a donation. It was not much and I just explained that even though I could not take a dog home, I could support the ones who could.

I began talking to who I now know is the mother of the founder of this rescue group. I told her that I would like to adopt a therapy dog and a family member, for my coaching practice.  I was once saved by a dog, so this story is near and dear to my heart.

That is when I understood why I was there. Her daughter, a beautiful tall red-headed teenage girl was terminally ill with a heart condition. She had been angry and mad at the world as you might imagine. Her mother was homeschooling her, and could not get her motivated to do anything.

Then something changed. Her daughter wanted to adopt a dog, and not just any dog. A pit bull puppy that had the exact condition that she had. The dog had been given 2 months to live. She wanted to be that dogs light in the world for the little time it had. These are my words, not hers. She felt drawn to this dog, which was a seven hour drive away. I spoke with her mother who was glowing as she told the story when her daughter chose herself.

The daughter started Roman’s Rescue to continue this work, after the dog that had been given two months to live. Roman lived for ten months. Ten months of joy, love, and gratitude for being chosen. This animal needed to be chosen, but his guardian did not. Terminally ill as a teenager, she chose to do something with the time she has on this earth. She chose herself.

Shouldn’t we all do that?

I am reading James Altucher’s Book, Choose Yourself. The preceding story of Roman’s Rescue is a living example of Choosing Yourself.

This book is about Choosing Yourself in the new world of work and life. We are in the most exciting times in history. We can live how we want, where we want, choose our families, and choose ourselves.  The book is not a feel good story of fluff, rather a practical way to begin to rethink this jobless economy that is really a recipe for freedom.

Choose Yourself – if you want to savor every last moment you have been given.If you want to make an impact today, support Roman’s Rescue. Support savoring life.

Our Nature Filled Kindergarten Gap Year

Kindergarten Gap Year

Kindergarten Gap Year

This past week the boys and I visited Wisteria Suri Alpaca Farm that is a mere 12 miles from our home, for a tour and activities like spinning fiber into yarn. As we entered the gates of the farm we were greeted by two beautiful white Great Pyrenees and a very spunky Australian Shepherd. We entered and paused to give the dogs time to get to know us and to welcome us, before we touched them and spent our time saying hello.

The farm owner and host commented how glad she was that we had such a nice calm energy. The animals had a busy day, and looked happy to see us despite their day filled with earlier visitors. We were able to meet some younger, timid, Suri Alpaca males and then a host of adult female Suri Alpacas.

As we moved throughout our visit, I noticed the beautiful wildflowers covering the ground between the limestone rocks. Nature has a way of growing where it falls, there is such a great lesson in that for our lives.

We stopped to handcraft bird balls filled with Alpaca fiber as a gift their Grandmother’s neighborhood birds in building their nests. Since we downsized, we do not own the trees in our neighborhood, which is hard to explain to a five-year old. Why is a question heard often in our home. I explain this is a temporary stop on our life adventure and they seem to accept that and move on.

AlpacaFarm2

Our host Keiko asked about my work, and I told her a little about my writing and my working exploration into nature connected psychology and EcoArt Therapy. I was explaining how easy it is for me to explore my work, as they boys experience nature together.

I realized as we spoke how hard it can be to welcome families to her farm with the distractions children experience today. Many do not know how to immerse themselves in nature, and ask for permission to enter by simply pausing and saying hello. It is something they learn by doing, and with our over scheduled society that  can be difficult.

We talked about how my children knew from the modeling they have seen their whole life to enter an animals space and let them come to you. I am a nature lover and that is a natural part of my parenting toolbox. Nature has always been my prescription for peace in our house, lots and lots of outside time for everyone is paramount around here.

This is not the first time someone has commented on their calm energy. They are not always calm as they are energy filled boys, but it is more of a reverence for the space they were entering, not unlike entering a spiritual place or a cathedral.

Quiet, slow, and with an open heart. One is more cautious than they other, and needs time to be open to the animals. I have been working with him over the years to let him know that what he feels is okay, and when and if he is ready to make contact he will. He can now verbalize his feelings and told me he was “a little” nervous.

We do a backpack carry when he feels this way, so that he can participate and feel secure. He has been able to embrace many animals now, but he has never been forced to be ready on some arbitrary schedule.

I am reading Ben Hewitt’s book, HomeGrown. Although our boys are not able to roam on open acreage, I am inspired by the idea that I can do my part in providing nature connected experiences even in our more suburban setting.  This is a beautifully written book giving you a glimpse into what is possible. It also helped me with something I was struggling with and that is the idea of living in the present. We do not have to decide right now, what our children’s education must look like for the next 12 years. My husband has asked, “why do we have to decide today?”  Their futures are their’s alone, and as I have always believed that, his descriptions of his boy’s days reminded me to breathe. We can take it day by day. That is the beauty and the eye opening process of a Kindergarten Gap Year.

This is how our “gap year” is emerging. They are learning to read, grow and be, but not based on a curriculum based on an age. They are twins, but just like other children and siblings are as different as two people can be. I do not want them to be labeled, ready for this or ready for that. I want them to celebrate their successes as they come organically.

Our experiment now has a name, the “Kindergarten Gap Year”. It really hit me when I turned down a consulting assignment to teach a reading curriculum to public school teachers. I have seen the organic process of my sons learning to read and none of it was as rigid as the tool I would have to present. I just did not believe it anymore.

Now, I understand that teaching twenty plus children requires a more assembly line approach, but that in itself makes me sad. Every child deserves the ability to learn organically in a place that feels safe, open, and trustable. A child should be able to say, “I want to play outside”, and for that to be celebrated and allowed. They should also be able to learn about something until they are ready to move onto something else.

Our first year into home education has evolved into a Kindergarten Gap Year. This time with them has been the most eye opening experience. The things you are able to observe as they grow and learn, would not be possible if they had been sent to school for eight hours each day. They are learning to read and write, but they are learning so much more and so am I

Connecting To Your Parenting Inner Nature

Families Connecting to nature

Weeknight Fishing Trip

The movement of the dock beneath me, the sounds coming from the ducks and their bodies as they moved through the water. The laughter from the boys as they would cast their line. The sky as it changed from blue, to orange, to pink, to a beautiful deep dark blue. I noticed how the insects that were becoming more active were not bothering me. The most startling connection was as I sat, I could see the spiders coming out from under the layers of the walls of the dock. Beginning to repair their webs. I felt a connection watching their intentional work, as if it was choreographed. It was startling to me that I did not feel threatened or feel a need to move quickly from my observation spot.

This past week we took the boys fishing when my husband got home from work. We have always enjoyed being outdoors, but my “inner nature” project work has made it an intentional part of every day. One activity that had we omitted it, would make me feel as if we missed something that day.

I have been a little quiet on the blog, as I dove into new learning opportunities for myself and the boys. I am studying the practice of using nature connections as a part of a parenting and teaching tool box. It has created some wonderful experiences for all of us.

There is so much written today about disconnected family life, and the long-term negative effects on children. What has not been widely shared, is easily accessible activities that busy families can fit into their week. Our downsizing experiment has brought me a level of awareness about what is essential to our happy life, and our ability to opt out of a frantic life, and slowing down is a necessity.

Every day is not perfect, but every day has great moments of joy and lately more contentment for me. As parents today, we are all striving for the same thing. A happy, healthy child that feels loved. That can feel complicated in a life of longer school days, working, and a yearning for more time together.

I had a conversation with a husband and wife, successful business owners, and wonderful parents to their beautiful kids. The part that struck me was on two separated, isolated conversations they both mentioned, wishing they had more time with their kids. More connection time, beyond dinner, homework, and bedtime.

The husband was raised by a father who fished, camped, and hunted with his sons, and he now realized he had done none of those things with his own child. He wanted to, but honestly had no idea where and how to fit it into their life.

We all struggle with balance and lifestyle choices, and solutions are unique to each family. The parents giving up their dreams and livelihood would not help their children, but perhaps some easily accessible nature connected activities would serve both the father and the son. It might even create a momentum of more nature connections within the family.

We talked about the Texas State Parks program, Family Camp Out. It is a perfect way for a busy family to experience the great outdoors without changing their natural family rhythm. We talked about weeknight fishing trips, and where to do that in the area. Trading traditional dinner time, for a picnic and a fishing adventure. This father’s differences in raising his family  does not have to be right or wrong, but the key is to find ways to nurture everyone in their household.

As you get to know your own families inner nature, take some time this week to connect with Mother Nature. Here is a simple, easy way to get started.

Go for a walk and be intentional about your goal of connecting. As you walk by or into a natural area, pause and listen. If you have children on the walk with you, ask them what they hear. If it is a safe place, sit and listen. Now close your eyes, and silently thank the natural area for its beauty. It is like knocking on a door before entering someone else’s house. It helps you switch from your daily busy world of thoughts and to-do lists, to a more mindful state of just being.

If your children are with you, know that they already sense how to do this. Children are always willing to say hello to animals in nature, encourage them to do what comes naturally. You can extend that by saying thank you to the breeze, or the warmth of the sun. You don’t have to say this out loud, if you are concerned with people thinking you have lost it! Nature does not use verbal language, so it’s not like it could respond verbally anyhow.

Now look. What do you see? As my children and I were on a walk the other day, we noticed all of the different grasshoppers and insects living in the grasses. Which reminds me of all of the levels of life. Things are always happening, whether we see them or not.

We even found some cucumbers growing along the fence of a construction site. A former garden or farm not willing to give up just yet, or maybe seeds dropped by a bird. These are moments that you can understand nature’s resilience in the face of adversity and it becomes a metaphor for life. “Where there is a will there is a way.”

It becomes a way to interpret the world without “talking about it”, which is a gift to all of us.

Just taking a moment to pause, listen, and feel your surroundings will welcome in the most natural of stress relievers. This activity can be done with a potted plant, but outside time is best to be able to transform your awareness into nature.

Will you take the time to seek a connection to the environment that surrounds you this week? Although going to the wilderness is always a wonderful way to connect to ourselves and nature, why not try something just outside your front door?

Happy Anniversary with a Hawk, a Yellow Finch, and Nature’s Symphony

NatureSouls

On this past Sunday morning, I was sitting at the table reading, waiting for everyone to wake up so that I could take a walk. As we were all saying good morning, my husband noticed a Hawk just outside the window, directly across from me on the fence. It was a sign for sure, and one that reminded me to get outside to begin my morning walk through nature. A reminder to step out and lead.

As I was walking, I did something intentionally, that for years had been just under the surface, but it is something I am learning to bring into my work. As I walked down a sidewalk flanked by nature that had escaped for now the bulldozing of new homes, I asked permission to enjoy this space from the very nature that inhabited it.

The breeze picked up, and the symphony of sounds slowly built into a beautiful melody almost drowning out the construction sounds nearby. As I stood there taking it all in instead of walking by unnoticed, I saw a tiny yellow bird, a finch I think. I would not have noticed it playing in the thicket of tall plants if I had not stopped. It was bouncing from stem to stem, having a grand old time. I then saw a larger bird, but only its shadow, mysterious and still as if watching me watching the small yellow bird. I said thank you and moved on my way. How much do we miss in our hurried lives?

The next time you walk through a natural area, put away your phone or headphones and listen. You might be surprised at what you hear.

As we celebrate our one year anniversary of intentional living, I am filled with the joy of having unearthed what was already there. Love of life, a gratitude of everything beautiful, a path to a livelihood in line with my true path and values, and the people I have the pleasure of sharing this small, but full space.

Wishing you all well on your journey. Where will it lead you in a year’s time?

 

Foraging for Answers: How to Decide With So Many Possibilities

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I use nature to help me in so many areas of my life, and have since I was a child. It was not something consciously chosen, rather a natural solution to much-needed solace.

A recent conversation with Paula of the popular blog, Rainforest Mind, happened just as I had completed a few pages in my “capture” journal.

One of the most difficult aspects of modern life is actually not a new problem, but today’s hectic life can mute out your greatest desires if you do not have a way to turn them off now and again.

I am an idea person and over the last year I worked on a way to bring those ideas down out of my spinning mind and into a safe place. I believe that to make sense of these messages and ideas, you need to capture them. You need to do this in the same way they come to you, naturally and in bits and pieces.

My process begins with a walk in nature. You can do this is a natural area, park, or just down the sidewalk in your neighborhood, but the more natural the better. Nature provides a sense of mediation space and can be one of the best ways to clear your mind and unplug. To create even more benefit from this walk would be to take it slow, and really pay attention to your surroundings. I notice many walkers, so intent on exercising their muscles, they forget to exercise their mind as well. The nature that surrounds us can alleviate stress and distraction better than any candle filled room.

Notice the temperature as you walk, is there a breeze? Look for signs of life, birds, flowers, plants.  All of these things will help you become more in tune with your natural surroundings.

Now when I recommend a method that is as fluid as the very generator of the messages itself. I use a sketch pad for such “idea captures”. No electronic media, just an artist’s sketchpad. I don’t write in complete sentences. Just whatever is coming my way in bits and pieces. I add photos I have taken or clips from magazines if they inspire me.

Next, I do nothing.

I only add to the pages if another idea comes my way, or I feel compelled to know more. You will likely feel a rush of energy from this. Unresolved thoughts can drain your body and mind, capturing them and putting them in a safe place alleviates this energy drain.

A day or two later, I come back to the pages. Do I still feel that way? Are these messages part of a theme? If you have one that says, I want to live in the country, but the photo you have is of a condo in the city, then you have conflicting messages. This is okay. This is better than okay, it is great!

The idea is to look at all the notes and words and consider what it might be hinting at?

Often we need to edit the thoughts, but our mind is too busy for that at the moment. This technique is one I have used throughout my life. Get out into nature. Now, a walk around the block will help, but a true walk through a botanical garden, forest, or a hike along a river will have a much different effect on your senses.

This was first thought of as a therapeutic tool in 1874, and referred to as a camp cure. It is very much like pressing the mental reset button. You do not need to go camping to get the benefits of a camp cure. Often we need a simpler reset to clarify the messages we are receiving.

Find a local state park, a botanical garden, or hiking trail and take some time for yourself. Consider your “capture journal’, talk to yourself if you want, or simply walk.

Take in all that surrounds you. You will see that there is beauty hidden in plain sight. Consider looking for natural elements you can collect to take home (if that is allowed). A smooth rock that catches your eye, take photographs, listen, and really listen to the sounds around you. As you learn to tune out the noise of the modern world, you may just hear and see what your own intuition is trying to tell you.

You can create a foraged memory bowl of your walk. Just put your treasures into a glass bowl, and leave it next to your capture journal. You may think this is a bit hokey, and if you do that is fine you can stop reading. You are trying to capture the moment when you unplugged with something you can see and touch.

After your local camp cure, take a few moments to add it to your journal capture. When and if you feel compelled to make a decision on your captured ideas, take a slow walk through your journal and imagine it coming true.

This is not about wishing on a star, rather really seeing if these images and words are something you want to dive into. If it is yes, then by all means dive in. If it isn’t, turn the page. Every new page, brings a blank slate.

Can You Work & Learn With Your Kids?

In my search for a life and work that works for our family, I have learned new skills and discovered callings that were long since hidden. Today’s post is short and sweet. It is possible to work and learn with your kids, but you may need to reconsider your meaning of work. Here is a peek inside our work/play/learn day yesterday for our beginning of  “Not Back To School” week.

Just start by exploring treasures just outside your door. The effects of nature on happiness and vitality will allow you to listen to your calling and the time together is good for the soul.

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