Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Do You Freecycle?

Have you heard of Freecycle? There might be one in your area.

Freecycle is simply an online group where you can post things you no longer need and give them away for free. You can also post items you want, and if someone has one to give, voila`, it's yours! 

I think Freecycle rocks. We're in the process of clearing out a lot of unneeded stuff. My criteria for what I keep has gotten a little tougher over the years, mostly due to sheer need to move quickly through it all. The list goes something like this:

If I'm keeping it because:

1) It's beautiful, then it needs to be displayed, not stored.
2) It's useful, it needs to be useful now or in the immediate future (12 months or less). And it needs to have a regular home.
3) It's sentimental, then hopefully it's also beautiful, and back to rule 1. If not, then I think hard about it and decide if storage is worth it in the long run. And if someone else can really use it now, it still might not make the cut. 

If it get's pitched, then here's the list:
1) If someone I know can use it, great, it goes to them.
2) If not, can I sell it? Ebay, craigslist?
3) If not, then Freecycle.
4) If not, than hopefully thrift store
5) Finally, trash...:-(

Here's where Freecycle becomes really cool.  You find your local Freecycle. Google it, many are listed as Yahoo Groups. Lots of areas have them. You get added as a member. This is usually a simple approval process where you learn the rules, which are simple things like only free things get listed, and how to add your area to the post so people know where they have to drive to to pick it up.

Aha! Did you get that last line...people will come to you, and take away your unwanted stuff! They get something they want or need, and it's magically (to me, anyway!) gone!

Oh, a final idea for clearing out...if you live on a well traveled road, as we currently do, don't underestimate the usefulness of hauling things out to the curb and placing a free sign in front. More magic! We place probably 2 pick up truck loads worth of unwanted but still useful items out by the street this summer and they just disappeared. All of them!

This is especially true of things like building materials that your local resale shop won't take, but someone can still use, and would otherwise end up in the landfill (at your expense, and all of ours, in the long run).

Happy day! 

Monday, September 27, 2010

Finding True North....part 3

Moonshimmering waterfall and Aurora Borealis
Photo Courtesy of Arnar Valdimarsson ,Öxarárfoss at National Park Þingvellir in Iceland 

Small Steps....

Sometimes, when I have a goal, I can be overwhelmed by the seeming enormity of what needs to be done to get there. What I am working now at remembering, is that I only need to take the next step. Sometimes the steps from beginning to end seem clearly laid out and defined, sometimes even the first step seems fuzzy and nebulous. Sometimes the goal itself isn't all that clear.

For me, what's important is not to stop in my own head, but to put myself out there in a concrete way in the direction of my dreams. I have a very rich inner life, in that I can spend a lot of time happily in my own head. The gift in this is that I can create a lot of cool things in theory, the possible curse is that I can get stuck there and never make them reality. And then wonder why my life isn't working in the way I want it to. Once again, the theme for me is balance. To strike that balance between spending enough time dreaming of how it could be and enough time taking action to make it so.

A few years ago Patrick and I had a shared dream of working from home, home schooling our children (we had none yet at the time), and having our lives be simple, creative and sustainable. There have been a lot of detours along the path toward this dream, so much so that I have doubted the feasibility of it, and even doubted my desire for it (and I venture to say Patrick has felt the same way, at least at times). But I'm back now, dreaming, feeling more strongly that this is right for us, although some of the details are still vague. That's okay though, some are falling into place. Patrick has just left a job to work as an independent contractor in the same field, and will be working primarily from home. One piece of the puzzle has just snapped into place. Others will follow...

The next step in this path is's time to create the home space needed to support this life. We have the home, and there's just too much stuff in it for us to function well given as much time that we all spend at home. We, and I especially, as the one holding down the home-front, have a ton of sorting, selling and giving away to do before I get to really settle in to the creating I want to be doing in this home. I have been resistant to this process but it's clearly now time to push through the resistance and do the next step. And still to squeeze in some time to do the fulfilling things that keep me energized.

What is your next (or first step?)

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Finding True North....part 2

Aurora Borealis, the colored lights seen in the skies around the North Pole, the Northern Lights, from Bear Lake, Alaska, Beautiful Christmas Scene, Winter Star Filled Skies, Scenic Nature
Photo courtesy of Beverly & Pack. Bear Lake, Alaska.

I firmly believe that we create our own reality. Recently, since I've become more aware of this and more adept at putting into practice, I'm finding more and more real life proof that this is true.

Something that occurred to me along theses lines, during my morning walk, was this: We have to own our wants, our needs, our deep desires, for them to come into being. For me this has been a process of distilling these wants into the simplest of lists, of weeding out the extraneous, distracting wants, and finding the sweet, true places where my soul resides. 

It's become clear to me that what holds me back most in terms of living the life I want is the lack of belief that what I want is truly possible. And so I have told myself that I didn't want that, or wasn't sure if it was right. 

I've stopped doing that, for the most part. I need to remind myself at times that what I want is possible, and I'm sometimes very afraid that it isn't. But mostly, there's the small, sure voice in me that says it is possible, and that the dreaming brings it all to life.

What holds you back from what feeds your soul?

Monday, September 20, 2010

Home Schooling: New York State Letter of Intent

Yes, we're officially back to home schooling. For those who are interested, or maybe considering home schooling and wonder what's involved, here's the beginning of the process in New York State once your child reaches age 6, when education becomes compulsory. 

Step One, File your Letter of Intent.

In New York, once you decide to home school your child, you have to file a Letter of Intent with your school district. This is usually directed to the school superintendent, but in districts which have a large enough home schooled population, you may have a "home school coordinator" assigned. In our case, it goes to the superintendent. 

The letter is simple, just a few lines identifying your child and stating your intention to school at home. Here is the format I used:

Dear (Superintendent),

RE: (child's full name)
Age: (child's age)
Date of birth: (child's DOB)
Grade level: (child's grade level)

We reside in the (your school) District. We are planning to instruct our (son or daughter), (child's name) at home for the 2010-2011 academic year.


 (parents names)

That's it! Very simple! Mail or email. 

This needs to be sent to your school district annually, either by July 1st for the coming school year, or as soon as you know you plan to home school, if the current school year has begun and your child is already in school.

The next step, which I believe you have a few weeks to complete, is to file your IHIP, or Independent Home Instruction Plan. Once you mail in your Letter of Intent, you should receive information about what is expected for the IHIP. My letter of intent goes out today, I'll let you know what I get back from our school system.

Friday, September 17, 2010

The next turn along the educational path????

I have blogged a few times about Helena's choice to attend public school, and more specifically my feelings about it. You can find those older posts here and here. At the crux of all of this for me was really letting it be her own choice, despite my own feelings.

She breezed through 3.5 weeks of kindergarten with a smile on her face and a skip in her step. She started the first week of 1st grade eagerly, and was excited enough about it to choose to attend school on her birthday that week, when she had previously insisted that she wanted to stay home. 

Then came the weekend, and Sunday evening, while we were snuggling in and getting ready for her to go to sleep, she mentioned she may not want to stick with school. 

This took me by surprise, but really, it shouldn't have. I questioned her on why. Her reasoning makes sense to me. In a nutshell, she's developed some close friendships with some home-schooled/unschooled friends, which really solidified over the summer. She really likes the things she does with them. And she'd rather spend her time having more time with them. 

Our agreement when she started kindergarten June 1st, was that she would finish the year, and then if she didn't like and didn't want to continue, that would be fine. She was so enthusiastic about returning to 1st grade that we didn't really revisit what it would look like to quit if she decided she wanted to. I think she knew it would be an option, it certainly always has been in my heart. 

The agreement we have come to now, is that if she's feeling like she doesn't want to continue, we'll give it a couple of weeks and if she still feels that way, then she can stop going. She seems content with this arrangement, and it feels reasonable to me. She has already said once since then that maybe she'd like to continue longer than 2 more weeks. We haven't said this to her, but we also decided, if at any point things seems bad for her there, then there would be no waiting period, we would just pull her out.

We started off the week with her still attending school without complaint, but as we've gotten later in the week, she's begun to protest going at all, so much so that we're having a "sick" day today and then weekend to think on it. Then, we may just be done.

This all comes at such an interesting time for this time when my values and life choices seems so much more solid and real and me , then they did even 3 months ago. I talked about about that here. One of those values is to choose from clarity, rather than reaction, and this is where we're at with this right now. Taking the time to consider the benefits and disadvantages of both situations, and really, of honoring the inherent value in each path, and then simply choose the one that feels right.

I have spent a lot of my life feeling like there had to be something wrong with a circumstance in order for me to choose not to be involved with it. I think it's a fairly common trait, to criticize that which we choose not to associate ourselves with. It's one that hasn't felt good to me for awhile though, this choice to make other people and situations wrong so I can feel right about my own choices. If I can move beyond that, and I think I'm moving in that direction, then I can approach life and people with a more truly open heart. 

There has been no specific incident that precipitated this discussion about leaving school, at least not one that I can determine. There are some things that I've heard about that I'm less than thrilled with in terms of classroom management, but in all honesty, these don't seem to be issues for Helena, just stories she's relating about her days there. Her desire to leave is more a sense of there's something else that's more appealing.  I'm grateful at this time in my life, to be able to provide her with this option to choose. 

What I can say now from an open hearted place is that I see the hard work that is going on at the school Helena attends, and the commitment on the part of the staff there to provide a quality experience for those who attend. And I'm grateful for it. And, it may not be our path, we'll decide soon. 

Monday, September 13, 2010

Finding True North....part 1

Northern Lights Easter 2006

Photo courtesy of PJ Hansen (Artic PJ). Norway: Ersfjordbotn, Troms  Fylke.

True north is the direction along the earth's surface towards the geographic North Pole.
True north usually differs from magnetic north (the direction of the magnetic north pole) and grid north (the direction northwards along the grid lines of a map projection).

This term has been bouncing around in my head for months now, in terms of my own "true north." 

I have listened to many voices in my lifetime, most not my own. I have done things that I thought I should do, based on who I thought I was. Some of it was resonant with me, the inner me, a lot of it dissonant, or just confused, as in, "is this really what I believe, or only what I have accepted?"

It has only been recently that have felt the glimmer of ME getting stronger, more sure. Many experiences and situations have contributed to this growth, this emergence of me. Nearly all I am grateful for. All have been gifts. 

I have read and been told to look back at who I was as a child, to find pieces of who I truly am. This makes tremendous sense to me, resonates with me, if you will. These are the truths that stand out right now, some from my childhood and some more recent realizations:

 1) I have always liked to make things, create things, and give them as gifts. I can remember one autumn being inspired to paint. I found a bunch of pieces of scrap 1' x 12" shelf ends from shelves my dad had made for us. I took them, spread newspaper all over the floor in my bedroom, and painted on them with my mom's acrylic paints. I mixed my own colors and did my own designs. I don't remember the subject matter well, mostly flowers and trees, I think, and that the colors were all pastels. I gave them as gifts to my parents, grandparents and all of my aunts and uncles. Something close to 20 pieces I created. I was about 8.

2) Living simply feels good to me, especially with regard to food. I like growing food, freezing and canning it, putting it by, if you will. In our current day, where convenience is often key, convenience foods leave me with a hollow feeling. 

My daughter's small friend Rose, has been a window into my past. Rose is passionate about all things "Little House on the Prairie," and so was I. Rose is 6 and loves to dress in old time clothing, is learning to cook, likes to wash dishes for her mom (at least for now). I came upon the Little House Books a little later than Rose, but not much. And I read them over and over again and yearned for simple times when handmade gifts were all there was, and putting food by for winter was critical. 

3) I take tremendous pleasure in making new things of those that are old and discarded or about to be. One of my favorite projects was rehabbing two wooden outdoor table sets. Sanding, gluing, replacing rotten boards, and eventually painting them. I wish I had photos. I did this in my San Diego days, and sold them when we moved east...made money on them too:-)

4) Family and quality of home life are key to me. My home is becoming more and more my sanctuary, and I want it to feel that way to my family, and to our guests. I love having friends and relatives grace our home, feeding them, relaxing with them. More of this in our home would be good.

5) The quality of the interactions in my life, the journey itself, are more important than the destination. It has taken me a long time to come to this truth...I have been very goal or destination oriented, oftentimes without really knowing where "there" was. The right here and now is key.

I think there's a part of me that has always known that I was this person...this person who loved home and family and simple things above all else. I just couldn't see how this could translate into making a living, in sharing in the financial support of our family. I'm still not sure how this will work, but I now believe it's possible. It will be interesting to see what's next.

Where's your true North? If this type of journey is something that speaks to you, post a comment, and a link if you like.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

A Late Summer's Feast

This summer has flown too quickly, been hotter than usual, and busier than I like it, truth be told. This week we all pretty much melted down from just too much and I set a serious intention to do the last week of summer (before school begins) the way I really wanted to whole summer to be. The experience of this week made me wonder if I could have captured more of this feeling all summer, had I put my mind to it, but c`est la vie.

To rest and revive, we stayed home as much as possible, celebrated our 13th wedding anniversary as a family threesome, played more, rested more, and today, I'm finally feeling more grounded and in my own skin, and I believe my other 2 family members feel the same.

Sunday evening, after a glorious afternoon working and playing in the yard in fall-ish weather, Helena and I cooked up the loveliest of meals.

I have this deck of soup cards:
Moosewood Restaurant Soups and Stews Deck: 50 Recipes for Simple and Satisfying Meals [CD-MOOSEWOOD RESTAURANT S -OS]

 The Moosewood Restaurant Soups and Stews Deck a gift from my dear friend and inspiring cook, Nicole. I have to admit, I haven't used it much yet, mostly because my menu planning has been pretty loose and these recipes have a lot of ingredients, some which aren't normal staples for us.

But Helena loves this little deck of cards, I mean, it's fun, who wouldn't! So Sunday morning, when I was asking for requests or suggestions for dinner, Helena pulled out the deck and selected the Grecian Isle Stew (I found it online at this link).

We made some substitutions...we didn't have eggplant. My mom's garden usually supplies us with plenty, but this year wasn't a good eggplant year, so instead we used an 18" zucchini, which I threw in with the potatoes. We also lacked kalamata olives (I used black), and capers, which I left out altogether. Still, it was really lovely, and Helena, who usually doesn't like many vegetables or anything with lots of items mixed in, loved this stew! I like that it used a lot of the fresh things we're still getting around here, but was warming and felt solid even though it was a vegetarian meal with a lot of protein.

She also created her own salad dressing, as follows:

Helena's Hickory Nut Vinaigrette

3 TBSP Olive Oil
2 TBSP Balsamic Vinegar
5 hickory nuts, ground 
Salt & Pepper to taste

The dressing is delicious, and featured the hickory nuts we gather from the yard of our previous home last fall. I've been staring at the for awhile, seeking inspiration, and she found it!

And the easier homemade bread ever. Link here or book here.

We had the best of times creating this meal, and I'm noticing how much more invested in eating and trying things Helena is when she helps create them. I'm utterly grateful for the peacefulness and connectedness of this last week. 

And now, onward to autumn.... school starts tomorrow!