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.

Interview with Kathy from Live Small, Love Big

I have enjoyed reading David & Conner’s posts from An Unschooled Future for some time now, and am honored to have a place on his blog.

An Unschooled Future

I came across Kathy’s blog a while ago and found her experience in simplifying her life very interesting.  

In many ways we have also done this, in others we haven’t.  Irrespective, I find her views to always trigger new thoughts.  Besides, I loved A Simple Life when I was a kid (for those of you familiar with old British comedy) and in some ways Kathy’s push for a simple life reminds me of this.

And of course, a simplified life combined with homeschooling makes for a good read – I had to ask her more about it.

How many children do you have? What ages?  Are they all homeschooled?

We have twin boys that are five years old. Yes, we do homeschooling in the sense that they are not and have not ever been enrolled in a formal preschool or school.  My approach is as much a reflection of…

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Homeschooling is the New Playground for Entrepreneurship

Homeschooling Playground Entrepreneurship

“You are an anthropologist,” Penelope Trunk wrote to me in an email after I took the plunge five short months ago to begin this blog.

I am someone who looks for solutions in everything I do. I am fascinated by why people homeschool and how rethinking work is making it possible for more and more people to do just that.

I seek solutions in every project I am working on and the reason I do this is that I am an entrepreneur.  It is as much a part of who I am as the fact that I am 7/8ths Irish, as my mother likes to remind me of as often as possible. I am not sure if you are born an entrepreneur or not, but I am quite sure anyone can become one. It just requires a leap of faith.

Jeff Walker newest book Launch is a great example of someone leaping into entrepreneurship out of desperation. It is a great read, and more that that it will help you shift your thinking. Many of us are leaping into homeschooling for the very same reasons,  but we need a vehicle to change the way we work.

I read blogs and  forums, lots of them, about homeschooling and working. The one recurring theme is people looking for a way to help their children love learning. We all essentially want the same thing, just the vehicles are different. Some want homeschooling, others to unschool, others still want a private school for their child. We all want the best for our children. This one united goal makes us stronger if we are brave enough to tell each other the truth.

So here I am telling you the truth about working and homeschooling. You can do it, but not until you change your mindset.

You have to let yourself think like an entrepreneur. You already do deep down think like an entrepreneur if you are even considering homeschooling.

en·tre·pre·neur

ˌäntrəprəˈno͝or,-ˈnər/

noun

  1. a person who organizes and operates a business or businesses, taking on greater than normal financial risks in order to do so.

I think the same can be said for homeschoolers, unschoolers and educational disruptors. We all know that it is easier to work, and put your children in something that is free, but it is not better so we cannot. We might go along for awhile, but the nagging feeling that there is a better way always wins. It shows up in stress with our loved ones,  and postings on messages boards asking for advice on how to teach our kids from 6-9 pm at night after work.

I remember the first time I read a comment online from a mom seeking help a couple of years ago. She wanted to know how to continue working her full-time teaching job (ironic isn’t it), but she wanted to homeschool her kids. I was a reader of Penelope Trunk’s career advice blog, and so I thought I would send the question to Penelope and see what she thought was the answer.

Here is why her advice is so valuable. She tells the truth. She is not afraid of it, and I think when someone posts a question like that online they really need someone to tell them the truth.

Here is Penelope’s answer, “She CAN”T!”

She is right, you cannot teach in a broken system all day and come home and be the kind of teacher or guide your kids need. What she can do is rethink work. She can start thinking like a free agent with an enormous amount of skills, and redefine her work.

Yes it will be scary. Yes, she will have to leave her “teaching job”. Yes, she is putting her kids future above her fear of thinking bigger.

There, I said it.

If you find yourself wanting to homeschool and work, you can do this. I found myself giving into this fear, but I am pushing through it. Why? Because we have to. As I get busier with my work, I have to remind myself, “I am an entrepreneur. I am in charge.” If I want to teach my kids this, I have to model it first.

If I can do it so can you.

Put it in a sign somewhere in your house. You are a warrior in the world. You define your life and your work,. If only you will take the first step and commit. You will find the solution, but first you must commit to think like an entrepreneur and the rest as they say is details.

What I Am Doing On My Summer Vacation

Martha Beck Joy Diet

  Taking a Deep Breath

Often after people read our story, they automatically ask for organizing tips, but guess what? I don’t have any. This is the problem with being a creative thinker and using a traditional tools to solve a problem. They just don’t work long term. I am betting that you may be the same way, or you would not be reading my blog.

The next couple of weeks for me is focused on working as the kids explore the wonderful world of vacationing with Grandparents. It is great bonding time for them and great focus time for me and the Mad Scientist.

My goals for this time includes working, but it also includes some me time. I have a few books to read, and the first I began is “The Joy Diet”, by Martha Beck. Martha is as unconventional as I am, but a little braver in the way she talks about it and I love it. The Joy Diet is not a food diet, so for those of you thinking I will give you recipe tips move on. I am lucky enough to have a husband who loves to cook, and since we have time over the next week I am enjoying his cooking instead of mine.

The premise  of the Joy Diet is that if you are struggling through anything, the first step is to stop and do nothing. What? Yes, nothing. I am not good at doing nothing, but this week I will practice nothingness.

My mother will be 83 in September, and we can all hope to live as well as she does. I gave her the nickname “the energizer bunny” if that gives you any idea how active she is and has always been. I remember as a kid that by the time you had gotten out of bed, walked to the bathroom, and came back, your bed was made. I had an Aunt that moves so fast that you better eat your dinner quick, or the next lap around the table your plate was gone. What do both of these women have in common? Well my mom had six kids, and my Aunt had seven (six of which were boys). They move and live their life at a pace that would make an Olympic athlete blush.

I inherited this need to keep moving and while I am grateful for my ambitious side, my quiet relaxed side needs some work. I get my best ideas when out for a run, or just as I relax onto the yoga mat. My mother and father both still do their daily walk or run, so they know about this quiet time need as well.

It comes as no surprise that our brains need time for all the mental clutter that is suspended in air to fall, leaving that one shiny object time to break through. Having children creates an even more pressing need to leave time to practice the joy of nothingness. As we juggle careers, families, and the new world of custom education, we need time for quiet.

Time to allow things to bubble up or fall away is just as important as anything on your calendar. As our first couple of days, sans kids, gets underway, we decided to take in a local favorite place to see the sunset. Here I go practicing the Joy Diet.

How are you enjoying your summer so far? Taking anytime to breathe?

Live Like a Summer Vacation

Live Your Life Like Summer Vacation

 

“What you shared with me, just about how you had so much more free time and felt as if you were on vacation….Just thinking on that led me on a huge decluttering spree this week and I do feel much more free to sit and read a story or play cards with the kids on the porch without that pile of stuff calling my name.  “

~ Traci

I always feel so grateful that sharing our story over a cup of coffee can help another family. Traci is such a wonderful woman, and is the owner of Treehouse Learning Community. She sent me this message in an email, and asked that I share more about how we have been decluttering.

I will be honest with you, this was not easy at first because simplifying is 80% mental. It took me a long time to realize that. Once I did, I realized we could not only overcome the cluttered life, but celebrate the simple life.

This quote goes right to the heart of our new life design. It is posted near my desk, so I can remember what we are striving for in this new life.

“Instead of wondering when your next vacation is, maybe you should set up a life you don’t need to escape from.” ― Seth Godin

Vacation Meal Planning At Home

I used this strategy recently with meal planning. I had started to resent dinner time. I just had this idea it was one more thing to do. I fell into the trap of researching recipes and healthy eating, but I would spend so much more time and money doing it, only to feel more stressed.

Rethinking Weekly Meal Planning

I did my weekly grocery shopping, sans list. I had just one idea as I headed out the door, “shop like you are on vacation and you rented a house for a week.” I even told my husband my plan. He is used to my “mini presentations” and is a really good sport. We end up laughing a lot as I have a “new plan” to present!

I found myself breezing through the store, choosing healthy options and easy curated meals. Favorites for everyone that celebrate summer and the fun day we had. One meal was ingredients for pizza night and the boys are in charge. Yes, five year olds can make dinner. They have to ask for help with the oven for safety, but know how to decide what temperature it should be and how long to cook it.

My bill was 30% less than a normal week, and so much more fun. I built in a night to eat out and enjoy each other, and found my experiment so fun that I plan to keep it going! My husband likes to grill, so a couple nights are his, a couple for me, and one for the boys, and one out. That seems pretty simple don’t you think?

Redesign Your Life Like a Summer Vacation

Think back to your favorite childhood or your favorite family vacation. Where were you? Who was with you? Where did you stay?

Some of my warmest memories as a kid are from summers visiting relatives. We rented a house in Cape May, NJ. I can walk through it in my mind. There were so many people, remember big Irish family here, so we ate in shifts. I remember the story of my Dad and Uncles getting in trouble with the”Aunts”, because they decided to put all the fish they caught in the bathtub. Seriously!

I remember the porch. I remember riding my bike to the beach and around town. As I write this, I can see the waves crashing and feel the cool breeze. I can see my Aunts all sitting together laughing at the story of the day.

We traveled there with our children for a family wedding a couple of summers ago.I felt like a different person. I got up and ran to see the sunrise and walked back to pick up coffee and breakfast for all my sleepy beach bums. I smiled, laughed, and soaked it all up.

A good friend of mine told me their family plan last year. Her husband was beginning a fellowship at a hospital soon, but after it was over they would be living at a beach. She knew clearly where they were headed and how she saw her life raising her family. Your plan does not need to have a beach it, but do you have a plan?

Can you duplicate this type of feeling on a daily basis? Even with the crazy world calling your name?

Our ingredients were family, bike, beach, morning run, and laughter. Seems doable to meI Some of my cousins moved to the beach with their families a few years ago. They commute back into Manhattan when necessary, but had a family plan in mind. The memories of childhood summers drew them back.

My husband and I were talking about our next move and what we ultimately want our life to look like. We had the same theme, slower pace, water, fishing, family, love, laughter, and together. The new world of working anywhere is essential. What else could you wish for?

I had never heard of a family plan, but read about the idea and realized something. I had these ideas, but we had not shared it with each other. We had done this “dreaming and scheming” before we were married, but had gone with the flow since then. Once we began to declutter our life, we made room for these types of intentional conversations.

I for one, and am excited about our beginning of a family plan. Ready to start yours? It could be as simple as dancing your way through the grocery store for your “vacation meal planning”, or as big as you want it to be. It is your life, and that is the most wonderful part of all.

 

Unboxing Your Life

SunflowerKathyDonchak

 

The way to gain a good reputation is to endeavor to be what you desire to appear.” ~Socrates

The idea of Unboxing Your Life, came up as I was feeling stressed about how to do more while maintaining the idea that they boys would still be homeschooled this year. Now, they are five, so homeschooling is a bit formal for our needs. We are working on reading and playing and that is our focus. We do lots of swimming, gardening, cooking, arts and crafts, and adventures.

What I realized quickly is that if I did not do a quick unboxing of all these new things, my little house of cards is likely to come crashing down around me and fast.

We all have boxes of things we do in our lives, a mommy box, a husband, a runner, an entrepreneur box, a work box, a wife box – okay, so I think you get the picture.

I am not an inside the box kind of gal, so I tend to live without a box, but this can get me into trouble. The way to make all of this craziness work is to unbox it all, and make it more of a curated collection of roles you feel compelled to fill because you find a need or three it fills for you. The importance of tying our needs to our roles in life, is the attached meaning. If it is meaningful, we make time for it.

Unschooling is clearly what we do at home with the kids, and in the fall they will attend a part-time Kindergarten homeschool program. My role is not as a homeschool mom, rather the director of their education. The way this gives me more energy to make sure it is a priority is to take it out of the to-do box, and place it in the box of love, connection, growth, and contribution. I fulfill all of these needs by putting their education and their personal development above every more convenient solution and to having to juggle our schedules.

Photography is another box. I love photography, but what if I saw it only as a way to make money? Would I tire of it?  Would it still be a  good reflection of how I see the world?  I shoot all the photographs for this blog, as it allows me to connect you to my world and hopefully to inspire you in some way.

You can have any need met in a box, but they key is to filling the box evenly. Photography fills needs such as love and connection to nature or the people I photograph, but if I was using it as a career I might want to have it fulfill a need of significance too. It is all about balanced needs. An evenly filled box.

Now, as life has had some busier moments lately, I realized that I needed to be reminded of these needs. If I simply have this written down and quickly read through it each morning, I am much less likely let the stress of juggling schedules wash me away.

So, how can you go about unboxing your life? Let’s start with what are the boxes? Are you a husband, wife, daughter, athlete? Write down all the things you do, and put a quickly label on it.

Now, how do you feel when you do those things? When I am reading to the boys, I have many positive emotions of love and connection with them. When you are running for instance, how do you feel? Some people feel connected to the universe, nature, or they feel significant. It fills a need, your needs.

The key of unboxing is to decide if the role needs to be fulfilled at all. Do you start that business so you can homeschool your kids? If you do that will create another box, but what needs are you meeting by running that business? Understanding your six human needs and finding a way to fulfill them will enrich your life. It will also create a simpler less stressful way

I clearly have some unboxing to do, but I am so grateful to be able to have the freedom to decide just what this life looks like to us. What about you? Need to take some time to unbox a few things?

How Big Is Your Dream?

Tumbleweed Tiny House Company

 

“Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits one-self, then providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way. Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it. Begin it now.” William Hutchinson Murray

My dreams have gotten bigger as we have downsized, but I dream of small things.

This journey of downsizing has brought so many wonderful things to our lives. As I continue to learn how to live small, I realize how much bigger our life has become. Every decision is made with a thought of how it will affect our lives and the balance we now feel together.

I realize in my own work, I am with each passing day, clarifying more and more how I help others honor their own journey in their work. In such a short time, our expenses have reduced by half and our income has more than doubled. Our dreams have gotten bigger, and our lives richer. We have made no purchases, just richer days of being. Now, don’t get me wrong we still have our crazy times and things are very often a beautiful mess, but it is a different way to be.

I learned something valuable today, from a new friend and mentor. It is not in the delivery, rather in the small well crafted steps. As you read these pages, are you longing for something or thinking maybe you too should consider simplifying?

I spoke to two people yesterday, that I had never met, yet they both were looking for the same answer. Both were creators, one an author and the other an app developer. I met both, by simple proximity. They were in my path that day.

As I spoke to both, there was a theme. They were not sure what questions to ask me, but somehow knew I could help them. So we just started talking. I do this a lot, so it is really good for me to work from home, otherwise I would never get anything done! Our conversations led to the same place. They both wanted to share their creation with the world, but did not know how. They both needed a simple well crafted message to share how they can be of service.

As I learned from my new mentor and the one who started this journey, it is not in the tools grasshopper. (No, they did not say this, I just could not resist!) It is in the message and the steps. It is moving someone who needs to experience your creation towards you because it might help them with their journey. It is not about manipulation, it is about service.

This is what I think all creators need to keep in mind. You started with a passion to help someone, solve something, do something. Now, it is your responsibility to help others find you. It is a calling. You need to carefully craft your message, so that those who need you will find you.

It is the same in crafting a life. You need to carefully craft the things that make up your life, so that you can honor and nurture those things that allow you to create.

This day began in an unexpected way. I enrolled the boys in a private kindergarten program today. It is a much reduced schedule and the most nurturing of environments. I did this with much reflection and peace. I had thought homeschooling was the answer for Kindergarten, but I see for right now they need a little more and we are exploring what more means for them.

I decided we were all ready when I was reviewing one of my categories I am working on. It is “The Creator of the Good Life”, and one of those pieces was titled “Mama Bird”. As I have read that over a few times since I wrote it, I wondered if that was true? Was I letting them spread their wings a little and letting them fly, while protecting that journey? I needed to let them do this and they needed me to let them. Whoa!

Downsizing does this to you. You have time to see everything, and hear yourself think.

The categories are a project I started with my new life planning system, and as I get the hang of it more and more I work on another area I need to improve.

This brings me to my next project for the “Creator of the Good Life.”

It is to plan a small home of our own, where it will be is to be determined, but this little yellow house is speaking to me.  Who knows, but imagery is important in crafting a life and so it will stay.

I told my husband that I want a small house with lots of love and space outside to breathe. What color will your happy house be? How big are your dreams?