Window Shopping For the Soul

People Art

I’ve always had a tough time resisting buying little, cool, one-of-a-kind things that are full of grace and character, and are usually handmade.  It is a cheaper shopping habit than most, but it still owns a bit more of the consumer attitude than I’d like to think I’m victim to.

It took selling or giving away 90% of our possessions, short-selling our house and beautiful yard, and packing up for a year of travel, but I have experienced the most pleasant shift in my shopping habits.

I still drool over amazing items, but I don’t have to resist them anymore.  Because I have no way to get them and no where to put them, they have lost their irresistible control over me.
Not only am I physically free of the burdens of ownership, I appear to be emotionally free, as well.  I am content.  At peace.

So now when I see amazing examples of artistic functionality, I think excitedly, “When we have a house, I want to have something like that for the kitchen/by the door/in the hall . . .”

And that simple decision fills me with all the satisfaction I used to get from purchasing the things.  Turns out it was never the things themselves that made me happy, but the decision to love that item, to make it (spiritually) mine and claim it for the aesthetic chambers of my heart.

So now I gain incredible delight from beautifully crafted things whether I leave them in the bargain basket of the antique shop, whether I find them in other people’s homes, or whether they sit in a shop window with a four-digit price tag.

In letting go of all the stuff, I have allowed myself to own the whole world, if I want it.  My arms are opened wide!

Peace

What It’s All About…

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We’re hitting the road again and this time we’ll be crossing the SouthWest with our quarter-dozen children ranging from 7 months to 7 years.  The trip is planned out: David has a tour booked all across our route and we know where we need to be each day to stay on track.  We’ll look for state and national parks to camp in, farms and wineries to stay at, and hope for plenty of boondocking opportunities.

I’m not half caught up reporting on our adventures from our trip earlier this year, and I hope to keep up better this time.  We learned a lot from our first trip and hope that we’ve managed to better organize time and possessions this go-round.

I hope my stories can shed some light on how it is possible to live unconventionally despite the peer pressure, and I hope you, too, are pursuing your dreams instead of your neighbor’s 🙂

Give Me Spots on My Apples, but Leave Me the Birds and the Bees…Please!

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I tend to let my children go out and adventure without hovering, and moreso with each child. A few weeks ago when her sister was chasing her over the sidewalk, Annabelle had a terrible spill and scraped up her lovely face: nose, lips, and chin all lost the top layer of skin and generated tiny beads of blood for a few days.

But it wasn’t because I wasn’t standing close by on the monkey bars, or standing preventatively below the opening in the jungle gym. It wasn’t because I let her climb fences, balance on curbs, or walk on walls. It was just simple running on the safe, flat ground.

So in a way, this accident reassured me that I wasn’t a neglectful mom. Because I can’t prevent injury and literal defacement. I can make sure she doesn’t fall off the swing by forbidding her from riding on swings, but I can’t prevent her from falling at all, so what’s the point?

It is my firm belief that it is more important for kids to have freedom than to be kept safe. It is from freedom that they will cultivate an ability to keep themselves safe, whereas the other method would leave them unprepared for the world, and worse, might convince them that they are delicate.

And isn’t that sort of the same lesson that led our family on the road in the first place? Weighing safety and reliability against freedom, freedom won. And what happens when you rely too heavily on the predictability of a weekly or monthly salary and then the sidewalk comes up and smacks you anyway, in the form of layoffs, or unexpected medical bills and you still have all those credit card bills and a home equity line? Mightn’t it be safer to plan on unpredictability? Mightn’t it be better to run on the sidewalk and get a hug with every inevitable tumble?

*This post was actually written a few months ago but I just found the picture to go with it :)*

Ada’s Birthday

Birthday girl with seven candles

Ada is seven years old and we had such an amazing time celebrating her birthday last night with family and this morning with friends!

This is what we love about being back and what we missed when we were away. It is what makes us continue to call Clearwater home even when we don’t mean to.

I Know Why the Gypsies Dance

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This morning I stepped out of Benny to sunshine sparkling on the line of energetic automobiles motoring along the highway and behind them, the less energetic treeline of a Northern Forest. We played outside on the grass at the Saturday parking lot of the Warren County Municipal Center where the police let us overnight.

When Cassidy fell asleep, I brought out my washing: a small blue bucket of water, my equally blue rapid washer (which is the general size and shape of a plunger), and a small satchet of dried soapnut berries. Laundry was pleasant with all the sunshine and the air was neither warm nor cool, and the girls collected acorns and dandelions and fashioned acorn cap bowls and plates from wide leaves for their fairy picnic.

I washed every wet diaper we had, and then the three shirts in our laundry bag, laying the articles on the sunny grass and hanging some on our side mirrors to blow gently and effortlessly dry.

And as I enjoyed my morning activity, I realized that we are gypsies. Without contrivance, we have assumed the role. And I feel like I understand something about gypsies now. We are nomadic because we want to be. We have few possessions for the freedom of it. We don’t want your jobs or your storage units. We don’t want a place to call home because we have a family to call home and everywhere we go we set out our things and make that spot our home.

I hope we don’t look like a bigger version of every city’s shopping cart ladies, because we’re not down on our luck or homeless. We are so lucky that the whole world is our home. We’re not in a laundromat because we prefer it this way, where the sunshine sparkles and recent rains have left mushrooms. I’m enjoying washing diapers in the parking lot of the New York State Supreme Court. Everywhere we go, our dashboard is lined with drying diapers because it works perfectly, and if we change our minds, we’ll quick get a job and a mortgage and a high efficiency dryer.

Some might not want us stopping on the side of their road, hanging clothes to dry in front of God and everybody. They might think we’re dirty, or uneducated but I’ve memorized my formulae, my As, and Bs and Cs, but what I learned came long ago and not from such as these…(Buffy St Marie) and the Western habit of daily showering is slightly ridiculous anyway.

So if you stumble upon our camp in a living or paved forest, and peek at us doing our washing to the beat of our tambourines, you can tiptoe past for fear of being cursed, or you can come say hello and we’ll become temporary friends as we have with others who stop to admire our vintage rig and regale us with their own tales of travels, frugality, self-sufficiency, music, camping and searching through this country.

Other Fulltime RV Dwellers

We’re not the first to think that a family of five can be happy living fulltime in an RV: http://www.lundy5.com/

This family is working on baby #6: Roadschooling Ryans

Family of six living their dream of changing the world: Passion to Action

Unschooling family of four: Clan of Parents

This family of four traveled in a vegetable powered motorhome showing the nation how to live lightly: Happy Janssens

Thanks to Mariza for reminding me to include the Ticknor Tribe, a family of 13(!) living on the road fulltime: Our Traveling Tribe

Or peruse a whole bunch of blogs by families on the road.

And here’s one with no kids, and not traveling, but a perfectly respectable architect living in an RV.  He uses it as a home and office in Santa Barbara, having chosen to live in an RV because “It’s not only beautiful, it’s also useful.”  He offers 12 real life reasons why living in 158 sq ft can be a very grand experience:

http://tinyhouseblog.com/travel-trailers/living-large-in-a-tiny-place/

Unschooling

“I guess my ideal educational system would be a society in which knowledge was widely free and widely and freely shared, and children were everywhere trusted, respected, safe, valued, and welcomed . . . I think practically anything we do to help is mostly going to be harmful except for very limited things – answering questions, showing people things if they ask you, being there as a kind of friendly, sympathetic companion if they have things to talk about, giving them comfort if they need that.” ~John Holt

My mother told me about a now-grown woman she met who was unschooled and seemed to have no knowledge of any subject but fashion magazines.  I told her that was very surprising and not like any unschooler I had heard of.  It was several minutes later in the conversation before I realized this woman wasn’t really unschooled–she was a product of the public school system and my mom was calling her unschooled as synonymous with “neglected education.”

But that’s the thing, I think the public school education is prone to neglect.  Those poor teachers have to lecture to 30 students at a time–of course some of them are neglected!  When you are unschooling, there is no neglect possible because you are not relying on a teacher to educate you.

Unschooling is the opposite.  Unschooling is, like the point of this blog, following passions.  And following passions is ALWAYS educational, regardless of age, time of day or year, or proximity to a schoolroom.  Following passions leads to deep understanding and CARING about a subject.  It leads to fascination with other subjects and an awareness of how different “subjects” fit together so snugly that sometimes the lines between are blurred and any attempt to partition them and teach them separately can be seen as ridiculous and futile.  When you are unschooling, you learn about the world, instead of subjects.

Why should a person choose to unschool?  Unschooling is a good choice if you are too busy with this fascinating world to take time out for education.

For example, maybe you need to sleep during school hours so you can stay up to watch the lunar eclipse.  As a parent, I have a role, but it is no more complicated than the kind of mindful parenting we all strive for whether our children go to school or not: attention, encouragement, sharing, and being willing to listen and learn from my children.

Read what some unschoolers have to say on the subject:

Why Unschool

Yes, I can Write!

And I really enjoyed this fun video addressing common homeschooling peeves (not specific to unschooling):

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J1z_zMtofvY&feature=related

As for the specific case of my six year old daughter, Ada, I pointed out to my mother that she already has interests and knowledge far surpassing the grown “unschooler” my mother described.  And my mother agreed.  It’s not because I or anyone else had a list of subjects that should be covered.   It’s because, living in this world as she does, she became interested in words, numbers, shapes, and sounds.  It’s because grandma told her that the direction North had shifted, and showed her pictures of Mount Rushmore.  It’s because we read books together that take place all over geography and history.  She doesn’t know that you are supposed to learn addition before subtraction, followed by multiplication, so she learned them all at once simply by understanding numbers (which happened because no one took her interest in numbers and made it a chore).  She doesn’t know that division is different from multiplication either.  And is it?  She was never taught her shapes or colors, but seems to have picked them up.  She was not introduced to classical music, yet her favorite song in the world is Dance of the Reed Flutes by Tchaikovsky.

My mother homeschooled me.  I know she is confident in homeschooling and biased against public schools.  I believe she is concerned about our unschooling because she knows I am busy cooking cleaning and keeping my kids safe, blogging and running a business.  She knows that my home is not one enrichment activity after another, that I am not spending the day sitting on the floor with my girls doing science experiments.  Yet somehow Ada knows about the life cycle of jellyfish and how fruit are produced.  Sure my goal is to spend more time with them, but in the meantime, Ada has not let my life interfere with her education in the least.  Which leads me to believe that life is one big enrichment activity whether I’m busy or not.  Either I’m doing something right, or it was never in my hands in the first place.

What About Family?

Our Family

This is the big question for us.  Family is what brought David and I to Clearwater years ago, which was a lucky thing because that’s where we met and fell in love.  Family is what has kept us in Florida for seven or so years, even though neither of us actually want to live here.  So don’t think we are giving up family lightly.

Both my parents and his live here, and we are very close to all four of them, as well as my sister who has been a most wonderful aunt and godmother.

Hugging her Aunt Cake

Better yet, they are all friends with each other and our birthday and holiday celebrations tend to be combined, and lots of fun.  Ada LOVES her grandparents.  She loves overnights at Grandma’s house and the days she spends with Grammy, too.

Gardening with Grandma

She loves being teased by her grandfathers and sitting on their laps.

Ada and Granddaddy

Annabelle has turned the corner too, from the clinging-to-mommy baby to a toddler who lights up when she sees her grandparents, coming forward with arms spread to be picked up.  I really want my children to have this relationship with their grandparents.  I feel impossibly lucky that my children have four grandparents who are so wonderful, who respect our wishes, and who were just the sort of parents to us that we want to be to our kids.

Baby on Shoulders

And then there’s the convenience.  On the road, we will NEVER have a babysitter.  Never an overnight at grandma’s house so David and I can go out alone.  So we are aware that we will feel the sting of that slightly-more-selfish sacrifice as well.

Annabelle with Grammy

The grandparents are not happy about our taking their kiddos away.  And the last thing we want to do is seem uncaring (because we love you guys so much) or ungrateful for all they’ve done and for being there all the time.  And yes, it gives me great pause to think that we will have a newborn that will not be growing up seeing these wonderful grandparents regularly.

Baby and Grandma

BUT . . . we cannot go on living an unfulfilled daily grind for the once or twice a week that we have a fullfilling family day.  We will not forgo the adventure of travel because our 9-5 lives have one highlight.  We are not weighing the value of grandparent time against the thrill of the Grand Canyon or Old Faithful, because both are valuable and should be experienced.  And that’s why . . .

We are seriously compromising our travel agenda with plans to get back to Clearwater Florida and it’s natural wonders (four amazing grandparents and one stellar aunt) every few months.  I hope our families will see this for the genuine appreciation it is.  Three months is hardly long enough to get halfway across the country the way we want to travel, but instead we’ll be planning to set out and get back in that span of time for Ada’s birthday celebration.  Clearwater Florida is the opposite of centrally located.  Getting anywhere and back is a waste of a lot of the nation, but worth it because we don’t intend to deprive our children from sleepovers and Grammy days, and we do want our new baby growing up knowing his or her grandparents.  And because, as wonderful as they are, it’s the least we can do.

And we hope the grandparents will see fit to come have some adventures with us.  Maybe my parents would take a vacation to Yellowstone with us and have an adventure with their grandchildren, one in which they spend every day together for a week, instead of one day out of the week.  Surely that would help to make up for our absences.  Maybe Grammy and Granddaddy’s business trip to Colorado could coincide with our travels, and we could even travel down to New Mexico together and they could be there when their grandchildren first discover desert.

Maybe such concentrated grandparent-grandchild time will be more rewarding than now when we try to fit each other into our work weeks.  And maybe David and I can go out on a date, too 😉

Grandparents
Grammy and Granddaddy with their son and their grandgirls.

The family – that dear octopus from whose tentacles we never quite escape, nor, in our inmost hearts, ever quite wish to.  ~Dodie Smith

Spent the Night in the RV

RV bed

For a family planning to spend every night in the RV, our first night counts as a pretty big deal.  We’re not moved in, but with Ada (6 years old) spending the night at my parents’ house, we thought it would be a pretty easy thing to camp out in Benny, just David, Annabelle, and I.

Annabelle was asleep in her carseat when we got home from errands after dark, so we left her there for the time being and I lay down on the bed reading while David went inside to collect our toothbrushes, contact lens cases, an extra blanket and pillow, and a couple of DVDs.

Annabelle woke up, and I brought her into the bed where she nursed back to sleep while David and I watched our first movie on the laptop.   I was starting to drift off towards the end, and when the laptop was shut for the night, I fell asleep to the sound of the rain on the roof, nestled snugly in the narrow bed with people I love.  It was really, really nice.

What if you just took a month long trip?

What if, instead of renting out our house and living in our MotorHome fulltime while traveling the United States, we just saved up money and went for a month long trip?

Honestly, I’m not sure how to answer this question.  What if we did?  Then we would probably have a very nice vacation, not get very far from home (driving only a few hours a day), and come back and resume living in our house and sending David to his 9-5.

Never mind the fact that we have no way to save up money for a month long trip because we use it to pay our mortgage and groceries.  But playing along with the “what if” I reply with the above scenario.

But are you asking whether we are interested in doing that?  Whether it will fill any of our needs or wants?  Whether it could replace the plan of living on the road?  Of course not.  Are you implying that it is a better plan than re-inventing our lives?  Better in what way?  What problem are we trying to solve here?

Because I don’t have any problem with the plan to live fulltime on the road.  It’s not that we’re getting evicted and have nowhere to live but our vehicle.  It’s not that all my friends are doing it and I’m under some sort of fulltime peer pressure.  And it’s not a mid-life crisis.

The fact is, that we have formed a plan that is our ideal scene, that fits with our goals and purposes, that inspires and excites us, and that solves the problems we have with our more conventional home, lifestyle, and schedule.

So don’t worry about it.  We’ve solved the problems, and there’s nothing left to solve.  We’re just revving up now for the grand adventure we can’t wait to embark upon.

Don’t worry.  It’s not a mistake, it’s an adventure, and I refuse not to make mistakes OR have adventures so don’t try to talk me out of it.

I know that the people who want to live fulltime in a motorhome with children are few and far between, so I can imagine that to most of you, this doesn’t sound ideal.  But it does to us.  It’s not a life that will be tough but we’re going to man up and live with it because of whatever-old-reason.  It’s what we dream of doing, and we’ve decided that dreams were made for doing.

Don’t worry.  And thank you for your concern and your love.  And if you have any more theoretical lifestyles to propose to us, perhaps an explanation of what you think would appeal to us about it?  So we have some idea how to answer, “What if?”