Thursday, December 22, 2011

If You Build It, They Will Come

Dear Friends,

Fabulous news! We have made one of my dreams a reality: I now have a beautiful, new studio for teaching private acting and singing lessons!

When we chose to buy this home last year in Dexter, Michigan, one of the big draws was the giant space in the back of the two-car garage. At the time, it was a woodworking shop, with a concrete floor, dark wood paneling, shop lights, and lots of sawdust.

Flash forward nearly one year later (we moved here February 2011): The paneling is gone, the drop ceiling is gone, the sawdust is certainly long gone. My husband, Ben, along with my stepfather and our good friend Dan, have transformed the woodworking shop into a lovely, cheerful, creative space. We are attracting students for singing, playing and realizing dreams.

My purpose for existence is to inspire others to do and be their best. The studio is perfect for helping others reach their own performance goals and exploring their passions.

Please visit my website, designed by Ben! Tell all your friends!

Another piece of this lovely mosaic forming our family's lives is that Ben left his 9 to 5 corporate job several weeks ago. He, too, is exploring his passions and reawakening his creative talents. These include web-based entrepreneurial pursuits, drawing, SCUBA diving and photography. If you would like to know about camera choices, you can visit his new website, too!

I already have several new students coming to my studio, and we are getting a taste of a new rhythm in our family. Ben is home, spending more time with Logan and Paige. I am feeling more rounded and fully alive still getting to be Mommy a lot, while helping to develop others' talents and careers, literally in my own backyard. Logan and Paige are completely at peace. Ben and I are thrilled to explore these virtually uncharted territories of breaking old agreements and actively choosing to no longer participate in the Rat Race. We are delving into the wilderness of our hearts and passions, and discovering how to make a living while living freely.

Join us in freedom! Share your stories of stepping outside of mainstream, living on the edge instead of in the box or even outside of it! Tell about your self-actualization journey and that of your family.

We could not have made these brave lifestyle changes if it hadn't been for your literal en-couragement. So, thank you, friends, for your love and enthusiasm. Know that we are radiating it back to you tenfold and with wishes to explore your own wild, uncharted terrain!

Carrie and clan

Thursday, October 20, 2011

T.G.I.F.* (*Freedom Day)

Dear Friends,

I wish I could record and share with you Paige's "gargly-crabby voice."

Phonetically, I guess it would look something like this: "Grrrr-owwlll, grrrr-aaaaghhh, woooooo, ssssttttpp, grrrr-AAAHHHHH!"

I couldn't have said it better myself.

I've been gone the past five evenings, what with Encore business, directing class, rehearsals for It's A Wonderful Life, Reiki training, and an unschooling advocacy teleseminar. All good stuff, and yes, I've been gone a lot, so Paige is missing me.

She is expressing her disappointment, sadness, and longing in the best way she can: with growls, grunts, howls, and yelps. And her whole body is involved in self-expression. If she were in an acting class, the teacher would declare her "Brilliant!"

And, of course, she is. Paige in her fourth year is the purest, blessedly least domesticated of our family, and she is perfection in spirit. I learn from her every day ways to return to my truest, undomesticated, authentic self.

So, if you ask me how I feel on the eve of Ben's final day in the 9 to 5 corporate world (dubbed Freedom Day by us), my response is: "Grrrr--owwwlll, arrrrgggghhhhh, bbbblllaaaggg, ssssfffftttzzz, mmmmm-rrrrr-AAAAAAHHHHHH! GAH-GAH-Grrrrr-AHHHHHHHHH!"

I miss him so much. I yearn for him. I am grieving, howling, angry, desperate, unbridled longing, furious, sad, and AAAAGGGHHHH!

See, mere words cannot quite express how I feel.

You might expect it would be all cheerful here, you know, daisies and roses, butterflies and skipping and dancing and spinning and celebrating, but we're dealing with some grief here, too. Grieving the lost time of the past seven years apart, punctuated by evenings and weekends together, but not fully free, in the here-and-now, sharing every aspect of life. I've covered this before, so I won't get all gooey about it now. I can chalk it all up to sunk cost, and move forward.

My point is, I can feel myself letting down my guard. I am finally allowing all of the feelings I've been keeping at bay: fatigue, rust-out (see my recent post Connecting the Dots), impatience, sadness, anger. I am releasing the sheer energy it takes to hold it all together and muster through another day that is not free until we are all free.

So here it is, our family's Freedom Day. What will I do first with this new-found freedom? Draw? Bake? Organize? Catch up on phone calls? Catch up on sleep?? Maybe I'll just affix myself to Ben's shoulder koala bear-style and hang out there for a few weeks. To connect with and absorb his essence. Mmmmmmmm....

The release of energy heretofore used for surviving shall now be used for thriving. I proclaim it.

Our concrete plans include completing the studio (paint, carpet, arranging, organizing), so I can start teaching lessons again; recreating the family bed; sorting through and allowing our hearts to direct Ben's web-based business prospects; budgeting (good-bye pizza, hello home-prepared dehydrated nuts and veggies); and yes, celebrating!

There might be some growling and howling, some working through and expressing and releasing and grieving and accepting what is, what has been and what will be....and at the end of it all, we will have just this moment, in the present to rejoice and be glad and live and love.

Together. Isn't that the point?


Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Connecting the Dots

Dear Friends,

One of my more adaptive responses to stress is to clean.

Let's just say my house is nearly spotless right now. I'm considering re-organizing the closets. I can't wait to break down the last of our moving boxes. I am mentally combing through all of the toddler toys considering what to sell or donate or at least rejoin all of their parts that have gone astray.

All of this points to the fact we have some major life changes afoot.

I'll start with a brief summary: Two days ago, Ben asked for some flexibility in his 9 to 5 schedule. His boss's response? She ended his contract. Aaaaaand, scene!

Deep breath. We saw this coming. We have actually yearned for this. It may appear to be sudden and mysterious, but this has actually been in the making for some time.

Last year (September 2010), we attended the Rethinking Everything (RE) Conference for the first time. We connected with numerous brave, joyful, loving families who inspired us to reevaluate every aspect of our lives. We came home and began taking major steps to free our time, our finances, and our lives.

We moved to a smaller home, in a more affordable community. I jumped back into theater with both feet. Ben launched websites and learned a ton about creating value online and marketing it. We sold and donated non-essential belongings. We settled into our new home, however, Ben was now commuting even farther than before, still trading his time for money 50 plus hours each week. Life was better, but still not ideal. Logan, Paige and I experienced a degree of freedom, yet we understood none of us was free until all of us were free.

Fast forward to September 2011: We attended RE for the second time. This time I more easily selected the sessions I wanted to experience, visualized what I wanted to gain from the conference, and identified specific people I wanted to connect with. I was less overwhelmed by the setting and sheer numbers of people, and was able to settle in more smoothly with Logan and Paige as we adapted to the major shift from low-key daily life to intense, energy-charged, maximally-connected conference immersion.

I knew I wanted to know more about Law of Attraction and its intersection with unschooling and parenting. I knew I wanted to see Chris and Sarah Parent, and to meet Dayna and Joe Martin in person. I wanted to hug Barb Lundgren and experience Quinn Eaker. And I wanted to connect with John Strelecky, as his books and ideas have been a huge change-agent for us.

I also wanted to open every possibility for Logan and Paige to play and create and experiment and discover. Kid Village, art projects, take-apart electronics, scavenger hunts, the pool, bouncy Twister, games -- all of it was like Kid Heaven, and we eagerly highlighted these sessions on Ben's rockin' smartphone application.

Perhaps more than anything, I wanted Ben to have the opportunity to connect with other dads who are further along the path of self design, living out their dreams, and are joyously free.

I wanted answers, a map, a quenching of our thirst for freedom. I wanted connection and inspiration and hope.

All of this happened. I got everything I wanted, and more. One session I attended was entitled, "I Always Get Everything I Want." And that is exactly what occurred. Abundance.

I communed with the people I wished to be with. I attended my favorite sessions. The kids had a blast. And Ben made awesome connections personally and professionally (one of the hallmarks of SelfDesign -- there is no compartmentalization of our lives -- we live who we are, and create value for each other; earning a living is living in and of itself).

Attending RE, experiencing healing, gaining insights, connecting deeply, and drawing inspiration from others who are further down this road of liberation has made all the difference for us making intentional choices to be free. We couldn't do it alone, nor would we want to! We are designed to need each other, and live interdependently. Isolation is becoming a thing of the past, and I am feeling physically, emotionally and spiritually supported by an invisible network of loving friends and family.

Yet, the support isn't actually invisible: it is clearly visible in the faces and voices and writings of all of our friends.

Thank you for your invaluable encouragement, unconditional love, and courageous trailblazing!

So, here we are, no longer on the precipice of freedom, but actually having declared it. We are free!

How does it feel? Exhilarating. Scary. Hopeful. As in now with hope. Mostly, I am experiencing a deep peacefulness. I know this is what we have all longed for, and it feels right. Aligned. We are vibrating with love, peace, knowing, confidence, stillness, the presence of God at our cores. And it is good.

When I married Ben, I wanted to spend my life with him. Not just a few hours crammed in at the end of every day. Not part-time, casual. I wanted to hold him, carry him, be carried, walk, run, play hand-in-hand, live, love, laugh, experience all of Life together. I feel the same way with our children. I don't want part-time love and occasionally shared existence. When we are together, I feel whole. Every fiber of my being did not want Ben to get into the Subaru and drive an hour away from us every morning. So, he's not going to do that anymore.

What's in store? Our minds are racing, our bodies are charged, our energy is high. We can't seem to talk fast enough and can barely capture our rapid flow of ideas. Flood gates are opening, and it is amazing. It makes me realize how many ideas, connections, brainstorms, and energy we held at bay, ninety percent of the time, just trying to get through another day apart. Too much work for Ben, not enough family time. Too much single-handed parenting for me, not enough Ben and vocation time.

And now it's all becoming aligned. Our arms grew tired propping up the dull, grey cubicle walls. We no longer agree to participate in what inspirational author Don Miguel Ruiz calls The Dream of the Planet. (In a nutshell, we lose touch with our true selves in the process of becoming domesticated. We create an image of how we think we should be, in order to be accepted by others. And we judge and berate ourselves when we fall short of perfection. The secret: its all smoke and fog, a socially constructed mirage. And Ben and I are actively choosing to stop supporting this lie. We choose instead to restore our true selves who already know how to dream big, play hard, and dance as if no one's looking....More on Ruiz's The Four Agreements another time....)

So, we've taken the leap of faith, and sure, it is stressful. But that is merely a surface emotion, occuring at times when I allow my mind to participate in what John Strelecky calls "The Mad How Disease." How am I going to make a living? How am I going to get students? How are we going to choose avenues for Ben's web-based work? Instead of asking "how," we want to ask "who" and learn from those people. Trailblazers. Map makers. Dreamers. Entrepreneurs.

We have already begun to attract a huge inflow of whos and exciting possibilities. There are more options for income streams than we could possibly follow. So now we are in the delicious position of choosing what feels fun and great and energizing. We are pursuing our passions, and it is thrilling.

Join us!

I wonder how many people in unsatisfying jobs worldwide walked into work the morning after learning of brilliant Steve Jobs' untimely death (so young, so young, we chanted) and said, "I want to make a change. I am no longer willing to settle. Slavery is not noble. I am out of here, and onto bigger and better things. I want to create and follow my passions and make a difference in the world."

Rustout is the slow death that follows when we stop making the choices that keep life alive. It’s the feeling of numbness that comes from always taking the safe way, never accepting new challenges, continually surrendering to the day-to-day routine. Rustout means we are no longer growing, but at best, are simply maintaining. It implies that we have traded the sensation of life for the security of a paycheck…Rustout is the opposite of burnout. Burnout is overdoing. Rustout is underbeing.
Richard Leider

I am so done with underbeing. I am here to LIVE! And I'll take it all: the joy, the anticipation, the uncertainty, and yes, even the stress. It feels good to feel. At least now I know I'm alive, and I am ready, willing and able. Let's go for it!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Befriending Your Fears, Part I

Dear Friends,

I am beginning to befriend my fears.

I no longer fear my fears. I do not allow them power over me. This post is the beginning of sharing with you my process of overcoming my (diminishing) fear of germs and illness. My fear was borne of trauma when Paige was four weeks old.

I want to share with you a response I wrote to a local unschooling friend online, when she asked other families for advice about preventing illnesses:

Hello! I'm sorry you aren't feeling well! I know what a drag that is! 
For us, Cold Calm has been a miraculous help for symptom relief and for eliminating the cold in 1-2 days. It's homeopathic, and available at CVS. I became a lot more confident and relaxed about trying to prevent colds, once I knew I had this surefire antidote, if necessary! 
As for prevention, for me it was an intentional shift in my focus. When Paige was a baby, she caught a cold, which turned into pneumonia, which freaked me out because I was afraid she would die. This incident sparked a fear of germs for me. 
During the next two winters, I was determined to prevent any viruses or other illnesses from reaching our family. We washed hands, used Purell, disinfected shopping carts (and I mean thoroughly), minimized going out, avoided having people over, and required them to wash hands upon arrival if they came. I started a regimen of Vitamin C, echinacea, multi-vitamins, the whole nine yards, because I was intent on not getting sick. 
And do you care to guess what happened? 
At least one of us, if not all of us, were sick EVERY SINGLE DAY FOR OVER 100 DAYS. Both winters. It was craaaaazy! 
This past winter, I decided to change my focus. First, I realized no one died from the colds and flues in my family. Second, I experienced we could bounce back, and I always managed to scrape up enough energy to get through mine and my family's illnesses. Just barely, but I did it. And finally, I was just plain too tired and didn't have the energy to fight the flues anymore. I was done. And I let it go. 
The result? 
My recollection is we were not sick once. Not at all. If we were even once, I don't recall, and it wasn't notable. 
Once I stopped putting energy and attention on illness and attempting to prevent it, it simply was no longer a part of our lives. 
This month, the kids caught a cold on our trip to Texas. I did not freak out or overreact. My husband and I caught it, too, took Cold Calm, and it was over. No big deal.
This is a huge shift for me. Maybe I unconsciously attracted those previous viruses into our lives, just so I could be flooded with it, and know that we could survive no matter what. They lost their power over me. And I came through it feeling empowered and peaceful. 
Louise Hay has written a great deal about body ailments and using our intentions and affirmations to rid our bodies of dis-ease, and become our healthiest selves. (Her books are on amazon.)
Best wishes for a healthful, peaceful season:)
Whew! Join me in befriending our fears, rather than fearing them and giving them power over our selves and our lives. Going with the flow feels sooooo much better. Letting go of what we have no control over in the first place. Let's be each other's support for freeing our energy for creative pursuits, living and loving in the present moment, and inviting our fears to at least ride in the passenger seat. We may discover they end up in the back seat, and eventually at the side of the road. I hate to litter, but on the other hand, I think we will find the wind will blow them away, and we will actually see the fears for what they are: a mirage.


Sunday, October 2, 2011

Parenting Outside the Box

Dear Friends,

In my most recent blog post, I shared that I have been writing as a community blogger for the Dexter Patch, our local online newspaper. I was recently moved to respond to an opinion article in the Patch, in which another mom asked parents to weigh in on when they start assigning chores to their young children. Her article was entitled "Earning Your Keep."

In an attempt to bridge our apparent differences in parenting philosophies, I reached out across the divide and extended my own thoughts on the subject of not only chores, but how our family communicates and models responsibility for our selves.

When I am in my best space (parenting or otherwise), I am tuned into my intuition and flow in the direction of what resonates with joy in my heart. When I feel connected with my family members, I trust my inner voice and remain aligned with peaceful, loving, respectful co-existence. I put myself in their shoes, and ask myself, "If someone were asking me to help with chores around the house, how would I like to be asked?" 
If someone said to me, "You can't eat (or play or read or be with my friends) until I clean the sink or take out the trash, etc.," I would feel bummed and resentful. On the other hand, if someone invited me to do chores together, and it was a fun, joyful, shared activity, I expect I would feel honored, respected, and helpful. 
My husband and I intentionally put energy into the idea of "being the change you want to see." For us, this means on one level modeling the behaviors (i.e., doing chores, speaking respectfully, eating healthy foods, etc.) that we would hope to see in our children. To be honest that still feels manipulative, in the idea that if I do "x" my child will do "z." It is still based on attempting to shape another's behavior. 
On a deeper level, we actually strive to model self-responsibility. That translates into: when we see something that needs to be cleaned, we clean it. When we interact with others, we are respectful. We eat fruit and vegetables because they nourish our bodies. Our children naturally mimic what they observe. We all do. Kindness begets kindness. Responsibility begets responsibility. 
Our children's response to our actions is merely a by-product. Ultimately the only person any of us truly has control over is ourselves. And teaching our children to take responsibility and modeling kindness and living respectfully and healthily begins with us. Not to be an example, but to simply realize the depth and expanse and beauty of our own potential. 
In peace,

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Savoring the Bliss

Dear Friends,

When last we met via my blog posts, I was reaching out asking for help achieving my Big Five for Life!

Since then, we have indeed gratefully downsized, and moved to the smaller, more intimate Village of Dexter. It is a charming community, and we are so pleased to be here for several reasons. One is the proximity to my work at The Encore Musical Theatre Company downtown. Another is the cozy house in which we are all physically closer to each other, and very pleased to be so. And, most importantly, we have freed a great deal of our monthly financial burden, taking the pressure off of Ben and his golden handcuffs. Corporate Nine-to-Five-Land is nearly an image in our rearview mirror. Soon, we hope. With the aid of our entrepreneurial ventures, and the encouraging support of you inspiring friends.

I have not written here for the past several months, as I have been instead writing for my local online newspaper, the Dexter Patch, as a Community Blogger! We are putting out the vibe to draw more unschoolers--like-minded, peaceful, respectful, joyful families--to Dexter, Michigan. I predict becoming a community voice will have a favorable effect on establishing the Dexter-Ann Arbor area as a progressive, fun, free environment for raising children and living tribally.

We recently attended the International Rethinking Everything Conference in Dallas, Texas, and were once again moved to further reach our goal of living out ideals of freedom and responsibility.

Here is my recent gratitude list, generated days after attending the RE Conference:

More soon on our developing ideas and plans for living our dreams and building a tribe.