Archive for October, 2010

“Ora na azu nwa” – It Takes a Village

Wednesday, October 27th, 2010

It was eight o’clock at night, dinner dishes done and I was curled up on my comfy chair in my Victoria Secret pajamas, deeply lost in a book, when the doorbell rang.  We were not expecting company. We all looked at each other a bit curious before opening the door.  A box the size of a computer was sitting on the front step.  It was addressed to me.  I opened it casually and a polk-a-dot envelope laid on top of styrofoam popcorn.  I opened the envelope and found a card inside that read: 

Dear Deanne, 

 I meditate, I do yoga, I chant and I still want to smack someone.  I can’t get the beer to you but I can stock up your chocolate supply.   It all comes with as much love as I can get to you from afar. 

Love Clare

The box contained several containers of delicious Belgian chocolate and a box of tissue.

She had apparently read my last blog.

I miss Clare.  She and her family are currently living on a 75 foot, steel hulled, ex-racing boat called Ironbarque. Her son Drew has a website describing their life.  Here is the link: 

Much to my luck, Clare was actually the first homeschooling family I met 9 years ago.  We have spent many hours together creating fantastic experiences for our kids including geography club, book groups, baking pottery in a homemade kiln on the beach, making sugar skulls to celebrate Dia de los Muertos, attempting to cook green eggs and ham in honor of Dr. Seuss, sewing costumes for her directors cut of Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”, trips to the Getty, LACMA, Bowers, Balboa, the Zoo, Legoland and watching “Pirates of the Caribbean” tall ships come in at Newport Harbor in which she and her kids landed a spot on the front page of the newspaper.  I could not have embarked on the homeschooling journey without her.  In fact, I would never have made it this far if it wasn’t for Clare and the other amazing women I have met along the way. 

Contrary to popular belief, we are not unschooling alone.  I am not sitting my kids down at the dining room table for 6 hours a day attempting to duplicate the school system at home by myself.  Unschooling is a collaborative effort of many interesting, talented, loving and diverse moms, dads, grandparents, kids and friends.  We are part of a big social network of other families doing the same thing.  Since many homeschoolers do not rely on schools for their education, we rely on each other.  Being solely responsible for your child’s education is a highly motivating factor to reach out and form a community. 

When my kids were in school, I reached out as well.  I carpooled, volunteered at school and lead a Cub Scout pack, but it simply was not the same.  There is a love and healthy dependence in our homeschooling group that goes deeper than carpooling and volunteering in class.  We are extended family. 

Each person has offered their time, expertise and wisdom.  Raundi taught the kids to write Haiku poetry, Carolyn showed us how to extract DNA from strawberries, April offered vegan cooking classes, Stephanie organized camping trips, Liz made sure there was always someone at Tuesday park day, Debi moderated the Yahoo group site, Amy opened her home for Dungeons and Dragons, Isis, Dianna, Orit, Cyndi, Marta, and many more managed Destination Imagination teams, brought food, supplies, opened their homes and their hearts to create a community where each of us and our children could grow and thrive.  And when life gets tough, we come to each other’s aid.  When someone is sick or in distress or a kid needs a ride or somewhere to spend the day we are there for each other. And when in need of tissue and chocolate, it arrives at your front doorstep.

Life is easier when you are part of a network of friends.  I am afraid there are a lot of people out there that feel isolated and do not have the support they need.  No man is an island.  We need each other.  We do not thrive without people.  We are all interconnected.  The African proverb, it takes a village to raise a child could not be more true.  It originated from the Nigerian Igbo culture and proverb “Ora na azu nwa” and has found its way to our homeschooling community half way across the world in Orange County, California.    I am eternally grateful for my village!!!

I’m Learning to Dance in the Rain

Sunday, October 24th, 2010

I woke up to the sun shining today for the first day in two weeks.  Sunny southern California has been blanketed in clouds, fog and drizzle eventually finishing up with fabulous thunderstorms and lots of hair raising lightning and pouring rain.  I actually enjoyed the wet somber weather.  The heavy rains seemed to wash away the sorrow and bring new life to the Brown household. 

It was a very busy productive week around here.  Kevin has quite a few job leads.  He has been working his butt off pounding the pavement as they say.  He has this miraculous way of keeping a smile on his face in lieu of everything. 

Riley and Casey received their first progress reports from high school.  Mostly A’s and a couple of B’s to keep them on their toes.  I have to admit I breathed a sigh of relief.  I always knew deep down inside that they would do fine in life, but my conditioning and external concerns from others regarding unschooling sometimes planted a seed of doubt.  This has been a good lesson for me in trusting my instincts and following my gut.

Maggie has caught the school bug.  The fact that many of her friends and her brothers have gone back to school has ignited some curiosity in her.  So we put her on the waiting list for a local Waldorf school, Journey.  She is working diligently getting ready for school.  She is reading, writing, studying spelling words, memorizing multiplication facts, and diving into anything that remotely resembles school.  I would prefer her to unschool until high school but it is honestly her choice and I will support her.  I may have to change the description of my blog if all three kids end up in school.

And last but not least, our band has been invited to play a big show as special guests to a fabulous local band, Helicopter.  They are amazing, tight and quite entertaining.  It is such an honor to be on their ticket.  Save the date, December 18th in Pasadena at TJ Boyles.  We have a lot of work to do to get ready; practice new songs, get pictures taken, design flyers, and of course, shopping for sexy outfits.

Annie sings that “the sun will come out tomorrow”, but I say why wait until tomorrow.  The trick is that you don’t wait for things to get better, you make things better.  As I said in my last post, when you truly feel like life has chewed you up and spit you out and you can’t go on another day, you get up and brush yourself off and pull up your sexy bootstraps.  Unfortunately, we will lose our home in the midst of the job losses and housing market crash but Kevin is still pounding the pavement and he will not stop until he lands a job, the kids are studying hard achieving more and more everyday and I am still singing getting closer and closer to finding my voice.  The saying is true, “Don’t wait for the storm to pass, learn to dance in the rain.” And eventually, the sun will come out again.  It always does.

Pulling Myself Up by My Sexy Bootstraps-My Kids are Watching

Sunday, October 17th, 2010

I like to write about whatever is burning inside me at the moment, so unfortunately this post doesn’t have stories about vibrators or pictures of sexy women like my last post, “Good vibes for my Friends.”  Instead, this post is more therapeutic for me. 

My family was hit with some really bad news this weekend.  Nobody died but it honestly felt like someone did.  I have been watching my reaction over the weekend and I am certain my kids have been watching too.  It looked something like this:

  • Shock and denial which includes tears and statements like “Oh, my God”.
  • Anger which looks something like this, “How can they do this to us those f%#$$ bastards?”
  • Bargaining which includes making proclamations to a higher force like, “I promise I will be a better person and … please give us another chance.”
  • Depression rendering into sobbing tears, loss of appetite, sleepless nights, and wearing my pajamas till noon. 
  • Repeat
  • Repeat in a different order

Repeat again and again and again until you finally come to terms with the tragedy, the final stage, called acceptance.  This is known as the Kubler-Ross model for dealing with grief and so far it seems to be smack on.  I remember learning about it in my Death and Dying Class in high school.  Yes, I had a Death and Dying Class.  I went to a Catholic high school.  Of course back then they were just words.  Today, they are a fact of life.  Heart stopping news has become a regular experience around here.  Remember, it was only a couple of months ago that I wrote a post called, “Put One Foot in Front of the Other”. 

Elisabeth Kubler-Ross teaches that these stages should not be rushed, that we need to simply be aware of our feelings and we will eventually reach the acceptance stage.  It could take a day, a month or years.  Well, I am a very impatient person and I want this nightmare to end now.  I want to fix it so I can move on with my life and live happily ever after.  Of course, I know that’s a bit ridiculous (I may be in the anger stage right now), but let’s back up a minute.  Maybe it is not as ridiculous as it sounds!

According to Professor George Bonanno at Columbus University, he does not believe in these stages, he says it is all about resilience.  The Mayo clinic staff has some ideas about resilience as well,

 “When something goes wrong, do you tend to bounce back or fall apart? When you have resilience, you harness inner strengths and rebound more quickly from a setback or challenge, whether it’s a job loss, an illness, a disaster or the death of a loved one.”  In contrast, if you lack resilience, you tend to dwell on problems, feel victimized, become overwhelmed and turn to unhealthy coping mechanisms, such as substance abuse. You may even be more inclined to develop mental health problems.”

Ok.  I choose resilience!!!  As I researched resilience it seems that it is more of a process than a character trait.  That is good news.  We can gain resilience over the years.  The bad news, it requires some blows.  So the old adage is true, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”  The lesson here, it’s better to roll with the punches and take a few hits than to duck.  There is more good news though, we can teach resilience to our kids.  And the best way to teach resilience is by modeling it.  What better reason to get out of my pajamas, pull myself up by my sexy bootstraps and start working on a plan.  My kids are watching.

Good Vibes for my Friends

Sunday, October 10th, 2010

Every October for the last 13 or 14 years (I can’t remember exactly, which is the reason I take Ginkgo Biloba every day), six fabulous women, myself included, escape from the husbands, kids, jobs and dirty dishes to Prescott, Arizona to spend a fun filled four days and three nights in a rustic log cabin nestled in the mountains.  Pines, blue jays, huge Arizona skies, an historical downtown, cute little boutiques, Whiskey Row, delicious food and weather to die for, Prescott is truly a paradise in disguise.

I have known some of these women from the days before boys, bras and periods.  I met Stacy in the 4th grade and remember getting all dressed up to go dancing at the Biltmore for her 11th or 12th  birthday, not exactly sure (I don’t’ think the Ginkgo is working).  I cheated off Sara’s test in the 7th grade, and snuck into bars with Michelle in high school.  Cathy was my brother’s girlfriend many years back and Julie was my college roommate.  We have been there for each other through many drunken nights, bachelorette parties, weddings, babies, moves, job changes, cancer scares, and divorce.  I truly feel amazingly lucky to be a part of such an extraordinary group of women. 

Although our weekends do not include naked dancing men or tigers in the bathroom, the getaway gives us a chance to decompress, reconnect, laugh, cry and sometimes simply let it all hang out.  And, no weekend is complete without sharing juicy sex stories. 

Sex is a huge topic among women in their 40’s.  With changing hormones and higher testosterone levels, a renewed sense of self-confidence, children growing up or moving out, and lustful feelings and emotions no longer being repressed, women in their 40’s seem to want sex as much or more than men.  This is nothing new actually.  It has always been like this throughout the ages.  It just wasn’t discussed like it is today.  In 1960, a woman as obsessed with sex as an average man was considered a nymphomaniac, Mignon McLaughlin, The Neurotic’s Notebook, 1960.  Today women are much more open about sex and being a “cougar” is considered quite acceptable and desirable.  So where am I going with this. 

I learned during our hilarious sex talks that a few of my friends do not currently own a vibrator, names to be withheld.  I was determined to change this.  As Betty Dodson, artist, author, and PhD sexologist states, “Masturbation is our first and natural form of sexual activity and if that’s inhibited or damaged, then we suffer for the rest of our lives.” Well, I surely could not let my girlfriends suffer for the rest of their lives.  During our Saturday shopping day, I snuck into a “Spencers” and bought them each a Neon Mighty Vibe, “designed to relieve tension, reduce stress, and relax sore muscles.  With four soothing head attachments to choose from, this mini massager hits all the right spots”. 

Studies show that orgasms relieve tension, increase blood flow, create a quick drop in blood pressure, help you to sleep better, calm cravings, burn calories, and release endorphins which are a natural feel good brain chemical that helps alleviate pain.  It is the perfect prescription for women today dealing with the daily stresses of life.  Stacy, Sara, Michelle, Cathy and Julie have given me so much over the years I simply wanted to give them some good vibes to keep them going until I see them all again next year.   

Did You Know Mexico Lost California in a Single Paragraph?

Wednesday, October 6th, 2010

“Did you know Mexico lost California in a single paragraph?” Riley chuckled as we sat sipping decadent coffee drinks topped with whipped cream and chocolate shavings at the Neighborhood Cup.  Riley was reading a chapter from his history text book, “American Vision”, preparing for his exam when he blurted out this hysterical remark.  I was trying to write a blog about my annual girl’s weekend in Prescott but almost choked on my coffee after this comment.   Hilarious and sad, I thought.  Years of war with Mexico, a very dark time in history, extremely controversial and many lives lost all in one paragraph.  I decided to shift gears in mid-sentence and ditch my girl’s weekend blog and write about this sad state of affairs.  Sorry girls.

While continuously reading his text and getting down to the bottom of our coffee mugs Riley was getting more and more frustrated.  He didn’t understand how The Civil War, five years of brutal battles over slavery and state rights, enough blood, sweat and tears to fill ten libraries could be condensed into five pages.  There is only one paragraph written about The Underground Railroad and two sentences about one of the bravest women of our times, Harriet Tubman.  Nowhere does it describe how Harriet was whipped and beaten by her masters.  How she escaped to the North and was free, only to choose to go back to the south and rescue seventy more slaves knowing that if she were caught she would be brutally killed or worse, enslaved again.  The text completely misses the true human story.  It cuts every narrative short delivering bland facts, dates and names.  No wonder most Americans don’t know much about history.  Between these dumb down texts and state standards, history is no longer “His Story” it is simply “history”, lost to the past. 

For further evidence of this “dumbing down” that is taking place, just watch Jay Lenno’s “Jay Walk”, his street side pop quizzes.  He goes out into America and asks ordinary people simple questions about rules for breaking up, vacation spots and yes, history.  Here is a link:

Of course, Riley could find Harriet Tubman’s story elsewhere if he wants to learn more about her.  Or, if a kid is lucky enough to have a history buff as a parent or a really great passionate teacher that passes her love on to her student, then Harriet’s story will be learned.   But let’s face it, not too many people choose to learn more about Harriet Tubman when the text and teacher are boring especially when they can read People magazine, hang out on Facebook or play Xbox.  Honestly, I’d rather read People Magazine than read the text Riley has to read for his class (and I love to read about history).  I know I’m not alone.  So, when you ask most Americans on the street, who was the President during the Civil War, I’m not surprised that you get blank stares.  But, ask what time and channel “American Idol” is on, who sings “Teenage Dream” or who is Ryan Seacrest, well, you get the picture.