see this film: craigslist joe

Last night, I had the absolute please of watching Joe Garner’s documentary Craigslist Joe.

I’m really fascinated by the way we’re changing from a sociological perspective. I personally spend much of my life online – even when I’m not at my desk. (Thanks, iPhone. Sorry, friends.) It’s easy to get caught up in broadcasting instead of communicating.

If you ever find yourself disheartened or feeling disconnected — if spending so much time online gives you that lonely-in-a-crowded room feeling, I highly recommend taking a couple of hours to watch this film.

It’s available to rent on Amazon. A bit expensive for a rental, but totally worth it.

PS. Have a tissue handy. I cried more than once.

Happy-hearted elopement-planning

I’ve had a bad head cold all week. This is, shall we say, annoying. I have lots of coding to do. I was, as my new superhero friend Kim says, “badassing” my way through developing the new Curly Girl website/e-shop (coming soon to the internet near you) before the world’s most terrible head cold struck. Now instead of badassing, I’m just trudging. It’s a real bummer.

Nevertheless, I have a heart full of joy & gratitude. R.T. and I have been planning our elopement, which takes place in just under two months. This is a lot of work, and we’re not even doing anything! We’re planning the tiniest, tiniest little ceremony in which our friend Marie officiates and the fabulous Melissa Koren takes photos. This is happening in New Hampshire & we’re not having guests or a reception or any of the hullabaloo. But there’s still plenty to do!

I.E., taking R.T.’s tux to the tailor…

At the tailor. #elopementprep

… Ordering my dress, booking our post-elopement stay (honeymoon?) at a Bed & Breakfast in Vermont, and ordering our wedding bands (see: mine, his).

My wedding band, like my engagement ring, is from this etsy seller, who R.T. tells me is an absolute delight to work with.

(Sidenote: I’m totally in love with this ring.)

So, this happened. #engaged

After we dropped his tux off at the tailor yesterday, I said, “Yay, all of our planning is nearly complete!” and he said, “Right, minus, you know, the legal stuff.” Oh, right. We have no idea how to navigate our way through that maze, but I guess we’ll figure it out. I’m taking his last name – a decision we came to after months of trying to chose a new surname for the two of us to share. We did decide on one, actually, and then R.T.’s mom pointed out that there’s a lot of legal junk involved in changing your name as a guy. (Annoying.) We were willing to put forth the effort, but it turns out that in Michigan, you have to have lived in the same county for a year before you can petition the court, and that won’t be true for us until about three months after we’re married. So. I’ll be Mrs. Tompkins after all. (Yay!)

Anyway. I’m really happy and really excited to see things taking shape. I’m glad that we decided to do something simple instead of trying to wrangle our two sets of friends and families into one place. (Most of our friends are in NH; my entire family is in Michigan — except, of course, my dad, who is still in the Middle East.)

It’s all coming together. So nice.

We’re also using our upcoming nuptials as an opportunity to raise money for Charity:Water, so consider donating, if you would. (More on this to come.)

Time for more Advil Cold & Sinus and then more code-trudging. And later, a nap. (Send me healing vibes.)

On sending this peace-loving granola liberal's dad off to war.

My dad’s uniform, taken on the drive to drop him of to report for duty.
I said goodbye to my dad last week. He, a master sergeant in the US Air Force, will be spending the next eight months on a military base in the Middle East.

My family knew a year ago that he would likely be sent on this mission, and it was a big part of mine and R.T.’s decision to move to Michigan when we did. He got his official orders in March, and we’ve spent the last couple of months preparing for his departure.

This has been a really difficult thing to wrap my head around because, as the title of this post might suggest, I’m not exactly the pro-war type.

Hey, by the way, did you know that we’re still at war? I can’t tell you how many people have recently said to me, “Your dad is being deployed? I thought they were bringing the troops home?” Wrong-o.

But the truth is that I haven’t been paying attention, either. With all the things I have to stress out about on a daily basis (uh, I’m thirty pounds overweight, hello! My life is a constant tragedy), I guess I forgot to make “unjust war” and “killing innocent people” a priority. I genuinely don’t know what the point supposedly is. And you know, I’ll just be honest – I think I prefer my ignorance. I recently set about reading some articles on the status of the situation so that I had some clue about what my dad is going through, but I (selfishly) can’t handle it. I’m choosing to go through this on a “need to know” basis. This situation has nothing to do with me, except that my dad is there and that effin’ blows.

I am not a patriot. I’m not an American in the way that some Americans are — maybe because I’m not a PERSON in the way some people are. I believe that lovelovelove is everything like a good artsy-granola gal, but I also believe in boundaries. I believe that I can have gratitude for the good you’ve done for me without supporting everything — or anything — you do after that. I believe that respect is a two way street. I’m not going to be bullied into giving any person, entity, or institution my unconditional approval.

I’m probably not actually allowed to rant about all of the reasons that I’m so sad and so angry that this government — who I’m truly disappointed in — gets to take my dad away for this chunk of time. If you had to guess, you’d probably come up with things like “the war on women” and “the right to marry” and you’d be on the right track. I feel like too many of the people I love are at war for their very basic rights, and now this very significant person in my life is at war for what is, as far as I can tell, no good reason.

But for as frustrated as I am, I’m at least as sad and worried. In his most recent e-mail to me, he said, “It’s safe here, but that could change at any moment. We know that and have to be prepared.”

I’m grateful that he said it. My dad, like most of the men I know, is the pat-on-the-head, everything-will-be-fine type. I’m the give-it-to-me-straight type. I have this need to acknowledge the thing that’s eating at the backs of our brains: He could die there. He might not come home.

When my thoughts go there, I remind myself of this: He could die here, too. It’s of little comfort, obviously, but it’s true. Here, death isn’t looming quite as close, and it wouldn’t be caused by an unjust war, but he could die on any day of any week — any of us could, right? All of this is very fleeting.

That’s perhaps the one good thing that has come of my dad’s deployment. As we prepared for and experienced him leaving, we all started to open up. There’s been a lot of spilling open these last few weeks. There have been a lot of “Thank you”s and “I’m proud of you”s and “I love you”s. My parents have been married for thirty years and took this chance to say all of those things that remain unsaid when we get caught up in the day-to-day. I got to tell my dad that he’s my original hero and how grateful I am that he saw my potential and made sure I saw it, too. Maybe I never would have said that to him if it hadn’t been for this.

My dad is not on a peace-seeking mission, but preparing for the mission he is on brought a lot of peace to my family. It’s not enough, but matters in it’s own small way.

I’m proud of him. I’m proud of every soldier whose heart is in the right place. I’m proud of every parent, partner, and child who has given their loved one to the military, especially those of us who don’t believe that this is a means to any desirable end. Especially us, because it’s certainly harder when you don’t see a greater purpose in this longing, this losing. I guess we can’t know, though. Maybe our soldiers are changing the world in small ways. Maybe they’re just changing someone’s mind.

I truly do believe that lovelovelove is everything. But I think we could use a lot more of it.

I love you. I’m proud of you. Thank you.

‘Til they all come home (and a number of other selected military cliches),

Meanwhile, back at the ranch…

Can you believe we moved to Michigan almost THREE months ago?! I can’t. The time has gone by so quickly.

Being “home” after having been away for ten years is an experience. I’ve been enjoying it. There are a lot of adventures to be had in Michigan.

Here’s a little peek into what life here has been like so far:

This adorable sign was hanging on our front door when we arrived at the end of our 15-hour journey. My oldest and dearest friend, StarSara and her husband Michael made this for us and also provided us with delicious thai food.

Diesel, formerly my sister’s dog, joined our household the day after we moved in. He’s the best dog ever and has been a welcome addition.

Boys playing guitar. #home

Our friend Ian stayed with us for about a week to help us make our house a home. We miss him.

1969 Chevy C-10. Randall and I bought this truck today.

We bought this truck, a 1969 Chevrolet C-10. Her name is Madeline and we love her. Someday she’s going to be painted silver and orange, but for now, her sunny yellowness brightens up our driveway.

My gorgeous baby sister.

We’ve been spending a lot of time with my family – this is my youngest sister, Micayla. At almost-18, she’s ten years my junior & one of my favorite people on the planet.

Plants and books. #channinghouselove

This bookshelf in our living room is one of my favorite spots in our new house.

Great lake adventuring.

*Sara and I went on an adventure for my birthday. This was taken in Lexington, Michigan, at a breakwater that is now one of my favorite places.

This is how my dog deals with visitors.

Baby roommate turns 18. #weird

There are a lot of impromptu knitting parties in my life these days. (Nearest the camera in the second photo is Emma. She’s our little roommate.)

Watching Parenthood & practicing the seed stitch.

This has given me the chance to master the seed stitch! (PS. I watched all three seasons of Parenthood in about two weeks. Shameful.)

Cyclist style.

Spring sprung early in Michigan this year. It’s been in the 60s for the past week or so. Springtime is my absolute favorite, so the first warm day, R.T. and I played hooky for the afternoon & broke in our new bicycles with an 8-mile bike ride. We’ve done an 11-mile since and I’m hoping to do at least one 30-mile ride this spring.

Thanks for indulging me – this little trip down memory lane has been fun.

We’re headed back to New Hampshire for a visit next week & I’m super excited to see everyone.

(PS. Before I go – did you see that I’m giving away a starter site? Click here for details.)

Coming Home {Why 2011 was one of the best and worst years of my life}

A few days from now, R.T. and I will be bound for Michigan with a moving truck, all of our creatures, and our friend Ian in tow. I am so ready.

We’ll be settled in our house in time to ring in 2012. I feel immeasurable relief at the idea of beginning the new year with my love in our new home. We’ve both endured a year of struggle, loss, and transition. We’re looking forward to a new year and a new start. We’ve been listening to this song a lot:

(click here to view the video if you’re reading this via RSS)

But this year hasn’t been all bad, and it’s certainly come with it’s share of life lessons. The big, stick-with-you kind.

A year ago at this time, I was BROKE. Terrifyingly broke. Maybe-I-don’t-deserve-to-be-self-employed broke. Maybe-I-should-go-get-a-coding-job-to-pay-the-bills broke. But somewhere in that mess of self-pity and fear, I managed to summon enough optimism to tell a friend, “I know it’s going to get better. Next month I’ll probably make six thousand dollars and I’ll barely remember what this feels like.”

I got through the later part of 2010 on the thread of hope that I was going to OWN 2011. I convinced myself that it would be smooth sailing to make up for the hellacious crapfest that was 2010.

But that’s not what happened, of course. Well, that’s not true. It’s sort of what happened. But more than being a year of great experiences, it’s been a year of taking the good with the bad.

In mid-January, after several months of being overworked and undernourished, I woke up on a Thursday and couldn’t stop crying. Couldn’t get out of bed and certainly couldn’t go sit at my desk and get shit done. Depression wasn’t new to me — I’m a happy person who happens to be chemically depressed — but this feeling was. I’m not the type of person to roll over and surrender to my suffering.

I called my therapist at home. I cried on the phone with a dear friend who later showed up with coffee and DVDs. I called my doctor. A week later I started anti-depressants and a week after that, I closed my books for January at $6,400.

That’s pretty much how the entire year went. Do the hard work, then reap the rewards. (Actually, that’s how all years go. Shhh.)

In March, after two years together (and almost a full year of on-and-off, trying-and-failing), Noah and I broke up for the last time. We’d been through so much together — we had so much history with and love for each other that it was really hard to see that end. But it was time and we both knew it.

A few weeks after that, I met R.T.

‘Met’ is the wrong word. We’d been acquaintances for a couple of years — he was even a client for a little while. But our friendship sparked in early April and I nearly instantly felt like he was my new best friend. Dating him came with it’s own set of struggles — far more than any new relationship should. He had a live-in girlfriend when we started dating, and I was totally new to the concept of polyamory/polyfidelity. Pardon me while I gloss over a lot of that mess – the short story is: the three of us gave it our best shot, but after a few months, he and I broke up, and then they did, and then she left, and later, he and I made our (monogamous) thing official. The glossing-over might give you the impression that this was all clean and easy. It wasn’t. We all got hurt. It really, really sucked.

But, again, things that suck open doors for things that suck less. (Boy, that sounds optimistic.) We’re incredibly good partners. We’re both stubborn and ambitious and terrified of being stagnant. We respect and admire one another but we won’t settle for less than the other’s very best. R.T. is exactly what I need in a life partner AND, happily, what I need in a business partner.

Our dreadful, difficult summer became autumn, as it does. We decided in late September that it was time for us to leave this place. I needed new adventure, R.T. needed to stop making excuses, and we both needed a clean slate. We thought about Portland, Oregon, but eventually settled on Detroit, Michigan.

We’ve been planning our move for two months now. We’ve rented a house, sold his car, started packing. In the meantime, we’ve been living in separate apartments but spending nearly all of our time together at one or the other place. We’re both exhausted.

Preparing to leave has been very hard. I moved to the east coast three weeks before my 18th birthday. I was raised in Michigan, but I grew up here. I’ve been saying goodbye to so many of the people who helped me become the person I am today. Dear friends, ex-boyfriends, my therapist. It’s time for this stretch of my journey to end, but oh how I will miss this home.

The past year has been a nice summary for my decade on the east coast. I’m so grateful for everything I’ve experienced here. The people I’ve loved and lost, the education I received, the business I started.

The number one thing I’ve learned (over and over again) is that the struggle is always worth it. There’s always something better around the bend.

I’m ending 2011 a far cry from the broke, scared place I was a year ago. I’m so grateful that I stuck it through the tough months. I’ve had the most amazing clients this year – Kelly Rae Roberts, Andrea Scher, and Diana Charabin (of Tiny Devotions) among them. My business has really come into its own. I’m honestly incredulous and so, so excited.

I’m telling you all of this because I know it’s a tough time of year for all of us. If it’s not the stress of the holidays, it’s the dreary, cold weather. And if it’s not the weather, it’s the symbolism of one year ending and a new beginning. It can be really hard to keep your chin up.

And you don’t have to. But you do have to believe in yourself and believe in what you’re doing. It gets easier.

Set your intentions. Eyes on the prize.

I wish you a happy, joyful 2012, and I can’t wait to tell you about my adventures in Detroit.


i was {gasp!} unschooled (and lived to tell about it)

Lately, it seems like the blogosphere is all abuzz about home/unschooling. I had a brief IM chat with my dearest Kelly Rae about it a few months back, and more recently, Leonie posted an article called Unschooling & Other Miracles. Leonie told me she’d like to hear more about my having been unschooled, so I thought I would write up a quick lengthy detailing of my experience.

My primary education years started out fairly normally. I went to pre-school, kindergarten, and first grade at a traditional (public) school. Trouble began when I taught myself to read halfway through kindergarten. Trouble. Man, you are not supposed to learn how to read until second grade! I was a rebel without a cause. A forced to be reckoned with. Etc.

First grade was terrible. It’s hard to imagine that now, isn’t it? Don’t we all passively long to be six again? Well, being six should be fun, but first grade wasn’t. I was quiet and well-behaved, which was my first mistake as a student at an inner city school. Please know that I’m not speaking poorly of all teachers in all public schools (because I know some great ones), but this teacher and this school were a disgrace. My first grade teacher, Mrs. Rose, situated me between two rambunctious, disruptive boys (who I’m pretty sure were both named Anthony). They were her problem students, and she decided that seating me between them would make my good behavior “rub off” on them. Now, in case you’re not getting a clear enough picture, keep in mind that a six-year-old is not very big. Certainly not as big as, say, the wall that would have been necessary to keep those two boys from teaming up and wreaking havoc on the world around them — particularly the little girl that sat between them.

That was bad enough. To add insult to injury, I had this pesky habit of finishing my worksheets long before anyone else did. My reward? I was told to put my head down and rest until the rest of the class was finished. First of all, worksheets? REALLY?! Secondly, WHAT?! I wasn’t given permission to read a book, or draw, or even offered an additional worksheet. I was told to put my head down on the cold, hard desk. Really powerful way to motivate a six-year-old. Except not at all, actually.

Oh, also, I was once scolded for coloring a drawing of my face with a brown crayon. My Crayola 8-pack didn’t come with peach and white crayon doesn’t show up on white paper, so sod off, you unimaginative old bat. AHEM.

I was, as you might imagine, an anxious mess. Everything pretty much came to a head toward the end of that school year. I was sent to the doctor for stomach issues for probably the third time, and she told my mom that it seemed like I was developing an ulcer. Around the same time, the school released the results of the California Achievement Test. (Don’t get me started on standardized testing.) The assessment report stopped at a third grade level, but my scores didn’t. My parents asked for more information – namely, at what grade level I was testing. The school claimed they weren’t able to provide that information. My parents then asked that I be given third grade coursework but, of course, there’s no room for individualized education in public schools (or, at least, there wasn’t then).

Faced with the facts — that their 6-year-old was spending her days and weeks bored, tormented and stifled sick (literally) — my parents took myself and my younger sister out of traditional school. Because they couldn’t afford private school and other alternative schools weren’t available in our area, keeping us at home was the only feasible option.

We always used the term “homeschooling”, but we were actually unschooled. We were not the “sit at the kitchen table from 9-noon” family. For most of my childhood, my siblings and I spent our days climbing trees, gardening, reading, making art, having scavenger hunts. We were almost never inside. There were so many books in my house, and we went to libraries at least once or twice a week. I loved to read. I was also obsessed with bugs and other creatures, so I spent a lot of my time collecting them (as pets) and observing them. (I was allowed to keep caterpillars until they became butterflies, but everything else had to be released after 3 days in captivity.)

Growing up in the 90s, home/unschooling wasn’t quite what it is now — or, at least, without the internet, it didn’t seem like it was. Where I grew up, the majority of the other home-schooled kids were kept at home for religious reasons. For this reason, my unschooling experience was fairly lonely. Most of my socialization came from programs at the local library (and a brief run at being a girl scout). These groups weren’t oriented toward home-schoolers, and I found that I didn’t really relate well to these kids who were supposedly my peers. I certainly had other kids to play with — we lived in a decent neighborhood and there were other families — but I had only a couple of close friends who were also unschooled.

Home/unschooling does not have to mean depriving a child of socialization, though. I do feel that I was undersocialized but that’s because of circumstance, rather than just being a side effect of home education. Today, there is no shortage of homeschooling groups, and kids can even take classes and participate in sports at the local public school, not to mention things like 4-H, dance, etc.

To wrap this up — I graduated from high school a year early, after taking a more regimented approach to my own education in my secondary years. (I was self-taught and enrolled Clonlara’s Homeschool program — which gave me a high school diploma.)

I am, overall, hugely grateful for my home/unschooling experience. There are some things that could have been better, of course, but the primary one is just that I would have liked to have been more social in my teens.

The other failing of my particular unschooling experience was the lack of math education, and I think it’s important for this to be a consideration to other unschooling families. Though I was reading at a college level by age 9, my math skills were never cultivated, which is a shame as I’m actually quite good at math. It took a lot of struggling once I re-entered traditional school (which I did for a short while in 8th and 9th grades and then again in college) to get caught up on what I’d missed having been unschooled. I still don’t know how to divide without a calculator. (Oddly enough, though, I’ve managed to become a successful adult without those skills.)

Today, home/unschooling parents (and parents considering home/unschooling) are so delighted when I tell them that I was unschooled. I defy a lot of the stereotypes by being a bubbly, outgoing, intelligent and well-adjusted adult, and I think that gives them hope. Based on my early public school experiences, I can tell you that I certainly wouldn’t be the person I am today if I hadn’t been given the privilege of unschooling.

I want to close by reiterating that I didn’t write this to attack our public school systems or the amazing people who dedicate their lives to teaching in them. I wrote this so that the many parents of young children out there who are considering educating their children at home would ideally gain some perspective/insight from someone who grew up unschooled and turned out okay.

If you’re one of those parents, please, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with me. I would love to talk to you more about alternative schooling.

Lastly: If you’re NOT a parent who has considered educating your child at home (or for whom it isn’t feasible), PLEASE don’t take this as an attack on your choices. I am in no way of the opinion that sending your children to traditional school means that you love them any less or that you’re not a good parent. No, no, no, no. Schooling our children, like every other aspect of parenting, is a very personal choice. It is up to each individual to determine what their child needs and fulfill those needs to the best of their abilities. For a great many of us, that means sending our children to traditional school while we work our day jobs. Ideally, though, you’re sitting down with them at the end of the day and educating them anyway. It takes a village and all that, but it starts at home.



The new end of the road!

Hello, archive-wanderer! I’ve made the few years prior to this point private. I started this blog in 2008, and much of my older stuff is outdated, irrelevant, and/or written in a voice that I no longer identify with. Oy vey.

Sorry to disappoint, peaches. I recommend subscribing so that you’ll be the first to know when I write something new. (And thanks for your interest in going way back.)