Retreated. Restored.

Sunset & prosecco. #magic #restoreretreat

A week ago today, I was making the drive back from Cape Cod, Massachusetts. It’s one of my favorite places to visit, and this time I was there for an extra special reason — Mara’s Restore Retreat.

When Mara first told me about the retreat, I instantly thought, “I must be there!” — then my human-brain had second thoughts — spending money on a retreat seemed so frivolous. R.T. and I are saving like little squirrels, trying to pay down our debt so we can buy a house within the next couple of years. Spending money feels very counterproductive to those goals. So, I was a “YES!” and then a “Maybe” and then a “no” and all the way back to a “YES!” thanks to some kind emails from Mara, who, I think, must’ve known how much I needed to be there.

I’m so glad I made the decision to go. In three days, with Mara and five other women (plus Mara’s wife Cookie and dear friend Moya, who came to teach us to dance), my heart broke wide open. We made art and danced and walked on the beach and ate amazing food and shared our stories.

#restoreretreat

Intuitive art. #restoreretreat

Altar. #restoreretreat

I’m introverted and highly sensitive — I fully expected that I would need to carve my own path through these few days, and that I would end up spending a lot of time by myself in an effort to not feel overwhelmed. I actually believed I’d return home exhausted and over-socialized. Instead, the pace of the retreat was just perfect — Mara thought of everything and there was never a moment where I felt uncomfortable or overstimulated. Instead, I just felt whole, recognized and — yes, restored.

Carolyn bundled up by the bay. #restoreretreat

Sunday afternoon, after saying goodbye to Mara, Christa, Joanna, Carolyn, Tamar, and Marisa, I got in my car and wept as I drove away. A week later, I still miss them. I’m still feeling so full of gratitude for the ways in which they showed up that weekend, and all of the things they taught me.

Returning to my normal life after such a healing weekend was a little bit of a challenge. There are some things I need to work through, so I’ll be doing some one-on-one coaching with Mara this fall. I’m very much looking forward to it. (If you’re unfamiliar with her work, I strongly recommend checking out her site. She has some great programs in addition to being an incredible coach.)

I plan to make every effort to go to a retreat (preferably hosted by Mara) at least once per year going forward. I think it’s important to carve out the time for relaxation and community, especially for those of us who run online businesses. We are often less likely to be seen in our daily lives, and that feeling of being witnessed is so important. I’m glad I gave myself permission. Let this little lovenote/happy weekend recap be your permission, too.

Calling bullshit: Sometimes you really ARE "too busy"

studiophoto

You know how it’s becoming really trendy to spout shit about how saying, “I’m too busy”, is actually saying “it’s not a priority”?

I want to punch all of those people.

That’s a really unfair thing to say to our friends, and an especially unfair thing to say to ourselves. It’s icky and guilt-trippy and we don’t need more of that.

You can’t manufacture time. There are only so many hours in the day.

There’s another saying that isn’t getting enough airtime lately:

If everything’s a priority, nothing is.

On any given day, I want to make it a priority to:

– answer all of my emails
– have a green smoothie for breakfast, a salad for lunch, and the healthiest healthy health wrap you can dream up for dinner
– exercise for at least an hour
– call my mom back
– finally get together with a dear friend who lives 15 minutes away but whom I haven’t seen since July
– write to my dad (he’s stationed in the middle east right now and I miss him)
– create a blog post or three or five so that I have a queue
– work on internal bizdev stuff
– meet all of my milestones & deadlines
– answer all of my emails, again, because I can’t leave my inbox unattended for fifteen minutes

If I could just do all of this by 5pm, my evening would be free to:

– check out that new yoga studio
– work on a new painting
– take the dog for a super long walk
– spend a couple of hours mountain biking with my fiancé
– finish that book that I started two months ago
– get 8 solid hours of sleep (because I keep reading that I’m not nurturing my sacred body temple well enough if I’m only getting six… whatever.)

If I could just get all of THAT stuff done on a regular basis, surely I could make it a priority to travel, go back to school, maybe start a second business…?

All of this and I don’t even have kids! Furthermore, I have a fiancé who acts as my personal assistant and does most of the cooking and the housework. What about the mothers amongst us? What about the single gals who also have to do the laundry and the grocery shopping and the vacuuming…?

I’m calling bullshit. Seriously.

It’s okay to be too busy. There’s no possible way to get everything done, regardless of whether or not you call it a priority. Even if it turns out that “I’m too busy” is actually short for, “I’m too busy to make that a priority and still have time left over to make these other things a priority, too,” we can all do each other the common courtesy of letting “I’m too busy” be reason enough to not go through life battling unreasonable expectations.

Don’t let someone else’s pseudo-epiphany/pop-philosophy tell you that you’re not good enough, that you’re not sacrificing enough, that you’re not prioritizing enough.

Here’s the thing: you do enough. You are enough.

Trust that you know what has to be a priority and when you can let yourself off the hook. And when that stuff is done, shut down in the evening and take a fucking bath or sip a glass of wine on the porch or whatever it is that makes you feel nourished. And screw anyone who makes you feel bad about it.

Liquid Love Affair – Why we're giving up our wedding

I’m getting married next month. Oh. You’ve heard?

Instead of a wedding, we’re using the celebration of our legal union as an opportunity to raise money for clean water.

Let me tell you a story…

Meet Scott Harrison. He spoke at He spoke at Chris Guillebeau’s World Domination Summit in July. His speech was a lot like this video, but longer and even more powerful. (More like this, but on a huge stage in front of a thousand people).

At the end, Scott asked everyone to donate their birthdays to raise money for water.

What a great idea! But I want to do more than that. I want to change the world, and I’m going to start with the day I change my name.

R.T. and I are donating our wedding to water.

There are a dozen good reasons to donate money to charity instead of putting that money toward a big celebration. (Our friends and family are split halfway across the country, my dad is in the middle east, we already live together so we don’t really need to do the registry thing, etc.) But the main reason is wanting to use our privilege (as middle class heterosexual Americans) to make a difference in some way. We wanted our decision to marry to be something other than purely self-indulgent.

At the end of Scott’s speech, he told the story of Helen.

Please read that link. Here, I’ll give it to you again. It’s really powerful.

“Now I am beautiful.”

That story really struck something in me.

Not only do Americans spend over $100 billion dollars on weddings each year, we also spend over $66 billion on weight loss. I don’t even want to look up how much we spend on plastic surgery, or designer jeans, or any of the things that we sell out on in an effort to be able to sign off on feeling beautiful.

I think it can be really difficult to take the conceptual leap from our place of privilege to the idea of helping to cure disease — there’s such an inconceivable amount of work to be done in that area. (We’ve gotta start somewhere, but it can feel like our tiny contributions won’t even make a dent.)

On the other hand, making one person feel beautiful doesn’t seem so daunting, right?

Think about that for a second. $20 can bring a person clean water, which LITERALLY changes their entire life. Your $20 is giving someone the gifts of health, time, and self-confidence JUST TO START. That’s a big deal.

So here’s what I need:

$5000 would fund one water project. That would be amazing. To get there, I need 250 people to donate $20.

Even if only a fraction of my Twitter followers, Facebook fans, and my e-mail list donated, I’d be there in no time at all.

And, uh, it’s tax deductible, if that’s what it’s going to take to get you to do it. (If it is, though, make sure you tell your accountant about Charity:Water, too. Spread the word!)

Twenty bucks. Click the button. Bam.

PS. Thank you. I love you.

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.

Love,
LC

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.

Namaste,

Leah