Outsourcing the Family

So, I stumbled across this very articulate article, which pretty much sums up my thoughts on the subject of daycare/preschool (really, any school). This, as I am researching preschool for Maya:

Here is another take on the lessons our day care center child may absorb: Her learning and play, her growth and development, need to be structured and facilitated by professionals. There are no mentors for her, nor are there any young ones that she can in turn help usher through the months and years. She will not get a sense of her intrinsic worth as a member of a community that has a reason for being and a set of daily tasks that have varying degrees of meaningfulness, and that incorporates her at whatever developmental stage she might be, provides a variety of models for her, and invests her with a sense of the rhythms of everyday life. Instead, she gets the rather profound message that her role is to be entertained (educated, enriched, etc.) until someone picks her up and takes her home for some quality time. The lesson is an early one in consumption: She may be missing out on finding meaning in organic relationships but she can always come into the day care to consume some stimulation and entertainment instead.

Furthermore, she learns about class position and hierarchy. Rather than absorb the needs and values and cultural norms of her community, she integrates herself into an institution—learning to please the caregivers, compete with her peers for attention, divvy her day into structured activities, accept the rules and guidance of the authority figures, and mark time by her movement from the infant room to the toddler room and on to the pre-school room. Just as the U.S. educational system produces young adults schooled to take their place among the powerful, or in the office, the factory, the service sector, or the permanent underclass, so early childhood education will help produce the workers we need. Yes, some day cares promote cognitive development, teach positive social skills, and empower young minds, but you can be sure that class position is a key determinant of who learns what.

The author suggests the alternative of home-based care, not exclusively by mom’s: but dad, extended family and friends too. You know, COMMUNITY care. Until now, I’ve been blessed with home based care for Maya between myself, her grandma, and a friend with a four-year old boy. Now, I am called to return to more hands on work at Dandelion and other special projects while my friend heads off on a year-long adventure in November. Grandma is out of town indefinitely.

I can’t do it by myself, and I don’t beat myself up for that. Yet I do worry about outsourcing Maya’s care away from the home while also recognizing that bringing Maya to work with me as a three year old is not the best solution either. At least not in this paradigm where she is the only kid being brought to work (and I am lucky to have a business that is very vibrant and diverse and a great example of the kind of place I would be proud of her to work someday, unlike, say in an office on Wall Street or god forbid a BigAg lobbyist or something twisted like that). If most people brought their kids to work in our community, and children were more integrated into the workplace, that might work better as we would create space for them. While she would have many chances to interact with adults at the cafe, she needs and desires relationships with babies, kids, teens and elders too. You know, the VILLAGE, the one it takes to raise a kid, the one that has been dismantled, right along with families and tribes in this long slide from a creative existence (by that I mean, each person creates/produces food, clothing, household goods, equipment, art, music) to a consumer existence where all those things are “outsourced” to other people, like childcare.

But it’s not about just mom staying at home in isolation from the rest of society either in order to raise my child. Where’s dad? At the office. Where’s grandma? In the nursing home. Where are all the people, for goodness sake? Everybody is busy earning money to afford someone else to take care of each other.

First, men were enticed to leave their homes for war, then jobs “in town.”

Then, women said, “Hey you can’t leave me here, I want in on that too!”

For a time grandparents took over the role of parents, but now everyone has scattered across the country in pursuit of a better opportunity and grandma is no longer next door.  Now that mom and dad are at work, and grandma is in a nursing home, children as early as six weeks are forced to leave their homes and families as well.

Okay, it’s past two in the morning and I must end rant which is only half thought through. Sigh.

The Story I Haven’t Told

Don’t let that smile fool you, I’m totally exhausted and overwhelmed.

There was a time when I was in serious need of rescuing. Holy smokes, did I. Drowning in a sea of overwhelm from being a new business owner, I was collapsing from burnout and paralyzed with indecision. To say I felt crushed under the burden of responsibility and demands for my time and attention is an understatement. In the first few months of opening the cafe, I lost nearly one third of my body weight, falling below 100 pounds and going-going-going so fast and furious that my entire body was locked in pain from all the stress. I had zero appetite, even as I made some of the best organic food around for patrons. I remember sitting on the front porch with my business partner on our one year anniversary and recognizing it was the first time I had sat deliberately with the intention of savoring the moment in more than a year. In this moment, I recognized that I had never worked harder for anything in my entire life and could see no end in sight. Facing the second year of business, I knew I was on the precipice of totally and completely losing my shit.

And lose it, I did. The entire ethos of our cafe was to weave community and foster authentic relationships by inviting folks to slow down their lives and bring it into balance. Our business philosophy was underlined by Gandhi’s wisdom: “Be the change you wish to see.” I strongly believe in this sage advice, and as I took stock of the condition opening a business had rendered me, I knew this was NOT anything I would wish on another human being. Of course, I could see the massive amount of positive impact our little teahouse did have on our community and was grateful for the many people who supported me personally and the cafe itself in countless big and little ways. Our cafe stood for sustainability though and I realized how intimately my sanity and health were tied to the cafe’s long-term viability. I needed to PULL IT TOGETHER, but knew not how.

My magic wand was missing and I did not believe I could do it anymore. There were many successes, but those were hard to see through daily cash flow crises and I allowed the small failures inevitable in any endeavor to cast too much of a shadow on my confidence. Our staff watched me falter, hide my head in the computer, and make erratic decisions in efforts to do something, anything! to keep paying their paychecks while the economy tanked. My business partner didn’t have context for what I was going through and couldn’t know how to support me along with his own responsibilities at his own very busy job. There was more than a lot of static in our exchanges that served to exasperate us both.

The majority of my friendships skimmed the surface, and there was no space for going deeper beyond “business” related functions and strategy sessions. I dated several men, and my heart was broken open in the process. I realized there wasn’t enough of me to even be present for the authentic connection required for a healthy relationship. This was not okay. This is not the life I wanted for myself. If I had known the toll it would take, I don’t think I ever would have gone through with it. Thankfully, I was a fool because the impact the cafe has had on people’s lives is magical. My own included – the countless positive contributions to my life are well documented and deeply felt – the good parts shine as bright as the challenging parts were dark.

My broken heart and a mishandled termination of one of our staff were big time wakeup calls that significant changes had to be made. I started with chiropractic care at Simply Well to unlock my body and bartered organic food for massage and energy work on a regular basis. I started painting, something I was never trained in or imagined myself doing. There was a strange experience with the spirit world where my heart was worked on by ethereal hands and I started to have super interesting dreams that were direct communication from beyond. Many intuitive / psychic folk patronize the cafe and I was told by three of them (unsolicited) that I had a little baby spirit wanting to come in and join me. The series of paintings were all vaginas, eggs and womb like images, singing a song of babies to come.

And I dreamed of him. This future lover of mine, Maya’s father. With the spiritual awakening I was experiencing, I started to “just know” the future and something significant was about to happen. So when I walked into the cafe and ran right into the man in my dreams, I recognized him immediately.  As I got his story, he was in the middle of moving to Pennsylvania when something made him switch mid-course and he decided to move to Orlando, even as all of his possessions were already en route to Pennsylvania. The timing of this switch lined up exactly with one of my declarations to the universe that I had enough of going it alone and demanded it send my husband, now, complete with a list of qualities and characteristics this guy should have. Ahh, well, be careful what you ask for…or what you leave off the list….

After a brief conversation, I left the cafe and called my best friend and told her, for the record, I just met my husband. I had dreamed of him multiple times and the story he told about growing food, intentional communities and wanting to live near his three children from a previous marriage sounded good to me. We exchanged numbers about him working on the garden for the cafe and not even a week later we were having an initial meeting about the garden. I took my glasses off for a minute and when I looked up at him, he looked like he was struck and exclaimed: “There you are! I’ve been looking for you my entire life! Get over here!” I wrote at the time: “It was like being reunited with you very bestest friend after millennia apart and we were both so excited to see each other again and we had so much to talk about and catch up on and all that excitement.” That was the first full moon, and the beginning of the craziest experience of my life.

If you’ve ever heard of a twin flame, he was mine, close as I can figure. Our spirits were madly in love with one another and we both were radiantly luminous. In photos, we are glowing in the shade. We both flung our hearts open wide and next thing you know faces were morphing, minds were being read, everything else in the universe just melted away as we discussed marriage and talked about the baby we knew we were meant to create together. On the second full moon we went into a spontaneous sacred ceremony without words and woke up knowing we had just been spiritual joined. Yet, that afternoon I was overcome with a knowing that I was going to raise our child alone and expressed my concern that he was going to die or leave me. Bothersome little things started to crop up in the course of getting to know the human being attached to this spirit I was in love with over the next month.

This is me on the second full moon. Smack in the middle of crazy.

On the third full moon, Maya was conceived. I felt something come from the stars and enter my body but woke forgetting that. Instead, I looked at this human being asleep next to me and wondered who the hell this guy was and what the hell I was doing. In retrospect, it was like I had been under a spell and as soon as Maya was created, it was lifted. It took a few weeks to untangle the relationship, as I could now clearly see that his integrity was off with regard to being responsible for his existing children, amongst other things. By the next full moon, I had broken it off a week before I discovered I was to be a mama, an occasion on which I giggled and felt nothing but joy, which made no rational sense.

The following month, I explored returning to a relationship with him, but every fiber of my being was saying hell no. A friend of mine who knew the situation well counseled me to follow my instincts and wisely said that he would prove himself as a man of integrity or not in short order. That’s where crazy ends and I started to rescue myself. Babies do that – they either make you rise to the occasion or send you running the other way. He ran, I rose. Everything came into such sharp focus after that…when you are pregnant, you are literally ONE with your child. What you do to yourself, you do to your baby. It’s cut and dry, as simple as it gets.

What followed was a pregnancy where I put myself back together. My cultural conditioning was revealed. I had met my other half – no one told me he was going to show up poorly in this lifetime, and I would chose not to be with him. Happily ever after? Not with him, thank you very much. In fact, I didn’t even need him to rescue me on a white horse like the fairy tales all told me I would need. Nope, the only person who could save me from all the drama and chaos was myself. On behalf of my child and the next seven generations, at least.

Strange to be telling this story now. I haven’t written about, or even spoken about that period to many people. It’s embarrassing, and I don’t get embarrassed. Plus, it’s more than a lot far out for most people. Faces morphing? Seriously? Yeah, I don’t get it either.

I got this. No damsel in distress here.

What I am realizing is that I am no longer a damsel in distress. I don’t need to be rescued. I cancelled that program and deleted it when I chose to be a single parent and take responsibility for the delightful human being that calls me mommy. I got this. It’s handled. It’s not always easy, and my community pitches in a great deal, but at the end of the day, it’s me making this life for us. I know what is best for me now, and I am much better at listening when my intuition speaks. That goes for business, romance, community and family.

There it is. The story I haven’t told.

Happy Halloween

Photos by Julie Norris, Oct 31, 2011

Halloween, posted with vodpod


Talked to my mom tonight and told her how much I appreciated all the effort she put into the holidays. Feels good to have pulled off a (partly) homemade costume (thanks Yuki for the inspiration!) and have a sweetly glowing jack o’lantern on the porch (oh, Leah, your pancakes and pumpkin carving on the porch are delightful!). Can’t tell you the joy in my heart watching Maya realize how trick or treating works. She ran with such glee from house to house, I just about cried all over myself. She was so cute saying trick or treat and thank you. Her little sing song voice. Her little last minute “owl” princess costume. I can’t wait for Thanksgiving and Christmas and New Years. As she fell asleep in my arms last night, I had one of those intensely grateful moments for her being in my life. How lucky, how very lucky I am.

When Life Hands You a Lemon, Make Rose Lemongrass Lemonade

Dude, hand me lemons, and I will wave my magic wand over them and make you not just any lemonade, but Rose Lemongrass Lemonade with fresh lemongrass from Yuki’s front yard. I can do equally amazing things with watermelon and holy basil. And that, folks is how I managed to turn a brief stint with homelessness into a three-week vacation of awesomeness.

Rooster crows woke us up for morning giggles in our treehouse at Hostel in the Forest where we enjoyed outdoor showers, nekkid swims in the lake, freaking gourmet community meals at night and four days of walking barefoot through the forest. We stopped into a sweet little place in Savannah called The Sentient Bean which reminded me a lot of Dandelion on our way to Boone, NC.

Matt and Sassy

My dear friends Sandra & Matt hosted me at their mountainside chalet which is tucked neatly between a horse pasture and a cow pasture just a few miles from Todd, NC. Sandra developed the recipes for the original menu at Dandelion with me, so of course we were in the kitchen always, cooking up a storm. She introduced me to smoked tofu, which I fell in love with despite my disdain for soy in general, especially when she stacked it with avocado, tomato, sprouts, veganaise & siriacha on a sprouted wheat english muffin. We had grilled peaches with fresh raspberries over mango ice cream. There was a pizza party where guests brought toppings including balsamic figs and fireworks were launched and watermelon basil drinks were drunk. I spent an entire afternoon picking wildflowers and herbs from the garden and making flower arrangements while the cows grazed ten feet away and the mountain air was inhaled like an alchemical elixir.

Continue reading

Free Falling…

I’m at a loss for how to start. I’ve retyped an intro multiple times. Is it because my brain turned to mush several weeks back when my milk supply went wonky when I had strep? The hormones made me just as unintelligent and emotional as when my milk first letdown after Maya was born. Let’s hope this IQ setback doesn’t last as long as the first go-round….I had gotten used to being able to speak in complete sentences again, and was starting to take thinking for granted. Not so fast, eh?

It’s been an interesting month. As previously mentioned, I was down for the count with strep and upon resurfacing, I was feeling very grateful that Maya’s first overnight went so smoothly and looking forward to her dad taking more time with her so I could figure out a way to earn more income. That’s when he broke it to me that he’s decided to move to LA. In five days. Now, being the optimist, I see that it is probably better for her for a number of reasons I won’t go into publicly, and I imagine that whomever is lucky enough to be a true papa to her is going to be the most amazing thing to walk this earth since Pa from Little House on the prairie. Maya and I both deserve that, and I know he’s in our future, no sweat there.
But all that optimistic viewing did not solve my dilemma of how to pay the bills. It’s a very long story, also not one I am going to talk about publicly, but my income has dropped significantly and I could no longer afford my living expenses so I moved my belongings into storage this weekend and am house sitting some dear friends very cozy place for the next couple of weeks while I figure out my next move. I’ve got a couple of interesting options on the table and am toying with the idea of an extended road trip to visit various friends across the country or perhaps a huge advance on a book deal will come through complete with an all expense paid residency at some beautiful cottage in Switzerland to knuckle down and write it. Or maybe a work-stay in the forest. I’m open. Really – got any suggestions?
Here’s the deal…. I know this appears to be a fall, and have had one too many bouts of crying with the word homeless said far too many times, but I suspect that that’s just the milk supply-hormone’s turning me into a blubbery mess. I do have a better appreciation for how people, good people, ones who have done right by community, family and friends can slide into situations that leave them dependent on food stamps and cash assistance. This brush with financial poverty brings with it an opportunity to become more self-reliant, DIY and even more interdependent with my community of friends. So, after I wailed on a friend’s shoulder last week about how it just doesn’t seem right that I’ve done all this good and I’m not able to keep a roof over my child’s head…. I am breathing deeply, always grateful for the many people in my life who are there for me, and waking up to a new day to dream up a new ideal life for myself.

So, let’s do just that.

Ideal life: Waking up in the arms of a sexy in every way man who cooks breakfast while I cuddle in bed with Maya. We always have access to fresh, homegrown food, and find time to relish meals together. Our possessions are handmade. All of them. Either by us or someone we’ve traded with. We are surrounded by lush and vibrant nature often. Good music is plentiful. Creation is our way of life. We travel the world for pleasure. We have an eclectic and entertaining group of forward thinking friends who we play with on a regular basis. Maya learns from doing, relating, experiencing, being part of nature. So do I. Ours is a cultured life, full of good books, theater, live music, art – from down home to big city. We work, but according to our natural rhythm and creative passion. We live a simple life that doesn’t require a large income, but we have an abundance of money because we do what we love. This can happen in the mountains, in the city, across the country or the world. We could be in an eco-village, airstream, yurt, log cabin or renovated rail car. Even just a simple house. Or a combination of the above. Basically, a Little House on the Prairie situation, if we get down to it. The kind that has me falling asleep tumbled up in the arms of one very lucky sexy man after we’ve sung Maya to sleep.

And so it shall be.

Everyday Blessings

Whoa, how time flies. Maya is almost 18 months old. She can talk – repeats almost every word I ask, says “please” and “thank you” even when I don’t request it, knows the color blue, she learned sign language from Yuki (which in turn taught me), knows all of her body parts, sings, dances, does this funny little walk when she’s being cute, loves cats and dogs and all sorts of animal, particularly the owl. She LOVES tea (herbal, of course) and wants to do it all herself, thank you very much. She understands everything and she remembers. She doesn’t know how to hop yet, but she tries. She calls all men she is fond of papa, and has three beautiful ladies besides me that she calls mama on occasion. She hangs out with her buddy Taiyo five days a week, they are like brother and sister and he totally looks after her and teaches her so much as he’s got 8 months on her. Taiyo’s beautiful mama plays with Maya while I am at work. I feel so blessed almost every second of the day for Maya, and all the rich connections she has helped bring into our lives.

I am SO happy. I understand so much more. I have this wonderful opportunity to love unconditionally, to teach and be taught. I have so many revelations and insights and shifts in perspective. I am unwinding from all the things I’ve been told and made judgments based on second hand knowledge. I am experiencing it all first hand now, and I know. I know. The mystery, the great silence, I have that now. There is no explanation, there is only experience.

Maya Juniper Rose, thank you. Self, thank you. We make such a nice family.