Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Looking for submissions for the Summer 2010 issue of DIY Life Zine!

(This is cross-posted from the zine website, DIY Life Zine)

I'm now looking for submissions for submissions of articles, opinions, artwork, poetry, quotes, and anything else you want to send me for the Summer 2010 issue of DIY Life.  I originally chose this theme because I feel it gives a ton of freedom in what you submit (anything from physical DIY projects, to articles on radical political philosophy, to education, parenting, crafting, and beyond!) while still retaining a more radical feel and outlook.   As a side-note, your submission can also be ANTI or AGAINST something you see as being opposed to a DIY lifestyle (i.e. corporations).  I'm looking for submissions from EVERYONE who's interested in creating (writing, drawing, etc.) something that would fit the general theme, no matter your age, political leanings, or anything else (this is added because of several questions I've received asking about this)!

The theme is pretty flexible, but I do reserve the right to not accept submissions that really do not fit with the theme (i.e. why public schooling is absolutely necessary), though I don’t really expect to turn down many things, if anything!

Word count can be as much as 1500 words.  If more than that, it will be split up into multiple parts, to be published in consecutive issues of DIY Life.  To see what the Winter 2010 issue looked like, go here, and to get some ideas for what to write about, go here!

This is a biannual zine, that publishes a Winter and a Summer issue.  The current deadline for the Summer 2010 issue is June 1st. If you're interested in writing something, but want opinions on what to write about, or have any questions, please contact me at open.eyed.slave@gmail.com.

I'm really excited about this issue, and I'm going to actually work on making it a real zine this time, with more artwork and stuff, since the last issue was sorely lacking!  Because of this, I'm putting an emphasis on looking for sketches, artwork, cool Crimethinc style political stuff/art, and anything else you think would be good in a zine, as well as cover art.

When you send something in, please include a SHORT bio (maximum 250 characters, not words), that includes your personal website, email address, blog, Twitter or deviantART account, or any other web address, if you want it to be included.

Have any questions?  Contact me, Idzie,  at open.eyed.slave@gmail.com

Thank you to everyone for your interest and support, and I'm really looking forward to what you have to share! :-D


Monday, March 29, 2010

Unschooling Creates "Gaps in Education"

One of the most common concerns brought up about unschooling is possible "gaps".  If unschoolers learn only about what they're interested in, won't they have gaps in their education?

And this strikes me as coming from such a very schooly mindset: a mindset that says that schools have the answer.  That everything chosen for the school curriculum is Important, and MUST be learned at some point or other for the learner to be a properly functioning member of society!  It comes from a presumption that the government knows everything that's essential knowledge for every human being.  And it comes from the belief that there IS one essential body of knowledge out there to be learned!

I totally disagree. 

The government wants children to learn what will help the system itself, not what's good for the individual or the community.   There are also much more important, to the system, anyway, lessons taught in school than what's "learned" about the "core subjects" (see John Taylor Gatto's The Six-Lesson School Teacher).

I also disagree that there are certain "core subjects" that must be learned.  As far as I'm concerned, a healthy community is made up of many people with many different skills, experiences, and knowledge bases.  The things that are important for each individual to learn are those important to that individual.  The idea of "gaps in knowledge" at all is pretty ridiculous, actually, when everyone can agree that there is a colossal amount of information out there.  No one can hope to absorb any more than a tiny fraction of the accumulated knowledge available to them, so everyone no matter what their education will have "gaps"!  It's just a matter of whether the knowledge you do have is of your own choosing, knowledge that is meaningful and worthwhile to you, or whether it's chosen by someone else, and forced down your throat "for your own good".

And really,  even if I did have to pick the things I think it would be truly good for everyone to learn, I'd pick things I think would be freeing, and help people move beyond our horrible system.  It would look nothing like a school curriculum.  I'd say that I thought everyone should know how to truly look after themselves.  Have a basic knowledge of health, how to treat yourself for a variety of common ailments using natural medicines, good nutrition (REAL good nutrition, not the food guide crap issued by governments), how to find/grow/raise your own food, how to make your own shelter, how to make decisions both individually and collectively, and live in a consensual, pro-community way with those around you.  I think those things are a hell of a lot more important than algebra or the capital of Oklahoma (no offense to Oklahoma.  It was just the first place that popped into my head! ;-)).

The idea of there being an essential body of information is a pervasive one, sadly.  Even most homeschoolers, and many unschoolers, buy into the idea of there being core subjects, even if they don't buy into the schools idea of teaching them.  I used to think that way myself, and to separate what I was doing into "subjects".  Hell, I still find myself doing that on occasion!  But I find it more freeing to go beyond that, to stop thinking of  life as having anything to do with "subjects", and to never place different activities, different types of learning or knowledge, into a hierarchy of importance based on the pervasive schooling mindset of our society.  To try instead to let myself gravitate toward the things that simply feel best, feel the most important, empowering, and good to me, whether or not those things are considered important by the rest of the world!


Saturday, March 27, 2010

A Teenage Brain

Something I have heard oh so many times is that, because as teenagers and young adults our brains are not "fully developed", we are "bad" decision makers, and not to be trusted.  It's a very frustrating attitude, that really seems to twist scientific data to suite anti-teen feelings in our culture.  What constitutes "bad decision making", anyway?  That's a very subjective opinion.

When I found this post a while back, I simply loved it.  It deals with just that subject, and does so in such a wonderfully positive, pro-people way.  It reads in part:
"Though Teen brains may indeed not possess myelin sheaths that adults brains have, that doesn’t make them 'unfinished', in the sense that the article portrays: foolish, flawed, poor decision makers.

Without Teen’s 'unfinished' brains 99% of the risk taking done in the name of love, art, idealism, adventure, protecting family, would disappear.

Teens excel at taking risks because they have perfectly developed brains for doing so.

Saying they have unfinished brains compares to saying a new moon hasn’t 'finished' until it swells to a full moon. The Teen brain marks one moment in the cycle of the brains life where it has enormous potential for one kind of behavior - risk taking, adventure, romantic expression."
I urge you to read the whole post.  It's not very long.  Personally, I just loved it, and will send it straight to the next person who seeks to silence and dis-empower a teen by telling them of their faulty brains!


Thursday, March 25, 2010

Images of Spring

Yesterday, my mother and I went for a walk.  I took my camera.  It was a truly lovely day!

We saw new shoots emerging...

Leaves unfurling...

Plants growing everywhere...

The sun shining on old rosehips and new buds.

The sun made everything bright and hazy to my camera lense.

We wondered what was wrong with these berries, that the birds never ate them in the Fall!

It was a windy day, and the water was curling into small waves as it hit the shore.

I love the pattern of branches on sky.

New buds on windblown branches.

The moon in a bright blue sky.

This bird, a Mourning Dove, sits on the wire outside our house almost every day, singing her sweet, melancholy song...

When I don't spend time outside every day, I feel like I'm not living life properly.  Yet at the same time, taking walks often saddens me.  So much development, pavement, cars, and lonely patches of bedraggled woods.  Things aren't the way they're supposed to be.  But a sunny day is still beautiful...


Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Finding Community

I have a driving urge to write, but I have no clue about what!  It's a sunny, beautiful day outside, and as soon as someone either stumbles out of bed (not to mention any names...) or arrives home from running some errands, I will drag them outside for a walk.  With my camera, this time!  But until then, I'm left with a mind full of clamouring thoughts and emotions and ideas and dreams...

One thing I've been thinking about is community.  It's something that's been on my mind for a while now...

When I was young, we were involved in the local homeschooling community.  I made a couple friends, but I found relatively few people to connect with in the largely conservative Christian, school-at-home group.  There were plenty of nice people, just not *my* people.  Despite that, I enjoyed the company of the friends I had, and never really felt much of a lack...

Then I reached my teens.  And most of the homeschoolers I knew, as they also reached their teens, headed to school, and we lost contact.  Teen years can also be turbulent, especially in a society that is so unfriendly to teens, and I definitely felt that.  I became as much of a hermit as my family would let me be for a couple years.  I don't remember much about my early teens, or where I was in my mind, to be honest, either good or bad.

When I was 14, my mother, trying to find some group activity where I could meet others my age (my very social, extroverted, and outgoing sister made friends wherever she went, and so never really caused worry in that area for my parents!), my mother came across the Air Cadets.  A Department of Defence funded youth program, based on military structure.  A big draw was that it was entirely free!  Hey, why not, I thought.  So my sister and I both joined.  When I tell people now, in all my anarchist hippieness, that I was in cadets for three years, they look at me in shock!  To be honest, I find it rather surprising myself, at this point! :-P But I learned a lot in those three years, and not any of it stuff you'll find in brochures advertising the program.  There was so much bullying, so much dishonesty and bullshitting, so much sucking up to officers in charge, and treating lower ranked cadets like dirt.  It was stressful most of the time, fun occasionally.  I learned just how things SHOULDN'T be!  Just how people shouldn't interact.  It helped shape and solidify my opinions, so that when I finally decided I'd had enough when I was 17 and left, I was searching.  Searching for the things I thought were right, the ways I thought people should live and be.  It was shortly after I left that I embraced unschooling, and started seriously looking into anarchy.   It still amazes me I lasted that long in cadets, and though it seems strange and rather silly to say, that time, though I don't regret it, did hurt me in some ways.  I learned what it was like to be treated as lesser, to be made to feel shame for making mistakes, to function within a rigid structure of rules, to be constantly judged.   

I actually did make one or two friends there, one of which is still a very good friend, who left cadets not long after I did, and is now a happy green party supporting pagan dude. ;-)

But I was left in pretty much the same place: without a real community, and only a couple of friends.  I started my blog about that time, and started meeting unschoolers online.  In the nearly two years since then, I've found a huge community online, one that is supportive and truly amazing (seriously.  I love you guys!).  I've also made friends in person from across North America, really awesome people whom I want to get to know better, and whom I really wish lived closer...  I've learned, unlike what I thought in my early to mid teens, that I'm not unlikeable, and there are plenty of people out there whom I get along with wonderfully. 

But I'm still left, here where I live, with virtually no community. A couple friends are about it.  So in recent times, I've been trying to change that.  I've been organizing unschooling meetings, getting to meet a bunch of lovely unschooling mamas, and even a few teens!  But I feel like that's only a part of what I want, and maybe even need.

I've sometimes seen people be accused of spending time only with those who share the same opinions and live the same ways, and sometimes I wonder if that's what I'm trying to do, but I really don't think it is.  What I care about is finding people who don't judge me negatively for thinking and feeling and living the way I do.  People who will support my decisions and life choices.  And at least some people who *understand* and live the same or similar choices, because sometimes you just need someone who really gets it.  In my experience, the people *most likely* to do just that are unschoolers, anarchists, pagans, or anyone really who has chosen to make their own decisions, live their own lives, to not be part of the "mainstream", at least on some levels.  I want people who get unschooling, but I also want people who share my other views.  A bunch of different people.  People who can talk about anti-civ stuff with me, people who can talk about peaceful child-raising, and about consensual living.  People who are into freedom, and animal rights, and *truly* sustainable living (not just all this "green" crap).  I feel a real ache, a true lack of good, regular, in person contact with people who get me, and people who I "get" in return!  The unschooling group is a very good start.  Now I just need to figure out the rest of it...

But right now, it's beautifully sunny, and there are roads to walk and trees to hug and wind to listen to and buds to gently-ever so gently-touch, and pictures to take.  Any more heavy thinking can wait for a while.


Sunday, March 21, 2010

Excerpts on Anarchy and Patriarchy

Spring seems to have come early this year...  Or at least it seemed to have before today!  My sister is part of two pipes and drums (aka Highland) bands (she plays highland snare drum), one of which does paying gigs.  And the weekends around St. Patrick's day are a BIG time of year for that band!!  Last Saturday, they played in one parade and at two bars, in freezing rain mixed with hail.  Then, for the rest of the week, it was GORGEOUS!!  Records were broken on several days: it was that warm and lovely!  Yet here we are, back at the weekend again, and yesterday when they played in Quebec City it was grey and gloomy, and today, when they played in a parade outside of Montreal, it SNOWED!  It's actually still snowing a bit here.  I'm not thrilled with the snow, but I can't really help but smile at it all.  I adore Spring in all it's unpredictability! ♥  But, with the weather the way it is at the moment, I've been spending time doing cozy inside things, like collage and other art, and reading (specifically looking for quotes that work with the collage pieces I'm working on).  And in my reading, both in books and online, I wanted to share a couple short book excerpts I really liked... 
"Think of anarchism as an individual orientation to yourself and others, as a personal approach to life. That's not impossible to imagine. Conceived in these terms, what would anarchism be? It would be a decision to think for yourself rather than following blindly. It would be a rejection of hierarchy, a refusal to accept the "god given" authority of any nation, law, or other force as being more significant than your own authority over yourself. It would be an instinctive distrust of those who claim to have some sort of rank or status above the others around them, and an unwillingness to claim such status over others for yourself. Most of all, it would be a refusal to place responsibility for yourself in the hands of others: it would be the demand that each of us not only be able to choose our own destiny, but also do so." - from Days Of War, Nights of Love: CrimethInc for Beginners
"Patriarchy divides life into higher & lower categories, labeled “spirit” versus “nature,” or “mind” versus “matter” – and typically in this alienated symbolism, the superior “spirit/mind” is male (and/or white), while the inferior “nature/matter” is female (and/or black). This false dualistic symbolism arises from an enforced order of male domination. With the aid of such phallic psychology, men can then go about the earth raping nature, exploiting resources and human labor, manipulating and “improving” her with technological-mechanical inventions and “progressive goals.” In patriarchy man separates from earth, emulating some aloof and disconnected Sky God of his own creation, and this intellectual separation makes him feel “free” to devastate the natural world without any sense that it belongs to a common ecosystem with himself. He exploits “it,” totally alienated from the fact of his own continuity with “it.” For the deluded profit of the few, and the existential pain of the many, patriarchy exists by destroying the original holism."  - from The Great Cosmic Mother: Rediscovering the Religion of the Earth  by Monica Sjoo & Barbara Mor (via the blog leafnest)
Reading the words of others can be so refreshing, validating, challenging, and simply thought provoking...  A good occupation on a rather gloomy day!


Friday, March 19, 2010

Writing Isn't a Passion. It's Part of Who I Am.

Sometimes I feel myself being held back in writing, by feeling that everything I write should be profoundly or wonderfully something.  Wonderfully:



Thought provoking.

But then I realize that isn't the point.  Or at least, I don't want it to be the point.  To me, writing is such an important part of my life, and whether or not what I write is always *good* or not shouldn't matter as much as the fact I am writing, and by doing so I'm working out thoughts, finding new ways of looking at things, breaking the huge block a blank screen or piece of paper often represents, improving my writing abilities... 

A while back, in a conversation with my mother, she referred to writing as a passion of mine.  Instantly, that just didn't feel right to me.  "It's not a passion", I told her, "it's part of who I am."  Those words stuck with me, because as soon as I said them, I realized how true a statement it was.  Even if I lived to be 90 without ever coming across another computer keyboard or blank sheet of paper, I'd still be writing in my head.  I'm constantly thinking of posts and articles, going over different points, literally writing out bits in my head, figuring out what sounds best.  I regularly turn conversations into dialogue in my head, as well, moving words around and slightly rephrasing things until it all sounds just right, like a passage in a novel.

I don't think I ever go more than an hour without thinking about writing.  It's just such an integral part of my life, though one I don't often stop to consider properly.  And when I start to let myself get caught up in perfectionism, I forget that as part of who I am, part of my life and my being in this world, my writing has no more of an obligation to be "perfect" than any other part of my life.  I want my writing to be just as imperfect and in-the-moment as a conversation with a friend or my musings as I daydream in the sunshine...  As imperfect as an argument with my mother, or the incredible anger and grief over a terrible injustice.  I want my writing to reflect me, and to reflect my life, in all it's imperfect complexity.

Someone once made a comment online about life being an art, and I love that.  I also want to reverse it, and say that art, all arts, painting and drawing and writing and playing and singing and molding and building, should be lived as life.  Life is art and art is life.

I think this post is a perfect example: right here I went from blankness of mind and blankness of screen to waxing poetic about writing!  I really love writing.


Thursday, March 18, 2010

My 19th Birthday...

I'm sure everyone remembers how much I was fussing about turning 19...  How hard I was finding it, and how much I was dreading my birthday.

So, on the night of the 15th, the night before my birthday, I was rather surprised to find that, as I curled up in bed, the thought drifted through my head that tomorrow was my Birthday, and all I felt was a faint glow of happiness.

On my birthday, the 16th of March, I woke up to a truly glorious day!  Bright sunshine, and record breaking warm temperatures!  How could I not be cheerful?  I danced around the house with the sunlight streaming through the windows, and even when I woke my sister and we had a bit of a disagreement, it passed quickly and the day continued in it's joyous flow...  Our cat Henry was being cute and playful, so I just had to pull out my camera to take pictures, and then Emi curled up with him for a little while on my bed...

My mother came back with food for the full breakfast I'd requested, and even though it was past 1:00 by then, and she couldn't find every ingredient on my list, it worked out wonderfully.  I've found that when I let go of expectations of perfection, things often work out as well or better than I'd originally imagined!  So we had a lovely late meal of vegetarian sausage with fried onions, spiced potatoes, scrambled eggs, good baguette, and sushi.  My mother, sister, and I ate together in the light filled kitchen.  'Twas good. 

Once we didn't feel quite as stuffed, Emi and I headed out for a rambling walk.  There were birds singing, we saw a bluejay, and a bug of some sort flew over our heads.  We also saw (and heard) a flock of geese coming back for the Summer as they flew by.  The ground was even dry enough in a local park that we could sit comfortably under a couple of trees and just talk...  I was thrilled that I was perfectly comfortable wearing just a light sweater!  Really though, these words don't seem an accurate description of that sunny day.  How do you put down on a page or screen the cry of a mourning dove as it sits on the wire in front of our house?  Or the raggedy V of a flock of geese, the way their wings move?  Or the precise way the light and shadows fall under three evergreen trees in an empty park?  I wish I had pictures, to help, at least a bit, in showing the absolute beauty of the day, but my camera is so big and heavy, and I was feeling so light and unencumbered that I didn't want to drag it along. 

I'd originally hoped to have homemade pizza for supper, and we'd originally wanted to get out early to pick a cake, since in our family, it's a tradition to get everyone a cake from this amazing bakery, Premiere Moisson, on their birthdays.  Those cakes are not cheap, so we can't get them often, but everyone deserves one on their birthday!!  Now, we never got the homemade pizza made, and we hadn't gotten the cake yet by the time my father arrived home, so my father, sister and I headed out to pick up both a cake and a pizza.  We drove along, car windows open, laughing and talking.  It was still gorgeously sunny, despite the fact the sun was getting closer and closer to the horizon... 

At home we had supper, with much talking and laughing once again, and followed our supper with my birthday cake and a bottle of good dessert wine.  Yummy.

Of course, by the time we were done our leisurely meal, it was dark out, and I was longing to head outside again.  So Emi and I sat on the front steps, with a candle and a bit of sage to burn, and just soaked up the beauty of the nighttime...  Throughout the Summer, I spend a lot of time outside after dark.  It was such a joy that it was warm enough to do so on my birthday without freezing!!

We finally finished the day with playing some Kingdom Hearts (I should mention at this point that I NEVER play video games, usually, but that I decided, without any coercion, to play Kingdom Hearts with Emi, and that I've actually been enjoying it!), singing some songs from our favorite song book, talking for a bit in that stillness unique to past 1:00 at night, before finally going to sleep...

Despite all my stressing about turning 19, and I'm still not thrilled with the age, I had a good Birthday.


Sunday, March 14, 2010

Unschooling and Access to Media

Yesterday, I asked, in a YouTube video, for people to ask me questions about unschooling.  And I got lots of interesting questions!  I tried to do a video on this one, but I was having a lot of trouble getting my opinions on this subject across in that format.  So, I decided to answer it in a blog post instead!  The question is in italics, my answer in regular font.

Let's say children are like seeds. In order to grow into good people, they don't need to be *forced* to grow, because they do that naturally. But that said, a seed must be planted in fertile soil, in the right climate, and must be watered, etc. What if some kinds of media today threaten the minds of the young- for example, television which provides immediate satisfaction but gives no decent returns in the long run may be more compelling than a book.

Firstly, I think you’re making a huge jump in saying that television gives “no decent returns in the long run”, and automatically assuming that a book has more value than a TV show!  I totally disagree with that!  Also, what’s wrong with instant satisfaction?  A life well lived is one made up of many happy moments: if watching TV gives you joy, I don’t really see how it’s in anyway unworthy of your time.  I’m an avid reader, and have been for many years.  Books have enriched my life in many ways!  But, so has TV.  When I was young, I watched tons of science shows and history shows.  Tons of “educational” shows on a variety of topics.  I also just watched some fictional shows.  I was never a particularly big TV watcher, but it was never forbidden to me, and I enjoyed what I did watch.  I also learned a ton!      

My opinion is that if kids have less manufactured entertainment stimuli they are forced to use their imagination to invent their own games, stories, etc. But because of the exponential growth of media, it is getting harder and harder to give children a world which does not numb their minds and imagination.

Again, I totally disagree.  Storytelling fuels imagination, and at their hearts, ALL types of fiction, be it novels, comic books, TV shows, movies, or oral storytelling, is just that: storytelling.  You find similar elements in all of them, and stories, no matter the medium they’re told in, can bring great joy, fuel imagination, cause you to question deeply held beliefs, ask profound questions…  Storytelling is an amazing art, and I find it rather sad when people start passing judgments on what types of storytelling are “good” or “bad”.

I also want to give some real life examples of this.  Far from squelching my very creative sister’s imagination (she currently writes tons of fiction), my sister would play pretend all the time based on various favourite movie characters.  She would also, as a young child, spend hours alone in her room just creating huge complex stories and worlds.  Soon, that imagination was used to start writing fiction.  She’s currently working on her first novel!  And she even plays video games, supposedly the most mind numbing things out there, and has played them for years. ;-) 

And yet- this brings up two competing ideas about freedom: should we free the child in the immediate moment, by imposing no limits on how they spend their time; or can we control their environment so that they are more likely to build their imaginations and judgements?

I’m sure you’ve gathered my opinion on this by now.  I do recognize that some (okay, a lot) of stuff on TV has messages that really aren’t so great (as do tons of books out there, I might add).  But I’m not advocating casting your kids loose and ignoring them while they do nothing but watch TV.  When you have a good, attentive relationship with your kids, one where you discuss what they’re seeing, have good dialogue, you’re exposing them to the world around you, with all of it’s negative and positive “influences”, and doing so while remaining a loving, supportive, and knowledgeable companion.  I don’t think that sheltering your kid does anything but make things more difficult for them later on. 

I also think that any time you make something forbidden to your child, you’ve just made it the most interesting thing out there.  Kids are curious, and if they’re denied access to something, chances are they’ll both really want to get access to it, and quite likely resort to lying and going behind their parents backs to do so.  Really, I don’t blame them!  I’ve come to this conclusion from my own experiences growing up, which were that the more controlled a child was, the more likely they where to frequently lie to their parents.  It was the only way they could have freedom.

I also want to add that even now, I find TV very “educational”.  I find advertising fascinating, I find the underlying assumptions and worldviews in mainstream shows fascinating, and watching TV sometimes helps me to remember how most of the world thinks (my sister regularly tells me I’ve forgotten what “normal” is)!

So that’s my answer to that question.  I hope I’ve given some insight into it!


Saturday, March 13, 2010

Vlog: Unschooling=No Procrastinating?

Answering a question I was asked today, in response to my previous video Ask me questions about unschooling?.

Unschooling=No Procrastinating?

And don't worry, this sudden surge in vlogging is most likely short lived.  I'll have more written blog posts up soon!


Vlog: Ask Me Questions About Unschooling?

I especially love writing online to convey ideas, share opinions, etc, but I also like vlogging on YouTube, and I have a very different audience there, an audience made up largely of those who aren't, themselves, unschooling, but want to learn more about it!  However, I rarely vlog.  Mostly because I often have trouble thinking of good things to vlog about (I find coming up with vlogging ideas to be much harder than coming up with posting ideas).  So I made a video asking people to ask me about unschooling, and give me ideas...

It's aimed mainly at the aforementioned YouTube audience, but I'd welcome questions from blog readers as well!  My YouTube channel: Catzie690


Thursday, March 11, 2010

It Begins in Fire

Enjoy Life Unschooling is hosting it's first blog canival, with the topic of New Beginnings, and when I read the list of prompts for writing a New Beginnings themed post, one of them stood out to me:

How do you celebrate new beginnings in your life?

When I was a child, I loved mythology.  All mythology.  Anything I could get my hands on.  Once, I read a novel about an Indian dancer, and in it the main character worshiped the god Shiva, who is both destroyer and creator, benign and terrible.  Shiva is also often associated with fire.  In the book, I remember reading about Shiva, the god of fire and dance, who dances the destruction of the world, then dances it's rebirth.

That must have made an impact on me, since the memory of it has stuck with me for years.

To me, fire is like that: the creator and destroyer.  Bringer of endings and beginnings.

I like to have ritual in my life.  It makes me feel calmer, more grounded.  It's a way of both connecting with the wider web of life and of centering myself.  When I forget to mark passages, and changes, and holidays, and the turning of the season through ritual, it saddens me, and even makes me feel a bit lost!  It's something that I forget about too often, but that adds greatly to my life.

Fire has always felt sacred to me.  Anyone who's ever stared into the flames knows how you can fall almost into a trance while doing so, how fascinating and exciting it is, the warmth and light of it.  Fire is both comforting and dangerous.  So it's not surprising, I suppose, that fire plays an important part in ritual, for me.

And what I want to talk about now is endings, and beginnings.  Because the two are inextricably intertwined!

A few years ago, instead of just making resolutions at New Years that I won't keep anyway, and will just feel bad about when I break, I wrote down, on a blank sheet of paper, all the things I wished for in the new year.  New friends.  Good health.  Discovering new places.  And I went downstairs, along with my family who'd chosen to do the same thing, and in the dark-warm-stillness of past midnight, we placed our papers in the wood stove and watched then curl as they burned brightly, the smoke carrying our wishes up the chimney and out into the night.

I've also used fire to symbolically cleanse bad things from my life.  To burn bad memories and feelings, release them in a tangible way so that I can move on in my life more freely.  Regrets can weigh so heavily, make you wince, and want to just curl up in a dark corner and forget about it all.  I think that too many people carry heavy regrets with them long after they should have been put to rest.  The past is past, and can't be changed.  You can never fully get rid of regrets, I know, but I'm constantly trying to lessen the burden of my regrets, and to realize that every moment is a new beginning, a time to do things differently, to move further toward what and who you want to be in this new moment.  

Fire is both endings and beginnings.  It's change.  It's wild and warm and life giving and life taking.  It's spontaneity and it's meditation.

And it helps me to remember that life is moving, not static, and to mark those passages, those changes, those new beginnings.


Monday, March 8, 2010

In Honour of International Women's Day

In conversation recently, someone said to me they don't think that most men realize to what lengths women are expected to go to look "pretty".

I think that person is right.

I also think many women don't think much about all the things they're expected to do to look "pretty".  For the most part, those things are just accepted.  Normal.  Just what you do.

And it harms us.  Physically and emotionally. 

Physically, the average woman is exposed to a huge amount of chemicals on a daily basis: the facial cleansers, body creams, lip balms, makeup, deodorant, hairspray, perfume.  All of these (except for a very few "natural" brands that actually don't contain any harmful chemicals) are loaded with carcinogens and other harmful chemicals.  Yet if a woman, or even more so, a teenage girl, doesn't wear makeup she's often considered a freak.

For fear of being ostracized, for fear of weird looks, most women shave.  Most women wear a bra.  Most women wear makeup.  And most women would never even consider NOT doing any of these things!!  If they're freely chosen, none of these things are bad (with the exclusion of cosmetics and body care products containing harmful ingredients).  But as the ONLY option, the only way you'll be considered attractive (or so people think), I think it's absolutely horrible.

Why can't people see that breasts are not, actually, bra shaped, and that they move when you move?  Why can't people see that all humans have hair all over their bodies, not just the parts currently considered socially acceptable?  Why can't people see what a beautiful face looks like without a heavy coating of makeup?

I went through a stage, in my mid-teens, where I felt so different, so out of place, and I was desperate to fit in.  So, casting off my hippie upbringing, I bought bras, and shaved my legs, and even after a while started wearing makeup.  I got to the point where I'd usually put makeup on before leaving the house, and if I wasn't wearing any, I'd look in the mirror and think I looked ugly.

That's what kind of snapped me out of it, along with my new findings about just how dangerous many chemicals in cosmetics are.  I didn't want to get cancer.  And I knew that I should not think that the only true beauty was from synthetic gunk on my face.

That also coincided with a definite movement in my life towards finding myself.  Creating my own identity, being my own person.  This involved, and involves, a steady movement to a more "hippie"-ish, more organic, and less constrained by social mores, existence.

So I've become part of the bras and razors are optional club (want to join me? ;-)).   Really, why must I change my body, constrain myself in weird and uncomfortable undergarments, or endanger my health by absorbing harmful chemicals into my skin, to fit into some version of beauty I neither accept nor support?

I guess you could say I'm in the process of detoxing from the expectations of this culture.   In both this area of my life, and in many others.  It's a long process, and often a difficult one, to break away from the expectations of your entire culture.  But I think it's a very healthy, very *good* thing to be doing.


Friday, March 5, 2010

Expectations on Being an "Adult"

In less than two weeks (on March 16th, to be exact), I'll be turning 19.  Almost two decades on this earth.

And I feel like it's this great, looming presence on the metaphorical horizon: waiting, the days counting down, their passage constantly reminding me of how old I'm soon going to be.

I haven't really enjoyed my Birthday in years...  Since I was 13 or so, Birthdays reminded me of all the things I hadn't done in that year (all the things I thought would be good to do at X age, that never happened).  A time to feel sad about all the things in my life that weren't the way I wanted them to be.  Isn't that a horrible way of looking at things?

But last year was different.  Last year, I was simply dreading turning 18.  Becoming an official "adult", with all of the encumbent expectations of just what being an adult entails.

I think turning 19 is almost worse.  At 18, I could get away with being a brand new adult!  Now, I've had a whole year to get used to it.  It's like solidifying the adult-ness.

And I've really, really been struggling with that.  At this point in life, even most unschoolers *expect* me to be working, or in college, or in an apprenticeship...  They expect me to be Doing Something.  Something more than what I am.

Because I'm not working.  I'm not in school.  I haven't found someone to apprentice to.  I'm still just writing, researching, planning travels to a couple places, on very limited funds...

And when I look around me, it seems EVERYONE my age is doing *more*.

I feel ashamed.  Embarassed.  Like I'm the slow kid in a nonexistant class, the one that people are looking at with a mix of dissaproval and confusion.  She's smart enough, why isn't she doing something with it?

Because the thing is, I don't want to be an "adult", whatever the fuck that means.  I finally realized that in one of my recent breakdowns (I very rarely meltdown, normally, but in the last couple of months, I've been making a habit of it.) that all I want to do is to be 15 or 16 again (despite the fact I had no clue who I was at those ages, and wasn't necessarily all that happy), and be able to just *be* without all of the pressure.  The expectation that I should be moving on to *more*.

And that realization makes me feel even more embarrassed.  I feel like feeling that way makes me immature.  I look at others my age, with their jobs and college classes and apprenticeships and world traveling, and wonder what they think of me...

My mother says I've always been very wary of and unhappy with change.  I know that to be true.  I've always wanted to watch from the sidelines for a while, before I decide whether or not I want to join in.

But haven't I been watching from the sidelong too long now?  Don't I have to find something to join into now?  I'm turning 19!!

And I do want to make some changes in my life.  I'm not as happy as I could be with where I am now.  But the changes I want to make aren't necessarily the changes others think I should be making.  And I'm no longer sure what the right choices are: which ones I want and which ones others want me to want.

I just feel lost...  And stressed.  And ashamed.

My mother and sister are supportive, and without them, I would truly be lost.  My father is loving, yet with a much more traditional outlook, and he's worried.  He thinks unschooling has failed, because I'm not doing any of the things I "should be" doing by my age.  He doesn't say it, he quite possibly doesn't even think it, but what I hear is that I've failed.  That's not a nice feeling.

So that's where I am right now.  What I've been struggling with for too long now.  My apologies for the disjointedness, the rambling...  It's late.  I'm overtired.  And life feels really difficult right now...


Wednesday, March 3, 2010

A lovely outing and more info on SMUG

My mother and I drove out to check out a campground today, Oka national park, that we thought might be good for the Summer Montreal Unschoolers Gathering (we figure since we came up with the idea so late, only a few months before we want it to happen, we should get everything done as soon as possible!).  And I'm very happy to say that I think we've found the perfect place!!  It's only about 45 minutes from downtown Montreal, and it's also a really lovely place.  It's lovely in the Winter, and looking around, we think it'll be even more beautiful in the Summertime!

There's even a (swim-able) beach on a large lake...

Why we were especially interested in this campground/park was because they have a building with twelve rooms to rent, but you can rent as little as five rooms and get the whole place to yourself!  Here are the pictures I took on our tour of the Gîte Sous Les Pins:

Here it is from a couple of angles...

Inside, there's a lot of lovely wood...

A dining room...

A downstairs hangout room (my mom thinks those tables are perfect for playing Bananagrams! ;-))...


The upstairs hallway, which is entirely comprised of bedrooms...

Each bedroom sleeps three people, with the option to add a fourth bed (which would make it wall to wall beds).


Each bedroom also has a sink and closet space.


For those who would prefer to camp, either for money reasons or because it's more fun, there are campsites RIGHT by the gîte, as in a two second walk, so that really wouldn't affect your ability to hang out in the main building at all.

Also, the park includes several historical chapels and oratories (see the little white building on the hill?  That's one of them!).

The staff there were even super nice, and very knowledgeable, so we were just pretty impressed with the place in general. 

Nearby Oka village is lovely, and my mother and I decided to drive through it and make a list of important local stores (I found it funny that, by chance, the grocery store and the liquor commission where at the top of our list.  Really, what else do you need. ;-)).  While we were there, I hopped out and took a couple of pictures, including of this old church, that I've always thought was gorgeous.  Quebec has an abundance of lovely old churches!  All the old buildings are one of my favorite things about Montreal and surrounding area. :-)

Right by the church is where the ferry is in the Summer.  The ferry goes right across the water, to another scenic little town called Hudson. 

On our way home, but still only minutes from Oka national park, we pulled over to take a closer look at an old, yet still operational, monastery.

Having now looked the place up online, I know that it's not only operational, but open to visitors!  Next time I'm out that way, I TOTALLY want to see inside that building.

So, it was a really nice day out.  The weather was beautiful, and we were both so pleased to have found such a pretty place for the gathering, that's also so close to the city!!

Now we just need to find a good date (we're thinking maybe July 2nd to 6th or 7th?  We're not sure how attached the Americans who want to come are to July 4th celebrations though, so that might not work...).  The jazz fest would be on then, with TONS of free music, so it would be a great time to hang out in the city (if that date doesn't work, there are plenty of other music festivals with lots of free shows.  It's just that the jazz fest is both the biggest and bet known!).

I'll be setting up a website for the gathering soon (both because I love playing around with Wordpress, and because it's practical to have all the info in one place!).

If you're interested, don't forget to join the yahoo group:  Summer Montreal Unschoolers Gathering

Really excited about this, and hope to see you in Montreal this Summer! :-)


Monday, March 1, 2010

Summer Montreal Unschoolers Gathering

I've been having a difficult time of things lately, emotionally.  I'm not thrilled to be turning 19 in less than two weeks, and having some family issues.  But, one thing that's making me feel happier at the moment is a tentative unschoolers gathering this Summer in Montreal that my mother and I are (looking at) organizing...

Tentative time: June or July 2010

Tentative place: A campground within an hour of downtown Montreal

My mother and I are actually going to be visiting a campground with a building to rent this week!

If you're interested in possibly attending this gathering (if it ends up happening), and would like to provide some much needed and appreciated input, join the Yahoo! group here:  SMUG: Summer Montreal Unschoolers Gathering.

Montreal is a gorgeous city, and I'd love to share it with a bunch of awesome unschoolers!! :-)