Sunday, September 27, 2015

Sunday Zen: Mothering and Intuition - Autumn Issue Coming Soon!

Mothering and Intuition - the theme of the Autumn issue of The Mother Magazine. 

Natural. Gentle. Beautiful. 

As always, I'm thrilled and beyond grateful to be associated with such an insightful and inspiring publication.

You can pre-order this issue either print or digitally by clicking here.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Wednesday Walks: The Energy of a Place

Autumn is descending in the South.

And I can't seem to get enough time outside. Though I love our woods, it's always fun to explore new woods, and we had the chance a couple of weeks ago when we visited friends staying at a family estate in Edgefield County.

Natural places have an energy all their own. I instantly felt the energy of these woods. It was inviting, beckoning us in, and the deeper we went, the more I felt pulled to keep going.

We were miles away from the nearest neighbor, but we were far from alone. I always consider seeing a snake to be a good sign, and this guy was nice enough to pose before going about his merry way!

He might just become my new background photo on Facebook!
It wasn't just the critters, though. There was a sense, in these woods, that you were in the midst of multiple times simultaneously, as if you'd walked far away from the present and found yourself in the woods of your ancestors. Perhaps it's the Cherokee in me, but Southern woods always feel like home. And let me tell you, energy here was so strong it was almost palpable! Perhaps because this land has been essentially undisturbed for decades, even though remnants of when it was once worked and farmed long ago still remain, slowly being reclaimed by nature.

I was told there were burial mounds further across this meadow, and I wasn't surprised. In these woods, you could feel the presence of those who were here before you almost as if they were walking by your side.

And of course, there were mushrooms!!!

He was so teeny tiny!!!

They're getting bigger...

This guy took the cake - I think we could have camped out under him!
And of course, it pays to notice when you've entered the faery realm!

These woods held such a magic and mystery that I was mesmerized. I can't wait to go exploring in them again!

Today is my mother's birthday and we're off to celebrate as soon as work and school come to an end. Mid-week celebrations make the necessity of work more bearable, don't they? Happy trails to you, and I hope you can get out and explore some new woods soon!

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Sunday Zen: The Temptation to Buy Clothes (and other items) We Don't Need

Last night I hosted a fall clothing swap at my home and was really pleased with the 'new' items I discovered among my friend's cast offs. It's always fun and I love that reusing and recycling clothing is also free and sustainable!

I used to thrill at the deals I could find shopping big chain stores. Armed with coupons and a keen eye, I could easily rack up deals that would make me feel...I don't know...successful in some weird way, because I'd scored a lot of new things really cheap. When you live and support another life on one income, it's a good feeling to get a deal, yes....but was I really getting deals on things we needed...or was I simply falling for the clever strategies of marketing directors?

Perhaps it was a little bit of both. However, I have since learned that there is a cost for cheap fashion. I may have been proud to completely outfit my son and myself for a season for less than $50, but somewhere, somehow, someone paid a price. The environment likely took a hit as well, because the industry of fast fashion - think stores who regularly sell high priced items for 50-75% or more off - is a major contributor to icky toxins in our environment, not to mention the poor working conditions some garment industry employees toil under.

Back in April, I featured a bit more about the high cost of cheap clothing in my post on Fashion Revolution Day. I've done experiments where I didn't shop for clothes for 6 months, didn't shop for anything for an entire month except food, and most of my readers know my love of thrifting and upcycling. However, it's the temptation to shop the chain stores that reels most of us in.They just make it so easy. Some even give us money to spend.

Having committed loosely to another round of not shopping for any non-food items for a month, I was able to resist the urge to use this coupon last week. Why? Here are 8 reasons I resisted the temptation to use this coupon:

1. I currently do not need any new clothes or other items.
2. My son currently does not need any new clothes or other items.
3. It is highly unlikely I'd have only spent $5 had I went in, and it would have been money spent on items we don't need.
4. I'm committed to making my wardrobe eco-friendly and sustainable, which means applying a less-is-more mentality and shopping brands like Spiritex, Globe Hope, and Sustainably Chic.
5. I also believe thrift shopping is more eco-friendly and sustainable and try to find what I need at my favorite local thrift shop before looking for new items.

But more importantly...

6. I currently do not need any new clothes or other items.
7. My son currently does not need any new clothes or other items.

And perhaps most importantly...

8. It is highly unlikely I'd have only spent $5 had I went in, and it would have been money spent on items we don't need.

Still, a small part of me felt I had wasted the coupon...after all, it was $5 to spend, and it's possible I could have found an item on the sale rack for myself, my son, or a holiday gift for someone that would have been in the $5 price range... which means that with the coupon it would have been basically free, whoo hoo!

But a deeper part of me knows that fast fashion does have a cost, somewhere, to someone.  So while I may visit these big chain stores from time to time when I actually need an item I can't find elsewhere, my personal goal is to avoid unnecessary purchases, no matter what the deal.

How about you, how do you resist the seemingly every-present push to purchase items, especially clothing, that you and your family don't really need? And what eco-friendly, sustainable brands do you support? Would love to hear your thoughts!

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Wednesday Walk: Necessary Spontaneity

I am sure I've mentioned here before how much I embrace the notion of in, not so much.

This doesn't go with my free-spirited artist image, I know, but I'll be honest, I like plans. I like agendas and datebooks with things penciled in neatly. I like knowing where I'm going on what day and at what time and what I might expect when I get there. Plans, while subject to change on a dime, ground me and give me some sense of stability and security. I like looking at my calendar and seeing notes and times jotted down. I like knowing that on a particular day, I'll be doing this, that, and so on.

Sometimes, it's nice to shake it all up, however, with a bit of spontaneity. One of the most spontaneous people I know is my cousin Mike. When we attended his son's birthday party a few weeks back, he suggested - after the cake and ice cream festivities, that we ride up to Stumphouse Tunnel and Issaqueena Falls and take a hike.

Say what??? I had planned on attending the party then driving home through nearby Seneca, stopping at a book store and restaurant along the way. I hadn't planned on driving up to the mountains and hiking down a, that had not been on the agenda at all. And I wavered, still, even after he told me it was only a short drive from where we already were.

I had no good reason for hemming and hawing, but I did, thinking everything from "I'm not dressed appropriately" (I had on tank, long skirt, and my favorite Sanuks) to the fact that I'd all but broken my little toe tripping over my son's skateboard the day before, and my foot really hurt. But when my son heard the word tunnel he was over the moon with excitement about going.

So we all piled into cars and headed up...and had an absolutely amazing time. I'm so glad Mike suggested this and that I got over my hesitation and went along! Hiking around in the mountains feels like home to me - I spent most of my late teens and early twenties on a peak somewhere along the Blue Ridge every chance I got!

Scampering through the hills like a Mountain Goat...

Always on the lookout for 'shrooms!
Atop the tunnel! 

Yes it's another 'shroom pic. Bear with my addiction, please...

Descending in the mountains is often harder than ascending. We had to climb down to reach this fall, but it was worth it! 
Taking a well-earned rest!

Mike and I at the base of the fall!

Another 'epic' tree, to quote my son!
All in all, it was a beautiful day to be in the mountains and we had a great time visiting a new place. I've been trying for a while to practice being more spontaneous, what about you? Do you embrace spontaneity or plan out your days as I'm prone to do? I'm trying to find that balance between of just the right amount of spontaneity mixed with just the right amount of consistency. A big part of that is getting over myself when someone suggests a change of plans from what I had in mind!

You can't tell from this picture, but I had a serious case of hiking-induced jelly legs coming on! 
If you have never been to The Stumphouse Tunnel or Issaqueena Falls in Oconee County, then I highly recommend. The trail down to the falls is a little treacherous to navigate, (especially in a skirt and Sanuks!) but there is also a viewing platform and picnic area as well as a pond. The tunnel itself is a great walk through a real spooky tunnel, which the kids will love. Bring a lunch and a flashlight and have a great time!

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Sunday Zen: Is YOLO Actually Bad Advice?

I was happily minding my own business on social media, trying to catch up with what everyone was doing, when the ad for this hoodie popped up on the right hand side of my screen...

Needless to say, my little hippie heart just went nuts. Gorgeous colors, fair trade and the purchase would also support animal welfare? It had all the stars and pluses usually necessary for me to spend beyond thrift-shop prices for an item of clothing. However, I resisted.

Why? Because my mother and my niece's birthdays are coming up, as well as my son's in a few months and then the Christmas holidays. That can easily all add up to quite a bit of spending, and I'm really trying to concentrate on the financial goals I set for myself earlier this year. In addition, I bought a nice hoodie back in spring, and I really don't need another. However, it was so lovely I sent the link to my sister with fingers crossed as my own birthday is just a few weeks away (hooray!)

How does any of this relate to YOLO, the fan-favorite acronym for the popular mantra, You Only Live Once? I happened to randomly mention how lovely the hoodie was to a friend later that day, and her response was, "Oh just go ahead and order it, it's only $30. You only live once, you know!"

This made me think of how often that I see YOLO as a hashtag on social media in reference to purchases, lavish trips, or often simply reckless behavior. While I am all for embracing the idea of living fully, is careless spending, constant traveling, or a predilection for extreme sports what constitutes a fully-lived life?

I'm not so sure.

My financial goals are important to me, and while no, $30 is not going to break the bank, it would be an unnecessary expense during a time that I'm trying to save. I'm often surprised to the point of bewilderment at how much money people spend on seemingly unnecessary items. Do we really need new clothes constantly? How many pairs of shoes can we honestly justify owning? Is this what propels us out of bed and into work every day, the acquisition of things? I don't know about you, but it certainly isn't what gets me up and going. (Check out The Story of Stuff and take a moment to consider how you spend your earnings. Personally I am all for working less and living more through living simply.)

And while I love to travel, I don't need to do it constantly or lavishly to feel I'm living fully; I equally love being at home, exploring the natural beauty of my own region, and attending local fairs and festivals. As far as anything extreme goes, well, I kind of shifted out of that mindset when I became a mother and solely responsible for the life I'd brought into the world. Still, I wonder how many people are prepared to spend, travel, and do somewhat crazy things because they are trying to follow our society's current YOLO mantra?

I don't know that it is inherently bad advice, but I do know that encouraging someone to spend money on something they really don't need because 'you only live once' is not really a practical suggestion. And while I'd be thrilled if my sister or parents took the bait and got me the hoodie for my birthday, I know I'll still be able to live fully if I never own that hoodie, climb Mount Everest, or attend Trapeze School.

What do you think? Has YOLO become a mantra that we now use to encourage fun-but-maybe-not-so-wise choices, or is it sage advice we should all heed? Love to hear your thoughts on this!

***Sunshine Daydream Hoodie video courtesy of The Animal Rescue Site Store. Every purchase supports the care and feeding of rescued animals. The Animal Rescue Site Store is part of The Greater Good, where your dollars help support everything from breast cancer research to the Rainforest.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Wednesday Walk: Leading by Example and Animal Haven of Asheville

Welcome to Wednesday Walks, a new feature on the blog that allows you a little peek into our world. 

A few years ago, a yoga teacher friend of mine showed me a new tattoo that she'd gotten on her wrist - a small line of script written in some elegant Asiatic language. "It means Lead by Example," she explained. 

It's powerful, this mantra, and there is nowhere I try harder to embody it than in parenting. As a single mother, I long ago grew tired of the continuous flow of rhetoric perpetrating that my son was destined to become a statistic because I was a woman raising him alone. I committed myself to being fully present as mother, reading all the guidebooks and articles on conscious and attachment parenting that I could get my hands on.

And yet, nothing has ever made more sense to me as a mother than the simple message of my friend's tattoo: Lead by example.

In late spring, I became vegan after years of being an on-again/off-again vegetarian. That's a story for another day, but my son, to my great delight, announced shortly afterwards that he wanted to become vegetarian. He had given this a lot of thought and decided it was better for the animals, himself, and for the environment. And 6 months later, he's holding steady, eating healthy, and loving his choice. He was keen, however, to visit an animal sanctuary - a place where farm animals were rescued from an unhappy fate and could live their lives in peace. I looked around and found Animal Haven of Asheville. Considering that I hardly need a reason to visit Asheville - a town I love so much that it's where a large portion of my book is set - I was more than happy to plan a trip. Then he surprised me by asking if, before we went, he and a friend could have a yard sale and donate a portion of the profits to help the animals.

I wanted to make a big fuss over this, but I didn't. Why not? Because over the years I have made giving back, which is very important to me, just seem natural - something we do because we are part of a family, neighborhood, or community. So we headed to the closets and gathered a hodge-podge of items for a rather spontaneous yard sale. The kids had no problem telling people that their mission was to raise money to help the animals of Animal Haven, and I was touched by the generosity of folks who stopped by the sale. Even if they didn't see anything that interested them, most still donated a few dollars to help the fundraiser. 

And so, the next weekend, we all piled into my car and headed up to visit Animal Haven of Asheville and donate the monies raised by the yard sale. It's a most wonderful place, and if you are in or near the Asheville area, I highly recommend you stop by and spend some time there! 

The kids so enjoyed meeting some of the animals that their donation would be assisting! 

We all enjoyed the breathtaking scenery and the on-site thrift store. Profits from this thrift store go to support the animals, so we were happy to donate the leftover yard sale items to them as well. As an avid thrifter, I'm always excited when I find a new shop, and this one is really great. For a whopping $3, I scored an awesome handmade potholder, a vintage necklace, and a beautifully illustrated knitting book from the Country Diary series. 

And likely I'd have found more, but it was a lovely day in the mountains and I was more keen to be outside than in!

So all in all, this experience reminded me once again of the power we have, as parents, to shape our children's lives and perceptions by our own actions. No matter what words we may use, we are always leading by example - how we give back, what we tolerate, how we handle frustration, what we do with leisure time, and so on. My friend was dead-on when she chose Lead by Example as a gentle reminder to model in her life the yoga concepts she was teaching in her class, just as it reminds me to model the values and morals I want my son to learn. 

The people who make Animal Haven of Asheville happen are also leading by example. Everyone was so friendly and knowledgeable, they made us feel welcome and truly at home. We will definitely go back. If you'd like to learn more or even better, volunteer some time to help with projects or animal care, please visit the above link to view this website and this link to follow them on Facebook!