Sunday, January 31, 2010


And when I think I know what's best for me
Fate, she takes me back
To exactly where I need to be
-Amy Steinberg

Last weekend I was having a major freakout because I still had no job prospects and I thought my lights and water were about to be cut off. Then on Saturday, my friend Jill emailed me and asked if she and her family could park their RV here for awhile, and they could give me money right up front toward the electric bill. On Sunday, they were here. They just left yesterday, on their way to a fixed water pump and other states. The timing couldn't have been more perfect, really - I was getting desperately lonely and desperately broke, and their visit helped with both of those. One lesson I've learned in the four months since I lost my mom is that when you're open to possibilities and don't try to force things, things have a way of working out. Maybe eventually I'll learn that lesson well enough to skip the freaking out stage entirely.

But as Edie Brickel would say, shove me into shallow water. I always mean for this blog to have more of a "what I've been up to" feel, but then I end up writing nothing but essays and navel-gazing stuff. People seem to like those posts, but I forget that I can write fun stuff here too. I wonder if people who only know me through my blog think I'm a pretty serious person. Really, I am just a goofball who occasionally has a serious thought and likes to write them down before I get distracted by a fluffy squirrel.

So here's what we got up to this week. I wish I had pictures, but both Jill and I forgot to take any all week! But there was much jumping on the trampoline, on which the kids had me play "Gummi Bears" with them - you know, from the old 80s cartoon? Ironically, they had to teach me how to play, because I didn't have the Disney channel as a kid and have never seen the cartoon! But I was Princess Calla, and Kaya was Igthorn, and Pearl and Fern were Gummis. We also played Super Mario, where Kaya and I took turns being Mario, and whoever wasn't Mario had to be the Koopa shells and Goombas and stuff. I love how the advent of DVDs and Youtube and things mean that kids are still into stuff from when I was a kid.

We also went to the Salvation Army store a few times and picked up a bunch of old movies. I found out the SA is the best place in the world to buy movies, if you don't mind VHS and you like watching older stuff. Jill got a huge stack of Disney movies for the kids, and I found a bunch of my favorites - Star Trek IV, The Breakfast Club, and The Nightmare Before Christmas, to name a few. I pretty much doubled my movie collection, which was pitifully small (if you don't count the 30+ Elvis movies I inherited from my mom).

All in all it was a great week. The thing I love most about hanging out with unschooling families is that I can be friends with the whole family. There's not that invisible wall separating the kids and telling them to run along and play because grownups are talking. If kids aren't kept sheltered from all signs of the adult world, there's no reason grownups can't talk while playing Mario Party DS and being climbed on by cuddly little girls.

When they were ready to leave, Kaya was looking a little sad, and he suddenly had to run into the RV (which Danny had already pulled out into the road - the kids were going in the car) to draw me a picture, and the girls followed suit. That's a nice memory to keep in mind when the job hunt is getting me down. Maybe I don't have a BA and I'm not bilingual and I'm not a "specialist", but dammit, drawing me a picture is a Major Emergency, and that counts for a lot more in the grand scheme of things.

My fridge, right now:

Tuesday, January 19, 2010


I grew up, and still live, in the rural South. We never had much money, but my parents were accumulators of things, and we had a TV and a radio and an old record player. I remember the house always being full of music - wonderful, classic music that predated my arrival by decades. I remember flipping through my mom's record cabinet, running my fingers over the thick cardboard jackets and memorizing the faces on the most colorful ones. I would see those faces again and again throughout my life, repeating like a familiar rhythm as I grew in my knowledge of pop culture and recent history.

It didn't occur to me, back then, that they all looked like me. I suppose it didn't occur to me that anyone should look different. Almost nobody did, where we lived, and the ones who did lived in separate neighborhoods, pushed back almost behind the town, where people passing through wouldn't know they were there. Certainly everyone in my neighborhood looked like me, and everyone in my church, and all of my parents' friends. Even in the movies we watched, all of the characters looked like me - with the notable exception of Gone with the Wind. Every place we went was a hall of mirrors, reflecting larger and smaller versions of myself. I never felt racist, never had any ill feeling towards people Not Like Me. I just didn't pay much attention. Since I saw myself everywhere I went, I had no reason to expect to see anything else.

No matter what I saw on the covers of those records, I knew they each held a piece of magic within. Music was my life, my inspiration, my consistent source of joy through an inconsistent childhood. The radio expanded my choices, playing more from those artists and many others who I'd never heard before. Even without moving the dial from our favorite oldies station, I was exposed to a dizzying array of sounds: the doo-wop and rhythm and blues of the '50s, the classic soul and British pop-rock of the '60s, the passionate folk music and stirring protest songs of the early '70s. This mixture of sounds lit up my soul and filled me with an energy that could brighten almost any bad day.

But radio is radio, and though I knew the songs by heart, I had no idea who any of the artists were. I could pick out The Beatles, sure, and Elvis. Those were my mom's favorites, and sometimes I'd help her tape their songs onto scratchy cassettes. Everyone else was anonymous.

By the time I was ten or eleven, I'd outgrown my mother's music, wanting to move on to something cooler, more now. I turned to contemporary pop radio, and when that wasn't cool enough, to MTV and VH1. I would spend hours each day simply soaking in music and images, resisting my teachers' attempts to stretch my list of tasks beyond school hours. To any outside observer, it was surely "unproductive" and a "waste of time".

But it was here that I first saw the black faces of the people who wrote, performed, and danced to many of my Most Favorite Songs, both from the MTV world and the sunny oldies radio of my earlier years. As my love for their music grew, I realized that these were real people with real stories. They weren't just Others living in trailers behind the grocery store, but people. People who did real things in the world and had fans of all colors and creeds. People I even thought I could be friends with, if they weren't so famous and far away.

And I remember my change of heart clearly enough to say this with certainty: It is no coincidence that when people who didn't look like me began showing up on my TV and in my CD player, it wasn't long before they began showing up in my life as well. My circle of friends today contains multitudes; we're a veritable Rainbow Coalition of assorted geeks, hippies and other misfits, each with a unique background and perspective on life. But I don't think it would be that way if, all those years ago, my ears hadn't opened my eyes.

Monday, January 18, 2010


What "I'm bored" can mean:

I need something and I don't know what it is.

I'm lonely and want you to spend time with me.

Life has gotten monotonous around here, let's do something new!

I'm not sure what I want to do next. I could use some ideas.

I'm feeling a little down and could use a distraction right about now.

I need a change of scenery.

I wish my friends lived closer. I miss them.

I'm between major interests/hobbies right now. I need a new one.

I've learned all the interesting stuff around here. Show me something new.

I'm not getting enough exercise, and it's boring to do it by myself. Let's go play outside together.

I need something to do that makes me feel purposeful and important.

What "I'm bored" almost NEVER means:

I don't appreciate the hundreds of dollars worth of toys and games I have.

I am oblivious to all the stuff there is to do right in front of my face and need you to point it out to me.

I can't do anything on my own. This is your cue to give me orders.

I am volunteering to do any random household chore you feel like assigning, no matter how tedious, boring or lonely it is.

Since I'm not sure what I want to do, I am willing to do anything. Just blurt out an activity and I'll happily do it.

I should be able to completely entertain myself by now, independently of other people. Since I can't, I am immature.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Update on the Haiti Fundraiser

I mentioned in this post that a Livejournal community I'm in has been making donations to UNICEF for help in Haiti. At that point, we were just shy of $8,000. We've now reached over $15,000.

That's $15,000 raised in two days.

$15,000 raised mostly by people in their early 20s, many of whom are in college and are already living off ramen as it is. This has done a lot to renew my faith in the human spirit.

We've also been posting about this on Twitter, and so far we've been retweeted by:

Zachary Quinto
Simon Pegg
Neil Gaiman
Tyler Shields
Wendi Lynn
CNN iReport

That's a big deal not because attention from celebrities is awesome (though it is), but because these people have thousands of followers. Hopefully most of those followers would have donated somewhere anyway if they were able, but star power can be influential. (Hence why my Twitter feed is mostly full of me bugging Star Trek actors right now. Some of them have over a million followers.)

If you'd like to contribute to our UNICEF fund, the link is here. Some other great places to donate:

Doctors Without Borders
The American Red Cross, Canadian Red Cross, or International Red Cross and Red Crescent
The Salvation Army

If you can spare it, please give something somewhere. Even if it isn't much, it matters.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Seven Quick Takes


I'm really feeling the tragedy in Haiti on a more personal level than I normally might. When I hear about natural disasters in other countries, my usual reaction is to say "Wow, that really sucks", maybe say a prayer, and halfheartedly follow the news until they stop talking about it. But I have a good friend who has family in Haiti, and she has no way to know if they're even alive. Even though I don't know any of her relatives there, it makes the whole thing feel closer to home. On one level, I feel bad knowing I wouldn't care as much if I didn't have a connection there, but on the other hand it makes me realize the value of being friends with a whole lot of different people. The more people you know, the more connected you are to everything that happens in the world, and the easier it is to truly understand the impact when things like this happen.


A Star Trek fan community I'm in has been raising money for Haiti through UNICEF, and has raised just shy of eight thousand dollars in roughly the last 24 hours. What makes this extra amazing is that:

1) This isn't any major organization or official fanclub or anything. It's just a Livejournal community. Granted, it's an enormous one, but still.
2) Part of what's making the effort so successful is that our donation page was linked on Twitter by Zachary Quinto, Tyler Shields, and Wendi Lynn (who does makeup on Heroes). I'm trying to focus on the good cause and not get all starstruck, but I can't help going holy shit about that. Just a tiny bit.

I've been feeling shitty that I can't do anything to help because of my economic situation, but I'm really proud to be part of a group that's making such a big effort to help out.


Speaking of Livejournal (which I spend entirely too much time on), I'm also a member of a tiny glam rock fan community, and today someone posted Sandra Dodd's letter from David Bowie. They thought it was adorable and wanted to know if it was for real. I was momentarily stunned when that showed up on my friends list, because it's so rare that my unschooling life and my pathetic fangirl life overlap so neatly. But I was happy to be able to verify that the letter is real, on the grounds that "I totally know the person he sent it to."


Wanna know a random thing I learned today? Mayonnaise lasts a long ass time. See, I've had this jar of mayo in my fridge for longer than you probably want to know. The expiration date says June 2010, and it smells and tastes fine, but for a long time I refused to use it because I believed mayonnaise couldn't possibly last for six months. I'm not sure why I was keeping it if I wasn't going to use it, but I'm glad I did, because it turns out it's still good. I did some research and found that it's so acidic it's hard for bacteria to grow in it, which is why it lasts so much longer than you'd expect from an egg-based product. (Note that this only applies to store-bought mayo; the homemade kind doesn't last as long.)


This is probably going to sound weird coming from someone who lives in Florida, but I'm pretty sure I have some form of SAD. While I'm usually happy in December, I tend to spend January wanting to crawl in a hole somewhere and maybe evolve into some kind of plantlike creature so I can just absorb nutrients from the dirt. I also tend to leave my Christmas decorations up well into January, partly because they cheer me up, but also because I'm too listless to take them down. Today on a whim I finally took down the Christmas tree in my bedroom, and after that I felt a whole lot better. Turns out my cheery, happy Christmas tree was blocking most of the light from getting into my room, thus making my depression worse. Face, meet palm.


The job hunt is not going so well. And by that I don't mean I'm having trouble getting an interview. I mean I'm having trouble finding anything to apply for in the first place. There just isn't all that much around here right now. I finally put a profile on some babysitting websites and I'm hoping to hear back from a family I'd like to apply with. Meanwhile, I'm trying not to panic too much over money. My gut is telling me everything's going to be okay, and even though my gut is usually right, it's still hard to listen to it when my head is screaming oh my god I'm gonna run out of money and I'll starve and my electricity will be cut off and my house will magically disappear into a puff of smoke even though I don't have a mortgage, just because the universe feels like punishing me some more. Any prayers, kind wishes, positive energy, happy thoughts, affirmations, or whatever it is you do are appreciated.


Holy hell I forgot what a load of bullshit high school homework is. I have a good friend who's a senior this year, and she's overworked and overwhelmed and basically just comes to me and goes "What the hell am I supposed to do?!" I'd be tempted to just mail her the Teenage Liberation Handbook with a note that says get the fuck out, but she's graduating in a few months anyway, so for now I'm just trying to help her through the work. The stupid, mind-numbing, pointless work. When you have teenagers upset because their school schedule doesn't leave them enough time to volunteer at a homeless shelter, and lamenting the fact that they have to write essays on Nineteen Eighty-Four because it keeps them from really getting into the book, it's a damn sure sign that whatever kids are being forced to do is a waste of time.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Honesty and Negativity

There seems to be a lot of talk going around right now about being honest about the (relatively few) downsides of unschooling. Idzie, Ronnie, and Jean have all made great posts on this topic in the last couple of days, and I think it's fantastic that people are talking about it.

That isn't exactly what this post is about, but it's kind of in the same spirit. See, as a grown unschooler, I often feel pressure to present a good face and show everyone how Totally! Awesome! My life is! I hasten to add that this pressure doesn't come from anyone but myself. I know there could be someone reading whose kids are very small, or who is just considering unschooling for the first time, who is specifically looking to hear from grown unschoolers. They want reassurance that we're well-adjusted and enjoying life, and that we're not just sitting on our asses collecting welfare checks, or whatever their vision of a Failed Life might be. And I want to provide that reassurance, because I wholeheartedly believe that unschooling is the best life for kids. I want to do what I can to encourage people to unschool.

So it's pretty difficult for me to be honest on here about how hard my life is sometimes.

In my case, the cons aren't really "cons of unschooling" so much as they are "cons of having an inherited tendency toward depression and coming from a family where everyone was disabled or sick or very old and all of them died by the time you were in your early 20s and suddenly you're all alone with no job in the middle of a recession and you're seriously considering changing your name to Charlie Bucket or Harry Potter or whatever the little girl's name was in A Little Princess." All that stuff would've happened whether my parents let me quit school or not.

But since not everyone who comes by here knows my entire life story, I worry that offhand remarks about how shitty my day was or how I don't have a job might look. I know that's a common worry when you're part of any type of minority group: wanting to "look good" lest someone generalize your shortcomings to everyone in that group. But add to that the desire not to make your now-deceased parents look bad, and you get an awful lot of little internal voices screaming at you not to make it publicly known that you're having a hard time.

On the flipside, however, is the need for honesty. Because if I'm doing research for a serious decision, and I find that everyone only says 100% positive things about one of my potential choices, it sets off every possible these people are trying to sell me snake-oil-flavored Kool Aid alarm in my head. I need to know the negatives in order to see whether they're ones I can accept. I need to know about the bad days so I don't freak out when I inevitably have one. And I need to know about the people who are having a damned hard time, because then when I see that they're still completely excited about this way of life, I will know there must be something special about it.

So in interest of promoting that honesty: I am having a damned hard time today. It's only been three months since I lost my mom, and I'm still grieving. January is consistently the worst month for me in any year, no matter what is going on in my life at the time. I don't have a job, or any good prospects for a job, and it's only a very short matter of time before my electricity gets cut off and I run out of food. My dog, who I've had for 10 years, is ill and I cannot afford to take her to the vet. A friend who was considering moving up here in a few months is now saying she may not be here until the end of the year, and I'm wondering if it will happen at all. Another close friend has no way of knowing if her relatives in Haiti are alive, which makes me feel bad for feeling bad about any of my problems.

And of course, as will invariably happen on a day when you already feel bad, random Internet Assholes have been on my nerves all day.

So I'm not having such a good day. It'll pass, I know. I'll get a job somehow, January will give way to an early Florida spring, I'll find something to amuse me enough to get my spirits up, and life will get better.

But not today. Today can kiss my ass.

Friday, January 8, 2010

You gotta follow that dream to find the love you need

Today would be Elvis's 75th birthday! Now, while I don't listen to his music all that much anymore, my mom was one of those HUUUUGE Elvis fans, so I grew up in a totally Elvis-saturated household. His birthday was usually something of a holiday in our house, and my mom would make peanut butter and banana sandwiches and play his movies all day.

This blog, in fact, is named after one of my favorite Elvis movies. It's about a family homesteading in Florida, meaning the literal definition of homesteading: squatting on land and developing it until it's legally yours. Now, in a lot of ways it's your typical "Elvis sings to pretty girls on the beach" movie, but as a kid what I loved about it was watching how a family could build up a place from just raw land to something they could live on. But in case you do like hearing Elvis sing to pretty girls on a beach, here's the theme song:

While you're at it, why not have a look at Sandra Dodd's Elvis page? He's "educational"! Really!

Happy birthday, Elvis!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Flies and Honey

This is an addendum to my previous post. I know that the main reason these comments about Christians slip out is because there is, unfortunately, a rather large segment of the homeschooling population who are harsh and controlling with their children, and most (though not all) are motivated by religion. I'm not saying we shouldn't be critical of that practice!

But the Christians who *don't* homeschool that way often feel just as out of place in the homeschooling community as unschoolers do, which is why it is extra important for us to be careful not to unintentionally exclude them. If they can't turn to their religious community because it frowns on unschooling, and they can't turn to the unschooling community because it appears to frown on their religion, they're in kind of a catch-22. Perhaps if religious people feel safer among unschoolers, there will be an increase in Christians who are willing to consider unschooling.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Something that's nagging at me...

I've written before about the importance of being careful to make room for all types of people within the unschooling community, so it should come as no surprise that it makes me very uncomfortable when I see unschoolers making rude remarks or jokes about particular groups. Now, on the whole, I've found unschoolers to be one of the most tolerant, kind, accepting groups of people there are. In my experience it's pretty rare to see an unschooler behave in a way that is blatantly racist or homophobic, and furthermore, unschoolers in general tend to be accepting of a wide variety of personalities and interests.


I've also seen an awful lot of negative attitudes towards religious people, particularly Christians. I find this troubling for a few reasons, the primary one being that I am against discrimination in any form. But another reason is that a large percentage of the general homeschooling population are Christians, and despite all the stereotypes that say Christians are rigid school-at-home Gestapo moms, many of them are actually relaxed homeschoolers. Many are interested in unschooling, and some are already doing it. And every time a group of unschoolers are seen bashing them - at conferences, on email lists, even on well-known blogs - we're sending a clear message: You are not welcome here. Don't come to our conferences. Don't talk to us. And by doing so, we're going to unintentionally accomplish one of two things:
  1. We will splinter the unschooling community into little factions which do not talk to each other and do not agree on what the word unschooling even means. I know this happens to many groups (Christianity being one of the most notable; see also: Europe), but there are so few unschoolers already. We're such a tiny minority. We need to support and connect with each other, and we can't do that if we're standing on opposite sides of a room glaring at each other.
  2. We will look like a bunch of closed-minded jerks and turn these people, plus others who find our behavior rude on principle, off of unschooling altogether. I shouldn't need to point out that the people who ultimately suffer in this situation are the kids.
Though I don't really identify with any specific denomination, or even any specific religion, I do consider myself a person of faith. I believe in God and I pray. And when I see unschoolers - some of whom I admire - being cruelly dismissive of religion, it hurts me. It makes it harder for me to take that person's advice, it makes me feel like I shouldn't approach them at conferences, and in general it makes me mentally bookmark that person as Not My Friend.

For those who think I may be overreacting: Try and imagine that you're a brand spanking new unschooler. You've never been to a conference, and you're scared to sign up because you won't know anyone there. You've only just dipped a toe into the email lists and picked up some writings by Holt and Gatto. Your Calvert workbooks have barely had time to collect dust, and you're not even sure if this whole lifestyle is for you yet. Now imagine that you're surfing the net for unschooling blogs, forums, anything you can get your hands on, and you see a few casually dismissive jokes about your religion. Or your race, gender, economic status, whatever. Kind of a punch in the gut, yeah? But you figure it's just that one person who feels that way. It can't be everyone, right? This is such a peaceful philosophy...

But then you see it again. Not everywhere, of course, but two or three places in close succession is usually enough to make your stomach knot up. You realize the unschooling movement is tiny, and that if you go to a conference you will see these people, and you'll be faced with the choice of either hiding who you are (if that's an option) and quietly taking insults, or possibly spending much of the conference defending yourself and your children. Worse, your children may have to spend much of the conference defending themselves.

Doesn't sound like such a good time now, does it?

I'm not saying people shouldn't be themselves on their own blogs. Of course everyone has the right to free speech. But having a right to say whatever you want does not mean everything you might want to say is a good idea, or that it won't hurt anyone, or that it won't make you look like an ass when you're actually a completely awesome nice amazing person 99% of the time. By all means, express your own religious beliefs or lack thereof with as much vigor and enthusiasm as you would like. Express your dismay at how your local mostly-Christian homeschooling group has snubbed you. But choose your words carefully, if not for the sake of kindness, then for the sake of kids who might miss out on fully enjoying the unschooling life because their family didn't feel welcome in the community.

*It should go without saying that everything above applies to any other possible kind of discrimination as well. I just wanted to call this one out in particular because it seems to be accepted as okay by many people, and I don't agree.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

A Magical Journey Through 2009: Twitter Edition

This is part III of a three-part post. See Part I and Part II as well.

I got Twitter in December of 2008, which means that I have the mundane details of all of 2009 recorded for posterity. It's a LOT of tweets, but I wanted to comb through and share a few of my favorites here, separated by month.


My New Years resolution is to watch as many music videos as possible. The guy on VH1 suggested that, and I think it sounds pretty good. - Jan 5th

Pandora is suggesting that one element I like in a band is "a dynamic male vocalist." That's eerily accurate, if not an understatement. - Jan 11th
(Those who have suffered politely through my obsessions with Freddie Mercury and Peter Gabriel know this well.)

I went to the park and played on the swings today! To hell with what random parents think, it was fun!
- Jan 14th


My mom and I are watching the same channel in different rooms. QUALITY TIME LOL - Feb 25th
(This was the only thing I tweeted in February that was not about mono. Yeesh I'm a baby when I'm sick!)


I love mowing the lawn, but I do not love getting dirt up my nose. - Mar 22nd


I swear Jamie Lee Curtis has no dignity. Hasn't she considered that when she's dead all anyone will remember is her yogurt poop ads? - Mar 25th


Just ate waffles; now watching a documentary about Thomas Jefferson, and coloring a mandala. Feeling calm and happy. Not using pronouns. - Apr 6th

I just injured myself removing a plastic straw from a box. My life is sad. - Apr 7th

When I start arguing with a friend over how many people live in Greenland, that's a sign it's time to go to bed. - Apr 11th

Went to Walmart for chips and came home with mancala and a lap harp. When I impulse-buy I do it right. - Apr 12th

Dude. Shredder = Uncle Phil. DUDE. - May 10th
(It's true.)

Trying to write an article, but my brain feels like it's made of Jello. Or oatmeal. Gelatinous oatmeal. - May 12th

Even the episode titles of Star Trek TOS are just begging for slash. The Man Trap? The Naked Time? Space Seed? All sound like cheap pornos! - May 15th
(I mean, uh, I have no idea what slash is! Nosiree bob.)

Stupid things I say while playing video games: "Oh well, if I lose a life it won't kill me." - May 19th


Leonard Nimoy has successfully ruined LOTR for me. I can't get the accursed Bilbo Baggins song to quit popping in my head while I read >( - Jun 5th

I'm listening to Donovan and making a kerchief for my hair, and discussing chorizo with Roni. It sounds, um, interesting. - Jun 14th

@wilw If you don't come back, should we avenge your death? - Jun 25th
(This is notable because he REPLIED TO ME OMG. I mean, no, I'm not a pathetic fangirl of any sort! *laughs nervously* *backs away*)

(There's a lot this month - bear with me.)

Today is the day on which we celebrate our founding fathers and their principles by eating some wieners. Ben Franklin would be so proud. - Jul 4th
(I was not implying anything about Franklin's sexuality here, but in retrospect it sounds like I was.)

Pro tip: If you ever manage to accidentally get soy sauce on an Oreo, do not try to eat around the soy sauce. Just throw the cookie away. - Jul 8th

My animals either do not like the sound of the record player, or they don't like Prince. Jake looks like he is plotting my death right now. - Jul 16th
(Eerily, "Raspberry Beret" came up in iTunes right when I pasted this.)

Apparently, someone recently found my blog through a Google search for "preauricular shit smell". I don't even want to know. - Jul 18th

Strange questions in my house: "Where's that stick I hit things with?" My mom didn't even find this question odd. - Jul 26th

Peculiar discovery of the day: lullaby renditions of Nirvana songs. I am not making this up. - Jul 30th


Kasey begged to come inside, used the litter box, and went right back out. THANKS SO MUCH KASEY. - Aug 18th

Watching Andrew Zimmern. "Now this is all the flesh, tongue, and cheek from a cow's head, preserved in an aspic." Me: "Ewww, aspic" - Aug 20th



I think if, when asked to describe yourself, your FIRST answer is "I'm a member of Mensa", it should be acceptable to punch you in the gut. - Sep 16th

I know Yahoo isn't a serious news source, but I think "Jessica Simpson mourns her dog" as a featured headline is a new low even for them. - Sep 19th


Random fact of the day: Nolan Bushnell founded both Atari and Chuck E. Cheese. Be still, my 80s kid heart. - Oct 12th

Listening to George Winston, just hung a tire swing, and now I'm going to make fried rice and apple brown betty. I love fall! - Oct 19th

(Name the movie and win a cookie. Hint: They are not the hell your whales.)

I didn't have internet access for most of November.


I would like to install a nice, cushiony wall in my house that I can bang my head against during debates. Also a tumbling mat. For tumbling. - Dec 3rd

Mr. Burns can't stand talking to his mother. He never forgave her for having that affair with President Taft. @dailysimpsons - Dec 18th
(They used it!)

"I may be dirty and smelly, but in the dark, I'm just smelly!" - Dec 18th
(Two cookies if you can name this one!)

I like it when Twitter says "Retweet to your followers?" It makes me sound like some kind of overlord. You are my minions. - Dec 30th

A Magical Journey Through 2009: Personal Edition

This is part II of a three-part series.
Part I is here.


I started the year working a job I hated, as an aide with autistic kids. I loved the kids dearly and loved having the chance to help them, but the constant fear that I would get hurt - or worse, that one of them would get hurt because I wasn't strong enough to restrain them - was too much stress. I remember having a huge emotional meltdown on the weekend of MLK Day and deciding to quit. Unfortunately, financial difficulties meant that I had to stay another couple of months.

I did have some distractions, however: Obama's inauguration, coupled with constant airings of The Presidents on the History Channel, sparked a big interest in presidential history. Suddenly I needed to learn everything I possibly could about all of the presidents, though I particularly focused on Lincoln and Jefferson. This interest took me from about January to mid-April, which is amazing when you consider that if you'd asked me as recently as 2008, I would've insisted that I hated history.

I also had a new hobby in January: making bento lunches! Mine were pretty simple, but I had fun making them anyway.


I can't remember much of February. I was still working that job - as I recall things had gotten a little better and I was now waffling on the idea of quitting - and I remember worrying about the Australian bushfires I mentioned in the previous post. I also remember getting mono and missing two weeks of work. See, I have chronic/recurring EBV - a diagnosis which my doctor confirms but which apparently "doesn't exist" according to scientists. Anyway, I seem to get mono anytime I allow myself to get worn out without a chance to rest. And this was a physically exhausting job, so naturally, I got sick. I spent about half of February and part of March kind of lying around.


I was still recovering from mono in March, so I didn't do much the first half of the month. I did finally quit my job*, however, and I recorded what I did the first three days after quitting. I also made peace with my cat, and tried to start a garden, but some workers backed out over my potted plants. Grr.

*Note: I didn't actually go to Beltainia. It turns out I was actually invited to a different event, but that was cancelled due to weather.


By April I was beginning to feel better both emotionally and physically. I had some awesome days and learned a lot of stuff. I got a new library account (take note of that Douglas Adams book - it started something later) and we traded TV for Netflix. I gave my old computer to my mom and showed her how to look up videos on Hulu so she could watch Miami Vice. On the downside, my room got infested with moths, but at least killing them was kind of fun. I also downloaded Google Earth and became fascinated by looking at, and learning about, all the tiny communities in Greenland and the far north of Canada.

Finally, April was the month I joined my local unschooling group. I didn't realize it at the time, but the people I met there would become a second family to me within just a few months.


In May, we said goodbye to our sweet old cat Lady Blue, and said hello to a new kitten who needed us. Incredibly, little Dot showed up in our yard just four days after Lady Blue died, and it was only by pure chance that I heard her mewing out there. Of course we checked with all the neighbors to make sure she didn't belong to anyone, but no one knew where she came from, so we kept her.

Lady Blue Dot, at about 3 months

Also in May, I went with my mom, my friend, and her mom to see Star Trek. It was a wonderful night out, and everyone had a great time. (I go to the movies maybe once a year, and my mom went substantially less than that, so this was a big deal for us.) Now, remember how I told you to keep that Hitchhiker's Guide book in mind? Yeah, I'd just read that in April and loved it, so this was the perfect time for me to get into Star Trek. Way into Star Trek, which consumed pretty much my whole summer... but not in a bad way. I went into some detail about its benefits in this unschooling meme.


After a pretty enjoyable spring, June kind of sucked. I went into more detail in that post, but some of the lowlights were a tiny house fire (my mom fell asleep with a cigarette - she wasn't hurt, and only the couch got burned, but it was still really scary), and my mom getting hospitalized with pneumonia. To make my already bad mood worse, I didn't react well when Michael Jackson died. In retrospect, I think what made that so hard was that he was born the same year as my mom, and with her in such poor health, the "1958-2009" I saw on every news site scared me. I remember praying I wouldn't see it again. Unfortunately, as most of you know, I did.

June wasn't entirely bad, though. I spent the first half doing crafts, exploring different music, and making vacation plans for later in the summer. At the time I didn't think those would pan out, but they were fun to think about anyway.


I have no idea what I did in July. I'm writing this mostly by referring to my blog and Twitter posts from the year, but for July the best I can tell is that I watched DVDs all month. I'm sure I was doing a lot of vacation planning in there too, though. And I observed Learn Nothing Day, ironically possibly learning more than I had the whole rest of the month.

August and September

August was probably the best month this year. I made money for my trip by housesitting for a week and selling old textbooks, and at the end of the month I went to the Northeast Unschooling Conference, followed almost immediately by Dragon*con (which is why I've put August and September together here). I'll just list the various posts this trip inspired:

Boston/NEUC 2009 Highlights
Shit happens. Even to unschoolers.
Gender Sanity
Best of 2009: Best Trip

Unfortunately, the rest of September was not good. I wish I could say that my last month with my mom was harmonious and happy, but we actually spent a lot of it fighting, mostly over my unwillingness to give her money to buy cigarettes with. It pains me to write that I spent the last bit of my mom's life fighting over money, but it's true. Of course, at the time, I had no idea what was coming.


This was the worst month of the year, for obvious reasons. On the night of October 3rd, Mama was having trouble breathing, so we went to the ER, which thankfully had no line. After a couple of nebulizer treatments she was feeling better, and they admitted her for the night only to monitor her sodium levels, which were on the low side. I came home and decided to use the time to myself to take care of some household cleaning. I wanted to surprise my mom when she came home, partly as a way of making amends for the crappy few weeks before.

Unfortunately, she never did come home. I got a call the next morning saying she'd had a heart attack. I rushed to the hospital, filled out paperwork in a blur, and they did a double bypass. While the surgery was successful, she had suffered brain damage during the heart attack, and never woke all the way up. She was diagnosed with brain death, and on Saturday, October 10, I signed an AND to allow them to take her off the ventilators. Gail and Broc were with me, which made the whole thing a lot easier, but it was still the hardest day of my life.

Somehow, though, I managed to do a couple of fun things toward the end of the month. I went ahead and participated in Thrill the World, as I'd been planning on, and the Bannisters invited me to go with them to ARGH, which was technically in November (we went to Atlanta for a couple days before), so follow me to the next section, won't you?


As I was saying, ARGH was great. Unfortunately when I got home my internet was cut off, so I never got a chance to blog about it. Some highlights were trick-or-treating (I went as a zombie), climbing to a point in the mountains where we could see both Tennessee and North Carolina, doing an Indian dance in the talent show, and just generally soaking up the gorgeous fall weather. Fall is my favorite season, and we don't really have much of it in Florida, so I was pretty much in heaven at ARGH.

The rest of November was kind of lonely since the internet was out, but on weekends I did manage to get out some. I spent a lot of weekends at my friend Sabrina's house, and one weekend I went with the Bannisters to India Fest. I also went with Sabrina's family to Titusville for Thanksgiving.


In December, I had my internet back, and spent much of the month just reading: about religion, about organization, about the seasons, and about Christmas. I also got a job at a daycare, but quickly lost it again for reasons I am still not clear on. Either way, I still managed to have a good Solstice and Christmas, thanks to awesome friends who treat me kindly. I even got about as many presents as my mom would've gotten me - not that that's the point, of course, but it did ease the pain of being alone.

2009 was still probably the worst year of my life, simply because losing my mother kind of overshadows everything else. But in other ways it was a great year, full of excitement, love, and adventure. Hopefully having it all written down will help me to remember that.

A Magical Journey Through 2009: Global Edition

I'm probably a little late to the "let's review 2009" party, but I never really get out of Christmas mode until after New Year's, so it's hard to think about it before then. Consider it an artifact from Christmas break as a schooled kid.

On that note, one of the few traditions I enjoyed in school was one that my gifted teacher used to have us do on returning for the new year. We'd all list the major events we remembered from the previous year, and when we were done she'd show us a special "Year in Review" issue of Time magazine to compare it to. I still like to do that at every new year, and today I did it with Wikipedia as my guide. Unfortunately I didn't follow the news too much this year, so my list looked something like this:

1. Obama sworn in
2. Buncha dead celebrities
3. Economy sucks

On the other hand, those three items encompass a lot, since we're still adjusting to having a new President, the Summer of Death took away pretty much everyone who has ever been famous for anything, and the economy has sucked all year long. Still, there were a few more things I had been aware of last year and forgotten:

-The huge Australian bushfires that spread across Victoria in February. I have some friends in Victoria, and I was really scared for them, especially since I can't exactly just call and check on them. Fortunately they were fine, but a lot of people were injured, lost property, or even died.

-The president of South Korea committed suicide.

-H1N1 was declared a global pandemic, and many areas closed schools for extended lengths of time. Of course I remembered that this happened, but I didn't think to put it on my list.

-The Iranian presidential election was hotly protested, with the winner eventually being inaugurated anyway.

-In July, there was a 6-minute solar eclipse over much of Asia. I remember this mainly because of a friend complaining that he couldn't see it in Singapore, but could have if he'd been at home in India.

And that's the major events of 2009, through my eyes. The second half of my year was split between traveling, dealing with my mom's death, and not having internet access, so I missed a lot of news, which is why the list cuts off with July. I hate to seem like someone who just ignores the news, but last year I kind of did - partly because I was busy, and probably also partly due to a rubber band effect from having followed the news so closely during the 2008 elections.

Up next, a review of 2009 in my life. It wasn't all bad! Honest!