Chaos On Serenity

Diary Of An Off-Grid Homesteader

Tag: spirituality

How To Ruin Your Teenager’s Life In Three Strategic Steps

To all my parenting peeps out there, sit down and hold on to your hats for a few minutes as we enter the turbulent world of teenagerism.

Truly, it has been my experience as having been a teenager once myself and now living through my second bout of it in my kids, that being a teenager is TOUGH. Much tougher, perhaps, than even being a parent of a teenager.

And it’s getting tougher. I mean just yesterday, when I was a teenager, we didn’t even have social media to screw with our heads. If we wanted to join up with other teens and make bad choices, we had to put a little scheme into it. Nowadays teenagers can just google their way into trouble. Often while sitting on the couch right next to you (if you can get them to come out of their room, that is).

This is why it is even more important than ever that we, as responsible parents, try really, really, hard to ruin our teenager’s lives. Because if you aren’t ruining your teenager’s life, somebody out in there in google world is (for realsies).

So, based on my aforementioned experience, I have created a quick How To guide to help you do your absolute best in your noble parenting quest to ruin your teenager’s life.

Strategy #1: Chores. Lots Of Chores. 

Now when I say chores, I don’t mean some cute little chart where they earn stickers for unloading the dishwasher and brushing their teeth. I mean real, gritty, down and dirty chores. That actually help you out and make life easier on the entire family. Sure, cleaning and bodily hygiene rituals are just fine (we could actually use a little more of those around here) but think about adding something intense to the mix- something that makes them sweat, makes them think, and/or creates a lasting result.

My children haven’t always had to do chores (this could be why we have such a hard time with cleaning and bodily hygiene rituals…). To be honest, it wasn’t until we started homesteading, living off-grid and taking care of animals that I realized chores weren’t cute anymore. In our life, everybody is needed to keep everything running smoothly (and even then, we are often still just puttering along).

For my sanity and because I would turn into a bitter old lady otherwise, everyone has to do their fair share of chores every day. Which translates to hours and hours a week. And the older they get, they more chores they get to do. Yay!!

So how is this beneficial to anyone else but me? (Said while sipping a pina coloda from my easy chair as the children fan me and feed me grapes). It creates this thing called character. It creates confidence. It gives a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment. Basically, your kids won’t be whiny namby-pamby’s if you work ’em young and work ‘em hard.

Now, I realize most of you are not living off-grid on seventy acres with endless amounts of work on your horizon. I am not suggesting you disassemble your house and have the kids nail it back together. But I am suggesting you create the kind of life where each member of your family contributes in a valuable and meaningful way. And if it makes them sweat, even better.

If you are homesteading, coming up with chores is easy. If you are not, you might have to get creative when it comes to doling them out in large quantities. Some ideas for meaningful chores for teenagers are: Design and take care of a small butterfly or vegetable garden, help with a building/repair project, learn how to fix a flat tire/change the oil, assist in family meal planning, or committing to a volunteer project or organization like Habitat for Humanity, etc.

Fun Fact: The younger you start them on chores, the easier it is to get them to actually do anything by the time they are a teenager. Plus by then, if you have done due diligence, they will surprise you with how capable and helpful they can be, even while perfecting their death glare.

Strategy #2. Make Them Spend Time With You

Now I know this sounds cruel, but hear me out. To truly ruin your teenagers life, you need to insert yourself strongly into it. That way, when they are thinking back on how you ruined their life, they will have lots of memories of you doing all kinds of stupid stunts to support their theory. Drag them to a movie, ask them about their latest book (tips on how to get your teenager to read in Strategy Three), do a chore together (my favorite).

Don’t be afraid to act silly, talk to people in public, or show some kind of affection towards your teenager while spending time together as these actions are sure to having a lasting embarrassing impact, a key to ruining their life. 

It really doesn’t matter what you do together, but it is important that you remain positive and unaffected by their attempts at withering your soul with a single glare. Forcing your teenager to spend time with you when what they really want to do is kill you can be brutal on the tender parenting heart. This is a good time reach into your spiritual toolbox and pull out the Second Agreement from Don Miguel Ruiz’s incredibly simple yet profound book, The Four Agreements, which is this: Don’t Take Anything Personally.

Of course, getting a teenager to agree to spend time with you can be pretty tough. The first step is getting them out of bed.  For tips on how to do this, refer back to Strategy One. The second thing you need to do is to completely bore the shit out of them so they talk to you out of sheer desperation. Which brings us to Strategy Three, the Mother of all Methods for ruining your teenager’s life.

Strategy #3: Take their phone away. (Insert horrified gasping emoji here)

Yes. I. Did.

I took my teenager’s phone away.

And guess what, everyone? She didn’t die! She didn’t go into convulsions, or start blubbering and drooling. (Actually, she quit doing that when I took her phone away).

In the interest of full disclosure (a caveat of this blog, really), I can now admit (a year later) that Maverick was right (of course, once again, yawn..) when he suggested we wait to give Phoenix a smart phone and social media. But did I listen? Oh no, I did not.

In hindsight, the best tip I have for moms and dads approaching the should-I-give-my-teenager-a-phone-and-social-media-decision is this: The minute that smart phone (or even tablet or ipod) goes into their hands and social media accounts are opened, the lines between parent and child autonomy start to blur, getting ever blurrier as the days, months and years go by.

This is not necessarily a bad thing, as developing personal autonomy in our children is a baseline goal for parents. But giving your child too much autonomy too early sets the stage for trouble, as I found out the hard way. So be very, very sure you are ready to go down this road.

Also, parental controls and/or spying apps are there for a reason, so don’t be afraid to use them. They allow for a slow release of your child’s privacy and autonomy as they prove they can handle it.

Above all, always make sure you follow your mom instincts and DO NOT give in to the mom guilt, no matter the amount of justification they sling at you. Truly, my resolve to wait on the phone/social media was blasted apart when Phoenix began pointing out all the deficits she already had in life, such as living in a camper in the woods, being homeschooled with no close friends, and the whole pooping in a bucket thing.

She begged for a phone, citing all the ways it would magically change her social life for the better. Saying yes to the phone, Snap Chat and Instagram was really my way out of all the mom guilt I was feeling. Of course, when I realized what I had done by giving her the phone, my mom-guilt came flooding back. Oh, the irony.

When I made the counter-decision that my teen’s phone had to go, it was not easy. By this time, she had pretty much turned into Gollum from The Ring, stroking the phone adoringly while muttering precious, my precious over and over to herself.

Honestly, I was downright scared. For some irrational reason, I thought I might actually ruin her life if I took her phone away. I even googled how to take your teens phone away and also should I take my teens phone away. (Apparently, teens are not the only ones who no longer have to think for themselves).

And even though, in all of google land, I found not one professional advising me to take my teen’s phone away (in fact, all I found were articles telling me how I should never invade my teen’s privacy or break her trust by taking/searching her phone), I did it anyway.

Best. Decision. Ever.

After all, do kids really have a right to social privacy? Shouldn’t they at least have to work for it?

I mean, when I was a kid, we had to sneak out in the middle of the night to have any privacy with our friends. And there was a reason why we wanted privacy in the first place, which wasn’t exactly anything our parents would have approved of.

It seems the leading edge opinion on the topic is that going through your child’s phone is akin to sawing off the top of their head and peering into their private thoughts. A complete violation of their personal being. Yet maybe, just maybe, it is not in the best interest of our children and teens to have unchecked and unregulated access to each other (and everyone else lurking around the internet)

Of course, when I took Precious from Gollum, there was a period of total freak out. The death glares were in full swing, along with dramatics to make any momma’s heart race. Yet, with the gentle support of Maverick, I stayed strong, my friends, and just loved her through it.

Then slowly, every so slowly, my child came back to me. Now a year later, she told me just the other day how glad she was we took her phone and social media when we did because she was being a ‘total idiot’ and that she is still suffering some repercussions from her ‘wild days’.

I am not telling you what to do, just reminding you to listen to your instincts and find what works for your family. But please, as tempting as it is, don’t put your head in the sand. What you don’t know CAN hurt them.

Believe me, I know how tempting denial is, but remember, as parents it is our job to ruin our teenager’s life. This means doing the tough work sometimes. So even though they may scream and shriek and have phantom limb pains, stay strong, my parenting warrior.

And if you find your resolve weakening, just repeat this mantra over and over: A phone is not an appendage, a phone is not an appendage.  Also, try not to delay, as I am pretty sure taking your child’s phone away will soon be illegal. 

And there you have it friends, three strategic steps for ruining your teenager’s life.  They seem to be working really well for me, judging by the intensity of death glares I am earning lately. If you have a strategy to share with the rest of us, let me know in the comments! #parentingwarriors

What Drum Are You Beating? Find The Rhythm Of Peace With These Three Simple Tools

Most of my life, until about five years ago, peace was something that I never actually felt. Only, I didn’t realize it.

In fact, I thought I was pretty happy. I had a job, a mate, cute kids and fun friends. I had a social life, and a supportive family. Yet, I also had unchecked ‘voices in my head’. You know, those worrisome fear thoughts that run a constant loop inside your brain?

Cloaked in the rhythmic rehashing of past or future events, my incessant internal musings went something like this: Why did I say that?, Why did I do that? or, even more profound, why did I wear that?

If the thoughts weren’t specifically about me, then they were about everyone else. I can’t believe she said that, or he better not do that again.

If I wasn’t stewing over what had happened, I was fretting about what was to come. Seldom was I ever truly present. 

No matter the specifics of the thoughts, they were all pretty much saying the same thing: I’m not good enough, nobody likes me and, of course, the classic, I’m a terrible mom.

Basically, without actually being aware of it, I was telling myself a story and believing it. I was beating the drum of fear. I’m not good enough… I’m not good enough… I’m not good enough.

The problem was, I was living in the past and the future. I was never in the Now.

So what? Well the past is full of regrets, woulda’s and shoulda’s. Even if it’s full of the best times of your life, it’s still the past. Done. Over. Time to move on and live.

The future is full or worry, uncertainty, what-if’s and what-wills. Even if its full of exciting projects on the horizon, spending your Now day dreaming about the future has it’s limitations. The only time we really have is Now.

It is said that humans have anywhere from 50,000 to 70,000 thoughts a day. The interesting thing about this statistic is we are not having 70,000 new thoughts every day. We are actually repeating the same thoughts every day. Even every hour and even every minute. Over and over again. Beating the drum. I’m not good enough… I’m not good enough.

Before I had a practice of staying in the Now, these voices literally took over my life. They were me. They were my story and my identity. But they are not real. Ultimately, they were just thoughts.

Yet, I had no awareness that it was my thoughts that were creating my peace or lack of it. I assumed it was my circumstances. If things went according to plan and everyone followed my script, then I was happy. If things didn’t, then I wasn’t. And, true to my Taurus nature, if I’m not happy,nobody gets to be happy.

So, what changed? Well the first thing is, I became open to something new  and began to seek answers. With authentic desire and a humble spirit, God brought me some new tools for peace.

Tool #1: Get Out Of Your Head

Get out of your head and stay in the Now. This means when you catch yourself in the loop, jump off and pay attention to This Very Moment. Shake off the what-if’s and what-will’s, the shoulda’s and coulda’s, and Be Here Now. The difference between how I feel when my head-stories are interrupted by my pesky children’s endless wonderings versus how I feel when I am fully with them in the Now, answering their questions and discovering life right along with them, is remarkable. Life is meant to be lived in the moment.

Tool #2​: Breathe

Peace is all about rhythms. Choosing the rhythm and pattern of peace is a daily, hourly, minute by minute practice. In the Angel Communions of the Holy Essenes, it says: “Breath long and deeply, for thy rhythm of the breath is the key of knowledge which will unlock the secrets of the Holy Law.”

Essentially, the breath is the connection between the physical realm and spiritual realm. It is the Angel of Air, messenger of God, and provides immediate access to God, which is Peace, which is Love. Anytime I feel myself losing my peace (and decide I want it back), I always first and foremost go right to my breathe and practice deep, intentional breathing.

Tool #3: Let It Go

We have to be willing to let it go. We have to be willing to redirect our thoughts. Instead of picking apart every little thing that did happen or might happen, just let it go. This takes practice, constant diligence and a choice. We choose to let it go. When it comes back up (you’re not good enough), banish the thought, come to the Now, breath deep, and let it go. Breath In… Breath Out… Breath In…

Beat A New Drum

So with these three tools, I have learned to beat a new drum, to find a new rhythm. The drum I choose to beat these days is the drum of I am a powerful creator and everything is always working out for me. Sometimes, I even beat the drum of I’m a great mom. When I make mistakes, I don’t rehash them 70,000 different ways every day. When other people make mistakes, I try not to take it personally, I let it go.  I breath… I breath… I breath. I jump off the loop.  I find a new rhythm. I choose peace. I choose to Be Here Now.

The Quest For Sadie: Lessons Learned From A Secondhand Purse

I have a confession to make. I have only ever truly loved one purse. She was a backpack handbag and her name was Sadie.

Just the right size and shape to hold a couple of my favorite books, crumpled receipts and wadded dollar bills, she had this amazing ability to meld right into me, so that I would often forget she was even there. Which meant I rarely took her off. Which meant I never lost her. She was perfect.

Sadie was an item of deliberate manifestation. At a point in my life when I was really on fire, I called her into existence. I knew what I needed to finally get organized was a good purse, so I stopped into my local second-hand store certain that the perfect purse would be there waiting for me. And she was.

Turns out, Sadie wasn’t the answer to my organizational problems.

That didn’t stop me from falling in love with her.

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Sadly, we were together for only a short while before my carelessness began to wear her down. Soon enough, her zipper no longer zipped, her inner lining began pulling apart.

Finally the day came when I laid her to rest. Saddened at our parting, yet excited to see what else was out there waiting for me, I began the quest for another Sadie.

However, no matter how many thrift stores I frequented, no matter how much I believed she was out there, I was unable to manifest another Sadie. No purse I came across could even compare to the perfect fit we had.

A full year passed and still nothing. Until yesterday.

Yesterday I was again on fire. It was the day before my first public reading and I was feeling the energy. I went to my favorite local consignment shop and immediately loaded my cart up with awesome finds, including the perfect oracle skirt to wear for my presentation. So, as I always do, I headed over to the purse rack. At this point I was tingling, the creative energy was so palpable. I wasn’t surprised when my eyes immediately landed on the most fantastic purse I had ever seen.

Oh man was she beautiful! She was the perfect shape, the perfect color, a rich, grassy green, my favorite color. She was more stylish than Sadie, with an asymmetrical pocket in front. Just enough pizzazz to keep from being boring, yet not so much as to be trying too hard.

Of course, she was a backpack handbag style. The loveliest I had ever seen. I had been searching for her for an entire year. I picked her up and held her, reveling in my obviously amazing powers of manifestation.

And then a little voice whispered to me, look at the label. I hesitated for a second because deep down I knew what I would find.

I turned the label over in my hands and, staring right up at me, taunting me, were the words, “100% leather”.

My heart sank and the struggle began.

Now, I am not ‘vegan’. I eat eggs, though I try to avoid commercially farmed ones, I eat honey. I eat goat cheese and some other cheeses on occasion. In my weakest moments, I even eat Oreo Blizzards. I guess I would describe myself as (working towards) being an ethical vegetarian, although I really do try to avoid labels. They are just so defining.

Labels aside, my personal journey to (re)becoming a being of love and light centers around a continuous effort to grow kinder, more loving, more compassionate. In order to grow kinder, I have to think about and acknowledge my choices, even when that choice is not for the greater good. Sometimes I choose for me and only me. Sometimes I choose for my family. Usually convenience and affordability come into play.

For example, I would prefer to always buy vegan cheese or skip the cheese all together. However, my family really loves cheese. I can usually substitute vegan cheese with minimal protesting, but, depending on the day, the price can be prohibitive. Also, they eat a lot of pizza.

So often enough, I will buy the real cheese, even though I know and acknowledge that it comes with the hidden price of pain and suffering, which ultimately is a much higher price to pay than a couple of extra dollars or a little inconvenience. Yet, knowing this, I still buy it sometimes. Because it makes my family happy. I like to make my family happy. They love cheese. I could tell myself it’s just cheese. But I know it’s more than that.

So, back to my purse story.

Here I am, holding the purse of my dreams in my hands, hemming and hawing on what to do. I want this purse. Yet do I really? Do I really want to wear the skin of a murdered being around on my back all day every day? Yes, kind of. I mean it looks nothing like the skin of a tortured animal, it looks like a beautiful purse! If only I could just ignore that fact that it use to be a real live being that was no doubt abused and tortured before death I could just buy the damn thing. I have been waiting for this moment for a freaking year! And it’s only six bucks!!

I looked at Maverick, begging him to tell me I was being irrational. He is in a different place in his journey and could easily give me the nod of approval. Yet, he did not. He walked away, knowing that I have to make my own choices, knowing that I am simply attempting to use him as an accomplice, a crutch, an excuse. I breathed deeply. I tried on the purse. I took off the purse. I tried on the purse.

The struggle was real people.

But, an interesting thing happened. The purse actually did not feel good. It honestly felt as conspicuous as huge ugly zit. It felt like an endorsement for murder. It felt like a tortured being on my back. I took off the purse and put it back on the rack. My heart broken, I walked away to the shoe aisle, where I bought a pair of brand new $100.00 boots for only $10.00. They have leather uppers.

So what is the point of the story?

I am still not quite sure. I just felt like it needed to be shared. So many people seem to decide to do nothing in the midst of (perceived) insurmountable problems. They feel like their small every day decisions can’t change the status quo, so why bother. To some, it’s an all or nothing approach. Since there is no way to make 100% ethical choices without going insane or moving to a cave in the Himalayan mountains, it is easier to just not think about it. Believe me, I get it.

But what if we took the pressure off ourselves and each other? What if the first step was simply admitting, acknowledging that there is terrible suffering in this world and we all play a part in it, vegan, vegetarian, or otherwise. This is not about being angry, not about blaming and pointing the finger. It’s about just standing in the reality of what Is. It is my experience that from there things get easier, clarity sets in, the veil is lifted. If a person truly desires to become better, to become a being of light and love, they have to first acknowledge that there is a problem and we are all a part of it. Paradoxically, we are all the answer.

What Type Of Homeschooler Are You?

Sometimes I feel like an imposter when I tell people I homeschool.

After all, when I think of homeschooling, I picture a super-organized, perpetually perky mom and her brood of perfectly polite, constantly clean, studious children. I imagine this homeschool mom having a detailed schedule that she sticks to like clock work, planning out her handpicked curriculum a year in advance while her offspring practice rote memorization and dote on each other all day. Hmmm… come to think about it, that sounds an awful lot like my sister!

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Okay, so now that we established my sister is my fantasy homeschool mom alter ego, lets talk about what kind of homeschool mom I am.

I am the type of homeschool mom that starts a cleaning project in the morning and by evening realizes the only ‘school’ we did that day was home ec.

I am the type of homeschool mom who makes a mountain of lists, outlines, and diagrams only to misplace them right before we need them.

I am the type of homeschool mom whose children wear pajamas all day and brush their hair only when we are going somewhere important (grocery store is low on the priority list).

I am the type of homeschool mom that starts a lesson, realizes its boring and pointless, and sends the kids to play Legos while I regroup over a bottle of wine.


One of the rare occasions I managed to get the girls all cute and somewhat matchy-matchy. This was the first day of a twelve week homeschool art class (note the bow in Leyla’s brushed hair and the fact they both have their lunchboxes packed and in-hand). Sadly, it all goes downhill from here my friends.

​It use to be that I pushed against who I was as a homeschool mom.

I would spend hours creating beautiful schedules and chore charts, ordering curriculum and reorganizing our collection of books. Hours I would spend on these things, waiting for them to magically transform me into the homeschool mom of my dreams. We are now in our fourth year of homeschooling and I have yet to be organized or perky.

In fact, the only thing which has really changed over the years is that I no longer strive so hard to be what I am not. I have given up trying to fit us into a fixed schedule, as we are just too spontaneous for that kind of planning. Instead, I keep a nice loose tally on what we have going on. When something is working, it is easy to keep at it. When something isn’t working, we drop it and move on.

Once I gave myself permission to relax, we became way more consistent and found a routine we actually look forward too. Since we no longer have to follow a list of Things We Must Get Done, we can get lost for hours reading together. We can choose to put the books down when the weather is gorgeous and friends want to come over, knowing we will pick right back up where we left off tomorrow, or the next day.

So how do I measure our homeschool progress if I not by what we have tangibly accomplished?

I pay attention to who my kids are. I look for signs we are on the right track. I am happy to report my kids are curious, creative, and thoughtful. They love to explore and have adventures. They are able to converse with people of all ages. They are not too self-conscious. They are smart and capable. They are strong and responsible. They care about ethical issues. Most of all, they are happy.

This is not to say I don’t still pine over moms who actually stick with their curriculums and carefully chart their children’s progress. Mom’s who always have a clean, matching pair of shoes (and socks!) for each of her smiling, hair-brushed children.

The fact is, a part of me will always want to be that mom.

But, I am not.

And I have realized when I quit trying to be someone else, I can actually be a pretty good me.

And now some more pictures of my adorable nieces and nephew.

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Flowers

So what type of homeschool mom are you? 

How To Be Happy and The Magic Of Perspective

My family and I live a hard and dirty life with very little luxuries. We live a life that, described from a certain perspective, might have most of you feeling a bit sorry for us.

The fact is, we don’t have much money and we rarely buy new things. Our vehicles are so old and obnoxious, we make a scene everywhere we go. Due to not even having what some would consider the basic necessities of life, it can be a daunting task just keeping up with the day to day household operations.

On top of all this, we have hours of physically taxing farm chores that have to be done too, every single day. Being out in the middle of the woods, living in very tiny, very temporary housing, even a simple rainstorm can create so much mud and mess it’s enough to drive any woman crazy.

​Yet I stay… Why?

Because it’s all a matter of perspective. Everything I just described are some of the facts of my life,  but the perspective is all wrong. I’d like to share with you a different perspective

 My family and I live a fun and free life with ample amounts of time together, working and playing side by side. We live a life that, although unconventional and challenging, is one we have chosen just for those very reasons.

We try not to be weighed down by unnecessary possessions, yet we surround ourselves with the things most important to us, such as books to spark our curiosity, animals to teach us kindness, and the natural world to help us connect to the divine. We have chosen to live frugally so we can pursue our dreams of living sustainably, building a community, and teaching our children spiritual and ethical truths they are not likely to learn from a public institution.

From our perspective, cuddling up in the middle of the woods to watch a movie in the great outdoors powered by off-grid technologies is a luxury. Squashed into the front seat of our ’72 Chevy, bouncing down our mile-long dirt driveway, we learn to laugh at ourselves and not take everything so seriously. We have time to literally stop and smell the roses, though it is more likely we are pointing out a hawk in the sky or snapping a picture of an strange-looking mushroom.

And when, as inevitably happens from time to time, I begin to feel some mom-guilt that my children might be missing out due to their lack of electronics and shiny new shoes, I remind myself that helping split firewood for winter warmth, chipping in on building projects and foraging dinner in the woods, creates strong and capable children who will eventually turn into strong and capable adults, where as shiny new shoes are simply muddied up before they can be outgrown… around here anyway.

Our specific things and circumstances, we don’t take those with us once we leave these physical bodies. We take our beliefs. We take our perspectives.

If we see ourselves as victims, then our lives will reflect that idea. The same is true if we see ourselves as blessed. It is my belief that whatever perspective we die with is the one we return with in the cycle of many incarnations.

If the eternal part of ourselves is that which is unseen, and all that manifests stems from our beliefs, getting a handle on your perspective will create the eternal happiness we all desire.

After all, the only thing we can ever truly control is our perspective; not our circumstances.  Maintaining a balanced and positive perspective takes practice and perseverance but is worth the riches received: joy, peace, and true security.

For myself, when I feel circumstances out of my control creeping up on my happiness, I breathe deeply. I grab my dog and we go for a walk in the woods, where I connect with the eternal truth of the divine, and bring myself back into the perspective of my choosing.

Baby Jasper waits under the hammock while mom takes a moment to reset her perspective. (Hammock naps = Happiness)

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