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Seconds of Summer (part one)

Just yesterday I said to Livy: “I wonder how the changes of the seasons will be here, in our new home, in the South. Will it be like California? Or still there, only more subtle than New York?” I awoke this morning to the answer with the sounds of gentle breezes and a crisp chill in the air. It’s clear that summer is on it’s way out and autumn on it’s way in.

The change has got me thinking about all of the great adventures we’ve had this past season and thought it’d be fun to do a bit of a “Summer Highlights” post.  The last two weeks, alone, has been so chocked full of new experiences  and fun surprises!

I reignited my love for decorative painting . . .11881567_911414922269000_1000493954_n 11880756_10207455277244282_75221417_n 11375219_1479265982373572_1305473854_n

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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And began a relationship with both home improvement and custom furniture building . . .

 

For the whole behind the scenes story, click here

My most special of projects: Tyler’s surfboard  . . .

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Can read the entire story behind it’s creation here.

Livy, too has been spending a bit of time connecting with her artistic “sketchy-painty” self-

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After this first painting of You Tube sensation, Amanda Steele went kinda viral,

aka MakeupbyMandy
aka MakeupbyMandy

she received a message from actor/director/Vine star, Tina Woods, to do a commisioned watercolor painting.  I think it’s wonderful!

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In other Livy news:  she finally got her braces put on!

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Trystan celebrated his 18th birthday.

First with us . . .

 


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Then with his friends in New Hampshire . . .

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We reunited with our first friends we ever made when we made the big move from California to upstate New York fifteen years ago.  Trystan was four years old and Alivia, just a year at the time.  We remained close friends and spent much time together in those early years until they moved away.  And now eight years later we have moved and find ourselves in the same state yet again.

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“A friend is one of nicest things you can have and one of the best things you can be.” -Douglas Pagels

Not sure who can be credited with the adage that “a good friend is like an old sweater” but today I find it’s meaning clear. We spent a long day in the comfort of our messy home with familiar friends. It was one of those days that even when you know they’ll be others just like it, you still don’t want it to end.

Friends like that are forever and Forever Frenz are the bestest!

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Love over Labels

A month ago, my experiences online with social media sites led me to reconsider it as an outlet for finding my tribe. I contemplated leaving every group I was a  part of, closing my facebook account entirely.

A week ago, I was almost certain I must.  Instead of being places of refuge and harmony, my experience was that these groups were mostly places of arguments and negativity.

Today, as I feel compelled to share this, these are my observations. My concerns. My fears.

First- It starts with what seems to be our preoccupation with labels, our identities summed up in a term.  Labels cause dissention.  Sure they identify us but they also separate us. I have decided that I am comfortable with one label, one term only. And even that one, I’m not entirely sure. But for the sake of argument: HUMAN.

I have made the decision to remove some of those labels I previously associated with; those that just seem useless and that in my experience have the potential to cause dissention.  When you read my bio online or meet me in person, I will not tell you that I am a vegan.  I will not proclaim that I am staunch whole life unschooler.  I would call myself an artist but aren’t we all? Creators of our own lives?  It’s not that I am no longer those things, it’s that they are but a small part of who I am.  There is no more point in telling you those things than sharing with you my sexual habits or religious orientation or my political views. Should you ask, I will share with you. But none of those things define me.

I am not a Caucasian, I am not a Christian, I am not a Vegan, I am not an Unschooler,   I am not an Anarchist. I could rightfully be all of these things. Or none of them.  But I do know this . . . It doesn’t matter.

“Hello, my name is Amber. I am a human being.”

And I long to connect with other human beings. I don’t care about your gender, race, religion, eating habits, etc. Finding your tribe means that you find others with whom you share similarities and like mind. In my case, I’ve discovered that is isn’t any longer about finding other hippies, natural parenters or vegans, it’s about being in the presence and also advocating the mindset that “we are all one” for that shared thought is the only culmination in a world of love and acceptance, a coming together rather than a separating out.

Vegan or Omnivore? Homeschooler or Public Schooler? Stay at Home Mom or Career Mom? Homosexual or Heterosexual? Bisexual? Bi-curious? Boy or Girl? Democrat or Republican? Liberal? Anarchist? Christian or Atheist? Agnostic?

Why do we care so much about defining who we are? And how important can it be if it only seems to separate us further from each other? Why do we feel such a need to find a side to stand on? As long as there’s that, there remains two sides (or five or ten or a million). What we need is to be on the same side.

And second- what I feel is even more concerning is the actual debating and berating that I’ve seen take place (mostly on the basis of our preoccupation with labels).

I sincerely question the validity of the term “healthy debate”. Is there really such a thing? I posed that question the other day on my facebook page and one person was willing to entertain the thought.  Her experience said that there was.  She had presented something and a response, the information provided actually changed both her viewpoint and her stand on the subject.

There were a few things I took note of in her sharing her story. The most pivotal of all was my rethinking of what it really means to debate.  To me, I am glad to know that what she experienced sounded a lot more like a discussion rather than a debate.

The definition for debate is actually the following: contention in argument; strife, dissension, quarrelling, controversy.

Which is why I doubt there truly is such a thing as a healthy sort of debate.  Healthy to me equates something soothing to the body and soul. I have never witnessed nor have I ever experienced an argument that did anything other than affect me emotionally in a negative way or stressed my body in a physical way.

There is far too much “strife, dissention, quarreling and controversy” happening these days.

 I don’t just want to NOT be a part of it. I am determined to do all I can to avoid contributing to it.  Maybe it’s just that I am no longer someone who is comfortable with confrontation. Maybe it’s a sign of a lack of confidence or courage.  Maybe I’m just chicken.  I don’t know if that’s part of it or all of it but I do know that I want to make others in my presence feel loved, validated, accepted. No labels, no dissention. Equality without judgement.  We need to come together, not separate ourselves. We need to inspire each other. We need to acknowledge our strengths and encourage each other to simply keep on doing the best we can.  We need to trust one another, rely on each other. How else are we ever going to survive this mess we’ve gotten ourselves into?

Our physical earth is dying right before us and it is up to us, as human beings, individuals in all shapes, sizes, colors, and orientations (none of that matters) to band together to save it. We, each of us, need to stop wasting time arguing over what needs to be done, or who is best in the position to do it. We need to be activists for our causes but we must find a way to inspire others without making them feel their contribution is not enough (or as good as perhaps you feel yours is). We need to support one another and help each other on our path.

We must lead with LOVE always! We are in this together. We are all we have!

 

As I come to the end of this post, I become aware that even in my efforts to promote “love over labels” I put myself in a position where I will, no doubt, be deemed self- righteous. In my attempt to end controversy, I explore certain realities that are seen as controversial. I risk putting myself on the high horse in promoting an existence where there are no “high horses”.  That is my entire point, I guess. How is it we have found ourselves in this place where one can not even rally for being a place of equality, love and acceptance without that individual’s position or motives being questioned? It comes down to intention but you see, intention is a sneaky thing. No other person can ever fully see the authenticity in your intentions. We all are left at the mercy of others’ interpretations. I suppose I will risk it. I will hope that what is seen or felt is my true intention that we put aside our differences and learn to love one another unconditionally.  I truly just want to see a world wherein Love will always win over Labels.

 

 

 

 

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Project: Bookcase

 

 

One of the things we are really enjoying about our new neighborhood is the amount of amenities nearby.  We have never been big shoppers.  Most of our shopping is at thrift stores and if we’re fortunate to be in the right place at the right time, curbside.  It’s a lifestyle that has suited us for many years. But I have to admit, I do appreciate a jaunt to Target every now and then.  Especially now that they’ve expanded to include some pretty decent health food and vegan fare.  It’s one of those places where I don’t end up buying a lot but end up leaving inspired to find my own way to either get or make my own things.  The same goes for Ikea and Anthropologie.

A recent trip to Ikea yielded a desire for this particular piece of furniture:

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and this picture on Pinterest, was even more of what we were looking for:
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And so rather than purchase the units from the high-end store at double the price, we set out to make one of our own.

It began on a warm summer night five days ago …

The boys turned our deck into a woodworking station and set to work. The air was abuzz with the buzz of the saw and the sawdust was indeed flying.

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And just a day later, putting all of the pieces together.

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Next up was to move the mirror we had been storing in our bedroom for this very project.  From the moment we walked into this house, we had always known it belonged on the wall.  We just weren’t sure just “how” yet.  This bookshelf unit was the perfect solution.

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Our original intention was to paint the unit to look as if it was all one piece but we’ve decided to leave it for now, just to be sure.  Livy seemed to like it as is and I have to agree.  For now, that is.  Stay tuned . . .

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Finding Ways to Go Green~We Are In This Together!

“With our new beginning in a new place, comes new goals and both a fresh look and fresh start with some of our older ones.  I think it’s kind of a normal “thing” that happens when you settle into life in one place for an extended period of time and also a normal thing for your spark to be reignited when you arrive in a new place. We have always been both eco-conscious and healthfully minded but I gotta be honest and admit that with all that has happened in the past two years, we strayed a bit, allowed for some things to slide.  I can’t 100 percent say that I don’t feel bad about that but I can say that I’m forgiving of that.  We were dealing with a lot and feeling pretty lost for a bit.  But now with this fresh start and a new path ahead of us, we find ourselves getting back on track and it feels good.  We have set some new goals for ourselves in our new home and one of them is finding even more ways to “go green”.”

THIS was the beginning of my post two days ago. What follows is my new post . . .

For the most part we (all of us as inhabitants of this planet) all go about our daily lives, always looming in the background that we could be doing better by our environment.  We do the best we can; its all we can do.  We see the headlines and ads everywhere about “going green”.  It seemed to be even kind of a trend for a bit.  And so we do our part and we purchase products with the words on the labels like “simple”, “all-natural” , and even “green” written on them. Every year once a year, on Earth Day, we are reminded mostly how important it is to recycle and so we go back to doing that if we have let it slide.  And we feel we’ve done our part.  And we have.  To a degree.  But it’s bigger than that.   On a global spectrum, it is absolutely overwhelming.  There is so much happening to our world in which we feel we have no control over that it can be easy to turn a blind eye to, easier to just ignore, to think you can’t make much of a difference.  I know that feeling but I have come to realize that it is also true that there is in fact still so much  even on an individual basis that we can be doing.  I have always felt a personal mission to help in this regard.

In the two days that passed between the moment I started composing this post and came back to it this morning, I received the following insight, had my eyes opened even further to the following truths.  I do have to be honest and say that it’s not as if I wasn’t aware but to be reminded was very powerful.  It comes via two links making their way through the social media network.  I can’t believe it was merely sheer coincidence.  And so I am compelled to let you in.

The first is this:

Even today, not every person is aware of the horrible effects our lifestyle choices have on nature.  These pictures say more than a thousand words.  - See more at: http://www.the-open-mind.com/27-images-that-prove-that-we-are-in-danger-im-speechless/#sthash.T6Z45KD1.dpuf
27 Images That Prove That We Are In Danger . . .

“When the Last Tree Is Cut Down, the Last Fish Eaten, and the Last Stream Poisoned, You Will Realize That You Cannot Eat Money.” 

~Cree Indian prophecy

The second is this:

“As an actor I pretend for a living.” he continues.

“I pretend fictitious characters usually solving fictitious problems. I believe that mankind has looked at climate change in the same way. As if it were a fiction. As if pretending that climate change wasn’t real would somehow make it go away.”

“THIS IS THE MOST URGENT OF TIMES AND THE MOST URGENT OF MESSAGES! Honored delegates, leaders of the world, I pretend for a living, BUT YOU DO NOT!”

“Now it is your turn!”

“The time for change is now”

“WE BEG OF YOU TO FACE IT WITH COURAGE AND HONESTY. Thank you.”

I may have originally intended this post to be light-hearteded, to play it safe but playing it safe is not what will bring change.   Though my aim is still (as always) to inspire and encourage,  I felt compelled to share the blunt reality of our situation, the truth, no matter how ugly, in order to show just how important it is we all recognize our parts in this.  We may not be the actual big-wig corporations motivated by greed and blinded by our own self interests but we do play a part in the decisions we make, those we choose to support.  Sometimes we don’t even realize that we are. But when we do, the choices, the changes we make for the better; that’s what ultimately counts.

Sometimes, we need a wake-up call.  Today is that wake-up call.  The plight of our planet is so urgent, I can’t let this opportunity to plead with you all, to pass by.  I know I have had moments where I felt THIS is just too big for one person but together we can totally do this!  And so won’t you please join me in fighting for the right to live and prosper on this beautiful planet?

I was encouraged to see in researching yet again all the ways we can help, that we. as a family can make that difference, that in many ways, are already doing much.  But, there are also many ways in which we may improve in not only limiting the damage we do, but in helping to restore and rebuild.  I intend to devote an entire area of this blog to sharing ways we personally have found ways to do so.  My hope is that in sharing, it will help others to see that though it may feel insurmountable at times, it isn’t. It is possible to save and restore our home.  First comes awareness, then acceptance, and then intention. But we must understand and accept that our Earth knows only imbalance versus balance.  Our intention is not enough.  We must start to move forward, we must take action and by our daily deeds we will be successful in restoring the balance we need.

With that in mind, I’d like to close this post with sharing with you our plans to be put in effect this very day and I hope you will be inspired to join us (if you aren’t already.

The two biggest areas we are the most committed to are in being ever more determined is:

1. Eliminating all plastic in our lives. For years, I told myself that as long as it was recyclable, it was fine.  Recycling is a great option but even recycling has it’s downside. Have you ever thought about what the process of melting down all that plastic does to our precious environment?  I just don’t want to even contribute to that any longer.  Bad for the environment but that contaminated air is the air we breathe every day.  And then there’s all the proof that has surfaced about the poisons that are leeched into our food stored in those plastic containers.  We gave up bottled water years ago in favor of filtering our tap water but even just two days ago, I brought home the dog’s food in plastic tubs.  No more!

Ran across this posting on Facebook this morning and I think it’s a fantastic place to start.  I have currently disposed of all the plastic we had in our home.  And knowing that we were headed this direction, we have been amassing our glass jar collection.  Now, we are taking the step to work out a plan to make sure we don’t bring it back into the house.

Whose with me?

Let’s make it a very Plastic Free July

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Click on the image to be transported to the fantastic article that accompanies it.

 

 

2. Using only completely green, all-natural products. Really pretty much there already but I’m wanting to take it a step further and be fully independent in making all of my own cleaning supplies.  This also extends to our bodies.  For my part, I returned to the coveted Mudhead Sisterhood at the beginning of the year and as we speak have another shipment of henna on its way to me.  I’d love to be in a place where I am gladly accepting my white hairs with grace but alas, I am not quite there yet.  But doing it naturally feels good and I suppose it’s my way to give back for all the years I didn’t.

I have been collecting inspiration and know-how through my Pinterest board:

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and sharing to inspire on my Instagram feed:

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I know the task seems daunting, my friends, but with an understood sense of urgency and armed with the belief that saving our planet is possible, we will be motivated to take the necessary steps. We just have to get started and the momentum will follow.  We are in this together! I am on your side!

Love and Light,

Amber

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We Have Arrived . . .

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I’m sitting in a closet in the kitchen of my new home.

Weird, right?  What am I doing in a closet?

Well, I’ll tell you.

Our new home is not nearly as big as our former home; smaller probably by about a thousand square feet.  So, in place of spare bedrooms that function as offices and art spaces, we have closets.  And that’s exactly how we like it.

There’s something really cool about taking this compact space and with a bit of creative ingenuity turning it into just what you need.  It’s really what this whole house symbolizes for us.  Simplifying. Minimizing. Streamlining down to the basics.  It was a part of the plan right from the beginning, inclusive in our fresh start. Creating a space that reflects the family who lives here and the friends welcome here; a place that’s cozy and comfortable, a place where spirits are nourished by a steady flow of art, music and good food, and a place overflowing with aloha spirit, where peace, love and ohana reign supreme.  Despite being short on space it is going to be a home filled to the brim with all the good stuff, all the stuff that matters!

We left our home (and by extension, our experience) in New York for a new beginning. The last couple of years have been years of such change and growth for us as individuals, and collectively, as a family.  We are all at a place where we are so ready to step into this new life, this new adventure and we are excited at the prospects.  We chose this home because it just felt right and each day we are here, it feels better and better.

We have arrived.

We are in a good place.

We feel it.

In so many ways.

~And so our new adventure begins.~

Stay tuned . . .