THE SACRED SCIENCE OF HEALING- Is Illness all in Your Head?

Assuming my toddler blesses me with a nap and my oldest two have made it to school, my general routine is to work out, meditate, bathe, and then read some form of self-help book or write. In the midst of the last bit, I usually hear a “Mommmmyyyy, where are you?” cuing me that personal time is over.

I’m aware that not all mamas are fortunate enough to have time for themselves. I was counted among them for a spell, and I thank my lucky stars that in this moment, I’ve been graced with a gift. Knowing that it’s limited, that nap times are soon to come to an end, or that life may shift in unexpected ways, I feel pressure to make every second progressive, worth its weight in gold. I don’t do chores, watch TV, nap, or scroll social media. No time sucks, no energy drains, only activities that I know build me up.

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But recently, I’ve had a book-induced epiphany. I am in the midst of The Sacred Science by Nick Polizzi. It's one of those rare reads where you feel like your life is changed two chapters in. Polizzi had a debilitating health ailment, for two years in his 20’s, that modern medicine couldn’t seem to touch or understand. Somewhat by accident, during a particularly low moment for him, a friend called and guided him through tapping, also known as EFT. During this experience, Polizzi uncovered an emotional experience he’d been unknowingly holding onto anger about for years. That realization essentially cured him of his illness instantaneously. He then became somewhat obsessed with researching natural healing, which led him to shamanism. A shaman is a medicine man or woman who uses herbal remedies and energy healing. There is an assumption that all physical illness is a manifestation of spiritual/psychological issues that need tending to, as was the case for Polizzi.

Sometime after his rather spontaneous healing, he was moved to make a documentary about modern-day shamanism, hoping to share the information with the world at large, allowing people to explore alternative healing methods and raise awareness about how quickly the Amazonian jungle (which holds key medicinal plants) is dissipating. It’s worth noting that 25% of pharmaceuticals are made from plants in the Amazon (documentary fact), and that thousands remain unclassified and yet to be researched.

He selected eight individuals from 400 applicants, who were willing to go with him and his camera crew to the Amazon. They would be in the care of three shamans, each specializing in different areas and having proved their healing abilities time and time again. These shamans are normal guys who either fell into healing through bloodline and ability or via curing their own chronic illnesses with the help of a medicine man, then realizing that they too were called to be shamans. They live simple, spiritual lives and don’t advertise their skills. Most shamans have day jobs and tend only to their immediate communities when people are in need. These men and women are deeply spiritual, without ego, and helping others is what drives them.

The eight volunteers had a range of illnesses, from depression to stage four cancer. They were each to stay alone in an isolated individual hut, for 30 days. No running water, no electricity, no books, no contact with family or friends, no electronic devices, just a notepad and pen, with a hole in the ground for bathroom breaks. They were very removed, deep in the jungle, with every variety of creature one could imagine, making noises of all kinds through the dark and solitary night. They were to mostly stay in their extremely modest huts all day, only seeing the shamans two times for healing work and receiving very basic meals of quinoa and vegetables. The healing they underwent was nothing short of miraculous.

The only company each person had was their own thoughts. Here’s where my epiphany comes in, and I think it'll resonate with most of you. I’ve got this solo time a few days per week, but how often am I truly alone with my thoughts? Um, pretty much never. I’m filling those spaces up… even if it’s with “progressive” activities. And are these activities truly healing (because we’re all in need of healing one way or the other) and progressive or are they really just a distraction from such.

I’ve got demons I want to battle, buried emotional pain (like everyone else), some health issues that could use mending. No matter how many self-help books I read, will true healing occur without me giving it space?

It’s no accident that one of the most important aspects of the eight patients healing protocol is solitude. They have to create space to feel all the amazing emotions along with all the ugly ones, facing fears head-on.

So, I’m saying sayonara for four weeks, as of Monday. I won’t be checking into any social media. Google is going to miss it’s number one fan. My spam is going to pile up. There won’t be any book reading or blog writing. Removing things of comfort is also important, the things we run to out of avoidance, so my favorite tea is going. Favorite foods are out. I’m eating for sustenance. Exercise, out. I’m going to spend those nap times alone in my room or on a quiet walk. I may try tapping or meditation, but the rest is gone, baby gone.

Peace out. I’ll see you on the flipside and let you know what I’ve learned.

-Angi

*If you’d like to watch the documentary "The Sacred Science," here is the link. Nick Polizzi is so passionate about preserving the Amazon and ancient healing practices of Shamanism, that he ultimately elected to make the documentary free. It’s definitely worth watching, but the book is incredibly insightful and has a lot more background information about the patients, Polizzi, and outright gems from the Shamans themselves. I felt that a lot of important information didn't make the movie. Your best bet is to read the book and then watch the documentary… time well spent.





 

 

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ANGI

I was an oddity in high school, obsessed with the CIA, the supernatural, aliens, basically all things mysterious. As an adult, I've moved on to being captivated by human nature, my own and everyone elses. Exploring the whys and hows of my own psyche and trying to create connections that have depth and meaning brings significance to my experience in this school we call Life. I've gone from being a full time working mom, to a part time working mom, to a stay at home mom and the breadth of that experience has shown me the value in all of those roles. I am riveted by the complicated genius that is the female intellect and sharing insights with other engaging women has become, for me, an essential symbiosis. 

 

AGE OLD DOGMA- Chances are You're Inadvertently Slighting Your Child.

“Mom, I’m hungry.” “No you’re not, you just ate dinner.”

“Mom, I’m cold.” “You’re fine, you have a jacket on.”

“Mom, I’m scared in the dark.” “There’s nothing in your room to be afraid of.”

How many times have you uttered one of those phrases or something similar? Chances are several times… today.

I didn’t think much of my “go-to” responses to my children’s pleas until I read a parenting article that turned everything on its head. Per usual, I can’t remember what the hell the article was or where I read it, but the fundamental directive stuck.

Those exchanges probably look relatively harmless, but the underlying message being sent to your child is, “You don’t know how you feel.”

How many of us, as adults, suffer from an inability to decide what is best for ourselves? We turn to others for guidance or enter into complete paralysis when faced with a choice. Many of us (me, me!) languish in decision fatigue- we weigh all of our options, spending hours researching, afraid to pull the trigger and realize later that we’ve chosen poorly. ( I mean, what if I don’t look at all 565 pages of rugs on Overstock? What if the best one is on page 565??) By the time we’ve invested umpteen energy we are “fatigued” and overwhelmed, with compromised judgment for deciding anything at all. 

We are the product of this type of parenting, through no fault of those who raised us. They were simply doing what they were taught via their own childhood experiences. Should we really trust the self-knowledge of a four-year-old anyway?

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Yes and no. The importance of our responses has less to do with the actual thing occurring and more to do with what’s being intimated to our child via what we say. Two things are unfolding: We’re disregarding their ability to know themselves and their own feelings, but we are also devaluing them. If every time you expressed that you were cold, your husband responded to you with, “You’re fine, you have a coat on,” you’d go ape shit on his ass after the second time (more likely the first). You’d feel about the size of a crumb after a couple weeks of being consistently discounted.

Imagine how our babies feel. (Heart currently breaking.)

Does this mean that I have to cater to my child’s every whim? No. It does mean that instead of glossing over his thoughts and feelings, I should take a moment to listen and discuss. If he says he’s hungry 30 minutes after dinner (five minutes if you’re River), I can say something like, “Okay, I hear you. I understand you’re hungry. I noticed you didn’t eat much of your meal. Do you think that might be why you’re still hungry? Would you like to finish your dinner?” To which he for sure will reply, “No, I’m full of my dinner. I want a banana.” I’d then have to let him know that at our house we don’t have snacks if we haven’t finished our meal. Same outcome, different approach, and it maybe took an extra minute. But, he felt heard and his feelings were not ignored. In short, he recognized his value.

Life is busy. It's easy to fall into the habit of treating our children’s requests like nuisances when we are rushed and trying to accomplish more than we can handle. We love them SO much, and we’re doing all of this business for them, but we don’t want them to think that they are nuisances. A shift in response can make a world of difference in the confidence of your now child and future grown-up. The little things count for more than we can often imagine. Deliberating over a rug is a relatively harmless offense, but the consequences of a child who doesn't have faith in her own ability to monitor herself can be devastating, as a wee one and as an adult.

During childhood, I remember being as unimpressed with my parents' alleged acumen as my children often are with mine, assuming I had all the answers and feeling extremely frustrated when told otherwise. I can also identify with, at times, feeling like a dismissed and insecure child as an adult. We’re all souls of the same size, mature upon arrival, housed in bodies of different statures, controlled by brains of varying development and just looking for love, connection… acceptance. Reminding ourselves of that innate sense of being and our mutual desires that bind us together, big and small, is an amazing way to behold our children through a more empathetic lens, offering them the respect that they, like us, not only yearn for but wholeheartedly deserve.

-Angi

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ANGI

I was an oddity in high school, obsessed with the CIA, the supernatural, aliens, basically all things mysterious. As an adult, I've moved on to being captivated by human nature, my own and everyone elses. Exploring the whys and hows of my own psyche and trying to create connections that have depth and meaning brings significance to my experience in this school we call Life. I've gone from being a full time working mom, to a part time working mom, to a stay at home mom and the breadth of that experience has shown me the value in all of those roles. I am riveted by the complicated genius that is the female intellect and sharing insights with other engaging women has become, for me, an essential symbiosis. 

 

WHAT’S IN A NAME? Letting Labels Get the Better of Our Curiosity.

It’s easy to call the things we don’t understand “weird”.  It’s natural that when we aren’t accustomed to a person, or a place, or a thing, suddenly a feeling of apprehension may rise up inside of us. Often times when a situation gets weird, what it really becomes is something we have yet to understand.

I fall prey to relying on my ego like any other well-meaning human. I get nervous and my armpits start sweating when I’m forced to openly deal with situations that unfurl outside of my comfort zone. Thankfully, crows feet and stretch marks advance with wisdom. I am at least aware of this universal fear; being the last one to know, or worse, being totally wrong about something in the face of others. This shame that accompanies a lack of knowledge thwarts me from moving forward, prevents me from asking questions, distracts me from actively listening to an offered explanation, and ultimately halts me from being the best version of myself. I should be proudly demanding a better understanding of the world around me, not shrinking from my duty as a lifelong learner.

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Unfortunately, our egos seem to retaliate at the first signs of humility, throwing out an obstruction to block the concepts that we haven’t collected enough information about. Instead of displaying the vulnerability necessary to learn something new, we resort to quickly labeling something: “That is so gross…” “He seems really strange...” “You’re weird...”  What we are really sharing about ourselves with these statements is that we haven’t yet learned anything necessary to make an honest judgment. The ego says, who cares, say something quick. And out comes the least bit of knowledge we have; “Whoa, what a freak…”

All these labels got me thinking about prejudice; those thoughts that determine who or what someone is based on an accumulation of brain garbage: like bottom of the pyramid jokes, about sexism, race, or disabled people; “harmless” and oh so foundational for all the “real” hurt that we condemn at the apex level. I can’t make it through an 80’s family movie now without pausing multiple times to explain to my kids why someone would find domestic violence or overt sexual objectification entertaining, or why people of color are demeaned into portraying one type of character over and over. These were the movies that raised me. It takes effort to peel the labels away and see things for what they truly are.

As a mom, my job is to fill in the blanks a handful of times a day as my children discover new things and inadvertently quiz me on them. My prejudices become discriminations once they are out of my head, acting as a guide to my kids. My first defense against foolishly labeling things is to harness enough strength to get vulnerable. Channel your inner Brene Brown and give other people in your immediate vicinity courage to do the same. Say bold things like “I know nothing about that” or “I am open to learning about that”.

Prejudice is a sneaky F’er. It can disguise itself as well-meaning; like telling a kid who's worked hard to achieve something that he or she is “smart”. It’s a compliment that adults once dished out to us as children, and we now feel compelled to do the same. My son labors through long division, and gets the wrong answer, and starts over, and fails again, and through tears and my insistence, he tries again. He has the right answer now. And my prize to him is this label; “you are so smart”, an empty compliment that’s got negative consequences down the road.

Later, when he is without my praise, and the world around him gets unclear, or complicated, will he remember that I told him over and over that he was smart? His ego will have grown with his size, and he may choose to rely on what I told him instead of identifying and dealing with confusion. He may refuse the lesson, or the struggle to understand, based on all that he already knows because he’s “smart”. “That looks lame” he may say, about some kid performing a monologue; about a girl asking him to dance at Sadie Hawkins; about a backpacking trip to the desert with some friends... Smart people know things, they don’t actively engage with new concepts that look challenging. Being smart is a full-time job, and if it’s the nicest compliment someone has given you, why wouldn’t you work against trying new things or ideas in order to keep being the same old smart?

What I needed at his current age was someone to glorify failing. If someone had demonstrated that wrong answers lead to right ones, that being good at one thing doesn’t mean you aren’t capable of struggling towards victory in other areas, I would have been less likely to throw in the towel on so many things that I was curious about. I could have had the liberty to try the things that only my heart knew I wanted. Imagine a grown up not complimenting a young girl on how pretty she is, or how strong her brother is, and instead asking them with positive vigor, “what challenged you most today?”

How can we get past our first line of defense, our ever ready egos, and respond to new situations with carefree curiosity? Let’s be baffled and enthralled and let labels have the day off. What if we placed more value on wondering? I am attempting to parent by harnessing the magic of learning. It’s painful sometimes, addressing the plethora of things that I don't know. I am grateful each time my quest to understand leads me to ever more brilliant questions. I strive to be a student of life and hope to give you permission to do the same.

-Emily




 

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EMILY

Becoming a human-vessel made me a mother, but it also taught me who I am as a woman; literally, I didn’t know that I had a uterus or that it was super bad-ass, until after I picked up my first Bradley Method book. Four home births later, my husband and I have maintained a sense of humor while maneuvering the daily failures, lessons and bonds, that parenting provides.

      My brighter moments are spent homeschooling outside in the Sierra National Forest with other wild families, and pursuing a slow and steady education towards attaining my BS (I will never not think that is funny). Other days you can find me: eating pineapple even though I am painfully allergic, actually running out of gas, and crying in public when strangers show empathy with one another.

     

 

MINDFUL MAMA- Can You be Grateful AND Still Want More?

I’m writing this with hopes of an epiphany by blog’s end because I’ve found myself in a spiritual quandary. Mindfulness, that’s the name of the game… staying in the moment, soaking it up while trying not to think about desires and impending future obligations.

It’s one variety of content. And, it’s a challenge, even on our best day. Staying present with your children or husband when to do lists are accumulating in every corner of your brain, taking a moment to stop stirring your curry that’s on the verge of turning from perfection to burned, to truly see the LEGO creation your son is holding up to your face. This aspect of mindfulness takes commitment and practice.

Then there’s the facet of mindfulness that involves loving yourself for who you are in this very moment, the recognition that you are perfectly imperfect as is, RIGHT NOW. Self-acceptance. That doesn’t come easy either. How to push out the lingering mental post-it notes that you wanna lose five pounds, stop drinking coffee, and oh yeah, be more present with your kids. Running is a time when I feel that I receive guidance… maybe it’s the “zone” I’m in, or maybe it’s a lack of oxygen, but personal revelations tend to show up there. I was having a rough go of things (the control freak that I am) and while sprinting a straight shot down a path, sun beating on my face, a voice clearly said to me “you are enough in this moment.” I felt amazing afterward, zen master status, goosebumps all over, but it sure as shit didn’t make it any easier to pull the whole self- love thing off.

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And then there’s self- improvement, striving to be better, to push yourself beyond your comfort zone. For me, among other things, that involves trying things that will put me in a position of being criticized (vulnerability issues much?). Blogging, that’s one example of how I’m pushing against the cozy walls I’ve created for myself. I’m out there, not just on a personal level, but creatively and intellectually. There are people who may feel that my writing skills are no bueno or that my ideas should be saved for a home journal. I’ll never know what everyone's thinking, and that’s extremely unnerving for me. I could quit. God knows I’ve wanted to. But, “they” tell us (whoever “they” are), that outside of our comfort zone is where growth happens, so I press on, reminding myself that others opinions don’t matter (which also feels like a half-truth).

Here’s where the quandary comes in. My big question… how do we stay “in the moment”, accepting ourselves as “perfectly imperfect right now” while still “striving to be better?” Feels like there are some incongruencies there. I’m over here trying to manifest living in Bali for a year while sitting in my living room attempting to appreciate the house I’m in. I’m working on trying to start a lil’ business to make some moola, to help pay for my future Balinese lifestyle, while endeavoring to be purely in the moment with my little girl as we rearrange the furniture in her Peppa Pig dollhouse. I’m finally a stay at home mom, and I’m scheming about things that are going to rob me of the peace that brings, a peace I’ve craved for years... but limitations aren’t supposed to be part of my vocabulary. I’m spending her nap time lifting weights and jumping around the house while trying to love my perfectly imperfect body and still pay homage to my physical temple. I’m closing my eyes to meditate every day in an attempt to get “more mindful” and appreciative, when I could be quietly drinking up views of the mountains from my living room windows, heart swollen with gratitude.

As I write this, in search for answers, I notice the word “self” is a consistent theme. Embracing the “self” in order to detach from “self.” More confusion as the cursor blinks at me, waiting for the words to pour forth, but my self is stuck. Deep breaths… because “they” say the answers are within as long as we quiet the personality and listen.

My intuition is telling me that maybe I’m trying too hard. That all of this “self-help” is turning into self-involvement. This focus on filling each moment with growth isn’t leaving space for true mindfulness, just a distraction from such. Maybe it shouldn’t take this much effort. Me trying to detach from Angi doesn’t allow for proper appreciation and unconditional acceptance of the Angi I’ve been given in this go around at humanity.

So, what does that look like? Do I stop with the forward progression, the endless striving? That doesn’t feel right either.

Bear with me, as I have an internal dialogue that the rest of you now have to be privy to.

Does wanting more have to mean that you don’t love what you’ve got? Maybe loving what I’ve got actually creates the desire for more because it feels so good to have that joy, achievement, or fulfillment.

I’m going to leave us with that because I want to hear from my fellow Mindful Mamas. It’s all I’ve come up with after one meditation and a long, quiet bath.

Maybe I’ll be back with a more inspired explanation next week. A few more baths and meditations might help, or maybe I should just stare at the mountains until then...

-Angi

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ANGI

I was an oddity in high school, obsessed with the CIA, the supernatural, aliens, basically all things mysterious. As an adult, I've moved on to being captivated by human nature, my own and everyone elses. Exploring the whys and hows of my own psyche and trying to create connections that have depth and meaning brings significance to my experience in this school we call Life. I've gone from being a full time working mom, to a part time working mom, to a stay at home mom and the breadth of that experience has shown me the value in all of those roles. I am riveted by the complicated genius that is the female intellect and sharing insights with other engaging women has become, for me, an essential symbiosis. 

 

GOING PUBLIC ABOUT HOMESCHOOL- Making the Shift to Teaching at Home.

I confess to thinking “no thanks” when a trusted neighbor brought a book to my house about homeschooling. I flipped through the pages, nodding in agreement as she insisted that keeping all of my kids at home with me would yield “more freedom”. I kept my judgy ole misconceptions to myself: homeschooling was for persnickety parents, ones who placed too much expectation on what a public school should provide.

I had read and reread "You Are Your Child’s First Teacher" by Rahima Baldwin Dancy. The first five pivotal years of my child’s life had and would continue to unfold in the nurturing/stimulating nest of our home. After that, public school would be their side gig. I hoped my kids would get a good gleaning of knowledge from the professionals before they came back home to me. They would be homogenized humans; normal, but brilliant. I would not shape them into tiny, weird, sheltered, idiots.

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My discomfort with confrontation meant that I learned very little from the exchange with my neighbor that day... I could have asked questions or made stupid assumptions that she would have been happy to clear up, but no; my goal in situations such as these was to prematurely wrap up the conversation no sooner than it had started. My own idiot ego wanted to quickly slap a label on something instead of understanding it. I acted like an unknowingly prejudiced fool. (I have progressed since then into a self-aware prejudiced fool…)   

Kindergarten started, and I spent the first school year mostly proving myself right: public school was a wonderful experience for my 5-year-old daughter. I witnessed her gregarious nature on Tuesdays when I played teacher’s helper in the class. Haven loved the games played in a giant circle on the rug. She liked talking to people and being challenged and pridefully following all the rules. I didn’t realize at the time, but the number of creative projects, flashcards, and homework that we were completing at home had a great deal to do with Haven’s academic success. I was basically homeschooling without a personalized curriculum.

It wasn’t long into our kindergarten endeavors that I noticed the same experience was not being shared by all the kids in Haven’s class. A group of younger kindergarteners spent the first part of each morning crying for their mothers. In a room of 32 kids, the teacher had little sympathy to extend to this group of mostly boys. The kids, whose parents engaged in their little lives outside of school, all sat at the “red” table. The Roy G. Biv smart scale trickled down to subsequent tables all removed from one another.

I watched in agony as the more privileged kids established who got to be friends with: someone shy, someone wearing knockoff Skechers, someone whose unbrushed hair was not styled by adoring parents. The kids who weren’t mature enough to not make fart noises all the way to the pencil sharpener (more than half the boys) had to learn the hard way by having privileges taken away. After half a school year banished to sit still during the times actually permitted to move, the boys began to begrudgingly shut up and sit semi-still.  

But Haven seemed a perfect candidate for all things public school. She thought the way her teacher laughed without smiling, in response to a million kid’s stupid stories, was hilarious, not offensive. She made friends and played with different kids on a weekly basis. I adored completing every monotonous art project they sent home with her: creating something with 100 items, building a leprechaun trap, handcrafting valentines, celebrating the Chinese New Year by constructing a giant, embellished dragon head that could be worn by a small child… (okay, that last one was all me, desperate for praise, which I got and totally earned. That dragon was kick ass).

Haven was all set by the end of summer to continue her public education into the future. She would become a first grader in the fall. I would continue pulling her from slumber each morning, dressing her appropriately, packing lunches, driving to and from class each day, and helping her complete the assigned homework required to keep her ahead. But that summer, my idea of what school was, came to a screeching halt when I visualized Bowie walking through that same kindergarten door.  

He would be that younger student with a September birthday. He was emotional and quiet and intimidated by rooms full of noise and people. He would not receive a reprimand to “cry quieter” with any constructivism when he missed me during those first hours of class. What was I to do? Wouldn’t he become a tiny weird idiot if I sheltered him? Was public education a tool to weed out mainstream learners, and file the rest accordingly by table? What table would society want to shove my son into? Who would be there to give him the attention he needed to thrive?

I would.

I finally picked up the book. It was "The Well Trained Mind" by Jessie Wise. It sucked me in, terrified me, blew my mind, and intrigued the apprehensive, creative freak right out of me. Holy shit! I was a homeschooler!

I want to tell you that it was all easy peasy from that moment on, but it was terrifyingly difficult at first. Being responsible for the education of a person is intense (all praise to teachers everywhere!). Being suddenly responsible for the education of two persons, while entertaining a toddler and breastfeeding a newborn infant was f’ing craze balls.

But, the one thing that was guaranteed? I had more freedom. My neighbor was absolutely telling the truth. I lived in a pair of pajamas for months, didn’t brush my hair or concern myself too much with what my kids looked like, as long as they were put into the tub on a weekly basis and had an assortment of food thrown their way. It was survival, but I never had to force something. I got to be me, and my kids got to be them.

I remember the day Bowie and I finished "Teach Your Child To Read in 100 Easy Lessons." There had been absolutely nothing easy about it, but I was so proud of us. He could read. And he could do it in his underwear nestled beside me, where fart noises were permitted. I realize that homeschooling isn’t a choice for all families or even a desirable thought for others, but being an advocate for my son’s needs was personal, and I feel grateful that life permitted me to provide him with a learning environment that considers who he is and how he best learns.

After six years of homeschooling, I am still certain that it is the best fit for our family. I have learned the value of failing and how teaching to mastery takes more time than most classrooms can allow. We are life schoolers; absolutely not sheltered, unabashedly weird at times, but able to persevere through failure because messing up is learning.

I want to thank Genevieve, who humbly offered me books, solutions, and options that were unconventional. You enlightened me to homeschool and homebirth, and to ultimately enjoy my role as a mother.   

-Emily

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EMILY

Becoming a human-vessel made me a mother, but it also taught me who I am as a woman; literally, I didn’t know that I had a uterus or that it was super bad-ass, until after I picked up my first Bradley Method book. Four home births later, my husband and I have maintained a sense of humor while maneuvering the daily failures, lessons and bonds, that parenting provides.

      My brighter moments are spent homeschooling outside in the Sierra National Forest with other wild families, and pursuing a slow and steady education towards attaining my BS (I will never not think that is funny). Other days you can find me: eating pineapple even though I am painfully allergic, actually running out of gas, and crying in public when strangers show empathy with one another.