Quick Life Update: Muppets and Missiles

Patience is not my strong suit. Right now, I find myself in the midst of a slow and unsure phase of life, namely: waiting to see if our house here in Topanga will sell so we can buy the farm in Vermont. 

In any other year for decades and decades, houses in Topanga fly off the market. Topanga is a small town nestled in the Santa Monica Mountains. People love it because of it’s quirky Bohemian-artistic-nature vibes, miles of easy access to gorgeous hiking/biking trails, delicious artisan restaurants, and various, unique boutiques. 

Furthermore, any house under 1.5 million dollars usually has a line of people begging to buy it the day it’s listed, all offers being presented with accompanying heart-felt letters for why each potential buyer is the destined candidate, baskets of bread and wine, and the occasional under the table offer for a black market kidney (I’ve added a touch of hyperbole, but you get the point).

By the time we got the approval from the Vermont Land Trust that we were approved to buy the farm, it was a little off-season for selling real estate in Topanga. Typically April and May are the desirable months to list a house here. By June a lot of people leave, it gets super hot in Topanga, wildfires begin to become a concern as it gets drier and hotter, and a lot of locals leave Los Angeles for the summer.

We have jumped through so many hoops, leapt over hurdles, and literally moved mountains (well, Cal Trans did, but still) to be able to get to this point. And now, the part that we thought would be the quickest and easiest is just at a slow trickle of nebulous progress. Needless to say, I’m stress-eating Nutella out of the jar by the spoonful. Senya and Juniper still aren’t back from their east coast summer trip yet, so I’m also running, hiking, writing, trying to read (but it’s really difficult when your mind is hyper focused on something else), talking to friends and family and basically running in metaphorical circles because there’s nothing else I can do besides wait…and stalker text my realtor. 

And about our realtor…

We signed with a realtor here in Topanga that I’m now realizing I chose because subconsciously she reminded me of someone from my past that I liked. Recently it dawned on me that the “someone” she reminded me of was Janice from the Muppets. In hindsight, maybe that should have been a red flag rather than a deal clincher, but here we are. 

More importantly than Muppet doppelgängers, she was also the only realtor who took us seriously in 2017 when we didn’t have nearly as much money as we needed to buy a regular house in Topanga. When I say “regular house” I mean “a house.” But she tried her best to take us to see land that was for sale, and she entertained our unlikely and unconventional plans for how to live in Topanga (I’m telling you, when you fall in love with this town, it’s hard to not want to live here regardless of whether you can actually afford it). We finally relinquished that dream when our final plan to build a series of tiny mud huts on some barren and fire-ant infested land elicited the response from 6 year old Senya “Is there any chance we could just live in one, normal house all together? Like the kind with bedrooms and a kitchen?” At that same moment Juniper was crying because her chubby 3 year old bare feet were getting mauled by fire ants. 

But as for how our realtor treated us back then, she didn’t dismiss us and we remembered that.

You see someone’s true colors for how they value people when “people” don’t have any money. And this realtor treated us with respect. SO, Janice it is. 

So, while she IS respectful of people’s worth as humans, I am finding that she is not meeting my need for prompt and detailed communication. It’s killing me. I am an external processor, and when there is something of any importance or focus in my life, I like to have the ticker tape of communication constantly running. It’s difficult for me to not implode with absolute impatience and frustration. 

But alas, I’m trying to remember this guy named Vasily Alexandrovich Arkhipov. I’m remembering his essence (not his name— because that I had to look up 4 times to spell it here). 

This guy—he is possibly the reason we are all alive today. And it was because he didn’t act rashly. He held steady during some intense pressure and a moment of confusion. He was misinformed that Nuclear War had started, and he was ordered to launch a ten kiloton nuclear torpedo from his submarine. This idea didn’t sit well with him, and he had a hunch they should just rise to the surface of the water and have a chat to see what was going on.

https://www.trtworld.com/magazine/how-a-russian-soldier-prevented-world-war-iii-59-years-ago-12774934

I will leave that link for you to read at your leisure. My brother in law told me that story when we went on an 11.5 round trip hike to the former Nike Missile Control Site. Whew. Nothing like the idea of missiles and bombs to remind you how important it is to be patient and considerate about your judgments and actions. 

So, suffice it to say, holding steady isn’t my area of expertise. I’m more of a take action kind of a gal. I’d like to think that in the right set of circumstances, you’d be happy to have me there with the propensity for that bent toward action. I stand up for people. There’s no bystander effect with me. I see someone getting bullied or mistreated, and I say something. Just ask the employees at my local Sprouts (grocery store). Whenever there’s a condescending or outraged customer mistreating the employees, I get in there and say something because my employee acquaintances can’t without risking their jobs. Or whenever kids would get bullied on the playground, I’d be like, hey pick on someone…else…who is also much smaller than you (I was tiny but mighty). I’d like to think that in moments that require bold decision, action, and sacrifice, my quick processing speed in assessing the situation and tendency toward swift execution of a plan would potentially also save many lives. 

But sometimes, the best thing to do is wait. Sometimes the best thing to do is hold steady. 

Our clock is running out, though, in terms of needing to give the kids’ prospective school (LTS) our enrollment commitment or not. Senya also, DID GET THAT INTERNSHIP!!!!  (I wrote about this in my former post “Hope is Found at the Bottom of Grief.”) So, we need to reside in Vermont soon for that, too. We will have to decide very soon, if this house doesn’t sell, whether to move to Vermont anyway or whether to forego this dream. It’s hard to imagine giving up the dream given that we’ve come so far down this path already—and we’ve overcome so many other obstacles thus far. 

Apart from learning to have patience and wait, I also just need clarity on whether to push down every last barrier regardless of whether I’ve gotten the green light of this house selling first. When does one leap with confidence that they will fly? When does one determine that something is or isn’t meant to be based on the obstacles in the way? 

I’ll leave you all with those questions to ponder (and feel free to give your input in the comments section). Also to ponder: which Muppet are you? (I’m Fozzie Bear)

Post Nutella/Post Run. Pre Hike. Actively Waiting. Also, Senya took my hair dryer and straightener to the east coast, so I have been relegated to rocking the hair style of an 80’s metal band vocalist all summer.
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Be Kind to Dragons and Wave at Dogs

While being friendly is a genuine feature of my persona, it is just one facet on the surface of who I am. 

I have, undoubtedly, gone to great lengths in my life to present as friendly and nice, though. 

For example: 

If someone anywhere in any parking lot waves in my general direction, I would sooner drop my grocery bags and trip over them to wave back than risk not returning the wave. Fun fact: they weren’t waving at me 9 times out of 10. 

If a driver stops their car to let me cross at a cross walk, I make eye contact and wave mouthing the words “thank you so much” as I do the good citizen high speed shuffle across the road.

I have been known to wave at dogs. 

This overly nice persona started to back fire, though. Because, while some of my nice actions are motivated by sincere consideration, I am not only nice. What people don’t always realize is that beneath that smiling and cheery exterior, there is an intense, planet-sized amount of human constantly churning and metabolizing everything that’s happening on the surface. Planets have a lot going on. They’re not just nice. They’ve got storms, dust clouds, super sonic winds, mountains…okay, I’m currently realizing that I do not know much about planets beyond a 4th grade level. But they’re like whole worlds. No one would just describe Venus as nice. 

My indomitably happy disposition is like the strongest pair of Spanx the world has ever known. It is often holding what seems like a superhuman amount of feelings within it. I’ve recently come to describe this phenomena as such: I’m a dragon who sometimes disguises as a unicorn. So, let’s just assume my unicorn costume is made by Spanx. 

As one might expect, the happy unicorn Spanx suit isn’t invincible or perfect at containing my intensity. There are certain factors that disintegrate the disguise— dynamics that compromise the integrity of said unicorn Spanx suit. It’s been super confusing for others when this supposed unicorn everybody invited to the party starts breathing fire and burns everything and everyone in its path. Everyone rushes to leave the party like “there is something seriously wrong with that unicorn” Or, if the costume has been completely abandoned, “who invited that fire-breathing dragon to our good vibes only unicorn party?” 

As this “surprise, I’m really a dragon” thing happened more and more frequently, I realized that I needed to take some accountability. Namely, I was falsely advertising myself as a primarily nice person. I am not, in fact, a primarily nice person. 

Don’t get me wrong; I value kindness. I try to be a kind person. There’s a difference between being nice and being kind. Kindness and love are based in values and a code of virtue. Because of this, kindness can do difficult things that don’t always feel nice in relationships—set boundaries, end relationships, hold someone accountable for their actions, not enable others (which often feels very not nice to the other person in the moment, regardless of how truly loving it is), etc. Kindness is a posture of the heart dedicated to enact love regardless of feelings. Niceness is usually an aesthetic.  

So, why was I trying to market myself as nice? Well, the social messaging to be nice begins for AFABs (assigned females at birth) before the nurses in the hospital put that pink little hat on you. I’ll refrain for now from going on a fiery dragon tangent about how people always ask pregnant people what they’re having (I mean, it’s a human. But these people are presumably seeking a response that involves a binary concept of gender to which they can attach all their socially constructed pronouns and projections of whether this child will play with dolls (and be nice) or play with trucks (and be a tiny mr. tough guy) based on which genitalia the kiddo’s growing in there. Whoops. Seems like the dragon interjected a touch of fire after all). 

So much of the social script from those prying assumptive questions on out reinforces that code. Vulva equals girl equals nice. And so, I internalized from a very young age that it is generally accepted as common knowledge that most humans like nice girls rather than grumpy, intense, or unfriendly Demi-girls, so I went for the nice girl packaging and marketing. Smiles, eye contact, raised eyebrows, lots of nodding with my head tilted during conversations. 10 out of 10 for niceness.

But still, the more you know, the more accountable you need to be. So, as I realized that I wasn’t presenting a lot of my authentic self, I had to ask myself how I was responsible in creating this dynamic. What were my selfish motives? Yes, there’s social messaging, but why was I complying? 

There are sometimes systemic reasons that people have to comply with these social scripts to stay safe. People who aren’t as privileged in society sometimes have to mask and comply with certain scripts to retain access to vital resources, stay safe, and survive. 

But, I have privilege. My skin color, my socio economic status, my education, and a lot of the variables in the life I lucked into—allow me to be safe and be deviant from the expectations from society. So therefore, I’ve somewhat recently started using that privilege and safety to acknowledge and embody my true dragon nature. 

And in so doing, I’ve had to do some shadow work. To be a safe dragon who knows how to wield the fire, I’ve had to integrate the parts of myself that I’d rather not acknowledge. In addition to admitting that I am intense and not generally easy breezy about anything ever at all, I have also had to realize that some of this pretense was designed to get people to like me. To boost my ego. 

So, while the good citizen shuffle is often because I actually want to be considerate of the driver’s time, I also want a 5 star good citizen review on the imaginary Lindsay Yelp. I like to imagine that the driver is like, “you know, that’s a good person right there. They’re so considerate. They really seem to get that they are not the center of the world.”

Waving at dogs is purely motivated by (a slight lack of reasoning skills in the moment and also) my eternal and unwavering love for dogs. 

How can I not wave at a being who greets me like this?

But doing the work to figure out when I’m being nice out of true kindness versus when I’m being nice to get good reviews has been some helpful shadow work. One is grounded in love and unattached to the results and one is primarily for the accolades. 

It is helpful to all your kin—nay, I daresay, it is helpful to society in general, actually—to know oneself and truly do your inner work around your identity. Integrating your shadow self is one of the kindest and bravest types of self work you can do. 

What do I mean by shadow work? It’s the process of trying to become aware of and work on the attributes of the part of your personality you try to keep hidden because it isn’t compatible with who you want to be. Oftentimes you can’t see your own shadow (because you keep it so repressed or suppressed that you aren’t consciously aware of it), yet the people closest to you in your life can see it. So, truly growing sometimes means that the brave, close souls in your life bring these shadow elements of your behavior or psyche to your attention. I’ve got two people in my life whom I trust (trust that they love me, share my values, understand me, etc) who are willing to show me my shadow. 

Now, I am not the, ahem, easiest to confront. That is to say, historically, my dragon has been known to emerge upon confrontation and become a little unwieldy. I am intense. And I really don’t like to be called out on my shadow. I mean, no one does, to be sure. But where someone gentle and meek (a true unicorn, perhaps) might shed some tears or request some moments of self-reflection, I have been known in the past to almost jump out of a second story window, argue for days on the basis of being “nice, goddammit”, give the passive-aggressive depressed affect for days (i.e., “YOU did this to me. You killed a rare and beautiful unicorn, and now I must mourn”). 

So, it’s brave when someone says, “Hey Linds, I’ve noticed this pattern and I think you and your relationships would be healthier if you worked on it.” 

I’ve really worked so hard over the last 25 years of being partnered with Collin (4 of dating and 21 of being married) to integrate, do my shadow work, not be tempted to jump out of windows (that was when I was a teenager, by the way), and try really hard to feel the burning, painful death of my ego whilst not using my dragon fire to hurt or harm when my complexes get triggered. 

Jung uses the term complex for emotional triggers that really trip us up and spring from our unconscious. It’s basically the landmines in your personal psyche that could get set off when someone is walking through your space. They may set them off entirely unsuspectingly, or if it’s someone who is trying to upset you, they may know your “issues” and detonate a complex. 

If you don’t do the inner work to know your own psychological landscape—if you don’t figure out what the landmines are and work to deactivate them—then you leave yourself and all those around you vulnerable to an explosion. Explosions can end relationships unnecessarily, cause harm to yourself and others, and leave you feeling resentment for years. 

As someone who has had difficult complexes to integrate and deactivate, I can say that it’s extremely unnerving to be in an emotional state controlled by an activated complex. As I’ve mentioned, I’ve had this happen to me, and it’s awful. It is almost like the rational part of my adult brain is passively watching as this activated version of myself takes the wheel and starts driving like a maniac. Or in my dragon analogy it’s like the dragon starts breathing fire without control. 

The great irony of realizing one’s potential is that we can’t become the person we want to be if we don’t embrace who we actually are. This includes embracing your shadow self and acknowledging your complexes. It starts with being present with who you are, being brave enough to explore your identity and really being open to learning and integrating all the parts of who you are. Sometimes this only can happen when a trusted person in your life holds the mirror up to reveal something to you that you wouldn’t otherwise be capable of seeing. And it’s not always fire breath; maybe you’re a people pleaser, maybe you sabotage your own success, maybe you’re a workaholic. 

When you know yourself—the light and the shadow, the socially facing persona, the complexes that lay beneath the surface, the shadow self—you can make informed decisions and thoughtful responses to the things happening around you and within you. Understanding yourself and making peace with your inner dragon (or mythological animal equivalent) means that when something happens in the external world (someone says something or does something) and then you have a reaction in your inner world (anger arises, fear arises, etc) you are better positioned to resist impulsive urges to act out of those feelings. You can also have compassion for yourself and make space to be present with all of yourself. Witnessing and being present with what is rather than trying to feel or think what you think you should feel or think is one of the best exercises in expanding your ability to contain your own whole self (inner fire-breathing dragons, sensitive unicorns, fierce Chimera, deadly Basilisks, etc).

Simply put: if you do your inner work to integrate the shadow elements of your soul with your higher consciousness, you will be less likely to snap when others do things that upset you.

Paradoxically almost, you will also become your own friend. You will understand yourself better, have compassion for yourself, and you will be able to articulately navigate difficult situations, relationships, and life in general. I always find that I feel loneliest when I’m ignoring my inner self and avoiding spending time with what’s going on inside of me. Sometimes the best friend we need is ourself. Sometimes our inner dragons need someone to see them, love them, and hold space for why they feel fiery.

When we become our own true friend we can stand in our truth without needing others to understand it to validate it. If we wave at someone and they weren’t waving at us, but we were motivated by our truth, it’s still worth tripping over your groceries. Even if they look at you like you’re pathetic. Because you did it—not for yelp reviews—but because you believe in kindness regardless of the effect it has on your ego.

So, this week’s post is just a weekend inspiration to be your best self. Which surprisingly means sitting down to tea with your worst self and lending a compassionate, listening ear. 

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Hope is Found at the Bottom of Grief

“I’m going to shoot the moon!!!!” —me, believing I can achieve the highly unlikely best outcome in most situations

It has come to my attention that I have a tendency toward optimism that borders on delusional. For the most part, this has worked in my favor (it’s bad; see?). It gives me the confidence and hope to make bold moves, take risks, and experience big rewards. From camping in Masai Mara with lions hunting just outside our back packing tent (I’m sure they’ll just eat the Wildebeest and not us) to maintaining a 4.0 in grad school while nursing my infant and working full time (I’ll sleep when I’m dead), this tendency towards optimism for the seemingly impossible can come in handy. It allows me to reach past the bounds of realism and work with my imaginal vision for what I want to accomplish. Perception shapes, if not becomes, our reality. 

However.

There are some downsides to this indomitably positive facet of my being. I can misjudge or underestimate the consequences of aforementioned bold moves. Like the time I jumped barefoot off a cliff in Maine onto the rocks below. I shattered my right foot upon impact. Fortunately I was with the two best friends for such a situation as this: Nick, a military-trained medic, and Collin, aka MacGyver of the woods. So, all in all, I was fine. We finished out our weeklong camping trip and then I went home and got a proper cast. Lesson learned: don’t jump off cliffs onto rocks 10 feet below, especially barefoot. 

Selling our 64 acres in Vermont was not quite as impulsive as jumping off a cliff barefoot (I was only 18 when I did that, by the way), but—I will say—I did not fully consider the consequences of how it would feel to be 8 months on the other side of that decision. I imagined a month, two months, three months into the decision—but I didn’t picture how I would feel by that following June here after the initial shine of the decision had worn off—especially if things did not go according to plan. The consequences were bigger than some broken bones. 

I would say that until last June, I had never experienced real regret. I had always been able to maintain this idea of “it’s all grist for the mill” or “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger!” My belief around the current of vitality from my last post allows me to untether from my small self and plug into the bigger collective of Life Itself.

On June 6 of last year (Collin and my 20th anniversary, incidentally), however, I experienced something that changed my life and forced me to set out on the journey of reconciling some real regret for making such a drastic move, presumably under the influence of optimistic delusion. On that day, a parent with considerable influence and leadership in our homeschool group confronted me about Senya vocalizing about queer and trans rights in the group. Now, if you have a kid who identities as queer—gender queer or queer in their orientation—you know that the statistics are that LGBTQIA+ youth are more than 4 times as likely to attempt suicide than their peers. And you would also know that trans and nonbinary youth are 2-2.5 times more likely to experience depressive symptoms, seriously consider suicide, and attempt suicide compared to their cisgender LGBQ peers (https://www.thetrevorproject.org/resources/article/facts-about-lgbtq-youth-suicide/)

I had heard Senya confront some of these kids before, so I knew what this parent was referencing. When two cisgender, heterosexual boys were pretending to be gay, I heard Senya handle the situation with directness but not unkindly. They told them it wasn’t funny to make a joke out of someone’s orientation. When a cisgender girl told Senya that they were “always going to be a girl” and that they “needed to stop running from their true identity” Senya stood up for themself, but again, not unkindly. I know there were more occasions, and I know they probably didn’t always perfect their delivery in standing up for themself, but they were 12 and the only out queer kid in the group. So, they did their best doing a job that the most vulnerable person in a given social group shouldn’t be left to do for themself in the first place. 

So, given those stats above, and the fact that Senya was trying to be an ambassador and advocate for trans and queer rights—for themself and also for others in the group who had come out privately to them—I wasn’t about to apologize to this parent or tell Senya to tone it down. In the moment, when this parent was confronting me, it suddenly dawned on me: people aren’t going to understand. My kid is going to face discrimination in this world and they will be blamed for it. If this can happen in Los Angeles, a city that purports to be progressive and liberal, where can they be safe? 

It leveled me emotionally to have Senya’s identity and their attempt to make space for their existence as a trans-gender, non-binary person put beneath the level of importance of other kids’ hurt feelings or injured pride. “Senya is casting these kids as sexist, and that’s unfair” the parent wrote later in an email. Interestingly enough, another girl (the one who told Senya they’d always be a girl), called boys sexist all the time. And yet, this girl wasn’t getting singled out. 

I am going to just pause and recognize my privilege for a moment here as someone who has been able to mask and protect myself, despite my own queerness, whenever necessary to stay safe. Other more vulnerable members of society don’t have this privilege. This includes other members of the trans and non binary community and also Black, Indigenous, People of Color, and people of racial diversity. The most vulnerable members of society are those that live at intersections of these different facets of identity. It’s important that I note here that I have had the luxury of living a life where this was one of the first and formative moments of prejudice I’ve experienced on behalf of my child because they refused to mask and blend. This experience makes me realize the importance of speaking up and making space for people who are less safe to do so for themself and who do not have the option of masking. This is why it’s important to say “Black Lives Matter” or have policies around inclusivity, signs on institutions and businesses welcoming and protecting diversity, and legislation that protects the rights of vulnerable members of society. It takes saying it out loud, making it formalized, and taking a stance. Because it’s not a given. And if you think it is, it’s because you’ve been privileged enough to think that (as I was).

So, in the initial moments of this parent’s confrontation, I felt the ground beneath me fall away. My friend was next to me, with her hand on my back trying to support me, unable to find the words or actions to intervene in the conversation but sending the signal of solidarity and support by physically supporting me. I was shaking and began crying uncontrollably. I couldn’t think; I just felt bottomless grief for Senya’s journey of being misunderstood, for the shattering realization of how unjust the world was, for all I had given up to be here in Los Angeles. My heart was pounding in my ears, and images flashed across my mind of all the things I loved that I had given up to be here. With this group. The ramps that grow on the hillside in April. The bees we kept that pollinated our plants and shared their abundance of honey. Our neighbors who provided friendship and help in any pinch in which we’d find ourselves. The sunrises over the mountains I’d see from my kitchen sink window. Our pond that we’d ice skate on every February and then swim in every June. Animal friends—chickens, bunnies, a cat— we had to re-home. The chickadee who would sing to me to tell me that spring was on the way. The grief was filling me, choking me, and I couldn’t breathe. I had to leave the situation. And so I did. I went home and crawled into bed at 6:00 pm in the evening. Collin canceled our 20th anniversary dinner reservations and sat next to me in my sadness, sharing the burden of grief. 

In the following days, the parent and I went back and forth in a series of emails each trying to explain to the other our point of view. “All the kids deserve to be accepted” she wrote. Yes, but for some outliers to be included, there need to be changes made in the way we speak and think about gender to affirm their identity. Just like “All Lives Matter” minimizes or negates the specific, systemic oppression that Black individuals face, saying that all the kids’ hurt feelings carried the same weight as the one trans’ kid’s in these particular moments of ciscentric or heteronormative biases negates the specific, systemic struggle that a trans person experiences by virtue of living in a binary, cisgender society. 

By day three of email exchanges, it became clear that there was a chasm between us that could not be bridged with logic, for we each had our own. And while each of our arguments derived from different premises and resulted in different conclusions, they were both logically sound. Without empathy, there is no way across the divide of differing logic and world views. I understood that she was trying to protect the other kids from feelings of shame or judgment. I don’t think she ever understood that I was trying to keep my kid from the statistic likelihood of depression and suicide associated with their trans identity. We each had concerns; the stakes were higher for mine. And without a clear policy and uniform stance on LGBTQIA+ rights, inclusive language, and an overt mission to celebrate diversity, we could not stay in the group. In the absence of a clear, unified statement on inclusion and equity, the default is that each person’s opinion is as important as the next person’s. When it comes to social issues with this much weight and consequence, especially in light of the misalignment I was sensing about such issues, I didn’t feel that Senya would have the support they needed to be healthy. 

And so, we left the group that I had envisioned being our community for the remainder of the kids’ middle and high school years. The group that I had believed would off set the sacrifices of leaving our homestead in Vermont. 

I had to confront the grief and face the regret of the choice I had made. I had sold our home, our land, our beautiful intimate life and there was no going back. Fortunately, the only pragmatic reason we had moved here—for Collin to be physically here for the initial start up phase of his company—had gone better than we even hoped. So, that’s a win. But the life that the kids and I thought we were returning to did not pan out the way I thought it would. I tried to move back to an era, but eras aren’t geographical.

It was important for me to go through this process of grief and of reconciling how my optimistic delusion prevented me from sitting with the cost of the decision to move here. I did not allow myself to stay present with the grief of all we were leaving in Vermont because I steeled myself to make the difficult leap. This was where I went wrong. If you are making a big change, taking a big risk, or leaping for something beyond your reach—it’s important to be present with that decision while you’re doing it. You know you’re truly ready if you’re ready to stay present with the fear, the unknown, the cost, the grief and still make the decision to leap. I had to really embrace this truth prior to this idea of moving to the farm. I have a tendency to think that the answers lie in geography, when in fact, they are within us. I have spent many months soul searching and researching actual data about living here versus living in Vermont. They are both great places with a lot to offer. 

In addition to all the reasons I wrote about in my first blog post, for this season in life, I believe that moving back to Vermont and sending our kids to school is the best option for our family for now. While you cannot predict how each individual person will treat your kids, there is a different kind of peace of mind and support that comes with structural justice and policies that protect vulnerable people. The school where we plan to send Senya and Juniper, Long Trail School (LTS), has an overt inclusivity statement. They backed this statement with action when they went to bat this past year defending their star basketball player. She is a transgender girl and thus plays on the girls’ basketball team. LTS took some heat for this decision in the news and from other schools—one of which refused to play LTS’ team on anti-trans grounds. LTS held strong in their decision and support of their player and their policy that students can pick the team that best fits their gender identity. 

In contrast, we looked at several schools here, in LA, after we left the homeschool group. There was one nature based school that Senya was planning to attend. During their interview with the administration, Senya asked the teachers how they would handle it if someone misgendered them. The teachers said, “Well, if you come in here expecting conflict, then you might find it. It is important for people to assume the best of everyone here. These are all good students. No one would mean to hurt anybody regarding their gender, so if you don’t assume that they will, they won’t.” Essentially, this amounts to: “If you get hurt, it’s your fault.” This is a toxic attitude in general because it refuses to take accountability for one’s actions, but it is especially detrimental when there is a power differential regarding socially vulnerable members of society. Blaming the victim for standing up, speaking up, or trying to make space for their identity is harmful. Full stop. Supposed good intentions don’t justify harmful behavior.

Upon telling a friend that they planned to attend this school here in Topanga, Senya’s friend cautioned them (knowing they are non-binary and knowing their tendency to be vocal about trans rights). This friend informed Senya that she had known a trans student who had been expelled from this school for “disrupting the students” but in reality it was because the student, like Senya, was trans and vocal about their identity and vocal about trans rights. Parents with money and power convinced the school administration to expel the trans student. 

When we asked the same question of the school administration at LTS in Vermont, they said, “for homophobic or anti-trans comments or behaviors, we would likely give a student an in-class suspension whereby they spend their time researching and writing about LGBTQIA+ rights and the history of LGBTQIA+ rights in the United States.” 

There was no talk about intentions or goodness of people’s hearts—because that’s not what we’re talking about when we talk about standing up for justice when there is a power differential. Some of the worst injustices of history have been committed in the name of good intentions. Genocide via eugenics, the Crusades, Conquistadors, the Spanish Missions, The Carlisle Indian Industrial School…the list goes on and on. Just because people think they’re doing the right thing doesn’t mean they aren’t hurting the most vulnerable members of society. Usually they think they’re doing good and not harm because they’re thinking from their ego-centric, euro-centric perspective and not taking the time to perspective take or decenter their narrative. That doesn’t make the consequences less horrific for the people they hurt. 

I’m not under the impression that LTS will be perfect, and I know that even people who are trying their hardest make mistakes. It’s the fact that there’s a mechanism for accountability that matters to me. And it’s the fact that holistically, even on the worst days, we will have a beautiful home, a nature-based life, and an event barn to host gatherings that bring people together around issues of justice. 

I do want, however, to give a shout out to those who helped us through this difficult year. Brave Trails, the California based LGBTQIA+ youth organization has been so supportive and crucial to Senya’s success. Senya has been part of Brave Trails’ weekly Queer youth group, and they also have met with a Brave Trails therapist weekly. This has been vital for their mental health and has provided much needed social and psychological support. 

I also want to thank all the family members and friends who showed up for us. Queer aunties who adore my children. Loyal friends who took a stand for us, one of whom wrote an email to the group trying to explain the systemic nature of the social harm we had experienced. There were other friends who made time and energy to collaborate on carpooling, activities, and life in general. My niece who is in their twenties, queer, super cool, and works at the local gourmet food store has been a role model and an inspiration to both my kids. All these aforementioned people plus other family members and friends who show up monthly for a potluck. Friends from the former homeschool group made an effort to reach out and stay close even though we left the group. All the grandparents who use Senya’s pronouns. All the people who use Senya’s pronouns and just say sorry and move on when they make a mistake (by the way, that’s the most supportive way to handle an accidental misgender. Profuse apologies or anything that turns the energy around and compels the person to caretake YOUR feelings for making a mistake is unhelpful). There is no shortage of good humans here or abroad in our life, and we have been so lucky to have some of the very best in our life.

It’s just been a long road of difficult learning, especially because I leapt without really calculating the cost of what we were leaving behind. In this next move to Vermont, I am trying to stay very present with how much we do indeed have here. We will be leaving a lot of people we love and a lot of resources in that regard. I’m scared, and I think that’s important to acknowledge and keep top of mind. I also know it won’t be perfect because nothing is. Our beautiful age of homeschooling is ending, and this path in Vermont seems like a pretty good fit for who we are now and the era ahead. 

This was a difficult post to write because it articulates my personal experience, but I want to impress upon anyone reading this how not unique our story about facing discrimination regarding trans identity is. I have come to hear similar experiences from other parents of trans and nonbinary kids. Some of whom, like us, had made huge moves to be in places they thought would have the resources their kid, being gifted and exceptional, would need. There is a huge overlap in the Venn diagram of identity traits where queerness and giftedness overlap. Therefore, if you move for giftedness without knowing that the resources will also be supportive of queerness, your kid can end up lonely and hurt. Fortunately, we have found some communities that make space for both; Talent Development Institute in Vermont, for example, is a camp for gifted kids, but it also is extremely inclusive of LGBTQIA+ people. There is a girls dorm floor, a boys dorm floor, and an all-gender floor. It’s accommodations like this that make all the difference for someone whose gender identity doesn’t fit into the binary.  

This is a critical moment in history; while LGBTQIA+ rights are moving forward in some ways (Thailand recently legalized same sex marriage) 2024 was a record breaking year for anti-trans legislation in the United States. Donald Trump has already made it clear that, should he become President again, he, promises to roll back LGBTQIA+ rights. In conjunction with the Heritage Foundation (a conservative think tank) he will propose Project 2025, which details a host of anti-trans legislation and actions. This includes denying federal funding to institutions that don’t discriminate against transgender students (on the grounds that protecting LGBTQIA+ rights equates to violating the rights of people with certain religious beliefs), deleting the terms “sexual orientation and gender identity” from all federal rules, and for prohibiting teachers from affirming trans students. One of the worst proposals in Project 2025 equates transgender identity with pornography and states that it should be outlawed (that’s especially rich coming from a guy who, not only had sex with a porn star, but then paid her to remain quiet about it). This proposal suggests that librarians, teachers, and administrative staff that support transgender students or transgender ideology should be registered as sex offenders. These are his plans. You can read more at 

https://www.them.us/story/lgbtq-trump-trans-second-term

https://www.forbes.com/sites/saradorn/2024/05/10/trump-promises-rollback-on-trans-rights-heres-what-hes-said

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/12/us/politics/trump-transgender-rights.html

I want you to also take away something important: it’s often the parents who have the problem with accepting trans identities. Kids are, by nature, open hearted and open minded. It’s the parents who get worried about their children’s “innocence” (aka fragility) getting threatened by understanding trans identity, issues of justice, or having difficult but important conversations around social inequity that exists. It’s the parents who hold harmful views like, “well, boys and girls shouldn’t have sleepovers together” rather than talking to their kids about sex, the true meaning of consent, mutual respect, and how to communicate your own boundaries and listen to others’. Genitals don’t equal gender and neither gender nor genitals equal sexual orientation. 

I know not everyone is informed on all the nuances of these issues because the nature of privilege is that you can opt out of caring if it’s not affecting you. But I believe we can do better, be better, and co-create a society that holds complexity beyond the binary. I haven’t given up hope, remember? Indomitable optimism. But sometimes, optimism must be tempered with reality. And in this case, it’s important to hold the injustices that exist while keeping an eye on the hopeful outcome. On Monday Senya will find out if they got an internship with Outright Vermont, an LGBTQIA + organization, as a youth organizer and activist. If they don’t get it this year, they will apply again until they do. They are a born and raised activist; it’s their calling, their identity, and all hell can’t stop them. 

Sometimes hope is at the bottom of a murky quagmire of hurt, disappointment, and grief. It’s not always a pleasant journey to dive down to the bottom to retrieve it, but the process is necessary sometimes. 

And as for me, with hope back in hand, I believe we can shoot the moon. 

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What if I fall?

A few weeks ago, I had a dream that I was battling a shadow creature in a setting much like Moria where Gandalf fought the Balrog. And as the creature was coming toward me, I was fighting defensively, getting backed closer and closer to the edge of a precipice. Then I heard the voice of a child from the future who was watching this scene unfold ask a wiser, older figure, “Why is she so afraid?” And the wiser, older character said, “Oh, because this was before she knew she could fly.” 

And then once I heard that, I remembered I could fly. I was no longer afraid. I dove off the precipice and flew away. 

What was that moment of realization in my dream, when I remembered I could fly? It was remembering that I am part of so much more that exists outside of myself, time, life, or death.

When we get bogged down in the smallness of our own, individual life, we feel the finiteness of our individuality. Our fear of our own mortality keeps us from flying. Our fear of failure keeps us from boldly acting with certainty.

To act boldly and with certainty, we must remember that we are all part of something bigger that goes on long after the finitude of our own, small life diminishes. When we change form and go back into everything, we become part of all things again. This is true on a material level, hence the Thich Nhat Hanh wisdom of “the garbage becomes the rose.” One can find a whole spiritual path from composting. Death becomes life which becomes death which becomes life… 

When one truly comprehends this, it is possible to transcend the possibilities of one, small lifetime; it becomes possible to reach toward the infinite when we tap into the reality that we are already part of it.

This was the revelation that I got when I got covid in August of 2022. I struggled with feeling absolute agony for days without much respite because I could barely sleep due to the pain in my lungs, my muscles, and my head. Eventually, by day 3, I surrendered to the virus and asked it if there was something it wanted to teach me. As I did this, I made my peace with the pain, with death, and with the fact that I can’t control life and death. The equanimity of all things became real to me in that moment as did the reality that we are all individuated forms but made of the same creatively powerful stuff as each other, the plants, the animals, the water, the stars. 

Regardless of specific origin stories and explanations for how everything came to be, the revelation of interconnectedness still applies. Whether you believe in the Big Bang or another creation story, the deep, universal truth points to a reality where everything came from something. And right now the universe is still expanding (individuating) but someday everything will become a singularity again. 

Whether you put this in scientific terms or poetic, metaphorical terms an underpinning that one can take away from this revelation is that—while your one wild and precious life is special in its own expression—it’s also not the source of life itself. Life Itself is what endures, and we are but a brief and unique expression of that life. Transcending our own, individual perspective allows us to realize the interconnectedness of all beings and to trust in the process of Life Itself. 

When we take heart and confidence that we are part of something much bigger than just our one, fleeting mortal lifespan, we can fly (metaphorically, please don’t jump off any precipices upon reading).

I think sometimes there is a tendency for those of us who were steeped in the literal truth of a religious worldview to think that there’s one, right or best path. If we miss that path, if we deviate from it, then we are doomed to ruin. There is a great distrust of one’s self baked into fundamentalism and a sense that the only goodness is something that is other than you but very specifically not you. There is a deep chasm in fundamentalism between nature and humans. 

I disagree.

I believe that humans are part of nature. Furthermore, I think that, based on the natural world and my observations of it, nature has a deep intelligence. Somehow acorns have all the programming within them to become an oak tree. Somehow baby chicks who have never encountered a predator know to run for cover when they hear a shriek of a hawk in the sky. There is a deep, innate wisdom within all of nature, and this extends to the human soul or consciousness as well. 

Many spiritual paths subscribe to this innate wisdom for humanity—an inner light, an inner Buddha, being created in a Divine likeness, etc. The distinction I’m making here is that I comprehend this inner wisdom to be part of our natural birthright. We are born into the sacred experience of having innate wisdom by virtue of being alive. We are part of the universe’s great wisdom because we are here; this is distinct from believing that humans are separate from nature, that we have to earn this wisdom through faith or actions, or that it comes from outside of nature. 

Furthermore, when we believe that we have this sacred birthright, we also can see that the current of Life isn’t just toward destruction and ruin. Decay and decomposition can be frightening if you don’t stay with it long enough to see what happens next. But what happens next, if you wait long enough to observe it, is new life. It’s a cycle, a circle, and we are all part of it. When we get caught up in the literal, the very individual level of a particular existence—then yes, it can be disheartening. And of course, so much of our life experience and our consciousness can feel so individual—especially when we don’t take the time and make the energy to connect with the bigger, transcendent whole of Life, of all that is. 

How does this mindset affect our lives here and now? If we stop trying to preserve the literal, individual level of life—the here and now—and allow the bigger processes of life and death to happen, we will live in more harmony with the rest of the natural world. Humans developed plastic (and all the horrors that come with it) because we can’t accept the impermanence of all things. When we let go of our need to self-preserve we allow death, decomposition, and new life to occur. 

Another take away from this mindset—the interconnectedness of all beings—is that we will care for other non-human forms of life with more reverence. When we view ourselves as part of the natural world, rather than above it, we relate with mutual care and respect to all beings. When we hold nature as our sacred source of Life, we don’t frack, litter, deplete, or exploit. We love, we nurture, we relate, we thank. 

In sum, when we let go of our ego and realize the interconnectedness of all things, we transcend our need to self preserve. We can live freely and more fully as our individual selves, and we will also love and protect the Sacred. 

There is freedom waiting for you
On the breezes of the sky
And you ask “What if I fall?”
Oh but my darling, What if you fly?

–Erin Hanson

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Love and Nature

I grew up in an era before iPhones, before the internet, and before helicopter parenting. In other words, I was one of the lucky ones.

In the summer of 1986, my family moved “below the canal” (south of the Delaware stretch of the Chesapeake Canal) to a developing neighborhood that was being built on a house by house basis. We were one of only a handful of houses that had been built by the time we moved in, so most of the lots were just wildflowers and meadows.  Outside of the neighborhood site, there was nothing but farmland for miles.

I was eager (read: desperate) to make new friends. I had preschool friends up until that point, but preschool was only half day back then; so most of my life was still spent at home. My sisters were both 4 and 7 years older than I was, so they were gone most of the day. My mom only let me play in the fenced 1/4 acre backyard of our old house up until we moved below the canal, so turning 5 and living in our new house meant new found freedom, with friends, outside. 

RC Peoples was the name of the construction company that was building the our new development. A point of fact that always enraged my dad, RC Peoples took every new homeowner’s topsoil before their move-in date and removed it to a big, empty lot in the center of the neighborhood. For my dad, it meant for years he tried to grow grass to no avail. To me, it meant: the dirt hill. 

As you can see, the lawn was lacking.

Now the “dirt hill” spanned several acres and it was just diagonally across the street from my front yard. It was basically a small, Delawarean mountain range. If you know the topography of Delaware, you know that phrase is oxymoronic. But for all of my 5 year old intents and purposes, it may well have been my own personal Himalayas. 

I was thrilled to have so much glorious space to explore and play outside. Now all I needed was some friends who wanted to share adventures. 

After a failed foray or two into trying to befriend some exclusive cousins who lived down the street, I had almost given up hope on making any neighborhood friends. 

But then one day, a flicker of movement caught my eye from out my second story bedroom window. Across the street, a white station wagon pulled into the empty 2 acre lot. Suddenly, 5 kids, all under the age of 13, emerged. It was like a clown car, but instead of creepy clowns, it was full of friends for life!!!

My best childhood friend, Kimberley, and me. I’m the one on the right unabashedly rocking suspenders and a collared shirt.

I flew down the stairs, out my door, and ran over to meet them. “Hi, I’m Lindsay. I live across the street” I said to the mom, who was holding a baby (future friend in the making and their 6th child). 

She went on to tell me that her husband was going to build them a house on that lot. 

And over the course of the next year or so, that is exactly what he did. As they were building it and ever after during my childhood there, I had a pack of friends from that family. 

We hit it off immediately. They had moved from Chester (an urban area of Pennsylvania), and they were thrilled to have unfettered access to real, unadulterated dirt. A seasoned country girl myself at this point (I had a couple month’s jump start on them), I showed them the ropes. 

As the months went by, more kids moved into the neighborhood and joined our pack. We were very inclusive as those early days with the mean cousins left a mark on me. I always felt that I had been elected as the unofficial leader of my neighborhood pack, so I tried to infuse my friend group with the values I held dear. Inclusivity, authenticity, and some good, old fashioned anti-government sentiments I had heard from my dad were my hallmarks. I remember complaining to my friends that the government “had no right to brainwash people into thinking that pink was for girls and blue was for boys. Color has no gender.” I guess I was also trying to throw in some anti-capitalism. Once I symbolically ripped up a dollar bill and threw it to the wind saying, “we will not be slaves to money! We will live freely and fully and never bow to the dollar!” Or something along those lines. I remember one of the kids ran around collecting the pieces and taped it back together. But most of them nodded in agreement (probably to hurry me along so we could get on with our planned game of kickball).

We created and shared a world together, all outside.

We made the dirt hill our haunt. We built forts. We swam in the giant holes that the backhoes had dug (I’m sure this was unsafe, but we survived). We picked berries and ate them (some were toxic, most were not but our rule was one of anything wouldn’t kill us…except mushrooms). We climbed trees and went exploring for acres and acres through the neighborhood and the surrounding farm land. The land surrounding the dirt hills became a make shift baseball field. All the kids in the neighborhood would gather and play. Sometimes fights would ensue. In fact, sometimes, the “game” was essentially fighting for fun (throwing mud balls made from the stolen top soil) at each other until there was only one last person standing, mostly uninjured and the least muddy. 

Another “game” we’d play was one where we’d see who could ride their bike the longest and farthest with their eyes closed without crashing…or, more likely, before crashing. We usually had the presence of mind to designate one kid as the look out for cars. In the event that there was a car, their job was to yell “CAR!!!” so that everyone would open their eyes. Then there was another game on our bikes called “crash landing” whereby we’d ride our bikes as fast as possible down a straight stretch of the neighbor street, and then—at full speed—jump off the bike and crash with as much pizzazz as possible. Of course we’d all rate the crash on a 10 point rating scale. When we got even close to bored, we’d make up imaginary stories and role play as characters in those stories. We’d put on dance performances for our parents in the backyard to Paula Abdul’s hit album, Forever Your Girl. And in the rare event that no one was in the mood for any of the aforementioned activities, we had a shared imaginary friend named Synergy. We communicated to her in claps.

Day after day, throughout the whole school year, we’d play outside as much as possible. We’d get home from school, get a snack, and run outside. From sun up until sun down in the summer, we’d play our hearts out. We’d only go inside when our parents would call us inside for mandatory meals—and then eventually, for bedtime. At dusk, in the summer time, you could hear parents hollering their kids’ names from porches all throughout the neighborhood. When your name was called, you jumped up without ceremony and said, “see you tomorrow!” and then go inside, bone tired, dusty, and with a heart full from living the best day of your childhood–until the next day when that day would be as good or even better.

When I think of the deep connection that I have to nature and to people, I know that a lot of it comes from those days with those friends. 

When we lived in Vermont, my kids had a similar experience with their neighbor friend (if you call a half mile hike over the cobble to her homestead ‘neighboring’). The first time Addy came to our house to play, she emerged from the woods with a chicken in a diaper. Absolutely legendary. A lifelong friendship was born.

A couple years and many adventures later, during the height of covid, the three of them bubbled up and spent months upon months, all year, building a world of their own outside. The fall of 2020, they built “Kidlantis” a settlement at an undisclosed location somewhere on either our land or Addy’s where they built shelters and would keep a bonfire burning all day. They’d come home at night, covered in soot, faces beaming. I knew they were living the best possible childhood. They’d come inside some days in the winter to fill empty milk jugs with gallons of water. They’d load up their sleds and haul the water to the top of the mountain. It was cold enough that winter that upon contact with the snowy road, the water would freeze solid. They built an ice slide this way to make sledding go even faster. Eric, (who I mentioned in my first article) would plow the hill just right for sledding at the steepest and best stretch. He’d make snow banks on the sides of our road so, essentially, they had a bobsled track. Some winter days after a fresh snow, they’d track coyotes through the woods to their dens. Other cold winter days, they’d ice skate on the pond. 

After a day at Kidlantis

In the summer, they’d swim in that same pond, build forts, play with the animals (once there was a bunny wedding), make zip lines for their guinea pigs (no animals were harmed), or occasionally go exploring in the nearby (a mile away) barn to look for new barn kittens. Some days, Collin and I would build a bonfire at 9:00 at night (it stays light there late in the summer because of how far north it is), and we’d sit by the firelight *still* waiting for our kids to come traipsing back home, emerging through the woods with smiles and bug bites and dirt all over their limbs. Sometimes we wouldn’t know much about how they spent their day until was safely in the past— that they had fallen down ice cliffs, gotten lost, or that someone had gotten mildly injured. Getting into scrapes and getting back out of them is some of the best work one can do in childhood. 

The three friends’ last bonfire before we moved.

It was heart wrenching to say goodbye to Addy. 

When we moved back here to Topanga, I didn’t know how they would keep their nature connection or if they’d have any way to share adventures outside with friends.

And then one day we learned that another homeschooling family with two kids exactly my kids’ ages lived across the busy Topanga Canyon Boulevard from our house. As it turns out, there is a tunnel right down at our creek that goes under the boulevard and comes out right onto these friends’ quiet, little street. For the past year and a half, our kids have gone on to have adventures outside, building forts, exploring the woods and trees, and creating a world for themselves of adventure and beauty in the Oak Woodlands of Topanga. For the last three months, the boulevard was closed and the traffic was greatly diminished—thus leaving the primary song of the canyon sung by frogs and birds rather than Lamborghinis and crotch rockets. The four canyon kids made the most of these quiet months, spending even more time outside traveling back and forth between the tunnel and roaming their territory. But then, the boulevard opened just as these friends moved out of the canyon.

The four canyon friends walking down the closed Topanga Canyon Boulevard.

When I think of all these years of my kids’ childhoods so far, I am grateful that they have those wild, unsupervised nature experiences deep in their beings. No matter what trials other phases of life dishes out for them, that deep nature connection and those deep friendships forged in childhood—through all those adventures on the land in Vermont and Topanga—will serve as a deep well of trust in themselves and the process of life itself.  

Likewise, for myself, there’s a deep and satisfying connection I will always and only get from spending the bulk of my days outside, living in relationship with the land. I crave a relationship with nature where I live my days immersed in it, spend my time working with it, and invest my energy in relating to and with the plants, animals, water, dirt, and rocks…it connects me to the truest part of myself.

There are crossroads in life where one must decide what the core guiding values are at the center of their souls. Love and nature are my Polaris and Southern Cross. With them, I find my way.

May you find your stars, even if all other lights go out, to guide you home.

Peak childhood.
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Architects of Change

On Monday, I get my hair cut. Hair cuts bring up some anxious feelings for me. Every time I go to get my hair cut, I try to act like I think a “normal person” getting their hair cut would act. I try to smile and act super casual like “oh, yeah, I’m just a typical client here definitely NOT ready to have a panic attack. Certainly not for something as routine as a hair cut.” But then, they start cutting and while most stylists want to chit chat, I have a hard time listening because I’m hyper focused on their every snip. My palms start sweating, my breathing gets shallow, my heart starts racing, and I basically spend my energy suppressing the urge to interject and call the whole thing off…or faint. Yes, faint. I have vaso-vagal syncope, but it’s socially triggered. So, that’s my body’s super maladaptive and antisocial way of handling stress. If I get queasy in a conversation (this can be from medical content that reminds me how mortal we all are or if there is an especially talkative person who doesn’t read social clues), I eventually lose consciousness and just pass out. 

So, hair cuts are a whole thing. One may wonder how someone (like me) could make so many huge, drastic life changes (like moving from Vermont to Los Angeles and back again) and bold decisions (like tent camping with lions, living in an RV for 3 months at a time, or moving to a new state in a house I’ve never seen before) but yet struggle to stay chill during a hair cut. 

Well, do not be misled. Despite what one may think given photos from ages 3-9, this is not from my childhood hair cuts. While my mom did give me possibly the worst hair cuts ever to don (or assault) a child’s head, I was blissfully unaware of my looks as a kid. I really took it to heart—that thing that good parents say—“beauty comes from the inside.” If my mom had named her home salon, it would have been called “what matters is what’s on the inside—we’ll make sure of it.” Or perhaps “our haircuts build character.” 

I’m not even sure she used real scissors now that I’m really thinking about it. Certainly they weren’t haircutting scissors. I’m reflecting on what scissors we had around the house, and it was likely some from a pencil box from a nearby book bag. 

Anyway, despite my Crayola hair cut with crooked bangs and side burns, I went through childhood oblivious to my looks, courtesy of that signature strong character that mom’s haircuts had probably developed. So, I was unafraid of changes to my appearance.

It wasn’t until college, when I started to feel lost psychologically, spiritually, and often physically (I have a famously bad sense of direction) that I got my first bad incident with a hair cut. Note: it wasn’t my first bad hair cut. It was just the first time I noticed and cared. It was the first time it was difficult.

It was drastic. I went in for an inverted bob, and I came out with—what I can only describe as—an unfortunate situation on my head. It looked like someone attacked my hair with a blender. It was supposed to be a pixie cut, but I have super coarse and thick, dark hair, so it did not conjure an ethereal pixie vibe. The vibes were closer to an Australopithecus from the early stone age who grabbed a stone flake and invented the first hair cut, maybe. But, Tinkerbell? No. 

Anyway, it came at a time when my inner world felt disordered, and so having this unfamiliar hair cut made me feel like even more of a stranger to myself. It took forever to grow out, and it went through many even uglier stages as it grew out. Like a jaw breaker that changes flavor, except rather than a delightful new treat as time passes, it was a fresh horror with each surprising, new phase. 

So, I really felt the consequence of that terrible, unfortunate hair cut. And because of that, now hair cuts stress me out quite a bit. It’s like I’m afraid that getting a bad hair cut will also cause an identity crisis. Though causation and correlation are very different, my nervous system doesn’t care when the stylist wraps that little cape around me, snapping me into, essentially, a cross between a poncho and a straight jacket. 

The thing about change of any kind is that it can be scary to face the unknown—especially if you’ve been hurt by change before.

It helps me to look in the mirror before I go get a haircut. I assess the way my hair looks in that moment, and I ask myself: would I go into the salon and ask for this exact look? The “look” being 2 inches of split ends and a rather shapeless mass on my head with mild frizz that comes with humidity. No, I would not.

Sometimes what we currently have isn’t what we’d choose, but it feels safer to not rock the boat because it’s not a drastic change. Being the architect of change is daunting, but it’s helpful to acknowledge that change is constantly happening. So by not being the architect, you’re taking a more passive role in that change–but change is still happening to you.

As we have been preparing for a cross country move—a move from urban to rural, from Southern California to New England—the drastic nature of that change can feel daunting. But staying here doesn’t mean things would remain the same. Our dear friends in the canyon just moved, and life here feels that vacancy. My heart felt it the day that they left. I’ve moved so much I haven’t had much experience being the one who been left. It hurts. So, I offer my condolences to all of our friends and family. 

Also, we are entering a new life phase. Senya is about to start high school and Juniper is starting middle school. More change. 

When we moved back here to California, it was a shock to realize how much had changed in 4 years. Our friends here had all been changed by the intense political polarizations of 2020 and the pandemic. The city itself has changed. The entertainment industry is dispersing and more movies and tv shows are being made outside of LA. Streaming platforms have changed the way that writing rooms work and how writers are employed. It’s not the same Los Angeles that it was when we first moved here in 2011. 

The world is changing, rapidly. Technology and climate change and corporations taking over—it’s a lot to process. I’m dating myself by reminiscing here, but I remember small toy stores and Saturday morning cartoons. Now, it’s Amazon and endless streaming. I remember buying cds and listening through the whole album to really get a feel for it. Now, I get on Spotify and get music paralysis. Then there’s our natural world; what will this earth be like when my kids are my age? Our climate is warming and weather is getting more extreme. 

It could be easy to feel overwhelmed and unfamiliar in our current world. I find comfort in thinking that any living species still here has had to show an aptitude for adaptation. Adaptation is key in our survival.  

I also take comfort in looking back and seeing the progress that we, as a global society, have achieved. My kid can be out and trans (nonbinary) and they are safe here in Los Angeles and I have confidence that they will be safe in Vermont, especially at the school they plan to attend (a school that has a proven record of defending their trans students). Juniper has confidence that she does not need to have a male partner to live a full and successful life. She is proudly female and has a bright, possible future ahead of her. 

“Three things are true at the same time,” he added. “The world is much better, the world is awful, the world can be much better.”

Nicholas Kristof

We cannot avoid change. But we can define our relationship to it. We can decide that we are going to grow and evolve with whatever changes occur. We can commit to the values and ideals that we hold dearest and keep them as our Polaris in the sky when all other lights go out.  We can become the architects of that world that we want to see evolve. I think of how it’s Pride month and how our nation is on the brink of change. Who we elect as the next President will determine a lot of what the future holds for our society. For LGBTQIA+ people. For the climate. For peace or for war. For people with black or brown skin or of different ethnicities or nationalities. I shudder to think of the unhappy path. But we cannot despair. 

“Despair is paralysis. It robs us of agency. It blinds us to our own power and the power of the earth.” 

Robin Wall Kimmerer, author of Braiding Sweetgrass

So, I will keep speaking up and out and making choices that create the world I want. That’s one reason I write. 

We cannot bury our heads (no matter how ugly our hair cuts may be) and pretend that change won’t take place if we don’t confront it directly. It’s already happening. The question is: who will be the architects of that change? 

So, yeah. Here’s to change. Whether that change is hair cuts, cross country moves, friends moving, marriages, divorces, the process of aging, political candidates, climate change…

may we be ready to meet the changes that happen to us with resilience, optimism, and adaptation. And may we be the wise and courageous architects of the changes we wish to make.

PS: We got the FARM!!!!

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What’s Next?

A butcher, a baker, a candlestick maker…

Applying for a farm but am I a faker?

That’s a lil poem that got stuck in my head over the past few months as Collin and I have been taking steps towards potentially buying a farm in Vermont. 

Truth is, I am not a farmer. When one of the only line items on my FFA application is:

 Farm Experience
Please describe your training and or experience in agriculture:

Does own a pair of overalls* (*they’re shorts; does that still count?)

—it’s rather frowned upon by the agricultural powers that be. 

But here’s the thing: I know I’m not a farmer. But I’m also not a faker. I’m not delusional. I mean, we *did* do some homesteading on our mountain in Vermont. Relative to everyone we know in Los Angeles, we are basically the love child of Thoreau and Laura Ingalls. But compared to our neighbors in Vermont who literally and figuratively wrote the book on homesteading (i.e., harness solar energy, live off-grid, built their house themselves, raise and grow a lot of their own food, exclusively line dry their clothes, etc) we ranked somewhere between precious and tragic…in the beginning. 

When we arrived to Vermont bright-eyed and sporting slip on Vans that fateful date in November 2018, we actually camped in Fern (our trusty, yet rickety RV) on our realtor, Scott’s, land. It was extremely late when we rolled in, so we parked and went straight to sleep. We all awoke early the next morning, bleary eyed, and poured eagerly out of the RV gasping, “Look at the BEAR!! There’s a black bear in the woods!!!!” 

We very quickly and abruptly nipped that enthusiasm in the bud as inconspicuously as possible when we realized that it was actually a cow. We darted back into Fern and drove to the attorney’s office to close on our new house before any potential observers could testify to our mistake. 

So that’s where we started. We had a LOT to learn. Like bovines versus bears. But really, I chalk that mistake up to the extreme sleep deprivation from driving 5 days across the entire width of the United States. And maybe also to the residual effects of spending the past 3 1/2 years in LA LA Land living exclusively amongst the other lovers, dreamers, and me.

But the point is, a couple of weeks later, when I met Eric, a 70 year old Vermonter whose last name is nigh ubiquitous in the small town where we lived, he did not mistake me for a faker or a farmer. He met me mid-sled ride, screaming and laughing my lungs out with my beanie unfortunately (and thrillingly) covering my eyes as I flew down the mountain. I was piled on a sled with my two kids with my elderly Labrador barking and chasing us down the mountain. When I came to an abrupt stop (courtesy of a ditch) and uncovered my eyes, Eric was there. He said, “It’s good to hear this kind of life on the mountain again.”

I liked him straight away.

Years later, he’d admit that he “wasn’t sure we’d make it” but that “when we proved ourselves time and again,” he saw that we had what it took to live there. He said that misty-eyed as we were packing up to move back to California 4 years later. 

See, Eric saw us (like in the Namaste-light-in-me-meets-the-light-in-you way, but more New England-y (like in the he-sometimes-had-a-hunting-rifle-on-the-passenger-seat way)) because he maintained the 2 mile dirt road that we lived on. So we saw him almost every, single day. We’d chat. Just about the road at first. Then as we got to know each other better, our conversation deepened. To culverts.

That word, culverts, wasn’t in my vocabulary until I met Eric. I wasn’t sure for a while that I needed or wanted it to be. But then, by the time we moved back to Los Angeles, as a sommelier is to wine, so I became to culverts. Okay, that’s total hyperbole, but I did once say after the atmospheric river of 2024 that wrecked Topanga and caused a landslide on our road, “You know why this happened?? They need better culverts.” And after 10 days of that landslide not moving an inch because everyone was busy doing a litigious stand off, I also said, “If Eric was maintaining this road, that mudslide would’ve been gone as soon as the rain stopped.”

Over the course of the 4 years we lived on our mountain, our chats with Eric were a special part of our lives. We eventually grew to talk about politics, our families, the ecosystems of the rainforest in which we lived, how he grew up much like our kids were growing up (feral in the woods), social issues, Wordle, and just about everything and anything else. 

Anyway, as I was saying, we were a little out of our depth when we first arrived to Vermont, and we knew it shortly thereafter. But that’s kind of our M.O. We plunge into the deep end, struggle for a bit, then swim. 

This is because Collin is highly sensitive. I’m intense. We’re both nonbinary idealist soul mates who together can accomplish what most other people think is impossible. We were also homeschooled most of our lives, so we don’t think conventionally. You know that expression, “Think outside of the box?” I’ve never found the aforementioned box. Hence the deep end life plunge MO. 

For example, we were never going to be able to just take “Global Problems” as anthropology undergraduates and just talk about making change. We  had to “be the change we want(ed) to see”. Some people get the inspiring bumper sticker with the quote and drive around satisfied. Some of us hinge our life choices on the meaning of the quote and set out to live that life. 

In our early twenties, this made everything more complex, as it does for people who care about everything all the time. It was quite an ordeal to go grocery shopping. Even at some of the Amish stores, I’d go to pick up sugar and the ingredients list would essentially read: slavery, deforestation, cane sugar. I’d put it back down. I’d pick up bread flour and it was Con Agra brand. Ingredients read: GMOs, ruining land, destroying small farms, abusing life forms of all kinds. I’d look at the milk: existential crisis. So, Collin and I said, “Screw it. We’ll grow a garden.” And so we did. 

We spent our twenties growing a garden, heating with wood, and doing our best to live well and simply (with large doses of adventure either backpacking or traveling or doing community development work). Collin was in a punk band, and I was in graduate school and working at a philosophical association. We’d pick fruit and other produce from the local orchards and farms. We lived a beautiful, simple but deep life. The goal was always to avoid becoming part of the corporate machine so that we could continue to live well with our values at the core, embodying our ideals and ultimately leaving the world a better place than we found it. We knew we had achieved a unique level of integration when the vocalist from the aforementioned punk band said (after I perfected a vegan strawberry donut for the vegans in the band); “Lindsay can bake the f*** out of anything.”

Then the recession hit. We found ourselves in a tricky financial situation with a new baby. I was bound for a fully funded doctoral program in sexual health and social justice. But that stipend ($17,000) was not going to cover our family’s needs. So we used our values decoder pin to figure out what to do next. The odd answer was to (drink more Ovaltine and also) move to Topanga, California (the green patch on the map adjacent to Los Angeles). This allowed Collin to get a job that could make what our family needed to get through the recession. 

And so that’s when we entered into an era of living into each phase of life ascertaining to our best knowledge how to best move forward. It’s required a sort of dynamism and ability to read the signs of life’s current of vitality. I try to explain this to people sometimes, and the best analogy I can find is to compare it to when a bird finds an air current and just glides. I think life itself has the same type of current, and when we stay open to that current we can find ourselves gliding into the places we could not have just gotten on our own effort alone. It sounds a little woo, I know. But it’s true. True woo.

That job was soul-sucking. So that led us to Bentonville, Arkansas. As someone who grew up close to the Mason Dixon line, I was terrified of this. But we did what any progressive Yankee would do. We found an Obama sign in a yard and rented the house next to it. Our neighbors ended up being kindred spirits—an artist and a political science professor. 

After almost three years there, we moved back to Topanga. We made lots of friends and lived into the kids’ little years with fellow homeschooling idealists. And then once again, we had to make a hard choice. We got priced out of Topanga, so we could have decided for me to work full time and not to homeschool anymore to prioritize staying in Topanga. But instead, our values decoder pin led us out of our beloved canyon and to Vermont to prioritize living in nature and continuing to homeschool. After our initial rookie mistakes with bovines and bears and wearing the completely inadequate footwear, we ended up finding our way. Plunge, struggle, swim. Or maybe it’s: plunge, find the current, glide.

Then, Collin had the opportunity to start this new company, Mass Culture, and so to really get the start up phase off to a great start, we moved back to Topanga. Following the life current out here was a difficult one to trust; we left our 64 acres and a beautiful life to glide toward this opportunity. 

It was a risk, but it’s paid off. Through the years, while we have had to engage in capitalism, we have done so in ways that stay as true to our values as possible. Mass Culture is a B Corps which means that the ingredient list reads: fulfilled humans working well together and getting paid well. It’s been extremely successful because Collin puts his heart and soul into it. 

Raising kids and homeschooling has turned out well too. Senya is super nerdy, an artistic genius, and a bad ass LGBTQIA+ rights activist. Juniper is deeply connected to nature, gifted in language arts, and is an outspoken, high-femme fashionista. Both of them are kind, creative, and funny. My homeschool approach has been like a Captain Fantastic meets The Royal Tennenbaums with a giant dose of gay pride.

Way back in 2011, we made a choice to leave home, find that current of vitality, spread our wings, and glide. Collin left his beloved simple life in the woods raising baby Senya and switched roles with me (I had been the primary income earner Senya’s first year). I declined my fully funded doctoral offer to raise our little humans. Somewhere along the way, home has become a complex concept. “Home is where the heart is” looks sweet embroidered on a tea towel, but “my heart is chopped into lots of pieces and spread all over the country so where the hell is home?” doesn’t as much.

This little air current that could potentially lead us to this farm is tricky to ascertain. I only want to spread my wings and glide in it if it’s best for everyone involved. And it’s not certain that it is, yet. There’s a very specific person in Vermont trying to decide if it is. And he’s in a bit of a pickle because to bring it back to the beginning of this little personal essay: we aren’t farmers. 

So back to the question: why, if we aren’t farmers, would we buy a farm? 

To make the world better than we found it. To use our resources to make a positive difference. But in order for this to actually be helpful, it’s up to the community, the land, the universe, and the agricultural powers that be. To move into a culture that is admittedly not our own (we aren’t farmers and it’s a farming community), to buy a choice piece of agriculture that we are ill-equipped to farm (think three year old with finger paints and the blank ceiling of the Sistine chapel), and to be people who are engaged in capitalist enterprise in what may be our most socialist state, it doesn’t look good at first glance.

But, then again, sometimes it takes diversity to make a situation the best that it can be. Sometimes the right person for the task at hand isn’t who you’d expect. Remember Éowyn in Lord of the Rings? Well, if not, do yourself a favor and look her up. 

So Vermont, do you want some intense idealists who have made the best of their relationship with capitalism and seek to empower the people and the land? As such, we would collaborate with actual, local farmers who would farm the agricultural land associated with the farm. We’d host events in the big, old barn that would create community, raise money and awareness for social justice and environmental justice issues. Collin would continue working his magic with Mass Culture and the income from that would allow this whole operation to run. The kids would go to a progressive school which would end our era of homeschooling and thus I’d invest my days in running the homestead, the farm store, and studying herbalism. I’ll always keep writing. And of course I’d make some time to bake the f*** out of some strawberry donuts. 

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