May 20, 2009

LIFE Is Good 2009 Review

This is my third attempt to write about the LIFE is Good Unschooling Conference. Let's hope it's charmed. In a few words: IT WAS GREAT!!!

In a few more...

The adventure began on Tuesday, May 19, when Jerry and I packed up the car (dog included) and started our first leg of the journey--the trip to my mom and dad's house in Sacramento. We were briefly delayed when I realized, in the Costco parking lot, that my debit card was not in my wallet. So we went back to the house where I searched and searched, and scarfed down a burrito from my new favorite taco stand (it was my fourth in a week--they're that good!). After about 15 minutes of solid investigation (OK investigation and chewing--I'm a multi-tasker) I thought to look in the change purse of my wallet and, naturally, there it was. So we went back to Costco where we purchased one of those gadgets that let us listen to an iPod (my Mother's Day gift) on the radio and we were off.

The drive flew by (thanks to The Golden Compass audio book--our second listen) and before I knew it we were at my mom's where my three-year old niece, Cora, jumped into my arms and gave me one of the best hugs of my life. Six-year-old Carson and Jerry were soon in the swimming pool and I passed the evening visiting with my sister and parents.

The following morning Jerry and I were on the road by 10 a.m. We started the journey off with a compilation CD Warren made for our Life is Good trip. The we moved on to more of The Golden Compass. We were thinking we'd stay at a motel a few hours south of Portland but when Jerry heard that Simon & Linnea were going to be at the hotel that very same night he was determined that we should make the drive all in one day. We made a stop in Ashland for lunch. Every person we met in that town went out of their way to be friendly--genuinely friendly, too. We met a guy with a gigantic wolf/dog named North (or Beast, depending on his mood), ate lunch on a lovely outdoor patio, and discovered a comic book store where they sell older manga for 50% off.

I realized when we were having lunch that my fellow unschooler and blogging friend, Becky, lives in Ashland so I sent her a quick message hoping she and her kids would be free, but we ended up leaving town before I heard back from her.

We left Ashland around 5:30 and pulled into the parking lot of the hotel around 10 p.m. Simon and his mom, Schuyler, happened to be in the hotel lobby when we dragged ourselves in from the car. And thankfully the hotel had a room available (even though our reservation was for the following night) so the weekend was off to en excellent start!

Since this was my second year at the conference, the experience was completely different from last year. It was different for Jerry, too. Last year we spent much of the time in our room. And as much as I enjoyed the workshops and being among people who shared many of my lifestyle choices and philosophies, I felt really isolated. Thankfully, Jerry made a few friends who we kept in touch with throughout the year, so we started this year's conference with a few friends in our pockets, so to speak. It made a huge difference.

Jerry had friends in and out of the room all weekend. I knew at least five people right from the start and I made an effort to introduce myself to many more. I went on most of the early morning walks and spent time sitting by the pool (even if Jerry wasn't swimming) just because both of those activities provided opportunities to meet people. Jerry ended up with a nasty flu bug (he wasn't the only one) and he wasn't really happy with the funshops, so he felt that last year's conference was better. But for me, seeing him with all those friends and feeling comfortable talking to my own friends (old and new) made this year way better for me.

Another thing I loved about this year was that just about every workshop I attended was led by an experienced unschooler who was very open about the doubts they've had, the worries they have (Yes, they still worry sometimes! Phew!) and the way the handle them. That was huge for me. It's such a relief to know that even the people I look to for guidance experience the same feelings of worry and frustration that I sometimes feel. What did I learn? Worries and doubts are part of parenting--all kinds of parenting. Unschoolers are not immune to them. So just because I fret and fear and, from time to time, let my mouth reveal thoughts that are better kept to myself, I'm still an unschooler. And even when I'm no longer "new" (and, really, after nearly two years--626 days to be exact--I'm not sure if the word still applies) I won't be a fraud just because I still freak out every now and then. Now that, my friends, is a huge relief.

Another wonderful, and entirely unexpected event occurred over the weekend. Diana entrusted me with some of Hannah's ashes. We're going to take her with us to France and place her someplace lovely. Diana said we'll know the place when we come to it. She said Hannah will lead us. I can't really explain the feeling of caring for the physical representation of the memory of a child's life. I feel as if I really am taking Hannah along and I feel especially honored to be entrusted with the task.

And I'm afraid I'll have to end here and write more later. I've been coming back to this post all day in between playing with my niece and nephew, going to the grocery store, reading Gods of Manhattan with Jerry, pruning my mom's rose bushes, taking the boys to a really cool trampoline place, and other things. I guess I'll have to write a LIFE is Good, Part II.

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