Sunday, November 29, 2009

I Love You, Roy Elis Ohman...father of my beloved husband...

A Tribute to My Father ~
Roy Elis Ohman
By David Roy Ohman

It is difficult to succinctly find words to describe a person and their impact on your life, but I feel it is important to do so, to give that last parting summation.

My father was a person who did much for many and yet he, himself, felt unworthy of love. He was born to a mother who openly withheld love, but he was nonetheless nurtured and loved by his extended family, particularly his uncles Axel and Artie Backland and their families, his Aunt Jennie and John Flem, and his Grandma Backlund. Always living in the shadow of his older and larger brother Walter Paul, my Dad found his way through life and grew into his own Self with the help and love of my mother.

Together they built their own world and created their own family, to whom my father was unwaveringly dedicated. After working as a painter with John Flem in his early days, he traded in his paintbrush for a set of pole hooks and belt and became a telephone company lineman and later a central office switchman. He did this not because he disliked painting, for he didn’t ~ he loved working with John Flem. He did this for his family and the security of a regular paycheck.

He saved his money and built his first a home in Fosterdale and then a camp in Stalker, PA with his father, Elis. Those were tough times, working during the day and then working on the house at night and weekends, but they were also some of his best years.

He created homes for our family and showed his love by his undying commitment to provide us with a stable place to live and food on the table. He was not one to openly or often express his love in words, but rather in his deeds.

Being the only son with four sisters, I was allowed to spend more time with him and share in his loves of hunting, fishing and the outdoors. I remember wanting for him to come home from work, seeing him come home tired from his day, yet still pick up his baseball glove to play catch with me or tie flies or reload in the basement.

I was able to know him in ways that others did not and see him at times when he was truly enjoying life. I will always be grateful for that time and for his gift of time and knowledge.

I feel sad at times because my sisters did not have access to this side of him. However, I truly feel that he loved all of us in his own way and none more than any other.

To be able to say that you knew that you were loved by and would always be taken care of by your father is a great thing. I can truly say that this was what I knew and lived. What a wonderful gift. Thank you, Dad.

Throughout my life, my father was always there for me. No matter what was needed, he would always do whatever he could to help me and later, my own family. How great it was to know that he was always there. I will miss having him as my safety net.

While we didn’t always agree on what was best or right, he always respected my opinion and more often than not, allowed me to go down the path I chose even if it was not what he believed was right.

He told me once as a teenager that he would always trust me unless I gave him cause to doubt his trust. From these simple words, I understood the gravity of his commitment to the good that was in me and always did my best to honor and foster his trust. Thank you, Dad, for your gift of trust and respect.

It’s because of that trust and respect that I had the gift of coming to understand who he was. Even when I was frustrated by him, I never wanted or tried to change him. I could see the source of his own frustration was that he carried his own story of his sad childhood with him and I did my best to honor that child within him. I accepted his shortcomings and honored his wisdom.

Thank you, Dad, for all that you have shared with me and so many others. I will carry you with me as I go to work each day to provide for my family, as I look out at the river and as I roam your beloved hill in Pennsylvania.

I am so thankful that you are free of your body now and I trust that you finally know that you are truly and incredibly loved. I love you. We love you. And we, who are gathered here today, are so thankful that you are living on within us.

Roy Elis Ohman
A Eulogy by his grandson, Jason Gottesman

Please bear with me. I didn’t find it easy to eulogize my grandfather the typical way by sharing an experience or trying to describe him with words. Mostly because he was, in a word, indescribable. Someone who truly needed to be experienced. Rather, I thought I would discuss the last twelve months of Grandpa’s life, as best as I can remember it.

So many people over the last few days have said that it has been a bad year for Grandpa. Yet, I think that the year was not bad for him, but special. That is something we should be thankful for.

About twelve months ago, Grandpa was not far from where he died. He was in Wilson Memorial Hospital in the ICU recovering from a subdural hematoma. He and Grandma spent Thanksgiving there and they were oft visited by family and friends.

His recovery seemed to go quickly and, by Christmas time, he was already up, walking on the porch and complaining that he couldn’t do what he wanted to do.

Things were going well. In the early spring, Grandpa bought a new suit, a necessity brought on by years of late-night snacks and novels filled with horses and gun smoke. He had a lot to look forward to and important functions for his new suit. Christina was going to get married and I was going to graduate from law school.

In March, I was diagnosed with cancer. The day after my diagnosis, he was by my bedside, hoping for my recovery as he was still recovering himself. Later, in the spring, he told me that he knew I would beat the disease. Many people had said it before, but I never believed it until then. He said he knew.

In May, he proudly attended my law school graduation, finally wearing his new suit. He tried to explain to me the mechanics of his “zipper tie,” but I still, to this day, to not understand how it works.

In June, after my second surgery, Grandpa was again by my bedside hoping and praying for my recovery. The rest of the summer was busy. He got to wear his new suit again for Christina’s wedding and he got to welcome Mike into our family. He knew Aunt Lisa was selected to speak at a national conference and that Aunt Amy moved closer to him.

This fall he shot the last deer of his life and then he passed last Friday. The last time I spoke to Grandpa was the weekend before he died. A Sunday. I was finally doing better and he told me that that was all he needed to hear. Then he told me he loved me. That was the last thing he said to me. Shortly after he died, around 3:30, I leaned in and kissed his forehead. I told him that I loved him. That was the last thing I said to him. I guess we are even.

There is a quote out there that says we should do three things each day: laugh, think and cry. It is said that if you do those three things in a day, it makes a full day. If you do them every day, you have something special. I think that enough happened over the last twelve months that made is possible for Grandpa to do all three every day. I think that makes a special year.

We will all miss him in one way or another. We wouldn’t be here if we didn’t. It isn’t the lessons he taught us that will be missed. They are easily remembered. Big lessons like putting others before you or the small lessons like how to tie a hook on. These lessons will live on through the generations.

I think what we will miss, what I will miss, is the comfort in knowing he is alive. Knowing that he will be there to enjoy the good times with us, do what he can to get us through the bad times, or to tersely, but affectionately point us in the right direction when we go off course.

Graham Greene said, “You cannot conceive, nor can I understand the appalling strangeness of the mercy of God.” That seems about right.

I will miss my grandfather very much.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Drawing on the walls...

When Jake (19 now...17 at the time) asked me one day if I thought it would be OK for him to draw on the walls, I immediately said, "Yes!" He walked into his bedroom and began to draw.

I checked on him a little while later. I said, "I thought you were going to draw on the living room walls where we could ALL see it."

And so he did.


This is my boy's passion. This is my boy's Joy. He knows it is good and right and exactly what he should be doing. Even when most other parents are reprimanding their children for drawing on the walls, Jake knows that he and his art are more important to his family than any *thing*.

One morning a few months later, I awoke to find surprises drawn on the bathroom wall. This time, my boy knew that he didn't even have to ask my opinion...he knew that his art on our walls would be considered a gift from him to his family...from his family to him.

I painted over that gift today, as the bathroom walls were quite ready for a new coat of paint. I felt a bit of sadness as I covered them up with a nice shade of Gray Autumn Fog (hmm...looking out my window this morning, I'm thinking that color name is most appropriate!)...but mostly I felt so grateful. Grateful for this life of allowing my children to Be Exactly Who They Are. Grateful that they know that there is no other way to Be. Grateful that Jake has been allowed the freedom, support and celebration to connect with the creatures within him that manifest in his art.

I also felt a deep Trust. Trust that there would be more drawings on our walls for many days to follow...

P.S. ~

A quote in my inbox this morning from Abraham-Hicks, of course...exactly in alignment with what I was talking about in my previous post (the Universe always provides this to Me):

You cannot look at that which you do not want and not join and perpetuate that vibration. Take your attention from that which is not in harmony with who you are, and in taking your attention from it, your "now vibration" will adjust to who you really are, and then you can uplift others.

--- Abraham

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Choosing to Be At Home...

at home:
Pronunciation: \ˈhōm\
1 : relaxed and comfortable : at ease
2 : in harmony with the surroundings
3 : on familiar ground

Jake and Dave are off at work, Sam and Monty (Sam's English Bulldog) are snoring on the futon in the living room, and Roxi (our Welsh Pembroke Corgi pup) and I have already gone on a long walk, made Dave's lunch, done two loads of laundry, showered, applied a little make-up and did our hair, ate breakfast, emptied the dishwasher and we will be heading out soon to get some groceries and pick up Jake from work. It's 8:37 a.m.

Routine feels SOOOOOO good. This Is Our Life. This Is Our Sacred Space. Today, I'm breathing in the glory of that which is completely *ours*.

Our lives have been very hectic, filled with travel and friends, for the past month.

And while travel and friends are absolutely WONDERFUL and right and necessary in our lives, these seemingly *smaller* times in between the bigger plans are absolutely precious to me.

It's within these smaller, quieter and sacred spaces where the swirliness of all that we have encountered on our travels and in our time with our friends are able to come together...come to a place of rest...and we are able to really look at ourSelves again and truly see Who We Are ~ and that includes Who We Were + Who We Have Become with our new levels of awareness, with our new experiences, and with all that we have learned about ourSelves and others and the world added in there.

While our travel and our friends actually add to the glory of truly knowing ourSelves, it still is our Truth that within the routine flow of home, we are able to re-Connect with our Source, with our dreams, with our excitement over the infinite possibilities that awaiting us...and because of this re-Connection, we are better able to know in which direction we should place our foot for our next step.

Distractions can sometimes be a good thing when one is feeling overwhelmed and inundated by too much Truth (as we highly sensitive people tend to feel). But too much distraction serves only to dis-Connect us from our authenticity, from our Source...and if we are absent of a connection to Who We Really Are and our inner Selves, we cannot truly have one with the outer world, nor with its inhabitants (and yes, that includes our children).

Even before I had children, I felt that the 12 years of school attendance was just one big Chuck E. Cheese distraction away from the child Truly Knowing Him/HerSelf (a much less fun distraction). I feel like the world has become so full of distractions...people are constantly on their cell phones, always needing to be talking talking talking instead of b-r-e-a-t-h-i-n-g and Be-ing. It is rare to be able to dine in a restaurant without being incessantly assaulted with televisions tuned into 24-hour news networks or a sports channel. I can barely walk into some stores because the music they play is so loud, making my head spin.

We shop. We drink. We gamble. We gossip. We care too much about what other people are doing on Facebook. We care too much what other people think of us. We debt. We eat. We lie to ourSelves.

We do all we can to distract ourSelves from theTruth that is calling out to us, much like Max shouted to the Wild Things: BE STILL!! The Truth wants us to hear it. The Truth wants us to stop our distractions and go within and just b-r-e-a-t-h-e and just BE.

I am sensitive. I am highly sensitive. I am highly sensitive to all that distracts me away from my True Self. Perhaps my awareness is acute because I come from a family with addictive tendencies. Or perhaps because I, myself, spent many years being distracted away from living and even KNOWING my own Truth. This was the result of many years as a schooled child, when my spirit was bombarded with people (adults) telling me to be/do/live/learn something other than what was in MY OWN HEART.

I walked into adulthood and motherhood not knowing Who I Was because of those distractions. I only knew how to continue to distract mySelf away from any work that needed to be done excavating My Truth
(and yes, that work can be painful at times, and so the distraction feels temporarily like a welcome relief) ...and living in My Truth.

The thing is that when one is living a life of only distractions, his/her Truth will continue to be Stronger than the distractions, as Truth tends to prevail...and it will do what it can to find its way out of the darkness and into the light.

If we are so distracted that we are unable to pay attention to any signs in our life, indicating that we are either on the right path or the wrong path, we can be sure that the Truth will continue to do what it can to guide us. But if we continue to ignore the smaller signs indicating that we are not living in our Truth, then those signs get bigger and will usually become more devastating, disrupting and painful.

For me, it practically took a brick upside of my head for me to snap out of a life of distractions...only caring about what our lives looked like on the surface, because that's the only place I knew of...that's the place I was raised. I had to work hard and heal and forgive and empty out and build back up again in order to excavate the Truth of not only Who I Was, but Who I Wanted to Be.

And so when Jake was born, I knew that this was the ONE thing that was most important to his life, to his Be-ing, above anything else. I wanted to allow him the sacred space to truly Know HimSelf. That original desire/motivation involved me learning how to give him that space, by truly honoring, respecting and celebrating him for being Exactly Who He Is.

And because of allowing that space for my child, I was able to create one for mySelf, which allowed me to heal MySelf, love MySelf, forgive MySelf and celebrate MySelf.

Both Jake and Sam have been blessed to have this sacred space all of their lives. Not once has anyone directed them away from what was truly residing in their hearts. Quite the contrary, in fact, as our lives have been invested in helping them to listen to and follow their inner voices, especially when they, themselves, were feeling confused and distracted.

And from me completely Trusting in Who My Children Are, they have learned to Trust in themSelves, as well.

This is Home.

Yes, the travel, the friends, the Joy, the's all so so good. So valuable. So necessary. So much a part of Who We Are.

And yet it is back at home where we are able to Shine the brightest without any distractions away from our True Selves. It's where our Inner Beings feel completely Safe to emerge and sing and dance and play and discuss and debate and dream and create and destroy and laugh and cry and complain and praise and love and joke and BE.



Home is so much more than this dwelling on 10 mountain-top acres.

Home is our Celebration of Succeeding in Being Exactly Who We Are.

Welcome Home.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

"Pinicular Work" ~ Sam Ohman

I wrote in my Must We Diagnose Max? post that I would write a post explaining what "pinicular work" is...

When Sam was about 3, he was doing what he loved to do the most at that time, and that was playing in the creek, moving stones and redirecting water. On this day, he said to me, “Mama, I’m doing really pinicular work.” He used to make up words all of the time, and we have often used his words regularly in our lives. But this word, pinicular, was the one we have used more than any other, and as I was writing my talk for the We Shine Unschooling Conference, I was able to finally truly understand what Sam really meant with his term “pinicular work”, and I gave it a proper definition (with his permission and approval, of course):

Pinicular work is a child’s own work ~ that which comes from deep within a child’s heart and is based in Who They Are and their Sheer Joy. Pinicular work may be disguised as insignificant play to those trained only to see the surface of the world and of life, but those of us who are able to see beyond and deeper…we know that pinicular work is the greatest and most noble of work.

And for the children who are engaged in their pinicular work, nothing more is needed or required of them. All they need in this moment is the sacred and respected space from their parents, to know that pursuing their pinicular work is good and right and exactly what they should be doing.

We are all here on this earth for the very reason of pursuing our own, unique and individual pinicular work.

When children are not allowed to find and pursue their own pinicular work, and instead have their work defined for them by others (as happens in all other lives except an unschooled one), then they are denied the most essential right of their existence here on earth…the right to truly know themSelves. And without truly knowing one’s Self, one cannot live beyond the superficial surface, let alone remain Whole.

That is exactly why this unschooling life allows us to see, live, feel, grow and dig deeper and more authentically than other paths in life…because our children are free to pursue their own pinicular work all of the time. They do not lose that connection with their spirit that is typically distracted out of us as we are told to move and live further and further away from our own pinicular work, and do other already-specified and defined work instead.

And so this is why it is crucial that we make it OUR work as adults in our children’s unschooling lives, to allow our children’s pinicular work to Be. Our work is to honor it, respect it and celebrate it…as it is. But first we have to be able to SEE it as that. And to see it as that, our work is to really LOOK and see the Truth beyond the surface…to see the source, the Shine and the magnitude of it all in allowing our children to remain Whole…and then to let go and let it flow…

"Must we diagnose Max?" ~ Nicole Pinch

I could hardly sleep last night. Awake at 3:48 a.m., my mind wouldn't stop churning with the excitement that was awaiting me on this day ~ after much anticipation and being drawn into its spell by the previews, Jake, Sam and I were finally going to see Where the Wild Things Are.

Like zillions of other kids, Jake and Sam were brought up with that book, knowing it by heart from reading it over and over again...each time with a new level of awareness, new questions to be asked and answered, and a longing for the comfort of its lulling familiarity. (I must confess that I don't understand how it's possible for me to hear some of my friends say that it was their favorite book growing's my CHILDREN'S favorite book!!...I am not that old, I'm sorry...but this must be your mathematical error). Not for a second were we wary of the book-to-movie translation, as we have learned throughout our years of our un-Film-and-Fiction class (aka ~ life) to see them as totally separate entities, each with value and uniqueness in and of itself. Besides, we had seen the previews and we just KNEW. We KNEW, somehow, that this film was going to be the ONE that would celebrate the child's Voice.

And that it did. It is truly the most authentic movie I have ever seen.

Hollywood, via Spike Jonze, has finally validated, honored and celebrated the Voice of the child. How glorious it was to see it with my own validated, honored and celebrated children.

There were times during the movie when my Joy and Love were so BIG, I was brought to tears. I sat there, not just watching Max, but LIVING Max. There in Max's heart and his story was Jake's childhood, Sam's childhood, and even my own, that which was not so validated in my real life...and yet it was all so joyful and healing and validating.

The movie was not just a was a profound experience that I was honored to share with my boys, as well as the other handful of movie-goers who were just as excited about and in love with that movie as we were. After it ended, many of us just sat there, not wanting to move, leave or even speak. We just applauded, gave a few Wild Rumpus Howls...and smiled.

I came home and wasted no time in sharing my love of the movie in my review on facebook, where many of my friends with small children proceeded to ask me if I thought it was appropriate for their child. After giving my own personal feelings, I referred them to for a full review so they could judge for themselves.

Within moments, a friend of mine, who had also seen the movie today, had posted a comment after my review link.

"Must we diagnose Max?", Nicole wrote.

She wrote more, but I didn't read it. I went straight to the review and realized that my skimming before posting the link was not adequate. It was right there...I read it...and my heart broke.

MAX RECORDS plays a boy apparently suffering from Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder who doesn't know how to handle his anger, boredom and/or boundless energy and thus acts up.
How could ANYONE be so far OFF from the heart and soul of this amazing movie?? Not just anyone, but the author of a review that will be read by countless parents wondering if they should take their child to see this movie.

How OUTRAGEOUS that we should diagnose Max. How incredibly sad that a Child At Play and a Child Feeling Overwhelmed and Confused should be diagnosed with ADHD (a "disorder" that does not exist outside of a classroom, by the way).

Has the author never seen a child be FREE to BE?? My heart aches for the children in this author's life...children who are probably expected to: sit down, be still, obey, grow up, don't share your feelings, don't yell, don't run, don't imagine, don't BE.

Did not the author see what Max had been subjected to before he acted out?

(The following contains spoiler alerts...)

His igloo, on which he worked so hard (his "pinicular" work, for those who heard my We Shine Conference Talk...for those who did not, I will share what "pinicular work" is at a later time), was destroyed...he watched as his sister dismissed his devastation and did not defend him...he was told by a TEACHER that the sun would eventually burn out and then was enlightened by the same teacher about all of the disasters that would probably eradicate the human race well before then, anyway...and then he watched (our children are ALWAYS watching!!) as his Mom worried over losing her income...he watched as she placed her boyfriend's opinion above the heart of the child and the real living going on in the home.

So he acts out. I don't blame him one bit. I would be ready to let the Wild Rumpus Start, myself, at that point. And thankfully, Maurice Sendak and Spike Jonze agree with me.

However, the author of the review would have this child diagnosed, labeled, and most likely drugged because he "doesn't know how to handle his anger/bordem/boundless energy."

Let the Children Be. Let the Children Play. Let the Children Imagine. Let the Children Be Exactly Who They Are. Let the Children's Voices be Heard, Honored, Respected and Celebrated.

Thank you, Maurice Sendak and Spike Jonze for allowing Max to be the validation for every single child that ever lived...whether they have had a validated and celebrated childhood or not...I can't see how anyone who lives an authentic and deep life can miss the heart and soul of this amazing movie.

And I will not be visiting or recommending again ever.


Friday, October 16, 2009

What is So Radical about Radical Unschooling?

This was the title of my latest conference talk at the 2009 Toronto Unschooling Conference. I really like the whole talk...worked on it a lot...and I will let you know when it's available for download on (thanks to wonderful conference coordinator and friend, Pam).

Until then, here is a very small excerpt:

Here’s what I think. First of all, it’s sad to me that honoring, respecting and celebrating our children’s lives is considered to be radical. I envision and I walk toward the vision of creating a world where this is common.

I think it’s radical that we Trust our children deeply. It’s radical that we notice that our children are born with an innate desire to learn and explore and expand and get what they need and what they desire…and it’s even more radical that we trust in that even when they are five years old and beyond. It’s radical that we not only give their innate desire to learn and explore a sacred space to happen, but we also join them in that space.

It’s radical that we, as parents and adults, actually LIKE and enjoy being with our children.

It’s radical that we don’t allow typical society to tell us what has or should have value in our lives. It’s radical that we don’t believe in separating math or history or any other school subject from the rest of the world and from life. It’s radical that we don’t believe that forcing arbitrary facts from those subjects on our children has any value.

It’s radical that we not only believe, but we know for sure because of having it proved to us time and time again, that the REAL learning is right IN Jimmy Fallon or video games or dolls or hockey or whatever our children are drawn to, because REAL learning happens at the time when there is a connection that holds real MEANING in our children’s lives…and these connections are happening all of the time, unbidden and unseen by most.

It’s radical that we do not live according to the dictates of typical society when it comes to things like our children’s eating and their sleeping and their clothing and their jobs around the house, but not because we merely extend unschooling beyond the academics into these areas or because we have been told to say “yes” to our children, but because we truly hear, believe, trust, validate and respect our children’s Voices.

And it is oh so radical that we allow their glorious and unique perspective and view of the world to enlighten our own lives and expand our own worlds.

And…one more: It’s radical that we don’t merely ascribe to all things alternative and all things radical…that we are not rebelling against society nor are we militant in the alternative merely because it is going against the norm of society. We are simply creating the space to listen to our own hearts and follow our own flow and live our own unique path, whether it touches the mainstream or the alternative or anywhere in between…it’s radical that it is uniquely our own.

These are some of my radicals.

Most of all, I, personally believe that the radical in radical unschooling is found within the parent. I believe the radical lies within the inner work that we are willing and wanting to do ~ even though it is sometimes difficult and painful work ~ to go deeper and to GET to that place of releasing control and trusting in our children and being a partner in their lives.