Welcome to Live Free Creative, the podcast that provides inspiration and ideas for living a creative, adventurous, and intentional lifestyle. I’m your host Miranda Anderson. And I hope that each time you listen, you feel a little bit more free to live your life exactly the way you want to live it.
Hello there, my friends, welcome back to the show. You’re listening to Live Free Creative podcast. This is Episode 101: Roots and Branches.
I have a lot to catch you up on because so much has happened this week, inside my head and inside our city, our neighborhood more specifically. So before I dive into roots and branches, which is an episode I very much look forward to sharing with you. Let’s talk about life lately.
The unexpected news in my life lately is that I am going to be homeschooling my kids this fall and possibly for the entire 2020-2021 school year, depending on how our district continues to handle the global pandemic.
I have to say I was not super surprised that Richmond Public School district decided to vote for fully virtual school for at least the first semester, which is September through February. I have actually absolutely loved the quick decisive action that Richmond has taken regarding the pandemic as a whole.
I want to just tell you a tiny bit about that and then talk a little bit more about the homeschooling. So back in March, when everything kind of came up in the United States, our governor decided just right from the beginning that we were going to have a stay at home order. And my kids came home from school for a weekend.
And then by the next week, the district had decided to cancel school for the remaining school year. So early March, my kids, I knew they would be out of school until the end of the school year.
I think in a lot of other places around the country, schools either got canceled a little bit later, or they would cancel them for a couple of weeks at a time. And then just keep sort of delaying the inevitable continuous closure, because we were also hopeful, right?
The ability of my school district to make such a quick decisive long lasting decision made it, even though it was hard for me to sort of accept this unexpected change, it made it possible for me to pass through all of the grieving and mourning the things that I couldn’t change and to accept it and make a plan for how to move forward.
That has been sort of my favorite thing, even though I don’t necessarily love. I mean, of course I don’t love that. We’re all in these really tricky situations. I absolutely have appreciated the decision making process to be quick and clear in most cases regarding particularly where we live.
So when I was out of town a couple of weeks ago, I started to float around the idea of homeschooling because like many of you, my kids didn’t thrive in a virtual learning environment. It was hard for me as the manager to sort of keep up with the different schedules and things that were going on different days and different times.
I have three kids all in elementary school. So next year they will be first grade, fourth grade and sixth grade. And I sort of gave up on virtual learning around mid may. Our kids were supposed to be in school until mid June.
And I said, Oh, we’ll just call this an early year, little did I know I said that we’ll call it an early year and make up for it in the fall that they wouldn’t go back to school in class.
When we were on vacation, I started to allow myself to consider the possibility that my kids would not be going back to school in the fall, opening up that consideration and the curiosity around that allowed me to start to brainstorm ideas of how I wanted to handle this.
Now I want to hearken back to an episode a couple of weeks ago, about many right choices. This is one of those situations where there are many right choices. There is not one right or wrong decision. You may be feeling a little bit tied up about what you want to do for your family and your kids, just the way I was, as I contemplated the many different options that may be available to me.
I realized that even if our school and district decided to do a partial program like Tuesday, Thursday, or a Monday, Wednesday, or half days, and I could send them for part of the day that the risk of someone being infected in the school and having a short term closure, depended on situations.
Homeschooling means flexibility and freedom
I realized that I wanted to be able to manage my own time a little bit more easily. And I thought even though homeschooling is not something that I’ve ever really been interested in, it was something that I could at least control.
I know a lot of parents, working parents, don’t have the privilege to be able to stay home for a few hours a day and work with their kids. I love my kids going to school. I love, absolutely love having five or six hours, five days a week to myself this year.
This last school year 2019-2020 was what I was calling my golden year. All three kids in the same school for one year, all at the same time, one schedule. And of course it got cut. And of course the gold has dissolved away from the school situation in our lives, but I’m actually starting to find a lot of silver linings around homeschool and that decision.
And I’m going to do a full episode. I’m actually working right now on what it’s gonna look like for us. I know it’s not going to be very traditional and I’m really excited about that.
The main privilege of homeschool and the main value that I’m finding in it right now is the option for flexibility for our family and the personalization that can come when I am really drilling down into what each of my kids needs and what our family needs right now.
So that’s kind of the big decision. Now I’m jumping around. I was brainstorming that as an option and started to feel really good, not decided on that, but started to feel really good about that.
And what I did decide was if our school decided to do full virtual or part day that I was probably going to just do homeschool, that that would be easier and make more sense for us for now. So then I was really invested when I came home, I actually watched the virtual school board meeting. It’s the first time in my life that I’ve actually watched a school board meeting.
I mean, I guess I can go to them. They’re like public forum. I should be more involved in this. I’m on the PTA board, but I’m not on the district board. I haven’t paid a lot of attention to those decisions being made. And I watched the meeting and I was surprised by how emotionally invested I was in the decision, even though I thought I had kind of decided for myself.
And when they voted for full virtual, I felt solidly that homeschool was going to be the right choice for our family. I definitely have gone through some mourning of what I thought this next year would look like.
I’ve gone through some brainstorming and I’m still continually working through that of what exactly it’s going to look like for me, where I’m going to create space for myself when my kids are home and I’m in charge of not only their feeding and wellbeing, but also their education for a while.
And I am excited to share more thoughts on that with you, but wow, what a crazy unexpected twist in this year of so many crazy unexpected twists; we’re all feeling a little bit dizzy.
One aspect of the homeschooling that I don’t love is withdrawing my kids from the district itself, how that affects the district funding. And so I have actually emailed our principal and the superintendent of the school board to find out if there’s a hybrid option where I can be in charge of my kids’ schooling and not have them be required to go to all of the live zoom calls and all of their teacher requirements for their homeroom classrooms, but that their funding can remain in the schools.
I am a public school advocate. I’d love their funding to remain in the schools, even though I am taking over their schooling.
And so hopefully there will be a way that we can work that out if the, the pandemic has suddenly gotten better. If there’s a vaccine available, that’s widely distributed. If for some reason, things trend toward health, you know, community health over the next six months and schools open in my area for in-person instruction in February. My tentative plan right now would be to put the kids back in school in February.
But I’m, as of now, mentally and emotionally preparing for a year of homeschooling and getting really excited about all of the different opportunities that that affords us, that regular school doesn’t.
Because this is my choice, I am just really getting excited and enthusiastic about all of these flexible options and the possibilities. And I can’t wait to share more of those ideas with you next week.
Like I mentioned, I know a lot of you are going through similar things, struggles with trying to figure out what the best choices for school or how to manage and logistically take care of and work through whatever decision has been made for you.
I just want you to know that it’s all going to be okay, whatever is best for your family is going to be best for your family. Whatever is decided for you, that’s out of your hands, is also going to work out and all of the mixed up feelings that you might have around it are just right, working through that.
Being curious about them, and kind of digging through and seeing what’s there and which pieces serve you and which pieces don’t, can be really helpful and know that as soon as you allow yourself to choose something, whether it’s a choice that you make deliberately, or whether it’s a choice that is put upon you and decide you decide that you’re going to accept that choice, that after the acceptance and after the choice is made is where all of the fun and the enthusiasm and the excitement can come in.
And so, as you’re working through your own feelings about school and what’s happening this upcoming year and the pandemic in general, I want to just send all of my loving excitement vibes to you that those silver linings are just on the other side of all of the sort of roller coaster feelings.
And is it going to remain up and down throughout the whole year? Yes, it’s absolutely going to be wild and it’s all going to be okay. So looking forward to homeschooling telling you more about that, that is my big life thing happening right now that I never, ever, ever thought I would be in this position. And here I am, that’s life lately.
Roots and Branches
Let’s dive into talking about roots and branches. Several years ago, I was in a conference in Salt Lake City, and one of the speakers was Marilyn Faulkner. If you know, Alison from Alison’s Brand School, Marilyn is her mother. She’s a vibrant, incredible woman.
And she shared a story and a metaphor that I have just carried with me ever since; this is maybe five years ago now. She was talking to us about when she was a young mom and she was just, she had all of these educational pursuits and goals and hobbies and had all of these things that she really wanted to do in her life and achieve and go and go and get and capture and just like live outwardly.
Those are all her branches. And she said that there was a point where she was raising a lot of little people and she wasn’t out going and doing and achieving and being seen that she was caring for her family, that she was reading, caring for herself and learning and developing relationships.
All of this growth was really quiet growth. It was really internal growth and within the walls of her home, within the walls of her heart. And she talked about the metaphor of a tree and how, if you look at a cross section of a tree from imagine, you could slice it right through a big tree through the ground and just peel away half the earth and just look at this tree.
The truth is that there will likely, in a healthy tree, there will be likely as much growth below the surface as there is above. So close your eyes…if you’re not driving. And just envision that picture of the horizontal line, that middle of the line is the soil and above the ground, you have this thick trunk that divides into thinner branches and then little tiny branches. And then it’s covered in leaves.
And there’s so much stretching out and up and around, but you follow that trunk down, down through the soil and you see the same thing, thick branches leading to thinner branches, to thinner branches, stretching down, down and around and deep into the earth.
Branches are Visible
A lot of times, when we are considering our own growth and development and progress, the only things that come to mind are what we can see. Everything that’s above ground. We celebrate in our society things like money, status. It’s our roles, as leaders, even as mothers, as PTA presidents, as church leaders, neighborhood leaders, our social media presence, what we look like, you know, how our hair’s looking, how our skin’s looking as we get a little older, how toned our muscles are, the number on the scale.
A lot of people I know, consider that as that number goes down, that that growth and progress has, has gone up all of these projects that we complete, that I love ticking the boxes for just today. I was laying on the couch thinking like, okay, what, what am I going to actually do today? And I remembered I had all of the supplies that I needed for a little project and plums room that I’d tucked away, a board and a dowel.
I wanted to just make a simple like wall hook hanger. And I was like, Oh, perfect. I have everything that I need. It’s air conditioned inside. It’s so hot outside in Richmond right now. So I ran to the shed, got the tools I needed, busted out this little wall hanger, put it up and was like feeling so accomplished because I did something.
I did something on my list. I checked that box that accomplished something, and I felt really good doing it.
But all of these outward things are the branches. We believe that those are the things that matter. So if I’ve named all of these incredible outward, successful things, these are good things. These are positive things.
What is left is what’s below the surface. Why do we even need anything that’s happening down there? What are the roots if all of the success are all of the things that we consider to be the most important.
Roots are Invisible
It’s about connection with ourselves and with others. What about building our resilience as humans? That piece that we can find as we work through something difficult and come out the other end, knowing that we’re going to be okay, understanding that we gain building fortitude, deepening our curiosity, building relationships, even just letting go, the ability to let go.
All of those things are growth, their progress. Do you think of them that way? I was talking to Dave the other day about how this pandemic and the social justice movement intertwined along with just the general feel of the world right now that that feels chaotic.
It feels traumatizing at times. And on some level, everyone has been affected in some way over the last six months by something that they could not control. I was telling him that something that I’ve had to work through personally, that I keep saying, I know that it doesn’t matter.
I know that these things are okay to let go of some of my personal business goals. Some of my financial goals for my business, some of the boxes that I hope to check this year, big ideas that I had that have needed to go on pause things that I expected of myself even.
There were many, many days and will probably be more in the future that I didn’t even want to get out of bed really, that I would like, you know, the kids would come give me a hug and I’d kind of snuggle and maybe pull a book out and just sit there because I didn’t really know what to do.
Like all of the plans that I had and the purpose that I had seemed to have vanished. And I wondered, what, what now? What, what am I even doing?
I love growth. I love progress. And what I was doing is focusing on everything visible that had paused that wasn’t possible right now.
And I had forgotten about the importance of those roots. I had forgotten to acknowledge the deep, deep growth that has been happening over the last several months, as I’ve learned to be resilient, as I’ve learned even more about how it feels to change my mind
As I’ve come to a place of feeling peace and then been thrown off again and had to claw my way or ease my way back into that place of peace and feeling like I was going to be fine.
I have both loved and been frustrated by the amount of time that my family has spent together in the last several months. I have many podcast episodes encouraging you to make time for yourself. And that you’re a whole person that you can hire a babysitter and get away and pursue hobbies and all of these things that I firmly believe.
All of those things that were really difficult, some of them are starting to get a little bit easier, but were really difficult for a really unexpectedly long time in there. And part of my awakening or understanding is that even passing through times that are hard has inherent meaning.
Just going through hard things in and of itself causes growth, but we don’t necessarily always see it that way. The question is, can we find meaning in what’s happening? Can we find meaning in what’s going on in our lives?
And I don’t mean to say that in kind of the trite, like, you know, I don’t know that I think that every single thing has a purpose, but I do believe that we can grow through anything that’s happening, whether we choose it or not.
And sometimes that growth is invisible to anyone else. And so we think that it’s worthless. We think that everything, you know, that we could just cancel 2020, I’ve seen a lot of, you know, really funny memes about just erasing it.
Let’s just stop, let’s rewind that the last six months were not worthwhile. And what I have been coming to understand as I’ve reflected on both the branches and the roots of my personal tree, that over the last several months, maybe not all my branches were growing and flourishing and sprouting, beautiful leaves and flowers like I hoped that they would be.
But simply because of that, my roots have deepened my ability to understand, my ability to listen, my ability to be still, to know that it’s okay to stay in bed for a day reading books and snuggling the kids and watching shows. Even that is growth. Even when it looks like giving up, it can also be acceptance.
I love the way that this metaphor of the roots and the branches can be applied to so many different areas of our lives. If I’m talking specifically about my business, there are definitely outward visible aspects to my business. The post that I put on social media, the content that I create, the newsletters that I write, the sales that I make, the courses that I offer, things that are tangible, that I can put in a spreadsheet, that I can watch and track and see how they perform and see how the branches and grow.
Those are some aspects and they’re important aspects of my business when some of those things pause, or even start to diminish in some cases with some offerings or things that I wanted to do that I am not doing, or haven’t been able to do, or that got canceled.
The question is, do I also recognize the things that are taking place beneath the surface, the connections that I’m forming, the relationships that I have, the ability to take care of myself so that I then can show up the best way that I can in my business, all of these pieces matter.
I like to, right now, especially with going into the school year and my decision to homeschool, I’ve been using the idea of the roots and branches to wrap my head around where the different aspects of academic growth happened, or schooling growth, I guess.
Schooling also has roots and branches
So in that environment, in that metaphor, the branches, all the visible things look like really clear steps forward in understanding in academia, in testing in homework, in ability to move through difficult concepts. There’s lots of boxes that get checked in the branches category, especially in a more standard school system, because there you do need to track and monitor progress and growth in an outward way.
But are there also roots happening in schooling as I’ve taken this sort of cross section of the tree approach to my ideas around what this next year for school is going to look like with my kids, I really been drilling in on the roots.
Time that we’re going to spend together on the things that are so hard to quantify, like curiosity and exploration and the ability to play and imagination and how we’re going to be able to take some of our learning outside, how it’s going to be.
Some of it is going to be lifetime learning, working on cooking skills. My kids all want to learn to. So we’ve done some sewing in the past, but homeschool is going to give us the ability to put that into our schedule and do it on a regular basis.
There’s going to be some challenges and things to work out and working through the challenges contributes to our growth, to their growth. Their roots are going to become stronger. Their branches will too, hopefully, but everything can bring growth and progress. It doesn’t all have to be visible. It doesn’t all have to be quantifiable, and it doesn’t all have to be outward.
The main purpose that I have found in reflecting on both the branches and the roots of growth is the understanding that growth matters. Both ways. We need to grow both outwardly and inwardly height and depth. And it’s a cycle as we grow in understanding and curiosity and exploration, and those roots go down and down.
The roots provide the much needed nourishment for our ability to extend ourselves and do big things and go beyond and live out in the world in the way that we want to, which in turn gives us challenges and opportunities to come back around and strengthen our roots. It’s a cycle. It’s a beautiful cycle.
The question that I like to ask myself, when I feel like I don’t know what’s happening or why it’s happening, that I’m frustrated with my life maybe, or that things don’t seem to be going according to my plan is a simple one:
How is what I am experiencing right now contributing to my overall growth? Is it branches, or is it roots?
Knowing that assumes that everything that you’re experiencing is contributing to your growth in one way or another, even if it’s something really hard, this was something that was so nice to kind of flesh out this idea with Dave the other night.
When I said, you know, a lot of the things that have been happening or even the feelings that I’ve had about them don’t make sense. And I don’t really like the discomfort and the frustration and, and the hopelessness that I have felt at times, and those things to contribute to my growth, to my wholeness and my ability to see things more clearly.
I know that doesn’t make sense, that the confusion and frustration can help you see more clearly, but it absolutely adds to your wisdom, to your overall complete picture of who you are. It’s part of the human experience.
A couple Episodes on Time that may help:
And for those of you who get really hung up on the time–this is a hard one for me too–I want to refer you to a couple past episodes. I’m going to actually bring some of these back pretty soon as bonuses.
Episode 33 is about time and seasons, and it really helped sort of solidify this idea of how all of the different aspects of our lives can be helpful.
Episode 89 is how to have enough time. That episode can also be really helpful if you’re struggling right now with your loss of time or perceived loss of time, as so many of us are.
To circle back to the beginning of my story, Marilyn Faulkner taught us all about this time that she spent digging in her roots home with the kids, learning, growing, taking care of herself and knowing that there was going to be time when she extended and grew outwardly once again.
And she shared at the end of her talk, how once her final child had flown the nest that she went back and got another degree. And she started writing books and publishing books. I think she’s published a handful of books. She teaches classes to hundreds of people.
She stepped right back in using all of that knowledge and understanding and growth that she had had gathered in her roots. And she just flourished up through the branches as well.
I think for me, the process is more concurrent that I feel like I’ve made space in my life for my branches and my to be developing. But at times like this year, when I feel like my branches have started to get cut off, whether I like it or not, some pieces of it are just being like stomped on, but my roots can still grow.
And that there’s meaning and importance in that, that my relationships, my resilience, my understanding, my curiosity, that those things matter just as much to finish the episode, I just have to tell you a little bit about my garden.
My Backyard Garden
I planted seeds in January. It was like 40 degrees outside. And I had read this is the way to do it, plant your seeds. And so I planted all these little hopeful baby seeds, and I just, I had no idea whether or not they would actually grow, but I planted them in the soil and I left them outside and I would check on him every once in a while, every couple of days, and then a couple of weeks.
And I just waited and it seemed like nothing was happening. I thought that they must all be duds that this planting things from seeds must be a joke because there was no way that anything was actually happening. And then one day in March, middle of March weeks and weeks after I had put these little seeds into the soil, I started to see little tiny sprouts, little sprouts above the surface.
And I was so excited about these little tiny sprouts. It was like two little leaves and I was overjoyed and over the moon and just took little care of these little tiny sprouts until about April, when I transplanted them into their space in my garden. And they stayed so tiny, just like an inch, two inches.
And I thought, there is nothing, like what is up with gardening? There’s nothing happening here where these little plants, they’re just so tiny and they stayed so tiny for so long.
And then just this last couple of weeks, some of those plants have taken off. If you have followed along on Instagram, you’ve probably seen a recent picture of my garden, arches. I have a swipe back so you can see July and June and may and April. And there’s nothing in there in April. The seeds were over on the deck, just little tiny seeds.
And right now I have tomato plants, nine feet in the air covering my arch. And right now I see so much outward growth, but you know what, for six months they only grew roots. They stretched themselves down deep and out wide and gathered all, everything that they could, all of the nutrients that they could.
So that they could have this blast of growth.
I’m just going to think of life, in times where I’m not in control and when hard things are happening or unexpected things are happening or changes come that I didn’t know about. Or simply in times when I just need to rest, that resting and letting my branches just chill out and not needing to sprout new leaves and not needing to outwardly show how well I’m doing or how successful I am, that I can tuck all of that away and allow my heart to grow, focus on my relationships.
Even just with myself, allow space and time, not only to go and do an accomplish, but also to feel quiet and to find acceptance and to live in peace.
I hope that this metaphor of the roots and branches of your own tree has been helpful for you. And the next time that you are pursuing something exciting or experiencing something hard that you can ask yourself, how is what I am experiencing now contributing to my overall growth?
Is this a branch, or is this a root? Knowing that both are important as always.
I want to thank you so much for being part of the Live Free Creative podcast family, for listening, for tuning in.
If you haven’t yet subscribed, make sure you do that so you don’t miss an episode. I have some great ones coming up.
I also want to invite you as always to be part of the Patreon group, if you aren’t yet and you would love a little bit of extra inspiration, as well as a really fun community where we meet once a month to discuss a cool self-development book in our online book club.
Yep. We were doing it even before Zoom was cool.
Feel free to join me at patreon.com/livefreecreative as a podcast plus member.
You know, I tell you all the time, but your shout outs on Instagram and your reviews on iTunes make a huge impact on the show. So if you want to take a quick screenshot and share it, it would mean the world and head to iTunes if you haven’t yet, leave a written review and let other people know how much you enjoy listening in.
I’m so glad that you’re here. I hope that you have a wonderful week and I’ll talk to you next time. Bye.