You’re WHAT?

Birthday dining in Montengro

Birthday dining in Montengro

I have alluded to it and never publicly acknowledged it. Not that anyone should really care in this day and age – everyone is entitled to their preferences, right? Even so, I am ready to step up and own it. I don’t even know when, or how, I really knew…it was just a sort of “aha” moment, when I thought, “this is what I am.”. I’ll tell the story…

When we arrived in Stockholm, Sweden, I struggled to find decent healthy food for a reasonable price. There are no reasonable food prices in Stockholm. Everyone was hungry all of the time. I felt like I was hunting for food everyday and no matter how much I bought, it wasn’t enough. We stayed in an apart-hostel and the kitchen was nice, but minuscule.

Then, we moved on to Poland. I loved Warsaw, but we weren’t long for there. Soon, we arrived in Krakow and another apart-hostel and tiny kitchen. It was here we fell In love kebabs. Food, glorious food! They were cheap and easy and we really couldn’t cook meat in the apartment, as there was no real cooking utensils for that (unless we wanted to boil it, and I didn’t!)

On to Budapest, and what a wonderful time! We loved the castles and inexpensive food choices – and the KITCHEN! We stayed in an Airbnb with a real kitchen! Good times we had, but something was amiss – everyone was growing increasingly dissatisfied. Complaints of aching and intestinal discomfort. Headaches and wild cravings for constant sugary things that we rarely ever indulged in. This didn’t happen at the amazing vegan restaurant we loved to eat at, though and a seed was planted…

We traveled to Serbia and beyond to Montenegro with that tiny seed ever so slowly sprouting…

Awaiting our meat...

Awaiting our meat…

When we arrived in Greece, the meat and french fry filled gyros were not only amazingly delicious, but wonderfully cheap, too – we could feed the whole family an abundance for under $20! But then, after a few gyro fueled heartburn blazes, the novelty wore off. We were left all craving still more meat, or so we thought, but more meat wasn’t the answer – we still were feeling less than our best, or even our okay-est.

We discussed it amongst ourselves. It was a practicality thing to begin with – meat is too hard to cook in tiny places lacking the means to cook it in the way we prefer and we didn’t always like the local options in several of our stays (That would NOT include Poland and Greece! A kebab or a gyro are amazing and wonderful, divinely inspired foods!). After a while, we found that we were using less and less meat and even when we thought we wanted it, it was disappointing and tasteless, and didn’t make (some of) us feel well. When we ate foods rich in fruits and veg, which we love, we felt so much better. Able to wake up in the morning, better and clearer thinking. Of course, it wasn’t just meat doing that – it was the sort of tourist-eating-new-foods that added to our problems, with processed foods and foods that we were unaccustomed to.

Then, it evolved into “part-time” vegetarianism ( I know! I have heard it said that there is no part time allowed – the reality is that, statistically, most people fit into the 80/20% group – 80% of food is vegetarian and 20% of intake is some form of animal products, albeit sometimes without knowing it). We would remain meat-free at home, but be free choice when eating out or at the homes of others. That idea didn’t last long…

Vegetarian Caveman stew

Vegetarian Caveman stew

So, after all of this time (about 4 months of avoiding it) we are ready to come out. We are no longer meat eaters. Not everyone is in the same circle. With 8 people, we have varying degrees of who likes/wants/does what. Everyone is almost completely processed sugar-free, with the exception being an occasional coffee, a birthday celebration or the local bakery bread that a few of the kids like. There are a few lacto-ovo vegetarians, one gluten-free vegetarian, a few that prefer eating vegetarian food but don’t want to fully commit when they smell bacon cooking or chicken roasting (which is fine!), and one gluten-free mostly raw vegan – that’s me. I have some serious health issues to overcome and this is what is helping me right now. I am eating about 90% raw-vegan, but include an occasional egg or mayo for protein and fat once in a while.

Mixed veg over rice and sheep's yogurt sauce (not pictured) all prepped in our tiny little Greek apartment!

Mixed veg over rice and sheep’s yogurt sauce (not pictured) all prepped in our tiny little Greek apartment!

Are we committed? Three of us are, but not as a lifestyle. Not all of the kids are sure they want to make this a lifelong plan, but really appreciate the bennies right now. We will not become religious about a meatless diet. This wasn’t a choice based on ethics. We raised ethical meat and dairy ourselves and I am not opposed to meat as food. This is a health and practicality issue. Travel and meat prep has been challenging and unsatisfying. Meat and meat products just don’t fit our lives right now and we need the health and vitality we have gained more than food worries, expenses, wild cravings and such.

What happened to your plans?

Just before we left Baja, Mexico for Europe March 2016

Just before we left Baja, Mexico for Europe March 2016

When we left the US for this journey through Europe, we had planned things in a different way than what has actually occurred. We had planned that this was a Great Gratitude Tour, a mission to work with refugees and those in need and record their stories. To work in camps where we could at the very least offer compassion, hope and comfort. To find gratitude, it’s meaning and live accordingly.

Not all of those have been accomplished in manner in which we set out. I was feeling really low about this, too, because I knew that a lot of people likely feel really disappointed in us for not being successful. Then I lined out all of those plans and examined them.

“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts” – Winston Churchill

There have been many roadblocks to our well laid plans. Many of the contacts that we had have left their positions or been unable to work with us as planned. There have been many occasions where we sought information on where we could be helped, but met with resistance or rejection because of our nationality (a post for “Being an American isn’t always a positive in other countries” may or may not manifest.), family size and even because of being a single female parent. These are not the reasons our plans were not successful.

When first arrived in Stockholm, Sweden March 2016

When first arrived in Stockholm, Sweden March 2016

That is not to say we haven’t been of service – we have. Just in different ways than we envisioned, or what might be commonly known as “service”. Sometimes our service has been in small, seemingly unimportant ways. Those have actually been the most rewarding of times. Helping people with their daily tasks because of age or infirmity, despite language barriers, is an amazing thing. Especially, when many people view Americans in a less than positive light because of the political climate in their country or the US.

When we left one place, an elderly man who sold popcorn missed us because we smiled and said “hello” to him in his own language every day. He had never had that happen and it changed his views about Americans and young people in general. That is just an everyday attitude, to smile and say hello to someone, but it can change lives little by little.

When we have the opportunity to have a “sketching party” at the riverside or a pretty little forest area and a crowd draws to see what the strange foreigners are doing, it gives an opportunity to interact with people and be friendly and prove that my little so-thought-of “underlings” are now known-to-be “wonderlings” because they have overcome their own challenges to engage with people in a real and intimate way. Something not thought likely in times past.

When we met a Syrian family of refugees who have lost so much and were able to talk, hear their story, offer encouragement and compassion and continue our relationship beyond the place we met, it was not how I envisioned it – it was more!

I had to rethink my ideas of successful. Were our plans successful? No. Those plans were not, for a variety of reasons. However, offering unconditional love and support, friendly gestures, helping people with their daily life to maintain their independence, those little things have made our journey a success, just not how we thought it would be. The success hasn’t come from the doing, it has come from the learning and growing. I am experiencing things that I never thought I could – the emotions, the motivations, the love for life, the new perspective.

“Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success. If you love what you are doing, you will be successful.” – Albert Schweizer

I have learned to be at peace no matter the chaos that storms my way. There have been some things that have arisen that I did not think I could deal with, much less live through, even a few months ago. I have found a strength, a will, a desire so powerful, to live a life so full of energy, faith, love and hope, that I could never believed that I am the same person I was a year ago! If anyone sets in this lifestyle as weak and dainty, they should know they won’t remain that way for long!

We haven’t abandoned our original plans, either. Those have evolved in to an even bigger, more defined state of being as the Bohemian Habitat, to become more than just the Great Gratitude Tour. The tour has been, and is, our education, our experience and our trial by fire. When this is done and we move forward with the Bohemian Habitat as our full time endeavor (yes, I will write about that and explain it later), we will have this Great Gratitude Tour as the success that propels is into a new kind of living and awareness, to make more successes possible.

Our time has not been wasted or a loss. I could not even imagine this experience a few years ago, or even a year ago, much less believed that our little clan could accomplish what we have! My children are learning and growing and becoming complete and balanced people. They are kind and thoughtful and creative. And brave, so very brave. For all of this, I am grateful. We are all grateful for the lessons learned, the people we have come to know and love, the places we have visited and fallen in love with, even the challenges we have faced and are facing. So today, I will call The Great Gratitude Tour a success.

The Things We Do…

Often times people are curious as to what we do for education, therapy, hobbies, and such.
You may expect the answer to be quick and direct…but it’s not! I can give some ideas about some of the things that we do and how they apply to specific needs of my individual children, as well as creative ideas that we implement in The Bohemian Habitat. These things work for us, and that’s what we strive for – creativity through child led activities. These not only educate, but nurture and help bring healing and balance to my children.

“If you ask me what I came to do in this world, I, an artist, will answer you: I am here to live out loud.” – Èmile Zola

The Tempest Cosmo, Fig and Bear in action.

The Tempest
Cosmo, Fig and Bear in action.


One of the favorite things to do is theatre. Not everyone one of the kids is as interested in really living and breathing theatre arts, but they all love to get involved for impromptu Shakespeare readings, or spontaneous playwriting/playacting. This is a great way to learn cooperation, language skills and hone in memory skills. Memorizing is often a challenge for people with traumatic pasts, because many memories aren’t always associated with positive things. People are often surprised to learn that old English verbage is very complementary to helping with stuttering and other language challenges, probably because of the exactness and necessity for proper pronunciation.

“Painting is poetry that is seen rather than felt, and poetry is painting that is felt rather than seen.” – Leonardo Da Vinci

Artists in their habitat... Seamus and The Fox

Artists in their habitat…
Seamus and The Fox


Poetry is hands down the best practice to heal language challenges! We have been very fortunate to be near an amazing library in Trikala, Greece right now and the kids go about every other day. They have a small English section with some great classics and poetry selections and those have been great fun for poetry readings and memory challenges. They get very theatrical about these readings, and while not high energy, they are a bit more than just monotonous ramblings!

“Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.” – Pablo Picasso

Art is a great healer and educator. Several of my kids are artistically inclined, but with or without natural talent, everyone loves to sketch, draw, paint, sculpt and get there hands dirty. All types of art foster creativity, coordination, attention to detail, problem solving and even physical activity for my little one who hates most forms of exercise, but loves to express himself through dance moves he makes up. Daily walks often culminate in a little sketching party (when sketch books are remembered!) and it can draw a curious crowd! But that’s a good thing, as my less social children have been able to become more at ease when attention is directed their way in these spontaneous moments…

Healing and education in art.  The Bear has demonstrated knowledge in art, music, and history with THIS!

Healing and education in art. The Bear has demonstrated knowledge in art, music, and history with THIS!

Please keep the comments and questions coming our way!

A little thought..

When you call that person “crazy” for their choice in a leader, religion, or lifestyle, just remember that, even if their choices are wrong for your life, there are forces at work in their lives that led to these decisions. If all was wonderful in the world, there wouldn’t be the struggle to be heard, the need to make difficult or unpopular decisions, desperation, fear or any other powerful motivating influence.
Today’s casual use of “crazy” doesn’t only imply mental illness, but stupidity. Neither applies to most people, in the spirit it is used. When you call someone a profane name or hurl a ripping insult, you don’t show them how wrong they are – you confirm that the the situations they are facing are not the only things against them and they become even more entrenched in fear based or desperate thinking.
We are not smarter when we demean or belittle another. We are not more powerful because we follow a certain ideology. This is not progress or higher thinking, it is bullying. Aren’t we a country, a world, trying to unite to stop that within our schools and amongst our children? Then be an example, be kind.
Just because someone doesn’t agree with you, you don’t have to react. We can have opinions, share opinions, discuss opinions without being hateful, cruel or antagonizing. Seriously.

Finding beauty

I recently saw that a scientific method was used to determine the most beautiful and desirable woman in the world. The celebrity was named, and without argument, she is attractive. The article went on to offer the formula to determine how you, too, can test your scientific “beauty” quotient. I did not read the article in it’s entirety, although by the photos it appeared to include some facial measurements and equations.

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I find a lot of article geared towards women that tell us how much our work as mothers or wives is worth in monetary value by breaking down the cost of each duty. This is how we are validated, by the dollar signs next to our job descriptions.

The number of followers on Instagram is certainly a scale of how much our friends, family and strangers value us by giving attention to every aspect of our lives being photographed. One hundred followers must surely mean that no one except your aunts, uncles and grandparents care about what you do. The thought must be, “The very definition of pathetic”!

People take photos of other people in the gym or during what should be private moments, while they are unsuspecting that someone would give time to our ignorance and vulnerability, and post those photos on social media.
We now have words dedicated to the actions that undermine our very existence (such as fill-in-the-blank shaming).

If we aren’t admired for our beauty, social status, or wealth, there are a few ways to redeem ourselves – we may be valued and accepted for our contributions to the “correct” political or religious organizations, but only IF we carefully follow the guidelines of what the proper thought should be, as determined by our colleagues, and really only assign said value to the organization and not yourself.

Not buying it...

Not buying it…

There are those who devote their lives, usually in some form of media or entertainment outlet, to telling us what the measure of beauty, success, admiration or validation should be or is. My question is, when did we, the world, decide that we would listen and believe them?

VALIDATE
val-i-deyt: 1. To demonstrate the value of an object. 2. To give official sanction, confirmation, or approval to, as elected officials, election procedures, documents, etc.

As if life was not challenging to navigate already, now we called upon to “demonstrate the value” of our lives. Who decided THAT?!?! I’m not going to participate – call me a conscientious objector, but I do not want to attend that party.

I don’t want my daughters to believe that they aren’t beautiful if they don’t fit the scientific formula. I don’t want my sons to believe that the women they are attracted to must fit someone else’ ideal of the perfect wife. I don’t want my daughter to only feel they are validated or valued as women if they are wives and mothers (these are wonderful things, but not validating!). I don’t want my sons to feel like they are not masculine enough because they don’t have shredded abs or bulging biceps.

The Bear...He is enough, in every way.

The Bear…He is enough, in every way.

I have decided that the media, social or otherwise, cannot have my children and they cannot have me. My life does not need to be validated like parking receipt at a shopping mall. We are beautiful because of who we are, because of what we bring to the world, because we laugh, we play, we live messy lives. We are beautiful because we have scars, inside and out. We are beautiful and we are worthy! So, to anyone who says we are not beautiful, successful, admirable, or worthy of being called such, you are not only wrong, you are a liar!

My weight or jeans size doesn’t dictate how much I have to offer the world! My sex, nor my religion, nor my political views do not define me. I am not more of a woman because I am a mother, nor less of one because I am not a wife. I am a woman simply because I am. I am EVERY woman on this earth who has every been told she was not “woman enough”. I embody all that is feminine because I am me, a perfect Divine design. I am one of the most beautiful women in the world – granted there are about 3.5 billion others, but I am one of them, and we are all beautiful! I am beautiful simply because I am.

My sons will not be taught that they are validated by their sexual prowess or the career they have chosen. My children will not be taught to associate their self esteem because their identity is tied to the Instagram numbers that qualify them as popular. My daughters will not be taught that they are more “sexy” because of their large breasts, thigh gap, razor sharp hip bones, or lack thereof.

The Caveman Clan

The Caveman Clan

Why does our self worth get tied to the latest trend? Why can we not just believe we are very valuable as human beings no matter what someone else would tell us? Why do we have such trouble believing that beauty is more than just pretty faces? I don’t have all of the answers.

We don’t need the media to tell us that what we believe is wrong and they know what is right for us. Maybe we have to find that we are entitled to be beautiful and deserve to live beautiful lives. We must trust that, in our hearts, we do not lie – we are trustworthy enough to tell ourselves that we are beautiful… and we can believe it. We are more than capable of supporting and encouraging one another to find the courage to live a life of beauty, even if others would not appreciate it as such.

Might it be that the old adage, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder” isn’t exactly accurate – maybe it could be more completely stated that, “beauty is in the heart of the believer”, because the first step to finding the beauty in life is having faith that it’s there and start looking within, rather than outside of ourselves…

Cosmo lending a helping hand...

Cosmo lending a helping hand…