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Lifestyle Design: Parenting while Single

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Applied & Visual Anthropologist Gia M. Hamilton IS The Off The Grid Socialite

The Off the Grid Socialite, is a socially and ecologically conscious individual, she is a mother who cares about her children's environment, health and wellbeing, she also enjoys intellectual sparring, arts and cultural events, a good medicinal cocktail while dressing up and taking advantage of all the city life as an urbanite has to offer. She loves to garden, sew, design, write, paint, ponder, create, study human nature and culture, do it yourself and believes that having an off the grid house in the middle of the city would be her safe haven.

It is not enough that I am bold enough to bring a child into this chaotic world, but three, well now that's just downright obscene. I will add that more than eyebrows raise when I talk about possibly having more... "Children?" I am asked. My response is always the same, "Why yes, of course, I love being a parent... it's the hardest most rewarding job I've ever had and I do it for free!"

So while my sarcasm annoys most, there are those few, and only a few who seem interested enough to engage in further conversation about this particular subject. I could go on for days about how we live in one of the most "child un-friendly" places in the world, or how single mothers are scrutinized and judged but I have lots of time to do that, especially if they keep publishing this blog.

In the United States more people are looking for alternative options and choices to creating family structures and lifestyles that fit their own needs. I own and run a business that is all about lifestyle design called Gris Gris Lab -- ( pronounced gree gree). Gris Gris Lab is a Holistic Consulting Group & Creativity Lab that develops lifestyle design services and products to support sustainable communities. We use a process called Social Magic that I developed over a ten year period to coach our clients into alignment, We consult, coach, curate and connect our clients we say ..."New Orleans style". We are based in the Big Easy, the city that care forgot, the city where your houses can be as colorful as your personality and nobody blinks, where originality is applauded and culture is honored. It is unlike any other American city. My work is focused in three areas food and wellness, education and arts and culture, our business model states that when these 3 areas are valued that we as a community have the opportunity to create a sustainable cities. There are children in those communities and that is where the informant becomes the subject, where my own life becomes an example to be analyzed, thought about, written about. I have a live work space, a shotgun double as they say in New Orleans, two houses side by side, conjoined in a way that allow a single shot from a shot gun to go into the front door and clear out of the back. I work and live in this space every day. My children are constantly exposed to my work and the work of everyone who enters the Creative Lab as we like to call it. It is a crazy, funny, wacky, insanely uncomfortable at times, pleasurable, aligned, out of sync, magical place that you will ever step foot in the city. On any given day I am preparing breakfast and lunch, gardening, making medicinal cocktails, giving a community talk or brainstorming and mind mapping with my team a solution to a challenge with our client work or even brewing up hard soda, beer. Still confused? I thought so... think of it as a new age applied metaphysical think tank of sorts, an inclusive place where work and life balance are expected in order to optimize our truest potential and yet... yet... I am still working with this belief that we are somehow a broken or fragmented family because there is no husband/father in the household. In an effort to document my truth -- my life, I decide to use stream of consciousness, talking to my tape recorder where I share my inner most beliefs and processes for problem solving. I am actually attempting to create a lifestyle that honors my unique calling, allows freedom and space for innovation and travel, and provides a nurturing environment for three boys of color under 11 in a house that is aesthetically pleasing while I look out of sight. Let me tell you that my out of sight is looking effortlessly elegant and edgy at the same time, some days I accomplish this great feat and smile at my own success and other days it is a great failure that lulls me to sleep as I analyze the day and what went wrong.

So prior to becoming a parent, I had a great many ideas about what this would look like, I would embody the wisdom of the shaman, have the sharp wit of an urbanite, and the nurturing care of a mother lioness- strong and honest. I prepared myself mentally, emotionally and physically for a year to become a mother, albeit a young one, I was twenty two, married to an older man and ready to take on the responsibility of a lifetime, I might add that I was also wildly rebellious and certain that I had the key to unlock the universe at 22.

When Apsu was conceived, I knew. I was certain like I had never been before, it was like some new part of my body and psyche were connected and I was turning on an internal light for the first time. I had a paradigm shift. It was my first encounter with Social Magic. My first birth was a rites of passage into myself, I mean knowing myself more and in greater depth. I had joined the ranks of a billion year old tradition of parenting, attempting to bring a fragile life into the world without completely destroying it myself or letting anyone else destroy it.

I must say that unlike some group of alternative parents, I had no idea that I would be asked by the universe to raise this child alone, or at least without his father present. And years later, I found myself raising 3 boys and parenting while single. It was a choice, I could accept the limited scope that western American culture was attempting to force on me or I could rise to the occasion and engage in the ultimate; lifestyle design= Parenting While Single, and yes I still make it look and feel good! Stay tuned for more adventures of how we handle the most delicate to tumultuous situations together while co creating our dreams, solving our problems and modeling a process for a new generation of thought leaders and taste makers to emerge unscathed by outmoded and our dated family roles. Next Time: "The Power Rock Family- Super heroes in the Real World"

Gia M. Hamilton is an applied anthropologist and native of New Orleans, Louisiana. She is the founding director of Gris Gris Lab, Inc., a holistic consulting group and creativity lab that explores issues of community building and sustainability through art and culture, education, urban agriculture, urban planning and the intersection of these industries in areas across the United States. For the past thirteen years Hamilton has applied her training by re-organizing niche community groups using Social Magic, a process developed to assess, engage and facilitate change. "Social Magic, put simply is the ability of the community to effectively utilize and leverage the resources and assets already present."

Hamilton's most recent projects as the ethnographer and curator of The Black Boy Experiment include an in depth cross cultural and multidisciplinary study and visual analysis of the childhood differences of black male youth. Hamilton studied cultural anthropology at New York University and Applied Anthropology at CUNY Graduate Center. She and her Social Magicians can be reached by email at gia@grisgrislab.com or follow her on twitter @grisgrislab