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Being Selfish Rules

selfishness
Barb:

I am so happy to have discovered a life of unmitigated selfishness. It’s not a recent discovery, and in fact I raised my kids to be completely selfish too … although honestly we never talked about it quite that way.

Living selfishly is pure bliss and everyone around you benefits from it. Contrary to what we have been culturally taught about being selfish, I’ve learned that it’s actually a secret to life. In fact it might even be the meaning to life. Some of you know just what I mean. For the rest of you, here is some insight on the magical, glorious selfish life. Read more

Unlearning Adultism

Great Grampa

Sarah:

Hello. My name is Sarah and I’m a recovering adultist. Before our children were born, my husband and I were the best backseat parents out there. We firmly believed that children should have a ‘healthy fear’ of their parents and intended to use the ‘wait till your dad gets home’ method of parenting. But our children kicked our intuitive selves into high gear with their births and their amazing and beautiful development and innate sense of themselves. We listened, learned, researched, talked, and acted according to this new awareness that our children were not an extension of ourselves but rather individuals who deserved and needed respect and nurturance of their independent growth. Our vision of our relationship with our children was one of mutual respect and joy. To maintain this, we knew we needed to shift our perspectives and act in a way that fostered this desire. Read more

Rethinking New Year’s Resolutions

dove
Barb:

I am madly in love with this time of year. The holidays are over, the house is cleaned up and decorations are put away, the energy feels fresh and alive and I am ready. It would never occur to me however to make a New Year’s resolution as my culture invites me to do.

Resolutions are fraught with the weight of shoulds, guilt, promises I am afraid I cannot keep. Why would I put myself through this? It doesn’t feel good!

Instead, what works marvelously for me, is holding a silent dialogue with my personal universe that goes something like this: I am ready for new information, I am ready for change, I am ready for upgrade in whatever form it looks like. I am open to everything that is coming my way that will facilitate my change and upgrade.

In fact, I don’t do this just at this time of year, but many times a year, whenever I feel in need of a shift, a change, an upgrade. I have stopped being amazed at how quickly this little exercise works for me. Within seconds, minutes, hours, or days, I am exposed serendipitously to new people, books, articles, conversations, ‘random’ information that catches my eyes or ears, causing me to think or act in slight or dramatically different ways, ways that give me that glorious feeling of having learned, of having achieved an upgrade in my life. Now THAT feels good.

Year’s end is neither an end nor a beginning but a going on, with all the wisdom that experience can instill in us. ~ Hal Borland

 

Sarah:

For much of my life, I felt resistance at this time of year. Angst about what goals to have for the upcoming year. Wondering if I achieved the expectations I had set for the year before or disappointed that I hadn’t made any so there was no gauge. It’s the version of life where there is a beginning and end, always a goal to be won… or lost. Something to prove… to ourselves or others. The feeling that we’re not where we should or could be… that we could be ‘better.’ You know what feels amazing? Knowing that I’m exactly where I am. Not where I should be, could be, or was. I’m exactly as I am. And there is always room for upgrade in my heart, mind, and life.

And, yes, I feel that way all year. It is a continued practice to honor myself and my journey. The New Year has not ever resonated with me as a time to press reset or begin again – ‘out with the old’ and all that. I am a work in progress- always! The shifting of gears began several years ago when I opted out of the resolution cycle. I meditated instead to find a word that felt powerful and necessary for my changing self at that time. Some I can remember off-hand that I’ve played with are ‘honor,’ ‘trust,’ and ‘truth.’ They change as I feel I’ve incorporated the meanings of these words (as they pertain to me, my experiences, my thought processes) into my SELF. I recently have a new one-word mantra and it feels exciting and fun – a new game of upgrading and consciousness for me!

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Get Ready for Rethinking Everything- PARENT!

2012 is upon us!

And so is the release of our very first magazine as Rethinking Everything Publishing.
Rethinking Everything Magazine, after two years of bold, edgy, exciting rethinking, has blossomed into three separate and distinct publications.

But you knew that, right?!

Rethinking Everything- PARENT   ::   publishes January 1st, April 1st, July 1st, and October 1st
Rethinking Everything- LIFE   ::   publishes February 1st, May 1st, August 1st, and November 1st
Rethinking Everything- SEX   ::   publishes March 1st, June 1st, September 1st, and December 1st

We are excited to offer them all absolutely FREE!

 
RE-Parent-Issue-One-Cover

We’re ringing in the New Year with
                 beautiful pages that touch the soul and
                                FOUR stories bound to rock your world.

 
teresaTeresa Graham Brett of Parenting for Social Change brings us her personal story of recognizing the hypocrisy of traditional parenting and forging new relationships with children based in love, respect, and equality in Unlearning Adultism.
daynablogDayna Martin – world reknowned advocate for radical unschooling – shares private and powerful moments of life in a co-sleeping family in The Sacred Flow of the Family Bed.
inok resizeInok Alrutz paints the moment by moment memories of her bold, painful, emotional, empowering, and evocative journey into motherhood in Birth of a Universe.
LauraLaura Grace Weldon – blog maven, writer, farmer, and mom – kicks fear to the curb and hands the power of consequences to her kids in What the French Revolution Taught Me about Parenting.

 

Don’t miss it!
Subscribe now for FREE.

Have you shared us with your friends? Thank YOU!

Do you have a story? (We know you do.)

Do you know someone whose story inspires? (Yes.)

Let us know what you’re rethinking.  We’d love to work with you.

 

 

Give.

Barb:

So we’re in the throes of the giving and receiving holiday:  what am I going to get, did I think of everyone, did I spend enough or too much, yada, yada.

Boring.

You probably know by now that I love to feel good and I’m sticking to it.  What makes me feel wonderful and alive and clear and joyous, especially at this time of year, is giving.  Giving with absolutely zero thought of what I might be rewarded with in return.  Surprise giving is super fun and easy.

This year one of the things I loved doing was preparing a 25 day advent gift surprise for my kids, sending them a big box of individually wrapped goodies and special things, one for each day from December 1 – 25.  Since our family has given up gift giving completely over the last handful of years, this was a total surprise to them and it was fun for me because I got to use my imagination and revel in the fun they would have.  The best part of it for me was knowing that I would not receive any sort of present in return.  It’s just so much more fun to give!

Giving anonymously is also so gratifying, because it delivers the extreme pleasure of knowing the recipient will feel like there is a real Santa, wondering who gave them this gift and lapsing into the fantasy that gifts just drop out of sleds in the sky, right through the chimney.  I try to do as much of this as I can.  One of my favorite memories when my kids were in their early teens was this:  we all got wrapped up in this anonymous gift giving fantasy and chose two families for whom we made and shopped for unique gifts for each member.  We wrapped each gift in old timey Santa-like wrapping and put each family’s bundle of gifts in a big, handmade red velour Santa sack and tied each off with a big red satin bow.  We could hardly wait to secretly drop the bags off on their respective front porches in the middle of the night on Christmas Eve!  Honestly, I think we had more fun with this than the recipient families did because it was SO much fun.  In other years, sometimes we just choose dogs in the ‘hood to deliver anonymous dog toys to!

Gift box wrapped in gold paper
Photo courtesy of weddingmusings

Sarah:

I gladly gave up the wondering about what I would get several years ago- when I realized that I could have whatever, whenever (yes, we’re on a budget.  It’s a state of mind.).  Why wait until Christmas?  It felt forced and ridiculous to stockpile wishes for a single day of gluttony rather than feeling worthy any old day of the year.  And that’s when I really felt the burn to give.  GIVE.

I was just talking with a friend today about our desire to volunteer and help in virtually any capacity in a hands-on way.  I don’t want to donate to a telethon or send a few dollars a month to ‘adopt’ a child in Africa.  It’s just not the same.  And yet it is virtually impossible to find volunteer opportunities to which I can bring my children (who love to volunteer).

There were a couple of years that we chose a child or two’s lists from a community giving holiday tree and had a wonderful time shopping for the items on their list.  We’d imagine what they looked like and how much excitement or warmth (or both!) our purchases would bring them.

I was recently inspired by a friend’s Facebook post that she had bought a gift card at the register and asked the cashier to apply it to the purchase of the person behind her in line.  She was inspired to pay forward an act of kindness previously done unto her.  I thought, I can do that!  Then I started thinking about other ways of giving directly but anonymously.  It was refreshing to think that everyone delights in random acts of kindness and that I didn’t have to seek out organizations or people who meet a specific level of need.  Generosity feels amazing and is contagious.  It really gives us the much-needed perspective that we always have enough to share.  Have you seen The Long Way Down?  I am reminded of African families in their dirt floor huts out in the bush eagerly sharing their bits of food with Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman.  No matter who you are, it feels good to give and share.

But one question often eats at me around the holidays – why not all year?  When I was young, little unexpected gifts showed up often in my shoes- whenever.  It was so magical.  My mother seemed just as amazed as I but I now suspect she was the anonymous giver… and loved every minute of it.

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Talking with Kids About Sex… is a Crime?

birds-and-bees
Barb:

I have been thinking, thinking, thinking about a story my husband recently told me about a new person – we’ll call him Bob – he met in his meditation class who has gone through a horrific experience I am having trouble making sense of.
Bob is a divorcee, having sought the separation from his wife due to their differences in sexual worldviews.  Bob enjoys monogamy and his ex-wife preferred a swinger lifestyle.  Bob tried it to please his wife but didn’t enjoy it.  Their feelings were strong enough on this that they separated.  Bob has a nine year old daughter who he shared custody with and she asked him after the divorce why he and her mom were no longer together.  He was honest and explained what the issue was.  Read more

Get Away to Get in Touch

Sarah:

This past weekend I did something I’ve been dreaming about for years.  I went to a lake cottage with five other women for the entire weekend- Friday to Sunday.  I didn’t plan it.  At a moms’ night out a month or so ago one of the moms commented about one of the women’s retreats she had been on.  I’d heard of people doing this but she’d been on more than one?!  It seemed so lavish and, indeed, gluttonous.  And yet it felt entirely necessary.  Before the resistance of my responsibilities and the unlikely possibility of my getting time away could creep in, I asked for more.  “How do you do that?” I asked so simply.  “I plan them,” she said.  “And I go on them.”  Like every other thing in my life, it could be that simple.  Dream it.  Plan it.  Do it.  There was a collective excitement and before I knew it, a family friend of hers had graciously lent us their guest cottage for the price of the (very minimal) cleaning fee.  We were on.

I almost couldn’t give it too much thought leading up.  What is it about indulging ourselves and feeding our needs that feels like we’re taking away from our loved ones?  I approached my husband in a whole new way.  I needed this and that’s what I told him.  He was super supportive and we worked on the logistics of the weekend so that he could do the things he needed with kiddos in tow or cared for.  I’m the cook so that was the main concern.  We worked out meal logistics easily.  Even the kids took it in stride.  Was it that I wasn’t asking?  I felt deserving and therefore I was.  Just like the planning, the carrying out could be easy for everyone.

Six women who knew each other in varying ways, at various depths, or not at all.  We all unschool our children who range in age from 11 months (he came, too!) to 21 and we all love to ask the big questions and dig deep(er).  Going into this, I thought Friday night to Sunday sounded like a lifetime.  What would we do with all that time?  We played Apples to Apples (which was a great ice breaker), took turns cooking absolutely delicious and decadent healthful meals, walked, appreciated art, listened to music, and sipped alcohol, coffee, and teas.  But mostly we talked.  And talked.  We challenged ourselves and each other but it didn’t feel overly uncomfortable or like work.  We were asking the questions and relating our tales and supporting each other’s experience in a way that encouraged thought and expansion. 

And I came away with a new beloved tool – art journaling.  The hours slipped away on Saturday afternoon and into the evening as we meditated, laughed, and worked intensely on our first art journaling piece coached along by our women’s retreat goddess and planner.  I peeled down through my art fear – layering color, texture, text, paint, pencil, and emotion.  This was not about creating a piece to display but rather about the process itself.  And yet, it is the first piece I have felt comfortable sharing.  It is a piece of me and every time I look at it, the same wave of meditation and focus as I experienced during its creation washes over me.

The centered feeling of intention, peace, and love has stayed with me and I intend to feed and nurture it. 
art journaling- focus

Barb:

Yay!  This is such a valuable experience.  Some of my fondest memories over the years revolve around my intimate communion with like minded mothering friends.  I used to organize such weekends myself and can totally relate to the rejuvenating effects of shared meals, group projects,  laughter, tears and conversation… lots of it.  The rejuvenation is so necessary!  I remember feeling newly alive in my marriage as a result and super ready for a whole new round of kid activities, full of vim and vigor.  CONNECTION.  We want it!  Plan it, do it, revel in it, benefit from it.  Your whole family will too.

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Chaos is Bliss

Chaos

Photo credit: Bernard Ward

Barb:

This is unconfirmed, but I heard through the grapevine that that Duggar family is preparing for their twentieth.  I watched their reality show once after hearing so much about it, and they scare me.  All those orderly, well behaved kids and teens that act like parents themselves was just downright spooky.  I suspect abuse of the highest order.  I am not making any accusations here, just raising my haunches in suspicion.  Read more

Parents Initiate a Culture of Control?

Barb:
I spent the day with a friend recently and we spent some good time talking pie in the sky about living together in community – lots of us talk about wanting it and yet … who is doing anything about it? And what is it we want anyway? We arrived at some interesting conclusions during our little dissection.

What we want is connection, we are social beings who learn from each other and, to varying degrees, enjoy the fun and games benefit too. We want support. We like to be in the company of others who share our views or challenge us in ways we like to be challenged. What else?

We very reluctantly concluded that what many of us fantasize about as we dream of living in community with one another is to be taken care of: having others cook, garden, share child care responsibilities and home construction and equipment purchase – so that we don’t have to have as much responsibility, spend as much money, work so hard.

My friend and I have both done lots of research on intentional communities and agreed that we hadn’t discovered one yet that ‘worked.’ We wondered if it was due to the fact that folks entering such communities have as a base fantasy the desire to be taken care of. If so, it’s no wonder communities are less than functional. In fact, even within our own families, those very small communities most of us live in, I would venture to say that they are less than functional when any member of the family believes the others have to take care of them.

Aside from infants who require dedicated care, even toddlers are desirous and capable of ‘taking care of themselves’ in very real ways. They can and want to choose their food, feed themselves, choose their clothes, dress themselves (mostly, or at least they WANT to and are willing to keep trying), choose their preferred activities and friends, among many other things. Are we supporting their desire to take care of themselves or thwarting this? We harmfully thwart their natural desire for self sufficiency and independence when we choose their clothes for them, make them eat what we prepared instead of involving them in the choices of what to eat, enlist them in parent chosen activities instead of exposing them to a comfortable range of options and allowing them to experiment and choose on their own, etc.

If a small toddler learns that another is responsible for making decisions for them, that someone else knows more than they do about what they want and what feels best, then it’s only natural to follow the progression and jump to age 6 or 8 or 10 or 12. Heck, a lot of kids I know in those age groups still have parents who are making decisions for them and think they know more about what the child should want or eat or what activities are most enjoyable. Guess what, when a parent in this role is ready for their child to start making their own decisions and become accountable and enjoy life and be self motivated, they can’t, because they’ve been classically conditioned not to.

Hmmm… it’s no wonder then that lots of full grown adults, who grew up as children of parents who ‘knew more than they did’ continue to move through the world just (naturally) expecting that they will be taken care of – by governments, spouses, cultures, PPOs or HMOs, employers, etc. In my perfect world we would be replacing this conditioned thinking with personal responsibility, and it is so naturally learned right from the start. So what if our toddlers and kids are wearing mismatched clothes, choose not to brush their hair, eat dinner foods for breakfast, prefer friends who are 10 years older than they are or opt out of the team sports in favor of poker? They are engaged in that magical, powerful and empowered process of making decisions and living with the rich, fully accountable feelings that result.

parental control

Sarah:
The dichotomony of traditional parenting is ironic and detrimental in both rights. On one hand, most parents are devoted to the ideal of turning out self-sufficient, ‘successful’ adults at the age of 18 or so into the world and out of their homes. Having an adult child still living at home is commonly viewed as a parental failure. (Hmm- another blog post?) On the other hand, parents are curbing children’s desires to make their own decisions and do for themselves at almost every juncture. From picking clothing to friends to how to spend their time, children are instructed by parents, well-meaning adults, and schools as to what is appropriate, for how long, and the expected goal.

This is most obvious to parents whose children have attended and been removed from school. While many parents do not see the detriment of their own controlling and directive parenting techniques, a child constantly in need of direction, unable to occupy their time or identify and invest in their curiosities or interests has obviously been affected by the consistent limits, structure, and follower mentality of the school system. The effects of this can take years to resolve such that the child operates based on their intrinsic intention and motivation once again.

If we have as a goal that our children will function independently, is this not what we should facilitate? We do this by offering our opinions and support but not in making the final judgment. I’m not talking legitimate safety concerns with young children here. Readers feeling fear in the lack of control they are feeling in reading this will immediately jump to that. But, realistically, how often are our children’s decisions (you know, the ones we’re interfering with) actually related to their immediate physical safety?

Parenting is so often synonymous with controlling. In order for children to experiment with independence, control, and outcomes, they must have the ability to exercise them. We need not fear the teenage and early adult years if we have facilitated our children in empowered decisionmaking and individuation up to (and through as desired) the years of separation. The fact is, we don’t know ‘best.’ Maybe we are wiser. Maybe. In my experience, children value our input based in our own experience. And so, parenting is more accurately synonymous with communication. Why don’t you want to continue with piano lessons? What is it you love about poker? What draws you to this friend?

I find your assessment of the continued need for control (mislabeled ‘care’ by many parents) in adulthood eerie and accurate. The fear of operating independently is sheltered by other systems in place of parental control and school as people age. These systems capitalize on the lack of independent thought and fear and keep the majority of the adult population wide-eyed and fearful with membership cards, prescriptions, and expectations to keep them firmly in the hold of mediocrity.

The solution? Introspection and evaluating our own personal choices. What drives our decisionmaking? How can we improve our communication and interactions with our children to support their process and experience rather than govern it ourselves?

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HAPPY holidays!

upside-down
Rethinking Christmas

Barb:

I screwed up Christmas big time when my kids were small and I would probably do it again.  Let me explain.  I have gobs of uncomfortable memories of my own childhood Christmases due to the fact that my parents were both chain smoking alcoholics and it was pretty much impossible to have a holiday that did not involve gross states of drunkenness, burned food and sour outcomes.  When I became a mom I was going to do it all differently.  Right from the start of my son’s first Christmas at age 11 months, I became a Christmas fiend.  I baked for weeks in advance, decorated the whole house to beat the band, threw parties with handmade food galore and, of course, purchased ungodly amounts of gifts, each of which I would hand wrap with extravagant ribbons and tags.  Oh, and the stockings!  Egads, they were filled to brim with antique toys, rare trinkets, old fashioned candies and handmade coupons.  I had no idea at the time what a mistake all this was!

For years I kept this up, and I actually loved it quite a bit.  Needless to say, my kids loved it too, in fact, Christmas rapidly became the biggest day of the year in our house.  As time went on and they became teenagers, it was becoming apparent that all this hoopla was no longer valued or necessary.  The truth about Santa had been discovered years ago, surprise presents were no longer possible, and the lists made it all so boring.  How much fun is it to just buy someone exactly what they are expecting?  We can do that any day.  We all knew we had to make some changes, but we didn’t know what or how.  Christmas had so much fun associated with it and we were mourning the old days.

We consciously decided to give it up, but do it gradually.  Over the course of 4 or 5 years we made changes that allowed us to have the fun, excited feeling we associated with Christmas while weaning ourselves off the weird and increasingly uncomfortable gift giving part.  Why was the gift giving feeling uncomfortable?  The big thing was its robot-like connection to the hype and cultural pressure to give gifts NOW, at this time of year, no matter what.  We were also feeling sensitive to the craziness of buying a gift in August for someone and holding on to it until December 25.  We also disliked the feeling of comparing what we gave or got with what others were getting or giving.

Our final years of weaning had us doing a simple one gift exchange, you know that round robin sort of exchange where each person buys one present and they get put in a pile and one person starts by opening a gift and the second person can either take the first person’s gift or a new one, etc.

It’s now been a glorious handful of years since we have consciously not given any gifts at all.  It feels so great to be able to enjoy this holiday completely differently and it’s immensely liberating!

Sarah:

I’m still rethinking Christmas.  I may rethink it every year until the end of time.  Each year things seem to change a little.  We try out new traditions or resurrect old ones.  This year we’ve decided to drive our little car all the way from Texas to New Hampshire to be warm around the fire with my husband’s family!

That said, I’m still grappling with the stress of it all.  Every year I think I’ve got it under control and every year I get sucked down into the current of the stress of making other people happy.  When will I learn that I can’t (and it is not incumbent upon me to) make anyone else happy… ever?  Years ago, it was everyone – my husband, parents, siblings, nieces, nephews, etc.  I wanted to make sure that everyone got that gift that said, “I love you this much” every year.  When we had children I thought it would get easier.  We stopped doing gifts for all the family members.  We pulled a name for a couple of years and then decided that we’d just gift to the children, nieces, and nephews.  Even that started to feel forced (and expensive!) so the kids and I recently started making handmade gifts for anyone we wanted including their cousins (and we still love this!).  And I focused all of my attention on making their holiday season brilliant.  But I have noticed the dysfunction in this intention just this year as I find myself miserable with worry.  What if they’re disappointed?

To stem the risk of turning this post into a therapy session, let me share that I am processing.  My two greatest therapists are my kids.  When I am concerned about their birthdays or Christmas meeting their expectations, I ask them what those expectations are.  And I find that they are so much simpler than I could have imagined.  The worry of disappointment is my baggage- Christmas afternoons spent ritualistically crying in my room as I felt the deflation of the post-Christmas anti-climax.  Then there was the shame of crying after all that I had received, all my parents had worked so hard to give me.  It hit me today.  This stress that I’m feeling?  That’s what creates that anti-climactic Christmas crash.  My kids want to enjoy the season, not just the day.  They aren’t looking forward to a giant stack of presents.  They’ve asked for a few small items and time together- skating, evening rides to view lights, maybe a Christmas play, decorating the RV and talking about the history of each ornament, making candies and cookies, and spending time with family and friends.  And here I was living for the future again.

Barb:

What is feeling dissonant for me this year is the contrast between my fresh, alive rethinking of the Christmas season and my less than comfortable feelings as I tune into my odd love of the old fashioned Christmas carols that take over the airwaves .  I love the melodies of the songs – the notes are easy to reach and I know all the words – but the memories the songs evoke creep me out: they remind me of the childhood stuff I want to let go of and I want to change most of the lyrics!  It feels a bit like being on a roller coaster, an up-down ride of clarity and feel good contrasted with that sucking feeling of moving backward.  Weird!  I suppose I could just say no to the songs, but I like them!  But then I don’t!  Oh well, it will all be over soon, and I imagine I will have evolved just a little bit more… I hope.

Sarah:

Here’s what I love- the awareness.  When something feels odd, dissonant, or wrong, we can analyze it or simply sit with it.  We can choose to make change or not but that awareness allows us to grow.  The holiday season seems particularly difficult because of the expectations, traditions, and memories associated with it.  But it is not unlike any other situation in our lives; there is power in awareness.

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I’m Not Proud of You.

no good job 

Sarah:

I’ll admit that this was a difficult concept for me to entertain or employ when I was first introduced to eliminating praise in my relationship with my kids by Alfie Kohn’s article Five Reasons to Stop Saying “Good job!”  If you haven’t read it, I’d encourage you to start there.  But I’d like to take it one step further. Read more

Sex and Circumcision

 circumcision-blog

Barb:

I knew intuitively when I became pregnant for the first time, many years ago, that if my baby was a boy I did not want him to be circumcised.  I didn’t have any health or medical reasons for feeling this way, I just couldn’t imagine having the top of his penis cut off – at just a few hours or days or weeks old.  Hello?  Really?  People do this to their children??  Yowzaa, I knew I wanted no part of such a mentality, even if it meant that he would grow up with penile infections, look different from every other male and feel like a weirdo. Read more

Video Games? – Just another tool.

 

video games

Barb:

I was shopping this week for a new DVD player/Netflix streamer and was asked by the clerk helping me if I had a video game system I could use instead to do the streaming.  A wave of joy and contentment and relief flooded my entire body quickly as I happily said ‘no – those days are behind me… or at least they are for the next handful of years until my first grandchild is old enough to want to play with one.’  I will enjoy those interim years, alot. Read more

‘Tis the Season for Social Dysfunction

Autumn Love Heart
(Photo courtesy of Louise Barr)

Barb:
I always look forward to the fall holidays starting with Halloween and the weeks that lead up to them. I love the cooler weather, the changing leaves, less daylight, fires in the fireplace at night. I love the idea of sharing loving time and space with friends and relatives in ways we don’t during the year. It is so much more satisfying now that I’ve taken the leap and given up the toxic relationships.

For years I moved through the motions of inviting everyone in my circles to gatherings, saying yes to all the family functions and parties to which I was invited. I felt busy and included and loved, but it was all dysfunctional. I wasn’t enjoying myself. I was spending time with people I didn’t like and didn’t like me, trying to fit in, wishing I wasn’t so different from others, pretending to be someone I wasn’t. One year, several years ago, I decided enough was enough. No one owes me anything and I don’t owe anyone anything. We are all on this planet as individuals to feel good, to move toward the people, places, ideas and things that allow us to come alive and move away from the people, places, ideas and things that take us away from that feeling.

Saying no I won’t be able to attend or choosing my guest list carefully feels effing good. I love the flow of holidays on my terms. My wish for everyone, everywhere, is celebration that feels like celebration, joy that feels like joy, love that really feels like love. I am learning all the time about what love feels like and won’t fake it anymore.

Sarah:
Not just good- effing good! Love it. Like the rest of my life, my view on holidays and our familial traditions continues to evolve. And, almost as a metaphor for my life, my feelings about holidays have transformed into a bold appreciation for what is really important to me and supports my personal growth. While it is magnified by the several frequent get togethers traditionally celebrated by gatherings of family and friends in the fall and winter months, this change really applies to my life all year round. But this has been a particularly difficult thing to rethink. The holiday season is so loaded with obligation and guilt that most of us couldn’t separate it out if we tried. It just is. Once again, it was my children that spurred me to reconsider obligatory holiday gatherings and relationships. I relish our moments together and it became painful to be doing anything that was ‘going through the motions.’ I am a mentor for choice, power, and joyful living. I want to embody that for all of us. Shift.

That said, the mindset of doing what was expected of us was virtually impossible for me to upgrade until we moved thousands of miles from family and friends and had the time and space to figure out what we would create on our own. That doesn’t mean distance is necessary, certainly. My experience is that, in the absence of time and energy to put toward a new version of tradition, we defaulted to expected familial tradition and interactions. We felt disempowered but it was our own doing. The space gave us breathing room- a new sense of power in our lives- choice in who we would engage and how we would spend our time, even the hallowed holidays. We also realized that they’re just days- an awakening. Why that particular day? This discussion touches so many other areas of life!

Barb:
The way the whole rethinking began for us was due to my sister’s courage and clarity. I was still in the dissonant throes of Christmas preparedness when she called and told me she really wanted to end gift giving. At first I took in personally and was offended. As time went on and I gave it eons of thought, it made so much sense and I was grateful she’d taken the first step. Gradually, one step at a time, we said the same words to each other, to relatives and friends. Now there are so many more enjoyable ways to share special time with others – without the stress and obligation. We can get much closer to REALLY enjoying ourselves now. Cooking special or elaborate meals together doesn’t feel like ‘one more thing’ but something we can plan for and really look forward to. We have genuine time to attend special musical or theatrical events without feeling worn out; eating out at no longer feels like stretching ourselves financially. There have been many upgrades associated with the elimination of Christmas gift giving but most important for us has been that we’ve learned how great it feels to give when we feel like giving and not withholding it as we await the ‘big day.’

Sarah:
And, guess what? I found that I really DO enjoy friend and family gatherings. I attend because I am excited and want to be an active participant in the lives of those people. I choose my partners in conversation and exchange energy and love. It was a matter of choosing how I spend my time, money, and heart energy. When I gave up thoughts of obligation and expectation and really focused on creating traditions and relationships that felt worthy, that’s when I got real clarity. I exercised my ‘no’ muscle with a clear heart- no guilt. I stopped using money and gifts as expected annual trade items or some kind of token to encapsulate an entire year of ‘I love you.” I opened to the joys of the seasons to share with my family- homemade gifts, decorations, evening drives to look at holiday lights, cuddling under blankets and reading books about holiday magic.

There has always been something extremely anti-climactic about the holiday season. So much preparation and expectation go into creating the perfect holidays. We attribute it to our children but I have found that my children don’t need or want that kind of burden. They are most fulfilled in presence, joy, and simplicity. We don’t wait all year to buy them presents so that needn’t be the focus.

I would encourage anyone feeling burdened by the upcoming holiday season to use the comments section of this post to discuss. ‘Peace’ and ‘Joy’ needn’t be reserved for the holiday cards we send (if we even send them!). We all deserve to seek and experience joy and preserve our health (and budget!) this holiday season.

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Are My Kids ‘Keeping Up’?

Sarah:

My kids are young – 7 and 9. The familial and societal pressure for them to ‘keep up’ and ‘succeed’ is great. One of the first questions I’m asked when I tell people we are life learners is, “how do you know they’re keeping up?” My children don’t go to school. They never have. We thought about it long and hard and then again. We’ve investigated every nook and cranny of our highly educated brains and it always comes back to learning through living. I’ve podcasted about our difficult and thoughtful coming to awareness of what our lives would be – are – together as our children grow. We are together. My husband and I sometimes step back and marvel at the constant learning that goes on for our children. Read more

Victims Struggle

Barb:
I hear this word so often. People talk about how they struggle toward some accomplishment, struggle to communicate, struggle to improve and so on and on and on. Whenever I hear this word, my brain stops as I try to understand what it means. What do people mean when they say they struggle? I know that it feels difficult, but why are things difficult? I go through difficult times and situations often enough, but I just can’t relate to this word struggle. Help me out here. Read more

Easy Money


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A New Kind of Capitalism?

Barb:

I admit that I like making money and I like the comfort of having it and knowing there is enough in reserve to hold me over for awhile in the event of some… thing.  What I really love about my money is how I get it.

First off, my work is fun.  It’s play.  It’s the result of deeply passionate interest that I would do even if I was not making any money.  Second, because it’s so much fun, it feels like I never have to work – a.k.a. something I only do for money – it instead just gets rolled into how I live my life, what I spend my time thinking about, dreaming about, looking forward to.  Third, my money making is the result of living authentically and honestly.  When I am talking to a prospective client, I never think about how can I make this sale or how much can I get them to spend or am I wasting my time because I can tell they are not going to buy what I have to offer.  Never.  Because what I do for money is centered in my heart of what makes me come alive, I enjoy my conversations with prospective clients.

Each conversation gives me an opportunity to really listen to what they say and offer up my honesty, experience and unconditional (yes! unconditional!) support for their journey, their unique situation.  Capitalism viewed this way feels good to me.  Am I deluding myself that it’s really a different animal than most of what we see around us?

Sarah:

Yes and no.  Yes, you are partaking in a system of investing and exchanging wealth.

BUT- you’re living a version of capitalism that is so absolutely foreign to what the mainstream has deemed the standard and only means to financial wealth that it does appear to be an altogether different animal.  There is a duality here that most people find hard to reconcile.  Most of us see two kinds of people.  We see the ones whose Facebook reels read like the movie Groundhog Day in a weekly format- a la: “Boo.  It’s Monday.  Can’t believe the weekend’s over.” “It’s Hump Day, people- we’re almost there!”  and “T.G.I.F.”  (F.Y.I.- You’re boring and I have hidden you all.)  Then there are the other people- the ones whose Facebook reels are an endless stream of positivity and activity.  These people can’t be real.  They’re either independently wealthy or they’re lying.  That’s what we always thought.  Until we didn’t.  

What we’re talking about here is a simple, but fundamental, difference in mindset.  The predominant cultural understanding that work is an overwhelmingly time consuming, yet completely detached, piece of our lives that needn’t be (and usually isn’t) particularly fulfilling to our purpose, is antiquated.  The reality is that this mindset is the chain that binds people to a system that perpetuates financial slavery and institutional dependence.  And yet, it is not necessary to resign from the aspects of the system that we enjoy- until we don’t.  There are plenty of people out there doing just that- participating in the system to meet their own desires and needs but without selling their souls to financial slavery.  When their lives look similar to the accepted cultural measures of success (house, car, 401K), they are deemed geniuses.  If not, they’re eccentrics at best.  I must say, though, in an age where they are hard to find, passion and honesty sell themselves.

Barb: 

Everything is energy, right?  Therefore it does make simple sense that we can all FEEL energetically the underlying motives of others in every interaction we have.  We can feel honesty and passion, deceit and manipulation, authentic or phony energetics.  Even when we can’t articulate our feelings or intuition, and certainly can’t prove anything, we can nonetheless feel them.  When we live in a world that motivates or coerces or forces us to respond to artificial dictates, we not only are always in an energetic state of confusion, but we become mistrustful of our feelings and even neurotic – constantly and often blindly searching for the new rules and guidelines that help us make sense of the world in the absence of feeling and listening to our own inner guidance.  Because the “real” world most of us live in does not support listening to one’s own “little voices,” we feel angst, fear, distress, unsettled, unsure of ourselves, and – aha! – needing to follow the “supreme” guidance of another, a.k.a. the boss, the religious cult, the teacher, the autocratic parent, the advertising, etc.  

money_tree

Sarah: 

I can’t think of one area of our lives that doesn’t heal and even prosper when we come back to center – to the listening of our internal voice and the open, honest response.  Our financial situations and desires are no different.  Connecting with people on a heart level is just easier when we’re doing something we love to do.  Granted, some people set a higher priority to their connections than their income and can connect regardless of their feelings about their job and the immediate capitalist gain.  I firmly believe that even these people, the ones who aren’t passionate about their jobs per se, do well for themselves financially because of their connection with the customer as a priority… or end up moving on to something more suitable.  As consumers, our awareness of authentic energy versus goal-driven energy gives us a new sense of empowerment and awareness in our lives.  We control how and where our money is spent and are not victims of the perpetual motion of money.  I seek out people with whom to do business versus corporate conglomerates because it feels good to me to directly interact with the provider of the service.  I know that this is always an option though not always as convenient and sometimes do choose to go with convenience.  But it is a choice and that is a powerful realization.

Empowerment and evolution of self does not necessarily mean that we’re all bound to be celibate monks living happily penniless.  Money is a tool and exchange of goods and services for money needn’t be seen as evil.  Those who see money as evil or painful usually don’t have any. 

It’s all energetics and awareness.

Barb:

I realized many years ago that we all have access to “the whole pie” – in other words, my happiness or my success or my passionate fulfillment does not take away from anyone else’s nor prevent another from accessing their whole pie.  There is not a scarcity of potential joy and success out there in the real world.   In fact, just the opposite is true:  the greater my sense of self fulfillment is, the more positively I influence those around me.  Of course this is true – who enjoys being in the company of one who bemoans their lot in life, their victimization, their inability to achieve their dreams?  Folks in such situations unknowingly cause others to feel negatively, feel sad or depressed or overwhelmed.  We all want and deserve a whole pie!

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Mothering Memories

Barb:

I’ve been having flashbacks lately of some of my treasured mothering moments. I am so grateful to have been a full time mom, so happy to have made a conscious decision to give up my fancy job and immerse myself in the wild and mysterious life of a mom. When my three kids were young we spent a lot of time in bed, not only at night in our family bed but during the day, reading, talking, laughing, eating. My kids used to love to have me crawl onto the bed with them during the day with a few apples, a sharp knife and a stack of books. We’d all cuddle together in a mound while I read and cut slices of apple for each of them in turn. They used to beg me to do this. I think in retrospect a big part of the fun was bringing a sharp knife to bed!

For years we had gnomes living in our back yard. My oldest son has always had a very rich fantasy life, in fact he still does. I even think it is the center of what makes him tick and function now as a full grown adult. Anyway, we got lucky because a nice little clan of gnomes took over our yard and for a long, long time they left us regular signs of their activities: teeny, tiny letters of their adventures that we’d sometimes have to use a magnifying glass to read, little sailboats they’d built to navigate our pool, tiny tools and handbuilt furniture, they even built a little house at the base of a tree. We never did see them but we sure knew they were there and they were a rich part of our lives for sure.

One other very fond memory I recall at this time of year was our regular campfire breakfasts. We built a campfire pit with tree stumps all around and used this for years. Our hands down favorite meal on the campfire was blueberry pancakes with butter and real maple syrup. You just can’t believe how much better a pancake can taste when prepared over an open fire. It doesn’t make any sense that this would be true but it is, I swear it.

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Sarah:

Ooh! I love this! My children are 7 and almost 9 so we’re deep in our memory-making years. In fact, we just now finished up reading Harry Potter aloud together before the kids settled in for bed. We’ve been doing this for a very long time and are on the fifth book of the series. I swear we’ve been reading this same book forever. It has 870 pages! No matter. We’re not in any hurry. For us, it feels like the characters are members of our family and family friends. We talk about them during the day and analyze different aspects of the story. Often, the kids will even speculate on aspects of the characters’ lives that we don’t experience through the words of the books. We will also often read the same books on our own. Because the characters become so real for the children, my husband and I don’t want to miss out on references and discussions. My son is an avid reader and recently read the Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan. My daughter listened to it on her iPod and my husband and I are trailing behind reading the series ourselves. While traveling this summer, we were all so excited to see the exact replica of the Parthenon and statue of Athena in Nashville, TN. It was so cool for all of us to be giddy over the bust and statue replicas and make connections between the books and Greek Mythology.

In our family, we love mustaches. We share a fascination for them – an appreciation of the different shapes, styles, and colors of mustaches. There’s definitely a lot of mustache-related humor involved in our everyday lives. We decided, though, that we had to come up with a code word so as not to completely embarrass mustache-wearers as we pass. “Look! A mustache!” was embarrassing for everyone. My husband and I threw out several ideas for covert names. The children vetoed them all and went with “banana.” Yes, that makes it even funnier. We even have a sticker on the RV (we live and travel in an RV) that has a curled mustache and says, “This Is What Awesome Looks Like.” I feel like this is a commentary on our connection with each other. We have inside jokes- lots of them.

Fantasy is a major player in our household as well. We’d built fairy houses at the base of every tree, rock, and bush in our suburban home. The fairies would often come to visit the dwellings and would leave evidence of utilizing the ample facilities provided by the children. We’ve also built them on the sides of hiking trails as we travel or out of cardboard boxes with scraps of fabric, shells, and other random finds. When the fairies leave thank-you notes, they are written in tiny gravel or sticks or mulch. Often the only thing left behind is a dusting of glittery fairy dust.

Speaking of fairies, we have a tooth fairy who is, well, a little off. She is sometimes a day or two behind our travel but the children wait patiently for her as they understand it can be difficult to keep up with our adventures. When she leaves the money or trinket, she always leaves a note. I think the kids are more anxious to get the notes than anything else. Our tooth fairy is a phonetic speller. And her letters never go in a straight line. The kids love decoding her messages and keep them safely tucked away with their treasures.

Barb:

I am all warm and fuzzy now from all this tender mother child connection. Let’s share more in future blogs… and for those of you out there who have read this, how about sharing your favorite mothering memories with us?

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Energy is Contagious.

Protests. News reports. Anger. Resistance. Victim mentality. Peace.

Sarah:
We don’t watch T.V. We have a T.V. We just don’t watch it as such. There are channels to which the children are loyal for children’s programming and documentaries. We watch movies and stream programs of interest to us. But we aren’t hooked up to the mainline of mainstream media. Oh, we’re fully aware when nationally and internationally significant issues arise. The internet news flashes and Facebook reels still keep us abreast. It’s difficult to escape entirely and escapism is not my goal.

I wonder, though, if these mainstream purveyors of fear and resistance along with protestors and angry citizens don’t actually encourage justice and peace but rather perpetuate more of the same hatred, fear, and victimization that are present in the stories. I have never felt more peace in my heart or experienced more noticeable peace in my world than since choosing not to participate in mainstream media on a consciously seeking level.

Last year, Barb and I ventured to Santa Cruz, California to participate in discussions with Joseph Chilton Pearce and Bruce Lipton about conscious evolution. Bruce’s focus on quantum physics brought to light the theory of the ‘tipping point’- a point at which there is such a massive collective of thought and energy going in one direction that all energy, action, and intention either follows or becomes distinctly separate such that the two are no longer intertwined. I strongly believe that our own personal focus on internal peace, wellness, and joy (which often reverberates quite strongly among those around us) contributes to bringing us to a global tipping point.

Some would say that this is avoiding the reality of political, racial, and social issues at hand. I would assert that I don’t resist, I persist- toward any and all intentions and actions that feel positive and growth-inspiring for myself and those around me.

Barb:
I couldn’t agree with you more here Sarah. At the risk of sounding hopelessly vacant, I will confess that I consciously gave up all ‘news’ over two years ago after reaching my own overload tipping point where I was having a hard time sleeping at night with all the thoughts I was having of women and children trapped in caves in Afghanistan. I thought a week break might be what I needed but two weeks into my news fast, I was loving not being immersed daily with the woes of our angry, violent and irrational culture. Quite unexpectedly, what I was discovering was that the absence of ‘news’ was creating a very real space in my head and psyche for the myriad things I really DID want to know more about and those things were now rushing in. I’m sleeping much better too. 

Peace
Sarah:
Ha! Hopelessly vacant is definitely not a way that I would describe you, Barb. Nor myself. Full is what I feel; full of love, inspiration, joy, and positive intention. I just don’t have the time, energy, or healthy cells to donate to anger and resistance. Knowing what we know about the direct link between our energies and our physical health, why would we order up some cancer with a side of persistent insomnia and migraines? We multiply our energies and their longevity in this life by focusing on creativity, connection, and love. Can this be done in a public way? Absolutely. Mahatma Gandhi did it. Martin Luther King, Jr. did it. There are many others, of course.

Just as I am aware that the school system is a fundamentally broken ideal and it is futile to try to ‘fix’ something that was never whole or useful, I understand that attempting to restore or construct ‘systems’ to alleviate oppression is a useless reality. I’ve had people tell me that because I am not part of the solution, I am part of the problem. I guess that is a matter of perception. A lack of resistance doesn’t indicate a lack of action. It is forward motion in a different direction. Fear is paralyzing.

Barb:
But you ARE part of the solution here, and an important one at that. If someone suggests that activism, for example, is making a greater contribution to solving a problem, I heartily disagree. Consider the energy of activism, even ‘peace’ activism. It is an energetic of anger, dislike, retaliation and victimization. Why would anyone choose to embody that energetic? It doesn’t feel good, it is not productive, it doesn’t allow for peaceful communication (or sleep) and it just attracts more angry people! Focusing on, in this example, what true peace you are capable of bringing to the world, whether it’s through your interactions with your children or others or simply meditating on the feelings and actions that ARE peaceful, while not driven by a need or desire to CHANGE anyone, are imminently more peaceful because the energetic of such thought and action IS peaceful and also results in more peaceful exchange around you.

For anyone doubting this, try this experiment: the next time you witness an angry brouhaha taking place between your kids, resist the impulse to step in, react with an outburst or lash out with a threat or ultimatum. Instead, take a slow and deep breath and very consciously step back from the situation, both trusting your kids’ ability to resolve the problem on their own and at the same time, finding a peaceful thought within yourself to dwell on for a few minutes (you can imagine your kids playing happily, picture them sleeping soundly, remember your last wonderful orgasm, you get the idea). See what happens.

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Are You the ‘Perfect’ Parent?

Do you strive to be a perfect parent?  Or often have lamenting thoughts that you’re not?  Barb and Sarah discuss the truths and fallacies of ‘perfect’ parenting.

Sarah:

Being in the actively mothering years of my two children, I am surrounded by mothers (and a few fathers) and children much of the time. Discussions between parents are multi-faceted but often negative. Topics range from the difficult aspects of child-rearing and children’s behavior to our own insufficiencies and regrets as parents. If parents are spending even a little time focusing on negativity, it begs the question: what are our expectations of parenting? Is there an ultimate goal for which we are striving? What does perfect parent look like? Read more

Let’s talk about SEX… and PARENTing

How do you feel when the words ‘sex’, ‘child’, and/or ‘parent’ are combined in a thought or sentence?  Uncomfortable?  Shameful?  Somehow in our culture, sexual awareness has been psychologically extracted from the rest of our existence and, when we attempt to re-assimilate it to its normal and exalted place within our lives, the voices- in our own heads and from the mouths of those around us- wield words of guilt and shame.  When did ‘sex’ come to mean solely the act of intercourse?  And, though childhood sexual abuse continues to be a concern for many parents, is it in our children’s best interest to ignore or manipulate their basal understanding of what feels good and right for their bodies?  We can help our children understand ‘good touch’ deeply in the physical, emotional, and psychological aspects of their being easily just by doing what comes naturally to humans.  This is the root of a positive self-concept, meaningful relationships, and sexual gratification. Read more

With Rethinking Comes Growth and Change.

So, here we are!  Another new day and more exciting ideas, stories, and inspiration to share as we rethink, well, EVERYTHING!  Barb and I have decided that there must be a blog to go along with our ever-expanding Rethinking (ad)venture.  There is so much to rethink and so many people out there who have rethought so much and are burning to share and inspire.  This is where our three new magazines- Rethinking Everything:  Parent, Sex, and Life come in.  Yes, three! 

Borne of Rethinking Everything Magazine, established in January of 2010, are three magazines entirely devoted to distinct aspects of rethinking that our international readers have been feasting on for two years in (they tell us) way-too-small of doses.  Now you can rethink these areas of your life all at once in big heaping issues of inspiration and groundbreaking thought in all of its intricacies, ecstatic moments, heartbreak, and empowerment.

Rethinking Everything: The BLOG hopes to serve you frequent, regular doses of curiosity, research, love, support, and inspired thought in a way that we can share consistently and personally with each other.  For the great, big, wonderful stories, reviews, and people/ideas that inspire us, subscribe to the magazines…  FREE!  For that extra jolt and constant connection that we all need, subscribe to the blog (direct your attention to the upper right sidebar to sign up for instant delivery of our posts)!

“Only as high as I reach can I grow, only as far as I seek can I go, only as deep as I look can I see, only as much as I dream can I be.”   ~Karen Ravn