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My New BFF…A Kinder, Gentler, Bitchier Me!

It’s the 5th week of a self portrait every week for a year. 2 weeks ago I discovered boundaries, and last week I discovered I didn’t need to be nice all the time. So far, those changes have been going pretty well. The boundary thing is tricky, because when you’ve spent your life not having any and then suddenly develop some, it changes personal dynamics with lots of relationships. So does suddenly growing a backbone and standing up for the things I need in my life, (or don’t need). My new phrase is “That doesn’t work for me.” It’s a nice middle ground between “well, I guess that’s OK” and “Oh yeah? F you!”

So really, I’m not bitchier, but I am becoming more assertive, and I like it. And I think, for the first time ever, if push came to shove, I really could be kinda sorta bitchy if someone started trampling over my newly grown boundaries. So that’s a start!

All of that has led to a kind of evolution of thought. Before, I couldn’t stand time to think by myself. I liked yoga for the workout it gave my body, but not for the meditative stuff. I liked to have lots of stuff going on around me, lots of stuff in my life, lots of chaos keeping me from having to sit still for a second. I’m beginning to see why. Because I never really valued my own self, I never really was at peace inside. I never really respected my internal dialogue, but rather judged it pretty harshly. Common thoughts:

“You don’t really need that”
“Don’t be so selfish”
“Why can’t you just deal with it?”
“If you were a better person, it wouldn’t bother you so much”
“You’re supposed to be meditating, why can’t you just stop thinking?”
“What’s wrong with you?”
“Stop thinking so much and just go do more important stuff.”
“it doesn’t matter, don’t let it bother you.”
“Just get over it. You are so weak!”

My own judgments betrayed me. If the inner me were a real live person, I couldn’t stand her harping and judging and meanness. I was no friend to me.

It’s like my brain was a room full of thought balloons trying to reach the ceiling, and I kept running around popping them back down with my hands. They’d always rise back up again, and I was continually forcing them down. Between the move this year, and getting rid of all the stuff that I kept around me to keep me busy, and moving around in the RV, and just general life stuff, I just couldn’t run around mentally anymore. All the thoughts and feelings just kind of rushed up and exploded like a balloon volcano.

At first, it was extremely uncomfortable to feel so much. But I started reading The Miracle of Mindfulness
(oy, you should see my book pile of stuff I’m reading all at the same time…)

There’s this quote in there:

“Feelings, whether of compassion or irritation, should be welcomed, recognized, and treated on an absolutely equal basis; because both are ourselves. The tangerine I am eating is me. The mustard greens I am planting are me. I plant with all my heart and mind. I clean this teapot with the kind of attention I would have were I giving the baby Buddha or Jesus a bath. Nothing should be treated more carefully than anything else. In mindfulness, compassion, irritation, mustard green plant, and teapot are all sacred.”

and I love it. I can allow myself to think whatever feelings or wants or needs I have without judging them. They simply are. What I choose to do with them is another thing, but their initial existence simply is.

“Mindfulness is simply being aware of what is happening right now without wishing it were different; enjoying the pleasant without holding on when it changes (which it will); being with the unpleasant without fearing it will always be this way (which it won’t).” – James Baraz”

Sometimes even the worst of emotions, when only watched without judgment, floats away after a while. It feels marvelous. It feels kind and gentle to myself. Consequently, at the same time that I am getting a little bitchier externally, internally I am softening up.

5:52

“The most fundamental aggression to ourselves, the most fundamental harm we can do to ourselves, is to remain ignorant by not having the courage and the respect to look at ourselves honestly and gently.”
— Pema Chödrön, When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times (Shambhala Library)

Be mindful, be gentle, be kind to yourself.

“Kids Are Like A Bowl of Ice Cream” Contest! and Give Away!

I am sooooo excited to welcome summer back into my life! I get a big energetic kick anytime a new season comes into town, but summer has a little extra oomph to it.

Don’t be fooled by all my beach/summerish/pool pictures I’ve been taking since moving to So. Cal. in February:

give me a sign.

Even though this may feel like an endless summer, I remember that not too long ago I was dealing with this:

simple abundance

So….welcome Summer!!!

To kick off Summer 2010, I’m holding a contest. I’ve been mulling it over ever since I declared that if my kids went to public school I’d do nothing but eat ice cream every day while they were there. And then after a poorly worded ending sentence, many of you wanted to know if I were going to pay for everyone to take a trip to Coldstone, on me. And while I can’t afford to do that, I CAN afford to get one gift certificate and send it to someone!

So here it is…the contest…

“Kids Are Like A Bowl of Ice Cream”
*************
In our overly standardized, hyperfocused on ‘normal’, one-size-fits-all society (*ahem*Ireallymeanpublicschool*ahem*) let’s celebrate how different and unique we all are by embracing our personal ice cream choices. Each of my kids creates such a different bowl of ice cream greatness that so totally reflects who they are! And that should be embraced and encouraged!

How boring would life be if we could only make our ice cream sundaes one way? With only pre-approved flavors and only predetermined topping combinations? And yet, that’s what our schools have become, and in so many ways that’s what our society has become. Summer is the perfect time to let loose and get a little crazy. Forget normal, forget safe, forget playing by the rules….go out there and let your kids (and yourself!) create something wild for your ice cream sundae.

Post your “recipe” as a comment here…each recipe gets one vote. Enter as many as you want! And then after the kids and I have tried each one personally, we’ll randomly select a name and send that person a Coldstone gift card. Or, if there’s no Coldstone, how about a Baskin Robbins one?

So, for example, here’s our recipes. We went to a yogurt shop (already, breaking the “ice cream” rules! But we’re unschoolers! That’s how we roll!) and Sassy put in mint yogurt with snickers, blueberries, gummi bears, and raspberries:

game-117

I did a mix of chocolate, mint, raspberry, and cheesecake yogurt topped with snickers, blueberries, raspberries, and dark chocolate fudge.

game-118

Voila! Two recipes, I’d then get two chances to win. And even more chances if I put down Naturalist and Golfer’s recipes, but they weren’t with us that day.

So there you go.

Fight “The Man”
who tells us normal is good
who brings us overstandardization
and scoffs at individuality,

By making your own ice cream sundae
However you want it,
And encouraging your kids to do the same,

Share the recipe here
and maybe win
a gift certificate
for more ice cream!

Yay for summer!

Happy Father’s Day!

I’m an hour past the midnight deadline to make this not belated, but the sentiment is the same….Fathers make the world go round!

There are tons of books out there on how to be a good father, hundreds and hundreds of pages of information on the subject. But it really doesn’t need to be that complicated. Just stick to the basics:

Hang out with the kids, and make sure you’re someone they want to hang out with in return!
game-112

Always offer a helping hand when needed.
game-117

Give hugs. And tickles. And your presence. Just give.
game-149

If these 3 rules can be followed, then one day a letter will be written just like this one, which Golfer wrote for Hubby:
game-124

There is nothing better in the world than to be, mainly, a great dad (in general) to your son!

(PS…Naturalist wrote her own card where she shortened “Happy Father’s Day” to “Happy F-day!” a la “Happy B-day!” I think she’s started a new Father’s Day tradition with that one.)

City Culture

Naturalist and I had our first opportunity to dive deep into big city culture this past Friday, thanks to my dad and the LA Opera!

This year they are putting on a complete performance of Richard Wagner’s Ring Cycle…16 hours of opera over 4 nights within a week’s time. Usually one of the 4 parts is performed within s given year for a production, it is extrememy rare for all 4 to be tackled at once!

Naturalist and I have been waiting for a year–my dad gifted us the tickets even before we knew we would be moving down here. I assumed we’d take a roadtrip to see it in LA, I could never have imagined we’d be living here by the time it came around!

It was a crazy, fantastic, surreal 2 1/2 hours, and on this father’s day eve I’d like to thank my dad for always exposing me to the best the world had to offer. Museums, history, culture, music, food–he’s spared no expense and shared his enthusiasm for each of those things with me. It’s become a big part of my life and hugely inspirational as I raise my own kids.

Thanks dad! I love you!

No More Ms. Nice Gal!

It is the fourth week of my weekly self portrait challenge. Over 80 brave women (and men!) have decided to take part in the experience and have joined the 52 Weeks of BAM! group on flickr, and it’s been truly inspiring to see everyone put themselves out there in a very literal way!

This 52 weeks project comes along at a time when I’m reevaluating a lot of internal things I’ve got going on. At the beginning of the year I cleaned house and reevaluated between what I needed and what I was wasting time/energy/storage space on…now I find myself cleaning my psyche in much the same way. It’s just as difficult going inward as it was looking outward.

Realizing I have boundary issues (as in, I don’t have any!) has led like a domino effect to another discovery. In asking myself, “why don’t you have boundaries?” “why do you find it hard to say what you want?” “why is it hard for you to say ‘no’ or ‘I don’t want to’ or ‘that’s not OK with me…'” I opened up a whole other can of worms.

The long and short of it is, I don’t do any of those things because I’m uncomfortable feeling anything but “nice”. Isn’t that what girls are all about? Sugar and spice and everything nice? “Be nice!” “play nice!” “say that nicely!” “That wasn’t very nice!!!!” I’m, like, on nice overload.

I’m so nice, I don’t want anyone else to be uncomfortable…even if making them comfortable makes me uncomfortable. Because nice girls put other people first.

I’m so nice, often my reaction to someone treating me badly is to become even MORE nice, since nice girls don’t create or engage in conflict.

I’m so nice, i often apologize when nothing is my fault, just so I can avoid feeling anything but nice.

I’m so nice, I obsess about whether people think I’m nice enough. And then will be overly nice if I think there’s a chance they don’t.

Perhaps you are beginning to understand that when I say, “I may be the nicest person you’ll ever meet!” I don’t think of it as a compliment. It makes me, in fact, a doormat. It makes me anxious and uncomfortable and unhappy in a lot of ways…but since none of those emotions are ‘nice’ I just ignore them and become even nicer.

Other indicators of ‘overniceness’…taken from the website “Anxious to Please”…

You are always longing for something (or someone).

You feel worried or fretful so often it seems normal.

You often don’t know what you want.

You’re always thinking about what you wish you had said.

You constantly second guess yourself.

You apologize frequently, or for things you are not responsible for.

You take what you’re given instead of asking for what you want.

You get preoccupied with what other people think of you.

You are frequently surprised that other people don’t reciprocate your good will.

You do favors for people with the secret hope they will reciprocate.

You are more prone to feel sorry for yourself than to take action and fix a problem.

You tend to give more than you get (you might be resentful about this).

It seems like other people get the attention or the acknowledgment.

It seems like other people get the dates (maybe your friends tell you you’re a great catch).

Your emotional state mirrors your partner’s (if your partner isn’t happy, you aren’t happy).

If, like me, you answered yes to a large number of those questions, then I invite you to join my book club and read Anxious to Please: 7 Revolutionary Practices for the Chronically Nice. So far, it’s pretty dead on accurate for my situation of overniceness. I haven’t gotten to the solution yet, but there are quite a few chapters towards the end that promise just that. I’m ready to make the change.

Other’s may not be ready for me too, though. Being nice has it’s advantages. I was the perfect schoolchild because I followed the rules to the T and never spoke out. I was the perfect employee because I sacrificed my own good for whatever the good of the job required. I was the perfect girlfriend because I always agreed with my boyfriend, even if I really didn’t agree at all. I was the perfect friend because I never made any drama or had any knock down drag out disagreements. But really, it’s not perfect at all. It’s dishonest to myself and the people around me. And it takes a heavy toll to constantly provide what other people need without being able to ask for or get the things that I need in return.

I think I’m done with being too nice. I have a full range of expressions and feelings that need to join my emotional repetoire…not just the ‘nice’ ones.

So this is me. Not being nice. This makes me uncomfortable, but also? Just a little bit happy.

4:52

…In Which I Recall My First Boyfriend and My Love For Solvang…

Bench Monday today! Not to be confused with Math Monday…I know I’ve been slacking on the Math Monday’s lately, it’s been hard to get into the groove without a creative math club around, though. Math is so much more fun doing it in large numbers. Pun totally not intended!

This bench monday is brought to you by Solvang, a cute little Danish town in the Santa Ynez Valley. I remember coming here when I was Sassy’s age–we’d always walk around the streets, eat danish food, then drive up to Hearst Castle. I have so many great memories from doing that, so it was fun to recreate the trip with my own family.

Here are the kids and I, with Hubby helpfully taking the shot:

Bench Monday::Danish Edition!

My kids really aren’t up for family group pictures anymore unless we’re standing on benches or jumping…that should make for an interesting Christmas Card this year.

Anyhoo–we stayed a night in Solvang and got up bright and early to hit a wonderful breakfast at Paula’s Pancake House It. Is. Divine.

PCHMay-29

PCHMay-34

PCHMay-41

PCHMay-39

3 pages of Danish breakfast foods on the menu..it’s hard to go wrong. My personal favorites are the thin Danish pancakes as big as my head:

PCHMay-36

They’re a little bit easier to eat if you roll them up.

PCHMay-38

Dont’ confuse Danish with Dutch…this isn’t a Dutch town. Danish is Denmark, Dutch is the Netherlands. I never really knew the difference until my first boyfriend in 4th grade. He moved from Denmark into our school in So. Cal., and caused quite a stir in our classroom when he brought his photo album for show and tell. He was sharing what his life was like in Denmark, but what we ended up learning about was the cultural differences between our two countries. Because there, for the whole class to see, was his mom bathing topless at a beach on their summer holiday. Jesper, my future first boyfriend, though nothing of it, but all the boys in the class started making catcalls and giggling. The teacher ended up putting post it notes on the “offending parts”, and that was the first time I remember feeling like my breasts were something to hide and be ashamed of. It’s one reason why things like covering up naked statues for press conferences drives me nutty. It’s the human body, people!

Back to the topic at hand…Jesper…I know 4th grade is young to be having boyfriends and such, but in So. Cal at that time things moved pretty fast for boy/girl relations. I mean, I was getting married behind the portables by the time I was in 2nd grade! Deciding not to get married but take it slow and date first was a step in the right direction, don’t you think?! Jesper looked like the lead singer for aha , not that I knew that then because aha had yet to bust out with “Take On Me”, but as soon as I saw the video I was all, “Jesper?!”

He was a great boyfriend. I remember riding on a carousel holding his hand. He gave me solid chocolate hearts that said “I Love You” on them. We would ride our bikes around San Juan Capistrano together (free range, yeah!), and I had my first taste of salmon at his house for dinner one night. He was even my first kiss! And then, at the 4th grade graduation party, a girl named Gina wearing a beret came along and danced him out of my life to Lionel Richie’s “You Are The Sun, You Are The Rain”. Once they danced to that, I was dumped and she was his new girlfriend. To this day, I’m very wary around girls in berets.

And there ends my stream of conscious story about Solvang, Denmark, food, boys, music, relationships, and celebrating the human body rather than censoring it.

I dedicate this bizarre post to Jesper…you broke my heart, but you were only 11 so I forgive you. cheers!

Are you ready to walk down another street?

3581831725_3027b45abe_o

Autobiography in Five Chapters:

1) I walk down the street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk
I fall in.
I am lost … I am hopeless.
It isn’t my fault.
It takes forever to find a way out.

2) I walk down the same street.
There is a hole in the sidewalk.
I pretend I don’t see it.
I fall in again.
I can’t believe I am in the same place.
But it isn’t my fault.
It still takes a long time to get out.

3) I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I see it there.
I still fall in … it’s a habit
My eyes are open
I know where I am
It is my fault.
I get out immediately

4) I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk
I walk around it.

5) I walk down another street.

– Excerpt from The Tibetan Book of Living and Dyingby Sogyal Rinpoche

Setting and Protecting Boundaries…Not Just Important For Countries.

Last week I wrote about a project I’m doing…one self portrait a week for the next year. Here’s my third week!

3:52

It’s very uncomfortable! Maybe some day it won’t be, but for now it totally is! It’s weird both having a camera pointed at myself and also making the time to take it. It’s so self promoting, and when you think about it, self promotion is not stressed as a big plus for girls/women in our society. Some would call it “vain”, “self obsessed”, “narcissistic” “selfish”. Genderly speaking, girls are supposed to be giving, thoughtful, kind, doing things for others, going out of their way to help, putting other people first. It’s what we do as moms, and what we’re raised to do when little. At least, that’s my experience. The only problem with that is by putting everything and everyone first, we don’t learn much about ourselves. By always giving, sometimes we forget or never learn about what we need to get.

Remember when I wrote about having some thoughts and feelings percolating in my psyche like gnocchi balls that weren’t fully cooked yet? Well, a gnocchi ball of thought has popped up, ready to be digested. And when I digested it, I realized something about myself. I’m not really good at boundaries. Or, rather, I have boundaries until someone else tells me I shouldn’t. lol. But that’s just as bad as not having them at all.

I don’t know where my lack of boundaries comes from. It’s kind of uncomfortable to think or talk about. There’s always “blame” to go around…family, society, school, kids, etc. And at 37, it really doesn’t matter anymore the who’s or the why’s. The only thing that matters is that I can now develop and change anything in my life that isn’t working for me anymore. And having really weak boundaries isn’t working for me anymore.

What exactly are boundaries? Taken from this article:

boundaries define a person’s sense of self (i.e., who he or she is as an individual). We set boundaries to protect our body, thinking, feelings and behavior. Intact boundaries give measured protection to your body, thinking, feelings and behaviors as you evaluate and assess the words and actions of other people in your life. It is a way to exhibit self-respect, thereby increasing the respect shown to you by others.

I’ve been slowly putting up more boundaries in my life. This means I’ve been saying things like:

“I dont like…”
“No…”
“Stop that”
“I disagree…”
“I want…”
“I need…”

I’ll tell you what, saying those things out loud is just as paralyzing as trying to take a self portrait with a camera. They’re bold, powerful, determined, and forceful. BAM! None of those things were encouraged in my life, and most of them I was, in fact, punished for exibiting.

Taken from this article:

“It is important to state our feelings out loud…t is important to do for ourselves. By stating the feeling out loud we are affirming that we have a right to feelings. We are affirming it to ourselves – and taking responsibility for owning ourselves and our reality. It is vitally important to own our own voice. To own our right to speak up for ourselves.”

I’ve been finding my voice consciously for about a month. It’s been really hard, with really concrete consequences. Some people don’t respond well to it. Other’s try to push the boundaries back down. Some people have been shocked by it. I’ve had relationships change, many of them for the worse. So why do it?

“It is impossible to have a healthy relationship with someone who has no boundaries, with someone who cannot communicate directly, and honestly. Learning how to set boundaries is a necessary step in learning to be a friend to ourselves. It is our responsibility to take care of ourselves – to protect ourselves when it is necessary. It is impossible to learn to be Loving to ourselves without owning our self – and owning our rights and responsibilities as co-creators of our lives.”

As totally uncomfortable as making and setting boundaries has been, I’ve noticed some really great things come about from it. I get to say:

“I love…”
“I appreciate…”
“Yes!”
“I want…”
“I need…”
“I choose to do…”

and that has brought a huge amount of good into my life. The relationships I have of supportive, encouraging people have been strengthened. Some relationships have gotten better. I’ve stopped blaming other people for my unhappiness, or holding anyone else responsible for it. I feel a little more in control of my life, and that’s a good thing.


Read the full article on making personal boundaries here! It’s really good!

You know Oprah has some good stuff about personal boundaries!

Great article on what characteristics apply if you have no boundaries, week boundaries, or healthy boundaries.

The importance of setting personal boundaries.

Houston, we have a beach!

I bet you thought we’d never make it. I thought we’d never make it! And then, after all the warnings of deathly rogue waves (a secret fear of mine, even while living in Colorado…), I kinda wished we wouldn’t.

But we did!

I present…Pfeiffer Beach, in Big Sur:

In the beginning of the video you will notice a particularly favorite method I have of interacting with my kids. It’s called, “The Opposite Of…” game. The Opposite Of…game means you take a situation, or rule, and then react the opposite of what’s normally expected. Kids with quick, gifted, creative minds tend to get bored easily. (Thus, the over diagnosis of ADD/ADHD in kids who don’t need medicine but rather a quicker learning pace and less busy work!) The unexpected always brings their minds around. So, for instance…

“Life threatening waves and conditions” would usually instill fear. Especially with Golfer, who is prone to excessive worry. The Opposite of…means we cheer and celebrate! Golfer laughs, it stops him from having an anxious breakdown, all is good.

“The most dangerous place to swim is…” obviously it’s where the waves and rocks are. But if I were to point out “the most dangerous place to swim is where the waves and rocks are!” they would stop listening to me by the time I got the 4th word out. The Opposite of…means we look for the least dangerous place…the calm shallow water. Now my kids know where the dangerous places are–they had to look for them to create an opposite place–and they also know where the safest place is. Double the information with half the boredom!

This really works like a charm. The next time your kids are blowing you off or getting bored, just switch over to the opposite of game. When I sent Naturalist and Golfer on a plane by themselves last week, we spent 45 minutes talking about how they should act on the plane. I asked them please, to kick the seat in front of them, snarl at people who looked at them, talk loudly and get into lots of verbal fights, start a food fight with the peanuts, get up and down a lot, and ignore the stewardesses. Then they added in their suggestions, and voila! Instead of tuning me out, they focused on how to behave on a plane while laughing about what it would be like if they did the opposite. I also do this when I’m at my wits end but am trying not to be snarky or biting. Instead of saying “stop whining at me!” I will say, “Hey, you know what I’d love? Could you whine some more, because my brain isn’t overloaded enough and it’s screaming for more whining!” We all laugh, and usually the whining stops. Usually.

Finding Pfeiffer Beach, pt. 2.

Yesterday, when I posted the video about us trying to find the beach, I wasn’t being coy about not showing if we actually found the beach or not. My camera battery died, and so I made the car stop while it charged up and came back to life. Because if a family finds Pfeiffer Beach in the woods, and the iphone isn’t there to make a video of it, does it really happen? I didn’t want to take that chance!

My family indulged me and spent the 10 minutes reciting, by memory, Monty Python monologues and songs. In particular, this lovely gem, which you will see reenacted in the next video in the series.

Perhaps my most favorite exchange with anyone comes halfway through the video, when we finally meet up with the guard in a tollbooth. He was very matter or fact, and took the opportunity to scare the crap out of us touristy people.

Me, reading posted sign: Surf subject to life threatening waves and currents?! Really?!?!
Guard: Uh, yes. Yes. We’ve had drownings.
All of us in the car: …!!!
Guard: And no lifeguards.
All of us in the car: …
Guard: Plus the fact that the water temperature is only 53 degrees…
All of us in the car: !!!…
Me: This beach is not sounding appealing.
Guard: It’s not a swimming beach!
All of us in the car: …

Where I’m from, if there’s a place where drownings occur, without lifeguards, in icy cold water, where you can’t swim…we don’t call it a beach. We call it a death trap. That’s a place to be condemned or something. Maybe that’s why there were no posted signs?

I clutched our pastries, determined to at least see this nightmare of a beach, eat our breakfast, and then get the hell out of there.

Oh, the drama!