March 27, 2014
Categories: Family, Home, Self
boundaries

Boundary setting has taken on a whole new meaning in my life as of late. From left to right: me, daughter #1, her boyfriend and daughter #2

First of all, a sweaty-warm welcome to those of you who found me this week via A Mighty Girl or Rebelle Society. (I live in the latin american tropics. ALL welcomes here are sweaty-warm.)

A few things you might like to know as a newbie:

1. I’m writing my first book at the moment (details below) and thus uncharacteristically quiet around these parts. I’ll be back in full swing just as soon as it’s finished. (Oh wait, THEN I’m moving the family back to the states while launching my book. Ok, so you found me at a crazy time. Still, stick around and I’ll do my best to make it worth your while.)

2. In the meantime, there’s plenty to explore and discover in past posts. Here are a few favorites to get you started:

A post about your beautiful body. 

A post about your superpowers. 

A post about pollution that won’t leave you feeling hopeless. 

3. This is a kick-ass community of big minds and even bigger hearts. If you’re a change maker, rule breaker or risk taker who follows your passions and sees beauty all around you, you’ll fit right in. If you’re none of those things but kinda want to be, by all means, make yourself at home. We’re a friendly bunch, with hardly a hater among us.

Second, a huge hug (look out) to those who’ve contributed to, read and gained from the past three community-wide conversations.

It’s taken a good deal of will power on my part not to comment to your comments (which would defeat the point of a blogging break) because WOW, what a beautiful glimpse into your lovely selves!

Here are the first three conversations for those who missed them:

Feel free to chime in with your unique perspective, and definitely have a look if you’re ever in need of a little inspiration and/or empathy.

And third…about this book!

Two years and four full notebooks later...

Two years and four full notebooks later…

The first draft of Motherwhelmed is finished!

Lest this proclamation conjure up any far-fetched notions of actual completion or finality, allow me to explain what this means:

1. It means I have yet another beautiful mess on my hands.

As if my children, marriage, home, body and mind weren’t enough, there are now approximately 25,000 words crammed into 12 (or 14?) chapters, a ton of subchapters and a shit ton of chicken scratches that I will now attempt to sort, make sense of, organize, do away with, beautify and bring sensibility to. (Yes, actually, it IS a lot like motherhood!)

Here’s what this point in the process feels like:

Imagine you’ve been living abroad for four years and are now moving back to the states, only to a different location than the one you first fled from. You show up to your hometown, find all the stuff you’d stashed in people’s barns and garages, load it into a moving van amidst tearful goodbyes and hit the road. You drive for what feels like forever while the kids fight and beg, requiring that you pull over about every half an hour. Though the scenery is beautiful and you love road trips, you find yourself battling a growing desire to jump out of the car and run for the woods when half your kids start singing Wrecking Ball loudly enough to be heard over the other half who are apparently marking the midline of the backseat with each other’s blood. Arriving at long last, you pull into the driveway of your new rental, announce yourselves HOME!!! and hope to God that the mattresses are easily accessible. The difference between stepping into your empty house (the point I’m at in this book) and actually feeling at home is the equivalent of what lies ahead of me, writing-wise. Unpacking, hoping for no major surprises, tossing whatever the rats ate, meeting the neighbors, settling the kids into new schools, finding the DMV office and thrifting my way back to a functioning household? THESE are the metaphorical tasks at hand.

Good thing I’m getting a trial run first, ’cause we’ll be doing all of that FOR REAL in about three months. (All prayers and peaceful projections welcomed.)

We rent this upstairs apartment (across the street from our house) to tourists by the week.  Since daughter #1 moved back home and #2 started homeschooling,  I escape to its corner porch (aka, my perch) to write whenever it's not occupied.

We rent this upstairs apartment (across the street from our house) to tourists by the week. Since daughter #1 moved back home and #2 started (temporarily) homeschooling, I escape to its corner porch (aka, my perch) to write whenever possible.

2. It means I am eating my words.

This book looks almost nothing like it did two months ago. Different subtitle, different focus and ehem, it’s no longer going to be part of a series. (Go ahead, unsubscribe. I’ll understand.)

What happened? Well, I got 14,000 words in and found myself totally uninspired. I didn’t want to write about Why Modern-Day Motherhood Feels So Frustrating (the old subtitle). I wanted to write about creative solutions and shifting personal perspectives and why today’s mothers are so totally badass and important. As soon as I rethought the whole thing and gave myself permission to change gears completely, writing it became way more fun and I no longer needed three books to cover what I wanted to say. I am now quite fond of what it’s becoming, and assuming you still want to read it (even though I’m admittedly kinda crazy), I think you’re going to dig it, too. (And no, I’m not telling you the new subtitle yet. I’ve done my share of word eating for the time being.)

My perch and writing haven. The trees in the background are in our yard.

My perch. The trees in the background are in our yard.

3. It means that our family Way is undergoing complete metamorphosis.

Because I’ve always been available and the first to drop my plans to meet the kids’ needs, this recent shift into MOM IS WORKING FOR REAL has taken some getting used to. I’m learning that it’s OKAY to say things like, “No, I can’t help you find your i-thingy/favorite pencil/earring back right now. Just keep looking. You’re a good finder!” and “I’d be happy to do that for you…this weekend,” and “Who’s making dinner tonight? Awesome. Here are the car keys and 200 pesos for groceries.”

It’s not been easy, but everyone’s slowly adjusting, and I am quite enjoying the fruits of concentrated and less-frequently interrupted effort.

The view from the other side of the apartment, into our neighbor's "kitchen."

The view from the back side of our apartment, into our neighbors’ outdoor kitchen/living area.

4. It means that SLEEP is my new best friend.

Getting enough sleep is BY FAR the most important factor in my ability to write feeling clear and creative vs. foggy-headed and frustrated. Marie Forleo (from Marie TV, which is pretty great) just did an interview with Arianna Huffington (founder of and editor in chief at Huffington Post) in which they talk about this very thing. I encourage you to check it out, AND TO SLEEP MORE, for your sake and everyone else’s. I, personally, am becoming a big fan of the thirty-minute mid-day nap. Works wonders for the ol’ writer’s block.

So, in keeping with the spirit of this (rather insane) season of my life, let’s talk boundaries!

Community-Wide Conversation #4

Q: Do you struggle with creating and maintaining personal boundaries? Have you improved in this area of your life and if so, how? Have your needs for boundary setting changed over the years? Any words of wisdom for the rest of us? 

Nice checking in with you all, I look forward to hearing from you again, and wish me luck on this second half of the journey!

Love and sweat band,

bethsignature

 

 

 

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March 15, 2014
Categories: Self

solitude 2.jpg

Today marks day one of my *first ever* writing retreat. That’s three days alone, by myself, with NO ONE, in the off-grid jungle development Hunter manages. Did I mention that I am alone, by myself, with NO ONE!!!? I can’t even begin to tell you how good this feels. Can’t. Even.

Before you begin that all-popular thought process of, “Oh yeah, lucky her. SHE gets jungle retreat but not poor little ol’ me,” allow me to clarify something:

I am super introverted. I LOVE to be alone. In my 19 years of motherhood (starting at age 17), I have never, ever, not once allowed myself the “luxury” of time away alone, by myself, with NO ONE.

And why?

Well, why does any of us deprive ourselves of the things we love? Because we can’t afford them? (This place and others have been available to me for free since we moved here.) Our babies need us? (That USED to be true for me.) We feel undeserving of them? We feel guilty when we go away? We think we owe it to those we love to slave away day after noise-filled day? 

Amazing, isn’t it? All the goodness we easily afford others but not ourselves?

Seems like the perfect time for:

Community-Wide Conversation #3

Q: What would you give yourself more of if you felt totally worthy and deserving of it? What gifts do you hold back from yourself and why?

Los Arboles Tulum

This morning, while waking up ALONE…

Los Arboles Tulum

Making breakfast ALONE…

solitude

And breathing in the soul-stirring stillness, ALONE…

Los Arboles Tulum

…it occurred to me:

I would never in a million years question my super-extroverted husband’s need for people, parties and social interaction. My need for solitude is no less legitimate or important. 

Los Arboles Tulum

Self-love has so many layers, doesn’t it? REALLY glad to have peeled away this one.

Back to the book! (which I think you’re gonna love). I sure am having fun writing it!

All kinds of peaceful and filled with gratitude (for my man, especially — what a GLORIOUS surprise),

bethsignature

 

 

 

P.S. There are still a handful of 5-acre lots for sale out here if you’ve ever wanted to own a piece of (fully titled) preserved Mayan jungle. Make sure and tell them I sent you! (And yes, hilariously, that is me in the video.)

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March 7, 2014
Categories: Culture, Self

my friend in her kitchen

Over the next several weeks while I’m focusing on my book, I’ll be offering questions meant to cultivate community-wide discussion. You can check out Conversation #1 (which was awesome) here. Your voice is valuable, much appreciate and a gift to many!

Community-Wide Conversation #2

Q: What do you wish you had known before you _____? (Got married, became a mother, pursued your profession, went to college, got into debt, bought chickens, whatever you’re feeling.)

The purpose of this question is to honor the wisdom born not of expertise but experience, and emphasize the value of shared reflection and retrospection.

Staying focused and sending love,

bethsignature

 

 

 

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February 28, 2014
Categories: Culture, Family

Over the next several weeks while I’m focusing on my book, I’ll be offering questions meant to cultivate community-wide discussion. My hope is to weave some of your responses into Motherwhelmed, as testimonials straight from the trenches. Every contribution to this conversation is valuable, much appreciated and of benefit to others. 

Community-Wide Conversation #1

Q: At this point in your parenting journey, what are your greatest sources of frustration? If you are a seasoned mother (grandmothers, your voices are of particular value!), what do you remember of your frustrations from when your children were younger and how do you see them as different from those of young mothers today?

*Please include your age and the ages of your children.

Feel free to respond to each other’s offerings, share this with your friends and check back throughout the week to read what other mothers have to say!

Can’t wait to hear from you. Back to the book!

bethsignature

 

 

 

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February 18, 2014
Categories: Culture, Family, Self

book cover

I’ve been trying to write a book now for the better part of a year.

Seems 2013 had a few prerequisites for me first. Apparently, before I could gain true traction, I had to:

  • Get clear on the fact that motherhood was never going ease up on my heart (sorry to break it to you, new mamas)
  • Take self care and self-love to a whole new level
  • Reopen deep wounds acquired along my spiritual walk and tend them lovingly this time
  • Meet a human or three essential to my journey
  • Quit apologizing for the pace of life my intuition tells me is best for me and my family
  • Embrace my hopeless idealism as a gift
  • Bust down walls I’d always leaned on in my marriage
  • Learn to lose, and then find my (truer) self in silence and stillness
  • Let go of my “need” for certainty and answers
  • Believe myself worthy and capable of conveying this book’s message

I know, ruthless requirements, right?

Had you told me last February that by this time I’d still not have finished it, I’d have cried, moped about the house and probably sold my soul to a cubicle right then and there (okay, probably not).

Looking back on just how much I DID accomplish this year though — however intangible — I cringe to think of what it (or I) might be had I not waited.

I needed that time. It taught me some pretty huge lessons: 

  1. Seasons of discomfort and deep growth and intense introspection are essential to our humility, our expansion and the refining of our capacities.
  2. A willingness to be broken and a slow mend steeped in the sweetness of the sacred is sometimes the truest way through our toughest of tumults.
  3. Wisdom requires both struggle and surrender.

Check, check and…check.

My first book is now well underway.

Let me try that again.

MY FIRST BOOK IS NOW WELL UNDERWAY!!!!, and I know I did the right thing by waiting because what last year seemed a tiresome burden is now waking me up at 4 a.m. begging for attention (as do all my favorite creative endeavors), requiring I bring a notebook with me everywhere I go (okay, so this is nothing new), bringing out the kinds of self-doubt demons that only bother showing up when they know I really mean business, and urging me emphatically to settle in and start pushing. (Trust me, I know the feeling well. It’s time.)

Thing is, until recently I’d kinda been freaking out, as this book seemed impossibly (and impassably) BIG. Little did I know that all along I’ve been carrying…triplets!

Ok, enough with the birth analogy. I’m writing a series, it’s gonna be awesome and its name sums it up:

Motherwhelmed

Why Modern-Day Motherhood Feels So Frustrating

 

Though I dare not divulge too many details just yet (as this project CLEARLY has a mind of its own), I can tell you that the books will be divided more or less as follows:

  • part I: that which is beyond us
  • part II: that which is around us
  • part III: that which is within us

Giving myself permission to break it up this way feels way more fun, entirely more consistent with the life I want to live and yeah, considering that title…

So, for the next several weeks? month? month and a half? I’m entering a phase of SUPER FOCUS. My plan is to rent a beach hut with a full-time cook and no internet write as much as I can while still keeping the children alive, until the first book is out.

Meanwhile — because a. the longer I live abroad and more I learn to love myself, the less allured by (and capable of) multitasking I become and b. I now have a looming deadline (keep reading!) — I’ll be saving my voice for the book (mostly) and opening the conversation up to YOU.

Every week, I’ll throw out a question that I think merits community-wide discussion. You all can then comment away, mingle amongst yourselves and solve planetary/humanitary dilemmas as you see fit.

A couple of the questions I pose will be “anthropological research” for the book. With your permission, I may then quote some of your responses, according to their relevance and deliciousness.  

By the time I return, I will have sent Part I to my editor (are you my editor?), found a kick-ass cover illustrator (are you my cover artist?) and learned everything there is to know about self-publishing and marketing ebooks to as many people as possible.

Motherwhelmed? Who me?

Now, about this deadline: 

This summer will make four years since we moved the family to Mexico. Our goal of “one year abroad to slow our pace and learn a little Spanish” has turned into the single most influential and transformative time of our lives to-date. Mexico is in us forever and for good, I’m not the same person I was when we left, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

AND, our family’s needs are changing quickly. The girls are growing up ridiculously fast, my professional path is taking shape (and Hunter’s is changing course completely) and considering where we’re headed (hello, houseful of teenage girls!?) we need a tribe of families again, like yesterday.

So, this summer, we’re moving back to the states. Not to Austin (I know {sniff}, I’m sorry to break it you this way, sweet-friends-who’d-not-yet-heard-the-news) but to a much smaller town in western North Carolina where time spent on superhighways is the exception, not the daily norm. (Truly, Austin Tribe — it’s not you, it’s the car time.)

We’re really excited, kinda sad and a little intimidated about yet another enormous transition, but mostly…we’re ready.

(Ok, not quite, but we will be come June.)

Taking a little blogging break is gonna sting a little, given that I’m all fired up and ready to write about so many topics, but alas, I’ll just have to wait until I’ve earned the floor again, so to speak — ’cause floors in the states are way more expensive.

With so much love and gratitude for your encouragement along this journey,

I’ll be back soon!

bethsignature

 

 

 

P.S. I truly am looking to assemble a team of talent for this and future projects and would love to support friends and friends of friends. Any recommendations for amazing (professional, affordable) editors, illustrators, cover artists and graphic designers would be much appreciated. And to those of you with experience related to any of the aforementioned, consider your advice hereby solicited!

P.P.S. I’ll still be active on my Facebook page while breaking from the blogging. Hope to see you there!

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February 8, 2014
Categories: Culture

Coca-Cola Super Bowl Commercial

Dear Coca-Cola Company,

I’m writing you today regarding the commercial you recently aired during the Super Bowl and again last night during the Olympics opening ceremony. Your feel-good, multilingual “America the Beautiful” rendition sure has stirred controversy among the American public, hasn’t it?

A handful of folks were flustered by your portrayal of the US as a cultural melting pot. Don’t mind them. ALL efforts toward a more tolerant, integrated and loving society ought to be commended.

Thanks for that.

What so many seem to have missed, though, is that any time a multi-billion dollar corporation makes a multi-million dollar move, it does so strategically. And when a giant conglomerate paints itself as a lover of all races, it automatically wins favor among minorities and non-racist majorities alike.

And that’s good for business.

In other words, if most everyone in the U.S. loves you and thinks you love them back, they will continue to support and fund you. The more well-loved and well-funded you are, the more empowered and equipped to carry out your latest mission:

Rapid and thorough invasion of the global market. 

This mission is blindingly evident from my current vantage point.

You see, the U.S. is my homeland, but I currently live in southern Mexico, where your products are ridiculously popular. In fact, your popularity as a soda manufacturer is paralleled only by your growing popularity as water distributor.

Here’s where your front of interracial love dissolves into a heap of diversions and dishonesty:

  • By privatizing, monopolizing and contaminating public water supplies (as you have in many areas of the world), you create need for your products within already-disadvantaged and dependent communities.
  • By charging more for your bottled water than your sodas and sugary “juice” drinks, you encourage addiction, further dependency and deeper embed yourself within local cultures.
  • By plastering your brand on village shacks, giving handouts to build your brand as benevolent and pushing excessive sugar consumption in areas with little to no access to health education, you’ve helped solidify Mexico’s obesity and diabetes rates as some of the highest in the world.

The last time I rode a bus through the mountain villages of Chiapas (the most impoverished state in this country), I snapped a few photos through the glass-paned window. In an hour’s time, I saw not a handful, but hundreds of advertisements that show your true heart for the citizens of this planet.

To be fair, I’ll not be exclusive. Your main competitor is giving you a run for your money:

Chiapas Coca-Cola 1

Chiapas Coca-Cola 2

Chiapas Coca-Cola 6

Chiapas Coca-Cola 3

Chiapas Coca-Cola 4

Chiapas Coca-Cola 7

Chiapas Coca-Cola 9

Chiapas Coca-Cola 11

Chiapas Coca-Cola 12

Chiapas Coca-Cola 8

Chiapas Coca-Cola 14

Chiapas Coca-Cola 10

Chiapas Coca-Cola 16

Chiapas Coca-Cola 15

Interesting.

It’s almost as if you are trying to convince minority groups in Mexico of your loyalty to their beautiful country.

Chiapas Coca-Cola

Photo Credit: {link:http://futurechallenges.org/local/coca-cola-globalization-inside-contemporary-mayan-world/}Future Challenges{/link}

Coca-Cola Chiapas 1

Photo credit: {link:http://mexicoretold.com/2013/05/01/chamula-chanting-and-coca-cola/}Mexico Retold{/link}

coke_doing_damage_mexico

Photo credit: {link:http://killercoke.org/nl110916.php}Unthinkable Undrinkable{/link}

Every day, I observe young children running errands for their mothers. The number who return home wobbling beneath the weight of a three liter bottle is staggering.

Every day, I see another one of your distribution trucks restocking dirt-floored mom and pop shops with your brilliantly marketed recipe for poor health and disease.

Every day, I breathe through my frustration and try my hardest to correct toward compassion, having witnessed yet another manifestation of your trusted influence.

My beef with your recent commercial boils down to this: 

  • Claiming to be in support of cultural diversity, then compromising water supplies in the world’s poorest regions is inconsistent.
  • Painting yourselves as supporters of ethnic minorities, then painting indigenous communities with propaganda for profit is dishonest.
  • Winning the hearts and trust of the American public, then marketing your products (using the resulting profits) to the developing world with power disproportionate to your level of social responsibility is unethical.

So, while I commend you for bringing awareness to the need for total cultural acceptance, let’s be honest with the diverse and beautiful American people about the singular motivation behind your message:

Money.

Coca-Cola Mexico

Because if you really cared about all ethnicities, you’d put warning labels instead of promises on every bottle.

If you really cared about immigrant minorities, you’d stop pushing poison on their far-away families.

If you really cared about racial diversity, you’d take your billboard off Lupita’s roadside shack and replace it with health info graphics or diabetes symptoms or a fresh coat of white paint.

And if you really cared about the people living in the US from all over the planet, you’d find more mindful ways to spend your money than putting up a false front during a football game.

But then, none of that would be good for business, and without an ice cold Coca-Cola in our hands, how would we remember that our country is beautiful?

Concerned U.S. (and global) citizen,

Beth Berry

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January 29, 2014
Categories: Culture, Family, Self

Beth Berry

Dear “Beauty” Industry,

I write you today, both in awe of your influence and well aware of the degree of deception with which you have obtained it. To be clear, this is not hate mail. I don’t write hate mail, because I am not a hater.

I am a lover.

The things I love most are those I see as beautiful, which might seem a bit ironic considering that beauty is what you claim to know all about, but herein lies the reason for my letter:

The “beauty” you’re selling is bullshit.

Which means you are making a mockery of true beauty; of the things I love the most.

I write in defense of this beauty.

There’s no denying that you’ve been a part of my sphere of influence since I was a little girl, just as you mold and shape every small child. Fortunately, though, I had other, more powerful influences that helped me see through your smokescreen from an early age.

Influences like:

  • Frequent exposure to nature.
  • A mother with self respect who took care of and never insulted her body.
  • A father who empowered his daughters to be anything we wanted.
  • Parents who told me I was valuable and showed me with plenty of love and attention.
  • A strong community of diverse and caring people whom I always knew I could trust.
  • Patient teachers who validated my ideas and encouraged my uniqueness.

These gifts birthed in me a strong sense that beauty is not something to be bought, but something we first tune into and then cultivate based on the stirrings within our souls.

Which is the reason I know your “beauty” to be a scam.

You have mastered your art. There’s no denying that you’re good at what you do. It’s just that what you do isn’t good:

You lie to little girls.
You confuse young boys.
You perpetuate self-loathing in adolescents.
You manipulate images of already-beautiful bodies into unachievable, inhuman shapes in order to present “beauty” as just beyond our reach.

It’s genius, really. Deceive us when we’re little, make empty promises while we’re desperately seeking to define ourselves, then contort our perceptions of what’s possible and just like that…you’ve got customers for life.

But not me. Because I’m not buying it.

The photo at the top of the page? I felt beautiful at the time it was taken.

Because I use all your latest and greatest anti-aging serums?

Because I’ve finally achieved your promises of perfection?

Because I was sporting my spanx and boosting my bust, having recently shaven myself smooth?

Not even close.

I felt beautiful when that photo was taken because I was standing against a dilapidated seaside fishing shack, windblown from dancing wildly, right smack dab in the middle of manifesting my dreams.

I felt beautiful when that photo was taken because I’d been painted by sunshine, not some “prettifying” product.

I felt beautiful when that photo was taken because the man behind the camera not only loves me completely, but finds me beautiful and sexy and mysterious because of all the “imperfections” you would have me alter, lift, tuck or smooth away.

I felt beautiful when that photo was taken because I was outside — in the womb of true beauty — claiming the oneness with creation offered us all.

But perhaps more than any of that, I felt beautiful when that photo was taken because I am aging, which means I am increasingly sure of and happy with who I am apart from your influence.

I don’t need you to define beauty for me. I got this.

Thing is, not every little girl grows up believing she is beautiful.

Maybe no one told her they liked her ideas.

Maybe the images on tv were more beautiful than the fighting in the next room, so she chose the better of the two.

And not every little boy feels safe enough to explore the beauty all around him.

Maybe he’s never been told or shown he was capable. 

Maybe no one’s ever taken him on a boat or around a mountain pass at sunrise.

These kids trust the “experts” to show them what’s beautiful, and your lies become their foundation.

As an industry, you should know that I and many others are working against you. Not with millions in the bank or through manipulative marketing, but by using our unique strengths and voices, born of the very beauty we seek to protect:

We’re empowering our daughters to love themselves and know bullshit when they see it.

We’re teaching our sons how to spot something truly stunning, whether she’s wearing heels or its branches make good shade.

We’re healing our cultural wounds, rewriting has-been stories and claiming the right to define beauty for ourselves.

You are more powerful now than you were when I was young, which means your influence in my daughters’ lives will be even harder for them to resist and overcome.

But I’m not worried about my daughters. You know why?

Because we dance wildly in fishing shacks, painted by sunshine.

Because they’ve seen ocean tides and mountainsides and sunsets for comparison.

Because we surround them with confident and caring people who love life and live it well.

And mostly, because they’ve been taught what real beauty feels like.

Grateful for your contribution to my understanding,
Beth Berry

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January 24, 2014
Categories: Self
tools of the trade: my desk chair, yoga mat and foam roller

tools of the trade: my desk chair, yoga mat and foam roller

I love yoga. And I love writing. In fact, I start to feel a little crazy when I break from either for very long.

Unfortunately, though, the two don’t seem to like each other very well. At least not in my body, and especially not after birthing four babies.

I’ve maintained a fairly consistent yoga practice for about twelve years now. (Usually vinyasa, and usually in my living room.)

I also write nearly every day, which means I sit for long stretches in one position.

Upon moving to Tulum, I picked up the pace of both. Inspired by the warm weather, a desire for daily devotion and the fact that this place is a yoga mecca, I increased my mat time to an hour and a half and went deeper into my practice than I’d ever gone. (And it was awesome…at first.)

Inspired, too, by my quiet house (kids finally all in school), emerging passions and time abroad, I upped my writing load, sitting for as many as eight hours at a time.

My mind and spirit LOVED it.

My body did not.

The pain began in my neck. Repeatedly (while doing yoga or sometimes even while sitting), I’d feel a “pop,” then experience discomfort and limited mobility for the next four days.

Then came a tightness in my lower back, which soon spread around to the front of my hips. The discomfort and tension became so great that I could hardly get comfortable in any position, whether sitting, standing or lying down.

So naturally (duh), I did MORE YOGA. It was the only thing I knew to alleviate the pain, if only temporarily. When I’d sit again, however, it hurt so much that I could hardly think about anything else.

Weeks went by before I finally admitted to myself that the yoga was making matters worse.

I got my google on, figured out that the pain was radiating from my psoas and incorporate stretches to alleviate the apparently-tight muscle. I backed off the yoga, but as soon as I’d practice again or put in a long day of writing, the pain intensified.

Aggravated and tired of hurting, I vowed to get some answers during our trip home to Austin.

{Enter…My Hero}

Jesse is a Movement Specialist who specializes in NeuroKinetic Therapy, foam roller therapy, restorative movement, personal training, and overall self-care techniques.

Within a few sessions, he was able to identify muscle groups that weren’t engaging, others that were consequently being overused, and customize a plan for correcting back to “normal.”

By the time we left Austin five weeks later, my pain was almost completely gone. Six months later, I have resumed my yoga practice (very slowly, very cautiously), I still write for a good portion of every day and still…no pain!

I am now, however, a foam roller addict. When I feel a little tension coming on, I get out the foam roller. Before a long yoga session, I use the foam roller. If I anticipate a day in the car, I spend a good half hour working those areas I know are prone to tension. It’s truly made all the difference for me.

While working together, Jesse described mine as a fairly typical set of circumstances and explained that mothers are by far his largest group of clients.

So I thought it’d be great to ask him a few questions and help shed some light on why chronic pain has become so common.

(And no, this is not a paid promotion, just something I believe in.)

Re-wiring the Body: An Interview with One of My Heroes

First of all, Jesse, a million thanks for helping me back to “normal.” Though I’ve coined you my “hero” somewhat jokingly, the epidemic of chronic pain in our country is no joke at all, which makes people like you pretty darn heroic in my book.

So, will you describe for us what it is you do?

First, thank you Beth for offering me this opportunity. I appreciate the sentiment of being called a hero, but that is not what I consider myself. If anything, I help release the hero potential in people like you. Every one of us has an amazing gift: this human body which carries us through the world. It has the awesome capacity to serve us physically and emotionally.

When our body is in balance, we move with efficiency and grace. When we are out of balance, movement is inefficient and can feel stiff, rigid, challenged, and/or painful. Pain often brings with it anger, frustration and fear. Living in this state of pain and emotional turmoil prevents us from living our greatest potential.

This is where I (and other therapists) can help. The magnificent human body has the ability to heal itself. This power is within each of us. I help my clients walk through their emotional minefield and slowly change their relationship with pain. Through the work I do, I help show them how to bring their body back into balance.

What do you suspect was causing my pain, specifically?

Specifically, it is hard to say. I suspect that you have a history of hip and shoulder instability due to the combinations of previous injury, child rearing a brood, and computer work. With Yoga, you added mobility training, i.e. flexibility, to an unstable foundation, and your body recruited other muscles to compensate and stabilize that foundation. Over time, these compensation patterns become overworked and painful. I discuss this a bit more below.

Can you speak to some of the more common causes of chronic pain that so many face in our culture?

I believe the majority of chronic pain in our culture is purely movement based. Our bodies have an immense range of healthy movement potential. Most people do not utilize their potential on a regular basis, if ever. The old saying “if you don’t use it, you lose it” is very true when it comes to moving. When we don’t use our full movement potential, our functional range shrinks into the positions we utilize the most, and it must stabilize within this new range.

It’s like being slowly wrapped tighter and tighter into an ever shrinking movement box. When we suddenly attempt to move outside the box — e.g. bending over, lifting something over our heads, or reaching and turning backwards, we experience injury. The injury results from the fact that our body doesn’t feel safe moving outside of the box. Muscles strain and spasm to pull us back into our comfort zones. What the body is attempting to communicate is that we need to fully explore all movement safely, prior to injury. Unfortunately, when most people experience this pain they shrink even further into the box. An example is someone who doesn’t squat because of knee pain. Or someone who doesn’t raise their arm overhead because of shoulder pain.

What is meant by “rewiring” the body and why is it so important?

Our nervous system rules movement and is wired like a circuit board. Each circuit pathway connects to a movement pattern. As I said above, our movement potential shrinks into the patterns we utilize most and our body must stabilize within this smaller range. Our nervous system is incredibly efficient. It maintains and even strengthens the circuit pathways we use most and drops the ones we neglect. If you stop moving your arm, the nervous system removes the ability to move that arm from the circuit board. Restoring full movement function means getting out of the rigid box and exploring your fullest potential.

How are women’s bodies different post-pregnancy and how might we go about respecting this natural adjustment?

This is a simple and complex question to answer.

Simply put, you just grew a human in your body and that alone elicits a tremendous amount of change. Once born, a child spends its first several years attached externally to your body, usually in the form of being carried on one hip.

During this time, it is common for a new mom to neglect exercise and self care. Their movement potential diminishes, and this can have a major impact on their body. This is the number one reason that moms make up the majority of my clientele. I help them re-prioritize their health and wellbeing.

The complex answer is every person has a different life story, movement history, and experiences with pain and injury, as well as an individual path to recovery. Much of how a woman’s body changes post pregnancy begins months and years prior to getting pregnant. I feel that our society does not place enough emphasis on optimal physical and emotional health, prior to pregnancy. If you are experiencing movement dysfunction prior to pregnancy, carrying a child both inside your body and then outside for the next several years can wreak havoc upon your body.

The foam roller has been super effective for me. Can you explain how it works?

Foam roller therapy helps by talking directly to your nervous system. When a muscle is short, spastic, and tight, it is receiving too much neural input. With gentle pressure on a foam roller or another self massage tool, such as a tennis ball or Thera-cane, we can tone down a muscle’s neural input so it can lengthen, relax, and release. This helps reduce pain and discomfort, improve joint mobility, and increase range of motion.

I recommend foam roller therapy as general, full body, preventative self care, not necessarily to fix specific pain and injury. Foam roller therapy alone will not fix painful movement. If something hurts for more than a week or two, you need the help of a Movement Specialist.

Are there specific self-care practices you would recommend to readers?

Yes, absolutely.

It begins with practicing healthy pain-free movement. Each day, slowly explore your full movement potential. If it hurts, then move to the limit of your pain-free range–no further–then expand into fuller ranges over time. As Scott Sonnon, one of my favorite movement practitioners, often says, “Move to the tension, not through the tension.” I’ve been utilizing his simple joint by joint movement program for myself and clients as a daily practice. For help restoring movement, check out Scott Sonnon’s IntuFlow DVD Series.

The kind of work described above is different than modalities such as Yoga, which in its own right is a great practice. However, I see many injuries from seemingly “gentle” practices. This is because our structural balance comes from the dynamic interplay of stability and mobility. If you have issues of instability in the hips and shoulders, adding in mobility training such as Yoga without first addressing the instability can exacerbate these issues. The body will compensate elsewhere for stability. This is generally where pain begins. Similar to your experience.

I also recommend foam roller therapy as a weekly practice to aid in work or exercise recovery, reduce discomfort, and improve movement function. A caveat is foam roller therapy increases mobility. As I state above, if instability isn’t addressed first, adding such a practice can cause problems.

Anything else you would like to add about your services? How should folks go about finding a good therapist in their area?

Most importantly, I absolutely love what I do. Walking my clients through the process of healing and into healthy pain-free movement, changing their relationship with pain, and witnessing them grow from the process is the most fulfilling work imaginable to me. When I was young, I wanted to change the world. I feel like I now get that opportunity every day.

As far as finding a good therapist who works with chronic pain and injury, I have a few suggestions.

  1. You are not your pain. Pain is a beautiful opportunity to make significant fundamental change in your life
  2. Interview your therapists to ensure that the two of you are a good fit.
  3. Look for a therapist who focuses on how the entire body works as a unit. If you have knee pain, and your therapist only focuses on the knee, I’d suggest finding a different therapist.
  4. If you don’t see results within 4-8 sessions, don’t give up. Find somebody new. Keep looking until somebody helps you. There are many modalities of therapy out there, and each will help some. Not one of them will help everyone. And not all therapists are created equal.
  5. The therapy modality that I practice with pretty amazing results is called Neurokinetic Therapy. Check out the link to see if a certified practitioner is in your area.
  6. If you need guidance or support, join The Injury Corner, a Facebook Group I’ve created. I’ve asked some of the top movement specialists in the country to add their support and expertise. Thus far the group has proved incredibly beneficial to those seeking advice about chronic pain and injury.

Lastly, I have many articles on my website that discuss common issues in greater detail. You can also find healing and recovery suggestions, as well as other helpful self-care tips there.

You can follow me on Facebook too.

—–

Thanks, Jesse! It’s been a pleasure.

More than just a promotion of Jesse’s work, I offer this post toward increased self-awareness and holistic healing. In our pill-popping and instant solution-seeking society, it can be easy to resort straight away to the “band-aids,” but true and lasting healing always takes time.

Can’t afford most alternative therapies? Me, either! We just have to get creative. Swap services, shop around or find a therapist in training. In my experience, many alternative-minded therapists are also open to alternative methods of payment.

Be well, my friends!

Beth

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January 15, 2014
Categories: Culture, Family, Self

beach 4

It finally stopped raining last weekend. (The locals swear they’ve never seen a year this wet.) Naturally, we packed our beach bags, cleaned out the fridge and proclaimed it a picnic! then hightailed it out of the house to what many have described as:

The most beautiful beach in the world…

beach

The water was stunning. Always is. Pelicans swooped and palms danced and clouds drifted dreamily, as usual.

The kids bolted for the waves, we made camp, made cozy, made furniture…

beach 16

Then for safety’s sake, plowed a path from our picnic to the water…

beach 9

Before I continue, before your emotions pull you under like the tide, I have a request of you:

Open back up. Any hopelessness or fear or frustration you felt from the very first photo? Let it go.

Just breathe for a minute. Drop the judgements, any stories, all the anger. You can pick them back up at the end of this post if you want, but for now, let’s just stay…curious.

Better?

beach 2

By far, the most common reaction I hear from vacationers who explore this region’s beaches (beyond those manicured every morning) is:

“Wow. How sad.”

beach 6

And while I get it (such reactions are easy, after all), I’ve been questioning the usefulness of this kind of thinking lately. Its usefulness to me, to our planet and to our perception of the “problems” themselves.

Here’s what I wonder:

At what point does the situation become sad?

When our waste washes up en masse? Or when the very first bottle cap landed on foreign soil and foretold the plastic pilgrimage to come?

Why don’t I feel the same sadness while making dinner/buckling her seatbelt/watching them color?

Why does it hurt more when I toss something than when I first select it from rows of prettily packaged promises?

Was it sad while being hugged by a small child, or not until it washed up dismembered, the embrace left behind leagues ago?

beach7

Is it sadder that corporations are not held accountable or that we don’t always hold ourselves to the highest of standards?

Is the greater brokenness within our systems or within the peoples’ hearts who create them?

Mostly, I ask myself (and now you):

Of what benefit is it to observe the consequences of our choices — choices we’ve all benefitted from in some way — and attach negative labels to them? 

Why is it that when we see trash washed ashore, for example, we don’t feel gratitude for the experiences and enrichment it represents?

{Keep breathing. They’re just questions.}

beach 12

A yoga teacher of mine once said that a negative emotion should only be held for 90 seconds before we begin to release it. That 90 seconds is enough time for it to serve its purpose: steering us away from harm and toward our deepest truth.

In this light, whether we settle into the sadness or allow it to guide us toward something greater (deeper truth, higher consciousness, bliss, the image of God – choose your flavor), is entirely up to us and ultimately determines our effectiveness in creating change.

In fact, settling for sadness without digging deeper to the lessons beneath it seems remarkably similar to dumping our waste in the ocean. It’s like saying, “I don’t know where else to put it,” and tossing it somewhere so vast that its significance seems somehow lessened. Thing is, life doesn’t actually work that way. Waste, whether literal or figurative, simply moves about and resurfaces again somewhere else.

Cumulative negative emotions are no less toxic to our consciousness than cumulative plastic is to the planet.

And as Eckhart Tolle reminds us, consciousness counts:

“If your mind carries a heavy burden of past, you will experience more of the same. The past perpetuates itself through lack of presence. The quality of your consciousness at this moment is what shapes the future.”

So the same must apply to our collective consciousness. Meaning, the stories we tell ourselves as a species matter, too.

  • What if instead of holding onto the story that we’re destroying the planet, we act as if we just arrived here and simply work with what we see before us, correcting evermore intuitively.
  • What if we observed the world not with judgement and fear, but curiosity and creativity?
  • What if we approach the world’s “problems” as we do artistic endeavors or true love or a game for which we’re conditioned, instead of impossibly enormous tragedies to be averted?

Fortunately, we need not look far for examples of this exact distinction in thinking. In the absence of judgement, children have no problem:

Discovering treasures…

beach 11

Seeing potential…

beach day

Making do…

two

Envisioning opportunity…

beach 10

And figuring shit out…

beach 18

Kids aren’t wired to see tragedy. They’re wired to see possibility.

I can’t help but think that if we had half their curiosity and half our own fear and judgement, we’d be solving these dilemmas twice as fast.

beach 3

I don’t have all the answers. No one else does, either. But I don’t really think answers are what we need right now. I think what we need are bigger and deeper questions.

About the reasons we’ve become so complacent and detached from the very life force that sustains us.

About the relevance of negative thoughts given ever-present abundance.

About the effectiveness of fear vs. compassion and empathy.

About the roots and the fruits of judgement.

About what coming generations truly need from us.

beach

Yesterday, as I was wrapping up this post and contemplating its ending, I ran across an article about a guy named Wade Davis and was delighted to have found a kindred wanderer/ponderer.

A world renowned anthropologist and explorer, Wade writes,

“The world is not dying. It’s not falling apart. It’s changing. What young generation has ever come into its own in a world free of peril?…I personally believe that pessimism is an indulgence, despair an insult to the imagination. There are wonderfully positive things out there…I tire of those who fuel the flames of fear.”

Me too, Wade. You and me and so many others.

Tulum’s beaches are still beyond beautiful. You can still come here and see paradise exactly as it’s painted on the postcards. But to those of you who can handle it, to those whose hearts are whole enough to bear yet another break, I encourage you to get off the beaten path, see what paradise actually looks like (in your neck of the woods, for starters) and accept it exactly the way it is. Then, after 90 seconds, take your sadness and release it to the sea.

Of course, you don’t have to. Just like you don’t have to refrain from tossing your trash to the tide.

Tulum beach

“The emotion of fear often works overtime. Even when there is no immediate threat, our body may remain tight and on guard, our mind narrowed to focus on what might go wrong. When this happens, fear is no longer functioning to secure our survival. We are caught in the trance of fear and our moment-to-moment experience becomes bound in reactivity. We spend our time and energy defending our life rather than living it fully.”
― Tara Brach, Radical Acceptance

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January 6, 2014
Categories: Family, Self

Hands Free Mama

Over my vacation (which was incredible, thanks for asking!), I had the distinct pleasure, honor and privaledge of reading Rachel Macy Stafford’s very first book gift to humanity, which hits the shelves tomorrow, and which — trust me — you aren’t going to want to miss.

Hands Free Mama: A Guide to Putting Down the Phone, Burning the To-Do List, and Letting Go of Perfection to Grasp What Really Matters is nothing short of a treasure; a timely, desperately-needed, soul-stirring message to those of us awake enough to notice the beauty all around us, but so laden by our loads and burdened by busy that we’ve hardly a free hand to accept it.

I stumbled upon Rachel’s blog about a year ago and was reduced elevated to tears by her eloquent storytelling, honest self-reflection and brave vulnerability. Since then, I’ve been moved time and again by her offerings and have come to anticipate her posts like gracious gifts in my inbox.

Talented as she is though, Rachel is no mere wordsmith. Rachel…is a healer. 

Few are able (and fewer still willing) to face their darkest demons and examine the brokenness within, then piece themselves back together with so much grace, love and non-judgement that the end result makes you want to do the same.

She GOES THERE, and kindly invites us to join her.

With chapters like:

  • Acknowledge the Cost of Your Distraction
  • Make Purposeful Connection
  • Silence the Inner Critic and
  • Reveal Your True Self

Rachel circumvents the dime-a-dozen pragmatic parenting paradigms that appeal to the intellect only, and goes straight for the heart while weaving stories with such wisdom and reason that the intellect is fed all the same.

A refreshing reminder that WE must set the pace by which we want to live, her findings parallel my own discovery since living abroad:

When I’m not rushing through life at high speed,

When my schedule isn’t jam-packed with every spare moment accounted for,

When my attention isn’t consumed by the buzzing electronic device gripped tightly in my hand,

When I’m freed from unnecessary pressures,

Then the minor inconveniences like waiting in line don’t bother my so much. I actually start to see all moments–even the bad, frustrating, and tiresome ones–as gifts.

Why?

Because I am alive to experience them…and the significance of that fact should not be underestimated.

Perhaps most importantly though, Rachel proves, through an honest look into her own once-distracted and burdened-by-trivialities lifestyle that as long as we’re alive, it’s never too late to heal.  It’s never too late to connect. 

hands free pledge

My advice to you?

Go there with her. She’ll show you her heart, she’ll show you YOUR heart and shine light on your journey back to what matters most.

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December 19, 2013
Categories: Family

tent

We’re headed “home” for the holidays tomorrow. Home (in this case) meaning Pennsylvania, where I have never actually lived but where my folks, my sisters and their families and my eldest daughter will be waiting with coats and boots and hugs enough to keep us from freezing in our flip flops.

Yesterday, while packing and cleaning the fridge and making ready last-minute, it occurred to me that most of us, whether coming or going, preparing for departure or anticipating a hungry houseful are carrying extra stress right now, not necessarily because we HAVE to be, but because we think we should.

We think we should bake cookies for everyone’s teachers.

We think we should buy a little something special for our boss, our girlfriends, the guest bathroom.

We think we should clear “unsightly” evidence of life from our kitchen counters, the laundry room floor, the backdoor coat rack.

And while I get it (I mean, I don’t care to come home to moldy leftovers either) the idea of my people stressing out in anticipation of my arrival — of ME — kind of bums me out.

So, I thought I’d clarify a few things before heading north:

I don’t care that your bookshelf is shoved full of un-filed papers and half-finished projects. I like to see the way you live.

I probably won’t even notice that your pantry is a wreck, and if I do, I’ll smile knowing we have one more thing in common.

I don’t mind stepping over your dirty clothes pile to get to the toilet. I do it every day. 

And if your bathrooms aren’t clean yet by the time I get there, just point me toward the scrub brush and give me twenty minutes. I’m pretty good at it.

What I do mind is that you might be a bit of a mess right now on account of me. That instead of holiday cheer, you’re living the all-popular holiday hell just so you can be sure the halls are decked and the pies pretty. What I do mind is that you’re stuck in traffic instead of warming your toes by a fire with a hot mug of sweetness. And what I do mind is that your kids see you stressed in order that I might see you calm and collected.

I realize there’s not a single photo of a dirty sink or a messy mudroom anywhere you’re shopping or looking for last-minute inspiration, which can leave you feeling like you’re the only one whose house doesn’t feel like a gingerbread fairytale right about now.

Here’s a thought: maybe it does. Maybe the sweetest gingerbread houses have laundry stacked on every horizontal plane, just like at our house…

laundry

Maybe the fairest of all forget to take out the compost, too…

compost

Maybe a crowded coat rack is just a journal of our journeys…

coatrack

And abstract yard art a tangible twist in the tale…

toilet

Everyday normalcy need not be hidden or rushed through in order to get to the good stuff. Everyday normalcy is the good stuff.

And so, dear loved ones, what do you say we make a deal? I promise not to look under your couches or measure your worth by the height of your laundry mountain, if you promise not to forgo making a merry mess or taking a needed nap on account of me.

Because the truth is, all I want for Christmas is time together, and nothing you can buy, make or bake is worth more to me than your peace, your joy and the quality of your NOW.

fire

Have a beautiful break, my friends. Sending love from my home to yours.

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December 12, 2013
Categories: Culture, Family, Home

Redefine Christmas (Without Offending Anyone)

As with most, I learned this lesson the hard way. (Okay, so I’m a little stubborn.)

I never intended to hurt feelings, or be that daughter-in-law or come across as fussy about food, a hardened hand-crafter or anti-dolls that defecate (okay, so I’m sticking with that last one). It’s just that my ideal Christmas has always been a bit more gasp-in-delight-over-new-handknit-mittens-while-savoring-a-single-stick-of-peppermint than fifty-presents-each-she’s-going-to-know-when-I-ditch-that-lifesize-Barbie, and in the early days of motherhood, compromising my values with regards to my children stirred up a sort of get-your-paws-off-my-bear-cub protectiveness that rendered me, well…a big pain in the ass, probably.

The thing you don’t realize as a new-ish (passionate, perfectionistic) mom is that your own mother, or mother-in-law, or Great Mammy Gram Grams or whoever The Holiday Way trickles down from once fought (or sold her hair) for her kind of Christmas. And to her, your way is probably just as Backwoods Hippie Cultish as hers is Kill the Oceans Quick! to your sensibilities.

Truth is, my inner conflict regarding this season hasn’t changed much:

  • I am still dumbfounded by the notion of excessive, needless consuming in the name of Jesus, of all people.

  • The hustle and stress we’ve deemed “festive” still goes against the calm, introspective pace that feels instinctual to me come winter.

  • My kids still turn into monsters when exhausted, overstimulated, high on sugar and bombarded with mixed messages (mother vs. marketers, who else?).

  • And I still don’t want the clutches of consumer culture all up in my celebrations, especially not at the expense of the environment, my family’s together time and my children’s sense of what’s important, worthy and wonderful.

(Trust me, I could go on.)

BUT, after 19 years of black-sheeping it, and reflecting back to both the times when I went way overboard trying to keep everything as “pure” as possible (and handcrafting my way to hell and back again by Christmas morning) and other years when I gave up and gave IN (to the 300-piece make-up set implanted in the backside of a rainbow-maned ungulate), I now see things that weren’t clear to me before:

Like the preciousness and brevity of a mother’s time with her grown children and just how much she lives to see them all together.

Like how much energy it requires to prepare elaborate meals for 10, 20+ people to begin with, never mind catering to the preferences of the first generation EVER to deem gluten poison and free-range turkeys worth half a year’s wages.

Like how unique and valuable each grandparent/grandchild connection really is, and what a gift to us all that someone else loves our kids in ways we never will.

Like how you don’t end up remembering the details that seemed so significant at the time, but that you rarely forget the associated feelings.

Redefine Christmas (Without Offending Anyone)

I do believe there’s a sweet spot somewhere between our ideal, best case scenario and the surrendering of our values for the sake of peacekeeping. Perhaps we know we’re there when we’re able to be both true to ourselves and empathic toward everyone around us.

May the following reflections, based on my own lessons learned (though never completely), be a gift to you and yours as the season unfolds…

How to Make Christmas Your Way (Kind Of)

  1. Decide how you want your holidays to feel. If it’s simple you’re going for, there are many ways to achieve this overall feeling (and even more ways to prevent it). If it’s connected, prioritize accordingly. Focusing on the feeling instead of the to-do list encourages presence and eliminates the needless, nagging sense of obligation.

  2. Check your moral imperatives. My moral imperative is just that: it’s mine and mine alone. Your set of values is based upon your own experience of the world, and no doubt, you’ve got me beat when it comes to something virtuous. Judgement divides us and kills connection. When we choose to focus on living admirable virtues instead of sticking our nose in other peoples’, everyone wins.

  3. Go slow. Most traditions take years, even generations to form. Undoing them, or establishing new ones in their place might be better thought of as five or fifty year goals. Subtle shifts are more likely to be embraced and cherished in the long run anyway.

  4. Consider the culture “they” grew up and/or raised kids in. Given that ours was the first generation raised amidst rampant consumerism and with access to so many things for so little money, it’s little wonder that older generations (who grew up wanting for the basics) can’t understand why we don’t need any more toys! Theirs is a different worldview. We ALL see the world through our own conditioning. Keeping this in mind can go a long way toward mutual understanding.

  5. Distinguish between tradition and effective marketing. Why are we nostalgic for certain things and experiences this time of year? Because they make us think of Christmases past or because we’re bombarded with want-evoking, feel-good seasonal marketing? Prying consumer culture from our traditions is no easy task, but in doing so, we claim the right to decide for ourselves what matters most.
  6. Realize “they” mean well and adore your kids. Even when they know your preferences and don’t seem to respect them, rarely are family members acting out of spite. Their thought process is probably much more simple than you think. “If my kids grew up playing with Barbies and turned out just fine, my grandkids will, too” is not only a logical explanation but an emotional one. Your mother may have fond memories of you playing with those Barbies (whose pumps she saved repeatedly from the vacuum). Tread lightly and assume good intentions beneath seeming disregard.

  7. Determine your core values and hold them as intentions, not absolutes. Along with the feeling you’re hoping to maintain, it helps to get clear on the values driving your angst, elation or indifference. The clearer you become about what’s beneath your emotional reactions, the more effective you will be when communicating your values.

  8. Add a tradition or two before you eliminate others. It’s easier to drum up enthusiasm regarding change when you’ve got something else appealing to offer. An annual solstice campfire or neighborhood Soup and Song is no less festive than swapping needless gifts. Whatever it is, if your heart is in it, it’s more likely to be remembered and anticipated.

Redefine Christmas (Without Offending Anyone)

Oliver Wendell Holmes once said, “The young man knows the rules, but the old man knows the exceptions.”

I guess that makes me middle-aged.

Enjoy the season, my friends! however you choose to define it.

Redefine Christmas (Without Offending Anyone)

Full disclosure: We never actually received a life-sized Barbie or a makeup set that required we wipe a horse’s butt. I don’t even remember what obnoxious toys we were given anymore, and on the whole, my family has all been amazingly thoughtful in their gifting. What I do remember is the realization that I’d hurt someone’s feelings or stressed out my kids, and years later, these things seem WAY more significant than whether or not the wrapping paper was hand-printed or the chocolate sweetened with stevia.

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because it's thanksgiving and ...