Freeplaylife Challenge:: Week 18!

I have mad love for facebook. And for instagram. And for twitter. And for pinterest. Also, while I’m at it…Draw Something! I love them. Love love love them! It’s not the social media butterfly aspect, it’s simply that I find y’all so inspirational. I love the awesome that I find there…simple as that! I get great ideas, empowering quotes, and a goddess sisterhood (also, brotherhood…a small but mighty minority!). It’s good to live in the age of the internet!

This month of July is going to be all about finding a muse…finding that person that inspires and connects you to a huge amount of awesome.

The dictionary defines a muse as

noun
1.
Classical Mythology .
a.
any of a number of sister goddesses, originally given as Aoede (song), Melete (meditation), and Mneme (memory), but latterly and more commonly as the nine daughters of Zeus and Mnemosyne who presided over various arts: Calliope (epic poetry), Clio (history), Erato (lyric poetry), Euterpe (music), Melpomene (tragedy), Polyhymnia (religious music), Terpsichore (dance), Thalia (comedy), and Urania (astronomy); identified by the Romans with the Camenae.
b.
any goddess presiding over a particular art.
2.
( sometimes lowercase ) the goddess or the power regarded as inspiring a poet, creative artist, thinker, or the like.

and also:

verb (used with object)
3.
to meditate on.
4.
to comment thoughtfully or ruminate upon.

I’ve secretly always wanted to be a muse to someone. I like the idea of sister godesses, and I like the idea of someone being a catalyst for creativity, art, and passion. I also like how it’s also connected to a meditative kind of awareness and stillness of thought. There’s also a dynamic between muse/artist that intrigues me. John Lennon had his Yoko Ono. Andy Warhol had Edie Sedgwick. Diego Rivera had Frieda Kahlo.

Here’s a list of the top 10 muses of all time.

This week, the challenge is to find your own muse. But there is one rule. You cannot look outside of yourself for your sister goddess (or brother god) inspiration. Look for your muse inside yourself.

Do you inspire yourself?
Do you connect to yourself on a deep level?
When you wake up in the morning, are you excited to see what amazing thing you’ll do today?
Do you look in the mirror and tell yourself, “You are one mighty fine woman/man!
Do you surprise and impress yourself at the things you are willing to do in spite of personal fears/anxieties?
Do you call your friends and brag about something you’ve done that you’re proud of?

If not….it’s time to start. This week! Right now!

Start with your facebook profile picture. Make it one of you being a total badass. If you don’t have a picture of you impressing the hell out of yourself, then get to work and do something self-impressive while asking someone to take a snapshot of you. Then post that and make it your profile picture. I love seeing my friends this way. One of my friends profile pic is of her doing that standing up paddleboarding, even though her phobia is about tipping over and drowning. Another friend with a strong fear of heights has her facebook profile set to her doing a midair transfer to someone’s hands from a trapeze. Another woman has a picture of her newly dyed blue streaked hair. Another with her newly cropped pixie cut after 15 years of really long hair! It inspires me to see how inspired they are with themselves!

Share the things you do this week on the freeplaylife facebook page. Take cell phone pics and tag them on twitter/instagram with the hashtag #fplphoto so I can see them. Post that shit on facebook! Announce yourself and all your badassery to everyone around you.

This is your week to say, “Hey look everyone! I’m a bad motherfucker!”

If you don’t think I hoop to this song every day, then you’re mistaken. This helps me live up to my muse status.

This month, and this week in particular, it’s time for you to become your own muse. Because who’s the shit? You’re the shit!

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The “I Don’t Give A F*ck” Cycle.

A big part of the last 4 years has been, for me, learning how to not give a fuck. Not about what other people think of me, not about my vast and numerous flaws, not about the things I can’t control, not about what other people do or do not do in my regard.

I’m just trying to live my life, man, the best way I know how. Can you dig it?! Dance to my own groove. (this is so much more fun than marching to the beat of my own drum…because really, how much fun is marching? Not very!)

I’ve observed my own shift, and now give you what I think of as the “I Don’t Give A Fuck” cycle:
*************
1. “I really give a fuck!”
This is where it all starts. You care. You empathize. You worry and wonder. You want to please. You think about the other person’s well being over and above your own. When the other person gives a fuck about you in the same way you give a fuck about them, then it has the potential to be a great relationship. If, however, you start to feel like the other person doesn’t give a fuck about your feelings with the same priority that you care about theirs, and instead is all judgey and douchebaggy towards you, then the relationship goes sour. You spend a lot of time thinking and wondering what the other person thinks and feels about you, and all the ways you can make things better, do better, act better, and generally be more accepted by the thing you give a fuck about.

2. “I really don’t give a fuck!”
This is the point that you realize you’re tired of taking so much of your energy to please something/someone that doesn’t give that same consideration back. You say you don’t care, but you really really do. You probably feel angry, hurt, betrayed, slighted, misunderstood, judged, and let down. You’ve made the decision in your head to not give a fuck, but every time you say it your heart hurts as you think about everything you did, tried, said, felt, worked on, believed in, and wanted…things that took a lot of your time and focus only to turn around and bite you on the ass when you feel let down/judged. Interestingly, you still spend a large amount of your energy not giving a fuck. Meaning, you are still defined by what that other thing/person thinks and feels about you. You may act out, lash out, and speak out in the opposite direction of what you were doing and saying before…but it all revolves around the thing you aren’t giving a fuck about. Meaning you are still giving many fucks about it.

3. “No fucks are given.”
This point is an elusive shift. It’s origins are mysterious but the effects are clear. Where once you cared too much, and then you decided not to care but really did, the shift into giving no fucks leads to inner peace and greater authenticity. Giving no fucks comes from a place of personal satisfaction and happiness. You are who you are, and are so blissful in this deep acceptance that it extends to the people and things around you. You are capable of letting others be who they are, even if that means they are the douchebaggiest people on the planet. You don’t go out of your way to either please or upset them. You simply exist in your life doing the things that you know make you happy. You give yourself all the approval you need, and so other people’s judgements simply don’t register on your emotional scale. You realize and aren’t threatened by your own human frailties, and therefor aren’t threatened when other people show their own. You recognize that what people feel and say about you has more to do with who they are than who you are. You are able to neither crave positive or avoid negative. Everything exists as it is, including you.
********

I’m constantly shifting between these three states of giving a fuck in all areas of my life. Sometimes I can reach all three states simultaneously and in different ways with one person. I’m always trying to get to the third state of no fucks given, but often get stuck in the first two states for a while. And if that happens, it’s empowering to realize that I’m stuck there because of me and some idea or assumption or need that I’m hung up on. This is empowering because while I can always change myself, I can’t ever change someone else. My own happiness lies with me.

I was reminded of the cycle this week, while being neck deep in the middle of a move. I’m not sure where I’m going yet, so everything is going into storage for the time being. It’s hectic and crazy and I absolutely lose my fucking (what’s one more f-word in this particular post?!) mind when I have to pack up and move. Which I’ve done a lot of the last 4 years. So you can imagine the level of insane happening in my head right now. Although you don’t have to imagine anything when I have proof:

So, in addition to my move being kinda crazy, my relationship with my mom is kinda crazy too. We both want a good relationship with each other, but it’s like the harder we try to get there, the more frustrating it is for both of us. Things were pretty OK if not a little tenuous…and then I left the church I was raised in. It’s something we’ve never talked about, but I know it hurt her precisely because we never talked about it. It’s like when I saw her right after I shaved my head and Sassy got her mohawk. She looked at both of us and looked away. Even I knew we looked like we’d joined the freak circus…but…no reaction. It was too much to put words too.

The only thing that happened when I left the church was she sent an email asking about a child sized nativity set she’d given us a few christmases ago. And if I could please give it back. This really really bothered me. Like somehow I wasn’t good enough for Jesus Christ himself OR his paper mache baby effigy. Like, by not being a certain religion all of a sudden Christ and all the symbols associated with Him could no longer abide in my wicked house (and it’s newly stocked booze cabinet). Her asking for the nativity set really cut deep.

At first I gave a fuck, and started rethinking my decisions to leave the church, start drinking, and leave my marriage. Then the old familiar feelings of shame, guilt, and oppression kicked in along with and a deep knowledge that if I went back on my decisions I, like a metaphorical Princess Buttercup, would be dead before morning.

So then I didn’t give a fuck. Unfortunately with every move she brought this up…not an offer to help move, or watch the kids, or a quick check in to see how I was doing. No. It was always, “have you found the nativity set, I would like it back.” And damn it, I didn’t give a fuck. So I went on a manhunt for paper mache Jesus and all his henchmen and all the animal coterie he came with. Mary, Joseph, the wise men…all the size of small children, and all were fated to be burned in a large bonfire while I toasted marshmallows in flames that surely would mirror my own when I started burning in hell for drinking alcohol, leaving my husband, burning baby Jesus and being disrespectful to my mom. As you can see, I gave a lot of fucks still. Every time she’d ask for the nativity I would end up in tears drinking whiskey and cokes by myself at the local bar.

And then, for this most recent move, when I posted a picture on facebook of all the boxes, she commented something along the lines of “did you find the nativity set? Let me know!”

I waited for the familiar ache and pain to start. I was ready to welcome the little kid inside to throw a tantrum and scream “I don’t give a flying fuck about that fucking nativity set!”. I started reaching for the whiskey in anticipation of all the unpleasant nicks and cuts this would pour salt into. But none of that happened. In a testament to this freeplaylife challenge, something in me had shifted between the start of this year and now.

As I clutched the bottle of Jack Daniels waiting for my typical reaction to start, I realized that my mom and I were so so so similar. Let’s just say I had given her the biggest, size-of-a-small-child bottle of Jack for christmas. And then the next year she announced that she’d stopped drinking. I probably wouldn’t get into the reasons for her decision, but you better believe that I’d inquire about the awesome life size bottle of whiskey I’d given her. Not to be a bitch or anything, but just to make sure it didn’t sit there growing old all by itself. I’d probably become obsessed by the thought of all that liquor going unappreciated and unnoticed and unused and think, “what a fucking waste!” So I would ask about it over and over and over again until I got it back into my sweet sweet embrace.

I realized that my mom and I both love things with the same passion and commitment. For her, it’s baby Jesus and all his friends. For me, it’s whiskey. She needs Jesus like I need whiskey. I can’t fault her for that. In fact, I felt compassion for the first time in a while when it comes to her and me and our relationship. I actually kept an eye out for Jesus and friends in a box this time, not to burn them on sight but to hold for her so she could get them back.

In this, no fucks were given. And that feels good.

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What I learned cleaning out my refrigerator.

I learned that I really really like blackberry jam.

I learned that boxed wine has taken completely over, and now I don’t even pretend to be classy with a full unopened bottle of wine (in an actual bottle) in case any wine drinking visitors stop by. Now it’s all just wine in cardboard boxes. So if any of you come to visit, let this be fair warning. Classy things are not to be found here! Just boxed wine and mason jars full of everything that can possibly fit in mason jars.

I learned that I am delusional when I clean out my fridge. In order to stay on top of things, I have a workflow to my fridge. Before I go shopping and import any new food into it, I always always clean it out and export any old/moldy/expired/inedible food into the trash. So, an average of twice a month at the very least. So how I ended up, at the end of May, with 6 yogurt containers with the expiration date of December 28th of last year, I don’t know.

I pulled them out and had a conversation with myself that reminded me of every conversation I ever had with every math teacher that ever had the misfortune to have me in their class.

Me: I just got my test back, it says I failed it.
Math Teacher: That’s because you did.
Me: That can’t be right. I studied every day!
Math Teacher: You failed it so terribly, it’s like you have never heard of these concepts before.
Me: But I thought I did so great on this, I don’t understand how I possibly failed it!
Math Teacher: Study more.
Me: I studied so hard for this.
Math Teacher: If you studied that hard, how could you manage to get every single question wrong?
Me: I don’t know. It doesn’t make any sense. This can’t be right.
Math Teacher: It’s not my opinion, it’s the facts.
Me: Well, the facts aren’t telling you everything. Like how long I actually studied and how well I really know this!
Math Teacher: If you know it, you wouldn’t have failed it.
Me: I just don’t understand how this happened!

I sat looking at the yogurt thinking, “I’ve cleaned this fridge out at least 12 times between then and now! How could these still be in here? This can’t be right. But here they are. If I really did clean the fridge out that often, they wouldn’t really be here. The fact is, I must not be cleaning out the fridge like I think I am. But I know I do! So how can these be here? How could I possibly not notice them for 5 months?” Every month I uncover something that’s been expired for at least 6 months. Maybe the shock of finding something like that blinds me to the other nasty and old items in the fridge? It’s a mystery.

I also learned that it’s really easy to clean a freezer when there’s nothing in the freezer except tiny Ben & Jerry ice creams (so cute! so addicting!), shoes, 120 film, and a tin whiskey cup.

Sassy likes to take things from around the house and put them in the freezer as a practical joke. So, in this case, she’s freezing my shoes so that sometime in the next few days when I go to leave the house she’ll say, “Oh, wait mom, I know where your shoes are!” and then give me these to put on. They’ll be freezing, I’ll react accordingly, and then she’ll laugh her sassy ass off. I just have to pretend not to see what she’s put in the freezer for her joke to work. And, let me just say, if you’ve never had a whiskey concoction from a frozen tin cup…well, my friend, you have not started to live. Come on over, I’ll mix us a little something something. This is a better choice than my boxed wine, I’ll tell you that.

While we get tipsy, you can tell me all about your fridge stories. What’s the weirdest thing you’ve found in there? Oldest thing? Most disgusting thing? Do tell!

And you better believe that I danced the entire time I cleaned this mofo fridge out.


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Freeplaylife Challenge::Week 17!

This week is gonna be good. More than good. Great. More than great! Fucking awesome!!!

We’ve been on this road towards authenticity and joy for the last 4 1/2 months…17 weeks of challenges to choose from! So far you’ve found a voice. You’ve found your look. You’ve found some laughter, some more literal space for yourself as well as emotional space. You’ve found lots of things along the way.

This week, we’re going to find out groove.

Literally.

or, rather, slangily. We’ll let go of the everyday meaning of groove and go for the slang and idiom meaning of the word:

v.intr. Slang
1.
a. To take great pleasure or satisfaction; enjoy oneself: just sitting around, grooving on the music.
b. To be affected with pleasurable excitement.
2. To react or interact harmoniously.
Idiom:
in the groove Slang
Performing exceptionally well.

In my humble opinion, there’s only one way to find your groove. Stella might have found hers with a younger dude on a tropical island, but we all know how that worked out. We are finding our groove within ourselves, and this happens easier the more loosey goosey we are. The more in the flow we become. The less rigid and uptight we feel. So. We’re going to move. Relax. Let go. Find our own groove.

THIS WEEK WE SHALL DANCE! EVERYWHERE! even *gasp* in front of people.

So many of these challenges are so very very public, yes?! There’s a reason for that. Living an authentic life means living a life out loud. It means being able to celebrate who you are, what you need, and what you feel no matter who is watching.

I’ve learned a lot about this challenge because I started hoop dancing last year, and some of the best places to hoop dance are in music festivals or other places where live music is happening. I’ve had to really really come out of my shell to even think about moving my body in a way that’s so different from everyone elses normal walk/run/pace/sit/stand/do nothing. And the process has set me free. I do not exaggerate, but I will elaborate in future posts this week.

For now, we will leave it at dancing. Moving. Jumping. Hooping! Put the earbuds in your ears and dance a little…from the car to the grocery store. At the park with your kids. Going to get your mail. Anywhere the mood strikes. Just do it. And notice how much it makes you laugh and pay attention to yourself.

I promise I’ve done this, and the judgement you think you’ll get is actually not what you think it will be. Awesome things have a way of happening when you express yourself in a funloving way!

I had a chance to hoop around to one of my favorite bands, The Henry Clay People. Normally I wouldn’t even stand up and dance in front of people, but that was then. This is now. And now I find so much joy in the movement!

Get ready, get set, DANCE!

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Freeplaylife Challenge::Week 16!

I have a confession to make. A few, actually.

I’ve dropped the ball on a lot of different things.

And not so coincidentally, that’s this week’s challenge. I want you to drop some of your own balls!

Let me explain:

I haven’t ironed anything in 15 years. I haven’t made my bed since I left home in 1990. I discovered that if you put pinesol in a sink of water in every bathroom in the house, the clean smell permeates throughout and it makes everything appear cleaner. This doesn’t hold up under close inspection, but it does a good job covering up general messiness in an unvacuumed home. Anyone walks in and may notice the clutter but subconsciously the mind is going, “It’s only messy here because somewhere else in this house, she’s been cleaning. Can’t you smell that fresh crisp clean smell of cleanliness?!”

I used to feel badly about all this. Sitting in church with disheveled kids (oh, did I mention I also refused to style kids hair if they indicated they’d rather go “where the wild things are” with it?) in rumpled clothes, and looking around feeling inferior to everyone else who managed to prioritize looking their best for the Good Lord. I immediately apologized for my cluttered mess to anyone walking into my house, feeling like a failure as a stay at home mom because here I was at home all day long (hahahahahaha, right?!) and obviously slacking off by not keeping up with the laundry pile/dust bunny pile(s)/dirty dishes pile/sticky floor/clogged toilet/etc. I was angsty about the fact that because I hadn’t made my kids make their beds every morning I pretty much ensured they would become unproductive citizens and ill prepared to face the big wide world with their puny home econ skills.

I pretty much lived my life feeling judged none too positively by my church friends and the members of the mamamafia who would rather stab their eyeballs out with uncooked spaghetti noodles than let their kid wear the same clothes 5 days in a row. I, of course, had no problem with it. I’d rather spend my time making muffins in the kitchen with my kid (and leaving the dishes in the sink while we picnic’ed outside eating them) then spend 30 minutes arguing over clothes. They called me lazy, I called it being efficient. And kind. But I was in the minority.

My worst fears were realized a couple months ago when a homeschool meme went around Facebook and blogs. I had nothing to do with the making or distribution of the meme, and yet it featured this picture of my kids:

sleeping kids are so....quiet!

with the headline, “what our neighbors think we do”.

I felt all panicky. Like the time, after I facebooked at 11 am that I loved pouring syrup all over my eggs for breakfast, and one of the mamamafia said “omg, now everyone knows that you eat breakfast really late!” as if sleeping in was a crime.

I realized something a few years ago, though.

I don’t want to have it all. I don’t want to be a perfect friend and have perfect kids in a perfect house with clean and sanitized everything. I don’t want to juggle so many things that I’m too focused on keeping them all up in the air instead of noticing how awesome everything is.

So I let some balls drop. Specifically, the ironing ball. The bed making ball. The ‘giving my kids perfectly done hair’ ball. The ‘cleaning the dishes in the sink faithfully’ ball. I also prefer playing video games with my kids over vacuuming. If I have to choose between a clean bathroom or going outside and getting dirty with my kids, then I choose the kids every time. If we then become the poster children for living a lax, lazy life in a homeschool meme…well…that is a little bothersome, but what can I do? Since when did quality napping become so reviled anyway? Don’t we make our kids do it for the first 5 years of their lives anyway? Why do we ever stop that?! I remember specifically the day I took that picture, and how just a moment before I was nestled in between them after having read a book out loud until they were both fast asleep.

This week, what balls will you drop? Do you remember swearing, as a kid, that when you grew up you wouldn’t make yourself do ….something….? What was that something? Did you hold true to your kid self and not do it? I don’t eat peas. I swore when I grew up I wouldn’t eat another pea, and I haven’t. I want you to choose 5 things to stop doing for the next 7 days, and instead of doing those things spend those moments doing something that is a better use of your time and energy. Spend it connecting with your kids. Connecting with yourself. Connecting with a significant other. You have my permission to do so, thus alleviating any panic or guilt associated with not doing everything you think you should be doing.

Take some time to tune IN this week. Stop juggling so many balls. Drop em like they’re hot. Focus on spending more of the time you used to spend juggling doing the things you wish you had more time and energy for….reading books (yourself or to your kids!), laughing at jokes (yours or your kids), playing outside (when was the last time you hula hooped or jump roped or even hopscotched?), or just being silent, still and present with yourself and with your kids. Nothing flashy. Just sitting on the couch with them giving a backscratch.

Let me know what you are dropping, and what you end up doing instead!

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8 Turns Around The Sun.

It’s hard to type this, and even harder to believe it’s true, but because Sassy has been letting me know since 3 days after her last birthday that for this birthday she’d turn 8 I have to just accept it.

My baby is 8 now!

The only thing keeping me from feeling exactly like I did in this picture 8 years ago is that I can actually breathe, bend, and eat. For only having a 6 pound baby in there, I sure had one hell of a belly!

I traded in the belly for a newborn, and it’s been nonstop ever since. She earned her nickname “Sassy” at an early age. However, she was conceived in a spirit of rebellion, so I roll with her fierce independence and focused self determination because without either of those things she wouldn’t be here. I had a pregnancy before hers that ended with me almost dying in the delivery room at the hospital, and I guess shit like that freaks the fuck out of doctors. So, all of them said, “be happy with the two you already have, and stop here. No more babies for you. It would be crazy.” I agreed with them for a while, but then my crazy grew and grew to an unprecedented level (I like to think that was Sassy, being bossy in the metaphysical sphere) and I emphatically shook my fist at logic and reason long enough to get pregnant one last time. It was a high risk pregnancy and took a lot of willpower to ride out the 9 months expecting to possibly die at any moment. In fact, the doctors who had indulged me once I forced their hand by becoming pregnant drew a line in the sand and said, “We are inducing this one early. Once you get to 36 weeks her lungs should be read and we’re getting her out!” At that point, Sassy took over her own destiny by not developing her lungs by 36 weeks. Every week they checked, and every week her lungs weren’t ready. She took over forcing the doctor’s hand and stayed in her womb-home until full term, 4 more weeks. I like to think that all my forceful psychological ass kicking nurtured her as she grew and developed in my womb and created the bundle of forceful ass kicking girl she became.

And now that newborn is an 8 year old.

I brainstormed ways to stop it from happening. I told her I could put bricks on her head so she’d stop growing. “No, mama, that won’t work. Even if I don’t grow, I’ll still get older you know!” I told her we could stop celebrating her birthday and pretend it wasn’t happening. “No mama, that won’t work. Even if we forget when I was born, I’ll still get older you know!” I told her she could make sure to run backwards as many steps as she took forward, and maybe that would stop time. “No mama, that won’t work!” For that one she didn’t even waste time explaining why it wouldn’t work, she just looked at me with the dawning realization that her mama was a simple woman and there was a lot she didn’t know.

Finally she just laid it out cold for me. “Mama, I was born to get older. All you can do is enjoy me while you can right now, because I’ll be different later!”

So, that’s what I’ve been doing ever since.

I suppose it would be harder to watch her grow up if I weren’t so endlessly fascinated about who she’s becoming. On the good days, I laugh and talk and hug and play with her. On the tough days I remind myself that soon she’ll launch herself into the world all forcefully and independent like and I’ll have a lot of peace of mind knowing that she is the Evander Holyfield of taking care of her own boundaries. And then the thought of her leaving…my baby!…gets me all verklempt and I remember her words. “Enjoy me while you can right now!” So even on the hard days when our personalities clash and I want to challenge her to a death match in a cage, I rally to channel that passion into radical acceptance of who she is and what she needs. I still laugh and talk and hug and play with her…only with a bit more wine on board.

It’s hard to believe that 8 years ago, this girl sitting on my lap was a tiny newborn swaddled in a blanket. She was tiny but powerfully herself, even then. I remember thinking in the weeks following her birth, “You are one pound of baby, 2 pounds of hair, and 3 pounds of attitude!”

So now we’re off to celebrate by going to a warehouse with floor to ceiling trampolines, then go cart racing, then playing games, and then a cake that she specified should be in the theme of “HALO: Reach in Minecraft”.

Here’s to birthdays, kids, love, fun, play, family, and radical acceptance!

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52 Weeks To A Freeplaylife: Week 15!

Ah food, glorious food! So wonderful. So flavorful. So fun. So nourishing. So angsty! So anxiety producing! So torturous! So full of loathing! Facebook is one of the only other things that is so reviled and loved all at the same time! As people, we’re all over the board with food. We can eat just enough to feed our bodies and spirits. We can eat to feel better, and sometimes can eat something that makes us feel worse, physically and psychologically. We can eat too much, fearing scarcity; or we can not eat enough, forcing a rigid limit. We can diet and we can feast. We can use food to control and use food to punish. Food can bring people together and force them apart. Food can be a part of a beautiful ritual of daily blessings, or can be part of a life changing disorder.

This month is the month of food fun, so it’s time to embrace the lighter side of eating. Throw away guilt, control, prior conditioning from family, worry, stress, and general uptightness about eating, and what are you left with?! Lots of awesome! Imagine this…that is exactly the state that kids are in every day. As babies, we eat when we’re hungry. We stop when we’re full. We know what we like, we know what we don’t like. We eat to fill a need and also to feel a bond. We let food comfort us without worrying it’s unhealthy or excessive. We’re part of a balance between what we take in and the energy we burn in activity. I’ve watched the process in my kids, and feel no need to intervene with it now. I’ve found that the more my kids and I can explore and play with food from our authentic selves, the healthier we all eat.

That’s the challenge this week…listening to our authentic selves. Listening to our kids who are speaking authentically. This is pretty free range eating. When you’re hungry, eat. When you’re full, stop. I found that the easiest way to accomplish this is using a tried and true unschooling technique…the monkey platter. I first read about it here on Sandra Dodd’s webpage…it’s an excellent description full of pictures. You basically get lots of food choices out where they can be reached by everyone, and then let it all go down in Vegas buffet style fashion. Some of my friends call this anarchy and foolishness. I call it “Proof of Occams Razor”: …”the law of parsimony, economy or succinctness. It is a principle urging one to select among competing hypotheses that which makes the fewest assumptions and thereby offers the simplest explanation of the effect.”

Hungry? Eat. Full? Don’t. Stop when your body says to stop. Eat what your body says to eat. Simple. Fewer assumptions. Succinct. No charts, stickers, enticements, begging, or punishments. No guilt, shame, conflict, or fear around food.

Go ahead, try it. Shelve any doubts and just go for it for one week. Make the food easily accessible for your kids and for you. If you have doubts or fears about doing this with kids, leave a comment or question in the reply section and a wily and seasoned group of my unschooling friends (who’ve been doing this a long time!) will get back to you on how awesome it works in their families.

Here’s an example of my monkey platters. Less platters and more like “monkey mason jars.” I have an obsession with all things Mason Jar. If I could I would marry Mason and have little jar babies. Instead I have to settle for using him in every aspect of my life. Eating is not an exception. My daughter accuses me of only buying food that looks cute in Mason jars, and I can’t deny it. But look how adorable the monkey mason jar’s look!

If we want to bake, we still bake (muffins, mostly), but it works best during the day to let all of us graze into whichever mason jar(s) hold the most interest. Then about 2 hours before dinner I put it all away and we have a lovely meal together. In the morning and afternoon, though, we love dipping fruit into yogurt and fresh raw veggies into ranch. Sassy and I like eating as soon as we get up, the other two dawdle around a little before their appetite kicks in. I like dipping strips of roasted chicken into goat cheese and topping it with green peppers. I’ve seen Sassy put carrots in the yogurt and love it…not really anything I would have thought of but it works for her! There’s usually a junk food jar mixed in, either full of brownies or cookies or something delightfully yummy. 100% of the time, the jars with carrots and peppers empty quicker than the junk food ones. I’ll blog my theories on why this happens later, but in a nutshell giving kids the freedom to choose what and how much of it to eat really encourages them to take their own nutrition pretty responsibly.

Plus…mason jars. Have I said how much I love them? You can use other things and get totally creative. Rainbow snack food trays is also pretty fun! For this week, try out the monkey platter idea and see how easy, fun, and non conflicting nutrition can be!

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The Power of Play

So really, who cares if you play with food or not. Who gives a flying flip about making a mustache out of jelly? What’s the difference if you use pudding and jello only to eat and not to finger paint with? What’s the big deal with food and play?

What’s the big deal with play and anything? Why freePLAYlife?

Here’s the dealio with these carefully constructed and pretty genius (if I do say so myself) challenges of mine. Do you know how I came up with all of them?

I had the slowest, most intellectual, self aware, stupendous mental/spiritual/emotional breakdown any person has ever had. I’m not even using hyperbole or exaggerating much. I think it was on a slow burn after my daughter died and I almost died right along with her…that was almost 10 years ago. But it really hit critical mass 4 years ago. I could feel it in my bones and didn’t know what to do other than keep a diary.

Oh yes, even though there are plenty of pills I could have popped to get me out of this deep unhappiness, I didn’t take them. It wasn’t depression that I was feeling, it was something else. Like, I remember one time in 9th grade I was getting ready for school pictures so I blew out my normally curly hair and straightened it with a flat iron. It was silky smooth and gorgeous by the time I got done with it. And all day I knew I looked like the shit. Before the pictures I carefully applied lip gloss and worried more about proper eyeshadow application than I did my hair…since I knew it was so totally awesome. I took the picture. I walked home in the New Jersey humidity. I took one look in the mirror and felt sheer panic and dismay. My hair was the opposite of sleek and shiny. It was puffy. It looked like a frizzy A-frame house on top of my head. Apparently the humidity while walking to school had transformed me into a girl with a pyramid of what appeared to be moss and pubes on my head instead of actual human hair. All of a sudden the ideal of what I thought was happening collided with what was actually happening, and I couldn’t ignore it anymore. I had to deal with the reality. Either learn to take care of my hair in Jersey weather, or have pube head.

What I was feeling 4 years ago was less depression and more an awakening to my own reality. And because I’d ignored myself for so long, my reality wasn’t pleasant. It was worse than a mop of frizz for hair. It was traumatically terrible in so many ways. It was me realizing how unhappy I was. It was me realizing I had no idea who I was. It was me realizing that I didn’t want to follow other people’s paths anymore. It was me realizing that I needed to either blaze my own trail or slowly suffocate to death. So I slowly s l o w l y started rebuilding myself from the ground up.

It was the rebirth, renovation, and restoration that eventually spawned this 52 Weeks challenge. I had no idea how to go about creating a nourishing, vibrant, authentic, joyful life. It was trial and error, just me and my trusty diary. I made notations in my diary like a scientist keeps track of his latest experiment. And eventually I saw a theme. I might not have understood what the fuck was happening, but there was a way to figure it all out…and that way hinged on my ability to have fun and play.

My ability to connect to life in a joyful, fulfilling way was helped or hurt by a flow from a thousand different areas. And this flow, just like chi or energy along the chakras, could be blocked. I may not have known why the block was there, or what caused it, but I knew there was a blockage because I stopped being able to have fun with it: food, clothes, bedtime rituals, friends, family, hobbies, everything under the sun including myself. Using this “fun meter” as a guideline, I began to at least have a good diagnostic for where I was blocked and what the issues were with. At that time, I had issues with everything. I found that as I brought more fun to those areas, I worked through a whole bunch of shit that probably would have taken years of expensive therapy that I couldn’t affort. Play melted everything away. It’s like how many muscles I’ve built up while hula hooping…I’m not focused on building them like if I were working at it like a weight lifter. I’m just doing something fun that happens to have badass, ass kicking side effects.

It’s really revolutionized my life. It’s so simple, I wouldn’t have believed it if I hadn’t just lived through it. Two words have changed everything for me. And I’m sharing it here so they can do the same for you. Are you ready for this?

Play More

There are as many ways to play with something as there are stars in the heavens, so it will be an individual process for everyone.

I’m not expecting everyone to have such a massive disconnect as I did, where so much has to be done to fix the breakdown. But everyone has blocks to enjoying life. Maybe it’s with food. Clothes. Expectations. Judgements. Work. Family. Anxiety. Stress. Fear. Who knows. Well, you’ll know. If I bring something up and it’s hard for you to play around with it, then that’s a block. Sit with it. Acknowledge it. Then toss it a ball and offer to play catch with it.

This year is all about play, bitches! We’re playing with everything, even things you don’t wanna. And a lot of things that you do wanna.

So this week and food. Some of you have a good flow with it. It’s food, it’s fun, it’s an adventure! But some of you won’t. It brings up issues of scarcity, or vulnerability, or control, or compulsion, or neglect, or whatever. The flow isn’t there. Play isn’t there. Help it along by drinking lots of wine and then throwing spaghetti at the wall. Do something crazy. Fun. Impulsive. Free. Do it with food this week. Enjoy yourself!

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Play With Your Food!

I don’t know who first coined the phrase, “stop playing with your food”, but they need to be strapped onto a chair at a table full of pudding, jello, and spaghetti, given no utensils, and made to sit there until they enjoyed playing around with it using their hands. I think that after 15 minutes even they would agree that playing with food is not only fun, but it makes everything taste much better.

It’s my own personal theory that the longer kids are able to play with food, the healthier their eating habits are later in life. Play builds relationships where there are none, and strengthens good relationships to make them better…and how we interact with food is absolutely a relationship.

What is the relationship with food in your home? With you? Is it full of rules and if/then statements? (IF you eat all this, THEN you can have that…) Is it full of control and stress? Conflict at mealtimes over who is eating what and when? When I ran with the mamamafia, mine was all that. Dinnertime was kind of a pain since I went through so much time and effort to make a homemade healthy meal (that I could brag about to the other mamamafia members) only to have the kids complain about it when I put it on the table. And then dealing with manners….and then dealing with whining and refusal to eat…oy vey. I wasn’t drinking back then, but if I were I’d be wine drunk before I was done preparing the meal simply in anticipation of the fights.

And then, unschooling happened. In our effort to find a way to self educate I stumbled upon the radical idea that not only should I trust my kids to be competent learners, I should also trust them to be competent self directors in all areas of their lives.

So I let go of my food control and sat back to see what happened. And that’s a post for tomorrow, but needless to say I was shocked and awed by what I discovered. And I’ve kept up my “open grazing” policy in the kitchen and for food, so you know it was something good.

A part of the something good was how much more fun food started becoming. And the more fun it became, the more willing they were to eat it. And when I say fun, I mean in a way totally outside of eating it. Here are some ways we play with our food:

food fights! (eggs, flour, whipped cream, pudding, and jello outside on the lawn. Awwwww yeaaaaaah!)
science experiments! (can you construct something that will keep an egg safe from a high drop? What about the milk/soap/food coloring experiment?) (gumdrop or marshmallow geometry!)
Art! (pudding finger painting, icing art, noodle glued to paper, bean mosaics, candy collages, potato stamping ) (check out this “multimedia” artist!)

The better the food/child or food/you relationship is, the more likely they/you are to have healthy, balanced, positive eating habits.

Start playing with your food more, on and off the table!

create.

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