Saturday, February 28, 2009

Maybe We Should Spend a Little More Time Channeling our Inner Rockette!

“Stay focused girls. Picture the feather head dress and beautiful costume. You have big eyelashes, your make up is glowing and your hair is shining in the stage lighting. You are in perfect unison with the dancers around you. You are unique and gorgeous, but working together harmoniously as if you were one. Now, transcend beyond your outer beauty to the core of who you are. Stay focused! Channel your inner Rockette, girls! See her in all her glory. Now step into her shoes and BE HER!”

Five girls and I partook in this spontaneous meditation during tap class today. I am coaching a very talented group of dancers between the ages of 10 and 14 and we are learning a classic tap number set to “Let’s Misbehave.” Technically, they were getting it, but they weren’t GETTING IT! They needed a strong vision of what was possible in order to take it to the next level.

The three pound gelatinous mass that crowns our being is a very powerful and underutilized asset. What we create in our mind is not trivial. It forms the very foundation of our lives. Never underestimate the power of visualization.

The girls’ performance after this visualization showed a marked improvement over their prior performance. During class today, these girls needed an introduction to their inner Rockettes. I think we all do, ladies. That powerful Goddess inside can “rock the room” in any situation. As mom’s we are pulled in so many directions and we cater to the needs of others so willingly, it’s easy to lose sight of her. Her image grows dim and that is reflected in our appearance.

In your daily health and beauty routine, are you going through the motions, or are really connecting with your higher self? She’s in there. I swear she is. She’s a reflection of who you can be when you believe in, respect and honor yourself as the Goddess you are. But you need to take some time to SEE her. We’ve all had those moments (or maybe even days, or years) in which our higher self is with us in full force. She’s a powerful force. And suddenly, we lose her. Well, I miss my inner Rockette. I am filing a missing person’s report and sending out a search and rescue team to find her.

I am convinced, with meditation and visualization, and a commitment of just a little time per day, we can find her again, and transform ourselves, inside and out. I know this to be true, because I had a profound experience with this during my milestone year, 40--that dreaded birthday in which we suddenly define ourselves as “old.” Well, as Dr. Wayne Dyer says, “we can’t let an old person get into our bodies”. They take up residence and start leaving their stuff everywhere.

Tap class today was a strong “kick in the pants” for me about our influence as mothers. Self image is fragile and dangerous territory for our daughters. I see no reason why they can’t begin practicing self image meditation while they are young. If they have a strong connection with their inner goddess, they’ll be less likely to lose touch with her later in life. (That’s my theory, anyway, and I’m sticking to it). So ladies, don’t forget that you MUST see more that what stares back at you in the mirror. In your mind, you can give yourself the same advantages that top models and actresses have—a beautiful setting, perfect lighting, hair and makeup, a gorgeous (to die for costume) a softening filter if you are over 30, and incredible music to elevate your mood. Don’t forget airbrushing and cropping.

The visual images you can create in your mind are as powerful as the images you see in real life. It just takes a few moments a day. And before you know it, that vision you create in your mind of the goddess you are, will be staring back at you in the mirror!

To channel your inner Rockette and find the goddess within, I highly recommend the guided meditations of Tricia Brennan. Look specifically at Body Transformation for this topic, but all her products are wonderfully enlightening.

Friday, February 27, 2009

The Sixth Thing I Love About Home School--Even the Teacher Gets a Final Exam.

Some of you who are following my blog might know that I am developing a leadership program for children. My laboratory is our home school and my children are the lab rats. This week we finished our “first unit” of study in Leadership. Even though I regularly test “my rats” to measure their progress, I decided that a “final exam” was unnecessary since leadership skills are best developed and tested in real life.

But, today I was presented with a “final exam” of my own when I encountered a situation that challenged me to “practice what I preach.” The situation was a direct result of my entre’ into the dangerous and scary world of “political blogging”. I don’t go there very often since my focus right now is decidedly “spiritual and documentary”. But the contents of Obama’s first congressional address left me feeling compelled to comment. Upon completing my final spell check, I broadcast my “polito-blog” into the cyber universe in a big way—to 45,000 unsuspecting members of

I quickly discovered that “political blogging” attracts a variety of moms, desirable and not so. I don’t expect everyone to agree with me. In fact, I suspected that I might be in the minority on the topic I selected. I learned that the internet can have the same effect on people as drinking too many margaritas at Marti Gras. Folks lose their inhibitions, their manners and their sense of decency. One response really sent me into a funk, and I harbored negativity for a full hour before I regained control of my emotions.

To clear my head, I took my morning walk and it suddenly it hit me—I had it all wrong! This virtual stranger who had so voraciously attacked me was in fact, just testing me. My “final exam” was neatly packaged in her five paragraph response, and it was up to me to step up and take it. This test forced me to utilize and master each of the five topics we have studied to date:

Lesson 1: When You Rule Your Mind, You Rule Your World!

“How can I craft my verbal retaliation?” was the first question that popped into my head. Since we create our reality with our focus, the questions we ask ourselves are critical. Mine was leading me quickly down the wrong path. To ameliorate my thinking, I crafted a better question. “How can this help me?” This answer put me in a position of power instead of a place of negativity and anger.

Lesson 2: Without Vision, the People Perish.

No amount of words on a page would change her point of view. I needed to remain focused on my own long term vision to find the appropriate response to the situation. Verbal sparring wasn’t the answer. But searching for meaning was. It didn’t take long to find it.

Lesson 3: Love Can Endure the Fault We Cannot Cure.
My natural response was to put on the gloves and come out fighting. I think this is often what we do when we find ourselves on opposite sides of an issue. But when I thought of Lesson 3, it was simple. I couldn’t cure her faults and she couldn’t cure mine. The best resolution we could hope for was to agree to disagree. I put myself into a state of “unconditional love” and crafted a simple, gracious response.

Lesson 4: There are More Possibilities in the Universe than One Can Possibly Imagine.

This became crystal clear as I read her answer. I hadn’t imagined a point of view such as hers, (but I stoop to sarcasm). The real lesson for me was that it is essential to explore the possibilities before responding if you want to create a positive outcome. We always have more than one choice, even when we think we don’t. When dealing with a challenging situation, we must call upon all our internal and external resources to create many options so we can produce positive outcomes and improve our lives.

Lesson 5: As You Give, So Shall You Receive.
My opponent’s opinion was 100% different than mine but that wasn’t the issue. Instead of presenting her point of view in a positive manner, she opted to respond with personal insults and bad language. She intentionally chose her response, and it was incumbent upon me to choose mine. My initial inclination was to unleash upon her with equal vengeance. As you give, so shall you receive. But thankfully, my higher self suggested I think about it and respond with love. I don’t know how it was received on her end. I am guessing it neutralized the situation. Regardless, I know that I did my part to break the cycle of negativity.
In 5 or 10 years, it will be interesting to observe what my children retain from this leadership encounter. As a teacher, I was extremely grateful to have a test of my own. I just hope I passed!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

(Still on Giving)… Lord Send me a Sign that I am making some progress!

My kids and I are wrapping up Unit 1 in our Leadership program although I am going to spend one more week on “giving”. This is mostly for my own benefit because I think it is such an important concept and I believe I have a lot to learn in this area.

Over the last six weeks we’ve covered a variety of topics including “what you focus on you get”, “unlimited possibilities” and the importance of “vision and purpose”. We’ve studied the role “unconditional love” plays in our lives, the concept of “unlimited possibilities” and why “the secret to living is giving”. Mother Teresa embodies the qualities we have studied, so naturally, our leadership report for this unit centered on her life, her philosophies, her challenges and accomplishments and how we be more like her in our own lives. My children each wrote a beautiful tribute to Mother Teresa as the “final exam” for this unit. Reading each essay in its final form was very rewarding!

The humbling thing about home schooling is how much I am learning because of my kids. I am now fascinated with Mother Teresa, especially with regard to her selfless giving and her relentless commitment to her guiding principles. Her mission was to help one person at a time and in helping, she sought a personal connection with the abandoned and hopeless. When she sensed the connection was missing, she considered herself “off course”. Mother Teresa’s giving well never ran dry. Her internal resources remained in an eternal state of abundance, and that abundance allowed her to remain “on purpose”.

As I mentioned in a prior blog, the concept of giving is surprisingly challenging to teach to children. I am finding the “KISS” principle (keep it simple sweetie) to be most effective. Coincidently, as I was cleaning a closet this week, I ran across a book that I hadn’t read since my kids were little—“The Giving Tree” by Shel Silverstein. I imagine most parents have read this book, but if you haven’t, I highly recommend it. It is a timeless and ageless story of selfless giving.

It’s the story of a boy and his favorite tree—The Giving Tree. He has a relationship with the tree through his entire life and depends on it for comfort and solitude. As the boy matures from toddler, to young man, to middle age and then his golden years, The Giving Tree always has something to give to the boy. The moral of the story is that no matter what how exhausted, tired or “spent” we are we always have something to give to others.

This “grand leadership experiment” of mine has been fascinating so far! And it’s only just begun. My education specialist asked me if I think it’s working. I am hopeful that it is, although I am well aware of the fact that you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink. My kids have been mostly receptive to my cause. Their emotions have ranged from extremely bored to wildly inspired (and a lot of in between). So, is it working, you ask? Evidence is mounting that it is. I say this as my children are yelling insults to each other while making cookies. I am choosing to believe that this temporary setback is due to the amount of sugar they are ingesting at the moment.

But, overall, the seeds that have been planted through 30+ hours or so of training are starting to sprout. I see it in their interaction with each other and towards my husband and me. We are definitely closer. I catch sound bites of conversations they are having with each other that include “little tidbits” from our lessons. I get continual requests for “calming meditations” and “visualizations” before we go to sleep. While these seem to be positive indications, a simple sign from God would be beneficial to my ego!

I believe children are very close to God, and while they may not “get” everything we discuss on a purely intellectual level, they get it spiritually. My delusion is that because of this time we are spending, they will understand the power of choice and how their thoughts and decisions affect the quality of their lives. Ultimately, they will incorporate these tools to create a spectacular life!

Monday, February 23, 2009

Womanly Parts, Seam Splitting Farts and Oliver Twist at Bed Time!

Raucous laughter erupted for the third time in the nearby game room. I repressed the undercurrent of anger brewing inside me. Now that we are home schooling, I am attempting to replace some of our marginally acceptable bed time reading material with “the classics”. I was thrilled earlier in the day when I happened across a copy of Charles Dicken’s beloved classic, Oliver Twist. Anticipation of sharing my discovery had been building throughout the day. I envisioned the looks of joy rivaled only by Christmas morning that would adorn my children’s faces when I announced “Kids, we’re going to read a classic tonight, Oliver Twist.” I was so excited that several times I had almost divulged my secret, but somehow, I managed to withhold it until exactly the right time.

Completely opposite of my expectations, my “surprise” was met with screams of belligerence instead of squeals of delight. “CAN’T WE READ GIRLS RULE?” they wailed in perfect unison. I wondered where I had gone wrong. It took ten minutes of negotiation, deep breathing and verbal “conditioning” to get the energy in the room back to a state that was conducive to reading.

And then came the laughter…

I persisted and resolutely commenced reading, deliberately raising the volume of my voice to cover the laughter coming from the game room. Within three paragraphs I was losing my voice, questioning my judgment and doubting my literary selection. This was way over their heads, I thought to myself. Maybe I should acquiesce to Girls Rule and just forget the classics.

My son saved the moment by offering to venture out to the game room to tell my husband to lower the volume. Thankfully, this broke my pattern of negative thinking. Thirty seconds became two minutes. My daughter volunteered to “go get them”. Two minutes became four minutes. I heard my husband say “Check this out Frankie, this guy farted and split the seams of his pants right open.” More raucous laughter, only this time my children were partaking.

How did we digress from reading one of the world’s best literary works to seam splitting farts? And how was I going to regain control of this situation? It was pretty clear that viewing strange bodily functions on the big screen was much more appealing than what I was offering. Even a fluffy down comforter and the promise of backrubs couldn’t turn this situation around. My plan for enlightenment… my calming and enriching bedtime routine was being sabotaged by none other than my "other half". Where was the “unified front”. Weren’t we in this together? Aren’t the classics going to take our children much farther in life than farting? I felt overwhelmingly alone.

I took a few cleansing breaths and convinced myself that it was going to be okay, and before I knew it, I heard my son say to my daughter, “we better go back with Mom or she’s not going to read.” Had I hooked them in three confusing introductory paragraphs? Probably not, but my kids really love story time, so thousands of prior nights of reading were working in my favor.

Ten minutes later, we were back to where we the very beginning. I decided correctly that if I was to have even a slight chance of making this work, I had better stop every three or four sentences to translate the starkly different English of the mid 1800’s to the English of the early 2000’s. My translation was questionable, but I persisted and before I knew it, they were engaged.

Then my darling husband, in a decidedly disruptive fashion, entered the room, ready to share commentary about another gross bodily function he had just observed. In his awkward attempt to crawl into the tiny twin bed with all of us, my tween daughter screamed, “Dad, you’re hurting my womanly parts.” Womanly parts? She’s 10. She doesn’t have womanly parts. Dear God, what was happening to my family?

I took three more cleansing breaths and waited patiently. Things eventually settled down and somehow, we managed to get through a whole chapter of Oliver Twist before my son drifted off to sleep. I guess great writing is great writing and a great story is a great story, no matter how poorly translated by me!

I wouldn’t yet call us a “classics family”, but there was a glimmer of hope this evening as I realized that even when I have to compete with “womanly parts” and “seam splitting farts”, we can still enjoy a little “Oliver Twist” at bed time.

Friday, February 20, 2009

The Fifth Thing I Love About Home School--Progress!

I had my first meeting today with my ES to present proof of our “progress”. In the home school world, the ES or Education Specialist is the master teacher who oversees a group of home schooling families. She has accountability to make sure families are progressing towards their goals.

I have been nervously anticipating this meeting for a few weeks. Would we “measure up?” Or would we be sent back to our desks to redo our work? I spent about 3 hours last night reviewing and carefully selecting work samples from all our subject areas that would best represent my children’s progress. I packaged it up neatly, along with our attendance records and curriculum in preparation for the meeting.

The meeting went great. In fact, it was somewhat anticlimactic when I found out that the only person to see our work is our ES and that the samples I so thoughtfully selected basically sit in a storage facility awaiting future possible audit. Should there be one, I’ll volunteer to have my file reviewed, just so someone else can bear witness to our progress.

It turns out, the old “hold onto the paper for 7 years routine” applies to home school too. After being in business for myself for years, I could have purchased a mountain cabin in Aspen for what I have spent in storage space in order to comply with state and federally mandated “record keeping”. But I didn’t even care. It was sort of like life. I am enjoying the journey rather than the destination. These meetings are merely symbolic milestones for parents to measure progress. And reviewing our progress left me 100% certain that we have made the right choice for our family and children.

Learning at home is whatever you decide to make of it. And thanks to the efforts and participation of my children, we are getting a lot out of our homeschooling adventure. The level of learning is incredible. The flexibility is awesome! I keep a log of “projects” I want to do. The only thing lacking is the time to do them all. In the last 6 weeks, we have been able to do so much that we wouldn’t have if we were obligated to school. But that’s just where I want to be in my world right now, and I realize that we are all on different paths.

Here’s what I believe applies to all of us. No matter what our circumstances in life, we need to take time to measure and appreciate our progress. We also need to realize that just small, incremental improvements in a given area add up to tremendous improvements over time. Someone once said to me, “you don’t have to change everything overnight. In fact, you’ll be more successful in the long run at reaching your goals if you make small but consistent improvements.” You must remain committed to your outcome, because sometimes your progress will seem imperceptible. But then you’ll have a moment like I did yesterday, when you step back and take an objective look at what you’ve accomplished and think, “that’s pretty awesome!”

Enjoy your successes and share them often. Move confidently in the direction of your dreams, and don’t forget to celebrate your progress along the way!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Lord Help Me! I’m “Off The Grid!”

I found a really funny email in my inbox today. I got a message from the husband of an acquaintance of mine, apologizing to me on behalf of his wife because she had not responded to my emails. “She’s off the grid for a week,” he explained “and wants you to know that everything is okay.” Off the Grid! At first I felt sorry for her. It sounded to absolutely tragic—this being “off grid”. And then it made me laugh. I can’t wait to talk to her to find out exactly what she’s been up too. My friend is very “tuned in” so I imagine this was some type of spiritual retreat. Or, maybe she had given up “the grid” for Lent. My imagination is running wild with this one!

What the heck is “the grid?” Have we become so addicted to our electronic connections that we can’t even function without them? Do we periodically have to “check off the grid” for an extended period of time just to make sure we can deal with life? My friend, I am not trivializing your “off grid experience” and I really cannot wait to hear about it. But I am laughing hysterically at myself!

For the last 34.6 hours, I have been experiencing my own “off grid” experience accompanied by a mild anxiety attack. We’ve been having a lot of rain here in sunny southern California, and when that happens, we lose our cable and internet for extended periods of time (which in my world is anything over 45 minutes). Thank God, it was over the weekend and on a holiday so it didn’t affect our home school routine. That would have really sent me into a tail spin. But, I can tell you, I felt completely lost without my invisible connection to “the grid”. What was I missing? Who was trying to contact me? How many great posts had I missed on blogs that I follow? Would anyone remember me when I came back? Or worse, would anyone actually have missed me?

Thankfully, my “off grid” experience ended in 34.6 hours after many infuriating phone calls to “customer service.” But, I think it begs the question about the role of technology in our lives. Not only are we balancing the normal aspects of relationships, family, friends, health and career, and spirituality, but we are now in a constant struggle to balance technology. And within any single “connected family”, there are individual technology balancing struggles taking place. Not only do I have to monitor my own “grid addiction” but I have to monitor my children’s grid additions. Hopefully my husband can handle his, although I have often thought an intervention was appropriate for him.
I very clearly remember life before all this “grid mania”. It was simple and Rockwellian. You didn’t answer the phone during dinner. A secretary took your messages and you returned them when the time was right. And, people still wrote letters to each other. We controlled our time and the timing of our communication with people. We didn’t just respond to ill timed and unwanted incoming communication missiles. Now, I believe, the tables have turned. Who is in control? If we aren’t careful, “the grid” controls us!

The family dinner hour was hijacked by telemarketer’s years ago. This, I believe, opened the door. Today, cell phones interrupt dinner conversations and drivers focus on texting rather than driving. We no longer have “work time” and “family time”, because bosses and job demands can find us through “the grid.” We get more spam than we do legitimate, quality communication, and the art of having a good old fashioned face to face, heart to heart conversation seems to be lost! Replaced by the now preferred method of communication, “the grid”.

Don’t get me wrong. I LOVE TECHNOLOGY!!! And I really appreciate it in a home school environment. We have access to unbelievable information and with technology; we can take learning to a whole new level. Like many things, it requires moderation and balance.

But I wonder about the long term implications of our new preferred method of communication. Will our addition to “the grid” enhance or destroy us? What are your thoughts?

Monday, February 16, 2009

Why Selfless Giving Requires a State of ETERNAL Internal Abundance.

For the next two weeks, my children and I are studying on the concept of GIVING in our leadership class. Teaching this is more complicated than I expected. My 9 and 10 year old are still dangerously close to the “it’s all about me” stage of their development. Like any normal elementary age kids, they have their empathetic and generous moments which can turn instantaneously turn into greed and selfishness. Hmmmm!!!! Maybe that behavior isn’t just limited to children. It seems to apply to me, too, and a little too closely, I might add.

I have a plethora of resources in my leadership library to supplement my teaching on this topic, but there is one really basic concept that MUST come through if they are going to get it. In order to give, you must have something to give. This requires one to be in a state of eternal internal abundance. What is this internal state of abundance and how does one get there? Eternally!

Well, let’s start with what it is not. It is not scarcity. It is not lack. It is not “protectionism”. This buzzword—“protectionism” has been popping up everywhere lately. It seems like all the major news channels and financial newsletters are all talking about how a new trend towards “protectionism” by many of the world’s leading economies, will escalate and prolong this global economic downturn. Well, that just sums it up perfectly! When we are in a state of scarcity or lack, we become protectionists, ultimately prolonging our scarcity and lack creating a downward death spiral of doom. Wow! That was depressing. But, isn’t that sort of the mindset of the collective consciousness right now? We have to snap out of this! Collectively.

On the other hand, when you are in a state of internal abundance, you are open to unlimited possibilities. You realize that the world has unlimited resources for everyone to enjoy, and that God really intended all of us to partake in the abundance He created. When you feel abundant, you believe you can give and give and give and still have more than enough. The giving begets giving—which perfectly describes the classic “art of reciprocation.” Every good sales person knows that in order to close the sale, they must give away something of value. I am hoping I can teach this concept to my children minus the manipulative salesperson techniques and sponsorship opportunities.

So, I have my hands full this week. How do you teach others (including myself) that it is in your best interest in life to remain in a state of ETERNAL internal abundance? And how do you actually get there? I am open to ideas. This blog is actually a cry for help!

In order to understand giving, we must understand what it is not. And once the intellectual understanding is instilled, we must move on to the practical day to day applications of being brave enough to put aside our own selfish needs in order to offer something up to someone else. And why is it often most difficult to do this with those we are closest too? That’s for another blog.

Somehow, I don’t think it will be learned in a few lessons. I think we’ll be working on this for a lifetime. Maybe that’s where the ETERNAL aspect of this comes in to play.

My kids will need a few “lighter” examples of this principle to inspire them. We watched Extreme Home Makeover tonight. That was an appropriate start and provided a few opportune moments of selfless giving sponsored by Sears. I have a feeling I’ll be digging up the movie “Pay it Forward” as well, and maybe a few episodes of Oprah’s “Big Give.” On a deeper and more spiritual level, our Mother Teresa reports are due this week, and she is and amazing contemporary example of “selfless giving.”

So let me offer up one of my favorite quotes by her. Hopefully it will inspire you as much as it has me.

Sign In Mother Teresa's Office

People are unreasonable,
illogical, and self-centered


If you do good, people will
accuse you of selfish,
ulterior motives,


If you are successful, you win
false friends and true enemies,


The good you do will
be forgotten tomorrow,


Honesty and frankness
make you vulnerable,


What you spent years building
may be destroyed overnight,


People really need help but
may attack you if you help them,


Give the world the best you
have and you'll get kicked
in the teeth,


From a sign on the wall
of Shishu Bhavan,
the Children's home in Calcutta

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Is Your Life Holding You Hostage? Take It Back!

I have been getting the “why” question a lot lately. In fact, a mom responded thoughtfully to one of my blogs on today and inquired about a seeming discrepancy in something I wrote. I mentioned that before our decision to home school, we were in a lovely Catholic school with great teachers. She wanted to know why we made the decision to home school if we were happy with our school. It wasn’t that anything was specifically wrong. It was that everything wasn’t right!

I felt we could do so much better! I knew in my heart that our family was being pulled in too many directions. We were starved for any kind of time, let alone quality family time. We were suffering, individually and as a family. There weren’t any alarming behavioral problems. The kids were getting great grades, developing friendships and they were generally in a good mood when I picked them up. But the little things were adding up. Bickering in the car on the way home, hardly being able to get out of bed in the morning, being unenthusiastic and resistant to the next organized activity or event posed constant parenting challenges. I was tired, impatient and crabby, and I am adult who can control my emotions. My children definitely weren’t getting the best of me. If I was tired and crabby, I knew they must be too, even more so.

My observation is that as a society, we are caught up in a predetermined and unquestioned system of operating. We are so “caught up in keeping up”, that we don’t have the time and energy to question why we are doing it until something dramatic happens. Every home school parent I have spoken too has had their “straw that broke the camel’s back” moment--that unforgettable moment of truth that caused them to take a second look at what they were doing, question everything, and acknowledge that things could be different.

I had that moment. Several of them, in fact, had stacked on top of each other until I had reached my personal breaking point. The system was holding my family hostage. I was like Mel Gibson in the movie Ransom—I wanted my family back, and I was willing to pay any price! Ironically, the price I am paying now is significantly less than that private school cost.

We are a pretty typical family, I think. My husband and I have been married for 14 years. We have two kids and a dog. My husband works, a lot. I had my own company for the last 20 years, and have decided now to stay at home to teach the kids. Our kids are involved in a number of activities and have active social lives. It wasn’t that we wanted to give things up as much as it was that we wanted to use our time more effectively so we could spend more time with each other. Serving as the family chauffeur, putting on 100 + miles per day so that other people could teach and influence my children didn’t seem to be the best use of time. It certainly wasn’t in the best interest of my family. It wasn’t working for us. With home school, we have cut most of the driving, increased our learning, eliminated homework (don’t get me started on homework as the world’s greatest time stealer), and taken back our family life.

I want to stress, that I am not here to criticize traditional school or those who choose that path. We, personally have been in schools we have loved and some that were not so great. I know many folks in great schools that are thrilled. They system works for them. I have also met some home school families who really aren’t doing their kids any favor. So there can be problems with any system as well as benefits.

What I AM advocating is that we all take a serious look at our lives to see what is working and what is not working. Life is short. If something isn’t working, change it. As a society, we need to question the distractions in our lives that keep us from remaining family focused. We live in a country that encourages creative solutions. Anything is possible with imagination, creativity, resourcefulness and flexibility.

If your life is holding you hostage, take it back! The power to choose the life we have dreamed of is entirely within our control.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

The Fourth Thing I Love About Home Schooling—Witnessing Divine Inspiration!

One fabulous thing about children is that God and all that is “divine” easily comes through them. Anyone who spends some quality time with children has witnessed this phenomenon. I have a theory developing about home schooling. I think, because home school is tailored to your children’s interests, they spend more time in a state of mastery, which allows more of these moments to happen. And, because you are right there with them, there is no way to miss it, unless you happen to be making them a snack.

Here’s what happened to us today. We are studying the American Revolution and I wanted the kids to write a poem today about George Washington crossing the Delaware. My recollection of learning this event was very vague. I am pretty sure this subject was covered in one paragraph of a history primer some time during second or third grade and then long forgotten. What we have learned this time around is much more comprehensive because this is now our favorite subject. I need to give a brief accounting of this event so you understand the context of what she wrote. If you are a history buff, bear with me.

George Washington was a hero in the eyes of the Colonists and a “shoe in” as the first General of the Colonial Army. Interestingly, his career as a General, prior to and during the Revolution pretty much consisted of losses in battles. He didn’t exactly have great winning stats behind him. He desperately needed “a win” to garner commitment from his shoestring army and financial support from the King of France. (It turns out, even in Colonial days, fundraising was a necessary evil).

George Washington effectively utilized spies during the Revolutionary War, and one of them, a man named John Honeywell, managed to infiltrate the hired German soldiers (the Hessions) who were fighting on behalf of Great Brittain. He told General Raul that Washington’s army was in dire straights, disorganized and posed no threat to the Hessions. He was truthful about the first two items. He returned to Washington and effectively described the essential details of the Brittish encampment so that he could plan his attack. The Hessions were flush with food, supplies, uniforms and cash. It turns out they had everything that they needed except “divine inspiration.”

Washington had nothing working in his favor. The men were starving, bare foot, sick, exhausted and broke. Most were hanging on by a prayer, but somehow Washington instilled in them, a sense of divine inspiration. On Christmas morning 1776, Washington and his men crossed 9 miles of the Delaware River through ice and a blistering storm, taking the Hessions by surprise and capturing 900 men. It was our first and possibly most important victory.

I wanted my children to recount this story in the form of a poem so that we could efficiently combine writing and history. What I got was “divine inspiration” that comes only from a sense of mastery. My daughter knew the details of the story so well, that she was beyond them. She went straight to the heart of the matter--the emotional state of the Colonial soldiers and the faith they put in their leader-GW. This is what she wrote and I swear to you, it took her all of 10 minutes. I helped her with the word “anguish”, and that was my sole contribution. I made one other suggestion and she quickly responded, “no Mom, it is exactly as it should be.” She was right. Who am I to interfere with this level of divinity?

American Delaware

Here we are waiting;
cold, bare, wanting to know.
How we will live with those dying,
those poor, anguished, and given up?
We know not how it will go,
that horrible bloody war lying ahead.
They have those which withstand,
have what they have, and create death.
We God forsaken men shall die of hunger, and frost;
loved ones crying at our beds.
Again we will perish for they do not know
we struggle to survive for the fate of our country...America.
Our leader lives with no hatred, only trust in us.
We have let him down for we have died without faith or triumph
He has tried to lift hopes,
but no peace is there.
But our spirit lives on with our dreams,
and we shall live on with our hopes.

~Austin Nicole Eder
age 10, 2/11/09

This was my nauseatingly proud parent moment! Thanks for sharing it with me. I know we have all had them, but I think we need to take the time to marvel in their divinity!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The Secret to Living is giving! And why Actions Speak Louder Than Words!

Six weeks in and loving it! In my mind, we’re now officially “home schoolers!” I was poignantly reminded of this when we walked into Color Me Mine, a local “make your own pottery place” that we frequent under the guise of “art class”. We were there to pick up our latest masterpieces. The clerk at the counter asked the kids if they had started their Valentines yet, and I chuckled. “We’re home schooled”, I quickly offered. “We don’t have to do those anymore.” And subconsciously, I felt myself release a HUGE sigh of relief as I recalled prior years and what Valentine’s Day meant in our world.

Typically, I hadn’t planned ahead. Usually, it hit me in the early evening the night before that I had again failed as a mother by not preparing for this event in July. My children would be shunned. Where would I find decent Valentines at 7:30 p.m. on a school night? Would I really have the energy to make the pilgrimage to every local Rite Aid until I found them? How could I then coerce my children to stay up until the wee hours of the morning writing notes of endearment to 25 acquaintances that they honestly weren’t that fond of? I even ventured into the extreme danger zone. “What is the worst thing that could happen if we just didn’t bring anything?” Ouch. Thankfully, we never went there. But, we never did school Valentine’s Day very well, and I was overjoyed to realize that I was leaving it behind!

Then, almost miraculously, I noticed a very sweet scene unfolding at the table next to the counter where we awaited our “prized creations”. A young father, with his two, itty bitty daughters had taken their Saturday afternoon to paint heart shaped statues with their heartfelt thoughts of appreciation lovingly expressed in color palettes that only a 3 and 5 year old could conceive of. First and foremost, I was in awe about the fact that he had planned so far ahead. His biggest dilemma now was whether to pay the $5 rush charge to absolutely guarantee, without a doubt that his wife could receive these treasures on Valentine’s Day. (He opted for the rush fee by the way. This guy was committed!)

How wonderful, I thought to myself. He took it upon himself to surprise his wife with these selfless displays of giving and he involved his children in the process. Think of the life lessons. Think of the memories. Think of the love his wife would feel and she opened these treasures on Valentine’s morning! (This guy would be good at homeschooling, I thought). And the amazing thing is (in my opinion at least) that he nailed it! As a mom, what I want most from my loved ones are these earnest and spontaneous gestures of unconditional love. Forget the flowers. Skip the chocolate! It’s appreciation, acknowledgment and a great back rub that I crave more than anything.

How “coincidental” it was that this caught my attention now. Our leadership topic for this week is “It is better to give than to receive”. It left me wondering what it is that my own significant other craves more than anything this Valentine’s Day. How far would a selfless gesture of our appreciation go in his mind? Sounds like an experiment worth pursuing. Hmmm. … I need to start on this now.

It also left me thinking that I could get it together for once in my life and have the kids make Valentines for the people in their life that are truly important to them and maybe, just maybe (I am not promising anything) get them in the mail in time to make a difference on that special day!

I have our “house rules” posted in the heart of our home--our refrigerator. The title, in 72 pt bold type says The Secret to Living is Giving! And this is followed by a list of Eder Family commandments by which we must abide. Somehow, I hope that each day as they grab their physical sustenance, they absorb some spiritual sustenance. I am not sure it is working. In fact, I am pretty sure that they selectively ignore this reminder now. As a back-up plan, I have a great curriculum laid out this for this week with excerpts from “giving gurus” to help my kids understand this important concept; “It is better to give than to receive.” My children will listen with varying degrees of open-mindedness, I am sure.

But sometimes it is the simple things, like actually doing something that mean so much more! Actions do speak louder than words. THERE ARE FOUR DAYS LEFT UNTIL VALENTINE’S DAY, a radio commercial just screamed to me. We’ll be getting busy now!

Friday, February 6, 2009

Week 5 Wrap up—Unlimited Possibilities.

This week we studied the concept of opening your mind to unlimited possibilities so you can create a masterpiece for your life. There’s a fantastic scene in the musical Wicked in which the main character, the Bad witch Elphaba, reaches her breaking point. If you’re not familiar with this story, she is actually the good witch but society has labeled her as “the bad witch” because of her appearance. And the character we all know as Glenda the good witch in the Wizard of Oz, who is Galinda with a “ga” in Wicked, turns out to not be so good after all.

Elphaba, has been ostracized her whole life for her freakishly green color, and has been told she will never amount to anything. But she knows deep in the crevasses of her soul that she is so much more than the limits that have been placed upon her by herself and others. In the climactic song, Defying Gravity, she vows to vanquish the limits on her life so she can fulfill her destiny and unleash her awesome magical powers to manifest good.

I believe we all have awesome magical powers and we can all do the same!

As part of our leadership series this week, the kids and I partook in a guided meditation that turned us into futuristic warriors with light savors. We ceremoniously zapped the problems out of our lives. With a clear head, we were free to discover the possibilities we can create when there are no limits, self imposed or otherwise, to hold us back.

This process was not only fun, but shed some very interesting insight into the minds of my children. Possibilities emerged such as “becoming the 50th president of the United States”, and “starring as Galinda in the Wicked Musical” and filming a movie on top of the Hollywood sign. Big dreams out of little packages, but entirely attainable with a little focus, preparation and practice.

As adults, how often do we metaphorically try to defy gravity? Dr. Wayne Dyer very wisely suggests that it’s never too late, and that we should not leave this planet with our music still in us. But have the pressures of daily life, our own self doubt, fear of failure and extenuating external circumstances caused us to turn the volume down so low on our own music that we can no longer hear it?

The author, Sark, speaks of bodacious succulent living. I love that phrase! Just the silliness of it puts me immediately in a “no limits” state of mind. I think it’s time for all of us to create some bodacious succulence in our lives. I like to start off each year with this Bodacious Succulence session. I have not called it that in the past. I have simply called it my annual “no limits goals session”, but going forward I have decided to adopt Sark’s language.

This process is very fun whether you do it alone or with someone. All you need is a quiet spot, an open mind, some great inspiring music and something to write with. (The theme from Star Wars works great for the first part of this, by the way).

Here’s what you do: Meditate for a few moments (that simply means be quiet and close your eyes). Become completely child-like and transform yourself into that legend in your own mind--your best warrior self, in full color and larger than life. See yourself on the big screen if it helps. Courageously, fearlessly, relentlessly zap the problems out of your life. See them coming at you from all directions and just vaporize them. Repeat until you have a clear head.

Then put on your inspirational, “no limits” music and think about everything you would like to create in your life. When you find limiting beliefs creeping back into your consciousness, call upon the warrior again, vaporize it and get back to work.

I think you’ll be really surprised at how amazing your list is. Review it. Select your top 3-5 and start working towards your goals. You might find your whole life changes. This process works for me. I have had some of my biggest personal breakthroughs as a result of it, and I am certain I will continue to use it throughout my life. I wanted to teach it to my kids early so they realize that the quality of their life is created by the thoughts they have.

Thoughts are definitely things, and by having the right thoughts, we can create a life of unlimited possibilities! Go on. I dare you to create the life you’ve imagined.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

The 3rd Great Thing about Home School-- Eating Like Our Lives Depend on It!

You are what you eat, from your head down to your feet. Isn’t that the truth? The challenge when my kids were in traditional school was that I never knew what they were eating. I sent them away everyday with their lunch boxes filled with wholesome healthy food. My son often opted for recess over lunch and didn’t eat a thing all day, which lead to concentration deficiencies, mood swings and incidents of hypoglycemia.

I never did figure out what my daughter was eating. Sometimes she came home with an empty box. Sometimes there were remnants of items she had obviously traded away for something much more “highly coveted” by her elementary school culinary standards. I had nightmares wondering what she may have ingested, and constantly wondered which kid in her class was benefitting from my carefully selected, nutritional items. And then, horror of horrors, she coerced me into participating in the school lunch program. I now understand exactly how my mother felt—defeated and guilty!

I am admittedly, somewhat of a “food purist” at this point in my life. When I hit 40 a few years ago depleted of energy and vitality, I realized that the “root cause” of my lethargy was my nutrition and if I didn’t turn things around, by the time I was 60, I would be out of steam. I am planning on reaching at least 100, so eating poorly wasn’t an option. Going forward, I decided, I would have to eat as if my life depended on it, literally!

Interestingly, I had always considered myself a healthy eater, so facing the fact that I was very under informed was hard on my ego. I learned that due to my poor eating habits and extreme stress from my role as an entrepreneur, wife and mother, I was an acid producing machine. I had become a veritable “Petri dish” for toxicity, disease, and even potentially, cancer growth. I had created the perfect environment in my system to quickly destroy itself. I can only hope that through a series of cleanses, I have removed that toxicity and there are no remnants hanging around from the old days.

Anyway, I launched a two year, massive personal research study on food, nutrition, detoxification, and hormones. And slowly, over the course of those two years, completely changed what my family eats when we are in our house. How did I do this? I read and read and read the best resources I could find and then formed my opinions when three or more experts seemed to be saying the same thing and had the research to back it. I attended seminars, fasted and cleansed to reduce toxins in my system. I have even become an avid enthusiast of the “dreaded colon cleanse.” I can’t say enough about it!

Granted, I am still not as thin as I would like to be because I haven’t made exercise a daily MUST for myself, although my “really clean friend”, guru and yogi master Gina, recently inspired me to get back into yoga. Thank you Gina! Even though I average about 5-7 hours of sleep a night, still have more than enough energy to give each day my best.

Applying these eating habits in my family while we were in traditional school often did not go as planned. I managed to keep myself on my track fairly well, and when I could find time to cook, my family ate well. But like many other families in the US, we were starved for time and nutrition. I was caught on the proverbial treadmill, juggling work, carpools, errands, kids, and husband. I held up the “white flag” too often as I surrendered to the fast food alternative, just for the sake of quieting the hunger cries from my tribe while adhering to schedules. This created nothing but bad habits and deep inner conflict. More guilt, thank you. Don’t Mom’s already have enough?

Which leads me to what I love about home school…The food guilt complex is obliterated!

We eat almost all our meals at home now, prepared by me and monitored by me. My family is eating well. My son has grown 6 inches in the last 8 months and I can only attribute it to the improvement in diet. I share information about food and healthy living practices, including my feelings about the importance of colon cleansing with the kids on a regular basis. They cringe and giggle, but there is mounting evidence that they have been listening.

My 9 year old son is very health conscious now and carefully monitors his glucose/protein balance on his own. He has virtually eliminated sugar from his diet, with the exception of the occasional treat here and there. I feed him his vitamin packed smoothies daily so I know he is getting all his essential nutrients and fatty acids.

My daughter remains resistant my healthy smoothies and is by all accounts, a true “junk food junkie” who would eat donuts daily if allowed. And it’s unfortunate, because she is a gifted dancer who will need good eating habits for peak performance. But I was shocked just recently when we were caught in a now rare situation which called for a fast food solution. I meekly suggested Burger King. She declared, “Mom, can’t we go someplace healthier, I feel really bad when I eat fast food.” And today, she said, “Mom, I am really starting to dislike dairy. I really don’t feel good when I eat it. I am going to find alternatives.” Wow! Not to say she won’t continue to be child-like in her food choices. She’s only 10. My expectations are relatively low. But that was completely unexpected!

I guess we’re all on the program now to one degree or another, eating as though our lives depend on it. I'll let you know when they request a colon cleanse.

Week 4 Wrap Up: Be like Wall-e and Find One Green Thing to Nurture.

These blogs usually come in a flood of inspiration, and when they do, they flow from my brain to my hands faster than I can type. This week I have struggled. How could I top last week’s wrap up on unconditional love? I’ve thought about it all week, and the fact that we didn’t make as much progress as I had hoped for on the second half of our “unconditional love studies” left me with very little to be inspired about. But, I have learned that given time, the inspiration always comes.

And there it was, right at the forefront of my emotions. My dear friend of 33 years, who was scheduled for a radical mastectomy today, provided the source of inspiration and reminded me that our treasured friendships which are so easily and often neglected are one of our most readily available sources of giving and receiving unconditional love.

She called me a few hours before the surgery with a last minute request pertaining to her daughter. It was a BIG ONE and it took approximately 5 seconds to respond to her with my one word response, “YES!” Although I did qualify my response by saying that I needed to discuss it with my better half. I called her back one minute later with his 2 word response, “of course”. Maybe husbands who love wives unconditionally, transfer that love to their wives’ “unconditionally loved friends”. Just a theory.

I am not making myself or my hubby a hero. The hero in this story spent 10 hours on the operating table today enduring what no woman should have to endure. I was, however, simply and profoundly reminded how effortless our decisions and actions are when it comes to those we love unconditionally.

Interestingly, our anger, resentment and judgment are often as effortless. We fly off the handle, over react, judge and criticize without a second thought, and we feel “justified” while unleashing our wrath. The tougher challenge for us human is transferring the same type of thoughtless, selfless love we so readily bestow on our loved ones to those who are unknown to us—the strangers we encounter who we judge instantaneously by the clothes they wear, the way they look, their social class, the neighborhood they live in or some other superficial quality like their culture, race, or religions. When we transfer anger and judgment instead of love and acceptance, we lower the energy vibration around us. What we all really want is to be loved.

Tonight, I was fortunate to have a few hours alone with my son to watch one of his favorite movies, Wall E. I highly recommend it. The main character, Wall-e, is a lonely robot left on an earth that has been abandoned by humans. Wall-e has a directive, to collect and compact junk into junk bricks which are used to build things on this forsaken planet formerly known as Earth.

As he moves through his daily routine, completely and utterly alone, he saves a few treasures from the trash for his own use and enjoyment. Interestingly, his favorite items are a video tape of the musical, Hello Dolly, and a single green seedling of a plant which he keeps in a boot. As far as we can tell, it’s the only plant left on earth and he nurtures it carefully. Every so often, he pauses from the routine of his day to be inspired as the stars of the musical sing his favorite lines from the theme song, “all we want is to be loved our whole life long”.

I don’t know how to solve this love problem. It is epidemic. I just know that one conscious move in a positive direction per day by each human being on this planet will add up to a big difference over time.

So, take inventory. If you are lucky enough to have a few priceless friends and loved ones in your life, surprise them with an outreach of your most heartfelt appreciation and gratitude. And then take it one step farther.

In every situation, with every person you meet, look for the “one green thing” to appreciate and nuture, and together, we can watch the world grow in unconditional love.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Home School as a Place for Manifesting Miracles.

Whoever said home school was going to be easy should be taken out into the back alley for a little whoopin’! We have mostly great days, but occasionally, a real “dog downer of a day” comes along and we need a miracle to pull us through. A miracle, by definition, is an achievement by a person or group of people of an impossible goal through specific thoughts and actions. Successful home schooling, I am finding, is contingent our ability to manifest miracles.

Each day, we enter the room with our collective “stuff”. Not our physical stuff (i.e. books, computers, etc…). But our metaphysical stuff--our attitudes, our moods, our worries and responsibilities from outside the classroom, our sibling rivalry, our distractions, and our expectations. If I walk into the room with even a hint of this metaphysical baggage, they are on me like a hound dog following a scent trail at a crime scene. Somehow, by the grace of God and my own will power, I must package up all this stuff and put it aside in order to allow the miracles to come forth.

I have a new found respect for teachers and the teaching profession. I have a newfound respect for any home schoolin’ mama who has been doing this successfully for more than a month. Any teacher or mom who can hold a child’s interest and respect for an extended period of time has creative skills that could make them millions if they had chosen another profession. They must have a higher purpose in mind.

As human beings, we have a dichotomy of needs including the need for certainty and uncertainty. We need a little “meat and potatoes” and we need a little “spice”. The trick is balancing the structure and repetition with the plain old fun. Repetition is the mother of skill, but repetition can quickly create boredom and frustration which (in our house) gets expressed in interludes involving rolling and writhing on the floor in protest, picking on siblings, and storming out of the room for a little added drama.

On these days, I do the only thing I know how to do…plead to the powers that be (the kids of course) for help. Getting a healthy dose of “kiddie criticism” allows me to find opportunities to improve my “techniques”.

Evidently, per my children, Jeopardy, is desperately needed in our home school if we want to progress in the miracle manifestation department. I don’t even watch Jeopardy, so this all seems a little overwhelming. Never mind. I have enlisted their help to create the Power Point template that will allow me provide a weekly outlet for fun. That counts as computer class, right? It sounds thrilling. It sounds creative. It sounds like a small miracle will be needed to make this happen.

But I am now a creative and resourceful home schoolin' mama. I can manifest miracles daily!