Abundance & Losing It: A Shamefully True Story

I’ve been doing a LOT of inner work on my money mindset lately.  I’m growing my business in ambitious proportions, and we’ve been enjoying a quality of life that’s really pretty excellent for the past few years, even with the difficulties that we may have.

In short, I really love my life.  

People seem to think that earning more money is the best/quickest way to change your life profoundly, tho this isn’t actually true.  You might be able to afford new things, new superficial markers of recognition…but the truth is, earning more money generally just brings you MORE of what you’re already experiencing.  If you have shitty relationships, for example – having more money will ensure you have more shitty relationships, or else, that your shitty relationships get even worse.  If you eat crap now, you are not likely to switch overnight to an all-organic whole-foods diet…even if you insist it’s “only” money that prevents you from eating healthier.

If you don’t love yourself when you’re broke, you won’t automatically find the wherewithal to start a yoga practice, meet new, uplifting friends, and find your authentic self when you’re richer.  It’s just not true.  

Money is an amplifier – not a magic ticket to awesomeness.  

You’ve got to add your own bit of awesome, regardless of how much you make – to experience awesomeness in any capacity.  

 

So, I know I have a lot of “baggage” with money.  I was a spoiled only child, and money was used to manipulate and dis-empower me – by my parents, and later, by my ex-husband.  

I feel like there’s certain stories in our past, for all of us, that need to be told – released, like a catharsis – to be able to heal, grow, and move past them.  

This is one of them – a terribly humiliating story to share…  

 

It’s the story of how I blew nearly 100 grand in less than a year.  

 

(Sounds positively appalling, doesn’t it?  Toe-curlingly irresponsible.  Ridiculous.  Definitely, absolutely shameful.)

I feel like the things I write create this image of me as someone who’s always lived in poverty – but that’s actually not the case. I had a relatively “rich” childhood.  When I moved out at 19, I *thought* we were poor. Then I got divorced and realized a whole new level of poverty.  I got remarried, but not “back on my feet” – not by a longshot.  

Then, something huge happened:

My husband finally got a settlement check, for a legal case that we wish hadn’t even had to happen. His share was a lump sum of over $90K.

We were so broke we had to borrow the money for gasoline to drive an hour away to find a bank to cash the check. Our own bank wouldn’t honor it cause we were so overdrawn – and we were so jaded and distrustful of banks at that point, we felt terrified to even open a new account to deposit the money into.

 

It actually felt safer to drive home with so much cash it barely fit in our glovebox.

 

We KNEW what this meant: the END of all our bullshit money troubles. We would never have to tell the kids no about petty things again. We would get out of debt; buy a proper home, a new vehicle that wasn’t slowly dying, finally honor our hobbies and pursue our interests – we could travel.

We would take a trip to the coast, see the ocean, stay in a beach cottage, and give the kids amazing, fun memories to cherish. FREEDOM…such sweet escape, we dreamed of.

 

We did pay off our credit cards. I put just what I needed to pay them all off into a new account, and did so with a few quick phonecalls…boy, did that feel great.

We kept our clunker car for backup, found a modest but nice minivan that fit our family, and paid cash for that too. The sales associate didn’t know whether to peg us as crazy conspiracy theorists or bank robbers, when we showed up to buy that van.

We even found the perfect home – older, smallish, out in the country, far away from friends and shopping – but it had everything we truly needed. Space for the kids, a great yard and garden, etc. We imagined, even if we had no furniture or stuff, how wonderful it would be to never fear the possibility of losing our home for failure to pay every month – because we had enough to buy the house outright.

Incredibly, we were the first ones to notice the little gem, and we made our offer – they accepted!  We even signed a contract on it, but then – I freaked out.  In Texas, you have three days to nullify a contract on a home, for whatever reason.  

 

I was paralyzed with fear.  I realized that after paying closing costs and moving expenses, we might not even be able to afford to buy the one other big-ticket thing I really felt we needed: a nice mattress.

We’d been sleeping on the floor for over a year, living in project apartments.  I gave up most of my furniture in the divorce, and we’d yet to replace any of it.  We were constantly scrambling, and It seemed like there was never even enough money to buy an air mattress and pump, in all that time…

 

I was mentally and emotionally destroyed.

 

We voided the contract.  Passed up the house at my insistence (bolstered by my parents’ bad advice).

Instead, we decided to rent a place from my FIL, who turned out to be not as interested in philanthropy as I initially assumed. I deluded myself that he’d eventually sell us the house at a loss, since he didn’t want to live in it.

 

I decorated the place inside and out. It felt wonderful, like I was creating a personal sanctuary for my family that could never be destroyed or taken away.  We made loads of repairs, bought furniture, even installed a pool.

We got cats, which we’d always wanted but couldn’t afford to feed or take care of before.

Then the bills started rolling in: The house seemed to lack insulation; I was flabbergasted at the $450-$600+ electricity bills, when we’d previously been paying just over $100/month. The pool upkeep cost tons of money every week.

 

Our “friends” expected us to entertain, and we did. Barbecues and parties…we drank a lot at that house – first because it was fun to revel in not having to worry – and then, because we WERE worried.

 

My FIL asked us to either pay double or move out. He could charge someone over twice what we were having extreme trouble paying him every month.

At first, we thought we could take what money we had left and use it as a down payment to buy another modest home, and finance the rest. However, our previous credit and distrust of banks proved to be our undoing.  We got financed, but for an amount just barely enough to buy a home at all.

In two months, we offered on SIX homes, and were outbid every time by some opportunist investor (whom I referred to as ASSHOLES at the time) with cash to spare. I cried every time we got the bad news.

 

My husband’s illness got worse. Seizures at work. He had to quit his job. The credit cards that I’d almost cut up started to be used in constant succession for everything, as I had no other way to buy groceries.

It got colder, and we resorted to buying firewood to use in the “decorative” fireplace – because we were terrified to turn up the heat another degree and be slammed with another $600+ utility bill we couldn’t pay.

 

The kids and I cried bitterly, very hard, when we had to rehome the cats. I still sometimes have trouble mustering much feeling for the dog and snake we have now. I shut off that part of myself – the animal lover.  Intangible losses…

 

I was in utter disbelief. HOW could this be happening to us?

We tried so hard to make the right decisions, but my damned fear brought me right back again. We SWORE we’d never go back to this life again.

 

My husband found some apartments that offered reduced rent to low income applicants. We got back on food stamps. We sold many, many things at a pathetic, desperate loss – things that I’d bought with a satisfied smile on my face, “knowing” I’d never have to sell my things to make ends meet again…

Here we were, in the very hell we thought we’d escaped forever. Ironically, it felt about 100 times worse, being here after experiencing “somewhere else”.

 

I had to ask my parents for immediate help with our bills until assistance kicked in.

I had to swallow my pride and admit, with extreme nausea, that we were down to less than $400, when less than a year ago we had had $90K.

 

Just writing these words is so hard for me, even all this time later. Hot tears prick my eyes, and a wave of deep, disgusted shame is coursing through me still.

 

My deepest fear about earning more money is that I’ll just lose it all again somehow. It’s not even an unfounded fear – for I’ve lived through this nauseatingly, shameful scenario in real life. We had the funds we needed to make just about anything happen – and we utterly, completely, profoundly FAILED.

 

I resolve to change my story.

I AM worth more than this.

 

I deserve more than what I’ve been receiving…and I KNOW that I will never let fear hold me back from making the right decisions again.

 

I am a good steward of money – I will do wonderful things with it, for mySelf, my family, and for others as well.

The more I have, the more I can responsibly give back to the world. With great power comes great responsibility.

 

I release this story of the past, and embrace my new reality of financial abundance, prosperity, and responsibility!

Raising Kids Beyond Religion: A Booklist

Yes, I said “beyond” religion. I am not a fan of the concept that there is only one right way, central to so many major religions. I’m very much a freethinker in that regard, and I raise my kids to be freethinkers as well. As a parent and as a homeschooler, I don’t want to shield them from the world–or religion. We approach religions of all sorts from a place of finding the commonalities, instead of focusing on the differences. I also want to offer my kids the opportunity to be culturally literate in terms of religion–to think critically about the information they get from the world.

Most importantly, I want them to be in touch with what they feel in their hearts, and whether any form of organized religion speaks to them. I don’t view beliefs as something external that one should try to conform to, but rather, something that is already inside oneself, waiting to be discovered and given words to.

Learning about different religions is, in my opinion, just one way to figure out if there’s a name for what you already know, feel, and believe to be true.

(Another fun way is by taking the Belief-O-Matic quiz, which sounds silly, but is actually a really in-depth and useful tool for the spiritual seeker or belief-questioner, to fine-tune and zoom in on their true beliefs.)
Got ten spare minutes? Why not take it?!

That said, it’s hard to find books that approach topics of values and morality from a non-religious standpoint. It’s even harder to find children’s books about religions that are informative but unbiased. Now, I’m a pretty big book nerd, and have been amassing kids’ books on spirituality and religion for over ten years now, so I’ve got a pretty fat stack of them.

To be clear–I don’t make my kids read these or any books. I don’t “teach” religion of any sort. I do, however, strew these books (and many other interesting things) across their paths–perhaps leaving them on the kitchen table, or in the bathroom, or in the car. I might do a random read-aloud, and they’ll gather round, or more often, be listening while drawing or playing with toys. That’s just how we do things, though.

So, if you’re new to this concept of introducing religion and beliefs to kids without expectations, this post includes some basic titles to start with. Some discuss general spiritual topics, while others are more historical and informative in nature. All are free of any “one right way” dogma, however; which makes them pleasantly readable for many religious folks, agnostics, atheists and spiritual seekers alike.

  • This first book is for the parents: Parenting Beyond Belief: On Raising Ethical, Caring Kids Without Religion. I know it has the phrase “without religion” in the subtitle, but really, this book is not against religion, so long as nobody’s being forced to practice it. Parenting Beyond Belief is a book that addresses the concept and approach of morals, values, and beliefs in a conscious, thoughtful way. It purports that unexamined beliefs, whether religious or otherwise, are some of the most staunchly held, most inflexible and most difficult to uproot. If you already consider yourself a secular family, if you are “spiritual but not religious”, or if you just want a sort of roadmap on how to model ethics and values outside of any cumbersome religious pretext, this is an excellent book to check out.
  • One of my very favorite childrens’ books is Old Turtle. This book is gorgeously illustrated in watercolor, and very artfully put together. It’s enjoyable from preschool-age to, well, adulthood. The book is about an argument that began among all the animals and things of the earth, about what God is like. Each creature or creation believes that God is like itself–and therefore NOT like the others. It also touches on how we humans are prone to forgetting to see the connectedness around us, and instead focus on the differences and disparities. Old Turtle has spurred many thoughtful discussions in my house–and it’s also an award winning book.
  • What Is God? is a very thorough if somewhat wordy book, with one-page overviews of five of the world’s major religions.  It also touches on the concept of religious freedom, and the fact that some people don’t follow any religion at all.  It talks about what prayer is, and it focuses on the similarities among many religious beliefs.  It mentions that some people believe in many Gods, while others believe in one. What Is God? also talks about how you can try to “feel God” by thinking of the ways in which we are all “connected to everything”. I really like this book as a nice introduction to the idea that other people might have different beliefs and worldviews outside of a child’s own family. The wordiness might not appeal to very young kids, but I’ve read this to mine at 3 and 4 years old, and they were interested.
  • One Earth, One Spirit – A Child’s Book of Prayers From Many Faiths and Cultures is a lovely, poetic book with glossy photos–a compilation of many prayers, from short four-line couplets to page-long verses. The back of the book has a section of notes on each prayer, highlighting the culture or belief system they come from, and what they’re about. When we did handwriting practice, I offered this book for my kids to copy from. If they memorized a verse here and there while doing their copywork, that was great too. I especially like that One Earth, One Spirit includes prayers from Native American cultures, and less conspicuous belief systems such as Sikhism, Russian Orthodox, and Taoism.
  • The Golden Rule.  How much more is there to say? This book is full of amazing artwork, and a conversation between a boy and his grandfather about the Golden Rule:  Treat others as you wish to be treated. It mentions how this concept is found at the core of most major religions, and also the irony that there is so much fighting and disharmony in the world, despite people knowing about The Golden Rule. This book is appealing even for toddlers–an easy yet thought-provoking read.
  • On My Way To A Happy Life, by Deepak Chopra. This book is another of my favorites, because it’s written to show that we are each ultimately responsible for our own happiness, and that everything we encounter is affected by us. To me, this is a liberating and empowering line of thinking–for kids and adults alike. On My Way To A Happy Life includes seven principles or life lessons: Anything is Possible, Giving and Getting, What You Do Comes Back to You, Creating Peace, Growing What You Want, Be Open to Life, Your Place in the World. The whole book is written in verse; which might seem trite, but it’s well done–and the vibrantly colored illustrations are joy-inspiring just by themselves. This book does not talk about religion, but rather, a new way of looking at–and relating to–the world around us.
  • Meet Jesus: The Life and Lessons of a Beloved Teacher. This book, in all honesty, I have not yet read myself–but I have done a LOT of research and a lot of talking to other parents, trying to find a children’s book that is an accurate yet objective look at Christianity. Meet Jesus is the best one I’ve found thus far.  Now, for the record, I am not a Christian. I think that even in our secularized society, you can’t avoid coming into contact with Christian beliefs–and I would never try to prevent this. However, I think that it’s very desirable for kids to learn about Christianity in a historical, factual, non-proselytizing sense. Meet Jesus–if it really is what it seems to be–fills this glaring void in the realm of children’s books.
  • Muhammad, by Demi, is an amazingly-illustrated book about the life and times of the prophet who wrote the texts of the Koran, Islam’s holy book. Interestingly, Muhammad‘s body and face are not pictured; only his silhouette, as per Islamic artistic tradition. Scripts from the Koran and an account of Islamic beliefs are included–yet it’s written as a biography–very engaging and readable for both young kids and adults. I think this book is excellent as a starting point for dispelling myth and misinformation about the world’s second-largest religion.
  • The Legend of Lao Tzu and the Tao Te Ching is another visual masterpiece by Demi. This book includes a short biography of Lao Tzu, who “may or may not have been born, and who may or may not have written the Tao Te Ching”–and it includes 20 passages from the Tao Te Ching, or “Way of Heaven”. The Legend of Lao Tzu and the Tao Te Ching does not present a lengthy explanation of what Taoism is, but instead, the short, simple passages are allowed to speak for themselves.
  • Prince Siddhartha: The Story of Buddha is a book my kids especially love. This is not a book about Buddhism, but a biography of the Buddha–which interestingly, amounts to the same thing. It’s a long, deeply engaging story even for adults, but also speaks to the younger kids. It’s broken into short chapters and is perfect as a bedtime read-aloud. The book talks about how Siddhartha was born into riches as a prince, and had everything he could dream of handed to him. Later, he walked away from it all for a life of poverty and suffering–and embraced it. The values of nonviolence, loving-kindness, and selflessness are embodied vividly and tangibly within Prince Siddhartha–not in a preachy way, but in a way that is easily identifiable and able to evoke emotion in the smallest of children.
  • The Ancient Celtic Festivals: and How We Celebrate Them Today. This book is more of an informative read than a bedtime storybook, but it’s nonetheless fascinating. It highlights the eight solar festivals of both ancient and modern Pagan traditions: Where they came from, what they signified, and how they are still celebrated today. This book discusses the nature-based roots of modern holidays, from Groundhog Day to Halloween. The Ancient Celtic Festivals explains how the solar cycle of the year was used to tell time, and why the sun’s cycle was intimately important to daily life 2000+ years ago. I love this book because it’s a technical “why-manual” explaining the Pagan wheel of the year, in practical and spiritual terms. The Celts are a common ancestor of many Europeans, and so their heritage is very much our heritage, as well.
  • All I See Is Part of Me. This book is an excellent story that describes a decidedly Pagan worldview. At its heart, Paganism is about recognizing the interconnectedness and blessedness of all things. All I See Is Part of Me highlights those two central, far-reaching concepts in lovely color-pencil drawings that have a dreamy, ethereal quality about them. It gently offers the concept that we are all connected, and everything is blessed, divine, beautiful.

I have lots–LOTS! more books to share regarding spirituality, both for children and adults–but this list should give a pretty good idea of where I stand and how I approach religion and spirituality with my family. I hope these books are helpful and enJOYable for you!

Gasoline, Greenhouses, and Other Consuming Topics of Madness

It’s been a very strange few…days?  Weeks?  Months?  All of those would actually be correct, albeit in different ways.  I have had very little time or inclination for art lately, because of all the odd, busy, and amazing things that have been happening around me.  Every time I think I’ve got a handle on things, some semblance of “what to expect”, life throws me a half-dozen fabulous curve balls…which I am of course accepting with gratitude and love.  (You hear that, Universe??–!)

I’ve been very absorbed with our backyard greenhouse…which is now finished except for a door, and already over 1/4 filled with various plants and seeds.  Here’s a slightly similar greenhouse model, so you can get the full imagined effect.  My husband actually googled for a while, and then made up his own plan, in his head.  He plans to blog about that, and many other topics, in time.

Actually, the greenhouse project is spilling over into the rest of the yard, since we have also been clearing brush, planting flowers and vines, and generally trying to make the yard a bit more habitable for people (and less so for the hundreds of wasps and hornets that were, until recently, holding it hostage!).  The hippie in me was so excited to find a patchouli plant at a really amazing local nursery the other day.  I was having visions of making my own organic oil infusions and perfume solids before we even hit the checkout!  I also have big plans for a moon garden area, complete with a vine-covered bower, birdbath, and meditation bench.  In all actuality, our main goal is really just food production, but, well….you might say I have a tendency to get carried away…

Another thing we’ve been consumed with is the quest for a larger vehicle, and all the difficult trade-offs and concessions to be made in such a decision.  When we bought our MINIvan, we thought it was plenty big, but  fast forward three years:  With six seats, and six in the family, there’s room for little else.  Now, if we were going to stay a family of six, we would most likely press on with our MINIvan, and maybe buy a roof rack for it.  The gas prices are making me wish I didn’t have to own a vehicle at all lately, but in Texas, it’s an unfortunate necessity.  I thought we could hold out for a new hybrid minivan, but alas–they’re still not sure if the American version will have five or seven seats.  America, you lose major coolpoints for being statistically fatter than the Japanese.  Why won’t they make an affordable hybrid for the demographic that needs them most (aka growing families)??  Because it’s apparently not lucrative enough.  *Sigh*

Now, my dream ride is a 1970’s V-Dub bus, which seats 8, and could theoretically be converted to run on biodiesel fuel.  But hamburger-grease-smell-emanating-from-the-vegetarian-chick’s-car issues aside, I just don’t think that’d be practical for our needs right now.  I mean, I have kids–I need a dependable vehicle, not something that might break down and be out of service, long-term, due to unavailable parts; mechanical who-knows-what; or worse.

This left us considering the potential of one of those 15-seater utility van things–you know, the ones that last forever and are always painted white?  This could be an art project of epic proportion!  Paisley curtains and some green-and-yellow abstract art on the sides, and it might pass for something simply weird instead of plain and *uuuuugly*.  =)  But then the spectre of $5+ gallon gasoline is looming in the back of my mind, making me fear that we’d only be able to afford a grocery trip once every month to offset the cost of gas for a behemoth like that!  I’d be even more concerned with my garden’s productivity, then…!

We’ve even toyed with the idea of “homebrewing” our own ethanol, but again….potentially risky, and potentially vehicle-ruining if you mess up.  Then again….40 cents a gallon sounds fabulous.  I could go visit the mountains in New Mexico again…ahh yes…  Incidentally, it didn’t escape my notice that the article I linked was from 2006.  I just wanted to point that out for salience.

If that’s not enough goings-on for you, I’m also pregnant.  Due 11/11/11.  How’s that for a sign??  =)

Consciously Effecting & Accepting Change

Change is inevitable.  However, in my life, I seem to follow a sort of holding pattern for years at a time, and then changes hit fast and furiously, all at once.  I am not always sure if I create this pattern through my own subconscious, or…?  Regardless, it’s clear that now seems to be the time for one of these change-storms.

I’m on the path (albeit stumbling!) of veganism again, or at the very least, a much healthier diet with fewer processed foods.  I’ve made a commitment to putting my family first, and to being a patient, gentle and respectful parent.  I’ve been making time for spiritual nourishment and self-exploration, dismantling my blocks to abundance and fulfillment.  In short, I’m feeling pretty good about the “work” I’ve been doing with my Self.  And so the Universe, in her infinite wisdom, has decided to give me a swift kick in the pants!

Now, as any good student of the Law of Attraction ought to know, if you want to experience more or better than your current state of affairs in any area of life, it takes more than just wishful thinking.  You have to be in alignment with your desires (whatever those desires may be), in order for them to manifest.  This shifting of consciousness takes work, but sometimes, when you make your intentions quite clear and start moving your behavior and thoughts down the correct path, the universe/divine/collective consciousness seems to recognize your sincerity and your commitment to growth.   Therefore, you will find that you are led naturally down a path of synchronicities that will encourage you to grow as a human being.  In other words, the universe gives you a kick in the pants!  Sometimes you can see this coming for miles, and other times it catches you unawares and hits you like a ton of bricks.  Ironically, many people resist this cosmic push very strongly, and then wonder why they’re not getting what they wanted/wished/prayed for!

“I wanted X, but I didn’t want it to happen that way…!”

That’s not the way the Law of Attraction seems to work.  If you’re asking for wealth while turning up your nose at pennies on the streets, for example, then you’re sending out mixed messages to the universe.  Do you want more money or not?  Either you truly appreciate any extra money that you can (legally!) find, or else you’re not really in alignment with attracting wealth yet.  This can apply to virtually any situation.  You have to trust that the push you’re feeling inside is directly related to the manifestation of your desires, even if you can’t see how all the points could possibly connect to get you there.  If you want to manifest your desires, you have to be open to them manifesting in any way possible so long as it serves the highest good of all.  Sometimes, you must consider that your dearest desire may not be in the highest good of all (even if you’re asking for something like a war to end–gotta consider the butterfly effect after all).  Sometimes, your desires will manifest in ways that are wildly, insanely different than what you had imagined.  Trust and be thankful, either way.

So back to my fast and furious ball o’change, rolling down the hill and gaining momentum.  Two nights ago, I held the intentions for our family to have enough money where it will no longer be an obstacle or stumbling block, for our family to not be strained any further by employment-based time commitments to obtain this increase, and for my relationships with my children and husband to become stronger and more joyful.  Since then, several seemingly unrelated yet strange and interesting things have occurred, and I can only conclude that I’ve willingly gone down the rabbit hole, into the realm of intention-manifestation.  

There’s going to be some uncomfortable growth experiences coming, surely, and some long-buried wounds are going to be ripped open.  I can also see clearly that I am getting what I want.  Not in the way I expected to–but in a way that will provide me opportunities to become a stronger and more congruent person along the way.  I’m not afraid like I have been in the past, but rather, nervously excited.

It feels really good to be riding this wave consciously, to be embracing my power again…!