Me too, Harvey Weinstein, #MeToo

Me too.

 

Not sure what’s going on with the Harvey Weinstein sexual harassment scandal? Please allow me to explain because this is a classic and it’s one of my all-time favorite stories:

 

(1) Once upon a time a small town girl is forced to grow up too fast because life is hard.

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(2) Girl navigates foreign territory that is both beautiful and terrifying.

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(3) She is always in mortal danger and is told that only the great and powerful Oz can rescue her and help her achieve her goals.

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(4) But it’s cool because she has a new squad now who have her back 100%

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(5) However, access to the great and powerful Oz is limited by armed guards with questionable mental states.

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(6) While the clever girl is able to talk her way inside, she is not able to talk her way out of a total makeover…

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(7) Luckily she has this amazing doggo who has no fucks left to give and is all about forcing her to take a hard look at reality:

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(8) No one is coming to save you. This small man behind the curtain is a fraud. You have to save yourself. So this is the part where you ask yourself: am I a good witch or a bad witch?

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(9) Do I click my heels 3 times and go home?

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(10) Or stay and play the game?

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Congratulations, you’re a woman now!

XO,

~Rachel

PS—this story applies to men, too. This is about abuse of power and the dreams it can crush. This story applies to Bill Cosby and Donald Trump, and all the crocodile tears being shed. I encourage all humans to have a heart and use their collective voices to support and defend other humans from sexual harassment.

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Annual Holiday Epiphany: Relationships Come Together OR Fall Apart Via Communication

 

The following is an excerpt from my journal dated November 26, 2016:

 

I have to stop hating myself. Hating myself is a bad habit that does not serve me and impacts my relationship to the world. This has always been my struggle: I fear everyone hates me and then I hate me and then all I can see are people who hate me.

 

I had an epiphany yesterday:

 

The purpose of communication is either to create distance or connection and the purpose of life is merely to observe the way in which our own voice creates distance or connection.

 

Communication is not limited to the purpose of connection and human beings are not meant to control the outcome of a relationship; we are here to observe the way in which communication brings about either connection or division. This is part of the human journey.

 

When you hold back, because of fear that your voice will create distance in the relationship, you illuminate the reality of the distance in the relationship by holding back (or by modifying your position into something more “palatable” for others).

 

It’s okay to be the culprit of distance. Observe it. Feel it. Do something about it if you feel compelled. Don’t if you don’t. Either way, it’s okay.  It’s not your job to become someone else so that you can force a connection; it’s your job to be who you are and that is complicated enough.

 

In those moments when I fear using my voice will widen the divide, when all I want is to experience connection, I’m right in those moments. It’s not an irrational fear, it’s accurate intuition. Using my voice will probably lead to a greater division because that’s part of the purpose of communication and that’s what makes connection so beautiful–that it is not a guarantee.

 

Communication is how humans learn who is available to connect with and who is not. This is where we develop support systems. Manipulating your communication style to please others does not create connection, it is the beginning of a toxic relationships that sets the stage for a major divide in the future.

 

You are not more than or less than based on the amount of time other people spend singing your praises. The moment you sing your own praises will be the same moment you begin to notice others have been singing your praises this whole time. In fact, you’ll more than notice it–you’ll feel it.

 

So speak. Or don’t speak. You’ve got a 50/50 chance at either connecting or separating over it. Observe what happened and why. Grow. Understand that being your true Self absolutely can lead to goodbyes. Not only are we meant to observe this, we are meant to own it and take responsibility for it.

 

Own that your truth telling caused a separation. Learn and grow from it.

 

Own that your silence caused a separation. Learn and grow from it.

 

Own that your truth telling has lead to beautiful connections. Learn and grow from them. Intend to replicate these moments as often as possible.

 

There is no normal / regarding relationships / They are what they are

Estranged Holiday, a collaborative piece

 

XO,

Rachel

PS: This is a collaborative mixed media piece I made with my husband a couple years ago and my haiku reads:

“There is no normal.

Regarding relationships:

they are what they are.”

Like a Girl Blog Post

hero

“A true hero isn’t measured by the size of his strength, but by the strength of his heart.” Hercules

 

 

Maybe you don’t know how strong girls can be.

 

Let me tell you a story about what I know.

 

I know what it’s like to grow up a girl in a house full of boys in the 80s. I know what it’s like to hear the rumor that you can do anything while simultaneously watching how that actually plays out.

 

Take dodgeball for example.

 

Dodgeball. That game with the hand held rubber balls you throw at each other as hard as you can. Why as hard as you can? Because you don’t want the person to catch the ball, you want the person to get hit by the ball. If they get hit with the ball, they’re out. If they catch the ball, you’re out. Simple.

 

When I was in elementary school I went to a summer day camp. In the morning, after drop off but before camp officially began, the kids would all play dodgeball. Mostly the older teens, but because camp had not yet started for the day, the younger children could mix in with them, too.

 

Normally, the younger children choose to mix in with the older children to showcase their amazing, advanced, dodgeball skills. Not me. On that day, I joined in because I thought it would be fun. I believed that the older children would take into account how small I was even for the lowest age group.

 

In the 80s, you learn lessons the hard way.

 

The few minutes I spent on the field, to this day I can conjure up how it felt like a battlefield. The expressions, the sounds of satisfied triumph and stinging, shameful defeat, dodgeballs flying so fast, you can barely see them. I was lost out there, unable to catch or capture a ball to throw, startled by how hard the kids around me were getting hit.

 

WHAP!!!

 

The biggest kid on the field took aim. I saw it. I saw the whole thing. I saw his expression change from glory to terror right as the ball left his hand, as he realized too late that he had used too much force for such a small target.

 

That’s all I saw because when the dodgeball hit me in the face, the force of it brought me up off my feet, into the air and slammed my whole body onto the ground. Never before has anyone thrown a dodgeball that hard, and probably not since.

 

What happens next, the memory of it, brings me to tears.

 

While there is an outburst of accusations ranging from, ‘you’re in deep shit’ to ‘who let her on the field,’ only one person reacts appropriately. The strongest kid in the group ran to me, picked me up like a baby and RAN me over to the nurse. She was my hero.

 

I always wanted to thank her. But I was so overwhelmed with gratitude, that even to this day, I don’t have the right words to convey the emotions in my heart. It’s not just that she picked me up when I was down, it’s the way she did the right thing without hesitation. Alone. Truly, a hero.

 

That’s a role model.

 

Years later, that beautiful strong girl went on to play football for our high school, the first girl ever. I used to watch the football games and feel this enormous sense of pride, like that’s the girl who carried me, look at her, she can do anything. She can do things I’ve never even seen before. She matters.

 

I’ve had my moments. I’ve picked up many people who were down and cradled them to my chest. I have held the hands of countless emergency room victims of violence and advocated on their behalf. I have argued in Court pro bono to make children and families safe from violence. I have empathized with every soul who has looked to me for advice and counsel. But I have not yet been able to pay that one forward, I have not physically carried a stranger to safety.

 

I am so ready for that moment. That moment when objects are flying, people are screaming and pointing blame at each other. In that moment, I am ready to, without hesitation, physically remove the person in need of protection to carry them to safety. Alone. I am prepared to do the right thing because I know what a hero looks like, Luana Halftown showed me.

 

hero

Dr. Maya Angelou was a hero

 

Thank you for showing me strength. Because of you, I know that strength involves care, kindness, empathy, bravery, compassion, self sacrifice, faith and intuition. Strength is about having heart.

 

XO,

Rachel

hero

“I would like to be known as an intelligent woman, a courageous woman, a loving woman, a woman who teaches by example.” Maya Angelou

Sedona Soul Adventures: the personal retreat, part 6 (deep breathing)

 

Of all the healing modalities I experienced on my Sedona Soul Adventure back in January, the one I REALLY must learn to master is deep breathing.

 

Why?

 

Because my body naturally wants to heal itself in exactly this fashion. When I surrender and finally allow my body to do what it already knows how to do, which apparently is deep breathe, all seven of my chakras spun like seven pinwheels with enough energy to light up NYC forever.

 

When that happened, I didn’t know what chakras even were (and I still kind of don’t).

 

Spirituality has always been something that I understand that I don’t understand and I get that. I am the kind of person who will dive headfirst into personal exploration without fear. Role play? Sure. Group improv? No problem. Hypnosis? Why not. I walked into every session on my Sedona Soul Adventure itinerary with a positive, can-do attitude because I really do want to heal and to grow.

 

Except this one.

 

Inner Journey With Breath & Sound.

 

Something about the title…I don’t know…this is the one session I felt little prickles of anxiety about. I had preconceived fears. FEAR? Who invited you?! What could you possibly be afraid of??? You’ll probably just breathe and listen to music, Rachel, you’re going to be fine, cut it out.

 

First of all, I just want to stop now and proclaim that Penny Elias is incredible. I love her. I wished we were best friends (recently I made her a BFF bracelet and so that is now a done deal). Penny’s home is beautiful, but it was her healing room that spoke to me. Penny hung grape vines wrapped in white twinkle lights around the room up high at the ceiling. It looks like a fairy wonderland.

 

deep breathing in Sedona

 

I guess I was afraid to breathe and, since that sounded dumb, I dove in headfirst (smart, right?).

 

When we practiced the deep breathing for the first time, it only took me five practice breaths before my hands started tingling in a very familiar way. Instantly, I was in that space of: are you having a PTSD episode? I was worried I might faint, I was worried I might cough uncontrollably and I was mostly worried that I was going to freak out and throw up. This is signifiant for ME because, as I mentioned above, I don’t have fear regarding any of the other million self help exercises I’ve ever tried.

 

Beautiful Penny laid me down on a long cushion, placed heated pillows under my knees, covered me with a blanket and put on some serious tribal music. Loud. The deep breathing feels weird! Because you have to open your mouth, relax your jaw, inhale so that the air hits the back of your throat in a big gulp and then exhale it out fast; at first I was reminded of what it feels like to be out of breath.

 

Immediately, my body started to tingle–my neck, my mouth, the top of my head, my stomach, my hands, my arms…

 

I began to think about how this is exactly how it begins when I get “sick” from PTSD, only I have no fear. It begins with this same sort of body tingle. Maybe I’m not sick, but my fear then makes me sick. Maybe my body has been trying to naturally heal itself all along by beginning to deep breathe and I resisted because I didn’t understand, thus preventing the healing my body requires.

 

At the same time I had that thought, the tingling sensation in my throat, mouth, heart, stomach and the top of my head changed into a spinning feeling–like little circles of energy spinning really fast, really hot and seriously vibrating. At that moment I knew intuitively:

 

Those are your chakras.

 

Open your mouth and speak the truth about what hurt you and you will heal.

 

You will heal if you breathe like this–tell people. Your body already knew how to do this, remember? Everyone told you to “calm down” and “stop breathing like that” because “you’re going to hyperventilate.”

 

I can’t stop my body, it’s too powerful.

 

At this point, my legs started to feel tingly like they were going numb. And I forgave everyone who had ever hurt me. Because I knew that I had agreed to it before I was born. And now that I know that, they can’t hurt me anymore. I began to feel like I am Mother Earth.

 

My son. In my womb. That’s when my body first tried to deep breathe all on its own. That was a gift from my son. He woke me up. He saved my life. Being a Mother is my most important role. I was going down the wrong path without my son; I was living for others to the extent where there was no room for me. My body rebelled against this and I fought hard against my body but my body beat me, my body won.

 

I’m supposed to deep breathe to heal my pain. All of my pain. Anything can be healed with deep breathing. My God I would love to show people how to do this, it is the secret universal medicine we all are looking for. I fought it as hard as I could to no avail. Deep breathing is in my DNA.

 

When you open your eyes after a deep breathing session (lasts anywhere from a half hour to ninety minutes depending on how focused you are), Penny Elias is the first person you want to see. Our conversations are deep, meaningful and oh so powerful. Not to mention, we wrapped the whole thing up with a two hour massage.

 

This one session totally changed me and that was immediately made clear to me. As always, I drove around after my session starving and confused. I thought that because I was wearing sweat pants, had tear-stained glasses, and essential oils all over my body, face and hair, that I would have to settle for Burger King drive thru for dinner. But, honestly, I had not had a decent meal the entire time I was there and could not take it for one more minute. I blew by the Burger King and found myself driving toward what appeared to be a very fancy restaurant as I tried to tell myself: you can’t go in there looking like this.

 

Oh but I did.

 

Maybe I should insert a tiny back story here. At that point, I had a history of bizarre dining experiences that usually look something like: I sit for a long time and no one comes to wait on me, so I actually have to get up and leave. I used to joke that I was Bruce Willis in the Sixth Sense. Dead. Invisible to everyone except Haley Joel Osment, I guess.

 

haley

 

Seriously, everyone LOVED me in that restaurant. I’m not kidding, it was outrageous. The hostess, my server a random bus boy–totally smitten with me. Like this make-up-less, pale-face girl was enchanting them, they could not have made it more clear that I was welcome in their fancy expensive restaurant. Praised for my order of the filet and fries, cheered on for eating every single bite, impressed with my dessert order, smile and eye contact like I’ve never seen before. Each staff person had their own unique statement in furtherance of their desire that I come back again, which I am well aware is very normal, but it was not for me. What’s more, I could FEEL their energy was sincere, they really liked me.

 

I’m different now. The world looks different to me–more accepting of me. It’s real. I feel it.

 

Afterwards, I FaceTimed my son to say goodnight to him and our conversation was electric. He loves and misses me so much, he is so articulate for 4 years old, he is so affectionate towards me. He loves me. He told me:

 

“When you see me, I’m going to be AMAZING!!!”

 

WHY???

 

“Because I love you so much.”

 

And there you have it. He’s so smart. My son saved my life. Before he was even born yet. He showed me how to heal myself, how to love myself as my number one priority. This will undo a generational cycle of self hate. This will be modeled for my son, thus freeing up space for him to do something great without ever having to do dance with feeling unworthy or unloved. What a time suck.

 

I am made of love. I will never run out of love.

 

Deep breathing is worth practicing on a weekly basis. I did when I returned from my Sedona Soul Adventure and the most amazing things happened. There is never a deep breathing session that is less than transformative. It’s the best way to download guidance into your consciousness. There are pages and pages in my journal of deep breathing messages and inspiration. Here is a small excerpt:

 

Deep breathing causes the Writer within you to creatively awaken–deep breathe before writing if you don’t feel creative. Also, copy your ideas from this journal, they are solid gold.

 

And they seriously are. I got distracted by reading my deep breathing journal for an hour today, crying for joy at the ideas that have come out of my own soul. Wondering if they’ll ever see the light of day. Right now, I’m smiling huge because at least I finally shared this story.

 

XO,

Rachel

ps: stay tuned for my final Sedona Soul Adventure Session, it’s HUGE.

pps: to catch up on my other Sedona Soul Adventure Sessions, click here:

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

Hiking Oregon

 

We were so excited for our first trip to Portland, Oregon. If you live in Las Vegas, you know that you have to escape the desert in the summertime, you have to beat the heat. All my husband wanted for his 38th Birthday was to go hiking someplace green.

 

I found us the BEST cabin.

 

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Actually, this is not the best cabin I have ever discovered, but it is by far the best yard I have ever played in. Totally private. The ground is soft. Spongy. Walking is more like springing. My eyes were more than observing, they were drinking in the surroundings in a constant state of awe.

 

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You have to cross this bridge over a beautiful creek to access the cabin. My son invented a thumbs up system where he had to cross the bridge alone first and, if he gave us the thumbs up, we were then allowed to cross one at a time, giving each other thumbs up.

 

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Basically, this is a place for a magical woodland fairy experience. This is exactly the place I dream of whenever I meditate. Moss covered stones and trees, running water, natural landscaping, and fun surprises everywhere. Like a Goddess bath that my husband insisted I could not swim in because of all the pollywogs.

 

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And this old fashioned bed frame under a chandelier in the middle of the woods that my husband insisted was not for me to lay on.

 

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Within the first half hour of our arrival, my face began to hurt from smiling so hard. I had found a real paradise. I was pretty sure that I should live here forever and began to go over in my mind what I could remember from law school about adverse possession.

 

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The three of us, my husband, my four year old and I, could not believe our eyes as we began to walk the path through the woods next to our cabin. We spoke only of what we thought was beautiful. Pointing out to each other whatever made our hearts soar. Trees, piles of mossy covered logs, giant clover patches. We spoke of adventures and exploring and discovery. Eventually this talk turned to

“going off the path.”

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What happened to our family on the other side of this giant fallen tree will never be fully understood. I wish we had stayed on the path. But there was this like giant tipi made out of sticks that I had to see up close, I wanted to go inside. So we carefully made our way over to it and talked about how this could be our new house, if only we could find some cloth to wrap around the outside of the sticks.

 

From inside the stick tipi I pointed out what appeared to be a new path we could get on and continue exploring. Again, we carefully climbed over the piles of fallen logs, noticing how fun and springy it was to jump on. Just as we made it to the path, my husband got all shhhhhhhhushy pointing out a brown figure in the distance in front of us. A deer? We will never know.

 

Because my son started screaming.

 

SOMETHING IS STICKING IN MY LEG!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

 

In the amount of time it has taken me to stare at my son in horror, my husband has already grabbed my son and began asking him to point to where it hurts on his leg. He points at his inner thigh and my husband pulls his pants down.

 

Chris is a good Dad.

 

I scrutinize my son’s leg looking for a stick protruding from it or an arrow because he is screaming in a way that has never happened before and I can feel fear releasing into my body.

 

Very calmly, I point out a tiny red mark on my son’s leg that could be the cause…maybe? I am very confused. My husband is acting fast. Taking my son’s shoes off and telling me that he felt something drop into the pants when he pulled them down.

 

FUCK!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I’m Sorry OW! I got bit. Oh no wonder, this really hurts!

 

My husband has never said the F word in front of our child before. He finishes taking my son’s pants off and then pulls up his own shirt to reveal a huge red welt on his side. My son is scream crying:

 

TAKE ME BACK TO THE CABIN!!!

 

My husband picks up our son and begins to run back toward the cabin but only makes it about 10 feet before my son begins screaming bloody murder. My husband very quickly puts my son down, rips off his hat, his long sleeve shirt, his short sleeve shirt and there, on my son’s side is a red welt just like his Dad’s.

 

OW!

 

My husband screams again. In one fluid movement he rips off his own long sleeve shirt, picks up our son and begins to run. I am totally horrified. I run behind them not even breathing. I don’t see any danger at all. I do not hear any danger at all. What is going on?!

 

As I am thinking this, I glance down at my left shoulder and see a hornet.

 

I have never taken off a sweatshirt so fast in my entire life.

 

Immediately, I understand that the movie I am in is called “My Girl” and Macauley Caulkin dies over this shit.

 

My husband is scooping up dirt from the ground and applying it to our son’s leg and stomach. My son is screaming:

 

THEY ARE CHASING US!!!! I WILL NEVER GO HIKING AGAIN!!!!

 

My husband assures our son that we are not being chased, that we left those bees back there in the woods and they will not come back. As I run up the 100 stone steps to our cabin to get ice, I rip off my T-shirt and take the suspenders off of my overalls, convinced that this is not over, I remark to myself that my husband hasn’t even rubbed the dirt on himself yet. He is really something.

 

In the freezer I find a bucket of ice. Later my husband laughs about this, like the cabin owner knew this might happen and keeps a bucket of ice handy for this exact purpose. I grab some towels and, half naked, I run them down 100 stone steps to my screaming naked son in the front yard.

 

Unfortunately, the soil doesn’t have enough clay to do its job of sucking out the stinger and does nothing to ease the pain. This is the worst pain of his life. I can tell by his facial expressions that he is traumatized because he cannot understand why he would be caused so much pain.

 

I am so upset that my son is experiencing pain that, in a voice that doesn’t even sound like me, I proclaim: I HATE THOSE BEES!

 

My son relaxes, as if he finally feels we understand the gravity of the situation. I hold the ice to my son’s leg and stomach and he wraps his body around mine, clinging to me, begging me to take him to the cabin, repeating that he will never go hiking again, over and over. He holds up his hand and I see, for the first time, his very swollen pinky. If only I had three arms.

 

I WANT TO GO TO BED, I WANT TO GO TO SLEEP!

 

Never have I ever heard these words come out of my son’s mouth. I can tell by his body language that he is shutting down from having to endure the pain of the three stings. I can’t stand the idea of putting his extremely muddy body into the bed so I had to convince him to take a cold bath, which he could only stand for however long it took me to get him clean-ish.

 

As an added bonus, while I was putting his pajamas on him, a bee buzzed around our heads in the cabin after I had already promised him there were no bees in the cabin, causing him to proclaim:

 

I AM GOING TO HAVE NIGHTMARES!!!!!

 

I hold my son, rock him, try to soothe him. My husband explains that we must have stepped on their house and that made them feel scared of us. My son insists that he is done with hiking and eventually he falls asleep.

 

In an effort to put some distance between this experience and the rest of our trip, we decided to get up and go in the morning. We went to breakfast and happened to find the perfect distraction.

Mount Hood Adventure Park.

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This place could not have been more perfect. Trampolines, pony rides, a huge tube slide, a big kids play area, rides, and, best of all, Jackson got to drive his first go kart.

 

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Seriously, I could not be more grateful to this place for getting our family vacation back on track.

 

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Luckily, my son had no problem stopping along the way for a hike because he saw that as different from hiking on the obviously deadly paths at our cabin. Hallelujah. We were so worried he would be too afraid to try again, but once more we found ourselves totally entranced by the beauty of the forest.

 

hiking Oregon

 

We saw parts of the Oregon trail!

 

hiking Oregon

 

We hiked every single day of our trip.

 

hiking Oregon

 

To places that had really cool bridges!

 

hiking Oregon

 

hiking Oregon

 

Jackson totally conquered the hike to Mirror Lake.

 

hiking Oregon

 

hiking Oregon

 

As a reward, we let him take his boots off to cool off his feet before the hike back down to the car.

 

hiking Oregon

hiking Oregon

 

Everywhere we hiked, I kept seeing hearts.

 

hiking Oregon

heart shaped rock

 

Plain as day. Hearts all along my path. I even pulled one out of the creek by our cabin and took it home with me. As I hiked along I thought about love and felt a sinking feeling in my stomach. I made a mistake. Even though I was thrilled that my son was hiking again, despite saying he would never hike again, I felt a sense of…guilt? Like I had done the wrong thing…

 

How you gonna teach your son what love is when you told him you hate those bees?

 

And then it hit me:

 

I forgive them.

 

I told my son:

 

What if…What would you do if a GIANT came up and crushed our house with his huge stinky foot? And there you were…just standing among all the crushed up pieces of your broken toys and busted up couch, bits and pieces of your whole house broken and crushed up all around you…do you think you might crawl up inside that Giant’s pants and bite his leg as hard as you could?

 

Oh yes! I would bite his butt!!

 

Hahahaha me too!! I would say: Hey! You can’t just go around crushing my home with your big stinky giant feet! And then I would bite his butt and crawl up further and bite his belly, too! Hey you know what?! I forgive those hornets.

 

Me too, Mama.

 

You do?!!

 

Yes because they were protecting their home.

 

You’re totally right, Jackson, and guess what else–I can see our hearts have gotten bigger since we decided to forgive.

 

hiking Oregon

 

XO,

Rachel

 

PS–Hornets build their homes in the ground inside the fallen logs that are super fun to jump on.

RachelVanKoughnet

June 21, 2016

 

I did it!

 

It took me about 6 months, but I invented my first app.

 

The iHeal because iFeel helps organize and heal grief symptoms.

 

grief healing app

 

First, select which of the 5 stages of grief you are experiencing from the menu. You will then be asked to indicate the intensity level that particular symptom invokes. These answers will all be auto populated into the handy calendar, together with the specific healing activities you have completed.

 

grief healing app

 

What’s really cool: I made 5 meditations specific to the 5 stages of grief. As in, I wrote, read and professionally recorded them.

 

grief healing app

 

That’s MY art work! Do you LOVE it?

 

grief healing app

 

The point of the app is to encourage you to feel your feelings. To bury your feelings is to bury your Self alive, a form of suicide. Feel the feelings, organize your healing techniques and heal your Self.

 

grief healing app

 

The point is: go out there and make rainbows. Feel it all. Heal it all. Yes cry, yes get angry, yes use that big old brain to bargain and find acceptance and above all else: enjoy sweet blissful denial, nature’s reset button. You can heal your own grief, your body knows how, you just have to stop fighting it.

 

Download this grief healing app on Google Play or the App Store:

iHeal because iFeel is a grief healing app

Get it on google play

grief healing app

iHeal because iFeel is available on the App Store

 

Thank you for your support!!!

 

XO,

Rachel

The Nice Guys: why we should all get over the antihero

 

I went on a hot date a couple weeks ago.

 

 

I’m still bothered by it.

 

 

We went to the movies to see a comedy. More lives were lost in the first 20 minutes of previews than anyone could’ve ever imagined. It was unbearable for me to watch.

 

Human life matters.

 

This is what I said to myself every time I gasped and closed my eyes in an attempt to unsee the casual massacre: human life matters.

 

 

Why are these previews SO violent!? I’m here to see a comedy!!!!

 

 

So guess what? That “comedy” starring Ryan Goesling and Russell Crowe is more of a dark violent action movie. That movie starts with me gasping, filling with adrenaline, closing my eyes, and whispering: human life matters. This is how I spend the next two hours.

 

 

For someone who has PTSD, The Nice Guys is not the best date night movie choice. I didn’t laugh at all. I literally felt sick to my stomach because I do not understand what is funny about murder.

 

 

In fact, I would be so bold as to say: murder is not funny at all.

 

 

When I heard the news about 50 people being shot dead and 53 people injured in Orlando, I closed my eyes and said that phrase 103 times.

 

 

the nice guys

 

 

I thought about all the movies I had ever seen. I thought about all the video games. I thought about HBO premium cable programming. I thought about music videos. I thought about brain washing. I thought about disconnect from self and others.

 

 

That’s what this is about. Disconnect. It starts with disconnection from self and spirals out of control from there.

 

 

Meanwhile, can you imagine actually looking a stranger in the eye and saying: I don’t know you but I love you. I love you because, like me, you are a human being and we are all here on this planet together. Can you imagine heart to heart hugging this person until you breathe together in a rhythm and can feel love going back and forth between your two hearts?

 

 

Would that be weird? Why?

 

 

Human life matters.

 

 

I don’t care what you have been taught. I don’t care what you have experienced. As a creator of life, I can promise you with 100% certainty: human life matters.

 

 

Act like it.

 

 

When our time here on Earth is up, we go into a life review. It’s like watching the coolest movie of all time. You get to see the story from way before you were born all the way into the future, far after you have already left; you get to see your legacy.

 

 

It’s not just seeing, by the way. You feel it. You feel what you are seeing. You feel the pain you caused others. You feel the joy you caused others. You feel and finally understand the big picture.

 

 

Life is about learning specific lessons. We each picked different ones before we were born. If we do a good job, we graduate. If we do a poor job, we come back and start over.

 

 

How do I know this?

 

 

I came here with that. I don’t know why. I brought it with me and I have always known it was the truth. I don’t care if you believe me or not. I just have to say what I know. I have to speak my truth.

 

 

My best piece of advice in this regard: make a practice out of honoring human life.

 

 

XO,

Rachel

Sedona Soul Adventures: the personal retreat, part 5

Let’s recap:

Day 1 of Sedona Soul Adventures included 2 sessions that each lasted over 2 hours. I was so emotionally exhausted that I stumbled out of Divyo’s beautiful home to drive on autopilot straight back to the Sky Ranch Lodge, forgetting to eat.

No big deal. Miraculously, there is a restaurant at the end of the “street” behind the hotel. I grabbed a table for one and ate food that did not appeal to me while journaling. I had SO much information to write down. 

Back at the hotel, I FaceTimed my husband and told my son some pretty amazing bed time stories. Afterwards, I journaled for two more hours before falling asleep.

Day 2 of Sedona Soul Adventures also included 2 sessions and my first actually took place in my hotel room. Thank god I sprung for the executive suite.

Shamanic Astrology.

What does that mean?!!!

I don’t know. I was super excited and peed like a million times before she arrived.

Jeannie is so pretty. I loved everything about our experience together. Especially what she said as she walked through the door:

Follow your intuition!

When Jeannie described the mistake she had made in deciding which way to drive through the parking lot, my eyes got HUGE as I exclaimed to her:

THAT’S THE SAME MISTAKE I MADE!!!!

“I know,” Jeannie said, “I have been here many times and I knew the way, but I didn’t listen to my intuition and I did exactly what you did so that I could come up here and tell you, Rachel: FOLLOW YOUR INTUITION!”

Ok.

God.

Thank you.

Jeannie prepared a chart representing what the alignment of planets and stars was at the exact moment of my birth. As she explained the chart to me, I thought to myself: what the hell is she talking about…

shamanic astrology

I am Mother Earth. (If you could read this chart, you would know that).

Furthermore, Jeannie was able to accurately tell me exactly what kind of man I am interested in sexually by looking at this chart. Wow. Hello shamanic astrology…

The most important part of our 3-hour conversation though, was Jeannie’s insistence that my chart was very special; the numbers, the planets and the symbols all repeat.

So what—doesn’t everybody’s chart have the same number going around the circle?

No!!!!  Those numbers around the circle of the chart are usually all different.

Not only is it unique that I have the same number going all the way around my circle, but the number itself is significant: 29. 

I think that’s so neat because my son was born on the 29th of January.

Meanwhile, Jeannie emailed me one week after our session with some research she had done on the 29th degree, a critical degree in astrology, because she wanted me to understand.

I do too because, from what I can gather, I am going to soul graduate. I know it. All I have to do is get it right this time on Earth. How motivating is that?!

Stay tuned for the next Part of this Sedona Soul Adventures series—you do NOT want to miss the next session!

And if there are any other Shamanic Astrologers out there who want to throw in their two cents on what my chart means to them, PLEASE PLEASE DO SO! Though I practice following my intuition, I am still all about that guidance.

XO,

Rachel

ps: if you missed the previous Sedona Soul Adventures blogs, catch up:

Sedona Soul Adventures: the personal retreat, part 1

Sedona Soul Adventures: the personal retreat, part 2

Sedona Soul Adventures: the personal retreat, part 3

Sedona Soul Adventures: the personal retreat, part 4

Sedona Soul Adventures: the personal retreat, part 3

 

Immediately after my Orientation at the Sedona Soul Adventures offices, I drove a very short distance along Route 89 to my first session:

 

Radiant Heart Healing

 

I don’t know what Radiant Heart Healing is, but I am so pumped to begin my very first session of my first-ever personal retreat that I don’t even try to imagine what it is. All I know is, I have to pee.

 

Sher is standing in her front door as I pull up to her home. She has on a beautiful turquoise shawl and matching jewelry. She is radiant.

 

radiant heart healing

 

Sher hugs me. We both have to go pee. I get to use her beautiful bathroom attached to her therapy room and marvel at the tranquil decor. The hand soap she has smells amazing. I like it here. Sher returns from her bathroom and we hug again. I feel super happy and excited to begin.

 

With notebook in hand, Sher asks me some questions. I explain to her my estrangements, traumas, and feelings of loneliness. I feel comfortable enough to explain to her that I have always felt like not a real human being, that I’ve always felt myself to be more of a tool to use, like a crutch, and that this often results in me spending a great amount of time wishing to return “home” where I belong.

 

Sher was not surprised or taken aback by anything I said. In fact, she completely validated everything I said and invited me to lay down on her Reiki table so that she could help me let it go. We talked about angels and I told her that I know who my angels are. Sher asked me to invite my angels to participate.

 

I imagined roots coming from the bottom of my feet and grounding deep into the core of the Earth, where all the energy is purple and that purple energy comes up from the core of the Earth, through my roots, up into my feet and throughout my entire body. I am now grounded.

 

I imagined a white source light coming from above and straight into the top of my head, mixing the white light with the purple light until my entire body is my favorite shade of pink. I asked my angels what color the hurt is inside my chest cavity and they answered immediately: black. I can see my angels begin to help me release the blackness and it begins like a very difficult game of tug of war. The struggle is real.

 

Then, I silently gave my angels permission to take my pain away and the blackness began to shoot out of me like a geyser. I could actually feel the darkness leave my body. Effortlessly. You should’ve seen the expression on my angels’ faces. Priceless. They were so happy and proud of me.

 

Here comes the best part:

 

filling back up with divine love. I used mantras to do it: I am a child of God and have so much love, I am loved just as I am, I have enough love. A light begins to illuminate my empty chest cavity, empty now because the black is all gone, and this feels so strange–not heavy, but light.

 

The darkness is gone. I replaced it with light. This makes my angels clap; this is all they’ve ever wanted.

 

radiant heart healing

 

My angels are here because they love me. My angels want me to heal. To heal is to fulfill my life purpose. Sharing my healing through storytelling is my gift.

 

I suddenly felt like I had gotten it all wrong… When I hit my Complex PTSD rock bottom and began my healing journey I learned the principles of “name it, own it and let it go.”

 

I had vaguely heard of this concept before…

 

Name it–no problem.

Own it–already done.

Let it go…

 

Like…

 

How do you mean?

 

Let it go, like forget? Oh, I’m not like that…

 

Let it go, like don’t care?

 

I FEEL EVERYTHING!!!!!!

 

radiant heart healing

 

Sher blew the roof off of what I thought I knew when she told me that it’s actually:

 

Name it,

Own it,

Let it go,

AND FILL BACK UP WITH DIVINE LOVE

 

You have to replace what you remove in order to truly let go. I couldn’t let go of what I was holding because I didn’t have anything else to hold on to. It’s actually a 4-step process.

 

Sher invited me to ask my angels for help. I was able to close my eyes and ask my angels to fill me up with divine love. I straight up asked them and they were more than happy to point and shoot it right out and into me, just like the Care Bear stare!

 

radiant heart healing

 

My entire body was warm and vibrating, I had goose bumps everywhere and was smiling huge. So this is what having room for love feels like…

 

radiant heart healing

 

My love is real and I have access to it. I can both give and get love. I was able to FEEL all of this. I am still able to feel all of this, through Sher’s Radiant Heart Healing method.

 

Sher sat for half of the session with her arm around me and her other hand over my heart. No touch has ever felt so good. I never wanted it to end, so I sat very still, so at ease in our little love seat huddle.

 

I felt compelled to say: “I love you Sher, I don’t want you to ever stop hugging me.” And, like I already felt to be true, she admitted that she loves me, too.

 

Before I left, Sher gave me one of her books. I am reading it now and it is phenomenal.

 

Radiant Heart healing

 

During my retreat, I felt compelled to contact Sher about a grief-healing app I had invented in my head. I actually threw my app idea into the garbage can in my mind after day one of my retreat and then felt certain that I had to go fish it back out by day two. Sher invited me back to her house and let me pitch my app idea. She loved it. The iHeal will launch in the next few months.

 

In less than one month, I will travel back to Sedona for part one of my Radiant Heart Healing Certification Course.

 

XO,

Rachel

 

P.S. I have SO much more of this story to tell, so stay tuned! If you missed Part 1 (click here) or Part 2 (click here)!

Sedona Soul Adventure: the personal retreat, part 1

 

 

I have so much I want to say about my personal 3-day retreat with Sedona Soul Adventure.

 

Bear with me, I am a brand new person now.

 

It’s like the difference between this:

 

I’ve been uptight and made a mess,

But I’ll clean it up myself I guess

Oh, the sweet smell of success

Handle me with care.

~The Traveling Wilburys

 

and this:

 

I saw the sign

And it opened up my eyes

I saw the sign

~Ace of Base

 

Do you speak in song lyrics? I do…

 

I am a storyteller. This is part of my life purpose. I knew this and I did not know this. I know this now.

 

Let me back up. How did I end up going on a retreat? Great question. Well, as I told the angel guide over the phone, I’ve been crying in the bathtub–I mean–I want to know what my purpose is. What the hell am I even still doing here?

 

Let me back up some more. I was crying in the bathtub. Like just so sad. I felt like I had finally done it. I had successfully pushed everyone so far away, I would now be disconnected forever. Utterly alone. How?!! I was breaking up with me. I guess. Now I didn’t want to be by me. At all. It was just two weeks into my New Year’s Resolution to forgive myself and I wanted to strangle myself.

 

As I looked around the tub for Whitney and Bobbi Christina, I picked up my phone and googled the search terms: Sedona Retreat. Why? Because Sedona is almost a 5 hour drive from Vegas and I keep hearing about how inspiring it is to visit, like it’s a magical place or something. I also keep hearing about how creative women like to go on annual retreats to keep their inspirational juices flowing…the seed was planted within me some time ago. Sedona. Retreat.

 

The very first google search result was Sedona Soul Adventures. I clicked on it and discovered that the owner reminded me of me:

 

In January, 1999, Debra was a divorce attorney in Omaha, Nebraska, beginning her 20th year of practice. With 175 active cases, she was stressed out, burned out and ready to jump off the nearest cliff. Having been on her spiritual path since the death of her mother in 1978, Debra knew there was more. Although she was helping her clients in her practice, she yearned to be of service on a much deeper level.

 

Debra, you got my attention. I filled out the online form and then I called them because I could not wait to begin the process. I see myself as a recovering divorce attorney. I too yearned to be of service on a much deeper level. YEARN. As in, I don’t even want to be here if I’m not living my true purpose. Not knowing what my life purpose was, man that was kind of killing me.

 

The thought of leaving my son was at first unbearable. I wanted to quit before I even began. I knew that I could not go on feeling the darkness inside of me without it permeating to the rest of my family. I knew that I had to go. So I scheduled it. And then I got afraid and wanted to quit. And then I leaned into the discomfort.

 

My son’s main concern was a prophecy.

 

“Who is going to tell me stories?”

 

Daddy.

 

“Oh no, Mommy, you’re the best storyteller.”

 

Sedona Soul Adventure

 

I told the most epic stories to my son on FaceTime during my trip. I have the best stories to tell right now. I am an even better storyteller now than I was before I left. I have accomplished my New Year’s Resolution within the month of January. I forgave myself. I forgave everyone. I love myself. I know what my life purpose is.

 

I have so much more to say…bear with me.

 

XO,

Rachel

That’s How Much I Love You by Julie Rudi

Have you ever read That’s How much I love You by Julie Rudi?

 

This morning my son wrapped his arms around my neck and hugged me. Hard.

 

“I love you, Mama; if you were a sock, I’d be your shoe.”

 

My heart. Exploded.

 

I tell my son this all the time because it’s from one of our favorite bedtime stories.

 

Julie Rudi

That’s How Much I Love You

 

This was the first time he ever thought to say it to me.

 

Julie Rudi

 

I am so grateful and so full of love. In this moment, I am also overwhelmed by the haiku I wrote for my son:

 

HE’S NOT MINE TO OWN,

I WAS MADE TO PROTECT HIM…

BEFORE I WAS BORN.

 

IMG_6153

 

 

At some point during the whole becoming a mom stage of my life, I realized my protective capacity was off. Off like…I would kill myself to save someone else…from boredom.

 

My son saved me.

 

Before he was born, I was slowly dying…and I didn’t even care. I had toxic relationship poisoning. Were it not for my son, I never would have began my self love journey. My son taught me to rage against the dying of the light. RAGE. Don’t fuck with my son’s mom. I matter.

 

For someone who realizes that they were created to be a weapon of war, a tool of destruction, the very idea that you “matter” can be overwhelming…and confusing. When I started to ACT like I matter, I lost almost every single person in my life.

 

What’s up, grief?

 

If you are not on board with me loving myself,

 

IMG_1133_2

 

 

I’ll grieve you.

 

What did one year of boundaries do for me?

 

(1) Could not meet son’s teacher vs Had son’s teacher over for dinner

(2) Hospital every couple months vs No Hospital in 9 months

(3) Wanted to go to a support group vs Hosting a support group

(4) Could not stay asleep for longer than 2 hours vs Sleeping up to 5 consecutive hours per night

(5) Living in constant FEAR vs Only experiencing fear when appropriate (NEVER!)

 

IMG_3273

 

I have my health, I have my family, I have love and I am GRATEFUL.

 

IMG_2715

 

XO

~Rachel

IMG_3270

 

 

PTSD Awareness Month: My Interview with Michele Rosenthal

June is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) Awareness Month.

 

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is an anxiety disorder that may develop after exposure to a terrifying event or ordeal in which severe physical harm occurred or was threatened. Traumatic events that may trigger PTSD include violent personal assaults, natural or unnatural disasters, accidents, or military combat.

Anyone who has gone through a life-threatening event can develop PTSD including military troops who served in wars; rescue workers for catastrophes like the 2001 terrorist attacks on New York City and Washington, D.C.; survivors of the Oklahoma City bombing; survivors of accidents, rape, physical or sexual abuse, and other crimes; immigrants fleeing violence in their countries; survivors of earthquakes, floods, and hurricanes; and those who witness traumatic events. Family members of victims can develop the disorder as well.

PTSD affects about 7.7 million American adults, but it can occur at any age, including childhood. Women are more likely to develop the disorder than men, and there is some evidence that it may run in families. PTSD is frequently accompanied by depression, substance abuse, or anxiety disorders. When other conditions are appropriately diagnosed and treated, the likelihood of successful treatment increases.

Roughly 30 percent of Vietnam veterans developed PTSD. The disorder also has been detected in as many as 10% of Gulf War (Desert Storm) veterans, about 6% to 11% of veterans of the Afghanistan war, and about 12% to 20% of veterans of the Iraq war.

Other factors in a combat situation can add more stress to an already stressful situation and may contribute to PTSD and other mental health problems. These factors include what you do in the war, the politics around the war, where it’s fought, and the type of enemy you face.Another cause of PTSD in the military can be military sexual trauma (MST). This is any sexual harassment or sexual assault that occurs while you are in the military. MST can happen to men and women and can occur during peacetime, training, or war. Among veterans using VA health care, about 23 out of 100 women (23%) reported sexual assault when in the military, 55 out of 100 women (55%) and 38 out of 100 men (38%) have experienced sexual harassment when in the military.

PTSD is diagnosed when the stress symptoms following exposure have persisted for at least a month. When symptoms develop immediately after exposure, the condition may be called acute stress disorder.*

 

Last June I made a YouTube video about my own PTSD Recovery:

 

 

PTSD expert, Michele Rosenthal, lit up my life last year when she shared my video on her Heal My PTSD website (click here).

 

Michele Rosenthal is an award-winning PTSD blogger, bestselling and award-nominated author, founder of HealMyPTSD.com, host of Changing Direction radio, and a former faculty member of the Clinical Development Institute for Timberline Knolls Residential Treatment Center. She is also a trauma survivor who struggled with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) for over twenty-five years before launching a successful “healing rampage.” Her most recent book is Your Life After Trauma: Powerful Practices to Reclaim Your Identity (W. W. Norton).

 

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

 

This year, I got the privilege of interviewing Michele Rosenthal!!

 

This is incredibly exciting because I owe my recovery process to her. If you think you might suffer from PTSD, subscribe to HealMyPTSD.com and enjoy all the FREE resources; I know I do.

 

Without further ado, my interview of Michele Rosenthal:

 


How long did you suffer from PTSD before you sought treatment specifically for PTSD?

Sadly, my story is like so many survivors with PTSD: I struggled for too many years without understanding what was wrong with me. While I intermittently sought help from the mental health and medical communities 24 years went by before I finally received the PTSD diagnosis — and that was because of my own self-advocacy. I was getting worse and worse in therapy and decided to do my own research about my symptoms. The research led me to PTSD literature and a PTSD self-test like the one we have on the Heal My PTSD web site. I took the test and scored extremely high, then took those results to a trauma trained therapist for direction, guidance and ultimately a diagnosis.

What were your PTSD symptoms?

The usual mix: Anxiety, insomnia, recurring nightmare, numbness, avoidance, intrusive thoughts, unpredictable emotional swings, rage, dissociation, hypervigilance.

How exactly was your PTSD diagnosed (did a doctor surprise you with the news or did you tell your doctor that’s what you suspect the problem to be)?

I showed my therapist at the time the results of the PTSD self-test and asked if he thought I had PTSD. He responded, “What is PTSD?” That’s when I knew I needed to specifically find a trauma trained therapist to help me. She immediately recognized the symptoms and history.

What specific combination of healing exercises helped you recover from PTSD?

A mix of traditional and alternative processes that I put together based on what made me feel most comfortable. I started with talk therapy that included cognitive behavioral therapy, then added Emotional Freedom Technique, Thought Field Therapy, EMDR, Tapas Acupressure technique, acupuncture, hypnosis and neuro-linguistic programming. Whew, it took a lot to get me to freedom but it was worth it!

How long have you been free from PTSD symptoms?

Eight fabulous, fun, joyful and wonderful years. Which is not to say there haven’t been traumas! Indeed, the most exciting part of recovery has been experiencing another life-threatening trauma (very close to the category of my original trauma) and coming through it with zero repercussions. Healing really can happen — and stick.

Any advice for those trying to heal their PTSD?

Yes……

Engage and participate in your healing.

For too long I thought others (i.e. therapists) could/would do it for me. Well, with that attitude I didn’t get very far. In the end only we can truly facilitate our recovery. Everyone else is there to support, guide and help.

To keep yourself moving forward keep making choices and taking actions. These are the mechanics of healing and they offer you a process to gain and keep healing momentum every day.
Access and feed your hope. There will be dark, horrible, awful days in PTSD recovery. During those moments it’s going to be necessary to find a reason to keep going.

Identify what inspires you, and what provides your reason for slogging through the muck. Sometimes, that will mean connecting to a source of hope inside yourself; other times that will mean borrowing hope from outside yourself.

However you do it, fan the flame of hope because that’s where the fire of determination is born.

Remember that you are the expert in you. Personalize your recovery so that you feel able and as comfortable as possible in the discomfort of healing.
Remember that you have enormous healing potential; the goal is learning to access it. You can do this. Dig deep!

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

Michele Rosenthal
Award-Nominated Author, Speaker, Post-Trauma Coach
Founder, www.HealMyPTSD.com
Radio Host, CHANGING DIRECTION
Author, Your Life After Trauma: Powerful Practices To Reclaim Your Identity


 

What struck me the most about this interview was how similar our experiences were with the (mis)diagnosis.

 

YOU HAVE TO ADVOCATE FOR YOURSELF.

 

If you think you have PTSD, take this self test (click here). This is the beginning of your recovery, Warrior, well done. You will most likely need to do your own research in finding a QUALIFIED Trauma expert (a medical professional who not only knows what PTSD is, but also how to effectively treat the symptoms you experience) to bring the test results to and create an action plan.

 

Because of Michele Rosenthal, who is a class act, there are free resources that can help you on your journey to being CURED from your PTSD symptoms.

 

Am I cured?

 

Almost. I have been diligently working to heal my own PTSD for the past 2 years and the results are remarkable. I have complex PTSD.

 

Complex PTSD, also known as disorder of extreme stress, is found among individuals who have been exposed to prolonged traumatic circumstances, especially during childhood, such as childhood sexual abuse. Research shows that many brain and hormonal changes may occur as a result of early, prolonged trauma, and contribute to troubles with learning, memory, and regulating emotions. Combined with a disruptive, abusive home environment, these brain and hormonal changes may contribute to severe behavioral difficulties such as eating disorders, impulsivity, aggression, inappropriate sexual behavior, alcohol or drug abuse, and other self-destructive actions, as well as emotional regulation (such as intense rage, depression, or panic) and mental difficulties (such as scattered thoughts, dissociation, and amnesia). As adults, these individuals often are diagnosed with depressive disorders, personality disorders, or dissociative disorders. Treatment may progress at a much slower rate, and requires a sensitive and structured program delivered by a trauma specialist.*

 

Like Michele Rosenthal, it took decades for me to figure out on my own that the symptoms I was habitually experiencing were PTSD. Doctors could not help me until I figured that out on my own. Even then, doctors can do very little to help you; your recovery has to be ALL you.

 

Ew. No.

 

Yes. Seriously.  No one is coming to save you. Save yourself. Fight for yourself. Create a support team who understands (for a long time, you may be the only person on your own team and that is okay). Above all else, figure out how to LOVE YOURSELF.

 

XO

~Rachel

 

How to be a genuine rebel: wear your hair

Did you know that hair is rebellious?

 

I have always been struck by Patsy Cline’s Crazy. Crazy. Crazy for FEELING so LONELY.

 

I have a lot of thoughts going on at once, a whole encyclopedia per topic. I learned at a young age that all those words + feelings tend to make most others extremely uncomfortable; that it would be easier for other people if I toned myself down.

 

Unfortunately, I decided around 10 years old that I would rather be considered quiet than crazy. I became reserved, serious, observant…the duller version of me.

 

Well, I had a secret. A big secret. Tons of secrets actually, I was choking on them.

 

One huge encyclopedia set of secrets could be dedicated to the changes I noticed going on with my body. I’ll just come out and say it: boobs. They were glorious. They still are. I started to fall in love love with my body. I was my own private dancer.

 

Private being the operative word because it became clear at this time that my body required policing; shirts were not a suggestion, they were THE LAW.

 

Coincidentally, that shirt helped mask another developing secret…out of nowhere…from the pits of my arms….

 

Hair.

 

Whoa.

 

As an American girl of German/Italian descent, I knew this was a “problem” that I could easily solve. I got out the Lady Bic and destroyed all the evidence.

 

Destroyed being the operative word because those soft brown hairs were immediately replaced by screaming red bumps.

 

Ouch.

 

My 10-year-old armpits were scarred for life. I repeatedly shaved over the screaming red bumps every other day for 22 more years.

 

Why?!! Was everyone super into them?

 

No. I am aware that it is unheard of to compliment another person’s armpit. Are you aware that it is totally common for my armpits to be the source of ridicule? Seriously, I have received MANY grimaces and complaints regarding the black hole that is my armpit. Before my son could talk, he looked right at my shaved armpit and said:

 

“Ew!”

 

I pointed to my shaved armpit and asked: “this is ew?”

 

He nodded his baby head solemnly.

 

Sigh. Why didn’t the old faithful combination of grooming + pain = beauty?

 

WHY?!!!

 

Honestly, I blamed my body. The problem with my armpits was that no matter what, my freshly shaved armpit revealed a five o clock shadow. You could always see black beneath the surface because, honestly, just beneath the surface of my delicate skin was thick bold black hair waiting to burst through.

 

Awhile ago I noticed this Instagram page dedicated to showcasing ladies with hairy armpits (@ladypithairy). I scrolled through all the pics with my jaw dropped and my eyes darting back and forth from armpit to face, armpit to face, armpit to face. I could not believe that armpit hair DID NOT diminish their beauty whatsoever. In fact, something about the rebelliousness, the unapologetic look in their eyes was SO attractive to me.

 

Dare I?

 

Somehow I gathered the courage to stop shaving my battered armpits. Not somehow. I remember now. There was this tween Vine star who shocked a lot of his fans by making a statement about how girls should shave their armpits. My 14-year-old goddaughter was a fan of his and I just could not do it anymore. It is exhausting to have your natural body policed for over 3 decades, especially when you notice the new batch of police officers are less than half your age…

 

hair

 

I went crazy. I stopped shaving my armpits. Previous to this article, only 7 people even knew about my indiscretion. My social experiment is rather introverted in nature, but I can easily disclose the results from this closed group:

 

(1) Mild concern. “OMG, you like it?!” or “What does your husband think?” (Ha).

 

(2) Dissent. “Stop.” “Don’t do this.” “At least trim, stay groomed. “

 

(3) Confusion. Mainly there was confusion. “Why are you doing this?” “When will you be done doing this?” “What is that?”

 

The last question came from my toddler and it was beautiful. He noticed my armpit hair, pointed to it and said: What is that? I told him that it was my armpit hair, that I have it because I am an adult, that Daddy has it too because he is an adult and that, one day, when he gets bigger, he will also have amazing armpit hair.

 

His face was priceless. He actually didn’t even believe me. “Daddy has hair here?” I took my son by the hand and walked him to the bathroom where his Dad was getting ready for work. My husband and I stood side by side and revealed to our son that we both have basically the same exact armpit hair situation (mine is actually a little bit fuller and more awesome). My son was clearly thrilled, it was written all over his face. He can’t wait to get bigger and have glorious adult armpit hair.

 

hair

 

The combination of the above 3 reactions resulted in the certainty that I had to keep it up. I am a rebel by nature.

 

I was on to something.

 

Personally, I could not get over how aggressive I perceived myself to be. Aggressive. The word was constantly popping up in my mind. I wasn’t just scratching my head, the presence of the armpit hair turned it into an aggressive head scratch. I wasn’t just reaching for the cereal on the top shelf, I was aggressively reaching for top shelf items. It was weird. I talked about it a lot. Why do I feel aggressive?

 

hair

 

My dear friend gently pointed it out to me: maybe you are aggressive.

 

WHAT?!!!!!

 

She’s right. Upon reflection, I know that it’s true. I am aggressive because I have been “managing” the fear that I already am aggressive since about 10 years old. By managing I mean that as part of my thought process, I would determine that my first idea for how to achieve an objective was “too aggressive” and then I would pick from plans B-Z. God forbid someone think I was a “bitch.”

 

And so the cycle of burying who I truly was began. At age 10. By the time I was 16, I knew I was full blown crazy but instead of letting the real Rachel out, I buried her deeper. She’s so aggressive…I hate her…I wish she was dead.

 

This was my mantra. It kept me out of trouble. Neglected children should get a handout for how to parent themselves better. I remember when I was 22 how my older brother called me bipolar and punched my bedroom door off the hinges. I remember how I went into my closet and cried on the floor.

 

I am not bipolar. I am an emotional creature. I am a human being who is reacting beautifully to a lifetime of oppression. I am grieving. I am a survivor of PTSD. I am healing. I am INFJ and an empath. Knowing who I am has brought me right back to the beginning: I am aggressive. I will fight for my rights. That’s not crazy.

 

Rolling over and burying yourself alive is crazy.

 

Shortly before I started growing out my armpit hair, my husband and I went to the movies to see Guardians of the Galaxy. I was not familiar with the storyline going into it and was very struck by the character named Groot. There is a very magical moment near the end of the film where Groot’s tree-like body expands into a protective sphere, saving the lives of all his friends, at the cost of his own life. It was beautiful. My heart was aching because I knew it was going to happen…because I would do the same thing.

 

groot

 

If I were a superhero, my powers would be related to my ability to grow amazing hair. Everywhere. If I had to, I know that I could, in a similar magic moment, expand my hair growth into a protective hair sphere around my husband and son, to save their lives. It would be beautiful. And so gross. Obviously.

 

Fortunately, I decided at 32 years of age to stop toning myself down. Patsy Cline’s Crazy has taken on a whole new meaning. I still feel lonely, but I don’t feel crazy about it. I feel able to connect with like-minded individuals because I uncovered that girl I buried alive. She’s stronger than ever now…angrier and more aggressive, too. Good thing. Life’s a bitch.

 

XO

~Rachel

 

hiar

 

long hair don’t care

Cleaning Out My Closet

Have you ever heard of closet grief?

 

I read this clothing article recently that has totally blown my mind.

 

Here is the link (click here).

 

Article highlights: this yoga pants wearing mom got rid of her entire wardrobe in exchange for like 37 articles of clothing she feels really good about resulting in optimal coordination and closet organization. Seriously read this article, it has changed my life.

 

Within hours of reading it, I had collected 4 garbage bags full of clothing to donate to charity.

 

closet grief

 

Plus I went all Joan Crawford in there…

 

closet grief

 

And I got rid of an overflowing garbage bag of undesirable hangers.

 

closet grief

 

Not to mention the overflowing bag of clothing I am mailing to my goddaughter and the medium bag of clothing that I am mailing to my best friend. I made a SERIOUS dent in my closet.

 

closet grief

 

I have never been able to thumb through the clothing in my closet and really see the items before. As though they might be giving away awards for having “the most” clothes, my closet was packed so tight, many plastic hangers snapped in the process of weeding out the most tired pieces. I found a dress in here that I don’t remember ever even seeing before. (YES!!!)

 

closet grief

 

This is just the beginning, I am far from whittling down to only 37 pieces of clothing. I can’t believe I am even doing this. Getting rid of dresses is a BIG deal for me…that and sentimental tee shirts, old tank tops, hoodies and shoes (I’ll just come clean here and admit: I hoard clothes).

 

My closet has always been open to my friends and family for shopping. Hence all the extra gear that looks terrible on me and my tendency to mail boxes of clothing to my closest friends semi-annually.

 

One of my greatest memories of my cousin Kelly is how we used to shop in each other’s closets. Being six years younger, I was always ridiculously grateful for the opportunity to peek through her jam packed closet. I could borrow whatever I wanted! It was the experience of a life time. Seriously. I remember everything about it, the poor lighting, the danger of the shoe boxes that always seemed about to come crashing down on your head from the top shelf, her smell, the piles and piles of 90’s clothes.

 

When I got to be like 16/17, that’s when Kelly started to take an interest in some of my clothes. The pride I felt. To this day.

 

IMG_1915

 

That’s Kelly on the right wearing my dress! With a cowboy hat!!  She is standing with her best friend, that’s why their smiles are so radiant; they love each other like I love my best friend. If you have one best friend like this in your lifetime, consider yourself blessed, be grateful.

 

This is so hard to write.

 

Our bodies remember the anniversaries of traumatic events even if our amazing brain chooses to give us a break from the details.

 

I am the kind of person who always wants to know WHY. I spend a lot of time trying to figure out what my body is trying to tell me that my brain does not want to talk about.

 

It was 15 years ago that I lost my cousin, Kelly.

 

That was so fucking hard to write. Damn you, closet grief.

 

I actually had to take a break to scream cry and spill huge tears down my cheeks…

 

…And then I gave myself a hug.

 

Kelly was my hero. She was the kind of woman I was certain I could never be. Bold. Independent. Strong. Desired. Fearless. Beautiful.

 

IMG_1921

 

When she smiled, she looked exactly like Brooke Shields and when she was angry, she reminded me of Julia Roberts.

 

IMG_1922

 

From 13-18 Kelly’s prom calendar was full. She was always getting ready to go to a dance. I remember this one time I stood in the middle of her photo shoot with her date, so confident that my shorts and tee shirt ensemble was not a problem, holding hands and smiling like I was supposed to be there with them, too. She was my Disney Princess.

 

IMG_1931

 

Blonde with green eyes, the most voluptuous figure and the most fun to be around. Honestly. You were lucky to know her. She was more fun than anyone, always looking for adventure.

 

IMG_1919

 

Confident and cool, my cousin Kelly was the opposite of me. I never even got asked to go to one of my own school dances, let alone some other school’s dances. I would not consider my teen self to be fun-loving so much as safety-loving.

 

IMG_1928

 

Kelly liked to jump out of planes. She loved the water; being out on a boat fishing, even all by herself, would make her happiest. She loved to hike and camp, anything outdoors. She also loved beer and swore like a sailor. She was so bad ass.

 

IMG_1916

 

I never even went camping until I was 18 years old, already in college. It was almost 2 months after losing her. Camping was what my best friend wanted to do for her 19th Birthday and it was the perfect way for me to honor my cousin and my grief. Whenever I go hiking or camping, Kelly is right there with me. Kelly is always with me.

 

IMG_1930

 

When she left this Earth, I wished it was me instead. For years. I wore this gold heart ring she had given me for Christmas all the time for the first year. I spent a lot of time trying to negotiate that trade.

 

IMG_1917

 

I cherish every single memory that I have of my Kelly. My chest is super tight as I try to breathe through the steady stream of tears that have stained and rendered my glasses almost useless.

 

I have a million things I want to say. I stop because I fear I won’t be able to explain properly.

 

The sun used to shine on Kelly. It just did. It was obvious if you were there, but you weren’t so you’ll have to just take my word for it.

 

IMG_6088

 

She is my angel hero.

 

XO

~Rachel

 

PS–In conclusion, cleaning out your closet may cause closet grief.

closet grief

A Day In The Life: PTSD Healing

After I made my PTSD Healing video 9 months ago (click here to watch), I was asked to give a break down of what a day in the life would look like.

 

Yesterday was an awesome day for me, healing wise, so today I am sharing the highlights…

 

Highlights make more sense when you start low. Yesterday began for me at 4 a.m. when my husband and I both jumped out of bed horrified to hear our cat was peeing on the carpet.

 

How did we hear it?

 

It was super loud for some reason because she backed herself up against the wall and her urine was ricocheting off of the wall and onto the carpet. A waterfall of cat pee.

 

CAT PEE!!!!!!!!!!!

 

Don’t judge. My cat has never done this before and she is recovering from major surgery. My 10 year old kitty had 4 stones removed from her bladder! Honestly though, I think she peed on the floor because of the stupid cone…

 

Bebe Meme

 

Anyway…I sat on the floor in a daze watching my awesome husband scrub the carpet, then I got a bucket of water and started to scrub the soap out and by the time it was over, I decided not to go back to bed.

 

Sigh.

 

I did not get enough rest, which has been happening for like the last 3 weeks, so I felt discouraged. I made myself a really fancy bubble bath with special salts and essential oils. I turned on my salt rock lamp and stared at my plants. It was difficult to keep my eyes open.  So tired…

 

PTSD Healing

 

Just the night before, I had decided not to go back to sleep if I found myself awake in the very early morning hours due to the horrific nightmares I found myself experiencing after going back to sleep.

 

Being awake at this time, taught me something fascinating: my brain is on fire between the hours of 3 and 5 a.m.  Everything is intense, asleep or not. I must say, being in the bathtub at this hour really helped me to process many complex emotional concepts; it was like lucid dreaming.

 

You’ll have to take my word for it, as I don’t remember any details from my awesome bathtub experience, only that I was totally brilliant and had a lot of answers. I may have had all the answers. This girl was on fire. Next time, I’m writing that all down…

 

When the water in the tub cooled down, I transitioned right to the shower to heat things back up. It’s not everyday that I am awake before my son, AKA the Rooster, but of course, this is the one day that he sleeps in and will therefore not be needing any nap today, thank you.

 

I used my shower time wisely, plotting out the next few hours with my son, using my awake brain for once. I wanted needed him to take a nap later on so I could get some rest too. I got our breakfast all ready and suggested a bike ride. Luckily, he went for it.

 

This was only our second time ever riding together, usually I walk alongside him as he slowly and rather randomly pedals toward the next stick he would like to pick up and bring with us. Oh, training wheels…

 

Did I mention that I LOVE MY BIKE?!

 

PTSD Healing

 

The weather was perfect yesterday. Upper 70’s, sun shining, blue skies with really cool clouds that looked like Ocean waves. It was by far the longest bike ride my 3 year old has ever been on.

 

Oh and now it’s like 8:30 in the morning…I have a long way to go…

 

Grocery shopping is a must, but I am not looking forward to that so I enhance the trip by bringing the artwork I had recently finished and was gifting to my best friend, so I could ship it to her.

 

PTSD Healing

 

Gift giving feels amazing, especially if I make the gift.  This piece of art is really special. I made it with my precious hands, it has six real orchid blooms “glued” in (with Gel Gloss Medium) and a real lego flag. This is the home I built for my Haiku and it is remarkable (#selflove). I cannot wait until my BFF receives her gift and tells me all these things.

 

When we got back, I noticed that I had missed a few texts and calls on my phone and one of them was from my son’s Nana, just checking up on me. I texted her back immediately asking her if she wanted to come over for a few hours this afternoon to babysit while I took a nap and SHE SAID YES!!!

 

This news enabled me to have a 45 minute sword fight with my son. I felt like everything was going to be okay. I was going to make it. Actually, we were having the time of our lives.

 

And then…I got my nap. It was awesome. It was more of a focused meditation of positive thoughts than actual sleeping, but it was amazing to be by myself to fill back up.

 

rachel introvert meme haiku

 

I took the time to journal my gratitude and then I took my second fancy bubble bath of the day. I cannot tell you how amazing the first 45 seconds of a bubble bath feel, it’s like some awesome chemicals are being released throughout my body. This helps me deal with the fact that carpet cleaners will be at my house in a half hour and I have to move all the furniture off the carpets (see cat pee incident from above).

 

Moving all your furniture around feels super weird to me. More like, having huge household items obviously not where they belong causes anxiety within me. Where should I sit? Should I just stand? My husband came home from work early and took our son over to run an errand and I decided to NOT be awkward about the situation. I decided to get out my laptop and complete a chapter in my online screenwriting course. By the time my guys returned, the carpets were done being cleaned and I had a 100% on my online quiz.

 

This makes dinner preparation easier, but I am still feeling kind of confused about why all my furniture is piled up on the tile; my brain does not like the chaos. So I repotted some plants:

 

IMG_1854

 

 

IMG_1856

 

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I emptied out the huge green pot and put the remaining strand from my elephant plant into this much more appropriately sized pink pot. I’m pretty excited about the prospect of getting a new plant for the big green pot.

 

While I was working on my plants, I had an idea for another piece of art that I had been working on, so I went for it:

 

PTSD Healing

 

Ahhhhhhhh. This feels so good–not only do I have a home for my awesome Haiku, but now I have a home for the 5 orchid blooms that fell in the past week (resulting in me repotting the plants). YES!!! Everything has it’s place.

 

Just kidding. We can’t put the furniture back until the morning when the carpet is dry. That’s okay, my husband and I ended our night with some serious jig saw puzzling and my third bubble bath of the day.

 

PTSD Healing

 

Yesterday was an awesome PTSD healing day.

Here is a recap of why:

  1. Bubble Bath
  2. Shower
  3. Bike Ride
  4. Gift Giving
  5. Play Time
  6. Meditation/Nap
  7. Bubble Bath
  8. Journaling
  9. Screenwriting Class Quiz Success!
  10. Repot 3 Plants
  11. Make Art
  12. Jigsaw Puzzle
  13. Bubble Bath

 

This list is not all inclusive; as in, I did not tell you about everything that happened yesterday, I got a lot of work done that does not apply to this story and I also got a lot of joy and healing out of the other experiences in my day that are simply not applicable herein.  The above list includes healing exercises that are specific to me, these are things that I like to do because they make me feel good.

 

I would love to know what your healing exercises are; please share with me by leaving a comment below.

 

XO

~Rachel

The Very Inspiring Blogger Award

very_inspiring_blogger

Thank you to Ally for nominating me for the Very Inspiring Blogger award.

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This remarkable act of kindness will not be forgotten. My gratitude can best be expressed through Haiku:

IT’S NOT JUST MY FACE…

ALLY, I HAVE TO TELL YOU:

YOU MAKE MY HEART SMILE.

Wahoo! To be nominated by Ally as a Very Inspiring Blogger is actually quite remarkable. Check out Ally’s blog, Welcome to My Little Piece of Quiet, and see for yourself; you will love receiving her Quote of the Day. I know I do. Thank you, Ally, your continued encouragement and support mean the world to me!

Very Inspiring Blogger

  1. When it comes to unhealthy cycles, I am a wrecking ball. I am a sledgehammer. Hulk Smash.
  2. I love my best friend; she can do anything (read about it).
  3. I take a fancy bubble bath every single day, sometimes twice.
  4. My undergraduate major was in Sociology.
  5. When I have an epiphany, I make a video about it (watch this).
  6. Intuition and Sensitivity are my Superpowers.
  7. I cannot stand small talk. Go big or go home.

Here are my official nominations for the Very Inspiring Blogger award:

  1. SARK
  2. Michele Rosenthal, Heal My PTSD
  3. Kelly Rae Roberts
  4. Midnight Blues
  5. Uncomfortably Honest and Honestly Uncomfortable
  6. Robin, Rach & Joe!
  7. Kindness Blog
  8. Marvelline Marvels
  9. I Love to go a Gardening
  10. Positively Introverted
  11. A Small Act of Kindness
  12. Creating Your Life Journey
  13. Of Means and Ends
  14. INFJ Reflections
  15. Seven Years in a Drawer

Should you choose to accept this award, here are the official rules:

  1. Post the award icon on your blog;
  2. Thank the person who nominated you;
  3. List 7 facts about yourself;
  4. Nominate 15 other Very Inspiring Blogs;
  5. Post these rules.

 

MY FELLOW BLOGGERS,

THANKS FOR THE INSPIRATION;

I WON’T FORGET IT.

 

XO

~Rachel

How Saturday Night Live ruined my childhood

What is loving yourself all about?

 

Remember this guy?

 

loving yourself

 

Stuart Smalley. A Saturday Night Live character played by Al Franken circa 1991.

 

loving yourself

 

“I’m good enough, I’m smart enough and, doggone it, people like me.”

 

loving yourself

 

That’s it. That’s “the joke.”

 

In 1991 I was 10 years old and completely cognizant of how laughable loving yourself was. People like me?! What a joke.

 

loving yourself

 

Wouldn’t it be smarter (safer) to just believe that I was not good enough, not smart enough and honestly, that everybody hated me?

 

loving yourself

 

Sigh. I got pretty good at that mantra. So good, that 5 years later, when I was 15 years old, this character seemed like an alien:

 

loving yourself

 

Helen Madden. A Saturday Night Live character played by Molly Shannon circa 1996.

 

loving yourself

 

Licensed “Joyologist” Helen Madden was best known for spreading her message of JOY, finding the most comfortable positions to sit on interview couches and saying “I love it, I love it, I love it!”

 

loving yourself

 

That’s it. That’s the joke. She was trying to spread joy.

 

Ugh.

 

loving yourself

 

HUGE eye roll.

 

loving yourself

 

 

My idea of loving myself at this time was to have intense secret crushes that were never returned, thank god…because if you dared have a crush on me I would surely CRUSH you with my indifference and secret horror.

 

It wasn’t until I was 32 years old that I even began my self love journey. Even then, it was because I had to, not because I wanted to. What does unconditionally loving yourself even mean?

 

I thought loving yourself meant loving others as hard as you possibly could. That worked all the way up until having a baby. Then you watch how fast you drain and don’t replenish. If you don’t love yourself, you don’t replenish. Then you truly understand how loving yourself is not a luxury or a choice.

 

It’s the way.

 

loving yourself

 

XO

~Rachel

 

P.S. Gilda Radner is one of my hero angels.

 

 

7 houses in 6 years: Children Need Consistency

Have you ever thought about how children need consistency for healthy growth?

 

Here is a trip down memory lane…

 

children need consistency

 

When my parents first separated, I left the family home I had been raised in for my first 11 years and moved to this townhouse in Derby right before the start of seventh grade.

 

children need consistency

 

The landlady was super nice; she allowed us to bring our cat, Sam, even though she had just installed brand new carpets.  My Dad helped my Mom and I move in. I thought they would get back together. Then my Uncle John came to the door and when I got my Mom for him, he served her with divorce papers. I had seen this Uncle only a handful of times in my life and he was so aggressive and frightening, I fainted. We had to move out the following month because we could not afford to live there.

 

children need consistency

 

This was my grandparents home, where my Mom grew up, and we got to live here for about 8 months before my Grandpa sold it so he could build a retirement home in Florida.

 

children need consistency

 

I spent the eighth grade living in this duplex on Cleveland off of Beach Road in Angola. The upstairs neighbors pounded on the floor if we played the radio or made any noise. The next door neighbors left their cat on a leash, even in the rain and always had a yard sale going on.

 

children need consistency

 

We went to go live with my mom’s boyfriend and his children for most of ninth grade at his house on Church Road. When we lived there, it was a one-story; this is what the house looks like today. This was the first time, of many, that my brother, Philip, crossed the lines and left my dad’s house to come live with us.

 

children need consistency

 

Don’t get too excited. This is not what my tenth grade house looked like when we lived on Summerdale. At all! This was a one story when we lived here that had two kitchens only 25 feet away from each other (awesomely awkward in-law quarters). Our old neighbor eventually ended up buying the house after we moved and knocked it down to build this McMansion, which is on a cliff overlooking the great Lake Erie.

 

children need consistency

 

Come on down to Albeeville, it’s gonna be a JAMBOREE!! Anyone who knew me in eleventh and twelfth grades will not recognize this house because, once again, it looked nothing like this when we lived here. I can’t even imagine what it would be like to grow up in a buttoned up home. I’m excited for the people who live here now.

 

children need consistency

 

The longest amount of time I have lived in one house remains the first eleven years I served on Northfield. Whenever my husband talks about feeling averse to the stress involved in moving homes, I always think about this sequence of events and kind of laugh, bitterly.

 

I don’t care if we move, as long as we all get to stay together as a family.

 

“Life is a process of becoming. A combination of states we have to go through. Where people fail is that they wish to elect a state and remain in it. This is a kind of death.” ~Anais Nin

 

XO

~Rachel

 

children need consistency

Apologize = make it right

As a parent, I apologize on a daily basis.

 

I’m sorry we can’t have marshmallows for breakfast. I’m sorry Daddy has to leave for work. I’m sorry you fell off of your bike.

 

Ever notice some people NEVER apologize?

 

apologize

 

I have…

 

It’s like…a refusal to empathize. But WHY would your loved one do that?! Trying to figure that out can make you crazy…

 

Luckily, there is this thing called the internet. If you google search the terms “how to apologize,” you will see that it is a fairly straight forward process that involves CARE.

 

I made a movie about this today:

 

 

If you don’t know how to apologize, click here.

 

If you took the time to read that article, you now know that saying the words ‘I’m sorry’ are a mere fraction of the steps involved in the apology process.

 

Start off with what went wrong.

Begin the apology by stating what went wrong and the feelings your words or actions caused. Be detailed about what happened so that the other person knows exactly what you’re apologizing for. Make it a point to avoid using the words “but” or “if”. An apology is a statement, so it shouldn’t be conditional. Remember that an apology has nothing to do with right and wrong or whose fault it was – an apology simply means that you made someone feel bad with your words or actions and you are sorry about that.

Do not say “I’m sorry you feel that way” or “I’m sorry if you were offended.” Be sorry for what you said or did, and the pain that it caused someone else. “I’m sorry you feel that way” makes it seem like you are blaming the other person for feeling bad, and is not a real apology. When you apologize, you should recognize that the other person was hurt and that you are sorry about that.

 

 

It is NEVER too late to make amends. Every single day that you allow to go by without apologizing for hurting your loved one is the perpetration of an ongoing offense that necessarily adversely impacts the quality of that relationship.

 

Relationships never die. 

 

Think about that. If it is your policy to “never apologize” because it is just “too hard,” that is a character flaw. Change that today.

 

You can do it! People change all the time, that’s called growth. Hopefully. Sometimes people change for other reasons. Either way, if you hurt your loved one, it is up to you to make it right.

 

XO

~Rachel

V-Day & the Versatile Blogger Award

V-Day, a global movement to end violence against women and girls, is hands down my favorite charity.

 

V-Day

 

I have been a volunteer activist for V-Day since 2002 when I co-organized my first college campaign for SUNY Cortland. What does that mean? For us, that meant putting on a benefit production of Eve Ensler’s play, The Vagina Monologues, and using the proceeds from ticket sales to benefit the local YWCA Aid to Victims of Violence Unit.

 

V-Day

 

I love theatre. I love activism. V-Day enables me to put those two passions together into one explosive social change rainbow firework.

 

V-Day

 

In 2003, 2004 & 2005, I co-organized Community Campaigns for Buffalo by co-directing and producing The Vagina Monologues and using the proceeds to benefit Crisis Services Advocate Program.

 

V-Day

V-Day

 

In 2006, my third year of law school, I organized the first ever University at Buffalo Law School campaign to benefit Crisis Services Advocate Program.

 

In 2007 I actually relocated to Las Vegas for a job opportunity one week before my V-Day Community Campaign for Buffalo was to open and flew back and forth to make sure that the campaign was a success.

 

V-Day

 

Between 2008 and 2012, I financially supported existing V-Day campaigns in my area. I missed the high pressure and stress that producing a benefit show can conjure.  I began to feel like I didn’t know who I was anymore. Working for Judges during this time period left me feeling stiff like plastic. I longed to show my rebel side. I am radical.

 

The past 2 years, 2013 and 2014, I have joined V-Day’s One Billion Rising campaign and have participated (with my husband and son!) in flash mobs to break the chain and stop violence against women through DANCE!

 

How does that work? Well, I went to the One Billion Rising website (click here), I clicked Events and then Find an Event, and then I was brought to a page where I could find a flash mob in my area to join. There is a link to a YouTube video tutorial teaching you how to complete the dance steps so you can practice at home and then just show up at the proper time to dance in a flash mob–super fun!!!

 

V-Day

V-Day

 

In 2015 I am trying something radically different, an online fundraiser. Please check out my official One Billion Rising campaign page by clicking here.

 

Between today and February 14, 2015 my campaign to benefit www.vday.org will be available to support.

 

V-Day

 

Please join in the FaceBook party by clicking here. Basically, you can purchase your favorite Chloe + Isabel jewelry and Jamberry Nails and pat yourself on the back knowing that 15% of the total sale proceeds will be used to benefit www.vday.org.

 

Thank you in advance for your support!

 

Speaking of support, have you head that I won a major award?!

 

lamplegaward

 

I am so GRATEFUL to Ally of My Little Piece of Quiet for nominating me for the Versatile Blogger Award! I think YOUR blog is amazing and that everyone should follow it (click here to follow Ally).

 

versatilebloggeraward

 

Official Rules:

  1. Thank the person who gave you this award.
  2. Include a link to their blog.
  3. Select 15 blogs that are truly excellent and nominate them for the Versatile Blogger Award.
  4. List 7 things about yourself.

 

Once again, big THANK YOU to Ally of My Little Piece of Quiet for the Versatile Blogger Award!

 

I would like to officially nominate the following blogs for the Versatile Blog Award:

  1. My Little Piece of Quiet
  2. Midnight Blues
  3. Uncomfortably Honest & Honestly Uncomfortable
  4. INFJ Ramblings
  5. Things of Joy
  6. Of Means and Ends
  7. A Small Act of Kindness
  8. Taking the Mask Off
  9. Basically Beyond Basic
  10. Creating Your Life Journey
  11. Robin, Rach & Joe
  12. Kindness Blog
  13. Sensitive New World
  14. Art of Receiving
  15. Allowing Myself

 

V-Day

  1. I am a lawyer
  2. I am a survivor of PTSD
  3. I am in the middle of an online Screenwriting Course
  4. I am in the middle of Jillian Michael’s 30 Day Shred
  5. I eat chocolate every single day
  6. Dirty Dancing is my all time favorite movie
  7. I hug myself every day.

 

XO

~Rachel

Positive Mantras & Parenting: you is kind, you is smart, you is important

{originally published January 14, 2015}

 

Shifting from negative mantras to positive mantras was probably my greatest success of 2014.

 

I pushed myself through every day of my life, all the way to 2014, using hateful, terrorizing, emotionally crushing negative mantras. I was not always aware I was doing it. It was habitual to say the least.

 

The only reason I decided to stop doing that was because of the look on my therapist’s face when I told her that’s how I got myself through high school, college and law school (and the bar exam, my wedding planning and pregnancy). The look on her face suggested that was not a good idea.

 

So, I agreed to try out positive mantras. It was tough at first because I did not realize how huge the shift was going to be. I had to care about myself for real. I had to be sorry when I slipped up, which was tough because, at first, it felt very natural and almost soothing to just allow myself to tear into myself. But when I was finished, it wasn’t soothing at all (obviously) and I regretted what I considered to be “backsliding” into old bad habits.

 

Over the course of the year, I found myself doing many things to solidify my shift into positive mantras. Research, reading, journaling, mixed media art (#hellosoulhellomantras), meditating, EMDR, self hypnosis, yoga, etc.

 

Want to know what the single most helpful activity has been?

 

Parenting.

 

By far, the easiest and most effective method for my shift was to use positive mantras on my child.

 

When I was pregnant, I read the book The Help and was very moved by the mantra that the nanny uses on the baby (“You is kind, you is smart, you is important”).

 

you is kind, you is smart, you is important

“You is kind, you is smart, you is important”

 

My big pregnant self was sobbing thinking about how helpful that would have been, if my parents had used mantras like that on me when I was a child.

 

Ever since my son was born, I have told him this every day:

 

You are kind. You are smart. You are important. You are my son. I am your mom. I take care of you. You are special. You are an angel. You are made out of stars. I am so proud of you. You make me so happy. I love to be your mom. We are a family. I love you.

 

I tell him this, without fail, at nap time and at bed time. I also tell him that when he is cuddly, or sad, or when I just don’t know what else to say. This is my filler.

 

At the end of this month, my son will be 3 years old. For the past 6 months, he has been whispering the mantra along with me. I could not be more proud. I know he believes every word of it (why wouldn’t he? It’s all true).

 

What’s even more amazing—I am beginning to believe every word of it about myself. I am kind. I am smart. I am important. I am a mom. I will take care of myself. I love myself. I am special. I am an angel. I am made out of stars. I am so happy. I love to be Jackson’s mom. I have a family.

 

It’s hard to totally change certain core habits. I know. I did it. Through, research, reading, journaling, various forms of therapy, art work, blogging, meditating, yoga and parenting.

 

I don’t care how old your children are, start the positive mantras with them today. Do it for them and for you. Do it every day.

 

XO

~Rachel

 

Haiku by Rachel VanKoughnet:

 

He’s not mine to own.

I was made to protect him

before I was born.

 

you is kind, you is smart, you is important

Bill Murray in St. Vincent

Went on a hot date over the weekend to the movies and saw Bill Murray in St. Vincent.

 

Bill Murray in St. Vincent

 

I love Bill Murray. I am not done considering my overall opinion of this (very) dark comedy, but I am way overdue in sharing the part that immediately resonated with me…

 

Yes, it has to do with grief.

 

Bill Murray plays a character who (spoiler alert) loses his wife. The conversation he has with the little boy he babysits is very relevant to me. It went something like this:

 

(little boy) I’m sorry for your loss.

(Bill Murray, angrily) Why do people always say that?

(little boy) Because they don’t know what else to say.

(Bill Murray) How about, what was she like?

 

Bill Murray in St. Vincent 

 

So I’m in the movie theatre and I just burst into tears, trying to tell my husband (yup, I’m talking during the movie now, too) that: IT’S NOT FAIR!

 

What’s not fair?

 

The way society forces us to shut down our grief. I’m sorry for your loss is the same thing as saying: that’s enough, shut it down, this conversation is over. That is not polite, that is cold and rude. It’s also unhealthy. What was she like? Now that’s a conversation opener. Brilliant. Much warmer. Demonstrates that you care.

 

So I have already started doing it. Asking people who are grieving: what was she like? And the result is beautiful. I recommend it. Relationships never die. Trust me. Even if the other person dies, your relationship never dies because it lives inside of you. Keep talking about your loved ones who have passed, it strengthens your relationship; makes it grow.

 

I was trying to tell my best friend about this concept and saw the 1987 version of the movie The Secret Garden in my head. Remember when that little girl finds the key and opens the Secret Garden door for the first time? What garden?! The brown overgrown piles of sticks and dead leaves were so high and thick; you would never know we finally made it to the garden but for the title of the movie. That’s where your relationships go that you think are dead. That’s where the relationships go that you wish were dead. Relationships never die. They are just waiting for you behind the wall you put up.

 

SecretGarden

 

Am I blowing your mind? Watch this video I made:

(Relationships Never Die: The Secret Garden).

Revisit your relationships—every single one of them, as they are all living inside of you. Take inventory. Roll up your sleeves and be willing to do the hard work. Gardens don’t bloom in a day.

 

XO

~Rachel

 

A Double Haiku by Rachel VanKoughnet:

 

Always with Despair,

sometimes I think I can count

my friends on one hand…

hand orchids

…then I remember:

you keep your friends in your heart.

I’m never alone.

Relationships Never Die: The Secret Garden

Relationships never die.

 

This is a major epiphany for me.

 

There have been many relationships in my life that I wished would die; that I believed were already dead. It made sense to me at the time and went right along with my former erroneous belief that relationships die when one of the parties thereto passes away. That’s not true at all. I know this now.

 

I write a lot about grief. It’s kind of my thing.

 

Grieving has actually strengthened my relationships with those that have passed.

 

Believing relationships can die is what leads to neglect, the weakening of that relationship.

 

Admittedly, part of what sparked the epiphany for me stemmed from the blog I wrote about my brother and an insightful comment from a fellow INFJ that went like this:

 

“The attitudes and emotions behind this post seriously gave me goosebumps. The power of sibling relationship still baffles me today. What a journey I’ve been on in my own life trying to account for it. 

You’ve reminded me how precious that relationship is – like a flower you can hold in your hand for a short time, it eventually transforms into something new. It disintegrates into the soil. It joins the earth and nourishes new growth. The process is very painful.

Our consumerism culture tells us to throw away withered flowers as if they are no longer Life. We have to go out and buy new flowers if we aren’t so lucky to have a garden. I’ve learned to appreciate the future of a blossomed flower. That momentary joy you experience in its beauty transforms into cycles of creation that flow through our earth, our home. A flower becomes a source of vitality for all living things. Relationships are no different.

The imprint a person leaves on you resonates in the beauty and kindness you share with others, in your ability to transform yourself, in your ability to light up the world around you. Thanks so much for sharing this in all the difficulty that it presented to you. I hope it was cathartic. I hope it helped you shift into a space of receptivity so that you too could benefit from the vitality your brother shared with you.”

 

Thank you does not do justice to the gratitude in my heart for these words. Words are my favorite. I got lost in this garden The Child Philosopher created for me and just sat there for weeks… examining…taking inventory. I treasure these words. They lead me to the most beautiful and peaceful understanding: relationships never die.

 

I have been desperately trying to explain this concept to anyone who will listen to me for awhile now. So I made a YouTube video about it (click here to watch). I hope you can find peace in the message as well.

 

relationships never die

 

Happy Holidays.

 

XO

~Rachel

PS: subscribe to The Child Philosopher!

Thanksgiving is for Activism: Free Leonard Peltier

Thanksgiving is for activism

 

I am in full on stage mom mode.

 

Thanksgiving

 

My son and I co-star in my latest YouTube video.

 

Thanksgiving

 

I cannot recommend this video enough, my 2-year-old deserves an Oscar for his performance. He is so expressive, passionate, angry, funny, serious…

 

Thanksgiving

 

This is a very serious matter. I have brought my own angel child into the spotlight for the first time ever to demand President Obama pardon Native American Political Prisoner, Leonard Peltier.

 

I am an activist. In my home, holidays are for activism. My son and I had a ridiculous amount of fun making this video together because we care about justice as a family value.

 

Thanksgiving

 

If you don’t know about Leonard Peltier, please do your own research. If you don’t feel like doing your own research, click this link and read about him here. If you don’t feel like clicking a link, then please just understand that Leonard Peltier has been a political prisoner for over 37 years and it is time for him to be released so he can be with his family. Nelson Mandela was a South African political prisoner for 27 years before becoming President of South Africa. Nelson Mandela has demanded for the release of Leonard Peltier, along with many other prominent figures.

 

Thanksgiving

 

Leonard Peltier was a Nobel Peace Prize nominee for 6 consecutive years from 2004-2009. In 2009 President Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize. In July 2013 President Obama took his family on vacation to South Africa to stand inside Nelson Mandela’s former prison cell on Robben Island.

 

Thanksgiving

 

I made this video with my son so that President Obama could find the courage within himself to be humble and do the right thing by pardoning Leonard Peltier. Please sign the petition. Please forward the Petition. Forward the video. Share this blog. Hashtag #freeleonardpeltier on your social media. Do something.

 

“We are in this together – the rich, the poor, the red, the white, the black, the brown, and the yellow. We are all one family of humankind. We share responsibility for our Mother Earth and for all those who live and breathe upon her. I believe our work will be unfinished until not one human being is hungry or battered, not a single person is forced to die in war, not one innocent languishes imprisoned, and no one is persecuted for his or her beliefs. I believe in the good in humankind. I believe that the good can prevail, but only with great effort. And that effort is ours, each of ours, yours and mine….Never cease in the fight for
peace, justice, and equality for all people. Be persistent in all that you do and don’t allow anyone to sway you from your conscience.”

~Leonard Peltier, 1999 book Prison Writings: My Life is My Sundance (Saint Martin’s Press) 

 

 

Thanksgiving is a tradition that belies the reality of the Native American genocide, but it doesn’t have to be. You can research and learn and teach your children to care about human rights. We can all be activists who pursue justice and make that the new Thanksgiving tradition in America. Food for thought.

 

XO

~Rachel

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” ~Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Rambo First Blood is the greatest PTSD movie of all time

We visited Mount Rainier National Park, Washington for our 11 year dating anniversary October 13th.

 

IMG_5970

 

Within the first 24 hours, I had an incredible life epiphany involving the movie Rambo First Blood, which is filmed in Washington (and Canada, let’s be honest).

 

By the time we arrived at our cabin, it was dark and our son was already asleep, so after unpacking the car and tucking him into his bunk bed, my husband and I got to just sit out on the back deck, relax, and enjoy the woods. My husband and I kept remarking to each other how happy we were that it smelled like autumn. We are both from Western New York (AKA the 716) and LOVE everything about the fall. It is so hard to live in a desert when you love the fall.

 

As we were sitting, we both found ourselves smiling to hear that old familiar sound of an autumn leaf falling from its tree. I kept getting excited, straining my eyes into the darkness beyond the deck trying to see an elk. Over and over again, I found myself holding my breath and straining to hear what I hoped to be the sound of hooves walking on top of autumn leaves and branches. But something was not right.

 

It actually was not familiar. The sound. I couldn’t understand why it seemed like an animal was getting involved with the leaf as it fell from the tree when there ended up being no animal follow up sounds whatsoever. It was weird. Anticlimactic.

 

The next morning, we bundled ourselves up to explore the backyard in the daylight with our boy and I could not believe how beautiful it was.

 

IMG_6361

 

As I was standing here taking in this moment I saw, for the first time, what my husband and I had been listening to last night. The noise started so high, I had to totally lift my face up to the sky to see what was going on. One huge leaf falling from the top of a 100 year old tree and hitting hundreds of branches on its lengthy descent to the forest floor.

 

Obviously that’s when it hit me. Rambo. As I have mentioned before in previous blog entries, Rambo First Blood is the greatest PTSD story ever told. I’m sure it’s no coincidence that my brothers and I watched it nearly every day of our lives as we navigated a horrifically abusive and neglectful upbringing. Since I was too young to be watching it, let alone memorizing it, many moments from that movie have stuck with me. Haunted me.

 

It was in this moment of watching the leaf fall that I finally understood what was so bad about the scene where Rambo jumps off the cliff and is badly injured, as he hits many tree branches before hitting the ground. Rambo wasn’t falling through upstate New York trees, he was falling through Old Growth, which means he had to hit MANY branches in order to reach the ground. More than I ever even knew about. Until just now in this moment.

 

IMG_5983

 

Oh man. Rambo. It was worse than I thought.

 

I was so struck by this information that I began to excitedly point out the great distance the leaves were falling to my husband and son. I had this feeling of weird validation flowing through me because it now suddenly makes so much more sense that I would be haunted by the imagery of a human being falling through an old growth tree. But even as I was saying out loud to my family, “look at how many branches that leaf is hitting,” I became overwhelmed with a totally new idea:

 

That’s life.

 

WHAT?!

 

In response to my question my brain showed me the other moment from Rambo First Blood that haunts me: in the scene shortly after Rambo falls through the trees, a police officer falls from the helicopter straight to the ground, landing face down on rocks. It is just horrific. The surprised sound of his scream as he falls. You can tell it was blunt force trauma that killed him when Rambo grabs him by the jacket and flips him over, revealing his smashed in dead face.

 

WHY ARE YOU SHOWING ME THIS?!

 

That’s life.

 

Oh. OH! OMG!!

 

That’s life. Who do you want to be? Rambo, the hero who hits every single branch before hitting the ground, who then is mercilessly shot at until he has to throw a rock to successfully defend himself so that he can stitch up his own wound in peace.

 

What’s the alternative?

 

The dirty cop that tries to murder Rambo in an insane abuse of power play who falls from the helicopter all the way to the ground and dies instantly.

 

Um. Rambo. Everytime.

 

Rambo First Blood

 

This story resonates with me because 2014 has been packed with punches; loss, grief, hurdles, mind fucking power plays, you name it. I am tired.

 

Hey, also though, 2014 has been full of AMAZING gains emotionally, creatively, spiritually, personally and collectively. I love my journey. I am just getting started.

 

Do I hit a branch every damn day?

 

Almost.

 

But at least I don’t fall all the way to the ground and die.

 

thisisnottheend

 

XO

~Rachel

 

Rambo First Blood