Cleaning Out My Closet

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.

 

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Plus I went all Joan Crawford in there…

 

No wire hangers

 

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

 

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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.

 

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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!!!)

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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.

 

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

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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She is my angel hero.

 

XO

~Rachel

 

PS–Cleaning out your closet may cause grief.

and that's ok

A Day In The Life

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…

 

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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…

 

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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?!

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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:

 

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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:

 

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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.

 

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Yesterday was an awesome 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

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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!

7 FACTS ABOUT RACHEL

  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

 

Remember this guy?

 

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

 

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

 

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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.

 

1991

 

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

 

1991 xmas

 

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:

 

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

 

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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!”

 

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

 

Ugh.

 

1996

 

HUGE eye roll.

 

1996 again

 

 

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.

 

Gilda

 

XO

~Rachel

 

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

 

 

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?

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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!!!

 

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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.

 

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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?!

 

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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).

 

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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

 

7factsaboutme

  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: The Help

{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”).

 

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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.

 

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Bill Murray in St. Vincent

{originally posted December 10, 2014}

 

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

 

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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?

 

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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.

 

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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

{originally posted December 6, 2014}

 

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.

 

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Happy Holidays.

 

XO

~Rachel

PS: subscribe to The Child Philosopher!

Thanksgiving is for Activism: Free Leonard Peltier

{originally posted November 19, 2014}

 

I am in full on stage mom mode.

 

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

 

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

 

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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.

 

Please join me in signing the Official Petition to Free Leonard Peltier by clicking this link.

 

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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

The Yoke Epiphany

 

On October 25, 2014 Kindness Blog published a mind-blowing piece I wrote called The Yoke Epiphany, which is about a revelation I had while driving by this exact statue in Washington:

 

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I did not take a picture, but an amazing photographer did and was gracious enough to allow me to use it. Thank you for sharing your talent with me Steve Leake; I am forever grateful for your kindness.

 

Don’t forget to read The Yoke Epiphany: click here!

 

I would LOVE to know what you think; please leave a reply below.

 

XO

~Rachel

 

 

Joan Rivers + Robin Williams = My New Angels

{originally posted September 6, 2014}

 

Ever since Robin Williams went home, I have been thinking about loss (of strangers) like a gain (of angels).

 

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I wrote this haiku for Robin Williams because I was so sad to lose him and suddenly reminded of what he taught me:

 

ROBIN WILLIAMS’ MORK

ALLOWED ME TO BE MYSELF

NEVER FORGET THAT

 

What does that mean? Well, if you’re not INFJ like me and Robin, you probably won’t understand, but I have always felt very much like an alien. Like I’m not supposed to be here. I guess that’s how Robin Williams felt, too.

 

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I felt stronger having gained Robin Williams as a guardian angel, like I AM supposed to be here. Yesterday when we lost Joan Rivers, I basically grew a pair of brass balls.

 

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Joan Rivers was not a perfect person, but for me she is a symbol of ferocious tenacity. I was born in 1981 and watched Valerie get replaced by Sandy Duncan on her own show because she dared ask for a raise. I watched Roseanne get crucified for daring to demand she be properly credited as the creator of her own show. I watched very intently to see what happened to women who spoke up. I still do.

 

I very angrily explained to my sweet husband last night that Joan Rivers did have the CLASS to only speak highly of Johnny Carson when she appeared on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon after nearly three decades of being banned from NBC. Johnny Carson was so angry at his protégé for daring to accept the offer of her own show with a different network (after guest appearing on his show for nearly 20 years without being offered her own show by that network) that he BANNED HER from NBC for life and now Jimmy Fallon is some hero for undoing that shortly before Joan Rivers’ death.

 

Hero. A hero to me is someone who will open their mouth and say what is going on regardless of the repercussions. Joan Rivers was not politically correct and she was often TRYING to shock and offend people with her outrageous comedy style, but she said what she felt and that inspires me. Too many girls and women are stifled. Oppression is stifling and often leads to depression.

 

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(I MADE this Meme AND wrote the Haiku–do you LOVE it??)

 

XO

~Rachel

Hug Yourself + Love Yourself = Heal Yourself

{originally posted August 1, 2014}

 

Ever hug yourself?

 

I do.

 

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I made a YouTube video about it today. I’m that girl.

 

Actually, I wrote the script for: Hug Yourself + Love Yourself = Heal Yourself, hours before learning some pretty heinous news.

 

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I am increasingly intuitive like that; producing and directing this movie was healthy for my grieving process. I don’t know what else I would’ve done with my seconds, minutes or hours. I made the set and shot the footage in record time. I’d say this one was fast tracked for sure.

 

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Last night I wrote my first Haiku:

 

If you’re deserted,

You can have extra dessert.

PERMISSION GRANTED.

 

Also ate 2 brownies last night.

 

Full disclosure, I eat chocolate every single day.

 

I hope you enjoy my latest YouTube video and that you all start hugging + loving + healing your beautiful selves!

 

XO

~Rachel