Friday, January 9, 2009

A rat park life

Over the summer I read a book about making our lives and homes like a "rat park." A rat park is a place you really love being. I'm beaming with joy because we have been working hard at that the past 9 months or so. Our home has never been a terrible place to be, but not always pleasant. And the past few years we've been moving more and more toward the rat park experience. Cliff finally gets my need for new experiences and traveling (But he doesn't get it b/c I nagged---that is another post). We went on more family get-a-ways and vacations in one year than the entire 7 years we have been parents. In the last 10 months we went on 4 road trips, as a family. The kids and I have been on many road trips together, but they usually didn't include their father; he was usually working.

Nothing we did was extravagant. But it was all simply wonderful being together and enjoying life. We have had health issues over the past year, car issues, and a lack of wealth too. But we just keep focusing on the good in our lives and the happy times we have to look forward to. Nothing in life is easy. But looking at the negatives doesn't make it any easier. That is one thing we have stopped focusing on. We focus on what we want more of and somehow it materializes before our eyes, most of the time anyway.

Everyone's rat park is different. Ours is having time together and keeping life as simple as possible. I enjoy not being tied to a job, so I can be a full support person to Cliff and the kids. That means I don't get to blow a lot of money. That means the kids don't get a lot of new clothes and shoes, and neither do Cliff or I. We don't eat a lot of fancy meals, have new furniture, Martha Stewart like house, lawn care, nails done, and I do my own hair. Our cars are old and Cliff does all the repair work, well most of it anyway. What all that means for us is that we have time to take off and do cool things on Cliff's school breaks. It is a luxury we probably can't afford, but with all the death we have seen over the past 5 years, we prefer to live life as if we don't have forever. But we don't use credit cards and we are almost debt free, except Cliff's student loans and few other bills. But we are working on those. And can you believe we don't have cell phones! The horror!

This spring we have a road trip planned to Yellowstone and Washington state for "Life is Good" in May, and to see friends/family out west. That is going to be a dream come true adventure! It will be the first national park trip as a family. Cliff and I went to Glacier National Park years ago. And going to an unschooling conference will be a life changing event as well. It will be a year to remember. Cliff actually made a joke tonight that surprised me. It was sleeting out and he said, "Time to go on another road trip." I know our life as unschoolers and practicing attachment parenting has heavily influenced his attitude and enhanced our marriage. I can't say where we'd be without some serious soul searching and working toward a peaceful partnership. It isn't always perfect, but it was and is worth the fight and inner growth. And rat park, is a pretty cool experience. I highly recommend it.

I don't even feel the slightest bit of guilt over the fact that the economy is in shambles. I think it is a good opportunity for people to re-evaluate their life's work, priorities, and make their own rat park. I wouldn't be surprised if mom's like me who are choosing to live frugally to stay home are part of the reason for the economy situation. So, a few people will have to change their lifestyles. Who knows it may be the best thing that ever happened to them! Cliff had his fair share of lay offs this past decade. We know the shame and fear that comes with all that. But we made it and so will most of the people going through hell right now. It is a huge shock to loose a job and have to live on unemployment, and try to figure out how you are going to keep your house or apartment. But there are so many options for people. And some of them may not seem great. But maybe they are just what is needed to get back to the basics of life and real happiness. And life is all in the attitude not the bank account.

And remind me to post an update about the Hina Dolls. I did get a hold of an expert on Japanese Dolls. What he had to say what not terrible news, but not what I had hoped. But all is not lost! I am still going to trade the dolls to some happy soul. See the side link to go to our other blog, if you don't know what I am talking about, and you give a rat's behind---had to use that expression to go with blog title. Hehe.


Ahna said...

Hi Heather!
I like stopping by your blog every once in awhile. It's important for me to see that there are other people "out there" living an unschooling lifestyle. At one time it seemed so strange, and now it is so natural. I can't imagine it any other way! Oh, we are also "simplicity freaks"! (or, frugal fanatics :) We have been steadily ridding ourselves of most of our "stuff" (craigslist and Freecycle) and it has been very liberating! I have also felt that maybe the economic crisis might change this consumer culture for the better.
Well, I just wanted to say hello, and look forward to meeting you and your clan in February!

Heather's Moving Castle said...

Ahna~ I can't believe you have teens! I have been hearing you will be there with teens in Feb. It will be so fun to meet more MN friends. I have met a lot of people over the past year who have shown me way of living frugal, simple lives.Glad to know I am not the only one who is making lemonade. :)

Ahna said...

Heather, Love the snow video! We've had a lot of the stuff, too, and the temps are incredibly low today (-20 degrees). We are trying to stay warm. Yes, I have teens and they're wonderful people. Are you surprised that I have teens because I look so young? :) Well, the photo is a few years old.. Anyway, I'm hoping that we can all make it to the Waterpark on Friday. I just love to watch all the kids enjoy themselves and chat with parents.
Look forward to seeing you all there! Ahna