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Rat Race Rebellion – Just 18 Summers

worked in corporate America. I personally saw or was involved in lay-offs, corporate mergers, and hostile takeovers! And….. I have worked for myself for twenty years since then. From a quality of life perspective, I would not wish corporate America on my worst enemy, much less my own children. You might say, I am in full Rat Race Rebellion. 

rat race rebellion 2

Let’s define what is “the rat race”.  The wikipedia definition goes something like this:  

“A rat race is an endless, self-defeating, or pointless pursuit. It conjures up the image of the futile efforts of a lab rat trying to escape while running around a maze or in a wheel. In an analogy to the modern city, many rats in a single maze expend a lot of effort running around, but ultimately achieve nothing (meaningful) either collectively or individually.”

Now, honestly, that definition is a bit too sensational. For me, the rat race is completely and totally consuming… mind-wise, time-wise and focus-wise. In this model, we tend to focus on climbing the ladder and using the title / money equation as our measuring stick for success. We work long hours and look for the financial reward. And, if that is what success means to you and you are in corporate America, then you are in the right place. But it is a trap, one that is very seductive and alluring. We have become obsessed with material things, stuff, wealth and keeping up with the Joneses. America no longer makes anything, we have become a consumer economy… and what’s worse, it is funded by us going into debt! We have been programmed to want more and more stuff, Bigger is better… Live The American Dream! That dream is a nightmare for families. Our children don’t want more stuff… the stuff is a temporary fix to fill a hole that we are leaving. That is the irony. That lifestyle we are chasing to give our family bigger houses, nicer cars, more vacations is tearing apart the very fabric of our families, our communities, our nation. There is a word for this “American Dream” and we just coincidentally learned it this week while reading Henty’s The Young Carthaginian … cupidity. 

cupidity: eager or excessive desire, especially to possess something; greed.

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How much is enough?

What do you need to be happy? Our family keeps the Biblical feasts and each year for Sukkot (Feast of Booths), we camp out. Throughout this feast we discuss the ancient Israelites’ Exodus out of Egypt. We ask the boys if they were in a similar exodus could they take all their favorite things with them on their backs? No? How about in a wagon? Or an SUV? How about an 18 wheeler, would that fit it all? And we quickly realize how much stuff we have.  But is the stuff a luxury or just extra baggage? How much do we need to be happy? How much is enough? 

What are we teaching our children by what we do?

If we tell our children that stuff is not important, yet we live in a cluttered house, full of stuff that we just can’t part with… are we sending a mixed message to our children? Do we just have to have the coolest, newest, latest techno-gadget? Do we need monster screen TVs so we can spend more time watching sports than being with our family? Our children are watching us and they learn from what we do, not what we say! Did you open the Bible this week? Once? Did your children see you praying?  

What is the alternative to the Rat Race?

We have been introducing entrepreneurship into our homeschool for years now. The conversation has not been about money though. Rather we discuss the need to find what they love to do and create a business around it. How we hope to accomplish that is we introduce them to lots of experiences… things they might enjoy actually doing to earn a living. Their current list of opportunities they are exploring includes: photography, web design, photoshop, illustrator, homesteading, writing and blogging, farming, raising farm animals, refinishing furniture, and an online business. They have identified some things they don’t want to do for absolute sure, which is valuable insight too!

Do you want time to ponder? To create?

The one fact we constantly return to when discussing with our children their future lifestyles, relationships and careers is that THINGS can be traps. THINGS have to be maintained. Dusted. Cleaned. Protected. Insured. And there is a price you pay for each of those aspects. I wrote about this topic in another article, The Real Price of Stuff.  We have all become so accustomed to living the lifestyle of a rat chasing cheese that we have lost our ability to discern boundaries. Balance. We have lost our focus on people and relationships. We have forgotten the freedom of not being bound (enslaved) by debt.  

I know it is quite intoxicating to climb that ladder and use it as our measuring stick of success (especially when you are moving up). I owned a VERY successful and lucrative recruiting firm for technology employees. My clients included Disney, Hilton, International Paper, Williams Sonoma, Wal-Mart Corporate, Tyson Foods, just to name a few. I Get It. I lived it. However, I chose to homeschool and that choice had consequences. We are now in the process of dramatically downsizing our life (house, cars, clothes, farm, everything) to focus on our family, and our quality of life instead of chasing the money. And since our children are watching intently how we walk out this phase of our life, I pray we are sending a powerful message to them about where family, relationships, and friends rank in our life. One that they can learn from us without having to experience the same mistakes first-hand. 

downsizing upbeat

During this process I had to really explore what my own priorities were and discuss my decision with my husband. Did I want to return to the “drop my kids off corporate mom” or did I want to be a homeschool mom? I decided life is short and I want to spend all day, everyday with my children while they are still home. To limit the outside influences like peer pressure and the entertainment industry. To help them learn about the world and understand it through our system of values. That takes time. So, you see my rat race rebellion is really about prioritizing my time and choosing where I spend it. And in the process, teaching my children by my own actions.  

One final thought… I am NOT encouraging our children to not work for Corporate America… but I AM suggesting they investigate all their options. And, if they choose to go into Corporate America, they will have my blessing, because they will have their eyes wide open and hopefully will have their priorities firmly intact.  

Until Next Time… 

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I’m linking up with a few other blogs… New Life on a Homestead; A Mama’s Story

 

Discovery Park of America Review

Have you ever been to a museum, theater, or a science fair? I imagine everyone’s been to at least one of those. What do you get when you mix all of those together? Well, you get the Discovery Park of America! Last Friday, my family and I took a day off to visit this $80 million dollar facility located in Union City, Tennessee, very near the Kentucky border. That’s quite a drive from our home in La Grange, Tennessee, over two hours actually. But once we got there, the long drive was worth it!

DPOA1

When we got there, we were actually an hour ahead of our schedule, meaning we had a bit of free time before the first event began. So first, we explored the main building of the park. Honestly, I don’t know what I expected it to look like, but it couldn’t have been as cool as it looked in real life! When we first entered the huge building, the first thing I noticed was the enormous shark mouth right in front of the door. I recognized the sharp, finger-long teeth to be those of a Megalodon instantly. We actually found one on our North Carolina vacation a couple of years ago and I’ve been fascinated with them since then! Although I have seen several of these huge sharks’ mouths over the years, it never ceases to amaze me how big they get!

dpoa slideThe most popular attraction of the entire park was right behind the Megalodon teeth… it was a forty-eight foot metal statue, spanning the two uppermost floors of the Discovery Center. From atop the statue, you can see the lobby of the Center below, but that’s not all. Inside the statue’s head is a slide, that leads down the legs onto the second floor below! I have to tell you, being 14 years old, I don’t spend a ton of time on slides anymore, but this one was one really cool slide! My brother, Gage, took a video going down the slide. It was so much fun, I went down a second time and would have gone down again if we had enough time!!

 

 

helicopterOnce inside, I spent my hour in various places around the building. I began my tour at the aquarium section, a small but immensely diverse part of the park. It was also, quite possibly, one of the most popular parts of the park. There were fish, turtles, snakes, you name it. Across the room was the earthquake simulator, the native american exhibit, and the civil war artifacts. One of our favorite displays was the WWII exhibit. From tanks, to heli’s, to uniforms, to mines, they had it all. We loved seeing the WWII exhibit but the best part was the helicopter (as you can tell from brother Gage’s smile in the picture). There, in the middle of the room, they had erected an actual helicopter.  You could access the cargo hold, the cockpit, and other parts of the vehicle as well. We are in Civil Air Patrol and we all have a growing obsession with all things military and especially flight equipment!

After we had finished touring the WWII area, it was almost one o’clock, which was when the first event began. This event, which just happened to be the earthquake simulator mentioned earlier, was right next to the aquarium. Inside, was a widescreen TV, like a theater. But instead of chairs to sit in, there were rails. I continued to wonder how it worked right up until the movie began. Then, the floor began to vibrate and move around under my feet, as a clip of an earthquake began to play. Throughout the movie, I continued to feel the frequent rumbling, and the occasional spray of water as a wave crashed against the shore. That simulator was something else! I loved how the simulator made you feel like you were in the middle of the action, like you were the one experiencing the earthquake shown in the movie.

After we finished the earthquake simulator, we still had a bit of time to explore the rest of the park. Believe it or not, throughout the whole first part of our trip, I still hadn’t even visited the first floor! So now I took the time to enjoy all the exhibits on the first floor, a lot of which had something to do with natural history. I thoroughly enjoyed the rock and mineral exhibits! I’ve always had a fascination with geology, to the extent of filling up my bedroom with rocks and gems. As much as I would’ve wanted to have a few of these rocks on display in my room, I’m not sure they would fit!  There were huge pieces of amethyst in one of the exhibits that were almost seven feet tall! There were numerous other exhibits on the ground floor as well, such as a library, an automobile exhibit, prehistoric creatures, and more. I had just finished visiting all of these when it came time to go to the next event, The Interactive Starship Theater.

The theater itself looked like just that, a theater with an enlarged screen. But once you get a closer look, you’ll notice that there are controls on the arms of the chairs. These controls are how the players interact with the simulator. Throughout the simulation, there are five separate tasks that have to be completed by either the Engineers, Scientists, or Passengers. Of the thirty people in the simulator, eight people were chosen to be pilots. Against all odds, somehow all of us (well my two brothers and I) got a chance to be pilots. Several of the tasks included studying the sun, repairing a probe, and exploring the rest of the galaxy. We spent almost an hour in the simulator, performing the various tasks required to complete the mission. Eventually, the mission was completed and we finished exploring the galaxy. After we finished the simulator, it was almost three o’clock.

Glass ElevatorThat meant it was time for our final and possibly my favorite event, going to the top of The Tower.

The Tower juts twelve stories out of the roof above the central building, which is also known as the Discovery Center. We took the glass-walled elevator all the way to the top. I had an amazing view up there. I could see the whole park, a highway in the process of being made, and the  landscape far beyond that.  Almost just as impressive was the glass floor. It gives you a weird  feeling, when there’s only three inches of glass separating you from safety and a long fall to the ground. But I really enjoyed it, going up there and getting to see so much of the land.  I almost couldn’t leave when it was that time.

Glass Floor

I thoroughly enjoyed visiting the Discovery Park of America, it was an experience I won’t soon forget. I highly recommend you plan a trip to the Discovery Park of America! But try to make it a weekend visit! There was so much more to see and do that we didn’t have time to experience… Things like:

  • a tree maze
  • a grist mill
  • a train depot
  • a restored century-old chapel
  • and even more!

Oh well, that gives me something to look forward to when we visit next time!

Discovery Park of America

The Real Price of Stuff

This article is part of the Just 18 Summers series. A series where we examine how quickly time is evaporating.  Where we start to adjust our lives to take advantage of the precious little time we have left with our children. Along those lines, I want to challenge you to evaluate what the real price of stuff is and determine if it is worth it.  You see, every single item we have has a price tag on it.  Not just the price we paid for it that we won’t ever recoup, but a price that goes along with taking care of it, cleaning it, storing it, and protecting it.  And what is worse, that price paid comes at a cost to something else, somewhere else. This is a zero-sum game.

Just 18 summers

 

Price Plus Time

The various phases of life brings with them different priorities. We have a huge home that was bought in a different season of our lives and it sits on 40-some-odd acres in a picture perfect postcard setting of rural America. Besides the house and land, on it sits a barn almost as big as our house, a white picket fence around the pool in the backyard, and a steel gate out front to protect it all. And that same house is filled to the brim with stuff. Not to mention how full the barn is. What is the cost of it all? Once you realize all your extra time, money and energy is spent maintaining it, cleaning it, mowing it, painting it, renovating it and generally fussing with it,  you quickly come to the realization … this price is just too high to pay.

Price Plus More Money

Maintaining a home this size with all the associated stuff costs a lot of money… money that could be better spent. In ways that build relationships and create memories. Maybe taking trips, especially going back home to visit my siblings in North Carolina. Family my children don’t really know because we haven’t been home in a while. Or even traveling to sites to learn about history and bring to life the places we are studying. Making memories. Connecting. Seeing. Doing. Yet, when you have no money left over to spend on the things you love to do, you realize the cost of this stuff is just too expensive.

Price Plus Energy

Not only is every minute and every dollar spent maintaining the stuff in, around and associated with this size home… but every ounce of energy (especially on the weekends) is spent maintaining this beautiful monster and all its sirens. Every weekend it is all hands on deck. It takes all of us to get it done. And yet there are still things not completed. Some, not even started. Some we don’t even realize they need doing until something else crops up!  And when you realize you have no energy left to do the things you love doing, you know the cost is too high.

Just 18 Summers

The Real Price of Stuff

Which brings us to the core problem and the real price of stuff … we have become slaves shackled to a beautiful monster that is extremely exacting. A beautiful monster who becomes more needy every day. When you are looking at your stuff and you suddenly realize you have to sacrifice what precious little time you have with your family, unable to do the things you love and want to do, to be able to afford to take care of it and maintain it… then you know in your heart the price is too high and it’s time to make dramatic changes.

You’ve heard the adage… time is money. However,  in reality, time is so much more than money. Time is a fleeting commodity. More money can always be made or earned, however, more time cannot be bought! Therefore, we are choosing to spend this commodity more wisely!  The Real Price of this lifestyle is just a price we are not willing to pay.

We are starting a dramatic shift in lifestyle, in focus, in purpose… Join us as we navigate this unfamiliar territory!

Until next time….

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If you are curious what led us to even start this evaluation process, be sure to read the first article in this series. 

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