Tuesday, August 15, 2017

How Can I Bring Change

Ever since I saw the news on Saturday and then thru out the weekend and Monday, one question has been resonating in my soul. Well, really it's been two things.

The first is this, How? How does this happen? I know there are a lot of ideas and pundits out there who have opinions. That rhetoric never really gives an answer. It blames and points fingers. There are more bad feelings and hurt stirred up. All of the negativity and frustration does not bring answers. It brings more confusion. More separation leading to an even bigger divide between races, social groups, ideologies and anything else that might cause strife.

I don't want to be part of that group. I don't have a lot of positive things to say about the political side of all of this, so I'm gonna follow my mama's lead and not say anything at all.

My second is this, What can I do? I'm a fixer. A doer. I see an issue and I want to fix it.  But, these problems of racism and class warfare are bigger than me. I see Charlottesville and I weep tears of frustration that this continues to happen. That in a world grown so small by the gift of the internet we can still be so far apart face to face.

So what can I do? What can you do?

We start with a small step that has mighty consequences. I pray. I send my tears and guilt from not doing, I send the ugly hate-filled thoughts I have towards the white supremacists and I cry out to the God of heaven to strike the anger and fear out of their hearts. I ask for grace and mercy to reign on this earth in a supernatural way. I cry out for reconciliation.

I reach my hand across the aisle. I reach out to neighbors. I seek out conversations that might be hard or difficult. But these conversations are necessary. How can I say I want change if I don't understand how to change? I want to learn about those that are different from me. I want to not just learn and understand, I want to be able to love others.

Loving others requires instruction. It takes conversation. It takes guts.

That's what we will be doing in our family. We will be gutsy with our love. We will be reaching out to those that are different. We will be leading our kids towards grace and mercy for others.

At every corner, we will turn towards truth and love. 

Monday, August 7, 2017

When Teens are Hard

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Yesterday was hard. As in, I wanted to just throw my hands up in the air and drop an f-bomb right in the living room. Followed by my screeching tires heading out of the driveway. The whole weekend seemed to be conspiring against us, my family, from having a good time. Or even a civil time. It was raining, we didn't have any plans. All the food we had needed to be prepared, there was nothing easy to eat quickly. We do screen-free Sunday which is fine when it isn't pouring down buckets. It was like a perfect storm for a nasty throw down.

What was so hard? Well it really started about thirteen years ago. When I became a mom, I realized I was a control freak. There was some precedent there. I knew that I had (and truthfully still do have) a tendency to micromanage things. I like things a certain way. I like the environment I am in to be a certain way. Having kids disrupted that.

Even after my oldest was born, I could still manage how the world went. At least within our four walls. Then came two and then three. You would think I would have learned that I have no control. I've kind of gotten the lesson.

Now, we are in the official teen years. Sometimes, I get outright defiance to my requests. Other times I get sullen looks or eye rolls. There are lies and inconsistency and that's not fairs ricocheting off all four walls of our home and the ceiling. It can get a little crazy. In fact, it drives ME crazy.

photo from: http://www.womenworking.com/
My gut response to that crazy is to shout it down. I want to let my teen know he's not the boss. I want him to know that I'm still in charge. If he's gonna yell and stomp about, I can easily top that until I have him beat. On a good day where I feel rested I can help diffuse the situation. More often then I like, it's not a good day and I get worked up right along with. Especially if it's on-going. We both have tempers. We both want the world to go our way. It's exhausting.

Fighting with one another never works. 

So as much as I want to be the victor in a fight, now I realize that it's not about winning. It really is about kindness. The biggest kindness I can give my teen right now is to step aside and let him make the choices. Good or bad, I will let him do that. Then I will help him deal with the consequences if it was a bad choice. I will celebrate with him the good choice. Either way, I will continue to help him see his part in the choice-making.

Isn't that what these teen years are about? These children taking ownership of themselves. That is scary as all get out. This is the phase we are in. Taking a step back, letting go and seeing where the next few years take us.

I recently heard a quote that said in reference to raising kids, "I am not responsible for the choices my kids make. I am responsible for how I have taught them." That's the line of freedom I'm holding onto. That we have taught the lessons needed for our kids. 
photo from: https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/originals/48/10/ca/4810cac7a112c59595dfca40462bfde6.jpg

What Do I Do with Alone Time

Last week, I wrote about being alone. How it is important to take the time to decompress. Do some introspection. It's important to slow down.

However, if you are someone who is used to being busy. Or someone who thrives on accomplishing goals, it can be really, really, really hard to slow down. Let alone stop completely. How do you do it? 

The first thing I did, once I recognized that I needed some professional help and got it, was to be honest with my spouse. My husband works. A lot. Plus, he's an introvert and can get lost in his projects. Because I can be a get it done type A, it's easy for us to go into the roles that we have always had. The roles that had led to a mental health break for me. So I had to start being honest about my feelings. I had to face down my fears that sharing honestly could lead to someone not accepting the whole version of me. To begin to create the space for alone time, I had to be honest that I needed time. Now, my darling man, can sometimes see the warning signs before I can that I'm in need of a recharge. And I get sent to my room to recover.

Cultivating the practice of being alone takes some time. Type As like myself tend to see a task and then want to get to the end of it. 'Cause there really is nothing more satisfying than checking off an item from the never-ending to-do list. But this need for a reset is not a one time thing. Yes, it needs to be scheduled and part of your routine, but it's not going to be an easy task. If you are used to being busy, it will feel like torture to be still. If you are used to being entertained or occupied with work, media, the internet, kids and various activities, sitting still by yourself to meditate or even reading a book or magazine is going to be horrible for you! Don't try to go from frenetic activity to meditating for an hour every morning. You will get frustrated at your inability to complete the task and then you will ultimately fail. Because it will seem like wasted effort. Start small. Start by sitting still for a minute. Or try going for a walk without your phone or earbuds. Small victories lead to wars being won.

Let's address some practicalities. Some of us have jobs. Some have kids. Some have spouses or family commitments that are ongoing. Most people have some kind of compilation to all three. I'm not advocating running away from all responsibility and abandoning them. As pleasant as that might seem at times, it is not a healthy response.

I am, however, talking about refreshment. The need to step away from the crazy. The need to say no sometimes. I promise, your world will not fall apart if you say no to something. You will not fall apart if you say no to something. The world will go on without your yes. Even better, your no can create space for someone else to say yes. I believe that so much of our frenetic, busy lives is rooted in our need to be in control. Guess what? Your control over your life IS NOT REAL! It's an illusion.

Slowing down is not giving up. It's giving in to a more balanced life. A life that leaves time for deeper relationships. Slowing down leaves time for reflection and honesty. It allows us each to be a better version of ourselves.

You can do it. I believe in you! 

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Alone is NOT Lonely

I'm a stay at home mom with three kids in school. I also have a spouse who works hard at a couple different jobs. One for our necessities, one for his hobby. My extended family lives several hours away or are involved with their lives. You could say I've got some time on my hands.

I used to be afraid of time. Of unstructured minutes. I used to do everything in my power NOT to be alone or just with my kids. Being home and without activity meant I might have to face what was going on inside my brain. The idea of not being busy must mean that I am being a sloth. That I'm not measuring up to the standard of busy that is success in America. I would sign up and volunteer for anything.

I got exhausted. My body just shut down. My mind said enough! I took a head first dive off a cliff into depression. I physically could not go somewhere without crying. I was filled with anger and rage so hot it has left scars still seen in our family. My busy life left no time for introspection. It was a way for me to stuff down the hurt and shame of my past. My body and mind were so tired from not dealing with things that they forced me to deal with it. If I hadn't taken the time to deal, I probably wouldn't be here typing this.

I had to learn to sit. 
To be still. 
To rest. 

It was not easy. I had to say no and drop out of some long-term commitments. I had to be vulnerable and honest with people that I trusted. I had to admit I wasn't perfect and couldn't do it all. 

I had to learn to be alone. 

What I found in that alone time, was someone I liked to be with. Someone that was creative and lovely. I found that the broken pieces of myself I had ignored and been ashamed of were actually able to be reformed into something beautiful. Someone who was kind and gracious. Who could take a breath before the rage volcano erupted. When I took time to be alone, I found I was more refreshed and able to pour into my family. 

I will warn you, being alone can be addictive once you get to the place that you like it. There's a thin line between being alone for refreshment and being alone because you want to only think of yourself. So be careful there. 

I would encourage you to try it. Moms with young ones, swap with a friend. Moms with older kids, practice some alone time while the kids watch a show. Those that are driving around town, working, exercising and filling every second with an activity, slow down. Say no to just one thing. It's going to be alright.

If we each take the time to examine ourselves, I believe we will find a more lovely person than we think. Your worth the exploration time.

Being alone doesn't mean you are lonely. It just means you are comfortable with hanging out with you. 

Monday, July 31, 2017

The BIGGEST Rookie Parenting Move

It's that time of year again. The time when the stifling August humidity starts to break with the tiniest of nips in the air in the morning and evening. The summer stock is going on sale and the back to school ads are filling the Sunday paper. I'll admit it. I'm a sucker for the beginning of the school year. I like the smell of freshly sharpened pencils. A new box of crayons with their tips nice and pointy fills my heart with glee. A crisp white sheet of notebook paper brings a little bit of calm to my heart.

There is one thing that can stop my heart in it's tracks. One errand that leaves me in dread and fear each time this fresh new beginning comes around each year. That would be shopping for school supplies with all of my kids at the same time.

At first glance, you might think that I would have the school supply shopping handled. I've got three kids. They're in the beginning and middle of their school careers. I should probably have some kind of game plan for the back to school supply madness. I haven't. For some reason I thought it was the RIGHT THING to let the kids come and pick out their school supplies. Because, apparently, I have some need to punish myself.

Why did I think that the same three beautiful children that can't control their need for IMMEDIATE SATISFACTION while grocery shopping could somehow manage that same urge while shopping for
school supplies? Where in my mommy-addled brain did I believe that my children would somehow miraculously turn into miserly penny-pinchers instead of greedy goblins?

I remember last year after I came home and slept for three days to recover from the horror of supply shopping that was worked out thru the aisles of Target. I called my mother. I'm one of four kids. Surely my wise mother had some tips for how to get thru the supply list without LOSING HER MIND. Her advice was so simple and obvious. She said in response to the question, "how did you do this with four kids each year?"

"Simple, I didn't take you. I would go after work." 


Now that is wisdom to hold onto. It's okay not to take your kids school shopping with you! They will survive without the glittery pens or character emblazoned backpacks. Those things are crap anyways. Chances are the pens will get lost and the backpack will lose a strap by December.  P.s., teachers hate them. It's much better to stick to the list given. It's specific for a reason.

So, please, take my advice. School shop alone. Or even better, go with a friend. Follow it up with some dinner. You and your family will feel saner, happier and lighter as you begin the school year.

Your welcome. 

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Why We Don't Homeschool

There is a lot of chatter in our country about how poor the education system is in America. Given that I'm from the mid-west, there's a lot of chatter every week about what schools are good and what schools are bad. There's a lot of home schoolers in the area that I live in. In fact-the state I live in is considered to be very homeschool friendly.

We have had our issues with schools. Our kids aren't typical. They are not contained within a stereotype. Which is good. And exactly how we want them to be. We want our kids to be independent thinkers and leaders in their futures.

We are creatives. We draw and write. We read and go to museums. We have more crayons and markers than an office supply store. We keep cardboard to use in models, for crying out loud.

All this atypical family structure might lead you to believe that we homeschool. Which could not be farther from the truth. I admit to having thought about it. Especially with our latest move. But the more I did, the longer my list became not to do it. Here it is.
Reminder: This is what works for our family. Each one is different. Our scenario might not work for your people. 

1. I am not a teacher. I am a story teller. Having worked thru homework for the last eight years of my children's school career, I can say with some authority that I do not teach. I get frustrated and yell a lot. I sometimes just say give me the paper and I'll show you. But that quickly turns into a whine fest for why can't I just "show them" all the problems. I'm not doing that for an entire day 

2. I like silence. The older I get, the more I need some down time. I need to care for myself so I can care for the people I share a roof with. 

3. My kids are being poured into by a lot of different types of people. Also, they are interacting with a whole school population of kids that are different from them. Different skin tones, different backgrounds, different family structures. My kids are learning about the diversity of the world at school. They are also learning how to navigate that. 

4. They have access to a lot of curriculum and resources that I'm already paying for thru my taxes. It might not always be the newest or shiniest, but they are getting to have access to technology and learn how to manage themselves on-line. The older two especially are having to keep track of assignments and projects. Skills that will later translate into job requirements. There's not just the traditional four years. There's the trade school, an arts program and self-directed learning that my kids can partake of as the years come. 

5. Our family does well with structure. Without it, we turn into slothfull beings at the whim of Netflix and Steam. Yes, we have a little self-discipline. But it gets eaten up early in the day without some outside accountability.

Those are the reasons my kids go to public school. It might not work for you and yours, but it works for us. 

Monday, July 24, 2017

Letting Others Lead


     This summer we have been spending A LOT of time at the pool. Given the propensity for high temps that summer has, it has only been logical that we will spend most of our time in the water. Also, since it's a pool only for our community, we usually have it to ourselves. It's been great.

     At the beginning of the summer, my kids had no pool toys, my daughter would barely go on the steps without me and there was a lot of bickering and fighting. It made the pool so. much. fun.
(heavy sarcasm)

    When we had gone a few times and invested in some pool toys, the water became more fun. Also, when I stopped getting in the water to meet my little wannabe mermaids demands, she was forced to to find other people to be her minions, I mean playmates. Given as we were the only ones at the pool, that usually left her brothers. 

    Now, brothers are great. They really are. They have shown our little miss how to be tough. She can hold her own on the playground and she knows the difference between legos and mega blocks. Brothers also hold a certain persuasion over younger siblings in that they can convince their younger kin to do things a parent may not be able to. This can cause some fear and trepidation in a parents heart. Because the younger sibling wants to be included with the older kids, they may try to do things the parent doesn't believe they are ready for. Or the brothers might not be as gentle and kind in their instruction as a parent might be. Or they might do something crazy like cajole a timid pool goer into being a swimmer. 

At first I told the brothers to back off with the pool instruction. Because I knew my little miss was scared. But then I realized I was not doing any child a favor. I was telling my boys they weren't good enough or kind enough or sweet enough to be their sister's teacher. I was telling my daughter that she should be scared of the water and that she shouldn't try new things if they scared her. Those are NOT the lessons I want my kids to have. So I backed the helicopter right out of the pool area. 

I let my boys lead. 

Sometimes this was thru withholding their big brother attention. Sometimes it was thru bribery. But whatever the manipulation tool was, my daughter went from being a timid water sprout to being a baby dolphin in about forty-five minutes. Looking back this had taken course over the last few weeks. But it seemed to happen quickly. I was so proud of all three of the kids. 

     Thanks to her brothers teaching techniques my youngest is now able to put her head under water, swims around the pool perimeter and has a blast being independently mobile while in the water. In true youngest fashion, my fiercely independent girl-child wants nothing more to do with anyone showing her anymore about swimming. She has taken her new found instruction and made it her own. She has got this swimming thing down.