Monthly Archives: January 2015

Reflect, don’t fix

As alluded to in my last blog, my 2015 focus is two part. The second part is a relationship shift that I desire to be more mindful about as I interact with those I love. I recently shared this thought with two mom friends, and it resonated with them, so I imagine that I am not alone on this one.

When someone I love expresses a disappointment, frustration or failing, often my initial response is to get the mental wheels turning on what exactly I can offer to “fix” the problem. What words of wisdom or advice can I come up with to help them come to a more peaceful place? Like some kind of super hero, what action could I take to “make it all better”? In reality, this response comes from a place where my own anxiety rises – it may be a result of a selfish focus on how I may appear as mom/wife/person or an intolerance for seeing someone I love in an uncomfortable place – but my spouting off in such a moment is not helpful, in any way, for anyone.

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As in previous years, I have a 2015 meditation script – “reflect, don’t fix”. It is something I practice over and over again. While doing yoga or sitting in silent meditation, I breathe in “reflect” and breathe out “don’t fix”. When confronted with such a challenge, before speaking, I do the same. Several account passwords have been changed to remind me of this 2015 focus. Everything that I can do to saturate my heart and mind with this thought is helpful. Reflect has a twofold meaning – when confronted with a situation, stop and reflect before speaking, as well as when in the presence of another’s frustration, offer words of reflection and empathy rather than suggestions on how to make it all better. I know from the previous two years of “grace received, grace released” and “be still” that such a meditation practice can make a big difference.

As is almost always the case, when I set my mind and heart toward a direction, situations arise to allow me to practice. One of our girls is passionate, opinionated and always willing to speak up about injustice. I love these things about her. Giving voice to such a tender and fiery heart is critical and helping her to present it in a way that others can hear and receive is sometimes a challenge. She has written the president, governor, county commissioners and police department expressing her many concerns and ideas.

Recently, she decided to write to a few of the teachers at her school about a perceived injustice around recess time. I was vaguely aware that she was rather secretively working on this and offered just two thoughts as she worked through her words – be respectful and you need to sign your name. I did not read the letters.

The next day as she plopped in the car after her day at school, she muttered, “well that didn’t go so well.” In follow up, it became clear that one of the letter recipients was upset and felt unjustly accused. As a bit of backstory, as a child and sometimes even as an adult I am sad to report, I would almost rather curl up and die than be confronted by an angry authority figure. My issue.

2015 focus practice time! I literally took a deep breath, breathed in “reflect” and then out “don’t fix”. The predominant voice in my head said, “put your own issues and ego aside, this is a tremendous learning opportunity for your daughter.” I am happy to report that an incredibly mature and fruitful conversation ensued. A few of the lessons we discussed: when we confront people, we need to be ready and able to receive their emotions; it is important to make sure we have our facts straight before we challenge another; other people may have things going on in their lives that may lead to an over response that has nothing to do with us; we should not apologize if we don’t truly mean it but if there are honest heartfelt apologies to be made, it can help restore a relationship.

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I did not need to jump in and try to fix this on any level. Shared words of reflection were enough. This is not to say that I never intervene on behalf of my children – I do. But I am trying to first reflect, then ask permission to offer any advice and be ok if my offer is rejected. As a mom/wife/friend, serving as a coach rather than a savior, a friend not a fixer – that’s my goal. The bottom line reality is that I have no power to fix or save anyway – that power lies elsewhere. I might as well live that way. I hope that 2015 is a year of progress.

Convicted

Christmas stocking update: my boy returned it to me and said, “now you have to erase your blog”. I won’t do that as I still think there is a lot of symbolism there.

On to my new year’s focus. I don’t typically make what I call resolutions, but I have started having a focus for the year. This year, two have risen to the top – one practical every day living challenge and one more relational. I will start with the practical.

Convicted

“THE ONLY WAY YOU CAN GET AMERICANS TO NOTICE ANYTHING IS TO TAX THEM OR DRAFT THEM OR KILL THEM.” Owen Meany in A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving

We Americans have an uncanny ability to live with tunnel vision. It is easiest to comfortably ignore and choose to not see how we affect those around us and those across the world. I was confronted with my own myopic living as I recently listened to a podcast addressing food waste. The staggering statistic that 1/3 of food that is grown in our world ends up being wasted or lost  along the way, while at the same time starving and food insecure people abound, made my stomach lurch. And the reality that my own country wastes up to 40% of food and is without a doubt the major culprit hits hard.

Many of us are spoiled and used to eating what we want when we want it. If we don’t feel like a certain cuisine, we have ready access to another. We will literally let things rot because we over buy and then forget about the abundant fresh food sitting in our refrigerator. Sometimes we simply don’t feel like consuming that which we have already purchased or grown.

I can’t succinctly lay out the arguments and evidence for why our gluttonous and wasteful ways affect human beings across the planet and add to our world’s hunger issues, but they do. Others have made the clear connections and we have access to hear and read about it – I am convinced that this is true. It is our responsibility to pay attention, be willing to listen and read and take it to heart as individuals and a society.

This is a giant and complex problem and involves farming practices, restaurant and grocery store behavior, etc and can easily get tossed into the “nothing that I personally do will make a difference in this situation – it is too big.” But just as a bucket of water can be ultimately filled one drop at a time, I can do my little part. Some things that came to heart and mind as I listened and considered small changes that matter:

1. Pay attention to the food that is sitting in my refrigerator, especially in the drawers. If a fresh vegetable or fruit is reaching the end of its’ edible life, go ahead and cook it and freeze it for another day.
2. Put a bit of thought into what we will reasonably consume before going to the grocery store. Look around and see what is already available in my own stock pile before buying more. Make it a point to use up what already fills our cabinets before it gets lost in the shuffle.
3. This list could be much longer, but for me, this is a responsible start.

I truly desire to keep this from becoming a dogmatic, rule following exercise. I have learned that such an approach doesn’t work too well for me. Rather, my hope is that it becomes something that I pay more everyday attention to as I feed myself and my people. Acknowledging that my little drop in the bucket is important and matters is a first step. How I behave does in fact have ripple effects that travel way out into the world. Inspired and convicted by the words of Owen Meany, I want to NOTICE and be mindful in my everyday choices as an American and as a human being. I would love to hear your thoughts on this topic.

If interested in the particular podcast referenced, you can find it here.

A tale of two stockings

When I was a baby, a family friend made this stocking for me. This felt creation inspired a tradition as my mom made a similar one for each member of my growing up family. The stocking creation tradition expanded to include her grandchildren.

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I hang it with hope and care each year, and Santa always delivers. I don’t remember the date or exact exchange, but at some point before my first Christmas as wife, my mom gifted this stocking to me to hang in our newlywed place. So for my first married Christmas, it was hung and filled. Glad Santa followed and found me in my new family.

On December 21, 2014, our youngest son asked his beautiful girlfriend to marry him. We already love this young lady deeply and are so very excited to add one more daughter to the crazy mix, for an even 3 boys and 3 girls. The promise of plus one to our family was shared, discussed and greatly celebrated throughout our Christmas season.

For the past ten years, seven stockings have hung from our mantle in hopes of a St. Nick stop by. Even when one child was in a far away place during one Christmas celebration, his stocking was filled and waited for him upon return.

Last week as this year’s festivities were on the downhill slide, I looked up at the mantle and saw this:

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Only six stockings adorned the fireplace mantle. I think I said, in a mom kind of disbelief tone of voice, “you took your stocking??” The reply was approximately, “yeah”. In that moment, I didn’t clarify motive, meaning or message behind this event, but in the days since, I have tossed it over and over in my heart and brain.

It is symbolic. Yes, this youngest son and his bride will always and forever be a part of our family. But at the same time, we are all transitioning to a different center. His will soon be the family that he and his fiancé will create, commit to and cling to beginning this summer. The rest of us will soon be more appropriately referred to as extended family.

And though the overwhelming emotion is joy, it is mixed with nostalgia and periodic sadness. To where did those years since I held him in my arms and rocked him to sleep disappear? What happened to the little blond haired, blue sparkly eyed boy that would go outside for hours and hit a golf ball, bounce a basketball, kick a football? This parenthood train is one that at times I wish I could slow down, but it just rumbles down the track.

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Taking down Christmas decorations and returning to life’s routines is always a melancholy event. This year, I delayed it as long as practically possible. Intentionally savoring the special moments all during the holidays intensified the awareness that things are getting ready to shift. I wonder where or even if he will hang his stocking next year…

Follow up: When I did ask my boy later why he took his stocking with him, here was his answer. “I needed something to carry my stuff in – I used it like a bag.” So glad I didn’t ask him in the moment. I would have missed out on a lot of pondering and symbolism.