Saturday, October 1, 2016

Modern Mama

I grew up in the backwoods (literally) of Connecticut (so a sort of well educated backwoods).

My grandmother and aunts had goats.  We had chickens.  We all had dogs and cats that wondered around at will and in the summer, my house was surrounded by trees so thick you couldn't see anything but green when you looked out the windows.  But when I was very young, I guess we didn't look out the windows much at all.  Mostly, I guess, we just sat in our basement and watched TV.

My dad in a fit of passion (I can so relate to him), literally picked up the TV and threw it out the door.  He did not, it turns out, like how we didn't do anything but watch the BOOB TUBE as he called it.

Did this totally stop us?

I'm afraid not.

This meant we all went down to our grandmother's as a result on Friday nights to watch Fantasy Island and Dukes of Hazard and The Hulk.

We all squished on the two recliners and sprawled on the floor to watch her tiny 13" TV with at best mono sound.  We ate Grape Nuts with goat milk and honey and raisins sprinkled on top out of wooden salad bowls and big sugar spoons.  I can still see it, me a tiny five year old, surrounded by my seven brothers and sisters, packed like sardines around the tiny TV, utterly enchanted by the moving pictures.  My parents, while we were totally mesmerized, went off on their weekly date and my blessed grandmother had her tiny house full of more than half of her grandchildren.  In fact, often, our neighbor cousins, Paul and Brian came and watched with us (even though they had a huge 20' tv at their house).  She had this pot bellied stove that she stoked up (well, we did) and it was so cozy and warm and she always pressed kisses on our foreheads and told us over and over again how blessed she was to have us all with her.

Eventually my father folded and we got a TV along with a VCR (in fact, one of the first in the neighborhood--all eight houses in 10 square miles).  We got PBS and that was it.  I know every show ever on that channel (Dr. Who haunts my dreams).   My sainted aunt would record movies for us so we would have something to watch and I can't even tell you how much we treasured each time she gave us a new VCR tape filled with movies.  I'm telling you, my whole life has been filled with people who love me and do amazing things for me and my family.  I know it there was definitely a touch of sympathy  because, lets face it, we were freaky and she couldn't help but try to educate us a little bit to what's happening in the world.  But mostly, I know, she just loved us.

Every Monday night, my mother or father would take us to the video store and we'd rent two videos because it was TWO FOR ONE and who could resist that deal.  But they were always due back on Wednesday or we'd incur this horrid late fee.  I can remember my dad driving literally like a maniac down to Essex (all speed limits were ignored) to get to the store by 9.  I remember running as fast as my little legs could carry  me to slide it in the return slip before the clock turned 9 above the store.  The stress!  Oh the stress of late fees.  And I think that every ten rentals you got one free.  That was like a jackpot to walk in and not have to pay the 3.99.

Then we got a computer.  I don't even remember what kind but I do remember learning how to type on it and writing up all my reports on it and then printing it out on paper that came with side wholes and was fed through the printer with wheel and you'd rip off the sides.  And this is all before email and internet.  In fact, when I went to college, I applied for an Honors degree so that I could use their computer labs (that had LASER printers) and email.  I got my first account in the Honors Computer Lab and had only one friend, Jeff Reamer who was at West Point, who also had an email account.  Everyone else I communicated with via snail mail.  Yes, I had stamps and envelopes and I wrote letters to everyone.  Because calling, it just about broke the bank.  You called for five minutes at the most and you could only really call after 10pm because before that it was .35 a minute.  Cell phone were these huge things that people who lived in big houses had.  Communication was slow and hard and expensive.

I spent most of my childhood talking on a phone with a cord so long it could stretch around the house once--and most important of all, go half way down the basement stairs so you could have some blessed privacy.  My number had five digits  because our town was so small.  I remember they changed it and you had to add the 52 in front of the 6.  We called each other and talked.  Sometimes for hours and we'd get in trouble because our parents where waiting for calls and no one could get through.  The busy signal . . . the worst sound in the WORLD.  When Call Waiting was introduced, oh the busy signal became a thing of the past.  But this is before caller ID and so at 1am in the morning on sleepovers, you bet we crank called all the boys we thought were cute.  Oh, the parents we enraged.  I'm sorry!  I'm so so sorry! But . . . it was irresistible!

I remember all this so clearly.  It's like freaky that it's almost more real than this.  All but one of my children have cell phones and iphones at that (they are old cast offs of ours, but still . . . ).  They not only have access to calling, but they can send instant letters and pictures and movies and at their finger tips learn about literally ANYTHING under the sun.  They can watch whatever movie  they want as soon as they want it.  There is no waiting for anything EVER . . . well except when the internet connection is slow.  Five minutes at the most for something to download and they think it's FOREVER!  Late fees?  What are those things?  Cords? Even talking on the phone?  No.  You just send Snaps back and forth, Mom.  Duh.  They all go off into their rooms and stare at their tiny screens with their earplugs in and . . .

I feel like my father.

I want to take those tiny bits of metal and glass (a lot of stupid glass) and throw them out the window/door and I want them to break into seven million pieces.  I want their beautiful faces look at each other and me.  I want to hear their voices.  I want to hear laughter.  I want to play games an go for walks.  I want my family.  I want life, real life to be happening here.  Now.  In this space.  Together.

So have I?

Thrown those bits of brain melt out the window?

No.

Because I have one too.  And I have it in my hand and I'm tapping away at it and connecting and laughing at the Snaps that my friends send me.

And I can't quite live without it . . . most of all, how could I survive without Wiki or IMDB?

I mean, really?

But something must change.  Something MUST change.

I've instilled rules like, you can't watch your phone in your bedroom.  You have to come out and look at it on the couch.  You'd be surprised how much that makes them interact.  One laughs and the others gather around and watch it together.  And then we're all watching and laughing and talking about other things as well.

Another one is no phones at the dinner table and we all eat together and talk. Highs and Lows for the day and I always try to tell them one or two things great I saw that day and thought and sometimes that spurs more conversations.

And my latest rule is a walk after dinner.  They moan and grown and sometimes I don't even want to go, but by the end, without fail, we are all laughing together and I've learned things about each one of them I didn't know.  And more times than not, they don't want it to end.

I know, this is the new way the world is turning, and I must turn with it.  But I will turn with it in my own way and at my own pace and maybe a little bit slower.  I don't want to give up my children too fast.  I don't want what their seeing to be more important than what they're living.

Maybe it's an uphill battle with a bit of hopelessness in it, but I'm going to wage on because I believe in my little family.  I believe that good things come out of all these new fangled thingies and I embrace that as much as possible, but I think as with many many things, I am like my father.  I want to slow down the decent into this obsession.  I will not stop it, but I know that I can put up some road blocks to make them look up now and then and see that there is this beautiful world around them that can be seen not through a lenses or a Snap or an Insta post, but felt and heard and experienced.

When Phoebe had her little sweet heart broken a little bit a few weeks ago and she cried very quietly on our bed and we held her, I thought, I am not sorry for this pain.  It is showing her that nothing on that little class and metal square can help her as much as this human hug.  I've seen her put her phone down a bit more and snuggle with the Littles and come sit on our bed and talk to us before going to bed.

I took this picture to send to John after a super hard week of Celia literally not leaving her room or putting her phone down for two weeks straight.

She was sitting there, her phone down, talking and laughing with Finn.  I started crying.  She spent the whole afternoon with the kids.
When I asked her and Phoebe to come help out in our dear friend's daughter's wedding, they came.  And for three hours they didn't even look at their phones--they looked at faces and people and laughed and talked and worked their little fannies off.  And they loved it.  Loved it.  

"That went so fast, Mom.  I liked how it felt to be so needed.  And seriously, Mom, those little old ladies, they can pack it away!  You wouldn't even believe how many brownies they ate!"

 
(Look at these faces--so beautiful and so so happy!)

And then Celia spent the whole evening Saturday with us (obviously still using her phone--but this time to take pictures of what she was making with us--pizza). . . 


And this is us after our Monday family walk . . . 

Yes, still a few on phones (obviously including me) but we are all together in the same room . . . !!!

I'm not sure how successful I am or will be, I'm trying hard to be a Modern Mama, with the emphasis on Mama.  Before anything else, I want to be a mama.  I want to take care of their bodies, their minds and most of all their hearts.  

So let the battle wage.  I'm in for the long play.  The phones are going anywhere and it turns out, neither am I. 

And maybe somewhere along the way . . . we will find an angle of repose.  I think . . . I hope . . . we will.  We didn't give up watching TV like my dad dreamed, but as a result, we surrounded my grandmother with love and we spent time all together.  I hope that as I create little spaces here and there, that like my grandmother's house, we create a place or at least times, where we gather together and learn to live and laugh and be present.  

Here.

Right.

Now.





Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Strangers

I just finished two TED talks about strangers.  The first talked about how much we benefit from actually making eye contact, having a conversation, and actually being vulnerable with them is to our minds, hearts, and souls.  The second was about altruistic people and what makes someone altruistic . . . and can altruism be learned?

As I was chopping away at my flower patch that is not mostly just taken over by Black-Eyed Susans, I thought about strangers and what I was taught about stranger and how I feel about them now.

Here is before . . .
And here is after . . . 


















I know, it's hard to tell, but if you look really hard you can . . . I promise . . . at least I hope . . .

But back to strangers. 

As I was listening I immediately thought of this super long flight I was on from Calgary to Connecticut (honestly, like about as far apart as you can get).  I was 7 3/4 months pregnant with Finnegan flying out to go to my grandmother's funeral.  On a good day, I really REALLY don't like flying, on a bad day, super sad and super emotionally pregnant, I am terrified of it.  But I got on my flights anyways and everything went pretty smoothly . . . until we were on our approach to land at Bradley (Hartford Connecticut's airport).  There was like this crazy bump and then all of a sudden it was as if the hand of God came and just pushed our airplane strait down to the ground.  I mean, my stomach was doing all sorts of butterflies and we were floating out of our seats.  The ground was flying up to meet US!  I honestly thought, And this is where I END!

That's when I heard this voice gently talking to me.  I looked over and saw that I was honestly practically hugging the man next to me . . . a thirty something, balding, round bellied completely unnoticeable man who had been sitting next to me for hours who I did not even say Hi to as I sat down.  He was gently patting my hands that were gripping him for dear life hand telling me, We are very very high and this is a big strong plane and the captains know what they are doing . . . we are not going to die.  We are going to be just fine.

Over and over again and then he told me about his wife and children and what he did for a living, all in this calming soothing voice as we were rocked from here to kingdom come. 

Finally what seemed like hours but was probably only 5 minutes, the Captain comes on to say we had and "extreme downdraft" and that it should be smooth sailing from here on out and he was very sorry for any distress we'd experienced.

That's when I finally let go of this poor mans arm (I hate to say this, but I'm pretty sure there were red imprints left on his arm) and started breathing again.  I think, I hope I thanked him, but I was still pretty shaken up.  I just prayed my way down to the landing strip and then ran into the arms of my family and really didn't think of him anymore.  I was just so darn glad to be on solid ground.  I could have kissed it!

But later, as I was thinking about it, I realized that honestly, that man was like an Angel.  He seriously could have said, Lady get your hands off me.  Please!  But instead, he totally comforted me and helped me through a pretty terrifying moment.  I honestly think, let me be like that balding guy on that flight and help where help is needed.

And that's just one of the stories of strangers have helped me . . . and I'm not sure that says good things or bad about my crazy mixed up life.  But one thing I know for sure, the more we are helped, the more willing we are to help.  I see it all over the place.  A smile is catching.  Thank you multiplies.  Do you need help? get's passed on. 

That's what that second talk proposed and I 100% agree with it.  The more we help out around us, the more people are willing to help others.  I think that saying, Many Hands Make Light Work is true because of two things.  1) it's just true.  If you have 50 bags of flour to carry into the house, five people will do it in 1/5 the time of 1.  It's simple math.  But 2) it makes you feel good to help.  And feeling good, well, it's sort of addicting.  Which leads me to another point, gratitude.  I think it's super duper important to notice when someone has made your burden a little lighter.  You realize the sacrifice and feel the love, and they feel seen and loved. 

Today, my craziest of crazy primary kids came over (as they always do . . . and they're the only one's who do) for a treat.  I was in the middle of said dead heading of flowers and asked them to come help me move the tramp before they got a treat.  I expected great moaning and growing and NOOOOO!  But after I confirmed that I would indeed give them an extra piece of licorice (my weakness), they enthusiastically helped.  It was a little bit more complicated than expected, but again, instead of moans and groans, they got creative and helped each other figure it out.  And the more I encouraged them and thanked them, the better at it they were.  They laughed and encouraged each other and pretty much shocked me.

And made me so happy.

Helping does make you happy.

Always.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Green Bananas

What I miss the very mostest about being young is that ability to forget everything but the very moment you are in.

If you are tired, you sleep.

If you are hungry, you eat.

If you want to read, you pick up a book and read.

If you want to watch a movie/show/tv, you sit your little butt down and watch.

If you're a mama, you have to think about nine thousand things before you do anything.

If you are tired, you stay tired because you just don't have time to sleep.

If you are hungry, you'd better go grocery shopping and get cooking because no one is really going to eat if you don't.

If you want to read . . . well, you always want to read, but the laundry, cleaning, weeding, talking, caring, fixing, loving must happen before that happens.

If you want to watch a movie, well, you can try, but really, you probably will just fall asleep.

And be so happy for that sleep because you know, if you're me and you only watch tv with your whole family surrounding you, everyone is beside you and counted for and taken care of for the moment, so all your cares are for a moment lifted and you can REALLY relax and actually let go and drift off.

That, my friends, is where I find peace--on the couch, my head in some crazy angle, John and Finn draped over me with the girls curled up together on the other side of the couch with a loud movie or nature program (our family favorite) playing loudly.  It's like my own personal lullaby.

It's true, I don't actually WATCH many shows, but it's all good.  Sleep, my friends, is precious and you just get it whenever and where ever you can.

Which brings me to the point of this rambling.  Green bananas.

Yes, we are going to talk about Green Bananas.  John's grandparents, the very first time (or almost) time I met them talked about how they just weren't buying green bananas because really . . . you never know if you'll be around to see them ripen.

I don't know why, but it's stuck with me because 1) I always found it super funny and I think they said it to me to make me laugh (which I always did) and 2) because I think it sums up anxiety perfectly.  If you're an anxious person (which I may or may not be), you're always waiting for the worst thing to happen and you won't get to eat your ripe bananas.  You'll be dead or someone you know/love will be or something equally horrid.  Yeah, I know, crazy, but true crazy.

I had a bit of a green banana month this past month.  I seriously was just sitting around waiting for the SHOE to fall.  I did not want to put one tiny bit of faith in the future because, lets face it, the future has not been so kind to me at times.  Me and Future, well, we have an agreement, I don't look towards her and she doesn't mess with me.  Deal?  DEAL.

But here's the truth, I love making plans and getting excited about things to come.  I love anticipation and I love being part of making something great happen . . . next week, month, year . . ..

So . . . without a future, well, life--this present--it seems sort of dull and well, depressing.  Living in the moment, it turns out, is momentary.  It seems so . . . PRESENT.  Green bananas actually are like a great test of fate . . . and that excitement  . . . well, it makes things interesting.  I mean, really, what is more tantalizingly daring than wondering if you will in fact be around to not only see that banana ripen, but to actually EAT it?

 And so . . . I've decided to buy green bananas.  Like  . . .  a lot of them and I'm totally ok with whatever the outcome, because at least, well, I've gone out on a limb and the pay off . . . well, it will be DELICIOUS.

Today, instead of staying in the car while the rain pummeled down and the kids rain and jumped right into the pool, I ran and jumped in with them.  I played tag (and nearly died like sixteen times laughing and swimming--bad mix--they are impossible to catch) for half an hour in the pouring rain.  We laughed and laughed and floated on our backs, our faces stung by the rain, looking at the dark churning clouds--cold on one side, warm on the other.  Pretty much perfect.

I bought a huge bag of Chicago mix pop corn and opened it right up and ate it, even though it was lunch time. 

I am sitting in a wet bathing suit writing instead of showering and folding laundry. 

I'm going wild here!  I may even watch a show and stay awake . . .

And all because I've decided to once again buy green bananas (and just to be safe . .. I bought some yellow ones too . . . ).






Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Ripple Effect

For the last three days, I've felt like my life is enchanted.

The weather has been stormy and calm, cloudy and full of sunshine and it seems to match my moods perfectly. I've honestly found myself thinking, Yes, God, finally I get weather to match me!  Thank you!  (Because, of course everything is about ME).

The children are all happy.

I am sleeping like a new born baby.

I have time to both read AND visit and the people I want to be with have time to be with me and it's worked out.

I'm not so worried about schedules or getting places or things done.  Mostly, I'm just happy letting life flow around me and letting what is, is.

I've had energy to work out and don't feel too exhausted afterwards--in fact often, I find I have more energy than before.

When I've gone to do my six errands in one hour, I've gotten every. single. one. done.

Unheard of.

And I was happy doing it.  Honestly, didn't run into one line that sidelined me.

I've had time to be with my children outside, laughing and visiting and enjoying the green and growth and our world outside.

I like my hair and face and me.

I feel this great calm and peace.

All of this is true.

But it's also one side to the story.  It's the side I've chosen to look at and focus on and see.

Not the fact that John's in Switzerland during this INSANE last week of school.  That I've driven to SLC to get my TSA approval and forgotten my passport at home on the counter.  Or that I've been late to everything because of one or more dramas with kids.  Or that Phoebe has been in rare form and snapping at me.  OR that every time Piper or Finn sneeze their entire face gets covered in boogers and we've gone through five FIVE boxes of tissues.  And we aren't going to the we are out of money and we have another week to live on.  Or the reason I like how I look is because I haven't had time TO look at myself in the mirror or time to eat more than something on the run.  Or that I have five loads of laundry to fold (since Monday) but it's just not happening because I'm mama and dada and I've got four kids relying on me.

So . . . which story do you like better?

They're both right.  And true, but this week, I decided to just slow down or even stop every time something beautiful or good or happy happened and say, Hey, that was pretty cool.  I'm blessed.

That's it.

I didn't do any, You will NOT be negative this week, Mary or You must always look on the bright side.  Nope, in fact, I was like, just like you are going to stop and say, Wow and Thanks, to the good things, I give you total permission to be like, Wait.  Man, that's weird, hard, discouraging, hurtful, confusing, uncomfortable, and just plane old wrong.

But the funny thing is, when I was sitting out with the kids on Monday night cooking hot dogs over the fire with this beautiful fragrant breeze and all my kids around me and me only taking like 15 minutes to prepare the meal (boil potatoes for potatoe salad, cut up watermelon, tell kids to bring everything outside--boom.  done), I felt happy.

 I couldn't help but think, you know, even though I didn't get my TSA thing done (and I have to way two weeks for another appointment) and I only slept 3 hours last night and I haven't gotten to the laundry, the weeds, or even showered today, it's all good. I'm here with my kids, we're eating gross hot dogs (sorry, but they're just not my thing) and I've made my kids happier than theyve been in months because they got to choose dinner and how it's made.  And I got to do almost nothing.

Win.  Win.

And we laughed and laughed and talked about silliness up until it was time to go to bed . . . or way past when it was time to go to bed.

And my lack of sleep and frustrating day, it all melted away.

I slept so well that night, honestly, I'm not kidding, I swear I had a smile on my face.

When I woke up and had to do a little money examination and saw that our accounts were pretty darn low (yep, it takes a minute or ten to recover from unemployment), instead of getting mad and sad (my usual response), I thought, Well, this is great. This means we are going to eat though our full freezer and get creative.  Plus, it means more family time and less running around.  And thank heavens, we get paid again the end of next week.

I may have had taken a moment after all those happy thoughts flashed through my head--Ahhh, who is this happy person inside me?  I do not know you (I want to . . . but still . . . it's a little . . . disconcerting).  But I want to get to know you.  In fact, could you stay . . . for the rest of my life?  Please?

And then yesterday, after that, I had one thing after another with honestly no room to breath, but it was wonderful.  Yoga with Lyns.  Running with Kristi.  Then picking out paint for my sisters house with a darling new friend (my sisters renter).  Then I came home and just sat and read for two hours.  Yes, I SAT and READ for two hours and it was wonderful.  Then off to Finn's Cub Scouts Pack Meeting where I was just floored by how amazing our Pack leaders are.  Everyone loved it and I learned about all sorts of animals--Bearded Dragon Lizards LOVE people and are super social.  Truth.  Then my sweet niece and husband came over and we had this lovely visit planning their sojourn with us this summer.  And best of all, Evie came to me and put her arms out for me to pick up FIRST.  Could the day have been better?  No.

Was it perfect?  Heck no, the girls left me with all the dinner dishes and mess to clean up.  I didn't get to the laundry and I fell asleep before the house was locked up and all the lights on (thank goodness we live here) and about a thousand other things that made me feel STRONG feelings that were not happy or light or anything but pretty much grrrrrrr.

But I swear, taking a minute to see the good, it's like a grease coating that lets all the anger and crappy things sort of slide right off without penetrating into us.

Could this be true?

Has anyone else tried this and had their days seemed so much easier and lighter and better?

Because I have this feeling, this being present and stopping to notice the good, it's a darn good beginning to a better way of life.

I'm telling you right now, I'm going with this.

Like forever and ever.

Here is my view of the mountains as I was mowing the lawn . . . can you see all the fresh cut grass . . . it smelled like Heaven!

My yard coming to life and thriving . . . for the moment (summer and heat are coming) so I'm enjoying it.

Lone Peak.  My favorite.  And look at that sky . . .

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Being Present

While I was running in the pouring rain today, I kept thinking about writing.  In fact, when it was pouring pouring pouring and the temperature dropped like 10 degrees and I started losing feeling in my fingers, I began writing this post in my mind.  It was really really good.  I laughed and cried and thought Gees, you're such a great writer Mary! (Yes, I can in fact fool myself).  Only now . . . I can't really remember much I wrote in my mind.  Darn mind. 

Speaking of minds, May turns mine to mush.  Between allergies (thank you beautiful budding trees . . . I lovingly Hate You) and the insane end of year recitals and school demands, I can't keep anything straight.  Everything is going sideways and I'm barely holding on.  I honestly think every single May, I am officially going crazy.  Then school ends, June comes cool and calm and there aren't really any demands and I get to remember how to breath.

No joke, I actually honestly get so discombobulated that I forget to breath.  I feel myself taking these doggy breaths in and out in and out and realize that my shoulders are literally touching my ears and I pretty much have totally forgotten that life is actually to be ENJOYED.  Not just endured.

Which was one of the things I do remember thinking about when I was running in the freezing cold pouring rain (which I must insert, Utah rarely has rain storms, even when the mountains are covered in mist and dark clouds swirling, nine times out of ten, it just blows away and you get nothing but the hint of moisture--so I thought I was safe.  Obviously not . . .):  that May with it's insanity teaches me each year how to slow down.  How to say Nope.  How to say Yes please.  How to chisel out time to breath.  And most of all, the importance of being present.

That's the most important thing it teaches me of all:  Being present.

It's the secret ingredient to finding happiness in the craziness of life.

Being present.

In yoga, that's what you're taught the whole class and asked to take with you when you leave . . . this ability to stay present in this moment and let it be a rich good time for you.

I'm horrible at it.  I'm like an expert at rushing on to the next thing in my mind . . . when I'm Phoebe's dance recital, I'm really planning on how when I get home I'm going to get my lesson ready for the next day.  And half the time, I miss her dance!  Or when I'm at the grocery store, I'm planning on how I'm going to get dinner done in 25 minutes (idiot plans  . . . dinner ALWAYS takes an hour) so we can finally get everyone to bed at 8.  Which is why I always forget the butter!  Yes, I would say that being present is a massive challenge in my life.

So . . . this week, this month, my intention has been to "be present."  I've been thinking it might have been the worst month in the year to pick it, but as I've been navigating this month (mostly badly), I've realized I couldn't have picked a better month.

Today.

This moment.

Is.

Essential.

 Stop.

Listen.

Watch.

Feel.

Let go of later.

Live now.

Yeah.  Just like that . . . only, I'm bad at it like I said.  So I have had to practice this being present really hard and what I've learned is the best way to be present?  Put down your phone.

Or better, turn it off.

So hard.

SOOOO hard.  That thing is not only my fun, my friend, my companion, it's also my secretary, my link to my kinds and friends and family . . . how could I live without it?  I can't!  I CAN'T!

Can I?

Turns out I can.

Not for a long time, but for an hour or two at a time?  Sure thing.

This week when I was doing book return at the high school (not exactly where I wanted to be), I practiced that being present and instead of just doing the work, I turned to the woman I was working with and asked her questions about her life, her children, herself.  The other teachers joined in and the two hours literally flew by.  It was easy.  It was fun.  And I learned so much about these women and how to get your kids in to concurrent enrollment (college classes in high school) and how many students really have 4.0 (not as many as you'd think), and what a good student is, and how to watch your sons baby for 40 hours a week.  Fascinating.

I'm telling you . . .

And it didn't end there.  Being present means noticing stuff around you.  Sure, I noticed how grouchy I'd been and how frustrated with how things never seem to go according to plan, but have I noticed what's going on around me with people around me?

Uh.

No . . .

So, I started looking around at people around me and asking them, really asking them, Hey, how are you?  And instead of taking their immediate, I'm great! response, I would ask real questions of things that I knew were hard or going on in their lives.  I'm telling you, a ten minute conversation makes a huge difference.

I called my sister to complain about my life (my favorite subject obviously), but it turns out, she was in the same pickle as me--to many commitments and not enough time--and she was drowning.  And instead of say, Yes, true let me share with you how bad my life is . . . I just listened.  I listened and gave a little advice and mostly told her she was strong and wise and good and that everything would work out.

I could hear her take a breath.  A real big deep breath and let it out and then I could hear a smile in her voice (no joke, smiles are in voices . . . ).  I could tell that just from me stopping and listening, she was better.

That was easy right?

It is easy.

And it makes a difference.

And not just to them.  It changed me.  It made me see that though I was wishing someone would come give me a hug and say, Tell me all your problems, really, we ALL feel this way.  And as we are hugging someone and asking them to tell us where it hurts, we are being healed.

Really.

It's like that simple.

I think of that scripture in Matthew: "And he that findeth his life shall lose it; and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it." (Matthew 10:39)

It know it sounds crazy, but honestly, when we let go of ourselves and our craziness, we get to see that we're not alone in the craziness, in fact, we're in good company.  And as we help others, well, we aren't alone anymore are we?  No.  And suddenly, our burdens are lighter.

And that's what comes out of being present.

So, here's my challenge to you all as you're racing around, possibly screaming in your mind (or that's just me . . .but really, that Silent Scream painting, I sooo feel it), or just feeling like crying because it all seems to much . . . put your phones away.  Stop racing.  Look around you at the people around you and ask them a question, or hug them, or tell them, I'm so glad you're here with me.

And I promise you, the scream inside will quite and for a moment (and maybe just a moment) you'll feel present.

And I'm telling you, it feels good.



Piper being present . . . 

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Bringing Honest Back. . .

Kindness.

It's like the most wonderful thing ever.

But so is honesty and sometimes, I like it even more than kindness.

I think we often, in the fear of being unkind, are not honest when we should be.  This lack of honesty creates all sorts of bad behaviors in ourselves and in our friends and family and people we interact with. Lots of crap situations happen because we are too afraid of just telling the truth--even if it's hard to hear or say.  Lately, well, this year, I've been really working on examining myself and truth and honesty and kindness and how I interact.  I've come to a few realizations, but first, let me define honesty.

To me, honesty is when we tell what's inside our hearts and let what is important to us be known.  Honesty is NOT an excuse to say, Yeah, let me be honest, you're a crap sister or you're a bad husband or you really DON'T understand how to do your hair.  No, being honest is saying, I don't think I can actually be room mom for this class, can you help me find a replacement?  Or I need to know today what is happening at the family reunion so I can plan for it, I know that might be hard, but if we can work on this together, it would really help me.  It's your own issues that you are trying to be honest and let it be known so that the solutions can be found.  It's communication that can fix and heal and create safe places for us all.

Now, this is one thing I've learned, honesty is vulnerability and it creates all sorts of knee jerk reactions--especially when your honesty is met with hostility or defensiveness--and then, sorry to say, but all hell seems to break loose.  And you find yourself saying, yeah, that was NOT good.  I'm never being honest again.  Total FAIL.

Which leads me to another thing I've learned:  Life is about failing.  Yep, being honest (hence vulnerable) puts you in a hard spot and in my case, is about 50% of the time met with not such pleasant reactions.

Maybe it's turning 40 or it's being tired of feeling so confused all the time, but whatever it is, I'm not so afraid of being like, Wait, I don't understand this . . . and I need to.  So slow down and lets take a minute here and talk about this.  Sometimes, that's not so good.  But, I'm 40 right, and I'm like, yeah, well, I'm not going anywhere until we figure this out.  I'm not afraid of ruffling some feathers.  I'm not afraid of saying, Wait, I get that your upset about this topic, I am sorry and I want to talk about it in a way that makes you comfortable . . . how can we do this?  I listen and hopefully we find a way around the difficulty (usually involving me having to say sorry a lot and listen a lot and back tracking about sixteen miles, but eventually, we get to a place where we both feel safe).   And then we continue to talk.  I don't want to bully my way into these conversations where I NEED to be heard above everyone else.  What I seek with honesty is mutual understanding.

That's hard.  HARD.  But like I said, I'm not afraid of failing and I'm not afraid of hard.  And so I have these conversations and in my mind, I tell myself talk with respect, gentleness, and calmness. Sometimes it's more like . . . Remember, Mary, CALMNESS!  GENTLENESS!!!!!  RESPECT, DARN IT!

But I'm thinking it, and that should help . . . right?

Which is one of the bestest things I've learned so far . . . it's ok if things get uncomfortable and it doesn't turn out all roses and sometimes you feel just horrible but . . . it's like a really good hurt.  It's  liberating.  I mean, to actually say what's inside of you . . . it's not always pretty, but it's real, it's truth, it's honest and it feels so RIGHT.  Even if it makes you into a slightly crazy person--it's the truth, we are all crazy, mean, small minded, opinionated, self-righteous and plane old wrong.  But that's what also makes us lovable and human and real.  

I honestly thought, Oh, so THIS is how it FEELS to be  . . . (fill in the blank with people in your life who are honest--sometimes to the point where you're like, Uh, didn't need to know THAT).

And I like it!

A lot . . .

So, I guess this is me.  Move over Justin, I'm bringing HONEST back!



Monday, April 4, 2016

Warmth: Taking a Minute

Yesterday I sat with my face to the sun for hours.  It was the perfect temperature--mid 70s--with a gentle breeze that came exactly the moment when it got too hot.  I was surrounded by my children, John and my sister and her family.  We all listened to wise advice and beautiful music and felt the peacefulness and calming that comes from being reminded that we are not alone in the universe and that we are loved and that we are capable of greatness.

And I was also sick and so were all of us.  Finn has goopy eye that weeps white stuff and all of us have sore throats and an excess of mucus.  It's icky in every way. 

But yesterday, while I sat in the sun and listened, I felt at peace.


And this morning as I did a hard yoga practice with Anne in the sunshine as the wind outside literally shook the house and made it moan, I still felt it.  As I went from pose to pose, I thought about how hard yoga is (for those of you who think it's easy . . . please, do this practice).  My arms were shaking and my legs felt like rubber.  I tried to do my bakasana to headstand back to bakasana to plank and I just folded.  I was exhausted.  But I also felt like everything bad inside me, all the soreness from a long drive and somewhat restless sleep and too much sitting, was pushed out and away.  As I breathed (sometimes very hard) in and out, I felt a centering and relaxing happening as it always does.  When I finished, wobbly and tired, I felt also energized, clear headed and open.

Anne, who doesn't do yoga that often, said, I feel nauseous and like my body is working stuff out.

Totally normal, I told her.  It's what happens sometimes and it's getting rid of all your toxins.

I know, this sounds hoaxy but it's true.  I can go do a practice (even badly) when I don't feel very well and by the end, I feel like I'm sort of reset.  I personally think it's all the deep breathing.  They say meditation is healing, and I have to say, I think it is.  Yes, I still get sick, but not as often.  It's that mindful relaxing of all your muscles that eases aches and pains and lets your body rest and heal.  

I had totally forgotten about that.  I feel it often and I know that I am cleaning house, so to speak, that I forget that other people new to yoga would sort of freak out.  So she just did child's pose until it passed.  And it did.  Then you drink like a camel and your body really does get rid of the junk.  It's awesome.

So today, most of all, I'm going to drink drink drink and continue with my mindful eating (being on vacation is going to make this especially challenging) and also focus on being kind to myself.

Sitting in the sun and then doing this longer yoga practice that was challenging has reminded me that most of all, I need to be kind to myself.  It's ok to just sit in the sun and it's ok to be in child's pose (even for the whole practice).  We will never feel the warmth of the sun if we don't take the time to sit in it's rays.  For sure, we should challenge ourselves in all areas and push ourselves, but then after that push, take time to stop and just feel the warmth and peace and satisfaction of our accomplishments.

I know this again sounds so trite and simple, but it's not.  It's so hard.

John has found the hardest thing about going back to work is the pressure to be more, be better, faster, smarter, catching up quicker, and not knowing when and if it is ever enough.  It has made him a bit nutty a few times and worried me.  When is enough enough?  When has he proven himself?  And what is my role in all this?

I know John went back to work, but I feel like I did too!  I feel lost with him.  I have no idea what he really does and I feel helpless to help or even give advice.  Everyone tells me to just tell him he's smart and he'll figure it out, but that doesn't always help.  He's got real struggles and he wants real advice.  How do I help him be able to stop and feel the warmth of his achievements (however small they are) so that he can rest and take a moment to just breath and get perspective?

Yeah, it's hard.

So what have I done?

Prayed.  A lot.  Some people turn to lots of things and they might work, but I have found best of all and quickest of all is prayer.  It calms me right down and it gives me perspective.

After I prayed, a true and earnest prayer of how to help him in whatever way I could, I felt a calm and quiet I haven't felt in a long long time.  There wasn't an answer like, Oh, go tell him this . . . but a sense that all will be well.  I believed it.  When John and I next talked, instead of trying to give him advice and the words everyone told me to tell him, I just listened.

Once I did, it was pretty easy to see what was going on and what was making him crazy.  It was easy for me to see that what he needed was encouragement to take a step up and show the holes he'd found in the systems.  He honestly just needed some affirmation that what he was doing and wanted to do was the right thing.  And it was and once he did go in that direction, work took on a whole new cast and he felt a little bit more comfortable there.  Now. . . I know this is the first in many uncomfortable steps to adjust to a new job.  But I think this advice bears repeating.  Stop, listen, and then when things are clear, give a teeny tiny bit of advice and then a whole mountain of encouragement.

Then hopefully you all can just take a minute and breathe and think, OK, we got that . . . and we will think about whatever else is coming TOMORROW.  Today, we're just going to sit here and soak in the warmth of this moment.