Monday, October 12, 2015

The True, Blessed Quiet of Monday

It's a foggy morning outside the big picture window here in the kitchen. Overnight, our raspberry leaves are becoming more golden, less green. There is work outside which will wait for the afternoon...

...for now, I wait for my second cup of tea to steep and drink in the silence of our house. Off in the distance, some landscaping equipment is growling along, destroying vegetation (sounds like a wood chipper). Other than that dull buzz and the now-noise-concealing hum of the fridge which just kicked on, it is peaceful. No human words, no bids for my attention, just the timer signalling that the tea is ready to be poured.

Silence is something which is valued and treasured. It's almost an endangered species in some ways: we are raising children who crave constant stimulation which comes with lots of noise. Our entire culture seems to have replaced the sun with screens as the center of our individual universes. I'm guilty of that as well, after a fashion-- sometimes it's not easy to pull out of the spoon-fed entertainment world and to tend to real life. Writing on this laptop does help, though, in that it makes  me focus on what's around me in my own real world.

In true Monday fashion, what's around me is this, in no significant order:
Floors which need sweeping and wiping (again)
A basket of laundry which needs emptying
A counter and sink full of stoneware, china and glass waiting to be washed
The old duvet cover, recently replaced, waiting at the bottom of the basement stairs to be washed and then stored.
And a yard full of leaves to be raked up to add to the compost pile

This morning I was so happy to know I was coming home to a quiet house, nothing mattered. Quick, cursory breakfast of veggie sausage on toast spread with Chevremousse (if you can't have cows milk cream cheese, this is the best thing ever!). We left early for school so Kiddo could ride his scooter and play with his friends before the bell rang. I had made a bunch of balloon 'fidgets' (stress balls,  you can find the activity here) for his classroom and the look of absolute surprise and delight on his teacher's face when I handed her the bag was so lovely--

I'm sure she values quiet as well.

It is the quiet which allows our minds to wander and discover new ideas, new solutions. This isn't a universal thing, but I do my best thinking in the quiet moments-- absolutely the best thinking happens in the shower. The white noise of the water and the fan drown out everything else and allows me be present in that moment. Which is what I should have been telling my own parents when they complained about my long showers: I'm thinking in here! Be happy I'm using my brain!

The promise of quiet makes me happy beyond measure. On Saturday Joe took Kiddo out to run errands. I folded four loads of laundry in a silence which was like a balm, soothing the irritation of a morning full of demands. See how I remember this? Quiet laundry folding time was a gift, not a chore. This morning, knowing I'd be coming back to a tranquil house, I had more patience for Kiddo's endless desire to be reading comic books instead of getting ready for school. Sure, five minutes on the timer, and then "Please keep your agreement. It's time to put that book down and go brush your teeth." Knowing that there were no human demands waiting at home for me gave me more grace toward our boy.

There are a lot of poetic thoughts about quietude-- and I really could go on and on.  For a great many of us, though, this is how we get filled up spiritually--not with chatter and attention and praise, but in the space and emptiness. There is respite in having moments of nothingness, there is clarity and substance in what should be void of meaning. It is the sole purpose of silence, to me-- the space around it. Much like standing at Cascade Head, looking out over the Pacific and the coastline to the south, getting a sense of where we are in our world, not in relation to where one parked the car or where the beach cabin is, but in relation to our lives as a whole. Silence allows space for objectivity, which is a powerful perspective. Objectivity allows us to see beyond our own interests and feelings, it gives us a wonderful sense of pulling back and taking in the entire situation. It gives us the ability to appreciate what others might want or need. Objectivity frees me from having to deem according to our societal dualism as strict 'right or wrong'; instead, it encourages deeper thought and nuance and this helps me to better understand and live in my world.

My cup of tea is gone now. The sky isn't brightening any, but that's not unusual on a fall day here in Portland. I've had my quiet and now I feel ready to move to the next task, and the next, and the next. The swish of a broom, the clatter of silverware, the chugging of the washing machine, the raking of leaves... work is noisy. But that's okay. Balance is everything, right?

Monday, October 5, 2015

Where We Are Now

This morning is one of those that I love: productive, peaceful, perhaps slightly philosophical. I'm in a season of my life that is busy and enjoyable, and this fall day is idyllic with its bright sunshine and cool mornings. The leaves have started to turn but the trees are still full, so the color is everywhere I can see. Rusty golds, crimson greens, all of the opposites of the color wheel working together, the sky pale blue as a contrast to everything I see.

This really is bliss.

This is a morning of a new life, newer than my life felt last month or more especially, last year. This morning I walked with a friend, whose life is new in a different way. Her child has moved away to college and she is gently pushing into her own new territory of being a mom from a distance. She photographed some stunning purple beauty berry as we strolled through the neighborhood; took a moment to send it as a good morning to her beautiful and intelligent daughter. I admire how my friend gracefully treads into this new phase of life and I feel fortunate that in watching her, I will learn much myself.

Home, I got on my exercise bike for a while, then my efforts turned to work outside. After years of random digging--or so it seemed from the looks of the backyard, I've begun a project of digging out a rain garden (yes, we had one before, but downspouts were moved) and using the soil to regrade some areas in the yard which have been stumbling hazards. It's hard work, but very, very satisfying. I'm being nicer to myself, taking breaks, deliberately rotating through a variety of tasks so that I don't strain my muscles so much. Stopping before I feel deep strain instead of my old habit of working through the pain. The gorgeous dahlias up front are in bloom, the sweet olive tree out back is in what can only be described as a most heavenly flowering season~ the peachy scent of those tiny flowers is just divine.

Today is a quiet one for me. This year I've taken on more responsibility at Kiddo's school. Last year the woman who headed the geography program kept introducing me to people as 'the person who is going to take over for me'.... and finally, I bit. She let me shadow her for months before handing the task over to me. This has been a huge, good new thing in my life. I get to use my brain again! The program has challenged me at times, how to effectively serve the 300+ families whose children make up the second-through-fifth grade. What's resulted is my creating a website to support the students and their families to this end. It's been great to provide something which has been so well-received and to know that a need has been fulfilled.  Along with this, I'm at the school for three other volunteer activities and this makes for a more structured life than I've had in a while.

Sometimes, it's easy to think-- to believe, really-- that there is some sort of determined trajectory to work toward. That life has a Plan (yes, with a capital "P") that one should follow. It has occurred to me that the 'right' plan is probably rarely permanently right, but more 'right for right now'. We are fortunate in that Joe has a job which allows us to have me home for Kiddo and the house and the cats... and for me. I think I'm a far better person with the quiet time, a better mom in the afternoons and evenings, a better partner.  I'm also happier with these new responsibilities, which push me to learn new skills and new ways of doing things. Taking life beyond the scope of thinking up "what's for dinner?" and really stretching has been good for me. It took some time to enjoy being out of the work force, and it's taken some time to want to take on more responsibilities. In the past, I never would have seen myself as being a part of an event planning committee, and yet, here I am, doing just that! A year ago I would have felt intimidated by all of this and now it's just happening as if it was the most natural thing in the world.

Of course, so much of this is reflected in my parenting. As I'm focusing more on my own things, Kiddo is getting opportunities to grow as well. I've stopped reminding him so much about things, just figuring that it's okay to let some things fail for today if it means we remember them tomorrow. I'm allowing more natural consequences to things (forgot to unpack the lunchbox? oh, the cold pack isn't frozen, guess you can't pack a yogurt. Bummer.), and I'm allowing him to have more say in how things go during his days. Knowing more about him, his abilities and his natural tendencies gives me better ideas of how to help him help himself and how to gauge what he's really needing in the moment. Sometimes this process looks and sounds messy, but I think we are both happier, both with life and with each other. His friendships have changed, deepened, in some ways. So have our conversations. Little kids have a lot of ethics questions which pop up: everything from "why can't I talk about how much money I have saved up?" to what sort of qualities determine if a person is a good friend or maybe a not-so-good friend to have.

He and Joe have started up with the Boy Scouts; Joe was an Eagle Scout and thought it would be a good experience. As he's the Den leader I'm heartened that our family's ethics and respect for people of all stripes will be upheld. There's a lot of focus on building character and striving for some rather virtuous qualities, and this introduces a vocabulary you might not have heard as much at our house last year as you do now. Those qualities are a great filter through which to think about our actions. I've been giving him more praise along those lines, concrete "I've noticed that you nearly always hold the screen door for me now when I'm locking up; I never even have to ask you any more. It's very thoughtful and kind of you." In between the moments of his scooter antics, Minecraft-addiction and always being on the move, I'm noticing more maturity. A wee bit more, but it's those qualities we pay attention to most which seem to grow and blossom.

This has been a long post-- I realize I should stop for lunch. Dishes are waiting, I still have a shower to take, and there are quite a few other things which want doing before I go pick up Kiddo at three. This life is my dream life, for now. This moment, I have my dream job, for now. Nothing is 100% perfect, but everything seems like it is exactly how it is supposed to be in this moment and that's good enough for me.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Sometimes, Bitching is Just Bitching

There's this weird thing that I've noticed happening more and more all over the internet, and I wish it would just stop already. You know what it is too, c'mon, admit it, we've all done it from time to time and now it's turning into a competitive sport, which is only going to make us all tired and crazy and grouchy.

Say it with me: It's time to let go of Comparison Parenting.

I think we all know what I'm talking about, those statements we hear where the speaker asserts their opinion and follows it up with "because I love my child more". I don't mind the 'and this works for us' sort of statements or summaries, or even a strongly written piece on child psychology; I'm not concerned with those sorts of things. No, it's more the Tiger Mom vs French Parenting vs Free Range vs fill in your favorite or most obnoxious parenting trend here. Some of these philosophies are just as out of balance as the other parenting styles they decry. Frenchie Mama complains American kids are spoiled; her children eat their vegetables. Tiger Mom dutifully requires her child to work hard because we are too soft on our kids and they aren't disciplined enough. Yeah, I get it. We're all fallible parents--- inevitably so--so that no matter if you let them walk around the block alone at 7 or if you are considering getting a GPS chip installed so you can track them everywhere, we are still going to eff up.

"No one tells my kid what to do. I'll go all Mama Bear on their ass."
"My parents won't follow our rules for our kids when we let them watch the children for the weekend." 
" I can't believe my child's (teacher, school, friend's mom, father, mother) did that!"

Somehow it's easier to be affronted and put someone else down instead of looking at our own situation and how our own actions and thoughts influence how we feel about that other parent or other person. Today I came across a very confusing article entitled "Why It's Important for Parents to Bitch About Their Kids" by Clint Edwards. He states that he received flak from other parents from some previous posts where he apparently complained about his kids.

Okay, so most of us do it from time to time, some of us daily, some of us not so much. Complain, that is. Yeah, we can gripe and grumble and so what? A vent sometimes is healthy and normal; getting fixated on a problem, though, means that it's time to stop bitching and start getting solution-oriented.
I get the authors assertion that sometimes, bitching means that parents can feel better, less alone, when they can complain to each other and realize "hey, yeah, my kid is normal because this other parent's kids are going through this too." Community building? Hey, that's good, right?

But that's not the crux of Edwards's post. He goes on to declare this little head-scratcher:

"This is exactly why bitching about kids online is so important. It gives parents confidence. It allows us to laugh at stressful situations. It grants us a feeling of shared camaraderie and an understanding that we are sharing similar challenges and it's okay to be frustrated. It's okay to feel like you are doing it wrong. It's okay to be moody and sleepy. It doesn't mean that parenting isn't rewarding and it doesn't mean you don't love your children.

In fact, it means you love them more."

What? I am fine with most of it, truly believe it, but that last part about loving them more because you bitch about them? More than what? More than if you didn't complain? More than someone else who chooses not to complain?

More than what, Mr Edwards? More than WHAT?

The author goes on to make a comparison of motivations, which you can read for yourself, and assumes that the parent who doesn't complain about their kids is doing that just for show. Not bitching, that is. Really? Is personality not a factor? Lets try to apply this strange logic to something many stay at home parents sometimes bitch about: housework. In fact, take my husband and I. Joe does housework and will tell me every.single.thing he has done. Me? Meh, I know I did it and I don't want to make my eyes glaze over, so I just don't really talk about this unless there's a problem. The sink isn't draining well? That's a problem to discuss. Just talking, though, about how dirty the floors are lately or how I hate doing dishes over and over and over again or how the laundry is always waiting for me... really? I'm boring the hell out of myself right now. It doesn't make me feel better, it makes me dislike the tasks I have to do even more, so I don't go there, I just try to get it done.

The same goes for taking care of the cats. Griping about it doesn't mean I love them more. I mean, they have their proclivities, those kitties do, and frankly, there are far better smells in this world than cat food and cat box. Yet, at some point if I complained about them so much, someone would likely be tempted to tell me "Maybe you just shouldn't have cats."

In short, bitching gets old.

My parent-friends discuss their concerns in a myriad of ways: one has a remarkable teeter-tooter of what I'll call "gripe and dote" regarding her kids. Another is a gracious mother who calls to problem-solve-- she comes from an educational background and is less emotional in her descriptions of her children. A teacher mom friend has extremely comic interpretations of her children-- I can laugh until I cry when I hear her describing her kids' misadventures and malapropisms. A school friend mom I like is fairly mum about her child's challenges because she's a very private person. None of these women love their kids any less than I do or any more.... we just have different personalities and different ways of processing our own frustrations. Some parents talk and talk and worry and do nothing, others don't discuss their fears or concerns with the rest of the world, just their spouse and mentors or teachers who are directly involved with the family and have a vested interest. They consider this as protecting their child, and who can deny that this is, indeed, a thoughtful and rare thing to exercise such discretion?

Later the author cites the virtue of bitching online about one's child --and yes, I've done this, bitch online that is, I'm just not grabbing for a halo or trying to make myself feel better about it. He states that "Bitching about kids is not about being a bad parent. It means you are trying to find a way to become a better parent." I find that statement to be a bit of a panacea-- it's okay to gripe because there's something noble behind it. Really? Bitching is just words, it's the actions we take to solve problems and help our children through challenges which make us better parents. Making myself relatable to other parents is nice, but do I have to throw my child out as an offering if everyone else is doing so? Just so they might not feel bad or judged? I mean, isn't that doing exactly what the author cites, making a social decision based on what others might think? Then, am I being a bad parent if my bitching isn't genuine?

See how weirdly confusing all of this is? Once again, one parent is put in a one-down position so that the other parent can say "me and my group, we are okay, in fact, we are better and care more".

Let's just do what we all need to do: take responsibility for making our own decisions as to what makes us happy and feel good within ourselves as parents. If that means complaining with the hens, go for it-- some days it feels good to vent. If that means singing their praises, do that too. Balance is key, right? But let us not decide to glorify complaining. Sometimes, bitching is just bitching. Simple as that.
Bitching about kids is not about being a bad parent. It means you are trying to find a way to become a better parent. - See more at:
It allows us to laugh at stressful situations.

This is exactly why bitching about kids online is so important. It gives parents confidence. - See more at:

his is exactly why bitching about kids online is so important. It gives parents confidence. It allows us to laugh at stressful situations. It grants us a feeling of shared comradery, and an understanding that we are sharing very similar challenges, and it’s okay to be frustrated. It’s okay to feel like you are doing it wrong. It’s okay to be moody and sleepy. It doesn’t mean that parenting isn’t rewarding and it doesn’t mean that you don’t love your children.
In fact, it means that you love them more.
- See more at:

his is exactly why bitching about kids online is so important. It gives parents confidence. It allows us to laugh at stressful situations. It grants us a feeling of shared comradery, and an understanding that we are sharing very similar challenges, and it’s okay to be frustrated. It’s okay to feel like you are doing it wrong. It’s okay to be moody and sleepy. It doesn’t mean that parenting isn’t rewarding and it doesn’t mean that you don’t love your children.
In fact, it means that you love them more.
- See more at:
his is exactly why bitching about kids online is so important. It gives parents confidence. It allows us to laugh at stressful situations. It grants us a feeling of shared comradery, and an understanding that we are sharing very similar challenges, and it’s okay to be frustrated. It’s okay to feel like you are doing it wrong. It’s okay to be moody and sleepy. It doesn’t mean that parenting isn’t rewarding and it doesn’t mean that you don’t love your children.
In fact, it means that you love them more.
- See more at:

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Rube Goldberg's Mother

Years ago while lamenting the endless mess of contraptions and creations to a friend, she turned to me and laughed saying "It must have been hard to be Rube Goldberg's mother too."

Rube Goldberg, remember him? He came up with the most laborious ways possible for machines to do simple tasks, often ones which took humans just a fraction of the time to do themselves, and then put them in comic form. Although his 'inventions' were only interpreted through his comics, the fact that he's left an indelible impression upon the world makes me think that we still love to indulge the more fanciful parts of our American psyche-- that is to say, that it's sort of akin to the bootstrap mythology--- anything of purpose can be built and put to use if only we try.

Of course, having a kid who loves to explore everything is all my fault. The seeds were probably planted when he was a toddler and I just gave him containers and lids to play with, canning rings and wooden spoons. Then he got older and I'd pull open the Found Objects drawer and let him play on the floor in front of it as I made dinner or did kitchen chores. Parts of a french press, more lids, green plastic strawberry baskets, string, twist ties, old wooden beads and chopsticks.... these became toys of his own making. He loved blocks and having a full set of unit blocks on hand (loaned to me from that same friend) kept him engaged in creative building as well until Legos were discovered. Tinker toys and Lincoln logs were cool, but too limited and therefore, frustrating for him.

Now, I'm taken aback. He's almost eight. The Found Objects drawer has become several bags in his closet as well as a few boxes of things down in the basement. He has a hot glue gun now, and knows how to use it (well, still a bit messy....). There are various creations going on right now: last night he slept in the fort he built with the pvc pipe kit we gave him for Christmas; there's a tray with three or four deconstructed hex bugs, batteries in a container and jewelers screwdrivers at the ready; and the other night we played with his zome tool set and he ended up constructing a 'marble run' with rubber bands and tape for the marble to travel on before it falls into a cup.

If you are wondering what to get Kiddo for his birthday, please consider lots of tape, any kind of tape. We go through a lot of tape here. Really, a crazy amount of tape.

This morning our big gray cat Milton lost one of those thick ponytail elastics he likes to chase around. It had gone under the stove. I used a skewer to draw it out and along with it came four Lego pieces, several beads and a glass stone. It made me think of all the times he's been in here building, making things, creating. I try to confine the kitchen creating to a tray on the table (to keep the small parts from rolling off the table and under the fridge or oven or my feet. This is the story of my life these days-- anytime I go to vacuum or sweep the floor, I am finding so many many things. Paper clips, rubber bands, Legos, bits of plastic (from what?), tons of little blue painters tape pieces which were rejected for some reason or another and just left there, plastic bugs, rocks, pencils.... all the things, one needs, I suppose, to make a growing boy like mine happy.

Sometimes the contraptions, creations work and he is so proud. Sometimes they don't and then he is so mad. When the stakes are low and he's got time to tinker, he's happy to try, retry, keep working at something. And sometimes, when the creations are soooo close to working and then something falls off or maybe the Legos weren't pressed together hard enough in that one spot there-- sometimes it all falls apart and Kiddo is so hard on himself, so angry that those 'stupid' items didn't do what he wanted or that the ability to make exactly what he is wanting eludes him and he feels helpless.

Young inventors sometimes need a lot of emotional support and reassurance. For me, the frustration and the mess are the hardest part of having a creative kid. Especially a creative kid with a strong sense of the ideal he is working to create. So, you bolster them up with some encouragement and tell them that they can take a break or try it again-- and to remember that this is supposed to be fun. If it isn't fun, then consider doing something else. Free time, that time where there are no pressing chores or homework, should be enjoyed. Often this helps him to gain perspective, try things a new way and to decide that what seemed like a mountain to overcome might actually be a molehill and rather doable. A renewed sense of capability is embraced and he moves forward.

I love his curiosity, even when I have to keep my inner voice from shouting "don't take that apart! It might not go back together again!"-- I just bite my tongue and tell myself that as long as it is just his toys, I need to let him have the ownership of them, to do as he wishes. I need to let him succeed or fail on his own terms in this. Unless it's one of my appliances or electronics, he gets to make his choices about his own toys-- and live with them. It's good, really. It shows him that some things can't be put back together. It's actually a safer and better way to learn that Mom and Dad aren't going to be able to fix everything for him, and it's a manageable experience for him.

Kids lives are all about experimentation and tinkering. They do this in how they choose their friends, how they play together--outside or indoors, even in learning how to manage their time and make good choices. All of these come from experience-- we can't do these things for them all the time and really, aside from some guidance, we shouldn't. My son is experimenting with different physical activities finding with ones he enjoys (bouldering) and those he doesn't (any sport involving serious waiting). He's finding out about how to play with different groups of friends because these groups have their own favorite chosen activities. Even when it comes to handling the cats, he's learning, sometimes rewarded with purrs and a content cat on his lap, sometimes with a scratch on his neck because cats don't want to ride on your shoulder like a parrot. Live and learn. Learning to live.

I'm glad for all of this. Kiddo is happy to have the ability to make things as he desires. Our goal was always to let him choose his own paths as much as we could allow. Having a variety of experiences and materials to draw from -- this enriches all of our lives as humans. Being a kid and only having manufactured toys to play with seems a lot like being a cook and only having processed food to work with.... we all know that being able to work from scratch allows for more variety and often, a better flavor and more appealing presentation. I think the same can be said for the little creators of the world: they like to work from scratch too. So, we'll keep the twist-ties, the mesh from that bag of oranges, the pipe cleaners and that yard of fuzzy white felt... all those little bits. I may feel like Rube Goldberg's mother with all those tiny bits about the house, and it's worth it.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Thursday January 29, 2015 Walk Out to Winter Sun

Sunglasses on
Walk out to winter sun, warmer than ever in January
The neighbor waves, a new puppy is introduced
On past blooming camellias pink and dainty

In sunbeams warmed
Tiny white ribbons, sarcacocca flowers
spice the air
The small dark shiny leaves punctuated
here and there
 by glossy black berries
for the birds, its nectar for the bugs

A sleeping garden, just waking
Nascent snowdrop just emerging
A tight white pearl hanging from an emerald arch.

Up ahead, the shivery anxious skeleton of a tree
Etching dark gray and black against the sun
Its long branches all reaching upward, those lines
Up from the earth like energy flashing into the sky

I pass violets in sunlight and vinca vines, blue
flowers and curling vine twining round the trunks of trees
And then to encounter a beautiful wintersweet,
  the waxy pale gold flowers so subtle and filled
With the musk of dreams, oriental and exotic.

On homeward, passing the stone-pathed gardens
Gray and black with brush to be cleared in spring
Bright green alive with new growth close to the ground
I spy my garden and see the wild geranium and love-in-a-mist
 breaking the ground with their tender starts
The green swords of narcissus and tulip emerging
The fluttery gold petals and red centers of my witch hazel
 Which never seems to have a scent, so odd

And then, I know
I will plant a wintersweet in the backyard to make up for it. 


Saturday, January 24, 2015

Wouldn't Trade a Moment

It's 8:23 on a Saturday morning and our family is doing what we've been doing more and more often lately; we are all in our own corners, taking our time to start the day. Joe was downstairs in the office, checking on his work, ESPN's homepage (and playing a bit of his favorite video game, why not?) and now he's getting ready to go for a run. Kiddo is in the living room, folding paper airplanes out of recycled paper and watching Schoolhouse Rock. Here in the kitchen, I've got my buddy Thelonious Monk playing, a bowl of eggs and rice in front of me and a book waiting...

It was when I had picked up the book that it occurred to me how much more of these mornings we've been having lately. It's a pleasant sort of peace, all of us minding our own business. Honestly, within the context of the day, this sort of moment will be long forgotten later when we are negotiating going to the store with a recalcitrant youngster who doesn't think it's fun. You know, the moments when parents quietly question their previously-held idea that having a kid would enrich life somehow. They pass: we bite our tongues, restate reality to the child and try~try~ to move forward.

These are the moments that I still would not trade for anything. The hard moments have a purpose-- they shine a light on what in our lives needs our thought and attention. Please know what I am not saying-- I am not saying that we are always better for the hard times which befall us, that there's always a reason or purpose. I am most certainly not saying that at all and it would be arrogant of me to simply because we all know better; some of us feel that every minute of our life is divinely ordained and that is a faith I have great respect for while still not necessarily sharing that view. Some moments are simply flat-out senseless and terrible.

I am lucky, because I do not have that to look back on. I would not trade my moments because none of them were so traumatic I'm still being affected. Those moments have given me great chances to learn good things about my life and about other people. For example, we've had a few moments where I was dealing with severe pain and friends were able to take Kiddo for that time. That's a blessing, to know that there are people in our lives who have our back. I have a very good husband, who, no matter how frustrated I can become at times, is head and shoulders a better partner for me than anyone else. My best friend. How great is that? We have really worked over the thirteen years we've been together to develop this sort of union that allows for some stress and flexibility as we grow together in life and in our relationship with each other.

Moments are something to hold gently, preciously. Memories are so transient, we can see so clearly how fragile they are. More ephemeral than any other thing than a moment, memories are the one thing we have very little control over the possession of in our lives. We rely on them and yet, they are capable of disappearing without our even having known.

This doesn't frighten me, but it does make me take heed. This is why some sort of journal (this blog, really) is so important to me, dear reader. See, sometimes you get to chuckle with me at my life and this mother's silly  foibles and Kiddo's rather random, witty moments, however, this is really meant to be a testament for myself, my son.... what raising him was like. What becoming a mother is like, how it stretches you in uncomfortable yet necessary ways. The moments we might wish we'd been able to avoid do have sometimes have something to teach us. For example, last year we had a lousy trip to the beach and it's helped to shed some light on some family dynamics which need changing. The lesson is there if you look for it.

If we are willing to look at our part in our relationships, if we are willing to be responsible in doing what we can to improve things, life becomes so much better.

So, this fine morning in our mellow house, that's what I'm thinking about. How lucky I am to not want to change a thing, how we continue to learn from what challenges us and to grow as a family. Can't say I would trade that for anything.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Rethinking the Golden Rule

Happy New Year! Like most people, I am not immune to the idea of a New Year's Resolution. The only problem with them, at least for me, is that usually the resolutions include lots of specific details. You know, things like "I will not eat carbs after dinner" or "I'm will strive to lose 30 pounds" or "I'll get up at 5 in the morning every day and write for an hour before my family wakes"... You know, those sound great on paper, but in real life? Buh-bye. Most friends and family know I'm a person who lives by a few rules for myself, but that most of those rules involve being on time and having a sense of propriety. Those rules do not involve proscribed times for some chips and salsa or dieting or getting up any earlier than absolutely, positively necessary.

Yet, I also found myself noodling on the idea of a resolution: if there were one thing to dedicate this year to being mindful of, what would that be? That answer was fairly easy: The Golden Rule. You know, treat others as you would wish to be treated. This is something I reference very often and it's especially handy to pull out when Kiddo is mulling over moments of  social conflict. This morning he was complaining about an fellow student: "Mom, he begs and begs me to play with him and he has lots of friends but says he doesn't". Well, okay, so lets say your favorite buddies were all playing with other kids? Don't you feel sometimes like you have no friends when that happens? (well, yeah). Okay, so if you were feeling that way and asked someone to play with you, how would you want them to respond? Kiddo's proposed answer was suddenly more gracious, "yes, I'll play with you later".

The Golden Rule is very useful like that. Nearly anything can be referred back to it. That said, some of the goals I have this year are for better overall health and fitness. For me, saying "I'm going to do X every day" is sort of a recipe for failure. I'm not so disciplined that I'm going to happily go for a vigorous walk in the rain. I mean, there are people who do this and I admire them for it, but I know my proclivities and so, I needed some way to figure out what would work for me.

This morning I took a walk after dropping Kiddo off to school. My goal was a cross-street location, 60th and Belmont. Round trip, it's about 2.25 miles or so. Arms swinging, I did a brisk walk up the hill between Stark and Belmont; it was at 58th that I faltered. Only two more blocks to go, but really? Did I have to do them? That part of the walk was really not attractive... yet I knew that if I chose not to hit my goal, it would stick with me. Two blocks (okay, four total round trip) wasn't any great shakes, yet I knew that it was really less about the exercise and more about actually completing what I had set out to do. I hit the cross-street, made a mental note to myself to make my next walk goal further over the hill where the walk is prettier, and felt good.

On the way down the hill -- stop at the store first for groceries, then home-- I realized that I could apply the golden rule to myself, if I absented myself from my body. Suddenly, the idea came to me: "what if I stepped out of my own body for a few days? How would I want someone else to treat this body?" This was a fun trick which helped me gain a bit of objectivity. Of course I would want my body to be taken out for exercise, some walks, some sunshine and fresh air. I'd want that 'user' of the corporeal Hazel to be nice to the body, to be sweet with it and get it a couple glasses of water. To make sure it got enough rest and to stretch it and move it regularly, lest it get all tight and achy.

It's this sort of funny perspective, I suppose, that gave me compassion for myself. I'm past healing from that pesky appendectomy surgery and now getting my groove back. I can wear jeans again (phew!) but damn, that took a while. I'm hoping I can be gentle yet firm with myself, to Positively Discipline myself if you will. To treat myself as I would want to treat someone who was getting back in shape from a rough time and who is wanting to make the small changes instead of the big, more impressive feats of cleansing or running a marathon or dropping five dress sizes. Instead of ideals, my goals should reflect where I am right now, and they should honor my initial level of ability and provide some impetus for pushing myself a bit (hey, a nicer walking route helps immensely) while being an encouraging experience so that I can continue in growth.

So, thinking of the Golden Rule, and how it can be applied to my own self as well as others-- this is the goal for the year. To keep this devoutly in my head. I'm sure that I will fail many, many times this year, but I'm going to try to keep focused on continuing to make the effort to be kind and gracious to others and to myself. I mean, if you can't use the Golden Rule in how we consider our own selves, it's a lot harder to have that empathy for others and their flaws. I'd love to keep this in mind all the time-- new year or not. We're coming up  on another busy year-- we'll see how things go!