Sunday, July 19, 2015

My Only Goal


I love Brene Brown and I especially love her TED Talk onVulnerability. I’ve watched it several times and always hear something new.

But the other day I was lurking on a couple of Facebook threads about how we value ourselves and what makes a good parent. I realized something—I’m not comfortable saying, as Dr. Brown recommends, “I am enough.”

It took me a lot of driving and showering and washing dishes (my thinking times) to figure out why. Luckily, I was spending two hours a day in the car getting S. to and from circus camp that week, so I had some GOOD thinking time. Here’s what I came up with.

If anyone, even me, says, “I am enough”—if I give them (or me) the authority, the power, the position, the measuring stick, to say that I am enough—then I also give them (or me) the power to say, “I am not enough.”

I’m a recovering perfectionist, as I’ve mentioned, and I’m really pursuing being vulnerable in my relationships these days. My kids know it all, so I’m constantly practicing humility with them. Here’s an example.

Me (cheerfully): “It’s 8:15. Time to get in the car!”
Kid (appalled): “Mo-om! It’s 8:14!!!”
Me (learning humility): “You’re right. I’m wrong. Let’s get in the car.”

Notice I just put “kid” and not an initial—they both do this. Constantly. And, yes, I’m slowly and gently teaching them that’s not really the way we adults approach polite interaction. I’m also practicing saying that I did, in fact, have the time wrong by one minute. Baby steps!

I’m working on deeper things, too, like saying no to commitments that will be too much for me. That hurts for someone who has always valued herself based on a full resume and calendar. And I’m also working on feeling my emotions in the moment and expressing them to my husband, whether they’re fully formed, well-articulated, justifiable, or not. That one’s SCARY. It’s amazing how long I’ve lived without being able to do that.

Anyway, so as a recovering perfectionist, I can give you LOTS of ways that I am NOT ENOUGH. For example, I’m still flippin’ recovering—not recovered. Right? How is that enough?

So here’s what I’d rather say: I am.

Right or wrong, enough or not—these are future driven ideas. We’ll only find out if we are right or enough when…well, in the future. Not now. Right now, all I know is that I am.

Okay, so if you’re as argumentative as I am—or as my kids are; I wonder where they get it?—you might say, “Hey! So if all I know is that I am, how do I make decisions? How do I decide?” Good question, oh Argumentative One! (And I mean that in the most loving way possible.)

Oprah does this “things I know for sure” part of her magazine. (I may have read it once.) I’ve always wondered what I know for sure. And every single time, I come up with only one thing: Love or fear. Every single human decision in this world boils down to acting out of love or acting out of fear. I’ve yet to find an exception.

And I find that when I am and when I choose fear, I do some crazy stuff—stuff that does NOT tend to work out in the long run. When I am and I choose love…wow. Even if everything goes to heck, I’m still happy with my choice. How does THAT happen? I don’t know. But the trick is choosing love in the moment, without thinking of the future. And no, I don't mean tell your kid to have that third brownie because you're in the moment and don't need to think about stomachaches. No. Love, in that moment, is the difficult answer. Enough brownies.

So I’d like to say that I am. And I’m choosing love whenever I can manage it. And I have to recognize that Jonathan Larson figured it all out, all the wisdom of our modern era, and put it into one song. Be. Choose love over fear.

There's only us
There's only this
Forget regret or
Life is yours to miss
No other road, no other way
No day but today

I can't control                                      Will I lose my dignity
My destiny                                          Will someone care
I trust my soul                                     Will I wake tomorrow
My only goal                                       From this nightmare?

Is just to be

So there you go. Be. Love. Listen to Rent.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Stages of Shakeology®



It’s sweeping the nation, but you still haven’t tried it. Why not? In all likelihood, you have simply gotten stuck in one of the early Stages of Shakeology®. Don’t worry—once you become aware of all the stages, you, too, can progress from Skeptic to Spatula-Licker in no time!

So, without further ado, I give you...The Stages of Shakeology®!

1.       You Hear a Rumor—You think, Another multi-level marketing thing. Who needs another sugar-laden “protein” drink? Geez.
2.       A Friend Tries It—You think, Wow. I can’t believe a friend of mine (let’s call that friend “The Healthy One”) fell for it. Geez.
3.       That Friend Looks Good—You think, Wow! The Healthy One is glowing. I wonder what’s up? You think it’s Shakeology®? Cool. Maybe I’ll check that out.
4.       You Get Some Info—You think, Hmmm. Whole foods? Unprocessed? Herbs from their native habitats? Put together by THE guy who knows everything about herbs? Look at that nutritional content!
5.       You Try A Sample—You think, Um. This texture’s…interesting. I’m not sure about this shake recipe that The Healthy One recommended. Well, I’m drinking it now…might as well finish. You know, it’s not that bad. Kind of good. Maybe I’ll add different ingredients tomorrow…
6.       Things Change—You think, Well, MY shake recipes definitely taste better. This is good. Hey, kids, try this shake I made!
7.       You Like ItYou think, When is it time for breakfast? I can’t wait for my Shakeology®. I bought some new frozen fruits to try. Ooo—or should I try the almond milk? Or both? Hmmmm. No, kids! Get away from my shake. (This is the phase where you may find yourself using a spatula to scrape the inside of your glass.)
8.       You Look and Feel Gooooodd—At this point, the secret gets out. The Healthy One asks how long you’ve been drinking Shakeology® and gives you the Secret Shake-O Smile. (Just kidding—about the smile. There’s no secret smile. The rest is true.) All your other friends ask what you’ve changed. Your hair, nails, and skin may look amazing. Your energy may be up. Your cravings—especially for carbs—may be down. You may be less bloated. You may find you have much more stable moods.
9.       Your Friends Ask You About It— Once you get an excuse, you just can’t stop talking about it! You only stop when you remember Stages 1 and 2 and realize all your friends are giving you THAT look—the look that says they’re still in Stages 1 and 2.
10.   You Talk Too Much—At this point, you may be embarrassed to find that you’ve done some crazy stuff in the name of Shake-O, like admitting on the internet that you scrape your glass with a spatula and lick said spatula, often with Aerosmith’s “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing” running through your head. 

While this may seem like a shameless sales pitch (it is, a little), it's also really funny if you've been through it. So this one goes out to those who've been there!

And, yes, I am an authorized purveyor of Shakeology®. If you want to know more, you know where to find me!

That's Summer


The view from summer.

Where have I been lately?

That’s a darn good question. I’ve been in the Land of Summer, resting my writing muscles. A lot of my muscles, actually.

After a whirlwind spring, which wrapped up two years of all kinds of intensity, I took time off. I decided not to write until it felt fun again. And here it is! The magical laziness of summer, having our kids home, the respite from schoolwork and (most) extracurricular activities—they have all worked their powerful juju and I’m feeling my brain come back to life.

It’s so much fun watching the kids follow their whims. To start vacation, they redesigned Little A.’s Lego train to carry messages back and forth between their bedrooms. The doors of their bedrooms are exactly 12.5 inches apart. That’s summer.

The other day, S. combined her love of math (not my genes!) with her love of art and spent hours watching videos. Videos of what? Videos explaining how Fibinacci sequences occur in nature and art—including why Spongebob’s pineapple is all wrong. That’s summer.

We took a quick but wonderful trip to visit family—the first plane trip Little A. really remembers. (Side note: I LOVED how he referred to takeoff, every single time, as “when the plane launches.”) When we got home, he disappeared into his room (as he often does) and I heard the rattle of Legos (as I often do) and then he came out with a detailed Lego airport, complete with terminal, control tower, and a shuttle to the gates, just like our airport. Some people draw their experiences; some write them…he builds them. That’s summer.

This week and next, S. plunges fully into her favorite recreation (climbing) at one of her favorite places (circus camp). After a day shimmying, hanging, and spinning in an arena without air-conditioning, she comes home sweaty, sore, tired, and sometimes rope-burned. And ecstatic! That’s summer.

Little A., with time to focus, buckled down and earned his purple belt in tae kwon do. In any martial art, sometimes the student earns a new belt not easily, but predictably. Other times, earning a belt requires the student shake off an old way of thinking, dig a little deeper, and find new abilities inside. Little A. had one of those this time. It was epic. That’s summer.

As for me, I’m enjoying the respite from mandatory early morning wakings and the break from filling lunchboxes, signing forms, and managing school-related minutiae. Bedtimes have relaxed; I can take more time to cook creative dinners. Cooking may be one of my least favorite tasks, but I like it so much better when I have more than twenty minutes to get it together!

Mostly, I’m enjoying a break from being the taskmaster, the COO, the team manager, and—let’s face it—the bad guy of the family. The kids asked for a laidback summer, so we all agreed to Chore Day, Library Day, Movie Day, Beach Day, and Adventure Day on weekday mornings. Afternoons we get to ourselves. Except for a few weeks of camp, we all flow with this schedule that we all love.

Sure, occasionally, I have to remind someone to “Get in the car, right now, or I’m leaving you!” but otherwise we’re mellow.

And I’m beyond grateful for this time to hear what the kids are thinking, to take the slow, subtle approach to helping them grow, to joke with them, to just share space, time, and the beauty of the season.

That’s summer.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

The Hole in the Middle


Things tend to converge in my mind when I’m thinking hard about something and two things have crashed together in my brainspace recently.

Ready?

The first, a camp song, came up because we’re helping Little A. learn to identify coins. I’ve been singing “The Donut Song” to him. Here it goes:

I walked around the corner
And I walked around the block
And I walked right in to a donut shop
I picked up a donut, fresh from the grease
And I handed the lady a five-cent piece.

Well, she looked at the nickel
And she looked at me and
She said, “This nickel is no good for me.
There’s a hole in the middle and it goes right through.”

I said, “There’s a hole in the donut, too!”

You can see why this is helpful with identifying our crazy US coins—it has “five-cent piece” and “nickel” right there. But I know what you’re really dying to know…What has this song converged with in my mind?

It converged with my feminine mid-life crisis.

According to Oprah, women tend to be pleasers and in their forties, they learn to let go of that. Okay, maybe I condensed her twenty years on TV a little, but that’s the gist of it, right?

I don’t know about anyone else, but here’s the deal with me. I can see patterns pretty well, I read people pretty well, and I’m good with breaking things down into beginning, middle, and end. Therefore I can organize things. Generally, I can organize people to be productive. I can do that. I CAN. And that’s a valued skill in our world.

I’ve done a lot of things against my nature over the years—things I had no talent for, things I learned superficial skills to manage, things that frightened me, things that sucked the life out of me. I can do those. I CAN. And so I’ve done a few things I’ve been praised for over the years.

I’ve learned to identify, assess, and prioritize other people’s needs over my own. I’m pretty empathetic, so I can do that. I CAN. And it’s easy to think that’s why I have friends and a family.

I, in and of myself, feel nothing from those things that I can do. Well, except for the general societal approval they generate. But that’s nothing, right? I mean, who needs your teachers and peers and family and social media to give you the big thumbs up?

I’m not complaining or being mean or shifting responsibility. I have huge affection for my teachers and my friends; I love my family. It’s just that I’m like that dang donut—or the nickel. Or the donut. Either way, there’s a hole in my middle and it goes right through.

As I’m finally getting to know myself and finally starting to hear my own voice, buried deep inside, I’m realizing I’ve built up a lot of things I CAN do in a big circle all around me, all around the giant hole where what I want to do lies.

That sounds childish, doesn’t it? What I WANT to do. How about these: what I was born to do, what I dream of doing, what I have a natural talent for, what gives me energy, what creates flow for me, what makes me feel alive, what helps me be a stronger, kinder, better, happier person? Still childish? I’m not so sure now.

I’m only beginning this process. I know this blog has been a lifeline, something I want to do, even when I have more productive things I CAN be doing. Something that I feel I have a knack for, something that energizes me.

I know I want to write. I know I want what goes with that—periods of absorbing life around me, observing nature, people, society, my own existence. Time alone, to think uninterrupted thoughts. I know I like to make things, beautiful things, to work on our house and sew for my children. I know I love helping people, in my own small, quiet way. I know I love the people in my life. I know I love being outside, travel, beauty, learning. Running and sailing. I know I've always wanted to save the world a little.

But how will you earn a living? What about your kids? Don’t they have to get to the bus and do their homework and don’t they need dinner? What about? What about? 

Oh—and aren’t those kind of oddball things to do? Being alone? Sewing? Who does that anymore? Well, unless you put it on Pinterest.

I hear you, little head voices. I don’t have all the answers yet. But I feel a strong need to find them. Because, right now, this nickel is no good for me.

---

As I write this, I’m fueling the fires of my rebellion by listening to Sir Ken Robinson’s second TedTalk. 

Not only is Sir Ken HYSTERICAL, he also says genius things like this, “You know, to me, human communities depend upon a diversity of talent, not a singular conception of ability.” Or this, after a beautiful Yeats quote, “And every day, everywhere, our children spread their dreams beneath our feet. And we should tread softly.

Listen to Sir Ken Robinson’s second TedTalk here: https://www.ted.com/talks/sir_ken_robinson_bring_on_the_revolution


Saturday, March 7, 2015

MomK


MomK--That’s pronounced [mahm-kay], like “5k” with a “mom” in front instead.

And I wrote it that way because I’m a mom. I also offer major kudos and a separate category to dads. Especially ones like my rocking husband who hung out with the kids while I ran ahead and who gave me the party bath bomb plus time to use it (see below).

I’d like to suggest that moms (see above) get their own prize category at races. Moms face some unique challenges, especially when they run with their kids, so it would just be recognizing reality. Right? We all deserve prizes!

Reason #1—Morning Pees
I’m sorry, but it has to be said. You go anywhere with a mixed group of adults and all the non-moms start looking funny at the moms before long. The look seems to say, “Really? Again?”

After a little while, the moms all get this look on their faces, like, “What? What is SO weird about having to pee 17 times before 9:00am?”

It just happens, folks. But getting to the race early enough to hit the portapotties 17 times before you start is an accomplishment.

Reason #2—Forgetting Stuff
Ummm, so, I meant to look up giving blood and running before I gave blood six days ago…but I forgot. I was just all, “Hey! I have spare time and the blood drive bus is right there, so let’s go!” And the form said no strenuous exercise for 24 hours, so I figured I was golden after that. Nope.

After I started to feel a little winded just walking around, I turned to Google. Mind you, I hadn’t given blood in a while. I always felt fine in college—but surely that had nothing to do with getting tons of sleep and, well, having nothing to do but get tons of sleep.

Google informed me that for THREE WEEKS after giving blood, I should just “get my miles in” and not worry about my times, because they ain’t gonna happen for three weeks or longer. Good to know. Wish I hadn’t forgotten to check that out.

Reason #3—Carrying stuff
We did a 5k RIGHT outside our neighborhood, which was awesome. No car keys to worry about, etc. Nobody had a wallet or a bag—great! Well, Big A. did ask me to stick a little cash in the secret pocket of my running pants. And the extra safety pins. And then I took a turn with Little A.’s sweatshirt. And after the race I collected his apple, my water bottle, everyone’s removed bibs, and the kids’ special participation ribbons.

Funny story—I won a random drawing (Yay!) and the lady needed to see my bib for ID. Now, as any mom would, I’d made a pocket for all our bibs by tucking my shirt tail into my waistband. So she says, “Do you have your bib?” I pull them all out. She says, “Wow. You have nine!” I said, “No, just four. It’s the whole ‘Mom, can you hold this?’ thing.”

Bonus Reason: Moms walk around looking much bigger than they are because they’ve got everyone else’s stuff tucked in their clothes. Truth.

Reason #4—Family Pinning
FOUR sets of those crazy safety pins! It was chilly this morning, people—I should get a medal for pinning sixteen safety pins without poking anyone.

Reason #5—Positioning
I don’t know about other moms, but especially here in southwest Florida in season, I spend nearly all my time moving through crowds in a hurry. Crowded roads, crowded stores, car lines, after school activities—we’re always coping with lots of other people while trying to get somewhere fast. We should get bonus points for doing it as a leisure activity! (Philosophical question: If racing is so much like my life, why is racing more fun? Hmm.)

Reason #6--The Point
Remember how the race was right outside our neighborhood? As we walked home, we crossed the course to go into our development and I started counting how many times I’d passed that point on the course—hereafter known as The Point—this morning. Mind you, The Point is a half mile from our house.
1. Walked the dog down to The Point and back this morning
2. Walked by The Point going to the Start
3. Ran by The Point on my outward leg
4. Ran by The Point on my way to the Finish
5. Walked by The Point looking for my family
6. Ran by The Point with Little A. on HIS way to the Finish
7. Walked by The Point going home, Part I
8. Ran by The Point when a friend texted that I’d won the drawing
9. Walked by The Point going home, Part II

Overall, it was a rockin’ good time. I LOVED seeing the kids race to the finish, we all improved our times (even anemic me), and we all recovered from our chilly morning with shaved ice for the kids (yes, they are nuts) and hot baths for all of us. And, yes, I had all the time I wanted to soak in my hot bath with a bath bomb that turned out to have soapy confetti in it. How amazingly apt!

Maybe there already are special prizes for moms. And dads.