Friday, March 15, 2019

Where Would You Park?

Chip Gaines, Author

My daughters & I drive the same way to school & work every morning - it's a little Groundhog Day-ish ... same people, same time, same traffic pattern ....

We always notice that one small business, in particular, always has patrons.

Cool, right? We love seeing that in our small town.

However, we noticed the customers always seem to be walking, balancing their packages because the (mostly only) street parking spots are regularly occupied by the same cars.

On a rainy day this week, observing folks maneuver through puddles and traffic, I asked the girls, (making the assumption that the parked cars were employee cars)

"Where would you park if you were the owner?"

[Blank stares]

"Wouldn't you want your customers to have the BEST experience? Wouldn't you want them to have the most accessibility?"

[Blank stares]

Sensing a potential lightbulb moment I pressed on because I want my daughters to be the kind of people who are thoughtful, considerate, wise...aware.

In a world where the news headline is about the parents who pushed their way to the front of the college admittance line, I want to raise people who don't have to push and shove, who can prefer others without being threatened. Who understand that kindness is a sharable resource. And who can see beyond to a bigger picture.

To be able to ponder the question... what is best for the 'us' and not *just* what is best for me.

This is what I think it means to write a better story with my life. With a pen in my hand, I want to the story to be written that I cared for others
and raised kids who know how to do that too
- should they choose.

p.s. also thank you for this great quote Chip Gaines. You and Joanna make the world a better place one shiplap and quote at a time ;)

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

How Defensive Are You?

Give me a D! Give me an E! ... Defense!

image credit Rolling Stone
Now that the Patriots have beat the Saints, Super Bowl fever has officially hit football fans everywhere.
I’m a foodie and a marketing major college drop-out so I spend my time researching nacho recipes and branding trends.
I’m in it for the commercials.
Oh and Adam Levine. #HalftimeShow

Nevertheless, this is not a football article. But can we talk about defense for just a minute? Defense is usually a term saved for athletic competitions but people can go on the defense too. And we do it every day.

You’ve been defensive, right?
Your work gets critiqued ... you defend yourself.
A loved one accuses you of not caring/helping/listening?
You defend yourself.
You get held accountable? Defensive. There are lots of scenarios in which I am instigated into becoming defensive.
It's life.
It is a part of who we are and I imagine it has a lot to do with our will to survive. Innately we’re all trying to survive and thrive and any challenge to that will provoke us to be defenders of ourselves. Lucky for us we don’t have to fight for caves or land or fire anymore. So instead we fight for our reputation or our social status.

When something - anything, really - happens that instigates us to feel the need to become defensive ... whether it's justified or not (because sometimes, if we’re honest, our adamant need to defend ourselves is unnecessary)... it does one thing; it immediately isolates us emotionally.

It’s why when we feel wronged we immediately find someone to agree with us.
Let me create an example: my husband and I share a closet and he becomes critical of the way I organize my side and he expresses to me that he is infuriated with the state of all my stuff.
My response -  I immediately explain to him all the reasons why my side of the closet looks the way it does:
”I need all those clothes”
”I do 100 things every day to take care of this family, I would think those things would count for something” and
”Oh, yeah? Well, talk to me when you remember to pick your socks up off the floor!”

Instead of listening, I defend myself further creating a space between us
that gap becomes dreadfully, emotionally uncomfortable.

In order to avoid the isolating discomfort that forms in the wake of my defensiveness, I must find a way to not feel alone so I look for someone to talk to.
Because if someone would just listen to my closet woes and agree with me, then I don’t feel alone and if I’m not alone
I feel better and if I feel better
I feel right.
So I call a girlfriend, “Can you believe my husband is incredibly clueless? He’s mad about OUR closet when I’m the one who does all the laundry? He knows I need work clothes and casual clothes! It’s not MY fault I need so many things! I swear he has a lot of nerve telling me how to keep my closet!”
To which my faithful friend says, “He’s ignorant! All you do for that family and he’s gonna fuss about closet space!”
And now I feel completely validated, and since I’m not alone - my friend totally agrees with me - the discomfort I felt is gone! "See?" I tell myself, "being defensive about the mess on my side of the closet worked" and I feel - BAM! - justified.

And yet the problem remains.

How many times do we run into similar scenarios?
We’re right?
They’re wrong?
Somebody agree with me.
Are you always right? Really?
Are you quick to be defensive?

Here’s what I know....nothing ever changes without first examining our beliefs. Author Mark Manson states “Openness to being wrong must exist before any change or growth can take place

Soon, maybe even before today is over,
heck, maybe before you’ve even read this entire article,
someone will say something to you that doesn’t match your preconceptions.
That doesn’t make them wrong - I mean they could be -
but maybe it’s an opportunity for you -
an opportunity if you’re open.
A chance to learn
to grow
to change
to feel that sweet feeling of not having to have your emotional fists up all the d@mn time.
Because when you’re not on the defense you’re on offense.
And you know that’s where the points are scored
and the matches are won, right?

"Go Team! Go, YOU!"

Also, I'm making these nachos!

Friday, August 31, 2018

Sink or Swim?

Being brave isn't the absence of fear. Brave is what you are when you're looking fear in the face.
I posted some videos on my Facebook account last night of Abby swimming in her second high school swim meet, ever.
Let me tell you about the backstory of those videos.
Abigail has previously swam YMCA club swim.
And she loves it!
This year, upon entering high school she was interested in improving, swimming against tougher competition, and .... she was incredibly, almost overwhelming, nervous about it.
This fall, she and three other student swimmers have banded together and are trying to organize a girls swim team for their high school.
Which if you've ever tried to start something from the ground up is very, very difficult. Now imagine the resilience required for 4 high school students to tackle these waters. (See what I did there??)
There are walls, and red tape, and grown-ups and insurance issues and mindsets to overcome.
Am I right?
They've addressed the Board of Education soliciting support.
They've talked to admin to discuss options.
They've not been granted official team status yet
they organize their own practices and schedules.
They enter events as individuals but work as a team.
They've designed their own logos and proudly wear their gear to school.
They work hard. Swim hard.
They hold their head high.
I drove the girls on Tuesday to their first ever high school swim meet. The atmosphere on the car ride up was jovial. They sang and laughed and snapped (Snapchat). However, when we pulled into the parking lot of the school I heard Abby say, "How are we here already?". I looked in the mirror and her face was utter terror rubbing her palms on her thighs. It was clear she was having a very anxious moment.
The van got silent.
We parked and unloaded our gear.
The walk to the building was like a gauntlet.
Slowly they marched sneaking anxious peaks at one another.
One teammate stopped, leaned over, put her hand on her knees and began to breathe deeply.

You guys, I have never been more proud in my entire life.

These 4 students were arguable embarking on one of the most nervous encounters in their lives.
And yet they pressed on. They. Pressed. On!
They got in that pool.
And ... and they did awesome!
I don't mean like "The moment was awesome!" - although it totally was. I mean they literally entered their events and swam awesomely!
They did not get laughed out of the pool.
They held their own.
They took 4th in the 200 Yard Free Relay - in VARSITY (not bad for 3 freshmen and 1 senior)!
And my Abby had a personal best (30.58) in the 50 Free.
THAT's bravery.
Bravery isn't not being scared.
Bravery is forging ahead when you feel scared.
Bravery is being afraid to try but you trying anyway.
Bravery is holding your head up when your heart is racing and your palms are sweaty.
Bravery is public speaking.
Bravery is meeting new friends.
Bravery is pushing yourself to do better.
Sometimes bravery looks like diving into unfamiliar waters knowing there's a good chance you may sink ... or swim.
p.s. The success of these 4 gals is shared wholeheartedly with the other swimmoms & swimdads, the high school admin team and friends and loved ones who are lending their support everywhere we go! It really does take a village!

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

A Word of Advice for Teachers

I had teachers.
My children have teachers.
I'm married to a teacher.
My daughter became a teacher.
I work for teachers.

I think I’ve earned a voice regarding teachers. I have a little something I’d like to say…

You are very important.
You may not feel important.
You may not have recognition.
You may not have parent support
or feel like you have admin support.
You may wish you were younger, the kids were better, and the parents more involved.
You probably don't have all the supplies you need.
And you probably had a tough day. Or rough week. Or need a stiff drink.
I know.
But don’t surrender your calling.
And please don't stop caring about kids.
You good teachers - - you who work with kids, skip lunch to help kids, make phone calls home, adapt lesson plans for different learning styles and stare at the ceiling every night plotting new seating charts  ... you men and women who are DOING IT RIGHT NOW ... listen!
You wouldn't let a student give up on a mastering a skill - don't let yourself either.
Push. Work. Stretch. Grow. Forgive. Try. Fail. Get up. Teach. Repeat.
Standards be damned . . . don't stop because it is hard.
Because all good things are hard.
All the really good things are worth digging for.
Sweating over.
Falling into bed at the end of the night exhausted for.

My kids need you.
My neighbor's kids need you.
They need love and guidance and skills and the leadership that you - and only you - can bring into their lives.

You are a teacher.
You are important.
Keep up the good work and I appreciate you.

Sunday, April 1, 2018

She Ruined my Egg Hunt

Not too long ago I helped organize the annual 10,000 Easter Egg hunt for the community.

And it was a blast.

Lines of moms and dads with babies, toddlers, and tweens, bundled in jackets and fuzzy bunny ears clutching plastic buckets or grocery sacks while the Easter Bunny posed for photos and the firetruck roared into the city park while acres of dewey, green grass were littered with candy-stuffed plastic eggs was always a special day.
We couldn't have done it without the army of volunteers. Posted in key spots along the line, these fine grownups had 2 jobs; to hold the line and work the crowd. Because successful egg hunts hinge on one thing and one thing only; everyone, young and old alike must be willing to patiently wait for the collective "Go!".
This is no small task when you’re dealing with impulsive preschoolers and camera-laden grandparents anxious for action shots and the promise of treasure. Meanwhile, parents are side- eyeing every other mother and father calculating the ratio of eggs and the number of kids in the crowd.

The tension mounts.
The volunteers hold the ribbon.
The crowd swells.

And no matter how many people came out to the egg hunt it always, always went smoothly until 1, I say 1, mom or dad crossed the line.

It didn't matter how kind our volunteers were, how taut the ribbon was drawn or how many seconds were left until the official ”Go!" if a single, solitary parent began to collect eggs before the official start the entire crowd would push forward and the egg hunt prematurely began.

Most years our volunteers were congratulated for hosting such a civil, fun and fair hunt - and we were very proud of the work we did as our aim was always to provide an abundance for everyone.
But those years, when we couldn’t hold the line when the parents pushed their little tyke ahead first, it was hard to hold onto the joy of the event.

Today, in many ways it’s not very different.

For example, recently at a state swimming competition, the railing had clear “No standing” sign posted. And most of us obeyed the rule. However, all it took was one parent - insistent they weren’t gonna miss their baby’s moment of glory -to stand along the rail and suddenly 50 parents were standing. Which caused 200 people to worry they might miss their babies too. Instantly the crowd’s stress was palpable. The police were present. People got very crabby. It was the opposite of fun.
I get it ..... we ALL want our babies to have the best shot at life.
I mean, they don’t call us Momma Bears for nothin’.
But here’s the thing, why are we letting the 1 dictate us?

When one parent pushes their baby to the front of the line we all feel like pushing our babies too. Which makes us reactionary. Suddenly the lot of us are behaving in a manner unbecoming because of one’s choice. One!

I’ve experienced that sweet spot in parenting, that in-the-zone Momma Mojo when I keep my eyes focused on my tribe, not the crowd, and parent according to my own inclinations and convictions.
And that is often harder than parenting itself. Because guess what? I did miss the end of my swimmer's race. My video recording proves it.

Do I deserve to see my kid?
Yes. And so do you. But I contend that I don’t have to join the mob of stressed out mommies. In fact, what if there were enough of us who didn’t follow suit in these situations? What if the one parent who crossed the egg hunt line early was left to hunt all alone? And we all stood there and watched her? Would she see that her fear that her kid wouldn’t get enough be debunked?
Could I have seen my kid swim if we left just the one mom standing along the rail alone?
What if enough of us parents pushed back in these situations?

What if we believed that despite what the line pushers and railing standers did we are going to be all right?
Our kids are all right?

Would we teach our children that you don’t have to step on another human being to get up? That parenting out of a fear of scarcity is no way to raise happy, healthy, patient people?
That I’m not going to behave badly just because a lot of people are?

Everybody wants their baby to be first. I know because I do. But I’d rather have my kid gain his accomplishments on his own determination rather than because his mommy cut in line.
We worked very hard back in those days to have 10,000 stuffed eggs -enough for every participant to have an overflowing basket. And I still believe to this day that there is enough for everyone.

That is a beautiful reminder this Easter season. There is a portion for you -for all of us. There is enough love, and joy, and creativity, for everyone. He died and rose again, as the story goes so that we can all have a space and a place.

Remind yourself of that in those trying times when you feel the crowd pushing at your back. You are enough. You don’t have to let other peoples fears feed your own. And because of that choice, our babies are going to be all right too.

Monday, March 26, 2018

Is There anything True on Facebook?

Is your feed, like mine, full of loud pro-this and anti-that opinions?
I’m finding it to be a very tumultuous & confusing time. I’m not confused but the information coming to me -this way & that way- leaves me scratching my head. When I have the time I try to dig into the information looking for the truth, or at least the origin, only to find it was a misleading photo or fact. And I wonder why is the right or left so adamant when it seems clear - or even so very unclear?
How can they know?
Really know?
And I ask myself, “Where is THE truth? Let's just go back and start there." Except I can't even dig through the noise enough to find that answer. Where indeed! I think that’s why the views in my Facebook feed are so polarized. Whether you stand to the right or left of the line - we can’t even agree on "Where is the line?" We have no mutual understanding of the basic tenants of truth so how are we to find a starting place in which to build upon for the better future we ALL want?
And data - often shared unverified - is flying around faster than we can digest. So we hold the information we want - or most likely align with - or the 1 quote that landed in our feed - and we fight for that. Because we all want something to do to help. We want to believe we can make a difference. We don't like feeling lost. And alone. And threatened and unsafe. We want to do something. So we post.
So many words.
Are they helping?
Then what will help?
I have NO idea.
But I’m pretty sure my help will not come from Facebook or Twitter.
It won't come from local news, national news, cable news, fake news or press secretaries. Nor will it come from democrats, republicans, or from the government that rules this big, beautiful country that provides me with so, so many rights and privileges.
From where will my help come?
But I have a hope.
A weird little nonsensical hope in goodness. And Love and light.
In this world of rallies and school shootings and trade tariffs and porn star interviews, I am sure there is still goodness and Love in the earth. Real Love. Unselfish Love. Love without demands. Love for the sake of Love. Love without an agenda. Love for the unlovable. Love in the midst of hate. Love that includes. Love that still loves when it’s stomped on and pushed down. Love that does not envy or boast ... but rejoices with the truth.
I'm looking for it. I’m listening for it. I’m trying to be quiet so I can hear it. For I know it won’t be loud. It won’t be a sarcastic meme or RT. It won’t be a post or headline.
It won't be on a ballot, budget or bill.
And yet.
Love still lives and breathes.
We can find it.
We can be it.
We can share it.
I just know we can.
I have faith.
"Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that." Dr. Marin Luther King, Jr.

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