Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Let's Give Them Something to Talk About

I have a running dialogue in my head.
Do you?

I listen to myself "talking" about these things, in this order:
  • I think about everything on my To-do list
  • I strategize which item to tackle next
  • I theorize which is the "best" way to proceed
Then I do the thing and then,
I start a new conversation:
  • I examine the process to see if I "really" did the thing as best as I can
  • I follow that up with a chastising because I know it wasn't good enough and I really should have tried harder / done better / worked smarter 
This is a true representation of my brain all day every day.
And lately, if I am being honest, it is not working for me (see Enneagram 1).

Something has to change. 
And I resolve it ain't me. I am made the way I am.
I think that is why most of us feel unsuccessful with new year's goals or intentions. We think about what we don't like about ourselves and try to do something to change it.

But here I am midlife thinking, "This is clearly the way I am. If I haven't changed me in 40 years, what makes me think enough willpower NOW will?"

So I've taken a different route.
The narrative in my head continues (of course it does), but instead of letting the harsh, negative, judgy conversation take center stage I am working to speak to myself like I love myself,
like I believe in myself,
like I already have it within me to do what I need to do.

And if you think I'm kidding, I'm not. On my daily To-do list, I task myself to find affirmations in an effort to keep the narrative positive and supportive. Just today I wrote out this quote by Dr. Jody Carrington:
"You are pretty friggin awesome. Keep that shit up. Seriously!".

This effort to recalibrate seems to be working. In a recent exercise cool-down session, I told myself I did a good job. I reminded myself to love the body that got me here. I thought about how powerful my body is to have been able to do what it does and love the people it loves. 

You all, I made myself cry. WHO DOES THAT???

Does any of this resonate with you? It's a shame we need to be reminded to be kind to ourselves. But honestly, we live in a time when we - in my opinion - need to be reminded to just - flat out - be kind in general.

If you too are too hard on yourself allow me to encourage you. 

Talk to yourself, about yourself in the kindest and most loving way you can muster.

You deserve to like yourself as you are today.

You are perfectly and wonderfully made.

You have something to contribute to this day.

We need you to bring good energy and love and good news with you - to your home, work, neighborhood, and community.

One more Dr. Jody quote I caught on her January 27 live
"When we are acknowledged we will rise."
Acknowledge your awesome self.
Be kind
be kind to YOU.

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

The Reason we are Practicing our First Advent

You know, after 25 years of practical parenting, I still get surprised.

I was surprised that my 16-year-old, who rarely looks up from her phone, often stays in her room far too long, who speaks a foreign language (some cross between anime and TikTok) and who limits eye contact with her father and I ....

(we're really nailing this parenting-thing in a pandemic, aren't we??)

...asked me recently, "Why don't we do an Advent?"

While living a faith-filled life is foundational to our family legacy, advent practice just wasn't a part of our faith tradition formally. 

But neither did I do Elf on the Shelf. (Raising 5 kids was enough, you guys. I was abhorrently opposed to daily managing one more, naughty short person in our home). As Buddy the Elf says, I do not share an affinity for elf culture. (But I do love that movie!)

Anyway, I am not indicating in any way that Advent is closely related to elves. 

And yet, back to my 16-year old's question, I had the distinct feeling she was wondering if I was jipping her out of an opportunity for presents. 

I asked her, "Do you know what an Advent is for?"
She looked up from her phone long enough to indicate a half-hearted shrug.

Ah! Seeing an opportunity, I began to explain the tradition, it's purpose - to prepare one's heart for the birth of Christ - and not for counting down with presents until you get more presents. I kept my explanation super short, and sensed I still had her on "the hook". An idea was born!

We would Advent - our way (as we seem to do with much of our Christian faith lately) - this year.

The next day I went to our community thrift shop and picked up a variety of items that I thought might pique my kid's interest and would, somehow, create an opportunity for a stir in her young heart for the meaning of Christmas.

That night I told her I had a surprise for her in the morning. She snatched my bait! She clapped and danced thrilled with this change of events. When she and her sister came down to breakfast the next morning, they found a red box with a little bow for the first day of Advent. 

In the box, I placed a little notebook. On the first page, I wrote a little ditty about THE Good News of Christmas and how important it is for us to be people who put kindness out into the world. I encouraged her to write a letter, send a text, call a long-distance family member, and share some of her own good news.

Other items they've found in the box so far include:
-Lead pencils (it is important to tell the story)
-a stuffed, toy gingerbread man making the TikTok stick-out-your-tongue face 
-Kinderjoy candy (Joy to the world the Lord has come)
-Pez dispenser (Christmas isn't about how many gifts you get but about the greatest gift given)
Hey! I know some of these are a stretch but she's 16 and I'm trying to use metaphors she will engage!
-Snowman ornaments (for the trees in their room and how Joseph and Mary had no home, no room in the inn) (see image above)
-Vinyl snow window decals (we associate snow with Christmas but it's unlikely those were the weather conditions at Christ's birth)

I have a few more planned but of course, I can't reveal them so they will be surprises. This brings us full circle to my opening statement; after two and half decades of parenting, I am still surprised.
I am surprised my too-cool-for-you teen is into our Advent.
I am surprised at how easy it was to find inspiration in everyday things.
I am surprised how my own heart is engaged in the Christmas story through this activity.
I am surprised how inexpensive it is to bring joy.
I am surprised I didn't think of this sooner.

Except that's the way parenting is. Rarely are the items/activities/traditions WE think are good ideas are automatically adopted by our children. Parenting is actually, really about watching and listening for the opportunities.

Think about it ... from the time they were toddlers strapped in their high chairs we looked for ways to sneak in the peas or sweet potatoes. We watched for signs they needed a nap. We know the best advice was nestled between quick errands in the car offered up like nonchalant observations. 

If we watch close enough our kids will tell us - without telling us - what they need. It's the discernment of parenting that prompts us when to speak up, step in, and offer advice. I'm reminded of the time a dear friend said parenting is like getting a new job every few years; you start out as the caregiver, transfer to management, and retire as a coach. 

I think I'm rounding the corner to coach in my parenting career. It's less about what I can make them do and more about what I hope they do. Either way, our influence remains and I hope that this December me, and my house, are reminded of all the Good News and joy there is in the world ... even in a pandemic. 

Merry Christmas! xo MommaSteph

Monday, August 3, 2020

Once Upon a Corona Time

Traditionally this is my New Year’s Day...the day schools reopen to prepare for the (presumably exciting) new year ahead. For myself, the educators in my family and our kids, who are students, this day is always a big deal. 

Instead, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, every thing about this morning is different. 

While our coworkers, friends and colleagues return to our buildings, ready to make schedules and lessons my husband and I are working from home recovering from the virus.

Covid-19 is a plundering thief. It’s stolen our health, our joy, our peace, our time, our money, our oxygen, our ability to work, sleep, taste, smell, plan, play, share, learn and be with our loved ones.

On a day when I should be behind the helm of my desk helping, leading, and answering the phones like a boss - I’m home nursing a cough and a sad spirit.

Never have I wanted to work more.

So your conspiracy theory is irrelevant to me. Your anger regarding masks is nothing but noise. Covid-19 is not fake news. Covid-19 is a real virus (like no other I’ve ever experienced) and it is here in our lives causing real havoc leaving us in a complete state of disequilibrium.

And it’s frightening. 

In this moment, I implore you, do not unleash your feelings of fear and anger - over what you’ve lost and what you are losing - on people. Your teacher wants to teach. Your dr wants to treat. Your neighbor wants a visit. Your bride wants to marry. Your coach wants to play. Your clerk wants to be safe. Your small business owner wants to provide.

Don’t be angry at the people.

It’s the ‘Rona who’s a jerk ... not the people.

Instead of starting the new school year with anticipation I’m starting it grevious. 
I’m sad. 
I think we’re all a little sad, too.

So this is what I’m gonna do. I’m gonna let myself be sad. I’m gonna feel my feelings. I’m going to let them be.  I think when we hide from our feelings, or cover them up, or pretend they’re not there we do our mental health a disservice. I think we heal when we feel.  

Covid-19 has stolen (IS stealing!!!) from all of us. 
And you’re allowed to have your feelings about what that means and looks like for your family.
But please be kind.
We’re all hurting. 
There’s a lot to do today...this school year....things we’ve never done before - things we shouldn’t have to do. 
One thing I do know ... we are a resilient species. In my gut I believe that we will
& overcome.

Someday my grand babies will ask me to tell them what it was like to live in a pandemic. So I remind myself what I do today, right now, how I handle this mess is all going to be a story someday. I intend to tell a real whopper. Won’t you join me?

Friday, February 7, 2020

Point of View

Think about how you tell yourself stories.
I don't mean consciously. I don't mean "Once Upon a Time..."

I mean the unruly words in your head. I am talking about the stories you tell yourself about:
  • the woman who cut you off at the grocery store
  • the car that took your spot in the parking lot
  • the tone your boss/coworker/cousin took 
  • the way she sounded on the phone
  • about why they don't call anymore
  • about the way things are
  • or were
The thoughts -in my head- swim around all day long and, really, long past my bedtime. These stories are often full-length documentaries
about what happened,
what needs to happen,
what do do about what happened
or didn't.

And all those stories I tell myself
 - - all of them - - 
are from my point of view

Authors call it POV.

I have a complete story about everything:
the look you gave me
my worth as a person 
my neighborhood
my friends,
acquaintances and strangers.

I form opinions, make snap judgments and create entire stories without any conscious effort at all.
You guys! I make up stories ... all ... the ... time
and all of them
every detail
every observation is all from
my POV.

What if the same story was told from a different POV? 
One more time for the people in the back ....

What if the same story was told from a different POV? 
The story would change, wouldn't it?

And if, there are other POVs then maybe 
just maybe
your POV is not the ONLY POV
and if,
if your point of view is not the ONLY one
then it
is very probable that you are not ... ahem, right all the time. 

Your point of view is a story
but it is not the only story. 

Pause and consider with me for just a moment that maybe your point of view is a little skewed 
and self-serving. 

Or maybe that's just me.

And if I am being honest with you, I would confess that those self-serving, quick to judge stories leave me feeling a little icky.
So when I feel myself - my stories - turning inward and my headspace gets super negative
I know I need to ask myself a very important question,

"What if the story you're telling yourself isn't true?"

This question stops me mid plot twist every darn time.

There are multiple points of view.
There are also all sorts of personalities.
And nuances
and ways of doing things. 

I am so much happier and content
when I remind myself that my way of seeing things
is not the only way.

Maybe we could all be reminded.
I don't want you to suffer. I know you can't help - heck I can't help - that I am the main character in my own stories all the time .... it's what we do. Brene Brown has taught us we don't have to be victims in these stories.


"Loving ourselves through the process of owning our story is the bravest thing we'll ever do!"

Let's be brave!

I don't want you to believe the lies.
I want your drama to be low.
I want you to live and work and walk in peace.
Next to me.
Let's navigate this life
this story
with a leading lady mentality
where we can do all the hard things
AND be kind.

I think we're looking to be connected
I am
and sometimes my stories in my head stop me from doing that.
I'm working on that.
I invite you to as well.

xo Steph

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!

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