Finding Your Peace

I’ve noticed a trend.

It’s nothing earth-shattering or headline-prompting like you’re probably thinking. The trend at the moment is simply that I, despite all good intentions to the contrary, have managed to miss hitting Kristi’s Finish the Sentence Friday link-up deadline for three weeks running. The reasons are varied, but the end result is the same.

There’s an upside to that scenario, though. As I look at my unfinished drafts, I realize the last few topics are connected. We’ve written (well, some people have…not me) about how to relax, about self care, and about what to do when we’re upset. The underlying theme seems to be how to deal with whatever ails us. And now this weekend, Kristi asks us to consider what brings us peace.

 

I am not very good at relaxing. Anyone who knows me will see how true that is. Even when I appear to be relaxing – reading a book, playing a game, watching a movie, even sleeping – I find it difficult to truly relax. I remember someone telling me when I was twelve years old that it’s easy to relax; just turn off your mind and think of nothing.

I don’t know how to do that. I’ve tried for more than 30 years and the concept still eludes me.

It’s not for want of desire. It’s just that ADHD will do that to a girl. One of my particular symptoms is that my mind is “on” constantly. It’s a blessing and a curse, really. It’s what allows me to remember every detail for every person in this house and work on a piece of writing in the back of my mind at the same time I pick up Zilla at school or make dinner. But it’s also the thing that keeps me awake at night doing all the thinking…

And when I’m awake at night is usually the time when my worries and fears come to the surface. It’s at night when that witching hour occurs, the time when everyone else is asleep and the only thing to distract you is late night horror flicks or sitcom reruns. It’s at night when everything else is quiet that those worries and fears break through the surface and whisper in my ear.

Like anyone, I have many things that upset or worry me; I have many things that frighten me. And I’m willing to be that you have at least some of those same concerns – our children, our spouses, our parents, how dirty the house is, paying the bills, paying for college, keeping the cat or dog from crapping on the rug, the headlines, the hatred, the world…

It’s pretty hard not to spiral into a constant state of frenzied unending stress.

But that’s no way to live. It wreaks havoc on our bodies, our minds, and our spirits. It colors the way we see others and the way we interact with one another. You want to know what I think is really wrong with the world right now? Everybody is stressed out and pissed off and we don’t know what to do with ourselves so we take it out on everything and everyone around us. It’s so much easier to scream about why we’re angry than to shout about why we’re glad, isn’t it?

When I’m upset about something, my Husband always tells me, “Hon, you gotta find some Zen about this.”

He’s usually right.

As a society, we have become so conditioned to living in a state of stress. We are told daily by all manner of input what to worry about, what to fear, and whom to blame for our lot in life. We have been taught to focus on what’s wrong, rather than what’s right. And if you ask me, we have become far too separated from the things that enable us to find peace – things like rest and prayer and meditation. We have become far too likely to rely on things like God and Nature for solace. And I don’t wonder how or when we lost that – just look through history and literature over the ages; the answers are clear.

What I wonder is why we allowed it to happen. How is it possible that we have allowed ourselves to stray so far from the essential act of simply being human? Why is it acceptable to so many of us to hold only our beliefs as true and to condemn and criticize anyone else who thinks differently? We are so focused on proving our differences that we have lost sight of our similarities.

So back to my Husband and the Zen thing. Perhaps what we all need is to find some Zen, to stop screaming about everything that’s wrong and how angry we are about it and just focus on finding some peace – about the world, about the news, about our partners and kids, and about the pile of laundry in the corner.

No, it might not solve anything right now. Yes, some may see it as inaction or passivity. So what. And for each one of us, that small act of finding some peace will look different. Maybe it’s a book, maybe it’s a cup of tea, or maybe it’s engaging in meditation or prayer, maybe it’s writing or listening to music, maybe it’s a bowl of noodles. It doesn’t matter. Go hit Google and you’ll find any number of ways to “find your Zen.” Pick one you like. But do it.

Start with you and start with now. Stop hollering about how the world is going to hell in a hand basket and start finding ways to be in your world and to help and heal it. Maybe things will start to look a little less impossible and a little more clear. Remember that you can bang two rocks together until one breaks, or you can let water rush over them until they wear smooth. Your choice.

Allow for the possibility of the power of the human spirit.

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This has been a Finish the Sentence Friday post.

This week’s sentence is “I find peace from…” or close enough.

Finish the Sentence Friday is a link-up where writers and bloggers come together to share themselves with a particular sentence. If you’d like to stay ahead of future sentences and participate, join our Facebook group

Hello. It’s Been A While. (A Ten Things of Thankful Post)

It’s a good thing I didn’t make a New Year’s resolution to post here more.

Somehow I got out of the habit of delivering any finished product to this page. It’s not for lack of ideas or inspiration; I have a ton of things drafted and scribbled in my notebooks. They somehow just don’t make it to the page. If a messy desk is a sign of genius, I should be producing a whole lot more brilliance.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I think it’s probably more that I got distracted (not that distraction is new for me). It goes without saying that the headlines of late have been pretty overwhelming and that has definitely affected my state of mind. I had to back way off of the Internet and social media. So if I seem absent…I am. On purpose. Let’s call it self-care.

I’ve also been distracted by my physical state lately. There is no question that for the last week I have been in the throes of an active RA flare with a whopper of an eczema flare thrown in for good measure. A result of stress associated with the news? Maybe. Hard to say. At any rate, I’ve been trying to focus on what my mind and body need to be more at peace. It’s only fair to say here how thankful I am that my Hub and Zilla have been more than understanding, even though I’ve been pretty horrid.

So what else has been going on…?

Well, I guess my biggest news is probably that I entered a writing competition. Yup, I did it. I just put up a post about that experience if you want to check that out. If not, then keep moving along…

I actually have been doing a bunch of writing, but so far most of it has been for my eyes only. What will become of these efforts is yet undetermined. But the writing feels good. I have started a ton of things to join my semi-usual link-ups – Six Sentence Stories, Finish the Sentence Friday, and Ten Things of Thankful. But despite those efforts, I haven’t managed to join. I plan to remedy that moving forward.

I’ve also been reading a lot more lately than I have in recent months. More self-care, I suppose. That feels amazing. I read three of Bradbury’s books in a row – Dandelion Wine (a re-read), Farewell Summer (stunning), and Something Wicked This Way Comes (completely creepy in an awesome way). Right now I’m working on finishing The Martian by Andy Weir (loved the movie – book is even better) and I have about five things queued up to hit next.

Absorbing others’ words has been good for my mind and my soul. I’ve joined a couple of writing challenges for 2017 and choosing books for those has been fun and also helped me continue to take advantage of the offerings at my public library. I’m doing a handful of reads for folks I know who have published their books and I’m thinking maybe I’ll review those here on the blog and introduce you to to their work. Stay tuned.

What else?

Thanks in part to the accountability factor provided by the Graviteers, I’ve managed to hit a weight loss goal (again) so I think it’s safe to say that I am steadily working toward my weight loss and health goals. I’ve been walking more regularly and upping my number of steps each day (insert eye roll). That feels good. Next stop: The Bowflex machine. I’m laughing just thinking about it, but sure enough one has joined the team in our basement next to the treadmill and I’m planning to get on there regularly. Weight-bearing exercise is important for women, especially as middle age creeps closer on the horizon. So I’m pretty excited about that.

Kidzilla is kicking butt and taking names with her school work and all related sub-topics. That little girl works so hard and loves learning so much. I love that she sees hard work has tangible rewards. And speaking of school, the Hub is back in school working on a new degree – one more step in this journey of career change that was forced upon us. He’s also doing a fantastic job and just a few weeks in is already ahead of his projected timeline for this term. I am so proud of both of them. Shameless gushing. <3

I’m happy to report I’ve found my groove again in the kitchen. I don’t know what happened, but I feel like I pulled away from cooking anything decent at home and we resorted to bring-home or go-to options far too often over the last several weeks. Granted, the holidays are a strange time and then we were all so sick during and right after Christmas and into January, so maybe that’s just it. But even with my flares lately I’ve been happily tossing pots and pans around in the kitchen again. We’ve tried some new things and I’ve gotten back in my habit of rolling leftover parts of one meal into the next.

We’ve had pinto bean tacos with cabbage slaw, oven-baked lime butter cod served with the leftover slaw, some awesome Mexican street corn as a side – that was delicious. We tried mujadara – lentils and brown rice with caramelized onions – which is a new favorite here. Red beans and rice are always warming and satisfying, Salisbury meatballs were a hit for my meatball-lover daughter. Up tonight is a basic roast chicken because I’m out of chicken broth and need to make some. So I’m out to get that little bugger in the oven. Besides, I think I’ve rambled on here quite long enough.

I haven’t counted or numbered, but I’m certain I have at least ten things in here. For these and for so many more…I am thankful.

I’ve missed chatting with all of you here. What’s new and exciting in your life? What have you been doing the last few weeks? How are your self care habits? Talk to me…

 

Snow Days and Preparation – #10Thankful

Late Sunday evening and I’m finally sitting to think about my Ten Things of Thankful post.

That happens a lot lately. (OK, it happens all the time.) I start my posts early in the week, I plan to get in there on Friday evening, and then…life happens.

And I’m so very glad that it does.

I sometimes wonder if I’m too distracted to sit for a minute and focus on the moments and people that make me feel thankful each week. But it’s not distraction – it’s simply that I’m living my life and enjoying every last second of it. I am aware of the sense of thankfulness weaving and swirling its way through the moments of my days and taking its place in my heart.

I realized not long ago that what this means is that I’ve developed a mindset of gratitude and also of awareness. I don’t just go through the motions of my life; I live my life. That may be the greatest item of thanks there is for me.

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From a more practical perspective, I am quite thankful that I have several available leftover options for dinners this week. I have two choir rehearsals this week – both on Zilla’s karate nights, of course – which means dinner prep time is virtually non-existent. Dinner needs to be an absolute no-brainer and I’m prepared. I am also so glad that my family are willing consumers of leftovers and they never complain when a meal or a part of a meal shows up a second (or even third) night.

In these very cold days this week, I have been so thankful for a warm home, warm clothing, warm food on our plates, and plenty of fuzzy socks. I am painfully aware of those in the world, both near and far, who do not have enough of anything, no matter the season or temperature. I do my best to help where I can.

I have my week planned out and notes in my planner already. There is much to be accomplished this week, but having it all plotted gives me a sense of calm and control so I can wake up in the morning and hit the ground running. I just have to resist the urge to hit the snooze button and grab just five more minutes of snuggling before getting in gear…

Zilla was feeling a cold coming on today and asked for homemade chicken noodle soup for dinner and a batch of my “sick tea.” I love how aware of her self and her body she has become – not just about colds, but in general. She is growing into such an amazing person right before our eyes and it is exciting to behold. It is my hope and prayer that she continues to develop that gift of self-awareness in all things and use it to her best advantage. This weekend I witnessed again her beautiful and generous heart at work. I am blessed to know and to be mother to this child.

I am blessed with a wonderful husband and partner, too. We are a great team in all things from getting the chores and errands done to corralling three rotten cats to raising our daughter. I am grateful for all of the things we share as a couple and I am grateful for the things my Hub does for me every day, little things that mean a lot. He puts out my meds for me, he makes coffee, he makes sure we have the milk and creamer I like…and so much more. Those little things are huge.

While I still have a few tasks to accomplish this week and my house is far from picture-perfect, it is a place of love, warmth, respite, and joy.  I am happy here, even in the midst of a bit too much cat hair on the floors and a basket or two of laundry waiting to be put away. The chores will get done – they always do. We took advantage of the snowy day on Saturday and some empty hours on Sunday evening to simply rest, relax, and enjoy one another.  We read books, watched holiday movies and silly TV shows, did some decorating, and made some holiday plans and preparations.

Our hearts are ready.

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This Christmas

“This is going to be the best Christmas ever.”

This is what my daughter told me this weekend as we brought out our Christmas tree, shopped for some new strings of lights, and hung the ornaments on our tree.

We’ve been easing our way into our Christmas preparations. We like to take it slow, focusing on one thing at a time. While many people love decorating and shopping for Christmas over Thanksgiving weekend, we spend the entire weekend relaxing and enjoying time together, reflecting on the blessings in our life.

Not too long after that, though, we start to bring out our special Advent and Christmas books. We read every night, but we save these books for this time of the year. In the books of Christmas, we’ve read about the legend of the Candy Cane, the life of Saint Nicholas, and many more. We have books that range from short and sweet and silly to more serious and lovely and deeply meaningful. She loves them all. And I can’t wait to introduce her to some new-to-her classics this year. I think she’s ready.

We begin December concentrating on Advent, preparing to celebrate the birth of our Lord at Christmas and she’s all over it. She helps find the Advent prayers to say as we light the candles each week. She insists that we bring out  our Nativity sets first – but no other decorations until later in the month. I don’t know how my eight year old child acquired such an appreciation for savoring each moment, each day, each individual joy, but she does and I am so glad to know her heart works that way.

Around this time of the month, we bring out the tree and start thinking about gifts for those we love. We’ve already gathered gifts for several donation collections and she has about three more she wants to help. She was bothered a bit that we didn’t take a food donation to church this morning – my fault, I forgot. How did my child gain such an awareness that there are others in need and that we are responsible for helping?

Her class worked on writing friendly letters in class over the last few weeks, adding a letter to Santa last week. Zilla finished hers this evening, asking only for two small things for herself. As she wrote, she asked my husband and me what “non-thing items” we would like for Christmas. I told her I’d like peace and happiness for my family, the Hub told her he would like the gift of time. She included those in her letter. I was floored. When did my little girl gain an appreciation for the gifts that money can’t buy?

We’re enjoying all the trappings of the season, things like hot chocolate and footed pajamas, warm slippers and cozy socks, candy canes and cookies, holiday movies and popcorn… And of course she is wound up and silly and taking full advantage of the slightly relaxed rules about weekend bedtimes and screen time and sweets, just like any other kid. But even in her silliness, there is balance, and it amazes me. Have I taught her these things? She teaches me always…

She gets it – all of it. She understands the fun and frolic and she understands the significance of this season in our faith narrative. She believes in Saint Nicholas and Santa Claus and in the gift of the Christ Child. She believes in what is right and good and that those things will always triumph. She believes in love.

My daughter believes this is going to be the best Christmas ever.

I believe she’s right.

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The Morning After

So. Here we are.

The election is over and you would have to live under a rock to be unaware of the climate this morning. Sure, about half of the people in the U.S. are mighty pleased with themselves this morning, but the other half are devastated.

I don’t do politics here on the blog. Or at all, really. While I have very strong feelings about such things, I have always held to the philosophy that politics, religion, and sex simply don’t belong laid out on the kitchen table. These topics create so much dissension and anger among people – even people who love one another fiercely – that sometimes it is better to simply refrain from discussions in certain public settings.

But today I cannot be silent.

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I cannot be silent when so many of my friends and people I love are hurt, scared, and angry. I cannot be silent when my daughter stands before me and cries at the results of this election because even at the tender age of eight, she understands that bullying and hate appear to have been rewarded. I cannot be silent when the new president-elect consistently spews hatred directed at so many groups of people in this country (and the world) – people who are simply different from him.

I understand that this nation has problems. It always has; every society does. I understand that people want change, and I don’t disagree that some change is in order. But I sat in front of the TV last night dumbfounded – dumbfounded – that this country just put a man in office who has behaved as this man does and who is so uniquely unqualified for the office in both temperament and experience.

How in the world did we get to a place where so many people are willing to tolerate this level of hate? In all sincerity, I want to ask someone who voted for him these questions.

I want to ask parents of daughters how they can back a man who has treated and spoken of women the way he has. My daughter is a woman. What does this presidency mean for her?

I want to ask people who know someone who is Jewish how they can back a man who delivers not-so-cloaked anti-Semitic rhetoric and is endorsed by the Ku Klux Klan and the American Nazi Party?  My husband is Jewish. What does this presidency mean for him?

And the list goes on and on…

I have to say again that if you are unaware of all the insults and hate he has directed at African Americans, Latinos, Muslim and Jewish people, handicapped people,  the LGBTQ community, women, military personnel, and so many more, then you haven’t been paying attention. And if you are aware, why is that behavior acceptable?

Please don’t talk to me about deleted e-mails or pro-life topics or trade agreements or any of the other myriad reasons people cite as reason where this election is concerned. You’re going to have to come at me with something stronger than that. We can argue those points for the next four years and it won’t change the fact that above all, hate has somehow become tolerable. That is unacceptable.

This all reminds me of the movie The American President. Have you seen it? Watch it. Really. Set aside the love story angle and pay attention to the election angle between the incumbent President and the hopeful who is trying to unseat him. This guy spews hate at people, preys on their fear, and gets those who are dissatisfied with the status quo to buy into his attacks. One of the characters in the movie finally asks the sitting President, “How do you have patience for people who claim they love America, but clearly can’t stand Americans?”

 

I feel like that’s where we are. And it frightens me.

So where am I going with all of this? Well, forward. That’s the only place we can go. But I will not move forward with the kind of hate and anger that has characterized this election season and continues to characterize discussions this morning.

I choose to do what I have always believed is the way to go – live with a focus on love, on kindness, and on compassion. Am I perfect in that regard? Of course not. But I sure do make the effort to be mindful enough to learn from any mistakes I make and continue to improve.

I choose to hold fast to my faith and to my personal belief that all things have purpose, even tragedy. We may not always recognize that in the throes of a challenge, but it has been my experience that ultimately, there will be an answer. If you’ve read here for any length of time you know how strongly I believe that even in the darkest moments, there is always hope for light.

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If you need a reason, look into your children’s eyes. Think of the people you know who are part of groups that have been insulted and oppressed in this country. If you need to know what to do next, think about all the similar instances in history where people turned fear and hate and disappointment into action. Do something. Join us at 1000 Voices Speak for Compassion. Be kind to people. Period. If you need something to remind you why we keep working and keep fighting and never quit, read Thomas Paine’s The Crisis, No. 1This is not the first time we’ve felt down and out and it probably won’t be the last.

Be sad and cry if you need to. Wear black or whatever helps. And then remember what President Obama said in the Rose Garden just a little while ago – the sun is going to come up again tomorrow. So get up and go forward.

And please…always remember that Love Wins. Even when that’s difficult to believe.

Peace.

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I’ve added this post to the Finish the Sentence Friday link-up hosted this week by  Kristi at Finding Ninee and Denise at Adventures of a Jayhawk Mommy.  

This week we’re talking about change and the unexpected.

The results of this election certainly qualify.

A Sense of Home – #10Thankful

I’ve been thinking a lot about home lately.

Kristi’s Finish the Sentence Friday prompt this week was “when it comes to home…” So, naturally, I spent time thinking about the idea of home. And while I procrastinated pondered, I took a look at the things I had saved for my #10Thankful post last this week. Many were simple and beautiful moments of home that touched me in a particular way. Thinking I was onto something, I wondered if these two themes of home and gratitude couldn’t be married…

 

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There are so many ideas regarding home, so many interpretations. If you look up quotes about home, you find words and ideas as varied as the people who spoke them. Each one of them (and at the same time none of them) offers an answer. One or two of those quotes may resonate with this person or that, but not with a third. The reason, at least in my mind, is that the concept of home is something so very personal that perhaps there cannot be a definitive answer.

In his poem, “Death of the Hired Man,” Robert Frost wrote,

“Home is the place where, when you have to go there,

They have to take you in.”

Obviously, there’s a whole lot going on in that poem and we could talk about just that for the rest of the day. But let’s just stick with that little part…that statement about home. It doesn’t say what it seems to say. The line is not “when you go there”; the line is “when you have to go there.” That makes it different, doesn’t it? It seems more about where you go or to whom you turn when you need home…whatever that may be.

So what is home?

 

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For many people, the idea of home is attached to a physical place. But when time moves us forward, as it always does, and that physical building is no longer our home, we find home elsewhere. For some that physical place may be a house – complete with walls and floors and windows and closets. For others, that physical place may be a hotel room, a shelter, or even a cardboard box. Are these any less “home”?

A home may include the people you love and live with every day. But some people live alone. Does it mean they have less of a home? I have lived among family, friends, and roommates and I have also lived alone. In each case the situation was definitely my home. Not all of those circumstances were ideal, not all were meant to be anything more than temporary. At the very least, each one was the home I needed at that time and I never felt as though I didn’t belong.

So home could be whatever sense of belonging we have. That feeling when you are surrounded by who or what is most important to you. Or is home more a state of mind, a sense of being where we belong in life, either physically or emotionally. Maybe home is doing the things that bring us comfort. For me, home is cooking for my family, my daughter learning by my side. It is playing games, reading books, or watching movies together. Home is our everyday routine, the rhythms and patterns that make up our days and nights. Home is that sense of normalcy and “this is what we do.” I am so grateful for the nest my little family shares together and the time we spend in it together. But even when we spend time together out of our physical home, there is a sense of home that goes with us.

 

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I sometimes think home is a season. Certain times of the year make us feel most at home, regardless of where we are. For me, the return of cool weather and the changing of nature’s colors feels like coming home. Maybe it’s because fall signals a return to school and routine and that’s comforting. Or maybe it’s that fall is that harbinger of the homecoming season – the fall and winter holidays where people tend to return to their hometowns, their families, their memories.

Maybe home is any way we grow and learn and change – as a physical home is built, so is the home of “self.” Maybe it’s about working on better balance in life, staying on top of schedules or homework or activities. Maybe it’s getting and keeping the house cleaned or doing some painting or remodeling. Maybe it’s getting more sleep or exercise, working toward a healthier and more productive lifestyle. Whatever process of change brings us to a better version of ourselves could be what makes us feel at home.

Perhaps home is a return to our truest self. Do we feel most comfortable, most “at home” when we finally submit to that? When I consider the person I am today, the life I’m living, the goals I have set before me, I find that none of it is what I would have expected or desired ten or even five years ago. But maybe that’s the way it’s supposed to work. There’s that process of change and growth, of self-realization that takes place and one day not-so-suddenly we wake and realize that this – this – is who I am and who I was always meant to be. For me, it feels like a return to center, a return to what was always there, waiting for me to need to arrive. So if go back to Frost’s line, even if we’re talking about a return to self, it makes sense. When we’re ready to arrive at our true self, when we need to arrive, we have to open the door.

And so home is all of this and more. It is a feeling, a sense of self, something that lives within.


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This has also been a Finish the Sentence Friday post. This week’s topic is “When it comes to home…”

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Our host this week, as always, is the lovely and talented Kristi Campbell from Finding Ninee.

Our Inherent Good – A #1000Speak Post

We can easily strike up a debate about the inherent nature of humans.

Are we inherently good? Or are qualities like goodness, kindness, and compassion learned behaviors? Are they the product of nature or nurture?

It’s easy to look at today’s headlines about the tragic events plaguing our world, and say no, there is no good.

 

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And that much is true, of course; there is much hate and negativity in the world right now. There always has been. But I will argue that if you look through all of that, you will find good everywhere.  You will find stories of courage and compassion, stories about people doing great things and small to show another that they matter. We can probably swap headlines one-for-one, but at the end of our discussion, I will still insist that the vast majority of people are, for the most part and with the exception of certain extreme circumstances, essentially good at heart, at least most of the time.

Because no one is perfect. And because that’s true, maybe we don’t always do good things. Maybe we are not always good to one another, but even so we were not created to be evil.

You will say that’s hard to believe, given the violence and hate and anger we see in the headlines every day. That’s because media loves conflict. There is no drama when things are going well and everyone is satisfied – and the media hates that. The media wants you fired up, angry, ready to engage in a battle of opinion with anyone who wants to engage. It is the media’s job to tell you what to care about, what you should be afraid of, and who is to blame for whatever is wrong with your world. If only we saw half as much positive in the headlines – philanthropy, service, community spirit, and more – we would remember those good things and look for more.

Right now negativity prevails. But think about where a lot of the violence and hate and anger comes from. It comes from individuals’ desire to do something good, something just. Perhaps their actions or intentions are misguided. But if we reason to the root of things, we will so often see that people are angry because they want to be heard. People lash out at others because they want justice for those they see as oppressed and downtrodden. They speak up and act out because they want to effect change. And I think we’re really good at that – championing the underdogs, championing our causes. Most of the time. Except for the misguided few.

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But I’m going to stop here. I don’t really want to debate whether people are inherently good because I have my answer – we are and I can show you proof. (The story is on my Facebook page.)

Today, I want to talk about an area in which we as humans are not good, an area in which we fail to be good and compassionate day after day, an area that if left unchecked leads to so many other problems. We humans may be inherently good, but we are not inherently good to ourselves.

Most of us at one time or another have treated ourselves more harshly than we would ever treat a friend or family member, or even a complete stranger.

We criticize and shame our bodies.

We minimize our gifts and talents.

We emphasize our bad habits and flaws.

We tell ourselves that we don’t deserve happiness, success, love, respect, or a nap. We push too hard and go too long and we don’t say no for fear that we might disappoint someone if we don’t take on one more thing that is simply too much to handle.

We do not care for ourselves. We do not make the choice to take care of our minds, bodies, hearts. We are simply not good to ourselves.

And that is a problem.

When we don’t love ourselves, we can’t love anyone else. If we do not know how to care for ourselves, to treat ourselves with gentleness and compassion, how can we do it for anyone else? We cannot be happy for others, we can not lift them up and support them. We can not rejoice with them or cry with them. Perhaps we go through the motions, give a good external facsimile of what we deem “good.” But that is too difficult to sustain for very long.

And it doesn’t stop there. The problem does not rest with a simple inability to show compassion for others. It becomes something much more complicated, something much worse. Without self-love and compassion, we begin to treat others just as poorly. We treat others not merely with a lack of a compassion and kindness, but with distinct and specific hatred, cruelty, and jealousy. We refuse to see other points of view. We fail to respect the beliefs, practices, or personal space of other people. We want our own voice to be heard so badly that we become misguided in our approach. Rather than caring for our Selves so that we can in turn care for others, we destroy our selves and have nothing left to offer. Feeling inadequate makes us lash out and bring anyone we can down to our own level of misery.

And so it becomes clear that in order to heal the world, we must first heal ourselves. In order to be compassionate to others, we must first be compassionate with ourselves. It’s just like the flight attendants stress in that pre-flight safety speech – put on your own oxygen mask on first, then take care of the guy next to you. If you can’t breathe, you are of no help to him.

Shaking our heads at the bad news and grumbling about how the world is going to hell in a hand basket isn’t going to change anything. Neither is overwhelming ourselves with worry that we can never change enough to make any difference. Before we set out to stop all the negativity in the world, we have to stop the negativity in our own minds.

Be good to yourself. Be kind to yourself. Acknowledge and embrace your imperfections. Let the good that lives inside all of us rise to the surface and ripple outward. And be amazed at how much good you see around you.

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1000 Voices

 

This month, 1000 Voices Speak for Compassion continues to work toward a better world with a focus on inherent compassion. 

Write a relevant post and add it to the link-up right here by clicking the blue button below.

 

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Forgotten

I’ve forgotten how closely she watches me.

Sometimes it’s difficult to remember when she’s engrossed in a book or staring at a movie. It’s difficult to remember when she’s hunched over her Legos, brows furrowed as she figures out the best combination of bricks to make the structure she sees in her mind take shape in this world. It’s difficult to remember when she’s determined to do things her own way, in her own time.

But every now and then life provides us the jolt we don’t know we need. For me, it came the day my daughter padded into the bathroom where I was getting ready and stepped on the scale.

I was stunned.

Why does my eight year-old care what she weighs? Why does she think this is something she needs to know? And then I remembered – I step on the scale every day. It never crossed my mind that she watches me do it, deciding this something we do.

There’s nothing wrong with checking your weight, of course. But I had to stop and consider whether all points of this scenario are in balance. Are the messages I’m sending about health and food and weight management and body image the ones I want my daughter to learn?

It came again when she handed me a tiny yellow note with a picture of herself crying – crying – and a caption that clearly communicated her feelings. She was feeling unloved.

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I was horrified.

What kind of mother am I? How can this girl who is the very air I breathe not know how deeply and completely I love her. How could she possibly feel like this?

It was a bad evening, truth be told. We had a nasty meltdown – both of us – over a homework assignment. It was the perfect shitstorm of all the things we both are and do colliding to create a perfectly awful situation. I knew I had to step away because we weren’t getting anywhere positive, so I sent myself to my room, leaving her and her homework in the more rational care of her father.

It was a short time later in my darkened room that she delivered the note. I called her to me immediately and asked her to explain, prepared to tell her she was over-reacting, seeing things through an over-dramatic lens. My daughter looked me in the eye and told me her truth – things I have said and done that hurt her, made her feel unloved.

“Get out of my aura, Zilla.”

“I’m just not interested in this, Zilla.”

“I have work to do, Zilla.”

My own words lept from her lips to my ears.

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I was crushed.

Not one of those words was spoken with malice, but I had to admit I remembered saying them. Hearing my own words leap back at me from her lips, though, I realized she was right. Those were not words of love. It is easy to forget that the words we say are not always heard the way they sound in our head. Sarcasm sounds mean. Lightness is mistaken for gravity. I have to remember that what may seem innocuous is given much weight by my very literal eight year old child. Because she watches me.

And I have to remember that not only does she watch me do things like step on a scale, but she also watches how I admit a wrong and how I handle an apology. She watches how I deal with adversity and success. She watches how I treat the cashier at the supermarket or the annoying driver in the car ahead of me. She watches how I argue with my husband and how I parent.  She watches me seek the best balance between personal needs, work, and family. She watches whether or not I look at my phone during dinner. She will watch how I face life’s milestones, how I grow older, how I face death.

At every moment, she will watch. She will learn how to live and love and be.

And she will remember.

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This has been a Finish the Sentence Friday post. This week’s topic is “The things I’ve forgotten…”

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Our host this week, as always, is the lovely and talented Kristi Campbell from Finding Ninee and our sentence starter comes from Hillary Savoie of HillarySavoie.com.

#10Thankful – Standing in Motion

I believe I am standing in motion.

I worked on a thousand things all week, produced results, and yet I somehow feel as though I have accomplished little because none of my projects can be moved to the “finished” list.

But maybe finished does not always equal successful (or vice versa) and just being in process is quite a good thing all by itself. To be about the business of living, doing, and becoming is a noble endeavor indeed. It is far too easy to slip into the trap of thinking about what we should have done and I know so many of us do it, at least once in a while. I am really trying to remain focused on what I am doing with my life, not what I or anyone else thinks I should be doing.

The Hub, Zilla, and I are taking advantage of the summer to enjoy different experiences – so much so that I’ve managed to miss the last couple of TToT link-ups (Oops and sorry!) (But #sorrynotsorry, you know?). We’ve been to the library, read to therapy dogs, watched a movie under the stars (almost) right in our own backyard. Our township shows movies in the local parks and we just happen to live adjacent to one of the locations. That was mighty cool. Zilla’s been to summer enrichment classes and swim lessons. I’ve been working on my kids’ book series and purge/clean projects at home. The Hub has projects at work and home in process. Now that Zilla’s a bit older, we’ve been introducing her to the wonder of board games and card games for the older crowd. Last week she learned how to play Life and Monopoly (Lord of the Rings version, thank you very much) and how to play Solitaire the old fashioned way – with real cards.

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That all kind of adds up to a whole lot of thankful right there. But it’s only the beginning…

I’m quite glad that I’m sitting for a few minutes with a hot cup of the best coffee in the world by my side so I can get this post written in the first place. Thanks, Husband, for the best coffee in the world. Always.

Keeping with the Husband theme, he deserves a spot at the top of the list always because he is among the best of men and the best of husbands. He stands by me completely through the better and worse and I am thankful to fall asleep and wake up next to him each day. Well, assuming he makes it up from his technology den before falling asleep, that is. But even then, I can be thankful for the entire bed to myself (and the three Rottens) for a few hours. Silver linings.

Time makes my list this week. Summer allows me to spend unscheduled, unhurried time with my daughter. It doesn’t matter what we decide to do (or not do), but we are enjoying the time together. I think the highlight of my summer so far was the day she said she loved grocery shopping with me because we get to be together. I think her point was that we were doing something necessary, a chore, and still enjoying each other’s company. I love having her along and I will miss that come fall when she is back in school. Of course it does take longer and cost more with her helping…but so worth it. Plus, she’s learning in the process. We read labels, decide what foods are good choices, plan meals based on what is available that week, practice math and money skills, and so much more.

I have also enjoyed some alone time with my Husband seeing concerts and eating a few meals sans kid. This week we’re getting an extra big dose – we escaped for a quick daytime sushi lunch while Zilla was in school, had dinner together while she was at a social thing at her karate school, and tomorrow we have dinner and a concert date. The couples-only time is so important for so many reasons. Of course, the mom guilt creeps in a bit – are we spending too much time without her? Does she feel neglected? I think we’re good, though, because she is always busy in her own right while we’re out and is always in the care of people who love her. She’s beyond excited to spend time with my Sister and my Mom at my sister’s house tomorrow and I love that.

I am amazed at what a strong and beautiful girl our Zilla is becoming. This week she dealt fabulously with some kid issues, earned her red belt in karate, and made her own breakfast. The unthinkable has happened – all the baby is pretty much gone from her and what remains is this lovely and fun person who needs me to help just a little less than she used. to. It’s bittersweet for sure. The only moments I catch a glimpse of her baby self is when she’s asleep, totally relaxed, and those sweet little cheeks take on that soft baby chubbiness for a few hours. I think that may be the real reason moms get up and check on their kids fifty times a night – for just one more moment of that.

We have experienced the beauty and wonder of nature this summer. We’ve spent some time hiking at our mountain (sadly, those photos are down the composting toilet with my phone) and on our last trip saw more and closer raptor sightings than we have on most of our trips. Awesome. We watched a pair of blue jays defend their nest from a redtail hawk who decided to perch on their lamppost and visit for a while. Fascinating. Sadly, Zilla and I saw a fledgling bird in its final moments of life as he died in our driveway. Unfortunately, we were too late to help him and he wouldn’t have survived the trip to the nearest wildlife rehab facility. We talked about life and death and I was glad for the opportunity for lessons the situation provided. We’ve watched sunsets and moonrises, enjoyed gorgeous summer days and watched truly fierce-looking storms roll in.

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I am so glad we have a share in our local CSA farm. We love our farmers and how they run things. We love the fresh, local, organic produce each week. During CSA season (for us it’s usually June through early November), I love planning our meals around what arrives from the farm. It makes me so happy that the Hub and Zilla are willing to try new and different things and that most of the time they like the results. I love how the array on my counter top and in my refrigerator inspires beautiful, healthy meals. Pinterest, of course, is a great resource for ideas.

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Of course, there are always smoothies as well. This was one of the most beautiful looking and delicious that I’ve made yet. I think it was kale or spinach, mixed berries, cucumber, water, and flax seed. Oh, and peach! So good.

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I received a sweet memento in the mail this week from our Listen to Your Mother leaders. It was a nice way to remember such a great experience. I was reminded what a cool thing that was to do. I believe that people and experiences touch our lives at particular times for particular reasons, even if we may not know exactly why right away. I’m certain that being part of Listen to Your Mother was one of those scenarios. There are over 500 videos to enjoy from this year’s shows (by all means check them out – they’re wonderful), but here’s mine. I loved sharing this story so if you’ll indulge me, I’ll share it again here. Be gentle, OK? I was recovering from a horrible upper respiratory thing complete with laryngitis and it was by far the WORST camera angle on me ever.

I am glad for plenty of time to read my always-growing pile of books. Between what I already have on the shelf, what I’ve recently acquired from the bargain table, and the public library, I have no dearth of material. Are we friends on Goodreads? We should be. Find me over there. I’m sure I can put a widgety thing on my front blog page, but I’ll have to figure that out later today.

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I am glad for the company of cats when I am here all day by myself. These guys are loads of fun. I have to give Cat One a little shoutout here for taking his meds like a man, so to speak. A few months ago, you may remember, he had some intestinal issues and now takes a kitty laxative twice a day. The stuff is a nasty sticky liquid and he hates it. He often spits it out and drools it all over himself and all over everything. I called our vet and they contacted a local compounding pharmacy to do his meds in compound form so it can be flavored – are you ready – like chicken. Yup. So when I tell him it tastes like chicken (which I have been for three months), it’s actually true now. He seems to be accepting it better than before and most of it stays in him rather than on him, so that’s progress.

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I guess taking a couple of weeks off makes for one very full TToT post! That’s it for me today. My coffee cup needs to be refilled. The house has grown a bit dark because the rain and storms have taken over once again. I love the sound of the summer rain. We’re going to spend our rainy (and disgustingly humid) summer afternoon teaching Zilla how to play Dungeons and Dragons.  So if you’ll excuse me, I have somewhere I need to be.

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Your turn – what are you thankful for this week? How are you spending your summer?

You know the drill – share ’em or link ’em and make sure to check out the rest of the posts in the link-up!

 

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#10Thankful – A Heavy Heart

It has been a week of such sadness.

I’m sure most of you know of the terribly sad and tragic headlines that have filled our news feeds this week. My heart is also heavy for people in my life who are grieving the loss of family and beloved companions, people who are struggling with illness, emotional and physical pain, financial difficulty, and so much more. There are so many hearts out there in need and lately it seems that there is far too much hurt to be helped.

I’ve started my list of thankfuls at least ten times over the last few days, and each time I sit in front of it, it seems…something. Trivial? Wrong? I don’t know. None of those is either true or fair, really. We are not wrong to be thankful for the blessings in our lives, yet many of us find ourselves thinking that somehow we should not be celebrating when so many are hurting. I know I’m not alone in this; a few friends have shared similar feelings. It’s more than OK to go on, to live, to continue putting foot in front of foot as we make our way through each day set before us. And yet, somehow, things like weight losses and spiralized vegetable noodles and replacement mobile phones seem…trivial. Wrong.

I’m dancing dangerously close to the deadline to add my list to the link-up for this week, so unless I’m planning to just opt out because I couldn’t figure myself out, I need to make a little haste here. I would rather get a few short things down and acknowledge them here than give up. Love wins. Goodness wins. I do believe that with all my heart, no matter how much evil floods my news feed. I refuse to believe that there is no good, no joy, no blessing in life. I’m not blind to what’s happening. I’m not ignorant of the problems in the world. I know. We all know.

I also know that light and cool meals made with spiralized veggies are perfect on a hot summer evening.

I know that reaching any goal is better when you have friends to encourage you.

I know that I am so very glad to have the opportunity right now to live my life in a manner that allows me to spend time with my daughter and my husband and do the work I love from the peace and comfort of my home.

I know that I am glad when we check projects off our to-do list.

I know that I am happy when our Cat One feels better after a bout of his tummy troubles. And I am definitely glad when his tummy troubles don’t land on the new carpet.

I know that losing a cell phone down a composting toilet shaft is definitely not the end of the world, just a relatively minor inconvenience to replace contact info and the phone itself. I do have to admit being very sad for the loss of some very special photos that had not yet been transferred to my computer. That bugged me. But they’re photos, not the actual people in them. Everyone is alive and safe and I know I will always hold those memories in my mind and my heart.

I know that I am grateful for my Husband’s patient ear when I need to talk and cry a bit.

I know that tears are wonderful, powerful things. And I know that crying helps and is necessary sometimes.

I know the same is true of writing – at least for me. It is a wonderful, powerful endeavor, even if the words never see anyone’s eyes but mine. It helps and it is necessary sometimes.

I know that the world is not all bad all of the time. If the world were good and perfect all the time, well, it wouldn’t be this world, now would it? It would be something else entirely. I know that love wins and eventually, somehow, some way, good does triumph over evil. We just have to keep working on improving our selves, our lives, our world, one little bit at a time.

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