Tag Archives: Philosophizing

Through My Eyes

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He even rides a unicycle.

My youngest son is twelve years old. He’s small for his age, with a high-pitched voice and tiny hands. He looks out of place among his peers.

He’s different in other ways, too. His small stature means he can’t compete physically with other boys his age, so he sits on the sideline for team sports, chosen last at pick-up games.

He has a quirky personality. He gets lost in his thoughts sometimes, unable to articulate them to others, coming across as goofy and aloof. His short attention span often gets him in trouble.

He doesn’t care about clothes like a lot of kids his age. He has a handful of favorite t-shirts and shorts, and wears them when he wants to, regardless of how they look.

He has trouble organizing his thoughts. Information doesn’t line up in his brain in a linear manner like it does for most people. Instead, his mind is a kaleidoscope of ideas, whirling around in a manner that makes sense only to him.

He doesn’t handle stress well. When he’s anxious, he’ll pull the right side of his shirt collar into his mouth and start chewing. When I see him doing that I’m grateful that he’s moved on from his other nervous habit: hurting himself.

.  .  .

This is how the world sees him.

.  .  .

This is how I see him.

He’s small, just like his brothers. He’ll probably be a late bloomer just like they were, but he’ll catch up to the crowd eventually.

I’m glad he likes running cross-country. It’s a team sport where you compete against yourself. Your own improvement is what really matters, at least at this level. He’s growing stronger, running faster, developing self-discipline.

He comes up with the most impressive thoughts. Really out-of-the-box things – like designs for machines, concepts for movies and lyrics for songs. He has taught himself sound production and movie-making on his own. Someday he will create something really amazing, or invent something new, because he thinks so big.

He’s attached to things that mean something to him. The t-shirt he bought when we saw The Lion King in the theater is his favorite, and he loves the shirts from the races he’s run. He wants them close to him as often as possible.

When his mind starts racing, I wish I could get inside it with him, because I know he’s coming up with some pretty amazing stuff in there. He’s getting better at expressing himself verbally, but the words still fly out faster than I can grasp them. Written expression is still miles away, but he’ll get there. I know he will. Because I won’t give up until he does.

He’s still afraid of failure. Who wouldn’t be if they walked in his shoes? He can’t read on grade level, can’t make a decent oral argument, has handwriting no one can read (not even himself). He stinks at sports and doesn’t have many friends. But he’s handling anxiety better now than he used to. I  tremble when I think of the days he used to bite his arm until it was purple, or hit his head on the floor out of frustration. I will always watch him closely, because I fear he’ll be the one who cuts himself.

For the rest of the world, my boy wears a lot of labels. Labels like ADD, dyslexia, dysgraphia. Runt, girly, immature, weird.

But to me he only wears one.

Son.

My son.

And I long for the day when others see him the way I do.

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Is there someone in your life who is often misunderstood?

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Saying ‘oui’ to Paris. Saying ‘yes’ to myself.

Call Verizon to add international package. Check.

Call the bank to authorize shopping charges. Check.

Check with airline for flight changes. Check.

Confirm hotel reservation. Check.

Holy cow. I’m actually going to do this. The day after tomorrow I’m getting on a plane to Paris. Without my husband and kids.

Please, God, don’t let this be a dream.

I have never done anything this self-indulgent before. I rarely do anything self-indulgent. My idea of a big treat is lunch with a friend squeezed between errands and carpool. So when this email came back in May, I didn’t even know how to respond.

 “If I bought a ticket would you be interested in going to France for a week in mid-October? A translator would be nice.”
 

“What a lovely idea…” was my immediate thought. But I decided not to say ‘no’ right away. To live the fantasy in my head for a day or two before I squashed it.

I pictured myself sitting in a café with a cup of coffee glass of wine and my camera. I practiced a few lines of my long-forgotten French to see if I could even pull off ordering a glass of wine. I mean, it’s been over 30 years since my summer in Quebec, so offering my services as a translator would really be a joke. But it was a lovely thought.

Thank you, Microsoft, for this royalty-free image. Next week I’ll have my own photos to share!

I hung on to it for a few days. And then, in a moment of uncertainty, I mentioned it to my family at the dinner table. It took my husband a moment to speak. He said, “Have you said ‘Yes’ yet?” And without overthinking it, I said, “No, but I think I will.”

And the planning began.

A few months passed, and (even though my plane ticket was proudly displayed on the refrigerator) I refused to allow myself to get excited about it. There are so many wildcards in my life right now, and I feared something would crash down and force me to cancel if I blabbed all over the internet months in advance. So I waited cautiously. Realistically. Hopefully.

And the Universe cooperated, as if to tell me that I was worth all of this. And now, here I am, ready to take off to Paris with my cousin on a Bucket List sort of adventure. To drink in (pun intended) all that Paris has to offer. Art, history, architecture, food, wine, music… all by myself. (Well, by myself meaning without my husband and kids.)

About a month ago I started talking about it. Making it feel real. Shopping for something chic to wear.

For the last week I’ve been mumbling to myself en francais, picking up travel bottles for shampoo, and sporting a grin that just won’t go away.

Today I’m making a list for Mr. Wonderful of carpool schedules and cross-country meets and sending emails to make sure every detail is taken care of.

Tomorrow I’ll pack the suitcase.

And the next day, I’ll get on a plane and fly across an ocean and arrive in a place I’ve been waiting my whole life to be.

And I’ll take pictures and drink wine and visit cathedrals. And I’ll thank my cousin a bazillion times for asking that question back in April.

And I’ll come home a better person for having said ‘yes’ to myself.

Life is Good Enough.

Good enough.

I used to hate those words. They always seemed like a cop-out.

Then I had three kids. And we bought an apartment building. And got a dog. And I started taking care of my in-laws. And I just couldn’t keep up with my old standards any more. I started to feel inadequate, and beating myself up regularly over the things I couldn’t get done.

But I found a solution. A way out of the self-imposed guilt. I’ve turned over a new leaf.

I’ve embraced mediocrity.

And now, good enough has become . . . Good Enough. Not just a measure of acceptance, but a whole new philosophy for life. A new mantra.

Here are a few excerpts from the Good Enough Manual:

Good Enough Laundry = clean (for the most part). The kid who hasn’t yet gone through puberty may occasionally wear shirts more than once. Folding is optional. And you already know how I feel about sorting socks.

No more shame!

Good Enough Dinner = everyone eats something. Most nights I provide the meal. Most nights we eat together. But if we can’t, we can’t. My children are now old enough to handle sharp knives and prepare food. They know the way to Subway. They won’t go hungry.

Good Enough Housekeeping = a reasonable standard of hygiene in the bathrooms and kitchen. Enough said.

Dusting is now optional.

Good Enough Landscaping = the weeds will die once we have a cold snap. Probably. If not, they’ll bloom in the spring and I’ll call it a garden.

I’m no longer envious of my friends with their picture-perfect homes and spotless cars. They can hop in with me and we can go to lunch. Or we can drive out to the lake and eat Cheerios off the back seat. It doesn’t matter to me.

This weekend we’re going to a cross-country meet in Baton Rouge. Instead of rushing home as soon as The Caboose crosses the finish line, we’re going to go visit The Trailblazer at LSU. We’re going to enjoy a little October weather and I’m not going to worry about housework.

When I get home I may print up some membership cards to the Good Enough Club. Who wants one?

 

 

Boiling Frog Syndrome

I often use a metaphor to describe how we sometimes find ourselves in situations we didn’t see coming. It goes something like this:

If you put a frog in a pot of hot water it will jump out immediately, because it senses danger. But if you put a frog in a pot of cool water and heat it slowly, the frog will adapt to the changes. It will not perceive danger, and eventually it will cook to death.*

I fear I’ve become a victim of Boiling Frog Syndrome.

(Photo © 2010 J. Ronald Lee.)

I used to live a very organized, efficient life. I worked outside the home, worked inside the home, mothered three kids. As an Army wife, I often did it solo. I managed our rental properties, cared for my parents, volunteered at my kids’ schools, taught Catechism at my church. And all the while I managed to maintain a decent standard of hygiene in my home and a semi-active social life.

I’m not sure when the fire was turned on under me, but somewhere along the way that cool pot started heating up, and my surroundings became a threat to my survival.

At some point, having the right uniforms clean on school days became a challenge. (Enter Febreeze into my life.)

Homework became a lifestyle-altering component of my family’s schedule.

Carpool and lacrosse practice became the events that dictated the rest of the day.

I had to take an afternoon off of work to wait for the exterminator, the plumber, the AC guy.

Meals at home became grab and go events, not sit downs.

Taking my parents and in-laws to the doctor became a frequent activity.

I was overwhelmed by my routine day.

Lists didn’t help. I never could get the things on the list done by the time they were supposed to be done. The unchecked list became a reminder of my failure.

Requests for assistance didn’t help. I had created a system that only I knew, so asking for help meant doing it over when it wasn’t done right, and stopping to explain ‘what or how’ became as time-consuming as doing it myself. I had painted myself into a proverbial corner.

Years went by, and I couldn’t figure a way out. I reminded myself to be patient. “This, too, shall pass,” became my mantra. I watched as my friends went on weekend jaunts to Napa, while I tried to dig out of paperwork. I was jealous of those who went to the zoo when I could barely get to the grocery store. The lists grew longer and longer. But I couldn’t figure out how to change anything.

The events of the last year turned the fire up even hotter. And I started to feel the heat. Anxiety attacks, hives, a trip to the ER after passing out. My body was sending me clear signals, but I still couldn’t figure out how to reduce the flame beneath me. I knew I had to get out of the pot for my own survival, but I just couldn’t find the way out.

So I scoured the internet for some inspiration, and I stumbled on this blog.

The steps seemed simple enough, so I thought I’d give it a try to see how I could apply these business practices to my life.

7 Tips for Prioritizing Tasks Effectively

1. Respect Deadlines.

An absolute must. I was prone to putting off the things that stressed me the most, even if there was a cost. Practical translation: Laundry must be done. If I have to Febreeze a uniform so my son can wear it to school unwashed, I’ve failed. Monday morning, laundry must be caught up.

2. Set Milestone Deadlines.

Don’t complete one task at the expense of the others. If it all has to be done, set reasonable milestones and work toward them. Leaving a monumental task until the last minute will bite you in the ass every time. Practical translation: The insurance claim must be filed within two weeks. The apartment must be ready to show by the 20th.

3. Consider the Consequences.

There will be things that just can’t get done. Choose the ones you can let go, and then… let them go.  Practical translation: I won’t be making those spectacular Halloween decorations I saw on Pinterest. In fact, I’m may delete my Pinterest account. All it does is make me feel more inadequate.

4. Consider the Payment Terms.

Some commitments do pay rewards. Get them done. Practical translation: Get the apartment ready. Missing another month’s rent will set the cause back even further. Two teenage boys on the car insurance is no laughing matter.

5. Consider Time Required.

When facing two equally important tasks I’ve started using the low-hanging-fruit method. Practical translation: Choose the one I can get finished. The reward of checking something off that list will often give me the energy to tackle the next one. And then the next one.

6. Set Goals and Work Backwards.

Keep the big picture in mind. Prioritize the steps, keeping in mind that some are foundational for others. Doing things in the wrong order makes for extra work. Practical translation: Clean the kitchen before starting dinner. Put away laundry before packing for vacation.

7. Schedule a Percentage of Your Time for Personal Projects.

Personal indulgences were always the first thing to be cut. But tasks that energize me – even if they take up valuable time – leave me better equipped to tackle the necessary things. Cutting these activities backfired on me in the long run because it left me feeling unfulfilled. Practical translation: Don’t eliminate the things that fulfill me. Spend time with friends. Exercise. Read. Dare I even say it… travel.

Now I’m not sure if using this method is going to solve my problem. But I am already gaining some sense of control over things, and I’m sure that will cool the water down a bit. I’m giving myself a month to knock out some big items and make decisions on how to work smarter on the small items. And I’m planning a trip. (A really big trip! Just for me! More on that later.)

Because I’ve already lost enough time sitting in this pot, waiting for the water to cool on its own.

* Before publishing I confirmed the accuracy of this anecdote with the trusted online source Wikipedia. According to Wiki, the frog will eventually realize its demise is near and jump out. But revealing this at the beginning of the post would have ruined the whole metaphor. Ignorance is bliss. 

** No frogs were harmed in the writing of this post.

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How do you manage tasks and stress? What organization methods help you function more efficiently? And have you ever actually seen a frog in a pot of water?

Finding my lost perspective.

Perspective (noun): a way of regarding situations, facts, etc, and judging their relative importance.

Yesterday I had a doctor’s appointment, and I was worried. I don’t usually worry about doctor’s appointments, because there’s usually nothing to worry about. But I just had a gloomy feeling about this one, and I was stressing.

I’ve had a couple of skin cancers, and recently had two spots removed from my back. One of them wasn’t healing right, and had a black spot in the middle. A black spot just like the one on the poster in the exam room, 1 – 2 millimeters from the previous biopsy. So I made an appointment and waited.

(Spoiler alert: I am fine. This is not a reveal.)

As I was getting ready (and looking for a little sympathy), I posted a vague status on my Facebook page about being nervous. As I hoped, friends hopped on it immediately with words of encouragement, and I felt better.

One of the replies was from my friend M. He had a doctor’s appointment yesterday, too. The one where he went to his oncologist to find out what kind of medications he can take for the duration of his incurable, inoperable cancer. So he can function and feel better and make memories with his wife and young son. And he got what he considered good news. He’s going to try another type of chemo, with the hope of slowing down or shrinking the tumor, buying more time. Which he called “a very, VERY good thing.”

I couldn’t help but compare his good news to my bad news. And I felt a little ashamed that I had lost my perspective.

Later in the day my friend L started a dialogue about gratitude. She shared a story about a friend who is bearing a difficult load, and that her “silly, everyday problems” are trivial compared to her friend’s.

Relative importance. Perspective.

Then later in the day I read the blog of a Missouri pastor, who shared a couple of stories about perspective. I’ll share with you a bit of the last one, a story about a man visiting a dying family member.

His brother-in-law requested a wet cloth for his lips. Then he said, “We start off wanting $1,000,000. Over time, that keeps getting pared down until all we want is a little water on our lips.” 

There it is. Perspective. Things are as big a deal as we make them. No bigger.

Source: thecareerblog.wordpress.com

It’s not about what happens to us. It’s about how we choose to respond to what happens to us. And my “problems” (dare I even call them that??) are nothing. Not parenting a child with the learning disabilities, not having a spot cut off of my back, not caring for my MIL.

Because the worst thing that will happen to me today is better than the best thing that will happen to someone else. And I’m not going to forget that any time soon. 

How do you keep things in perspective? Or do you? Or should you?

The Joy of “Yes”

A while back I noticed something.

I was telling my kids “no” a lot.

“Will you make pancakes for breakfast?”

“No.”

“Can we go to see a movie today?”

“No.”

“Can I invite friends over?”

“No.”

Source: thecircleproject.com

One day I paused, and contemplated what it must be like for them hearing “no” all the time. Not having the ability to control decisions about their day, or their life. Being on the receiving end of parents’ and teachers’ permission all the time.

And I decided I would try to say “yes” more often.

Because when it came down to it, sometimes I said “no” for my own convenience. If I wasn’t up to cleaning up a mess, I said “no” to a project. If I didn’t have the energy to handle a bunch of kids, I said “no” to the sleepover. They heard me saying “no” a lot.

So I had a little talk with myself about saying “yes.” And I adopted a new mantra. “I’ll say ‘yes’ when I can.” Practical realities sometimes intervened, making “yes” impossible. But as I started saying it more often, I liked the feeling I got from being agreeable. “Yes” usually meant something fun. “Yes” usually meant making memories. “Yes” brought joy back into our day.

I started to like “yes.”

And then the strange thing happened. They started saying “yes” back.

“Please pick up your room.”

“OK.”

“It’s time for bed.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

And the one that causes more arguments in our house than any other, “Turn the game off.”

“I will.”

This morning on the way to school, The Caboose was feeling a little run down. He was listening to music on his iPod, getting ready for another day of sixth grade as we approached campus. Now this kid does not respond well when asked to terminate something in mid-stream. The typical response is “after this song,” or “I need to save my game.” But this morning as we pulled up to school, I told him to turn off his iPod and stow it in the seat pouch, and he said “yes.”

God, I love “yes.”

I Withdraw my Consent…

Words carry amazing power. They inspire us. They move us. They motivate us. They challenge us. We commit them to memory and carry them with us.

Today’s guest post from Mary at Transitioning Mom is a reflection on her favorite quote. I hope you find in these words the same power Mary did.

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Eleanor Roosevelt. Source: girlmogul.com


 “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”   — Eleanor Roosevelt

I withdraw my consent…

There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t use the words of someone else to lift me up. Positive quotations are posted in my bathroom, living room, school room, and kitchen, decorating the rooms in which I spend the most time. (As a middle-aged woman, you’ll notice I started with the bathroom.) So, when The Lucky Mom asked me to write about a quote that inspires me, I went to my favorite.

Eleanor Roosevelt is credited with saying “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” She was a wise woman whose words helped form the woman I am. I don’t remember the first time I saw this quote. It was likely in high school, a time of great emotional turmoil. I remember I felt empowered. A little. However, it would take years for me to truly internalize her message.

Like many, I’ve struggled with the voices of doubt and insecurity that hide in the corners of my mind. They creep from the darkness at unexpected times. Usually when I’m tired, over-stretched, or just feeling a bit funky. In the past, I gave them far more power than they deserved, and in doing so, left the door wide open for others to place their limitations on me. Regardless of my success, there was a part of me that often felt inferior to others. When snide, hurtful or sarcastic comments were made, I believed them. In turn, I gave myself permission to blame others when I was unhappy. However, I was the only one standing in the way of my happiness, not others. Conscious or not, I made a choice each time I allowed someone to make me feel inferior.  I took baby-steps of change in my 20’s and giant leaps in my 30’s.

Becoming a mother changes most of us; we are pushed to re-examine all we have learned and internalized. And, so it was with me. When my first-born was still an infant, I stumbled upon Roosevelt’s words once again. One warm summer day, my mother-in-law shared with me all the ways I was mothering “wrong.”  By the time she had left, I was convinced I had already failed as a mother. At the end of that exhausting day, I grabbed my book of positive quotations in search of encouragement. In Roosevelt’s words, I found encouragement and much more.

Though I’d read her quote before, I internalized it that day. It helped form the foundation of my parenting, and the message I have tried to instill in my daughters. When feeling hurt, insulted or otherwise inferior, we ask, “Why am I consenting?” and through that question, we can reclaim our power and withdraw our consent.

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Read more by Mary at her blog, Transitioning Mom, or on her Facebook page.