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    Sunday Spark: Words to Live By

    Taken from my 7-year-old's list of house rules, this is number three:


    Have a positive attitude and be HAPPY!


    Right on, kiddo. Words to live by.

    Posted: Sep 03 2012, 14:59 by kelly | Comments (1) RSS comment feed |
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    Everything is Life

    Time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time.
    ~ Marthe Troly-Curtin

    So, I like Wire Tap (a show on public radio); though I don't often get to tune in. But, Adam came home from work telling me this evening's episode was listen-worthy, so, I went online & found it.

    The second half of the show starts with a reading from David Eagleman's book, Sum: Forty Tales from the Afterlives

    It's fascinating, and worth a listen (actually, the whole episode is worth a listen, but even if you just tune in for the first few minutes to hear the reading of the short story, it'll be enough to understand the point of my post).

    Here's the link (there's a short commercial at the start, reading begins about 30s in): 

    wiretap_20091114_23048.mp3 (12.21 mb) 

    (a bit of transcription, in case the link doesn't work for you...)

    In the afterlife you relive all your experiences, but this time with the events reshuffled into a new order.

    All the moments that share a quality are grouped together: 

    You spend two months driving the street in front of your house. 

    7 months having sex. 

    You sleep for 30 years without opening your eyes. 

    For 5 months straight you flip through magazines while sitting on a toilet. 

    You take all your pain at once: all 27 intense hours of it. 

    Bones break, cars crash, skin is cut, babies are born. 

    Once you make it through though, it's agony free for the rest of your afterlife.

    That doesn't mean it's always pleasant. 

    You spend 6 days clipping your nails. 

    15 months looking for lost items.

    18 months waiting in line.

    Two years of boredom staring out a bus window, sitting in an airport terminal.

    1 year reading books; your eyes hurt and you itch because you can't take a shower until it's your time to take your marathon 200 day shower

    2 weeks wondering what happens when you die

    1 minute realizing your body is falling

    77 hours of confusion

    1 hour realizing you've forgotten someone's name

    3 weeks realizing you're wrong

    2 days lying

    6 weeks waiting for a green light

    7 hours vomiting

    14 minutes experiencing pure joy

    (... and continues on with more awesomeness)


    On to my point:

    We talk a lot in this life about wasted time. Worry over it. Try desperately (typically unsuccessfully) to multitask, in order to make up for that time we think we're wasting. At night we may fret before bed of how little we “got done”, or swear how tomorrow will be different; we fantasize over our entire to-do list checked off.

    But, I think we forget this thing about time… time is moving forward, always going, and taking us with it. Each moment – MOMENT – not even minute, our one glass of experience is filling, while our other glass of experience yet to come is draining - and none of us really know just how big that second glass is. We could be sucking droplets out of the bottom with a straw and be blissfully (or not so) unaware.  We don't know. But we spend so much of our time in a state of worry over things not done, annoyance that we’re having to do this, that, or the other, and planning over how to optimize every moment, that we often forget the time is moving on, regardless of how we feel about it, but how we feel about it colors our moments.

    So why not feel good about it? This moment right now. Why not embrace it for what it is – the here & now – the only time we actually HAVE for SURE. How would it feel to believe that THIS MOMENT is exactly what you need it to be.

    As my husband said after listening to the show: Everything is life.

    Everything is life. This blog post. The laundry. Hugs from your kids. It’s all life. It’s all worth it. It's all what you need, right now. 

    Posted: Jul 13 2012, 19:20 by kelly | Comments (0) RSS comment feed |
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    The Story, Unfinished

    My kids were having a rough time the other evening. We’d been out & about all the just-a-bit-too-chilly-yet-sunny-enough-to-not-want-to-be-inside Spring day – playing in the park, riding bikes. Evening was approaching and we were trying to cram in one last fun thing; we decided on one more geocache in the park. We packed up the bikes, and started on our trek, just as the sun was beginning its descent, and… well, one thing led to another as it often does with over-tired kids and adults, in spite of our best intentions, we ended up back in the car with a wailing child, tired adults, an undiscovered cache, and an abandoned bike helmet.

    After the helmet was retrieved (thank you, grandma) and grandma dropped off, I found myself faced with the task of driving home. In peace. I knew if peace didn’t descend – and right quick – we’d all be in for a lonnnnnnnnng bedtime routine; not to mention a less-than-safe drive. But, I was spent. Heck, we were all spent. I wracked my brain – WHAT could I do that would calm myself, while engaging my children? I offered gum, and it was quickly declined. Music? NO! A story? What kind of story? Hmmm, okay what kind of story? I felt I'd told every story under the sun over the last 7-and-a-half years of my parenting experience. But there had to be another in the deep recesses of my end-of-day-tired brain. What would grab their attention, stop the disgruntledness, but not excite them too much, right before bed? Then it hit me. I recalled that once upon a time in this life, I’d started writing a particularly long story - a novel, if you'd like.


    Story writing isn’t new to me; I remember writing as a very young child – crafting stories in my mind, and letting them tumble out (well, stumble, maybe is more like it, given the tools of the day: stubby pencil on wide ruled paper or electric typewriter and white-out). A couple of years before my first child was born, I started - on my COMPUTER(!) - what I believed at the time would be a novel. I'd taken writing classes in college, and loved writing. I thought novel writing would be the perfect accompanyment to my then childless life in the woods of Maine. Funny thing is… I hadn’t thought about that “novel” in YEARS. Haven’t actually looked at it, edited it, added to it, in even more years. But in that dark evening moment in a pinch – between child kicking my seat, Spring allergies in full-force – I recalled that novel with distinct and surreal clarity. Even remembered my heroine’s name (Cate).

    I told my children my story on our drive home and they sat – unkicking, unbickering – in blissful silence.

    The end of my story - the end, anyhow, of what I'd written of my story - ended approximately five minutes after arriving in front of our house. The kids sat stock-still as I recalled the last few pages, and then… 

    What happens next, Mom? 

    Well, that's the thing. I haven't finished it.

    But, what's the NEXT part? 

    I only got that far, I don't know what the next part is. 

    (They both stared at me… the little gears turning and cranking in their heads… a story without an ending? A story that you WROTE without an ending? How is that even… possible? You just MAKE one. Logic and naïv abounds in little ones.) 

    Well… why don't you just make it up?

    Yes, I planned to at some point.

    Yeah, Mom, you should write the ending.

    Yes, I really should.

    I really should. So, why haven't I? I know I'm not the only one with a "novel in progress", tucked away on a shelf, or in a folder, dusty - even if only in my mind. Why haven't I? Life happens, you get busy, other things take precidence, you forget what you wanted to do, planned to do. You think you never have the time, or you don't have the right enviroment - too many distractions, not enough quiet, not enough money or time to take a writing class, but… They're all excuses, right? Maybe we create them to sheild ourselves from disappointment: if we feel we never really got the opportunity, we can't be mad with outselves for not doing it. Or, maybe to insulate us from failure, that belief that we're not quite good enough - who actually becomes a famous writer, anyway?, those are just pipe dreams. I'm approaching forty, I can't be something new, NOW, right? Not right. That doesn't feel right, that's not right.

    I love what Stephen King has to say about "the right writing environment"…

    "In truth, I’ve found that any day’s routine interruptions and distractions don’t much hurt a work in progress and may actually help it in some ways. It is, after all, the dab of grit that seeps into an oyster’s shell that makes the pearl, not pearl-making seminars with other oysters."

    Well, damn. What an amazing truth there. I'm not going to make excuses for not writing anymore. I'm just going to write; distractions be damned (or, be inspired). I'm going to pick up that old novel, and add a bit more as I can, each day, whenever I can, until I'm finished. And then… I'm going to write some more. You're NOT too old, or too busy, or too tired to do what you really want to do. We're all just as productive as we make up our minds to be.

    I've decided to be more. And, I can't wait to tell my kids the ending!

    Are you writing a novel? Have you given up on it? Are you still writing it? Tell me about it…

    Posted: Apr 13 2012, 13:27 by kelly | Comments (2) RSS comment feed |
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    Keeping Your Cool

    I recently posted (and got lots of response) about kids and their emotions – particularly anger; as well as my own response to it. So, as part of my approach trying to figure out/deal with my own triggers, and help my children with their own, I ordered three parenting/discipline books:
    Screamfree Parenting, 1-2-3 Magic, and Playful Parenting. I started reading the first book, Screamfree Parenting: The Revolutionary Approach to Raising Your Kids by Keeping Your Cool by Hal Edward Runkel, a few days ago. As of today, I’m a little more than 100 pages in, and nodding my head to nearly every word of it.

    This book, so far, is inspiring, freeing, and not full of just theory (which I’ve found so many parenting books to be), but actual ideas and examples as well. The main idea I’ve gleaned so far: the realization and understanding that the only person (and thus the only person’s behavior) you can control is you (and your own behavior). In other words: you cannot control your children (nor would you want to), but you can control your reactions to your children. So instead of trying to always control their behaviors and actions, start focusing on controlling yourself and your emotional response to things, and your children will follow your lead (and become what we really want from our kids: individual, self-directed beings.... who also happen to know how to calmly work through life's difficulties = WIN!).
    The author uses lots of quotes – both his own and others’ to help drive his point home. This one I really appreciated: “Your emotional response is always up to you. You always have a choice.” So often I’ve found myself feeling at MY wits end – simply because my kids have reached their end. And its there, at that end that I’ve felt, I just have no choice: what else can I do but react with craziness to craziness (once all my attempts at reasoning, redirection, and “discipline” have been expended)? Yet, reading this book gives me a different perspective. My children’s emotions and actions are separate from my own. My children are responsible for their own emotions, just as I am responsible for mine. When I don't have to feel responsible for taking on the way they are feeling or acting, it really relieves so much pressure. I don't need to respond in kind to my 3 yo tantruming. Instead, I can be more zen & go with the flow, so to speak. To bend with their storm, but not break.
    Following that thought of going with the flow… Instead of always resisting our children’s emotions (boredom, anger, saying no), the book delves into how to acknowledge what they are feeling, to empathize, and then give them the responsibility of owning their own emotions and solving their own problems (certainly with help as is age-appropriate). The author gives a real-life example in the book (to which I absolutely related), of how to respond in a go-with-the-flow way to a child who complains, “I’m bored!”:
    “Wow, you’re bored? That stinks. I hate it when I’m bored. What are you going to do about it?” No resistance, just go with the momentum and actually join right alongside your child as she faces her own dilemma. (from pg. 100)
    Talk about awesome! That way of parenting just feels so empowering – both for parent and child! I don’t have to feel defeated by my children’s emotions, and they don’t need to feel required to have someone else always tackling the way they feel. It’s okay to just let them just be, and just let them feel, without judgment. To do so lets them know they are okay; that you know and trust they’ll make it through; that you love them, regardless of how they feel or act. And lets me take a much needed breather.
    I still have hundred or so pages to go… but I’ve already recommended to Adam that he read it when I’m finished. Here's hoping the second half lives up to the first half!
    So, have you read Screamfree Parenting? Thoughts? Any other peaceful parenting book recommendations?
    Posted: Jun 10 2010, 00:01 by kelly | Comments (4) RSS comment feed |
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    What About Anger

    I've been thinking lately about anger & how it affects children. And parents.
    As parents, so much of our time is spent with babies, toddlers, and preschoolers (and children and tweens and teens, I can only imagine) trying to teach them how to control (suppress) their anger: We don't hit! No biting! Quiet voices inside! Use nice words! And meanwhile, try to control (suppress) our own anger, in an effort to be a peaceful (good) parent.


    Really, I think we don’t want our children to be angry. Or, when they are angry (as people will be, of course), we want them to figure out how to get it under control. Like, NOW. And, in a way that socially acceptable (and doesn’t hurt my ears or other parts of my body, or embarrass you or me, thank you very much).  We don’t like the way it makes them feel, makes us feel, or the aftermath of said anger – theirs, or ours. I think we’d rather avoid it altogether.

    I’m a believer of teaching children through example - SHOWING our children how to behave more than telling them. Children do learn more by what they see played out and work out themselves, rather than what they hear.

    So, I try to be gentle. (Oftentimes feeling not all that gentle.)

    I try to be quiet and measured with my voice. (Though sometimes all I want to do is yell!)

    I try to give my children words to describe their feelings. (Nice words, when I can think of them.) 


    I tell and show my children that sometimes we DON'T feel good, but even when you feel that way, you still need to act with kindness, patience, and peacefulness.  (Oh, that sounds good, doesn’t it?)


    But I often find, that in my effort to teach anger management and keep a peaceful household, I get so wrapped up in the, “what can I do to not mess up my kids by getting angry with them” mode of thinking that I think I often miss the actual hearing what they are angry about and helping them work through it in a meaningful (though maybe not ideal) way.  In the striving to be perfect in my management of anger (rarely happens), I get so darned frustrated, I miss opportunities to stop, say what I’m feeling, and act it out myself in a acceptable way. I think this comes in part from my upbringing - my parents were not ones to withhold the anger (um, read: rage); and it didn't need to have reason.  Screaming was just the method of communication in my household.  So I know now as a parent myself, I try desperately to avoid that at all costs. Because I don't want to be a (the) YELLING MOM.  But in trying to restrict the rage, I disregard my early signals of anger, and miss opportunities to share with my kids, in reasonable tones, "Hey, I'm feeling irritable right now.  I need a break.", and instead, tend to bottle it until it blows.


    Case in point: I will repeat ad nauseum "be kind/gentle to your siblings" & "please stop fighting", with increased frequency and urgency but then lose my temper (because my 5 year old has the third tantrum of the day, I haven't had my coffee, I need to pay the bills, go grocery shopping, vaccuum, do the dishes, and have a deadline to meet at work…) and end up yelling, "I've had enough!" and slamming a door to give myself (a much needed, but could have been otherwise more peacefully acheived) time out (right after telling my 3 year old not to slam doors)! 


    Go me:  


    Which make me wonder: does that very real action negate the message I’m trying to send my kids about anger?  Because, I’m really not that good at managing my own anger all the time.  I can get so frustrated that I yell (and apologize) or slam doors (and say I shouldn’t have done that) or make stupid threats like, “we’re never coming back to the playground!” (and then admit, no that’s ridiculous, of course we are, I was just feeling frustrated with your behavior and I lost my temper). And then I feel plagued with guilt at not being in control of my anger. And guilt at not being able to teach my kids to control their anger.  I’m supposed to be teaching life-long lessons here, right?


    But then, that makes me wonder: is it even ideal to BE peaceful/even-keeled/NOT angry/in control all the time?


    Kids and adults naturally feel anger as one of their emotions, and bottling that up isn't healthy. So, maybe what I need most to be striving for (and worrying about) isn't how to control and stifle anger (mine or theirs), but how to accept anger as a natural emotion, and learn how better to express anger in a healthy acceptable way. To stop worrying so much about keeping anger in check (so much so that I end up getting super-frustrated with myself, and thus the kids, & completely lose my temper), but instead show my children not that I’m impenetrable by anger.  That I can be, in fact, very touched by anger and frustration and irritation and annoyance, and that’s okay.  Maybe if I accept anger, as I feel it coming on, and express it (not smother it) through words like, “Hey, kids, right now I’m starting to feel angry because you’re not listening to what I’m saying to you”, I might be better able to release it before it builds up.  And in this way be teaching them through example, that saying, “I’m angry with you”, is really okay.  Far better than bottling it up and releasing it all at once by yelling or door slamming.


    So how do YOU control your anger?  Or do you?  How do you teach your kids to express themselves when they’re angry? 

    Posted: Jun 02 2010, 23:44 by kelly | Comments (11) RSS comment feed |
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