There are too Many Experiences out There!

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Photo by Eli Francis on Unsplash

“There are too many books in this world to waste precious time reading ones we don’t enjoy.”

A reader posted a meme about someone saying they didn’t like a book (acceptable) but they didn’t finish it (unacceptable). I think that’s ridiculous. Reading is supposed to bring us joy or information. If I’m not enjoying the book, I rarely get much information from it. And so…it’s a waste of the precious time on this earth that we are given to continue.

Now, there are books that moved a little slow for my taste at first or the subject didn’t quite hold on to me, but I kept at them because the writing was good and I wanted to give it a fair shake. Those books ended up being great for the most part. If I have to force myself to keep reading or don’t have the urge to keep reading the next chapter, I put that book down. It may not even be a bad book. It just isn’t for me.

You know what’s strange? The same goes for the rest of life. If it doesn’t bring you positives, let it go. There are so many experiences in this world and we have so little time on this planet. Why would we waste that precious time on things that aren’t serving us? Sure, there are things we have to do, things we need to do to survive or to take care of our loved ones, but if we do them from the right frame of mind, they end up being positives as well and worth doing. Why would we deliberately choose to stay in a situation, a job, a relationship, anything, that brings absolutely no joy to ourselves or someone we cherish? Just put the book down.

How about we all practice taking responsibility for our own happiness for a change? If you’re unhappy, unsatisfied, unfulfilled, change something. Change the process. Change your surroundings. Change the direction. Change your attitude. Take back the control of your own life instead of just floating along with the flow.

Start with the book you’re reading. Just like each book is not for everyone, each life choice is not for everyone. Do what you love. Be where you love. Accept responsibility for your own life choices. Go for it.

A Grocery Clerk Can Change Your Outlook

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Photo by Arren Mills on Unsplash

“You have an interesting accent. Where are you from?” A conversation begins, enthusiastic exchanges, small family history tidbits, a flash of red hair and she’s gone.

Jogging up to an elderly man in a mobility cart, “Can I help you out with that, sir?” He looks at her abruptly, as if he needs the help, but softens, and smiles, “Sure, honey.” “You drive out and I’ll drive her back!” she chirps as she follows him out to the parking lot.

By the time it’s my turn at the register, she has returned. Grabbing groceries and putting them into reusable bags, she comments “Oh, I love these! So good!” I smile and laugh.

Does this woman have anything negative to say, ever? With all that energy, all those smiles, you’d think she were nineteen years old, the world before her, but she’s not. She looks to be about thirty, young but not a baby anymore, old enough to be worn down a bit like many of my neighbors. I wonder if she goes home from her shift at the grocery store happy and humming along, or does she collapse onto her couch in exhaustion. Is this her natural state, or is she putting on a show? All I know is that it is impossible to be sad or grumpy around her. I’ve seen a few people try and fail.

As she finishes up and runs to the next check stand to bag more groceries, I make a comment completely outside my own comfort zone. I feel compelled by her enthusiasm to speak up. “I just can’t help but smile and leave here in a better mood than the one I came in with when she’s here.”

The checker agrees, “Who? Joi? She’s amazing. We can’t help but be happy around her either. Feels like we’ll let her down if we do. You should tell our manager that! Oh, wait. He’s right here.” We stand and chat for a few seconds. It seems everyone that meets her, loves her. It must be nice.

As I’m heading out the door, she comes walking back in the store. I hear, “Hot out there?” It’s over 100 degrees in the desert parking lot. “It is!” she smiles, “but the wind is blowing nicely so it isn’t bad at all!”

I smile thinking about her as I start putting my groceries in the truck. And there she is again, chatting with an older woman, pushing her cart to her car.

Groceries loaded carefully in the back seat so that they don’t go sliding off the minute I turn a corner, I hope, cart returned to the corral, I climb in the front seat and start the truck. As it idles and the air-conditioning starts to cool off the interior, I take a deep breath and relax for just a moment, thinking about Joi and the joy she apparently carries.

It’s been a difficult day, not for any reason other than a bad mood, a dark cloud I just can’t seem to get out from under. It isn’t like anything is wrong, no crisis looms, it’s just…sadness. Watching her interact with the people around her, I feel chastised. Why can’t I be more like her? In a lot of ways, I am. I don’t usually tend toward the negative. I am generally good natured. But there is one thing very different, she’s not afraid to talk to people.

Several times, on this grocery trip and others, I’ve seen her notice and compliment people. She compliments the things people are wearing, shares her love of the things they buy, or asks where people are from. I notice those things, but I rarely engage people. Why? Because I’m afraid. What if I say the wrong thing? What if they don’t want to talk to me? I smile politely and nod to people, keeping even my positive comments and compliments, my joy, to myself.

Remembering the checker and the store manager’s reaction to Joi’s enthusiasm and openness, I straighten up in the front seat and resolve to be more like her from this moment on. Her honest love of people is infectious.

Shifting into gear, I remember…crud…I have a package to pick up at the post office. Should I get the groceries home before the milk spoils and then come back into town for the mail? Nah, I’m sure it will only add a minute to the drive home and I’ll save the gas of the extra drive.

I pull into the post office parking lot and run inside. Perfect. Next in line. While I wait a woman walks in behind me. The first thing I notice is the beautiful scarf over her head and around her neck. It reminds me of an Arabian princess, a flowing silk thing to keep the sun off her head. Now’s my chance to say something kind. On second glance, she is small and frail, her head is shaved close, and I hesitate. What if she doesn’t want that kind of attention? What if she thinks I’m weird for making such a comment about a stranger? I stay silent, get my package and leave.

 

Who’s Medea and Why Should I Know Her From Mary Poppins?

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My son took me to see “The Addams Family,” the musical not the new movie, at a local theater this past weekend and an interesting thought occurred when I heard this line in the play.

Side note: I’m the geek with an open notebook and pencil during plays, by the way. It helps me remember bits that caught my eye during the performance. The notebook is hilarious. I hold it however it’s easiest in my seat in the dark and I can’t see the words I’m writing, so it looks much like the ravings of a lunatic in a padded cell, allowed a notebook after days if pleading.

“Please” she whispers quietly in the dark, “just a piece of paper and a pencil.” What can she possibly need to write down? Is it a ploy to get materials needed for escape? They can’t figure out why, so they eventually give in to stop the pathetic crying, and when they sneak in and steal it away from her while she sleeps, all they see is random words and symbols written any which way. They can make no sense of the scribblings, so they give it back to her and allow her to continue her ravings on paper.

But I digress.

What was that line? Oh yes, “This stuff turns Mary Poppins into Medea.”

I laughed at the visual the line gave me. But I wondered if my son had the same image. He knows Mary Poppins, but I wasn’t sure if he remembered Medea from our journeys through literature. I jotted down the two names to remember to ask him after the show.

If you don’t know either character, this line means absolutely nothing, doesn’t it? It only works for a specific audience. It’s strange how we use references to other stories to describe things. There was a Star Trek episode that came across a people that communicated in nothing but references to events. They (the humans) couldn’t understand anything the aliens said because they didn’t know the events they referenced. To learn that language, one would need to study the whole history of the planet, not just the grammar and alphabet.

How else could that line be written? “This potion or liquid dose turns a human that is generally loving, kind, and levelheaded into a self-centered, crazy person, determined to get her own way.” Not very poetic or funny is it? Writing it the other way assumes that your audience is familiar with at least one of the characters. It drops flat if they know of neither.

What happens if we lose the common cultural background of stories? What if we are all reading, watching, and experiencing different stories? I suppose we’ll have to stop using those colorful references and use more descriptive adverbs and adjectives instead.
We could lament the loss of common cultural stories or we could embrace the change and learn to communicate in new (or old) ways that cross national, cultural, and species (oh please let there be extraterrestrial aliens out there) lines. Language has always evolved. It’s not new. It’s not the end of the world as we know it. It’s just different and progressing in unexpected ways.

And The Stars To Guide Me

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Photo by Wil Stewart on Unsplash

“However much we may admire the orator’s occasional bursts of eloquence, the noblest written words are commonly far behind or above the fleeting spoken language as the firmament with its stars is behind the clouds. There are the stars, and they who can may read them. The astronomers forever comment on and observe them. They are not exhalations like our daily colloquies and vaporous breath. What is called eloquence in the forum is commonly found to be rhetoric in the study. The orator yields to the inspiration of the transient occasion, and speaks to the mob before him, to those who can hear him; but the writer, whose more equable life is his occasion, and who would be distracted by the event and the crowd which inspire the orator, speaks to the intellect and heart of mankind, to all in any age who can understand him.”
From Walden by Henry David Thoreau

This. Wow. This morning, sitting there with my book, distracted like a squirrel by anything that moves or makes a sound, I read this.

I wasn’t enjoying Walden very much until this chapter, Reading. And then I almost cried. He spoke to my soul with this chapter, from 100 years in the past. And that’s exactly what he was trying to say.

How can we relate old written words to our current tech-filled, fast paced life? Read this book and you’ll know. He writes of the telegraph, the train, newspapers, and city life as we would of social media, world travel, mainstream media news, and city life. Ha! And his point still stands.

Do we really have that much to do? Are we overwhelming ourselves and forgetting what it’s like to be human? Are we so filled with “business” that we lose site of the real point of our lives?

This morning, I got up from my reading to make breakfast as I usually do and thought, I should go back to eating better. I haven’t been feeling as healthy as I should the past few weeks and I know it’s mainly because I’ve been skipping a good breakfast and starting my days with coffee and toast or cereal. I walked into the kitchen, opened the fridge, and looked at the vegetables, eggs, cheese, that I had bought the day before.

“I don’t have time to cut up veggies and then make eggs.”

I don’t have time? Why? Because I have so many pressing responsibilities? Because I have to be at work? Because I have babies to feed and love? No. I don’t have time because I want to get back to the distraction of scrolling through social media feeds. I’ve lost track of my priorities.

I’m not condemning social media, fun, or friendships. I’m not saying sell all your possessions, quit your job and live off the land. I’m saying make time for what you really want. And to do that we have to start with knowing exactly what it is we want.

For me, that means deliberately setting everything else aside for a while and going back to basics, maybe even spending some serious time in solitude, to reflect and refocus. When I’m quiet and undisturbed from the outside, my mind begins to settle down and the real thinking begins.

I need to go back to my stars and stop looking at the clouds for direction.

A New Passion Has Emerged

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https://writerswrite.co.za/mos

At the beginning of the month, I found a graphic of one or two-word writing prompts for each day in the month of October and thought, maybe this would help me warm up a bit. I’ve been having a hell of a time thinking of things to write when I try to write every single day. Maybe this would jar things loose?

Seventeen days into October…it’s totally working. Some days I have things I’d like to write about. There are things that I read in books that prompt my thinking and things I hear people talking about or post on social media that I feel compelled to comment on. Podcasts and quiet time to think also spark my commentary. But these prompts, they are something different. I look at the word first thing in the morning and most times nothing comes to mind right away, but then, sometime around the dishes or watering the yard, it hits me. It comes in like a scene from a movie in my head. Sometimes it sparks a memory that comes out on the written page as an embellished memoir. Other times it hits me right at the center of my imagination and the new scene just comes pouring out.

All month I’ve been wondering where it came from. What new skill have I just discovered I can tap into? But yesterday, as I was driving to meet a friend for coffee, it dawned on me. It’s not new at all. I’ve always been accused of making something bigger than it really was, of attributing words to children that never said them and romanticizing the truth. And my worries, my anxiety? Guess where they from? My imagination. I don’t worry about little things, or what might happen in a vague way. I create vivid scenes in my head from a horrific accident to the details of the funeral and having to deal with people feeling bad about my loss. I don’t think, “Oh I hope my son doesn’t get into trouble.” And wring my hands over it. I see the whole scene played out before me down to the last detail. I don’t wonder what my husband is thinking when he’s quiet. I build up whole storylines about what could be going on in his head and end up sobbing in bed over the fiction I created.

When I was younger, I used to act on the feelings I created in myself with those imaginary scenes. I’d change my plans to go on a road trip because I imagined that I had a premonition about a horrible car accident. I wouldn’t let my kids play at the park the afternoon I imagined what life would be like if they were kidnapped and murdered. I went into a two-day depression spiral because I imagined that the reason my husband was late home from work was that he’d met up with new friends that coerced him into a going to party and got too stoned and drunk to get home to me.

It wasn’t until I was late into my thirties before I had some control over letting my imagination run wild. Why it took so long, I may never understand, but I finally figured out how to separate my imagination from reality on a permanent basis…mostly. I still embellish the truth a bit from time to time. Stories are much better told with a flourish of language in my opinion.

And now, because I just happened across a writing prompt graphic on social media, I’ve discovered a new passion and expanded on it. When I write fiction, it’s me in those scenes. It can get a little stressful because I feel it and sense it all. I want to sit in my imagination and find ways to describe everything I see, feel, and smell. I want to think the horrible thoughts, taste the food, and touch the things I see. When I write the story, it isn’t what really happened, it’s what I imagine would if I were there. I feel like I’ve finally found a healthy way to explore those thoughts which used to terrify me. I’ve found a way to express those imagined feelings without losing my grip on reality. It’s incredibly exciting and I hope you like reading them.

I’m thoroughly enjoying diving into that well of imagination and using it for good instead of evil. Who knows where it will go? I’m still writing non-fiction. I feel like I have a lot to say, a lot to process and share. But now, I feel like I have a new outlet, a new direction for my passion for words.

And don’t worry. I’ll clearly mark my “stories” fiction at the top. I’d hate for someone to read a non-fiction post from me one day and be inspired only to find a fiction one the next and wonder what kind of insanity has been occurring at this house!

It’s The Little Things

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Photo by Paul Bulai on Unsplash

Today I noticed…

The build-up of a manic episode. The first sparks that light the fire. The fire that can warm and cook to perfection, or burn out of control and destroy.

Thoughts race, mood lifts, creativity flows. Words race out in text, building up fantastic castles in the air.

Projects are conceived and begun. Materials gathered.

Commitments are made. Parties planned.

People are contacted. Apologies made.

It’s a mental spring after a dark winter. Warmth comes from within and dares to spill out into the world of reality.

These are the good days. The days that so much seems so possible, so achievable. But will it last?

Can I build a useful fire? A controlled and sustainable burn?

A feeling that always escaped me in the past, never noticing the build-up until it has begun to burn me.

It’s a start.

Pick a Fear! Any Fear!

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Photo by Sergi Viladesau on Unsplash

A magician playing the game of “guess my card” is what I think of when I think to work on my fears.

I know. Everyone faces fear at some point in their lives. Some of us live with it daily. What mine? Ridiculous, to be completely honest. Generally, my mind is filled with “What if?” questions that can never be answered. The ones that everyone tells everyone else to ignore. I try to put them out of my head and live in the moment I’m in, but they creep back in again, along with wondering what would happen if we all paid a little more attention to the potential consequences of our actions instead. Wouldn’t it make the world just a little nicer? I mean, if other people paid more attention to what they were doing and how it could affect the people around them, maybe I wouldn’t have so much to worry about, damn it!

Sometimes I worry about the bigger things. Things like, am I raising my kids to be civilized and responsible adults? Will they grow up and be independent, decent people? If I make the choice to buy a new car, will I be able to afford it a year from now? Can I juggle my relationships in a way that makes us all happier and healthier people, or am I ruining the lives of those around me?

Then there are the silly things that I get stuck on. If I go to the grocery store today, will I just have to go again tomorrow? What if I start buying more things online? Am I bothering the person driving behind me with my slow-ass VW? Should I call my friend and bother her or let her come to me if she needs help? Should I stay or should I go now? …starts singing in her head…

It becomes overwhelming at times, but it passes pretty quickly. I’ve learned to take a break when I begin to feel the creeping sensation of anxiety. I sit alone and meditate or go for a long walk to clear my head. Talking about it helps too. Walking and spilling out all the bullshit ideas to someone who won’t take any of it too seriously and won’t tell me that I overthink things helps me more than anything else.

I can’t just shove it all aside and ignore it or quietly allow all the negativity to release into thin air. It’s just not helpful to me. Those things eventually float back down and attach themselves to my psyche like I’m a magnet for my ugliest thoughts. Not until I voice them do they begin to dissipate and dissolve. In my head and unspoken, they swirl around and build on each other like a snowball rolling downhill. Voiced into the world, these crappy ideas just can’t hold their shape and are crushed by the positive reality around them, vanquished.

So what can I do to create a safe space to release this negative energy without destroying those around me and ruining any sense of peace in my relationships? Two things. The first is to write it out. I type it out in my journal or open up a notebook and get a pen. Pen and paper is my preferred method. I draw pictures, spell out elaborate curse words in bold letters, express all the things I want to say to everyone I want to say it to in the worst ways, without regard for anyone’s feelings or well-being. These paper journals may terrify someone some day. I have plans to put them in a box with an explanation on the lid, so that if I die suddenly, no one will come across that ugliness and wonder what went wrong. This therapeutic writing helps a lot, most of the time. But sometimes I need more.

My second, and most favored, form of release is to walk and talk with a safe person. That’s usually my sweet husband. When I’m walking and talking the words and ideas aren’t nearly as harsh as when I write them. Something about the physical exertion helps tame them. I talk out all the things that weigh on me and he listens and walks beside me. Rarely does he try to fix it for me or express concern for my sanity. He just listens. And I feel lighter at every step. It feels much like a miracle. By the time we get back, my mood has improved, nothing seems so terrible and impossible anymore. We get a drink of water, relax into the couch or porch chairs, rest up a bit, and then continue with our day in peace.

How do you deal with fear? Do you release it into the wild? Suppress it? Reason it away? Or do you give into it and decide fear is there to warn you of danger and avoid what it is your fear most?

5 Ways to Make Your Homeschool Day Easier

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Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

“There is no consistent pattern for number of days of school per year, length of school breaks, or even length of an average school day among top-performing education systems. This suggests that when it comes to student performance, more important than the amount of time students spend in class is how that time is spent.” From a graphic on NCEE

How can we spend time with our kids and create a quality education at home? When we first start homeschooling it’s easy to recreate traditional school at home. It’s what we know best. And if a school can do what it does in six hours a day, 180 days a year, imagine how much we could teach having our kids 24/7, 365 days a year?!

But the truth of it is, many people start that way and quickly realize it doesn’t work. Homeschooling doesn’t need to look like traditional schooling at all and, in my opinion, it shouldn’t. We should always be Mom and Dad and never “teacher” to our children. That doesn’t mean we aren’t helping them learn, it just means the role we take in their education looks very different. Educating our own children, in our own homes, can and should take on a much more organic feel that looks nothing like a classroom and much more like a creative workshop.

We homeschooled both our boys from birth. I didn’t plan to and the evolution of our homeschool path was a rocky one. We were both traditionally educated, so when we decided to homeschool we automatically took the “school at home” approach. It’s what we knew and what we believed was a tried and true approach. But over time, through watching our kids, reading and studying education styles, talking with parents of grown homeschooled children, our homeschool quickly evolved into a radical unschooling approach that worked very well for all of us. Even if you aren’t using the unschool method, these five tips can help relax your homeschool and support your learning lifestyle.

My sons are now 17 and 19 years old. They both hold jobs and are moving toward independence at their own pace. One is living at home and enjoying the academic life of college. The other has spent a year in Europe on his own and is pursuing a vocational path. Both are competent young adults that people enjoy being around and trust. That’s not bragging, it’s my qualification to speak on the subject. I’m not an expert on homeschooling or on education in general. I’m a mom with experience, sharing what I found to work for us.

#1 Start a Morning Routine for Yourself

You know how on airplanes they say, “Put your own oxygen mask on first and then help your children.” We’ve seen it go around as a meme for years, quoted in self-help books, and laughed about by comedians. It has become cliché, but so totally true, especially for homeschooling.

If you’re homeschooling your kids this year, you’ve just expanded your duties beyond parent and into the realm of educator. Not only are you responsible for keeping them clean, fed, and loved; you now have the added responsibility of facilitating their education. Take care of yourself first, so that you’re ready and able to take care of others.

I’ve found a morning self-care routine is the best way to do that. Getting up before the kids, or having Grandma come over and watch the monkeys for an hour in the morning (one of the perks of a live-in Grandma), was one of the best things I did for their education. The routine evolved over the years from a few minutes in my favorite book with a cup of coffee, to journaling, to day planning, to meditation. The key is to create one that feeds your own soul and makes you a more relaxed person in general.

Search the internet for “morning routine” and you’ll find all kinds of inspiring ideas to get you started!

#2 Ditch the Pre-Packaged Curriculum

A standardized curriculum was created to get a large group of people through a designated amount a material in an organized manner. It’s useful for schools so they keep everyone on track and moving in the same direction. But we don’t need it.

“But won’t there be gaps in their education?”

“How will I know they are learning all the material?”

First of all, there are gaps in everyone’s education: public, private, homeschooled, or tutored. Use one curriculum and you’ll know one list of information. Use another and you’ll know a different list of information. There is no way to put into one human all that they will need to know in a few years of any style of schooling. The point of education shouldn’t be gathering a list of information. It should be learning how to find the information you need.

When my sons were elementary school age, I printed out the World Book Encyclopedia’s Typical Course of Study for their age and kept it as a reference. We’d go to the library once a week and, along with any book they chose to pick up, I picked a book that covered one topic in each subject and left them on our coffee table to thumb through at quiet moments, or look at while we ate lunch. If they found a topic interesting, we’d explore it more.

We also found great recommended reading lists, like the one at TJEd.org. I read those books aloud to the boys before bed, during meals, as audio books during drives, and in line for rides at amusement parks (a great use for a smart phone). There were loads of questions, discussions, and looking up word meanings, but never book reports, diagraming sentences, or tearing apart of character and plot. We just enjoyed the stories. Sometimes we’d find a movie based on one of those books and watch it, which led to more discussion and sometimes controversy.

Another alternative to curriculum and lesson plans is to go to a park day and play with other kids every week, get an annual pass to a museum, science center, or zoo, join scouts or another club, or spend time at historical sites and events all around your area.

The key is to not push the “learning” aspect, but to create an atmosphere of learning all the time. That goes for you too! Go to movies, see the sites, find out what’s going on in your area. Talk with your kids, ask them questions, be curious, and always answer their questions. Show them through your actions that curiosity never dies, that learning never ends and isn’t a chore to be gotten through.

#3 Don’t Over-schedule Your Week

It’s tempting to fill your week with organized field trips and classes but don’t fall for it! There’s a lot to be said for time at home doing nothing in particular. A week could look like this:

Monday Park Day
Tuesday Home
Wednesday Library
Thursday Home
Friday Adventure/Class/Etc.
Saturday Family Time Adventure
Sunday Home

The key point here is flexibility and leaving time to process and relax. There should be time in your day to get the housework done, the groceries in, and to make meals. Invite the kids to help you and learn from the process, or ask them to play outside while you get things ready for them. We shouldn’t be running from one thing to the next and have no time to stop and enjoy the scenery. And your plans should be flexible enough to be able to take advantage of a show or event you just found out about or to take into account the needs of a sick, tired, or just plain grumpy kid (or parent for that matter). You should also have time to visit friends and family when you want to!

It may sound like taking time off to spend the day at the movies or at the zoo, but to a real homeschooler, it’s part of their education. Even something as mundane as the grocery store is part of the process. And when one of us gets sick, call it Health Science and find out what a cold really is, how the body works to fix it, and how best to manage symptoms. This, by the way, is one of the glories of the information age. You have a smart phone, start using it!

#4 Plan Meals and Rest Not Learning or Subjects

Our family’s day revolved around eating and sleeping when my kids were under 12 years old. Breakfast was generally at the same time (and when I read from the books I wanted to get from the library), lunch was at the same time, naps (or really just rest and quiet play), and then dinner when Dad got home from work, which went right into the evening routine of a tv show with Dad or a game, bathing, and reading stories (one for each and the “classic” I wanted them to hear).

Between those times is when the magic happened. Making lunch became science, world culture, and life skills. They’d reenact the stories we were reading in the backyard while I did the laundry. Building forts became physical science. The mailman would come, the street sweeper, the neighbor kids, the park, all lent itself to our education.

How did I keep track of it as a school? I kept a journal, both online as a blog and in a notebook. I took a lot of pictures, too. There were pictures of the kids doing things, places we went, signs we saw, and people we talked to. Part of the evening routine was sitting in the rocking chair in the their room while they went to sleep. I used it as an evening meditation for myself. I’d sit there with my journal, write down what we did, and then read my own book, usually one about homeschooling or some other self-help book. Most nights I ended the day in prayer and thanksgiving. And many nights I ended it in prayer and tears. Parenting is not for the faint of heart!

#5 Start an Evening Routine That Involves Reading What Your Kids Want to Read

We never had a bedtime per se, but we did have an evening routine. After dinner we usually watched a tv show, then we’d head upstairs for clean up, baths, teeth brushing, and pajamas. Then we’d read. Each of the kids would pick a book for me to read to them. It was usually one we’d read a million times. At times, they might choose to read aloud to the rest of us, which is so much fun when they are tiny and just making it up and pointing to words in the book to mimic you (also part of learning to read).

I would end the evening by reading a few chapters from a book from my list, usually a book that would be too hard for them to read on their own. There was a lot of discussion at this time. Lots of questions, looking up words, and talking about the story. Then they’d settle into bed and I would start with my evening routine.

It wasn’t always pretty, my journals are filled with Mom angst and tears for just one peaceful bedtime,  but there was consistency and the kids loved it. We must have read over one hundred classics by the time they got out of elementary school and the proof that it meant a lot to their education is that they still have most of those books and there are still jokes and references to them on a daily basis. And, I simply must add, they both tested right into college English without taking a single English class.


 

For the uninitiated, homeschooling this way feels like not going to school at all, especially during the elementary years, but if you keep a detailed journal listing only the books you read, the places you visited, and the play projects you did together, you’ll start to see the “school hours” rack up. Learning should be play for children and homeschooling this way relieves both parents and kids of some of the stress of modern living.

Our homeschooling lives don’t need to be complicated or expensive. If you’re spending time with them reading, exploring, relaxing and playing, they will learn. Answer their questions, make their lives regular, comfortable and safe. They’ll learn in amazing ways right along side of you and you’ll all be better for the journey!

Letter to My Grumpy Self

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Photo by Debby Hudson on Unsplash

Dear Me,

I know you’re tired and grumpy. I know you are frustrated with yourself. I know you want so badly to do better, to complete more tasks, to be more organized, to eat better, to be stronger and healthier.

I know you want to run out into the world screaming obscenities. I know you want to connect with other humans on a deeper level, to spend quality time with real friends, and to run away and hide at the same time.

I know you’re thinking, last week was so good, why does this week suck so bad? Why can’t I stay on track? Why can’t I keep up the pace? Everyone else seems to be able to do so much and here I am grumbling. You feel lazy and “out of sorts.”

I know you don’t want to hear this but you are enough right where you are. Your house is clean enough. Your family and friends love you just the way you are. You honor your commitments. You love people unconditionally. You do your best.

Life is a big series of cycles, ups and downs that keep things interesting. Imagine how boring it would be if every day you got up and felt the same way? Even joy starts to get depressing if its all you ever experience!

The kids are distracting you. Embrace them. They’re teenagers. They’ll be gone soon, just like the exhausting babies, the disruptive and messy kids, and anxious and annoying preteens they used to be and that you miss so much when you see those old pictures.

The weather has changed, and you can’t go outside and do the thing you were doing last week. Notice and enjoy it. Remember last month when you sat there crying for cooler weather?

You’re feeling blue and less than productive. Look at the amazing week you had earlier this month and the not so productive one you had before that. It’ll come back. It always does.

Don’t ruin today worrying about tomorrow or lamenting yesterday. Find something positive to focus on. Or, even better, make the conscious decision to enjoy the moment instead. Grab a cup of tea, your book, and find a place to hide for a bit. Sing along with those crazy teens practicing guitar in the middle of the living room where you were trying to vacuum. Write out some words of encouragement to yourself and post it. Forget dinner and order a pizza. Harass your husband to go for a walk, even though it’s cold. And be thankful for what you have, who you have, and what you can do.

Take care of yourself, love. I love you, every messy, tired, pissy, and confused piece of you.

Love,

You

Learning to Share Through Abundance

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“Of course, they aren’t!” I can just hear people scoff when I post that statement. But then I hear the way they talk about the people in their lives and wonder…do they know what that really means?

We treat people as possessions when we get angry that a child is not “living up to his potential” and doing something other than what we had planned for them. We treat people as possessions when we insist that our romantic partners spend all their free time with us and never even look in the direction of another. We treat people as possessions when we get angry that our parents move to another state away from our young family.

Each of us has a life to live independent from the others around us. There are times in our life when we come together and work toward a common goal, a family, a job, a project, but ultimately, we are responsible for our own lives, for achieving our own goals, making ourselves happy.

When we choose to work in relationship with others for a short or long term, both sides of the relationship are voluntary. The relationship lasts as long as everyone in it wants to be in it. And when one person in the relationship no longer wants to be there, they are not monsters, they are not mean, they are not evil. They are acting in their own best interest and they should be encouraged to do so, even if that means we must be sad or hurt a bit while we adjust.

These things seem to be so glaringly obvious to me lately, but still I see the way people treat the ones they love and wonder what it would be like if we all respected each other more.

The possessiveness I see reminds me of a small child.

“My friend!”

“My lover!”

“My wife!”

“My parent!”

“My child!”

They gather all their precious toys around them, clutching in desperation to keep their possessions from being stolen away by others. When someone makes a move to see what it is that they are holding so dear, they snatch it close and holler, “Mine!”

Children haven’t learned to share yet and to learn to share, they must at first feel secure that things won’t be taken away by force. We allow them to horde their things and build up the strength to share with the presence of abundance.

Do we not think this will work with relationships as well? When I have filled up my bucket of love so to speak, I learn to share that love with others. When I spend time and energy in any relationship, I know when that person spends time away from me, they will return. I am sharing my precious with others, not giving it away.

My children will grow into independent and fully functional adults, that go into the world without me and bring back to me the new relationships they have built with others to share with me.

My husband spends some of his after-work time meeting new people, following new activities, without my presence. And when he returns, he is happier and brings new feelings and energy, new people, and new activities to our relationship.

My parents, while not right down the street while I raise my own children, have moved to another state and now I can bring my family on vacation there and enjoy their company on completely different terms than the way I grew up.

Possessiveness is only jealousy in disguise. There is no faster destroyer of love than feeling as if one is a possession of another. “If you love something, set it free…”