One For the Murphys

January 25, 2018 § 1 Comment

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Late last fall, my 12 year old daughter casually mentions to me that the book One for the Murphys by Lynda Mullaly Hunt is one she would like to read. I make a mental note to myself that it would be a good Christmas gift for her (the kind of gift that is extra special because not only does she want the book, but because I listened and remembered, surprise!).  Later in the month, during our online Christmas shopping trip together over a Chai latte at our kitchen table, I say to my husband that we should order the book for her. He tells me that she already had a plan to submit the book request to her teacher. (Back story: each month my daughter’s Social Studies teacher invites her students to write a short essay on why they wish to own a particular book, what they hope to learn from it, and if the teacher is convinced, she will buy it for them.)  Back to my gift idea, I’m a little disappointed, but it’s a great way for her to get a book she likes, so I let it go.

Flash forward to January.  My daughter hasn’t gotten around to writing the essay to request the book. It’s a Thursday morning and I am volunteering at our school library processing the piles of returned books. I love this job, because it allows me to see what the most frequently read books are, noting that the ones that get “holds” put on them repeatedly must be real gems. As I’m scanning the bar codes to check each book back in, I suddenly discover One for the Murphys is in my hands. A wave of recollection washes over me and I smile at the synchronicity. My daughter was clearly meant to read this book, and I get excited once again at the prospect of being the one to give it to her. I set it aside to sign out and bring it home to my daughter later.

Before bed each night I have a routine: check the doors are locked, turn off the lights, clean up any straggling dishes or abandoned snacks, cycle the laundry I had forgotten I’d put in hours ago, and then, I check on my children. I collect the phones from the teenagers, place a silent kiss on each of my other two, tell Alexa she can stop spouting stories to my sleeping children, and then I head to bed.  On this night, as I stop in at my daughter’s room, she is reading One for the Murphys. “Oh!” I say delighted, “how is it?” She pulls her nose out of the book and responds emphatically “I loooove it”, her eyes growing bigger as she says loooove. “Oh terrific!” I say, as I listen to her go on for several minutes about what is happening in the book at that moment. My mind wanders a little as she is talking and I wonder to myself why she seems to always love stories about orphans. After she finishes and returns her nose to the book, I kiss her good night and take my leave, satisfied with a good result. But, as I was to learn,  there was so much more to this book coming into our home.

The next day, the book is laying on the part of the kitchen counter I refer to as “The Landing Area”, as it is where my paperwork and weekly tasks pile up. My daughter is making her lunch nearby and I say “you finished it already?” She turns to look at what I am referring to and when she sees the book, her face brightens and she says “oh yeah!, Mom, it was SO good! You should read it actually, I bet you’d like it”. Inside I was thinking of the five partially-read books currently piled on my night stand, as well as the many bought-but-not-yet-read books I have elsewhere in the house, and I think so myself, I don’t have time to read my kids books. But later that day when I saw the book  sitting on my “to-do” pile spot on the counter, I remembered a friend of mine commenting to me about how she really enjoyed reading the same books as her kids because it translated so nicely into great conversations about the story with them.  Alright, I said to myself, I’ll read it, then my daughter and I can have fun discussing it – always a great thing to stay connected with your tween, right? My intentions were purely focused on “what would a good parent do”.

Well, as I often say (and yes, I can hear my kids groaning in agreement), “What you focus on, expands”, and boy did it ever. My energy was on the choice to read a book because I thought it would make me a good parent to do so, and boy is that what expanded.

This book is about mothers. Bad ones, good ones, and a young girl my daughter’s age perceiving what makes a mom good or bad, through her young eyes. As I am reading, I am silently comparing my own parenting with what is happening in the book, wondering if my daughter did the same thing as she was reading it. On which end of the spectrum did my parenting land in her experience? As I finish the book a day later (cause I couldn’t put it down), I am in tears over the ending. My tears while prompted by what is happening in the story, have a much different feel to them. I’m not crying about the characters, I’m crying because I have suddenly experienced such clarity about the kind of mother I want to be in my children’s eyes. Not the eyes of other parents, or of my parents, or even my own perception, but the kind of mother I want my children to know me as. And suddenly any tension, anxiety, frustration and resentment I had hidden away in my body about my children’s behaviour and choices, is released. I remove my reading glasses because I cannot see anymore through the tears now flowing down my cheeks. I start laughing, partially because I’ve totally lost it over a book, but mostly cause I’m happy. Happy and so grateful for the clarity.

Like a refreshing splash of water on a hot day, my energy to parent my children is renewed, and I suddenly can’t wait for them to get home from school so I can love on them.

With gratitude.

 

 

 

 

 

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Mom Fatigue

May 6, 2016 § Leave a comment

If you are a mom, there is a good chance you have a very full definition of this term already in your head, and its resonance is why you are reading this now. It’s different for every mom, and as Mother’s Day approaches, I feel it deserves some real estate on my blog.  Also because my kids were complaining about having nothing to put in their lunch this morning and mismatched socks on their feet because I had no time for groceries or laundry this week. My response was less about empathy, and more about weariness.

I saw a Facebook post the other day outlining What Moms Really Want on Mother’s Day. It included:

  1. sleeping in
  2. silence
  3. to pee uninterrupted
  4. somebody else to cook
  5. a clean house.

I read that and heavily exhaled. Yes, so true. And then it hit me. Isn’t it crazy that none of those things involve celebrating our children or spouse? Enter Mom Fatigue.

We love our children. We love them so much we compete with every other mom in the PTSA to show what good moms we are. Some days I imagine we are all greyhounds, chasing that artificial hare speeding around the track, and I think to myself, who picked the hare, and how fast it goes?  Who decides that pace?

I see moms every day struggling with “not good enough” self-doubt, forever questioning how they could have done something better, been more organized, or how they missed a detail. Even on the good days, all it takes is one FB post or one Pinterest reference to send you into a tailspin of what you “should” be doing.

The word “should” just might be the most destructively–charged word in the English language.

 

I found reprieve this week in an exercise from Sanaya Roman’s book “Living With Joy”. In it, she offers:

 

“You may have been taught that being busy creates self-worth”.

 

(notice how there is no judgement in that statement? It just offers an idea for you to consider and decide if it aligns with your experience)

From this book, I learned to differentiate between Personality-driven activity (all the shoulds, and obligations we have created in our life) and Soul-driven activity – those activities done with your higher purpose in mind.

Weigh that for a minute in your mind, and as you do, gently walk yourself through your schedule today. For each activity, consider how it makes you feel and how it relates to your higher purpose? Keep in mind that your ego will try to step in and begin justifying your choices to help you feel better, but follow your intuition. Do you feel resistance and negative emotions in response to the activity, or do you feel excited about it, like it is aligned with your true nature?

And I hear what you are thinking…”Well that’s a neat exercise, but I can’t just drop my obligations cause they don’t feel good, I’ve made a commitment to them!” Right?

If you discover activity in your day that is creating resistance and negative emotion, it doesn’t mean you have to drop it. This new awareness is gifting you with choice. Perhaps the choice is to drop it, but more practically, maybe the choice is to shift your perception of it. Reach for a better feeling thought about the situation. Consider it from a different angle or perspective and see if there is a lens through which you can see the activity in a way that better aligns with your inner purpose.

For example, when I tried this for myself the other day, I lay in bed after hitting the snooze and walked myself through the planned activities of my upcoming day, applying the lens of Personality-driven vs Soul-driven. It was going very well at first, until I got snagged on washing the dishes (the ones I have left for several days). Hmm, I don’t love doing dishes and there is no way scraping day-old food off a frying pan is part of my higher purpose!  The job still needed to be done, and seeing how it’s unlikely I will get a butler for Mother’s day, I chose to look at it from another angle. How do I feel when the dishes are clean, put away and available to me when I wish to use them? Way better than I feel when I go to make dinner and can’t find a clean pan anywhere in the drawer. I reached for the better feeling thought – the one that fills me up when things are where they are supposed to be when I need them. I also love the way the kitchen looks when it is clean. It brings me joy to see a clean kitchen, and living with joy is most definitely part of my higher purpose.

 

“You may have many reasons why you cannot change your life right now. If you do not begin to create reasons why you can, change will always be a future thought, and you will not be on the path of joy”.

-Sanaya Roman

 

You have a choice to live joyfully*! Learn not to be trapped by your own creations. Everyone around you will thank you for it, and feel liberated to do the same!

Wishing you a joyful Mother’s Day!

 

 

*If you need a little nudge on how to live more joyfully, see below for an exercise from Sanaya Roman’s book, “Living With Joy”.

  1. List seven things that you love to do, that feel joyful when you do them, and that you haven’t done in the last several months. They may be anything – lying in the sun, taking a trip, getting a massage, accomplishing a goal, exercising, reading a book.
  2. Beside each of these seven things, list what stops you from doing it – something either inside (such as your feelings) or outside (someone or something, such as lack of money, that keeps you from it).
  3. Take two or three things on your list that hold the most joy for you, and think of one step you can take toward each to bring it into your life.
  4. Mark your calendar with a date and a time that you will bring each of these joyful activities into your life.

And my voice will be like antibiotics!

April 19, 2016 § Leave a comment

Every parent knows well the rule of thumb that you must be disciplined with antibiotics. You administer them one time, effectively, and deliver the full dose. Fearful consequences have been drilled into every parent’s head that if you are not precise in following this rule, the result is that the germs will become used to the antibiotics and no longer respond to their impact.

It dawned upon me today that reminding your kids to do stuff works the same way!

We recently re-started our kids piano lessons. They went on hiatus when we moved across the country and took back burner to the many other items on our list required to get settled in (find a doctor, dentist, school, etc.). Through a friend’s referral, we landed a fantastic piano teacher. The kids love him and we love that he comes to the house – everybody wins. Except my kids don’t practice.

What good are lessons without the daily practice – nada. So I nag, and I remind, and offer conditions. Everything you’d find in the What-Not-To-Do Parenting Manual (there isn’t one manual actually, there are loads, but you get my point). Even so, in the absence of a better solution, here we are.

As I tried to coax my two younger children out of the sprinkler on this unusually warm spring day, and into the hottest room in the house to practice their piano, I could hardly blame them for resisting. I reminded them several times, but it had no real intention behind it, and like the germs that have become immune to the antibiotics, my words had no effect.

Then the epiphany came. It’s like antibiotics. If I am constantly asking for the same thing over and over, the kids never know when action is truly required. They also learn no self-management for themselves. When they need to do something, it needs to be delivered one time, strong and true and with a full dose, just like antiobiotics!

It was one of those moments when you wonder how you got this far into parenting without realizing sooner what seems so obvious now. The metaphor of me standing on a mountain top proclaiming the news quickly fills my brain….”And my voice will be like antiobiotics!”

 

 

 

Brave Forest Rangers

February 24, 2016 § 1 Comment

Family Meeting 4:30 today, at the table.

Really it was a Mom-and-kids meeting because Dad was in Barcelona for work, but as they say, timing is everything. These are the words my kids saw written in window marker on our kitchen window when they came home from school today.

Flashback to earlier this morning when we were a spectacle of unpreparedness and harsh words flying down to the bus stop in the car cause we were too late to walk, lacing up shoes and pulling on jackets as they hopped on one foot, granola bar in hand, up the stairs of the school bus. Exhale.

How did this even happen? It’s the same routine every morning getting ready for school, and they’ve been doing it for years, so how did we get to this point? It’s not every day like this, but when it’s bad, it’s awful. Something’s gotta change.

So this is how the meeting went down. I spoke, while they drank hot chocolate and coloured (so they could sit still long enough to listen, well mostly listen, we had several tangents where I had to bring them back to the initial discussion).

Mom: This morning was yucky. For all of us. I’m sure you didn’t appreciate my behaviour any more than I appreciated yours. I don’t feel it is necessary to re-hash everything that happened, because it’s really the same stuff that goes down all the time, but that is precisely why I wish to talk to you right now. That type of behaviour, from either of us, should not be the norm. While it’s normal to get off balance every once in a while, what happened this morning should not be the expectation. There is no joy in that. And we should always strive for joy. And the quickest way to get there is by love.

It is true that we all have triggers. Things that spur us into a strong emotion. Buttons that get pressed in us that elicit a much larger response than would be expected: a sudden burst of emotion, sometimes you aren’t even sure where it came from, but there it is. You will find there is inner work you can do to release these triggers, but for now, let us agree that they exist and learn how to best support each other when we recognize them happening.

The answer to that, is bravery. It comes from a place of love, but ultimately it is bravery.

As a child your age, when my own mother was triggered, I did not understand what it was, let alone how to support her in it.  Bravery is easier when you understand a situation. So I’m going to explain to you what is happening when I get triggered, in the hopes that you all can be brave enough to call me on it when it happens, rather than absorbing the negative energy yourself, or throwing it back at me, which as we saw this morning, leads to no good either.

You see, when someone is triggered, the emotion feels so much larger than anything else, so it’s difficult to see the forest for the trees. Are you familiar with that expression? It means that if someone is on top of a mountain looking down, it is easier to spot where there is a forest, what its boundaries are, and how big or small it is. For someone standing inside the forest, there are so many trees in the way that they cannot see how big or small it is, or where it ends and begins. It becomes very helpful to get out of the forest, if that person on the mountain calls down to them and says, “Hey, you’re in a forest! But if you go in that direction, you can find your way out”. The person in the forest can then make their way out of the forest.

Does that make sense to you guys? Any comments or questions so far?

So my question to you is, are you brave enough to call me on my triggers? When Mommy is caught up in a whirlwind of emotion, will you please call to me from your mountain of different perspective, and let me know I’m in a forest?

And when you are in a triggered state, full of powerful emotions, will you receive my words when I call you on it, and tell you that you are in a forest?

If we can all try our best to be brave forest rangers, perhaps we can better support each other through our weakest moments, and we can all get on to more joyful moments?

I closed the meeting with a right hand in air promise to be brave and receptive as the moment may call for it, to treat our family members the way we ourselves would wish to be treated, and to lead with love whenever we are able.

Onward Brave Forest Rangers!

 

Identity (another chapter in the tale of our move from Ontario to Seattle)

February 3, 2016 § Leave a comment

 

Moving to a new country, even one as similar in culture as Canada is to America, ripens the picking so to speak for checking in on the age old question of “Who am I? and Where do I belong?”

When our family agreed to embark upon a family adventure to the West Coast for a few years, it seemed exciting and new and I looked forward to the blank page upon which we would write the next chapter of our lives. For me in particular, it meant no expectations about who I was or how I would serve. I could choose my new opportunities to get involved freely, without my previous experiences or relationships swaying the selection.

I worried a little about the kids experience walking into a brand new school six times larger than their previous one.  I worried a little about my husband’s new job and how close of a fit it was for him. But I was not worried about me. Me? I’ll be fine.

I had greatly underestimated the presence and impact of isolation.

isolation

Photo credit: http://heartandsoulezine.com/impartations-wisdom-separation-vs-isolation/

Nobody knew me. When I encountered people, there was a polite smile, and done. My identity ceased to exist for a time. As time went on, people would begin to realize they had seen me before, or they would put together that I was the mom of one their kid’s classmates, but still, no one knew ME. They didn’t know my name, or that I love chai tea lattes, or that the lack of sunshine here in the winter was heavy on my heart. Who was I? Where do I belong?

Now that we are have been here a year and a half I am happy to report that the isolation has passed, but it sure did provide me with an amazing opportunity to assess who I was, and where I belonged.

I read an article recently that got me thinking about this very thing, entitled “The Cook and the Chef: Musk’s Secret Sauce” by Tim Urban. He talks about the difference between our hardware (physical body and attributes) and our software (the belief systems that we have installed) and how if we are not the type of person to regularly self-reflect and evolve, we could still do our thinking with software installed by our grandparents:

“The person has lived a long life and has made it all the way to 2015, but their software was coded during the Great Depression, and if they’re not the type to regularly self-reflect and evolve, they still do their thinking with software from 1930. And if they installed that same software in their children’s heads and their children then passed it on to their own children, a member of Generation Y today might feel too scared to pursue an entrepreneurial or artistic endeavor and be totally unaware that they’re actually being haunted by the ghost of the Great Depression.”

 Ever heard someone say “That’s just the way I am” when they are describing themselves? Yeah, outdated software. Upgrade notification sent.

Urban goes on to talk about Dogma and Tribes and encourages us to realize the difference between conscious tribalism and blind tribalism:

With conscious tribalism, the tribe member and his identity comes first. The tribe member’s identity is the alpha dog, and who he is determines the tribes he’s in. With blind tribalism, the tribe comes first. The tribe is the alpha dog and it’s the tribe that determines who he is.

Fantastic fodder for exploring Who am I and Where do I belong, isn’t it?

When we make decisions, both for us and our children, how often do we examine where the criteria we are using came from? “No, you can’t go sell Girl Scout Cookies to the neighbors by yourself” <cause what if you get stolen or hurt, and the neighbors might judge me for letting you go alone>, quashing my daughters entrepreneurial spirit with my own brand of fear, and installing software in her that she will very likely pass on to her children.

And how often to do you stay in the same organization because that is what you have always done, and you feel pressure to stay because you don’t want to let down others or be judged for leaving? I had this gift of clarity offered to me since we moved as well. I had joined a women’s bible study group a few months into our arrival which felt great for the first year and filled a space in me I greatly needed during that isolated time. But then they decided to study Revelations for the next year, which makes me want to run screaming (try reading it, you’ll see what I mean), and suddenly I am torn. Nothing about me wants to study the Book of Revelations. But will I let down the ladies in the group? Haven’t I slapped a label on myself that says this is a group belong in? I stewed about it for a time, before finally gaining the clarity that the tribe does not determine who I am and where I belong, I do. I sent a very gracious email to the group thanking for them for the beautiful year I spent with them, and moved on to a very fulfilling volunteer role elsewhere that suits me very well.

With every new experience and exposure each of us are provided with an identity choice, as if the Universe is launching lob balls to us, saying “go on, figure it out”.

With my beautiful 20/20 hindsight I see, and am grateful for, the opportunity to examine this for myself, and for my husband and children to examine it for themselves too.

May the adventure continue!

 

The Cook and the Chef: Musk’s Secret Sauce

What the world needs now….

December 18, 2015 § Leave a comment

Do you know that song?

I’m listening to that song, the one with the lyrics about the world having enough beautiful things, and what it really needs is love. I think to myself, there sure is a lot of that going on – wishing for more love, peace, and joy. In fact we currently are in the season that is famous for extending wishes for love, peace and joy. Christmas cards, social media status updates, ads on TV and radio. SO many wishes.

I have an alternative suggestion. Let’s not wish, let’s BE.

Having recently left my home province of 40 years and moved across the continent to a new country and city, I have become quite familiar with the feeling of longing.

I long for my family, for my friends, for my home. I long for the things I can no longer touch or see, largely because I can no longer touch or see them.

When we lose a loved one, we very quickly fall into the downward spiral of recalling every amazing thing they brought into our world, grieving their loss deeper with each recollection, and forgetting any annoying thing they ever tortured us with.  We search our minds for the memories, so we can feel closer to them, to feel like they are still with us. And we feel better. We feel love, peace and joy, at having shared those memories with them.

I recall my “old life” with similar fondness, like I am grieving, so much so that it becomes romanticized in the same way:

I miss the 600 metre driveway that I used to curse every time that it swallowed my vehicle in a snow drift while trying to get the kids from the bus stop. But how lovely the morning jogs were on that driveway while the sun was coming up. Breathtaking.

I miss the backyard that used to cause me hours, days, and sometimes weeks of sore muscles from landscaping and garden care. But the joy and fulfillment I felt upon completion of each flower bed, gazing upon them with a feeling of accomplishment.

I miss my family members whose Christmas gatherings were preceded by hours of grocery shopping, cooking and baking so my family of six would not show up without our contribution to the meal. But the soft place to land of being with loved ones who love you just as you are is irreplaceable.

I miss my friends who I often missed anyway during this season even when I was at home, cause the treadmill we were all on preparing for the holidays was frequently set to “sprint”.  But they were close enough to slip in a coffee date or a play date and enjoy the ease of conversation with a “bestie”.

The whole thing is distracting enough to miss the present moments currently being offered to us, moments full of new experiences and opportunities for expansion. Occasions to try new paths, gain fresh perspectives, develop treasured relationships. Gifts.

So let’s not wish for love, and joy, and peace. Let’s BE those things. Instead of offering wishes of love to someone, tell them instead what you love about them. If you are tempted to fall into the usual “sending joy to you” sentiment, wrap up a treat that you know they secretly fancy, and breathe in their delight when they exclaim “how did you know?!”. And when you intend to pray for peace, imagine yourself without the things that create peace in your world. Imagine them lost to you. Search your mind for the memories, so you can feel closer to them, feel like they are still with you, and then revel in the realization that THEY ARE STILL WITH YOU. Now share it. Live the gratitude. Be the love, peace and joy.

Right now.

From Contrast to Love: One Year Later in Seattle

November 9, 2015 § Leave a comment

So I spent some time on FB this morning catching up and realized I had missed a bunch of notifications. After adding a new FB friend, I enjoy going to my main page to look at it through the eyes of someone else. In no time at all I was deep into beautiful memories, missing home, loved ones and feeling the love.

My ego quickly stepped up and said “oh you poor thing, missing home, where there is security, and familiarity and people who love you, wallow here awhile, feel sad. It’s raining outside for the 14th straight day, just stay in your pjs, don’t bother with the shower, just sink”.

The remarkable part was, when I heard those words in my head, they felt SO strange. And the response, instead of pondering it, was “why the heck would I do that! All of this is love. Love at home, love in Seattle, love on FB. Every one of these pictures is evidence of love in my life. How could that ever make me sad?!”

Well THAT is refreshing!

I think back to almost exactly a year ago, when the rains in Seattle started and we had two weeks straight of no sunshine. Our first experience going so long without sun. Even in Ontario’s dead of winter, the sun reflects off the snow so brightly you have to wear shades to even see properly. I remember thinking to myself, “what have we done? We can’t make it until spring with no sun!” I watched how all my new friends and acquaintances in Seattle had already figured it out, booking their sunny holidays in the south months in advance of the mid-winter and spring breaks. I felt my mood sink into sullen, not going unnoticed by my husband who bought me a faux-sun “Happy Lamp” for Christmas in an attempt to help. I began romanticizing our home in Ontario, seeing it as an oasis, making plans for when we return.  Uncertainty set in, and I felt like I had a foot in each home, never really feeling grounded in either.

But then the sun broke through, and our prayers were answered.  We were gifted with what everyone described as an “unusually warm winter”. Unseasonably warm temperatures, sunny skies, and outstandingly beautiful blooms on the trees starting in January and continuing like a fireworks show all the way into spring. Each tree took a turn, in yellow, pink and white, shouting from their branches that ALL IS WELL!

cherryblossoms

Each person I discussed the weather with warned me “don’t get used to it! This is not normal”! As my spirit started to rebound I found myself responding “who cares? It is EXACTLY what we needed in our inaugural winter here. In this moment, it is perfect.”

So now I am faced with the exact same scenario one year later. It’s been raining so long my neighbour asked me this morning where the faucet was to turn it off. But something is different. Instead of uncertainty, I feel grounded. I feel like we are on this adventure, experiencing new things, and while I miss my loved ones at home very much, I am also excited by the new relationships we are cultivating here. And I am grateful at how different they are from the relationships we have at home. There is no replacement for celebrating the holidays with family, but it will be a cool new experience to celebrate the holidays with friends, cherishing the fellowship and warmth it surrounds us with.

I make a promise to myself to continue on this Rampage of Appreciation, and honour each new beautiful experience for the growth it offers. I AM grateful.

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