Monthly Archives: March 2014

Eighty Nine: Nap Time

“When the going gets tough, the tough take a nap.”  – Tom Hodgkinson

Sunday, March 30th

Today was the make-up day for the community work party. Some people worked yesterday, less worked today. I did a half day yesterday in the rain, and had a full day of minding my kids while my husband worked. It felt like a quadruple shift this weekend. Some days parenting is not the rosy energizing experience it looks like in the parenting mags. Ummm, most days?

But what do you know? A nap did me wonders. I had some very foolish illusions that I could convince my kids to nap with me. Instead, I moved in and out of lucidity while the kids read books, moved their teddies into the room, and bounced off my head. But it was still glorious!

Do you make room in your life for naps?

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Eighty Eight: Communication and Conflict

“Communication leads to community, that is, to understanding, intimacy and mutual valuing.”  – Rollo May

Saturday, March 29th

Today felt like a big ol’ breakdown of communication. I realized how disjointed we can get from one another when we turn to texting, emailing, or not communicating at all instead of turning to one another. When did it become so compelling to communicate at a distance? Did we start to feel empowered to say things that we could not in person? Did we start to say too much, or lose the point altogether of what we were talking about?

This sort of breakdown has happened many’a’times in my life, but today it happened closer to home with someone whom I have pretty good communication. The issue itself was not the issue; in other words, the breakdown wasn’t about the practical terms of what happened, it was because someone plodded ahead with plans that involved my household without talking to anyone in our household.

Members of my cohousing community have worked extensively to draft communication guidelines. In this document are ideas on how to approach conflict and resolve it in a number of ways. It’s interesting how different individuals respond to the question “What do we do in the face of conflict?” Some tackle it head on while others let it fizz away. But there has been no formal method to turn to when one’s own attempts fail to address a misunderstanding, hurt feelings, or a breakdown in communication.

What I am learning is that if there are two options (one, to communicate with others and waylay the progress on a project, or two, to move ahead) then the communicative choice is preferable in most circumstances. It might be frustrating. It might take more time and effort. But at the end of it all, there will be buy-in from all interested parties. Something I’d failed to consider before was the existing power dynamics that affect conversations in conflict. People, quite innocently, might fail to acknowledge how their privilege or position might give them an upper hand in a conversation.

I’ll give you an example. When I worked at a non-profit, we hired full-time AmeriCorps workers to teach classes and run programs. They were given a lot of work and responsibility. All other staff had a lot of work and responsibility. One young AmeriCorps worker arrived late to teach her class, and even though she had another part-time job and other life responsibilities she was called out by her supervisor. It was much easier for the supervisor to initiate the conversation based on hierarchy (if not formal structural hierarchy, then the perceived social order of the organization.)

I will try to work this out today and ask for the respect and communication that I would like to have.

What is your default pattern of behavior when you are in conflict?

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Eighty Seven: Small World

“Take the attitude of a student, never be too big to ask questions, never know too much to learn something new.”  – Og Mandino

“The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing.”  – Albert Einstein

Friday, March 28th

Today was like any other day. Usually I call that normal. Today I call it extraordinary!

I took my son to the playtime we like to attend during the week. It’s held on Wednesdays and Fridays, and the Friday sessions are usually lightly attended. When we showed up at 11 am, no one else was there. I doubted whether we would stay long, but within 15 minutes another mother showed up with her two sons. She was bubbly and conversational, and before long our kids were playing and we were engaged in a good chat.

In the last five minutes of the playtime, I pressured the staff member to make a pot of coffee. I overheard the Mom saying that she had given up dairy as she poured herself a cup. I knew she had been raised in Sudan, and I suspected that maybe her faith had led her to her dietary change so I asked her about it. She told me that it was associated with Lent, so I asked if she attended the Orthodox church in our city to which she said yes. I know two young men who attend the Orthodox Church as well, so I thought that perhaps their paths had crossed. These gentlemen are very strong and devoted in their faith. They are also Caucasian, so they would stand out in an Ethiopian Orthodox congregation. What followed amazed me! My new friend told me that she had been in a book store and seen these young men with their Bibles clutched to their hearts and wearing the sharma. She had never seen this growing up, and she had never seen it in America. She was quick to point out that what she experienced was not prejudice, but complete surprise. This was something rare and awe-inspiring.

My husband is good friends with these two young men, and they have been present in our lives for a number of years now. It felt satisfying to ask the right question to bring my circle together with my new friend’s, and to experience a neighborly love as a byproduct of our mutual friends’ faith. As simple as this revelation was, I felt like it bonded me to this mother in a different way and we were even more excited to continue our chat. I think we stayed an extra hour at the playtime! 

Do you see evidence in your life of how truly small the world really is?

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Eighty Six: More Time with Less People

“I get energy from one-on-one conversations most often, and I lose energy from group conversations most often.”  – Reid Hoffman

Thursday, March 27th

Since my husband and I met with our daughter’s teacher recently, we’ve been trying to be proactive about providing our girl with opportunities to enrich her social life and build confidence. Making minor changes in how we move through our days has brought huge rewards.

We had heard that our daughter was stubborn sharing her knowledge of the sight words that are studied in class. It’s a little thing, but I get that. I didn’t like to be tested as a youngster. It put me on the spot and tested my social strength to respond to the teacher more than it gauged my knowledge of the subject. The teacher recommended we review the words with her. So we’ve been using some cute little sight word cards that I picked up months ago, and she loves it. She enjoys the practice, and she’s getting good. She’s starting to see her sight words everywhere – on signs, on the page of a novel I’m reading, everywhere!

The second immediate change we’ve made is to stick around after school. The kids are often still revved up to play, so I’ve been taking my kids out to the playground to run around. My daughter is a different child altogether than the one who is reluctant during recess. It’s as if she’s making a psychic map of the playground and logging where she has fun versus where she gets overwhelmed. The idea is to swing the pendulum towards familiarity and fun for her. It’s promising – her teacher told me today that she is starting to branch out in her play with others. YES!

What is one little thing you could do to enrich a loved one’s life?

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Eighty Five: Welcome to My Home

“Once again…welcome to my house. Come freely. Go safely; and leave something of the happiness you bring.” – Bram Stoker, Dracula

Wednesday, March 26th

Soon after I had made next-to-last-minute plans to have my sister-in-law over for a sleepover, I made last-minute plans to have an out-of-town friend over for a visit. My sister and friend know one another and are on the same wavelength, so I figured that this would be a good mix. My daughter would also be home early from school that day and my friend would be bringing her daughter as well, so the adult:child ratio would be equal.

It can be really unsettling to have a double visit as it completely changes the chemistry. I personally like this since it challenges my introverted self to find common ground between every one, or at the very least between each connection in the room.

This plan would actively engage one of the things I struggle with most which is being a warm and welcoming hostess. I never understood how private I was until I was much older. Potlucks in my 20s were a no-brainer because I could invite a large group of university classmates over or entertain my work friends that already knew one another. Being a stay-at-home parent means that my group size of familiar people has shrunk dramatically. The largest group I meet with (next to my cohousing neighbors) is the PTA from my daughter’s school. (Stay tuned for that blog post since I am hosting the PTA next Tuesday.) By and large, I find solace and comfort in wrapping up an active day with a dinner with my family and then putting the kids to bed. I am not a Dinner Party Diva.

The beauty of this day was that there was time for my daughter to decompress from a day at school, and then my sister and friend arrived a couple of hours later. Women and children. It felt like I was invoking an ancient tradition. Both women are attuned to the natural world so the house was filled with this lovely energy. That, or maybe I was drunk on the smell of a freshly baked bread loaf.

The visit turned into dinner, and it felt good to extend that much more to extend myself to both my sister and friend. My friend’s husband and my own partner arrived home within minutes of one another. We found out our friends had been struggling with making enough money which coincided with their car breaking down. I know that when I’ve been in a bind, it is so amazingly healing to come out of my own thoughts and connect with others. It puts things into perspective, so I was blissed that we might have provided some support and strength for our friends.

As things wound down, we said goodnight to the out-of-towners and bid them well on their journey home. I tried to stay up to chat with my sister, but I was tapped out. Fortunately, she was here for a sleepover and able to stay for a couple of hours in the morning. We got our heart-to-heart in.

I contacted both my sister and friend to thank them for coming over. It was a simple text to send, but I’ve learned it’s those little things that make people feel loved and welcome.

What do you do to make others feel welcome in your home?

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Eighty Four: Back to the Pile

“If I don’t do laundry today, I’m gonna have to buy new clothes tomorrow.”  – Anna Paquin

Tuesday, March 25th

Oh, the glory of returning from a day of play to a day of spin cycles and the tumble dry…

I had no less than four loads of laundry between my weekend’s outfits and the family’s running pile. Somehow I got into the shared laundry area at a quiet time, and was able to put two loads on at once. That still was tricky for me with a three-year-old who makes a mad dash if I leave the door open.

I have a general rule with vacationing that I will leave the house in tip-top shape so I can come back to a clean home. When I am the only one that leaves, the mess continues to grow. The united front which is my husband and I is broken down, and the children can successfully defeat any attempts to keep the house in order. And really, it was a great thing. It meant that my husband was getting out with the kids and enjoying his solo time with them.

So then I indulge my second neurotic personal cleaning rule to spend my first full day on cleaning like mad. Dishes. Toy sorting. Sweeping (I found mounds of dust under our beds.) Fingerprint removal. Toilet bowl scrubbing. Little houses left dirty make big stinks pretty quickly, so once our home started to smell better I sat my duster and rags down.

Are you obsessed or indifferent with leaving your home a certain way on your vacation?

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Eighty Three: Family Day

“Together we make a family.”  – Anonymous

Monday, March 24th

As if the weekend wasn’t enough to shake the dust off of my life and routine existence, Monday was slated to be a day on the mountain! The four of us in my family would spend the day at a local mountain where my husband’s work had reserved the slope for a snow day.

So much of what I experience and appreciate about my family is in the moments of everyday living. It is vital, however, for us to get out into the world and participate in something new and different and fun. And fun our day was! An eighties cover band, family snowshoeing, and Reese’s Peanut Butter cups and Capri Sun.

Any grittiness I felt coming back and stepping into the role of Mom and wife melted with the snow.

Do you ever feel a transition period when you come back from a trip to your “real life”?

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Eighty Two: Away

“Old friends pass away, new friends appear. It is just like the days. An old day passes, a new day arrives. The important thing is to make it meaningful: a meaningful friend – or a meaningful day.” – Dalai Lama

“Life is available only in the present moment. If you abandon the present moment you cannot live the moments of your daily life deeply.” – Thich Nhat Hanh

Sunday, March 23rd

Today was the day that my dear friend that I’ve known since the age of 6 turned 40. I was so pleased and honored to be there with her to celebrate. One of my gifts to her was my undivided attention.

I get ahead of myself, so staying in the moment is a continual struggle and (by definition) practice for me. Yet being away from my family was a needed relief; I love them through and through, but it was healthy for me to have a break from them. The birthday girl understood this; she wasn’t entertaining ongoing texts from her love interest. She had invited her friends for a weekend away, so the phone was on the table instead of actively engaged in her hand.

I find that in knowing my friend over so many years the greatest comfort comes from being truly present with her. There are so many old stories and moments we’ve shared, but if we were to only talk about the past then I wouldn’t feel all that relevant in her present life. I value having a friend who is a fixture in my life, if not part of my daily experience at least part of the bigger picture and not going anywhere.

How do you negotiate the swirl of old friends with the new?

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Eighty One: Recovering

“What in the world is a hangover cure?”  – Brian Wilson

Saturday, March 22nd

This wild woman was in bed before 1 am after Friday’s raucous party adventures. I remember when the parties in my 20’s didn’t get started until that time. I like this new brand of partying – reckless responsibility.

I can count the number of alcoholic drinks that I’ve imbibed over the last five years. Nursing my children has always taken the priority, and it has only been recently that I’ve seen changes in that department that have freed up my ability to have the occasional drink. This weekend was paramount on the alcoholic front because it was breaking a dry streak, and for me would be truth-telling in how I respond to booze.

I think I passed the test. I got to the giggly phase with the girls, and kept it there instead of taking it to that greedy moment where I must keep the party going at all costs. I struggled with determining that graceful moment in my past, and so tapering off the night with a jug of water on the table felt right.

Looking back over life, I think that I would have benefited from a teaching on how to handle alcohol responsibly. Adults taught me the equivalents between fluid volumes of beer, wine, and liquor but that only informed my irrational need to get drunk quickly when I was younger. I volunteered to be on the Traffic Safety Committee in high school (yep, Grade A Dork) and saw all the concrete reasons to avoid drinking and driving, but I still made a couple ill decisions in that department too. I know we largely take responsibility for our growth in regards to alcohol; I think I would have personally benefitted greatly from early intervention talks with my parents when I was a curious teen trying to sneak a beer can out of the fridge.

Alas, here I am at 40’s doorstep and I feel like I am at a good point with my relationship with alcohol. I woke up Saturday morning and felt achey and dehydrated. It was 6:20 a.m. and if I could bust it down to the hotel gym then I knew I would find one of our party working out. Stumbling through the dark looking for my stretchy gear was a comedic performance, but I did it.

My new friend was there, and this felt like a good step to working the effects of Friday out of my system. But what do I do in a gym? Seriously, I am a complete noob when it comes to working out in a gym. It took me five minutes to turn on the treadmill and then I almost walked into the wall from vertigo afterwards! I opted for a good stretch – I have lots of practice there – Qi gong, yoga, and longevity stretches. The spiraling lengthened my muscles and wrung the fatigue and achiness right out of my body. Ok, Day, let’s do this!

The morning set the tone for the day. I took it easy on the drinks, and focused on being present with my company. We spent the bulk of the day at an outdoor spa. The day fell into place.

Do you feel a sense of control when it comes to using substances whether it be drugs or alcohol?

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Eighty: Friends of Friends

“There’s always a good lesson in meeting new people, it’s enlarging your circle of friends. And though there are times you don’t match with their likes, there are some whom you just blend well.”  – Solita

Friday, March 21st

Last Friday, I woke up within minutes of a friend of a friend stationed on the other side of the couch. I was on the airbed, and managed to get a little shuteye between the snores, the neighboring train, and the squidgy sound of the airbed. It was enough sleep to get me rolling out of bed and onto the second leg of transport on the women’s get-away.

I’d already had an opportunity to have a one-to-one chat with my new friend, and conversation rolled on easily without effort. I’m tragically pathetic at meeting new people; it takes me a long time to relax and open up to others. I find it much easier one-to-one, so the sleepover at our mutual friend’s was a great way socially for me to start the trip. We were off in a dash to meet two other friends and bus to our final destination.

I was immediately struck by the social pecking order, and the ways that this pre-existing group of friends interacted with one another. In many ways, I was a fly on the wall because I didn’t know much about their history and I wouldn’t be around on a regular basis in the future. As the day went by, I saw how sweetly these women and their friendships pieced together. And as nervous as I was about folding into their fray, they welcomed me with open arms. And why shouldn’t we get along? We all share a best friend!

Our first stop after checking in to our hotel was to go out for a drink and a bite. The drinks kept flowing and we ended up having such a good time that we missed our opportunity to go tubing down the mountain. When the glasses were empty, I felt like I had been indoctrinated into the club. Yes!

How are you socializing with friends of friends? What feelings does it bring up for you?

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