Monday, November 11, 2013

End of Week One (Operation: T.H.A.N.K.S.)

Teach Him (or her) Appreciation 'N' Kindness Specifically
Clever, right? Heehee
(If you're a weirdo and haven't already read my previous post, check it out now, so you'll know what I'm talking about. Mostly because I'm too lazy to recap.)
Week one of my little experiment went very well. Shockingly well, in fact. Gavin didn't have a single meltdown over the temporary loss of his toys. He did try to bribe me at one point, but I'm actually a little proud of that. Heh heh
 "I'll put up all of Rhett's toys for you, if you let me have some of mine back."

When I first sat him down and informed him of the plan, I wanted to make sure he understood the point of it, and I've reiterated that point every single day since. He's almost five, and he's very smart, but the kid still puts his underwear on backwards; it's necessary to repeat myself a lot.
It was very important to me that he knew he wasn't in trouble. This was not a punishment but an opportunity to learn an essential life lesson. 

It wasn't as easy as I anticipated it would be to explain the concept. You try defining something intangible to a preschooler! Not only did I have a limited time to work with before I would completely lose his attention, I had to explain it using words he was already very familiar with. After all, I didn't want him to merely recite back to me whatever I told him; I wanted him to get it.

What I ultimately came up with is that being thankful means you are happier with the things you already have than you are sad about the things you don't have. It's perfectly fine and understandable to want more, but it's not a good attitude to spend more time and energy pining away for things you don't have than you do being appreciative of what you already have. (Obviously, this goes for intangible things as well, but I figured this was a good first step... because it's actually visible.)
*If anyone has any other suggestions about how to help explain it, seriously let me know.
So, Gavin survived with having only three toys for a week. He learned a little about thankfulness, and he was forced to use his imagination even more than he normally does. For real - along the way I found him playing actively with a string, a scrap piece of fabric, and a Christmas ornament. 
And BONUS, he said he actually kind of liked it because it was "way easier" and faster to clean his room each night before bedtime. This, of course, didn't keep him from ripping the lid off of the toy box this morning, though!

Monday, November 4, 2013

Operation: T.H.A.N.K.S.

Teach Him (or her) Appreciation 'N' Kindness Specifically
Clever, right? Heehee

I'm a lucky lady. Not only are my boys beautiful, they're genuinely good. Yes, I know I'm partial. Duh. But seriously, they both naturally have sweet dispositions. They're amusing and observant and adorable. Having said that, they're certainly not perfect. They have a lot to learn. That's my job - not to make them perfect, of course, but to cultivate them to be the best versions of themselves.

My current mission is to simply and specifically teach my four-year-old gratitude. It's not an easy task, by the way. Don't get me wrong. Gavin has always been a sensitive and relatively thoughtful kid. He doesn't like to see others cry, and he's not the type to exclude anyone on the playground. What I've been struggling to teach him is to be appreciative of what he has, instead of just constantly wanting more, more, more.

This is tricky, because I don't want him to go without. I'm happy that we're in the position to provide all that he needs, and I enjoy giving him material things along with my affection and time. Plus, the desire to achieve more, more, more can be a fantastic tool to drive him to success in his adult life. (And realistically, can we ever expect a child to not want every toy he sees in the store?)

Soooo how do you instruct a child to be grateful for all that he has without putting him in the position of someone who has not? I'm not sure that you can. Many people opt to take their children to volunteer at soup kitchens around the holidays. This is a wonderful thing to do, in my opinion. However, I'm not sure that it is all that effective... at least not in the long term. Your kid may see someone who is enduring poverty, but that's not the same as experiencing lack.

Now, am I going to make little boy go hungry to prove a point? Hell no.

I am going to temporarily take some things away from him, though. Not because I wish him to think it's wrong to have and/or want things, but because I want him to understand the difference in needs and wants, and I desire for him to recognize he's fortunate to possess both.

So here's my gameplan:
Week 1: Put away all but three of his toys
Week 2: No more than an hour of TV a day
Week 3: No unhealthy treats (i.e. icecream, candy, etc)

Some may argue that these elements are already in effect in their households. Wellllll, gooood for them. My well-behaved, water-drinking, vitamin-taking, vegetable-eating, active, educated kid indulges in sweet treats and probably too much T.V. Also, I know this plan is similar to Lent in some ways. Lent is not something we have ever practiced, but I grasp the concept and potential benefits.

This plan of mine may give him an epiphany that will positively change the rest of his life. Then again, it may totally backfire and do nothing but make both of us miserable.

Either way, I'd like to stress that I chose the words for my little acrostic carefully, not simply out of convenience. (Quite honestly, I generally detest acrostics... because, well, they're usually lame.) I think being more appreciative of your own life makes you more likely to be generous and kind to others.

And, ya gotta admit that this is the perfect time of year to try this. Yeah, yeah, the origin of Thanksgiving sucks. In this instance, I'm a believer that it's what you make something into and not what something  started out as that counts (same goes for soccer and Halloween, etc). I don't celebrate the fact that dumb white people brutally took advantage of Native Americans. I do, however, take the time to see extended family and profess sincere gratitude for all the things I'm lucky to have, including good food!

Besides, we all know that Thanksgiving is really just foreplay for Christmas... ;)

Funny Mothers Day Card: Thanks Mom, I Turned Out Awesome

Saturday, May 11, 2013

More Than Mom

I won't bother trying to convince you my mother is perfect. There's no doubt she has her flaws and has made her share of mistakes, just like the rest of us. However, I recently started seeing my mom in a different way, and it's made our already-awesome relationship even better. What better time than Mother's Day to share this little insight?

My mother is more than Mom.

Don't get me wrong. Part of the reason I adore my mother so much is because of the natural bond we share thanks to DNA and the time I spent in her womb. She is the one person on Earth who is truly capable of loving me unconditionally. I've confessed my worst thoughts and actions to this woman without being judged or made to feel inferior or any less worthy of her affection, time, and attention.
But the older I get the more I see my mother as... a woman. Someone who has a history before me, her firstborn. A woman with fears, desires, experiences, quirks, and qualities just like any other woman... just like me.

It turns out I really like this person, regardless of the DNA connection. So now, I'm going to describe my mother as a person, as a friend.

1) She's compassionate and generous. If you're a teenage boy in line at a fast food restaurant and don't have enough money to cover your order, she's the stranger who will discreetly slide cash onto the counter in front of you while you nervously glance back and forth between the cashier and your friends who are goofing off at the drink machines. She was not born into a financially successful family and has never been swimming in dough, but if she has it and you need it, she will not hesitate to give it to you. And if it's something you don't need but really want - a dress for a high school beauty pageant, a plane ticket to go to Washington D.C. with the rest of your class, a swing for your newborn - she will find a way to make it happen.

2) She's empathetic and kind. For years my mother has worked with the elderly and not because its pays well. She has worked in nursing homes and retirement facilities, because she actually cares about how the older generation is treated. She has a natural gift for listening to them, treating them with respect, and taking care of their aging bodies. There are few people who are capable of this. Honestly, I'm not sure that I would be capable of doing it with the ease she has.

3) She's beautiful. Her eyes are the color of honey and her cheekbones are worthy of envy... but those are things she was born with. What really impresses me is how the woman has given birth to five children and still has a kickass figure. I'm sure genetics has something to do with it, but I've also witnessed her dedication to health. While we have both certainly indulged in cookies and chips and ice cream together, she's always been a water-drinker and an exerciser, too. She works hard for the fantastic body she has. And to top it off, nope, she's not vain.

4) She's funny. The problem with this is that it's really difficult to stay on schedule... because when you're in her presence, you have so much fun that the time goes by way too quickly. Before you know it, you're showing up sheepishly at home two hours later than you intended.

5) She's unselfish. I can honestly say that I can't think of a single time she ever tried to manipulate my actions to suit her own desires. She's that woman who will smile in encouragement and then cry behind closed doors about her own hurt feelings, before she will dare make you feel unsupported or guilty.

She's loyal... talented... chaotic... adventurous... modest... smart...
She's my mom. But she's also much more than that. She's simply a good person.
I'm lucky to have her. And, yeah, you should be jealous. :)

Monday, August 20, 2012

Let 'Em Know & Let It Go

"There is love in holding, and there is love in letting go." 
-- Elizabeth Berg, The Year of Pleasures

   There are many things in life that we can influence and very few that we can control. In case you haven't noticed, we cannot control other people - not really. You can insist that a person do something, but you can't actually make that person do it. Even if you hold a gun to his/her head, ultimately that person chooses to do it or get shot. And even if you do find a way to control a person's actions, you certainly can't control someone else's feelings. You cannot make someone love you... you cannot even make someone like you or desire you. You can't make someone treat you with respect or keep someone from hurting you. 

   The only person you can exercise control over is... well, you. Duh. This is a bit tricky, of course, when it comes to your feelings. I do admit some feelings seem rather uncontrollable and often overwhelming. Believe me, I've experienced them all: love, lust, betrayal, rage, disappointment, heartache, and the list goes on. I don't remember asking to experience any of those feelings, but at some point I found a way to manage each one. 

   When it comes down to it, there are always two options: hold on or let go. Physically, we know that holding on and letting go are both voluntary actions (unlike something such as falling asleep, which is involuntary). I recently discovered that emotionally, these are also voluntary actions. 

   The trick is to know when to do what. I have no formula, but I have noticed a pattern that seems to work for me. I imagine both scenarios - the weight and security of holding on, and then the lightness and relief of letting go - and then I choose the one that brings me the most pleasure in that particular situation. Most of the time (but not always) it feels better to let go. 

   See, it's not always easy to let go, but it usually requires more energy to hold on. 

   Whenever your feelings involve someone else (and c'mon, when don't they??) I think it is important to tell  that person. It doesn't matter whether you're in love with the person or pissed off at that person (or both! ha ha). He/she deserves to know, and you deserve to express yourself. (Holding it in sucks even more than holding on.) Life is short and if you never allow yourself to be vulnerable, you're not fully experiencing it. 

   However, once you've expressed yourself, let it out, why not let it go? Hmmm, the phrase "let it go" has become a little cliche' so I'll word it differently: Allow it to leave. 
Allow. That is a verb. Allow. That implies choice/permission/control.

   Feelings will come, and you can't control that they'll come. But you can allow them to leave (when the time is right for you). 

  I don't mean it won't be a little messy still. After all, another way people say "let it go" is "just drop it". And usually when you drop something - especially something heavy - it makes some noise and a little clean up is required. 

   It's still your choice ultimately. Holding on can bring a different kind of pleasure. It makes you feel stronger (it certainly requires more effort); it makes you feel justified. Sometimes it makes you feel protected. Your anger and refusal to forgive can make excellent body armor. Holding unrequited love over your heart can make a fabulous shield. You'll probably be exhausted and possibly lonely... but, sure, sometimes it's worth it. Your call.

   As for me, I'm lucky to have people (and one person in particular) who do a great job of holding me up, so for the first time in a long time, I feel safe enough to let go. 

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Red Light, Green Light

Not too long ago, I was stopped at a red light that seemed like it was neeeevvverrr going to change. Seriously, I think I listened to three full songs. After a few minutes, I noticed that the vehicles that were on the road I was trying to cross weren't going either. No one was going straight, no one was turning right, no one was turning left. NO ONE was going anywhere. I leaned forward a little bit, and sure enough I saw that the others had a red light too. EVERYBODY had a red light; EVERYBODY was stopped.

Well, um, that was frustrating to say the least.

Then something occurred to me. Yes, the fact that all the lights were red was annoying, but it wasn't exactly dangerous. Now, if all the lights were green -- that would have been chaotic! That could cause a whole new level of "delays". That could have killed someone.

I'm thinking this is a good metaphor for my writing career (and other things, too, for that matter). I'm not going to curse the lights for all being red  (well, okay, okay, I might cuss a little bit!). Instead I'm going to enjoy the music and be grateful things aren't as bad as they certainly could be.

When it's time to safely move forward, I will. And when it's your turn, so will you ;) 

Side note: I just realized that Gavin and I have been playing the game Red Light/Green Light a lot lately. Suffice it to say that the dude gets just as much pleasure from the abrupt stopping as he does the running toward the finish line like a maniac. Ah, the things we can learn from a three-year-old. 

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

I'm a Writer! ... Right?

   Aspiring writers (as well as established ones) are encouraged to have a "strong online presence". All of the reasons for doing so are valid. So why is it that every time I get that particular suggestion, whether from an article or a hopeful friend or a helpful acquaintance, I feel the exact same way -- drastically unmotivated?

   Oh, wait! I know why. Because I'm an aspiring writer. (Side note: I mean that as in aspiring to have a career in the writing world. I believe in the concept that I'm a writer simply because I write; I don't have to aspire to a be a writer.) It's difficult for me to spend time trying to recruit followers when I don't have an actual product to offer these people. I've completed two novels, but neither of them is published yet. So wouldn't that make me akin to an insurance salesman with no company? A teacher with no degree? A doctor  with no office or hospital association?

   WHY would anyone want to support my talent if they have no evidence that I actually have talent? Sure, my family and friends are all about it. But how do I get the attention of a much larger group of people who are all strangers? Let's be real. Everybody and his or her cousin's ex-girlfriend is "writing a book". When I mention that I've written two books and am working on a third, I mean multiple drafts with lots and lots of editing and  relying on the help of others to proofread it. I mean researching and polishing. I mean waking up at one a.m. because a great idea pops in my head, and setting the alarm to wake me up at four a.m. so that I can write a few hours before going to my day job at seven a.m. But how is someone supposed to know this and believe in me just because I say, "Hey, I'm a writer. Not a published one, but please follow me on Blogger/Facebook/Goodreads anyway!" 

To be honest, it makes me feel silly. Worse, it makes me feel like a fake. Like I'm in denial or something. The  ugliest, weakest version of me whispers things like, "Having a website doesn't make you a real writer. You think you're something special because somebody commented on your witty little post? Ha! You're just tricking them. You're not published."

Generally, I punch that bitch in the face and get rid of her. Still, those remarks echo in my head. So what happens next? I start to ignore my blog altogether - for months actually <insert sheepish grin>. I refuse to write anything on my newest novel, and I stop submitting to agents about my completed manuscript. Like I said earlier, drastically unmotivated. 

Well, this is me admitting it in hopes of overcoming it. I've started a Twitter account (with 15 whole followers so far, yay me!), I've started "putting people in my circles" on Google+, and here I am writing a post for my blog. Fingers crossed that I'll continue to do this every Tuesday. I also have every intention of reading the blogs of other talented unrecognized writers like I used to do (reap, sow).  

This is me aspiring a little bit harder. Wish me luck! (And for crying out loud, follow me!! HA.) 

Friday, May 18, 2012