Sunday, March 20, 2011

You're not standing up for something, you're QUITTING!

Another "found" post sitting in my drafts box.  I am curious as to whom I was addressing these thoughts? I don't honestly remember.  But I stand by them!
When somebody offends you, clearly the best way to deal with the offense is to quit, right?  I mean, hey! Instead of doing your best to be everything you know you are and them some, instead of showing the person who offended you that you are stronger than their opinion, instead of embracing the opportunity that always follows opposition, why don't you just quit! That will sure show everybody what a strong person you are! (or not.)

There's something to be said about standing up for something, and letting a person or group of people know that they have wronged you in some way.  There's something to be said for quietly going about disproving a person's idea of you.  There's something to be said for negotiating a stormy situation with grace and dignity and a resolve to fix the problem. Heck, there's something to be said for a screaming match if it results in necessary change from one or both parties.

There's nothing to be said for being a quitter.  That's not strength.

All that said, there's no reason to subject one's self to repeated abuses.  Walking away from abuse is in fact standing up for yourself. DO NOT misread the above to mean that going back for abuse again and again is ok, its not. Some people would rather continue building their house on a foundation of sand than step back, bull-doze the shoddy work, and start again on a foundation of rock.  Its easy to get all mad that somebody saw your sandy foundation you tried to cover up and go all passive-aggressive on their butts and really show them by walking away entirely with no return on investment.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Grounding the Helicopter

Helicopter parenting, the business of flitting too and fro everywhere the wee one's go, having an ever watchful eye, never letting the children out of our site. We've all seen it - most of us are guilty of it.  Controversy has even found it (remember the woman who gave her kids some money, dropped him off at the subway and said "meet you at home"?).  Helicopter parenting is easy to fully justify, all one has to do is read the news and instant fear for our children's safety settles its hooks deep within.

Sometimes we helicopter because of the age of our children, or their developmental status.  Sometimes we helicopter because we don't like our neighbors, or there has been a scary news story.  Sometimes we helicopter because we simply forgot we had a choice! But mostly we hover because we are afraid of something.  Perhaps we are afraid of the unknown, or afraid of what will happen too our children in our absence.  We might be afraid of what our children will do in our absence, or even fear that another hovering mother-craft will catch us taking a break and wonder what's wrong with us! (because if we truly loved our children, we would be right there with them, protecting them from every single possible opportunity to experience disappointment, a minor injury, interacting with the neighborhood "mean kid", or getting stung by a bee, right? I hover, therefore I love.)

My son is about to turn 8 years old. This week I grounded the helicopter and allowed him and his 5 year old sister to go out and play with neighborhood kids without adult supervision for the very first time.  Grounding this bird is one of the hardest, but most necessary things I've ever done!

I feel like I want to explain the "why"s of my previous hovering, but I'm afraid I'll rev up the engine and have this bird in the air again in no time flat if I think too hard on the why's.  The why's are most likely the same as yours.  They seem to be mostly universal among the hovering-types.

We haven't thrown all caution to the wind.  There are rules.  I prefer if the kids play in groups of 4 or more.  I like the idea of safety in numbers, and if a split is ever necessary to get an adult's help, no child will be left alone, but 3 or more is mostly ok (depending on the age of the oldest in the group).  We don't play in the creek (its dry, but a potential home for rattle snakes, scorpions, and the random hobo.) We don't go inside anybody's home without permission from both sets of parents, and we stay inside the neighborhood, never exiting to the main streets for any reason.

I've discovered that I need to keep my garage door shut if I don't want my food storage rummaged through,  that there are still Eddie Haskel's in every neighborhood, and that boys still like to race bikes, and bikes still go "even faster if you peddle all the way down the hill".  Girls still want to have sleep overs with every new friend (uh, NO!) and are quick to play the victim if they set up a scenario where the boy does exactly what they set him up to do, but they didn't like the results.  There's always a kid that's too little, a kid that's too big, a kid who's bike is broken, and a kid who's hungry.  But best of all, there's always a smile, a laugh, a cheer and a shout when a boy crosses the finish line in precisely .2 seconds less time than the last.

Landing this hover-ific helicopter of a parent has been fabulous.  I haven't heard "mom, I'm bored" all afternoon, two days in a row.  I'll be keeping the copter in good repair. I will fly on the occasional reconnaissance mission just to see what the locals look like, who they're talking too, what they're talking about, etc.  But I think its time to expect the best.  Every adult deserves to have a treasure trove of memories to share at every family gathering that starts with "Remember when?" and ends with "You just can't let your kids do that anymore."

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Triquetra/Trinity Knot

In lieu of the wearing o' the green,  I'm wearing one of these today.  Actually, I've been wearing it every day since I received it as a gift from my mother who recently visited Dublin with my sister. I love this beautiful knot and  its modern Celtic Christian use to represent the Trinity (Father, Son, and Holy Ghost) and to evoke thoughts of eternal perspective.

The package this charm arrived in had a short note enclosed explaining each item and where it was purchased and for whom, I got a kick out of the note because it reminded me of the notes my grandma Molly would include with her gifts to us throughout our childhood.  I knew that my gift was a Trinity Knot charm, but I didn't know what a trinity knot is.  Well....what an odd feeling to examine this lovely little charm and realize that its pattern is one that I have found myself mindlessly tracing with my fingers or  my eyes (does anybody else do that?  find a spot on the wall or ceiling and "trace" a pattern with your eyes? Or am I the only weirdo?) since childhood.

If we are having a conversation, and you notice that I am rubbing my thumbnail with my forefinger, it is more likely than not that this is the pattern I am tracing.  If I am staring at a ceiling fan, seemingly lost in thought, it is more likely than not that I am tracing this pattern in my mind.

I find this odd.  Perhaps just a tad bit haunting.  Not haunting in a scary way, more like a "insert 'Twilight Zone' theme song here" kind of way.

I don't technically believe in reincarnation, but I have questions about some of the things in life that feel "old" to me the first time I experience them.  This is one of those things I guess.  Although I can't find in my family records the Irish connection, I am told that there is one (and I'm frankly too lazy to search through it, the programs currently available are confusing and difficult, and I have no patience for them.) and I wonder, is there a "Biological  memory" or some other unexplainable soul-source for this funny habit? I don't know, but I sure find it a strange coincidence. Whatever the source of this strange habit of mine ( o' mine?) I am very fond of this lovely little charm and the soulful connection I feel.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Happy Birthday

It's JP's birthday today, he laughed at me when I told him "Thank you for being born".  But truly, I'm thankful he was born.  He's brought joy to my life in the form of love, affection, understanding, hard work, discipline, honesty, integrity, honor, and duty.  He's not perfect, but he's perfect for me. I love him, and I'm glad he was born, whether he thinks that's a funny thing to say or not.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

When Cave Hair interrupts the thought process

Found this in my "Drafts" box, leftover from last summer and never published.  Enjoy

Here's a snippet from the road to church this morning.

JP: You like nice
Me: Thanks, but I feel like a troll. I know in my head I don't look like a troll, but I feel like one today
JP: I like dungeons and dragons and hobbits and Lord of the Ring's creatures and stuff.

I posted an abbreviated version on facebook for all to enjoy, and a friend asked what feeling trollish is all about.  I gave her all kinds of examples, most specifically a headache that makes you feel like going all Grendle on the next person or goat to cross your bridge, but ultimately, I think I realized the problem was the Cave Hair.  Yes, the Cave Hair. 

It was too hot and sticky (yeah, I know, I live in AZ, where "its a DRY heat"...well, not in monsoon weather) to blow dry my hair last night and I paid for it, or maybe my kids paid for it, this morning when I woke up with Cave Hair Extreme and the headache to match.  Why does messy hair make me feel so grumpy? But I know Little Lily Cave Hair has already achieved full grumpitude by hair-style at the age of 4, so I think we're born with it.

A friend recently took a poll:  Hair conditioner- luxury or necessity.

NECESSITY! Have you seen this clan WITH conditioner? Without would be criminal.

But sometimes other people's crazy cave hair puts me in judgement mode too. I admit it.

Recently I was approached by a woman who had a nice blouse, nice necklace, nice makeup, and cave-hair.  As soon as she opened her mouth I didn't like her.  But then again, maybe it wasn't her hair at all.  Maybe it was her statement that I was wasting my time as a volunteer and should seek paid work.  Which was ironic, since she runs an organization that couldn't run without volunteers, and her child was directly benefiting from my volunteer work.

Friday, March 4, 2011

the Gingham Project - happy, helpful, hopeful

Over the past couple of years, I've been inspired by the stories of everyday people who discover a group of people they care deeply for and then set out to serve that group of people in ways that they are currently underserved.

I'm inspired by people who use their talents and imaginations to make things work.  Serving our fellow humans doesn't require wealth, retirement, or even a single thing that only some people have.  Service only requires the desire for a change, and action to make the change.

My sister Melanie Smith of Melanie Smith Photography and Smith Family Photography  is one of the everyday people who inspire me.

Last year she was invited to photograph a wedding in India.  She was excited for the opportunity to travel and photograph a wedding in an exotic locale.  What she wasn't prepared for was to fall in love herself.  Traveling across India to the many different locations of the many wedding related events and ceremonies, she found herself in Tamil, Nadu, India where she fell in love with the happiest, most hopeful, and helpful yet impoverished children she's ever met.  Having a mother's heart, she knew she would do something to improve the lives of these children, many of whom are either orphans, or have been made wards of the state because the parent's can not support them.

They attend school, they work diligently at learning, they desire 21st century skills.  They are hopeful.  Did I already say that? I repeat it because its important to know these are not children rubbing mud on their faces and tearing their clothing into rags in order to look desperate while they beg.  These are children who smile brightly, take good care of their school uniforms, report to orderly if completely underfunded schools, and embrace learning with their whole hearts. 

Enter the Gingham Projectg.

The Gingham Project. Happy, Helpful, Hopeful.  a project of Melanie Smith Photography and Smith Family Photography exists to improve the learning conditions of the children of Tamil, Nadu, India.  There exists a rich and complicated history in Tamil, Nadu, India and one side effect of that complicated history is that many of the children there do not have the same opportunities as children of similar economic circumstances in other places in India.  They do however embody as a whole the happy, helpful, and hopeful principals that the Gingham Project operates on. 

As of now, the Gingham Project does not have an official website, but its not too early to help Melanie, Melanie Smith Photography, and Smith Family Photography meet their goals for The Gingham Project and improving the lives of these happy, helpful, and hopeful children in Tamil, Nadu, India.

Proceeds from the books below, available for purchase through directly support the school children who so very much desire to leave a tradition of poverty behind them and develop 21st century skills in their homeland.  Please take a look at each book, (full previews available! just click on the images below and flip!) decide which format is best for you or the person you will make a gift too and place your order.  Your order will be filled by  and delivered directly to your home via the selected shipping service.

 Need a vacation? Love exotic images? Have a deep and undying love for history?  Like happy, healthy kids?
these books, available for purchase at will not only make you feel like you're on vacation in one of the world's most beautiful and historic places, but will also give you the privilege of saying "I did something important".  

Click on the images to see the pages of these beautiful books and then add one or more to your shopping cart.  These would make wonderful mother's day gifts!

All photography by Melanie Smith, and the Smith Family benefits The Gingham Project. We started this program after experiencing the happiness, helpfulness and kindness of children living in rural India. Together with our friends in India, we are working towards a future full of opportunity for the children livining in impovershed villages in Tamil Nadu, India.

7 habits of happy families - creating a family mission statement

Creating a family mission statement is a process.  It can't be done in one family night, or quite possibly even three.  It requires contemplation on things we may not be accustomed to thinking deeply on as a family unit.  And its my opinion that it requires some personal introspection on the part of the parental units.  (See "Your Sunday school answers aren't working for me"...the result of a moment of personal introspection spurred by the family mission statement activity.
As I've mentioned before, our family is participating in a 7 Habits of Highly Effective Families class offered at our son's school, and the experience is just exactly what we want and need in our lives right now.  Its a wonderful blessing to interact in this way with other families and school administrators/teachers. The information they are sharing with us is so full of positive expectations that we can't help  but feel empowered and energized by what we learn.

I may have already mentioned that the last two weeks we've been giving consideration to developing a family mission statement.  I'm in love with this idea! Its not a new idea, its been around a LONG time.  But now is the right time for our family to do this and live by it.

The first step has been to brainstorm AS A FAMILY (because otherwise it would be mom and dad's mission statement right?  Not that there's anything wrong with mom and dad having mission statements, but then it needs to be called what it is and not represented as a FAMILY mission statement.)

We have been brainstorming on 4 different topics:
 What does a happy family look like?
What do we want people to say about our family in 50 years?
What do we believe?
How do we treat each other?

I think some families participating in our class have had a difficult time answering the "How do we treat each other" question because there is a difference between how they DO treat each other, and how they know they SHOULD treat each other.  Speaking as someone who has worked/is working very hard to eliminate that discrepancy in her home, I can say that I understand the difficulty in answering that question.  So should you find yourself reading this post because you're thinking of writing a family mission statement, let it be known that in my opinion, the appropriate way to answer this question is how do you HOPE to be treated within the walls of your home and what are you willing to COMMIT too in terms of how you will treat your family members.

There are no "right" answers to these questions.  That was something I initially struggled with.  In fact, that is what prompted the "Your Sunday school answers aren't working for me" post.  I started off feeling that there were "right" answers, or at least "better" answers.  I assumed that these answers were the classic Sunday school answers. That's not necessary.  If those are the answers that sit genuinely in your heart, go with them.  But if they don't, this is not a sign of being fundamentally broken.  It just means that your path will be different from what your Sunday school teacher's path will be.  And that's good.  No two paths should be exactly alike! I am absolutely positive that the 12 men Jesus chose for his disciples each had unique talents they brought to the fold, and I am convinced that we are at our most effective in this life when we have recognized and embraced our talents and strengths, even those that might look to be weaknesses at first glance.

As our family has brainstormed, these are some of the things we have come up with so far:

"What does a happy family look like?"--
Learning, exploring, trying new things, cooperation, hard work, respect, love, charity, service, being a family forever, technology, reading, fun-loving, smiling, playing together happily, taking turns, knowing how to handle disappointment, patience, doing our best, never giving up.
"what do we want people to say about our family in 50 years?"
They were GOOD LOOKING! (or at least had a great sense of humor)
Talented, hard working, smart, genuine, trustworthy, honorable, happy, charitable, helpful, friendly, adventurous.  They loved each other, they never gave up. (yes, you do recognize a theme there.)
"What do we believe?"
We believe in God, that we have a purpose as a family, and as individuals.  Our family can be eternal. the golden rule, we each are unique.  We can discover things about ourselves, each other, and our world when we try new things.  There is a time to be a leader, and a time to be a follower.  Its important to know the difference.  Its important to stand firm in our beliefs.  Learning should be a lifelong endeavor. Its important to have fun together and enjoy each other's company.
"How do we treat each other?"
with kindness, respect, patience.  We hope for the best out of each other.

Over the next week or couple of weeks we'll be doing some more brainstorming and ultimately developing our family mission statement from these ideas.  Its coming slowly, and very  much in spurts.  We have found that the kids have only about a 5-10 minute attention span for this.  I'm sure its because this is still a very large concept to them, but they do participate, and they've offered up some great ideas during our brainstorming. 
If you find yourself working towards a family mission statement, or already have one, share away! I'd love to see examples of what other families have come up.

Thursday, March 3, 2011


This thing (Sometimes referred to as Thing 2, although she's really Thing 4) is FIVE. FIVE!!!!

Having gone through the 18 mos to 5 years stage  four times now, there have definitely been times that I looked forward to no longer being the primary caretaker of young children.  I find those years difficult.  Terrific Twos and Fabulous Fours, and well, don't even get me started on three year olds.  They are wonderful, they are funny, they are a complete and total mystery to me.  I really start feeling more confident as a parent at the magical age of 5.

And yet...

There is something very bitter sweet about the passing of this era.  I found myself feeling just a tad melancholy yesterday when I realized it was the last day ever that I would be the parent of a four year old.  

Four year olds are witty.  Especially this one.  The non-stop string of one-liners, crazy conundrums,  and hilarious singing and dancing has been a treat.  I will miss that as she grows and becomes more self conscious and naturally begins to hold back from some impulses.

But I'm also looking forward to knowing her as a 5 year old who loves to learn, explore the world around her and please mommy.

I love you little girl, who is now a big girl.

Happy Birthday.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

It is what it is

I had my first experience with hypnosis this week. I went in to the experience excited, curious, and a little nervous about what it would be like.  I assumed it would be generally positive, because I wasn't warned to bring a driver to get me home.  Seems like a good enough measure of how a counseling session will go, right?
The word "amazing" is getting way too overused in my life, but it really was kind of an amazing experience. Or rather, the results of the experience were amazing.

As I closed my eyes and grasped lightly two gently pulsating electrodes, my counselor asked me to find a comfortable position and then began to guide me on an audio-journey.  The instructions were simple:  listen, don't feel it necessary to speak or respond verbally, and to do with the information what seems appropriate.  Use it, or toss it aside.

I recall being fully aware of my surroundings.  I was conscious that my nose itched, and my eye felt sticky.  I recall opening my sticky eye a handful of times during the session.  I recall three stories I heard during the time. One was about a rare flower, one about a girl releasing balloons, and a third about me building a home from the foundation up.

I recall that I had difficulty summoning up an image of a tour group tromping through the everglades in search of an evasive and rare orchid.  I recall being absolutely sure that the girl releasing balloons was going to suffer some dire consequence for releasing the balloons before she was told too. Which I think is funny, that even in a quasi conscious state, I was concerned about the "rules" and was freaking out that she wasn't following them! By the way, there was no consequence, the story described the entire experience of releasing the balloons as purely joyful.  It was difficult for me to imagine being joyful about breaking the rules (she was supposed to release them at half-time, but she couldn't contain herself and let most of them go way before half time because they were bringing her so much joy to watch  float away.) I recall being asked to imagine a blue-print for a home I would imagine building.  The blueprint I imagined was for a very average but very respectable ranch style house.  In fact, it was pretty much my friend Nicole's home that she had in Iowa.  Realizing that, I find it kind of odd that my blueprint was somebody else's home (but it wasn't, it was mine, I just recognize that it was identical to my friend's home.) I recall as the story progressed that I was asked to begin lining my basement that I had worked so hard to dig with cement or bricks and that as I did so, an unwelcome guest entered my thoughts with a gigantic sledge hammer.  In fact, the image this guest was represented by was this guy:

Only he wasn't chasing after a mouse, he was knocking down my walls.  I would attempt to wall him in with brick and mortar and he'd knock through in a burst of dirty cement dust.  There was a genuine struggle as I attempted, and ultimately succeeded in walling this big jerk out of my house! But the result was that I had closed off 7/8ths of my basement and had found it necessary to redirect my house building activities into an entirely different direction. The result was a ridiculously thick foundation. In fact the foundation was so thick that the basement was essentially  not a usable space. On top of that foundation was a one room "shack". I say it was a shack, but it wasn't crumbling.  I recall that it had wooden floor boards, a woven carpet, a wood stove and a rocking chair.  One child played inside while I sat by myself on a wonderfully shady and yet sunny front porch.  I recall that the view from this porch was vast fields of wild flowers and grasses.  There were mountains in the distance, but they were a welcome sight, not a threatening presence. A gentle breeze was blowing the flowers and grasses to and fro as I rocked in a chair on that wonderful porch.

I was aware that I was shedding tears.  As I was invited to open my eyes and end our session, I was aware that I did not feel fully present.  I was aware that I was digging around in my brain a little longer.  I was aware that I felt angry at the man with the hammer and that I was disappointed that my house didn't match my original blue prints. But my counselor made a statement that helped me tuck it back in and become more present in the room again.  She said "the experience is what it is.  There is no big lesson in there that you have missed.  Let the positive images come forward and take this time as a gift for yourself."  Knowing that there wasn't any big lesson I needed to decipher out of the experience gave me comfort.  I think I am guilty of needing to find a lesson in just about everything.  I like the idea of allowing some (most?) experiences to just be what they will be and to enjoy them for what they are.

The result of participating in this session was that throughout the day I found myself "seeing" the image of the beautiful flower filled land stretching out before me.  I found that to be energizing and that it engaged in me a sense of peace, calm, and confidence.  I loved that the predominant image that returned to me throughout the day was such a beautiful one.  I loved that the beautiful image trumped the negative image.  I felt energized.

I'm so grateful for the opportunity to participate in this healing journey, and I hope my sharing will help somebody in some small way to know that not only is it OK to ask for and receive mental health treatment, but that it doesn't mean you're crazy, broken beyond fixing, or too lazy to fix yourself on your own.  In fact, I think NOT asking for help is just about the craziest thing a person can do.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

7 Habits of happy families-begin with the end in mind

The last two weeks, in our 7 Habits classes we've discussed the idea "Begin with the end in mind."
We received one of the BEST compliments we've ever received as a couple and as a family when the instructors  made an off handed remark that they were talking about us and how we're a family who really begins with the end in mind.

This is not only one of the best compliments we've ever received, but also one that we can feel comfortable accepting, and acknowledging that this is an area that we are succeeding in. This is a somewhat new habit for us, but it has been a very natural habit for us that we didn't even realize we had developed.  But the evidence shows, this is a habit we are using to our greatest advantage.

Part of our success in developing this habit is realizing one very important thing.  People need sleep.
I'm not joking.

"How does sleeping relate to beginning with the end in mind?" you ask?
"If I take time to sleep, how will I ever get to the end?" you wonder?

As a family of cave dwellers with a crazy schedule that didn't make much room for sleep, we were not an effective family. Not at all.  We spent the majority of our time responding to "fires", living life as a series of knee-jerk reactions to circumstances that at least felt out of our control.  We definitely weren't beginning with the end in mind, because we could hardly function well enough to know what we would be dealing with the next day! To be fair, I think there is some element of this that is unavoidable when you have small children in the home.  It is difficult to say the least to know what your entire week should look like, let alone what your morning will look like when you've got diapers to change and naps to put little people down for.  But we were past that, without ever really getting past the reactionary living.

The biggest thing that has changed for us is sleep.  This past November we were fortunate to receive a new work schedule that was beyond our wildest dreams.  It didn't come magically, it came by way of mr, Cave Hair having to admit that neither he nor his family has handling the old work schedule well .  I'm sure it was not easy for him to do that, there is a part of him that LOVES the exciting circumstances his old schedule would allow him to participate in. But he did it for us, and the results have been tremendously good!

Its really a blessing to sleep.  Not just to sleep, but to sleep peaceably.  And having appropriate rest has made us able to think ahead, know what we want, and plan for it.  We have been able to adopt a "begin with the end in mind" way of living.

I'm really excited to be working on a family mission statement and can't wait to share what we come up with.  The process is turning out to be very enjoyable and even the youngest of our clan has been able to give valuable input.  I will share more soon, I want to talk about the process as much as the results, and can't wait to see your feedback.