Sunday, December 22, 2013

People Matter

My last post was a long one, and I thank you for sticking it out with me.  Originally, I was going to divide it into two posts, but I didn’t want to leave part of it hanging there with an unfinished idea.  I needed to get it all out.
It brought me back to a post that I read a few months ago that called out my own biases against others and helped me understand that I needed to give more respect and understanding.  Kathy Escobar wrote a blog post about the infamous question of What’s Your Position On?  Have you ever asked that question before deciding if you could respect someone or not?  I have.  And I am ashamed of that.  Kathy wrote about how the question is usually asked not out of wanting to understand someone better, but out of a need of our own to decide if we can respect someone or not, if they are on our team or the other one.

The question is divisive.
Although I was ashamed of being called out, I was grateful as well.  I needed that eye opener of the assumptions I made about people when I found out those answers.  And maybe I wasn’t always asking the question, maybe their perspectives on life were coming out in conversation, and I would immediately put up a wall that would close down further discussion.

I wasn’t being respectful of another person’s position or perspective.  I was no longer interested in their story.
I was being lazy.

In our current world of updating a status with a one liner or a quick like/share, we don’t take the time to stop and think.  And negatively always spreads faster than kindness and understanding.
Have you noticed that before?  Someone around you is having a bad day and the mood spreads. It is easier to express frustration with someone than take a breath.  Sarcasm flies out of the mouth before the heart can stop it.

Respect and kindness can be challenging.  And time consuming.
Sometimes, we want to numbly move along.

But in this numbness, we are quick to write or say harsh words.  We don’t stop to think.
Words matter.  Actions matter.

People matter.
When we ask this question of wanting someone’s position on an issue out of a need to make a determination if we are aligned with them or not, if we can show respect for them or not, we are dismissing their value as a person.  Suddenly, we only see them as an issue.  We no longer want to hear their story.

We start to lose our humanity in the process. 
We stop caring about people who may not agree with our issue.  Someone from the other team.

And that is a choice that we are actively making.  I am reminded of Jacob Marley from a Christmas Carol:
“I wear the chain I forged in life....I made it link by link, and yard by yard;
I girded it on of my own free will, and of my own free will I wore it.”

When we make this choice, we lose our compassion for others.  Because we think people need to do things our way, think the way that we do.
We all lose with that choice.  Because we put everyone in their little boxes, where we can forget about them…where we don’t have to care about them.

What happens when we try to understand someone’s perspective on their issue?  Their story?  What happens when we look for our common humanity?
It’s uncomfortable.  We have to get beyond the labels, the issues.  Sometimes it feels like that goes against every fiber of our being.

The result though….the result is that we have richer relationships with people. 
The result is that the impulse to spout out a sarcastic word, email or status update diminishes.  Maybe it doesn’t completely go away.  We aren’t perfect after all.  But maybe instead of posting that, we take a breath and leave it.  We start a conversation with someone.  We remember that we love this person and want to be respectful.

This is a work in progress for me.  Perfection doesn’t exist. 
I think to another Jacob Marley gem:

"Mankind was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence, were, all, my business. The deals of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business!”
It’s funny to me that I quote Jacob Marley here because when I was a kid and saw the many remakes of a Christmas Carol, I was often scared of the ghost, simply because he was angry ghost.  With the eyes of an adult, I see why he was so passionate.
Because people matter.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Blessed are the Peacemakers

I thought a long while about writing this post.  I even prayed about writing this post because I needed guidance.

I kept checking in with myself.  Am I just having a bad day?  No, pretty good day.  Did I have a hard week at work?  Sometimes I focus on random things as a way to cope with the reality of how hard my job is.  Well, this week had its challenges like any other.

A thought kept rolling around in my head.  A prayer that we say in church, a prayer of confession in which we ask for forgiveness and include forgiveness for what we have left undone.  And this week, while I am speaking those words, I didn’t want this to be one of those things left undone on my heart.
I think a few disclaimers might be in order before I get started with the business of this post. 

· This post is a reflection of my personal beliefs.  I’m sure you have your own.  It’s ok if we don’t agree.  When we get down to it, this is my blog so it is all about me anyway.
· I don’t want to argue about the Bible.  So please don’t read this post with a bunch of biblical quotes in your head that you want to throw at me.  Seriously, it won’t change my opinion.

·This is a guilt free zone.  I took that term from one of the bosses at work.  It means that while you are reading this, if you feel that you have done what I am going to talk about, this post isn’t intended to make you feel bad.  I know that I have done this too.  This post is only intended to make us think about our actions.
So let’s get down to it.  Today I’m going to write about those two topics that people shy away from, religion and politics, but probably not in the way you think.

And the reason that I’m doing it, folks, is because I am tired.
I’ve noticed a trend the past few years.  And I am so tired.

We live in a world where we can quickly sift through headlines and posts and hit share or like.  And we don’t really process what that means.
We stopped thinking about what other people are going to think.

And I don’t mean that to suggest that we should care about what other people think about our opinions.  After all, we are entitled to them.
This is more about what other people might think when you like a post that is essentially saying to someone else, your opinion is invalid because you are (insert politically party affiliation) and I think all (insert politically party affiliation people) are idiots.

I’m tired of people saying, I hate being politically correct.  This isn’t about being politically correct.  This is about being respectful.  So are we saying, I hate being respectful or I am too lazy to be respectful.

All of us have friends/family that we disagree with.  That’s part of life.  We all have our unique opinions and experiences.
But have we ever taken the time to think about what meaning our friends/family will take from our liking or even posting something that is so divisive and unkind?  There are many times, that I have stopped myself from sharing a post in which I may agree with the opinion but dislike the delivery.  I think, how would my (insert friend/family member with a different political party affiliation/belief system) receive this?  Would they see that I liked this and wonder if I thought they were stupid and their opinion didn’t matter?

If you are facebook friends with me, there is probably something you should know.  I am liberal.  GASP!  Seriously, folks, I am a social worker.  Is this really news?  I get it, not everyone agrees with me, and that’s ok.  And just because I say, I am liberal, doesn’t mean that you suddenly know everything that I think.  Because I don’t presume to know everything about you because of your particular political party affiliation/belief system.
Here’s the thing, when I read your posts about how idiot liberals blah, blah, blah, I wonder if that is how you think of me too.  And I know that you liking a post, it isn’t about me, but I wonder if you are thinking about the meaning behind the post before you are sharing/liking it.

What I don’t want you to read is, sheesh, I can’t say anything anymore because she is so sensitive.  Because if that is how you read this, you are missing the point.
Again, it’s not about being politically correct, it’s not about people being sensitive, it is simply about being respectful.  As a sign of respect to my friends/family, I am going to think about how they might be receiving something before I post/like/share. 

I want you to know, that I still find value in you and your opinion even if you affiliate with another political party/religion/belief system.  I’m asking that you do the same for me.
And I get it, I can just unsubscribe from people’s news feeds, which I have done.  Although, I really do like some of you and want to see the pictures of your kids/dogs/life that show up in my newsfeed.  I want to hear what is going on in your life.  I want to hear about you.

And I am tired of being silent about this.  This post is about getting us to think about how we treat each other.  And I am challenging myself to do the same as well.
And folks, I am frankly tired of people saying that they are posting something that is disrespectful and unkind, saying that it is in the Bible or it is my Christian duty.  Even as Christians, we don’t agree on everything.  Personally, I don’t follow/believe every teaching in the bible.  GASP!  And maybe you think I am going to hell for that.  But can you at the very least still communicate respect with me?

Jesus was a peacemaker.  And peacemakers are respectful of others.  And being respectful means that you are willing to see the world from someone else’s point of view.  And acknowledge that you do not know everything.  I am frequently wrong.  And the times when I am right, well, there is no glory in being right.
Here were are, wrapped up in the Advent season, talking about Jesus a little more than usual these days, which is a good thing if you are someone who celebrates Christmas.

The Christmas story (both the events leading up to the birth of Jesus and the story of his life) is beautiful.  It is a story about faith, hope, love and forgiveness (and that’s a nutshell).
And when we post snark in the name of Christ, we certainly aren’t winning any people over for Jesus.  We are creating another division.  And we are separating folks from learning more about a beautiful faith.

So here’s what I am asking.
Can we be more respectful? 

Can we take one moment before going through our news feed and clicking on share/like and think is this respectful?  And not just the actual post, but the source itself, are we posting from a facebook group that is I hate…insert people who do not agree with me?  Is this dismissive of anyone who does not subscribe to my particular brand of politics/religion/personal values?
And really, is this kind?

We can be kind while expressing our opinions.  We can be respectful while expressing our opinions.
We can be peacemakers.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

The Beauty of Faith

Earlier this week, I heard some reflections on faith that have been rolling around in my brain. 
Have you ever heard the expression, Give it to God?  If you haven’t, it means releasing your worries to God and letting him handle it.

I have to say, when I’ve been told that, it feels really trivial.  It feels like the person saying it is simplifying my problem into a nice, neat solution. 
This reflection was so much richer than that.  This reflection was about the beauty of faith.  The beauty of releasing this idea that we have control over anything.  The beauty of hope.

These words meant so much to me in that moment.  Because in that moment, my heart was not at rest.  And my heart hadn’t been at rest in a while.
I thought about it later, I wanted that.  I wanted the peace of letting go.  In life in general, I know that I have this idea that I have control, especially at work, where I feel like I am there to help.  But I can’t even control that.  Despite my best intentions, sometimes the best I can do is sit with someone in their moment of pain because again, I have no control.  None of us really do.

I thought about what I wanted to let go of.  Stories that I have been holding onto.  Stories that I have been taking to heart.
And I realized that in my desperation to maintain this control, I lost the beauty of faith.  I lost hope.  Because I thought that if I did enough, or if someone else did enough, and I forgot about hope.

I went into this business of helping because I wanted to help people.  That seems so silly.  That is my 17 year old, high school senior self saying that.  I still feel that way though.
The great thing about wanting to help people is this belief that circumstances can change, life can be better.  Hope.

Maybe in the day to day, it is easy to forget that.  I’ve mentioned a few times that I often lose sight of my truths.
Yet this is the season of Advent.  The season of joyful hope.  The undercurrent of joy and faith. 

The undercurrent that was buried in this period of unrest.
I drove home tonight reflecting on the events of the week, the day.  My thoughts made a connection between those events and letting go of those stories that I had been holding onto.

I watched the sunset behind the mountains as I drove.
I felt the beauty of faith.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Simple Acts

My vacation ended with me going back to work still sick.  Not exactly the most restful way to return.
Last week, a coworker told me that I looked like Rene Russo from the movie, Outbreak.  The next day, I caught my reflection in the rearview mirror and realized that he was right.  Something about the natural light really brought out the worst.  My coworkers then thought it would be hilarious to put a picture of Rene Russo from Outbreak on my computer.  It was hilarious, so I left it there. 

But these past two weeks since returning from vacation have seemed really challenging.  This business of helping people wears on the soul at times.
And it’s only Tuesday.

I can’t seem to put my finger on it.  Last week, I thought, when I start feeling better, this other feeling of unrest will go away. 
It didn’t.

At the end of today’s work day, I was chatting with my supervisor and knowing that I was already home with the girls, she said, Go enjoy your kids.
And I thought, I don’t know if I can. 

And not because of them.  Because of me.  Because I had nothing else to give to anyone today. 
I sat around for a bit, lingered on the internet, spaced out on the couch while supervising homework, ate some chips.

I finally got up and started picking up the house.  I swept the salt off our front steps, emptied out the trash in my car, started dinner.

This return to normalcy, this routine of taking care of my family, brought me peace.  The girls and I sat down to a dinner of tomato soup and cheese quesadillas, and my heart felt calm.  And now, listening to the hum of the dishwasher while the girls are cozy by the Christmas tree reading books, I feel content. 
I often forget those things that help me keep it together.  I get frantic and caught up.  I forget my truths.

Today, these simple acts brought me back to my life outside of work, my real life. 
I don’t know if I will wake up tomorrow feeling the same peace. 

But tonight, I have it.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Turkey Day

Thanksgiving past...because I was too sick today to take pictures...

When I was a senior in high school, my dad and I got the stomach flu on Thanksgiving.  Of all the days out of the year to get the stomach flu, we got it on a day centered around food and it was horrible.  In fact, I was so sick that day that it took me a couple of weeks to regain my appetite.
This year, a cold has been circling around the house.  The thing about a staycation is that you are with each other all the time…and each other’s germs.  I mentioned that Katy had been sick, well, then Lucy fell and now I am sick.  I keep reflecting on that Thanksgiving many years ago, and I am so grateful to have a cold, instead of the stomach flu.

It was a bit touch and go this morning.  I thought, well, at least I made pie the day before.  We can at least have pie.  A good morning nap helped turn things around, at least long enough to get some other food prepared, and the turkey in the oven. 
The turkey.  I purchased it a little less than a week ago.  Since it is just the four of us this year, I wanted a small breast.  The smallest one I could find at the store was 12 pounds.  Seemed like a bit of a mutant turkey.  Until I opened up the package today to find that I actually purchased a whole turkey.  That made me feel more comfortable with the 12 pound weight.  But didn’t I read the packaging?  Oh well, I’ve made a whole turkey before so it wasn’t a kitchen emergency.  More of a kitchen surprise. 

Feeling less than stellar has made me reflect on some other Thanksgivings that weren’t up to the Hallmark commercial standard.  The stomach flu one, of course.  Billy and I have had many years of working odd shifts.  There were many Thanksgivings when one of us might be sleeping from an overnight shift, we would share a quick meal and one of us would end the night back at work. 
I guess I have been thinking about those because in the grand scheme, having a cold isn’t such a big deal.  We are all together.  Germs and all.  There is yummy food to eat, beer in the fridge and another episode of Sherlock left.    And pie!

And that’s what this holiday is about, after all.  Being thankful for life.  Being thankful for the big and little things.
I hope on this holiday you are surrounded by friends and family.  I hope you have a moment to reflect on those big and little things.  And I wish you many more of those big and little things in the next year.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Vacation To-Dos

Often I comment on here about the to-dos in life getting the better of me.  And this past week has been full of to-dos.  That’s what happens before vacation time-that pressure to finish projects and get things in order.
As of last night, my vacation time officially started.  And I am so relieved.

I’ve been thinking a lot about what I want to do over the next week.  I am such a homebody, and I don’t like to have an agenda on my days off.  Billy is the opposite, and he also has the week off.  This should be an interesting week…
I really wanted to make a list of what would help me relax and recharge and feel ready for the business of helping again. 

Here’s what I have come up with so far.
· Watch Sherlock again.  All six episodes.  It’s been a couple of years.  I feel like I need to prepare for January.

· Watch a Ken Burns documentary…or two.  Last year, The Dust Bowl aired while I was on vacation.  So this year, I was thinking The War and/or Prohibition.  I started watching The War years ago, but never finished it. 
· Sew.  Sew like crazy. Finish some projects.  Make a project for myself!

· While I am at it, finish my unfinished craft projects.  This includes both sewing and non-sewing ones.
· Clean my craft cabinet.  Actually, I did that earlier today.  But I like putting things on a to-do list that I have already done.  It makes me feel good.  Seriously, the craft cabinet was a mess…again.  The whole laundry room area is a mess but now it’s limited to Billy’s stuff.  And as long as it’s not mine, I’m not bothered by it.  Shutting the door helps.

· Have a pajama day.  No errands.  No running.  Laziness.  Of course, there will be cooking because we need to eat.
· Drink coffee in the middle of the day.  Three cups is one too many in the morning.  But an afternoon cup (or two), that feels right for vacation.

· Cook.  Make some new recipes.  Eat some old favorites.  Mom and Dad, those cinnamon rolls will be happening.
· Run.  To justify the eating.  As Sister Runner says, anything goes after a long run.  I’m going to make it count.

· Have fun with the people around me.  Poor Katy has been fighting a cold since last weekend.  We are all still excited about having a week off together, even if it means jammies every day and watching tv under blankets.
· Relax.  I’m not sure that needed a separate line item, but I am kind of feeling itchy with such a long to-do list for a vacation.  I need to remember that this is supposed to be relaxing.  It’s ok for the to-do list to get thrown out the window.

And there we have it.  That seems like a good start to a week of rejuvenation!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Changing Days

This unassuming month of November has quickly flown by.
I went into it knowing that I only had a few weeks left at work before my vacation time (some would call it a staycation-I’m simply happy call it time off).

These weeks have been spent with work projects during the day and quiet evenings at home working on crafts.  Look at how precious this little lady is with her giant embroidery hoop!
November brought change.  There were some lingering unknowns that were resolved this month.  And the answer was change.

Like many other humans, I fear change.  Even good change is scary.
Goodbyes will soon be said to people and old ways of doing things.

I spent much of this past weekend with fear.  Middle of the night thinking about change.
Church on Sunday brought a message about change.  Funny how that works sometimes-the message comes when you need it (doesn’t always work that way or maybe I’m not always listening).  I remembered that I am not the only one who struggles with this.

We start clicking through the days, and we develop this false sense of control.  The sense that we are creating opportunities through our actions.
Until we are stopped by change.  And remember how small we are.

Today, swimming through the change, I am embracing gratitude. 
Thankful for those experiences and people. 

Thankful for those pieces of life that remain constant.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Gentle November

The day before Halloween, we received the Target toy ad in the mail.  This post isn’t a rant about skipping over holidays…or holiday toy excess.  I’m sure I could go on one of those rants.
This is a post about one of the best months…November.

November is unassuming.
Thanksgiving isn’t a flashy holiday.  It’s about food and being together with loved ones.  Really, every holiday should be about this.

For me, November is a month about reflection and gratitude.  Or as Katy put it at dinner last night, it’s about “thanks.”
Speaking of giving thanks, the past couple of nights, Katy has thanked me for making dinner for her.  I have been a little surprised both times.  This is something I do (almost) every day.  She is finding gratitude in the ordinary, and she doesn’t even realize it.  Amazing.  And yes, I meant Katy, not my insightful little Lucy.

I’m always grateful when November rolls around.  The over the top Halloween decorations come down.  For those of you who may have noticed some of these decorations in the background of the blog photos, those are actually my neighbor’s decorations.  He decorates our yard.  Every year.  I have no idea why.
Our personal Halloween decorations are typically limited to some pumpkins and whatever homemade items the girls make.  Honestly, after six years of having the yard decorated for us, there’s just no need to buy any more than that.

In November, I enjoy reading everyone’s moments of gratitude on facebook.  I love the simplicity of the gratitude.  Someone has already posted they are grateful for coffee.  Amen.
I usually take some time off in November to recharge.  I already have my time off this month approved.  I love the simplicity of a staycation.  I’m sure there will be a lot of sewing.  And pajama wearing.  And coffee drinking.

Of course, there will be some holiday preparation.  We are making many handmade gifts for Christmas this year, and we are already getting started.  I love it.  It gives me an excuse to buy craft stuff without Billy judging me…ok, he is probably still judging….  So for those of you who typically get a gift from me, prepare yourselves for the handmade.  And keep in mind that perfection does not exist.
For the next few weeks, I am going to do my best to embrace November, in all of its quiet joy.  I hope you are able to find moments of gratitude and peace as well.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Day 31-Drifting to the End

Today started off foggy.  I was driving into work through some thick patches of fog.
Suddenly, I reached a spot on the highway that was clear.  Everything going forward was clear.

Mindfulness can be like that.  Drifting through a fog and suddenly you see where you are, what surrounds you, where you are going.       
This 31 day journey of mindfulness has been a bit like that too.  Moments filled with awareness and other moments drifting through the fog.

Part of me wants this to be some sort of awakening.  That going forward, I will always be mindful.  But the reality is this is not something that I can keep up.  Moments of drifting are just part of my life.  Sometimes, those moments actually help reset my brain.
And that’s ok.

As this journey went on (particularly the last week), I have felt more drifting.  Then I remind myself that I have been sick.  My sinuses are foggy too. 
I do hope that I keep up the daily reflection with myself.  While the everyday blogging gets a bit cumbersome, having at least one moment of gratitude and reflection each day has been beneficial.  And at least for one moment, each day, I was awake.

Thank you all for joining me for a day of the journey, parts of it or the whole enchilada!

This post concludes the 31 Day series-Mindful Moments.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Day 30-To-Dos

I got to work this morning and immediately pulled out my to-do list. I started it before I left yesterday.  This morning, I added to it until it reached the bottom of the page.
Be there at our labors

I spent the day working on the list.  About a half hour before I left, I was at a good stopping place. 
Doesn’t that feel good-crossing things off the to-do list?!

I know, I kind of get down on the to-dos around here.  But really, that’s more of the to-dos at home.  Cooking, cleaning, washing the rug again because Elwood Wilson pooped on it.
It’s so much easier to work on those to-dos at work and keep it at work.  I don’t take my work to-dos home with me.

But being at home, the to-dos are always there.
I keep coming back to this idea of mindfulness.  I’ve been trying to be more mindful as the day goes on.  More present in each moment. 

This evening I caught myself trying to do multiple tasks at once-homework help, dinner, dessert (a special treat to celebrate Lucy’s run today), laundry.  And then Billy walked in the door.  I thought he was working late tonight.  Oops.  Obviously, I wasn’t doing any of these tasks well, and I had no idea what was going on with my husband.  That is my reality of multitasking.  I realize that some people can do it well.
Not this lady.

And that’s ok with me.  Because all of this multitasking at home, well, it makes the time fly by without my brain (or heart) really being engaged in the day…or my family.

This post is part of the 31 Day series-Mindful Moments.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Day 29-Truth


Ever have a case of the Mondays?  I have, that’s for sure.
Today was different.  Today I was happy to face the day.  I was happy to face a Monday.  

no cares could destroy
Apparently, I was the only one.

When I walked into my office area at work (it’s a cave-like office filled with cubes), my coworkers were not having such a glorious morning.
The work was wearing on them.

Oh, I’ve been there.  As recently as Friday.
This business of helping gets a little too close sometimes, wears on the heart too much.

I think I asked, how are you taking care of yourself, multiple times.  Because social workers love to be social worked by other social workers.  No, not really.  But sometimes, we need to call each other out.
We need to remind ourselves of our truths.

When the work gets hard, there are some things that I need to remind myself of-my truths.  Those constants in life that don’t change, regardless of what happens during the day.  I am a good person.  I care about people.  I am not here to fix or save anyone.  Perfection does not exist.  Sometimes, I will only get to share a moment of someone’s journey, and that is ok.  Simply being present with someone during their struggle is important.  I get to go home to a family that loves me.  I am enough.
We all have to find our truths. 

They keep us going in those hard moments. 
They provide the light for the dark moments.

They remind us that we are already enough.

This post is part of the 31 Day series-Mindful Moments.

Day 28-Ready

Lately, I have been feeling that itchiness around needing some time off work.  It’s normal, it happens every six months or so.  And it always happens in October.
This weekend was somewhat unusual for me in that I worked a bit on Friday, one of my regular days off.  And I was sick all weekend.

But I actually rested.
Sometime around 5 pm yesterday, a thought about work popped in my head.  Something really simple, like tomorrow is Monday and I have to go back to work.

And I felt ok about it.

I didn’t feel that Sunday feeling.  Do you know what I’m talking about?  It’s almost a bit of a sadness that the weekend is over.  I didn’t have it yesterday.  I felt ok with going back to work.  I didn’t feel overwhelmed by all the tasks left undone when I left last week.
I always know that time off from work really helped when I feel that way-when I feel good about going back to work.

And even though I have been sick these past few days, my mind felt clear, not full of confusion from too many to-dos.
I was trying to figure out what it was about this weekend that helped so much.  After all, it wasn’t even a full weekend according to my usual schedule.

I keep going back to this-I actually rested.  I stayed close to home.  I had to mentally tell myself no to things I wanted to do-a long run, volunteering at the church, browsing at the fabric store (that last one was probably a good thing for my budget). 
The weekends are supposed to be relaxing, and at times, they are anything but relaxing, especially these past few weekends supervising the completion of a book report.

I am grateful for this past weekend, even though I was sick, it helped me slow down and feel ready for the week.

This post is part of the 31 Day series-Mindful Moments.