The Only Love That Works

I should just stay off of Facebook.  Really.  And I would, because it’s definitely what my husband would call a “time suck” but I just CAN’T for some reason.

So, here’s what I learned from Facebook this week, in no particular order: I don’t love Jesus, because I just kept scrolling instead of sharing (really guys?  How can this still be a thing?).  The Patriots are still on trial for murder … or deflating their footballs or whatever.  Shutterfly is offering something wonderful that I should be getting for my kids because I want to make memories and put them on magnets and coffee mugs.  I love my kids more than anyone else in the world loves their kids because I homeschool.

Okay, so here’s an actual comment as close as I can remember it from someone’s Facebook post about school starting.  “Parents in my community are throwing a Back to School party because their kids are going to be ‘out of their hair’ starting next week.  Does anyone else find this heartbreaking?”

There were so many funny comments that I can’t even attempt to describe them all.  Most were appalled that these horrific parents were excited to be “free” of their precious babies who are growing up unloved and unaccepted and blahdy blah.  Some of them were a little more get-a-gripish in nature.  The one that struck me as the most hilarious and disingenuous was the precious mom who wrote “I cherish every moment with my children.  This breaks my heart.”

Wow.  Cherish every moment.

I did not comment because I was being good.  Trying to stay positive and not make enemies with a million strangers. Also my two and a half year old was hitting me on the leg with her sippy cup saying “Mo noke” (more milk) for the seven hundredth time and I had to stop and get her a refill.  All these moments to cherish.

I really like homeschooling, and my children, and keeping house (sometimes) and all the things.  My life is full of awesome.  I want to puke when I hear the word cherish, but there is definitely a lot of love to go around in this household … and then there are those days that the school bus rolls down our street and I want to run after it screaming, “Wait!  Wait!  Take mine too!”

Daddy and Ella love

We are too hard on each other, parents.

There are parents who go to the park with their children and dog their every footstep.  They hover over them, hold out nervous arms as children climb up and down high things, call out advice while they slide down slides … we’ve all seen them, some of us ARE them.  And then there are the ones who go and sit at a picnic table and look at their iPhones as their kids climb, slide, jump and whatever else.

Some parents breastfeed.  Some wrap their babies around their bodies and wear them everywhere, some opt for strollers.  Some homeschool, some pay for private school, some send their kids to public school and then attend parties to celebrate their newfound freedom.  Heathens.

So which of these truly loves their children?  Um … all of them.  I rarely meet a parent who doesn’t love their children.  Also, I’ve NEVER met one who actually “cherishes every moment” with them.  We feel like whatever path we’ve chosen is best for our kids, or we wouldn’t have chosen it, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t other paths.

Helicopter parenting would exhaust me.  It makes me tired just to watch them at the park.  I admit though, I have to shut my eyes and just breathe when my children climb higher than I want them to fall.  I get up to push them on the swings for the last ten minutes of park time.  If they beg me to, I’ll slide down the slide with one of them.  Other than that, I usually stand to the side and observe.  I don’t generally sit with my iPhone, but sometimes I do … because I’m fried, and I brought them to the park so I wouldn’t have to entertain them.

My kind of love is working so far, because they still kiss me goodnight, give me big hugs, want me to sing 20 songs to them before they’ll go to sleep.  My kids love me, and they feel loved … also, if another person was going to get them all out of my hair for a big chunk of the day every day, I might throw a party.  Because then I would have time to go to the post office, address Christmas cards, get a haircut for the second time this year, clean my kitchen. A clean kitchen would make anyone want to throw a party.

kids in the bus

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Four Things to do When Life Isn’t Behaving …

Planner
My newly made planner for 2015. My 2014 Susan Branch Calendar sacrificed its life to make this wonderfulness a reality.

For list makers, goal setters and other planning nut jobs, this time of year is especially wonderful.  I start making my yearly “Goals Program” in December and hit the ground running in January.  I charge into a new year determined to be the Worlds Best version of myself.  It’s big fun.  I recommend insanity.  But there are millions of posts this time of year about goals and resolutions, so I won’t bore you with the details of mine … this post is about the things that happen that have nothing to do with your plan ….

The idea of “unplanning” my life a little bit came to me when I ran into an older lady at our church.  I don’t mean I saw her and approached her calmly because I hadn’t spoken to her in a while … I mean I ran into her.  I wasn’t paying attention and I almost knocked the poor woman over.  After I grabbed her to keep her upright, laughed, hugged her and sincerely apologized, she said something really wonderful to me.

“Oh, I’m so glad you weren’t paying attention!  It gave me a chance to hug you and say hi!  I haven’t seen you in forever!”  What a sweetheart.  Also, what a fabulous perspective on mistakes, detours, derailed plans, life.  I really needed it.

So I am switching my thoughts on goals and plans.  I will still make them, obviously, but here are things I’ve decided to do when they go awry.  Also a few thoughts on when something unexpected comes up that wasn’t even a missed plan, it wasn’t on my radar at all.

1.  Remember that most unplanned things aren’t a problem until we make them a problem.  

Of course there are exceptions to this, disease, car crashes … those sorts of things are a problem in themselves.  I’m talking about roadwork, getting cut off, traffic delays, missing a meeting, smacking face first into a 75 year old lady in your church hallway.  Your attitude determines whether or not these things will ruin your day.  My dad used to call them “adventures”.  If you see your life as an adventure, having to make a detour won’t upset you so much.  Life is what you make of it.  So make it great.

2.  Most mistakes can be fixed with just the right word at just the right time.

I have a problem with my mouth.  It is always opening and saying things.  I have learned that, while words spoken can’t ever be taken back, there are ways to mend the things you broke when you opened your mouth.  Recently I was on Facebook and in a super bad mood.  As a side note, it’s always a good idea to get on Facebook when you’re ready to spit nails.  I was following a thread about something non-important and noticed a friend’s comment had been taken poorly by the group and people were reacting negatively towards her.  I went into attack mode, defending my friend while eviscerating the person who had been unkind and thereby started an entirely new war.  Really.  Nothing is more vicious than a group of mommies with nothing to do but follow pointless Facebook threads.  The next day I noticed that the thread had exploded thanks to my hostile comment and one lady was even considering leaving the group.  Sigh. I apologized on the thread, promised them that I now had my head on straight (and had drunk several cups of coffee that morning, improving my outlook on life) and begged the poor woman not to leave the group based solely on my stupidity.  She accepted my apology, stayed in the group and I think she might even like me now.

If I had waited one more day to try and make amends, I doubt the story would be the same.  Sometimes everyone needs time to cool down, but sometimes the situation needs to be diffused immediately.  When broiling over words and tempers are involved usually a soft word is what’s needed, not days and days for the problem to fester and grow.  Stop the madness!  Apologize quickly and completely (even if you were partially right, now’s not the time!) and let everyone move on with their lives!  And when in doubt … just keep your mouth shut in the first place and stay off the internet when you’re a grouch.

3. Have a positive default setting for when things go really wrong.

Ever heard the phrase, “Bad hair days are good hat days”?  We all know that things are going to go wrong in our lives eventually.  If you plan your immediate reaction to the negatives in life, it will make them a bit easier to deal with.  For instance, when something upsetting happens to my mom, she buys chocolate for us all to eat.  No kidding.  Who doesn’t win in that scenario?  There are doctors who would call that an unhealthy relationship with food.  I call it delicious.

When Jason and I were first married we had two miscarriages in one year.  I took every test the medical world could offer and they all had “normal” results.  When I got pregnant for the third time, I made a plan for how I would react if I once again lost the pregnancy.  I actually made a list of the things in my life that would still be good even if I couldn’t have the baby I desired so desperately.  He was a boy.  Sometimes you don’t have to put your default setting to use.  That’s always nice.

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My oldest son, Jack. He’s six now.

4. Use the opportunity to help someone else.

This entire world is broken.  That is just a fact.  I love to see the positive and silver lining, and I wear rose colored glasses on purpose, but sometimes even I have to get real.  People need help, healing, love, hugs … us.  If you’re thinking, “How am I supposed to deliver healing when I’M so sick?!” I have some fabulous news for you!  God has chosen the weak things of this world to confound the things that are mighty.  It’s awesome.  So many times the things we look at as a struggle and a heart ache, someone else can look to as a light at the end of their very dark tunnel.  If you have health problems, use them to help others with the same problem. If you’ve lost a parent, you can now reach out with empathy to others who have suffered the same loss.  If you have a child who is making terrible choices, other parents may one day look to you to figure out how to live through their own precious child’s crisis.

Many of you are probably well aware that the current and effective “Amber Alert” system grew out of the greatest tragedy imaginable.  I was a teenager when the beautiful little Amber was snatched from her street by a psychopath and the manhunt that ensued was brutal and heartbreaking.  On the other side of it, Amber’s parents took their horror story and turned it into something that has given hundreds of parents back their children.  Can you imagine that? Heartache will happen anyway.  We might as well help each other through.

I do realize this isn’t a typical “Happy New Year!” post.  But since our year definitely will not go as planned, we might as well have a plan for it … see what I did there?

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And really, Happy New Year!  I hope all of your lists work out.

Generation X and Y Raise Children … from our iPhones

Lils

There are distinct advantages to parenting now days.  We have the internet to look stuff up on when our kids are sick.  We have the internet to look stuff up on when we need birthday party ideas.  We have the internet to look stuff up on when we need stocking-stuffer ideas. There are real disadvantages too.  We have the internet to tell us about GMO’s and high-fructose corn syrup.  We have the internet to feed all our children’s symptoms into when they’re sick and find out that they match up with either cancer, ebola or the common cold.  We have the internet so now we have to buy three different softwares just to protect our children from its content.

The bigger disadvantage to raising kids coming from our generation is that the vast majority of us don’t use our heads any more even though we have the bulk of the world’s knowledge on a palm fitting device in our purses. I personally cannot hold one single phone number in my brain.  I don’t even know my husband’s number by heart.  The only number I remember is my friend Jennilyn’s and that’s only because it hasn’t changed since my childhood and it has a very nice rhythm to it that stuck in my head like a commercial jingle.

Also, we’re not good at heeding actual human advice. Since we are children of the eighties and nineties, constantly told that “no one has the right to tell us what to do”,  we now all get on our tablets and get THEM to tell us what to do. Instead of calling our moms to discover how to fix a behavior issue with our children, like our mothers did, we now ask a million strangers in cyberspace what to do.  The good news is we avoid cluing our mothers in on the fact that we are ignorant of something.  The bad news is, we have no human contact and may all shrivel up and die.  But we probably won’t notice, we’ll be looking at cat pictures and arguing with a stranger on the internet up until our last dying breath.

The wealth of info at our fingertips would truly be awesome if it came from fabulous sources, right?  But, how many of our doctors in recent years have heaved enormous sighs when we admitted that we looked up our symptoms on WebMd before we came in … and that’s why it took us so long to come in … and that’s why it has now developed into bronchial pneumonia.  I’m sorry, Dr.  I was afraid you’d tell me I had lung cancer, so I was treating this dreadful cough myself.  Essential oils are a real thing … I swear.  I read it on the internet. (Just kidding, I actually use essential oils with some success).

But I digress.

A disturbing trend I’m seeing in modern parents comes from a mixture of inexperienced moms who write about their lack of experience as if they really know what they’re doing, and equally inexperienced people who “share” these writings on all social networks.  Here are a few recent “gems” the popped up in my newsfeed/twitterfeed, “Why I Didn’t Make My Child Share” – the sage advice of a parent with a three year old who uses 2000 words to explain why her child should never have to share anything they like … because they are the king of the planet and every other child should bow down to them.  “Why I NEVER Tell My Child She is Naughty” – this one was a well-meaning mom trying not to damage their child’s fragile self-image by saying “you are naughty”.  Instead she would affirm her daughter by saying “what you just did was inappropriate.”  I’m sure the subtle nuance totally got through to her toddler.

I have no problem trying out new parenting techniques.  And I certainly have no problem with people sharing blog posts on Facebook.  I learn from them.  I like them.  I HAVE a blog, so I definitely love that it can be shared!  But humans have a weird brain thing when it comes to things we see in print.  Especially things with swirling, beautiful pictures all around them, in professional looking font.  I’m as much of a sucker as anyone.  I read these posts and then wonder, “are my kids scarred for life?  I definitely said Lily WAS naughty the other day instead of saying her actions were inappropriate.  And I made Jack share his toys with his cousins who came over yesterday … and now they’re going to grow up and be ax murderers.”  And then I get a grip.

We’ve got to wake up and see, that the people we are flocking to for this advice are A) people we don’t know. B) more importantly we don’t know their KIDS?  If they aren’t ever taught that they are naughty and they have to share, I’m pretty sure they’re not delightful.  I absolutely don’t want my child to be in their vicinity. And C) they are people whose kids are only 3 and they really have no idea what the results of these ideas will be.

There are a trillion different parenting styles and my kids are still little, so I don’t judge.  What I’m saying is, perhaps, getting all our ideas from a very untested future is not the answer.  I always thought that finding a nice couple at my church, with children who are grown up and lovely and asking for their secrets was the way to go.  Unfortunately, these people usually don’t write blogs.  They either think computers are too “newfangled” or they’re too busy with their grandkids … or the worst one yet:  They have fabulous grown children who are successful and happy and they tell you, “Whatever you do, don’t do what we did.”  “If I had it to do over again, I would never yell at them.”  “If I had it to do over again, I would have prayed more and worried less.”  “I wouldn’t have spanked them … ever!” Wait what?  How is this helpful?  Your kids went to Harvard!  They are confident, brilliant and still manage to be sweet and compassionate.  Why do good parents do this, you wonder?  It’s because of a little thing I like to call, “the grandparent phenomenon”.  They aren’t really the people in those houses raising those currently fabulous people.  All the sudden they are afraid their grandkids will be yelled at, or grounded, or won’t be allowed to play with the new iPad they’re buying them for Christmas.  Now, as Bill Cosby would say, they are just old people trying to get into heaven. We are sunk.

So if we don’t trust the internet’s toddler parent offerings, and every old person tells us to do they opposite of what they did, what ARE we supposed to do?  If we’re smart, aware of the source, and paying attention to the results of our own attempts, then there must be an algorithm we can follow.  For instance, every time my child cries and screams for something and I tell them that they must stop or go take a nap, they stop crying.  Voila!  That worked … at least that time.  The sad truth is, there is no perfect trick to parenting.  Growing up I was taught that there are various promises in the Bible apparently like a magic spell (except magic was a sin,) that if we only lean on them, our children will all be doctors, or missionaries in Ethiopia.  The truth is, God Himself, the perfect father, still allows people their own free will.  Even your little people.

“Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it,” is a principle, not a promise.  How could God possibly make a promise about the condition of the human heart when He Himself, refuses to dictate its actions?  My pastor pointed this out a few weeks ago, it’s not my own insight.  But it’s definitely a relief.  God doesn’t let parents off the hook.  We are supposed to train up our children in the way they should go.  But the results are not in our hands, they lie in the hands of free-willed human beings.  And free-willed human beings make mistakes sometimes.  Mistakes that lead to disaster in some cases.  My mom always says not to judge people who are in desperate situations because of their choices.  “We are all just three bad decisions away from disaster at any given time.”  So true.  Sometimes just one decision.

Are our children doomed because we yell occasionally?  I certainly hope not.  If we tell them they’re naughty?  Come on?  Really?  How many times did your mom tell you you were naughty?  You lived.  I’m pretty sure, if your child has any real problems, and any brains later on, a tiny change in syntax will not destroy them.

Jason reading

Maybe if we give them too many hugs.  Tell them we love them too much.  Spend more time with them than is strictly necessary they will do well in life.  My husband is good at stretching time especially when reading to them.  Books that I skim through as quickly as possible, sometimes skipping words for efficiency, he reads slowly, with big voices.  He points out shapes and colors, and spells the words with them.  He is awesome.  I usually can’t get the mound of dishes in the sink off my mind.  To his credit, or perhaps detriment, the dishes don’t come into his mind at all.

To make a short story longer than it should be, the real thing I lean on is love.  You can’t go wrong with love. I don’t mean doting on your children, giving in to every little thing they want and not ever forcing them to do something they don’t like.  I mean true love.  If you look up the definition in a dictionary it will suffice, but I prefer 1 Corinthians 13, because it is beautiful and full of poetic words that sound like music to me.  Love is patient, kind, long-suffering, keeps no record of wrongs … it goes on and on and if we take just this chapter and used it as our guideline for life, and teach our kids to do the same, I think our they will be just fine.  This is tested parenting advice.  It came from my mother, and my grandmother, and her grandmother… and I can’t get a single one of them to write a parenting blog.

The Eye of the Beholder

rose picture

I heard a quote the other day that I just love:  “Anyone can love a rose, but it takes a great deal to love a leaf.  It is ordinary to love the beautiful, but it is beautiful to love the ordinary.”

I have a conch shell on my bathroom windowsill that is impossible to dust. No one would think it was anything special, just at a glance. It is thickly coated in some sort of white crust, and into the crust is embedded all these tiny little shells that no doubt belonged to tiny sea creatures who wandered up looking for a spot to land. I’m guessing they finally just left their shells there after fruitlessly trying to disconnect from the muck. One can only hope they found a safe harbor before being eaten by something … probably the thing that lived in my conch shell. As unlovely as it is now, it was actually a slimy mossy green when I got it, and I bleached it and scrubbed it until it is now its white crusty, spiderweb catching self. I think it’s beautiful.

Here it is in all it's inglory!

Just so you don’t get the wrong idea, I do not have an artistic eye, though I’m working on it. I usually last about 12 minutes in an art gallery. I look long and hard at sculptures that appear to have been dropped, then glued back together, and I see no deeper meaning.

I always wind up thinking, “My five year old could make that, and then we’d really be banking!” Those kinds of things are worth a fortune. So I spend my obligatory 12 minutes working my way through the art I understand and then, once I’ve passed the Norman Rockwell and Grandma Moses stuff I’m all, “So, someone mentioned going for pizza after this? Is anyone else starving?”

America has a strange idea of beauty now. Have you noticed? Beauty is only attributed to young, smooth, perfect sorts of things. I mean, we seem to like weird artwork, don’t get me wrong, but when it comes to other stuff or people, we miss the boat a lot. Not all Americans, but mainstream folks, even Christians seem to place a higher value on that which is fun to look at. Just try finding a popular Christian musician that isn’t pretty. I’m telling you, IF they exist, they are super rare!

Not just Christians though, of course. Hollywood is kind of low on talent, but ridiculously high in the beauty category. It is full of gorgeous, young, smooth women who are twenty pounds underweight, and full of people of ordinary size who are all grocery store clerks in movies. I feel bad for Hollywood women.  They only have a shelf life of approximately three months.  Then they develop a wrinkle that can’t be airbrushed out and their career is shot, unless you’re Betty White who is adorable, or Meryl Streep who is just too fabulous to be shunted away. Still it’s pretty hard to get a job in Hollywood, even for a guy, if you don’t have just the perfect look. I guess if they feel you’re worth the trouble, they might also try to give you just the perfect look. Heaven forbid people just look normal. It might give people the impression that they are worthy of attention just like they are.

Anyone watching the night Susan Boyle debuted on “Britain’s Got Talent” knows exactly what I’m talking about.  You should watch it on Youtube if you didn’t see it live.  People’s reactions to her were incredible.  The obvious, not just distaste, but utter lack of respect shown to her before she started singing will blow your mind.  Also, everyone’s reaction AFTER she started singing will blow your minds.  How could someone with slightly crooked teeth, who doesn’t fall in the 16-22 age range and isn’t a stick figure possibly be talented?  An anomaly of the first order no doubt.  Someone completely forgot to tell her that she was worthless because she wasn’t a super model.  I think we should all use a little less plastic and paint.

Here is my thought about my conch shell, and unbeautiful people (I learned that word from a five-year-old. It’s so awesome that every word processor underlines it with a red squiggly line). I don’t think my conch shell is beautiful because I bought it at a shell shop somewhere in Missouri a thousand miles from an actual beach. You can find shells in places like that.  It’s just weird. I guess they’re there for people who spend money to have perfectly polished and beautiful things to decorate their house. I am obviously not one of those people. If you added up everything I’ve spent on my home decor, it probably wouldn’t equal what one of those pretty conch shells would cost you.

But I ask you this: Was your pretty and polished conch shell fished out of the sea for you on a mission trip to Belize?  Was it handed to you with love by one of the sweetest teenagers in existence?  Was it smuggled, somewhat illegally, through customs wrapped artfully in dirty clothes in your luggage?  I’m just sayin.  My story is cooler. Just so you know, I have nothing against spending money on your house … but I have nothing against my way either.

Everything in my house is either a token of an experience that I loved, or given to me by someone I love. I hate those random psych questions that ask, “If your house was on fire and your family was safe and you knew you could save one thing, what would you save?” I usually sit for a moment and mentally run through every picture, book, bottle of sand (yes, sand is a decoration at my house) and then flee the room in tears. I would want to save all of it. It all has meaning to me. That query is even more bizarre when they tell you you can only save one family member. My husband refers to a Captain Kirkism as an answer.  “I don’t believe in a no win scenario.  I would save them all.”   I refuse to answer altogether.  I don’t think Jason or I would do very well on a psyche evaluation.

It is my personal opinion that people are more beautiful the longer they live and the less they botox. If you will sit and share your life story with a kid for an hour, or if you can describe what it was like to huddle in a foxhole, or fearlessly march onto a beach in Normandy under constant German fire, or you still knit, sew or crochet, you are a beautiful person. If you sag somewhere because you’ve had three children, or your skin is puckered from surgery, or your hands are calloused from years of using them for your livelihood, that’s all because life has happened to you.  If you’re a single or foster parent, don’t even get me started on your level of amazingness.

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The greatest beauty lies in reality: in the depth of our experiences. Smile lines are a mark of a life spent finding joy in trials. Not the mark of a perfect life.

So, we should expand our definition of beauty a little bit, right?  At least enough to include ourselves, for pete’s sake!  It isn’t because we’re humble that we don’t think we’re beautiful, it’s because we’ve been lied to, we’re insecure, we’re inundated with plastic figurines all painted to perfect specifications by toddlers in China.  So forget the Walmart version of you, or the Dillards version if you happen to have more money.  We are my conch shell.  We have a story that is worth being a bit banged up for.  We are real people, with real purpose in life.  We are loved by God.  Jesus would rather die than live without us.  If nothing else in this entire world is beautiful, that is beautiful.  End of story.

Poisoning People for Fun and Profit

 

I have always had a thing for words. Like, since I was old enough to start noticing their usefulness in getting what I wanted.  Especially when this included grating on my older brother and sister’s nerves. It was big fun when, in an argument, Ryan would make some perfectly lucid 6-year-old point, and I would spout back in my three-year-old wisdom, “Well you’re just too preposition to know better!”. He would usually respond to this by running to Mom yelling, “Mom, Julie’s talking weird again!” Argument won.

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Words in pretty much any form are beloved by me.  Listening to a really fabulous speech or sermon took my breath away even when I was much too young for that to be cool.  Speaking them for myself was, of course, fabulous.  Written words … heaven.  You don’t even want to see my “written words” collection.  But just in case you do ever happen upon one of my bookshelves and feel the urge to pull a book out, please put it on the table for re-shelving by the competent maniac librarian who has them all categorized in a very specific order.  The pulling-books-off-the-shelves stage was a very hard moment in my toddlers’ lives.  I say moment, because I pretty muchly lost my mind over it, and they never tried it again.  I mean, really.  Have a little respect for the crazy person and her library.  18-month-olds.  Sheesh.

My problem is that words come too easily, too naturally to me. Just the perfect word to zap someone in their place is usually right on the tip of my tongue. This would be perfect except my Mom ruined it for me.  Imagine if you will the kindest, most considerate person on the planet.  I mean, so nice that it’s actually just ridiculous.  Now double it.  Now imagine they raised you.  Sigh.

65% of the conversations I had with my mother up to the age of like 17, were the following:

Me:  “So then I told them (insert brilliant, just-funny-enough-to-make-everyone-laugh, just-true-enough-to-make-one-person-really-pale comment)”.

Mom with a horrified and disappointed look on her face: “But you didn’t really say that, did you?” She always gave me the benefit of the doubt, knowing my love of words also extended to the ability to embellish details of stories after the fact.

Me: too honest to say no, too embarrassed to admit out loud that I really did say whatever horrible thing I had said.

Mom: (insert various forms of telling your child to go apologize immediately.)

Sad times, friends.  Apologizing for the perfect zinger tends to take the “zing” out.  Brutal for a budding verbal martial artist.

I can’t remember how old I was before I started to realize on my own that my words had the same effect on others that their words had on me. I do remember that I was much older than I should have been for that insight. I will also say that whoever made up that idiotic childhood taunt, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me” had probably never been spoken to before. Or more likely, they had been talked to too much, and this fictional phrase was their defense mechanism. Today, I’m sure they would have been assigned a syndrome. Off the point a bit, my favorite version of this saying remains Gilligan’s from “Gilligan’s Island”.  His phrasing was far more accurate in my opinion, “Sticks and stones may break my bones … so please, don’t throw sticks and stones.”

In my childhood verbiage was fun to experiment with. The many sounds words made tickled my brain, sizzled on my tongue. I used them ecstatically, with reckless abandon. The more powerful the word, the better. In my adulthood, I have discovered the truth about them. They can be extremely dangerous in the wrong circumstances. Hitler used them to build his Third Reich, to justify genocide, to work people into a frenzy for his cruel, lustful regime.  When teaching on the Nazis in my World History classes I had many students ask me, “How could he ever get people to do the things they did?” Just with words.  What a frightening prospect.

So here is my happy note (I always enjoy the happy note). Like any powerful thing, language is also wonderful! The right word spoken at the right moment is pure brilliance!

My mom had a quote about kindness that I remind myself of constantly when raising my own kids, “It doesn’t cost anything to be nice.” Really. Kindness is available to your lips 24 hours a day at no expense to you whatsoever. How much does it really cost you to say something healing, instead of corrupting? To be honest, instead of manipulative? To do a little research before posting some preposterous media-cooked-up horror story on your Facebook page?  Good words are just as free as terrible ones.  That is comforting to me.

Jason and I have four beautiful children … that we had in four not always-so-beautiful years.  An interesting phenomenon happens to you when you have more than two children, as anyone with three plus will attest to.  People have a weird idea that they are allowed to say anything whatsoever to you, no matter how personal, even if they don’t know you.

Ground breaking
The pretty lady on my right is my precious mom

It cracks me up the amount of people who ask us if we’re finished, to which I actually respond with a smile and a “We think probably so,” instead of what I’d rather say, “None of your cotton pickin’ business”.  They also feel free to ask us about our sex life.  “You do know what causes that, don’t you?”  to which I want to respond with either “No, can you explain it to me?  I was homeschooled.” or “Yes!  We LOVE doing what causes this.” depending on my mood.  I’ve even been asked on multiple occasions if I’ve finally taken care of that problem – Really?  I could go on a while, but I won’t.  I will say, that today someone spoke the most wonderful words to me when I was out with my four children at a restaurant.

An older couple were sitting beside us while we ate.  When they were getting up to leave, the man grinned at my kids and said, “Are they all yours?” I smiled back and said they were.  He got a little teary eyed and said, “The only thing that could possibly be better than this, would be to add a couple more.”  Love.

 They both smiled and waved at the kids as they left.  My heart just glowed from his sweet words.  The waitress came with the check and asked me as I was paying if they were all mine, and if we were done.  I smiled and said, “We think probably so.”  Nice moments can’t last forever.  That’s okay.  She had to clean up the mess they made, so she’s way more entitled to ask than that random lady in the toilet paper aisle at Walmart.

Because of their incredibleness, I’m fairly certain my love affair with words will continue as long as I live.  I will try to be more cautious though, remembering the impact words have on people.  I’ll keep in mind the next time the anger boils up and I just want to rip someone to shreds that it’s usually not the customer service representative’s fault that my phone bill was double this month.  Niceness will always get me farther than yelling.  I know.  I’ve tried both.

Our friends, children, coworkers, staff are collecting the things that we say and turning it into our legacy with them.  They don’t care how much money we make, or what car we drive or how nice our clothes are.  They only care about how our words make them feel.  So let’s make them feel awesome!  And whatever we do, let’s just please not throw sticks and stones.

Broken Crayons

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Image courtesy of trashfreeliving.com

I walk around this house all day picking things up.  You would think that my house would eventually get clean because of this, but the truth is there’s always “stuff” where it’s not supposed to be no matter how many times I clean.  Lately, the things out of place that I find most annoying are broken toys, particularly crayons.  My three-year-old is a little creature of habit and lately he has been cultivating a habit of breaking crayons for the mere pleasure of hearing them snap.  Also, there is a lovely feeling of power that fills him when something solid cracks between his herculean fingers.  Behold the mighty Caleb who has the ability to snap crayons in a single blow!  I guarantee you, he is thinking along these lines.

The most irritating thing about broken crayons is that all their potential for coloring is still intact.  They are still as color worthy as before, but now, no one will touch them because they present a slightly more complicated grip, pressure on paper, they aren’t as pretty etc… Grr!  Even Caleb, the great breaker of the crayons himself, no longer has any use for them once they are broken, unless it’s to peel the paper off and leave IT scattered around with the crayons.  Paper ripping is just an added bonus to ruining crayons.

There always seems to be someone in my life who is very difficult to deal with.  I used to think that they were placed especially in my path because I had some sort of knack for working with hardship cases, and now I’ve come to the conclusion that, as I am not the least bit adept at dealing with these people, they merely come into my life so much because there are too many of them to avoid.  Grown up people, looking for the rush that comes with the power to hurt something that appears solid, have snapped them in half with their words, or actions, or an artful combination of the two.  Unfortunately, broken crayons and people are everywhere.

Lately there has been a particularly hard individual.  Don’t worry, if you’re reading this blog and you’ve recently made my acquaintance, it’s not you.  If I thought there was a chance that the person in question read my blog, I wouldn’t mention them at all.  Now that we’ve got that settled, here we go.  This person is more difficult because unlike most of the broken people in my life, I have discovered that I don’t like her.  It’s a weird feeling for me.  I usually like everyone.  Truly, even people that are super broken, unlovely, hard to deal with, I’m all over it.  But not with her.  So here are things I’ve learned about dealing with difficult people …

1. Every person is important because they exist.

People don’t earn importance because of the things that they do.  People are important because they are flesh and blood.  They are living here on this planet, so they’re just as valuable as I am.  They possess just as much potential for coloring this world with their existence, and there isn’t any option about throwing them away just because they are broken in a couple of places and have some of their paper ripped off.  SOMEONE somewhere will have to deal with them.

2. I don’t like everyone and that is just life.  Unfriending them on Facebook just makes me immature.

Again, a very hard concept for me.  I can usually find something about a person that I just love and that makes me connect with them all the better and like them even more.  Enjoying people’s peopleness is usually easy for me.  Here is the shocker of the day.  I almost unfriended this person on Facebook.  I know, right?  The ultimate disgrace!  Being “unfriended” on a social network.  That’ll teach HER to be hard to deal with!  I didn’t actually do that, I just wanted to. But then I realized that, I am actually a grown-up so I should act like it, and all people deserve some dignity … even in the Facebookosphere.

3.  Everyone is broken, just in different places.

There are people out there who find me a difficult person to deal with.  Somewhere, someone might even be writing a blog post about me and how annoying I am.  It’s true.  There are no perfect crayons in the box of the world.  We are broken because the world is broken.  Because people say the wrong things at the wrong time.  Because humanity has fallen.  That’s all.  It’s just us here.  Some of us have just been melted, pressed back into place, and had paper rewrapped around the weak spots, but some people have no one to do that for them.  So their brokenness is just out there, for everyone to see.  It isn’t fair, but it is reality.  I have mostly surrounded myself with people who are willing to put up with my breaks and bulges where I got fixed.  They know that the paper isn’t hiding my other faults very well, but they don’t care, because they love me.  Everyone needs people who pretend the paper is doing its job.  We should be those people for the other broken people.

4.  Jesus liked the broken crayons best.

I imagine that if Jesus came into my house and sat down to color with Caleb, He would not reach for the newest box of crayons.  He would probably use the smaller pieces, the blunt edges, the ruined parts to make his work of art.  When I complained to Jesus about the person I almost unfriended on Facebook, He said as much to me (not out loud).  He reminded me of Mary Magdalene, one of His favorite followers, who was a prostitute before she met Him.  And of Zaccheus and Peter and … of myself.  All of us hopeless cases.  He had the time to mess with us.  He used our broken parts to make His story more beautiful and more interesting.  How could we not take the time for these others?

5.  People stuff does not fit nicely into a crayon box.

There are no really perfect categories for humanity.  We’ve discussed this before.  Shoving people into little boxes just doesn’t seem to work out.  We have no idea of the depth of most people.  I can’t remember who said it, but someone famous who’s name you would surely be impressed with said once that “The most complex character in fiction is not remotely as complicated as the simplest person in real life.”  Something like that was said by someone famous once.  I promise.  You get the idea, of course.  People don’t tell us why they are the way they are.  Most of the time, they don’t even know it themselves.  They don’t apologize for being hard to deal with, for lying horizontal, when you need them to stick up straight so you can fit more things into the box.  People just are what they are.

6. The Earth revolves around the sun … not around me.

Obvious.  I know that.  In my head I know it.  But still in my selfish heart there is the thought that this life is a movie with me as the main character.  Everyone that comes in and out of the scenes does so to further my story.  Wrong.  People who decide that life is all in the pursuit of their own happiness are delusional.  I’ve seen many quotes swirling around on Facebook and Twitter: memes to the effect of, “if someone is in your life that isn’t contributing to your happiness, walk away from them,  Life is too short for that”.  Some are a bit more subtle in their selfishness, “A person who hurts you gives up their right to be in your life”… blah blah blah.  It all comes to the same thing.  Broken people sometimes look for others to break because they think it will make them look less broken.  So they hurt people.  They hurt you, or me.  But life is not just about us.  Sometimes people-breakers have to have someone stick with them.  Someone they have hurt even.  I have had many people stick with me in the past even after I have stabbed them in the back, said the wrong thing to them … hurt their feelings.   I’m glad their only source of humanity wasn’t wrapped up in the wisdom of Facebook memes.  If any of you friends are reading this post, thanks for dealing with this difficult person.  I love you.

So maybe all of this doesn’t help when dealing with the crayon pieces scattered throughout your life, but it helps me.  A little more perspective is always a plus for a brain like mine.  I tend to think that everyone’s life experience is similar to mine, and therefore, they should all behave exactly as I do. However, the ramifications of there being 6 billion Juliens running around in this world are so catastrophic, I just don’t let my mind settle there.

 

P.S. Just to clarify, I am in no way recommending that someone stay in an abusive relationship.  I am talking merely about hurt feelings here, and figuring out people at large.  If someone hits you, or is cruel to you … get away from them immediately.  Someone else can help them with their brokenness.  That doesn’t need to be you.

Cameras: AKA the World’s Greatest Liars

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My mom is the biggest proponent of getting professional pictures of your children ever.  JcPenney studio should start paying her.  Seriously.  It’s that ridiculous.  She had very little money for this when we were babies, so now she insists on a pretty regular basis that she and I take my children and have them photographed and she always pays for whatever I can’t afford.  These outings are fun-filled hours of constantly getting onto/bribing/timeouting and doing whatever it takes to get four squirmy five-and-under children to sit still for a nano-second and also maybe smile.  Maybe.  But that part is optional.  They’re all looking at the camera, just snap the picture for the love of all that is decent!  The results are usually big fun though.  I posted my latest “perfect” pictures on Facebook to be lauded and praised about how adorable and angelic my children are.  It was delightful.

But really, cameras are such liars!  Now you can even use photoshop and increase the velocity of the lie.  Smudge out those wrinkles and zits.  Enhance your eye and lip color.  You can even make yourself look thinner. I’m dying to learn that trick!  I’m not saying you shouldn’t take pictures of yourself and your family.  Of course you should, and you should smile for them because smiling makes everyone prettier except for Vigo Mortenson.  Vigo, if you’re following my blog, you are much better looking when you’re  serious.  Anyway, where was I?  Smiling for pictures is good.  Remember life’s happy moments.  No one is a bigger advocate of keeping an upbeat and positive attitude than I, however, I sometimes wonder if I am too good at the show.  I do an excellent job at “smiling for the cameras” of my life.  Let’s get real here.  You shouldn’t go through pictures on Facebook and believe that they are the sole indicators of the picture taker’s happiness level.  So here is my unphotoshopped reality for anyone who looks on Facebook, this blog, or at my sweet kiddos and thinks, “I certainly wish my life was perfect … like Julien’s”.

1.  Sunday mornings

Camera version:  My four children arrive at church scrubbed and beautiful in lovely outfits.  The girl’s hair is usually fixed in some way.  My hair is fixed and I have makeup on.  My clothes are clean and my husband’s shirt is pressed and I sometimes even wear heels.  Jason and I teach our Sunday School class, smiling and laughing with our college and career group.  It is all just precious.

Real version:  I am up super late the night before trying to find SOMEthing clean that both fits and matches and is appropriate for church.  Special bonuses if the outfits include underwear and possibly socks.  Tights are the bane of my existence because they are always dirty, holey, too little or too big.  Who MAKES these things?  Sadists.  That’s who.  Baths happen before bed Saturday, or they may not happen at all.  Jason and I drag ourselves out of bed before the sun is up, feed our children something from a can (sweet rolls usually, but recently I’ve switched to biscuits from Immaculate Bakery, because I tell myself they are slightly more nutritious.  At least they aren’t leavened with aluminum,) and then we dress the children.  Even if I have stayed up late, this can be a real nightmare.  I scramble around for clothes while Jason catches little people as they streak through the house laughing and screaming with glee because they aren’t wearing anything.  We pull clothing onto their reluctant bodies and try to figure out why every shoe has no partner. I iron Jason’s shirt while he looks for shoes and then shake the wrinkles out of my own clothes and throw them on.  We yell a bit at the kids, sometimes at each other, then we gather up everything and everyone and throw them into the van.  I run back into the house to grab two cups of coffee that we can drink on the way to church.  Jason feeds the chickens and ducks while the van warms up.  My makeup bag is permanently in the front seat so that I can dab a little bit on my face as we drive, in an attempt to look like a human.  Jason glances at me, then does a double take and says, “wow, you look really pretty!” Translation:  I didn’t recognize you without the scowl and with your eyes all the way opened.

2. Homeschooling

Camera version:  Jack, Ella and I sit in our clean classroom with books opened and smiles on our faces.  I pray and start the morning with the pledge of allegiance.  I follow my carefully detailed lesson plans throughout our day.  Jack learns to read; Ella colors in the lines.  My two-year-old and one-year-old play peacefully in the corner with all the things in my “busy little hands box” that I got off of Pinterest.  It is such a blessing to homeschool my children… on days like this.

Reality version: Jack and I sit on my unmade bed with a stack of books that I’ve carried in from the classroom because it is piled high with clean clothes that need folding and putting away.  My two-year-old is planted firmly in front of the TV watching “Bug’s Life” for the millionth time with a pile of goldfish crackers in front of him.  My one-year-old is in her crib with her second bottle of milk which she has thrown onto the floor, while she screams at the top of her lungs in protest to her morning nap.  We dive into Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons  because I want to finish the book.  I warn Jack we can’t read his favorite book The Human Body until we have done our reading and math.  Ella runs into the room screaming and crying that Caleb hit her.  Caleb saunters in after her grinning while he says he’s sorry.  I tell them to go shut their bedroom door because I’m tired of listening to Lily scream.  Ella and Caleb fight over which one will go and then run to the bedroom to slam the door frightening the wits out of Lily who screams even louder.  I storm into the situation and order everyone to sit down and be quiet.  I get frustrated with Jack because when I come back into the room, he’s making paper airplanes instead of doing his work.  Jack starts crying.  It is such a blessing to homeschool my children… I mutter through my teeth as I google “Boarding Schools in Switzerland” on my laptop.

3. Being a writer

Camera version:  I sit at my computer and write in three hour increments, skillfully seeing to the needs of my children at regular intervals.  Every month I receive a large royalty check in the mail and my husband and I spend every summer in Italy while my children learn the language, have unforgettable international experiences and sink their refined palettes into every delicacy Europe has to offer.

Reality version:  I kick my children outside to play and run to my computer in a desperate attempt to “just write something today”.  Periodically I throw raisin boxes and peanut butter sandwiches at the kids.  At least I buy whole wheat or gluten free bread and natural peanut butter, so that’s something.  I add honey to the peanut butter because it is so dry and yucky on its own.  In the few precious moments of quiet I blog, work on my Twitter following, advertise and Facebook.  I get to spend about 15 minutes a day writing.  I actually recently received a small royalty check which was super fun and it almost covered the electric bill last month.  I also make spaghetti on a pretty regular basis and sometimes there is also salad to go with it.  So I feel all set in the refined palette department.

Conclusion: My children are definitely precious, but taking their pictures is an exercise in dealing with imperfection!  I do truly love homeschooling and some days are so fun.  I enjoy writing and reading and think it’s a fabulous way to pay the electric bill.  I show up at church one way or another and fellowship with my friends and family.  There you are.  My perfect life.  If you think I’m exaggerating, you’re a wonderful person and I want to hug you.  Friends, life is just life.  Everyone has the camera version and the real story.  And sometimes even the camera fails us!  That’s why most moms don’t even take pictures of themselves for the twenty years that they’re raising their children.  I think reality keeps us humble.  It keeps us manageable.  Can you imagine living with someone who is as perfect as they appear in pictures?  I can’t.  Thankfully, I never have to.  I only associate with real people.

My friend, Anna Stallcup (you can also follow her on http://www.thestonecups.com/) is a huge propenent of honesty in our Christian walk.  She calls it, giving people the gift of “going second”.  Being honest about our struggles is a present we can give to each other.  It allows another person to see that they aren’t the only one that fights against anger, depression, guilt, yelling at our children etc…  They get to “go second”.  We are honest first.  I love this.  I’m not very good at it.  I’m much better at smiling as if I’m being followed around by a 24 hour camera, so that everyone will think I have it all together all the time.

Of course we can overdo the honesty thing.  You don’t have to update your Facebook status every time you stumble.  Unless your friends are all medical professionals, very few people want or need to hear all the details of your health issues. For instance, if I can’t see the body part in a normal appropriate setting, I don’t want to know any detail about how it’s malfunctioning.  I didn’t go into nursing for a very good, very weak stomach related reason.  Just tell me it hurts.  I’ll get the point and be sympathetic.  I promise.  You know what I mean, if you’re ALWAYS having a bad day or everyone you work with are jerks or your life just never seems to go right for one reason or another, perhaps your perspective needs a switch.  I’m not a psychologist by any stretch of the imagination, but even I know that when someone has no friends at all, it usually isn’t everyone else’s problem.  That’s a whole different topic … for someone much more qualified than I at dealing with hurting hearts.  Of course we should find a good balance between being honest and wearing people out with our problems.

So, maybe we could go easier on each other.  Give each other less of a reason to pretend that we’re always looking into the lense of a camera.  Let people “go second”.  If you don’t buy into Christianity because you’ve met imperfect Christians, join the club. I’ve never met a perfect Christian.  There was only one perfect person to ever walk the Earth and we crucified Him.  There’s a cheery look into the human condition.

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Everyone is finally smiling, looking sweet and lovely … Lily is looking at the shelf full of props. *Sigh*

My world is a good one and even better when I realize that life, things and people don’t have to look like a magazine article to be wonderful.

“When I was a kid …”

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Maybe this is just me, but does it seem like a hilarious amount of complaining about “today’s generation” of children are emanating from Facebook, Twitter … wherever people go to complain publicly?  My recent favorites are “When we were kids, video games were called ‘go play outside’.” and “When I was a kid, we respected our elders because we’d get smacked if we didn’t.”  Mind you, these quotes are coming from people in their 30’s.  Seriously.  So we’re basically getting a 30 year head start on being the grumpy old man next door.  Like, when we were kids there weren’t video games?  Things weren’t violent in movies.  I don’t remember children typically being required to be more respectful of their elders either.  So, for fun, and for Throwback Thursday, I thought I’d make a list of things that are actually better since we were kids and a list of stuff I miss … this does, of course, depend on when you were a kid.  Feel free to add your own reminiscences to the lists!

What’s better now?

1.  Disney movie themes.  Yes?  I mean at least nowadays the “princesses” aren’t scantily clad and heavily endowed teenage girls who basically know everything about everything.  I love “The Little Mermaid” and “Aladdin” but come on?  Give me the teenage girls from “Frozen” and “Tangled” who are realistically built (mostly.  They’re still SUPER skinny, but oh well) and a little insecure and still figuring out life. Like reality.  Enough said.

2.  Every movie made doesn’t feature ten year olds who swear every other word.  I’m not stupid.  I know kids say swear words, but that doesn’t mean I want to listen to them do it!  I’d much rather watch “Ender’s Game” which was full of wonderful storyline, dialogue and action.  And pretty much no curse words at all.  Awesome!

3.  Push towards less smoking.  Does anyone really miss Jerry, from “Tom and Jerry” lighting up a cigar in the middle of a chase scene?  I’m seriously excited about the lack of smoking in modern day tv and movies.

4.  Parenting techniques are kind of trending positive.  Don’t you think?  I love that self control is being lauded as the thing to do with your kids now.  Kind words and thoughtful discipline are being praised over screaming and smacking.  Not that I never raise my voice to my children, but I at least read better alternatives in parenting magazines, blogs and other resources.  I love it!  I need it!  I think this is better.

5.  Technology is fabulous now!  Smart phones are great, guys!  I mean, I don’t think ten year olds should have them necessarily, (another rant I heard recently that I semi agree with,) but come on!  How great is it to have your entire world at your fingertips!  Yes, it creates a slew of problems that we have to combat, but still, as much as people gripe about them, sales of smart phones seem to be going up, not down.

6.  Fashion.  Yes. It’s just so much better.  I get to look cute again and still be in style.  Those of you who suffered through the “Grunge” faze of the 90’s know exactly what I’m talking about.  Thank goodness for pretty dresses and cute hairstyles!

7. People caring about the environment – even conservatives. I’m pretty conservative and I love the trend toward not filling our landfills with stuff we don’t have to!  Cloth diapering is easier than it’s ever been.  Kids recycle now as a matter of habit.  I compost and garden and have chickens.  Big fun to think how conscientious kids are becoming about these things!

8.  Motherhood is coming back in style.  I don’t have to work outside my house now to be considered a contributing member of society.  I love that!  I never have people look funny at me when I say I’m a “stay at home mom”.  Actually, that somewhat condescending and completely untrue term is even pretty muchly evaporating.  Yay!

9.  Coffee, eggs and chocolate are now good for you.  Awesome!  I’ll have another.  In all seriousness, the growing awareness that real food is healthier than highly processed “sugar-free” and “light” foods makes me very happy!  My mother always preached this, but very few people listened to her.  I always thought she was brilliant.  Turns out, she is … according to recent studies.

Okay, so here’s the list of things I miss.

1.  Human interaction.  I text a lot since I surrendered to texting.  I fought it for a long time, but it’s just so convenient!  But here’s the deal with texting that makes it both great and annoying.  Now we don’t have to talk to people.  We literally took a group of teenagers out to eat one time, and at one point, every single one of them was looking at their phone, texting someone else.  I took all their phones.  Talking to the person you’re with is so great.  Ignoring them to text or take a phone call … not so much.

2. Old cartoons.  I know I just kind of ragged on “Tom and Jerry” but I actually kind of miss those oldies.  I still just want to see Wyle E. Coyote get the Roadrunner just once!  

3. Comic strips.  They were so awesome!  Peanuts, Garfield, The Far Side and Calvin and Hobbes.  No contest the best comic strips ever made!  *Sigh*

4.  The Disney Afternoon.  I know, I know.  It had terrible themes and cheesy dialogue.  I still miss it.  Tale Spin and Darkwing Duck were my faves.  Don’t judge me

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5.  “The Neverending Story” and the good “Star Wars”.  I’m sure I don’t have to elaborate here.

6.  Video games that you could figure out in twelve seconds.  Is it just me, or do you sort of have to be a genius just to figure out how to play xbox?  I only play games to relax and I kind of like the old Nintendo games that you didn’t really have to think about too much.  These days it takes me like a week just to figure out the controls.  Now I feel old … sheesh!

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7. All the time I had before social media was invented.  Whew!  I waste a lot of time finding out about people’s food choices and hair appointments and whether or not they’re still with their boyfriends.  I don’t even care about this stuff!  Still I check it  All.The.Time.

So, here’s your chance.  What’s better, or what do you miss?  It seems like things always change for the better and for the worse, so we may as well focus on what we love about it! 

A Eulogy for Dead Chickens …

My husband, Jason, and I are hobby farmers.  I mean by that, that we started out planting a huge garden every year, and we’ve recently added chickens.  So I feel we can upgrade our status from just gardeners, to hobby farmers.  I just think it sounds cooler.  Anyone can be a gardener, but it takes real skill to raise live things like chickens.  Cluck if you agree.

So, some sweet, well-meaning person I used to buy farm fresh eggs from asked me if we’d like their year old flock of 21 chickens.  I gave her an enthusiastic yes and Jason went and picked them up.  So exciting.  Of those 21, 17 are still alive. I think that’s fairly good odds … for us.  Just last Saturday I stopped for chicken feed and mysteriously came home with 6 new chicks and 2 ducklings.  Not sure how it happened, at least that’s what I told Jason.  Of those 6 chicks, only 4 are still alive.  So, see what I meant about the 21/17 odds?  You have a better shot at survival at my house if you start out full grown and somewhat able to fend for yourself.  Just sayin’.

I’ll come back to that later.  I actually want to talk about regrets.  I know, right?  Makes perfect sense with the way this post started.  Regrets are interesting little boogers.  We all have them of course.  Some people seem to handle them well, rolling with life’s punches and getting on with the good stuff.  Others can literally let regrets rip them to shreds.  Sometimes it’s the actual regret that is seemingly insurmountable, but a lot of times, it’s just in the handling of it.  I’ve seen people bounce back from some of the most devastating life choices.  People that God actually names as great leaders, prayer warriors and friends of God overcame things like murder, thievery, other things that were truly despicable and I don’t want to talk about them.  So, how do some deal successfully and some fly apart?  I have steps … of course.  These are just my opinions, my ways of dealing, or things I was taught by people who are smarter than I.

Number One:  Focus only on what you know is true.  Have you ever met someone who is suspicious of everyone?  They always think someone is mad at them.  No one has “liked” their Facebook Statuses lately.  So and so didn’t call them back when they left a message.  Their friend said such and such, but they really think they meant -.  You get the picture.  We all do it, so don’t be high and mighty.  Sometimes this is true.  Someone actually is mad at you.  Sometimes it’s made up in our minds, because we’re too sensitive, or because someone else isn’t sensitive enough.  I’m usually the latter.  Mostly we just need some chocolate.

I used to tell my college roommates the first night they moved in with me, “if I do something that makes you upset with me, please let me know.  You can ignore me for a week and I will never figure out what I did, or worse yet, I won’t even notice.  Also, if you think I’m mad at you, you’re wrong.  I’m not two.  If I’m mad about something and I know I won’t just get over it, I’ll tell you.”  Most of them took this to heart, did as I asked and we all got along swimmingly.  They’d tell me if I upset them, I’d apologize (not a lame, fake apology, but a real “I’m sorry, please forgive me,” apology) and we’d all live happily ever after.  One girl never did say what was troubling her, but we figured out that she was most annoyed when we didn’t keep our side of the room tidy enough.  We fixed that problem, and boom!  she was happy again.  Sometimes with quieter people, you have to do detective work.  It’s a thing with them.

Here is the solution to this that will absolutely work for you, because someone else smarter than me thought it up (God).  Focus your energy only on what is true.  If you know you said something to that person that would have hurt their feelings, then go to them and tell them you’re sorry.  If you know they are upset, but you don’t know why, go to them and ask if there’s something you can do to make right whatever has upset them.  Don’t give pathetic apologies.  The anger will only build from there.  An, “I’m so sorry, would you please forgive me?” will go a lot farther toward healing than, “I’m sorry I made you feel that way, but-” No!  Scrap the “but”.  Would you like to be apologized to that way?  You’re just making excuses for yourself.  No healing will happen as long as we excuse our behavior.  The flip side is, if you didn’t do anything and they assure you that they aren’t upset with you, act accordingly.  Don’t keep going back and making sure they really aren’t upset.  Life is really too short to waste in paranoia.

Number two:  Get out of the brain cycle of “if only”.  This takes practice.  When I was in my early twenties a renown psychologist in our area taught my Sunday School class.  Most of what he said was far too brilliant to penetrate my 21 year old brain, but a couple of things stuck.  One was, “When a negative thought pops in your head, stop it immediately.  You then have about 5 seconds to change the tape.  Refocus your mind and move on.”  I have practiced this since then.  I’m still not great at it.  But I’m trying.

Number three: Remember just how important and valuable you are.  Whew!  I think this is the hardest yet.  The other thing that Dr. Myers (Sunday school teacher) said that stuck with me forever was that “Jesus would rather die than live without you.”  I realize it’s hard to focus on your eternal value when you’re doing twelve loads of laundry, stuck in traffic, staring at a computer screen for a living, but it’s absolutely true!  You are so valuable that the One who had the power to speak the world into existence would rather die a brutal death than live without you.  That’s some crazy love, friend.

Number four:  Because some of you just never will believe number three, here’s another starting point for getting away from the “if only” brain cycle.  Do something nice for someone else.  Make yourself more valuable.  Stick with a strength.  Our technology guy at our church, Bubba Stallcup, fixes computer problems for church members for free in his non-existent spare time.  When my mom felt down she always used to make banana bread or cookies and we would all take them to a nursing home.  If you can’t bake, just take them flowers.  People in a nursing home just want some love and attention.  Go hug them.  Nothing will make you feel more valuable than spending time with someone who literally has no one that cares about them.  Pay for the person behind you at the drive through.  Nice people have more friends.  That’s just a fact.  I believe the statistic is that the most reclusive person in the world touches at least 10,000 people in their life time.  Imagine if you’re actually trying!

Number five: Eat more chocolate.  This requires no further explanation.

What does all this have to do with my propensity to kill chickens?  Ah!  You smart aleck thing you, it doesn’t really.  It’s just my life.  No, honestly, the unfortunate chickens triggered this thought because I used to be devastatingly scared to try something new.  I was paralyzed by past failures (I have a surprising number of these for how young I am).  I let regrets and fear run my life and keep me in my comfort zone all the time.  If a chicken had died in my care back then I would have cried for days, given all survivors to a chicken expert with years of references and never tried anything new ever again for fear that I would stink at it.  What fun is that?  My lifetime friend, Sara Pullen once asked me, “what would you do if you weren’t afraid?” My current answer –  I’d start a blog, write my books, have a bunch of kids and homeschool them, hobby farm.  Accidentally kill chickens.  You know, the usual stuff.

 

I do feel that I should add here that the chickens and chicks died of natural causes.  I wasn’t negligent or anything.  Just in case you were worrying about the survivors.  We’re doing all we can here!

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