Parallel Play

While at the park the other day, Bea tried playing with a couple of older girls. At first, they seemed to be having fun digging in the sand and chatting. It worked for a bit, but the older girls had an imaginative game going and Bea just wanted to dig. The girls ended up relocating under a different slide and Bea found a new activity, happily climbing alone.

Content to play alone

Content to play alone

With other two-year-olds, this rule works well: We like being together but are cool doing our own thing. Bea and her small friends will play for hours, sometimes with the same toys, but most often in the same proximity while doing different things. Occasionally, we’ll have an It’s mine! argument, but for the most part, the toddlers are happy on their own.

Mixing developmental levels works for a while, but it seems the older ones get bored and want to play their own games. (Unless they’re much older and then the role of babysitter comes into play.)

Observing the older girls at the park interact was interesting, too. After a while, someone’s feelings got hurt. The others follow, they talk it out, one may say she needs a bit of alone time, and then they continue playing – until the cycle repeats itself.

Watching, I wondered how I could get the attitude of parallel play back in my life. As much as I am grateful for my thoughtful, intentional interactions – both in my community and as I absorb information – I sometimes wish adults could practice the skill of being together without actively interacting.

How can I be content doing my own thing, knowing I’m enjoying myself, without worrying about what others are doing? It reminded me that there will always be a group of people who seem to be having more fun, more meaningful conversations, more adventures than me. In reality, I am happy, connected, and discovering small adventures daily. Why compare?

How can we be content being in proximity, but letting our peers do their own thing. Can we simply be in the moment, without worrying about following the script, being too intentional, or deepening a relationship all the time?

There’s something beautifully simple about digging in the sand next to a new friend, getting up to go down the slide without worrying if they come too, sharing a snack, and repeating the process.

Do you find yourself content in your daily experiences? How can we bring the idea of playing alongside but without comparisons into our interactions?

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Review: Let’s All Be Brave by Annie F. Downs

Sometimes it seems that making big, life-changing decisions feels easier and more natural than deciding what to make for dinner. When I decided to attend college in Paris, it seemed the only place I could consider – who wouldn’t want to study art history in the center of Paris? It never occurred to me to be nervous or afraid in the decision-making process. Only until after I moved and settled in did I realize the courage it takes to live abroad at 18 years old. Similarly, when I decided to spend three months teaching in Kathmandu, it seemed the be a very natural transition. I had never been to Asia; I missed the mountains; I wanted to see if I enjoyed teaching – where else would I try it out but in Nepal? Looking back, these decisions were brave. At the time, they seemed the next logical step in my journey.

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In her book, Let’s All Be Brave, Annie F. Downs explores the idea that bravery is born in small moments and decisions. She opens the book by saying how she is not a naturally brave person. She grew up on the same piece of land her grandparents had owned for 50 years; she went to college where all her church friends went; she traveled and did missions trips, but never for more than a couple weeks. She was content living her life in familiar comfort.

In her mid-twenties, Downs felt she should move to Nashville. Even though it’s only three hours from her home, this move starts a series of brave moments. From quitting her steady job to pursue writing to taking a job in Scotland for a season, she learns to say “yes” to those small moments that turn into brave decisions.

Following the trend of telling short stories, Downs uses this format in a cohesive manner. She gives depth in a short space and her stories fit her theme. I also appreciated her vulnerability in talking about loneliness, being single, and the importance of community. The writing style is very informal and it feels as though I’m chatting with Downs rather than reading about her journey. She is able to write conversationally without making me lose the depth of her message.

I’d recommend this book especially to women in college and early twenties. Even though Downs is my age, I didn’t feel a sense that she was writing for my peer group. As I read this book, I kept thinking of twenty-something women I know who I wanted to share this with. I know it’s meant for a larger audience, but Downs’ style and subject seems best suited for young women starting out in life.

What are some brave moments in your life that seemed small or even normal at the time?

Normally I’d put this book up for a giveaway, but as mentioned above, I kept thinking of women I know who would enjoy it. So, I’ll be sending this to one of them. If you know a young woman who could use encouragement to be brave, I’d recommend buying Let’s All Be Brave for her!

I review for BookLook Bloggers
I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

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Change

Frank and I keep a change jar in the guest room. We try to throw any loose change we have in pockets or wallets into it. Even if I know I have exact change, I’ll usually break a bill just to help fill the jar. It’s not very large, but about once a year or so, we’ll have between $150-$200.

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In the days pre-Bea, we filled the jar much more rapidly than now. One year we bought a bottle of Dom Perignon. One year we bought steaks and a bottle of wine three times our normal budget. Last year, we went on a lunch date and had exactly enough to cover our three course meal plus bottle of fancy wine.

When Bea was born, we wondered if the change jar would end up going toward household expenses, since we’d be down one income. Once the thought crossed our minds, we decided to choose to spend any change on ourselves – this would be just for us, just for splurges.

Even thought it’s taken longer to fill, I love watching the change in the jar grow. It’s a good reminder that romance, splurges, and just the two of us are the foundation for our family. I’m sure that, as we add kids, it will take even longer, but I’m guessing that means the dates and bottles of wine will be sweeter because we’ve had to work harder for them.

We’re quite a ways from this next jar filling, but I’m looking forward to seeing how we choose to spend our loose change.

Linking up with Kate Motaung’s Five Minute Friday, a time to write without editing.

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I Don’t Know

Do you ever relive moments that make you cringe, even years or decades later? Maybe it was how you reacted to someone or maybe it was something you said. Maybe it was a moment of vulnerability that went badly or perhaps it was a moment of insensitivity you wish you could rewrite.

In college my group of friends was typical for our age and space. (Though we would have argued we were vastly different from our peers!) We grappled with life and faith, read philosophers and theologians, smoked occasional cigarettes as we discussed Big Issues over espressos at Parisian cafes.

Neighborhood cafe

Neighborhood cafe

A certain subset of this group took things even farther, going deeper, taking pilgrimages, and really exploring the postmodern church. (These were the days before emergent entered our lexicon.) While I was fairly well-read in these areas, I was nowhere near the level of this smaller group. While at parties or at cafes, I could follow along a bit, but usually ended up nodding along, letting them do the talking.

At my going away party, another Big Discussion was happening and I kind of drifted off. By this time, I was tired of thinking about my faith and ready to live it. At some point in the conversation, of of the guys said, “Let’s change the subject. Annie doesn’t know what we’re talking about.” I know he didn’t mean it to sound harsh, but I was mortified. I thought I had done a fairly good job of nodding along.

Looking back, I wish my younger self had the courage to say I don’t know. Those words can be so difficult. They admit a deficiency, a lack of understanding, a certain way of putting myself as less than. They also would have saved me from embarrassing moments, when clearly I didn’t know what others were talking about.

Those three words also open doors. They allow someone else to be the expert – something most of us love. They give a certain vulnerability, yes, but also an underlying confidence in being open and willing to learn. They also let me off the hook for being an expert on everything. Had I simply said, “I didn’t know that! Tell me more!” I would have been able to stay in the conversation without the same expectation of participation.

Years later, these words can still be hard for me to say. I like to think I’m a well-read person, able to converse on a wide range of topics. This diversity in reading shouldn’t mean I’m an expert, though. This unwillingness to let others teach can build barriers rather than relationships.

Allowing others to tell me more and honoring their own experiences and knowledge is such a small but powerful way to show love. I guess some of that comes with maturity, but I wish my 22-year-old self had the confidence, the courage, and the self-awareness to let others teach and be the experts rather than trying to compete.

So now, whether discussing life experiences, faith journeys, political views, parenting practices, or any topic in between, I am practicing the art of listening. Of saying I don’t know. And, perhaps most importantly, following the I don’t know with Tell me more.

What do you wish you could tell your younger self? Are you a listener or an expert?

Linked with The High Calling’s A Letter to My Younger Self.

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Poets Anonymous: Wisdom of the Deer

Welcome to our monthly Poets Anonymous!

On the 15th of each month, I’ll post a poem. If you have a blog, post a poem on yours and share your link in the comments. If you don’t have a blog, feel free to share part of a poem in the comments. Or, I encourage you to simply read a poem today.

I must look back
And respectfully awaken the hero of my personal journey
the whole story
imperfections and all
is where the treasure resides
no need to be in the future
out there
in the next big thing
i already have one thing
a communion with my self.

Kent Osborne

Share a favorite poem (or segment of one) in the comments!

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Overwhelmed

Most days, I keep a certain distance from the news – I read throughout the day via headlines on Twitter and a few apps I’ve downloaded. I like being informed and strive to read a variety of sources. But, sometimes it feels overwhelming. Like we are so far from any sort of reconciliation. Like our world is spiraling.

Last night felt like that. As I read more and more about what is happening in Ferguson, I wondered what on earth I could do. I’d like to think that, if I lived in that suburb, I would be supporting the protestors. I would be doing something. The reality is I would probably be safe at home, horrified at the news down the street, but with the same feeling of helplessness. And of safety because of my status as a white woman.

This morning felt worse. And then I read Addie Zierman’s post, A Good Day to Come Awake – on choosing not to let fear isolate us from others; on choosing to believe the truth. I decided that, rather than feeling overwhelmed, I needed to be thankful for ways I can make changes to this system in my own small way.

I’ve been trying to expand my reading on racial reconciliation in the church. We go to a pretty white church and I think it’s important to be aware of these issues. Christianity Today posted Ten Books on Racial Reconciliation. Of those, I’ve read two – Disunity in Christ and The Next Evangelicalism, both well worth the time. I’ll be adding to my reading list based on these resources.

Working on a more multicultural collection

Working on a more multicultural collection

It’s a small thing, but we’ve been trying to expand the color of Bea’s dolls. She’s inherited some of my old ones (all white) so when we buy new ones, we look for dolls of different colors. For her birthday, she received Nahji from India and Miss Elaina from Daniel Tiger. In this little way, I hope to instill empathy and a normalcy in others who look different.

I know that in the midst of this chaos, these are minute things to do – reading and playing. But, for now, it’s what I can do in this moment. These small ways of being aware, of being intentional, and of trying to raise a generation with understanding, empathy, tolerance, and love for neighbor.

How do you process the news? Any suggestions for ways to fill hopeless news with reconciliation?

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Beautiful

Being the mom of a two-year-old daughter, I don’t have to worry too much about where Bea gets her perception of femininity and womanhood. I am her main role model, along with family and her friends’ moms. (Who are, at this stage, my friends. So, no worries there – all amazing women!) I do think about the day when TV characters move beyond Super Why and Daniel Tiger’s buddies and we step into the world of tween pop stars and girls finding their way into adulthood under the limelight. Until then, I’m trying to surround my daughter with strong, courageous women to help build a foundation of who she is and who she can become.

Looking around my Mothers of Preschoolers group, I see strong, confident, spirit-filled women. I see women in boots-over-jeans with a fashionable scarf draped carelessly and I see women in yoga pants and sneakers with a ponytail thrown up in hindsight. I see women who build absolutely necessary workout time into their schedules while others are still hoping the baby weight will somehow disappear, years later.

I see moms who put their children in daycare so they can work at getting a degree. I see moms with Master’s degrees, now staying home full-time. I see moms struggling to find a work-life balance and moms who question if they’re now obsolete by stepping out of the workforce.

Mostly, I see moms who care deeply for their children. Moms who laugh quickly and cry easily. (Tissues are never far from reach at our meetings.) I see moms taking risks and speaking Truth into each other’s lives.

I’m realizing more and more as I venture into this mothering journey that I cannot do this alone. I need other mothers to model parenting for me. I need other mothers to love my daughter on the days when it seems hard. I need other mothers to laugh with me in the middle of a meltdown at the museum. And, I need Bea to see these other mothers, working and playing with their own kids. I love that they are apart of my daughter’s life and I get to be part of their kids’ lives.

These women I’ve met (seemingly) randomly through MOPS come each week with successes and failures. As we laugh and cry and do life together, I am grateful for such a diverse support system. And when I think about the kind of woman I wish for my daughter to become, I think of these women. I think of a bit disheveled, beautifully loving, amazingly strong women and I hope they form her definition of femininity and beauty.

Do you have a parenting support system?

Linked with SheLoves Magazine’s monthly theme: Beautiful.

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