When Life Gives You Lemons, Drink Champagne

I had a birthday this weekend and it did not go as expected. A trip had been planned; that trip got canceled. I was pretty bummed but then Frank took the girls to the Women’s March and I went to a used bookstore and had a quiet reading lunch. We got a babysitter and had a lovely date night. It snowed and our neighbors fed my family so I could have alone time. I drank champagne while eating leftovers from the fancy date restaurant. All in all, it was a good reminder of what a birthday weekend really should look like: Family, friends, books, and bubbles.

I learned a lot from this weekend that I hope to carry into this next year:

IMG_8185It’s OK to Feel Your Feelings
When I woke up the morning after canceling my flight, I was really sad. I didn’t feel like celebrating. And I let myself feel those feelings. If I had plastered on a happy face, it would have been fine for a while but eventually, that disappointment needed to be felt. So, I did. This year, I want to remember to feel my feelings. Not to wallow in them or to let them ruin an entire day. (And sometimes, it’s just not the right time or place to feel every emotion and I have to wait.) But I want to recognize the health and importance of feeling the uncomfortable feelings – the ones of disappointment or hurt. When I stop and recognize them, I also see some root causes that I may not have noticed before.

What Was My Desired Outcome?
When the actual trip didn’t happen, I thought about things I was looking forward to: Reading a book on the airplane, catching up with a dear friend, resting, solitude, seeing a new place. While I couldn’t catch up with my friend like I was hoping, I did try to recreate some of my other hopes. I stayed in bed and read while Frank took the girls on some outings. I started my “airplane book” at a restaurant and read it for the amount of time I would have been on the plane. When life doesn’t go as planned, I hope to stop and recognize my hopes and outcomes – what can I do to create space for creativity and rest?

Call on Your Community
When we had to shift our plans, we called our babysitter to see if she was free for a date night. I texted a friend about getting together. Our babysitter was available; my friend wasn’t. But reaching out and asking helped get ideas rolling. Once I started thinking about things I wanted to do, I was motivated to get dressed and do them. At first, I wanted to keep my disappointment to myself, but by letting others in, I realized what support and love I have right here – something I hope to never take for granted.

Drink Champagne
A few years ago, Frank got me a case of sparkling wine for my birthday. The idea was that we’d have enough “everyday champagne” to toast all the moments – big and small. So, on this weekend, the girls drank Martinelli’s sparkling cider with every meal and I sipped on Cava all afternoon by the fire. We had the fancy Champagne on my birthday dinner but having something sparkly to sip all weekend reminded me to celebrate every moment, no matter what.

Now, with a few days between me and my initial disappointment, I have a much better perspective. Do I still wish I could have spent some quality time with my friend? Absolutely. But I know it will happen. And the gift of remembering these perfect small details of life made this birthday weekend one that I hope helps define my year.

What are some good life lessons you’ve learned out of disappointment? How do you recalibrate your expectations?

Don’t forget to subscribe to my monthly newsletter! (The first edition goes out this week!)

The Compost Heap

Books you might like:

51xviwDbIHL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_
(This book gave me perspective.)
511b8-eTQdL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_
(My “airplane” book.)

Disclosure: Amazon Affiliate links included in this post. If you click through to Amazon, any purchase you make supports this site.

Advertisements

Assuming Positive Intention

I always know Frank and I are too busy when things that are done from a place of help and love feel like they’re done out of selfishness and habit. When Frank leaves a cup in the sink and I immediately think that he did it on purpose to add to my workload, I know we need to pause and spend the evening talking rather than reading or looking at our phones.

IMG_8176I don’t remember where I first heard (or more likely read) the phrase, positive intention but I’ve been trying to root myself in that more. Essentially it means that, before jumping to conclusions about a behavior, you assume the person is acting out of help rather than hurt. So, when Frank leaves his mug in the sink, I would assume it’s because he decided to help one of the girls and got distracted, rather than thinking he would like to create one more thing for me to do in the morning.

Assuming positive intention means I look at the playroom chaos and see creativity rather than mess. It means I read a Facebook post from a friend and assume a different life experience rather than anger or hatred. It means I read the news through the lens of hope rather than despair.

Of course, sometimes the intention isn’t positive and then I shift gears. Sometimes, the playroom is messy because the girls choose not to follow directions to pick it up. Sometimes, the mug is put away because Frank doesn’t see the sink in the same way I do. Sometimes the news really is bad. And then we talk and problem solve.

But when I go into a situation assuming this positive motive, my whole mindset has already shifted. Maybe I still have to deal with something but because I’m not assuming the worst, my reaction is different. I’m still working on this – it’s definitely not my first response. My hope is that, with practice, it becomes second nature and I start to see the world first and foremost as a place of hope and creativity.

What are some areas of your life you could practice seeing positive intention? If you already do this, how have you seen a shift in your worldview?

Linked with Five Minute Friday, a time to write without editing. Today’s prompt is “intentional.”

Don’t forget to subscribe to my monthly newsletter!

The Compost Heap

 

Life is Mostly Boring

When I lived in Paris, none of my apartments had washing machines. So, part of my weekly routine was packing up my clothes and the lightest of my homework books and walking to the nearest laundry to spend hours watching my clothes churn. In my last apartment, I would walk through the winding streets of Montmartre, quintessential Paris, to get to the laverie. Even though the setting was romantic, the activity was pretty boring. Put in a few loads, wait, read, switch them, wait, read, pack everything up, walk home.

laundry-saloon-567951_1920
Image: RyanMcGuire via Pixabay

One of my biggest pet peeves about staying home with the girls is when people tell me that they couldn’t do this – it would be too boring. I’m never really sure how to respond to this because, honestly, staying home with young kids is often boring. We do fun things but most of our day is structured. Some days, we stay home and clean the house and do laundry. Some days are filled with adventures. But even at the museum or park, unless I’m with another mom to chat with, I sit on a bench with my book, watching my kids play. Not the most exciting life.

My guess is that if we were able to track the number of minutes per day we spent on boring activities, most of our days would be pretty boring. Commuting to work, answering emails, grocery shopping. No matter where you live or how exotic the setting, life is made up of these boring details.

In her book, The Quotidian Mysteries, Kathleen Norris talks about the liturgy of the ordinary moments. She connects the monastic rhythms of prayer and repetition to our own daily chores of dishes and laundry and raising kids, challenging us to find God in those repetitive moments. She says,

Ironically, it seems that it is by the means of seemingly perfunctory daily rituals and routines that we enhance the personal relationships that nourish and sustain us.

This is a reminder to me to find the holy in these everyday moments. I’ve tried to set aside time to pray and it just never seems to work out. Something is always happening when my alarm to stop and pray dings. But when I incorporate prayer into those mundane moments, I’m much more successful. I pray for a mom I know as I wipe the counters. I pray for my girls as I give them a bath. I pray for the world as I stir our dinner. I find that when I pray for the same thing as I do the same task, a habit is formed and my boring days seem holier.

I’m not great at this rhythm. More often than not, I forget to pray altogether. But when I do remember, I realize that God has given me these boring moments for a purpose. If my time was always filled with thinking, enriching, stretching activities, I would have no space for those quiet moments of finding God.

I’m embracing this boring season. Before too long, my days will be filled with other things outside my control and I’ll look back on these long, uneventful days with longing. Not just of this season of motherhood but of this time to find a holy space while doing the mundane.

How do you find holiness in the boring moments? Do you find peace in routine or do you thrive on new and unexpected events?

Don’t forget to subscribe to my monthly newsletter!

The Compost Heap

Books referenced in this post:

Books Referenced in this post:

611H2mYfu8L._SX337_BO1,204,203,200_
Disclosure: Amazon Affiliate links included in this post.  If you click through to Amazon, any purchase you make supports this site.

The Compost Heap: A Newsletter

After hearing about the need to start a newsletter for a few years, I’ve finally decided to jump on the bandwagon. I like the idea of having a more conversational “this is what I’m into” sort of thing that doesn’t really fit in with the blog. So, I’d like to introduce The Compost Heap: Digging into the Soil of Ideas.

The Compost Heap

I wrote about Natalie Goldberg’s analogy to the craft of writing as a compost heap – that it takes time for our experiences to decompose into the rich soil of essays and poetry and stories. In this newsletter, I’ll give you a glimpse of what I’m processing.

You’ll get an essay, books I’m reading, things I’m learning, poems that are impacting my thinking, and other daily life and behind-the-scenes snippets. This is where I’ll share links to other great articles from around the web, any news that’s happening here, and where I’ll host my book giveaways.

I hope you’ll join this new conversation! You can sign up by clicking this link or the image below.

The Compost Heap

I’m looking forward to this new adventure! Is there anything you’d love to see in a newsletter format that doesn’t make it onto the blog?

What Works for Me Might Not Work for You

One of the things I love most about our house is the semi-open concept. Each space is clearly defined but without doors. So, our formal dining room-turned playroom is open to the living room and dining area. I can see and hear the girls playing while I’m in the kitchen. It’s great. Until the clutter seeps out into the rest of the space. (Which it always does.)

IMG_8123I read a blog post once about organizing a playroom into four separate bins for each season. You pack up everything each quarter and then put the “new” toys out to keep the playroom tidy and fresh. I loved the idea of this but the project itself seemed daunting. Once it was done, I’m sure it’s a great system but I wasn’t willing to spend days on end simplifying.

My current organization system is longterm. When Elle is in kindergarten in a few years, I’ll do a gigantic purge and we’ll start from there. In the meantime, we have crafts for 5-year-olds alongside infant toys mixed up in a gigantic hand-me-down kitchen. The thing is, when we have friends with kids of other ages, all the toys are eventually played with.

It’s such a reminder that what works well for one person may not be the right fit for me. And that is great! There are areas in our life that I am a stickler about and these nonnegotiables must seem like a lot of work to others who just don’t need structure in that particular area of their own lives. We all have these things that work well or don’t; areas that we must keep neat but let other things get messy.

I was talking with my MOPS group about picking One Word to define a year. For me, it’s been helpful and such an amazing thing to look back on over the years. I love seeing the thread of God’s faithfulness defined in each word. For Frank, setting SMART goals is how he best functions. Without a measurable time limit, his goals turn into dreams that turn into unaccomplished wishes. We all function differently.

As I read articles about starting the new year well, about simplifying or adding or changing things, I remember to learn from the experiences of others without trying to replicate them exactly for myself. I’m all about refreshing old routines but I’m also learning to know myself well and trust what works best for me.

What works best for you? Are you a goals person or a one-word person? What’s that one area that you have to have clean and neat or else everything else seems chaotic?

Linked with Five Minute Friday, a time to write without editing. Today’s prompt is “simplify.”

Caution Leads to Independence

On New Year’s Day, we bundled up and went for an icy hike in Rocky Mountain National Park. Our winter here has been incredibly dry with very little snow but that week of Christmas was cold. When we got to the trailhead, old snow had iced over and we carefully set out for our mile “hike” around Bear Lake.

IMG_8042Adventurous Bea ran down the trail, sliding down any incline on her stomach, penguin-style. She spun, rolled, and dove through the snowy path, shedding her coat because she had worked up so much heat.

Cautious Elle rode atop Frank’s shoulders, taking in the view. Suddenly, Frank hit an icy patch and they fell into a snow bank. I don’t know how he did it, but Frank managed to fall and catch Elle all in one motion. She came away unscathed but startled.

When Bea falls and is surprised, we’ve learned to acknowledge her accident, give her a quick hug, and get her back on the bike or trail as quickly as possible. Once she’s back to the activity, she’s usually fine. Elle takes a bit more work. She needs to snuggle in and really observe her environment again.

After the tumble, we came to a hill at the edge of the lake. Someone had built a little snowman on top and Bea began sliding down. Elle watched for a while as we invited her again and again to join the fun. Finally, Frank took her in his arms and held her in his lap as they slid down the small hill. After that one experience, all Elle wanted to do was ride down that hill in our laps.

This experience reminded me of what we call “gradual release of responsibility” in teaching. When someone is learning something new, you can’t just throw them in the deep end. You model how to do it, then you sit beside them doing it together, then you have them do it on their own knowing you are close by to support until eventually, they can do it independently.

It’s a reminder that caution leads to independence. That, until we feel safe in a situation, we can’t take risks. Until Elle felt safe and secure with us by her side, she wasn’t able to slide down that hill alone.

When I was picking lean in to define my year, a friend reminded me of the importance of leaning into our community for support. It’s a reminder that asking for help and support is what makes us stronger and allows us to take greater risks.

As I look at this year and what it holds, I know that I’ll need my community to help me along the way. In big ways and small, the comfort and rooted knowledge that my friends and family are here to support me give me courage and strength to lean into new responsibilities and adventure. They also give me the courage to lean into those small, daily tasks that would feel overwhelming without their encouragement.

I know that leaning into what God has planned would come to nothing if I didn’t lean into the people God has placed in my life to help me along this journey.

How do you depend on your community? In what ways does leaning on others for help give you the ability to take greater risks?

 

Leaning Into Ideas Rather Than Details

I just finished reading This is Not a Border: Reportage and Reflection from the Palestinian Festival of Literature, one of the most stunning collections of essays I’ve ever read. I spent over a month slowly reading the words, letting them sink in. Some days, I’d take a break. Often, I would only read one or two essays a night.

grown-up-1637302_960_720As December drew to a close, I knew I could have sped through a few more essays at a time to get one more book read before the year ended. Instead, I chose to savor each story and poem.

It’s with this mindset and intention that I’m entering 2018. After spending a few years tracking my reading goals with a set number, this year I decided to take a break. I’ve made a list of twenty books I’d like to read, and I know more will come. I want to slow down, to savor, to go deeper into these books.

It’s not that I didn’t learn a lot last year or that I rushed through my books. But sometimes, when a number is attached to a goal, I make it about the destination rather than the journey. I’m learning that some years are for measurable goals and other years are for visions and ideas.

I have a friend who creates categories she wants to learn more about each year and tailors the books she reads to those categories. Other friends do a “clear the shelf” challenge, where they stack books on a shelf in their home and try to empty it by the year’s end. (I suppose this is similar to my list…)

I was thinking about goals I have for this year and many of them are like my reading list. I have some ideas and hopes but none are conducive to creating a spreadsheet or checklist. I like that this year of lean in means leaning into the ideas rather than details. I’m not throwing out details but I’m also holding my goals a bit more loosely. I have a feeling that things are swirling around this year and I want to be open to learning rather than achieving.

In her chapter called “Composting,” Natalie Goldberg says,

“…we collect experience, and from the decomposition of thrown-out eggshells, spinach leaves, coffee grinds, and old steak bones of our minds come nitrogen, heat, and very fertile soil. Out of this fertile soil bloom our poems and stories. But this does not come all at once. It takes time. Continue to turn over and over the organic details of your life until some of them fall through the garbage of discursive thoughts to the solid ground of black soil” (pp 18-19).

Natalie Goldberg, Writing Down the Bones

Especially now at the start of the year, in these months when we turn the compost and wait for spring, I’m setting my goals knowing that there is some waiting to be done. I’m resting with an overarching vision of my year.

This is pretty counterintuitive for me. I like checklists and goals but it also feels peaceful and right. Maybe this year of lean in will mean big things but right now, lean in means leaning into immeasurable goals.

How do you set goals? Are you a checklist person or an ideas person? Have you ever switched up the way you track your goals?