12 October 2017

Get in the game

Today, whatever news station somebody previously had on when I hopped on the stairclimber was talking about fandom and it's benefits and mostly- it's downfalls. They were talking about the phenomena that hardcore fans essentially go through the same stress and adrenaline rush as the players they love so much, except for the fact that we have absolutely no control or part in the outcome. SO that stress just sits- there's nowhere productive for it to go. Today I want to write out loud about sitting on the sidelines of our own lives, and how we can possibly get in the game and start feeling fulfilled. It's not about the fame, it's about playing a game that you want to win.

First, I hope we are all fans of our own lives. I hope we dream of "winning" of the house cup or the world championship or whatever it is for you. And mind you, I don't think that has to be anything grand. I think my "winning" or "succeeding" largely has to do with growing old with Jay, having lots of babies, being financially stable and independent, and having a massive greenhouse on a piece of land somewhere pretty. Also owning my own business. Maybe a massive garden and lots of Boo's puppies running around. Some beautiful, frame-able photography for pleasure thrown in there. And I get to be on the field working toward that goal every day.

So yeah, I hope we're at least fans. I hope we are cheering for ourselves. But what I really hope is that we are down in the dirt doing it. I hope we are playing the game, and playing with all we've got. (mind you, I believe taking time to heal from injuries/catastrophes in our lives is ok too) There are a million things we can/need to do in a day. All of us. And for me it at times can be completely overwhelming and I would rather crawl in a hole and lie in a stressful sea of nothingness than do something. But I always feel better if I just play the game (or do the darn thing, ya know?), so why don't I just do it?

Do you have the same struggle? Why do we do this to ourselves (assuming it's not just me)? When I take a step back it seems like most of the time I know the antidote to whatever I'm feeling, but just don't want to make the initial hurdle. Even if you aren't perfect at whatever it is, or it's going to take you five years to really accomplish or whatever the case may be... it is so much more satisfying to be playing the game, even if you aren't completely sure of exactly what you're doing!

My dad always said, "point, shoot, aim (repeat)" which sounds a little silly at first, but it's really the principle that you've gotta shoot to see where you're at and you can re adjust from there.

So here's to being better at sewing and photography than I was last year because I kept doing them despite my imperfections. Here's to living our lives and making the phone calls we should and getting out of bed on time and exercising and taking twenty minutes to clean the dishes that have been staring at you from the sink. Here's to making the hard phone calls and e-mails and doing all the things we know will help us get closer to that victory, even when they're hard. Especially when they're hard.

Get a planner, find a new alarm clock that works, surround yourself with inspiration (whatever that looks like-podcasts and books are a good start), make time to do the things you love. For me, I'm a "point, aim, aim, aim, aim, aim, aim, and then maybe shoot" type person more often than not. I'm a solidly functional perfectionist, who used to scrub the dirt off her old navy flip flops with a toothbrush after school every day. (that, dear friends, is the truth) And so it's hard for me to move forward knowing things aren't perfect. Knowing they aren't exactly how I wanted them to be or pictured them to be. But I'm working on it. I'm making steps forward and sewing and ripping out a lot of seams and taking more pictures in manual. And you know.... it feels good.

Basically, this quote from instagram sums it up-
"You don't have to get it perfect. You just have to get it going" @haleyacres

And for my weekly photo I've got a shot I'm really proud of recently that makes me proud of keeping in the game and practicing photography even when I have been discouraged and it's a lot easier to leave my heavy camera at home. There's motion and light and real, genuine, human beings.

09 October 2017

A nursery reveal, two years late.

It's been two and a half years, so I guess it's about time for a nursery reveal. 

We knew the moment we first walked into this house that this tiny corner room would be the nursery. It is tiny and wonderful and after painting the walls a ghastly too-dark shade of raspberry pink, we found the perfect peachy pink shade for the walls. Muted, but just a little girly. (Behr Almond Kiss if you wanted to know!)

Everything in this room is gifted, second hand, discount (hello, swivel rocking chair from TJMaxx and cheap Amazon curtains!) or handmade and I love the way it all came together. It's the most meaningful and sentimental room in the house and I'll forever think of my sweet baby Rory in it. 

It's also the room that (aside from re-painting) required the least amount of prep work. It was a lovely shade of lilac when we bought the house as opposed to the terrible, pealing, cheap, brown paint everywhere else and it seemed to be mostly well-cared for. (we won't talk about the 150+ nail holes I had to fill on my office walls. I counted. It was unbelievable) 

We've since moved Rory to a twin bed, put the crib in storage, and sold the changing table. A lot seems to be changing with a very indefinite future ahead.  Lately, and very poignantly since June I've spent an extra allotment of time in this room with Rory trying to soak her in. I know she won't be little and full of adventure in this tiny nursery again and to me it feels like sacred ground. 

A couple of details for those interested:
-the mobile I made myself. I knew I wanted Rory's nursery to have a somewhat floral theme and I had the idea for it in my head and couldn't find exactly what I wanted-so I made it.
-the banner is a hand-painted gift from my sister that hung across the mantle at Rory's baby shower in California. She's the best sister ever. 
-The unicorn lamp is Target, and one of the only full-priced items pictured, because it's amazing. 
-and the little nightstand was a thrashed little thing I found for $5 secondhand and sanded down to re-paint with a tiny test-color pot of paint that cost maybe $2 at home depot.  It makes for the perfect little bookshelf.

05 October 2017

How to end the madness

I think I have a unique circumstance in some ways: I grew up in small town USA, where most people were white, but it wasn't suburbia where everyone was the same economic class. In fact, the people I knew with very little money were mostly white people. The people I knew that used drugs and did stupid stuff and had kids out right out of high school and had dysfunctional homes? The kids I knew in the foster care system? Mostly white. I'm not here to make a point of any of this. I'm here to share experience from a different perspective, which I think is important. It's a perspective that often feels apathetic and helpless.

I don't know how to do this delicately, and I'm not saying by any means that my experience is representative of the whole country, or my goodness- the whole state or county. But that does not make my experience any less real. And I think that's the problem. If someone has a different experience than what the loudest news station or protestor or blogger is saying, it's jumped on and discounted and we all end up with these extreme views because they're the only ones that are acceptable. BUT WHAT IF WE DIDN'T. What if we prioritized kindness over politics and did things that made a difference? Here! Now! And were bipartisan! I just think if we focused on people over politics life would be such a better place.  I'm suggesting... what if these issues with riots and bigotry and hatred were bipartisan, and what if there was a simple solution to begin fighting them? End rant momentarily.

I'm not saying kids who were different in my town weren't ever picked on. I think it happens everywhere in every high school in America, because.... high school. Different clothes, different likes, different levels of nerdiness, and sometimes different skin color.  When it happened it made me uncomfortable, and I knew it was wrong, and I didn't always speak up because I didn't know what to say and I wasn't confident enough in myself to put myself in a situation where that could possibly bring attention (probably negative attention) to myself. But I should have. It wasn't always someone with different skin color, in fact I think more often it was just kids who were different. Different in any way.

I want to offer a way that we can work to dispel hatred and bigotry, and I don't believe riots and verbal confrontation are the answers. And though peaceful protest has a place and purpose, I don't think they are the end-all answer either. I think to get started we have to do one thing; a simple thing that only requires a decided mind and brave heart. Decide today to teach our children to speak up when somebody is picked on, or when somebody says something mean. They don't have to end friendships over these sorts of comments, in fact, I think friends who consistently and kindly encourage us to be better and think differently are a good thing. Practice kindness and boldness and bravery. If something makes you feel funny in your gut, say calmly, "I don't think that's true" or "that hasn't been my experience". Do it yourself, and teach your children to do it. Nobody needs be embarrassed or called out or shamed. We don't have to have heated arguments over everything, because nobody is converted to kindness through shouting and argument. Those create immediate defensiveness and form a wall, which is exactly what we don't want. Be calm, but firm. Be kind.

I've always had this gut feeling that if we focus on our families and our communities and the things we can change, instead of obsessing over the people and the politics that we cannot (or at least maybe not right this second) the world would inherently be better. If people with mental illness had a supportive family or community to go to for help, if when hate was expressed it was overwhelmed by love, if our children felt safe and confident enough to stand up for right because we had set that example for them, if every person had a friend, family member, or neighbor to go to when times were tough wouldn't our world be different?

If we teach our children these things, and be them ourselves, we can change our circle. And if we each change our respective circles, we can change the world. We may not live in a community where racial tensions are prevalent, or where the hatred rampant in our country seem extremely present. In those situations it's easy to feel the hopelessness rise and ask yourself, "what on earth can I do from here?" I'm suggesting that if we do these things and practice, we will have the strength to say something if someone is treated unfairly at work, and our children will know how to respond to ignorant and hateful remarks whether in their circle now, or in their jobs twenty years from now.

Has a politician ever changed your mind more than your mother or your father, or your most influential professor or teacher? The influence we have in our homes and communities is/can be so deep and far-reaching, that if we discount it and it's effects we are leaving more on the table than we know.

We can vote. We can voice our concerns, we can be involved in politics however we can. But we also can work within the walls of our own homes and the boundaries of our own communities to make sure our children are brave enough and strong enough to help where ever they are and where ever they end up. Kindness spreads and changes people. And it is the antidote to hatred. Don't discount your instinct to go home and hug your babies after something horrific like Las Vegas happens. I think our gut is right on about these sort of things.

“If you want to bring happiness to the whole world, go home and love your family.” -Mother Teresa

28 September 2017

Momming part I: takes and tips

This post isn't about MY mothering tips, but rather the things I've learned that have made the biggest difference in the way I mother and the dynamic that I have with Rory. I don't think every kid is the same, but the same way there are  marriage principles that apply universally, I think there are mothering "principles" if you will, that apply pretty well across the board.

Every kid wants to be heard. (you'll find with most of these, the principles also apply to adults. Don't we all want to be heard?). So listen when they speak. I find that if I really listen and respond to what Rory has to say, she doesn't get frustrated or louder or scream or practice any negative behaviors to get my attention. I look in her eyes, respond, and she moves on content. Obviously, there are times you can't listen right away to your child, or it's inappropriate to give them your full attention (i.e. when you're in a conversation with another adult) and a simple thing I read that I'm working on is to have your child hold your hand when they need your attention and you aren't available to talk right away. 

Be direct. Kids don't know or understand semantics, and they don't read between the lines. So if we ask, "honey, can you do this for me?" and they say 'no' we don't have a right to be upset. They were asked a question, and they gave an answer because asking a question implies that you have a choice. If there is no choice in the matter, don't ask a question. Say, "I need you to go get your shoes on right now, please" if that's what you want. I learned this principle from a University preschool director and author, and when I went home I realized how much I asked questions when the thing I wanted was a request! (By the way, this rule applies with adults too. Being straightforward and kind makes a world of difference) She compared this to the way God speaks when he says, "This is my beloved Son. Hear Him." Completely direct, right?! 

Consistency is KEY. One more time people: consistency is KEY. This is the parenting advice that I think helps both Rory and I the most. I take no credit whatsoever- I didn't come up with this. But I've watched some really good parents nail this concept and it works. I find that as I practice setting boundaries and being consistent it pays off in terms of Rory's behavior and our relationship together. What I mean by this, is when you say you will do something- do it. When you say you will not- don't. When you say they have to go to time out if they do that one more time or they can't have ice cream if they don't eat some salad- follow through! It's hard. It's really hard. Because it's really inconvenient most of the time. If I say to Rory that she has to pick up what she just threw on the ground and she decides she doesn't want to, it may take a half hour and 3 time outs to make it happen (this really happened last week when I had a friend visiting) when it would have taken me all of 30 seconds. It's also hard because you have to REALLY think about your words before you say them and mean it. You can't throw consequences around like confetti then change your mind when you realize you don't want to follow through. The more consistent you are, the more your child trusts you (for good and for bad! ha). And for us, the more we practice this concept, the less boundaries she feels like she has to test. Because that's what they call it right? Testing boundaries? And if there are no boundaries, or if they are different every time, they will continue to try to find them.

Honestly, I think empathy can go a long way with parenting, and it's really easy to have unrealistic expectations with kids. They are young, and learning, and feeling all kinds of new emotions and frustrations that they don't know how to handle every day. I lean toward wanting Rory to act like a tiny, well-behaved adult all the time but when I keep in perspective how it might feel to be her, it helps me to have more patience and empathy as her mom.  

I call the combination of these things fighting the good fight. Because it's hard. But it's so worth it. I have a really good kid, but she's hard-headed and intelligent and throws tantrums on a regular basis like any other toddler. It's so rewarding to watch her grow and to see parenting practices like these pay off in kindness and genuine helpful behaviors as she learns. 

21 September 2017

The one college lecture I remember

There was a specific lecture in college in which I both decided on my major,
and also learned a principle I've never forgotten and one that has changed my life for the better.

Let me start by emphasizing that I believe we are all born to create. We are creative beings.
But I think too often we get caught up in the term "creative" as right brained or left brained or artsy or crafty or deep or borderline genius when really, I think it's much more simple than that.
We create every single day. We create in our relationships: we create trust, we create understanding, we create experiences. We create in our jobs, we create in our homes, we create in our social media presence.

Now back to the point. There I was in my intro to marketing class, and the professor asked us to think up a really cool, creative clock: one that's unlike anything we had ever seen before. So I sat, and my mind raced, and I came up with exactly.... nothing. Then he suggested we turn to our partner and create a new, creative clock that was an owl. So many cool ideas started to sprout- it could have wings that spread when it chimed or feathers that shimmered and glowed at the strike of the hour, or any number of cool things.

Then he revealed this simple principle that has changed my life: "Creativity loves constraint". It seems simple enough, but the more I thought about it the more true it became. You see, this principle changed my life because it changed the way I see constraints.

Every time I have a new constraint show up in my life, I try to figure out how that's going to stretch my creativity. How I'm going to make things work within that constraint. Jay and I have only had one car for over two years now, so I started going to the gym at 5am last year to make my schedule work. My schedule got more creative (and hard, but I really really loved that time) to work within the constraint. When Jay and I moved to Utah, we had a budget to buy a house with. Because of that budget, we bought a foreclosure to get a house we really truly loved. We would never have bought the house we did if we could have afforded a nice, new house just like it. I had to be creative to decorate our house on a  budget. I had to walk into DI and look at everything with a creative eye. I have had to learn new skills and new talents and make curtains and shop clearance sales and make old pieces work instead of buying new pieces. If a person wants to stop using foul language (constraint), they have to be creative and find new ways to say things! The list of examples could go on forever.

The moral of the story is we all have constraints. We have time constraints and budget constraints and constraints within our relationships. And it's really easy to look at those as negatives, but this principle taught me that it doesn't have to be that way.

And for good measure, here's Rory and I in our matching unicorn outfits that I made from things I already had on hand plus less than ten dollars in supplies because... can you guess? Constraints. 

So I want to hear what other constraints have forced you to be creative and learn new skills or create something in a different way than you otherwise would have!