Monday, March 31, 2014

Learning to Adapt

What follows is another blog I wrote on my “Me Day” over a week ago, that I was proud to have finished but then forgot to post. Enjoy!
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So I’m sitting here at a booth at Panera, pretending to be important. I have my lap top, so I’m sure people think I’m doing something significant, right?

Well, I am.

See, today is “Me Day.”  Maybe that sounds a little self-centered, but it is the day after my birthday and I took the day off for me. My husband is at home with the kids since they are on spring break, watching basketball, and I’m out and about.

The thing about Me Days, for me at least, is that they are always more “exciting” leading up to them then they are actually are. I’ve been giddily looking forward to this day for two weeks. I’ve been trying to think of all the things I’m going to pack into the eight hours I have. Sadly, when I woke up this morning (which was about an hour later than I planned), and finally got dressed and out of the house (which was about 2 ½ hours later than I had planned), I had no real clue what I was going to do.

I think part of my problem is that I want things to be perfect. I get these ideas in my head and have a hard time letting myself enjoy it when things don’t go exactly right.

The one thing I knew I wanted to do was take my laptop to Panera, grab breakfast and coffee, and write. Uninterrupted by kids, television, internet and my own ADHD, and just write. So as I finally pulled into the Panera parking lot and noticed the “massive” amount of cars in the parking lot – which meant a “massive” amount of people taking up the tables (it was about 10:30), my heart sank and I felt deflated.

The ONE thing I was looking forward to the most was not going to be able to happen because there was no way I was going to find a seat where I could comfortably sit, whip out the lap top, and write. So I decided to go to another location, hoping that it wouldn’t be quite as busy.

And of course it was. But there was a difference in my attitude from just 45 minutes later (I made a stop for some shopping on the way). I added a new word to my list of words for 39.

Adapt.

So my long held plans of sitting at Panera and writing on my lap top might not happen. I had to adapt. It wasn’t going to alter the course of my life…or even my day. It was a planned one hour chunk of time, so why was I going to get so upset and let it affect my entire day?  So I can’t pull out the computer. I have a Kindle – I could read. I had a notebook I could actually PHYSICALLY write out my thoughts! So as I pulled into another busy parking lot, I grabbed my lap top, but I also grabbed my Kindle, my paper, my pen, tucked it all into my computer bag, and decided I was going to just go in and ADAPT my plans to fit the situation.

Turns out, my timing was perfect. I arrived right before the lunch crowd, found an empty booth, and here I am. Writing ON MY LAP TOP (I worried for nothing), looking all important, and feeling a ting of guilt for taking up a booth just to write. But not enough to stop me from writing two short blogs and enjoying my Me Day!
Here’s to what I am determined to make an amazing 39th year

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Not Quite 40 -- Yet!

It’s funny. About a week and a half ago (Friday, March 21st to be exact), I took the day off for a “Me Day” in celebration of my 39th birthday, and one of the biggest items on my to do list (like, bold, in red, double-underlined big) was to have breakfast (which ended up being lunch) at Panera and do some blog writing. And I did it. I wrote two actually, and was really proud of myself for it. However, here it is eight days later and I haven’t posted what I wrote. So while they may not be AS timely, there was no way I was going to waste all that writing inspiration, so what follows were my thoughts as they flowed the day after my 39th birthday:
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Yesterday I turned 39 – or as I like to call it, my “I’m not yet 40” birthday. But the countdown is now on.

I’m not afraid of turning 40. Actually, I’m quite excited about it. I’m ready to embrace it. Because 39 is going to be an amazing year. I know it!

This is the year I plan to turn things around. My health, my spirit, my soul… I want to be authentically me.

I feel like I’ve spent a long time trying to be what I think people want. Trying to make people want to be my friend or in my life by changing things about me to make myself what I perceive to be more likeable, or relatable, or whatever it is that makes a person popular. Or whatever it is.

I’ve spent way too much of the last few years feeling sorry for myself. Wishing I could be the kind of person that people just WANT to be friends with. The kind that just draws people to them like a moth to a flame. (That’s not cliché right?) Then, when I’m sad or depressed because I’m sitting at home alone looking at Facebook pictures of friends out having a good time, I tell myself, and try to convince myself, that friends are overrated, friendships aren’t as important as my family, and I don’t need it.

Truth is, I DO NEED friendships. I treasure friendships. I like people. I like relationships. I like going out with the girls, no kids. I like going out with the girls AND kids. Trying to tell myself I don’t is just crazy.

I’ve been reading a lot of blogs and books that preach being authentic. Being real. Cultivating relationships. And it may seem very tree hugger or Oprah-like, but it’s all so, so true. 

So that is why I am making 39 the year I “Oprahfy” my life.

Say what?

I want to be healthier by watching what I eat, eating less processed food, getting more exercise through workout and activity, and relaxing and relieving my stress as much as possible. Yeah, I have an idea of what I’d like to weight when it’s over, but I’m not making that the focus.

Along with my physical health I want to work on my spiritual health and growth. I didn’t grow up in a religious or church-going house, and while I’ve always felt spiritual and believed in God, I never really felt it necessary to go any further. But recently, thanks in BIG part to my visit to Hillsong NYC back in May, I really want to examine my faith and find out more. Recently I’ve had some questions. I want better figure out where I stand, what I believe… Music has always been huge for me, and I’m listening to a lot of Christian Music and loving all that I’m discovering. It’s helping immensely.

I also want to expand my mind. I’ve spent so much of my life, the last few years especially, watching TV and mindlessly browsing social media. A lot of times it’s because, by the end of the day, I’m just too exhausted to do much else. Also, the lives on TV and on the internet seem much more exciting than mine. But recently I’ve been reading a lot more, trying to use my time for personal growth and not just mindless entertainment (although I still adore mindless entertainment and watching TV – it just can’t be ALL I do anymore).

I also want to live a more simple life. Reading “Notes from a Blue Bike” has completely inspired a new way of thinking for me. It’s what inspired my new mantra, “Life is about relationships and experiences.” It’s why I want to travel more, take more adventures with the family, get rid of all the clutter and crap we have been hoarding in our house, and just be more authentic. I’m finding a thrill and excitement about the future when I read books or blogs like that, and I’m constantly trying to figure out how to incorporate some of those ideas into my life while still being me, and our family being (here’s that word again) authentic.

There are a lot of things I’m trying to remember this year:

Be brave

Be bold

Be Me

Learn to Adapt – when something doesn’t go exactly as planned (activities with the kids, Christmas etc.) adapt to the situation and make it work, make it fun, and make to an experience anyway.

There are no rules – There isn’t one right way to parent. There isn’t one right way to decorate, to dress, to dream… Do what feels right to me, what’s right for my family, and make sure I’m AUTHENTIC

Life is about relationships and experiences. This is self-explanatory. In the end, the relationships we have and the memories we’ve made are all we have. The stuff we accumulate is great and can add to both our relationships and experiences, but most of it is a temporary “high.” The most important things are how you treat people, how you spend time with your loved ones, that you DO spend time with your loved ones, and that you enjoy life. We’re only here once, and only for a little while. Like the words from on my favorite songs by Francesca Battistelli, “It’s your life, what’cha gonna do?”

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Nobody should feel invisible

We’ve all done it. Driving down the street, stopped at a light, and to our right, a person holding a sign.

“Homeless. Anything will help.”
 
“Lost my job. Need food.”
 
And so, and so on…

I’ve seen people stop and give money or food. But then there are so many who, like me, are skeptical and give nothing. We’ve all heard it.

“If you give them money, they’re just going to use it to buy drugs, or cigarettes, or alcohol.”

And I’m sure that’s true in some cases. There are those who use panhandling to make a living. There is a guy here in Kansas City that has been doing it forever. He wears a Chiefs jacket and pretty much harasses and insults people who don’t give him money. I’ve heard that he actually has a decent home and lives well enough, but makes his money panhandling. How sad. And people like that make it harder on those who really need the help.

And sure, there is a chance that the people you give your money to are going to squander it on alcohol or cigarettes…but what if they don’t? What if they really use it for food? Or for a place to stay? What if it is the only thing keeping them alive?

I’ve thought about it a lot. I’ve driven by people on the street. I’ve passed them as I walk through the Plaza or downtown. Sometimes I smile and say I’m sorry, I don’t have any cash, and usually that is the truth. I don’t carry cash most of the time. But if I had it, I usually still shake my head and keep on walking.

But most of the time, I try not to look at them. Especially if I’m in my car. I stare straight ahead or fiddle with the radio and the window is usually up. And I try not to smile, because I don’t want them to feel bad that I’m having a good day while they are standing on the street, hot or cold, dirty, hungry, looking for a little bit of light in the darkness that they live in. I also don’t want them to see that as an invitation to approach me. And if I’m walking down the street and pass them and I’m with somebody, it’s even easier to pretend I don’t see them.

It’s sad that I’m like this, and I know I’m not alone. It’s easier to pretend we don’t see them, so they won’t try to talk to us, or so we won’t feel so guilty when we see the pain and loneliness in their eyes but don’t do anything, and just go on about our lives.

I feel for these people. I wish I could help. I wish I had some spare change to give them, or a snack of some kind lying around in my car. But I don’t, so I pretend to ignore them and cruise right on by. Feeling that twinge of guilt…for about a minute, until a great song comes on the radio and I start singing along, while wondering what we’re going to have for dinner.

But something hit me today, all because of a small quote I read on my Facebook feed from HuffPost Good News. It read:

“Here is a man who most likely spends every day getting ignored by people who are trying not to make eye contact with him so that they don’t feel bad not giving him money.”

And then it hit me. Without even reading the article, it hit me what I’ve been doing wrong this whole time. One of the worst feelings as a human, in my opinion, is to be ignored. To have people act like you don’t exist. To feel like you just fade into the scenery and mean nothing. I’ve experienced that to some extent – we probably all have at some point in our lives.

These people are already going through so much. Most are wondering when their next meal will be, where they are going to stay the night, if they will have to defend themselves from someone trying to take what little they might have. I can’t even imagine what kind of pain they are already feeling.

But then to add to it by ignoring them, pretending they are not there, and making them feel even less than human is even sadder.  I think I always told myself that it was better to just look away and not make eye contact. That I was doing it for them, not for me. The truth is it was probably ONLY to save myself from the guilt of not having anything to give, or not wanting to give anything if I did have it. I don’t know that they truly needed, they could be playing on people’s emotions and then using the money for alcohol, or cigarettes, or even fancy electronics. Why should I give my money to someone who might not be what they say they are?

But does it really matter?

What if they ARE what they say they are?
What if they truly have no food, no place to stay, and no one to turn to?
What if the smile you give them is their only proof that day that they do exist and they aren’t invisible or less than?
What if the one bag of kid’s fruit snacks in your purse is the only food they will eat all day?
What if one “Hello, how are you?” is the reason they don’t just finally give up on themselves?
Isn’t all of that worth the “risk” of saying hello and giving $5.00 to someone who has a small home, lives on food stamps, and uses your money to buy the party beer that night?
And even if you have nothing to give them, don’t you think a smile and recognition might just be better than nothing?

We aren’t rich, we don’t have a huge disposable income that we can blow on just anything, but God has provided us with so much more than we deserve! We have a huge, loving support system of family and friends; we have a wonderful church family; we have the physical and mental capability to earn a living, provide for our families, and enjoy our lives.

Some may argue that they’ve done this to themselves with the choices that they’ve made, and there are some who even choose to live on the streets. That all may be true. But we’ve all made bad choices with bad consequences. But not everyone has the same resources to bounce back from those choices. Not everybody has a support system of family and friends who can help us get back on our feet.

So what does all of this mean? For me, it means I will no longer pretend that they aren’t there. I will no longer avoid looking at them just to avoid feeling uncomfortable.

It’s not about me, it’s about them. It’s about making people feel like they matter; that they are just as important as anyone else. Nobody should be made to feel like they just fade into the background. Nobody should feel alone or unwanted. This world is lonely enough, why are we making it more so? I know that a smile, or a little money or food won’t change their lives, but it could make their day just a little bit brighter. Even if it’s just for that moment.

So please, the next time you see someone asking for change, or holding up a sign asking for help, please don’t just ignore them. If a smile and hello is all you have, then give it to them. It could mean more than you will ever know.

*The article referred to is about a homeless man in Colorado, standing on the street corner, who saved the life of a woman who had a seizure and passed out in the front seat of her car, and possibly several others. You can read it here: Homeless man risked life

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Living With More Intention

I am writing this from my birthday present to me – a brand new, shiny lap top! I’m a little nervous, because it’s the first non-Toshiba lap top I have ever owned, but it’s a touchscreen, so that’s fun! My old lap top, which turns five in about a month, has served me well, but the screen turns colors or completely black when the computer is wobbled. No good. So I decided that this was a perfect gift for me, considering all the new plans I’m making for my final year in the 30’s.
 
In less than two weeks, I will turn 39. That’s one year until 40. I’m not afraid of turning 40, but I do have a lot of things I want to get done in the next year. For one, my poor blog has been totally neglected. It’s been months since I’ve actually typed or posted anything, even though I have all of these things roaming around in my head.
 
I’ve spent the last several months finding out answers that have led me searching for more. At the end of the summer, I was diagnosed as ADHD. It cleared up a lot of things for me and kind of put me on a clearer path. Since my diagnosis and finally understanding what was going on with me – that I wasn’t broken – I feel much more focused and confident than I have in a long time. Then, before Christmas, my daughter was also diagnosed with ADHD. To finally have the diagnoses was both scary and good, because it meant we could get her help. The medicine has been helping a lot, and she’s been talking to a counselor just to make sure she understands what’s going on, and to possibly help her learn how to handle certain overwhelming situations. Anything we can do to help her be more successful and happy, we’re all for it. It’s definitely a learning process, trying to figure it all out, but I’m hopeful we figured it out early enough that with trial and error, and a lot of support, it will just be part of her by the time she gets into the older grades.
 
Aside from all of that, I guess you could say I’ve been doing a lot of “soul searching.” I’ve been reading a lot more. About faith, about minimalism, living with intention, being more present and in the moment…things that are becoming increasingly more important to me. I feel like it all started with the trip to New York City last May. It opened my eyes to all that’s out there. The people, the adventure, the experiences, the possibilities… And the visit to Hillsong Church NYC was amazing and life changing and uplifting and awakened in me a desire to explore my faith more.
 
But upon returning back home, a lot of that inspiration, motivation and the awakening that I experienced while visiting NYC was stifled with all of the stuff I came back to – increasing insecurity, anxiety and frustration (mainly at work) that I truly feel was magnified 10x because of my ADHD. There was also the feeling that something was off inside of me…I wasn’t doing what I was meant to do, I was feeling inadequate and restless and I wasn’t sure where I was going. Things have calmed down since the diagnosis, and also a relocation of the office I work in that wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. And now that we’ve got a bit of a handle on what’s going on with our daughter, I’ve been focusing a lot on myself and our life as a family.
 
About a month ago, thanks to an Instagram post by Kelle Hampton (ETST), I discovered Tsh Oxenreider’s book “Notes From a Blue Bike, The Art of Living Intentionally in a Chaotic World.” It’s the first book I’ve actually finished in quite a while and I was so inspired by it. It made me want to travel, to spend more time doing quality things as family, to explore, and to cook and bake more (among many other things). But maybe more important than all of that are things that I can’t quite explain. The things I feel but I can’t quite put into words – yet. The inspiration and stirring in my soul.  The things that have me very excited about the journey I plan to take. I can’t wait until the warmer temps are finally here to stay, when we can go exploring, playing, seeking out new experiences, writing our own stories.
 
Reading Tsh’s book has led me to seeking out similar stories, finding more inspiration on how to better myself and enrich our lives. I’m having fun with it! I’m sure it will be one of those books I read over and over again.
 
So through all of this I have created what I hope to be our new family “moto”, if you will, and it’s simple:
 
"Life is about relationships and experiences."
 
“Stuff” is great, and can be fun, and it can even enrich those relationships and experiences. But in the end, you can’t take it with you. When your kids are sitting with you at your bedside, at the end of your life, they aren’t going to say, “Remember that time you bought me that thing-a-ma-jig?” Or, “Remember when you let me play that video game? That was a great moment!”
 
No, the memories that will be relieved – that will be most important – are the hours spent in the car heading to a vacation destination, the ACTUAL vacation destination, the weekly movie or game nights, trips to the zoo or the park, the dinners spent at the table, the bed time rituals…
 
So I will try to remember that with every decision I make. I will try to be more intentional with my time. I will try to make the moments count more. I am constantly learning and loving what I’m discovering about the world and myself, and I’m hopeful that all of this will lead me in more enjoyment and love of the little things.