7 ways to be a caretaker of the good in the world.

Monday, December 21, 2015

This post has been brewing for a few weeks in my heart and mind.  In my life,  there have been plenty of times that I have felt defeated or overwhelmed by negativity.  That I felt like saying, 'why do I even try?!' But through these seven steps, I have always been able to find a way back to kindness; to let kindness and empathy be my guiding star.  And, as if I've said it once I've said it a thousand times, being kind and grateful are the roots of who I want to be, of how we hope to raise our kids, of how we hope to influence the world.

I am determined to be a caretaker of the good in the world, will you too?

1. DO good.
The get-your-hands-dirty good.  The put-your-time-in-good.  The check you send annually to a charity you support or the child you sponsor is amazing and necessary.  This is important good, please keep up your support.  But don't forget to participate in good through physical acts.  Build something, make something, pack something up, go out and meet people.  This is the kind of good that will keep you inspired to see how much your good is needed, AND (sometimes even more importantly) how much good is already happening when you weren't looking directly at it.

2. Find the kind of good that feels natural to you.
This isn't selfish good, this is practical and powerful.  We are each good at different kinds of things in life, so it's natural that certain kinds of good deeds or volunteering feel easier for you, simply because it's in your wheelhouse.

I enjoy planning, so being the coordinator for volunteer events doesn't feel like work, but for someone else that level of involvement might be overwhelming or stressful.  I have a close friend who can whip up dinner for someone in need like it's no big deal, for me though, this kind of giving leaves me all stressed about having the right ingredients and always running too late to actually deliver it to the person!?  Obviously, stepping out of your comfort zone is valuable experience, but don't be afraid to keep doing what works too.  You'll be more likely to keep doing what feels natural because it won't feel like work.  What the world needs is the good that YOU can provide joyfully and frequently.

3. Smile.
This is a universal language that transcends all ages.  Don't wait for the other person to smile, be the one to make the first move.  Wave at your neighbors, say hello to the little kid who is staring at you in the check out line, be a stranger that you'd like to meet.  And don't give me any of that 'resting b*tch face stuff, we all should be focusing more on making our Smile Reaction Time quicker anyway.

4. Clean up your digital INput.
The internet is a sneaky little beast and you know what it's really good at? Trying to understand each of us and our habits.  So if you're clicking on, liking, commenting, or sharing certain kinds of things, those kinds of things are going to keep showing up for you to see.  See, the internet thinks it's being helpful, but what it's really doing is keeping us plugged into a one-sided view.  If you are depressed by the state of the world, it might be because you are only seeing one side of the world.  There are good, inspiring, amazing things happening, but you have to know how to look for them.

Four steps to clean up your digital Input: 
1. First things first, clean up that newsfeed!  Click on that little arrow in the left upper corner of a status and hide the things that make you frustrated.
2. 'Like' happy, inspiring pages (SoulPancake, BrightSide, Humans of New York, UpWorthy, TED, Kid President) and also local businesses, events, and groups to add a positive boost to your newsfeed (follow things that make you feel inspired on all social media: twitter, instagram, blogs, etc).
3. Know what's going on by keeping up to date with the news, but you don't need to sit on the edge of your seat for the seventh update to the 'if it bleeds it leads' stories.
4. UNPLUG all together occasionally; frequently!  Go outside, look people in the face. Just get away from the input entirely for awhile.

5. Clean up your digital OUTput
What was it that all of our mommas told us, 'If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all.' That lesson still applies to adulthood, friends.  Recognize that as someone who posts to the internet via any method, you are a contributor to everyone else's digital input.  Are you posting and sharing messages that contribute to the good that's in the world?  Are you someone that gripes about being tired of only ever hearing about a big, bad, scary world?  Take ownership that your shares also contribute to what we all see.

Understand and respect the fact that complaining never, in the history of the universe, actually solved any problems.  Complaining about something does not lead to making it better, complaining about it frustrates and hurts the people that are already doing something.  If you want something to be better, go try to make it better.

6. Give people grace.
When it comes to ourselves, we expect everyone to extend to us the benefit of the doubt: we are in fact a regular person with flaws and who makes mistakes, so we expect other people to turn a blind eye when we are not our best selves.

But often times when it comes to other people, especially strangers, we expect their finished, polished version.  If you find yourself getting ready to judge someone else's behavior, stop and repeat this phrase in your mind, 'I actually know nothing about this person.' We don't know what their day has been like, what their life has been like, how they were raised, or what they've suffered or had to endure, what they're worried about.  Ya know, granted, maybe this person really is just a horrible human being, but in my experience, that's incredibly unlikely.

Just like us, they're a regular person with flaws, and who makes mistakes, and who has had a million experiences similar and radically different in life than we have had.  A good thing to do in these situations is to be patient and offer a smile.  The best thing to do is to ask if they need help.

7. Do good anyway.
When it feels too big, too scary, too sad, too frustrating to continue to be vigilant to the good in the world, look for the good anyway; do the good anyway.  There have been times in my life that while I was in the middle of an act of kindness, a person made me feel so small and unimportant.  Maybe because they belittled the value of what I was doing, or because they criticized the way I had done it.  Regardless, it hurts, it makes blood boil, it makes you feel like screaming, "Why do I even try at all!?"

Secure this resolution deep inside of your heart so that when the going gets tough or frustrating, you can come back to it again and cling to it:  No matter how negative it all may get 'out there,' within my own small area of the world I will tend to kindness so that it reflects a world I dream about.  Maybe your small area of the world is your home, your family, your office desk, your corner of the web, your own heart and mind.

YOU can choose to be kind.  I hope you will.  And I will too.  And in this way, we can each be caretakers of the good that is in this world.

The real story of a Christmas card

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Don't let those faces fool you, friends.  This was like take 28....can you spot the toddler trick we use?  Those m&m's there in front of Violet, yeah, we went there.  Luckily, Brandon was home on photo shoot night and he was in charge of supplying the candy and also making ridiculous faces and cheering directly behind my head to get the kids to look at the camera.  

Everything quickly started going downhill and B looked at me and said, "Why isn't this fun?" to which I turned my head towards him incredulously and replied, 'with that little gremlin? Honey, this is just something we need to get through.'

And so after plenty of enthusiastic effort from Brandon and near constant pressure on my shutter release, and Greyson and Gemma trying desperately to coax their baby sister by pleading 'just one good one, Violet!' we finally had something usable for the Christmas card.

Our happiest wishes to you all this season.

Santa, all I want for Christmas is patience

Friday, December 11, 2015

Dear Santa,

When I originally sat down to write this letter to you, I was frustrated and tired.  I was ready to pen my exasperated letter to you asking...begging for time.
Santa, what Mum of little kids can't use that, right?
What Mum at all can't use more time in the day?
Actually, what grown up can't use that?
More time, especially during this season of hustle and bustle and gifts to buy and traditions to uphold and places to visit and baking and wrapping and elf moving.

So as I sat down, grumbling about how slow my laptop was booting up, my daughter walked into the living room and spilled an entire bowl of cereal.  Let me be more clear, not so much spilled, as accidentally hurled the bowl into the air so that a rainbow of cereal and milk showered three quarters of the living room.  Santa, I swear our natural motto around here is Go Big or Go Home in all things we purposefully or accidentally do.

I saw this happening, as I was in mid-sentence of saying, 'I don't think eating that in here is a good idea,' so my internal flinch reaction was frustration with the fact that the very last thing I needed to add to my to do list, among the laundry list of holiday tasks, regular chores, and child rearing needs, was to add 'mop the living room floor'.

Before I even had a chance to react as she and I made eye contact after the splash, her face crumpled up and said, "Mumma, forgive me! Please forgive me!"

I took a deep breath, and in a calm voice that surprised even me, I had her fetch some towels and we cleaned it up together.  It was only quarter of ten in the morning, Santa, so that certainly had something to do with it (let's face it, my patience bucket is profoundly lower come 5p everyday), but it was at that moment that I realized that my Christmas list needed fixed.

Not because she was immediately heartbroken that I was going to be mad, nor because I am some magical beacon of calm in the face of annoyance.  But because it actually wasn't all that bad or time consuming to just clean it up when I wasn't also using up energy on being annoyed.

Santa, deep down, I understand that the time that I have each day, is just what it is.  There is no getting more because time is just time.  We all, all of us, get the same amount every single day and then it is filled up with life until we fall asleep and try again.

So, Santa, I'd like to change my wish.  What I actually would like for Christmas, Santa, is patience.

Patience to tackle the spilled cereal bowl that flies across the room at 9:45 in the morning (and probably again at 7:30 at night) because someday I won't have kids in my house at all to eat at 9:45 in the morning and 7:30 at night because there will be school and sports and friends and everything that is incredibly more cool than eating cereal in the living room to be near Mum.

Patience to see that an hour spent reading Christmas picture books to my kids is just as valuable as an hour spent folding the laundry that has been sitting in the laundry baskets for three days because someday the kids will be able to both read by themselves and do their own laundry and after all, what's an hour of life?  It is, in fact, both everything and nothing and that's why it is so valuable as to what fills it up.

Patience for the dust and dog hair making tumbleweeds in the corners of every room and the toys and crayon drawings that are never.where.they.are.supposed.to.be because someday my house will be clean and tidy, but in this season of our life it is full of life in all ways possible and that also means full of mess.

Patience for the sounds; so much noise and so loud.  Patience for the humming, and made up words and stories, and the tireless questioning and negotiating, and the incessant 'Mum, Mum, Mum, Mum, Mum, Mum, Mum' that makes up the melody of my day because someday it will be quiet and somehow that will be even louder than all this noise.

Patience for this body of mine that doesn't look exactly like I want it to, nor fit into clothes like it used to because I could use a daily reminder that despite it not being perfect, it sure does work like I need it to, and for that I should be grateful.

Patience for this house of ours that needs repairs, and updates, and has far too much stuff in it because it is the home our children will remember as theirs when they are far away living their own lives and where we work together side by side to make small changes within a budget that we plan together, and where we are safe and comfortable and warm every single day.

Patience for so many things, simply because I live in a country that values freedom of speech and thought and the privilege of #firstworldproblems at all.

Patience for all the things that don't move as quickly as I think I need to move; this laptop, the traffic, the kids, my husband, our pets, the boiling pot of water for dinner, the coffee maker....me and this Studerbaby4 bump, because I must learn to recognize that life is not a checklist.
Look up, Tabitha.

Patience when I can feel frustration bubbling up into my voice and my face and my posture because I can change nothing in the world but my own attitude...and yet that change can change everything in my own world.

Patience, Santa,
to be a better wife.
a better Mum.
a better Daughter.
a better sister.
a better friend.

I know I need to work on this for myself too, I'm just hoping for maybe a little extra dose in my stocking this year if possible.
thank you, Santa
(send my love to the Mrs. and the elves)

ps. also, World Peace
k, thanks, love you, bye.