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Posts Tagged ‘kindness’

My kids used to love Legos.

We would build farms and houses and castles and helicopters, there was a roller coaster once, some cars and some superheros. Sometimes, there were missing pieces, it didn’t stop us — a few creative adjustments and our house would come to life. We would step back and look at it, not worrying about the pieces we couldn’t find, our Lego house was perfect just the way it was. If we wanted to make a change, if we wanted our Lego house to now be a Lego spaceship…  we could knock it all down and build it back up again.  The stories we played out with our Legos one day, could be changed the next, and we had so many stories to tell, so many pieces to learn how to assemble.

I’m finding the final words to the “shitty first draft” of the book I’m writing. Reviewing the last five years of my life has been a terrifying/exhilarating/tiresome/worrisome/scary/courageous undertaking… holding a mirror up to your inner most thoughts and taking in the reflection that comes back to you is many things. The reflection I’ve seen hasn’t always made me smile. Sometimes I run as far away from the words that I’m typing out as possible. Sometimes I sit and read the words over and over and I am back in the moment that they occurred. Sometimes I wonder if the words are really from my life, they seem so foreign to me now.

There was a time when I was in the midst of reeling and swirling and flailing about, not moving… just standing still. I was scared that some pieces of me had disappeared, washed out to sea as I stood in the ocean and let the waves pound me relentlessly… too tired to fight. About that time, I had a conversation with someone who I’m not exactly friends with, we don’t really know each other, but our paths intersected — for me, it was perfect timing. His words adhered themselves to my inner most self and I’ve held them ever since. He said that I wasn’t missing any pieces, I had everything I needed already in me, I just needed to put them back together.

This book, this look back on the last five years of my life, is like gathering all the pieces to a Lego house. I put a piece here and one there. I build the foundation and a few walls. I step back and see a few cracks, perfectly placed. I have just enough pieces to make a beautiful home, I’ve always had enough pieces to make a beautiful home. And if things go wrong, I can knock it all down — I know how to build it back up again.

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Bonus!

So, obviously I didn’t think raising three (completely amazing) kids, having a full-time career (as an Autism Consultant for the public schools for almost 22 years!), writing a memoir (about the most gut-wrenching years of my life), managing this blog (that has allowed me to meet all of you amazing people as I’ve (at times) cut out pieces of myself and handed them to you and you’ve held them and nurtured them and continue to be a huge support system for me) — I thought I might as well add something else to the mix, so… I opened an Etsy store!

Now, the story behind the Etsy store is this, in the last year, I started opening up to other areas of creativity as a way to relax and calm my often trembling soul. In the process, I began painting and making creative art pieces specifically for people in my life to show them how much I love them — I wanted to give a little happy away. But, I was the one who was getting this amazing feeling of calm and love and my inner rumblings are a bit quieter. I realized that we do really get back from this world what we put out into it — so, an Etsy store. My hope is to create items for others so that they can throw a little love out into the world. Click my Etsy button ~~~> and lets spread a little love.

If someone thinks that love and peace is a cliché that must have been left behind in the Sixties, that’s his problem. Love and peace are eternal. ~~ John Lennon
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I discovered this wonderful new website called, a human thing. It inspired this poem. Please go there and look around, it will make you feel all warm and glad to be a part of this wonderfully messy world that we all share.

… and we dance around in the chaos of the waves,
wondering what the tide will bring in.
shifting from side to side,
digging in our toes.
… a human thing
… and the waves pound us,
deep in the chest,
trying so hard to take a breath.
listening for the voice,

looking for the beacon.
… a human thing
… and we steady ourselves on the uneven surf,
waiting for the calm to fill us.
our religion is here,
where the waves battle the sand.
… a human thing
… and i turn my head to look at you,
the tightrope we’re walking between the waves and the shore.
connected by the messy beauty of love,
the grayness of that space between.
… a human thing
… and so many of us,
unbalanced on the sand,
a community of reluctant warriors.
the strength we see in the others,
inching our way closer to the waves.
… a human thing
… and we keep falling down,
it’s so hard to keep our balance.
i feel a hand reaching for my light,
pulling me to my feet.
… a human thing
… and connected together,
we’re much stronger in this space.
as we all breathe in the love from each other,
falling down,
messing up.
… a human thing
… and if we loosen our grip on each other,
we may get tripped up by the sand.
don’t give in to the sea pulling us under,
we’re all navigating the same stormy ocean.
… a human thing
… and these tangled words,
they tend to lead our messages astray.
but we’ll breathe and we’ll leap and we’ll evolve,
connected like kite strings,
drifting up from the surf.
… a human thing
… and somewhere in that salty mist,
our bare skin is so exposed.
we look at all the others gathered here,
holding each other in our hands.
… a human thing
… and love is so much easier than we realize,
a laugh,
an ache,
a song,
a story,
a smile,
a painting,
a poem,
a glance backwards as the words bounce around on those waves that are far less intimidating when we’re all shifting on the sand together,
this is who we are.
this is who i am.
… a human thing
… a human thing
 

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I’ve written it here many times… I’m a planner. I like to know what to expect. I like to know the outcome. I like to know if the effort I’m expending is going to pay-off in the end — I like to know. I don’t think this necessarily makes me a bad person or makes me difficult to be around or makes me less of a friend, I hope not anyway. I’ve been afraid of uncertainty and been sitting on the bleachers instead of dancing in the moment — all because I want to know what others don’t want to reveal. Then a couple of things happened in a very short time — most of which I won’t tell you about (unless I have your phone number). But I will share this quote that recently crossed my path:

Don’t seek, don’t search, don’t ask, don’t knock, don’t demand — relax. If you relax, it comes. If you relax, it is there. ~~ Osho

My inability to follow this quote has made for some troublesome twists in my journey. But, recently I decided to “set myself on fire” and I think, for me, one of the things that means is letting go of my constant need to know, to demand, to knock impatiently. I’ve learned a moment can change everything — if we allow the moment to unfold — unguided, just as it should.

I was waiting in line to pick my daughter and her friend up from high school recently. This is usually a time of solitude (even if only for a few minutes). I was checking email on my phone and singing along to my favorite songs — not paying any attention to the hordes of kids around me… finding their way to their cars and their rides and loading the buses. I was startled by a rapping on my window. I looked up to see a boy standing there speaking to me. “Can I ask you a question?”, he said. I rolled the window down and was even more surprised when he asked if he could get a ride home — of course I said yes, so in he came. I told him my name and he told me his, “Jonathan” we’ll say. He explained to me where he lived and how appreciative of me he was. Then an awkward silence filled my car and I began formulating his story in my head. How sad, I thought, that this kid had to ask a complete stranger waiting in a line at his school for a ride home. How sad, I thought, that he didn’t have friends he could have bummed a ride with. How sad, I thought… he must be so sad.

As I moved up in line and saw my daughter approach the car, we exchanged nervous glances and I gave her a “please don’t make a big deal about this kid in the car” look as I introduced her to “Jonathan”. She and her friend immediately started talking to him and, in fact, knew who he was (score one for self-confident 14 year-old girls). So, off we went.

We all started our normal conversations… I asked my daughter about her lunch account at school, did she have enough money, did she put the money I gave her on her account or in her pocket? I caught “Jonathan’s” gaze in my rear view mirror. He said he wished his parents would give him lunch money — my heart sank. As we got closer to his home, he became agitated and anxious — breathing hard and fumbling for his books. Again, my heart sank. When he exited my car he stopped and asked me if he needed his parents to sign him up for a bank account or could he do it by himself — he recently got a job and would be getting a paycheck. At 17, I told him, I thought he was old enough. And “Jonathan” was gone. I immediately asked for the whole story from my daughter and her friend. The tale they spun made me angry and sad and it made me hurt for a boy I didn’t know.

My father died on a Saturday. Early that morning I found myself alone in his hospital room — just the two of us. For the last 5 days, he had been in that hospice room — it was small and cramped and there were many of us who wanted to be there. We had been asking to be moved to the coveted “big” room directly across the hall so when a nurse came in and said we could finally have the room, I was elated. Everyone would be so proud of me when they returned to see that I had scored the “big” room. The nurse said she would change my father’s position in his bed first then we could wheel him across the hall. She looked at him and then at me and asked how long he had been in that position. I hadn’t thought about it until then, but it had been more than a day since we had changed his position. She looked at me again and said I should decide what to do about rotating him. I didn’t understand. She explained that, often, when people are near the end of their life as my father was, any movement could trigger his body to finally give up.

I told her he was fine.

I told her not to touch him.

I told her he looked very comfortable.

I would have let him stay in that position for many months and years to come — just to have him a bit longer. He passed away about 8 hours later — 8 more hours I had to hold his hand.

I feel sorry for “Jonathan’s” father. He doesn’t understand that he could be the one to tell the nurse to leave him alone. He doesn’t understand that he could be the one who wants just 8 more hours. He doesn’t understand the joys and responsibilities of being “Jonathan’s” father.

I think “Jonathan” is dancing in the moment and not dwelling. I think he’s not worried about searching and demanding and seeking — I think he’s not asking… he’s just doing. I’ll be looking for “Jonathan” the next time I pick my daughter up — I hope he sneaks up and taps on my window, I’d like to talk with him some more… because a moment can change everything.

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I have struggled with my weight for 20 years or so. For reasons that I’m not going to delve into here, I gained quite a bit of weight during a 15 year span — 80 pounds to be exact (give or take depending on the day, the craving, the emotional turmoil). I’m betting that many of you are shaking your heads and whispering, “me too” at this moment. We are women.

It astounds me to hear women, that by all outward appearances are physically perfect, complain about their looks, their weight, their need to change something about their person. But… we are women. By nature, we are seemingly predestined for a life of wondering if we are physically good enough.

Too fat.

Too thin.

Too tall.

Too short.

Hair too straight.

Hair too curly.

Eyelashes too short.

Endless.

I’ve tried every diet plan known. The only thing I hadn’t tried up until a few months ago… learning to like myself. A new concept and not one that has come without diving into my own faults and weaknesses — I think we, as women, are programmed to recognize positivities in other women. We are programmed to see beauty and intelligence and bravery in other women but we have a hard time recognizing it in ourselves. Self-awareness is hard… yet vital.

So, a few months ago I announced to a few friends via the internet that I was going to get healthy (something about announcing an endeavor like losing weight to a bunch of people keeps you accountable). I immediately started a yoga practice thinking it would help clear my thoughts and sort through some things that were burdening my world. Yoga is not an easy exercise. It is not about meditating and lying still and “kumbaya”. It is a workout — one I had trouble making it all the way through when I first started. I also dusted off my year old treadmill and climbed aboard. Finally, and hardest of all, I changed the way I thought about food. This being the hardest because, I think, as women we turn to outside sources to help feed the need that seems to be vacant within our own worlds. Learning to look at food differently meant I had to learn to look at myself… just look at myself. I didn’t do this alone. I reached out to some complete strangers (including a littlefluffycat) and some close friends.

It has been seven months since I started taking control of myself and trying to know what it feels like to like me.  I now do my yoga practice everyday, I walk on the treadmill 6 miles a day, I throw in a few other workouts here and there as time permits or my emotions need it, and I eat healthy. I have lost around 50 pounds. I would like to lose about 40 more. I recently had pictures taken with my kids and there are a couple that I think will look nicely here on the blog (soon). I guess that’s part of the “learning to like myself” thing.

I think that we, as women, have a tremendous power to heal each other and ourselves. We have the power to remind each other that we should like ourselves. We have the power to be good to each other and to say to each other that we are okay and we are not alone.

Watch This!

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Father’s Day is almost here. I’ve gotten in the habit of going to my local Hallmark store and perusing the cards. I like to send cards now — who knew? There are certain times of the year though that the majority of the cards available aren’t available for me to choose… Father’s Day being one. It never fails that every time I’ve entered the card section of any store in the last two weeks, I automatically think about getting a Father’s Day card — this will be the third Father’s Day without my dad, but the instinct remains — the need to buy him the perfect card.

When I was 27, I was pregnant with my oldest child, I had been married for five years, I had a full-time job, I had purchased my first car, I was finishing up graduate school — by most standards, I was a full-fledged adult. Of course that was to everyone except my father. I was his youngest — I’m sure I never grew up in his mind.

It was March, close to spring break. The weather is always tricky in Tennessee during the month of March — it can be beautiful and 70 degrees or scary with relentless tornados or cold with blowing snow, all in the same week. This particular week it was an unexpected snow — a large unexpected snow. I remember it very well. I was sitting in my night class as it began to snow. I was very pregnant… about 7 weeks from delivering. We kept glancing out the window and back to the professor in hopes that she would cut the three-hour class a little short so we could all start home — no such luck. The class ended at 8pm on the dot and we all just stood looking out the window, knowing it was bad and our drives would be unpleasant. At the time, I lived about 45 minutes away from the university. I headed out in to the snow and began my journey — it was 8:13pm.

I spent the first hour of my drive weaving through the city streets trying to get to the interstate. I wondered who all would be calling my house to check on me as word would soon spread that I was not home yet. Around 10pm, I began to get scared and fatigued of driving so slow — it was slippery and wrecked cars lined the interstate. My little car was losing traction often but I was one of the only cars still making forward progress, I stayed near the center of the interstate. Again I began to worry about who all was worrying about me. I knew my father would be a nervous wreck. I found an exit and decided to risk getting off the interstate to find a pay phone (yes, before cell phones infiltrated my life). As soon as I veered off my steady center path, my car spun around in a complete circle. Luckily I ended up facing the right way and kept going without hesitation. The pay phone was just ahead.

I made my calls, of course the one to my father was on the top of the list, to tell everyone I was okay and would get home eventually… I left out the part about my car spinning in a complete circle and how I thought I was going into labor from holding on to the steering wheel with such force. At 10:35pm I headed back for the interstate. I made my way to the very center of the lanes and carried on. I finally arrived at my apartment at 1:37am. Tired. In pain. Frustrated. I called my father immediately so he could finally go to sleep and stop his pacing.

The snow melted within a few days and I went to visit my parents. As soon as I arrived, my father left in my car without explanation. I visited for a bit with my mother and we wondered where daddy went. A few hours had passed when he returned with my car — four brand new tires attached. It was what he could do to make me safe when I wasn’t with him — he always wanted to do for me, for all of us. He also had several brochures for cell phones and made me swear I would get one the next day — I did, my first call was to him.

I thought about that snowy drive home so many years ago as I went to the Hallmark store to pick up a few cards. I looked at all the Father’s Day cards in the store and instinctually thought about picking one up for my dad. He loved the funny ones, he loved to laugh. But more than anything, he loved to do for others — kindness and consideration belonged to him. So this Father’s Day, I might have picked up a card… a funny one. And maybe, this Father’s Day, I’ll look at it and I’ll read it and I’ll laugh… and I’ll remember those new tires.

Image from Kind Over Matter

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I have always been intrigued by the connections that people seem to form — how they form, why they form, are they fleeting or are they lasting. Sometimes those connections are evident from an early age — like you were destined to be best friends with that kid you met on the first day of school. Some are formed without ever meeting the other person — perhaps you read something that touched you, you viewed a painting, you shared an idea. Connections are simple, really. They allow you to talk and to share and to laugh and to cry. They’re natural — you don’t need to work at them or force them or struggle to maintain them…they just are.

We don’t get to choose who we love — I think this is true anyway. I loved my parents, I didn’t choose them, they were just always a part of me. I love my kids, again, I didn’t choose them. They, too, have always been a part of me — even before they were a thought in my head. I love very few people who I’m not related to — I don’t think I chose them either. I think it was destined that we were in each other’s lives. We connected, we loved… love just is. It surrounds us when we let it. It heals us when we need it. It protects us when it should. I have heard people say you have to work at love. I’m not sure I believe that. I think we have to work at how we talk and how we react and how we show kindness — but love… love just is.

I think kindness can be a huge connection for people. Love and kindness — you don’t have to work at it, it isn’t forced. An act of kindness can be that simple connection that sparked a friendship or a conversation or a laugh or a game — it seems to draw us close to the people we need. Sometimes, it’s a simple connection that forms without even trying, to let us know we belong, to hold us together…human connection, available to all — just is.

The weather has been horrible the last couple of days. Rain, storms, flooding — homes under water, cars submerged. Still, we needed groceries. I ventured out to the store and wanted to survey the damage as well. While I was in the store, the rains and storming increased. I paid for my things and walked to the door — staring blankly at the vast distance between me and my car. Deciding to leave the groceries and pull the car around, I took a deep breath and started for my car. Just then, a person I had never met opened an umbrella over my head and walked with me to my car. We chatted about the rain of course. I thanked him for his kindness. When I pulled my car around to load my groceries, there he was. Waiting to help. We loaded the groceries into my car — talked some more about the rain and I once again thanked him for his kindness — a random act I hope to pay forward soon.

I ran across this poem by Naomi Shihab Nye about kindness. I began to think about love and kindness as one thing — not separate entities. I think you can’t have love without kindness and where there is kindness…love must surely follow. Perhaps it’s all connected in the end — perhaps a little kindness is all we can hope to give and hope to receive. At the end of the day, I think taking the time to be kind will be what matters — I think that’s what will lead you to love, I think that’s what will spark a connection.

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