Monday, October 25, 2010

"PC" Talk - Food for Thought

Yesterday I told The Blitz, "Be a better baby!  Be a better baby!"  I said it because I like the rhythm of alliteration.  Normally I say, "Make a wise choice!" or, "Be a good friend," or "Share with your sister, please."  This clear departure from the usual patter caught Pepper's attention.
She called me on it.  "Why did you say that mom?  Why didn't you just say, 'Be good!'"?

"I don't want to label him as good or bad.   I am asking for what I want.  I am being specific.  I am trying to raise a kid who thinks and not just one who tries to stay out of trouble.  We can't be 'good' but we can be 'better."   Sometimes we can make a 'wiser' choice but we can't always make a 'good' one.  I am trying to make it do-able."

She pondered this a minute.  "Well, I remember being little and you saying "Make a wise choice" and me thinking, 'She wants me to be good.'"

Hmmm. Perhaps there is such a thing as too "enlightened parenting."  I'm not sure.  I have to ponder it a bit.

Both Pepper and Sunshine are "good kids."  We say it all the time -- though not to them.

To them, we say, "You are thoughtful.  We trust you to make wise decisions.  Your schoolwork reflects your hard work.  You're responsible.  You're a hard worker.  You are beautiful inside and out -- and the insides are what count the most.  You're a good friend."

Yet, even though we tried to raise them differently, I'm not sure we did.   It's thinly veiled, at best.  It's clearly human nature to label things.  I see it in "the Littles" all the time.


They don't get all this from me (though I can imagine the fingers pointing!)  It is in them.  We have religiously avoided the label "bad" with all "our" kids -- and yet it is one of the first words each of these "Littles" have said.  A child who makes a "poor choice" is frequently chastised by one of the other two as "bad, bad."  No amount of ignoring or protesting on our part has changed this.  And even though they've not heard the word from us in 8 months, they still know it and use it!

I don't think this revelation will necessarily change my parenting style --but a dose of reality sweetly administered by a wiser-than-her-years 14 year old is certainly useful.  Food for thought.

*Note -- this is a "double post" from my family life blog, Bright Love - Living Large in a Big Family
If you don't know who the "players" are, you can get a roster here.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

A Problem Turned Party

A few years ago a creative genius named Tom Morely told me -- in much nicer words than these -- that I was an uptight square and lacked imagination. I responded by studiously avoiding any contact with him for the next 12 months. Of course this wasn't so difficult given that he lived in London and I in Texas.

We next met on a course called Seven Days of Creation in England. I had thought often about Tom's feedback to me but I still wasn't taking it all that well.  I knew I had something to learn from him, but I freely admit I was being dragged to the learning kicking and screaming like a little boy to a bath.

As luck -- and the trainers -- would have it, Tom and I were assigned to a project along with two other members of the group.  Doing this project with my group opened my eyes to the creativity within me but perhaps more importantly, I found myself grateful and humbled by the rare gift of someone who cared enough about me to help me see my blind spots.  At our project's successful end, I saw both Tom and myself through different eyes.

A year or so later while working, I had what could fairly described as a break-down.  Through a series of teachable moments, I had finally come face to face with my own propensity toward rigidness and driven-ness -- and it was not pretty.  The cold hard truth was difficult to face alone so I called up my friend Tom.  I asked him for some straight up advice -- how could I break the back of the accusations in my mind that kept pushing me toward perfectionism and away from creativity?

His advice was practical.  He said that in his own life whenever he found himself stuck in a corner with either no way out or only one way out, he knew he needed to collaborate.  He said that when he brought other people into the conversation (rather than it all being between him and his ego!), creativity flourished and driven-ness wilted.

That has turned out to be one of the most life-giving things I have ever learned.  Some times it takes some discipline to choose to collaborate and at times some creativity to decide whom to ask, but there is a big payoff for doing so.  Every time I take a "problem" and turn it into an opportunity to collaborate, it becomes a party.  It's mind-boggling. 

Earlier this week, my Wii died.  This is more serious a problem than it sounds, because my Wii Fit Plus was my entire plan for exercise the next day.  I woke up the next morning pretty grumpy and seeing that corner.  So as I often have in the past couple of years, I remembered Tom's advice.  I messaged several of my friends and asked for help.  By the end of the day I had burned more than 800 calories and had an absolute ball doing it.  It was fun.  In fact, it was a blast!

So the next time the corners of your mouth are pointing down and your jaw is tight, take Tom's advice.  Look and see with whom you can collaborate and turn that problem into a party.  Cheers!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Work and Our Natures

Today, I re-read one of my early blog posts, "The Nature of Work." I can't help looking at the synchronicity; I posted that at the very time I realized the full extent of the driven-ness that seemed such an inherent part of my personality. I set out on a course to started to systematically disassemble it. Clearly this dismantling is an ongoing process and yet one in which I can see definite change.

My musings about work back then were the beginnings of that journey; I was coming to the realization the the products of my work are more intangible than I grew up expecting them to be. I have yet to produce the great American novel or a fine painting. I don't have a single invention, patent nor any goods to show. I realized many years ago that I am unlikely to be "famous." Nonetheless, imaginary judges critique every word and action; and somehow I often fall short.

Like many of you, I was brought up by hard-working parents who set a good example of responsibility and productivity. Fair enough. At age 51, however, I think I can hardly blame them for any compunction toward proving myself that lingers on today. I think it is in our natures to make work tower in importance and define us -- but I don't think the fact that's it natural means it has to be that way! Lice are natural too -- but I don't want 'em!

These days, my major occupation is "mama." And yet, I can still quite easily get driven. So it turns out, after all these years, what I have always suspected is actually true -- it's not the job causing me stress, it's me!

I know that what is required is radical truth telling. What life is demanding of me is that I determine what is truly of value and rewrite the code for that scrolling critique that runs my internal Twitter status. I am doing some self-remembering lately. I recommend it!

Here are some things you can do to dismantle the driven-ness in you:

- Several times each day (set an alarm) pause to take a couple of deep breaths and take a look around. Refocus your life to the present.
- Write down the lies you are telling yourself (i.e., "I have to be perfect," "I have to get a promotion"); it's safe to assume that if it starts with "I have to . . ." it bears examining.
- Write down a "being" goal each day; we are all pretty good at making to-do lists, how about a "to be" list?

These things are pulling the plug on the stress for me; I am living that "bright life" more often these days. Let me know how it goes for you!

The very beating of your heart has meaning and purpose.

Your actions have value far greater than silver or gold.

Your life... and what you do with it today...matters forever.
Andy Andrews

Friday, October 1, 2010


My news of the day is that I have a new blog. I know, I know, I don't post that regularly here, but that is because what I often want to write about is my now-large family and all the life-changing things going on there. And I am thinking that those topics are not always a fit for this blog which is more from the Life Coach point of view.

The blog is called, "Bright Love - Living Large in a Big Family." It has a three-fold purpose:

1) to relate stories of life lived en mass
2) to share whatever I am learning about home management for seven people (and hopefully pick up a few tips on the way)
3) to chronicle the fun, funny, crazy life we lead because as I've learned with the older girls, time goes way fast.

I know this isn't for everyone and if it isn't for you, please recommend it to anyone who might enjoy it. I love the interaction on my blogs and since this one won't go on my Facebook feed, I'd like to build a little readership.

Thanks for reading and I'll be back soon with something on living a bright life!