This post is about pictures. Taking them. Looking at them. Loving them.
It's also about Being. Being in the moment with the people you love.
And it's about remembering the moments with those people you love. And how those things go together - being and remembering.
After Marisol was born I remember being sad that it would all go by so fast and I wouldn't be able to remember it all. I actually remember telling my sister this and her tearing up for me (my sister is the best!). I thought it was funny that my "baby blues" were about how happy I was and not wanting to forget. I wanted time to stop.
Funny now how clearly I remember that. I've been thinking a lot about memory lately. And the truth is, most of my clearest memories are the ones about sad, distressing, or stressful, moments. (And believe me, my life has not been that sad or distressing, these are just regular disappointments). But my point is, *those* memories are the ones that are the most vivid. My happiest times are not that vivid. They are more like a hazy glow. There is a biological reason for this I believe. Something to do with adrenaline and emotion and what hormones and chemicals are are released in our brains.
So anyways. What does this have to do with pictures? Well I love them. And I love to take them. So we have hundreds or thousands of pictures that we have taken - especially since Marisol was born 5 1/2 years ago. For a long time I think I was trying to record every moment just so I could hold onto the moment and not forget.
Now my perspective is changing. One of my favorite things is to sit and watch our computer screen saver which we have set to a random slide show. It is so fun. And wonderful. I love it. I love reflecting. I remember a lot of the pictures. But I've also realized that there are a LOT that I barely remember AT ALL until I see them! It's kind of crazy. But I guess not that surprising - I mean how much can our brains hold?
I'm realizing more and more how true it is that all we have is the present moment. The past is gone and we can have no idea what the future holds. So the present is *where it's at*. In my meditation today the woman said, we are Human *beings* not Human *doings*. I like that. She was talking about being in the present moment. It is so *freeing*.
Pictures drive my husband crazy (more acurately, taking pictures), my kids like to pose and other times they just want me to STOP! I can either try to record every moment *or* I can put the camera down and enjoy the moment. Because the *truth* is that I am not going to remember most of the moments. But if I choose to enjoy each moment as it happens I don't need to remember them all, because I will know that I soaked it all up as it happened.
p.s.This does not mean that I'm going to stop taking or loving pictures. It does mean that I will make mindful choices about whether the time is right to take a picture, or if it is worth trying to capture the moment when the camera might actually ruin the moment! It means listening to the people I love, realizing that I will not remember every beautiful moment, that I'm lucky there are so many beautiful moments, and it's all ok!
Yesterday was Ash Wednesday and marked the beginning of Lent. I've had varying degrees of commitment and depth of intention in past years. I've given up dessert for lent. I've had friend give up alcohol. My husband has given up pizza before. The past couple of years I wanted to focus on *doing* something positive rather than giving something up. I've had ideas of writing letters every week to loved ones, volunteering, and one year I got up early and prayed every day (that was before I had children!)
The past few weeks there have been things niggling in my mind. I've been wanting to change how I use the internet throughout the day. Checking email and Facebook on my phone or computer is fun, but I often use it as a distraction especially when the kids and I tend to hibernate on long winter days. Some days I feel balanced, like I am doing ok. I'm helping the kids in all the ways they need me to, I'm meeting my own needs, and we are all flowing together. But other days I feel stuck. I believe cutting back on my computer time will help.
So it occurred to me that Lent is the perfect time to put my intentions into action. I'm not going going to cut the internet out completely. For one, I want to set myself up to succeed and do something that I feel good about. And since I'm really just getting on a roll with blogging I do not want to stop. Besides I usually am writing after everyone else is asleep. Mostly I want to stop checking constantly and reading so much. So I will probably still be posting - pictures from Florida and blog posts. The plan is not to read though which means no comments and such. I want to be more present with my family. Mike's first reaction to my plan was, "So what? You'll just be reading a book and in another trance." That made me realize that not reading around him is extra important and to instead really choose to be present and connect with him when he is home.
I have thought of ways to fill the time that I would normally be reading emails and Facebook. I want to write some real old fashioned letters. The kind you send through "snail mail." I wrote my first one this week to my (great) Aunt Carolyn. I think some postcards from Florida will also be in order and a fun project for Marisol and me! I also am going to break out the Bible and try to read a little every day. I put my journal out where it is accessible so I can write any ideas that strike me. I signed up to do a 21-Day meditation challenge online too. It started Monday and is a great way to start off Lent. I'm enjoying the daily meditations a lot. I recently hurt my knee and basically the best thing for it is to strengthen my legs, so I really actually *need* to get into a moderate exercise routine again. I broke out my old 8-minute workout DVDs and yoga and have been actually doing them quite often.
I've also already to some steps to help me stay true to my intentions. I turned all of my yahoo group emails off (I think I'm on 20 of them!) except for my my Hypnobabies Instructors list. I also unsubscribed to newsletters. This will cut down the amount of email coming into my inbox significantly - I only have a couple in the morning now. I also turned my iPhone notifications for Facebook and email off so I won't be hearing a little "ding" every time something happens on one of them and want to see what it is.
I'm glad I started early (about a week before Lent) with all of this so I could ease into it. It feels pretty good already. When I was discussing this with my mom she suggested putting an amount of time or number of times to check per day. I have thought of doing it like that, but I just really don't do well with "rules". I want to set very clear intentions and then make the choices to follow through on them. I find this focus easier and more positive than thinking of it as *breaking a habit* or using willpower to resist something. When I use that kind of mindset I'm way more likely to fail and also I find it more difficult. So far I have actually not found this too difficult at all. We'll see if it's because it has only been a couple of days or if it is really just that easy!
So for those of you who are my Facebook friends, it may not look like I'm taking a break since I will be posting things. Don't be offended if I'm not commenting or "liking" your posts for a while, I still like you and think you're interesting, I'm just taking a break! I think being in Florida will actually make things a little easier since I tend to be on the computer less when I'm on vacation and with family.
Edit: I started the post about a week ago and it is now Friday after Lent. The more I think about my intentions the more my focus is clearer. I've been examining why I sometimes get in a cycle some days of being on the computer more than I want to or feels good for me and the kids. I believe it is a form of distraction on days when I am missing connection with a larger group of people. After being in Florida for only one day I feel so connected with my whole family - husband, kids, sister and parents. Life flows so much easier when we are together and I have people helping me with the kids. We are all happier. But I realized that when it is just me and the kids, what I need to do with them is connect *more*, not try to escape or distract myself. So instead of focusing on what I'm not doing during Lent, I'm focusing on what I *am* doing - which feels like connection. With myself, spiritually and physically , with my immediate family by being more present, with God, and with my greater extended family and friends.
The kids and I are going to be in Florida for almost 3 weeks. The thought crossed my mind that it will be harder when we get home. Immediately I corrected my thought - if I *think* that it is going to be difficult that almost assuredly it will be! So instead I am going to focus on believing that I will adjust accordingly when we go home by connecting more with the kids, especially while we are adjusting to being home again.
There you have it, my Lenten intentions! Have any of you set any intentions (for Lent or otherwise)? I'd love to hear them! I think putting things in writing helps strengthen our intentions and helps inspire others and our self.
I have a question that keeps popping up in my mind lately, and that is, "why?" Why am I drawn to blogging right now, to writing, to sharing? I wrote recently that I am a recovering Feedback Junkie, but I can tell that writing here is so much more than seeking any feedback or validation. If it were about getting comments about how awesome I am/my writing is I certainly wouldn't keep at it because they aren't pouring in! And I am glad that it's more than that. (I have to stop now and thank all you friends who *are* encouraging me. It means a lot and does give me that extra kick to keep at it!)
But as I continue to write I see that I am really creating this space for myself. And that feels pretty awesome. I love my weebly place (haha, I like that - "weebly place"). And when I re-read some of my thoughts I am content. It's pretty cool to have a place to record my thoughts and feelings and be able to look back on my own "evolution". It's good to be thoughtful about my words knowing that others can read them - that someday my kids may even read them if they are interested.
There are so many amazing writers and blogs out there. My current favorite read is here: Momastery. Yes, it is the same blog that I responded to saying how the message didn't really resonate with me. Ironic, I know. Even more ironic is that particular post went viral and "put her on the map" so to speak. I could write a whole post outlining and responding to all the great stuff she has written. But one thing that jumped out at me the other night was something she said about writing. She compared reading and writing to Inhaling and Exhaling. This clicked for me on a few levels (making it a loud, echo-y click). First I've really been thinking, or more accurately focusing, on my breath lately. It helps so much with being present and is a huge part of hypnosis, meditation, yoga etc. But it was really the analogy to reading and writing that hit me hard. I've always thought of myself as a "reader" and NOT a "writer". Since I was a little kid I've had my nose in a book. Wherever I went I had a book - with my mom to teacher's get-togethers, in school, to family parties, you name it. I get so engrossed in what I'm reading that I don't hear anything or anyone around me (ask my husband, it drives him crazy!) Needless to say, I LOVE to read. As I got older I got away from reading fiction and for pleasure. There just wasn't really enough time for it. But after college I got back into it. Since becoming a mother I still read more non-fiction than anything, including blogs/articles online, but it is my choice what I read.
I was a good writer in school. But I never really enjoyed it that much and just did it because I had to. The only writing I've done that hasn't been required of me is journaling on and off since college. Oh and sporadic blogging. Usually I journal more in times of depression or intense emotion (like right after the births of my children) and I don't keep it up for long. Same with the blogging.
So when Glennon compared reading to inhaling and writing to exhaling it just made so much sense to me. For about four years now I've been reading and reading (and then reading some more!) about parenting, Unschooling, and general life philosophy stuff to the point that I think I was going to burst. It's like I'm finally letting out a huge sigh of relief. My mom has been a consistent haven for me to express myself. But there is something more dangerous yet satisfying about putting your words into writing. And this time it feels different. It feels sustainable, like I want to keep going and that the ideas will keep flowing. I guess only time will tell.
And of course I am still reading! There are so many inspirational people out there that I am finding. And it is definitely like inhaling and exhaling. I read and it spurs new ideas, new thoughts, it is *inspiring*. And I want to share and it is like exhaling.
Here is an example of the inspiration out there I have found.
So who do I think I am to be writing when there is already so much inspiration and good writing out there? Well, I am me and I have my own message! I love this video that the awesome Tara Wagner made.
Let it out people. We only have this one life to live.
Look around you!
This is where the path of hatred has brought us! This is the path I choose, father.
What will yours be?
There really is no one right way - when it comes to life or parenting. But there are better choices. Is there ever a time when shooting a laptop is the better choice in the hopes that your child will learn a lesson? Not for me.
I did learn a lot of lessons myself today from a father who did just that and posted it on Facebook yesterday. First I learned to trust my first instinct, which was to not watch the video. But then it popped up again and Gerry was still awake, and it was late so I did. Oops. Guess I need to learn that lesson again a few more times.
Then I started reading comments. Oops again. Someday I'll learn not to do that too! The comments are what get me every time. After watching and reading a bit I jumped in on a couple of threads. I'm slowly starting to put my ideas out there, like dipping my big toe in the pool before jumping in. I learned some more.
Here is a beautiful perspective from a "friend of a friend" on Facebook (and I've never even met *my* friend in real life - she's just another awesome person I met through the internet)
Another person commented, "if HE isn't terrible, his actions certainly are." and the first person responded,
Ok, back to lessons I learned. First of all I thought about this all day today. I mean really! I'm like that - once I start thinking about something I just have to dig my teeth in, and shake my head around like a dog chewing a stuffed animal, till the insides are all spilling out and it's spread out all over the room and you still can't make any sense of it. So all day I'm thinking about this and reading other people's comments - all the while doing my normal stuff - feeding and playing with the kids, getting Gerry down for nap, getting us all out the door for Marisol's dance class. And all the while I know that I need to focus on my life, and my kids, and all of my blessings. I know that is the right thing to do. And I was somewhat successful. But I could totally see the irony of me trying to write a blog post about this while ignoring my own children's needs. Someone brought this video to an Unschooling page on Facebook and it was deleted because the people there are keeping the focus on Unschooling and what helps it thrive. Needless to say, this isn't it.
On the Natural Parenting page they asked if readers are on "Team Dad". I thought that was interesting because if you aren't on Team Dad then I guess you are on Team Daughter which also implies they are competing against each other and only one of them can win. I know there is a better way.
Another friend of mine who I've known since we were about 4 years old also struggled. He felt that what the dad did was over the top but also admitted that he would probably want to do the same thing if his child had put a note like that up on the internet. I hear what he's saying and I want parents to know there are alternatives.
I read these other perspectives which I loved and shared:
Demand Euphoria's post: What Kind Of Bed Do You Make With a Gun?
and FreePlayLife's post: Friends Don’t Let Friends Parent Batshit Crazy
And all day I ruminated. And tried to love my wonderful life. And tried not to get too depressed that most people (who comment anyways) not only think this kind of behavior is acceptable but actually laudable. I tried to focus on all that I love in the world and know to be good. Like this amazing blog that raised $25,000 in less than a day for a family in need.
And then this evening, after making it through the day, and even sort of doing it while sticking to my ideals I started to write. But in the midst I was needed by my two kiddos and it is easier to read when needed. So I read some more and I read this update from the father. And my feelings changed again. I hope that his daughter really is ok. And I hope that they really did talk and laugh and that they move on just fine. I don't know him and I don't know her. I just saw the video and it kind of freaked me out. For all the people out there who think that people who are concerned about actions like these are "bleeding hearts" I would say, be careful. Be careful because we don't know what our words and actions do to others. Sure, some people will be fine. But others will not be. And that is why our reactions differ, because we are all so different. So that is why *I* choose love and try for a peaceful way as much as possible. I don't have the "one right answer", none of us do. But what we do need to do is look at the people we care about and ask them how they feel. Then actually listen.
I'm trying to get to a place of not judging others but instead to a place of compassion. Really, I have nothing to judge this father, daughter, or family on but an 8-minute video. He says that they have learned an important lesson, "We have always told her what you put online can affect you forever...One post, made by her Dad, will probably follow him the rest of his life." He says he didn't know it would go viral, and I believe him. The internet is pretty amazing but it can definitely skew things. We learn about every extreme thing out there and that is why we get scared. But these clips are really just that, snapshots. They don't give us the whole picture. So again I learned again today that waiting is beneficial. That silence can be powerful. My own mind and feelings on this manner changed several times today. You can read more about the father on his facebook page. If you do you may be more sympathetic to him or even like him more. Nothing is black and white.
For me I don't want to take any chances. I want to be like Pocahontas. I don't have the answers, but I know what I choose.
I have a confession to make. I am a Feedback Junkie. At least I've taken the first step towards recovery - I've recognized that I have a problem. How did I acquire this problem, or is it genetic? Well, personally I think that most things are a mix of Nature and Nurture. My personality is definitely part of the reason that I crave positive feedback and my personality is in large part determined by my DNA. But personality is also influenced by our environment and our current culture is ALL about feedback in the form of punishments and rewards.
On the plus side most of the feedback I've received in life has been positive. In highschool I was the valedictorian of my class and excelled in musical and athletic pursuits. I received an awesome scholarship and went to college where I also played basketball. I started as a math major but after one year was not enjoying my math courses or professors. And I got a B+ in a class which I was really not happy about! I switched majors to Brain and Cognitive Science and absolutely loved what I studied, even though I wasn't at all sure what I would "do" with it. At least I was able to acheive a 4.0 grade point in my major now!
I didn't really start to question my experience at all until after I graduated from college. Well actually let me back up. My Senior year I applied for "Take 5" which is a unique program that the University of Rochester offers to its students. Students can apply to take a 5th year of college tuition free if they come up with a program of study that is approved. Most students use this to expand the possibilities of what they can study. Think Pre-med student with no room in the schedule to pursue their passion for art (or something like that). Anways, I applied my senior year and of course everyone who knew me thought I was a "shoe-in" because of my academic and athletic background. When I didn't get into the program it was a huge blow to me. Looking back on it I see why I wasn't accepted and in actuality I am glad I wasn't because it would not have been the best use of my time. But it definitely hurt my ego.
Things worked out for the best though. Instead of doing Take 5 I became the grad-assistant coach for my basketball team and most of my pay was in the form of class credits. The next experience that challenged me to look at my conceptions of how people learn (which is a huge part of this feedback phenomenon) came that year. I took Science classes that I needed to get my teaching certificate. Taking freshman chemistry when you are already graduated is an interesting experience and gives you a unique perspective. It was not until Chemistry 2 that I really started questioning our system of education. My professor was German and NOT at all impressed with the American education system. His class was HARD. My first exam score was not very good. But I really liked that class. I had a breakthrough during the second exam. His tests forced you to make leaps - you couldn't just regurgitate facts. I still remember the leap I made and feeling like I could hear his voice in my head. It was so cool!
After that year I studied abroad in Spain for a semester on a scholarship. My best friend and travel buddy, Allison, made me look at my feelings about grades (feedback) more. Her attitude was much different than mine. In fact she really didn't care about grades at all! She did (I mean *does*!) love to learn though! She speaks Spanish and Japanese now, loves to cook, and just an all around amazing person!
So, some seeds had been planted. But after that I went on to get certified and teach science for 4 years. I basically was in survival mode - especially the first year. There's nothing like throwing a country girl into an inner-city 7th grade classroom! Teaching was an amazing experience, and I learned SO much. But most of the lessons actually sank in after the fact and are still being solidified now as I reflect on what I did then and the parent I want to be now.
Finally, 5 1/2 years ago my most amazing, powerful teacher entered my life - Marisol was born. She was a strong girl right from the start! And she definitely turned our world upside down - in a good way! When she was 18 months old I was reading some parenting books. (I love to read!) And I was reading some really interesting stuff about parenting without punishments OR rewards. *Then* I literally stumbled onto the idea of Unschooling in the Biography of Naomi Aldort, one of the authors I was reading. I had never heard of that word, so of course I googled it. ;-) I started reading everything I could about it and that led to the AlwaysLearning Yahoo list which is the BEST reading I have done for my family and life. Well, let me just tell you at that point in my life I didn't do that much on the computer. I basically used it for email and that's it. This idea of putting a question out into cyberspace and getting real, live people to give me answers was just THRILLING (remember, feedback junkie??) So I posted some very "newbie-ish" questions. Questions that I would be embarrassed to read now - questions that I could have searched the archives for because all of them had been answered a million times before. But I just couldn't resist the urge to post them - and then check and refresh every 5 minutes to see if anyone had responded. Lucky for me, the people on this list are amazing so they either ignored me or answered my questions with frank honesty. I tell you, I hated it when no one answered my questions! But I can see now that was because I just wanted someone to tell me the "right" answer.
Blogging is another interesting phenomenon. I started my first blog mostly to keep family and friends in the loop about our new life when we moved. But I would lose motivation when I wouldn't get any comments on my posts. I needed feedback! I am getting closer all the time to a place where I am really doing things *for* myself and not for the feedback. I still love getting feedback and it feels good to get positive reinforcement for the things I'm doing. But the motivation is different. I am now way more likely to do things because they feel good, or are good, for me and my loved ones. I still get feedback of course but instead of influencing what or why I do something it is merely the icing on the cake. Which in my opinion is a much healthier way to be and something I hope to model for my kids.
What that means for this blog is, I think I'm going to keep it up because I'm enjoying it! But please by all means leave me a comment... I can still use the love ;-)
Warning: this post may be "all over the place". It's one of those where ideas are just connected all over the place and I can't pick one up without three more hanging off. See the monkeys.
Name a controversial topic and it's likely that I can see points on either side. I'm not big into Astrology but I've always found it fitting that I am a Gemini. I often have "two minds" - it is just so hard to decide what side of the fence I want to be on! As with any trait it can be seen as a strength or a weakness. It is good when I can speak with others on a topic with compassion and really listen to what they're saying. It's difficult when I am weighing a decision - especially one that affects my family.
Something that has been a huge relief to me recently is this epiphany:
I DON'T NEED TO HAVE ALL THE ANSWERS.
I know. Wow. Really? I don't need to know everything! I really feel like school and the way our modern society "works" now makes people feel like they do. I know I was rewarded pretty well for getting the "right" answers.
So feeling like I need to know the "right" answer can be pretty tough for someone who is also pretty good at seeing things from multiple viewpoints. Add to the mix parenting. Ahhh, parenting. The arena where everyone has an opinion AND *their* opinion is the right one! (I know mine is) <-- that's sarcasm - my self-deprecating humor if you didn't catch it.
Ever since this post there have been some thoughts nagging around in the corners of my mind. After I posted I re-read the blog I was responding to and started reading some comments too. Most people just absolutely LOVE what she wrote! And there are hundreds of comments. huh. Well, I wasn't really surprised, it was just another way that I was being "different". And I was kind of glad that I didn't read the comments first, because they didn't influence my first reaction.
But it did make me think about her post more and what I wrote. And my friend let me know that she totally agrees with me AND the original post resonates with her. And that made me think too... I'm beginning to think there are many times in life where people are expressing similar, if not completely the same, feelings, sentiments, experiences, but using different words. What I mean is, that the life I'm living as a mother with small children may look very similar to the life she's living. There are moments that we are having that are probably very similar. But I keep coming back to one idea that she was expressing: "Parenting is hard". And for me it just feels better to re-frame it. Yes, parenting is challenging sometimes. Yes it sometimes throws stuff at you that does not smell like roses, or look like rainbows glowing behind your kids' halo encircled heads. Not every moment has magical fairy dust dripping from it. But the dichotomy of "Chronos" and "Kairos" sets us up for more drudgery than sparkle. There can be more than these two things. If we can learn to just "be" (which I'm still not that good at!) and accept each moment as it comes there is something else. And if we get really good at that I believe we will naturally experience more Kairos moments.
Ok, new tanget. I'm not sure if I've beat that horse (monkey-idea?) to death yet, but I'm moving on. I titled this post, "I see both". There is another video clip making the rounds on Facebook (where I get much of my mental stimulation these days - is that a bad thing?) Here is a link to it: Father Goes Into Baby Crib.
In the beginning when the baby was crying I felt my inner-mama bear getting agitated. Then I laughed through the last couple of minutes of the clip as the baby sweetly slept on her daddy and he tried unsuccessfully to get out of the crib. I had a good long belly laugh.
Most of the comments on the actual video on you-tube are of the "this is so cute!" or the "what a good daddy!" variety.
For a different view point on this video you can click here. As you can read, the viewpoint here and the comments are quite different. As a mother who sleeps with her children I understand where these people are coming from.
However, I also understand why most people think the father in the video is a good dad and that the video is cute. He did NOT let his baby cry herself back to sleep. And as one commenter pointed out, clearly the little girl finds comfort in and loves her daddy. So I did find his attempts to extract himself very humorous.
And that's what I mean by I can see both sides. I could not bring myself to sleep train our children and I don't think that is how humans are meant to fall asleep. But I also see how hard this Daddy is trying to do his best for his baby. To me what the video highlights is that our cultural norm of having babies sleep in cribs has made things more complicated than they need to be. I'm not trying to make individual parents feel bad or that they are doing things "wrong", I just feel like there are a lot of things that are generally NOT RIGHT in our culture which makes it difficult and confusing for individuals who are trying their hardest to be the best parents they can be within the societal parameters they are used to.
For me this means questioning just about everything and finding the path that is best for our family. It is exhausting sometimes but it is worth it. Here's to creating a new culture where all of our needs and perspectives are valued from baby to daddy.
Wife, mom, information and peace seeker.