A Universal Time-Out

 

Life around here is always pretty full. But this past summer, when 80 degree days were in full swing, I had a particularly busy period, brimming with photo jobs and settling back in from vacation. A bathroom floor we were trying to finish, along with getting ready for a party with 40 people at my house and a visit from my dad. I was bustling around doing too many things at once. And I can operate there for a while, quite productively. But we are not machines meant to go at high speeds for long periods of time, at least not without some rest periods. There are seasons for everything.

I believe that if we don’t take these rests for ourselves, the universe hands them out to us. Like the next playing card you pick up in Monopoly. I call this The Universal Time-Out.

I rarely take these time-outs for myself. Rather, I wait until a brick wall in the form of some nasty cold or injury to take me out completely.  This past summer when I was running around trying to get it all done? I cut my hand on a glass jar. Deep enough to stop me from cleaning or sanding a bathroom floor. Or doing much of anything for the better part of a week. And it hurt.

“Nope. You’re in time out” said the Universe. And I took it. Because then I had no damn choice.

So I’ve been looking for these little moments. These places where I find myself in time-out (like a long grocery line or a slow-moving toddler). Places where I could pause and let it be. Because my instinct, truth be told, is to go running around “fixing” it. Find a shorter line. Hurry the kid along. Just make it happen. But I think there are lessons to be learned from the sitting still.

This morning I sat down with my brand new and lovely fingerling yarn to teach myself to knit some socks for the very first time. I had my knitting basket full of everything I’d need. My iPad with the pattern on it. A book to listen to once I got going. Lincoln was all nice and quiet with his toys because it’s Monday and Brice is in school so he can play with whatever he wants.

And then I took out my knitting and realized that I had to make the skein into a ball. But, that’s okay. That’ll be fine.

It took about 45 seconds to realize that “okay” or “fine” weren’t really the correct words. And within 3 minutes, I had a nice tangled mess of lovely yarn that must be dealt with before I can even start to make socks.  I don’t even know how it happened.

And I suppose I could just set the yarn down and go about the rest of my life.  There is always something to do.

But maybe, the universe is telling me that today is a good day to curl up and untangle some yarn.

I think today, I will listen.

 

 

 

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How to Change the World

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My husband and I spend a lot of time talking about changing the world. We talk about what we can change, and it often feels like we can’t do nearly enough.

There seem to be so many problems these days. I peek out of the window of my blessed, wonderful little life and I see a lot of trauma and drama and sickness and sadness and hatred out there. We pay to stream it into our homes 24 hours a day in 3D Technicolor, in the interest of being entertained and informed. We practically bathe in it.

But for being so connected and up-to-date, we are more closed-off and critical than ever. I see far too many examples of how we are downright terrible (to just plain not very nice) to one another these days. At least all the people outside our little circles and families. Those who aren’t our people.

We have forgotten that we are all the same people. We are all human beings. If we seem different, it’s merely because we’ve been raised in different ways and lived different lives. We’re still all part of the same race: the human race. We have forgotten that we still belong to one another.

Did you just roll your eyes at that? It’s because you’ve forgotten.

Maybe we do remember and we want to help,  but what can we do? When we’re too tired to shower and the kids’ lunches still aren’t made and it’s all just hard enough already? It feels like we can’t possibly do enough.

But I don’t think we change the world by huge sweeping gestures. Maybe sometimes, but I think that’s the rare exception, like a winning lottery ticket. I think most of the time the world is changed by small and honest little acts of kindness.

It would be easy to get caught up in our feelings and spread political memes like peanut butter all over the social networks and say we’re doing our part. And it is important to speak our truths. But is that doing anything? Saying is not the same as doing.

So what can you do, today, to change the world?

Hold open a door. Tell someone, with every fiber of your being, that you hope they have a nice day. See what happens when you say it like you mean it.

Catch someone’s eye for a moment and tell them you know what it’s like, whether “it” is dropping the contents of your purse on the floor at Kwik Trip or a toddler meltdown in Aisle 4. (Aisle 4 is always the cookies or candy. Aka, the meltdown aisle.)

If we spent even 5 minutes a day doing or saying something nice for others, we can make a huge difference in the world. Why? Why would that 5 minutes mean anything? Because people have a tendency to follow the good stuff. Meaning, that shit spreads. They pass it on. They pay it forward.

Go out and share some of your unique goodness today. Say something nice to a stranger. Do something nice for a neighbor or friend or someone you can think of who needs it. Do something just for the doing (as opposed to the telling or the wanting something back.) Just go put something nice out there, like a gift on the steps of the universe.

This is how we change the world. (It is also how we change ourselves, if you are interested in such things.)

None of Your Business

For a couple of days, I’ve been resisting the urge to comment on something that I saw on Facebook. I’d rather not start some dumb war, especially since it was all triggered by a stupid Facebook meme. Those damn memes. Seriously. Love them or hate them, but they sure can act like tequila thrown into a perfectly nice party.

The particular meme that got me going was of a “photo” of a fetus at 12 weeks. I say “photo” this way because it was more like art. A beautiful but delicate and perfect small baby, photo shopped down into the scale of fitting into a human hand.

How do I know it’s not real? Well, partly because I’m a photographer and I know what you can do in editing. But other than that…

Because I’ve seen actual newborns and I’m guessing you’ve seen them too. Real newborns (much less preemies) don’t actually look all that good. Even alive, they don’t look that good.

I also know the photo is altered because the baby’s head is not even the right shape, and it’s fully formed, unlike a fetus at 12 weeks that looks more like an alien and less like a person. Because fetuses are actually see-through at 12 weeks and their heads are 1/3 or their body. For real.

I’m not even fighting here on right or wrong, or the “is it a person or not person” thing. I’m just saying the meme photo is bullshit.

I’m all for sharing ones thoughts, but check your stuff if you are trying to convince people of things. I think the world would be a much better place if we were all actively trying to research what is truth. The key here is research.

Okay, now that I said that, I feel better.

Except I mostly don’t feel better because I can’t get why this is still a freaking issue. In 2015. I really thought we had this whole abortion debate decided. Like, before I was born. I grew up believing that we had this decided. So I’m wondering a little bit why there isn’t more fear about how hot and nasty a topic abortion is these days. How women’s reproductive rights are taking slides backwards. Backwards, ladies. You know? The wrong way!?!

I’m going to go ahead and say right now that you all probably think me some pro-choice, raging liberal. And you got that half right. I am a raging liberal, on most things anyway. But on this, no. I’d say if I had to give myself a label, which I HATE doing, I’m pro-life. I am.

But that said, I’m only pro-life for me. I have faced pregnancies that I did not plan, and based on my own heart and beliefs, the only option I had for myself was to have a baby. And I got to choose that, but only for me. Because it’s my body and my life and my choice.

I believe that every woman has the right to choose what happens to her body, whether that be taking birth control, having sex, having babies or terminating a pregnancy. Those choices are hers to make because the consequences are hers to face. Because we don’t all think and feel the same and because it really isn’t any of our damn business what women do with their bodies. Period. I truly believe it is, and can be, that simple.

I know how hard it is to raise kids as a single mother. I know how hard it is to do that in poverty and I know how the social programs out there are not that cushy and easy to get as one might think. Forcing women to have babies they cannot take care of is not good for anyone.

It is okay to think abortion is wrong. It is. You can be as morally and ethically and religiously against it up one side and down the other, but it is still NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS. Unless of course it’s your body.

Then it’s totally up to you.

****I would put some photos up here, proving my point, but I’d rather not share that. It borders on icky and I don’t like icky, so I just can’t imagine putting that out into the world. But I do encourage all of you to go check it out if you think I’m wrong. Just type 12 week old fetus into Google and then hit Images on the top left of the screen. You’ll see what I’m saying.

Always, thoughts and comments and opinions are welcome. Meanness is not welcome and will get you booted. But I’d do that if you spoke nasty in my living room too, so…

The Little Voice

There is a little voice inside me. She whispers things like,

“Slow down.”

“Take it in.”

“Be thankful.”

Sweet and gentle, like a mother would speak to a young child. Some small encouragement in tough moments, or to remind me that I’ve done a good thing. It’s a great little voice. She says to be patient with my 4-year-old because he has no concept of time. It tells me that his dawdling pace is a good thing, as he will grow fast. He already has.

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“Slow down and look around. And listen.”

I try to listen.

But her voice gets buried underneath the craziness of my day. Her quiet whisper gets lost in the din of Paw Patrol episodes in full color through the TV. A squealing baby. The thunderous hooves of my horse-like puppy chasing the cat through the house. And the “to do lists” on the counter and in my head, adding items all day long, no matter how fast I cross them off. The cat with his paws under the bathroom door, or the baby with everything in his mouth, or a kid yelling for applesauce. Not five minutes of peace, at least not until Steve is home to help wrangle them.

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The alarms and calls for assistance, butts to be wiped and dogs to be taken out. They keep my day going, breathing me in and out like tides from dishwasher to the email to nurse the baby before nap. The day and weeks and months disappears with these moments, and I chase them all, once in a great while stopping to hear the soft voice tell me to be present where I am. Trying to remind me that chasing never got anyone anywhere.

This is hard to do. I am once again overwhelmed by the ride that is a couple small kids in the house. I do remember from my girls that it passes. I will wake up one day, just like that, and I will wonder where the hell a few years went. And I will sigh with relief, realizing that I can speak in full sentences or even paragraphs again without being interrupted. I can sleep through the night. Hallelujah! Everyone can wipe their own everything! The ride will slow and the kids will start growing up. Just as we grew up. Just as our parents grow old and die. Stop and notice or not, life marches on.

“We are but links in the chain,” whispers the gentle voice.

It’s a work in progress, this journey. Maybe we circle through over and over, the same battles and dreams, and that’s why they seem so familiar. We ebb and flow like a tide. Sometimes strong and bold and authentic and present, and other times curled up, bobbing along, just trying to make it through. It depends on the day, the part of life. As for me, I listen better some days than others.

“We are all doing the best we can.” She whispers calmly.

I believe this.

Right in this moment, where we are at today, we’re doing our best…

The lady who cut you off and then gave you the finger when you had the audacity to squeal your brakes as you swerved to miss her. She’s actually trying her best, too. She may very well be doing it badly, but I think she’s doing her best.

When I stop for 10 seconds and take real breaths in and out and make time to be still and be quiet and do yoga and be right here and now, then I remember that. And the world is a remarkably nicer place.

I hear her little voice and I remember that.

I have to choose to listen. She refuses to scream over the crazy.

She will patiently wait until I’m ready to listen.