Bear witness to their joy

I have been trying a new approach with my family and friends lately. I’ve decided to be their witness and I’m hoping they will be mine. It is really very simple but it has changed the way I look at their lives and how I look at mine.

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All I’m doing differently is bearing witness to their joy. When I see them laughing or I see their eyes light up about something I acknowledge it. You may hear me say something like…

“Man when you talk about your music the passion shows on your face.”

“Sylas when you take care of the plants I see how nurturing you are because you smile the whole time you water them.”

“I have never heard you laugh so much, you sure do seem happy when you talk about the people at your office.”

I’ve found that it is really easy to find all the negative things going on in our lives. We are our own worst critics. We really do need people to help us identify what we are passionate about, what fuels us, what makes us joyful. We all need a witness.

I see this especially with children. They live in a world of correction, they hear all day long what they are supposed to be doing.

“Sit in your seat.”

“Raise your hand before you speak.”

“Use your silverware.”

We tell children constantly how to behave but we don’t teach them how to find their joy, how to find their happiness. Then by the time we are adults we have no clue how to do so.

When someone is witness to my joy, when they acknowledge my passion, it is a reminder to me to do more of that thing. When someone says to me, “Man I can tell how passionate you are about your writing.” The first thought that pops in my mind is “Hell yes! It’s what I’m supposed to do.”

Them bearing witness to my joy is just a confirmation that I am on the right path. That my time isn’t wasted. That the inner critic needs to shut the hell up.

Helping our children identify their passion, their joy, their strengths, helps reinforce to them that they are good enough. They hear daily what they are doing wrong and what they need to do better. Let’s bear witness to their joy and help remind them of all the potential they have for joy and goodness.

I’ll be your witness if you will be mine…

What are we reading?

I’m on a roll with tackling reader questions lately. Since I answered a tough one last week with When did you realize your marriage was over I decided to go light and fun this week. And books are one of our favorite things!

What are you and Sylas K reading? Does he like to read?

Does this kid like to read? Does a bear shit in the woods? YES and YES! He is really a very good reader. I’m quite impressed and I love that he enjoys reading and I love that he still lets me read to him sometimes as well.

He is really into a series of books called The Puppy Place by Ellen Miles. There are probably 40 books in the series and we have read about 10 of them so far. Each book has a different breed of dog and tells the story from the dogs perspective. He loves them! He can read them on his own but we usually take turns and he will read a little bit out loud to me and then I’ll read some to him.

Right now we are about three chapters into the book about Cooper.

I am reading a couple different books right now. When I walk on my lunch break I read using the Kindle app on my phone. Yes walking and reading probably isn’t the safest option but I’m all about multi-tasking. So on that app I’m reading Fifty Years in Polygamy: Big Secrets and Little White Lies. I don’t know why I picked this book exactly but it’s actually really good. Her experience of living and then leaving polygamy is pretty fascinating. I’d recommend it.

I like to use my Kindle app when I walk or I’m away from home. But I really love the feel of a real book in my hands. So for fun at home I’m also reading the paperback version of Relentless: A Novel by Dean Koontz. I really like Dean Koontz and I have read almost everything he has written. So far this isn’t my favorite book by him but it is good. It’s holding my attention and is a solid read. If you like Koontz you will like this book.

I started another book related to work but it has also turned into a pleasure read. I would highly recommend Sons of Wichita: How the Koch Brothers Became America’s Most Powerful and Private Dynasty! If you live in Kansas this is a must read. I would also say that you need to buy a copy not go with the Kindle version. You need a highlighter, a glass of wine and this book to gain a better understanding of how our state has been guided by the Koch dynasty. Seriously, READ THE BOOK!

Now the other book that Sylas is loving is Jesus Calling: 365 Devotions For Kids. He loves this book. We read one devotion each day, usually at dinner time and talk about it. I wasn’t sure how he would like that but he loves it. I really like the way this book is written. The verbiage used is similar to what Ray and I and his therapists use. She uses words likes struggles, resetting, coping, starting over, etc. A lot of the same terminology that we all use with him but it gives him examples of how to apply it. I feel like it has been a really great conversation starter and that he remembers pieces of it since they are short readings. It really is a great book for kids and look how cute it is. It really is an adorable book. I’m a sucker for pretty covers.

So that’s what we are reading right now. We are always looking for suggestions so if you have any great books please pass them along!

Devil juice and The Walking Dead

Did you give this kid devil juice? I swear I picked Satan up from your house?

That is the text I sent Ray yesterday. He spent the night at his place Friday night and when I picked him up Saturday morning he was crabby. I figured his meds just hadn’t kicked in yet. But by noon he was downright horrible. I’m shocked his head didn’t spin around completely. Yikes.

It seems Sylas woke up at 1 on Saturday morning and never went back to bed. Yep no sleep is just as effective as devil juice. I asked Sy what he was doing up in the middle of the night?

“Well Anthony and X and I watched The Walking Dead on TV.”

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What the what? The Walking Dead is so not for children. I asked if it scared him.

“Yeah, I don’t think that was a very good choice to watch.”

Imagine that, five and six-year-old boys making poor decisions in regards to television. Shocking!

I tried to convince him to take a nap and even laid down with him. Sleep just wasn’t happening but the crabbiness prevailed.

“I can’t go to sleep mama, when I do the zombies are in my eyes.”

Luckily the zombies in his eyes disappeared by 6:30 last night and he was sound asleep. As soon as I knew he was out cold I went ahead and watched last weeks episode. I couldn’t let him know what was up without me.

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Happy Heather Day

To the rest of the world it may be February 21st. But for our family it is Heather day. My lovely sister is celebrating another birthday.

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I didn’t realize that her birthday posts on my blog were so important to her until recently. Who knew she really liked them. So now the pressure is on. I’m not sure if I can beat the post from last year or the year before but I’ll sure try.

This year the beautiful Heather turns 28 which I’m pretty thrilled about. 28 was my best year ever. I was blessed with my Sylas K at 28 and it was just an amazing year. I have a feeling Heather’s 28th year will be a huge hit as well.

Every year on her birthday I think back to the day she was born and how excited I was. I was thinking about it again this morning and remembered something about my mom from that day. My mom had a difficult pregnancy with Heather. She was on bed rest for a long period of time but that lady never complained once. She was so excited to be having a baby.

As her due date got closer Heather never turned and was breech so a c-section was scheduled. My parents were given the choice to have her on either February 14 or February 21. My mom picked the 21st, an entire extra week of bed rest. When I asked why we had to wait a whole extra week I remember clearly my mom saying, “You know this baby is to special to have to share a birthday with a silly holiday.”

My mom was exactly right. Valentine’s Day was for sure to silly for such a wonderful baby. The morning of my mom’s c-section my dad was pretty nervous but my mom wasn’t at all. I remember being shocked by that and she just kept saying she knew everything would be just right. “We have made it this far, I know this baby will be just fine.”

And she was just fine! In fact, she was more than fine. For 28 years Heather has been more than fine. Even in the darkest moments she lands on her feet. She digs deep and pushes through. When other people would give up she works harder. She has made it this far and I know that 28 will be just fine as well.

For many years I took care of that little girl like she was my first baby. I actually slept under her crib for weeks until my parents finally gave up and just moved my bed into her nursery. I couldn’t imagine not caring for her and being close.

This year, Heather has taken care of me. She helped me muddle through my marriage falling apart, moving, the financial struggles and the anger. When it was time to hospitalize Sylas she toured psychiatric facilities with me to help me find a safe place for him, the whole time helping me ask questions but still helping me laugh on occasion as well. I can’t tell you how many times I have called her at ridiculous hours crying the ugly cry when no words will even come out.

Through it all she has held me together, helped me laugh and most of all just loved me. If I had a crib I have no doubt she would have been sleeping under it or in it with me.

I knew the day Heather was born that my life would be better having her in it. I just didn’t know then how much better. I can’t imagine a better sister or friend to share the best days and the worst days with. I’m blessed because I have her!

Love you sister! I hope your 28 is as wonderful as mine was!

Simple gifts

Sylas has a piano app that he loves. One of the new songs added recently is Simple Gifts, an old Shaker hymn. On the app it doesn’t have the words just the tune. Every time he plays it he says “it’s so pretty mama.”

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The other night I found him searching YouTube trying to find the song with the words. His typing skills are a bit lacking so he wasn’t having much luck finding “stimle glits.” With a little help we found a version sung by Jewel that he now has playing almost constantly.

This morning as I was hustling around trying to get ready I could hear him in the living room.

‘Tis the gift to be simple, It’s a gift to be free,
‘Tis the gift to come down where you ought to be,
And when we find ourselves in the place just right,
Will be in the valley of love and delight.

As I ran through the to do list and triple checked my calendar I could hear him sing.

When true simplicity is gained,
To bow and to bend, we will not be ashamed,
To turn, turn, will be our delight,
Till by turning, turning we come round right

As I loaded the dishwasher, cleaned up the milk he spilled on the counter and tried to find the always missing left shoe he sang.

‘Tis the gift to be simple, It’s a gift to be free,
‘Tis the gift to come down where you ought to be,
And when we find ourselves in the place just right,
Will be in the valley of love and delight.

I went on about my day, conducting several odd interviews, eating lunch at my desk while cramming out copy and wondering when the day would end. When the clock finally hit 5 I went to pick him up. I got to the meeting point earlier than he and Ray and had a chance to walk out by the pond.

Half of it was frozen and the other half rippled with the breeze. Snow dusted the grass and shore line. The sun beginning to set, provided beautiful light. In that moment of quiet I could hear Sylas and the words in head and in my heart.

When true simplicity is gained,
To bow and to bend, we will not be ashamed,
To turn, turn, will be our delight,
Till by turning, turning we come round right
Till by turning, turning we come round right

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It’s never the big things that are the gift, it is the simple things. The quiet at the pond, the way water moves so perfectly in a breeze, the sound of a child’s song. We search and search for the big moments. We want to be awed by something magnificent. And while we wait and search we miss the simple gifts.

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Sometimes it takes a song to remind me to turn around and see the beauty of each day. Quit searching and just be present in the moment. The simple gifts are right there waiting to be seen.

Vacation over

We were supposed to have a mini vacation from last Thursday until tomorrow. We were just going to Wichita to stay with my sister and do a bunch of fun stuff in the city. Then we got the stomach flu and vacation was diverted and replaced with several sick days. Not at all the plan.

The good news is we still got to do some fun stuff. We went to a movie, went bowling with Aunt Heather and watched several more movies thanks to good old Redbox just down the street. We recovered nicely enough that by this morning we were both throughly sick of each other.

In the midst of being sick Sylas got a loom bracelet kit. What in the hell was I thinking! I posted this picture on Facebook saying that I thought these kits should come with a warning that loom bracelets could make a parent turn into an alcoholic. I wasn’t lying!

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Several of my friends offered to send their young daughters to help me figure these things out. And Sylas informed me that even little kids can do this mom. UGH! I cannot be beaten by small children and tweens. Hell no.

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So after he went to bed the other night I got on youtube. And let me tell you I made loom bracelets my bitch! I can do a simple loop, fishtail, reverse fishtail, flower boxes, butterflies and even chevron bracelets. Yes I realize it is pathetic that I spent my vacation making bracelets out of rubber bands. Judge away but I’m a kick ass loom bracelet maker.

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Since Sylas and I were officially making each other crazy this morning I had Ray drop some of his kids off at my place for the afternoon to entertain Sylas. Instead, I spent hours entertaining them with loom bracelets. I forgot momentarily what having a house full of children is like. It came back to me quickly.

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“Will you make me another bracelet?”

“I have a splinter.”

“Can you get me a drink of water and a cheese stick?”

“I think the toilet is flooding.”

“Why can’t we throw the ball in the house?”

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Yep vacation over! I can’t wait to go back to work tomorrow!

Always trust your gut

I have a pile of questions that you lovely readers have emailed me over the past several of months. I’ve printed them out and set them in my desk drawer. I haven’t been able to dive into them… Until today. I decided I’d pick one of the most difficult ones to start with. It’s time to get real friends.

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When did you realize your marriage was over?

I told you we were starting with some tough stuff. This answer could be a book but I’m going to try to keep it as simple as possible. I knew my marriage was over my sophomore year of college as I sat in a marriage and family class taught by my favorite instructor of all time, Mrs. Borst.

How could I know then you wonder? I hadn’t even met my husband yet? I hadn’t but in that class I learned the statistics about marriage rates. I remember like it was yesterday looking at the numbers on the board as Mrs. Borst wrote them out. At that time the rate for first marriages ending in divorce was over 50% and second marriages were closer to 60%. By the time a person hit their third marriage 73% of them would end in divorce. The numbers stuck with me.

I was marrying a man on his second marrige, third committed relationship with children. The odds were not in our favor! But I loved him and he loved me and somehow I convinced myself that we would be different.

Then the day before my wedding came and I met my dad and step mom for breakfast at the restaurant at the hotel we were staying. And I looked at the table next to us and there was Mrs. Borst. Oh how I love that woman! I saw her and we chatted and I told her my folks were here for my wedding. I heard the surprise in her voice as I told her about my upcoming wedding to a man with five children. She knew I wasn’t a fan of marriage and so did my dad. I remember him laughing and saying something about “hell freezing over.”

I thought in that moment that is the sign. Mrs. Borst knows the truth and I know the truth. Run away! Cancel this thing. But I again pushed my feelings aside and convinced myself that we loved each other and it would be different.

So the wedding day came and between nasty text messages and voicemails from one of his exes I got my hair and makeup done. As she was calling and leaving hateful messages on the voicemail at my office my sister helped me into a beautiful wedding gown. And I thought to myself, can I put up with this bullshit for the rest of my life? And again I convinced myself that our love could overcome. That somehow after we were married the exes would stop, life would become normal and everything would be fine.

We had a beautiful wedding. Seriously, one of the most fun days I’ve ever had in my life. I loved everything about that wedding. It was fun and simple and pretty and it was us. And in that moment I believed it all.

Then in the days following the wedding I got sick and our honeymoon was canceled. It was the beginning of my battle with mastoiditis. I remember being so so sick and his ex calling and demanding we take the kids. We weren’t supposed to have them because we were supposed to be on our honeymoon. I was sure he would say no, I was so sick. But he didn’t. He left me in the hospital and went and got the kids. And then I realized I would never ever come first.

When you are the second or third or fourth wife you never come first. It doesn’t mean he doesn’t love you. He can love you like crazy but he still has to balance everyone else. And that means you never get to be at the top of the list. For some people that is okay. And I tried for 18 months to believe it was okay. But it doesn’t work for me. I don’t have to be first but I need to be closer to the top of the list.

After you get married you have 10 days to turn in your marriage license. I was really sick and it got down to day 10. The last day. I remember driving to the courthouse and passing it while having a conversation in my mind.

I could just not turn it in and no one would know. Everyone would think we were married and then when we get divorced it would save a ton of money. I could just tell him then well I never turned it in. We aren’t really married anyway.

Holy shit! Now that our divorce still isn’t paid for and completed I sure wish I would have listened to myself. Instead I waited until 4:50 on the 10th day and turned in the marriage license. Sealing our fate until we came to our senses.

Time moves on and you can pretend things are ok. You can even be happy in brief moments. You can really love the person you are with. But sometimes marriage is just a really bad idea. I’ve always known that marriage isn’t for me. I remember the day before my wedding telling Mrs. Borst that Ray was the only person I ever loved enough to try marriage with. If that isn’t telling I don’t know what is. I loved him enough to try but not enough to stay, I have a feeling he would tell you something very similar.

So when did I know my marriage was over? I knew before it began.

Just always trust your gut friends. You know the truth by how it feels. Be brave enough to listen.

My Valentine

Today Sylas and I ventured to the grocery store. We have had the stomach flu but we were out of Jello and bananas and bread for toast. Staples we can’t deal without right now. So to the grocery store we went.

Obviously, Sylas K was feeling a bit better than me because he was in a particularly begging mood. He wanted chips and yogurt, pickles and popsicles. I held firm until he found one of those damn loom things for kids. The ones that come with a hundred million little rubber bands. He has been begging for one for weeks. UGH. So I told him Happy Valentine’s Day and put it in the cart.

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Finally, we headed to the checkout and as we were standing there my friend Angie walked back in. We had seen her earlier and I thought she had checked out and left. But in she walked with a five dollar bill and handed it to me. She found it in the parking lot and gave it to me. She said it was my lucky day. Seriously sweet!

So then I turned around and saw the big brown puppy dog eyes.

“Mama, can I please use that money to get what I want?”

As I felt my stomach turn yet again I decided it would be easier to give in than fight. I handed him the five and told him he better hustle. He had to have his pick before I was to the front of the line. He took off like a flash.

I waited and waited and still he wasn’t back. I was starting to get nervous that he was really up to no good when he turned the corner carrying an orchid with a huge smile on his face. Not at all what I was expecting, I was thinking a box of popsicles was more likely.

He handed me the orchid and must have realized I was confused.

“Mama, it’s your Valentine’s Day present. But I only have this five dollars and my change and the sign said $9.99 and the guy that helped me said my change is just $2.17 and so you might have to pay a little bit. Is that okay?”

I quickly explained that I didn’t need a Valentine’s Day present but he insisted. So the orchid is now nestled on our kitchen table surrounded by loom rubber bands.

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I sure love that kid. He may be the only man in this world that will ever really understand me.

Happy Valentine’s Day all!

Parenting Fail at the Planetarium

Last night Sylas and I visited the planetarium in town. They are showing NASA movies once a week and having live viewings of the night sky. I needed to do a story about it and Sylas is pretty interested in stars and space. So I thought it would be a total win win.

Things started out great. We got there a little early so he tried out a bunch of different seats to find us the best spot and then said “Hey mama I know what we could do, let’s take a selfie.” So we did.

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Then the first movie started. When the flyer says they are showing “historical NASA movies” it means they are showing movies from 1965 in black and white with a very very dry narrator. The first movie was perhaps the longest 14 minutes of my life. But Sylas hung in there. He really wanted to see the stars. Well they started the second movie and he lasted about 3 minutes and decided he needed to go walk around. Not a bad idea.

So we went upstairs to walk around a bit. The second and what I thought was the last movie was 17 minutes. I figured we could wander around a bit then go back and see the live show.

So we happened to wander into the Natural History Museum located in the same building. This museum should be renamed the place with hundreds of dead animals.

At first Sylas was a bit apprehensive but intrigued. Then he saw the baby birds and ducks and realized they were dead. He was not impressed.

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“Mom why are the baby birds dead?”

“Mom why do they all stare at me?”

“Mom this place is kinda creeping me out?”

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“Where do you even get this many dead animals?”

“I think that Pelican is the creepiest of all?”

“Maybe the duck is a little bit cute but it’s not alive right?”

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“Mama I’m gonna throw up if we don’t leave here.”

So we left and went back to the Planetarium. We caught the last portion of the second movie and saw a chimp get shot into space. Unfortunately there was a third movie we couldn’t make it through and we baled before the live night show.

Nothing like boring movies and loads of dead animals to make that adventure a HUGE parenting fail. He was still talking about the dang pelican this morning.

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My Truth

If you haven’t ever read any of Anne Lamott’s books you are missing out. She is a little bit of fabulous. Seriously, run don’t walk to the library and check out any of her books. You won’t be disappointed. The amazing quote below is from the one and only Anne.

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I have been struggling to blog lately because there are so many things I want to say but so many things I feel like I shouldn’t say. I don’t want to hurt anyone, I want to be the bigger person, I don’t want to overstep my bounds. Blah, blah, blah. So instead of being honest I just avoid blogging.

However, I know for sure that when I don’t blog honestly I am not okay. Leaving out things and trying to please others is not how I write and it’s no way to live. My experiences are my truth and I’m entitled to write about them.

I have had a couple people ask me not to blog about certain topics recently. And at first I agreed to that, claimed I understood their desire for me to be quiet. But the more I think about it the more unfair that seems. I guess my thought is if you don’t want someone to write it down and include it in their story them maybe you shouldn’t have done it.

My most common quote with Sylas right now is “If you can’t say it to Granny, you shouldn’t say it at all.” Since coming home from the hospital his mouth has been atrocious. Using Granny has been a way to help clean that up some. Maybe that quote should go for everyone. If you don’t want your Granny to know about it maybe you shouldn’t do it.

This is my space and my story. I’m only telling my story and from this day forward I’m returning to regularly scheduled programing.

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