This is why I’ve got nuthin’ for ya

Friends, I apologize for the lack of content this week.  Here’s what I’ve been up to.  Feels like a full-time job! And no, I’m not doing it myself.

counter granitewallpaper fantile samples sinks floor decorlight wallpaper-001

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What do we tell the kids?

flagScene: The family car.

Me: “Why are all the flags at half-mast?”

Mr. B: “Ah, you didn’t see the news yet.”

SG piping up from the back seat: “What are you guys talking about?”

Do you tell them anything???

I’ve read many articles about this on parenting blogs lately because there has been such a plethora of events of disgusting hatred and violence.  I like this one best.  The thing is, I want my own child to feel that the world is safe and relatively predictable.  I want her to sleep well at night and learn and have fun during the day.  Maybe that’s not “reality,” but I’m ok protecting her childhood for as long as I can.

As we watched fireworks on July 4, I found myself telling SG why we celebrate.  I told her how we have the opportunity to do anything and be anyone in America.  How we celebrate diversity and are a melting pot of unique people and cultures that add up to a rich blend of strengths and stories.  I told her that our country is often a respite for others who are not able to practice their religion where they came from.  I told her about immigrants looking for a better life here because they can earn a living and care for their family.  I spouted off all the ideals of America and everything I wish were true.

Ah, America.  Our less-than-ideal country that we insist on celebrating with fireworks and turkey dinners.  The place where anyone can purchase insane weaponry to use against their fellow citizens.  Where we can’t make personal decisions about our own body without street protest from random strangers.  Where the 2 top presidential candidates are hated and the entire race is a farce.  Where one human being turns against another because of their beliefs, their skin color, their religion… those very same demographics our country was established to celebrate.  Where you don’t know if the next violence will occur at your neighborhood Walmart, a movie theatre, your kids’ school, or on the very same road you’re driving on.

I hope such violence is the exception because I believe in the ideals of our country, though I am discouraged and disappointed and the first to spout off sarcastic comments about our materialism, greed, and short-sightedness.  I plan to continue to gloss over such hatred and lack of unity in my discussions with my daughter.  Maybe when she’s older, we will talk about it.  Maybe not.

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I care too much

Today I’m sharing something that I’m pretty sure someone out there is going to disagree with, and perhaps that person is correct.  Perhaps it is more admirable to feel deeply.  Let me know what you think…

(I wrote this post after the Orlando violence last month but before the most recent round of shootings in Minneapolis and in Dallas.  Unfortunately, according to this website, someone somewhere in America is killed every day.)

Heart detail bird-001

I pride myself that as time passes, I learn more and more about myself – what I like, what I know isn’t worth trying, and where my boundaries are.  I can wear my heart on my sleeve with the best of them.  I can hear bad news… a mistaken shooting, thousands of homeless refugees, intercultural war, car crashes where only the kids survived… and be at a loss for days.  It hurts so much; too much to even function.  I have let the lack of humanity assault me continually until I’ve had to check myself into the hospital.  I definitely have been so overwhelmed by the negative that I couldn’t pass a homeless person without giving them everything I was carrying.  I’ve thought that I hurt so much that I actually felt those people’s pain.

What good does feeling this do for anyone?

I have limits.  I happen to be someone who can’t see violent movies because I don’t seem to be able to separate movies from reality.  I know how much time I can spend with challenging people before I start to feel resentful or angry.  And I know that I have to let these awful news stories and events breeze on by my head if I want to be a positive and happy person.  And I do… I really believe that (in addition to being able to take care of myself and my family) being a source of light in the world counteracts the darkness.  I think I can counter it without even being reminded that it’s there.  Believe me, I know it’s there.

That’s not to say that I don’t care.  I care too much to care, if that makes sense.  I sent money last year to that family who lost their father and doughnuts to the school who lost a teacher.  My daughter and I drove hundreds of sandwiches that Chickfila donated to all the people who lost their homes to last May’s floods here in Houston.  We dropped off supplies for days. We always participate in food drives or clothing drives or anything where we can make some kind of difference in someone’s life.  I am not at all indifferent, which I’d consider a far bigger issue.

What I don’t allow myself is the time to mull over how such things could even happen or what it must be like to be them or what’s wrong with the world these days.  I simply can’t. I have to separate myself.  I can’t allow my heart to be affected by such news because deep down there, it’s not strong enough to fight back.

I know from a past intense job in the community that the more of your soul you give to global issues like this, the more vulnerable you become.  I became so hopeless and overwhelmed that I couldn’t even handle laundry.  I was so afraid of being attacked or of random street violence that I had to be hospitalized, and there, I learned some life strategies for coping with any kind of intense stress.  It’s all about boundaries really.

I learned how to briefly tolerate pain when it arises, how to ask for what I need or give myself what is best for me (like saying I can’t do something or give something my mental attention), and then how to regulate emotions better.

Holy Soul kindness-001So I don’t give much emotional attention to the negative.  I am disappointed in the repetitive violence and lack of humanity and compassion between individuals, classes, and races.  I used to think I was personally responsible to come up with a global solution to the violence.  Instead, I want to actively focus on the good that can come from such harsh reality, not the harshness itself.  Maybe these awful things have to happen in order for change to come about… who knows? I know that I can’t control it and so I can only do what’s best for me.  Right now, that’s turning those thoughts and feelings off and heading outside to swim with my daughter.  It is consciously deciding not to live in fear.

Let me know what you think.  How much emotion do you give to the horrible news stories that keep popping up? I am genuinely interested in hearing.

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Must slow down!

Enjoy the little things

I am catching up today on my photo books and blog books from 2013 going forward.  I got to this post from July 2014 about all the classes and the whirlwind that was going on at the time.  In the comments there and the next one, many of you wrote something along the lines of “I don’t know how on earth you do all that!

I know I have some sort of OCD-type anxiety issue.  With the house redecorating I’m doing, I know that there is no rush.  I know that the goal is to make our surroundings be more of a peaceful reflection of who we are, which is something I can only get in touch with if I slow down and relax.  Yet I still have this part of me that wants to get this project crossed off the list so I can get pack to painting.

So I’m thinking of ways to pause and look around while in the midst of busy-ness.  It’s not that fun doing things the way I’ve been doing things.  My mind has been racing and the lists are getting too long! I need to have some down time in between activities too. I just get so excited! But I must remember… too much excitement leads to stress.  🙂

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Dear Lady Jane: you’re growing up

Lady JaneSweet Girl,

You never used to have all these ideas and opinions! Well, maybe you did, but they weren’t expressed with such moxy.  I wonder if they come from the media, from kids at school or camp, from babysitters, or if it all just bubbles up from within you.

Daddy and I already thought that you changed a great deal over your first grade year.  You were able to separate from us in the morning without hysterical crying (a plus).  You began loving math.  You started reading practically overnight.  You formed serious friendships.  You lost most of your reserve and hesitations.  And on the very last day of school, you finally spoke to the crossing guard (making his day).  We are very proud of you and all that you have accomplished.

Now more than ever, you love singing and dancing, putting on a show, even if nobody is watching.  (See my ‘how an introvert lives with an extrovert‘ blog post somewhere in the archives here – spoiler alert: I just do my best.) You want to make things with your hands, like jewelry and candles and lipstick.  And finally – finally!!! – you have begun to recognize when you’re tired and need a rest.  Lately you even will sleep past your usual 6:02 am wakeup that you’ve held to for years.  I know!

What really throws me for a loop is that you are wanting to move on to new activities and older girl clothes.  There were a few years there when all you would wear were leggings.  No jeans, no shorts, no skirts… just leggings.  Well, this summer, you’re wearing shorts and skirts and dresses and we took you shopping for more! And you had opinions there too! You want to sign up for softball.  You want a loft bed.  And… wait for it… You.  Are.  OK.  Giving.  Things.  Away.

GASP!

You were the girl who wouldn’t part with trash.  Any scrap of paper or candy wrapper or pencil shaving had to be kept.  Well, in seeing all our house improvements, you have jumped on the wagon.  You are ok with parting with many of your toys in order to make room for empty space.

Toy donation 2 Toy donation

And your biggest accomplishment so far: you have fallen asleep without me for three nights in a row now (one of which was a sleepover at a friend’s house!)!!! So you have earned our respect and admiration yet again.

It’s fascinating to watch you grow up.  Through all the changes, you have retained your sweet essence and generous personality.  We are looking forward to seeing what you do next.  xoxo

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A few good books: June

coffee-001I suppose there hasn’t been much reading happening for me this month.  Why? House projects, travel, and general summertime activities.  I have been TIRED! For some reason only she knows, Sweet Girl has been very difficult with going to bed.  Maybe it’s that thing where they can regress right before a big developmental milestone happens.  I sure hope so.

June books

La Bella Lingua: My Love Affair with Italian, the World’s Most Enchanting Language by Dianne Hales

I took this paperback along on a beach vacation and it was the perfect book to read a little bit here, a little there.  Hales has written a celebration of the Italian language and culture. Her love is infectious! As she journeys through the liveliest parts of Italian’s history, she invites the reader along to meet people, visit important places, and discover her reasons for learning this language and bringing it into her heart.

“And what a language it is! Italian, handcrafted by poets and wordsmiths, embodies its native speakers’ greatest genius: the ability to transform anything–from marble to melody, from the humble noodle to life itself–into a joyous art.  English, like a big black felt-nosed Magic Marker, declares itself in bold statements and blunt talk.  Italian’s sleek, fine-pointed quill twirls into delicate curlicues and dramatic flourishes.  While other tongues do little more than speak, this lyrical language thrills the ear, beguiles the mind, captivates the heart, enraptures the soul, and comes closer than any other idiom to expressing the essence of what it means to be human.”

Stuff Matters: Exploring the Marvelous Materials That Shape Our Man-Made World by Mark Miodownik

Written by a scientist and engineer, this book surveys 10 common materials and their relationship to our culture and specifically how they came about and affect our lives.  A fascinating look at materials science in layman’s terms.

I Always Loved You: A Novel by Robin Oliveira

The world blazes along with its critical tongue and shallow impatience, not understanding the moment, the breath, the seeing.

This novel is based on the story of Mary Cassatt and Edgar Degas. Degas helps Cassatt realize her potential and strength as an artist, but he can be cruel and stubborn, making their relationship complicated.  Still, their connection is strong and reading about their lives, separate and together, was fascinating.  The societal pressures on the Impressionist movement when it first arose was also something new to me.

Knowing Mary was to know more of himself, an astonishing development at his age. Few knew him as she did, and fewer loved him, of that he was more than certain. Right now he could not even name a woman other than Mary whom he could tolerate for longer than a few minutes. Or perhaps it was the other way around. Perhaps he was too harsh, or too crude, or too truthful for a woman to tolerate, none of which had ever mattered until now.

Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

Sigh.  This is an absolutely beautiful story.  It speaks of young social pressures, of the class divisions in our society, and first love.  I’d wanted to read this for about 3 years now, since it came out, because I’d heard that all ages of readers love this young adult novel.  It’s true.  Highly recommend.

Holding Eleanor’s hand was like holding a butterfly. Or a heartbeat. Like holding something complete, and completely alive.

There’s only one of him, she thought, and he’s right here. He knows I’ll like a song before I’ve heard it. He laughs before I even get to the punch line. There’s a place on his chest, just below his throat, that makes me want to let him open doors for me. There’s only one of him.

How to Travel Full-Time by Colin Wright

Every 4 months, Colin Wright asks his blog readers to vote on where he should go next.  He travels as a way of life.  I began reading this simply because I like Colin Wright.  It’s made up of short chapters with tips and stories about his full-time travel life.  I like that he describes how the idea of travel relates with the reality, cultural relativism, the ethics of traveling, how to explore most efficiently and effectively, how to document your travels, and so much more.

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