The Bad Day Experiment

I was inspired by this pic I found over at kdelap.com today.

It was just the message I needed, and so I decided to share it over on FB …

It’s great isn’t it? Truth – plain and simple.

It hits home hard right now as I have friends going through some seriously challenging times.

Times that make the nastiest divorce or a kid’s broken arm look like a walk in the park.

Times that mean you have to figure out how you’re going to possibly say goodbye to your elementary-age children while facing your own mortality as bravely as you can – at the age of 38.

Times that mean you just buried your 31-year-old brother who was a victim of violent crime.

Times that mean you’re facing degenerative brain diseases much too young.

My heart breaks for them, and I am slapped – hard – in the face regarding the relative ease of my own life. Seems like we get these opportunities for perspective frequently if we’re just paying attention.

Divorce is no fun – but it’s not likely to kill me.
Dealing with difficult children is frustrating, but I know so many who can’t have children and would love to have a kid to fuss at.
Missing your mother who’s passed on is hard and sad, but so many never have the strong and wonderful relationship I had with my mom – or never had their mom present at all.

I need these reminders, daily, possibly even hourly. I am okay. My life is good.

I have to say though, I was (sorta) surprised by the response to the FB post.

Immediately, some of the kindest and most empathetic people I know chimed in – they agree – and they’re no surprise. They’re kind and thoughtful people – college educated and not, social and anti-social, friends from very different walks of life, and there’s no real commonality (other than MY amazing friendship of course!) other than a generally kind and empathetic heart.

What surprised me, and probably shouldn’t have, is that so many people I know, who are financially stable, healthy and, though not without problems, aren’t immediately facing their mortality or similar, have no comment. People who are actively posting that they need prayer and positive thoughts on a regular basis – just to get through an average day – people who spend so much time on FB that if I post a cute pic of a kitten or funny video of screaming goats, they’re on it in .042 milliseconds.

Nothing. Nada.

If I’m honest – to an extent it was bait. I saw several people, people whom I’ve stuck my neck out for in the past, people who always seem to run right back into the mess they ran out of, post “Pray for me!” type-things today.

And it struck a nerve.

Yes – we can all use and deserve a prayer or positive thought.

Yes – everyone has a different perspective and is in a different place.

Yes – some things are harder to see through to the other side of than others.

BUT – I feel like it’s our duty as human beings to take a step back out of our own mess long enough to see what’s going on in the rest of the world.

Yes – some things feel and seem like the end of the universe. But if you’re in the position to post on FB about it – you have something to be thankful for.

So – take it for what it’s worth – but the next time I’m feeling all ‘Woe is me’ – I’m going to try to turn that focus outwards – think of someone who needs those prayers more than I do. Think a positive and happy thought or say a prayer for that person.

And maybe my load will seem just a little bit lighter. Maybe it won’t. But at least it was off my mind for a minute or two if nothing else – and I’ve sent some good out into the universe for a fellow human.

It’s all transient.

Try to find some joy – and when you can’t find it in your own situation – give it to someone else – it always comes back.

IMG_3762
Because irises should bring us all joy. 🙂

** Bad Day Picture posted with the permission of Kristen Delap – Please visit her lovely corner of the web at kdelap.com. She has blog posts about writing and chickens and mommying – and is available for custom lettering and has prints for purchase!

Why I don’t reward for expected behavior.

I can hear many parents (and kids) out there growling at me right now. But bear with me.

When I say I don’t reward for expected behavior, I am NOT implying I don’t ever incentivize or reward my children.

I am not above mentioning the potential (begging) for a milkshake if they can get through the next hour without my having to explain on a conference call that I’m working with the kids in the background. I am certainly not above treating us all to donuts for breakfast because it’s the first day of spring break/summer/Tuesday – you get the idea.

However, it’s important to me that my kids to understand that life doesn’t consist of doing a task and getting a treat. Sometimes you do things because they’re kind or thoughtful – or darn it – they just need to be done. No one has ever given me a cookie for mopping the kitchen floor or taking out the trash. My reward is a nonsticky floor and not overflowing trash can. So……

I don’t reward for grades/similar.

I know this ruffles feathers for some. But I don’t. I have one kid who is a straight-A student, all the time. She does not receive money or treats or, well, anything for grades. It’s expected that school is her job and she’ll do her best. They do an honor roll breakfast at school, and that’s a gracious plenty. I also love that at their school, it’s not a parent-filled celebration. It’s a yummy breakfast for 30 minutes, and then off to class!

Do we grab a treat after she rockstars out her speech on living history day? Sure! She did something she was apprehensive about, and did it with gusto. THAT I’ll reward. But going to school every day and doing ‘her job’? Nope. Do your best. It’s expected.

My son doesn’t perform as well – he doesn’t get rewarded or punished, so long as I know he’s trying his best. He may never be the A-student that she is, but he does have to work his hardest and to the best of his ability. He gets the same attaboys for breaking through something that was a struggle as she does.

IMG_3704
An evening by the fire pit is a perfect “starting the weekend” reward – for all of us!

I don’t reward for good manners or good behavior.

Again, It’s expected. I’m not giving you a treat because you were on green all week or came home one day on blue (or whatever the heck color is better this school year.) As far as I’m concerned, that’s basically treating you for not being a pain in the teacher’s ass.

You don’t get a prize for holding the door for a stranger. A pat on the back and “That was kind – thank you for being kind to others!” You bet. Treats? Nope.

Now – when a kid finds themselves in a truly adult situation (like a funeral) and pulls out all the stops? Again, that might be cause for a slushie or pack of gum – a “your amazing self-control made a hard situation easier, and I’m grateful” reward.

I didn’t reward for potty training.

You heard me. No treats for potty usage. Both of mine potty trained over a weekend. I didn’t give them a choice. They were each old enough to understand what was happening in the big toilet and that if they didn’t make it to the potty, wetness was happening.

Was it 1,000% fun for me? Nope – but having a kid who was potty trained when they went back to daycare on Monday – oooooooh yeah. I was happy, the daycare workers were happy. It was all win. (Pull ups at night/naptimes as needed are a different story, and I’ll advocate for all day long. I am also aware that this doesn’t work for everyone so don’t start chucking stones here.)

I don’t reward or pay for chores.

The kids empty/fill the dishwasher some days. You ate on the dishes. They put away their clean clothes. You wore the clothes. I washed them. You can put them away. How I feel about giving kids responsibility is a whole other post that we will certainly cover soon. You live in this house, and to a degree that is appropriate for your age, you can contribute to the running of it.

The baseline here is that I don’t reward for things humans are generally expected to do.

Do I thank them for being considerate and kind? Oh boy, I do. Do I help and give guidance while they’re doing their chores? Yup. Can I check and assist with homework? Of course! This doesn’t mean we’re all drill sergeant in my house – it just means that I’m trying to teach them, that when we all do our part, we all get to enjoy our time.

So if you’re hankering for getting out of the reward cycle, give it a try. I am the first to say that everyone has to do what works best for them – this is what works for me – right now. Ask me next month, I might be the queen of rewards. 😉

 

 

 

The sting –

Franco: And now my friend, the first-a rule of Italian driving.

[Franco rips off his rear-view mirror and throws it out of the car]

Franco: What’s-a behind me is not important.

 

Except that sometimes it sort of is…

April 23. It’s always a hard day for me. It marks the day we all said goodbye to my mom.

I think we all have these days. Days that come with a sting instead of a song. No matter what good comes of the day, it’s always a bit bittersweet.

This year I actually spent it with good friends enjoying a bit of racing, I *almost* could have forgotten what day it was. I got a ride in a Ford GT (WHAT?!?) and laughed an awful lot whilst sunburning my so-pale-as-to-almost-be-translucent legs.

I was so glad to have been able to make *that* day into something a little sweeter.

IMG_3783
That red GT- yes – that one right there. 

But yesterday hit like a ton of bricks.

I went to hang with the kiddos for a while, as I always do, after not having seen them for the weekend while not-yet-ex went to the store. To discover that every picture that I was part of had been removed from the public rooms of the house and shuffled to corners of the children’s rooms. Some of my things (fairly – nothing of any real importance) had found their way to the trash. Things my stepmother had made for us found their way into the kid’s rooms as well.

Ouch.

Suddenly amicable things aren’t feeling so friendly.

We’d already agreed that I’d help shuffle some things out of Bug’s room – so cleaning was already on the docket.  I just shifted that effort. Sweet Pea held the door while I loaded the car – backseat – full, trunk area – full.

You’re going to fairly make the point here that I’ve moved out quite a while ago – none of this should matter. And you’re right – if we’re following the first rule of Italian Driving.

BUT –

Most of these things I’d put off dealing with for a reason (no – that doesn’t make it right either). They were mom’s or something she’d given, or made. A costume I wore in a play when I was 8. A dress I wore to a ballroom dancing competition when I was 23. The little glass divided tray she used to put pecans in every Christmas.

It’s hard to look at these things and remove them from the house that I wanted so badly to be our dream home. Where I’d used them to entertain friends for Thanksgiving (NO – not in the childhood costumes – though we might file that away for later and more humorous use.) It was hard and I wasn’t ready. I wasn’t emotionally prepared – and I was angry because I felt I’d been blind-sided.

But so be it. It had to be dealt with. And it was. It didn’t matter.

Not-yet-ex was shocked when he came back. He didn’t understand. He wasn’t trying to make a statement according to him (thought this neatly coincides with him starting to see someone new.) But it’s okay.

I have these things now. They’re precious to me.

NOW – we’ll pull out that first rule of Italian driving and go make some new memories. Ones we like better. 😉

 

 

Fraught…

Oh friends – how these last several days have been fraught.

Fraught with anger, frustration, disappointment and so many other things.

Things with the kiddos have been lovely. Bug made great strides on riding his bike this past weekend and even received an award at school – this was one of those, “Are you sure that’s meant for my kid?” moments.

But times with the not-yet-ex, yeah. Slightly difficult. And am I being hard on myself about everything under the sun? Oh boy, you bet I am.

You expect that things are going to be fraught with difficulty when you’re in the process of dissolving a marriage.

I suppose I didn’t expect to be rehashing the basic facts of what started the dissolution a year in.

This is the fun of divorcing in a state that requires a year of separation. You’re meant to carefully consider why you’re leaving. Make sure you can’t possibly, even a tiny smidge, reconsider working things out.

And I’m swallowing the harsh reality that no matter what you tell someone about your motives for leaving, and how it happened, and how everything has gone down since, they’re going to believe what they want to.

And I’m learning that I have to be okay with that. It’s hard for me. I try to be a peacemaker. I ‘doormat’ myself too often, willing to back down for the sake of not having to fight.

Not caring what someone thinks is SUPER hard for me. But I’m learning. Or trying to.

I’m also learning that I have to continue to stand up for what I believe is best for the kiddos regardless. It’s so much easier to let things go when you’re married. Again, it’s all for the sake of peace. But when you’re apart – some things glare – and you have to go with your conscience and HARD.

I know this is growth, but for the record – growing hurts – a lot. And I’m sure I’ll see the beauty of weathering the storm and whatnot down the road, but right now a bit of shelter sure does sound nice.

 

 

The Reminder…

So a friend of mine and I have this thing we call “The Reminder”.

As I’ve said before, I’m very fortunate that the not-yet-ex and I have a surprisingly good working relationship. We have each other’s backs with the kids, and even manage to continue to be interested and support one another’s other endeavours. (It’s a bit unsettling to discuss his dating life – but it’s all or nothing, right?)

So it’s not unusual for things to go along swimmingly and to occasionally lose immediate focus of everything that caused the split. Then it comes….

The Reminder – it’s one of those moments that smacks you in the face and helps you recall why it is that you sit on a consignment couch in a relatively empty townhouse instead of on the much nicer sofa in the house you spent the past 12 years living in.

As I always say, I am completely certain that the not-yet-ex would relate similar.

We had one of those moments last night – he bowed out of hanging out with the kiddos while I closed the barn to support a family member in a tough situation.

I happened to get very bad news about a mutual friend – that I called to pass along.

….and had to stop talking about it to let him take a selfie while at a restaurant with said family member.

In the moment I was livid, absolutely boiling mad. I even made one of those passive aggressive FB posts I hate so much.

And he texted to find out what was wrong. Which I ignored.

And he called this morning to find out what was wrong.

I finally caved and told him – I’m angry. It was insensitive and it was wrong. This was important and about someone he knows and cares for. It was worth 3 minutes of his time.

And he got defensive. This is our MO – I tell him what upset me – and likely don’t phrase it in a productive way – and he gets defensive – and I get more angry – and we’re off.

But today an amazing thing happened. I stopped. I said, “You have every right to defend your actions. I have every right to be angry. The thing I don’t understand is why you care. I don’t understand why you care if I’m angry. This isn’t our thing anymore.”

And it felt so good. I have always played the peacemaker, which usually involves backing down for me. And I didn’t.

And the best part is that he backed off, not down. He said, “I didn’t call to fight. I called because I want us to continue to work well together and I don’t want anything like this between us. So I knew you were angry and wanted to clear the air.”

Well damn.

And it worked. We both let it go. We still disagree. But we got it out there, and moved on. I don’t want to hate him. He doesn’t want to hate me. So we don’t. We move on. We take care of the kids. We make jokes now and then.

I know I’ll get another reminder before long. And so will he. But we’re able to let them go and move past them – and it’s really not a bad place to be.

 

If we were having coffee… 4/2/16

It might be a beer instead because it’s now afternoon and it’s been that kind of a week. Thought I’m always glad to press some fresh joe if that’s your preference.

You’d definitely be listening to me prattle on about how proud I am of my fearless girl and her 1st time mountain biking this week. She hit the single-track like a master and my cheeks hurt from grinning.

IMG_3465

 

<Awww – that’s sweet! You go girl! You say.>

I’m certain I’d have some choice words about a dear friends’ not-yet-ex who left her because ‘God told him to’ after he got saved and realized that he’d rather be knocking boots with his ex-wife (which he’d never stopped doing in the first place.) It chaps my hide for people to blame their choices on God. Grow a pair. Read up on free-will. Own it. Personal responsibility is a thing. Give it a try.

<What a jerk! You say – I love how supportive you are when listening to my rants>

You’d get to hear all the gory details of my ass-bumping trip down the stairs a couple of days ago and how my adorable son tried to come to the rescue. Let’s not forget the resulting ass-shiner – as I am now dubbing the bruise that dons my derriere.

<Bahahahaahahah! You say – because it’s funny – and because you’re now noticing that I’ve been sitting on my other hip this whole time>

This would be about the time I’d realize that I’ve been gabbing at you for too long and am embarrassed. I also have to go call out the children who sound like a herd of wild buffalo upstairs. Excuse me for a second, then I need to hear all about your week – please?!

<Crash>

Crap! What is it now? KIDS!!!

 

 

 

Everything and nothing…

IMG_3447

So I’ve been hung up on what to write about these past few days.

It’s spring break here and the kids are alternately amazing me with their stellar behavior and flat-out giving me a run for my money on sanity.

I busted my ass down the stairs two days ago and have what I am dubbing the ‘ass shiner’ as the bruise is perfectly the color and shape of being punched in the eye – just on the other end of things. (Dear God, I hope that’s not a ‘thing’ – if it’s some sort of ‘thing’ that I’m not aware of, someone save me here. I will *not* be googling, just in case.)

There have been riding lessons and some family movie time, some work and some play. We did go mountain biking with my dad and step-mom. That was fantastical. Sweet Pea knocked my socks off. it was her first time riding on a trail and she owned it. I’m a proud mama.

IMG_3465
Wide single-track, but single-track nonetheless. I’m a proud mama!

So – other than the ass-shiner and trail riding – it’s been relatively mundane.

What’s one to write about when it’s like this?

  • Life is good.
  • Not-yet-ex is pleasant.
  • Kids are… kids.
  • House is slightly messy, but not terrible.
  • Mountain biking was fun.
  • Nutella muffins were hockey pucks.
  • Blueberry muffins were a hit.
  • Listening to the kids play and make up things is the joy of my life.
  • Tiny cans of Stella are the best thing since big cans of Stella.
  • Ass-busting sucks.
IMG_3526
These FTW – Nutella muffins FTL

That’s when you realize that these are the moments. This is it. This is living. We’re doing the thing, with little-to-no-drama or insanity. That’s really pretty damn exciting! So there it is – it’s everything and it’s nothing – but I’ll take it any day over dramaland!

IMG_3491
In which my daddy tries to help my boy with riding a bike. He just pushed me down a hill. Not sure why the technique has changed, but what the hey!