Category Archives: Daily Happenings

The Slow and Simple Life…

Is it reality?

Can it be achieved?

From my perspective, it seems like a dim reality. But as with so many other things in my life that I have sought after, I know that often we choose to accept the reality we have, rather than seek to change it. We see it as something we are trapped in, rather than looking for ways to find freedom.

As I am filling up the empty calendar days, this feeling in the pit of my stomach begins to rise. You know the one? That sinking feeling of, “How on earth am I going to do this and not lose my mind.” feeling.

I was watching an old movie about  Francis of Assisi and was struck by his desire for simplicity. He had everything. Riches, power, women, and everything. AS the movie aptly puts it, “Power, riches, women, even God. He just sauntered out of his house one fine morning and plucked God out of the air as easy as catching a butterfly. It is all too simple.”

His friend was jealous of his peace, the ability to forsake every standard that was set by society and live a slow, peaceful life, serving others. While much of the movie is fiction, I am sure, it teaches me something.

It may have seemed impossible for Francis to escape his duties to his country, his father, the church, and go against what the normal standard was. He forsook marriage, took to living as a beggar or what we would consider “homeless”. That is not what I want, but the peace is something I envy.

I live pretty simply. We eat simply.  We don’t drive fancy cars. We don’t accumulate debt. We serve others. But in all of that, comes a lot of responsibility and workload.

I would say, ask of yourself questions when determining where something falls on the priority scale.

  • Am I putting my service to others above my own responsibilities?
  • Are good things causing me stress?
  • What is on the top priority list where it is a need for survival?
  • What relationships are causing more anxiety than peace?

When we ask these questions, some of them may be hard to answer. They are not the same for everyone. We may need to cut back on good things. We may have to limit interactions with some people that we truly care about for a time.

But there is also a time when we need to ask other questions as well.

  • Am I limiting myself from being hurt because I don’t want to deal with it?
  • Am I caring for myself in a way that I can be of service to others?
  • Would it be easier to set healthy boundaries if I maintained them?
  • What things do I need to move off the top priority list because they never belonged there?

These questions are not always easy to answer as well as they constitute change we have to make. Change is not always comfortable. We may wish to protect ourselves from pain, when sometimes serving others is on the top priority list and it might cause pain. Perhaps we need to cut out sugar, so we have more energy, or allow ourselves to eat frozen pizza once in awhile so we don’t have the stress of cooking all the time to perfection.

The answers are not the same for everyone, but realizing that simple and slow might vary for you, but it can be obtainable in your own way.

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Value. Worth. Inspiration.

What do those words mean to you?

“I am valued.”

“I am worth something.”

“I inspire others.”

While they may sound like a bunch of self help statements that you are supposed to tell yourself, what if you actually started to look at how you could tell others those messages?

Today I had the experience of being beat up by words. I have many thankless jobs that I don’t get paid for. I have a few that I get paid for, that also are quite thankless, but in the end, I am the person behind the scenes that most people don’t see. I am blessed with people that are grateful and do thank me, even when they don’t have to.

Today was not one of those days. In fact, I felt rather like giving up. I wanted to take a break from life. It doesn’t really work like that though. Life is generally not something you can just “take a little break from” as it is all there to catch you when you come back.

My sink was piled with dishes. There was food that needed to be cooked. The yard was overgrown, breeding mosquitoes and mail was piling up. I am scheduling work at different rentals and there are three of us sharing one car. My husband prefers that we do not use his car, so it makes life a bit challenging and we have to get creative. Yesterday, I walked 5 miles to get my errands done. It was nice, but my feet sure hurt when I was done.

When you sit down, you think, “I can do this. I am doing this for others. I am of value to others. I can inspire them. I can make their life better because I am here.”

Sometimes though, that is not enough. There are times when I have to want to live life because of not what I can give to someone else, but because I have determined to stay alive. A friend challenged us this last month about making a life pact with ourselves. This life pact was the fact that we would stay alive without harming ourselves.

“I would never kill myself.” you might say. “Sure, I might think about it, how nice it would to not have to face tomorrow. But I wouldn’t act on it.”

How many times have you not taken care of yourself though? Unhealthy eating patterns?

It is easy when those hard days hit and you realize that not only are you not making a difference, you are kind of messing with everyone’s lives too. You start to think that maybe this is not worth it. That is one of the reasons you have to live, because you believe in yourself, as cheesy as that sounds. You were created with purpose, to live, to serve, not just for others, but as an individual.

I get in trouble a lot for reminding others that we should think about what we say. Words have value. I was crushed by the actions of others recently towards other people. They may have felt they had a right to do and say what they did, but indeed, it changed the way I think of them. When we claim to have a relationship with God, then treat our fellow human beings with contempt using pious words to make it sound good, well, it is like a sounding brass and a clinging cymbal. It means nothing.

So, two messages… think about why we are living and the whole picture. See value in yourself, not just what others need you for, but who you actually are. Secondly, love others, not just how you think  they should be loved because you dislike what they are doing, but actually seek love for them. It might look different than you think it does.

 

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Helpful vs. Not Helpful

You know, we all have those days. You know the ones when everything irritates you.

I think of Michel on Gilmore girls saying, “People are particularly stupid today; I can’t talk to any more of them”

Those kind of days, when you just can’t even think of a way to reply, I found, that it is so important to take a deep breath and really try to listen.

Sometimes people are ignorant, but how often have you ever heard someone say, “I was really ignorant about such and such, but then some stranger on the internet or moderate acquaintance  reamed for it and I completely changed my ways.”

I bet you haven’t. Yeah, I haven’t either.

 

It made me think though, how often do we see something and want to reply sarcastically, when truly on the other side of the keyboard, there is a person in need?

Yes, they might be asking for something that is hard to find, maybe impossible.  Or perhaps it could be a post discussing  their latest read, the carseat they chose for their child, what mode of education their child is enjoying or perhaps the kind of car they drive. No matter the topic, there is always someone that will have something to say to the negative if they listen to the temptation to criticize.

A friend was looking for child care recently. He is not paying a high wage, but a decent one, and based off state standards, above normal rates. In looking for child care, someone decided to take the time to make sure he knew how stupid it was to even think that someone would be willing to work for that amount of money in taking care of his child. Since they were replying to me, instead I got to hear it.  It stung a little. Why? The person had not a shred of kindness in her replies. It was not said to be helpful, but to mock, cut down and make you feel like an idiot. You know what? Maybe my friend was needing to change the approach. However, there could have been ten dozen ways to tell me that, that could have been helpful, and the way this woman went about it was not one of them.

Another family was looking for housing and it is hard to find in the area. There are a million and one ways to reply to an inquiry, but I always hope that in the end, someone inquiring of me, even if I cannot help them, goes away feeling like maybe there is a little hope and human kindness out there.

It is hard in a world of digital words, to remember the people behind the keyboard. We tend to encourage others, “Oh, step away from the screens. Get out into the “real world” The meanness is all on the social media sites.”  You know, while that may be true, it is even worse when you hear it from the lips of a human standing before you and it is plentiful out there.

Both online and in person, let us seek to be more helpful, and not cut others with our words. They might not have asked a question you thought was very smart, or ignorance might be bubbling from their ears. In the end,  look into their eyes, think of the person behind the screen, find a kinder way to say what you need to say. Or if you can’t, skip it. There is often no use in saying anything if you can’t say something nice.

 

 

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The Rules of Communication

“No More Quiet”

A bumper sticker that our local library gives out, loudly proclaimed the message of change, but the carefully penned words underneath gave voice to the way some of the users felt about it.

“Talking is okay. But no cell phones.”

Who makes the rules?

It seems everywhere I look, read, turn, I hear a rule about what you should say, shouldn’t say, how you should visit, how you should talk, and so on. I was struck by the above statement as when I was a young mom, sometimes the only quiet time I got was at the library.

I would take my children and they were occupied by the activities, the computer, new books, and toys and I got a moment to sit and read for a minute. The way the library is set up now, it is conducive to visiting, children playing, reading, learning and all that combined.

As I read the message about cell phones, I have noticed that people have a lot of anger about what they believe to be out of place or wrong. I encouraged someone recently, whose life was jam packed with impossible expectations, to take 5 minutes in the car and call someone. She needed it to regain some focus. But when you were the car passing her in the turn lane, and saw she was on her phone, anger could strike you. “Why is she on her phone? She didn’t speed through that light with the speed that I think she should have. I am now 10 seconds later than I would have been otherwise.”

No, we don’t really say all that, but we might think it. What if we instead looked at the young mother on the phone in the library, while her kids playing and realized that might be the first minute she had to talk to her mom all week. Maybe we can see the person in the car and realize that this is the first time her grandmother had heard her voice in several months. It could be that it was a phone call from the doctors office, letting her know that her tests had come back with questionable results.  Perhaps that student you called out in public, was answering a phone call from her mother that she had to take or checking the text to see that her grandma died.

Cell phones, social media, computers, technology are all a part of our lives now. When we react to others that use them with anger and frustration, we become part of the problem. We set rules that are impossible to follow.

I would ask. Do you think before you react?  Do we stop to listen to the conversation to see what it is about? It may not sound important to you, but who are you to say that you are more important than the phone call?

I recently had a text letting me know of a death from someone I knew. I was in a public place, in a bible study. I knew I had to answer it. I could not ignore it, yet it would be rude to withdraw from the group. It took me 10 seconds to send condolences and comfort. I did not explain to the group, but it is hard to not wonder if someone wonders why.

My job ends up putting me in the path where I am a bit tied to my phone and social media. I hate it sometimes. But I have learned to have mercy on those on the phone in their cars, in public places and lend a little love when they are distracted.

So, as I seek to find grace, I also seek to not make more rules of communication for others.

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The visible invisible person…

What am I talking about?

I know, it sounds crazy. A person that is completely visible, yet invisible at the same time.

Who is the person that you first think of when you need help?

Who do you turn to when you know that something has to be done?

When information is needed or things need to be gathered, there is always that person you think of.

What about when you have something personal to celebrate in your life.

Are they that person you think of? You know you can count on them for everyday needs, but when you celebrate, are they the one you invite or do you find they are not the one you usually think of?

Invisibility is a gift at times. It can be a relief for someone that get overwhelmed by too much social interaction. But at times, it is hard when you are the person everyone needs, but no one wants.

How can we change this? How can help those that are visible in our daily life, less invisible in our social life?

It is possible to be visible to all, yet lonely and invisible in so many other ways.

I was thinking about connection one day, trying to bring up ways to connect with others, who to befriend. I realized that often connection requires giving of yourself. It requires the invisible person to become more visible. Vulnerable. It is hard on both ends to connect. For those on the outside, they may think, “Oh, that person is so busy. They may not want to come to my birthday party, baby shower, tea or get together. I won’t put that on them.”  The visible/invisible may think, “I am glad I was not invited, as it would be another thing on my list, and besides, I would likely not be someone that would add to the day anyhow.”

I think there has to be a balance from both sides. The visible/invisible has to allow themselves to move past the surface at times. I don’t just mean fun mom stories, or stories of messes your children made. I mean sometimes opening up and addressing the depth of the life you try to keep inside at times. Of course, that has to be done in a safe way, but opening up even a little can be scary.

Think of someone in your life, that you may not know that well that opened up a bit to you. Then think of them and how have you been able to be a friend to them?

I don’t mean a FB friend. I have many FB friends, that honestly barely know what my real life looks. But I am thankful for them, it just looks different than friendship. This doesn’t mean you need to have 567 friends. It is impossible to connect on a deep level with anyone that much. But maybe choose a few people and step out of your comfort zone a little with them. It might mean getting together for coffee, doing an activity you both enjoy together, or listening when they have had a hard day.

Think of that person you know you can turn to when times are hard for info or help. Do you know what they are going through right now? Maybe it might be time for you to take the time to listen and be there for them.  What is funny, is sometimes that is how we find the best friends, when we turn around and be a friend to them.

What is one thing you can do this week to be a friend to someone?

Please leave me a comment if you think of someone when you read this post, that is visible, yet invisible. You know them, but don’t really know them. Let me know how you are going to reach out this week and let them know they are visible to you.

 

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Words of Encouragement or Discouragement?

“Oh, what a cute little girl you have there! She looks a little cold. Have you thought maybe she might need a jacket?”

“Are we ready to go? You don’t look like you are quite ready. We will wait here while you change.”

“Just try a little harder, dear, to focus on the positive. Life can’t all be bad, can it?”

 

This can happen on accident or on purpose. I truly believe many people have good intentions. Good intentions though, are often wrought with grief and discouragement.

For example, last week, I learned that not only am I am a complete failure as a parent because I don’t have sit down meals with our whole family anymore, I also am to blame for many other issues because I allow screen time, and don’t share stories from life lessons I learned with my children enough.

I remember reading a book, one that was highly recommended in homeschool circles. My oldest son was 6 or 7 years old, and I was trying to learn all I could about this homeschooling thing. As I read, I learned that if I did not read aloud to him for 2-3 hours daily, I not only ruined his education, but at the age of seven, it was already too late. He was doomed to a life of mediocrity, because I had already failed him in his education. I got about halfway through the book, and ended up sobbing at my failures.

No doubt the author of the book was seeking to encourage parents to read to their children. I am sure of that. In her zeal, she discouraged me. What I didn’t see, was while I was not able to read aloud that many hours, my son did listen to books for 1-3 hours a day, on audio. Yes, they were not always the classics, but they were many times as well. The discouragement of parents is something that I find reprehensible, yet, I am sure I do it often myself.

When we hear blanket statements, or even backhanded compliments given to people, or remarks that are self serving or self righteous, (For example: “I am so thankful to have such wonderful children. Most parents don’t even teach their children how to have basic manners any more, and I am so blessed to have well mannered children.”) take time to stop and examine your life a bit.

  • Is there something you can improve on a daily basis in your life?
  • Is there a life lesson you can share with your children, family, friends without putting them down?
  • Are your words seasoned with salt so that you are not lifting yourself up, while putting others down?
  • If you have offended someone, can you apologize sincerely?
  • Are we leaving people with encouragement or are we discouraging them by bragging about our triumphs?

In the end, we have to do the best we can do. Yes, it is a good idea to sit down to eat at the dinner table together. But sometimes when we spend all day together, talking, discussing and come time to eat, sometimes eating just has to happen without waiting for everyone to arrive. This is especially true when you have gone over 16 hours without eating, which happens often around here.

Table manners? Yes, they are a great thing to have. But don’t judge your neighbor as having never taught their children because their child made a major flub. It might be your child next and we totally know you have taught them all of it. Who knows if maybe that mom has as well?

I would encourage you to give grace, even when you are frustrated with others. Let us not judge so many times, and instead truly come along side people with encouragement, rather than encouragement that is backhanded discouragement.

We are never failures when we seek to do our best. We can always improve, yes, but as long as we are seeking to do our best, we will never fail completely.

Make mistakes? YES!

Perfection is overrated anyhow. We can always be improving, but just keep working towards a goal of doing our best.

 

 

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The Words of Kindness

“If wisdom’s ways you wisely seek,
Five things observe with care,
To whom you speak,
Of whom you speak,
And how, and when, and where.”

Caroline Lake Ingalls

 

Often I think when we say words, correcting someone or telling someone what to do, I often wonder if we remember this little proverb.

I think that in this life, we have so many times listened to the words either spoken to us or even the unspoken words, with looks that mean something else and felt their sting.

I was thinking after taking part in an exercise, where you looked at other people and told them things that we saw they contributed of value to others and  in the world in general. Some these people I did not know well, but after spending a weekend together, many of their gifts shone forth.

As I returned to “normal” life, I found myself wondering how much was the truth and struggled to not fall into the pit of doubt.

Life is hard. I mean, it just is. There are so many everyday errors people may either believe you made or you actually did make. In the end, you can throw up your hands and scream or you can keep pushing on.

I can sit and ask myself the questions that roll around in my head day after day.

“What do I offer of value?”

“Are the positive words right that I have heard others say, or are they simply saying what they think they should say?”

“Are the critical words actually the truth?”

“How can I change my impact on others to be more positive?”

My mind starts to buzz with how I can change myself to be more a person of impact on others, but then as I start to do this, asking the questions, I wonder “Are those really the right questions?”  I know that I have always believed in self sacrifice, long suffering, meekness and all those things. It seems so counterproductive to say that I need to focus on the positive things about myself.

Instead asking/saying, “Do you believe in yourself? Do you think you can do this? Do you think you made the wrong choice? You messed up? That’s ok. Pick up and move on.”

There is someone I have been acquainted with, that rarely says a positive thing about anyone, unless she knows them very well. In fact, I can generally count on her saying something negative about someone until she gets to know them.

I know other people that will look at a person and if they are not fitting in the correct racial or belief boxes, they mark them off the list of approved people.

The list could go on and on. We all know those kind of people. They are not the people we tend to want to hang out with as we know that if we end up displeasing them in some way, we will be on that list.

Instead, I think of how I would love to be surrounded by people that love others despite flaws. They may not be perfectly dressed, believe the same as you, walk, talk or act like you, but they are valued and loved.

I have many friends and acquaintances that are so totally different from me, that I cherish having them in my life. I tend to be drawn to the ones that fit outside the box. It is the stories I want to tell and write. The overcomers, the “damaged” ones that succeed, the success stories. They are the ones that love best because they know pain.

As I write my stories, I never know what will become of them, but one day, I hope others will read them and love them as well.

But for now, I am going to think about Caroline Ingall’s saying, and let wisdom guide my words. I may need to look and find someone to say a positive word to. I may need to hold my tongue when a critical word comes my way. But in the end, I need to remember that I have to believe it as truth when someone tells me something they appreciate about me.

It is a choice that I must make to survive.

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Summer Musings…

The summer heat is burning into my soul at the moment. It longs to impact my brain, my memory and my equilibrium if I choose to step outside of my home to participate in any activities.

I live in the north for a reason. I want to be able to live a happy life. For some reason, Montana has decided to be very hot for much more than just a couple of weeks of the summer.

You would think it would make the garden grow better, and it has, but not to the extent of producing the fruit I would like to see. The tomatoes are still green, the raspberries drying up even with copious amounts of water, and the cucumbers are being plagued by insects. Then there is the plants that are huge, producing amazing green leaves, and no fruit at all.

Fruit.  Sometimes I think that people are like plants.  Sometimes they can shout out their indignant posts on social media, comment on the news pages,  and appear to be living a fruitful and well intentioned life. Sometimes though, when we reach beneath the leaves, we can find that their fruit is lacking. Maybe it is insect ridden, or simply not there at all.

I observed recently in a book discussion we were having that sometimes the person that is crying out the loudest is not always the victim. I often wonder if when we stop, observe and see what we are hearing, and sought out the person they are speaking out against, what would we find?

Would we find beautiful fruit or half eaten peppers and squash hidden under the leaves?

I feel like for myself, this is a fear of mine as I do not want to be that type of person. I tend to error on the other side of this as much as possible. Seeking honestly when it comes to my flaws and faults, and not speaking evil of others unless absolutely needed.

I think and would hope that if someone knows me well enough, they would come to me and ask about anything that is abnormal. But also on the flip side, if I do have to speak out about someone, that I do it because it is the last resort.

I hope in the end, my plants have fruit under the leaves, and the bugs are not eating all my fruit.

Obviously, I have been spending a bit of time in the garden, so just a few musings as I putter around in my little hobby. Back to working to stay cool in the heat!

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Homeschooling. Getting started?

I was chatting with a friend today about getting started with homeschooling.

I was thinking of all the things that we tell people that want to start with homeschooling. You know, you start with the basics. The laws. The requirements. The curriculum.

What you don’t tell them is that often when you are 14 years into the journey or so, you sometimes feel like you are still just learning how to begin.

I haven’t been homeschooling that long compared to some moms that I know. But, since I am what is called a “Second Generation Homeschooler”, it feels a lot longer. Not only was I homeschooled, but I was an active participant in helping or teaching my siblings as well.

I think one of the best things I can say, is “You will mess up. You will spend all that money on a set of curriculum and sometimes it just does not fit with the way your child learns. Most days will not go as you plan. But the key here is that often you are homeschooling because it was what your child needed. If you are teaching him and educating, (I don’t mean the parents that claim to homeschool and really do nothing), you are doing what they need. It might not look like the pretty picture in your head, as your son is hanging upside down reciting his times tables. But keep it up.”

What is your mantra that you would tell someone that is beginning homeschooling?

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A Week away…

It is always fun to get away from home at times. I live a high stress life, which is not always enjoyable for me. But it is not really something that is going to change very soon, so I seek out ways to help me to cope in the middle of it.

Every summer, for the last four years, we volunteer at a beautiful camp in the middle of the mountains just outside East Glacier in Montana. It is rustic, by many people’s standards, but for me, it feels a little like going home.  It has the conveniences that I wish I had when we lived without electricity. The generator is set up to the run the camp when needed, but is only on for brief moments and about an hour in the evening.

I love technology, but I also hate it at the same time. My job and how I make money is linked to it, so I cannot live without it, but I love being away from it all.

When I do not have to work and have the stress of daily life pounding on me, I get a lot of reading done!

The view from the cabin. We were up near the tree line, so most of the mountains were below us as well.

20155979_10210246747664929_5164266823872110304_n.jpg20229112_10210246747224918_4438296154974285741_n.jpgMy little bedroom set up and ready for reading and napping.

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One of the daily skits! 20228257_10210246746704905_2272606574586338845_n.jpgEach cabin put on a skit as well..

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Singing time is always exuberant! 20246468_10210246742184792_3497062737534175458_n.jpg

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One of the many meals we prepared! 20229288_10210246740904760_2541237538891886057_n.jpg

 

20245756_10210246741064764_599955545030869020_n.jpgSaying goodbye to the last camper before we headed out of camp!

If you ever want a great camp experience or volunteer experience, this is a good one!

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