Sunday, November 17, 2013

My Lifes Purpose

I just watched a TED talk (which I am completely addicted to, by the way) about finding your life's purpose in under 5 minutes. Now, if that isn't worth doing than nothing is! And seeing how it is 1 am and my children are asleep and my brain is not, I might as well tackle the meaning of my life. Ready?

1. Who are you?
Hi, my name is Gretchen. I am a daughter of a King, wife to Matt, mother of 4 beautiful children under the age of 8, a teacher, a friend, a sister and daughter. I am a seeker of truth and asker of questions. I am a ridiculously idealist cynic. I am passionately reserved and an extrovert who needs her space. I am a jack of all trades but master of none.

2. What do you (love to) do? (i.e. what are you supremely qualified to teach other people?)

I like to cook but I don't like to follow recipes and there is a good chance I like to cook because I REALLY like to eat. I like to sew but I don't really know how to use a pattern and I usually only sew random and not especially useful things. I enjoy writing but am just average at it. I do like helping other women. I like to help them develop the confidence and skills to be the mothers they picture in their heads. I like to see them thrive, to watch them enjoy there children. I like to connect them in community, to help them avoid feeling isolated I don't know that I am "supremely qualified" to do any of the above.

(The last three are about others, not about yourself. The most successful people are those who are outward facing).

3. Who do you do it for?

I cook and sew for myself and my family, for the friends who we do life with, the occasional other person who needs a meal. I love helping the new moms in the community figure out this whole motherhood thing. I like forming supportive communities of women who do life together in meaningful ways while encouraging and educating them to achieve there best selves. I guess I do this for whatever women who cross my path, sometimes intentionally, most the time just accidentally.

4. What do they want or need?

Honestly? I think women need each other. I think they need to be told it is OK to find meaning in motherhood and career, that they are not mutually exclusive. I think women need to have each others back, to love each others kids, to find joy in the simple things of life and know how to live simply.


5. How do they change (or transform) as a result of what you give them?

I believe that intentional community is transformation for everyone involved. It brings true joy, connection, and meaning. It give confidence. It provides support. Do I do any of this? I'm not sure, but maybe it could happen.


Huh. I am not sure I have any more direction than I did when I started the quiz, which was harder than I wanted it to be in the first place. So is my life's purpose play-dates?! Any insight is appreciated. 

Friday, November 15, 2013

Reality

I was single parenting this week.

I have a fair amount of experience in this, generally it goes well. Our hardest moments revolve around leaving the house. This makes having to be ready and in the car at a bit after 8 on Monday for school a bit of a circus.

This Monday was no different. I had made the girls cinnamon toast, completely forgetting that Addilyn doesn't love it. She politely asked for plain toast and I told her that was fine. By the time breakfast 2.0 was ready for her, she was dressed and ready to walk out the door. Fast forward about 5 minutes and 1 piece of jelly toast later...

I am not sure how a 5 year old girl even manages to make as big of mess as she did with 1 piece of toast. Apparently, some of the jelly slid off her toast and instead of licking her fingers or grabbing napkin, she proceeded to wipe her hands on her khakis...and her new shirt...and face...and even in her hair. It was 1 piece of toast. It required a full wardrobe change and sponge bath.

I have to admit I wasn't very kind. I try to be patient with this kind of thing because it is very Addilyn. The child is a bit of a walking tornado. Clothing gets passed from Eliana to Addie with nary a stain, but somehow during its life in Addilyn's closet a good percentage becomes unwearable for Annabelle. She is most likely to stick her elbow in ketchup, knock over her milk, step on the cat and fall out of her chair. She is also my best problem solver and hardest worker when she chooses to be. She has a sweet, laid back, go along to get along type personality and the ability to trash a pair of shoes like no bodies business.

I should have known better. I set the kid up for failure and then jumped on her case when it didn't work out well. She felt shamed and in trouble, she didn't get to wear her new kitten shirt and she was running late. What a lousy way to start a school day.

I struggle with so many versions of this; expectations vs. reality. I know my kids well enough to know what I can ask and they can do and when it is above there ability to execute. I know this about other things too, like I should expect to wait at the DMV, that my glasses will cost more than I want to spend and that I will never get everything on my to-do list done in one day. And yet, when I find myself waiting for over an hour, dropping a couple hundred bucks on the ability to see and a days end with my laundry still unfolded, I get irritated.

How old to have to be before I start accepting things as the ARE instead of how I wish they were? How long will it take me before I figure out that it is not the world, or my kids, or anythings elses job to make sure I am happy? As long as I have my list of how things SHOULD be, I won't be able to see the joy in how things are.

In yoga the other day, the instructor was talking about the Sanskrit words that mean "that, I am". It all comes back to grace and the ability to accept people for who they are, including ourselves. Addilyn is a work in progress, even if she never develops the ability to eat a meal without wearing it, that is ok. I can give her the grace to be her. I can take today as it is, myself included, knowing that in love is patience in all things. I know that if I live in grace and love, I can be kind. I can choose joy over expectation. And maybe on day, the line at the DMV won't be long and my kids will be on time for school.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Thigh Gap and other nonsense

My 8 year old has a rockin' thigh gap.

Not familiar with thigh gap? You must not be a tween aged girl or fitness obsessed 20 something. Google the term, you will get some pictures of what some call beauty.

Lucky for me, my 8 year old doesn't know it is considered cool to have said thigh gap. She also doesn't know that the "cool kids" are often the ones who pretend they don't care about school, she doesn't know what a rainbow loom is, or that clothing from Justice is in for kids her age. She is into legos and robots, superhero comics and American girl dolls. Because she is 8. She has never had a "boy friend" or even pretended to, but she has a lot of little boys she like to talk about minecraft with.

Maybe it is because we homeschool, maybe it is her personality, whatever it is, I am pretty sure I can take no credit for her general disinterest in things that are popular. Her drummer beats and she happily marches on beat.

I struggle with this sometimes. I want a kid who generally fits in with her peers, but I don't want the kid who follows along with what everyone else does just because someone told her it was cool. I want her (and all of my kids) to stand up for what is right, for what they believe, for those who are picked on...but I want the to have friends and get invited to birthday parties too. I want her to be measured by her peers and found worthy while at the same time not give a flying rats ass what her peers think of her. And then again, I don't want her measured at all.

Thigh gap, like so many other measures of beauty, is ridiculous. It reduces a female down to the space between her legs and then calculates worth forgetting that we are not the sum of our measurements and that our beauty is inherent because we are divinely created. But what about the other measures of worth we throw at people? Are they any less ridiculous?

Want to know a secret? Eliana reads at grade level, but just barely. Reading is NOT her thing, which blows my mind because my favorite pass time is devouring books. Yes, she loves to be read to. Yes, she can read and decode words. Somehow my ego is strangely tied to her reading ability. Maybe it is because I am her teacher so her success and failures somehow feel like they reflect on me. And I have reduced my kid, and my ability as her teacher, down to something as stupid as thigh gap.

It is a strange dichotomy, the fact that we as people don't come in "standard units" of body size or intelligence and yet we are obsessed in creating a world where we should all be at the same level and measured by the same stick. Human worth is not quantitatively measured. We homeschool because of this, the deep belief that everyone has an inherent right to there own path and successes.

Today my goal is to throw away all units of measurement. I will do my best to enjoy the journey with my kids without sucking the joy out of our day by comparing us to others. I will forget things like grade levels and focus on the fun in learning and the light in my kids eyes when they grasp a concept. I will use Eliana as my example on how to not care what everyone else thinks.

Friday, November 8, 2013

All About ME

I have found myself not posting much lately.

Obviously, since the last time I wrote was JULY!

Despite moving cross country, living in the in between for over a month while single parenting, getting the kids enrolled in school, homeschooling, painting and updating a new house, and getting a bunny, I have stopped writing because my internal editor has been working over time. See, I process in my head and refine ideas in my writing. When I don't have time to write, and thus refine, I find I avoid it least it seem unfinished.

So this is me, getting over myself. I will write half thoughts, drop terribly unbaked ideas, and subject you all to all types of drivel that may not make a drop of sense.

You have been warned.

So today is Eliana's 8th birthday. I am afraid up until this point I have learned more from being a parent that I have possible been able to pour into this kid. I get the better part of this deal, hands down. I hope that maybe MY learning will slow down so I would maybe feel even a little less inept at this motherhood thing.

I have always said that if you want to know how selfish you are, get married. And when you are ready for part 2 of that lesson, have a kid. I was reading an article about 12 rules to live by, and one of the things it said was to be of service. Now this particular author doesn't necessarily subscribe to my religious beliefs and I doubt they knew how profoundly this might speak to some one who thinks like I do. 

You see, I believe if you want to live the loneliest, least fulfilling life possible, live for yourself, focusing only on what you can achieve for you, how comfortable and happy you can be. The greatest and hardest lesson I think we ever have to learn (and we learn it repeatedly and in so many ways) is that life is all about me. Want to be happy, stop thinking about your own happiness and start using your abilities to bless those around you.

The statement that really rocked me was this:

"It was then that I realized that I was looking for a payoff for simply being of service, and that was when my life changed. It isn't an act of kindness if you expect something for it, and once you remove the payoff from the equation, you will find yourself catapulted to the next level of true selflessness, and that is the understanding that the reward for loving is loving; the reward for being of service is being of service. And the self-esteem that comes from reaching out and helping other people is invaluable. Because it gets you out of your own head and helps you not feel overwhelmed by problems or other concerns. It helps you feel connected."

Whoa.

So when I do something to serve someone else, then chafe at not being noticed, I have taken something that SHOULD bring joy to my life and sucked all the love right out of it by making it all about me.

Kids start as babies. Babies are truly thankless beings, they suck everything out of you, your time, you ability to sleep, the right to pee and shower by yourself. Early motherhood taught me that parenting is really a thankless job. The baby doesn't really care that you got no sleep and just wanted 5 minutes to drink a cup of coffee. I think God does this on purpose. It is so easy to make our worlds all about us, to be the center of our own universe and when we step out to serve someone else, to assume everyone should stroke our egos by telling us how great we are. 

Infants suck at lip service. My babies never once told me I was an amazing mother for wiping their butts at 2 am.

I serve my children because they are my blessings from God, because, from the start, I want to show them what a life of love looks like and love is an action. As they grow, I will continue to teach them to serve others with what they have been given. I will teach them that they are a blessing, uniquely gifted and able to help others. I will work, daily, to remember this of myself.

I am still shockingly, embarrassingly, hopelessly selfish. Too often my thoughts go to "whats in it for me" or even the ever juvenile "well, thats not fair!". I guess I still have a lot of learning to do, but with the grace of God and maybe a good therapist, maybe my kids will turn out ok despite me.