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A Peace Treaty

October 2, 2018

 

Today is my anniversary.  I have been legally married to Richard Shaffer for 24 years.  We have known each other for 27 years. This is more than half of our lives.  In 4 days I turn the corner on half a century.

Calling me in the middle of our separate drop offs of children this morning he asked me,  “Do you consider this a happy day? Or a sad day?”

It is hard to make it 24 years married without battle scars.  

I replied, “This is a great accomplishment.  It is a great celebration”

This is a Peace Treaty between two different planets that has held for 24 years.  We have discovered 4 new worlds that are thriving only if Peace continues to reign between us.  

We have each acquired nuclear weapons since our union many years ago.  Either one of us could declare war with one push of a button. There have been things worthy of doing so.  But we each know the cost.  All would perish.  Innocent and guilty alike.

So much time and energy spent building these lives that matter so much.  A history woven together of happy times, celebrations and laughing alongside disappointments, shame and hurt.  So many summits to negotiate our differences. So many times we had to swallow our pride and turn the other cheek.  So much stepping over the things we don’t like. So many hours of listening to navigate danger and difficulty.

Two different planets could never agree on everything. Why do we ever think that they could?

I am sorry for the young romantics who might read this and see cynicism.  I am not unhappy and jaded. I am older and wiser. I am more humble and tolerant.  I have had my faults pointed out to me in ways I can not ignore. My roots grow deeper and stronger in this rich reality.   I can reach higher with help, than I can alone.

I have arrived at a rare stop along the journey.  Not many make it this far.  A place where I have hindsight AND I would not do one thing different.  Yes, I would do it all over again, even the hard.  The hard times taught me the most.  (I would just ask for amnesia to go through it again haha.)

I am thankful.  I am thankful for the happy times.  I am thankful for the hard times.  And I am So so thankful for peace.  I am thankful for peace today. There is no promise of tomorrow. I am Thankful for the strength of this treaty that grows stronger through each challenge overcome.  Thankful for our 4 children who are new worlds of discovery only possible through this partnership. And I am thankful to have an ally in this world.

It is a great accomplishment and a happy celebration:    

 

 

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A little bird told me…

So I was trying to get on the road for a trip. Subtracting myself from all the details of my house, husband and children is a complicated process. I try to set a deadline for leaving and then have to reset it several times before I actually finish cleaning the kitchen, emptying the refrigerator, taking out the trash, packing the car etc. I just have to leave everything in Good order. It is a mom thing.

So you can imagine my delight when I was actually ready to walk out the door at exactly 1 pm. The original time I said I wanted to leave to miss the Friday traffic.

All I had to do was take the dog out to pee one last time and get in the car and leave. I puffed up feeling pleased with myself.

So I took Lucy out through the garage and let her do her thing. I came back in to put her up and turned around to leave and just as I was about to walk out the open door, a little bird flew in my house!

What the hell!! Seriously? It is 1:02 pm. How can this be? A bird??

What can I do? I have an innocent little creature flying around my house bumping into windows trying to find its way out.

So Lucy and I spent the next half an hour trying everything we could think of to free this little bird. It involved ladders and brooms and fans and opening every window and door. We tried sweet talk as if this little bird understood English. Funny enough, Lucy didn’t bark once. She seemed to know that would scare the little thing further into the rafters of my two story living room. She did use her herding instincts to help me. She and I would just come from each side and try to shoo it and sweet talk it toward the opening.

Finally, the little bird perched on an open windowsill and calmly flew off. I swear it looked at me and nodded like, “ok you can leave now”.

I rushed around closing windows and doors before any other wild creature could fly in.

Whew! Only 27 minutes past my deadline.

Now as I traveled down the highway, about an hour and a half into my trip, traffic came to a complete stop. On I-20 this is never a good sign.

As it turns out, there was a 3 car accident that involved a tractor trailer, a U-haul and a sedan. By the looks of the fire trucks, police and paramedics present, not only was it a bad one, but I missed being involved by about 30 min.

Almost the exact amount of extra time it took me to leave my house because of a little bird.

I looked up at the big sky mystery and said, “wow, thanks”.

Now I am turning 50 this year and you might say it is time for me to grow up and stop this magical thinking.

But I would say to you that I choose to live in a magical, supernatural, spiritual, loving existence. I know the difference between my world and the bigger population of the depressed and the miserable. Since I do have a choice. In fact it is probably the only thing I can really choose. I choose to be in my amazing technicolor world.

I choose to believe that nature is full of loving kindness and giving me support along the way. I choose to believe that I don’t know what I am being protected from when things don’t go my way. I choose to believe that nature communicates with me. All the time. I choose to believe nature and God communicate with all of us but most people don’t know how to hear it.

Sometimes I get validation of this that is hard to ignore. Like being protected from an accident that would at the very least ruined my weekend and at the very worst been a tragedy.

And do you know how I know this to be true??

A little bird told me. 🙂

(Doug this is for you. ❤️ For missing me. I am back.)

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Playground bullies 

During a trip to Asheville NC this weekend, we went apple picking.  Golden Delicious, Rome, Black Arkansas and Fuji are a few of the perfect round shades of green to deep red that are weighing down my trunk as we head home.  

Of course we had to stop at the many attractions that flank these beautiful apple orchards, such as the corn maze 


After getting good and lost, back tracking, walking in circles and having our sense of direction generally turned upside down, we stumbled onto a grand playground that could have been a throw back to my childhood.  Home made swings, a giant mountain of hay with tunnels, a large trampoline and climbing ropes.  In other words, lots of risk and danger :))


Kids were running, climbing and jumping  around in utter bliss. 

What prompted this post was what happened on the tunnel swing. 


There were about 10 children of all ages on this attraction.  I was doing what I love best, observing children at play.  

I know that if you give children the freedom to engage in risky play together they handle it quite responsibly, but it is still such a pleasure to watch it first hand. Without knowing each other’s names there was expert cooperation without any one  boss. They took turns pushing and riding without any conversation about it. The older children kept checking in with younger children to see if they needed to slow down or get off. Younger children were watching how the older ones did things and then tried to emulate them.   They ran this swing like a well oiled machine, not the accident waiting to happen, it could have been.  There are many businesses, organizations and adult groups that could learn from this kind of team work. 

Until…

An older woman carried over a small child about 3 years old. He did not walk over on his own. He was not drawn to this swing by his own volition. Probably because it was developmentally beyond his risk taking interest. Yet, she placed him on and proceeded to take over pushing the swing. The other children were quiet and let her take the lead as you would expect of respectful children. She began to push. The other children followed her lead to help her. The small child began to lean. She kept pushing. Then he leaned some more. The woman told him to hold on, still pushing. We all looked at each other knowing what was imminent. The child had a look of fear on his face. Then boom. Sure enough he fell off the swing. 😦 

Now the woman gasped and ran over to pick him up. What she said next did not surprise me one single bit. 

Woman scolding, “You children are pushing it too hard! You shouldn’t be doing that. You are pushing it too hard for little kids! That is why they are going to get hurt!” 

Me, “Actually I disagree. They have been doing a very responsible job of working this swing”

The woman huffed off with her crying grandchild in her arms. 

I reassured the children that they were working hard to be kind to each other and play together. This was not their fault. 

If I could speak to this woman I would advise her to let her grandson pick his own interests to follow on the playground. If and only if, he wanted to ride this swing then he would have been better off with these children helping him. They would have helped him, communicated to make sure he was comfortable and stopped way before he fell all the way off. Having said that, if he had fallen off he would have been helped up and learned a few things about balance and swinging along with a bit of dirt. 

Why do adults show so little respect for children?  Their interests, instincts and abilities? Maybe because we can. 

I have been learning to stand back a little and give children the respect of their own way when appropriate. What I have been given when I do that is the gift of my  greatest teachers. 

After this incident, another boy came over to the swing and began to play. He said, “you know that woman who picked up that child? She is a teacher at my school and she is really mean.”  

Out of the mouths of babes. Enough said. 

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Climbing A Mountain of Laundry

How many years I have done the laundry! First just mine and Richard’s. It was a mole hill then. It was a domestic romantic endeavor. I was doing this man’s laundry. I was nurturing and taking care of him. It was such a pleasure to give of myself this way.  Way back then. 

Then it was laundry for 3. I was still in such a state of bliss, that I used cloth diapers and washed them myself. Richard was supportive of me staying home, in spite of the fact that we had no money, at times, putting groceries on a credit card. I was so thankful I did not have to leave my baby with some stranger and go to work. Laundry? It wasn’t even a second thought. It was a privilege. 

Then it was laundry for 4. Then 5. Then 6. The years ticked away.  Laundry overwhelmed me. I dreaded, resented and sometimes just avoided that pile of laundry. It would follow me into my dreams.  It would pile up until we were in a state of emergency over socks, clean underwear or the favorite outfit needed for school that day. 

Richard and I divided the work of family in the most efficient way we could. He built a career and earned the money. I took care of the home and the kids. 

This work was 24/7, for both of us. The work of building and nurturing a family. The work of building income to support that family. There was now a mountain of work where a mole hill had been. A mountain of bills, boo boos, groceries, meals, bath times, bedtimes, school tuition and yes, laundry. 

It is hard to take care of others without time for yourself and each other. Disappointments build up. Resentment creeps in. Climbing that mountain sometimes seemed impossible. Richard and I dubbed those struggles for little pieces of sanity as “fighting over scraps”. We would bicker over the unfairness of it all. I was angry when he was home sitting down for 5 minutes when I was slaving away with dinner, bedtime and…laundry. He was resentful when I was having fun at the pool, lying in the sun with the kids on a summer day while he was stuck behind a desk. 

I am sitting here right now avoiding a mountain of laundry before me. 


Richard is sitting quietly enjoying a book. The old resentment still tries to take over. The old tape in my head tries to play the “it’s not fair” tune. 

But a softening has happened for me while climbing over 21 years of dirty laundry. 21 years Richard and I have been sticking it out, having each other’s back, holding each other afloat, and even tearing each other down. I am far enough up that mountain now that I have a different view. 

I see how hard we have BOTH worked. I see how much we have both sacrificed and, I see how much we have both gained from this division of labor. I see our 4 little start ups beginning to spin off into their own amazing futures.  I see how hard we still both work. I see we still have so much laundry ahead.  I see we are getting older. 

So as I sit here facing a mountain of laundry with an old tape playing, I drown it out with a new tune. Instead of thinking “how unfair for him to sit by while I do all the laundry”, I think how thankful I am to have this nice house, nice laundry, nice washer and dryer. It leads me to other gratitude. 

I feel gratitude for the few minutes of rest Richard can take to recover from a grueling work week. I am grateful I am to be able to focus on nurturing my family. I am grateful Richard is successful and smart and healthy. I am filled with gratitude that my children are well and safe and loved so deeply by both of us. 

Now, as a daily practice I gratitude my mountain of laundry back into just a small mole hill.  Each little dirty piece of clothing piled up into a mountain of blessings to count.  

Blessings I need to get folded so I can go to bed 🙂 

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Mother’s Day 2014

One year later, I take a look back.

Not The Maid

Mother’s Day has always been something of a disappointment to me.  Never able to live up to it’s Hallmark image.  My husband and children never able to really do enough to mark it special.  I, never able to do enough to mark it special for my mother, mother in law, sister, grandmothers.  All of this, measured by my own dissatisfied harsh internal judgment and measuring stick.  I have listened to friends lament how it fell short for them.  Their husbands or parents or children not able or willing to do what it takes to really honor the sacrifice and work it takes to be a mother.  Or the opposite.  I have listened to other mothers brag about how perfectly their families celebrated them, and felt pretty depressed about how my own marked the day.

Until now.

I think I finally ‘GET’ Mother’s Day.  Sad that it took facing illness and…

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Zeke’s rendition of The Green Goblin

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This weekend I was reading my favorite magazine: Running Times, and the cover story features a masters marathoner named Sheri Piers.  She is 41 years old, and last April was the top American at the Boston Marathon coming in 10th overall, finishing in 2:41:55 in 80 degree heat.  She is a major stud.

As I read it, I felt inspired, proud of what a woman our age can do, and a wee bit jealous.  Maybe that is one of my dreams!  Now that is hard to admit, because I am basically a beginning runner and have only run a marathon distance one time.  And that time was 5:40 and some seconds!  So who am I kidding?  But I think our dreams are those things that we are almost embarrassed to admit to others.  They sound so far fetched.   Isn’t that the definition of dreams?  I had to admit to myself that her accomplishments with running are something I DO dream about.  One of my dreams.  I actually have quite a few.  In fact, I am gonna go out on a limb and list them as they stand at the moment:

l.  To be an elite marathon runner.  Maybe even triathlon athlete.  Maybe even Iron Man Triathlon athlete!

2.  To write a “best-seller” about something (haven’t got the something yet)

3.  To be a Dr. of Chinese Medicine.  Trained in acupuncture and herbal remedies, as well as,  how to grow them myself.

Now, I am imagining you holding your sides, you are laughing so hard right now.  That is ok.  Life is looooong.   You gotta dream in order to do.  And the way I see it, I am just getting started.  😉

My challenge is this:  How do I get there?

I began to wonder, “How do these women do it?”  “How do they accomplish so much with the same amount of hours in a day that I am given?”   Not just Sheri Piers, but other women in my life as well.  The rock stars (not literally) that are always getting amazing things done in the world.   I always feel tired when I am talking to them about what they accomplish in a day.

How do they do it?  I obviously don’t have the answer to that, but I have a hypothesis:  WILLPOWER

I don’t think they have more hours in a day.  I actually don’t even think they have that much more willpower than me.  I think they have figured out how to harness and direct their willpower MUCH better than me.

The book, “The Willpower Instinct: How Self -Control Works, Why It Matters and What Can You Do To Get More of It” by Kelly McGonigal talks about this very thing.  Yes, you can increase your willpower by simple day to day practice in self discipline.  But too much discipline is counter productive and there is a ceiling at some point.

So maybe it is a matter of looking at WHERE you spend your willpower.  I know for a fact, that these women are not spending precious willpower on laundry, cleaning toilets, grocery shopping, fixing the leaky sink, and over functioning for their kids.  Maybe some of them are not even spending enough willpower on their kids and marriages.  Like I said, there are only 24 hours in a day no matter who you are.

I, on the other hand, am spending quite a bit of precious willpower on that kind of stuff.  Because of the previous post about too many sick kids, I splurged and had someone clean my house this weekend from top to bottom.  I can’t do that regularly right now, but WOW! I was amazed at the amount of willpower it freed up for me.  Enough to get my exercise going again, go skating with my kids, and even think up this post.

So is there any wiggle room?  I mean we have to eat, the toilets have to get cleaned, the bills have to be paid.   I am not willing to let my kids and marriage go to hell in a hand basket.   But…

I began to think about that over functioning for the kids part.  I absolutely recognize my need to be needed.  My kids have cooperated and sacrificed their ability to do for themselves, just so I would feel important and central in their lives.  But… now that is starting to keep me from doing some of the really cool stuff I want to do!  And frankly, I am just getting tired of over functioning for them.

So I am starting with a simple goal:

Set my alarm for 4:30 a.m. (I already get up at 5 a.m. to coddle and over function for my kids) five out of seven days.  Get up and LEAVE the house to go exercise/train and shower.  Let Richard over function a little bit and take over the morning routine.  My guess is, he will suck at over functioning for our kids and they will become much more independent, self-sufficient creatures.  (although maybe not so happy about it to begin with)

And I will add to and free up some willpower that was being horribly misused.  Who knows what is possible!  Stay tuned…