Crack’n The Code

Apple juice now….

Apple juice now….”

I was standing next to my just turned two-year old granddaughter last night at a shrimp boil.

My sister Karen looked at me and asked, “What is she saying????”

It sounded like “Apple Juice now” to me.

“Apple juice?  Is that what you want Willow? “

Nada…

She kept repeating the phrase… there was  a  hint  of urgency in her tone…

Suddenly it clicked…

She didn’t want apple juice.

 ap-ple….

Slow it way down and with a little imagination you might hear, “I- poo”…

“I poo?  Do you have to go poo????”

She nodded her head. The two of us made tracks to find her parents.
Cow manure, chicken manure, even hog manure I can handle…but baby poo. No way!

I opened the door, looked over at my son.

“Someone has to go poo poo…now!”

I had cracked the code,

just

in

time.

 

 

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The Disease of Being Busy

 

Came across the following article just the other day, on the topic of business.  The first several years after we were married, even after the kids started coming along, as a firstborn, workaholic myself, spending some unhurried time just talking would not have fit into my schedule.  I’ve written about that season of my life before…I’ve been on both sides of the equation,  I know what it’s like to be running on empty, and I know what it’s like (now) to be able to have margin.

Trust me, margin in life is worth fighting for…..DM

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The Disease of Being Busy

by Omid Safi (@ostadjaan), Columnist

I saw a dear friend a few days ago. I stopped by to ask her how she was doing, how her family was. She looked up, voice lowered, and just whimpered: “I’m so busy… I am so busy… have so much going on.”

Almost immediately after, I ran into another friend and asked him how he was. Again, same tone, same response: “I’m just so busy… got so much to do.”

The tone was exacerbated, tired, even overwhelmed.

And it’s not just adults. When we moved to North Carolina about ten years ago, we were thrilled to be moving to a city with a great school system. We found a diverse neighborhood, filled with families. Everything felt good, felt right.

After we settled in, we went to one of the friendly neighbors, asking if their daughter and our daughter could get together and play. The mother, a really lovely person, reached for her phone and pulled out the calendar function. She scrolled… and scrolled… and scrolled. She finally said: “She has a 45-minute opening two and half weeks from now. The rest of the time it’s gymnastics, piano, and voice lessons. She’s just…. so busy.”

Horribly destructive habits start early, really early.

How did we end up living like this? Why do we do this to ourselves? Why do we do this to our children? When did we forget that we are human beings, not human doings?

Whatever happened to a world in which kids get muddy, get dirty, get messy, and heavens, get bored? Do we have to love our children so much that we overschedule them, making them stressed and busy — just like us?

What happened to a world in which we can sit with the people we love so much and have slow conversations about the state of our heart and soul, conversations that slowly unfold, conversations with pregnant pauses and silences that we are in no rush to fill?

How did we create a world in which we have more and more and more to do with less time for leisure, less time for reflection, less time for community, less time to just… be?

Somewhere we read, “The unexamined life is not worth living… for a human.” How are we supposed to live, to examine, to be, to become, to be fully human when we are so busy?

This disease of being “busy” (and let’s call it what it is, the dis-ease of being busy, when we are never at ease) is spiritually destructive to our health and wellbeing. It saps our ability to be fully present with those we love the most in our families, and keeps us from forming the kind of community that we all so desperately crave.

Since the 1950s, we have had so many new technological innovations that we thought (or were promised) would make our lives easier, faster, simpler. Yet, we have no more “free” or leisurely time today than we did decades ago.

For some of us, the “privileged” ones, the lines between work and home have become blurred. We are on our devices. All. The. Freaking. Time.

Smart phones and laptops mean that there is no division between the office and home. When the kids are in bed, we are back online.

One of my own daily struggles is the avalanche of email. I often refer to it as my jihad against email. I am constantly buried under hundreds and hundreds of emails, and I have absolutely no idea how to make it stop. I’ve tried different techniques: only responding in the evenings, not responding over weekends, asking people to schedule more face-to-face time. They keep on coming, in volumes that are unfathomable: personal emails, business emails, hybrid emails. And people expect a response — right now. I, too, it turns out… am so busy.

The reality looks very different for others. For many, working two jobs in low-paying sectors is the only way to keep the family afloat. Twenty percent of our children are living in poverty, and too many of our parents are working minimum wage jobs just to put a roof over their head and something resembling food on the table. We are so busy.

The old models, including that of a nuclear family with one parent working outside the home (if it ever existed), have passed away for most of us. We now have a majority of families being single families, or where both parents are working outside the home. It is not working.

It doesn’t have to be this way.

In many Muslim cultures, when you want to ask them how they’re doing, you ask: in Arabic, Kayf haal-ik? or, in Persian, Haal-e shomaa chetoreh? How is your haal?

What is this haal that you inquire about? It is the transient state of one’s heart. In reality, we ask, “How is your heart doing at this very moment, at this breath?” When I ask, “How are you?” that is really what I want to know.

I am not asking how many items are on your to-do list, nor asking how many items are in your inbox. I want to know how your heart is doing, at this very moment. Tell me. Tell me your heart is joyous, tell me your heart is aching, tell me your heart is sad, tell me your heart craves a human touch. Examine your own heart, explore your soul, and then tell me something about your heart and your soul.

Tell me you remember you are still a human being, not just a human doing. Tell me you’re more than just a machine, checking off items from your to-do list. Have that conversation, that glance, that touch. Be a healing conversation, one filled with grace and presence.

Put your hand on my arm, look me in the eye, and connect with me for one second. Tell me something about your heart, and awaken my heart. Help me remember that I too am a full and complete human being, a human being who also craves a human touch.

I teach at a university where many students pride themselves on the “study hard, party hard” lifestyle. This might be a reflection of many of our lifestyles and our busy-ness — that even our means of relaxation is itself a reflection of that same world of overstimulation. Our relaxation often takes the form of action-filled (yet mindless) films, or violent and face-paced sports.

I don’t have any magical solutions. All I know is that we are losing the ability to live a truly human life.

We need a different relationship to work, to technology. We know what we want: a meaningful life, a sense of community, a balanced existence. It’s not just about “leaning in” or faster iPhones. We want to be truly human.

  1. B. Yeats once wrote:

“It takes more courage to examine the dark corners of your own soul than it does for a soldier to fight on a battlefield.”

How exactly are we supposed to examine the dark corners of our soul when we are so busy? How are we supposed to live the examined life?

I am always a prisoner of hope, but I wonder if we are willing to have the structural conversation necessary about how to do that, how to live like that. Somehow we need a different model of organizing our lives, our societies, our families, our communities.

I want my kids to be dirty, messy, even bored — learning to become human. I want us to have a kind of existence where we can pause, look each other in the eye, touch one another, and inquire together: Here is how my heart is doing? I am taking the time to reflect on my own existence; I am in touch enough with my own heart and soul to know how I fare, and I know how to express the state of my heart.

How is the state of your heart today?

Let us insist on a type of human-to-human connection where when one of us responds by saying, “I am just so busy,” we can follow up by saying, “I know, love. We all are. But I want to know how your heart is doing.”

From this link:

https://onbeing.org/blog/the-disease-of-being-busy/

An Old Buzzard

Tuesday afternoon I had to have a tooth pulled.

As Ann, the dental hygienist and I were waiting for the Doctor, we talked about parenting.  She has two kids, a 13 yr old daughter and an 10-year-old son.  She alluded to there being quite a bit of tension in their household between the daughter and them.

When I have these conversations, I feel  like an old buzzard on a tree limb watching  as a young family tries to navigate their way through those teen years… I can see the lay of the land in a way that they can not from my perch.

It doesn’t take much to tap into the confusion and anger I felt when I was the one trying to figure out my way through that wilderness.

Pause.

I got a call yesterday from my eldest.  She is 36.  She called me in the middle of the morning, just to visit. Said it had been a while and she was thinking about me.  We talked for 10 minutes about grand kids, her part-time job, honey bees…

She (my eldest) has the most infectious laugh, and laughed several times while we talked.  I thought about that phone call several  times throughout the day. It gave me the warm fuzzies.

When I got home later, my wife mentioned within the past two days, she has had really good visits with all four of our now grown kids.

If you are a parent, and your kids are still in the home, (and even if they are not)  one of the long-term goals you probably  have, is that after they become adults, you and they stay in touch.

Just healthy peer to peer relationships…how does that sound for a parenting goal? 😉

I have that and I take absolutely no credit for it.

I struggled with knowing how to keep the balance when they were in the house between being their parent, and being their friend.  There is a difference.  Yes, the long-term goal is friendship, but that is second compared to being the parent.  Sometimes being the parent means taking a tough stand, when your feelings tell you otherwise.

It wasn’t until one of my “dear, sweet” children, ran away that I realized,  just because we birthed them, did not mean they automatically respected us.

They too were just trying to find their way.

That experience was a watershed moment in my life as a dad.

I gave that child two choices..and neither one of them involved coming home, (initially).

Every family, every, parent/ child relationship has its own dynamics.   There is not “one size fits all” when it comes to raising kids.

One relationship that helped keep me sane was another dad who was also dealing with an out of control older daughter.  He got it.

Our culture did a crappy job preparing me to parent in a healthy way. What I longed for was real advice from real parents, who were dealing with the same issues, just further along on the trail.

Beware of both extremes…being too heavy handed, or too nicey/ nicey.

Eventually, all four of our kids did reach adulthood (alive) and eventually, got the partying, out of their system.

The human brain does not really mature until about age 25, so give them some time, even after they move out.

Parenting is like baking cookies.

My first born batch (or three) felt like I was  flying by the seat of my pants… by number four, I  started to relax.

 

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Priorities

I hesitate to write when I’m in the state of mind I am of late.  I am battling  a mixture of anger, shame and fear, springing from financial pressure which leaves me in a low grade funk.

But then I think to myself, many (not all)  of my long time readers initially stumbled across this blog  after reading a deeper/ darker entry.

So  if you’re looking for light, positive, and sanitized, you’ve come to the wrong place. 🙂

____________________________

My mind has been on priorities and choices I made  twenty years ago when our kids were young and still in the house.

When our kids were little, my wife and I used to argue about  the use of my time, money, work, etc.  We knew better than to attack and cut each other apart with our words. but it never felt like anything got resolved.

Nothing changed….until that one day.

I heard her.

Through tears she said:  ” I need more of you and your energy helping me  raise our  kids.”  We had three under seven and a newborn at the time…how in the heck she made it that long I will never know.  I wasn’t intentionally trying to be negligent.  I just didn’t know any better.

family photo

Pause.

I have only so much energy.

You have only so much energy.

We all get to choose how to spend it. I can spend it on my job. I can spend it on myself. (blogging, hobbies, etc)  I can spend it on being a do-gooder and attempt to change the world.  I can spend it keeping other people happy. etc.   The list is long.

Energy = life.

I decided, I needed to  have more energy  life left over at the end of the day, even if that meant less income.

This is how I view all relationships:

Relationships are  like  plants.  Tend them.  Water them.  Weed them.

Or watch them die.

I have a new screen saver on the computer…

It gives me joy every time I look at it.

 

immediate family - Copy

“Behold, children are a gift …
The fruit of the womb is a reward.

Like arrows in the hand of a warrior,
So are the children of one’s youth.

How blessed, (happy, fortunate, to be envied)  is the man whose quiver is full of them.”

3000 year old proverb

__________________________

I am a rich man.

Even if that hasn’t  translated into more dollars in the bank. 🙂

 

Until We Had One

I mentioned in my last post, I started replacing the siding on a home that I’ve worked at before.  The family has the gift of hospitality with a capital H. When lunch time rolls around, it is expected I join them.   Well today, the youngest girl informed me, she wanted to sit next to me because (and I’m quoting) “I wanted to sit by you, because I like you!”   (Her name is Corine, she’s two years old.)  As we sat there waiting for everyone to get a seat, she told me, she couldn’t wait to get back outside and play with her bubble toys.

For a two year old, I was struck by her vocabulary.     I asked  two of the older siblings later in the day who were helping me side, who she was most like compared to their other brothers and sisters.  They weren’t quite sure, said Corine could get “sassy” sometimes.

As a dad myself of four, I thought I spotted a strong willed temperament the first two minutes of meeting Corine, and their comments about their baby sister Corine, all but confirmed it for me. 🙂

Hang on mom and dad.  You may be in for a ride.  The next sixteen (to twenty) years might test your metal…..

I’d never heard of a “strong willed child” until we had one.

Well, it’s 1:44 AM where I am.  Mostly wanted to write about my new lunch buddy Corine.

She is a sweetie!

Any of you out there in parenting land have any strong willed children within your ranks currently or in the past?  Any tips you’d care to share for the tired mom or dad that might stumble across this muse at a later date? DM

An Open Letter To A Young Father To Be….

Saw a picture this morning

Four twenty “somethingish” first time pregnant young ladies standing in a row.

All due in the Fall.

All smiles.

One of them reminded me of my wife when she was carrying our first. (Daughter just turned 35 last week.

Wife and I are currently enjoying the most connected season in our 36 years of marriage, which is where these thoughts are flowing from….)

There is a part of me that would love to sit down with the husbands of those four precious young ladies and plant just a couple of thoughts into their young  testosterone filled brains.

Here is some of what I would tell them….

#1  You WILL encounter situations in your marriage, in your parenting and in your personal life that bring you to the place of brokenness and confusion in the years ahead.  Resist the temptation to just keep mucking along, and gradually loosing the sense of connection and intimacy you first had as a couple.

Reach out.

Ask for help.

There are people and resources out there that can help you, but the buck stops with you young man.  You may have to do a little digging to find someone in your area, if you need any help, feel free to drop me a comment.

#2 Save some emotional energy for your wife and child.  If you have to sacrifice all of it on the altar of your career, then  get a different job.  Taking care of young children at home (I’m  thinking of your wife @ this point)  has a tendency to turn your brain to mush.  If you don’t believe me, take a week off, tell her to go see her parents or best friend from high school while you take over…

Well, time to go to work.  DM

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