Oct 5, 2015

Sophistication is Simple

"Simplicity is the ultimate form of sophistication"

- Leonardo da Vinci

"Simplicity is the ultimate form of sophistication". Is an amazingly, simple yet powerful quote. Made more so, considering it came from the possessor of one of the greatest minds of all time, Leonardo da Vinci.  

Cathedral Grove Muir Woods
One of the most prized items of beauty and sophistication in the Pacific Northwest are the Redwoods and Sequoia trees.  They are beautiful in their sheer simplicity.  They are trees that reach amazing heights.  Yet, they are simply a tree.  They draw thousands of tourists to their groves each year, yet they are simply a tree.  They have inspired poets, and national forests, yet they are simply a tree. Beautiful, tall, proud, trees that have stood for hundreds of years, glorious in their simplicity.  

Modern World

So in a modern world where we are constantly marketed the latest, greatest, way to be beautiful, lose weight, be happy, be sophisticated. what if we took a lesson from da Vinci all just took a step back to move forward and simplified our lives by one less "thing".  

To be happy we don't need "stuff".  We need connections with family and friends, feelings of appreciation, hugs, smiles.  

One less toy to pickup, one less calendar obligation, one less shirt in our closet to be washed and rehung (if we really even wear it at all?).
What if we start to strive towards a more sophisticated life by rising above our own clutter and focusing on what truly matters?

Okay great, simple is sophisticated. But, what is the plan? MY LIFE IS SO COMPLICATED.....

There are a million books with complicated organization and simplification methods and schedules.  

What I propose is much simpler than all of those.  Just de-clutter at least one item a day or one simple spot a day for just 15 minutes a day.  Take a look around your house, your life.  What can you simplify?  Get rid of?  You would be amazed at what you find.

What is the one thing that drives you crazy each day?  That you waste incredible amount of time on?
For me it is Socks.  The never ending search for them in the mornings.  My children's socks literally walk away on their own, to a sock never, never land. 

Socks, they are such a simple wardrobe item, that causes me so much grief.  Essentially, they are just a tube of fabric with ideally, just one hole. 
But they have to match. They come in pairs, and have a mind of their own. I tried the "everyone only wears white socks" thing.  And it worked for a while, until the latest crazy sock fashion craze started. So now I decided to completely embrace the craze and tell the kids that with crazy socks the beauty is they "DON'T EVEN HAVE TO MATCH, HOW cool is THAT?!"  They didn't buy it. 
So my next tactic was to tell the family we no longer believed in socks and we were fully embracing living in California and our feet wanted to just live in flip flops.  But, the schools make the kids wear closed toe shoes.  Some rule about safety and kickball.  Really? So that plan was doomed.  

Joking aside, we are constantly looking at ways to simplify  socks.  For me, I work towards simplifying the sock situation in our house because once that is simplified I dream about the hours I would gain.  The freedom! 

In all seriousness and socks aside, clutter in our life is a thief.  It steals our time and joy.  Have you ever truly felt joy looking for a pair of matching socks in the morning as you are trying to get everyone to school on time?  Or the scotch tape as you are running late to a birthday party because you couldn't find the scissors?  No that is not joy, it is stress and I know when I am stressed I certainly am not looking sophisticated nor am I acting sophisticated! I am not looking like a regal, strong, beautiful me but rather like rabid rat crazily scurrying around.  So I strive and crave simplification.

Because through that exercise of simplification we tend to rise, with great beauty towards the sky with a strength that comes from deep with in.  A tall, beautiful, strong, glorious, sophisticated us.

Oct 3, 2015

Embrace the Chocolate Cake and Celebrate

He showed the words “chocolate cake” to a group of Americans and recorded their word associations. “Guilt” was the top response. If that strikes you as unexceptional, consider the response of French eaters to the same prompt: “celebration.”          

Embrace the Chocolate Cake and Celebrate, it is all a matter of perspective.  

As Moms, we are constantly told many messages.  We have a long list of “shoulds” told to us every day from the media and society.  Here is a short list: reading every night to our children, helping them fill out their reading logs, feed them healthy, homemade snacks in the shapes of cute animals we see on Pinterest, make adorable goody bags, volunteer untold hours at school, be active, caring members of our communities, help provide an income to our families, set a wonderful example of unending patience while we smile and say sweet words of support to our precious offspring.  All while maintaining a trim figure while wearing the most recent fashions.  Then, sadly we fall short of expectations.  Then when we fail to live up to our or other’s expectations, we feel guilt.  Why?  Because we are human.

Which brings us back to Chocolate Cake.  

For many moms, life as mom is a constant balancing act.  For me, I chose to reenter the work world after being home for a number of years.  Going back to work for me has been one huge new balancing act.  To be honest, I sometimes question, with guilt, the impact of my decisions to first stay home and then second to go back to work. So, having been fortunate enough to have walked on both of these paths, I have fortunately experienced much guilt.   

But,  I will never forget the day I was feeling guilty and remorseful about something and internally feeling horrible, when suddenly a voice (don't ask which kid they all talk A LOT) amid the chatter in the mini-van said "Mom, you know what is so cool?"

I replied half listening, due to being up to my eyeballs in the mud of guilt, "What?"

"That you blah blah blah with your job."

Then the other voices, chattering in the van, chimed in that it was “cool too” and they “think it is so neat”.

To be, again honest, I have absolutely no recollection what I was feeling guilty about. I have no recollection what they thought was so cool. I do recall looking up, whispering "Thank You" with tears in my eyes and the feeling of gratitude that washed over me that my children were rebalancing and still saw me as a great Mom. Here, I was looking at chocolate cake and thinking guilt, my children were seeing my re entry to the workforce as a celebration.  

Have I had to learn a new balance? Yes, absolutely. Would I trade the years I spent as a stay-at-home Mom? Would I trade the growth we have had as a family with me working? Not in a million years.

My wish for you is that we embrace life as a beautiful, glorious piece of Chocolate Cake and instead of feeling guilt we celebrate.  It is truly a matter of perspective.  The freedom from guilt is a wonderful gift we give ourselves and our families.

Have a piece of chocolate cake.  

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Oct 2, 2015

Encouragement for working moms

You are not alone.  Someone sees you.  They see how you sacrifice, they see how you carefully schedule childcare and trade off with your husband or wife to take care of your family.   In the middle of busy days with busy schedules and the guilt of knowing you are not home with your family, you are never alone.

Just keep working hard for your family.  Just keep working hard for the people you serve every day.  People may choose a different path, but your path isn't wrong, just different, and maybe a little more difficult.  Just do what you need to do and know that it will all be okay.  Hundred's of thousands of kids in the 80s grew up with both parents working and it seemed to work out okay for most of them.

Tomorrow, when you wake up, take an extra moment for a squeeze or a ticklish moment, and them step back and enjoy them.  Look at their faces and their eyelashes, look at their knees and elbows.  Someday soon they will not want you to read them that story or play Uno with them for the hundredth time, but today they are still asking so be mindful and accept their invitation gladly.  Don't waste time feeling guilty, just waste time with your kids, laughing and reading and debating and watching.  Enjoy them while you can, and endure them when you can't.  You are doing great mama!

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Oct 1, 2015

31 days of Encouragement - Use your words.

It is still JUST under the deadline.  Today is the first day of October, and historically this blog has participated in a 31 days of ... series.

Well, Kelley and I {AJ} have both been over our heads busy with new jobs and managing small empires {also known as families and homes}.  As a new teacher, I find that I thrive daily on the small little encouragements that I receive from  co-workers, students and my family.  We will be sharing daily encouragements for this month, and hope to bless a few of our readers in the process.

Today's encouragement is about the power of words.  As a mother, I have been known to occasionally say "use your words".  As a teacher, I use my words all day every day.  Most of the time my words are instructing, sometimes they are correcting and rebuking, often they are encouraging and helpful.

Do you find your words build others up?  If you reflect on that question and cringe, you are not alone!  We all make mistakes and say words that are not helpful or may be even downright hurtful.  Every day is a new day, and a fresh slate.  Plan to "use your words" in a positive way this week!  You may find that a simple smile and "hope you have a FABulous day" will make all the difference in the tone of your days.

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Jun 25, 2015

7 good excuses to not {have to} involve your kids in organized sports

My son will be starting 7th grade in several weeks and he has never played on an organized sports team. My 10 year old daughter is also "sports-free".  It sounds like a confession, but it isn't a secret or something I am embarrassed about. I am not against my kids participating in organized activities, we keep our kids busy during the summer months with classes and camps.  Nor am I inexperienced in the world of competitive sports.  I spent more than 7 years of my life on a team.  As a child I swam on a competitive swim team and in High school I was a swimmer and Water Polo player. 

Peer-pressure is a real thing with adults as well as kids!  Only with adults they pressure you to sign your kids up for soccer, football or little league so you too can find your evenings and weekends taken over by sports.  I am surrounded by friends and family that started their little ones at age 5 and 6 on little league and soccer teams.  Some even encouraged (pressured) me to put my kids on a team, spouting the well know "facts" that kids on teams get along better with other kids, are better students, have higher IQs, are more likely to go to college, have better sportsmanship, are more confident, are more physically fit, are less likely to be obese, etc. etc. et al.

I do have a confession to make: I don't really enjoy watching sports.  I REALLY don't enjoy watching 3-9 year old kids play sports.  I often feel like someone is going to throw me out of America for saying it, but it is true.  I don't get the idea of competition and the pressures associated with it as a healthy developmental choice to make for your kids.  But just because I didn't want to do it, doesn't mean I am immune to peer pressure.  I found myself lying to people, saying we were going to sign our kids up "next year" to just get them to stop telling me all the reasons why I was missing out.  If you are like me, and you are seriously considering giving in to the peer pressure by signing your little person up for soccer or little league to get your friends and family off your back,  let me help you out with some great "facts" of your own.

1. It may not do what you think it does
Most of the research findings about sports helping school work, IQ and mental health was done on adolescents over the age of 13.  Mostly in High school and school sports. Not on children. Which means that sports may not have this type of impact on your kids at all.  If 35 million kids are playing organized sports in America, we should have the most intelligent and well adjusted kids in the world, the fact that we don't should indicate that the "positive" results of organized sports may be a little overstated.

2. It limits time for free-play
 There are multiple studies that show that family culture (how active parents are with the children) as well as the amount of free-play kids participate in are better indicators of physical health and development than organized sports.

3. It infringes on family time
The one thing that has the greatest positive impact in regards to confidence, self-esteem and healthy interpersonal skills, is actually sitting down as a family at the dinner table consistently. This is especially important between the ages of 5 and 15.  Ironically, sports often interfere with that practice. 

4. Ain't Nobody got time for that!
Let's face it, sports can take up an obscene amount of time.  It becomes your everything.  The more involved you get, the fewer hours you spend at home.  Your child becomes comfortable eating every meal in the car, as well as doing homework in between practice and games.  If you have more than one child you will never be home.  Ever.  In my humble opinion a child's primary jobs are healthy emotional development and school work.  Sports often take priority over both of those things.

5. You don't want your kids to get hurt
Statistics show that sports related injuries are the second leading cause of emergency room visits for children. Protect your child's joints, bones, muscles and tendons and let them wait until High School to start damaging their body.

6. Your kid is not likely to make it a career
This is my favorite cited reason for parents justifying spending literally 20 hours a week at sports related activities... to get that scholarship or to consider a future in the sport.  The odds of getting a college scholarship in your sport of choice really isn't all that great, as in, only 1-2% of high school athletes get those scholarships.  In 2012 there were around 15,000 professional athletes in America.  Take a moment and consider those odds... 35 million kids playing and 15,000 professional athletes with jobs.  Those aren't good odds. 

7. Your kids can learn cooperation and teamwork somewhere else
Your kids can learn how to cooperate with others and the value of teamwork in many places other than a competitive sport.  At home, at school, at church, in a club or other organization like Girl Scouts or Boy Scouts, in a band, any place where children have the opportunity to practice cooperative play, they can practice teamwork.  

Maybe you personally LOVE watching your kids play on the field and don't mind all of the drawbacks of sports... and most importantly, your kids LOVE playing!  Well, more power to ya, if you like it... have fun!  If like me you prefer a less chaotic existence, or maybe your kids don't love a sport you are forcing them to play... there are many good reasons to not push it.  Be free!! Let your kids ride their bikes around the block instead, take them to a park to run and climb and use their imaginations, buy a giant trampoline and let them bounce to their hearts' content in your backyard.  Playing a sport is not a "must do" for children.  But, that is just my opinion.

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