Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Two Pirates and a Seagull

It's a good thing I made my beach sign, or this poor seagull wouldn't know which way to go.  Sherrie from Twenty-Two Pleasant sent me this almost life-size seagull decal.

And what beach would be complete without a couple of pirates?

Day 31: Meeting Expectations out of Love, not Guilt

The day (way back in September) that I sorted, washed, dried, folded, and put away all the laundry in the entire house (5 loads), all on the same day, and had the kitchen tidied and dinner ready on time was monumental.  Monumental, I tell you.  Usually when my husband gets home, the kids are either playing loudly or watching a movie, while I unload the dishwasher and start supper.  The house looks the same as it did when he left in the morning, or often worse, and he can't understand what I did all day.

Now, my friends who also have small children try to reassure me that all mothers have the same issues.  But the trouble is that I know how much time I waste in a day.  I know I could have been more productive.  I know that it is possible to put away the laundry on the same day it is washed, rather than a week later.  I know that I am way way behind on the cleaning.  So I am usually in a cycle of feeling guilty, and then feeling annoyed that my husband doesn't understand, and then resolving to do better tomorrow...and then feeling guilty again because the next day is the same.

I know there isn't supposed to be such guilt in our relationship.  Yes, my husband has expectations of me as a stay-at-home mom, just as I have expectations of him as the breadwinner and lawn-mower of the family.  And yes, it's particularly hard to meet those expectations while my children are little.  But my motivation behind meeting my husband's expectations should not be to avoid feeling guilty.  If that is my focus, I'll do as little as I can get away with and still have an answer to the question, "What did you do today?"

If my focus is on love rather than guilt, then I will do my best to meet any expectations and even go beyond them.  I want my husband to be proud to call me his wife, and to feel that there is value in having me stay at home instead of working.

Of course other relationships come with expectations as well.  Children expect to be played with and given time with their friends, while friends expect phone calls, advice, emergency babysitting, and a shoulder to cry on.  Instead of feeling guilty for not meeting these expectations, remember to foster these relationships to the best of your ability out of love, not guilt.

I still have a long (LONG!) way to go, but I hope this past month of focussing on relationships will only be the start of a rich, fulfilling, relationship-filled life. For me and for you.

Thank you so much for joining me on this 31-day journey!

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Day 30: Everything I didn't do

Wow, this has been quite a month!  I didn't know I had that many words or ideas in me on any one topic!  Actually, I have dozens more ideas that I didn't get to.  I'm keeping the list and I hope to keep challenging myself to focus on the important relationships in my life.

Here are some of my extra ideas.  Maybe they can inspire you too.

mail someone a thank you card
call someone you haven't talked to in a while
go on a date
have a fancy party for the kids
go shopping with a friend
How to Be a Good Guest
get together with someone you don't know well
host a dinner party
Go to a social event alone (practice that small talk!)
give someone an unexpected gift
let the kids plan the day
Do something special/encouraging for someone
kids - play date? (Ok, so I did this one a few times in October, but just didn't write about it.)
Host a big family dinner
deliver fresh baking to someone (instead, my lovely friend Jenn gave me fresh baked bread yesterday)

Have you done any of these things?  Is there anything in this series that you have tried?  I'd love to hear about it!

Monday, 29 October 2012

Day 29: New Family Stories

To continue the conversation about family stories, I wanted to talk a little about creating new family stories.  What are your kids going to remember?  Do you tell them your own stories?  I do.  My daughter's favourite story for me to tell her is the one about being 3 feet away from a bear in the middle-of-nowhere woods near Nordegg.  True story.

I've also read her the little story I wrote about getting lost in the wheat field with my cousin.  And she's always asking about my experiences when I was a kid.  I hope she and her brother will take the stories that mean the most to them, and pass them on to their kids.  And I plan to tell my stories and my grandparents' stories to my grandkids too.

What stories do you want to pass on?

Sunday, 28 October 2012

Day 28: Small Talk

Ok, I really need to get a post up!  I've had a topic planned for days, but no picture ready.  And I'm not sure what I really want to say about small talk because I'm not very good at it.  Oh, I'm rambling again...sorry.

But here are a few of the lessons I've learned about small talk (I've also learned that every single time I go to type "lessons", I end up with "lesions" instead):

1. Say, "How are you?" And mean it.  And if someone says it to you first, answer with sincerity, then say it back.  Can you believe I actually had to consciously remind myself of this for a long time?

2. If you don't know what to say, ask a question.  Preferably about the other person. As in, "I love your shoes! Where did you get them?" Or, "how do you get your kids to listen so well?"  I have one friend who was such a blessing in my teen years.  She went out of her way to talk to me.  I asked myself one day why she was so easy to talk to.  It was because she kept asking me questions.  And they were the kind of questions that slowly led me to be more and more vulnerable with her, and really feel like I had a friend who cared.  She is a sweetheart.

3. Don't talk only about yourself.  It took me a lot longer to learn this particular lesson.  I'm still learning it.  As sweet as my friend was, we could have been much closer if I had made the same effort.  That's where the questions come in handy.

And that's it.  With these three tips, I can pretty much talk to anyone about anything.  I do struggle in big groups, or if I'm tired or head-achy, but most of the time, I'm ok.  Oh, and teenagers are difficult.  Teenagers scare me!  I never know what to say to them.

Do you have any small-talk tips?  How do you start a conversation?

Saturday, 27 October 2012

Day 27: Family History

I'm not posting a picture of a 300-year-old gravestone in honour of halloween.  No, instead it's in honour of my family history.  Most of the people listed on that stone are my relatives.  

Every family is full of stories.  Stories most people don't even know are in their own families.  Stories like my Mennonite great-great-grandmother Anna fleeing from the Soviet army in a covered wagon while being shot at.  With her three children, leaving three graves behind her.  Or my great-grand-nanny Catherine being a beauty queen and only using milk to wash her face instead of soap.  Or my great-grandfather Robert helping to build the Queen Mary ocean liner, and my Papa watching the ship's launch from his top-floor window when he was very young.

How did I learn these stories?  By listening.  I sat down with my grandparents on several occasions and just listened as they told me about their past, their ancestors, and their history.  Without this passing down of stories, most of them would be lost.  As it is, I'm already fuzzy on some of the details, and I'd love to sit down with each of my three grandparents to discuss these stories again.

A few months ago, I stood outside with my Papa and listened to him tell me about The Story Hour radio program that he listened to in Scotland as a child.  I was fascinated, and honoured to be able to spend that time learning from the sweetest man alive.

Do you know your family's stories?

Friday, 26 October 2012

Day 26: The Happiness Bucket

click for little red hearts tutorial

My daughter is in kindergarten and learning new things every day (but much to her dismay, no one will teach her how to read).  Last night she gave me a big long hug, and lots of little kisses on my cheek.  I hugged and kissed her back, of course, and she said, "We're getting more drops in our buckets!"

Her teacher taught her that everyone has a happiness bucket, and when we do nice things for people, we're filling up our own bucket as well as theirs.  Everyone needs more drops in their bucket, and it is each person's responsibility to make sure to keep his or her own bucket full.  So before I left for book club last night, I made sure my bucket was full and overflowing with kisses and hugs.  Of course book club itself added lots of extra drops too.

What's the state of your happiness bucket?

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Day 25: Deeper

I've been writing, these past few days.  In an actual novel.  I'm only about 4000 words in, but this one, unlike any of the others I've worked on, is completely plotted, start to finish.  I'm determined to finish this one or the medieval one before starting any other ideas.

The one I'm working on is a contemporary romantic suspense.  But as much as there is the romance between the hero and heroine, there is also a romance between the heroine and God.  But I'm struggling with that.  I don't know if I can write it how I want to.  I want to write the kind of relationship I want to have with God, one of love and openness and sincerity.

But I feel if I write it that way, it would come across as clich├ęd.   Because that is not my experience with God, although I know it is possible.  I was raised in the church so I know all the right verses and the right things to say, but I want to feel it!  I want to feel that my prayers are reaching their mark rather than only knowing it in my head.  I want to have my first thought be, "how can I be more like Jesus in this situation," rather than complaining or whatever.

I want to seek God, to walk with him.  But I don't know how.  And so I don't know how to write it.  For my whole life I've felt like I've been paddling around in tide-pools when I really want to be swimming in the ocean.

How can I write about a deep and growing relationships with God (such as is beautifully portrayed in Tricia Goyer's Big Sky novels)?

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Day 24: Say Yes (Even When You Don't Want To)

I'm a homebody.  But I'm also a stay-at-home mom with two kids to raise into productive and well-adjusted members of society.  And they don't like to stay at home all the time.  My friend is taking a Yoga for Kids class, and needed to recruit some kids in different age groups to participate in some demo classes.  She asked me if I would be interested in taking my kids there.  Of course my kids couldn't be in the same class because of their age difference, so that meant two separate days of driving way out to the west end of the city and back.

I wanted to say no.  I'm in the middle of a creative surge and just wanted to stay home and write.  And I needed to do the laundry.  And paint some walls.  And cook dinner.  I was about to say no.

But then I remembered how much fun my kids had copying my yoga, and I knew they would love the classes.  So, with great internal reluctance, I gave up my plans, made sure Kevin would be ok with having dinner a little later than normal, and said yes.

My kids had so much fun at the classes.  Even though we forgot to take Juli's extra-cozy socks off so they flapped around her toes for the whole time.  They got to pretend to be sharks and frogs and turtles and puppies...  I'm so glad we said yes.

I know I can't say yes to everything.  But I need to remember that being part of a family (especially the mom) means I often have to give up my plans and consider someone else's interests.  And it's ok.  I'll get my turn, like last night when I sat in bed with the laptop, my husband sleeping beside me, and hammered out 532 words. in a novel I'm working on.

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Day 23: Confidence

The once or twice a year that I go shopping for clothes for myself, I always make sure I look my best.  I take extra time deciding what to wear, make sure my hair is nice, and put on make up.  My husband can't understand it.  It's not like I'm planning to impress anyone, and usually I'm going alone and not with a friend.  But I tell him, it's all about confidence.  If I feel like I already look good, I'll feel better about the shopping experience.

I've always had issues with confidence.  Growing up, I was the shy one, the quiet one, the follower, the peace-keeper   It's been hard for me to learn to have a little more confidence.  I wish it came more easily for me, but I have to live with the personality I've got.

So I'm learning to do what I need to help me be more confident.  I know looks and dress have little to do with actual confidence, but knowing I look my best helps me fake it 'til I make it.  If I look well, I can for a little while pretend I'm not that shy little girl.

What I Wore:
Skirt, Belt, and Leopard Print Tank: Old Navy
Cropped Cardigan: Zellers
Teal Tights: Joe Fresh
Necklace: Gift from Kevin. I think it's from The Bay
Boots: Shoe Warehouse.  I love those boots.
I'm actually really surprised that I had the confidence to wear this outfit to church on Sunday.  I was sure the teal tights would just be way too bright with the olive.  But I decided to try it anyway.  I liked how they looked, so to balance the colour, I swapped the pink cardigan I had planned to wear with this aqua one, and put on my a-little-too-fancy teal necklace.  I can tell I'm learning more about fashion, because I didn't sit in church regretting my choice as I normally do when I chose to wear something a little too out-there.

Are you a confident person?  Or do you fake it like me?  Please leave confidence-building tips in the comments!  I can use all the help I can get!

pleated poppy

Monday, 22 October 2012

Day 22: Embarrassing Moments

By the way, I don't have any school-bus related embarrassing moments.
I just wanted an excuse to use this Instagram photo.

As you may have seen already, I woke up at 2am Sunday morning with an absolutely brilliant idea for a post.  It was so good that I knew I wouldn't forget it.  But of course I did.  It took me all day to remember what my wonderful post was supposed to be about!  So here it is, and I hope it lives up to how fantastic it was supposed to be. (It probably won't be, of writing is always much better in my head beforehand...except that one time...)

Embarrassing moments.  Everyone has them.  And if they're really bad, they can keep us from reaching out to people, from taking risks, from being vulnerable.

I'm too easily embarrassed.  I've always hated doing anything out of the ordinary that would make people think I'm weird or different or not good enough.  I don't even like watching movies or reading books in which people do stupid things!  I get embarrassed for them.

But I've discovered a couple of things about those embarrassing moments.  1: Most of the time, those around you have hardly even noticed that you've embarrassed yourself.  2: You can take the power and embarrassment out of these incidents by talking about them.  Laughing about them.  The more you tell the story, the easier it is to bear it until it just becomes a funny story rather than an embarrassment.

For example, for the past 12 or so years, when people ask me what my most embarrassing moment is, I tell this story:
When Kevin and I were out on our second date (or was it third?), we were at Second Cup having white hot chocolate (which became our signature dating drink).  We were deep in discussion staring mutely at each other because we couldn't think of anything to say.  I took a sip of my delicious white hot chocolate, inhaled instead of swallowed, and coughed so hard I sprayed my drink across the table.  I could not stop coughing!  I have no idea why Kevin and I ever had a third (or was it fourth?) date after that!  I was mortified!
But since I've talked about that story so often (teenage girls ask for embarrassing moments stories all the time, apparently), there is no sting left in that story.  I can laugh at myself, and just be grateful that Kevin overlooked that particular incident.

On the other hand, there are a couple of embarrassing moments stories I haven't shared.  One of them happened when I was fourteen, and I still cringe to think of it.  It's about time I talk about it.  So here it is:
When I was fourteen, my family started going to a little church plant in Millet.  There were maybe 50 people attending at the time, and we met in the boy scout hall every Sunday.  One Sunday, when I was sitting in the second row wearing a too-big black button-up tunic with large white polka dots and a ruffle on the bottom along with velvet stirrup pants (I was a fashion plate!), we were beginning the worship section of the service.  The song leader said some kind of intro, after which, at our old church everyone would usually stand up.  So I stood up.  All alone.  And it wasn't as if I just quickly stood, realised my mistake, and sat down after a second.  No, I stood there for a good long time.  Looking toward the front, just waiting for the singing to start.  Which it didn't.  Probably because they were all wondering why I was standing, and waiting for me to say something!  I was horrified!  
And I'm still horrified.  Here's the other one:
This happened the first time I met Kevin's grandparents.  They all live in Ontario, and were very important in Kevin's childhood, so I was anxious to impress them.  Perhaps a little too anxious. We were out for dinner with the grandparents and Kevin's brothers.  I don't remember who said what, but suddenly, I couldn't stop laughing.  I could NOT stop laughing!  I have no idea why.  It's not like I have a particularly beautiful laugh.  I either cackle or I giggle.  This was a full-out unstoppable giggle-fit  That was probably Kevin's cue to cut his losses and run far away from this crazy person he was dating, but amazingly, he stuck it out.  I must have been a really good kisser (if we were even kissing at that point in our took a few months).  Anyway, I had to literally excuse myself from the table and giggle my way to the bathroom before I could stop laughing.  Even now I kind of want to hide my face in embarrassment.
Then there's the one about the tinfoil bits in the baked potato the first time I cooked for my mother-in-law...

But that's enough for today.  Whew!  It feels good to get that out!  I just may have to print these out and pass them around to exorcise 15 and 12 years of pent-up embarrassment, respectively.

So, do you have any embarrassing moments that are keeping you from taking risks or being vulnerable and open to your friends and family?  If you feel brave, tell the story in the comments or on your own blog.  (if you blog about it, let me know!)  Don't  keep giving the past emotional power over your life.

Sunday, 21 October 2012

Day 21: Families Should Cuddle!

So instead of writing a post this afternoon, we decided to pile all four of us onto our king-sized bed and cuddle.  Which, in our family, usually devolves into tickling/wrestling.  It was so nice to be all together, so confident in our love for each other.  I love being a family that hugs and cuddles and kisses whenever we feel like it (despite the resistance of a certain more reticent member of the family...we hug and kiss him anyway and he tickles and teases us back!)

Go hug someone you love.

Day One: 31 Days to Real-Life Relationships
Day Two: Be a Good Hostess
Day Three: The Cultivate Family Friendships Challenge
Day Four: The Book Club Bench
Day Five: The Ask-a-Friend-for-Help Challenge
Day Six: The Do-Something-Scary-with-a-Friend Challenge
Day Seven: The Most Important Relationship
Day Eight: Be Thankful in Relationships
Day Nine: Girls' Night!
Day Ten: Accept Offers from Others (No Guilt Allowed!)
Day Eleven: How to Make Friends
Day Twelve: A Pleasant Home
Day Thirteen: A Different View of Birthday Cards
Day Fourteen: Laugh Together
Day Fifteen: The Plan-A-Family-Outing Challenge
Day Sixteen: The Smile Challenge
Day Seventeen: Get Enough Alone Time
Day Eighteen: The Power of an Apology
Day Nineteen: Give Your Time
Day Twenty: Mail Letters to Friends and Family

Find other 31-day series' here