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Home Schooling in the Wide Wild World

Sol: 149 One of the challenges and biggest worries I had about this trip was the continuing IMG_4034education of our kids. I was really, really concerned that we would mess them up or get them really behind. I’ve expressed this on this blog and the sentiment takes up entirely too much space in my head.IMG_9725

It has been an adjustment to our parenting to add in the responsibility of our boys’ education along with the other parenting tasks: keeping the kids alive, feed and so forth. I’m a big follower of Dr. Laura Markman of Aha Parenting. An approach of empathy with limits in parenting has helped me as I process this.

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So, when talking to our kids about choices I often tell them or ask them to tell me what my job is as their parent. The mantra is that I’m to keep them “Happy, Healthy, Safe and Clean”. This helps when I have to explain a difficult decision or boundary that is unpopular with them (or me!).

IMG_9283Then add in the schooling and it is a whole new role. Yes, we have been teaching them since birth but, the structured approach of making sure the boys are ‘on track’ has been an interesting one.

The boys attend a Montessori school back in Oregon (We love Harmony Montessori!). We plan on returning to the school upon our return. In fact, it was a big bargaining chip when planning this trip that we would bring them back to a place they love, feel comfortable and back with friends.IMG_8743

In the meantime, we are the teachers. This big, wide, world is a great teacher. Now, 140+ days I see a lot of change in with the boys. They have always been curious but, they have found some comfort and connection in the places we staying and have grown in the discomfort.

It’s not so much about ‘touring’ but, about finding ways to do what we do in everyday life in Oregon on the road wherever we are. Eating, Laundry, Sleeping, Groceries, Food preparation (sounding like a child friendly version of The Shore?). It is a lot about routine and making sure people get their own spirits soothed.

IMG_8758With Kelvin and I, it doesn’t always work out as we are the only adults around to care for the kids but, that it is another post altogether.

So, the boys have found interesting ways to play, relax and learn. We have an established routine now. The first two months this was really hard at times as they are not used to us being the ‘teachers’. There was a lot of discussion on expectations and how they are learning (discussion would be a polite renaming of some of those discussions).

They are not expected to know things when learning. They are learning! It’s okay to not know and make mistakes.IMG_8948.jpg

Some of the tools we use include the Monday-Friday daily routine. We write out the schedule. It usually consists of the following which we write down and they follow in their Common Place books.

For Example: Today is Thursday, January 11th, 2018. We are in Chiang Mai, Thailand

  • Journal Writing
  • Math – 2 pages
  • Writing/English – 2 pages
  • Cursive practice
  • Cultural lesson – language, history, currency, religion
  • Research or Field Trip discussion.

All is mixed with breaks, wiggle it out, free draw, coloring, reading or even a short dance party.IMG_5713

The Common Place book is their notebook to write down the school list but, also words they are learning and lessons. It also holds all the doodles, drawings and cartoons that get made. We have been getting notebooks to write in a we move along. We also shipped some filled books home for safekeeping.

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Oakley has gone to making his own toys using boxes from cereal or crackers we buy. It is amazing what a pack of colored pencils and paper can bring.

Last Christmas we got the boys Kindles and we choose ones without internet access (only Wifi to choose books). These little lovelies have been the true companions. The boys curl up with their books for hours. It is a great time filler that feels good as a parent.

Also, their reading has improved so much with it. Yes, there are a lot of graphic novels, cartoons including several Calvin and Hobbes books but, it is reading. In fact, Calvin and Hobbes is how Canyon turned to love books.

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Canyon’s stats for 2017

We complied their stats at the end of the year and Canyon had read 55K pages and Oakley 42K. Their reading time adds up to just over two weeks for Canyon (371 hours) and a one week for Oakley (172 hours). That is amazing. I feel better about how we are doing this.

[caption id="attachment_3378" align="alignleft" width="124"]IMG_0409.jpg Oakley’ Stats for 2017

Now, we are reading the Harry Potter books. I am reading them out loud and Canyon is chasing us with his own reading. Some of the best memories of this trip are being curled up on a bed with

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the boys and reading.

So, as we move into the next months we look at our learning and take stock of what works and what doesn’t. There is a real rhythm to our work. We are finding our way.

As always, thanks for reading.

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Waiting for a ride in Ubud.

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Oakley drawing in Hawaii

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Australian money session while camping.

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Homeschool while house/pet sitting in Brisbane, Australia. That’s Kody there!

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Canyon’s dream journal!

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20 Observations in Vietnam – Scooters, Coffee, Critters and More

Sol 109

Going into our fourth week in Vietnam. Arrived in Hanoi by an eighteen hour overnight train from Da Nang. We have found a place that is the nicest and most comfortable we have stayed in in awhile. The washer machine actually dries clothes too. We haven’t had that since Australia!

It’s the Christmas season and we are adjusting to being in a place that is not full of our usual holiday extras. I’ll write more about that later but, firstly I wanted to share some thoughts and observances I’ve had since arriving in this amazing country.

Things I have noticed in Vietnam. A random list.

1 – People selling things on their motorbike will have a recording      announcing what they are selling and will play it over and over while driving around. You can flag them down and buy whatever it is they have. Usually, it is some meal. The scooter may even have a glowing hot oven on the side.

2 – Vietnamese people really, really like kids. Our boys are smiled at and coddled over almost everywhere we go. Oakley being least likely to want attention does have some discomfort in this and for Canyon, it depends on his mood. Sometimes he laps it up. Other times, he gets exasperated. It must be similar to what it is like if you are a famous person in other cultures. They are consistently told they are ‘so handsome’! People (usually a woman) will drop whatever she is doing and come over to touch their cheeks.

3 – There is construction constantly going on somewhere. It never ends. Never, ever, ever.

4 – There are at least 30 different ways you can get your coffee. They certainly give Starbucks a run for their money.

5 – It is easy to forget this is a communist country but, remember when you see the political posters everywhere, very little advertising (except outside a local cafe) and handing over your passports every time you stay somewhere new.

6 – The Vietnam/American war was not that long ago and there are plenty of reminders of this intense history. Yet, for the Vietnamese it is a blip on their several 1000 year old history. There seems to be no hard feelings about the war.

7 – The beaches here are amazingly beautiful even in the rainy season.

8 – If it floods, we are told, ‘you just go to the 2nd floor’. Not a lot of worries about that here as it seems to happen a lot.

9 – The garbage/refuse system seems to be is that people just put their bag of rubbish on the street and someone will come along and pick it up. It seems randomly coordinated but, bags don’t stay long. And, as I cringingly found out, sometimes a rat will be getting his take on the trash as it sits there.

 

10 – The bread here is amazing and likely has to do with the French colonial influence. The mini baguette is a staple for many breakfasts with eggs and are sooooo airy inside and crunchy on the outside. Delightful.

11 – Scooter, motorcycles and mopeds are EVERYWHERE. People can carry almost anything on a scooter and the bikes are often driving right into people’s living rooms for the night for safe keeping.

12 – This is a tropical country so, you get to see some big, little critters. In the last days, we’ve had a cockroach in our flat (which Oakley terrifyingly mistook for a tarantula) and many, many in our train carriage, a super fat rat (my phobia) munching on our buildings refuse pile, the praying mantis that guarded our bathroom for a week and would leap on your feet when the water flowed (to have a drink?), beautiful butterflies, dragon flies and your requisite flies, ants and mosquitos that come around pretty frequently.

13 – The blend of traditional (straw hats, bicycles) to the high tech (smart phones everywhere, apps on tablets to order drinks or check you into your berth on the train) is fascinating to observe.

14 – If you want to buy something you will need to bargain for it. Even in the markets the granola bars or bottled water will change prices depending on who is working, what is going on with the weather.

15 – Massages in Vietnam are a whole body experience. The masseuse will literally climb onto your back and legs will use their feet, knees, elbows and hands to work out your kinks. It is not for the faint of heart and if you have any IT band issues consider them ‘worked on’ after they are done with you. You will be sore for days to come.

16 – You are strongly discouraged from any public display of affection with your loved ones. With parents to children it is okay but, a very, very big no no to kiss or canoodle in public.

17 – You will have to get boiled or bottled water for any tasks or thirst. Much like everywhere in we have encountered in SE Asia. You are not encouraged to drink from the tap. We are in the habit of going to the bathroom with a bottle of water to brush our teeth and if water is set on the table while we are out, the boys immediately ask what source it came from. Don’t take your clean, tap water for granted!

18 – You can get any item of clothing made in a couple of hours for a very reasonable price. The tailor work is impeccable and remarkable. You dream it, they will sew it.

19 – You can buy outdoor gear that would put REI and Sportsman Wearhouse to shame. I found the exact Osprey backpack I got for my birthday at the market and I cringed when I say that I paid 70% more for it in the States. Shoes, coats, backpacks are all really marked up when they leave the country.

20 – The confluence of religions here is notable. It is a communist country and we were told that if you have a religion you were discouraged to apply for a government job (or at least say you don’t have a religion). Yet, there are a number of Christian charities that operate cafes hiring people with disabilities. People practice any number of various religions including Buddhism, Islam, Christianity, Hinduism, Taoism, Confucianism to name a few.

I have many other observations to share and will but, first wanted to share these thoughts from my perch in Hanoi. Until soon. Be well and thanks for reading.

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The Let’s Go Checklist – 3 Month Marker – Part One

Memorial Day weekends are often a time to catch up with family and friends for a BBQ, remembering love ones who have passed and gear up for summer. In our family, either turkey hunting and sorting out the garage are also on the list!

Last week Kelvin and I got a rare Saturday night alone and we went through a long list of things to do and really me, off loading my worry list! So, what do we have to worry about? Well, I am a worrier and so, it comes second nature to make lists, while trying to solve and turn over sticky issues in my head. Sometimes, it’s a really annoying place to be!

So, one thing I do that helps is to dump out those worries. Write them down so, I can effectively look at them and not just the strands of them floating around in my head along with my emotions. As my dear husband knows, if they gave out ribbons for experiencing anxiety I would be a blue ribbon wearer! Thus, the need for talk and planning was so helpful for me.

So, at the end of our lovely evening, we made a list. A list to guide us over the next months. This is what we are working on (at least as of today!!).

Here’s what is on my mind all shaken out for your reading pleasure and my sorting.IMG_2345

1- Completely sort out our monthly expenses for when we are on the road. Identifying which subscriptions to shut down (we will need some Netflix from the road if can find the wi-fi!), bank transfers that we won’t be doing the road, etc.

2- Figuring out how to manage our money from the road. I have heard some great things about Trail Wallet to track expenses. I also talked to a friend who recently travelled in Vietnam and Thailand about the need for cash and how frequently bank cards get jammed up due to theft or other such annoyances.

3- We need to sell our mini-van before we go. We have a lease and need to sort out our financial obligation to that.

4- Rent out our house. We need to be out of our house by 15 August. We want to rent it partially furnished to save on storage but, would happy to rent it to folks that will take good care of our little parcel of earth while we are traveling. If we rent to folks we don’t know then we have to involve credit checks and in any case, we need to have a lease drawn up.

5- Where to store the things we have decided to sell, donate or dump? Kelvin is working on some Tetris magic in his mind as the boxes accumulate in our garage and evaluating what kind of square foot space we will need.

6- Work on house repairs. Those little things we have been avoiding to fix and now, will need to before we rent out.

7- Sorting out health insurance. Our insurance ends at the end of June along with Kelvin’s job so, figuring out what we will need to be compliant but, also not too expenses as we are unlikely to be able use this insurance while we are traveling.

8- Buy the travel supplies; packs, shoes, travel kits by a certain date.thomas-martinsen-2158 We have a couple of requests out to businesses to see if we can receive any donations and we will write about these products from the road. A real road test!

9- Setting up a safe deposit box at bank to hold important documents and valuables while we are on the road.

10- Getting our inoculations needed for travel. This one is tricky as it hard to convince our boys about extra ‘shots’ but, hopefully seeing us all get them together will make this a great bonding experience! ha!

11- Doctor’s and dental appointments. We are often scrambling to make sure the kids have their check ups but, as the grown ups we don’t always check in unless something is wrong. We need to have a basic check up to make sure all is clean and shiny (teeth) and all in working order!

12-Make digital and paper copies of all the documents we will need access to from the road and packets of information for each boy in the unlikely and, hopefully, never happening situation in which they need to reach out for help without our guidance.

That is the first dozen. There are more than a dozen more but, I am taking it a bit at a time.

Thanks for bearing with me and let me know of other things you would want to take care of if you were leaving for a significant amount of time.

 

 

 

 

 

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World-schooling, A Whole New Responsibility

One hundred and seven days to lift off and all the tasks are piling up and colliding. Many of them taking up all the extra space in my head between all the responsibilities of now..such as work, getting kids to and from school, food, shelter, etc. 

So, the big worry on my mind today is our kids eduction. This might be the biggest fear for me about this travel (so far!). IMG_1700I have never seen ourselves as people who home school their kids. We have always sought out the appropriate education philosophy for our boys and embraced our school as they plan for our kids.

The Montessori approach has worked really well for us, especially with the sensory challenges we have had along the way. We love the student led teaching style, how students learn concepts from accessing working materials, free movement around the classroom, small group or individual instruction and independent follow-up.

The ‘going out’ philosophy of approaching research in the world is an aspect we really love .In this Going Out activity, the kids are encouragejan-mellstrom-242087d to research and seek out a way to investigate their question. The steps to find out the answer to their question has the child find out the place where one would learn about that interest.
For example, one would go to an aquarium to learn about the Pacific Octopus (this was one of Canyon’s interests). The kids (usually two or three at the most) have to figure out how much it costs to go, they have to call the place to see what the hours are (no internet searches!), who could help them when they get there, what are the directions to get there and so on. Then they write out the questions they have to ask and how they will write down what they learn. At the end of their outing they report back to the class what they learned.

We are looking to apply this approach as we maneuver the world. However, I get scared that we won’t be able to keep them on task with their math, reading and writing skills. roman-mager-59976I realize how much we depend on our schools to keep our kids ‘on track’ for their learning. It is their professional job! I am not a professionally trained teacher. Kelvin and I both have skills to share, like any parents but, the responsibility of being in charge of a year’s worth of eduction feels very daunting to me.

I don’t want to screw this up! We have met with our kid’s teachers and they are giving us some guidelines to help us as we go through this year. It also tells me that I don’t want to be in charge of this educational part for all of their education! I have always respected teachers and now I am particularly aware that I am a bit out of my depth. We also have plans to Skype in with the class about once a month to keep up connections as well as foster enthusiasm for learning and sharing.

People are very supportive in saying our boys will be fine. “No worries!” says a friend, “you’ll be learning so much on the road.” Okay but, I also don’t want them to be behind their learning levels when we return. Our kids teacher has given us some material to use as we go along. gaelle-marcel-8992We already started a practice of writing in a small journal at the dinner table after our meal where we each write a little bit about the day. Oakley will write one sentence and Canyon a couple. Kelvin and I also write and we all check each other’s work. We generally write down what we are grateful for that day. Noting small, notable things that happened that day.

We started this journaling exercise last October and are not doing this daily due to the crazy schedule of sports, work and occupational therapy being some of the many things that rearrange our schedule every day but, we get some practice in. We plan on doing this every day on the road. Hopefully, this will help all of our writing skills and create a wonderful journal of our experiences in the world.

If you are following this please let us know what you think, what you would do and how you would caretake your childrens’ education.

 

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OMG! We ARE really doing this!!

The last couple weeks pieces of our plan have officially fallen into place. Kelvin’s new passport arrived. Yay!! Then we had a flurry of activity as we set up two house/pet sits in September in Brisbane, Australia. And we got our tickets to fly!

So, here is a rundown of recent events. Over the last months, I have been searching for a good fit for a house sit in Australia. Trying to make sure that where we choose or get chosen is where we want to be but also, logistically a good place to be.

In the US, we are used to driving long distances but, it is a big deal to try to drive 1400 kilometers between housing opportunities. hugo-villegas-174015And an even bigger deal when we try to do it in three days in a country we haven’t driven in together (Kelvin was there on his own in 2001), driving on the ‘other side of the road’ for us Yanks and in a camping vehicle we have yet to rent or even select. The situation gave Kelvin and I some pretty funny conversations as we were trying to rationalize a mammoth drive to get in between locations for a place to stay.

The organization we have been working with Trusted Housesitters to find the best matches. We have had lots of conversations, Skype chats and emails with potential matches and I was beginning to feel like I was online dating as I was proposing matches for our family as being the ‘best match’ for others on the other side of the world.

We finally sorted a match with a woman near Brisbane, Australia to care for her three kitty cats and bird. She is also, generously, allowing us use of her car while we are there. She is actually going on two trips with an eight-day break in between and she asked us if we could do the first leg as well. jesse-collins-92501It sounded good but, we were coming from Hawaii and wouldn’t be there for the first two days of her trip. She, again kindly, offered to make her trip work with ours so we can be her support and she ours.

I then started scrambling to figure out our tickets to Australia from Honolulu. I have been playing around online with searches for the ‘perfect’ ones and had yet to officially commit.

This is where things got really interesting for me. We have been planning this trip, at least in theory, since last August. A good eight months ago and just like a woman in denial of her pregnancy, I didn’t actually believe it was all happening until I had visual proof. For me, it was the tickets.

I have flown around the world many, many times, however, I have never been responsible for two little humans in the process.john-cobb-14130 It’s one thing to throw things in a backpack and dig out my passport but, an entirely different kettle of fish to be arranging four flights to another country with visa applications, baggage requirements, thoughts about timing, food accessibility, world schooling plans, accommodations and time changes for all of us.

We were up very late at night. It was the only time Kelvin and I could effectively talk about these plans without the’ regular’ day logistics happening around us. My brain froze as my hands hovered over the ‘Click to Purchase’ button.

This is after several more searches in Google Flights and Momondo as well as the airline Jet Star where we eventually bought our tickets. I was breathing heavily. I looked at Kelvin and my eyes grew big. He looked at me questioningly.

“Yes….?”, he gently asked. “What’s going on?”

I stared at him and said, “Are we really doing this?”

Here is where my very patient and kind husband could have said any number of unhelpful things. Instead, he just said, “Yes, we are and it is all going to be okay”.

At that moment I had all the details of our trip that I have been pouring over in my mind, on paper and on the internet swimming around in my head and I thought, ‘Where is the adult around here that we can check with?”

Then I realized, WE are the adults! Yikes! This just got real.

I had a similar brain freeze when I was seven months pregnant with our first son, Canyon and my friend Wendy was driving me home from michael-waters-105757Baby’s R Us with the crib my in-laws had bought us.

I knew it was going to happen. That baby was going to be coming soon.  But, I didn’t really know it until that moment. I was looking like I was nine months pregnant as it was but, it was that crib being brought into our home that really hit it home for me. It was real.

Wendy was reassuringly hilarious as she calmed and comforted me that we would get through this, the baby was indeed going to be here in about eight weeks and, that it would all be okay.

So, that night last week, we officially bought our international tiIMG_2002ckets that will transport our family to the other side of the planet.

And it will all be okay. Right? Of course, right.

The day after we bought our tickets my husband left me a bunch of flowers and a note that read, ‘Australia, here we come! I love that we are doing this!’

He is my elixir, yet again.

Onward and upward to the planning…. more to come. Thanks for joining us on this journey and we prepare for our journey.

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Giving Up Our Safe Spaces and ‘Things’

Five months to go to lift off. There are a hundred scattered thoughts in my head. Things happening in our world distract me endlessly and I am working on pulling myself back to our trip. It feels like wrestling with the alignment in my car. 

So, what’s next? Well, still trying to pare down our possessions. Mostly, this feels like it is happening in my head as I walk from room to room and think about what I really need and what I can let go. IMG_1716I get caught in this struggle to find the ‘best’ place for my stuff. I think, ‘I really should sell that book’ rather than just give it away. So, then I get caught in the crosshairs of finding most economical solution and what is that, really? If I clean out the metaphorical cobwebs doesn’t that have a plus on my well-being?

Recently, I have discovered Let Go and Offer Up and I
love the concept of them. The idea of being able to see what you are buying or post attractive photos of what you are selling appeals to me. I get that Craig’s List is similar, however, the immediate visual works better for me. Now, the problem is not scrolling around for things I don’t need to gather. Just sell. Just let go. Don’t accumulate.

Then the challenge in renting our house out. I so wish we could leave our furniture but, understand it is a risk in having it taken care of in a way that we would. I cringe in paying for big storage unit while trying to rent out our house. Hence, the desire to reduce our ‘stuff’. How willing are folks willing to rent out a house for a year, knowing they will not be able to extend the lease? My hope is yes folks will. So, there in lies the challenge. To find the right rental match for us and our house.

IMG_1700Did you know you have to pay taxes on your rental income? Some of you are hitting your forehead with your hand and saying, ‘YES, I knew that!’.
Well, I am catching up, just give me a chance. There is the magical pricing of getting a rent to pay the mortgage, the fees for someone to ‘manage’ the house while we are gone and then adjust to make sure we can pay taxes and I’m not paying to have someone stay at our house. It is a bit of math wizardry.

I’ve been looking at  Zillow to help figure that out. Found a good article on finding renters. The things to include in a rental agreement. Feels a little fool hardy to leave our most important purchase in our lifetime in the hands of strangers for year but, this whole venture is a risk. Jumping into plans to completely rewire our reality for a year feels scary. And leaving our house is a giant step of vulnerability. It’s our place of safety, comfort and, quite literally, home.

Keep tuned….more mind bending contemplations to come.

 

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5 Things to Do Before We Skip Town-Cleaning out the Mental Cobwebs

We hit the six-months-to go mark yesterday. Whoa, yikes!..I just caught my breath when I wrote that. That means about 180 days to ready, steady, go. In my whirling life I realize I have a lot of loose threads I am constantly picking at. Some are reasonable and others are just plain, annoying time sucks. So, while I am trying to ‘clean house’ literally I also need to do it figuratively.

These are the things I am working on.

Kicking Toxic Relationships to the Curb! I am a human, non-sociopath (thank goodness) but, that also means I am a deeply feeling person. While this is not a bad thing, I find that I invest in relationships that are clearly not helpful, kind, symbiotic or healthy for me.kristopher-roller-188180

I spend a lot of time trying to craft a response from someone I care about and ache for them to like me back. I spend too much time, energy and, quite frankly, pieces of my soul in the output of others without receiving a balanced, authentic connection in return.
I am practicing turning towards the ones that have shown up and have earned the right to hear my story.

Say No When I Feel I Should say ‘Yes’. How many times a DAY do I mumble out an ‘okay’ or squeak a ‘yes’ when I know, in my heart of hearts, this request is not what truly aligns with my value much less, even have time for. It feels like a must but, at what cost?
dikaseva-34987Now, I don’t mean shirking my responsibilities but, rather saying yes to a time commitment that ever shrinks my sliver of ‘me time’ that have on my calendar. No one is making me do this. I do it. And I need to cut it out. Now.

 

Paying attention to the ‘shoulds, oughts and musts’ that rattle in my head.  Or otherwise said, stop ‘shoulding’ on myself. I say this to my clients all to time and like other  psychotherapists, I don’t always practice what I suggest (shock!). I think of these words as threads from someone else’s rule book, goals and they hijack my own dreams, hopes and intentions.

jared-erondu-15318I find myself surveying the room to find the ‘best’ choice or solution for all involved and meanwhile my voice, and often, my values get muffled.

Pushing others agendas to the front of the line will get me nowhere and often, it is not reciprocated

Resetting my Expectations of Others. Also, something I talk a lot about with clients. I am trying to do this more in my own relationships and, luckily, I have a very supportive and intuitive husband that often takes me by the shoulders and tries to redirect me to the more realistic path.

When we have an event, gathering or interaction coming useemi-samuel-15564p, my husband and I will talk about what the minimum expectations are (seriously shooting as low as possible), what is reasonable and achievable and then, the dream scenario.
All the while, becoming abundantly aware that I can only control myself as I am hoping for some crazy, magic, Jedi mind trick to get others into knowing and doing what I want. Often without saying it out loud.

Minimum : Low, low, bottom of barrel e.g. I show up at an event, I have a coffee
Reasonable and Achievable: e.g. I see the person, have a couple of connectingwords. 
Dream Scenario, aka, Lottery, Bonus, Gravy: The names says it all, expecting the best!  

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I am setting simpler expectations. Dream Scenario will not likely happen but, if it does, what a pleasant surprise! It’s a lot shorter fall from high expectations and landing splat in a pile of disappointment and resentment to saying ‘that was unexpectedly awesome’.

 

Slow down and Look People in the Eye. In our technologically focused society we are often bumbling around the streets, coffee lines and even traffic lanes with our eyes angling down at a device. We are missing connections around us that are as authentic as anything we desire from those we are following on social media. jon-tyson-77013Simple eye contact is a deeply personal, human experience.

Now, I am not saying I am trying to see into stranger’s souls. No, I am merely saying we often feel so alone while surrounded by dozens of people. And a simple head nod and eye connection can boost our serotonin and release a few healthy hormones in blood stream to battle the anxiety and cortisol spikes we get while scanning click bait online.

 

Whew…so, what are you working on? Is this helpful to you?  These are not going to be accomplished immediately. These are all practices that are like pulling the car alignment into place. It takes attention and management. Saying them out loud makes me more accountable for them as well. So, how about you? No high expectations, just the minimum please.

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Here’s Your Notification: Turn off Your Notifications!

As I write this in the middle of the night, I am not struck by the irony of my thought or suggestion. I was tossing and turning tonight as I churned thoughts after attending at talk by Michael Lewis. He is known for his works The Big Short, Moneyball, The Blind Side among others.

In his varying topics last night, his talk included the new Trump Presidency.  I was really struck by his discussion with Hanna Rosin about what is going on in our country. Hanna asked, ‘Are we going to be dumber in four years? He said it’s like Patton standing in front of the American flag in movie theaters in the 1940s with the statement.

“There is one great thing that you men will all be able to say after this war is over and you are home once again. You may be thankful that twenty years from now when you are sitting by the fireplace with your grandson on your knee and he asks you what you did in the great World War II, you WON’T have to cough, shift him to the other knee and say, ‘Well, your Granddaddy shoveled shit in Louisiana.’” ― General George S. Patton, Jr. to his troops on June 5, 1944

Then WWII. Now, 2017, our new reality. Get involved. And make it count. And we’ve seen this over the weekend.qc6vnbe4jqs-jerry-kiesewetter Millions out walking, marching, speaking out for a multitude of reasons.

Yes, it is good (I know, there are plenty of competing thoughts on this) however, your involvement has got to be balanced or your going to end up in my office. This week, I found the tone of many sessions came back to and unpacked angst, fear, anxiety, worry, anger and grief.

In only a week and how many times have I been bounced around the blogosphere, social networking sites with topics and events from inauguration, women’s march to minute by minute updates of what is being done or said in Washington and, therefore, bouncing around the world)?

My clients and I discussed this and pondered, maybe we are not only online too much but, we are being ‘pinged’ too much.otedkfse3j0-anete-lusina My work is hearing about what is taking up space and interrupting people’s lives and making it not work as well – it frequently comes back to – too many notifications.

This week I have been talking with clients about a media diet and that delicate balance between FOMO and awareness. During sessions, my clients are aware that my office is one of the few places where they don’t look at their phone for 50 minutes. I see them carefully put their phone at the other end of the couch or hesitate in their handling of their devices as they settle in.

I had to take deliberate steps to reduce my access to information and I am doing this imperfectly. My morning routine, for nearly 30 years, has been listen to NPR. It is as much a part of my day as my coffee, and getting dressed. This news cycle is ruining my everyday experience. I used to find it grounding. Now, I find my own levels of agitation are raised before I leave the house. Then I may take it out on my kids, or in my driving or my stress eating. I can’t do this. Not every day. Not for the foreseeable future.

I think of Stephen Colbert’s Election Night speech. Before the outcome was fully decided, Stephen encouraged us to get back to our lives and reminisced about when he was a kid and politics was a once in a while topic at the dinner table. Now, it can be several times a minute depending on how many notifications you have on.

I am also drawn to work by minimalist parent advocate, Asha Dornfest, who has been trying to help us be better parents and humans with her blog and podcast. that-horrifying-moment-when-youre-looking-for-an-adult-but-then-realize-you-are-an-adult-so-you-look-for-an-older-adult-someone-successfully-adulating-an-adultier-adult-fcb44She said in 2015 at the World Domination Summit that sometimes we are searching for someone else to be in charge.

So, given this. What do I recommend? Who am I to recommend anything? Well, I am a struggling  woman, mom, business owner, therapist, friend and human. I have to figure out how to balance it myself or I won’t be able to see you and I don’t want to be in the fetle position in the corner of my bedroom. But, like Brene’ Brown says, we need to embrace our imperfections. Well, excellent I can do that!

Some suggestions include; screen free days or, a at minimum, screen free pockets of time in our days. zajstp1nb88-alex-holyoakeThat is a start. I also recommend a couple of apps Calm and Mindshift that help us distract or rather, be in the moment.

Okay, enough for now. Excuse me while I go crawl back into bed and hope my hot water bottle has a little love left to give. And I will resist the urge to flip over the phone to see what’s happened in the last 20 minutes.

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Leaning into the Discomfort and Looking for Respect

I have an interesting job for this time in our culture. Over the years, as a therapist, I hear people talk about their varied concerns.  These last two weeks, I have more about the same subject, the election. Thoughts, concerns, worries, musings, humor, fear, agitation and indignation.

Living in a Blue state in a metro area, it is not surprising that most of the people I hear from are talking about their shock, sadness, anger and dismay. images-3.jpegPeople have various ideas on how to proceed with their feelings; get involved, avoid the news, protest or barricade themselves at home.

In the last weeks, I have heard the some words repeatedly; echo chamber, the bubble,  phone bank, the media, donation…among others. One thread I am following is confusion and desire to know and understand. It slowly comes out that we need to talk more and that doesn’t just mean to the people whose answers we already know. It is time to lean into the discomfort.

The weekend after the election, I was at a locally owned store we frequent and the owner and I have a friendly banter. I asked him if we was one of the 59 million who voted for Trump. He looked at me a bit sheepishly and said, ‘I don’t talk about it much for fear of being judged’.

I stood back in took him in. ‘Oh, okay’, I said. ‘Tell me, how did you decide?’ He told me it was for his business and thought that change is needed at the higher levels of governing.images This man has a disability and has family member that is also disabled. Somewhere, he feels disenfranchised with the current system.

I nodded, thinking that this seems like a reasonable, political point, especially if you are fiscally conservative. That being said, I asked, ‘Well, okay, but can you explain him to my kids?’ as I pointed to my boys who were hovering nearby. He said, ‘That part is harder. I don’t like the behavior of this man..’ and he trailed off. We spoke a bit more and moved on to other topics.

Seems like we are going to have more and more of these conversations. Many likely at the Thanksgiving table this year. I am not picking sides (yes, I am left leaning) but, it seems we all know what our ‘peeps’ will say. We need to lean in ask the tough questions of ‘why and how’. The open-ended, curious questions that show we are not just waiting to talk again but, we are listening. We all want to be heard.

Now, I get it there is a lot of extreme rhetoric out there and it’s hard to know who believes what from a glance but, also we can’t assume. If someone has an opinion we need to ask ‘why?’  Myself, I work hard to teach my kids how to be good citizens and that means a lot of explaining about differences, privilege and the varied things that make a person and I don’t have all the answers. images-2I don’t always get it right. Sometimes I really screw it up but, I try to circle back and revisit the best I can.

While living in a progressive, lefty city, I grew up in rural Red State where Reagan was a God and my Dad was the preacher. My Dad was not a religious man by any conventional standards but, he was definitely the spokesperson (and financial contributor) for the importance of the Republican party. He had many flaws (like all of us) and one if his big ones was that he didn’t have room for discourse.

There was no space for an exchange of pluralistic views at our dinner table and many times he called me a ‘tree-hugging, fish-kissing’ liberal. Whether that label was a friendly jib, earnestly or not, my exploring views were not well tolerated in his presence. So, I stopped sharing them.

We moved on to less political topics and we rarely opened the door on these thoughtful, provocative topics. We played it safe. I believed I knew him and his rhetoric and I imagine he thought I was crazy or at least misguided. We didn’t ever say, ‘tell me why you think that way’ or ‘help me understand’.

Sound familiar? Again, we can find the people to agree with us but, to sit through the dialogue of those with which we disagree, that is the hard part. There is no guarantee that it will feel good or we will feel heard.images-1 That part is called vulnerability, as Brene’ Brown says, ‘it’s scary and brave at the same time’.

I don’t have the solutions, the method or the way out of our conflicts but, I am a listener of others and I see that when we respectfully listen people usually feel heard. When we feel heard we can then move on to problem solving. We  obviously have a lot more conversations about how to deal with racism, homophobia, the haves and have nots, the 1%, equity, xenophobia, and that is just a start.  Let’s start with leaning in.

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An Experience of Grief-Elections

All over the world we still are talking about this election. It took me until today to feel like I could write something down. I wondered about why it has taken me so many days to write as I have a lot buzzing in my head and then, I realized, this is because I am still going through stages of grief. Several stages a day even.

In my work, my clients and I frequently talk about grief. We discuss that grief can be not just the loss of a person but, the loss of an experience, an opportunity, a thing or an idea. images-3The example I use is by looking at your dead car battery.

Say you wake up in the morning and get ready for school or work, go out to your car to get to work and the car battery is dead. The first thing you do is to try to start it again. You are in denial that it won’t start. ‘Of course, it is going to start”, you think to yourself. It hasn’t passed your mind that anything is wrong. You think, the car is starting and you’re going to do whatever it was what you were expecting to do. It would function. You shake your head, ‘huh?’ you think. You try to start it over and over. You don’t really believe that it won’t start.

Then you move into bargaining. You plead with the car to start, you beg and you coax. You may say that you will take the car to get high-octane gas, go to church next Sunday, anything to get the car to start. You may even fiddle with the air, music or other levers in the car to see if that will change the outcome and help it spring to life.

But the battery doesn’t start and then you move into anger. You are hitting the dashboard and yelling at the inert engine to start. You are pissed. You use choice words either under your breath or loud enough for the neighbors to hear and yet, the battery is still dead.

Sadness comes next. You moan, collapsing in your worries about how the day has gone to pot and if you don’t get to work or school on time everything else is also is going to fall apart.

Then, acceptance. You pull out your phone to get AAA, a Uber or race off to catch a Trimet bus to get going. You get it and understand the battery is not going to come to life and fire up the engine.

This week millions of people of all diversities and majorities have been progressing through these stages. I kept refreshing my screen to the 538 website which I had been using as my barometer to help balance my stomach clenches over the last couple weeks. Tuesday morning, I thought that a 70.2% certainly of a Hillary win was pretty good. Then when the numbers fell and the states were too close to call I was definitely in denial. I couldn’t compute in my head that this could actually be happening.images-2 As I cuddled with my boys on Tuesday night, as per our ritual, I cozied up to my seven-year old’s sleepy form while hoping against hope that the next time I refreshed my screen it would show better numbers. It did not. As I lay in the dark talking to myself in my head, I really thought that it was just a bad moment, denying that anything could really go wrong.

That night, I stayed up holding my phone, listening to NPR and watching CNN until I heard that Clinton had called Trump. As I kept switching sources, I felt I was truly watching a horrible crash that I couldn’t tear my eyes away from. I willed the outcome to be different. I went through bargaining, anger and a lot of sadness. I woke up my husband to tell him the news and we held each other, we talked and I cried for the better part of two hours. images-1We scrambled our approach to tell our boys the outcome in the morning. The night had started out with us having a civics lesson on coloring in a map of America was the states were called out for the electoral college numbers. Those red states are still stained on our dry erase place mat as a reminder of a bad night.

I went back to hanging out in bargaining for a while on Wednesday since all the votes had not yet been tallied and was trying to convince myself that maybe, just maybe the electoral map could change. I have a problem with chronic optimism when faced with bad odds. Later I sunk back down into sadness with smatterings of anger and, I suppose, acceptance. I know what has happened is true but, I really can’t stomach processing it all.

The rest of the week I was the witness of several client’s experiences of grief in the process. Emotionally washed up at night, I took to baking, listening to musicals and treating the radio like a hot potato. imagesI would turn it on for a bit and then suddenly flick it off.

So, here we are five days later and we are all still processing. I think if Hillary had won there would be another 50 million or so going through their own experience of grief. We are a nation in conflict and grief. It will take more than a support group to help us get through this. I want to be hopeful but, my well is a bit dry. Today was #WorldKindnessDay and I checked in with a couple of friends who had big events in their lives and that felt good.

Over the weekend, we watched Les Miserables and Fiddler on the Roof. I explained to my children the grief of those stories and it helped me to see them confused by such horrid behavior, racism and anti-Semite rhetoric in the story lines. They, who have grown up with the only president they have known being a man of color, were shocked to learn that pogroms existed for decades and not too long ago. I felt I took a little of their innocence in explaining these stories, however, I also loved that they instinctly knew that it was not okay to act like this as a human today. This gives me hope.

In my grief, and this week they have seen me process a lot of it, my boys have supported my new acceptance in ways they don’t know yet. Yes, this has happened but, the story does not end here. We have work to do to continue to teach, learn and practice empathy. They don’t know it but, my boys are already guiding me in this process.

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