Table Talk – Happy

Happiness rocks. And there’s a song rocking it around the globe, making people smile. I love it … and so does it’s writer. Here are a couple reasons why

1) Pharrell Williams has touched on part of the secret to real success – genuine, humble gratitude as you live out your purpose in life – because we don’t walk it alone and we didn’t gift the talent.

Something about his song seems to cut to our core and it lands everyone who hears it happy. People everywhere. On CBS Sunday Morning, Mr. Williams, shared his gratitude for all his road-pavers (his band teachers, his fans, the radio stations that play his music, … his mistakes) that helped a hardworking young man who didn’t know he had talent, learn music and hit the heights. And he leaves and interviewer baffled at his gratefulness.

2) And then, seeing the song in action, moves him deeply. To get to see his intended purpose played out on a screen. – Happiness actually is where it’s at… (clip from Oprah Prime)

’nuff said.

Thanks for walking the road with me. Thinking about purpose, mine, the kids’ and the ultimate purpose. Remembering to thank the ones (teachers, supporters, listeners, readers…) that pave the path.

Seriously – THANKS!

:) K

I feel the need, the need for … SLOW

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One of my kids told me the other night, in a moment of raw authenticity, “I just want to know what I’m good at and do it.”

The kid was longing to land.

The kid was already tired of the race.

Tired of the race that seems endless, getting him nowhere but to places that require him to do more – and more – and more, just to keep up.

A teenager, worn out. Saying out loud words I sometimes feel … Don’t we all feel? The bars for which we are encouraged to reach seem to move just about the time we get there. The kid longed out loud for the wheels to stop spinning and to land on solid ground.

Having been born in a day and age where acting/doing/being can be done 24/7 and seen 24/7 – be it on youtube, instagram, Twitter, Facebook, xBox, Playstation, the slightly suspect snapchat and more – it’s highly likely that very few days in the kid’s life have been lived without performance pressure on steroids. The version of truth that tells us we need to be someone, to be seen and to be pretty all day every day relentlessly pursues people with a vengeance. We can even get Selfie Help, “everything that’s needed to make you look like a better, glowier version of yourself,” so we can be new and improved – at least not in person.

No wonder the kid wants to land. Solid ground seems scarce.

The vice grips tighten as the world shrinks, pushing to the side any secret hiding places of serenity. We can’t even serve in the Congo incognito. With our handy handheld devices connecting us to thousands at any moment of time, everyone knows and is known.

No more slow. Gone are the days of the camera where we captured the moment then waited. Waited to get back home.  Waited to remember to take the roll of film to the developer. Waited for the film to be pictures. Waited in line to get the pictures. Then looked through the pictures, excited about a few, sad to have wasted the film on others. And at the end of it all, we might show a couple folks. Rarely would we display our pictures in an effort to angle or self promote because the photographer was never in the pictures.

Yeah, that little story about developing film would yet again make my kids roll their eyes in complete embarrassment at how archaic their mother is. But the more I think about it – the slow part – and how the slow actually encouraged thoughtful processing, I miss it. I think it helped in grounding.

Slow is good. Slow can bring perspective and focus when the heat of the moment spotlights irregularities. Slow simmers rather than combusts. Sure, slow can drive us crazy when we’re waiting for something we want. But slow sure is palatable when we’re on the receiving end of someone else’s patience. Slow can take what feels like a whirlwind and dial it back a few notches.

I’m sad at our kids’ intimacy with instant. I’m sad that instant steels some of the savoring from their plates.

I was reminded of slow last week as I began a task I signed up to do at a mother’s coffee in September. I signed up to do the invitation for a Senior function hosted by the Jrs. And since the number of invitations was relatively small, I decided to put together a real, sent in snail mail, invitation.

With the invention of super-speedy/easy Evite and Paperless Post, it has been years since I’ve done a real invitation. I like the convenience of instant. The on-line features make life so simple. But some of the savory slow gets lost in instant. Slow things like joys of going through the mail and finding something other than a mailer. Like opening a bright colored, hand-adressed envelope, hand addressed. Like the way holding a fun invitation can make the recipient feel special. Things like an RSVP phone call that connects a guest with the host who cared enough to plan an event to begin with.

So, off I went to the Dollar Tree to see what Luau-y thing I could find to make the invitation special – a tribute of sorts – to each kid. There I found these little beach bags that would fit perfectly in a 10X12 envelope. I added a fake flower, printed an invite (thank you cute clipart) on my computer and voila.

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I had such fun. I thought about each addressee as I made them and I hoped the goofy little bag would make every family feel special and loved. Because they are. Because those kids have hit a milestone worth celebrating. Slow was good.

I had forgotten.

So much of life is slow – regardless of technology’s need for speed. And maybe that’s why my kid feels unsettled. Maybe he thinks he needs to arrive now. But the truth is …. he won’t arrive for years. The real truth is … he may never arrive. Because it doesn’t seem that life is as much about arriving as it is about the journey.

Hmm….

Here’s to bringing back some slow. Developing film. Going to the Post Office. Making invitations. Adding some snail into all the instant as a reminder that most things worth waiting for require a wait. A wait that often brings with it wisdom and perspective and appreciation.

Thanks for walking the road with me.

-Kay

Unlikely Tell-Tale Signs of a Safe Home

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“I would never do that at school or at church!”

He had just relieved himself of a little gas. And, since he was sitting on one of our metal stools at the kitchen island, it was loud and unmistakable. Still, he tried to blame it on something else. But quickly realizing the futility in accusing some other source, he confessed.

“Then, why on earth would you do it here?” I ask, looking for a window to open.

“Because,” he sheepishly grinned.  “.. Home isn’t embarrassing.”

And, despite my desire to flee and seek shelter in a flowering meadow, I sank into the words that crossed smiling lips on his bright-eyed face.

“Isn’t embarrassing” means safe. He’s okay to be himself. He’s accepted. Escaped gas doesn’t produce whispers, pointed fingers, muffled judgment or laughter in a safe home. Granted, rolled eyes and loud moans of disgust, especially while in the car on a cold/rainy days where we must choose between an odoriferous prison or nature’s elements, fill the air. But they are safe moans. They come from people who above all – even though it might not always seem that way – love you.

A safe home welcomes (okay – sometimes endures) authenticity. Cold prickly can live in a safe home. But, a safe home is a place where no one has to be happy all the time. Because – who is … happy all the time? It’s a place where kids bicker and sometimes fight. But its also a place where no one messes with your brother.

His “isn’t embarrassing” comment made me think about other tell-tale signs of a safe home.

  • Freedom to – well, what’s discussed above .
  • Bad Breath. I walked upstairs this morning and felt like I was swimming in an ocean of halitosis. As I ventured from room to room, making sure the natives were stirring, I actually winced entering one or two of the rooms. Then I thought – isn’t it nice that they can each wake up, after a sound slumber, and not worry about something like bad breath. We sometimes get it in the car, too. Then I watch a sister slip her brother a piece of gum as they walk to the entrance of their school. And my heart warms. The breath is fine around each other – even in the midst of moans – but they sure aren’t going to let anyone else judge a sibling. That’s sweet safety.
  • Depleted Closets. You know your home is safe when you can go through your sister’s or mother’s closet to find just the right item to wear without asking. Sure there might be some push back, “Hey, that’s my shirt.”  But at the end of the day, it’s nice to feel safe enough to rummage and wear.
  • Sarcasm. Every time one of Snopes friends shows up at our house, Fury greets her with a very dry, “What are you doing here?!” accusation. The first time I heard him, I assumed the worst, quickly pulled him aside and started to begin a lecture to end all lectures on rudeness – until I saw her reaction. And I backed off. In a safe home, certain sarcasm is endearing. Love, not judgement, rules.
  • Tears. Real gut-wrenching tears in front of others is a tell-tale sign of safety. Not only a sign of a safe house, but of safe friends. The other night, a couple of the kids had friends over for dinner and to spend the night. One thing led to another and a certain fiery youngster felt mistreated in a major way. And he couldn’t let it go. After almost an hour of trying to help him work it out, we all sat on the couch to watch the end of a movie. I put my arm around the kid, who started to cry – crocodile tears of sadness – at the mistreatment, being misunderstood and the injustice of it all. His friend was sitting right next to him. And, I was floored. I wondered what friends I would have ever felt safe enough to cry in front of at his age. Now that’s a safe friend. And I loved that my guy felt safe enough to work it out with all of us.
  • Typos. This is where I get to thank you guys. I thought about myself and where I feel safe. And I was moved by the fact that all of you are kind enough to put up with my typos and my wayward thoughts and my flakiness. It’s different when I was writing for DMoms and when I post for other entities. But with you, I know you’re safe. You stick with me, typos and all.

Safe, I think, is knowing you’re loved for who you are. It’s not a free ride. It’s not a free-for-all. It’s loving judgement without abandoning. It’s embracing the bad breath moments while offering help to stop the bad breath. It’s getting into the mud and mire with someone and sitting next them as they cry. It’s letting go of the small stuff, then spurring on to greatness.

“… it’s not embarrassing.”

Thanks for walking the road with me.

-Kay

“Speak Softly … & less”, Plus 8 other Tips for Talking to Teens

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“How was lunch?” I ask, venturing into conversation with one of my teens who isn’t much into conversing with parents these days. He had just come from lunch with one of his professors… a Saturday lunch.

“Fine.”

“What did you talk about?”

“I dunno,” he replied. “… stuff.”

“Yeah? Anything worth sharing?” I should have stopped. I should have known the well was not producing.

“Just stuff,” he looked up from his afternoon bowl of cereal and gave me a little raised-eyebrow nod. If nothing else, at least I had been patient, not bombarding him the minute he came home.

“Well, okay,” I give up – knowing that information will flow at another time. I’ve learned that timing is everything with my kids during this phase of life. The conversations are there. But so are moods. I’m learning that slow & steady actually does win the race. Stay the course and try loving.

Instead, I switch to mother-mode, “You need to write a thank-you note … today.”

He looks at me again, this time quizzically.

I ignore his lack of response, “If you can’t find your stationery – I have some cards you can use.”

“What are you talking about?” he gruffs.

“Ummm… You WILL be writing a thank you note.”

“Why?”

“To be polite.”

“Why?”

“Because you’re polite. You will be polite.”

“Oh, I’m not polite.”

“Yes you are,” I nyahh. “… and you will be writing a note.”

At this point, we start to duke it out. He sticks to his not polite guns and I grab hold of my yes you will be polite whip. Which is the first problem.There are better ways to talk with a teen.

#1 Don’t enter a conversation with a teen as a battle. You never win. In fact, no one wins. Such efforts are built on false assumptions that rational thoughts will prevail. Rational never enters a teen vs menopausal mom boxing ring. So I shouldn’t either. Because within seconds of sparring, any semblance of rational thinking has exited the building, or car – which is where many of our conversations occur.

#2 Talk to … not at. I don’t know what I’m scared of, but more often than not I can barely stop myself from making our conversation a teachable moment. Maybe it has something to do with looming departure (I only have 15 months left with our oldest) getting ever closer with our teens. But … I can’t imagine wanting to talk with anyone who makes every conversation a lesson. So why do it?!

#3 Silence is …. well silence. Silence isn’t always bad. It doesn’t always mean someone is hiding something or trying to ignore. It can be leaned into – even from an excessive talker like me. Because silence often signifies safety. After a long day, the kids often want to veg. How nice to be a place where they feel safe enough to say nothing, no small talk, no searching for something to say … just silence.

#4 Speak softly … & less. Avoid volume crescendos that often occur as we strive in the heat of the moment to make a point. The louder we get, the more ridiculous the words. Soft talk is so much easier to hear. On both sides.

#5 Listen. A lot. Often. Before speaking. And without predetermination.

#6 Despite what I think or feel, my kids are not a reflection of me. Mirror check: Yes – that reflection is me, not them or visa-verse. We each see our own reflection.The kids actually are their own people. And by this time in life, they should be actively making many of their own decisions. Hopefully founded in part to all the wisdom and training we have bestowed upon them. So when I’m in the car, aghast, possibly appalled by a kid’s sorry attitude or, on the flip side, thrilled by a kid’s brilliant achievement – I must remind myself to do a quick check. A little visor-mirror action – yup, still me. Oh… but that Thank-You note would really shore up my standing as a good parent.

#7 Don’t always assume the worst. I know “assume the best” would be better, but who am I kidding? Baby steps around here. But you never know what surprises lie around the corner. As I was about to see…

“You will be writing a thank you note… Even if I have to hold your hand and move it while you’re doing it!” Yes. … I actually said that. I can’t begin to imagine why. He’s bigger than me. Clearly I had risen to the maturity level of an 8-year-old. Sometimes I surprise myself.

“I am not writing a note,” he responded.

“Oh, yes you are!”

“No. I’m not,” He adds, “Would you have made me write a note when Prof B went to dinner with a group of us the other night?”

“No … That was all spur of the moment, casual,” I replied.

“That’s my point exactly,” he said. Relieved a bit that I was tracking. “I really had a great time with Dr. W. I don’t want to mess it up by making it all formal and note-worthy. It was casual. And I liked that. He’s fun to talk to.”

“Oh….”

#8 Be open minded and ready, at least willing, to apologize.

“Well … yeah,” I continued. “I hadn’t really thought of it that way.” Then I had to add, “”Why didn’t you tell me that in the first place?”

He shook his head and shot me a deserved eye-roll. And I looked at the young man across the table from me, who clearly has much more purposeful thinking going on than I can imagine.

# 9 Be patient, go slow and have faith. Because the Lord is patient, he’s brilliant at slow and is always faithful. And God grows stunningly beautiful things in the most unlikely of places.

Here’s to staying the course. Ever grateful I don’t have to walk it alone.

-Kay

Flowering Cactus

Flowering Cactus from my folks home in Arizona. Such a stunning display of beauty amidst the thorns and dry ground of the desert.

A testimony to the Lord’s ability to create blooms in the most unlikely places.