Category Archives: Advice

Lessons learned.

About three weeks ago I was chopping potatoes. I stopped paying attention for a moment. I turned to answer a question but I kept chopping. Bye-bye left edge of left thumb. A trip to Urgent Care and a few sutures later I was all fixed up and back home. Lesson learned, pay attention when you are chopping potatoes. OK.

Yesterday I was chopping carrots (three weeks after the potatoes incident). And I stopped paying attention for a moment. And just like that, bye-bye middle-portion-and-right-edge of the same thumb. No trips to Urgent Care this time. I was too irritated and embarrassed with myself (ahh, ego). I cleaned it, taped the heck out of it, and sat down to reflect. What lesson did I miss the first time?

These are the possible lessons I have come up with so far:

  1. Pay attention when cutting vegetables to only the vegetables and only the knife and nothing else (Obvious, right?!? One would think I had learned that the first time.)
  2. Use duller knives (although some would disagree with this and say it would make it worse)
  3. Stop chopping vegetables – subsist on pre-cut bread and pre-cut cheese and fruit, like berries!
  4. Slow down. Stop multi-tasking. All. The. Time.
  5. Hire a cook (bwahahahaha. not in this lifetime)
  6. Keep a well-stocked first aid kit at home
  7. Buy pre-cut vegetables
  8. Show more appreciation for my non-dominant hand, especially that thumb (I had no idea how much I used that thumb until now)

So if I were my own best friend I would remind myself to look for the lessons life hands you. And if something happens a second time to really really look for the lesson that is hiding there because maybe I missed it the first time. For now though I will happily eat bread and cheese and berries and start interviewing for household help. Oh, and pay more attention. What, huh? Squirrel.

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Step up. Be present.

A number of years ago I joined a moms-of-preschoolers group. The group was religious-based and I was not particularly religious but I thought it might be a nice way to meet other moms in the area with kids of a similar age. I grew up attending various churches depending on where my family lived but I had not been an active church-goer for quite a while (I am still not).

So at each of these meetings someone from the group would stand up and give a speech to the 100 or so moms gathered there. The speakers were usually women who had been coming to this group for a while or were part of the organizing core or who knew each other. The stories were sometimes inspirational and sometimes funny and generally related to some passage of scripture or some life lesson. The speech was usually about 10 minutes long and was just a small part of the overall meeting. But one of those speeches, or rather the experience of listening to the speech, has stayed with me for over 4 years now.

I don’t remember the actual content of the speech other than the speaker was talking about a hard experience she had lived through, either a loved one was ill or had moved away or had died, like I said I don’t remember the specifics. What I do remember though is that this woman was crying while she gave this speech and was really struggling to get the words out. The speech was prepared and written down and she was having to wipe her eyes with the back of her hand to see the words she had written and she was taking big deep, gasping breaths to stop crying and to speak. And that was not even the part I really really remember.

The part I really really remember is that no one went to her. No one took her tissues. No one walked up and stood next to her. No one held her hand or put their arm around her shoulders. No one propped her up as she beared witness to this event in her life that caused her such pain. No one.

Including me.

And ever since that day I have tried to be different. I have tried, when I witness someone in pain, to be there; I generally have no idea what to say or do but I think that’s OK most of the time. Most of the time it is just about being present. I have tried to acknowledge that I see the hurt. I have tried to provide tissues. I have tried really hard to not be that person who sits in the back and looks around waiting for someone else to step up and stand next to the person that is hurting.

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To this day I feel badly for not stepping up and standing next to that woman while she cried, alone, at the front of a room. I kept sitting there thinking one of her friends would step up, this woman obviously knew people in this room since she was up there speaking today. Or someone else sitting on the platform right behind her would hand her a tissue or a napkin since they were only 5 feet away and I was on the other side of a giant room. Or that I could not be the one to step up because I knew nobody in that room and surely someone else in that room would be a better choice than me to stand up. But in reality those were all excuses because I was scared. I was scared to walk up there and put myself out there (in front of a room of people I did not know).

But that’s the thing, if you see someone who needs help or needs a hand to hold or a shoulder to lean on, if YOU see that, then why shouldn’t it be YOU who acts on that? Do you have to know the person to acknowledge they need help? Do you already have to be their friend to pass along a tissue to dry their tears? Do you have to know anything about them other than the simple fact that they are another human and need help in that moment?

No.

So, today I am bearing witness to the fact that I wish I could have done better that day so many years ago. I wish I had the strength in that moment to step up on that stage and simply stand next to someone I had never met and let them know they were not alone. And because of that day, I will continue to try and do better, to acknowledge and be present, even if it is uncomfortable to sit with someone else’s pain. Because at the end of the day what we really have in this crazy life is each other.

If I were my own best friend I would forgive myself for not acting four years ago and I would remind myself to continue to strive each day to simply be human. To recognize when someone needs to be propped up and to step up and do the propping (even if it is uncomfortable and messy). To be present.

Two Feet.

My daughter has two feet.  And for that I am incredibly grateful. You see every morning we go through the same dance. Well maybe not every morning, more like 6 out of 7 mornings a week, and most definitely on the mornings when I am running late to get to work. The dance is all about putting on shoes. Two shoes and two feet.

It is impossible to plan for this dance because you never know how it is going to go. There is the one morning a week that she picks out shoes, puts them on the correct feet and is out the door before I get my shoes on. That day is glorious.

Then there are all the other days. Some combination of not being able to pick shoes or getting one shoe on then changing her mind and starting completely over with the picking process or only wanting to wear black shoes because her brother is wearing black shoes but she does not own any black shoes so now the world must end immediately. Two feet I think to myself, I only have to get through two feet. 

There is also the task of dismantling whatever pair of shoes she is going to wear prior to putting them on her two feet. There might be pulling out velcro straps from hooks or clasps, removing laces, untying all bows that are decorative, removing inserts, or even attempts to peel off the soles if heaven forbid they are staring to fray a little at the edges which they do because she rubs her feet on rocks. The dismantling process must of course be completed for both shoes. Again I think to myself, only two feet, you can do this, it is only two feet. Parental patience will prevail.  

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Then we start the process of putting the shoes on the feet. And if you think you are going to help her with that process well you should just sit yourself down and think again because that would be wrong. Soooo wrong. And if you happen to be running really late and think you’ll speed things up by helping the process along, say by putting one of the shoes back together, well, you just made a critical error and now the world really does end. At least the world where you make it to work on time and your child is wearing shoes when you drop her off at school and no one is covered in tears or snot. But really, it’s only two feet, stay patient. Two feet. Imagine if she had three feet? Involuntary shudder of fear and horror. 

So invariably the first shoe goes on the wrong foot. There’s technically a 50-50 chance but I think in reality it leans more towards 75-25 with the wrong foot-shoe combo winning out. And then there is the complaint that the shoes don’t fit anymore. And you being an adult say “it’s on the wrong foot, switch feet and it will fit better.” And that seems like a logical thing to say, but it is not. It is soooo not. Because now the child is insistent that the shoes don’t fit and now you have to go back to the beginning (meaning you start over at picking out shoes), because for some reason the child does not think she can put her shoes on the wrong feet, ever. So it’s best to just nod and smile (through increasingly gritted teeth because you are now at least 10 minutes into this process) and say “yup, we’ll have to see about getting new shoes soon.” And then the child puts the other shoe on the other wrong foot and says it feels great and smiles at you. Two feet. If my child had three feet I would never go anywhere because we would never make it out the door. That would be three shoes to go on three wrong feet. And my parental patience level barely makes two feet on a good day.   

So now to go back to the beginning I simply want to say I am grateful that my daughter has two feet because I do not have the patience to deal with getting more little shoes onto more little feet. And if I were my own best friend I would remind myself to be grateful for the little things even if they seem very commonplace, like two feet.

Do turtles jump?

Well, do they? Do turtles jump? Can they jump? Do they want to jump? Have you ever seen a turtle jump? If you do a quick search of the mighty web you will probably find a few videos of snapping turtles lunging and hopping and it looks an awful lot like jumping. You may also find various sites that talk about turtles not being able to jump because of the weight of their shells (the equivalent of a 250 pound backpack on a full grown human) and their overall physiology and other limiting factors. The general response on the internet is that turtles do not jump, unless they are snapping turtles and then stay the heck away. (If you are a turtle expert and know otherwise, then please let me know!).

“OK, so…. what?” you are probably thinking right now. Why is she writing about turtles? And jumping? OK, bear with me. Imagine you are a turtle. Imagine you are hanging out in your turtle space with a little water and a little grass and some fish and some flowers and some bugs. And you are sitting in the sun while a soft breeze blows through the grass, half asleep after your big turtle breakfast. You have a good turtle life. THEN… a frog jumps by and your whole world turns upside down and you think “holy moly that is the coolest thing I have ever seen I have to do that right now. I do not even know what that is but I know it is what I should be doing. It is what I want to be doing.” So you try to jump and you cannot. You tell your turtle friends about what you want to do and they all laugh at you or tell you cannot do it. You tell your turtle parents and they tell you jumping is not for turtles and you will get a respectable job crawling thank you very much. And so it goes.

But you keep trying to jump. Yes, you are a turtle. And yes, you should not be able to do this. But. But. But…

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So, if I were my own best friend and I were a turtle and I wanted to jump more than anything else in the whole big world, I would remind myself to find a way, despite all the evidence and all the feedback and all the limitations.

Because people have done really amazing things despite everyone saying they could not do it or they did not have the skills or they did not grow up the right way or with the right support or with the right skills. Because if you want it badly enough I don’t think there is a right way or a wrong way. There is simply a way. So go be a jumping turtle.

Squirrels on meth

I have been meditating for approximately a week now and I would like to share 10 things with you about this experience thus far:

  1. My brain is full of squirrels
  2. And I am pretty sure the squirrels are on meth
  3. I am trying to the get the squirrels to slow down but they are fast little buggers. Really fast. And I think that has to do with the meth.
  4. I may have to send the squirrels to detox (not sure what this will do to my brain but there could be a few really ugly days coming up)
  5. Meditation is really hard. Especially if your brain is full of squirrels. On meth. Or full of lots of thoughts that never seem to stop.
  6. Meditation seems like it should be easy but that is an illusion. It is magic and it is hard.
  7. So… for meditation you just sit there, right? And you think about nothing, right? And you just think about….  Ha. That’s when you notice the squirrels. They are zooming all over the place. They never stop moving. Never stop. Stop squirrels stop.
  8. And then sometimes one squirrel does stop. And it stays there staring right into your face like a three-year old trying to figure out what you are and what to do with you. And you say, “Hey squirrel, move on. I’m meditating here.” But the squirrel, it just runs around you and comes right back – front and center with it’s beady squirrel eyes looking at you. And the next you thing you know you have spent your whole time wrestling with one squirrel instead of clearing your mind and such.
  9. Meditation is reportedly one of those things that can change your life if you commit to it. After one week of doing this I can see why. If everyone else’s brains are full of squirrels or monkeys or bats or frogs on stimulants, well… it is quite eye-opening when you realize what is actually going on in there. Anarchy. When I finally catch the squirrels and harness that energy, well… imagine what will happen. Just imagine.
  10. I truly believe all those people who do amazing things and who swear that meditation is a key part of their amazing things are onto something. First, conquer the squirrels in your brain. Second, conquer pretty much anything you want because this meditation stuff is one of the hardest things I have ever done (and just for reference, I went through 38+ hours of labor to deliver our second kiddo and I did an IronMan and I went to Walmart on Black Friday and survived all of them – but meditation is harder than being in labor while doing an Ironman and shopping at Walmart). Once you figure out meditation it is all there.

So, if I were my own best friend I would tell myself to keep on meditating. There is gold at the end of the rainbow. And I would tell the squirrels to sit the heck down, close their eyes, and namaste the heck out of life. Peace out.

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Plan A

I was listening to a book last week and one of the characters was trying to convince the other character to do something she was not sure she wanted to do. The first character said something to the effect of “If Plan A doesn’t work it’s OK. There are 25 more letters in the alphabet.”

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I love it. 25 more letters! 25 more chances to make it different or tweak it or try again. 25! I was trying to think of the last time I tried something 25 times in an effort to “get it right” or to get to what I wanted to achieve. The only thing that comes close has been my ill-fated attempts at sandwich bread making which I’ve posted about here before. I might be somewhere around Plan R or Plan S by now and to be honest I had given up, but I have another 8 or so letters to go so I think I’ll try again. However with everything else I think I might get to Plan D or Plan E and then I stop. I am short-changing myself – there are 26 letters in the alphabet! It is time to become more resilient, to not give up so easily, to persevere.

So if I were my own best friend I would remind myself to try-try-again, if plan A doesn’t work there are 25 more letters in the alphabet.

And what about you? Do you give each new opportunity at least 26 chances before you walk away? Do you move on to Plan AA, AB, AC and so on? Or are you closer to what I have been doing recently, stopping after a maximum of 5 or 6 attempts and moving on? What could we accomplish if we gave everything at least 26 attempts, each slightly different based on what we learned from the previous ones? Imagine!

Fail often.

Failure has a bad reputation but once you get to know it, it’s not really the bad kid. It’s the cool kid in disguise. Failure means you tried something. Failure means you took a chance. Failure means you found something you can improve on the next time. Failure means you have the opportunity to get better. Failure means you have the chance to grow.

I like all those things… trying something new, taking a chance, improving, opportunity, growth… So, if I were my own best friend I would tell myself to fail a bit more often.

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