Category Archives: Things to Ponder

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.”

PlanABlog

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!

Advertisements

Tribes. Revisited.

It was in August of 2016, over 7 months ago, that I last wrote about finding a tribe. It feels like it was only a week ago or maybe a month but that is how time goes these days, fast and furious and recklessly moving forward.

I still strongly believe, maybe even more so now than seven months ago, the following  key things about a tribe:

  1. It’s PEOPLE. Not just one person. I don’t think your tribe (well my tribe anyway) is complete with one person. I think multiple people bring multiple gifts and qualities that make the tribe a richer whole.
  2. Tribes are often formed over time. I think it’s quite rare to step into an already formed group of people who become your friends. I think that is especially rare as I get older. Tribes take time and effort to form. The process is organic and slow.
  3. Tribes change. People move. People move on. People die. People change. The people who make up your tribe will change. I think it is so very important to remember that (especially as we can get set in our ways) being open to new people entering our tribe is a beautiful gift we can give ourselves and the new people who may “join.”
  4. Membership should always be open. This piggybacks a bit on the previous point but I think it is important enough to merit its own mention. If you are part of a tribe, if you have a tribe, if you are a leader of a tribe, please don’t close the membership.

So do I have a tribe? Nope. Not completed yet anyway, but bigger than it was before. Am I still working on it? Absolutely! To reference #3 above, tribes change, and mine is still evolving.

In an effort to evolve my tribe here is a recap of the last half-year. Again, holy crap, how have seven months gone by???

  1.  I have made an effort to talk to people and smile at people and say hello. Even people I do not know. Crazy, right? Yup. I’m that person that smiles and says “hi” if we happen to make eye contact when we are standing in line waiting for coffee. Are you the person who says “hi” back or are you the person who buries your face so deep in your smart phone I would think you were charging the phone with your nose? No judgement, I promise. I have been both those people, but I am trying to do less nose-charging and more “hellos”.
  2. I have especially tried to connect with people even when I feel nervous or awkward because I am not quite sure what to say or do, like if I am at a social event for my kid and there are a bunch of other parents there too. I assume they are feeling nervous or awkward, NOT that they don’t want to talk with me. And I jump right in. As an added bonus I have gotten slightly better at making small talk with random people and I have discovered a few new coffee shops and stores I would never have known about by complimenting people’s shoes or shirts or mugs. Now I just have to figure out how to translate that into a friendship! Baby steps people, baby steps.
  3. I have joined groups that met in person and met virtually online. I have participated and really attempted to connect with the people in these groups. However, it turns out the groups were not quite the right fit for me (like I was the color orange and everyone else with yellow). Everyone I met was very nice and very polite, but I never really connected with anyone. Finally, after six months I was able to say “not my place” and walk away. Which was also kind of scary, because I thought I SHOULD fit and that is why I joined, but then I didn’t. I know though, there are other groups out there and I will keep hunting for that group that is the right fit.
  4. I have been happier knowing I am trying even though it has been hard work and waaaaay out of my comfort zone. Or maybe I am happier because of that nightly foot massage, glass of wine, hot bubble bath, home-cooked meal, no dishes to do… hahahaha, fantasy world people, pure fantasy!  

Tribe2_Blog

So, if I were my own best friend I would remind myself that good things often take time, do not give up, persevere and keep making small talk. Eventually those connections are formed and they grow. Brick by brick is how a castle is built, why not a tribe too? 

Are you trying new adventures and expanding the bounds of your world? Are you already in a tribe and inviting new members into the fold? Are you getting nightly foot massages, glasses of wine, bubble baths, and so on, if YES, then please share your secrets!

 

Funky Math

If I were my own best friend I would tell myself that 1+1 does NOT always equal 2. It turns out that sometimes 1+1 actually equals something more like five-hundred-twenty-six-thousand-and-two. See – funky math!

FunkyMath_Blog

And this is why I have not posted here very often in the last three years. Actually I should go back to what 0+1 equals. It is not 1. It is closer to two-hundred-ten-thousand-and-twelve. (And if you are an especially astute reader you will notice that the actual sum of 0+1 (210,012) does not equal the actual sum of 1+1 (526,002). Again funky math!).

I remember learning math in school. So elegant. So simple. Green chalkboard. Solid rules. Learned the rules and the results followed. I loved it. 0+1 =1. 1+1 =2.

And then we had kids. And math does not work with kids. We went from no kids to one kid. And then three years later we went from 1 kid to 2 kiddos. And the additional time spent caring for said kiddos is NOT proportional to 0+1. Because it turns out kiddos are not just “1”. They are feeding and changing and cuddling and keeping warm and dry and teaching. Oh the teaching… how to use the potty and how to eat and how to blow your nose in a tissue (not my pants leg) and how to say hello and good-byes and bathe yourself and… And there is a lot of coffee too, far more than 1 cup a day.

And it is a wonderful, sometimes jaw-dropping, currently exhausting, life-changing experience. But it is also why this space is often ignored right now or put on the back burner. Because of funky math. (But I also love this math and wouldn’t change it for the world.)

Being in the flock.

Flock_BlogImagine you have been dropped off on a small island. You and one other person were delivered to the island at about the same time. There are 5 other people on this island as well who have been there for quite a while. There are seven of you in total and you are divided into three groups. You all work alongside each other but essentially each group has a different daily task. Just to make it a little more obscure let’s say you are all birds.

One group of birds gathers grass on the island. Another group hunts for worms. The last group collects water.

You personally get along fairly well with the other birds on the island but are not especially close to any of them. The other bird you arrived on the island with also seems to get along well with the others. However you notice when that bird goes off to gather grass the other birds spend a lot of time squawking about that bird. And the talk is not always very nice or supportive of that grass-gathering bird. That bird seems to gather grass a little bit differently from it’s partner-grass-gatherer and from all other grass-gatherers that have come before it.

You are a worm-hunter. So for you it seems hard to pass judgement or make assessments about how the grass gatherer does what he does. So you stay quiet. And while you do not join in the fray of discussion or gossip about the new grass gatherer you also do not defend that grass gatherer or speak up. You put your head down, hunt your worms, and stay neutral.

The island is quite small and ruffling the feathers of the other birds could be pretty uncomfortable. But as the days go by you find you are feeling more and more uncomfortable about not defending the grass gatherer who goes off and does her work diligently and quietly and with what seems like very little support from the other birds on the island. For what it’s worth the grass gatherer reports being content, liking the island, liking the other birds, and being happy with his method for grass gathering. But you are pretty sure she has no idea the other birds are gossiping about her when she is not around.

So here is the question. What to do? Do you speak up to the group? Do you talk to the grass gatherer about what you have heard and seen? Do you continue to stay quiet, hunt worms and not engage in the squawking? Do you accept that the grass-gatherer is content and not rock the boat? Do you defend the grass gatherer even though he has no idea any of this is going on? Do you fly away?

I do not know if there is a right answer to this situation. But I think it is a situation that arises over and over in life – when do you step up and say something and when do you go about your business and decide it does not pertain to you? As someone who is trying to be my own best friend I struggle with the “right” course of action. There is self-preservation and there is also defending someone else who may not even know they need defending. Then again, if that other person is truly content, then do they need defending? Is it my place to decide they need defending if they are truly happy with the situation?

And finally, if the other birds are squawking this much about the new grass gatherer it makes one wonder, what are they saying about the new worm hunter (you) when off hunting for worms? Does that even matter? Is that an environment you would want to stay in? Or would you take steps to learn how to fly away? So, as the new bird on the island do you defend and fight against what was already there, stay quiet and hunt your worms, or fly away?

Love is mashed peas.

If I were my own best friend I would tell myself love shows up in unusual ways and at unexpected times.

LoveIsPeas_Blog

***There are a few important facts that help set the stage for this story. 

  1. The little guy recently got his first pet – a red fish – which after much deliberation he decided to name “Fish.”
  2. The little guy is just over two years old so actual care of Fish tends to fall to the larger family members (i.e. me).
  3. We chose a fish because we wanted a low maintenance pet.
  4. Fish (meaning all fish, not just our fish) can get constipated.

(Disclaimer: This post is longer than usual. The short version is I spent a long time on a Friday night figuring out how to hand feed our pet fish mashed peas so he could stop being constipated (i.e. poop and be able to use his swim bladder again to float) and go on living a happy life being tortured by the blue dinosaur I put next to his tank to be his friend. Heh heh heh. Oh yeah, and be loved by the little guy. Love is weird.)

The longer version: It was an average Friday evening after dinnertime and we were getting the little guy ready for bed. I was looking forward to some end of the week, feet up, TV on, veg time. My partner in crime suddenly noticed that Fish was not swimming around in his tank. He was not bobbing gently or swishing in circles or trying to attack the large blue dinosaur I put next to his tank to be his friend. Nope. 

Fish was floating on his side. At the top of the tank. Inflated two to three times larger then normal size. Flapping his little flippers. And not looking very good. “Aaaacck” was my first thought. A four letter word was my second.

A phone call to the pet shop and a short drive later with a water sample from the tank it was determined that bad water, bad pH, inappropriate nitrates, bacteria, virus, and fungus were not the culprits. Three “fish guys” were holding court around the water samples trying to decide what might be wrong with Fish. 

As the pet shop prepared to close they all agreed that Fish was most likely constipated. Say what?!?! Fish can get blocked up?? This came as a surprise to me, so I sarcastically quipped, “so what, now I need to give my fish a laxative?” 

The three fish guys looked at me and in all seriousness said “yes” in unison. Huh. Apparently fish can get constipated and they have this thing called a swim bladder that then gets blocked up and when that gets blocked up the fish cannot inflate/deflate to go up/down in the water. (That’s the simple version they gave me.) “So, I assume you guys sell some sort of laxative drops,” I asked desperately hoping this was true, because it was late, I was tired, and putting a couple drops in the water sounded fairly easy.

“Nope” was the response. “You have to mash up some green peas and feed them to the fish.” (Seriously?? My fish is floating on his side at the top of the tank… He runs for the farthest corner when I drop food in on a healthy day. How on earth am I going to get him to eat from a spoon???)

And with that the pet store closed. I drove home trying to figure out how I was going to get Fish to eat mashed peas. Upon arriving home I was immediately enticed by my big comfy couch, something mindless on TV, and the thought of putting up my feet. And then I looked at Fish. 

And that’s when it first hit me. I realized I loved that little red critter if for no other reason then he is part of our family and I get to scare the fish poop out of him with the turquoise dinosaur. Alright, get to work…

Thirty minutes later I am starting to panic a little as Fish is still mostly circling the surface and has now turned a pink shade (not his usual brilliant red). I have tried three different baby spoons and a syringe without luck. The bottom of the bowl is littered with pieces of mashed pea. I am hoping there is some diffusion going on and Fish is ingesting at least a little bit somehow, someway. I briefly consider making a mug of mashed pea slurry, bathing him in it and then returning him to his tank…

That’s when I decide to put a little mashed pea on the end of my finger. I slowly put my finger in the water, edge it gently towards Fish and… he eats it! 

Hallelujah! Lights and choirs and singing and more lights! I literally jump. In the kitchen. At 9:30 at night. And cheer. Because I finger fed Fish mashed peas. Love. Plain and simple. (And maybe a little insanity but mostly love.)

A few more pieces of pea later I decide that is enough. Fish is still circling the top but I am hopeful the peas will do their magical thing and Fish will recover. I wish I could hug him and tell him it will be okay. Some part of me realizes this is a fish and if I wanted to hug our pet I would have pushed harder for a puppy or a kitty or a guinea pig. And some part of me says what the heck is going on, aren’t fish supposed to be low maintenance?? And another part of me feels good because I can go to bed now knowing I did everything I could for the smallest member of our family. 

And that’s it – love shows up in unexpected ways. Feeding mashed peas to a fish off of my finger at 9:30 on a Friday night. Both for love of the fish and love of the little guy. (Smile.)

 

[Epilogue: For those curious souls who want to know what happened to Fish… The peas totally worked! I woke up the next morning afraid to look feeling pretty certain I was going to find a not so healthy looking Fish, but there he was completely back to normal. Circling the tank. Swimming gracefully up and down. At his normal size! There was a rather hefty fish dropping on the floor of the tank. And later there were some odd bubbles at the surface that I cleaned out. So perhaps the “fish guys” were right – Fish was a little blocked up, a little gassy, and needed a little fishy fiber! As of today he remains happy, healthy, and “best friends” with a turquoise dinosaur.] 

Expansion & Contraction

I have been thinking about this post for awhile. It has been hard to figure out where to start, what to say. It is hard to figure out what to write that does not sound incredibly selfish or short-sighted. In the last three years my life has changed. It has changed so much I hardly recognize my life compared to what it was three years ago.

Expansion_Blog

Some areas have contracted. Other areas have expanded. The expansion has been amazing and exciting and unexpected. I delight in things I might never have noticed before – the moon in the sky at 8 am, an airplane, a double dump truck, a digger, ice cream sandwiches, otters at the aquarium, mud puddles, shovels, blue flowers, tide pools, pie, the blinds, a really big pillow, rocks, dirt, blueberries, raspberries, sunflowers, hugs, kisses, and smiles.

But then there is the contraction. This is the part that is harder to write about. I have gained so much from being a mom, from moving, from buying a house, from finishing graduate school. But all of that comes at a cost or maybe comes as a trade off – I am not sure what the “right” words would be. This is the part no one ever seems to talk about. I think back to the life I used to have and the life I have now is so very different. Things have contracted because there is not enough time in the day to live my old life and be delighted by the new one.

I love my “new” life – which is not really new but just a slow evolution of constant change over the last 3 years – but I also loved my “old” life too. And this is the part that I struggle to write – somehow I find myself split sometimes. I mourn the loss of the old life but I love the adventures and discoveries of the new one. I miss the opportunity to run 12 miles on a Saturday, grab a coffee, and lounge over brunch, then wander around a museum or market just exploring (this is the part that now seems very selfish). These days I squeeze in a 2 mile jog with the baby stroller, mainline a coffee, wipe up more food then I eat, and definitely don’t do any lounging.

But then there is that expansion again… I do get to discover what it’s like to get into a swimming pool for the first time, to build a sand castle, to go down a slide, to swing, to be tickled, to read a book seven times in a row and have someone squeal in surprise at the ending every time, to see a lot of sunrises, to see Christmas lights for the first time, to have your first pet (a fish), and to be unconditionally loved.

So if I were my own best friend I would tell myself this is a phase. It is part of the life I have chosen. And I should enjoy and try to remember every last moment. Because it is going to go really fast. In fact it already is.

Have any of you had experience with this? Have any of you found yourselves happy in your “new” life but also missing your old?

My own words.

I have been experiencing trouble finding my own words.

This is not to say my mind has been empty. In fact it has been quite full. A typical 60 seconds in my brain might look something like this:

Did I change the baby’s diaper? What is that awful smell? I really need to clean the carpet. Or maybe I need to clean the couch. Yuck. A leather couch would be nice. Who has time to shop for a leather couch? I need to write-up my chart notes. I don’t remember anything about the first patient I saw today. Woman or man? What kind of rash did he/she have? When did I last shave my armpits? Maybe I should be a little more European and stop shaving. How do you document a pink funky looking rash in medical terminology. Ugh. I am learning another new language. Learning a new language is supposed to be good for creativity. Did I change the baby’s diaper? Oh yeah, I need to change the sheet in the crib. What am I going to make for dinner tonight? Did I eat breakfast? I am really hungry. Am I sure I ate breakfast? Oh I like that blue scarf. I really like the color blue. The baby’s eyes are blue. The sky is blue today. I miss the sunshine. I wonder if the hubby had a chance to work out today? I need to go for a jog. Squirrel. How do I find a landscape design person? My yard is mostly moss and mushrooms. I need to wash my car. Did I change the baby’s diaper? What is that awful smell?

MyOwnWords_Blog

And so on. And that is why I have not written much lately. Or drawn much. I have not made time or space for creativity in my brain. Instead it is full of mommy and wife and home owner and student and provider and sister and daughter and maybe even a little bit of myself on occasion. Creativity takes time and space. It requires nourishment – and what that means is probably a little different for everyone.

I am finding that my creativity needs space. There needs to be an empty canvas and a lack of incoming data and a little bit of time to let things develop. Until I find that space I may write a bit less frequently then I want to write (which would be every day!). And I may borrow other’s words to reflect on versus trying to find my own each time. Because frankly it is really hard to find my own words when they keep getting interrupted by – Do I need to change the baby’s diaper? Did I do laundry? Are the gutters leaking? How do I tell a patient they have skin cancer? When did I last shave my legs? Who won the World Series this year? What is that awful smell?