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Kindergarten Homework

With our enthusiastic “Go get’em” faces on, we waved our son onto the number 14 bus bound for Kindergarten. Maybe September allergies made my husband’s eyes water or maybe it was his relief that our child survived being stuck at home with me for the past 5 years. I contained my giddiness as I snapped that fateful picture of him waving back from the bus steps. We were each about to learn what going to school and developing new systems meant to us.Kindergarten Homework

The little guy loved school. Early in the year, I paid a visit to him and his 17 pint-sized classmates in their new classroom. I wanted to meet his teacher and to gather context for my son’s random, and sometimes jarring, disclosures of daily happenings. I’d been told she ran her classroom as smoothly as a Barney episode and I agreed after seeing her in action. She was generous with her praise and commendably judicious with a spastic group of five-year-olds. I felt my heart burst for all their sweetness and hardships. I wanted to wipe the pizza sauce off their faces and tie all their dirty untied shoelaces. And then I had to leave. Better her than me.Kindergarten Homework on Shalavee.com

Why was I surprised when the ridiculous quantity of paper began to flood our house? We got monthly activity schedules and cafeteria menus earnestly printed on green and pink papers followed by the “homework” sheets for the math and reading “clubs”. After a twenty-year hiatus, I had “homework” because it would take a herculean effort for my five-year-old son to list ten books we read in any given month plus their authors. Instead, he drew pictures for two books he liked. His reward was tattoos and bookmarks. I was rewarded with the return of these same drawings caught up in the paper river flowing from his “Dolphin” folder.

I absolutely loved my son’s drawings of primitive smiling suns and the stick people who suddenly had on pants because one of his bossy girlfriends proclaimed them necessary, although his stick figures soon returned to their original nakedness. And, of course, I liked the pictures where I was a part of the action. Sadly, only five percent of the rest of the book bag busyness consisted of these. Instead, I got glued, cut, colored, and constructed things of all sorts randomly based on holidays or nursery rhymes. Paper dolls tenuously perched on Popsicle sticks, sticker books, cereal cemented to construction paper, and drawings from his classmates. These barged into our home and tumbled out of his green backpack onto the kitchen table, sofa, and floor. And each and every loving one of these papers was suddenly and forever my responsibility.  

If I had kept every one of these suckers, in twenty years I’d have ended up on one of those hoarding shows, walking between mountains of papers and being buried alive under them. And, left up to my son, each little scrap of paper he’d ever put pen, crayon, scissors, or marker to was precious enough to keep forever. So, I smiled and nodded as I placed everything in the basket on top of the refrigerator, the paper avalanche repository. I had a secret stealth plan called The Purge, the goal of which was to land all the papers worth keeping into an out-of-sight place in an orderly fashion because the opposite of an overwhelming landslide is doable chunks.Kindergarten Homework on Shalavee.com

The three-step Purge system started with the placement of the papers in the basket atop the fridge. I then stealthily moved them to a drawer upstairs and, after being sorted essential from non, they would go into a portfolio in a closet. My theory was that if you were to mark the start and end of the monthly paper ocean with a ribbon marker in the basket, after a week I feel pretty sure the child would have forgotten about that hunk of stuff between the markers. There’s an official month of paper stuff to sort then. But out of sight means out of mind; I couldn’t let the child become an obstacle to The Purge.

Only when I was alone in the house, did I attempt to ruthlessly sort and cull this mess for the essence of my child. Parental wisdom must fight that guilty voice. One drawing of trees and kitties and a page of E’s are great but twenty of them are not. Into a paper recycle bag went the extras plus that which does not at all show the talents and charms of my child. I felt guilt-free when I pitched the gigantic paper penny, nothing against my man Abraham. And while I may have been kind and offered my in-laws the opportunity to take from the bag any art they may have liked, then Hi Ho Hi Ho off to the grey recycling container it went.

The final step was to create the holder for everything I’d culled. For his daycare artwork, I’d made a giant cardboard pita pocket portfolio and taped up the edges. It worked out nicely. Poster-board would work with packing tape seams. Certain well-known crafty people have made these attractive with fabric covered foam core and ribbon ties. I saved the pretty for later after I’ve mastered the simple de-clutter. This was the trench-work for the kindergarten homework clutter attack and it was all about biting off only as much as I could chew.Kindergarten Homework on Shalavee.com

I visited his classroom again that year. His lovely teacher and I spoke about educational mandates. All the busy work is still proof to the parents and legislators that the children are learning. And conversely, the clubs’ homework proves the parents are working with and reading to their children. She said if she had her way, there would be two recesses for her kindergartners (and 7 years later she would finally get that when she taught my daughter in Pre-K). Maybe there are too many cooks in the educational kitchen substantiating the price of their ingredients, but they’ll never pay this magnificent teacher enough. In fact, she’d been saving his “special” work from his year in a scrapbook she gave us parents at the end of the year. Why was I doing any of this when she’d had it covered? 

None the wiser for his mother’s devious deeds, my busy-brained boy continued to be overly stimulated as he dumped out his paper laden book bag. One day in March, he came home excitedly talking about Rosa Parks and Harriet “Tubb-s-man”. Apparently, he’d learned a lot about civil unrest and the Underground Railroad for black history month. They sang freedom songs, made paper buses, and discussed the mistreatment of the slaves. I was a little thrown by the sudden candidness of the subject and I commenced with a serious “discussion” about the ramifications of slavery and the inherent rights of all human beings to their freedom. After a long thoughtful silence, he said “Hey, I’ve got an idea. Let’s play slaves!” Nothing new there.

(This piece of creative non-fiction was one of the very first as I began to write on-line and Published on Divine Caroline, a writing site that gave me reason to write. I then began this blog a year later but never republished it here. This Kindergarten Homework’s grand edited revival.)

And If you enjoyed what you read, subscribe, via the subscription box in the sidebar, to my thrice weekly posts via your email box. And visit me on Instagram to see my daily pictures, friend me or like my page on Facebook. Or come find me on Twitter or Pinterest  too. I am always practicing Intentional In-touchness so chat at me please. I live for conversations.

And, as always, Thanks to you for your visit.

 

A Choice Between Perfectionism Or Doing Your Best

I have recently felt an internal shift from all-out perfectionism to just trying for my best. “Doing” used to essentially be how I valued myself. I was a human doing. And there was never enough doing I could do to fulfill the undefined expectations I had about being done. Fear and perfection were my guidelines for living. Industrial Over-focused was my coping mechanism for the fear.

I was a human doing.

As I peeled back layer upon layer, I ousted the lies that were my fears and began to understand that in the grander scheme of things, sometimes just doing something, anything, could thwart the desperate feelings of perfection and fear. I noticed that if I made one effortful action toward my goals, it was a huge hopeful relief. Like taking that first half-hour walk to start an exercise routine. Or starting an art project. Or calling someone I’d put off calling. The effort felt like hope.Perfectionism or doing your best on Shalavee.com

Perfectionism is insidious. The bar will continually raise and there will never be enough doing. If the goals are undefined, the results are never enough. Add on the doubt that your best will never be good enough and you’re not only a hamster on a wheel, but you are sinking in quicksand at the same time.

But what if we were to have a little faith in our efforts. No, my abilities may never match others in gardening or graphic design. Ever. But what if I did my best and let go of the rest including the perfection. What I realized is that I can applaud myself for making an effort and usually people see that effort and not as much the results. It’s a faith gesture but it’s also permission to be kind to yourself. To credit yourself with the intention to get better. Because you won’t become better, or even the best, unless you keep doing that thing over and over and over.Perfectionism or doing your best on Shalavee.com

I have let the medium be my message and made sure I went forth with a simple vision in mind. Sometimes the effort of hanging a few decorations in the right scale makes a huge impact. Sometimes posting a few powerful words says way more than pages and pages that won’t be read. And sometimes giving ourselves the space and the credit to begin can move us on in profound ways. I am proof that progress is there but for the effort.

And that perfectionism is a crappy cowardly roadblock to a more beautiful and easier way of living. We just need to get out of our own ways and onto proving it.

And If you enjoyed what you read, subscribe, via the subscription box in the sidebar, to my thrice weekly posts via your email box. And visit me on Instagram to see my daily pictures, friend me or like my page on Facebook. Or come find me on Twitter or Pinterest  too. I am always practicing Intentional In-touchness so chat at me please. I live for conversations.

And, as always, Thanks to you for your visit.

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Opinions, Entitlement, and the Value of Your Voice

Opinions are like noses, we all have them. But are we entitled and allowed to have them? If I find it hard to find a voice to express them, I may not feel I’m allowed to have an opinion in the first place.

As a woman, it can prove tough not to judge myself for what I have to say as necessary or valid as I’m considering actually saying it. Then I may choose to keep quiet. I have my own internal bouncer at the thought door checking the validity, wittiness, or profundity of my outgoing thoughts and opinions. And often, they’re just not making the cut as I am weighing them against unseen sources that must be way more clever and insightful than me.Opinions, Entitlement, and the Value of Your Voice on Shalavee.com

I’d like to stop doing that. I’ve spoken about how men don’t do that. But I have no experience valuing my voice. In my life, I removed the need for the approval I would get doing for others. Now I find myself dumbly staring at my life thinking, “What do I do this or that for then?”. Oh right. It’s for myself, my happiness, and my approval. Duh.Reprogramming the people pleasing is tough going.Opinions, Entitlement, and the Value of Your Voice on Shalavee.com

Perhaps it’s slightly a matter of faking this until I begin to reap the benefits. Saying and doing what I know is right anyway even if it won’t be met with a round of applause or approval. But maybe because I need to Hear myself saying it. Hear myself having an opinion, saying what I think, and ideally modelling what it is like to not be a doormat for my daughter. Because I want her to be entitled to her opinion and she will do what I do, not what I say. Mindfulness is the only way on and out my friends.

And If you enjoyed what you read, subscribe, via the subscription box in the sidebar, to my thrice weekly posts via your emailbox. And visit me on Instagram to see my daily pictures, friend me or like my page on Facebook. Or come find me on Twitter orPinterest too. I am always practicing Intentional Intouchness so chat at me please. I live for conversations.

And, as always, Thanks to you for your visit.

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The Hurry and The Hush

I am a recovering Energizer Bunny. I’ve been called that, yes. My therapist referred to this “life coping technique” as Industrious Over-focused. I’m getting it all done, covering all my bases in a hurry just in case I need to prove why I’m worthy of keeping around I suppose.

The Perfect Holiday is an easy trap to fall into for people who have my affliction. Do it all and you WIN. But unless you have a talent for military maneuvering and a team of Martha Stewarts, plus a degree in time management, it’s a big jolly “Good Luck With That” to you. Having a personally happy holiday has so much to do with setting realistic expectations for yourself and dismissing others’ approval entirely.

My biggest mistake was always to hit the holiday running but then I’d end up having set the bar too high and felt like a failure when I was such a winner. If all the t’s were crossed and I’s dotted, I thought that was my “happy”. It’s the same affliction many of us have but now applied to decorating and presents. And it’s still all based in extrinsic factors. Like other people’s approval and the need for  acknowledgement of your talents, generosity, or charity.chessie-in-the-pine on the Hurry and the Hush on Shalavee.com

But this year, I started my planning off with getting some of the big stuff done ahead. Christmas cards were ordered before Thanksgiving. Unheard of and yet I designed and made them before they’d even made it on my to-do list. I get giddy thinking that I don’t have to feel bad and overwhelmed about my Christmas cards this year.

I did not overbook my “outside the house” holiday obligations. So I am sitting here on the 4th looking at all the time left I have left until Christmas as mine. The tree fetching, the Christmas shopping, and the wrapping are all scheduled on my calendar. courthouse-lights on the Hurry and the Hush on Shalavee.com

I Don’t Feel Anxious. Thoughts of not enough are not running through my head. Instead, there’s no doubt in my head that I will have enough time to do what I need to do and have the rest of the time to be present. My present to me is my conscious and proactive presence during the season.

This is me doing my best and letting go of the rest. The busyness for chaos’ sake isn’t necessary for me anymore. I am no longer a chaos junkie. I am clear and quieter than ever and I’m focused on the wisdom of seeing and feeling the difference between the hurry and the hush. I hope everyone has that experience this holiday.xmas-tree-2015 on the hurry and the hush on shalavee.com

And If you enjoyed what you read, subscribe, via the subscription box in the sidebar, to my thrice weekly posts via your emailbox. And visit me on Instagram to see my daily pictures, friend me or like my page on Facebook. Or come find me on Twitter orPinterest too. I am always practicing Intentional Intouchness so chat at me please. I live for conversations.

And, as always, Thanks to you for your visit.

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The Election Hangover

I was pregnant with Eamon and had opened a little gift shop when the 2004 election re-elected George W. Bush as president for another term. My husband and I were grief-stricken.  And we talked of what was to be done and would we consider moving. And then we had our baby.

What I remember from that experience is that eventually, after the drama died down, my life didn’t change all that much. I still woke up, had my cup of coffee with cream and sugar, and knew I could hop in my car and go to any drive through for the fast food of my choice. America was still a free country for me. No gum toting goons were pillaging my village and raping my children. And in recognizing this first world perspective, I got through emotionally. Then the economic recession/depression finally forced me to shut my shop down on the coldest day of the following January perhaps while President Bush was being sworn in. I returned home terrified to raise a soon to be toddler trapped in my house. The Election Hangover on Shalavee.com

This time the election rumbled around, I was spared election coverage since I no longer had cable. I did not have to watch any debates or read too much to know who I wanted to represent me. And I knew that the one and only bit of power I had was the power to vote. And so I did. But I also knew that there is no way to predict the outcome of anything even after it seems a done deal. And so I offer this: Empower your daughters, your friends, your friends daughters to stand up for what they need. Support one another, be empathetic, offer hope and hands. Be community. I believe there is nothing that will tear my community from my heart nor the hope that one day I will see a woman in the oval office.

I have voted every election since I was 18 when I voted for Clinton. I was so proud of myself. This time, as I do every election, I took my children to show them that there is a democracy in process. It may be a flawed one but those people working at the polling place have so much honor and integrity. So much pride I felt richer for being there, even if the outcome wasn’t the one I’d have preferred.The Election Hangover on Shalavee.com

Yes, there is something rather scary and ominous trending in humanity. A lack of care for our global community and its plights that I find terrifying. The age of Me me me is upon us. It’s fear not faith talking. But then I have to remember that becoming anxious will get us nowhere. And Hope is where I need to live to make my life work for me and help others to feel the same. I want to show my children that I do my best every day and let go of the rest.

So I will continue to fight my way out of the chrysalis that I was trapped in for so long. And when I emerge as a flawed and beautiful butterfly, I will stay true to my intentions to help others to emerge and find their self-kindness and their tribe and spread their gifts to the world as well. This is all I can do. And wait with hope and gratitude. Because there is Always something to be grateful for.

And If you enjoyed what you read, subscribe, via the subscription box in the sidebar, to my thrice weekly posts via your emailbox. And visit me on Instagram to see my daily pictures, friend me or like my page on Facebook. Or come find me on Twitter orPinterest too. I am always practicing Intentional Intouchness so chat at me please. I live for conversations.

And, as always, Thanks to you for your visit.

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