Archive for 'Appreciation'

Here’s something I’m trying to do at home. And even in the very brief period that I have been practicing it, it has made an incredible difference in how we all get along. I learned it this weekend at a workshop, along with lots of other great tips for creating more love and joy in my life and especially in my home. It’s such a simple shift, and honestly, it has had a ridiculously profound effect on my interaction with my children and my partner.

Instead of saying “but” I say “and”.

Instead of saying “you want to do it this way BUT I want to do it that way.” Instead of thinking, “You want to go here BUT I want to go there.” Instead of feeling, “You like this BUT I like that.” I replace the “but” with an “and”.

So it sounds like love and acceptance instead of arbitration and rejection. It feels like agreement instead of contradiction. It allows for two realities co-existing instead of argument of one way being right and the other being wrong. AND it feels like a whole lot of understanding that in a family with 6 people in it, there can of course be 6 different ways of feeling/thinking/wanting/seeing.

We all like different things. We all have different ideas. We all need/want/have/love different ways of approaching life. AND it’s all perfectly true and beautiful and okay.

Honestly it is that simple. AND it is that good. You want this AND I want that. You feel this AND I feel that. You see this AND I see that. You are perfect AND I am too.

It could be just the tool you need this holiday.

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Celebrating Love. And Life.

I am this week at the Jersey Shore celebrating a cousin’s 50th wedding anniversary. We toasted, they talked, their children shared anecdotes, and what I realize is, it’s the little things that keep a family connected.

It’s finding that special juice that one likes and getting them one for their very own. It’s the touches. And the ability to lean a head on the other’s shoulder. It’s the whispered I love yous. And the laughs when there is chaos. And the commitment to the very simple, but not always easy act of being kind. It’s the knowing that the other is there when you need them and the knowing when to walk away in silence. It’s the big support group that surrounds the union and gives them a chance to regroup. It’s the willingness to let it all show – the tears, the laughs, and everything in between. It’s the being there for the big things and the little things too, and knowing that in 50 years it’s not all fun and games but it’s satisfying nonetheless. It actually can be mostly joy. It’s the being there for each other, the serving as witness to life’s ups and downs. And the willingness to sigh, forgive, let go and move on. It’s the daily gratitudes for the things big and small and the willingness to sometimes look beyond a singular act or mood, and see the reason behind it – be it fatigue or hunger or overwhelm. And it’s the hug that says, “I’m here when you need me.”

It’s inspiring to see a couple together this long who still feels such love for each other and who are still so demonstrative about it. And to see the trickle effect of their big love on all the people gathered here at their party, young and old. It inspires us all to love bigger, truer and to appreciate the people that are right under our noses. I want to celebrate 50 years one day. And in the meantime I’m going to try to celebrate one year, month, week, day at a time.

 

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Why I’m Here

A friend sent me this beautiful poem yesterday. Perhaps it caught my attention more than usual because I had woken up VERY early that morning and wrote a short piece myself about a similar topic. The piece I wrote was about remembering the love that started our families. It was about the fact that if we knew all there was to be done in family life we might not sign up at all but because we start in love it makes it all feel possible. And when we can remember and reignite that love and burning desire that started our families in the first place, it’s not only possible but very much joyful too. My piece you’ll be able to read in 2013 when it comes out in book form from Perigee Publishing. And this poem, that makes me cry everytime I read it, you can read right now…

Why I’m Here

Because my mother was on a date
with a man in the band, and my father,
thinking she was alone, asked her to dance.
And because, years earlier, my father
dug a foxhole but his buddy
sick with the flu, asked him for it, so he dug
another for himself. In the night
the first hole was shelled.
I’m here because my mother was twenty-seven
and in the ’50s that was old to still be single.
And because my father wouldn’t work on weapons,
though he was an atomic engineer.
My mother, having gone to Berkeley, liked that.
My father liked that she didn’t eat like a bird
when he took her to the best restaurant in L.A.
The rest of the reasons are long gone.
One decides to get dressed, go out, though she’d rather
stay home, but no, melancholy must be battled through,
so the skirt, the cinched belt, the shoes, and a life is changed.
I’m here because Jews were hated
so my grandparents left their villages,
came to America, married one who could cook,
one whose brother had a business,
married longing and disappointment
and secured in this way the future.

It’s good to treasure the gift, but good
to see that it wasn’t really meant for you.
The feeling that it couldn’t have been otherwise
is just a feeling. My family
around the patio table in July.
I’ve taken over the barbequing
that used to be my father’s job, ask him
how many coals, though I know how many.
We’ve been gathering here for years,
so I believe we will go on forever.
It’s right to praise the random,
the tiny god of probability that brought us here,
to praise not meaning, but feeling, the still-warm
sky at dusk, the light that lingers and the night
that when it comes is gentle.

“Why I’m Here” by Jacqueline Berger, from The Gift That Arrives Broken. © Autumn House Press, 2010.
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Spreading the love

I have realized lately that I love Valentines Day just about more than any other holiday. It brings together so many of the things that are so important to me – appreciation, crafts, letter writing, chocolate and all done in the name of love.  What’s not to love?

I’m not talking the commercial celebration of it all – the guilt, the obligatory rose, the holy crap I don’t have a gift to give kind of feeling.

I’m talking the heart of it all. The sharing of the expression of love. The letting people know just how much they are appreciated and valued and loved. Truly loved. No other strings necessary or attached. Love is where the heart is. The heart is where the love is.

I’ve decided this year I am going to extend the holiday to be more than just a day. I’m going to stretch it into an entire season starting, well, starting now I guess. I have dug out the necessary paper, scissors and glue. I am clearing a place on our table which will be active for the next 3 weeks at least. We are going to make cards and we are going to write love letters to each other and to family members spread around the country.

If Christmas can be extended like it is, why not Valentines Day? Starting today I’m going to write one love letter a day in an effort to spread the love. I’m going to start with my own family under my own roof then I’m going to send them far and wide. And perhaps the beauty of love is, giving it is just as much fun as getting it. Gotta love that!

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Encouraging Thanks

It’s the time of year for thank-you notes! A habit I love to model and encourage in my children. And one that I know isn’t always that easy to do – especially when there are so many to say thanks to and so much to be thankful for! Sometimes those lists just feel overwhelming. To me and to the kids.

This year we have a new way of doing them. A way that not only says thanks but encourages family connection as well. Read about it on Future Craft Collective and then gather the family for a little collaborative gratitude session!

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I’ve been pondering connection lately  as I’ve been doing events here and there and folks have been asking, “HOW??? How do we create more connection and find more time together?”

Everyone feels so busy. But I don’t think we  have to necessarily do less, rather I think we can just be a bit more intentional about what we do do. And how we spend our days. Which will of course eventually become our years. 

I’ve come up with a list. Which is not the least bit comprehensive but which offers some ideas for ways that we can see each other more. And connect more. And enjoy truly being together. Without really altering too much from our usual routine.

10 things you can do to build deeper family connection…

  1. Schedule a family day every week. Make it a whole day or a few hours but make it happen. And put it on the calendar just like any other important event.
  2. Declare one night each week to be screen-free for the whole family. Turn off the TV, the computer, the video games and sit together instead. Play a game, talk, go to the park, read aloud or just be.
  3. Turn off all the phones for an hour or more every day; afterschool, around dinner or in the evening just before bed. You’ll be amazed at the presence you’ll feel!
  4. Look at your calendar and find one thing you can cancel. Fill it with family time instead.
  5. Schedule an outing with each child one-on-one. Do it monthly if you can. The whole family will benefit.
  6. Create a Family Appreciation Banner. See  instructions in the book, Make Stuff Together.
  7. Plan a Family Appreciation Dinner. Make it a full on celebration of all the things you love about being a family!
  8. Volunteer as a family: clean a creek, help a neighbor, deliver meals to the elderly. Doing it is a family will increase the rewards a thousand fold.
  9. Declare a room in the house to be electronics-free. No phones, no screens, just family!
  10. Make Stuff Together. Create a collage, a craft project, a garden or a family meal. Just make it together!
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Forgiveness

I let out a big sigh the other day and my sister-in-law commented, “oh you just let go of something you were holding onto.” I paused and realized, she was right. I had been sitting in blame for some silly little thing that occurred. Just before the audible release, I had made a decision to let it go. And in that sigh, I released it all.

And it felt so good to let it all just wash away in a single exhale.

Are you holding onto any grudges? Resentments? Whether they’re from yesterday or 10 years ago, can I recommend to you that you find a way to let it go? Start with the sigh and take it from there. To help you let go, start with an appreciation. For the person or the place or the event. In the appreciation you will find the shift. Let it go. You will be glad you did.

 

It’s that time of year again. Sleeping in. Keeping cool. Summer fun. You ready? Have you set some intentions for yourself? For how you want to feel? Do you like it freeform? Letting each day take on its own rhythm? Or do you like it planned? Systematic. And scheduled. Each day laid out with a plan from now until school starts again. Maybe you like it somewhere in between or a combination of the two;  alternating days or parts of day. Whatever way you like it, now’s the time to ask yourself “how do I like it?” and “what works for us?” And now’s the time too to discuss with your family, which way this family boat is going to sail.

With just 3 days left in the school year, and each of those days requiring our presence at school for a good portion of the day, we held a brief meeting this weekend. As parentals we made a short list of some things that felt imperative to us and presented them to the group – ready and open for discussing. Some of the highlights:

  • chores each day – in addition to the clean up of your own personal things (this included the discussion of “trail leaving” the moving from thing to activity to thing leaving a horrific trail in your wake)
  • Blitz every day – in our house we call a blitz for tidying up. We set the timer for 20 minutes and go! Until the timer rings. When a blitz is called it’s all hands on deck.
  • parameters around mealtimes – big windows but windows nonetheless. Breakfast is served until 9:00a.m. after that you’re on your own. Snacks are reasonable and smart. Clean up your own mess and bus your own table.
  • Sleepovers are a luxury not a weekly obligation. And they will not happen on the fly. I know this works for some households but wow, it does not work for me. It makes me feel completely wonky and unnerved.
  • Everyone should have a project going – make, create, carve, sew, build, write something. Whatever it is, make something.
  • Swim everyday. I don’t need to instruct them of this, I just need to reassure them that it will indeed happen.

In addition to the household rules and intentions, we are going to dig out our family appreciation banner. With everyone back under one roof it’s easy to let the tones get harsh and the appreciations fall by the wayside. And appreciations can really amp up the love. Really. You should try it in whatever form you can.

I love summer. I love having everyone home. But the learning curve feels new each year and requires a little patience too. Every single year.

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Walk in beauty

My dear sister Alma passed away last week. Unexpectedly. Too young. And too suddenly too. I have known and loved her from the day I was born. 45 years she has been there serving as my compass, my muse, my inspiration for finding beauty, building bridges, creating a home, connecting with family and living in joy. As I go through photos now I am given a visual reminder of our hearts’ connection. She was 12 years older than me. My godmother. My mentor. My teenage mother. As time passed our roles evened out and I became less the little sister and more a peer and a friend. Even though we lived far away we connected via notes, packages, emails, phone calls and even the occasional telepathy.

I’ve received lots of notes and cards since she passed. Some from dear friends and family of both of ours. Some from people in her world who want to let me know how lovely she was in their life. Some from friends of mine who didn’t know her but knew how connected we were. Each card brings some nugget. Some memory. And the realization of just how lucky we were to have each other all the years we did.

In her passing there are no regrets. We had let each other know how much we loved and appreciated each other. Sometimes it was in a big way through a lengthened visit. Other times it was a one line text to say, “busy but thinking of you…” And in between those there were various sentiments of appreciation, true connection and deep, deep love and respect for each other.

I’m telling you this because she was amazing. Because I want to shout from the mountain tops that she was here and now is gone. Because I miss her so, so much. And, because I am glad that when she died, she died in joy and in the knowledge that she was loved and appreciated. By me of course and by so many.

I’m telling you this also because I want to share the joy I feel in knowing that she knew how I felt when she died. If you have someone in your life who is important to you, tell them how you feel. Send them a note. Give them a call. Text them a line. Message them on your favorite social network. Just tell them. And if you live in the same house – be they your partner or your children or your parents or a roommate, share with them your appreciation of their existence. Leave a note on their pillow. Look them in the eye and let them know the joy they bring to your life. Tell them today and then tell them again and again and again.

And if you meet someone today, someone new, someone who does or says or is just something beautiful, let them know their joyful impact. Fill them with your love and appreciation and your joy and you will be filled with love and appreciation and joy too. And you will both walk in beauty.

And you will hold that memory as part of you your whole life long. They will be a part of you. And you will be a part of them. Truly all one.

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Easing into spring

It seems each child of mine pops up in a whole new stage this time of year. Like a new part of their being is born, new skills are mastered, new ideas are formulated. It’s wild to watch them slide into the next and it’s inspiring too to those of us supposedly past all these developmental spurts.

small big slide

Our three year old has just learned the art of drawing people. A circle. Two arms. Two legs. Two eyes. And, for him who is obsessed with ears, two of those as well.

The 7 year old has moved onto chapter books and a whole new world awaits her.

The 10 year old is speed skating down the alley in his new roller blades. Olympic dreams in his head.

The 12 year old is drawing like crazy, doing portraits in black and white. In a style we’ve never seen in her drawings before.

These new skills sometimes present in a troubled way at first.  As they work toward the newness, the shift, the big idea, they take a step back. They protest things a little bigger and a little more. They forget things they used to know.

Sometimes I remember that in the shifting comes the discomfort and the agony. But I don’t always. And I ask, “what the heck is wrong with them? Why are they acting this way? Why are they yelling/fighting/resisting/etc.?” And then the newness. And I smack myself on the forehead in recognition of the learning curve.

And me? I’m trying on this new hat of public speaking and loving it. Readings of essays. Story telling. Talks on parenting and slow family and any other topic that hits me close to home. It was a push to my edge at first. Now it’s a new love of mine.

I love spring and all the possibilities it presents. All the newness and the challenges to live our lives more fully as ourselves.

And I love when struggles have an explanation.

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