This blog is a stream of conciousness from my head to the keyboard to the screen. There will be talk of random subjects. If you have delicate eyes, proceed with caution. I like to talk about controversial subjects and sex a lot. So, take heed my friends. This is not a blog for debate, but for love and sharing. If your views do not match my own, love to you, but don't bring the rest of us down. That's all I'm saying.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

On Belay?

What do you do when someone you love is hurting? Do you jump in and take over the situation so they are rid of the pain? Do you step back or shy away because you don't have words or actions that seem up to par to deal with the issues at hand? Do you listen intently, with love, and let that person fight their fight?

I used to rely heavily on one of the first two methods. I wanted to be the one to "save" the person. "Fix" the situation. "Heal" the pain. I don't like using "quote" mark, but in this case it is appropriate. I was not saving, fixing or healing anything. If that person would not let me take over, or I didn't know what to do, I would just sit and do nothing. No calls. Nada. It wasn't that I was mad. I just felt so ineffective and overwhelmed. I would shut down because my method of handling things was not of use to the person I so desperately wanted to help.

In both of these scenarios I was getting in the way of that beautiful person experiencing life and fighting for themselves in a way that only they knew how. I was keeping my dear one from learning all they have to learn in this life in order to be ready for the next battle. In other words, I was mucking up the order of the universe.

To sit back and just listen is so difficult. It does not come easily to me. It is something in which I have had to diligently work. I'm getting better. I find myself biting my tongue a lot and reminding myself that it is not my fight. There are times I even have to go to Blaine or my mom, and tell them to look at me and tell me it is not my fight to fight. Hearing the words aloud helps.

I have been thinking about this lesson I had to learn. I experienced this learning mostly through the ordeal of helping a friend leave an abusive relationship. I could not do these things for her. I could not rip her out of her house or demand she leave. Oh, I tried to do that. But, it did not work.  With the help of my dear friend Jill Farmer, I discovered that I had to let my friend be strong, make her own decisions and let events unfold in her time. I took a step back and let her do her thing and you know what? She was amazing. She did it. I held her hand, but I did not push or drag. I was just there for support. Listening is all she really needed. She is a stronger woman from having fought that battle on her own. (Please look up Jill Farmer. She is a dear friend, an amazing certified Life Coach, and an invaluable resource on how to get unstuck in life. Click on her name to go to her website).

I have been thinking about this lesson lately because I have several people I love who are in pain at the moment, emotionally or physically. I want to jump in and take over, but I am instead choosing to be an ear, a shoulder, a meal ticket or whatever else that person needs for support rather than trying to fight their fight.

Here is the image that was conjured in my mind this morning as I was thinking about a particular person that is on my heart: I am not the lead climb, I am the belay.

Blaine works for an action sports photographer that specializes in big wall climbing. (i.e. The people Corey takes pictures of climb big ass mountain walls, using mainly their fingertips and toes (big wall climbing), are the best in their field. Corey, therefore, also has to be an amazing climber because he has to get to where they are on the wall, with 30 lbs. of camera gear and shoot amazing photos). I hear and see the photo stories of these epic adventures all of the time. They are currently climbing in Alaska, above the Arctic Circle.

Here is the dynamic of a climb: You have your lead climber. The one that is going up the wall. He/She is the one that is attempting to ascend the route. Then you have the belay. This is the person, below the lead climber, that has the ropes in hand and lets out slack when needed. They are also the person that stops the climber from falling if he/she slips or lets go of the rock. Then you have a whole support team that is there to pull up supplies, document the event through photos and videos, ground crew, production and editing support back at the office, sponsors to pay for the trip, etc. It is a major production. All these people work together to get that one person to the top of the rock. But, ultimately, it is all up to the lead climb. No one can scale the rock for them.

I know you see where this is going. Your friend approaches you for help, asks you to belay. You agree. Everyone ropes up, clips in and gets ready for the climb. But, not before assembling a whole crew for backup. Now, you're ready for the climb. The friend asks, "On belay?". Your response is "Belay on." Your friend, "Climbing." You, "Climb on." This is climbing protocol. It is your way to tell your friend, I have your back, I am here to catch you if you fall, I am connected to you, I am here for the duration and not going anywhere. But, my friend, you have to make the climb.

You have to choose the route, where to place your hand, where to place your feet. If you slip, or choose incorrectly, I will stop your fall. But, you will have to climb back up. I can not do it for you.

This is the relationship between the climber and belay, me and the person I love who is battling right now.

Oh, did I mention that the belay has to be anchored in and solid? If the belay is on shaky ground, unsure or not anchored properly, when the climber falls, it is no good for either one of them. In order to be effective and help the led climb get back into position after a fall, the belay has to be strong and stay put. They can not fall or stumble with the climber. This part is important for me to remember.

So, next time a friend approaches you with a rope and says, "On Belay?" Make sure you are on solid ground, make sure your ground crew, office crew and sponsors are lined up before you rope up and clip in. Remember that it is not you ascent that is being documented. You are part of the support. You are there to shout encouragement and stop catastrophic falls. Once all these things are in place and you are in the right frame of mind, then you can say, "Belay on."

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The Monkeys Are Back

My head is all abuzz like the bees in the clover. (Re-read that. It was awesomely poetic and awesome. Just read it one more time. Yea, that was good. Too bad this long interlude has completely ruined it).

This is a happy week and I have a lot running in my noggin. Yes, the monkeys are back and swinging around. So, I am going to make a list of all that is up there in an attempt to quiet my thoughts and put them in an orderly kindergarten like-line. OK, maybe 1st grade line. Kindergardeners are still a bit squirrely, but I definitely do not want a 4th or 5th grade line. They have given up on lines by then and good for them. I never made my students walk in lines. It's seemed fascist, or at least completely unnecessary.

See the monkeys have completely taken over. In line you fools. One at a time. Present your idea and then back to the trees to eat bananas and groom each other!

These thoughts are in no particular order. Just random items running through my head. Well, maybe I will list them chronologically since the first thing that happened is the reason for my giddy, happy week.

1) Blaine and I had a long talk on Sunday afternoon. I had written a few times back about the division of labor in any partnership. I was feeling as if the work I do around the house, to keep the family running, and in service to others was not being acknowledged as work.

I added up the hours I spend weekly at the kids school, teaching gymnastics, volunteering at the church, making dinner and then added .5 hours in for just daily house stuff. It added up to 35.5 hours. (Sometimes 45.5 hours if I have more than one church meeting).

The adding of the hours was for me. I really started to question myself about my value in the family. I think this is common among stay-at-home parents. Especially stay-at-home parents who do not have a spotless house (I am part of this group).

I feel that my spouse questions me about the state of the house sometimes. Like it is my responsibility to clean up after everyone. It is not! I keep the family schedule, drive kids around, help with homework, bathe smelly children, prepare and clean up meals, I will clean the home, but not pick-up everyone else's crap, and I wash and put away the laundry. That is the extent of my household duties. I am here to run things. And I expect help in the form of chores from the girls and lawn and trash service from Blaine.

It was an amazing talk. I feel like a weight has been lifted off of me. We are on the same page. He does value what I do and felt badly that I was questioning his feelings based on some statements that were misunderstandings on his part or mine.

This has lead to a great week.

2) I said screw the dishes yesterday morning and decided to start the day by sewing a quilt I am working on instead. I have now decided to start everyday with something fun and interesting rather than my first house item. It just sets a happy tone for the rest of the day.

I always forget how much I like to sew. I am not particularly great at it, but I love it. I warned the lady who I am making this quilt for that I am in no way a perfectionist and I would rather fudge and mess around with things than ever remove a stitch and have to re-do something. I like the quilts to turn out lumpy and stretchy so they look like they have been in use for a while and people are not afraid to use them.

Anyway, I think I will start each morning by quilting, writing, drinking coffee and watching a show on HGTV.

3) I took the girls shopping yesterday to buy pants and shorts for my big girl. Nothing fits her right now. It was time to buck up and clothes shop, which I hate!! My hatred is based on the fact that the money aspect of it stresses me out so much. We had several years where there was little to no money for clothes. We used grocery money, relied on hand me downs and the gifts of clothes that always come from the grandmas each season. Our finances are not in that spot anymore, but the feelings and memory still linger, and it make it difficult to enjoy clothes shopping. (It's the same reason I have a phobic relationship with the phone. I know it is not collectors calling, but the memories and feelings are there and make me cringe every time the phone rings. That's why I don't answer the phone folks).

So, we started at my favorite place, Goodwill, and we scored!! I was so happy. 2 pairs of jeans and 3 pairs or shorts (all Gap or Old Navy), $3 each. She also found two great accessories for her new room, $4 each and a cute tank top, $2. I found 3 pairs of super cute summer sandals with little heels, 2 brand new($8, $6) and one that looks as if they had been worn once or twice ($6). I bought a beautiful linen curtain, silvery/gray, for the new house $4 and 3 purses at $3 each. 2 of them will be embellished and use as gifts.  My little one also got a little Old Navy skirt $3, and a brand new top $3. Score!

Then we went to Khols and restocked my big girl's tank top stash. He belly was beginning to threaten to pop out from under her current ones. They were all 2 years old and have served their time.

So, I got over my shopping fear and we did great!

So, onto Tuesday. I have a project that popped into my head this morning, but I am going to wait to share it until the idea is a little more formed. But, I am super excited about it!!!!

OK. I think the monkeys have retreated, for now. Have a happy day and go find something to make you happy. If you are a stay-at-home parent, you are awesome and your work matters! If you are a working parent, you are awesome and nice work providing for your family in such a great and necessary way.

Now, onto sewing, or maybe this new project. I better decided first before those two monkeys start fighting it out. That will just lead to the flinging of poop and no one wants that!! Seriously my house is messy enough and god know, no one else will clean it up!

Thursday, April 14, 2011


I know that traditionally religion is one of the topics not to be discussed in polite company, along with politics. However, I disagree. I love to talk about religion. I love to hear how other people wrap their head around this world and their place in it. I find more often than not, that requires bringing up religious ideology and beliefs.

I think that it depends on the spirit in which the discussion happens whether it is a positive or a tense conversation. Is it entered in with an open heart? An open mind? Are you happy that that person is walking their chosen path, or are you secretly hoping to convert them to your ideals? These thoughts, whether part of the discussion or lurking in the back or your subconscious, makes a big difference on the course of the conversation.

I have found that I learn so much about a person and their perspective on life when I sit and enjoy every detail of their beliefs, even including the belief that God does not exist. Appreciating and understanding other view points does not have to change my own, but sometimes it does. I feel I am all the richer for that experience.

Religion, much like culture, is so interesting to me. I love to listen to other ways of knowing and thinking. I love to hear the different traditions and where they stem from. I love to discover differences and am no longer surprised by the vastness of similarity.

I have/have had friends of many faiths: Christian (in all it's forms), Jewish, Buddhist, Bahai, Muslim, Agnostic, Pagan, Atheist, Hindu, and lover of all things without any title or specific church. All of these people have enriched my life. They have all given me information on how to be a better person and how to deepen my own spiritual life.

While there are certainly many people who choose their spiritual path in adulthood, I think most people follow the path set by their parents. It's convenient. It's what you know. It's probably the instruction you received growing up. There is nothing wrong with that. It's what I have done.

I am Christian greatly by default. That is the religious tradition I grew up with. There were many years that I struggled with that path. It felt too narrow. I did not like all of the damnation for others. Especially in light of the fact, very few of my friends were Christian, and I never truly believed that they were going to hell (I still don't). So, I left the church.

I started practicing the Bahai Faith, a beautiful religion, and did for 3-4 years. Julia was dedicated at the Bahai Learning Center on Lockwood, in Kirkwood. My mother baptised her at the ceremony. It made her feel better about us not being at the Christian church. It was very special. That religion taught me so much and I will forever be grateful and love the people I know from that tradition. But, the fact that I was not practicing the tradition of my family was tearing my mother and I apart. Within the Bahai faith, discord is not good. Harmony is important.

Kalyn had been going to preschool at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church (GSLC) for three years. It was close to us, reasonable in price, and I loved the spirit in that place (if you need a preschool look it up, it is still fabulous!!). I went to speak to Pastor Tom about my delima. I asked him three questions: What do you think about other religions? How do women figure into your church? What is the church's stance on homosexuality? His answers made me realize that the church I had grown up in was narrow, the Christian faith was not. So, I went back to the Christian church.

I found, in that house of worship, a home that believed what I did and was open to ideas and ways to strengthen it's congregation that might come from divergent paths. Don't get me wrong, it is a Lutheran church that follows Christ, but they did not mind that I thought other religions were equally right in their ways. They welcomed women into all levels of the community and infrastructure. They openly accepted gays, and most recently are allowing gays, who are ordained, to serve while in a committed relationship.

I found a place where I do not have to, after a sermon,  explain to my children "well I know you heard that, but that is not what our family believes," like I have at other houses of worship. My husband, who does not subscribe to any organized religion, is always welcomed and greeted and accepted for who he is at Good Shepherd. My father-in-law, who is Jewish, is also openly welcome. We have families at the pre-school that are not Christian that come to our community event because they know we are just happy to see them and will not try to change them, or point out why their path is the wrong one.

This is why I participate so much in my church community. It gives me a sense of belonging to something greater than myself. I can be myself. I know that any of my friends or family members can join my family for events and I do not have to worry about a revival happening around them in hopes of converting them to our way. I know I can listen to sermons with an open heart and mind, because they are being delivered with an open heart and mind. I participate in service projects because they are meant to help all people, not just Christians or people willing to convert.

So, anytime you want to talk religion, come my way. I would love to hear your thoughts, where they come from and how they guide you. If you are hurting, sick or otherwise need help, I will pray for you, because I so believe in it's power. If you ever want to join us at church, no matter what your background is, feel free. There will be no conversion happening. Hopefully just a calmness of spirit and happiness that I find when I walk through the church doors.

On the other hand, if you belong to a cool place that has classes, services, invite me! I would love to come and experience what makes your spirit happy. Is it at a church, a mosque, the synagogue, the park, an NPR lecture? They are all beautiful places with information for living a good life.

So, today be happy. Acknowledge your spiritual self in anyway that speaks to you. I will end with a favorite quote I have heard lately. "Namaste" is a word that roughly means: the divine in me acknowledges the divine in you. So, on the note, have a happy day and "Namaste Bitches!"

(seriously, that is the quote I was talking about, it's freakin' hilarious.)

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Fair is Fair

In a relationship, any relationship, how do you figure out what is the fair split of crap that needs to be done? This can be in a work situation, family, connecting with friends, etc. How is this decided.

I would like an unbiased third party arbitrator to help me figure this out. I am thinking specifically in my marriage/family life.

The third party would be impartial, and would be able to just look at the hear and now. I think that is another complicating factor in this situation, past memory. It is difficult t think about past situations and want the present to remediate previous imbalances. It can't. It's a silly notion. The present is the present and this is where we should dwell and focus on. That can be flingin flangan difficult. A third party would know nothing of previous times and would be able to focus on just right now.

Just as a side note, this is in no way a public, or otherwise, dig on my husband. We do the best we can splitting things and finding ways to make things seem fair. It's just difficult and, at times, unclear if what we have come up with is cheating one party or the other. We have always openly discussed these matter and continue to do so. Noted: this is not a rant about my husband, he's lovely.

So, back to the arbitrator. I want someone to sit down with us and make a list of everything each person in my family does. Work. Taking out the trash. Scrubbing toilets. Going to school. Running children. Keeping the family schedule. Paying bills, Yard work...... You get the point. And I want them to assign a point value to each item that reflects the amount of time and effort it takes to perform each of these tasks. That will give information on how much "work" we all do to keep the family going.

Then, the all knowing, all fair arbitrator will figure out how much time we all get to do the things we enjoy. Reading. Sleeping (yes, I enjoy sleeping and this is quite the source of contention in our house at times). Art activities. Hanging out with friends. Cycling..... These things are also necessary to keep a house in order and running smoothly. If people are not feeling fulfilled, they will not be able to do the work portion as willingly or without bad feelings. Fulfilled workers are happy workers.

Now then, the arbitrator, who is ever kind and all knowing, will look at the numbers and figure out who needs to shift their work load and who needs to shift their fun time so that everything is fair and even. This sounds so simple. Where do I sign up for such a service. Is there an app for that?

Here is where I think it gets messy. What is considered work and what is considered play? In some cases I think there may need to be a third category. Let's call it purgatory. It's a neutral area. It's not necessarily work, but it is not necessarily play either. Here are some examples:

1) Taking the kids to gymnastics/activities: It's not work, I don't have to do anything but, I am not necessarily doing what I want to be doing. I am not having to clean or fold anything at the moment, but I may have to make small talk with random people, not fun. Or, there are days when one of my friend's are there and I can chit chat with them and that is awesome. So, it is a case by case situation.

2) Freelance meetings. Blaine gets out of the house. He often gets to go to a coffee shop (something that is forbidden on a regular basis because of the cost), and talk with cool people about cool projects. Well, it is technically work. It is a freelance gig. But, this is "fun" work that he gets to pick and choose. He gets to drink coffee, a favorite activity at our house, but he is also generating income or cool things in trade for the family.

3) Church committee work. As most of you know, this takes up a lot of my spare time. I love it, but it is also a lot of work. At the moment I am in three leadership positions with various activities, and have three other commitments that are more low key. I enjoy these things, but I also do them because I think that it is so important to do community service work, and this is a great outlet to fulfill that important piece. I am at meetings/activities for 2-5 hours a week. How does this time count? It is enjoyable a lot of the time, but it is working for the greater good.

4) Family commitments. There are a lot of these in my family. Some of my best memories are of spending time at my grandma and grandpa's on Sunday afternoons with all of my aunts, uncles and cousins. I am blessed to have tons of family in town and be able to provide a small glimpse of this to my kids. But, it is a time commitment. Blaine works all day, every day, and I run all day, every day, so our weekend time is precious. I do not think extended family time is wasted time, but I know we all have things to do and it is not always easy to have 4-6 hours of Sunday or Saturday afternoon spoken for.(No, really, there is no dropping by for an hour. Have you met my family? We can't hardly say hello in under an hour.) I love, adore, respect, crave and desire this time, but it is time.

So, who can fulfill this task? Who can decide what is work, play and purgatory? How should they be measured? How do we equalize these things? How can you get an unbiased, all knowing, third party arbitrator. Would everyone even agree to the outcome?

There are days that I feel I am doing all of the work around this place. There are days that Blaine feels he is doing all the work around this place. There are many days that we feel the girls are doing negative their share of work around this place. I think we are all right, some of the time.

I will post the name and number of anyone that I can find. I will also offer my services as I do this work for my parents all of the time. It's weird I know, but I am impartial and blunt with them. They're both crazy, so it is easy. It's like arbitrating between the Mad Hatter and The March Hare. Don't worry, I'm not telling you anything that I have not clearly told them.

Have a good day at work, play and in purgatory.  Think of ways to measure these things. Let me know what you come up with. Good luck and God speed.