Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Last Thoughts on Water

One of the reasons I think that we struggle when things don't go our way is that we have a mental picture in our head already about our life. We've already mapped out what a moment, a day or a year of our life is suppose to look like. When things don't go our way, we go bananas! "This was the plan!" we say.

Making new choices then becomes really hard because we get stonewalled with trying to make the right ones but, is there only one? Fear not, Ruth Chang has some words on how to re-think HARD CHOICES and yes, it's all thanks to TED.

Happy Summer, People!


Monday, June 29, 2015

Best Day Ever

We have a problem.

Reese and I are rushing to catch the 12:57pm train to Penn Station so I can meet up with an old college friend I haven't seen in over 10 years. Plans are sketchy (but that's not the problem). We exchange phone numbers on Facebook and plan to be in touch again once I board the train. I get on said train. (Again, no problem.) I reach for my phone. Uh, where is my phone? Did I? No!! Please don't tell me that I did that. I search my bag over and over. Yep, I did...I forgot my phone in my car at the parking station.

That's a problem. 

I don't know my friend's phone number. Who remembers phone numbers these days? I don't know the hotel she is as staying at or even remotely, what part of the city she is in.

(Alarm bells)What to do?

My mind falls easily into blame mode trying to recall the exact misstep that led to this mistake.
  • I had a hard time finding a parking spot in the lot. Was I so concerned with time that I rushed out of my car without noticing my phone still in the center cup holder.
  • Why did I put my phone in the center cup holder???
  • At the last minute I told Reese to keep her tablet at home. Damn! A tablet could have been helpful to us now.
Regrets, resentments, frustration...none of these are helpful in our situation and trying to undo my past actions doesn't change things either.

I try to remind myself that this doesn't have to be the end of the world. We just need to find another solution, another way, like water. We need to be problem solvers.

Switching mental gears helps. I immediately feel myself calm down which then allows me to think. Reese and I brainstorm ideas and before we reach Penn Station, we have a list of possibilities to try.

For one thing, we are surrounded by people with phones and internet access.
We have to be willing to ask for help, to rely on the kindness of strangers.

I am happy to say that there were many kind people that day that helped us, on the train and at Penn Station, including one old relic, the pay phone.

We had options. We weren't in a doomed state and eventually, all these kind New Yorkers helped us to reconnect with my friend. SUCCCESS!!!

Another success was seeing how much Reese liked being a problem solver. She liked having the BIG IDEA that saved the day. She was also pleasantly surprised to find New York city a friendly place. It was a good discovery for her to make.

For me, seeing how dependent I was on my phone, especially the fear I felt to be separated from it, was an eye opening experience.

I'm happy my fears didn't get the best of me that day.

I made a mistake but that mistake added so much more to our day.
We had an adventure and we experienced the city in a new way. But what I especially loved was that this wasn't just one of my many life talks with the kids.

It was just LIFE and we worked it out. Best Day bet!!

Friday, June 26, 2015

Stress is GOOD??

As we soldier on this month with our rule, Be Water My Friend, I've found that in addition to rethinking life's challenges, moments big and small that don't always go our way, we also need to rethink our attitude towards stress.

STRESS - yuck - that's my initial thought on the subject.

But, could you believe that stress can actually be a positive experience? That it is even can be GOOD for you? That's the idea behind Kelly McGonigal's TED TALK: How to make stress your friend.

It's worth a listen or transcript read, she's got lots to say on the topic and I have to say, it all looks very encouraging. Take a listen, it could make world of difference in your day to day.

Happy Friday!!


Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Don't Cry Over Spilt Milk (or Creamer)

Everyone knows the above expression. Its plainly understood - don't sweat the small stuff - but did you ever stop to notice how you react in small moments, truly.

You know what I'm talking about. That moment when you can't find your phone, you realize you forgot something at work, you get stuck at the longest red light ever or you just spill something on the floor, milk or better yet, coffee creamer.

That's what happened to me last Saturday.

I woke up craving a good cup of coffee - decaf for the pregnant belly - my weekly treat. I was so close to it until I reached for the coffee creamer in my fridge. I didn't realize the lid was not securely on. There it went, spilling all over my hand and then all over the floor spewing nearly all of its hazelnut goodness. 

This was a little thing but boy did it get to me.

There were a few choice words spoken to the open air and a feeling of utter annoyance that I had to get down on my hands and knees to clean it up. And it wasn't enough to just wipe it up with a towel. I needed to go down to the basement to grab a rag that I could soak with some water because creamer is very sticky. As I wiped, there was a incredulous voice still ranting in my head. How did it get all the way under the table and up on those cabinets? Who decided that all these little crevices in my fridge was a good design???

This went on for only about 5-10 minutes. When I finally sat down outside with my new cup of coffee, I had to blame  tell David all about it and the mysterious open container.

The day still went on, I survived and the world kept turning but the creamer incident stayed with me. It was stuck in my brain and over the course of the week, I kept recalling it each time I found myself in another little moment.

  • Needing to call the kids five times before they came to the dinner table.
  • Not finding parking at my job and having to park on the street
  • Taking a busy route during rush hour and getting stuck in traffic.
  • The nightly thought of having to wash Reese's hair and deal with all those knots and tangles.
  • Going to the store, again, to buy more chocolate chip cookie mix after discovering the first packages had melted in the backseat of my hot car.
  • Knowing I've got a blog post to write and staring at a blank computer screen.
These moments might only last a flash (or two) but they were flashes filled with exasperation, annoyance, frustration, a lot of head shaking or deep heavy sighs. 

I began to wonder, if this is what I do to myself over something small, what am I doing when something big goes wrong??

It was an eye opening moment that has me wanting to soak up the wisdom of water if not figuratively (Be Water, My Friend) at least physically with a drink, a dip in the pool or a nice long shower.

So this is where I begin, again. Dealing with a few raindrops instead of a storm.
Trying to build a new reaction, a new response, a new way of thinking.

In the end I can be thankful for all these small moments, this "small stuff". Their beauty is in their little size because I know in the end, they can't inflict any real damage, unless I let them accumulate over time.

How about you? Do small moments shake and rattle your day? Sit down, pour yourself a cup of coffee and tell me all about it. I bought a new bottle of creamer, it's French Vanilla.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Water is not weak. Water has a goal

"...All the rivers and seas flow towards the ocean. This is the destiny and goal of water. It is because of this goal that water flows on and on. It is not a matter of "if", it is a matter of "when". With this clear goal in mind, water has the motivation to overcome all obstacles in its path to achieve its destiny. "
- Han of Harmony
Water has got me thinking about my goals as a parent...and computers. (Keep reading, I'll explain.)  

I think, more than anything, I want to teach my kids to be problem solvers, to see obstacles and difficulties not as brick walls but as divergent points for finding another way, just like water. 

But first, I have to give them space to deal with their problems and room to make mistakes. This has been hard for me. 
Most times, it's just easier to tell them what's the right thing to do, like last week's homework debacle. But I know that always telling them what to do doesn't cultivate their own thoughts like a big, fat, glorious problem or mistake.

David tells me this all the time and he should know (he says) because he makes and deals with tons of mistakes.

Welcome to the world of computers!

As an IT (information technology) specialist, the majority of David's day is spent dealing with problems. First of, people are rarely in a good mood when they call David. Something is not working, an important file or spreadsheet has gone missing or worse, an entire server has gone down and no one in the office can work.

And the timing is never good because whatever they needed fixed, found or corrected isn't for tomorrow, it's for today or better yet yesterday.
Everyday David is hit with obstacles likes these but he doesn't fret. One of the reasons David is so good at his job is not because he has all the answers but because he knows how to seek them out - he's a problem solver. Sometimes he makes mistakes along the way but that's just part of the job...

So this week I am trying to remember MY GOAL for the next mistake or problem the kids have to tackle because I know we/they can handle it.

Water isn't weak and neither are we. Happy Friday:-)

Monday, June 15, 2015

Resistance and Yielding

I've been thinking about the above quote by Han and Harmony, lately.

The last few weeks have been anything but yielding. With summer edging closer, we have all been feeling "done" with the school year. But where the kids have been falling behind in their work and motivation, I have been falling into nagging mom mode, trying to get them to be responsible to the end.

For starters, Reese has been dragging, EVERY morning. Really, just to get this child out of bed has been a chore. Ethan gets up early but always gets lost in a video game.

Pack your bag, make your snack, fill your water bottle. Ethan, did you charge your phone? Nag, nag, nag till they get on the bus.

Then there was the case of missing homework. They both have homework agendas and bring home them home everyday but lately very little to nothing gets written in them.

Ethan tries to remember all his homework in his head while Reese has taken to condensing homework assignments into initials.

Do you know what this stands for? I don't. And neither does Reese, anymore.


When Ethan came home with a note for 2 missing math homeworks, he felt bad but not bad enough to make up the work.  Did I mention that he had a quiz the very next day? Doing the work just made sense but he didn't see it that way.

She doesn't check old work. It doesn't matter. She just wants your signature.

I couldn't let it go. Nag, nag, nag I went on about responsibility and the right thing to do.

<When force meet force, there is bound to be resistance.>

We went around and around on this one until I rendered my son speechless. Not because I was right but because I had made the kid feel bad, really bad about his choice.

He didn't want to argue anymore. He just said OK turned on his heels and left the room but not before I noticed his face tense up and the tears start to well in his eyes. I made the kid feel horrible and now I felt horrible.

<Even if the greater force wins, it will come at great cost and effort. But most of this effort goes mainly to dealing with the resistance produced by force. It is an inefficient way to deal with a problem. Worsening matters, the use of force may lead to more problems and mistakes.>

Did I win the argument? What did being right matter compare with the feelings I left him with in this heated and charged exchange? What did I teach him?

This isn't the sort of parent I want to be. Nag, nag, nag, fight, fight, fight.  There has gotta be another way.

And so I am reflecting on water this week. 

Water is yielding...It doesn't resist.

Instead of meeting a problem head on, it is better to take an indirect approach if possible. Try to find a way that doesn’t produce resistance. When you focus your influence where resistance is weak, you are likelier to succeed in solving a problem. It is merely a matter of time.

Finals are this week...wish me (and Ethan) some luck.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Wise words

"Water does not resist. Water flows.
When you plunge your hand into it, all
you feel is a caress. Water is not a solid
wall, it will not stop you. But water
always goes where it wants to go, and
nothing in the end can stand against it.
Water is patient. Dripping water wears
away a stone. Remember that, my child.
Remember you are half water. if you
can't go through an obstacle, go
around it. Water does."
- Margaret Atwood


Thursday, June 4, 2015

June Inspiration Art - CALM, FIERCE and PROUD!

This month's inspiration art comes to you from the creative hands of Reese.

I had my own ideas for a poster but the kids shot me down fast. No way and overruled, they shouted! (Sigh) Rejection, it's never fun, especially from your own kids. I quickly recovered though when Reese took up my challenge to come up with a "better" poster idea.

She didn't even hesitate. The look in her eyes was FIERCE.

Reese has a thing for the KEEP CALM slogans. I like that she came up with her own version to compliment our "Be Water, My Friend" rule. I LOVE that she locked herself in my office only to come out like an art thief looking for life and death essentials - glue, scissors and a really good, black marker. She was so PROUD when she showed her poster to us.

 And the smile on her was worth a little rejection:-)

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Would You Like To Play a Game?

Here are some interesting thoughts I found on the meaning of "be water, my friend".

"Water is extremely fluid and free-flowing; it doesn't tend to impose its presence, and it will just take the space it's afforded and adapt to it...Water does not struggle at all, and yet it never lacks versatility. There's a great lesson to be learned here, since striving and struggling are trademarks of the human existence. What if we could just let go of our desires, our cravings, even our hopes... and just take what we have, the best way we can? Wouldn't we all be happier, if we could achieve such a feat?
                    - Ezine article: Be Water My Friend and Like Will Flow Effortlessly

What if we would see the "water effect" of such non-action? Would you believe there is a game built on this very RELAXED and FLUID premise - introducing MINDBALL.

Mindball is a two person game controlled by players brain waves in which players compete to control a ball's movement across a table not by physical or mental exertion but by becoming the most relaxed and focus.

The game was created by the Swedish Company, Interactive Productline and has been exhibited at various Science and Tech Museums. It's even been introduced in schools to help children who struggle with test taking and focus.

When I showed the kids this video, they were definitely curious about it but I think it would take "playing" the game to really get this concept of "try without trying." 

All in all, an intriguing example in doing more with less...just like water.

Monday, June 1, 2015

June Rule

This month we are taking inspiration from martial artist, BRUCE LEE for our June Rule - BE WATER MY FRIEND.
Why water? So readily available, it is easy to take water for granted or to forget how necessary water is to the human body. As the graph below will show, WE ARE WATER.
But beyond that, water is one of the most adaptable substances in the world. Could you believe that the answer to many of life's problems could be found in the response of those tiny drops? Bruce Lee did; he found adaptability, yielding, action and goals.
This month we are going to do our best to get wet (and have some fun) as we explore the qualities of water we can emulate, too.

We'll let BRUCE LEE explain.