Self-Reflection

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I learned self-reflection during Sunday School as a pre-teen.  I don’t remember exactly how, but I do know that the concept was introduced to me there.  I think it was when our teacher told us that when we pray, we should include prayers of thanks and praise and not just ask God for a bunch of things.  Aha!  Be less self-centred.  Think of things in a new context.

I know it doesn’t seem to relate exactly to self-reflection, but for me, this was the beginning of learning to really analyze my own thoughts and actions and to step outside of myself.

Self-reflection has come in very handy for me in marriage.  When I find that I am overwhelmed with anger or frustration and I am blaming my husband for it, I try to calm down and realize what it is about me that is causing me to have these emotions (and my usually loud, obnoxious reactions). It is almost never as easy as blaming my husband; it usually comes down to something bigger that’s bothering me and I am taking it out on him, or it’s stemming from something I don’t like about myself and it’s easier to blame my husband than face the fact that I could be my own problem.

If you haven’t self-reflected, you need to.  I do most of my thinking at night as I settle into bed.  Sometimes I bounce things off of my groggy husband and he will give me validation and honesty.  When I realize that there is something about myself that I need to change, I make a plan on how to change and work hard to put it into action.  For example, there was a time where I harped about someone for a few weeks and it seemed like the person was simply under my skin and too in my face.  However, upon further inspection of the situation, I realized that I was in a funk, revelling in negativity, and that the person was in my space because they were trying to be helpful and kind.  When I accepted that I was the problem, not the other person, it made it easier for me to enjoy the person being in my space and to get rid of the cloud of negative-thinking that has been following me.

It is imperative that everyone self-reflects.  I’m sure you have come across someone in your life that you feel just cannot see the real situation.  They are blaming you for their problem, and that is wrong.  You know it, I know it, and anyone outside of the situation can see it.  The only way for the person to see that they are, in fact, the problem (not the person to whom they are transferring) is for that person to self-reflect.  The first step is admitting you have been wrong to yourself, then you can go about righting those wrongs for others.

Remember: we can’t control other people, we can only control ourselves.  Do yourself a favour and make self-reflection a regular activity in your day.  You will feel better and you will improve all of your relationships.  If you learn this now, you will be so far ahead of the game as you get older.

If I Stop Being a Pleaser, Will People Still Like Me?

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If I could teach young girls anything, I would teach them to think for themselves and then act on those thoughts.

people-pleaserI am just now, at almost 30 years old, learning to think for myself.  It’s not that thinking for myself wasn’t nurtured by the adults in my life; it’s that I always wanted to please others so much that I didn’t allow my thoughts to be heard with conviction.  It probably stems from a lack of confidence or, in some cases, from feeling less intelligent than the other person with whom I was conversing.  I know that there were times I wouldn’t express my true thoughts because I didn’t want to seem confrontational or cause problems.  I wanted to be likeable.

If I had a nickel for every time I stated my opinion, listened to a rebuttal and then backed down saying, “Yes, I see what you mean, you’re probably right,” I would be rich!  Rich in money, poor in spirit.

Due to my people-pleasing desires, I never allowed myself to develop my own firm thoughts and opinions.  This enabled me to waiver so easily on my stances because I did not have a solid foundation.

The first thing I am trying to work on is really asking myself what I think on a daily basis.  In an ideal situation I would have facts and examples ready to back up my every thought, but I do think that simply feeling in my gut where I stand on something is enough.  I am supporting myself in my thinking.  I am allowing for my mind to wander and explore all possibilities without worrying about how my thoughts will impact someone else’s opinion of me.  What do I really feel and think?

That is the first step, and it is pretty difficult!  That mind shift is tough because it is so deeply embedded into who I am.  Sometimes I wonder if I should give up because I think that deep down I will always be a people pleaser.  This leads me into the next step, which is figuring out how to be firm in expressing my thoughts and opinions without being abrasive toward others.  This is a quality that I see and admire in successful leaders.  I can be confident in myself and still be engaging and kind so that others want to converse with me.

I’m fairly confident that I know how to express myself and still maintain a calm conversational environment.  The one element that I am not so sure of, is if people will still like me if they know that I might not agree with what they have to say.  How others perceive me is out of my control and I keep reminding myself of that fact, but it is difficult to stop caring about it.

I am best at being firm in my thoughts and beliefs when it comes to protecting someone or something else.  For example, if I have to have a difficult conversation with someone but I know that it is in their best interest in the end (I did a lot of this while in social work), I am able to get through the uncomfortable parts.  If it involves the best interest of a child, I am able to have uncomfortable discussions with parents.  If I can do this for others, why can’t I do it for myself?

There is another thing that goes along with the desire to confidently express myself, politely agree-to-disagree with someone else and to not worry what the other person will think of me after – the ability to stand up for myself when I am passive-agressively insulted.  Have you ever had a moment where someone said something to you and you thought, “What the…” but because of they way they smiled and maybe gave a small laugh after you couldn’t decide if it was a joke or a jab?  This type of thing drives me bananas!  Usually I find the perfect response to their comment about 20 minutes later while driving in the car.  I want to be able to call people out on passive-aggressive behaviour.  I want to send a message that I am a kind person, but I will not be walked on.  I think that’s fair.

There is one more scenario I am concerned about and this is the most important one: what happens when I the people I want to please are the people that mean the most to me?  If I suddenly change from an agreeable person to a person with strong opinions, will they still like me and want to hang out with me?  Maybe they like me so much because I am so agreeable.

I feel like this could be seen as a personality shift and I think lots of people like me because of my personality.  I am going to have to find the right balance in the way I approach conversations, especially when I feel a strong conviction to express myself (whether it is the popular or unpopular opinion), because one thing I know for sure is that I must begin to be true to myself in the way I express my thoughts.  I must be my authentic self, expressing my true thoughts and feelings, or my life with be riddled with hypocrisy and dishonesty.  I feel like a baby learning to walk, stumbling along the way, but I have my whole life ahead of me, so I must press on because one day I hope to run.

Holistic Approach to Wellness

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Did you know that our health and wellness is affected by more than food and exercise?  Sometimes it’s hard to remember that to be truly healthy we must be balanced in all areas of our lives.  Wouldn’t it be nice if marketers pushed introspection instead of diet supplements as a means to happiness?

I have been putting a lot of thought and effort into reevaluating where I am at in the following seven categories:

Spirit, Physical Health, Mental Health, Emotions, Intellect, Nourishment, and Relationships.

*There are other important things like finances, goal-setting, letting go/permission to change – I put these items under other categories but feel free to add them to your “most important” list.

Each of these things makes up a portion of my well-being.  Therefore, when I am fulfilling every area, I feel whole.  On the other hand, if I am lacking in any of the aforementioned categories, I tend to feel fruitless and bored and my self-esteem is usually decreased.

Approaching holistic health takes work and commitment, but after some time it becomes second nature.  The important thing is to remember that once you’re in the groove, feeling good and fulfilling yourself in all of the seven categories, you must check in on occasion to make sure you’re not leaving anything out.  It’s too easy to not realize you’ve been slipping until you’re all the way back at the bottom of the hill.

Here is my web, illustrating my holistic approach to wellness:

Start with a web.  These are the seven categories that I believe to be important.

Start with a web. These are the seven categories that I believe to be important.

Here are the ways that I fulfill each area of my life:

I realize that I left out finance.  I would put my financial health under "Mental Health", because when my finances are healthy my stress level is down.  When I check back in with myself in a few months, I will make finance it's own bubble.

I realize that I left out finance. I would put my financial health under “Mental Health”, because when my finances are healthy my stress level is down. When I check back in with myself in a few months, I will make finance it’s own bubble.

Goal-setting has not been a priority of mine for a while (although I have done it subconsciously off and on for the last few years), so I have decided to make it a conscious part of my life this year to see how it impacts me.

I have been implementing a “less is more” lifestyle these past few months and am looking forward to continuing with that.  I can tell that my mentality around “stuff” and what it can give me is changing.  For example, I might go to a store and put a few things in my cart as I wander the aisles.  After some times passes and I look at more and more things I feel bombarded and I really don’t like being marketed to.  (The next time you shop, ask yourself what the marketers must think about you to try to sell you items in the ways that they do.  Hint: they really don’t think too highly of you or care about your holistic well-being.  In fact, they usually prey on our biggest insecurities in order to make money.)  I look into the cart and decide that none of these things are worth the time I will spend in the checkout line or the money I will spend from my account.  I would rather spend my time and money on experiences and people I care about.  *This will also positively impact your finances.

(Confession: my weakness when it comes to shopping is my home.  I love decorating it and rearranging it.  I do allow myself to do this because my home is my sanctuary and it helps my creative juices flow to reimagine spaces.)

Here is something to remember as you ask yourself honest questions and work toward figuring out what best suits your holistic approach to wellness:

Never forget this.

Never forget this.

It is not necessary to make all of your life decisions today.  Decide what’s best for you today, and if that same thing is not what’s best for you tomorrow, you can change your mind.  You are allowed to change, but YOU must be the one to give yourself permission.

The Meaning of Christmas

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After spending an hour sorting food donations for families at Christmas, the youth of the church I attend and work at went back to the church for some prayer.  It was lovely and I enjoyed seeing the kids let this message really sink in.

I think that this passage from Matthew 25 really shows the meaning of Christmas.  Whether you consider yourself a Christian or not, I think that most people can get behind the notion of helping others whenever you can.

34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’”

Christmas stress – get rid of it!

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I have been following the Becoming Minimalist blog by Joshua Becker, and everything he posts makes me shout, “Right on!”

Being in the Christmas season, I want to be enveloped in the important parts of this holiday – giving, togetherness, relaxation.  I want to be able to focus on the hope, peace, joy and love of the advent season.  However, in our consumerist society, it is easy to get caught up in being too busy, buying too much, attending too many events and stretching everyone too thin.  I have been trying really hard to let go of the unimportant things and to give myself time to have peace.

I run the children’s programs at church and yesterday was the Christmas pageant.  I worked hard to have everything ready ahead of time so that I could show up Sunday morning, have a great, stress-free play with the kids, and watch them enjoy their Christmas party afterward.  I slept well the night before and I was not nervous at all for the morning.  It was a great feeling.

Once at church, I noticed we were missing a key member of our volunteer team and upon further inspection, I found out that she was down with the flu and wouldn’t make it in.  This could have thrown me for a major stress-out session, but I didn’t allow it to. Yes, she was going to pick up apples and candy canes on her way in.  I am a huge stickler for offering healthy portions during the meals we feed the kids, but I thought, oh well!  The kids will just have pizza and chips.  One time won’t kill them – and let’s face it, they will not mind begin without apples one bit.  No candy canes?  That’s ok!  We have beautiful cards to pass out to the congregation after the play ends.  Who will be in charge of setting up the coffee hour and lunch for the kids?  We have plenty of extra volunteers this morning.

Everything went fine.  I was sad that our friend missed seeing the pageant, but I was glad that I stuck with my desire for the day, which was for it to be stress-free.

It was a lovely day.  The kids were awesome!  Everyone was fed.  Clean up went quickly.  The rest of the day at home was perfect and relaxing.  Just what this season should bring!

 

Goodbye Childhood Home

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When I recently was home for Thanksgiving, I said goodbye to my childhood home.  I remember moving into our house when I was 8 years old – leaving the house we were in at that time seemed traumatic.  In the grand scheme of things, that was small.

theres no place like homeThe house that my parents are leaving is where I did all of my growing up.  I had friends in the neighborhood, pets in the yard, and my whole family under one roof.

It was harder to say goodbye than I thought.  I sat in the rocking chair in my old bedroom and just looked around, pictures of how my room used to look swimming through my mind.  I remember my mom letting my paint my room, twice!  That was a huge deal for me – being able to make the space my own.  I could see my friends in my room, sitting on my bed, playing in my closet, sitting on the windowsill.  I looked down the hallway out my bedroom door and pictured my mom in the kitchen making dinner, my brother at the table doing homework and my dad coming in from work – a warm feeling came into my heart.  I could smell the smells and hear the sounds.

It was quite funny – funny strange – when I first walked into the house.  I either saw a glimpse of black in the corner of my eye or expected to see it, but it was like I saw my little dogs at the back door (dogs that have been gone for at least 10 years).  Funny what the mind will do.

Here are some memorable moments from the house that holds so many of my memories:

1.  Getting struck by lightning!  The whole house shook, the sound was louder than I can describe, my Nintendo started smoking and it was the brightest light I have ever seen.  It was nighttime and the light from the flash of lightning lit up the whole area – I could see for miles!

2.  Playing in the pool with friends.  What a way to spend the summer!

3.  Family dinners.

4.  I remember my mom sitting my brother and I down one evening at the table to tell us that our granddad had died.

5.  I remember my mom hugging and holding me when we first moved in and I had a crying spell over missing the old house.

6.  The scorpions – I can picture each and every one I ever saw in that house.  Oh Arizona!  It took me a solid 6 months to get over the instinct to double take at small tan leaves on the street – they always resembled scorpions to me.

7.  Our wedding-eve party in the backyard with all of our out of town guests.

8.  Christmas mornings and Sunday dinners.

9.  Taking the trash cans up and down that steep, steep driveway – it was easiest to get in the trunk of the car and hold onto the cans while one parent drove slowly up the driveway!

10.  Sitting on the porch with dad – twice.  Once, in 5th grade when I was crying and crying and couldn’t figure out why.  He just sat there with me for hours and we watched the rain.  The next day he took me on a day trip up to a nearby mountain town, just the two of us.  The second time, I was in high school and in major trouble – I had completely disappointed him by lying to him and going out to party.  I broke his trust and I think, his heart.  Same spot on the porch.

11.  Laying with the dogs in the backyard.

12.  Playing cops and robbers on my bike with my brother.

13.  Playing basketball after school with my brother and his friends.

14.  My parents driving up the driveway with “the fourth family vehicle” (a.k.a.- a car for me to use!)

15.  My parents letting my puppy in bed with me when I was 9 and had the flu.

and so many others!

It was a great home – but it really is because of what happened inside it.  It feels like a chapter is closing because of the timing – the same day I said goodbye to the house I attended my 10 year high school reunion.  My brother and I are grown and married.  My parents are feeling like they are in their sunset years.

It’s ok – memories with our kids will be made in a new home and that house will become special for those reasons.

My favorite place to sit and think was on the diving board – dangling my feet in the water.  Here I am having one final thought and moment of reflection.

me on diving board 1

School Uniforms

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Hot topic alert!

I read an article this morning on school dress code regulations from Everyday Feminism and it made me think.

My husband grew up in the Catholic school system in Ontario, Canada.  I grew up in the public school system (albeit I attended a very good school in a nice part of town) in Arizona.  He wore a school uniform, I had a dress code.

*In my experience, our dress code was not strictly enforced.  This means that I was never given warnings about what I wore, nor were the majority of the kids I hung out with.  This could be skewed, because we were the good students, athletes, and involved in clubs – maybe that gave us an invisible armor that protected us from criticism.  Maybe not.  I can’t say, because I was not a teacher.  I was a student.  I was a student that pushed the limit minimally – a sliver of stomach showed, my shorts were short (but I am short in stature, so that may have camouflaged the length a bit), and I wore tight clothing.  I never bared cleavage because I didn’t have any and it wasn’t a body part I wanted to show.  However, outside of school, I was slightly more daring – a little more stomach, a little shorter shorts/skirts, skin tight everything.

In a perfect world, dress codes and uniforms would be solely intended to benefit the students and their families, and there would be no hidden agendas of trying to make every child who is different in anyway (socio-economic status, gender identity, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation specifically) look exactly the same.

If we lived in a perfect world, or at least attended a perfect school, let me argue that a school uniform/dress code is a good thing.  I lean more toward the school uniform because there is less room for individual judgement and gray area.  I believe that everything outside of the uniform, I’m talking hair, makeup, nails, jewelry, should not be given a code.  I believe that a uniform, with kind intentions by those who require it, is a way to show respect for the learning environment and it teaches boundaries.

I want school to be a place for free expression through thoughts and voices.  I want every person to be able to develop arguments and opinions on everything they believe in and be known for their mind and spirit.  I see how it could be construed that not allowing for free dress could hinder a youth’s expression, but I feel that not having the outside speak for them, kids must speak for themselves.  I think this develops good social skills and conversational skills.

I feel that the school environment needs boundaries.  Everyone should be allowed to think for themselves and have the freedom to express their free thought in school.  I do not think that kids need unlimited freedom in dress.  I think too much emphasis is put on how shocking one can be through dress or how much attention one can get from the outside – I want kids to develop their minds and learn to shock with their voices!  It’s too easy to put on an “Anarchy” shirt – tell me why you believe in anarchy!  Develop thought and express it.

Now, for the topic of revealing clothing and respect.  This is tough because there are some people who choose to wear minimal clothing because they like it – they do it for reasons for themselves, not other people.  However, the damaging part is there are women and girls who do not have a strong sense of self, who are struggling with self-esteem and self-worth, who don’t believe they are worthy of attention for just being themselves, and so they try out revealing dress as a means to attention.  I was more on this side of the spectrum for a very long time.  For the young women out there who are like I was, a uniform would be beneficial because it takes away the opportunity to give themselves less than they deserve.  It gives them the opportunity to see that they can get attention for their minds and kindness and humor, etc.

I know my opinion is not going to be the popular one, and I also give myself the freedom for my opinions to change over time and with new education and experiences.  Where I am now, with the work that I do with youth, with my current life experiences, I am on the side of school uniforms as long as there are not oppressive underlying intentions.  Like I said, in a perfect world.

Dressed for 80's theme day at school.  My shirt says, "Sizzle Grip: Maximum Heat".  The skirt it one that I would use scissors to cut shorter every time I wore it.

 

This is me, dressed for 80’s theme day at school in 11th grade.  I had probably just turned 17.  My shirt says, “Sizzle Grip: Maximum Heat”.  What does that even mean?  This is the skirt that I would use scissors to cut shorter every time I wore it.

Does this outfit say, I am ready to learn and develop my own thoughts and express them to you with confidence?  No, it doesn’t.  It distracted me from the real reason I was at school and allowed me to focus on outside attention – attention I was getting only because of the way I was dressed.

Does everything happen for a reason?

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In July of 2014, Ricky and I were in Portugal for his brother’s wedding.  It had been a lovely trip.  We were able to go to Paris, France first for five days to enjoy the romance and history of such a neat city.  My sister-friend and former exchange student from eleven years ago, Juliette, also lives there with her husband and new baby so the main point of stopping in Paris was to see them.  Spending time with them was the best night of that trip and it felt like we hadn’t missed a beat.  How amazing that she and I have grown in such similar ways and how incredible it was to see her as a mom and to meet her child.

After France, Rick and I headed into Porto, my now sister-in-laws home town and readied ourselves for wedding festivities.  We were welcomed into her aunt’s home our first night in for sardines fresh off the grill and it was the perfect start to that part of our vacation.

Little did I know, that during the same time we were flying into Portugal without a care in the world, my parents were in Arizona, crashing along a guard rail on the highway in a three-car accident that would result in a fatality.

I received a text from my mom the next day saying “Dad and I are fine, but…car accident….broken wrist…surgery…heading to hospital to pick him up”.

I called her immediately, international roaming be damned, and was relieved to hear that they were fine.

My mom suffered heavy bruising where the seatbelt was on her body; my dad had bruising along the leg he used to kick open the car door and had broken both bones in his wrist and had immediate surgery by a hand surgeon.  They were sore, but alive.  My mom explained how she didn’t know how my dad had gotten them out of the path of danger once they were initially hit, but she credited him with them not rolling or causing more damage.  They were the only car of the three that didn’t flip.

That is our part of the story.

There were two other families involved in this story.  One, a couple in a van who were beaten up but released from the hospital.  The other, a family of five: two parents up front, and three young kids in the back.  The kids survived, but were internally hurt.  Their father survived and ended up facing charges and jail time.  Their mother was killed.

I do not know anything about this family other that what was stated above.  I do not know if they had a loving relationship.  I do not know where they lived or went to school.  I don’t know if they were good neighbors, their family traditions, where they were coming from or where they were going.  All I know is that three kids started their day with two parents, and ended it with none.

I am so grateful and thankful that my parents are ok.  God knows I need them in my life.  They guide and support me.  They are nonjudgmental and understanding.  My emotions can be volatile and I am definitely not ready to face life without them in it.

I can’t help but ask, why me?  Why do I get to keep my parents?

I have always believed that everything happens for a reason.  I am religious, spiritual and a genuine believer that everything is meant to lead to our destiny.  This, combined with the loss of my first pregnancy earlier this year led me to wonder if maybe I was wrong?  Maybe life is a little more random?

What could possibly be the reason for three young kids’ parents to be taken when my brother and I, two 30-ish year old married adults who have already been raised, parents were spared?

Lives aren’t taken or given because people deserve them.  It is random.  It would be ego-centric to think otherwise.

I don’t believe that things happen for a reason, but I do believe that when things happen, the way we choose to react to them can lead us to or keep us from our destiny.  This is a new concept for me but it seems so much more accurate.  I believe that God leads me to make the right decisions and to act with grace when tragedy befalls me.  I believe that there is strength to be gained from having faith.

What I can do is pray for the family whose lives were changed.  I can take this close call as a reminder to soak in the time I have with my family.  I can be thankful that my parents were protected and that they have more time to enjoy these great years in their lives.

We are always learning in life and at 28, this makes sense to me.

Left to right: my brother Sam, his wife Roni, my husband Ricky, me, mom, dad.

One month after the accident, together at a family wedding.  Left to right: my brother Sam, his wife Roni, my husband Ricky, me, mom, dad.