March 23, 2016

Motherhood Parables: The Surprise Cookie Rescue

So I'm sure many are familiar with the pre-dinner breakdowns. When everyone is tired and hungry from the long day and mom doesn't want anyone touching the food or sneaking the snacks in the pantry because dinner is only 20 minutes away! And you feel you head is stretched five ways between the boiling pot of rice and the baby toddling into all sorts of trouble and the older kids saying their going to die of starvation!

In crises like these I sometimes feel that only a husband home early from work can magically restore the peace (and my sanity).

And yet there is hope! Surprise!

Yesterday I saw a facebook notification that the neighbor kids on the corner had a little cookie stand outside their house to raise money for some nice charitable cause---heart association or something. Anyway...happy to support a good cause and to have an excuse to get the "crazies" out of the house (yes...all of us) and go for a walk, we ventured out.

Dinner was practically done and we just needed to wait five more minutes. But I turned off the stove and thought the vegetables would finish steam cooking just fine without heat. And I shouted (with all that pent up frustration from minutes before), "Time for a surprise!"

Well if that didn't get attention...! It did. I told my kids it was time to get on our shoes and go find a surprise at the corner. They anticipation and excitement was explosive. Ethan's running to get his shoes...giggling from the joy of a surprise. I'm feeling an intense pre-breath-of-fresh-air-coming feeling. Nellies just happy beacuse ethans happy and her little head is imagining candy and princess and dancing and whatever. And baby likes she's happy to put them on and be with everyone.

Everyone is happy.
And we finally get to the corner and yay, the kids say "cookies!" and we eat. I talk to a neighbor. And breathe. And the walk does us all a little good. We hold hands. We are happy.

Wow. By the time we got home I told my husband, now home...I need more surprises in my life! I was rescued by surprise cookies.

And so it is. Sometimes I need rescuing from my tense moments where I feel I have no pressure valve or guage beyond my own limits and control. And when I don't feel in control, it sure would be nice to have someone hit a big red button and yell "surprise" and change the mood.

So, I'm making a big red button. IT will be in our great room. And I will push the surprise button and yell "surprise" anmd I will change my negative, tense mood and situation to something to celebrate. Yes...that means being blind to what the surprise is. That button will be my invitiation to be spontaneous and make something up off-the-cuff.

I think I will enjoy the mind break and live more creatively and joyfully. We will find something to celebrate.

p.s. March 26 is "Make Up Your Own Holiday" Day. So go ahead and try it saturday, whether or not you feel sane. It'll be good practice.

And should be fun.

The End.

The Power of Not Knowing

Can we get too smart?
Is there power in not knowing?

Liz Wiseman gave a great speech at BYU recently and talking about the power of not knowing.
Here is her speech, and my notes from it...

How do you lead? Are you a multiplier or a diminisher? Many leaders think they are great leaders, because they are good people with good intentions. But surprisingly many good leaders are blind in certain areas, especially by their knowledge, and the way they lead may actually diminish people in order to get a specific outcome of focus. So a good leader is aware of their strengths and weaknesses and pays attention to their intentions as well as the response of those they lead.

She sited the example of Magic Johnson, whose real name was Irving. He took a shot every time he had a ball, when he was younger. And he won great things for his team. But his success and talent was solo and based in ego and actually diminished others in that they didn't receive opportunities or get a chance to feel greater contribution and self-growth. So he made the choice to help every member of the team contribute. He helped build confidence in others...and got the nickname "magic" because he created an atmosphere that helped raise the level of happiness and excellence for the team.

So here is the chart distinguishing the difference between diminishers and multipliers...

Rookie Smarts...
She explains that those who are rookies at something actually can outperform others in innovation work because they ask better questions and don't assume to know everything. They also better gather and connect pieces others are aware of, due to passion for the challenge. So often we are at the best, when we know the very least.

When we step out of a place of knowing into a place of not knowing...we actually can better see God's hand and see light and personal direction more clearly. It is scary, but so invigorating at the same time. The fire of faith can burn more brightly. Faith is power. And it takes faith to step into the unknown and abandon old habits, practices, plateaus, etc. We don't see clearly until we unite our knowledge and our faith. The state of not knowing can be a path to better know God. We are so often at our best when we don't know because we better rely on God's knowledge to lead and guide us to our optimal happiness and satisfaction in life.

4 Ways to Live Powerfully in the Realm of Not Knowing
1. Ask Intelligent Questions. Start operating from a place of inquiry, rather than a place you feel you know everything about. Ask questions to drive recall of what others know...rather than making command and stifling knowledge-growth. Tell less, ask more.
2. Admit What You Don't Know. Holding back is a path of fear and also covers potential opportunities for growth, individually or as a team.
3. Throw Away Your Notes. If we really know something we won't need to have the notes. It's important to have fresh thinking, once you've gotten to a depth of knowledge in something.
4. Learn to See Genius in Others The top of the intelligence hierarchy is not the one with genius, but the one who is a genius-maker of others and helps others feel great and intelligent. Genius makers are the best learners and also perpetual rookies. And its the know-how they build, not the know-how they bring.

It's in seeking, not knowing, that we really find truth and discover God's true glory and intelligence. Seek wisdom  and intelligence--not knowledge in and of itself.

So what do you know?
Could you be in a plateau that is holding you back from reaching your potential?

And what is an area that you feel drawn to, but that you feel like a rookie in?
And is there an opportunity to take a challenge and more clearly see youth path and find God more deeply in your life and heart?

March 22, 2016

Motherhood Parables: The Highchair Stare

So I was feeding my little 16 month old last night and trying to figure out what in the heck she wanted.

You know those times you hear unintelligible noises coming from the corner of the kitchen and you think, "what? I'm sorry...Are you trying to ask for more food?" (while I'm cleaning the dishes and vaguely aware of your existence) :P

Sometimes it can get kind of annoying to figure out those cues from baby. But other times is so cute and can be viewed as a powerful, bonding experience.

So this time (thank goodness it was a good day and my patience-levels hadn't reached "burnout" yet), I enjoyed the chance to just slow down and stare at her. And she stared back---though she was not staring at me, but at one of the two things in my hand.

I had picked up water in one hand and a banana in the other.
She briefly glanced at the water, and then at the banana--at which she continued to stare.
I knew she wanted the banana.

How did I know? Well, that's what she was intently focused on. So...I gave her the banana. And a smile crossed her face. Obviously satisfied with both the object she received, and the acknowledgement on my part of her request--the smile of satisfaction from knowing she was heard and understood.

--- feel heard and understood--valued. And to really feel the deep satisfaction of receiving something you truly want or need.

I'm not talking about getting a birthday present from someone that means nothing and that you probably send to the thrift store. I'm talking about a more lasting satisfaction of a deeper yearning and need. The need to feel you are expressing the depth of what your heart feels and aches for (whether or not you fully are aware of that yourself). The need to feel you are of worth and your life is amazing, despite the temporary messy house and chaos that happens daily.

Wow...I could go on and on, but I think this is where this parable stops for today. But, to summarize two points:

  • Paying attention to where our focus is (or isn't) is a great clue to what we truly need or want. We may quickly glance from one thing to the next, but it is where our constant focus keeps pulling us back to that is a clue to where our attention really lies (for better or worse). And if for worse, we can change and dig deeper to find a greater, deeper need and desire.
  • Receiving what we truly, righteously desire is so soul-satisfying that it's satisfaction has a tremendous power to change both giver and receiver immensely (even immediately). And that power's sustaining effect can help us better deal with temporary chaos and open the door to new perspectives on our situations that allow greater relationships and awareness for things that really matter.
And really it all boils back to the atonement and our Divine NAture. We are divine being of great potential that gets hidden or bombarded in this life. We have it. Some know it, but others don't. As we seek to be our truest self and understand that divine potential, God opens doors and shows us who we are and how we can best be of use to our fellowman to fulfill their deep needs. And the end result is that our deepest need too are filled and we shine bright and are infused with Joy that lasts beyond the daily "vales of sorrow" we encounter in this life.

-------------- Two great C.S. Lewis Quotes---------------

“It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.” 

“It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest most uninteresting person you can talk to may one day be a creature which,if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare. All day long we are, in some degree helping each other to one or the other of these destinations. It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilities, it is with the awe and the circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all of our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics. There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations - these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit - immortal horrors or everlasting splendors.” 
― C.S. LewisThe Weight of Glory

March 15, 2016

7 Habits of Highly Effective People

Stephen Covey was a great man. He frequently was pouring over books in all subjects, from quantum physics, to poetry, to nature, to art, etc. HE was a renaissance man. And because of his through searching and love to truth and knowledge from various sources and subject, he was able to glimpse patterns and see parallels and principles that many took for granted, or weren't clearly aware of because of their limited view or exposure.

Covey did his best to capture that information and convey it in a simple, clear, universal way for others to understand and implement. And from that he created a lasting work of greatness and a valuable tool for millions of people: The Seven Habits.

Now, you can go read a copy of the book if you'd like, but might I suggest reading the teenager version! It's very much more entertaining and easy to see applied. More pictures, less words. My kind of book. :)

But what I love about the principles is that it is the natural process of starting internally and moving outward. you can't give of self if self hasn't been nourished first. So his first three principles are working on a personal/internal level. Then the next three principles are moving outward/externally. And the last if the renewal of self by sharpening your saw, which allows a renewal of self and greater fulfillment of our true potential. Without that last habit, we stay in a rut at the same level and don't progress and improve.

I will try to post on each of these principles with a summary and some helpful visuals that help make them practical and applicable. But, here's another version of kids stuff being more awesome than adult boring versions.... Teaching kids simply is beautiful. Why can't we keep that beauty as adults--in other words, I prefer this tree visual!

Also, Covey wrote about an 8th habit too...which I think is great!

The book is called The 8th Habit: From Effectiveness to Greatness
Find your voice and inspire others to find theirs
The eighth habit is "Find your voice and inspire others to find theirs." Voice is Covey's code for "unique personal significance." Those who inspire others to find theirs are the leaders needed now and for the future, according to Covey.

(But I think it fitting that this eighth habit isn't in the initial seven. One has to become familiar with all seven habits first until they become a part of them. Once these principles come easily, then it's much easier to have balance and know how to use prioritize and use time and energy for others on a regular basis without overtaxing self. That's hard to do well if one is still struggling with basics and can't even maintain general effectiveness, let alone improve/"sharpen one's own saw.")

Side note...I'm including this thought about Abundance (from Covey Wikipedia page)...because I find that having a positive abundance mentality can make all the difference in the world about how you view the world and your positive reference for goals. And if we approach life with an abundance mentality and these seven habits then it's much easier to see and reach our potential.

Abundance mentality

Covey coined the idea of abundance mentality or abundance mindset, a concept in which a person believes there are enough resources and successes to share with others. He contrasts it with the scarcity mindset (i.e., destructive and unnecessary competition), which is founded on the idea that, if someone else wins or is successful in a situation, that means you lose; not considering the possibility of all parties winning (in some way or another) in a given situation (seezero-sum game). Individuals with an abundance mentality reject the notion of zero-sum games and are able to celebrate the success of others rather than feel threatened by it.[5]
Since this book's publishing, a number of books appearing in the business press have discussed the idea.[6] Covey contends that the abundance mentality arises from having a high self-worth and security (see Habits 1, 2, and 3), and leads to the sharing of profits, recognition and responsibility.[7] Organizations may also apply an abundance mentality when doing business.[8]

7 Habits: Habit 3 - First Things First

Here's an intro to Stephen R. Covey's 3rd Habit of Highly Effective People. 
For introductino to all 7 habits, read the introduction post.

But first, a quick note...
Ever since my busy time in high school I've been a list-maker. OR at least I was...until about the time I got married. Now I don't consider myself a list-maker, but more of a minimalist, prioritizer.

Lists are valuable to see items and things to be done, or noted. But if we stop at just a list, then we still have chaos. It's just chaos named. Taken one step further the list can then be ordered by priority.

So how do we prioritize our tasks and things that call on our energy and time?
This is where Covey's 3rd Habit helps...

It's helpful to evaluate what is urgent and what is important and then weed away what isn't.
So when an event or task pops into your radar, the questions to ask are...

  1. Is it urgent
  2. Is it important (to what I order of priority)

Now, some people don't need a lot of fun, so they won't have it in their important quadrant (things they value), but if its important to you, then throw it up there! If it isn't, then it don't. The categories are great because they allow you to tailor your activities to your needs. Once you do this long enough it's easier to judge your activities and events calling you all over the place without needing this exercise.

But, if you never take time to evaluate your needs by which are important or not, or which are urgent and not, then you will experience a lot more chaos than needed.

So how do you find out what is important and what isn't? Well, this is the physical creation stage of your you need to back up into the mental stage of creation first. This involves some thoughtful, personal time to delve into what you really value--establishing your personal priorities.

Like earlier, if you value fun, then that is important to you and you need to plan to get some in, even if it's just a little. I know I value trying new things and breaking routine...but that sometimes gets cut in my I have to make sure I try to get that in or I don't feel as light and happy as I generally like to be. I also know that I value a peaceful home...but that sometimes get nixed when I'm yelling at the kids because of urgent things that cause stress and make me lose sight of my important things. But...if I know I value and want a peaceful home, even in those times of emergency, I can say "ok, this isn't the norm, and that's ok temporarily--for this emergency--until I can calmly get back to what I value."

  • Quadrant one is great because it helps us manage what is needful. Yet if we spent 100% of our time on that quadrant, we'd lose focus. 
  • Quadrant two allows us to focus and stretch ourselves to more fully live and enjoy ourselves in important things that get cut because of urgency. If we think 80% management and 20% focus, then we can have a good balance.
  • Quadrant three could entail all those push notifications, texts, and facebook notices that call your attention loudly and right away, but aren't really your priority. They try to force their way into your focus--but actually detract from it. A good idea for these distractions is to minimize them. Turn off notifications you don't need or get email notifications instead of tweets, so you can order and read them at a specific time you've set aside later...which takes away their false urgency." 
  • Quadrant four is just a pure waste of time. If it isn't urgent and important (this is a blessing) because it's an easy clue as to what should be cut.

When I know who I am and what I stand for and value most, then it's easy to place events and stress in proper perspective. Try to spend the most time in quadrants 1 and 2. Knowing that occasionally 3 and 4 will creep in--hopefully temporarily. If so, notice them and then cut them as needed so they don't throw you off-balance.

*for more on Covey Habits...stay tuned.

March 14, 2016

Motherhood Parables: Backwards Underwear

Ok, I'm sure we've all been through it: the three year old who still cant always get her clothes on the right way. Seriously, I get it's a matter of time, but something is seriously lacking in the mental awareness, my little one. At least when it comes to underwear.

It's one thing to get shoes mixed up if you can't feel a difference of left versus right. But little girls underwear? There is obviously a small front and a bigger back. And when that small front in in the word: plumber-bum! I'm sure that doesn't feel good.

So the other day I noticed her underwear backwards and asked her, "how does your underwear feel?" and she said "a little uncomfortable." So I told her to look down and the front. And she noticed there was no picture...which she knew meant it was on backwards. Aha moment for her!

Is it just total ignorance on behalf of my little girl? OR
Did I, as her mother, need to take time to instruct more thoroughly (to go beyond the instruction/word phase of "this is the front"--beyond the principle--to point out observations.
Sometimes in the frantic pace of life we all forget to check which way our underwear is theory at least. All all too often our awareness is lacking. At these times we need a guide to further instruct us by a gentle question, such as..."how does it feel?"

Sometimes we all need aha moments. Those precious moments of increased awareness allow us to choose to observe and then act/change. And often times those moments come when we have problems and things don't "feel right," or sometimes even when we come across new information, or valuable resources that cause us to stop and take a look at something more closely.

Life problems that arise, or unexpected changes that come, can be important aha moments-- opportunities for "tweaking" something that needs to be corrected.

So, back to the kids...
When underwear is on the right way, we can both see it's turned correctly and we can also feel comfy. But if we only teach our kids one part and ignore the other, then they don't become real problem solvers needed to really grasp truth and try it for themselves. They need to understand how they see and recognize truth. And a big part of that may be how they are introduced to new learning opportunities and experiences.

Two important parts to learning:
1. Facts and Knowledge
Bits and pieces that enter the mind.
2. Awareness/Feeling (of truth, light, peace--the Spiritual witness/Personal revelation)
Observations and feelings about things that enter the mind.
Does something feel right? Does it feel true? Is there goodness here? Light? Or does it feel uncomfortable, heavy, wrong or dark?

Yea, behold, I will tell you in your mind and in your heart, by the Holy Ghost, which shall come upon you and which shall dwell in your heart. 
This is the spirit of Revelation.   --D&C 8:2-3

I was chatting with some friends about how great it is to be able to be with our kids when they are first introduced to certain concepts or experiences. What a fun time to help our kids learn to navigate through certain things. But even more important...what a great opportunity to really value those times of "new introductions" as a chance to focus on the question: "how do you feel about that?" To really get a chance to have good discussions and spiritual depth to our learning and conversations---thus allowing learning to go more deeply and internally into our children in ways that strengthen and grow their testimonies of light, truth and the power of learning by the spirit.

This is beauty! Beauty allows for the feeling of truth--a depth to learning that brings a love and passion for it and allows it to really live deeply in both heart and mind--therefore lasting memory.

Beauty is often seen and felt without words and instructions. As we surround our children by things of real, lasting beauty, we allow them the experience of feeling beauty and knowing it (regardless of knowing it intellectually). Then when children are ready for the intellectual details, they get them even more powerfully because they've already felt it and lived amid it!

Take for instance a child surrounded by classics: music, poetry, literature, art, etc. When they grow up, they will feel so use to that climate. They will feel at home with the classical melodies, poetic rhythm of words, even difficult words, and beautiful art. They will feel their beauty and goodness and not expect less, because they were surrounded by greatness.

Taken a step further: Surround a child in nature and allow them to feel the beauty of the earth and it's mysteries. They learn to become aware and develop observation and gratitude for it. They love it and remember it and soon feel the drive to learn more about they beauty they've received so fully.

The Home (as Heaven on Earth)
Taken even one step further: a home of love and peace where Christlike attributes of love, patience, faith, gentleness and gratitude abound...and there will be a haven of safety and security. Now...this is ideal. And I'd love a perfect, peace-filled home always. But I know there are frustrations--and it isn't 100% all the time. And yet, I still seek my ideal. Knowing when I fall short, that it's ok as long as I keep turning to the savior to ask for help and personal revelation on ways I can better provide that atmosphere in my home. He wants what's best for us and can help properly instruct us in the details and the feelings needed to get that result. It's up to our awareness of what contributes to that ideal and what takes away from it that needs our utmost attention and priority. Once that is set, it's easier to keep course-correcting as we go.

So much for a short parable about underwear!
But...I like to feel comfortable and not have worries that my underwear is on backwards. So stop and take a moment to check yours--by sight and feel--before you proceed. :P

Motherhood Parables: The Tortilla Chip

Ok, so cute...!

I was sitting with my son the other day  (5 years old, almost 6), eating some nachos or something. And here is the conversation that followed...

Ethan said,
"mom, this chip is kinda like a triangle. Sorta. Well, it's "ish."
(He said it all matter-of-factly, yet with a question, at the same time.)

I looked at him, smiled and said,
"Yeah, I guess it is. It's -ish."

Then he went on...
"We are kind of -ish too, huh?"

And I said...
"Yeah, that's true. We are ish. And that's ok, isn't it?"

And responded with a smile...
"Yep. It's ok being ish."

And we continued eating our nachos, as we smiled together--bite after bite of our "triangle-ish" chips.

We had read a great, simple book a few times in the last year, that I could tell played a part in his awareness of this "ish" principle.... It's called Ish, by Peter Reynolds.

It is about a little kid who got frustrated that he couldn't draw the flowers perfectly. But then found out his younger sibling treasured his artwork more than he could've imagined. And told him his art was ish, and beautiful. Once that boy felt valued for his contributions in the way he best could contribute, he felt empowered to do more. He felt valued and special. This acceptance and love allowed him to do more and express himself greater--and draw--as he felt inspired (rather than based just on a specific, perfect outcome or result--according to some outsiders perspective and view).

Such a valuable lesson for all kids (young and old). If kids don't learn this principle when they are young, it will be a lot harder to break them out of their perfectionism and self-imposed walls of non-self-expression later. It's important to build and encourage our kids in ways they can contribute, not focusing on what they can't or where they fall short. They need to be allowed space, time, and ways to learn and grow. And what we do and say to nurture that growth in themselves (or hinder that) can have far lasting impacts.

After our lunch I was able to briefly mention that we are ish and make poor choices that get sad consequences. But that Christ, because of his great life of good choices got the greatest consequence of all: eternal life (including his resurrected/perfect body back and living with God again). And we too, even if we feel imperfect or "ish" can trust that as we love the Savior and try our best...he views our "ish" as beautiful. Because our ish is us giving what we can--an he focuses on our potential.

Whether of not Ethan gets the details behind this eternal truth, at this point, isn't my main focus; Just that he knows Christ is ok with Ish, and so am I. And seeing Ethan happy to just try--how he can--and not be scared of "failure" to hit a specific standard or expectation (that is not of eternal consequence), is good for me.

There is way too much comparison in this world. So many expectations and standards that some begin to take higher priority than those standards that really matter--like a Christlike character.

There is also too much negative/fear in this world. Fear is the opposite of faith. Where fear is, faith cannot exist. And I choose a house of faith. As long as we have faith in Christ, we can move forward to reach our potential. And I'm happy with that, even though our steps and accomplishments may seem slower or more "ish" compared to others. Our ish will be the ish it needs to be and we will have joy in our "ish-journey," knowing we are taking steps that matter, towards our eternal potential.