5 Ways to Not be a Jerk this Christmas

Holidays are stressful! Sometimes it is all we can do to hold ourselves together and maintain our status as civilized humans. Everything is pressure-filled, schedules are packed, people are living on caffeine and sugar. It all just leads to a gigantic case of the Christmas Crankies!

Photo by linder6580

Here are some ways you can resist the temptation to throw a public tantrum and maybe, just maybe, help someone else have a merrier Christmas season as well.

1. Let that person with three things go before you in the supermarket line. We’ve all been there. Last minute dash to the store before a Christmas party, or that dinner you thought you had all of the ingredients for. You pick up your items only to find all the open lanes packed and no speedy check out lanes open. Wouldn’t you want someone to kindly allow you and your tiny purchase to go first? Thinking with compassion and empathy lets us feel good about ourselves and it really does help someone else!

2. Let someone in while driving through traffic. I get aggravated when I drive and all the people are weaving in and out of the lanes, going slow in the fast lane, and just plain being rude. Here’s how I feel better in those situations. I find a way to add some politeness and niceness to the atmosphere. One way you can do that is by letting someone in. I don’t care if they should have merged 5 miles back, here they are in need and you have the power to help. Let them in. You will feel virtuous, and maybe they will pass on the kindness to others. If everyone were to just do one small kindness while driving the roads would be a safer place.

Photo by rachelg

3. Hold doors open for people with too many burdens. ‘Tis the season for over-shopping. And with that comes overconfidence in our ability to carry 14 parcels, packages, and shopping bags! When you are walking through a door, stop and take a look around. Is there someone who you could hold the door for? Literally 30 seconds of your time invested in your fellow humans can make the world a brighter place.

4. Park at the back of the parking lot. I know you like to park up front. I know it is tempting to circle until you find the perfect space. If you are like me, though, after about three trips up and down the aisles I am fed up and cranky! Skip the aggravation, burn off a bite of sugar cookie and park at the back of the lot. If you have mobility issues, you get a pass, but those with averagely abled legs can walk for 3 minutes and cut down on the up front parking congestion.

5. Tip Generously! Sometimes I get one of those waiters. You know the ones who don’t come to your table, refill your drinks, get the order wrong and otherwise just aren’t putting the “serve” in service. Well, during the holidays we need to show a little extra grace. I don’t know about you, but wait staff is not my dream job. It probably isn’t their dream job either. Maybe they are working to make ends meet and this is their second job. Maybe they are tired and worn out from working 60 hours a week just to make enough for rent and daycare. Maybe they just had one of those customers. The demanding, rude, “leave a snarky note on the back of the ticket instead of a real tip” kind of customers. From Thanksgiving to Valentine’s Day how about we make a pact to tip generously whether they deserve it or not. We get to feel good about ourselves and they get to experience grace.

Doing something nice for others can help us in our cranky moments to find a light in the darkness by shining a little light ourselves.

Now That’s ReFreshing!

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You’re Doing It WRONG!

I read another one today, a mommy blogger who mixes all the perfect things together like fashion modeling and Jesus, telling all the leggin’s-clad, stained XL t-shirt-wearing, run down moms exactly how much we are all failing.

It totally worked.

Now I am going to LOVE every minute of motherhood.
Now, I am going to cook only homemade, organic, gluten-free food for my family.
Now I am going to finally BE that Proverbs 31 woman! (Let’s ignore for a moment that this woman never existed as a single entity, and that if she did she had domestic help.)

NOPE!

Reality–these posts tick me off.
Reality–I am blogging right now in my pajamas.
Reality–posts all about how women are doing it wrong when it comes to marriage, family, parenting, and all-things-domestic really only serve to grind women’s faces into the dirt while heaping more responsibility for unachievable perfection onto their already overwhelmed shoulders. (Check out the length of that sentence! I think a little of my personal feeling on this is coming through here.)

Can we bring it down a notch, please?

Modern life is hard. I realize that is such a #firstworldproblems kind of statement, but let’s examine the truth for a moment:

*300 years ago it was enough to keep your children alive and marry them off at 13 or send them to be an apprentice.
*150 years ago it was enough to make sure they finished the local school course which ended around 8th grade.
*50 years ago it was enough to see that your children were individual people (thanks Dr. Spock).
*Today, you have to know your child’s unique personality, temperament, love language, and spirit animal. You have to scrapbook/photo-blog every second of their life. You have to make sure they play a sport, play an instrument, and have sufficient playdates. You have to make sure they are challenged, but not too much; given grace, but still develop grit; have firm schedules and boundaries with enough flexibility to make their own decisions once they leave home–which may be never if the economy doesn’t rebound or if you chose the industrially farmed broccoli instead of organic.

What we all really need right now is another blog telling us how we are failing and ruining our children’s lives, not to mention tearing down our houses with our own hands like that foolish woman in Proverbs.

I want to say something to you, caregiver of small humans:
If you grew a human in your body, delivered them into the world, I recognize that you care about them. If you drove to the hospital or flew across the globe to pick them up and take them home, you want good things for them. If you wept and worried through fertility treatments, surrogacy, adoption, supported your partner as they grew a small human inside of them, I see that you would do anything to love them until you can’t breathe–they are so beautiful.

I also see the heaps of laundry, the piles of dishes, the disaster of a playroom, the incessant bickering, the insomnia, the teething, the talking back, the full-blown fits in the middle of Target. I see you tired and overwhelmed by all the demands. I see you struggling to realize that you shine at 6 month-old baby care, but suck at embracing the Kindergarten stage. We all have our sweet spots, maybe one of those super organized mom-bloggers could make a spreadsheet and then I would raise your 2 year-old and you could have my 11 year-old until the next phase hits and we could all trade again.

Parenting is hard. We don’t need someone telling us all the ways we are falling short, we need cheerleaders for those beautiful moments where we do smile at our children and mean it when we say, “I love you, sweetie, have a good day!”

You may not know that I have my own checklist for parenting success. I blogged about it last year, but I will condense it for you here:
1. Don’t kill them.
2. Do your best–whatever your best looks like in this moment.
3. Love them.
4. Trust God–if you are going to be a parent, you need a higher power.
5. Everything else can be worked out in therapy.

So if you didn’t score a perfect 10 this morning, don’t beat yourself up. Grab a cup of coffee, fold 5 minutes worth of laundry, call a friend and invite them to bring their kids to distract your kids so you can have grown up conversation. Give yourself some grace, it’ll go a long way toward your ability to offer grace to your kids as well.

Anne of Green Gables once said, “Isn’t it nice to think that tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it yet?

Grace for ourselves and others on this parenting journey.
ReFreshing

Yoga Tip: Foundations

This is my first yoga-related post. Where better to start than the foundation of our practice? For me, because I view yoga as both a physical as well as spiritual practice, the word foundation applies to my faith and where my body meets the mat.

Having a firm foundation is essential to rising up into a strong alignment in our poses. In my yoga tradition, Holy Yoga, we often refer to this as rooting down. We root down through whatever parts are touching the mat. In seated poses, we root through our sit bones. In standing poses, we root through the four corners of our feet. When we are in a table top or down dog, we root through our palms and our knees or feet.

When we mindfully root into the mat, we create a stable platform on which the rest of our body can build a pose. Without that firm foundation, our poses wobble, our alignment is forced, and our body wastes a lot of energy just staying upright. When our pose is built on a proper foundation, we can almost float, completely at rest in our proper alignment.

The same is true for me in my spirit. If I have invested in a firm foundation, I find it easier to walk through the day mindful of the people around me, loving and serving in productive ways. When my foundation is weak, I struggle. It takes a lot of effort just to answer kindly, or practice patience in basic situations (like waiting in line at the grocery store).

My foundation is a relationship with the creator of life, Jesus. Sometimes I need to spend a lot of time praying, listening, meditating on words given to me in the Bible. Then I simply need to maintain an open connection so that his life can flow through me. When I find myself struggling in my daily life, I know it is time to re-examine my foundation. Am I rooting into Christ, and using that stable platform to build my life? Or am I forcing myself into alignment without a firm foundation?

Rooting down to rise up strong.
Now that’s ReFreshing!

Summer Chores & Activities!

Once again school is out, and we are rebooting our Pick Five chore system. Here is the skinny on the stroke of genius that has gotten us through 2 summers of my working full time from home with three kids (now 12, 9, not quite 4 years old) and keeping my sanity!

These are the benefits I’ve seen in the two summers we’ve used this system:

  1. A set of chores and activities that they can choose and do on their own.
  2. Self-regulated screen time.
  3. Built in reading time.
  4. Simple rules: do your 5 chores anytime you choose, one TV show, one 30 minute session on any other screen, additional screen time is earned by doing extra chores.
  5. Kids that contribute to the household chores!

Here is a link to the original post from May of 2014:

https://refreshinglifeblog.wordpress.com/2014/05/27/kids-a-k-a-in-summer/

Here’s our updated chores and activities for our growing kiddos!

Chores And Activities

Chore and Activities 2016

Still a great system, and still adding refreshment by the score to my life. Enjoy!

Silencing the “Shoulds” & Taking Back Your Schedule

I wear many hats. With every hat comes a list of things that I have to do in order to be a responsible hat-wearer. Unfortunately, most days there are just too many things I should do, and I am (by far) not the busiest person I know.

How did we get here and how do we do all of this without killing ourselves in the process?

Here is what I SHOULD include in my day:

Work is important, at least 8 hours a day
Health is important, 1 hour of exercise
Not smelling is important, 30 minutes to shower and get dressed
Mental health is important, 1 hour of reading
Spiritual health is important, too. 1 hour of prayer and meditation
Eating well is important, 1-2 hours cooking, 1-2 hours eating
Keeping house is important, 1 hour of cleaning
Spousal relationships are important, 1 hour of relationship building
My 3 kids are important, 30 minutes isn’t too much to ask for each of them, 1.5 hours of kid time
Having friends is important, 45 minutes of catching up
Helping others is important, 15 minutes of being a good neighbor
Clean clothes are important, 1.5 hours of laundry
Relaxation is important, 30 minutes of “me” time
Sleep is important, 8 hours to recharge

A full day, and it only took me 30 hours to accomplish it all. Good thing I don’t have to commute.

Reality dictates that the day has only 24 hours, and you only have a certain amount of energy to make it through each day. We have set ourselves up for so much heartache when we stack our plates with unrealistic expectations. There simply isn’t enough time in the day to do it all. I know that sometimes we can multitask, but even with those multitasking fixes, we easily end up stealing from tomorrow’s energy to accomplish today’s goals. Realistically, we cannot keep up this pace without having a breakdown along the way.

So what is likely to get laid down first? Anything that takes extra brain power or will power. This is why the typical American diet is horrendous. This is why our physical activity is lacking. This is why our houses get cluttered, or our relationships break down. We have to put energy into everything we do, so how do we begin to bring some sanity to our overloaded schedules?

Redistribute the workload. There are things you have to do, no one can exercise for you, but if you have a spouse, or kids, or a roommate, household tasks can be shared.

Simplify. Fewer things means fewer things to take care of. Fewer clothes means less laundry. Fewer dishes means less to load in to the dishwasher.

Remove or modify the things that correspond to someone else’s expectations. A lot of what drives our schedules comes from guilt or fear of not living up to what others expect. Set your priorities and let the rest go.

Don’t kill yourself trying to be HEALTHY! Health includes your stress levels. Make changes incrementally, simplify your diet and exercise routines. Healthy choices only count if you can actually follow through with them.

Don’t be afraid to plan. Sometimes I fear that if I actually see everything that I am doing written on a page I will faint from exhaustion. Planning ahead can really help us stay on task and not waste precious time and energy on things that will be important tomorrow instead of the things that must be done today.

If we don’t take the time to ponder our priorities, we get swept along in the riptide of demands on our time and energy. We run ourselves ragged, or we shut down and nothing (important or not) gets done. Take a deep breathe and start planning a new year of less stress and more health by taking control of your chaotic schedule!

Now that’s ReFreshing!

One Day at a Time!

SO, my house is going to be open for Christmas Day, we are hosting a dinner at 2pm for any of our local friends who don’t have family gatherings to attend. We want to build community and spread the love and joy we feel at the holidays.

This sounds super, right?

Right!

But my house is not company ready. It is only company ready when we have company. It isn’t like that all year long. I know this is shocking. Take a deep breath and blow out all those shattered expectations. I’ll wait.

Now that we are all in reality, here is my trouble. Normally, procrastinator girl would take over and we would hang out in denial city until THursday, Wednesday at the earliest. This would for sure bring on an avalanche of PANIC! And rapid cleaning.

It would get done, but I would be frazzled and fried for Christmas.

Here’s my plan. Today I cleaned my stove. I scrubbed the top. I took down the spice rack. I wiped greasy dust off the nick-knacks and thew away the wooden salt and pepper grinders that I never use anyway. I put new drip bowls in and threw away the old ones.

I was ruthless.

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Ruthlessness is part of my plan.

Every day this week, I will ruthlessly attack one (or more) messy, ridiculous, evil-clutter-filled spaces. I will clean them. They will stay clean, at least until after Christmas.

This is a doable plan. If I were to, say, plan to keep every one of those spaces clean next year as a New Year’s resolution, that would be terrible folly. But one week, we can do one week.

I hope.

So, I am recruiting fellow house cleaning procrastinators to join me on a glorious quest to have a clean house (cleaner house? clean-ish house? sane house?) for Christmas this year. Maybe it won’t bring peace on earth, but let’s face it we aren’t the messiah.

One thing every day.

Potentially, very ReFreshing!

My Areas to tackle:
Kitchen to Dining Room Pass Through CounterCube Shelf where Everyone has a Bin
Desk & Office Room
Under the Couches
Tables in Living Room
Stairway & Hallway
Counters & Top of Fridge
Bonus: Bathroom Decluttering (We’ll see if this one gets done)

On Being Wrong

So recently, I was wrong.
I know, right? This almost never happens to me. I am usually right. I bet you are, too.

I was wrong, but not in my content, my facts, I was wrong in my attitude. I was wrong in my presentation of my facts. I was wrong in the way I treated someone else with whom I disagree. And because of all that, I might as well have been wrong in my content.

Right facts presented with wrongness in the way I speak shuts the door on communication. It means that the person I disagree with will never listen to my words, they only hear my tone. It means they will immediately become convinced of their own rightness because they are the injured party, a victim of my words.

The walls of defensiveness are up, and they will not come down. Not in this conversation, and because of memory, possibly never in future conversations. I have set the tone for our interactions. It will take a lot of right interactions to reverse the effects of this one wrong one.

What is to be done, then? Apologies have been made, and forgiveness offered. But I can’t get it out of my head, just how wrong I was in my rightness.

I think we all find ourselves here from time to time. We come to the end of an interaction, and we wonder about what we could or should have said better, but time does not allow for do-overs. Our only choice is to take the wrong from this situation and make good on what we have learned.

To speak with respect, even–and maybe especially–to those with whom we disagree. To offer grace, and think the best of those who may be misinformed. To take a breath and release the indignation that comes from being convinced of our own rightness. To recognize the beautiful image of God in the person before us. To offer respect so that respect may be offered in return. To hear the heart, to see behind the words and tone to the deep concerns that drive them.

To find the common ground on which we stand, even if that is simply our own humanity.

Finding a way to make good on our past wrongs.
Now that’s ReFreshing

For some great resources on wrongology, check out Kathryn Schulz’s TED talks: