The Fixer

Are you a fixer?  When faced with a problem, big or small, do you look for solutions, figuring there must be something in your life you can tweak to make it go away?images-1

Maybe it’s just me.

I find that I want to control my life, like, a lot.  This is never clearer than when some problem crops up in my life.  It might be a relationship issue, an educational conundrum with one or all of my kids, or scheduling thing, another bout of depression.  Doesn’t really matter.  When something messes up my daily rhythm I want to beat that thing into submission, posthaste.  I want it dead.  Ahem.

What I’m learning, extremely slowly, is that sometimes problems can’t be solved by brainstorming, list-making, worrying, kvetching, vision-casting, or binge-eating. images

Sometimes the best thing to do when confronted with an “issue” is to…wait.  As in, do nothing.  (As a person of faith, I assume that praying about stuff is not the same as trying to fix it, so I’m not suggesting that praying is unnecessary.  It’s very necessary).  Not everything has a solution, at least not one I can see.  And even if it does, I can’t always effect change.

So I am learning to be still, to wait, to sometimes go slow in the face of obstacles.  I am praying and watching.  I am seeing stones in my path and not reaching for the keys to my forklift.

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The thing is, life keeps going whether I strategize or not, and problems often work themselves out (rather, Someone works them out, without my helpful freakouts, thanks).  If all this seems like a call for passivity, for hanging back and hanging on a minute when things go wrong, it is.

Deep breath.

Sometimes in the midst of life’s craziness, it really is better not to try to fix things, but to simply be.

Homeschooling In A Different World

The sun’s warmth slipped through the iron latticework of our living room windows, burning away the early morning fog. The first call to prayer sounded over the loudspeaker filling our apartment with strains of muffled devotion. The kids emerged from their shared bedroom with sleepy eyes and plopped on the couch.

Dilsara, our Nepali house helper, whisked past them to sweep dusty floors and make beds. Breakfast would be cereal and buffalo milk, as usual.

The kids begged to watch a Popeye cartoon in Hindi, and I pretended to hesitate before relenting.

Our morning ritual in India. [...]

Read the rest over at Simple Homeschool.

Why My Kids Procrastinate (And Why I Do, Too)

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I’m not a chronic procrastinator.  As a general rule I get my stuff done. 

That is, until recently. 

These days I’m working on edits of my manuscript. I have a deadline and I want to meet it, yet I am finding so many reasons not to work toward it.  Big things like, checking to see if my skin looks older (younger?) in natural light than it does under sixty watt bulbs, or seeing if someone emailed me, by chance, in the last five minutes.  Or keeping close tabs on Jennifer Lawrence’s growing-out-a-pixie-cut journey.

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This isn’t like me.  It is like my kids, but not me.  So I’ve tried to put my finger on the reason(s) for my recent slacking, and here’s what I think is going on.  I notice that I procrastinate more often when

  • I am anxious.  When I come upon a section in my manuscript that I know I need to pare down or pump up, and I cannot figure out how to do it, it scares me.  I worry that I won’t ever be able to see how to change things so that they flow properly.  I see myself failing, and I hate to fail.
  • I am overwhelmed.  Sometimes the editing job seems too big and I don’t know how to “chunk” it–to create bite sized segments of work on which to focus.  I find myself wanting to avoid this feeling at all costs so I tell myself that I’ll get to it after I text my sister a funny writer quote or give the dogs more loveys.
  • I am mentally exhausted.  No one gets to think one or two thoughts per day, least of all moms.  I wear several hats and my brain is on warp speed all day long.  I make this reality infinitely worse when I comb the internet for useless facts about people I don’t know.  Of course, sometimes they aren’t useless facts.  Sometimes they’re horrifying facts about the world melting down.  So, naturally, I just stew about them and gut grind.  Then, the idea of taxing my brain further by trying to shut out the world and concentrate on my work makes me feel like falling asleep.  Or watching ‘Alfred Hitchcock Presents’ on Netflix.

These realizations have helped me as a homeschool mom to feel more compassion for my kids when they procrastinate in their own work.  Though it sometimes boils down to sheer laziness in them (and, OK, me), other times my kids’ dragging their feet comes from anxiety, brain overwhelm, and exhaustion

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Knowing this makes me (A). better able to pinpoint what’s getting in the way when they aren’t finishing, or starting, homework, projects, etc., and (B). more likely to find a solution to the problem.  If it’s anxiety, we can talk about it.  We can pray about it and face it head on.  If it’s overwhelm, we can take a sheet of math problems and focus on just one for the time being.  If it’s exhaustion, we can examine our days and see if we’re trying to cram too much into them–too much information, too much TV, too many activities.  We can look for ways to cut back so that we aren’t running ourselves ragged.

 Addressing the reasons behind my kids’ procrastination, instead of just calling them lazy, is helping them get their work done in a more timely manner. 

And, yeah, I think it’s helping me get my work done, too.

This Is How Love Wins

I am a Christian and, while I often write without specifically mentioning my faith, it colors everything, absolutely everything, that I do and am.  It is the source of my deepest inspiration and the bedrock on which my life is built.  I don’t normally post videos and other media on this blog, but I was listening to a song this morning while hiding out in my bathroom (go figure) and it struck me.  I had to share it.  If you have a moment, and the inclination, click the link below.

Warning:  The video is pretty graphic so exercise caution if you have little ones in the room.  And one more thing.  If you don’t already know, the recording artist for this song has undergone some staggering suffering in his personal life.  (You can learn about it here).  Knowing this makes this song that much more poignant, I think.

The Cool (But Surprisingly Nice) Kids’ Table

The Internet can be a nasty place, like a high school cafeteria in a bad section of town.  But sometimes you walk in with your new backpack that you hope doesn’t look too TJMaxx and you see some girls at a table.  You think, I have to sit somewhereMaybe they aren’t too cool for the likes of me.  So you sit down and they start talking to you and it’s just so much better than you thought.

At my Internet table today is Cara Meredith.  She’s a writer who’s encouraging and extremely pregnant.  It’s a solid combo, that.  She’s letting me sit next to her and we’re talking about how sometimes little things have the biggest impact.  If you want, you can come over.  Bring your brown bag lunch and your discount shoes.  There’ll be no eye-rolling here.

How to Survive Your Life As an Introvert

Are you an introvert?  A creative? A homeschooler?  Some or all of those?  It may be that you have a day job that doesn’t include your offspring, or it could be that you’re an extrovert and love tons of contact with people, your kids included.  Or maybe you are more of a math person and don’t paint or write stories or play music.  But just in case you are somewhat like the person I described above (who’s, uh, a friend of mine), I have a few survival tips for doing your work, loving your people, and keeping your sanity.

Get up early.  This has been my Achilles Heel ever since I gave birth to my first child and started worshiping sleep.  I hate to wake up.  I find it truly horrible most days, like coming off Demerol.  Truth is, I think I’m hardwired to be a night owl.  I love the dark quiet when everyone else has slipped into their nightly coma.  It’s my time to think and be alone.  It feels like cheating the system, somehow.  Unfortunately staying up late and sleeping in is not conducive to my actual life.  My kids want to get up and start the day, even as middle schoolers.  And if they do that, and I’ve only been awake a few minutes before they come downstairs, and I’ve had no time alone, no time to deal with personal stuff, I feel pushed and unprepared for the rest of the day.

  It never gets any better. 

So this school year I decided to get up very early and stare off into space, then read my Bible and pray, and then write for a long time, before I tackle my day job (homeschooling/mothering/homemaking).  This means that I have to go to bed earlier, which is hard.  So hard.  Otherwise I’ll be very tired the next day, which might be worse.  I’ve been doing this waking up early for a while now and I’m happy to report that it’s working.  All that alone time to think, to process, to pray, and work on my craft is balm to my soul.  I think it’s making me a better mom and a better homeschooler.  I think it’s making me a better writer, too, as it’s guaranteeing me daily time to write.

Take breaks in the day.  Introverts love people, but they find them exhausting and depleting.  We need to take time to be by ourselves and recharge throughout the day.  In college, I took bathroom breaks between classes, even if I didn’t have to go, because it meant a few seconds when I didn’t have to talk, smile, interact, etc with others.  Weird?  Maybe.  I don’t know.  What I do know is that being home with my kids can sometimes feel just as depleting as being at a party, even though I love them dearly and they’ve learned to avoid pushing my buttons most days. 

These days, I go into my bathroom (I see…a pattern) and shut the door.  I lock said door and I stare off into space or pray.  Sometimes I bring my laptop in there and check my email or text a friend.  (Sorry, friends, I’m communicating with you from my toilet).  I have noticed that if I take these five minute breaks throughout the day I feel tanked up to tackle math or endless discussions about Minecraft better.

Build in treats.  I soothe my subconscious by telling myself, and my kids, that we have fun moments planned for later.  By fun moments I mean time on the XBox for them, or maybe a trip to the library, and food items and Netflix for me.  This might not be an introvert thing now that I think about it.  It might just be a person thing.  Anyway, my kids and I know that we’ll work hard when we have to and then we’ll do treat-ish things, even if they’re small.  Sometimes my treat is closing my bedroom door and working on my manuscript a little longer.  Sometimes it’s driving to Starbucks by myself.  Whatever.  Letting my mind know that it’s OK to feel exhausted now, and that I plan to soothe it later, helps me as an introvert to keep going when I feel like disappearing into my hidey-hole prematurely.

Life is not easy, I don’t care who you are.  But understanding your personality and leveraging this knowledge to maximize your effectiveness in your daily life can help.

What do you do to recharge and replenish?