Monday, October 13, 2014

Taking Offense (A Gentler Approach)

Somewhere, deep in my mom's photo drawer, there is an old photo my sister and me. My sister is sweetly smiling at the camera. I am looking at her with literal open-mouthed rage. My little five year old brow is blackly furrowed and my mom calls my expression "I have never been so insulted in all my life!" The honest portrayal of an apparent bruised emotion leaps right out of the photograph. I laugh every time I see it. 

I don't remember what upset me so badly that day, but I can guarantee it was something that felt life shattering at the time. Offenses feel like that. Irrepairably devastating. 

I think about that photo today after talking to a friend about hurt feelings and treating one another well and figuring out the balance in living authentically while dealing gently with the people around us. 

My mom always taught us to take no offense where none was meant. It's a  good rule of thumb, something that makes good logical sense there on the page. But life doesn't always feel logical. Emotions don't follow rules of conduct.  If I'm hurt, it hurts. If someone accidentally knocks you off your bike, it still hurts -even if it wasn't meant to. 

It's a good reminder for me. I'm not the sensitive type, generally speaking. I put my foot in my own mouth often enough to know that accidents happen, spoken and unspoken. I tend to hold my mom's exhortation up as an excuse for myself. I don't mean to be objectionable, so people should just get over it. But that doesn't address the reality of hurt. That pain is pain, knowingly inflicted or accidentally fumbled. 

In the mama world, offenses are rampant, both intended and accidental. Someone posts an article we don't agree with and suddenly we wonder if that mom is secretly judging us. Someone else chooses a different path, or doesn't take our advice, and it can be too easy to feel slighted, rejected or found wanting. 

Sometimes we make assumptions which are just as damaging. "She home schools so she must think I'm evil for sending kids to school." "She works so she must think I'm lazy because I don't." Instead of investing in an actual relationship, we wall ourselves in with defenses. 

Mothering is so personal, so tied up in our self worth that we can get a little crazy with the defensiveness. I know. I've done it. 

The answer isn't a blanket statement of "take no offense where none was meant!" It's not "don't have an opinion because it could hurt someone's feelings!" The answer, for all moms, for all women, and dare I say for all people is simply this: 

Be kind. Understand that your perspective may not be the only one, or the only right one. Be gentle. Treat each other the way you'd like to be treated. Ever make a mistake? Me, too. Let's give each other grace, yes? Don't be afraid to apologize and always, always forgive. It's alright to sit with the pain of a slight, but know that harboring those feelings long term only breeds further discord. Take your time, but move toward letting it go. 

The world is a more gentle and peaceful place when we can live together as beautifully varied people and learn to love the differences. Even if I'm pretty sure I'm mostly right. At least some of the time. 

Tuesday, October 7, 2014


There's not much in this world than can raise my spirits quite like a package of yarn in the mail. It came last week, just one skein of malabrigo sock in azules. Yep, that did it. 

I cast on for another sunny side baby cardigan. Are you all sick of me knitting these? Because I'm far from done. I love this pattern for a couple of reasons. 

One, because it uses in many cases just one skein of yarn. That enables this knitter on a shoestring to buy nicer stuff than if I needed several skeins. Two, because it's pretty universally appealing and a star at baby showers. And three because there are always new babies popping up in my circles. One simply cannot knit too many baby sweaters. 

I had thought knitting was making me nauseous but really it was chart reading.   Thankfully after the pattern was established I didn't need it anymore and could just keep on with it. I'm pretty in love. 

What are you working on? 

(Forgive the iPhone posting. Still shaking money trees, hoping for a chrome book soon!)

Monday, October 6, 2014

High Hopes #MindfulMotheringMondays

I had high hopes for this fall.

After a couple years where frost froze apple blossoms before they had a chance to bloom, I was looking forward to taking my kids back to the orchard. One of my favorite childhood memories with my parents and something my kids ask about each year. I thought maybe this would be the year we'd make costumes for Halloween - my gang has been chattering about being characters from the Narnia books we've been reading together. And I've got about a million patterns queued on my Ravelry page with Christmas ideas. Projects for cozy late nights at home in the deep darkness of Fall.

But this year looks a bit different. This year I'm finding myself once again sidelined. Not quite up for dragging six kids and huge bags of apples through the orchard. Not even thinking about costumes yet. A bit nauseated by knitting, which is cruel and unusual, but also too tired at night to stay up and attempt more than a row at a time anyway.

It's enough to squash those hopes right up, like a rotting apple under a toddlers shoe. All sickeningly sweet and so not what you're looking for. I just wanted a lovely fall, full of all the stereotypical fall things that I unabashedly love. Instead my house is a mess, fieldtrips impossible, days exhausting. It's disappointing and, worse, guilt inducing.

There's nothing quite like a side of Mommy-guilt with your morning sickness. Ask me how I know. 7 pregnancies and I still struggle to see past the worry that the big kids are shouldering too much or not getting enough. That we are missing out on everything good and it's all my fault. Because that's how it feels some days.

But on a cold Sunday afternoon when the kids had asked to go apple picking and we said no, no because Mama is tired, no because the babies need naps, no because it's just not a good time, my Jonah took matters into his own hands. He brought down a blanket from the upstairs cupboard and spread it over my knees on the couch. Then he went and made a little snack plate for me, slipped a movie in the Blu ray player and cuddled right up beside me. "You never watch movies with us," he said. "I like it when you do."

These kids teach me so much. Remind me so much. Show me so much mercy and point me to the right answer in more ways than I can count.He found a way to make the most of the day we had and worked within the circumstances to turn it into something special.

Life doesn't just happen within the parameters of planning. Sometimes just keeping your hands open to whatever life has to offer ends up blessing you more than you could have anticipated. No matter where we are and what we are up against, today there is a way to make the most of it. To choose joy, to choose fun, to choose love. To choose to cut loose expectations receive unexpected graces instead.

Finding ways to love the moments you're in is the way to unlock more joy than a perfectly posed photo of all six kids in front of an apple tree ever could. After 7 pregnancies, I'm still learning just this: Today is alive with more grace than any of us could ever fathom.

I can choose to focus on what isn't going my way - but to do so is to choose blindness. Instead, with the help of these kids? I'm keeping my eyes wide and hands open. There is goodness to be had in this moment and place and I don't want to miss a drop.

{It's Mindful Mothering Mondays, a day to take a deep breath and write out your mothering journey, whatever form it takes. A day to link up for encouragement from others who are in this same phase of life. A day of writing out the trials and triumphs and what you're learning right where you are, right now.

You might post recent struggles or thoughts. Maybe just a picture or a quote. Or maybe you'll just come here and read the links that others post. Whatever form your participation takes, this is a day for you.
We are all in this, together. Together, we can encourage and build one another up, be honest with our shortcomings and strengthened by community to keep fighting the good fight.

I chose Mondays because what Mama doesn't need a little encouragement on a Monday?

I hope you'll meet with me! Here's what to do ~

Link up your post below in the comments. Remember to put the link to the exact post you want to link, and not just your blog url. Include in your post a link back here so others who want to join in can find us! And visit some other Mamas who have linked up.

Post the community graphic within your post, so people who are reading your Mindful Mothering post can come back here and find the rest of us! You can use the hashtag #MindfulMotheringMondays on Twitter and Instagram to connect further.

Invite the writers of your favorite blogs to join in!

Share this meme with others on facebook and twitter. This community is for all moms, and the more that participate, the more we will be able to enjoy!!}

Grab the graphic here:


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