The Art of…The Little Things

I was sitting outside and watched a little boy who was diligently following a pigeon around. When the bird stopped walking, the little boy stopped, crouched down and stared at the bird with the intensity of a National Geographic Explorer! His fascination with the bird fascinated me, as I pondered how the simplest things appeal to children. I am always amazed at the way children learn. As they are exposed to more of the world around them, they take in new experiences with such intensity and awe. I guess in some ways we do the same as adults, as we get excited about new technology and gadgets. Perhaps we are more impressed with the extravagant and extraordinary. But I contend that sometimes we need to go back to basics and remember to appreciate the little things in life.

In our relationships, we often expect grand gestures. But when was the last time something subtle and simple made you smile? I found that having children has had a great impact on my simpler view of things. The smallest expressions make the biggest difference. I get joy from the little things – like when my son gives me a hug, “just because.” Or when my daughter comes to me some mornings, wraps her arms around me, nestles her head in the crook of my neck and then softly says, “Mama.” These are the moments I appreciate the most.

When was the last time you took the time to appreciate the little things?

The Art of Storytelling

story-storytelling-word-clouds-cloud-words-tags-related-to-myth-legend-digital-tablet-35485420Today I read a friend’s post about New York’s famous “Black and White” cookies. I shared with her that my Dad used to buy giant ones when were kids, but I probably ate too many and now I get queasy just looking at them! But I started to remember how he introduced me to them. He was telling me some story of his youth and mentioned how his father would buy them for him. I didn’t understand what he was talking about because I had never heard of them. So on our next trip to the bakery, he pointed them out to me and bought a box of them home. I realized that my father ALWAYS did that. Asking my father a question would often result in a long, Cliff Huxtable-esque series of stories. But sometimes, he also took the time to show me what he was talking about. Once I saw a Ouija board in the background scenery of an old episode of Sanford & Son. I didn’t know what it was, but described it to him and asked him what it was. He not only told me – he went out and bought one for me. That was my Dad’s way. What he knew, he taught and he showed. What he wasn’t sure about, he pointed me to our big set of green and white World Book encyclopedias and encouraged me to look it up.

Of course, I have passed this down to my children. They ask me a question, I explain, then I Google it if I need to show them a picture, or enhance the story. Last summer, my children attended a funeral of an elderly family member and began asking questions about his life. For several months afterward, they would continue to ask about other family members, both living and dead. Where were they born? What did they do? How did they die? Every day, they would choose someone else to ask about and I would give them short stories about these relatives. When I shared this with their Sunday School teacher, she reminded me that this was a perfect example of storytelling. This is how family histories and oral traditions are passed down from generation to generation. I thought about this and immediately remembered how well I can recite the bulk of my maternal family history – after years of attending annual family reunions as a child and hearing our family history told each time. As a child, most of my recitation was rote, but now I can tell the story with much more depth and understanding and pass it along to my children – and even to other family members who don’t know the stories.

Let us never forget to tell stories – whether about our past, or the world around  us. Our children, especially, need to shape their worldview in context of their experiences and that of their ancestors. Never ignore a question – it can often lead to great teaching moments, moments that I know I have treasured since my own childhood.

What stories are you telling?

What Time is It?

TimeMy children have known how to tell time for a few years now, but it seems that lately, if there is no clock in their immediate view, they constantly ask, “What time is it?”  They do it all…the…time… I asked them why they want to know and their answer is, “Because we like knowing what time it is.” Duh.

It made me think about how aware we are (or are NOT) about time. Time is something that can be managed, wasted or well-spent, but it cannot be borrowed, changed or given back. When my children were born, time took a different spin – feeding and sleep schedules were monitored, and I had to be aware of how the timing of my activities fit into their timing (something that has not changed!). Effective time management is crucial – whether it is personal, professional, parental, or a combination of all three. Many of you know that I don’t believe in New Year’s Resolutions. Why wait until January 1 to start something you can start TODAY? In terms of time, the 24 hours on December 31 are the same 24 hours that occur on January 1. As a young child, I remember excitedly counting down the minutes until midnight. If we weren’t in church, we were at home and we would make sure to give everyone a Happy New Year greeting. And then 12:01 became just another minute.

Let’s be clear – I DO value the changing from one year to the next. We should be grateful any time we cross from 11:59 to 12 midnight. I have learned of at least 10 deaths over the last two weeks. Old wives’ tales often speak of more deaths at the end of the year/beginning of the new year, so every day we open our eyes is a gift. Having said that, let’s pay attention to the time. What time is it? Is it time to stop wasting time and start using it more wisely? YES! It’s time to stop talking about ‘it’ and start BEING about ‘it.’ Don’t wait for tomorrow – EVERY day is New Year’s Day!

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

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The Art of Understanding Personalities

personality

personality (Photo credit: hang_in_there)

One of the many lessons I have learned over the years is that trying to understand the heart of individuals aids greatly in learning how to deal with them. If you get where they come from, you know where they’re going. Here’s an example: Perhaps someone you know socially is very bossy – I mean always wants to be in charge. Once you really get to know them, you may find that they have NO control at home, or on their job. It doesn’t excuse their behavior, but understanding where they come from can keep you from taking things personally. Just as you should know your audience when teaching, writing or speaking, you should understand personalities when dealing with individuals.

This line of thinking starts at home, with our spouses and our children. One of the most exciting things to me about parenthood is  watching my children’s personality develop. This morning I was listening to my 5- and 7- year old have an intense discussion/mini-argument. Izzy (7) insisted that he was right because he was older. Yvette (5) declared it didn’t matter who was older. Earlier this year, it dawned on me that Izzy is the debating negotiator. The conversation never ends with this guy! Yvette will also stand her ground, and will go toe to toe with her big brother. The difference is, once she makes her point, she drops the mic and walks away. Understanding these personality traits help me deal with them on different levels.  Don’t get it twisted though – I do NOT negotiate with terrorists, and my child will NOT just walk away from me! I’m still the Momma! :-)