Funny Thing in Threes

In a family of funny quirks, my daughter was bound to have a few of her own.  Though it is no surprise, some of her peculiar habits have me scratching my head.  Honestly, it’s scratching my head wondering where in the world that Little One has gone.  002See the Little Ones in her little world are small stuffed animals or toys, they are paired in sets of threes, there are certain ones for bath time and certain ones for bedtime, and the bedtime ones are interchangeable with different sets of Little Ones – following along?  She has never been a kid with a comfort item, no particular blanket or stuffed animal.  Instead she has lots and the important one of the moment.  Sets of Little ones are invited to ride along in car rides or on trips.  At Nana’s house she is thrilled to make tiny pillows for her Little Ones complete with tiny tassels or bows.  I find tiny pillows all over my house and car.  Sometimes it seems our lives are ruled by the Little Ones.

By some bizarre miracle I can follow along with which Little One she is referring to, even without it’s specified name.  And by my own psychic will, seem to be able to predict who will fall in and out of the set of three for bedtime.  With my mommy night vision, I am capable of reaching into the dark and find the missing Little Ones after lights go out and bedtime stories are long finished.  All of my super mom power still cannot fathom where this all began and how she came up with calling them the Little Ones.  I just chalk it up to my little girl and her funny things, this one being a funny thing in threes.

01

Advertisements

Camping Cheers and Six Years

Camp Site“This is one of Mommy and Daddy’s favorite things to do.  We want to share it with you and have fun together.”  I explained to Parker as she completed round 2 of timeouts in the car.  She nodded and smiled, apologized for whining and fussing, and we returned to blissfulness at the picnic table.

Camping is one of our favorite past times and this was our practice run for Parker.  My husband figured it would be better to start with a day trip to a camp site and see how she managed.  Although, right away she began asking where is the tent and how are we going to sleep?  Her curious mind was satisfied with our explanations to only stay out a while and not all night, then she jumped right into collecting twigs for helping Daddy to start a fire.

For a four year old, who seems constantly stimulated by toys, puzzles, books, electronics, music etc.  It was quite an adjustment for her to create her own fun, to explore in nature and to sit still to watch the fire (for about 20 second intervals at a time).  In hindsight, I could have brought more toys to help her stay content.  After all, there are only so many times you can fill a hallowed acorn shell with water for the Frozen Anna doll before that gets old.  Or maybe it was just a perfect way to demonstrate to her, you don’t need “things” to have a good time with people you love.  During our camping adventure, Parker and I hiked in the woods.  Or On Our Adventure Hike Lake Clintonshould I say she waddled down to the lake and then clung to my back like a koala bear while I clawed my way back up the steep ravine.  She assisted Daddy with gathering supplies and cleaning up.  She observed other camp goers and commented on the super swanky RV’s, “Can we get one of those?” And of course, she devoured the always necessary camping dessert.  Except as soon as her s’more started falling apart and getting her fingers sticky, I had to be the holder while she took bites and then carefully wiped her fingers and lips back to unsticky perfection.

Smores Attack

It was a wonderful idea my husband initiated on a beautiful fall day.  The outing was a reminder of what we do together when we are having fun, being adventurous and working well together as a team.  On our sixth wedding anniversary, I am so thankful to continue to do the things we love to do together and to get to share this experience with our daughter.  Cheers to six years, to camping out, to cheese and crackers, to being more of the best and less of the rest, cheers to daily celebrations of happiness and to many more anniversaries (and campouts) in the future.

Camp Kiss

I Love Lucy

Next month will be the five-year anniversary since moving into our current home.  Remembering back to the months of house hunting with our realtor John makes me laugh.  We might have been one of his more frustrating couples to work with since we had inquiries into multiple locations spread around the Kansas City metro area and fickle possibilities of what we were hoping for in our first home together.  Old versus new, split level versus ranch style, garages, fireplaces, walk in closets, full renovations versus freshly done renovations, acreage versus small plots…  We made it nearly impossible for him to narrow down the possibilities.  After one missed opportunity in Grandview, one unaccepted offer in Overland Park, and one day too late offer in Brookside, we were exhausted with the search and prepared to find somewhere to rent when we gave it one last shot.

We returned to a house we had stopped at before in South Kansas City, we called it “the refrigerator house” since the stainless steel feature in the home we clearly remembered and liked.  From the outside it looked really small, as most of the houses in the area were constructed in the 50’s with a two bedroom, one bathroom layout.  This home had an addition added later to create another living space and bedroom onto the back of the house and the basement was finished off with another living space and second bathroom.  There was nothing spectacular about the house, it didn’t fulfill everything we were looking for in a home and the colors were all wrong.  The location was great, we feared wasting money on rent over building equity in a home and knew our first home wouldn’t be our forever home so we made an offer.

Shortly after moving in walls began getting painted, window treatments were hung and the house became our home – even after we had to repair the refrigerator.  We became friendly with some neighbors and other neighbors we were seemingly invisible to with no acknowledgment at all.  The first autumn in the house rolled around and I noticed a homeless woman digging in our recycling on the curb Thursday mornings before I went to work.  Peering out the window I could see her torn skirt, old shoes, an over-sized coat and a scarf covering her hair.  One morning I sadly watched her digging in the blue box at the end of our driveway and pull out an empty detergent pail, she carried it across our lawn and out of my view.  I quickly moved to another window to catch her path from another angle, and watched as she passed across the street and added the pail to gardening tools in the yard across the street.

Eventually I met my neighbor, who I initially viewed as a homeless woman, her name is Lucy.  In the past five years I have grown to love the garden growing, garbage gathering, mismatched clothes wearing, widowed friend.  She explained to me how she collects pop tabs off of the cans people put in their recycling she gives to her church and the Box Top stamps she finds to bring to her granddaughter.  Fearing the woman’s frail condition and level of activity I began putting our pop tabs in an envelope for her.

A few years ago Lucy’s doctor told her she needed to stop taking on so much; cleaning her house, keeping up her garden and roaming the street for treasures in trash was too much at her age.  Her son’s have tried to convince her to move to a retirement community, and it seemed like during times when Lucy struggled with insomnia and confusion she considered it.  Then when spring would roll around and the flowers returned to life, so did Lucy.

lucy2Having raised her family in the home, which presently has orange shag carpeting I imagine was installed about 40 years ago, she knows the neighborhood and history of previous occupants.  She meets all of the neighbors, even the ones who haven’t acknowledged us in five years.  She delivers flowers from her garden, often in reusable gems from recycling bins like bottles and plastic cups.  During certain times of the year there are daily deliveries of flowers from Lucy, sometimes a sweet smelling surprise found on the front deck or a small bouquet in her empty milk carton from the Meals on Wheels lunch.

Five years ago I never would have guessed how I would feel about my house.  I like my house, the location is great,  it feels like our home, best of all I love Lucy.  It’s wonderful having a neighbor who is happy to give and receive hugs, I feel humbled to hear “Bless you” from an older woman in tattered clothing, and I don’t mind getting pulled into conversations with the neighborhood historian.  Plus it always puts a smile on my face to get a fresh bouquet of flowers.

lucy1JPG

Stop Looking Outside, Happiness is Within

eckhartThere are so many people who struggle through life dependent on the next thing.  If I get to do (fill in the blank) then I will be happy.  When I get (fill in the blank) I will be better off.  If he/she stops (fill in the blank) everything will be fine.  On one hand it is necessary for growth to create goals to work towards, however, allowing those plans to dictate your mood moment to moment is detrimental.  Your happiness is not dependent on whether you pass or fail, whether you have support from those around you or what monetary gains you create along the way.  If you are waiting for the accomplishments to arrive before you will feel content, you may find those accomplishments short-lived and quickly replaced with new obstacles to overcome.  And when you are placing your happiness on the responsibility of the actions of others, you will never find peace.

To find satisfaction within your own life you must be at peace with the present moment, flaws and all.  Eckhart Tolle says “Whatever the present moment is, accept it as if you had chosen it.”  It is part of the path of your life, exactly as it should be, both the good and the bad.  The challenges you face are opportunities for learning and practicing new skills, there is nothing you cannot overcome and there is no challenge which does not serve a purpose for you.  Stop looking outside yourself or waiting for the moment for things to change, happiness is being at peace with the present and the path you are on.

March Against Monsanto: Kansas City

In Kansas City a crowd gathered at J.C. Nichols fountain to share their concern about our food industry with fellow residents and to join in with millions of others marching today in protest against the GMO giant Monsanto.  Here are some pictures from the days event.  To learn more about Monsanto and the dangers of GMOs click here or begin your own internet search for the truth, you won’t catch it on any television broadcast.

Don’t Change Your Smile

smileSometimes the world can be overwhelming with tears, fears and frustrations.  War, controversy, politics, violence, injustice and natural disasters all happening simultaneously.

Consuming so much negativity is detrimental to our minds, bodies and relationships with each other.  The terror of all that is bad can be paralyzing, and yet in the time spent worrying we miss so many opportunities to smile, appreciate the positive and truly live.

It is a difficult balance to not be apathetic about problems, while not allowing the problems to consume us.  How can we work to improve the world without the circumstances of the world delivering us to a rotten place?

It starts with keeping a smile.

 

Buddha Boots

In third grade I had the distinct realization my family was not like others.  Obviously a little slow in my childhood, or just too busy with Barbies and baby dolls to notice, I finally had the clarity to understand how different my family was from my friends’.  We did not go to church on Sundays and we ate a vegetarian diet.  In that devastated moment I questioned why my parents would be sabotaging my chances at leading a normal existence.  I can imagine my mom reassuring me in her usual calm and undisturbed manner, suggesting I can go to church if I choose and I can eat meat if I choose too. And so I did.  I tried tasting meat and I attended Sunday school with friends a few times before deciding I wasn’t really missing much with either.

Into adulthood the urge to eat meat never reappeared and the desire to find religion, well that never presented itself either, except I am at a firm disadvantage when biblical trivia comes up in games or television trivia. Despite my lack of time spent in places of worship, my life was not absent of spiritual teachings. And as I learned more about religions in general, I found ideas based in the Buddhist traditions paralleled my own thoughts the most.

Still not identifying with any specific religion I decided to take a Basics of Buddhism class to learn about Buddhism, practice meditation and give mommy some required weekly time out each week.

Part of week three’s lesson covered the Four Nobel Truths relating to dissatisfaction and suffering. The Nobel Truths recognize how all beings desire happiness and peace even though the nature of the world is impermanent. In other words, what makes us happy and secure in this moment could be very different in the next moment since life is ever-changing. The Nobel Truths explain if you can recognize your attachment, delusion or craving for what is not present in your life you can relieve yourself from the suffering associated with it.  Our thoughts revolving the attachment can perpetuate a negative emotion and the opposite is true by letting go of the attachment.

This principle can be applied to anything which causes suffering and it could be extremely useful if one could be effective at using it for major situations.  Imagine if you could just let go of the attachment to a home following a foreclosure, a spouse following a divorce, or a loved one following a death.  Imagine skipping out on the grief, despair and anger to move towards acceptance of what is present instead of what is missing.

Amazing, in concept, to have the power within my own mind to escape suffering. I’m not going to even pretend, after a few weeks of beginning to learn about Buddhism, that I could incarnate the patience and understanding of a Buddhist monk in the moment of crisis. I’m sure I would completely lose sight of these lessons and appear completely irrational should a tragedy occur in this moment, however, I have already had some real life application of this teaching.

Two days after my lesson on the Four Nobel Truths I was struck my the necessity to implement this strategy and acknowledge I was causing my own suffering. As so much of my learning is associated with my toddler these days she was also the target of this scenario. We had been shopping at a kids consignment sale, and with limited two-year old patience we managed to pick out a few toys and avoid the coveted riding toy area beforebuddhaboots1 we had to make it through the line to check out. The checkout line happened to be situated next to the long table of shoes. I’m usually not one to be interested in previously worn shoes and since my daughter’s Nana can’t leave a store without buying her a pair I hardly ever even browse.  Except these red leather cowgirl boots caught my eye and I immediately envisioned these being beloved shoes she would want to wear with every outfit. I could picture red boots over leggings or with a jean skirt and a white t-shirt. She would be stylish and ready to hop on a horse at any moment. Excited by my finding I showed them to Parker and even offered her the choice in colors, and was thrilled when she agreed with the red.

When we got home I couldn’t wait to try them on, to watch the magic and celebrate our consignment sale find. The boots slid on easily and about as quickly as they were on she shook her legs to kick them back off.  Without an explanation, she decided she would not wear them.  It seemed the harder I urged, the frequency I requested and the more creative I tried to trick her into the boots only made her increase the stubbornness against it. After much frustration and disappointment I remembered the ideas of the Four Nobel Truths and recognized I was creating my own suffering by holding onto my attachment of the red boots.

buddhaboots2We can spend a lot of energy being frustrated by things not going as planned, by failure or changes to our vision. And in some cases, if we really decide we don’t want to be unhappy, we can be mindful of what’s causing the suffering and let go of how we thought things should be.  I let go of the red boots, I acknowledged my ideas of how adorable they would be weren’t worth the misery I was feeling with my toddler creating her own vision.  I finally gave up on the boots and formulated the connection to the Buddhist teachings with this plan to write about it.  When I set up the boots to take a picture, Parker suddenly regained interest.  She pulled them from my picture set-up, sat down and pulled each onto their respective foot.  I snapped a few pictures while she stomped and wiggled, then within minutes they were kicked back off again.  After the little tease it was easier for me to remind myself to let go of the attachment – these little red boots were only meant to be a Buddha Boot lesson for me.

buddhabootsgirl

Warrior Dash 2013

The Warrior Dash is a 5K race with various obstacles along the way including hurdling fire, crawling through mud and climbing ropes.  In Kansas City, this years race happened to fall on a weekend after a week with several inches of April showers so the track was extra muddy.  The weekend remained overcast and the temperatures unseasonably cold.  And while no running activity is ever appealing to me, a group of friends convinced me to do the dash last year.  It turned out to be a ridiculously messy adventure to which we all agreed we might need a little more conditioning to actually appear somewhat fit to do it again.

What was I thinking – I don’t run, I thought as my friend Jeanne tried to cheer me on and push me to not stop until we got to the next obstacle.  Never in my life did I think I would be pleased to fall into a pit of mud or go wading into a murky pond, yet on that day we were like pigs on a farm needing relief from the heat.  Toward the end I was so exhausted I could hardly push my body weight over the logs I was attempting to hurdle, just as the fit and fast people from the next wave time effortlessly leapt past me.  Jeanne pushed and pushed me until I finally convinced her to run ahead and I’d meet her at the end/ As soon as she was out of sight I pondered if anyone would notice if I laid down to take a nap on the side of the track.

This year my friends all signed up again, and my best intentions to learn to run and build muscle for climbing, I did not prepare at all.  Fortunately or unfortunately, I dropped my plans to participate after dealing with the flu days before hand.  This year I went as a cheerleader/photographer, maybe next year I will be trained and ready to run.
w13My fanatically clean friend called me up a few days before she was scheduled to run the Warrior Dash.  She planned to run it this year for the first time and had an important question needing an answer.

“Do you have to donate your shoes?” Crystal, asked.  While the answer is no, I explained most people do throw their shoes in the suggested piles after running.  The shoes are cleaned up and given to charity, while registration fees contribute to St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital.  “I just got rid of all my old tennis shoes,” she stressed.  Despite knowing the Warrior Dash was scheduled soon, she couldn’t control her compulsive decluttering.

“Well at least when it’s over you will have something to clean,” I optimistically suggested assuming this might appease someone who finds so much pleasure in cleaning.

“Oh no, that’d be too messy.”  She reported her husband will be responsible for washing her tennis shoes after the race.

Seven Deadly Sins

7deadly sinsI started to take a Basics of Buddhism class, four weeks in on a twelve week course.  I plan to write more about lessons from the class and continue to practice meditation.  For now, I wanted to share a little quote from my book with a photograph for a little Friday inspiration.  Hope you have a wonderful weekend.

Round 2: Winter Wins

Okay, round 2 of snow in one week is unusual for Kansas City, especially in the amount of snowfall we have seen. Never again will I say out loud “I think we are done with snow for the year.” Because after the simple phrase was uttered from my mouth, nearly 2 feet fell, multiplying snowfall totals for Kansas City’s winter.

Monday night we were buzzed about when the storm should come and how much more could it really snow after last week. When I went to sleep there was only a few flurries and when I woke up it was white out conditions and another 10 inches of accumulation. The street in front and on the side of the house only had a few tire tracks, signaling most of the city rightfully opted to stay in for the day.

05In our backyard a tree branch had fallen square on my daughter’s play house/slide and tore down phone lines with it. I feared they were power lines and quickly text my neighbor where the lines connected to ensure she had power. She told me her land-line phone was not working and her cable was cutting in and out. We made mention of the downed lines to the online city reports, though it’s unlikely we will see anyone out to fix it soon as there are still so many more people without power in the city.

This round of snow was heavier and more hazardous than last week’s due to the weight and wetness. It clung to the trees, sagged branches to the ground and snapped limbs over cars, houses and power lines. Roofs even collapsed from the volume of snow it was unable to withstand. This snow would have been much better for snowball, snowmen and forts too except I couldn’t convince anyone to come out and play with me.

I spent about four hours off and on throughout the morning shoveling my driveway, my deck and my neighbor’s driveway and sidewalk – it’s only fair since it was our tree to knock out her cable and phone, right? In breaks I would go into the house and plead with my two-year old to put on some snow pants and come play. She adamantly said no and I would go back outside again, hoping she would change her mind and want to come along. One time I even tried to force her into her winter attire which only caused a two-year-old fit and mommy failure.

My husband, also home for snow day, stationed our toddler at an open window in the living room. She stood on a chair supervising my shoveling job and jabbered to me loud enough for our whole block to hear. She had enormous burst of laughter when my snow balls hit the screen for her entertainment. And she called “where’s Harper?” to alert me when my only snow pal pup ventured too far from the yard so together we whistled for him to come back.

03By the afternoon my body was exhausted and I couldn’t wait to nap along with my toddler. While she got a solid two and half hour nap I laid in bed where I could view the intersection outside my window. After only moments of relaxation I watched a car attempt to turn the corner and quickly halted in the deep ridges where only trucks and SUV’s had been able to pass before. Two passengers got out of the car laughing at their situation and tried to push forward and back, it was quite obvious with the spinning wheels and ammeter effort, neither the driver or passengers had been through conditions like this before. I went outside and offered my shovel then went to get my coat and helped push the vehicle on wards.

Further interrupting my nap, not long after, I noticed yet another car begin to drive down the same way as the other car and then reverse back to the intersection to get stuck. For a brief moment I wondered if maybe I should just shut my blinds and get some rest, until I noticed this was an older gentleman with no passengers so I went to get my coat. By the time I reached him an unmarked white truck with a plow on the front happened to arrive also except in his efforts to shovel a path for the man’s car he also got stuck. I provided the man with the truck with my shovel and while he freed his truck he explained he was only in the neighborhood to get to his son, I assumed maybe he plowed parking lots or private drives and did not work for the city. The older man explained he usually didn’t come down these roads and his usual street was blocked by a downed tree. He had to reverse back through the tracks to the intersection because another car was stuck and blocking his path further down the street. 04

Quickly everyone was back to moving and getting to where they needed to go, except the white truck with the plow I kept seeing after this. This generous individual might have made his way to see his son, then continued to drive through the neighborhood with his plow down to clear safe paths and intersections. I felt like cheering, hugging and telling everyone in the neighborhood what this kind stranger had done for us. After living in this home for four years I understand our neighborhood streets don’t see city plows for days after a storm, so this random act of kindness meant a lot to me and made an immeasurable positive impact on my neighborhood’s ability to commute safely.

With the streets cleared and the city resuming to normal, there is still some anticipation of conditions being treacherous as the snow melts and refreezes. And until my yard is a muddy mess of melted precipitation, I will enjoy the beauty of the snow-covered trees.