Posted in audience participation, connections, mental health, parenting, socializing, thoughtfulness, tips, vulnerability

School. Virus. Sadness. Self-care. Hope.

Here in Arizona, the governor recently announced that public school buildings are closed for the rest of this school year. (Schools aren’t closed; the buildings are closed.)
Teachers and principals are still working.
I’m sad for all of the kids and teachers and parents who had something in the fourth quarter to look forward to. This is many seniors (remember: not everyone likes high school, so for some, this is a relief) and others moving up a level. Performances, dances, ceremonies, awards. “My last ____” just disappeared.
I’m sad for all the kids who go to school to get structure, to get love, to get consistency who are now looking at five or more months at home (spring break plus fourth quarter plus summer).
I’m sad for all the kids who are now working manual labor to try to help their families make ends meet. (Yes, that includes elementary-aged kids.)
I’m sad for the parents who are stressed out about trying to make their kids do their schoolwork (when really, love and connection and emotional safety are way more important — now and always…though those are different than “do whatever you want; another post for another day).
I’m sad for all of the lost birthday parties and quinceañeras and bar mitzvahs and  playdates and baby showers and weddings.
I’m sad for all of the people whose anxiety has shot up.
I’m sad for all of the people who have lost someone (virus-related or not) and can’t seek comfort in community.
I’m sad for all of the people who are separated from loved ones who are hospitalized (whether because of the virus or not).
I’m sad for all of the people who continue to mingle with others because they are so unwilling to accept their own vulnerability.
Stay in touch with people.
Do things at home that make you feel good.
If cleaning the house is a “should” and creating art is a “want,” create art. There’s enough to do that needs to be done (work for some, dishes, cooking, dishes, keeping other people and animals alive, dishes, laundry, dishes … so many dishes). When you have time outside of the needs, spend time on the wants. The shoulds can get done later.
Truly.
(If cleaning the house feels good, then do it! I know sometimes cleaning is a drag, and every now and then, a cleaning bender is mysteriously inspired. Wait for inspiration. And if you’re never inspired … it’s OK.)
Play.
Create.
Soak up beautiful things.
Take advantage of so many arts being available online (performances, galleries, etc.).
Turn on some music and dance and sing in the living room. (And make a house rule that no one makes fun of anyone else for how they look or sound doing it—emotional safety is important and “harmless teasing” erodes emotional safety.)
Get outside. Not socially, but sun is good for you in a myriad of ways.
Read. (Books, magazines, whatever. We were pounded with what “counts” as reading when we were in school, and it was bullshit. Read whatever interests you.)
Exercise. Go for a walk or a bike ride or do yoga or weightlifting or aerobics in your living room or your yard or on your patio.
Support the people around you and let them support you. We’re in our own little cells now, but we can still reach out and stay connected. Talk on the phone. Talk via video chat. Text. Email. Write letters.
So when it all passes and the fear settles and the anxiety reduces and we can gather again, we have changed the world for the better in the mean time.
In the mean time … stay home.
Posted in motivation, tips

If you want to use it, make it accessible

A common bit of eating advice is to make convenient the foods that you actually would like to be eating more of. Produce on the counter or in obvious places in the fridge. Junk food harder to get to, not noticeable as soon as you open the fridge or pantry door (if it’s in the house at all).

It’s true with more than food.

We have three ukuleles here at the house. They were tucked in their cases in a corner in the living room. At The Tall Daddy’s house, there was an electric piano in the office.

Occasionally, we’d pull out the ukes. Every now and then, he’d play the piano.

We just did some rearranging in the living room, and the ukuleles are hanging on the wall now. And we decided to bring over the electric piano.

So now, the instruments are all right in the main thoroughfare in the house. And you know what?

They’re getting played. Not necessarily daily, but substantially more than every now and then.

What do you want more of in your house? Can you make it more easily accessible? (And the flip side: can you make less accessible things you want less of?)

Posted in know better do better, mental health, mindset, parenting, tips

Be careful!

There is no shortage of parenting advice out there. Its quality varies, and its application varies.

I’ve also figured out that many of the pieces that are excellent are applicable to all humans, not just little ones.

Avoid saying “be careful.”

Why?

It’s useless.

Give specifics. What do you actually want them to watch out for?

For example: be careful crossing the street.

Instead: Cross the street at the corner. Remember to look both ways before you cross, wait for cars to go before you go, and walk.

Yeah, that’s a lot of directions. If they don’t have those in place already, maybe they’re not ready to take that one on alone.

Much of the time, when we tell someone to be careful, it’s not because we think they need the reminder but because we’re trying to do something with our own anxiety about their safety.

So instead of telling them to be careful, tell yourself to be calm, give useful directions if needed, and on we go.

Posted in mindset, motivation, tips

The motivating power of having a streak

I am just a few days shy of a year of daily blog posts here.

At the beginning, it was pretty easy, as the beginning often is. Because—exciting!

And then it was less easy. Because—work!

The last few weeks, there have been many days that, were it not for the streak, I wouldn’t have written and posted.

Apply that to you.

If you’re looking to make a habit, find a way to keep track (in a tangible way) of doing it daily. Mark a paper calendar, use an app, whatever.

Eating veggies. Drinking enough water. Getting enough sleep. Taking 15 minutes for yourself in a quiet space. Exercising. Talking to friends. Spending half an hour uninterrupted/distracted with your child. Or your spouse. Reading. Journaling. Making the quilt you’ve never made time for.

Whatever The Thing is that you need to make part of your life. Do it. Just a little bit. Every day. Keep track. Make a streak. Keep the streak alive. You can do it!

Posted in know better do better, marriage, mindset, parenting, socializing, thoughtfulness, tips

And instead of but

When a sentence has two parts—the first part positive and the second part negative—the conjunction makes a big difference in how the complete sentence is received.

“You played that song really well, but this note should be two beats.”

“You played that song really well, and this note should be two beats.”

“You played that song really well. Next time, play this note two beats.”

Those sentences feel different as the receiver.

“But” in the middle negates the first half of the sentence.

“And” in the middle leaves both parts of the sentence intact.

This trick (that is easy to do but and hard to remember) improves message reception in nearly any context: work, spouse, kids, friends, teammates.

Of course—there is a boundary on your responsibility for your message being received as intended. And there’s context. Simply using and instead of but doesn’t change those variables.

Someone who is programmed to reject praise and focus on negative isn’t going to hear the goodness up front, regardless what follows. (That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try.)

Someone whose work is never good enough or who has been pounded with criticism perhaps should be offered only the compliment, with the second half saved for just before the next attempt. (“Remember when you do this to include xyz detail.”)

And, because I have a child who is That Age, I can’t write a post with that many “but”s in it without thinking “chicken butt!”