It’s cool to be kind

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Kindness. It is a simple premise really.  Yet so many people do not practice it in their day to day life.  Why is that?  Why is it so hard to be kind?

 

kind·ness     ˈkīn(d)nəs/

noun: kindness

the quality of being friendly, generous, and considerate.

Is kindness something you just have (or don’t) or is it more like a muscle that needs to be exercised regularly to grow strong? I believe it is much more the later.

 

“All your words and actions define the world you want to live in.” ~ Thaddeus Golas

 

In order to be kind, we have to pay attention to what is happening around us. As we notice more things and help others, we get a glimpse of other ways of looking at things.

In society today being coarse, forcefully competitive, aggressive and even mean are seen as a form of, or a path to, success or popularity. Criticism and cynicism are taken as signs of powerful intelligence and success. Being kind is often seen as a weakness.   Being kind does not mean you are a doormat however.

To me, being kind takes a lot of courage. This is especially true in today’s world.  Consider this, what if being mean or unkind is a form of self-protection?  What if a person who feels weak and fears exposure for that weakness will keep others at bay by treating them badly?

There is courage in being kind and open and generous in the face of a culture of cynicism and criticism.  Society often casts suspicion on someone who offers uncompensated and unsolicited kindness. There are plenty of people who believe that others are only kind to them when they want something.  There is a risk to being kind, as you can open yourself up to being hurt or taken advantage of.

We are as whole, social beings. We seek out interactions with each other. Being in a permanent state of mistrust and fear is exhausting, and doesn’t help us at all.  How much better our life (and the lives of those around us) would be if we practiced kindness and empathy and generosity and humility?

When a person performs an act of kindness the brain produces dopamine, associated with positive thinking. It is believed that when a person does an act of kindness they feel good on a chemical level. Being kind is good for you!

When you are kind to others, the impact of your action doesn’t stop there. Kindness spreads.  It softens hearts and makes people more aware of the needs of those around them. kindness-1.jpg

I am a huge believer in the “Random Acts of Kindness” movement. Doing something kind and unexpected is a great idea. Those who then pay it forward to someone else spread kindness like ripples in a pond. Maybe we should use the word spontaneous instead of random.  How about ‘randomly spontaneous’ or ‘spontaneously random’?

It is that moment when you see someone struggling to load groceries into their car and you stop to help, or you mow a neighbor’s lawn without being asked because they are sick, or you have a cup of tea and a chat with an elderly or lonely friend. All it takes is ACTING on the nice thoughts that I know pop into your head. lama kindness It takes times, often it takes patience.

It takes you putting yourself out there and doing something!

 

Give / Give

I-DO-Marriage-Series.jpg   Marriage.   This is such an immensely important word to me.  My husband and I have been married 27 years and we can both honestly say that we love and respect each other more today than when we wed.

We feel that marriage is a sacred thing. It is not to be taken lightly. We are far from perfect. We both have our annoying habits, our disagreements, our disappointments, our struggles.  The one thing that never changes is our love for one another.

Marriage is not a give and take. It is not a 50/50 agreement. It is not simple or easy.

Marriage is give and GIVE. Each of you needs to give 100% to the other without expecting anything in return.  The OTHER person’s happiness is of the utmost importance to you. You will sacrifice freely for your spouse. You have each other’s backs and support and cheer each other on.  Marriage is a lifetime of ‘I dos’ and ‘I wills’. It is waking up each morning and choosing your spouse again and again.

You love each other fiercely and gently as needed. You are open. You are honest. You are intimate.

You need to do these things when you are tired and don’t feel like it.

When you are angry.

When you are upset.

When you are stressed out.

Always.

As a married couple you should put your marriage first. Protect it. Keep it safe and nourished. Show the world you are a united front. Speak well of each other at all times. Keep God in your marriage and seek His guidance in all things.

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In future blog posts I will discuss my thoughts in depth on marriage, husbands and wives. For this post, however, I was just thinking about marriage in a general way and wanted to talk about it. Guess what? That means you get to listen!  I have had too many conversations of late that make me worried and sad about what marriage has become. It is seen as disposable, transient.  People get married and call it their 1st marriage…what does that imply? I notice that when many couples fight they threaten divorce.  Divorce is a word that should be taboo in your marriage. It plants a seed.  I am by no means saying that there are not serious reasons that would make seperation or divorce the right choice.  However, a large percentage of couples separate or divorce simply because they are not willing to bend, or fight for, or sacrifice, or work at it.  So why marry in the first place?  I struggle to understand.  I don’t honestly know if I ever will.

For me there is no greater joy, comfort or peace than to share my life with the man that I love.  Facing life together, hand in hand.

 

 

Who am I?

I am on the backside of forty. I am in the downhill slide into being fifty years old and I am okay with that.  I feel that the older I get the more in touch I am with the ‘real’ me.

I think that is partly because I care less about what others think and more about what I think. I care less if people like me and more if I like them. That may sound self-centered but it is a true statement.

I am no longer afraid to say no to things I don’t want to do and I don’t even feel compelled to give an explanation or excuse. I am okay with no being no.  I have become much less sensitive to criticism. I have become more complex.  I have really started to explore my thoughts and turn them over and over in my head to be sure they are honestly MY thoughts.  I have discovered that I have talked about and defended things in the past that were adopted or absorbed by me.  Somehow I believed that they were my own. Upon reflection I knew that was not so.  When I sat there and tried to explain or defend why I felt the way I did about certain things I realized that I did not know.  Maybe I did not know enough about the topic to make an informed decision, and maybe I did not care enough about the topic to even bother to learn.  Maybe someone in my life felt so passionately about it that I did too, just to feel close to them.  I am not sure exactly.  I am glad that I am working through it all and finding my way back to me.

My feelings toward many things have changed with my age or experiences.  I guess that is not surprising.  At least it shouldn’t be.  I am not the same person I was yesterday, let alone a year (or a decade) ago.  I love that don’t you?who-am-i.jpg  I am fascinated by the woman I am and am so curious about the woman I will become.   I am beginning to pursue my interests and my dreams. I am trying new things and just seeing how it goes. I am enjoying the journey in its own right.

So who am I? Well I have no idea but I am having a darn good time figuring it out!

Reason 1,936,242

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It is totally normal to brag about your children isn’t it? I mean all parents do whether the kids deserve it or not. The new age ‘participation trophy’ mentality that is plaguing parents now-a-days takes parental bragging rights to a whole new level.

I will say though, sometimes you do look at your progeny and smile. Damn, they really turned into fine human beings that contribute to society. At least that is our hope, right?   As a parent of grown adult ‘children’ there are a lot of new things to learn. Such as, you can give advice to your adult offspring but they do not have to take it. Or perhaps, that it is often better to let them come to you with a question or problem then for you to offer answers without being asked.  Or even discovering they know more about a subject than you do and you can go to them with a question.

It is also when you find out, in a sense, how you did with the whole parenting thing. Did your children turn into kind, smart, well rounded, well adjusted, compassionate individuals?  Do they help others and try to make the world a better place?

mrk-on-individuality What I wanted to talk about in this post though is reason number 1,936,242 of why I am particularly proud of my children.

Individuality.

I am the mother to four grown children.  I am extremely proud of the people that they have become. They are all very different in many ways.  I think that is fantastic.  As parents we encouraged them to ask questions, read, investigate, and imagine. In fact “look it up” or “google it” is a mantra in our home.  If my husband or I do not know the answer to what they want to know we look it up together, and we both learn something new.

I love that they think for themselves, debate their opinions and beliefs, and know that even if we disagree with them -we support them. We did not want clones of ourselves (though that would be easier sometimes!).  We wanted them to think their own thoughts, follow their own interests, to dream their own dreams and not to be afraid of new things.  To think outside the box. To be thinkers AND doers. Our children all have very distinct opinions on social issues, politics, education, law, ethics, and so on.  It is very satisfying to hear them have intelligent, informed discussions about worldly matters as well as trivial ones.  I am in awe sometimes.  How could these people debating so well in the other room be my babies?  When did this happen? Recently someone pointed out to me that all four of them chose careers that help people in some way.  Wow.  They did.

I am happy to say, that these young adults really are prepared to go forth and make a difference. As a matter of fact, they already have.

A World of Words

 

Vocabulary. Simply put, one of the crucial building blocks to thinking is the depth and breadth of one’s vocabulary.  The more words that you know, the more eloquently you will be able to communicate your ideas to people. This will help you in all aspects of your life.

The understanding and use of a vast vocabulary allows a person to be able to think in a more concise way and to express themselves more clearly. With a large vocabulary you will notice that you can communicate more effectively, improve people’s perception of you, increase your self-esteem, and add sophistication to your speech.

vocab

When a child first learns to talk, they do it first by listening. Adults, especially parents, should seek to create an environment that is rich in both print and the spoken word. This is critical to a child’s language development and in the long run their ability to think.  Most of the time adults do this naturally. When a child utters the word “kitty” most adults will expand upon that by saying something like “Yes that is a kitty, the kitty says meow. The kitty is soft and has a long tail.” You have just expanded that child’s vocabulary and knowledge of the world around her.  As parents, it is incumbent upon us to expand that base knowledge of words. The more a child hears the better. Think aloud, describe what you are seeing or doing, read aloud, talk to them even if all you get back is baby babble.  This is how your child makes connections and builds their vocabulary. Using new words in familiar situations helps them to grow in their ability to understand and use language more precisely.

Don’t think any words are ‘beyond’ their understanding. If you use the word ‘saturated’ instead of wet or soaked …your child will understand what you meant on a basic, generalized level and then it is up to you to reinforce that. “See it is very, very wet. It is saturated.”

Children (and adults!) can expand their world of words by reading. Reading things you love, and things that challenge you will exponentially expand your understanding of words and language.

I try extremely hard not to restrict or steer my children in any particular direction with the books they choose to read. I know, I know…what if they read something that is too mature or disturbing for them? Yes, that could happen. Usually kids are pretty self-regulating but if they do, be there to have that discussion or answer their questions. Let them work through it and watch their mind open up and the learning take hold.  When you see them reading, ask about it. Get a dialog going.  Whether they are reading something way above their reading level or below…if they are enjoying it and getting something out of it, that is all that matters.  They are not just learning about the subject matter of the story, but they are also absorbing the way words fit together to evoke emotion, or perhaps get a point across to the reader.  They are lucky to live in an age where they not only have their parents or teacher but they have the internet readily available if the come across a word they do not understand.

 

I love writing, so words and vocabulary are important to me. I LOVE coming across a word that I don’t know.  I think it is exciting. I always try to use the context of the sentence or story to figure it out, then look it up and see if I am right!  Have you read the ‘Book Thief’?  In the story the young girl does not know how to read, so as she learns if there is a word she does not know she writes it on the wall of the basement.  The wall is like her vocabulary book.  It is a visual expression of her expanding knowledge of words.  She begins to use her new words to beautifully and creatively describe the outside world to her friend Max.  I love this so much.  I want everyone to have that ability. To see and feel something and then to be able to use their words to tell others, in such a way, that they can see and feel it too.

It is never too late. Challenge yourself. Learn. Grow.  Always.

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No is not a 4 letter word

 

As a mom, you want to give your children everything, protect them from all hurts – physical, emotional, real or imagined. You want to give them the world. You just want to keep them happy at all costs

Don’t you?

I am not so sure. In order to become productive, independent, compassionate adults who contribute positively to the world, maybe you should not do that  Maybe, instead, we need to teach them that they are not in fact the center of the universe. Maybe, just maybe, we need to show them that they need to work for things, that failure is not the end of the world, and that not everyone gets a trophy.oppositional-defiance-and-young-kids-is-it-odd-or-just-bratty-behavior_Article

I am opposed to the trend in parenting and child rearing that treats children like little gods. When did adults start deferring to their child’s wishes?  Disappointment and hurts are a part of life. Childhood is the time to practice how to deal with, process and bounce back…all while being in a safe place with Mom and Dad as a backup if you need them.  A backup, not a first line of defense.

I know, I know…you want them to be happy and safe. No matter what.  But I have a secret for you. Move in close and I will share.  I will speak slowly and clearly so you don’t miss any of this.  Here goes……………

By letting your kids run your house and your life and giving into every single whim, you are making them (yourself and your family) miserable in the end. You really are!

But little Timmy was just soooooo upset, I don’t like to see him like that.

So what your saying is you did not do it solely to make little Timmy happy. You mostly did it to make yourself feel better and because it’s just easier to give in.

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Step back and think about this. Yes, it is easier in the now, in the short term.  In the long run however, you are making everyone’s life harder.  You will regret it long term.  Yes it shuts them up and makes them happy and when in public it gets people to stop looking at you.  Here is the thing though; you have just given your small child power.  Power that they are not old enough to handle.  You have also given them knowledge.  You have taught them some important things about yourself, and none of them are flattering.  You have given them the knowledge that there is a large crack in your armor and you have exposed yourself as being weak and easily manipulated.  Great impression huh?  The thought that the one person who is supposed to defend and protect them is weak, is in many ways frightening for a child.  Listen, kids fight the system now and then, but if past experience has taught them that they can outwit and outlast you, they will fight that system all the time with everything they’ve got.  Welcome to Tiny Tyrants.

 

Unfortunately this trend has presented us with an abundance of whiney, self-centered, easily offended young adults and teens. They struggle more than they should with how to handle bad grades, making hard choices, not winning, bullying, and all sorts of ‘real life’ woes.  They have never practiced. Parents (and especially it seems mothers) have a difficult time tolerating their child’s disappointment.  Is that because the child is hurt or sad or because that parent wants to do ‘a good job’?  Probably it’s a combination of both. Again, I totally understand the concept and the feeling behind it.  Seriously though, don’t you want a kid who knows you are there for them AND who knows they can handle things themselves?  Don’t you want them to have self-confidence and strength and adaptability?

My children were stunned and dismayed when they went to college and realized that a large majority of college freshman don’t know how to do laundry, shop for groceries, cook, find their way around, get a prescription when sick, or speak to a professor when then have a problem. How sad is that?  I watched many times when parents would arrive on campus for a visit and proceed to clean their child’s dorm room, bring enough food (which they carefully put away for them), returned clothes washed and folded that they had brought back from home. Parents who call to wake up their son or daughter to get to class on time or call to make sure they have done their homework! These are 19, 20 and 21 year old ADULTS!

Sorry but no.

Why would you want your child to be like this? Why would you inflict this helpless, narcissistic, entitled person on the world?

Children need to learn how to delay gratification. To wait. To work toward something and achieve it. To save up and earn it. To put in blood and sweat and tears and finally accomplish something.  You know that feeling right?  I DID IT!  Look mommy I did it all by myself!

Why in the heck would you deprive your child of that feeling of personal pride?

What about respecting themselves, you and others? What a concept, right?

Let’s all be actual parents…not peers or pals or buddies. Model good behavior and let them see how people should act. Let them see you and others performing acts of kindness, forgiveness, compassion, mercy and love.  Teach them to put others before themselves. Teach them sacrifice for their beliefs.  Teach them to think for themselves.  To get up and brush themselves off and start again when they fail or fall.  Teach them that there are consequences for every action and decision – both good and bad. Make them make decisions and choices and live with those consequences.

To put a spin on Gandhi’s words – TEACH the change you want to see in the world.

Feminism and me…not what you might think

fem·i·nismfeminism
ˈfeməˌnizəm/
noun
noun: feminism
  1. the advocacy of women’s rights on the grounds of political, social, and economic equality to men.

So why would I start with a definition? Seems mundane, boring, simplistic doesn’t it?

Well, without the definition staring you in the face, I can’t really explain my position on this volatile topic.

I think the important word in this definition is the word EQUALITY. To be equal is the whole entire basis of feminism and I am on board with this 100%.  So does that make me a feminist by definition?  I guess it does.  However, this definition is not even remotely being applied to the current wave of feminists today.  Hang on; I need to get comfy before I jump into this topic….

 

Okay, so… where were we? Oh yes. Feminism then verses feminism now. Is there a difference?  Oh heck yes there is!  That first wave of feminists in the pre 20th century and early 20th century were some amazingly brave women. These were women who fought for the right to vote, and for fair and equal treatment and opportunities.  They challenged traditional gender roles in society and gave women the multitude of choices they enjoy today.  So, I suppose that you are thinking “yes, yes that was all good stuff, I agree too. This Kelly she must be quite the feminist. Girl power!”  Well, let’s talk about that.

I actually consider myself an anti-feminist. “WHAT!!??” Let me explain.  Feminism as a concept and by definition I am on board with.  However the current wave, the current movement, the feminists of today are not my feminists.  I cannot get on board with the propensity they seem to feel to shame men, to shame women who choose to follow a lifestyle that they do not deem fit for a modern women, and to demand special or privileged treatment.  I cannot get on board with that. In fact it makes me angry.

The early feminists fought so women could be EQUAL and have CHOICES. If a woman wants to be the CEO of a tech company, a stay at home mom, the president of the USA, a nun, have no kids or ten kids, be a long shore man, a firefighter, a princess, a poet, or an exotic dancer, the point is that it is her choice and as a feminist you should fully respect that choice. If she chose that lifestyle or job from her own free will and she is happy then, as a feminist your sole response to that choice should be – You GO girl! Girl Power!

Unfortunately many (not all!) feminists of today do not feel that way. It seems that the biggest burr in the modern feminist’s saddle blanket seems to be the stay at home mom.  There are numerous articles, blogs and books devoted to the subject.  They seem to think if you stay at home with your children as a homemaker and wife, you don’t get a say. You are setting women back decades if not centuries. That you have forfeited your ‘girl card’ and you are invalid. They tell women who choose to be a housewife and raise their children that they are taking the path of least resistance (anyone can “get knocked up, it is not an accomplishment” after all).

I don’t understand why the only choices that are valid are the ones that they deem valid. Is that not what the first wave feminist fought against? Modern feminists have become the biggest oppressors to women today.  They scream and moan about glass ceilings and unfair pay scales but what about the woman who chooses to be a stay at home mom while her children are young? Who screams and moans for her? Why is there a Child Care tax credit of up to $6,000 for two children that is available only to families who pay someone outside the family to care for their children while the parents work? Care by the child’s mother – even if the father were to pay her – doesn’t count. Every pre-school child needs 24 hour care, but a family can only claim the credit if the mother has earned income. So this family who made the best choice for them and who has decided to live on less money to focus on child rearing does not get any help with this tax credit? Equality, anyone?   That woman made a choice but must pay a price for that choice. The smarter and better educated the woman, the more income she could make, the more she sacrifices to stay home. Many women are told that to be a SAHM is degrading, oppressive, demeaning to a woman’s full potential.  Why? Why would you say that about any freely made  life choice a person makes?  Why is a career path the only path?  Why can’t we celebrate our fellow women and all of the choices that they freely make? What about the feminist who says “If you can’t pay your own rent you are not an adult.” Or how about “if you are educated and able bodied you should not betray women everywhere, you should hold your own in the world.”?  Okay, hold up there.  In this argument we have to remember this little tidbit. Most women who choose to stay home made that choice because she (and presumably her husband) thought this contribution was what their particular family needed. Her contribution to the family may not be financial but that does not make it any less important. Not all worth is in cold hard cash.

These are the same feminists who also feel that there should be special tests for certain jobs because they are unfair to women.  Nope. Sorry sister, if my Husband, Son, Dad, or Brother is a soldier or a fireman (or the like) and is hurt, you better be able to pick him up and get him out if you are his partner.  If you are not strong enough then you do not get this job. If a man was not strong enough he would not get the job either. THAT, my friend, is called EQUALITY.  If she can pass the same physical and mental and educational tests as any man vying for a job, she should have the same opportunities and the same pay as a man. Period.  End of story.