Saturday, August 30, 2008

Sunrise, Sunset

Writing in my last post about the simple lifestyle in the mountain cabin renewed my curiousity about our daily schedules and the rhythms of nature.

While at the cabin we turned off the generator each evening when darkness fell. Then we all went to bed. We had our book lights which was kind of "campy" and if we had to use the restroom, we had our flashlights within arm's reach on a nightstand. With no electricity in the vicinity of the cabin, when darkness fell, it was really dark with only the moon and stars offering traces of light. We tended to get much more sleep than at home as we went to bed as soon as it was dark outside and fell asleep earlier than at home. We were awakened slowly and gently by the sun's rays streaming in the cabin windows rather than the buzz of an alarm clock or ipod music.

Randy Frazee, in his book, "Making Room for Life: Trading Chaotic Lifestyles for Connected Relationships," speaks about the Hebrew Day Planner. This is the author's term for the relationship of daily activities in the Hebrew culture to day and night. Hours of daylight, 6 AM to 6 PM, were devoted to work and productivity which was mostly agrarian (land related or agricultural) in nature. After dusk (6 PM) people ceased their work and spent some time with family before going to sleep. Also, according to Hebrew tradition, one day a week, the Sabbath was observed, a day which gave the Hebrews time for spiritual refreshment and required rest from labor.

With the invention of the light bulb this natural calendar ceased to govern the way we work, play and sleep. We now can work pretty much whenever we want because we no longer rely as heavily on sunlight. And although we're told we need to get 8 hours sleep each night, the presence of electricity well into the night hours allows us to convert sleep time to work or play time. No wonder most of us are sleep-deprived. I must admit that late evening is some of my best work time!

I'm always looking for ways to simplify my life. Although I doubt I'd be able to adhere to the Hebrew Day Plan system, I can choose to incorporate parts of it into my life. Now that the Summer Olympics have ended I may have a a chance at a good night's sleep!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Leaving Her Mark

"No love, no friendship, can cross the path of our destiny without leaving some mark on it forever."
- Francois Mocuriac

I'm blessed to have some incredible friendships. One person I don't see too often, but whose friendship I value greatly, is Connie Kennemer. Connie and I met thirty years ago. We were both pregnant with our boys at the same time, shared the joys of motherhood, and kept in touch periodically. Something just "clicked" with Connie and I when we met. Now we just pick up where we leave off even if it's been a couple years since we've seen each other.

Over time, Connie, whose smile and glowing countenance is contagious, has experienced some heartache. Multiple Sclerosis has been her constant companion for quite a few years unwelcome visitor upon someone who thrives on activities like playing the piano. Yet Connie has welcomed this illness, hesitantly, but with the confidence that her life still flourishes with opportunity and purpose. She has participated wholeheartedly with others who share the MS journey in the yearly MS walk in San Diego.

In recent years, Connie's adult son, Todd, her only child, suffered with mental illness. Todd took his life almost three years ago. Connie's grieving has compelled her along with her husband, Rex, to delve into a world most of us avoid. Rex volunteers with students who walk on the wild and dark side of life. Together, Rex and Connie comfort those who share their mourning and seek to educate all of us about what it's like to be so very close to a loved one who is plagued with mental illness.

She said to me today, "My life isn't what I thought it would be. It's not what I would have chosen, but it is good." The reason she can say this is because of God's love and His work in her life which gives her strength and courage to see beyond the difficult places. Each day she moves ahead in faith that God has a plan for her. A joyful contentment is a part of Connie's life along with the weariness. Joy prevails in her statement, doesn't it? Connie's serenity, perseverance and hope has left its mark on me.

Related websites:

Friday, August 8, 2008

Launching your kids to greater independence

My friend, Suzanne, a 6th grade teacher, says many kids in today's culture haven't developed basic problem-solving skills. Now what could possibly be the reason for that? Could it be that Dad and Mom solve all the problems? The students, when faced with a dilemma in her classroom, rather than dialoguing with her...there they are...standing at her desk in a tizzy calling Dad or Mom to ask for help. As parents we are just a cell-phone call away. When our kids don't know what to do, they call us. If this becomes a habit, it's a recipe for life-long dependency.

Weak children can grow into weak adults who are unable to cope with problems of daily living. Granted, sometimes the situation does warrant a phone call, but the majority of the time, it doesn't. Irresponsibility, mistakes or even an unexpected complexity provide an opportunity for our children to figure out what to do with their quandary.

So what can we as parents do to encourage our kids to develop their reasoning skills and step out into greater independence by making decisions on their own? It means parents have to step back and resist the urge to always come to their aid. Don't tell me this is hard....I know it is!

I love the saying, "Prepare the child for the path, not the path for the child." We do want our children to be prepared, not just to cope in the world, but thrive. Thriving means that we have to be able to weather the challenges as well as experience and recover from setbacks and failure. When things don't go right, is your child capable of thinking through their options, using their reasoning expertise and choosing their next course of action?

Developing problem solving skills is an important process for our kids. This doesn't happen if parents always step in to mediate or rescue. A better option is for parents to bring up a possible situation when talking with their children and ask them questions about what they would do if they were in that situation. Get your kids thinking. As parents we are then in a place to offer guidelines and encouragement that re-enforce the values we want to pass down. Role-playing is another good technique for practicing reasoning competence and decision-making. The more practice a child has the more equipped they will be at handling the inevitable unknowns that will come their way.

A very wise mother with grown children said to me, "I gave my kids a bit of a longer leash in some areas when they were still living at home. This allowed me to see how they handled difficult situations." And it gave the child the experience of working through their predicament. She did this so if they made a poor choice, she would still be there to walk through the aftereffects with them. She said she'd rather they experience consequences or disappointments early enough in their life so they would be prepared to deal with bigger crisis on their own once they arrived on a college campus. She knew that "rescuing" would leave them vulnerable to greater mistakes later on.

It's about time for another school year to begin and there will be opportunities this year for you to step back and let them try their wings in a storm. Just remember they are developing "muscles" for thriving down the road.

Photo: Marzanna Syncerz