Thursday, September 18, 2014

Measuring Stick

Measuring Stick

Here's a little Throw-back Thursday for you all... Inspired by the talk I gave this morning... So here's the blog (from that inspired me to dig deeper in today's talk;-) Enjoy!

There is a height chart at the door of Daniel's preschool, and every time we drop Daniel off and pick him up, Nolan has to measure himself.  EVERY. SINGLE. TIME.  Now, I am not sure if it is because I say, "Wow, look how big you are!" each time he measures himself, or if it is because there is just something in us that needs to measure ourselves.

If it's a combination of the two, then that brings up something interesting.  We need to measure ourselves in order to be given the reassurance that we are growing in the right direction.  Now, I've noticed that for some people, it doesn't necessarily matter if we get an external "Look how big you are!"  But we do need to know where we stand.  I do.  I need to know where I am with everything.  Don't you?

I find myself doing the same thing Nolan does at Daniel's preschool.  Every day I assess my home.  Failure.  Ugly window treatments.  Clutter.  Laundry all over the house not put away.  Dishes in the sink.  Not put away.  Goobers and crumbs on the floor.  Toys.  Toys.  Toys... with no place to go.  You are on the very bottom of the "beautiful home" measuring stick, Emily.

I find myself doing this with motherhood.  Daniel was screaming at and beating up Nolan yesterday after Jeff left for work.  When his time out ended and I asked him what was going on, if he was sad because Daddy was gone, he started to cry and said this, "I am sad because I miss Daddy and it makes me feel better to be mean to Nolan."   Talk about a measuring stick.  Talk about my childhood.  I am sure I am to blame for this.

What a weird thing sibling rivalry is too... It's all about establishing a pecking order.  Who is the favorite?  Who is the best at this?  Who is better at that?  Amazing how it develops our personalities and puts up roadblocks for things.  Amazing how there exists a measuring stick there too.

The worst thing about operating with a need for a measuring stick is that often I use other people's comments to be my measuring stick.  Someone gives me a compliment on my shoes, eyes, smile, and suddenly I'm a few notches up on the physical attractiveness measuring stick.

I don't take the time to work out for a week.  I look in the mirror and notice that I have been wearing sweats all week, trying to look like I'm going to work out, but really just wind up looking like a slobby SAHM who has let herself go...  6 notches down on the physical attractiveness measuring stick.

I conduct a training.  Something intelligent somehow comes out of my mouth during the presentation.  A teacher writes down a comment about how great I am as a presenter.  Way up on the measuring stick...

A teacher makes a comment about how I made them feel excluded from the conversation or how the curriculum isn't this or isn't that (something I don't actually have a lot of control over..) but still... WAY down on the measuring stick.

And one part of the problem is that people are a horrible measuring stick.  People are emotional and irrational sometimes.  Not to mention that our opinions are all very different about what is funny or clever or inspirational.   Our expectations of each other are all over the place.  Not to mention that we can't define what makes a good_________, but we sure do judge each other when we think someone else is a bad_________.  Right?

I can't always put into words what makes a good writer, good mother, good wife, good cook, good friend, good teacher, good presenter, and I can't think of myself as a good--any of those things.  Unless someone else says that I am a good_________.  And  I can only try for a repeat performance when other people say, "Wow, you make great carrot soup."  or "I really enjoyed your blog about________ the other day."  And if someone says something good about my writing or my cooking, I keep cooking.  I keep writing.  I keep the things that push me up on the invisible measuring stick.  I don't even attempt the things that push me down on that same invisible measuring stick.  And yet, there are voices in my head pushing me down on that measuring stick.  I don't need anyone else to push me down.  I put myself there...

So... how come I can't just create my own measuring stick for myself and stop relying on what others say or seem to think?

Because I'm my own worst critic?
Because I have completely unrealistic expectations of myself and of others?
Because I'm completely unreliable with what I deem as good writing, good mothering, good... based on my feelings of the day?

How come I can't just get rid of the measuring stick?

How come others can't just raise my stats on the measuring stick?
How come I don't just raise others' stats on their measuring sticks?

I keep trying to do that.  I keep trying to write little notes or say the good things I see in people to raise their invisible measuring stick status.

But then I get in a bad mood.  No one raises my measuring stick status.  I start new birth control and my hormones go crazy and I hate my life.  I scream at my kids and send my own measuring stick status into the toilet.  I get so wrapped up in my own failing plummeting invisible measuring stick status that I stop looking for others' good things to raise them up, and I look for their crap to push them down.  Or I push myself down because I forget to look for their good.  And...

Again, I am an unreliable measuring stick.  What if I had a reliable measuring stick that didn't change?  What if that reliable measuring stick loved me and treasured me despite all of the ways I don't measure up?

Huh... guess I do.  What if I actually accepted at trusted that?

Wednesday, July 9, 2014



It's that time of year, friends.  Weeds, weeds, weeds.  They're in the front landscaping, in the back garden, coming up in the cracks of the driveway, sidewalk, and patio...

They're ugly.
They're persistent.
They rob nutrients from the plants that give food and beauty.
They infest.
They multiply.
They take over, and try as I may, they just keep coming back.

In my life, I have really only known 3 methods of weed control: PreventPoison, or Pull.

Now, this seems like the best way.  Don't let weeds get into your garden in the first place.  Put weed paper down.  Cover it in something pretty, like wood chips or river rock.  You're done, right?  You did it right.  You won't have to worry about those pesky weeds invading your beautiful garden territory.  But they're going to sneak in eventually.  Near the edging.  In the holes you had to cut to fit the plants through.  And no matter how carefully you protect your garden from them, the weeds are going to get in.  They're going to search around under the surface until they find a nice little opening to poke their ugly heads through.  And eventually, that weed paper is going to disintegrate, and you'll need to start all over again anyway.  
But it's still worth it to try to protect from those nasty little nutrient suckers.

It's easy enough, right?  You hate weeds.  You spray poison on them.  It kills the weeds.  Sure, you can't let your kids or dogs near the weeds for a while, and don't get it on the plants that you want to thrive, because it will kill them too... And gosh, I hope it doesn't happen to rain and wash all of those toxic chemicals into our water supply...  And... oh... what's that?  The weeds are back even after I poisoned them?  Huh.

Pulling weeds is annoying.  Relentless.  Pull them up.  Try to get it all, even the root, so it won't come back.  Get one all the way down to the root, the one next to it won't cooperate.  It breaks in half, and you know you'll be pulling at it again in a week.  Pull some more, set them aside.  Pull.  Pull.  Pull... Boring, methodical, relentless.  Over and over again, if you gently, but persistently pull your weeds, and you've protected against them with proper weed paper, they aren't as much of a problem.

The other day, as I was out in my yard, yet again, pulling my abundant weeds, a neighbor friend of mine  informed me that I could kill my weeds down to the root with BOILING water.  I didn't know this.  Completely non-toxic, inexpensive... boiling water.  Huh.  That's something new.

And that got me thinking.  Weeds are a lot like the negative things in our lives-- harsh thoughts, addictions, disease, divorce... We can do our best to prevent against them, but some of those negative things are going to push through.  We can poison them, but the damage the poison does to the environment around us might be worse than what we started with.  And it might not even do the job!  We can pull and pull and pull, but unless we get to the root of the problem, we are right back where we started.  And it seems that there are two ways to get to the root of the problem:  Gently and persistently extract the problem (which will need to be done weekly, if not daily) or pour boiling hot water over the top of the problem and let the pain invade every single part of the problem until the pain speaks louder than my unwillingness to change.

Both are painful.  One is fast, the other takes a lifetime of commitment.

My youth has been spent boiling.  Trying to get rid of the nasty things in life as quickly as possible, even if painful, and if I missed a big patch, I'd just ignore it, thinking I'd come back to take care of it later.

But as I age, I am beginning to honestly enjoy the process of crouching near my garden while the boys play ball, and quietly, one by one, pull and pull and pull, sometimes knowing that I'm going to have to come back to that one, and other times enjoying the satisfaction of getting all the way down to the root of the problem.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014


It had been coming on for a while.  The pain in my hands, wrists, and elbows, that is.  The cramping, numbness, weakness, aching... The inability to un-clench my grip on things-- a spoon, a pen, a toy...

My 20-minute Bikini Body Mommy workouts were KILLING me.  Planks, push-ups, mountain climbers... You name it, it seemed like EVERY part of the workout included putting tons of pressure on my hands, wrists, and elbows.  And I began to dread them.  Those workouts that had my body changing and my mood lifting were making me ache for days, and since they're 6 days a week, the ache on top of repeated ache made me want to quit.

And I did.  For a little while.

And then I thought, I signed up for 90 days.  I'm trying to become not-a-quitter. Get back on the wagon.  Just make some modifications.

And the nasty mean voice in my head said, You knew you'd never follow-through anyway.  You might as well just give up.  You know you can't finish anything.  And you're already behind like a million days.  There's no way you can catch up.  Besides, modifications are for wimps.  You'll look like a weenie who can't do it right.  Either suck it up and do it right or don't do it at all.

So I thought, That's interesting, Mean Voice, but you're wrong.  And no one is watching me work out,  unless I work out on the trail by my house in which case I've been looking like an idiot doing my squats, jumping jacks, and burpees in the middle of the trail anyway, so you're making a moot point, Mean Voice.   

Then I came across the "Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can." quote from Arthur Ashe.  

I took his advice.

I modified.

It was still a good workout.  My wrists, elbows, and hands were in less pain when I was done.  I didn't have to all-out skip anything.

Take that, Mean Voice.

Now, I wonder if this applies to so many other things in life.  I've always had this, "If I can't do it perfectly, I'm not going to do it at all" type of attitude with everything, but it hasn't served me well lately.  Mostly it's turned into a lot of "I'm not going to do it at all"s.  

Can "good enough" really be good enough?  Can doing it "mostly right" for good be better than doing it perfectly for 15 minutes then quitting?

It's worth a try, I guess.  After all, if I wind up failing at being "good enough," I can always be perfect instead.