Friday, December 12, 2014

Holiday Stress: Red Pens, To-do Lists and Personal Report Cards...

My Wisdom Figure taught me a lesson that I will never forget. She taught me, once you find one of your Gifts, you need to step out of the way and let the Divine teach you how to use it.

You don't control your Gifts, you channel them. Some of you may think that sounds like mumbo-jumbo, but honestly, it is quite simple.  Think about it this way: What is something you are really good at; maybe it's tennis or baking or playing the piano. Have you ever noticed that the days you are super focused on making the perfect cookie, sometimes they just don't turn out right? Other times when you just relax you play, bake, create in a way you never realized. That is exactly what I'm trying to explain... You get out of the way and let God and your Gifts do their stuff. Some call it being in the zone. For me it's simply allowing God to work through you.

I'm trying to do this with PilgrimageGal. Of late I have been trying too hard to find the next door to open. I have been pushing myself and my perfectionist tendencies. I seem unwilling to make the space to listen. I'm sure all of us have this at one time or another. That talent and ability to take out our own red pens (another wisdom figure lesson) and grade our performance. I grade myself unmercifully... I'm sure many of you do the same.  Women especially seem to have a built in self-critical gene.

The dreaded comparison. For women there is no better time of the year to score our own personal report cards than the holidays. The long list of the things we haven't accomplished is so much longer than the list of what we have. AND we are the first to provide ourselves with a failing report. I did that this morning. I slept poorly the last two nights, for a variety of reasons, Norah called me at one am to let me know she was hot! At nearly nine, she still lacks the ability to kick-off or pull on her covers. I will long for these calls when she is in college but; last night I was awake, running the list of my failings and lack of accomplishments; the details I just haven't gotten to; the worries. Who have I forgotten on the Christmas card list? Why can I not get a Christmas wreath on the door? Why haven't I decorated my window boxes? When will I get to shopping for those special little gifts for people? And God help me get them in the mail so they arrive before St. Patrick's Day!

I so long for this Christmas to be perfect.  To make this California Christmas one for the record books; but try as I may, I continue to fail. I also can't seem to keep in mind that we have been in this house for only 20 days! I'm looking for trashcans, my address book and Christmas decorations all at the same time. Still can't find my address book; why on earth did I pack that and not place it in my carry-on!?! Moving in November is a hot mess! But honestly, when is moving not a hot mess?!  I should let a couple of things go... But, I'm not built that way.

For some reason that escapes those who love me. I have a small (or some may say large) issue of focusing on the wrong details. I'm trying to control my Gifts, not using them in the way God has called me to do. I'm holding on to my control so tight, it has literally given me a migraine today.

One of my Gifts, is my home. No matter where Jeff and I have lived we have always been blessed to have guests, family, friends, friends of friends, and a whole cast of characters come through our door. Our home is always the way-station on the journey. You come as you are, put your feet up, eat or drink something and re-group. Sometimes our home is beautifully clean, other times not so much; but the response is always the same. People always find a way to re-charge and they have lovingly shared that story with us time and again. Friends have fallen asleep after dinner in a cozy chair by the fire, we have one special long blinker who can't make it through a movie ever! Others just stay and sit and visit because they are relaxed and happy just chatting. When you come you let go, recharge and renew. You find peace here.  Our home's uniqueness is simple; we long ago made room for the Divine. You know houses like this, I can think of one right off the top of my head, Camp. You may not see God, but you feel the Divine. Most of the time our house is just warm and happy. It's just HOME.  It's not Jeff or the Beauties; nope it's all of us, we have opened our hearts and are allowing God to do the work. We just made the room and got out of the way. 

So this morning, I met myself in bed, and realized I was doing it yet again, the furrowed brow, the to-do list that was ridiculous, and scanned my moving box filled disaster of a bedroom. I took a huge breath and channeled my inner Elsa from Frozen, "LET IT GO". I adjusted my eyes and focused on the real stuff. I need to let my home re-charge me. I needed to let the Divine into my heart. I need to allow the space for the Divine to restore me, and then I can channel my energies into the important work of Hebrews 13:2.

Because each and every person who has come through our door has taught me about my journey. They always have given us more than we ever give them and they aren't coming into my home with a red pen to look at my wreath or check out the cleanliness of my fridge. Nope. They are coming to break some bread or a Christmas cookie that may have come from the grocery store! Have a glass of something refreshing, relax from the long journey that has brought them to our door. Each and every visitor is the mirror, to see the Divine working, moving and shinning in our daily life.

It's not about the decorations, dinner, or the presents. Its about making room for the LOVE of the season. That birth in a little town with the stable. That friends, is what this season is about.... Sharing that love. I buy presents to show that love, but the love people really want is the love of our time.

They need our presence... Not our presents. 

So think about your Gift. Maybe you are the piano player of the family or the chief tree decorator, family photographer, storyteller or the best cookie maker. Focus on the one thing that gives you and those who love you, joy this season. AND let the rest of it go.

One final little tip, no one knows what is on you list but you. So find the space and let the Divine restore you... And then let the rest of us delight in your Gifts too!

So as I hydrate, and eat a little soup for this stupid headache, I will sleep well tonight, because I will re-read this post to remind myself that it's not about the stuff.  It's about the people.

The people we are waiting to share our life with every single day.

And the amazing fact that 2,000 years later, we still celebrate the birth of a baby in a manger, and the unconditional love that it represents. 

Peace be with you,

photo credit: open-arms via photopin cc

Monday, December 1, 2014

Transitions and Making Happiness...

My fellow Pilgrims how I have missed all of you.  I have felt your prayers, love and good wishes across the miles and in my heart. I'm here; not settled, but safely here! We moved into our rental home November 15th and have begun the painstaking challenge of unpacking.

So let's recap...

The transition West has been flawless. Flawless doesn't mean there weren't problems, but what it means is we handled them with smiles, shaking of heads and tons of laughs. Jeff threw his back-out after getting the stomach flu. Just picture my sweetie, all 6'6" of him on the bath floor, dry heaving in the toilet and throwing his back out in the process... So my first time driving in California, was the 1.5 hour drive from his Sister's to our hotel in Santa Barbara. The day that the movers arrived (the 16th); it was my turn to be sick and I spent the day being useless. At one point the movers were moving boxes around me, while I was sleeping on the mattress on the floor. I was so nauseous, I didn't eat for days. Just sipped soda and Gatorade.

It is these moments my dear friend calls, "the black cloud of the Ferg's."  I can't help but laugh.The last time Jeff and I moved, I was pregnant with Norah, and was vomiting into the bushes at the old house. Attractive right?  So I told Jeff it's a sign, next time we move, I'm checking into a hotel the day we are moving, I will have a spa day; because vomiting is not my idea of a good time! Clearly it is a sign that the stress is too much. Let's be honest, moving is overwhelming and the word "overwhelming" doesn't seem sufficient to describe the magnitude of this change.

With that excitement, I began my new life in Santa Barbara. I assume just like everyone does, taking anti-nausea meds, drinking tea, eating dry toast and get to the getting. I had a great piece of advice from my Hawaiian Beauty, the wife of a Coast Guard officer she has moved more times than some girls have boots. She told me to schedule a day to lose it... I termed it "nervous breakdown day."  It is the day that everything is too much, where you sit in your jammies, eat chocolate and use my favorite curse word. So I took her advice and scheduled mine.  I was delighted that when the day came, I felt so great, that instead I took the day off. I treated myself and didn't feel guilty. I delighted in my special day!  I got a pedi and bought new make-up, along with some foundation (my skin is crazy dry here), and picked up a couple of t-shirts and a sweater.

As a wife and mother, I'm doing it all. We lived with my sister-in-law for over a week, and then in a hotel for over two; while Jeffrey was traveling 3 or more days each week. So I'm in a new city, new school, living in a hotel with no kitchen or restaurant, making PB&J's next to the mini-bar for school lunch, all while using the KEURIG to make instant oatmeal for dinner. We called it fancy camping, that was how I sold the fold out sofa bed to the Beauties.  Don't get me wrong these are the life full of First World problems. Through it all, it was super important for me to take care of myself, in whatever way was going to comfort me. Life was/is a little wacky!

Tip 1: Make time to shop or have a nervous breakdown or both.

The transition to the Beauties school was fantastic. Here's why. In the lead up to our move, I spent a month contacting the Head of Special Education, I was not only on her radar, I was on the districts too. I was pleasant, polite and inquisitive. I wanted to know how things rolled out here, a much smaller district, and I wasn't about to lose any services in transition. So I wanted to be informed and educated to better advocate for the Beauties. That way, when we sat down with the school team, we knew what to expect and were ready to advocate from a place that was informed and well researched. I also wanted everyone at the table to be heard and feel respected. So the meetings went well, services are different here, but just as wonderful for our family.   I also pulled out my secret weapon: I have a deep bench filled with folks who wear lots of hats for TeamFergie. One of our most trusted, is the Beauties Maryland School Psychologist;  I love a brilliant woman who also supports my love of good chocolate as a food group. We talked about our expectations for the new school, my fears for the children; she graciously contacted her counterpart here and they discussed all things Ferguson. Two professionals sharing information on my family; for some that is scary, for me it is a relief. I tell folks all the time... share your truth and you have no worries. All our foolishness is out; we have no secrets. So there is nothing that could be said that I don't know or would be afraid to discuss. That way, the new school has a really good sense from both sides, the schools and ours.

Tip: 2 Be open, it is the best thing you can do for your family.

I asked both the children what has made the move easy. They both had interesting responses, Norah loved that we dropped in treats along the way. We went to Disneyland (life-altering treat), we left boxes and headed to the beach to play, we ignored laundry to watch the Beauties swim in the heated pool at the hotel, we ate enormous amounts of ice cream for dinner to celebrate the first day of school.  Both Beauties got a welcome to California present when they arrived. Norah's was new duvet cover for her room and Ian got a sought after Lego set.  Both gifts were designed to make their new rooms special. It was strategic and planned in advance.  Ian on the other hand, he was comforted that we had oodles of discussions about the move.  We talked about everything and honestly shared that it would be hard. We also gave them both space to fall apart. We sat and listened and even shared what was hard for us.  I was very honest, I shared that my heart was broken to leave; but that the pain of moving was going to be easier because I would be healthier. A healthy mom would always be a happy one! As parents we spend so much time trying to fix everything, but often it's giving the space to mourn that we are teaching a true life skill.  We all have lost something, but we also trust that we will gain more than we lose.

Tip: 3 Let your kids be sad... and then it is your job to guide them to create their own glad.

Clive and transitions.

My other lesson this move has taught me is chronic disease has enabled me to be a superior multi-tasker. I can handle more chaos then most and my ability to tolerate is stronger than many. So the endless things that don't get crossed off the list don't bother me. They bother Jeff. So that totally surprised me, we have been doing this married thing for a while. We have never done the move thing with other people who have needs frankly more important than ours. Jeffrey is a spectacular Dad, and he senses when the four of us are cooked, had enough and need a break. I often want to push on a little further and he wisely tells me when we need to call an activity, a meal or even a conversation; DONE.  It's his gift. So at times during this transition we had to buffer each other a little more than either of us where used to.

Men don't get somethings that-- well matter to girls: shelf paper, a working kitchen... Jeff was very concerned about the printer. Me not so much. I wanted one room DONE. So no matter what other chaos was surrounding me, at least one space was "perfectish." Perfectish is a technical term, I just made up. So you can imagine our fun when on Saturday morning I was sitting at the kitchen table with a box cutter in one hand, a cup of coffee in the other, after he called me in from the garage. Jeff wanted to discuss our "shared priorities". I'm so not making this up.  I can't make any promises, but I  may have burst out laughing while I whispered a very colorful phrase. To which we both broke out into total hysterics. Yep mister, I've got a list. There is no Jeff list. What the heck!!!!! Unbelievable!!!!! So once we referred to rule number one (he follows my list and makes me happy, then later, I'll make him happy...) The unpacking became so much more civilized.  Men are delightfully easy to manage!

Tip: 4 Remind your Husband of rule number one... Unbelievable I know... But it will save you from box cutters and coffee conversations...

Finally, and likely most important, your spirit.

So my Spirit has never shone brighter or been stronger. Why? Because I feed her daily. Some mornings it was just brushing my teeth saying, we have this. Other days it was sitting on the beach staring at the ocean realizing that I was warm in my bones, felt amazing and that it was all God. That He had been walking ahead, paving the way, moving the people into place that we are to embrace, that we touch and who are to touch us. Knowing that the hard days would be easier and that the easy were the days that I was in step with my Spirit.

Tip: 5 Keep that Spirit light on at all times... Feed her.

So that is the latest from the West Coast. I will share more on the other aspects of the journey. My new amazing doctor and where PilgrimageGal is going in 2015. Because I have lots of plans for her!



Photo Credits: PilgrimageGal.

PS. If you want to walk this journey with me on a regular basis… The horrible spelling, bad grammar, and punctuation… type your email in above and I will magically pop-up in your inbox…Or find me on Facebook, search for PilgrimageGal and give me a like and a follow.  Finally, your comments, are the best thing going… I love to hear from all of you…. K