Peacemaking

Peacekeeping is not the same as peacemaking.

Peacekeeping involves silencing marginalized voices to create an absence of conflict. It values lack of conflict over true justice.

Peacemaking knows there can be no real peace while there is injustice. It acts in love towards the creation of true peace, but it does not silence the oppressed and it faces conflict head on in order to make right what is wrong.

Peacekeeping seeks unity for unity’s sake, even if that unity is merely an Instagram filter slapped over a broken situation.

Peacemaking insists we remove the filter and do the hard work of reconciliation, so that we don’t need a filter in the end. The actual photo will made beautiful by true unity.

Peacemakers, take heart. There will always be those who will choose the absence of conflict over true peace, but know your choice to make peace instead of keeping it is the work that changes the world.

Carnation Days

“IMAGINE YOU HAD ONLY ONE DAY LEFT ON EARTH. WHAT WOULD YOU DO WITH IT?”

 

I read Ms. Bixby’s Last Day in a single sitting, on an airplane en route to California for 
vacation. My mind, filled with excitement of the week to come, full of big events and 
exciting outings, slowed and focused as I turned the first pages of 
John David Anderson‘s novel.

 












Three hours and many tissues later, I set the book down as we hit the tarmac, looking 
at vacation in a new light.

There are many things to say about this book. I could write about teachers and the 
tremendous impact they have in the lives of our students, or tell you about the ones 
that mattered most to me. I could write about boy friendship and the way it is honestly 
explored and depicted in Topher, Steve, and Brand. I could write about the ways our 
small acts of kindness to one another have a ripple effect, beyond our wildest
 imagination, or about what it means to be truly seen by another person and 
celebrated for who we are. All of these themes appear in the pages of this at times 
vulnerable, at times laugh-out-loud funny, always perfectly voiced novel.
But instead, I’m going to write about carnations. As in, the flowers.
Please continue reading at All the Wonders

The Speed of Summer

Every year around this time a huge red and white tent is erected on the corner of the county highways that intersect near my house.  Every year I think the same thing, “It’s awfully early for fireworks, isn’t it?” And every year, it dawns on me that it is already the middle of June, that it is in fact not too early for fireworks to be on sale, and that time is a capricious tease.

I swear the Earth actually speeds up its trajectory around the sun in summer, and that its maddening pace can only be felt by those over the age of eighteen.

All of the old adages about time creep to the front of my mind.  It gets faster every year.  Don’t blink.  Carpe diem. The days are long but the years are short.  And the thing is, they are all frustratingly true.  No amount of eye rolling in our younger years can prevent the truth behind these words from catching up with us down the road.  

There’s a large poster affixed to our refrigerator door that says, “Before You Say You’re Bored, Have You Considered…” and goes on to list dozens of activities the boys thought up for the long summer days ahead.  I, on the other hand, cannot remember the last time I’ve uttered the phrase “I’m bored.”  We wake up each morning and stare down the same 24 hours, yet we view the hours through such different lenses, me and my children.  I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to see the hours through the eyes of a child again.

But I do know one secret to slowing down time.
I do know one small trick that stops the Earth in its tracks.

Be present. 
Being as present as humanly possible slows the march of time.

Be right where you are. 

Be with the people you are with.

Engage your senses in the task at hand.

Aiming for attentiveness in a world of distractions is not an easy task, but it is a worthwhile one, and its rewards are so sweet.
  

The smell of the vines on your tomato plant while you pull weeds.

The taste of rain as it falls from the sky.

The sweetness of mint chip for lunch.

  The icy cold shock of the deep end in June.


The sound of a band that makes you get up and bust a move.

The way you get lost in the pages of a book.

The freckles on a sun-kissed, sleeping face, waiting to be counted.

The sound of the ice cream truck through your kitchen window as you chop vegetables for dinner.

The warm sun on your arms as you sit in traffic.

The friend’s voice on the other end of a long-distance call.

The goodbye kiss on the way to work, and the welcome home embrace at the end of a day.
We can’t add hours to our days, but we can add life to our hours.  We just have to pay attention.  And this is the extent of my summer bucket list this year:  Be present.

“Ten times a day something happens to me like this – some strengthening throb of amazement – some good sweet empathic ping and swell.  This is the first, the wildest and the wisest thing I know: that the soul exists and is built entirely out of attentiveness.” – Mary Oliver 
 

Is Organizing Just Well-Managed Hoarding?

I’ve been buried in my basement for over a week now as part of the 40 Bags in 40 Days Challenge, and I still can’t see the end in sight.  I’ve reached the point of any good cleaning project where the room actually looks worse than when I started, yet that is somehow a sign of progress.  Have you ever been there?  I like to call it the storm before the calm.  That’s where I am right now, right in the eye of the storm.

As I hauled my 35th bag up the basement steps this week, I started to think about where all of this stuff had come from.  The outdated electronics, the plastic bins full of books (the worst fate for a book aside from an actual book burning), the endless crafting supplies I’ve never looked at twice… there is just so much stuff.  I started thinking about the hours I’ve spent organizing this basement, moving these same, sealed bins from one shelf to another, all under the guise that I’d use it someday.  Well, it’s someday, it’s not being used, and it’s gone.

But there is this nagging fear, this persistent whisper that keeps taunting me.

You know you’re just going to fill this space back up.

You’ll be doing this all over again in a year.

I can’t let that fear become a reality.   I cannot.  But something has shifted in this process that makes me believe it won’t.

Since I started this series of blog posts, many of you recommended that I read the book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo.  A sweet friend lent me the book  and I eagerly dived in, thinking it would be right up my alley. 

A few chapters in, I was unconvinced.  When the author suggested that my socks are in emotional distress from being kept in balls, I raised an eyebrow.  When she said, “Clothes, like people, can relax more freely when in the company of others who are very similar in type, and therefore organizing them by category helps them feel more comfortable and secure,” I started to wonder if our perspectives on the emotional life of our stuff were just too different.   But then I remembered that I usually learn more from people with different perspectives than I do from people who think just like me, so I recommitted and finished the book. 

Clearly these socks are in agony.  It’s a wonder they can sleep at night. 

Once I got past some of our initial differences (my socks are still in balls and I’m seeking a reputable therapist for them so they can work out their feelings on this) I started to internalize some of Kondo’s messages and noticed a dramatic shift in the way I discarded items. 

“When you come across something that you cannot part with, think carefully about its true purpose in your life.  You’ll be surprised at how many of the things you possess have already fulfilled their role.  By acknowledging their contribution and letting them go with gratitude, you will be able to truly put the things you own, and your life, in order.  In the end, all that will remain are the things that you really treasure.” – Marie Kondo

I opened the first of a few memory boxes in my basement a couple of days ago.  Jason and I jokingly refer to these boxes as black holes because once you get sucked in it is very difficult to come back out.  At first, I felt my old tendencies leading the way, and I honestly considered doing things like separating the awards from the art from the stack of report cards.  Maybe I could file them in one of those upright filing systems and label them by year.  I considered that.  And then, I remembered Kondo’s words and looked at the objects with fresh eyes.  That candle from my senior prom?  I don’t need it to remember my prom because I sleep next to my prom date every night.  Those elementary school report cards?  No one has asked for my elementary credentials in the last three decades so I think it is safe to let them go.  Every token that I kept to remember a significant event in my life has sat dormant in boxes for decades, and when I held each one in my hand I realized that while the events are still fresh in my mind, the mementos have not played even a small role in preserving my memories.  

The search is over.  You were with me all the while.  In a box.  In my basement.

With the exception of photographs and a handful of items I’m now one black hole lighter.  And it feels kind of amazing.  It feels kind of like fully embracing the present. 

I’m finding that this mentality extends beyond the memory boxes.  It allows me to pick up an item and ask, “Does this spark joy?  Am I using this for the life I am currently leading (not the life I used to lead or the life I might someday lead)? ”  (I had to add that second question because Kondo’s “Does this spark joy?” would not allow me to keep things like my toilet plunger.  It does not spark any joy, but unfortunately, I need it.)  It allows me be grateful for the purpose these items once held without feeling guilty that they no longer hold meaning for me.

So, this time around doesn’t just feel different.  It is different. I’m not organizing, I’m purging.  I’m not purchasing bins and label makers, I’m emptying bins and donating the very bins themselves so they do not find themselves full again on my shelves.  I might even donate the shelves. 

I half-jokingly labeled a Pinterest board with this quote back in 2010 – “organization is really just well-managed hoarding” – and The Minimalists make a case for these words here.   I wish I had listened to these words back then.  I’m listening now.

This post is part of a series on quitting your job as a Stuff Manager.  Drop back in to read more about my journey over the next forty days, or subscribe by email if you don’t want to miss a post!  I look forward to hearing about your own resignation. 

1.  Letter of Resignation – On quitting my job as Stuff Manager
2.  I’m Never Going to Make That Beer Bottle Cap Table – On letting go of things that aren’t for us
3.  But I’ll Need That in the Zombie Apocalypse (and Other Excuses) – On excuses for our clutter  
4.  Donating Outside the Box –  On finding a great place for your donations
5.  7 Ideas for Managing Digital Clutter – On minimizing distractions and clutter on your devices 
6.  Is Organizing Just Well-Managed Hoarding? – On the difference between organizing and purging 
7.  Getting to Know Mr. Jones:  An Antidote to ConsumerismOn exploring where we got all of this stuff in the first place and a communal antidote to over-consumption
8.  Taking Back Your Square Footage –  On creating space in your home that reflects your intentions and values

The Antidote to Discontent

There’s something about the month of February that brings out the grumbling in all of us.  Maybe it is the fact that it is several months into the cold, dark season of winter, especially for those of you still buried under a couple feet of snow.  Last week, the groundhog confirmed we’ve got another six weeks of winter ahead of us (why do we keep consulting that groundhog anyway, he’s not even a trained meteorologist?) and I know many of you are ready to pack up the snow boots and break out your gardening gear.  (I hear you.  Last night while I was hibernating I had a dream that it was going to be 80 degrees all week long here in St. Louis and actually started to get dressed in a tank top before I realized it was still winter.  Talk about disappointing).  Or maybe our complaining has something to do with the fact that we’re a month into a new year, just long enough to have completely abandoned our sparkly New Year’s resolutions, yet not so long as to have forgotten we ever set them in the first place.  Or maybe it is because we’re smack in the middle of cold and flu season and we’re sick and tired of being sick and tired.  I feel fairly certain that if Facebook were to run a quick analytic search it would confirm the fact that our status updates contain the most complaints this month compared to any other month of the year.  February seems to be the month of discontent.

I want to be really clear about something.  I don’t think complaining is an inherently bad thing.  There is catharsis in complaining, especially in the safety of authentic relationships.  Sometimes we complain because we are seeking solutions, and sometimes we simply need to be heard and have someone else say, “yes, I hear you, me too.”  I think being honest about our disappointments or challenges can draw us closer to the ones we love and actually play a positive role in creating community.  I don’t live in a highlight reel, and my guess is that neither does anyone reading this, so I am often relieved, inspired or just simply touched when others open up and share their struggles alongside their victories.  In fact, I read recently that one of the greatest gifts we bring to others is our authenticity, and I believe that is true. 

However, I also believe that living in a state discontent blocks our ability to live authentically, because to live an authentic life requires us to recognize and develop our own unique gifts.  It’s hard to do that when we are focused on the things we lack, or are caught in a trap of comparison.  Until we are willing to take inventory of the gifts we already hold in our hands and the beauty that already exists in our current reality, we will be blocked by discontent.  So, at least for me, it follows that the antidote to discontent is gratitude.

We hear a lot about gratitude practices in November, and to be fair, it’s an easier time of year to focus on our abundance.  We’re gearing up for the holidays and we haven’t been confronted by the real bite of winter yet, with its below zero temperatures and new strains of vaccine-resistant influenza.  It seems strange to talk about gratitude in February, yet this might just be the month we need to put this practice in place the most.  If you don’t already have a gratitude practice in place in your home or life, I want to encourage you to join me in one of the following practices for the next thirty days.  Look, many of us have already abandoned those New Year’s Resolutions, so we’ve got plenty of time on our hands to try something new, right?  Practicing gratitude for thirty days will carry us right into the middle of March when the forsythia blooms and we can begin to hope for Spring in earnest.  Besides, they say it takes thirty days to start a habit, and this is a habit that has the power to radically change your life.  What do you have to lose?

Here’s a few ideas to get you started, some that I’ve used over the years and some that are new to me (and most copied straight off Pinterest):

1.  Gratitude Journals:  The old standard.  You can purchase a journal, or make one like the example below, or just use any notebook from around your house.  Leave it on your nightstand and make a habit of writing in it before bed.  

2.  Gratitude Jar:  This is a great way to include your entire family in your gratitude practice.  Leave your jar and a few strips of paper on the kitchen table or somewhere your family tends to gather and encourage everyone to include an offering of daily thanks into the jar.

3.  Gratitude List:  I love this ring-bound, portable gratitude list to keep year round.  
4.  Gratitude App:  For the more tech-savvy, I adore this gratitude app.  I’ve used it on and off for a few years now and love that it is always at my fingertips.  You can also upload a photo from the day to include in your gratitude journal.  
5.  Gratitude Photography:  They say a picture is worth a thousand words, so if writing is not your thing, consider an Instagram gratitude challenge.  For the next thirty days, take at least one picture of something you felt grateful for each day and share it with a hashtag like #30daysofgratitude. 

6.  Gratitude Simplified:  If all of the above suggestions feel too complicated or crafty or contrived, then keep it simple.  I love this bulletin board tacked with scrap pieces of paper expressing gratitude for co-workers.  This could easily be modified for your home.  Don’t have a bulletin board?  Try Post-It notes on the refrigerator or a closet door.  Or, don’t record anything at all.  Just simply set aside a time and space in your day to mentally review the moments that were life-affirming.  It doesn’t have to be pretty or perfect.  It just has to be.

While I can’t promise that I won’t complain for the next thirty days, I will make a commitment to balance complaints with a renewed, dedicated gratitude practice.  Will you join me?  I would love to hear how you plan to incorporate a practice of gratitude in your life, or what you are already doing to give thanks on a daily basis.