A Lesson in Patience

We move in two days. Everyone is stressed and the kids feel it. Yesterday their behavior got the best of me and I snapped.

One of my goals for 2015 was more like a vision.

I had a vision of myself mothering with the patience of an unflappable nun: hands folded calmly in the face of chaos, voice smooth and undeterred as she administers grace and restores peace.

When I lost it with the kids I most definitely did not look like that unflappable nun.

Snuggling with the kids after we’d exchanged apologies and received forgiveness I realized the flaw in my vision – and no, not the part about nuns not having kids.

I can’t imagine I will be calm in difficult situations if I am not calm in normal situations.

An unflappable nun doesn’t run about her work like a chicken with her head cut off.

When I do my work that way I put myself under tension, primed and ready to snap.

As much as you know this is obvious, please tell me I am not the only one who thinks she can work like mad and be saintly when necessary.

There’s not much left to 2015, but I yearn to live a revised version of the unflappable nun in my mind’s eye.

She goes about all her work with serenity, treating each task with care, making each movement deliberately.

She is beautiful when she cleans toilets and cooks dinner. She is unflappable in the quiet moments as well as the chaotic ones.

Life is a ritual. Sacred. Beautiful.

Only from that place of peace will I learn to be the unflappable nun in the stressful moments.

Wish me luck!

Stuck? Get Moving Again With These Simple Steps

Next weekend we’re moving. This week we all had the stomach flu. Needless to say our routines and plans were blown out of the water.

I’m sure you know the sinking feeling of finally feeling well enough to get out of your sick-bed only to be greeted by mess and chaos everywhere in your home.

You’re so overwhelmed you don’t know where to start and crawling back to bed sounds like the best option.

At times like these I rely on two simple strategies.

1. Do Something To Completion

It doesn’t matter if it’s sorting the mail, doing the dishes, or cleaning the bathroom.  Just do something that needs doing.

If I can make myself complete one thing that needs doing it inevitably gives me a boost of energy and hope. That boost is enough to help me start the next obvious task, and I’m soon on my way.

If that one task is all I can manage, at least I know I have a clean bathroom as I crawl back into bed.

2. Clarify – Then Act

When I notice that I’m puttering around, not really accomplishing anything important, I know I need to stop running in place and put my thinking cap on.

I have a note on my desk that reminds me to do the heavy thinking before the heavy lifting. It has two words:

ClarifyAct

Before we can move forward, we need to identify that right direction to move.

Ask clarifying questions like “What exactly is the problem?” and “What do I really want?” or “If I were to move on this project, what would be the very next step I could take?”

Worrying is not productive thought. If we’ve spent too much time worrying about something then we have all the more reason to stop spinning our wheels and ask ourselves the hard clarifying questions.

I find it extremely helpful to assure myself that I don’t have to act now, I just have to find clarity. That turns off the more fearful part of my brain and allows me to think more clearly.

Once my fears are in words and my problem is clear, it’s often rather easy to think of some simple and concrete action that will bring me closer to my goal.

Don’t overthink it, though.

Once you’ve found some clarity, take the very next step.

Often we want to see the whole path before we take the first step, but any project with some complexity will never be clear from start to finish.

Take the first step and you’ll see what the next few steps should be.

Clarify. Act. Repeat.

Where are you stuck?

Clarify.

Act.

Then share your story to encourage us all!

Secretly Incredible With Ordinary Skills: A Visit With The Severely Handicapped

Last week the kids and I did something secretly incredible – and it was almost an accident.

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I packed the kids in the car and drove us to a day home for the severely handicapped. I was nervous about how my four kids under six would behave.

How would they react to seeing people who were so different? I struggled to find words to describe the people we’d meet.

I didn’t want to call them “handicapped” or “patients” as that seemed to limit their full personhood. I decided “guests” sounded more appropriate, especially as the guests only came to the home for the day.

We got ourselves settled in the welcoming room and waited for the day guests to arrive.

The Biggest Smile

I’ve often heard parents of handicapped children claim they receive more from their needy child than they give. When the first guest entered the room she greeted us with a smile most folks would save for a long-lost friend.

That was my first glimpse into why parents might feel so blessed by their needy children.

We sang and shared together then went to the kitchen for a snack. The guests and my kids played peekaboo together and laughed as my two-year-old ran after a ball.

I could do nothing wrong. Even though my Swiss German is about as good as a three-year-old’s, the guests appreciated every feeble attempt at communication.

As a mother of four little kids I have little time or energy to bless others. I’m grateful for every ounce of help that comes my way and count a day successful if I’m not a terrible grouch.

Yet here we were, bringing some joy to those on the margins of society.

I felt secretly incredible, and incredibly blessed to be there.

Secretly Incredible

A morning with the handicapped is not as impressive as freeing innocent kids from prison, but it fits the definition I introduced last week:

“If we are confident in our ordinary abilities and open to our ordinary situation, we can lead secretly incredible lives where we make life for those around us a little better, a little less lonely, and a little more joyful.”

Ordinary Me

The visit was very much a combination of what is ordinary about me and my situation.

I have kids and a cute baby that make people smile. It’s hard to get more ordinary than that!

We can visit in the early morning because my kids are early risers and we homeschool. There’s nothing special about kids that wake up at the crack of dawn.

While homeschooling might seem intimidating to my readers in Europe, homeschooling is ordinary in many parts of the world.

I’m afraid of driving, so the most heroic part of the outing was getting there. For many people, driving is one of the most ordinary activities imaginable.

Ordinary Situation

We’d been invited half a year ago, but there was always an obstacle: we didn’t have a car, I was about to have a baby, or I just plain procrastinated because it wasn’t urgent and it was intimidating.

One day they had an open house and my husband drove us there. We got a chance to preview the drive and the building and that gave me enough confidence to make a date. A date when two of our friends were working there and could help me manage the children.

The opportunity fell in my lap and it resonated with my values enough for me to overcome the small but intimidating humps necessary to follow through.

What would happen if I were more intentional?

I bet if I embraced my ordinary skills, stopped moaning about not being good with the local language, and kept my eyes open for opportunities I could be secretly incredible more often than once a year.

I’m inspired to revisit the Four Actions Framework and reduce what isn’t necessary and improve my ordinary abilities for the purpose of being secretly incredible.

What about you? Have you experienced a secretly incredible moment? Please share!

A Peek Behind The Scenes

I’m waiting for permission to publish the photo that goes with my next post, so I decided to delay that one a week and give you a little peek behind the scenes of the Blue Ocean Families blog.

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I have a schedule that helps me spread the parts of preparing a post over time. It includes a deadline that I hardly ever meet of sending the final draft to my editor by Thursday.

My editor is wonderfully patient and gives me good turnaround even if I only send him something on Sunday night. He’s also my husband.

Today he’s off to a business trip, so this last-minute post won’t pass under his critical eye and I must take all the credit for my mistakes. (I did manage to correct “peak” to “peek” – spelling is not my strength.)

The blogging schedule has me pick a photo at the end of the process, which I obviously have to change when a stock photo won’t do and I have to obtain permissions.

Mornings Are For Working

I usually do my blogging at 5:30 in the morning, which is often the only time when the house is quiet and the computer is available.

My husband and I share a computer and desk, which has trained us to be organized, efficient, and creative about computer time.

I used to cringe at the idea of getting up before 7am, but now I’m addicted to my 5am start to the day.

If I’m running behind (which is often) I can use the quiet period after naps to work, but since two of my four children don’t nap any more, “quiet time” isn’t so quiet anymore.

They do a great job playing on their own, but they constantly sing or hum or talk to themselves, which makes writing nearly impossible for me.

If you want to learn to use your mornings well, I recommend you check out the online course Make Over Your Mornings by Crystal Paine. I did half of this 14-day course before I had to stop to make time for the move. It’s only 17 dollars so I figured if I learned one helpful thing it would be useful.

I’m not an affiliate, I just believe in the power mornings.

Blue Ocean Families is a Non-Commercial Blog

I might try to monetize the blog at some point, but currently I’m not allowed to make any money. I only have the post basic website set up, and more importantly, our tax situation is so complicated that I’d rather not earn money than think about how to report it.

I know taxes are a pain for everyone and taxes for the self-employed are even worse. Double taxation for the self-employed overseas American is truly mind-boggling, especially since I can’t get intelligent answers out of the IRS.

But you don’t need to hear me moan about taxes, the good news for you is that you get no ads on this site.

Moving!

Things are busy over here. We received notice that we had to leave our apartment so we’ve been scrambling around trying navigate the many decisions that came our way.

We are thrilled that we’ve found a house and we plan to move at the end of the month. Moving a family with four little kids might take enough energy that my blogging schedule will suffer, but I’ll do my best.

Thanks for reading, and once I get permission to post my cute picture, I’ll have an inspiring post for you next Monday!

Anything else you’d like to know from behind the scenes? I’d be happy to answer in the comments below!