Saturday, April 12, 2014

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Greener Grass

This morning I dropped Kayden off at daycare.  Each morning when I'm driving there, I pay attention to the houses in the neighborhood and the yards, etc.   My neighborhood, most of the lawns have brown grass. Some green is in there, some weeds, but for the most part, it's just now starting to sprout and be green.  We always expect Spring for grass to grow and the fall/winter it tends to die out.  The daycare's lawn is very green. It's very thick and lush. It looks like it is always watered.  It is a very stark contrast to the houses on either side of it. Both houses have brown grass that looks died out and dry as if no water has ever touched it.  When I look down the street and across the street, most of the grass looks also desolate and deserted.

Now I have some additional information to know WHY the lawn is green and pretty. Mrs. D (the owner) absolutely loves gardening and yard work.  Even when it is winter, she is always toiling her lawn and excited about the flowers that she will have when Spring arrives.  Whenever we had snow storms she would be upset. She would tell me she's sad b/c she was planning to work on her yard that weekend but it was snowy.  She is always excited to show me what she is doing. Sometimes she shows me what she has toiled and planted and I don't see anything. So basically she's turned the dirt, planted seeds and maybe fertilized but the results aren't there yet.  I'm not a lawn and garden person so me looking at it is like hey, that's great it's just dirt.  But for her, she can see what WILL be down the line and not what I see right now.

But now that Spring is upon us. I can see what she previously saw when it was winter.  Now I can appreciate all of the time and energy and passion she has put into her lawn.  When it came time to get her a Christmas gift from Kayden, it was a no brainer that it would be a gift card to Lowe's. Which I knew she'd promptly use on lawn stuff.

When I tell you that I hardly ever paid attention to lawns before and now when I drive up, I admire her lawn.. But I was thinking about this and there's always a lesson involved right?

"“You don’t get wormy apples off a healthy tree, nor good apples off a diseased tree. The health of the apple tells the health of the tree. You must begin with your own life-giving lives. It’s who you are, not what you say and do, that counts. Your true being brims over into true words and deeds."Luke 6:43-45 MSG

Her lawn made me think about how sometimes we work on things, whether they are projects, ourselves, our children. And we toil and turn over the dead parts. We fertilize it with encouragement, with discipline and development. We give our time and our energy and our passion for it.  We may exclaim to anyone who will listen, "Look at this child I have here, he is great. He will be doing something special in his life. I know that he has a great purpose and will make us all proud and do great things for God's kingdom."  Meanwhile those around us are just looking at what it looks like right now.  We are looking at the situation like I was looking at her yard work.  Wondering, "Why is she doing all of this work? It's cold out there. It's raining. It's snowing. Why doesn't' she wait til Spring.  I don't see what she sees. All i see is dirt."

But I also know the concept of planting seeds, watering them, waiting for the increase and seeing the harvest/fruit.  Her lawn is just another visual reminder for me of this concept.

I can also think about this for my own development. I believe that 2013 was a year of toiling out the dirt and icky stuff in my life. It was a time of buckling down and being disciplined and removing all of the weeds and the disobedience from my life.  And once that was done, I started planting seeds with Bible study, prayer, more personal Bible study and quiet time.  And while I still felt initially like I had failed, I still watered all of those seeds.. But even during the time of work, there were some sprouts coming through that I could see that also increased my faith and trust in God's plan for my life and my trust for knowing he's holding me in his hand.  And I'd guess now would be sort of the spring season.  I can see some fruits! I can see some harvest!  I can see that some of the things that upset me greatly last year, barely affect me now.  I can see so many changes in my heart and my willingness to heed the holy spirit and the voice of God.  There are many days when i don't want to be kind or forgive or have patience, but wanting to be obedient makes me go beyond that.

When you look at the things that are important to you - your development, your career, your kid, your relationships, etc. are you toiling and fertilizing and can you see what it will be? Or are you stuck on what you see right now?

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Raising Boys....

I blogged previously about Tyler's math grade and his missed assignments. Maybe I didn't blog about it, but tweeted about it.  When I noticed this, I asked his teacher for a conference. That was maybe 3 weeks ago. He told me that he didn't have any openings until today.  So I scheduled it.

I totally forgot about it and today I was working and thinking there is something I need to do.. And then I remembered I had a conference this week and hopefully I hadn't already missed it. Nope, it was this afternoon. So I emailed the teacher and asked if we were still meeting. He said yes, he'll see me then.

When I arrived, 4 of Tyler's teachers were sitting at the table. In my head I was thinking "Um, did something go on that I wasn't aware of? As far as I know he has great grades in these other classes so why are they here?"    I talked to the Math teacher first. I wanted to understand if he could tell me what goes on in class that the teacher doesn't get the assignments.

He told me that Tyler always has his homework done. He is always working in class, but for some reason he doesn't get the papers sometimes.

I spoke to each of the 4 teachers in kind of a joint conference.  The language arts teacher told me about this assessment they've been doing. They were initially tested in the early fall to see where they are. Each time they answer a question it gets harder and harder based on if they answer correctly. If they miss it, it gets easier, etc. But this assessment is one that has been given 3 times this year. Each time, the kid's goal is raised a little higher and it gives them an idea of how they will do on the end of grade test.  I think Tyler's goal initially was 219 or something and he's now at 240 something.  Well beyond what is needed to pass the test and well above his peers in his class.

The Social Studies teacher told me that Tyler has an academic mind and that she can have conversations with him about world events and she's always amazed at how much history he knows and how he can make connections. She says that he's on a level that her other students are not.  She also told me that he's very smart, very personable and charismatic and he's a leader.

The Science teacher said similar things. She told me that tyler was one point from an A this past quarter and could have done extra credit but he told her he didn't need it. He also didn't take any notes this quarter...

They all told me that he needs to be in honors classes next year. No matter what his end of grade test says or what the counselor MAY try to tell me, they are going to advocate for him to be in all honors courses and they want me to do the same.  They told me I need to start now and do not accept any scheduling difficulties or any other excuses.

One of the biggest problems is that school comes easy to him so he doesn't have to take notes and may not turn something in or doesn't study and he still does well, but he's in classes with kids who DO need to take notes, pay attention, etc. and there are times when Tyler is talking to them or telling them jokes and they are following along with him vs doing their work. He ends up doing well and they are suffering..

I am always having conversations with God about Tyler and his future. It's always something along the lines of "Help him to be a leader and NOT follow along with his peers that may not be doing the right thing. Let him enjoy school and do well and have favor."  Well I'm happy that he's being a leader but it doesn't sound to me like he's leading in the way I would be proud of.

I left that conference grateful to know what needs to happen and what corrections he needs to make and what I need to enforce and encourage on my end. But I sure wish we'd had this conversation in the beginning of the school year vs at the start of the final quarter.

Before I went to the meeting, I prayed in the car that I would be able to get guidance on Tyler's progress and that I would be partners with his teachers so that he can be and do his best.  I think that was achieved. And now I'm expecting him to have one of the best final quarters yet.  I do believe that kids rise to expectations that are set out for them.  I may have to be even more hands on (and i sure don't' feel like doing this) but this is one of the most important tasks, jobs I will ever have..

It is truly never easy being a parent.. But I know I have whatever it takes to help him be his best.. One day I'm going to be blogging about all of the scholarship offers he has for college.. I hope you guys will still be reading..


I mentioned a little while ago that not only was I going to work on my speech and my words and what I will allow myself to say, but also my thoughts.. See THIS post.  This weekend, a post came across my instagram about challenging yourself to NOT speak anything negative about another person for 3 days, 7 days, and on and on.  And I asked myself, "Can I do that?"

I wouldn't describe myself as a negative person. I would describe myself as positive, upbeat and encouraging. But there are some people that have done things that I feel are wrong or bad and it's not a one time thing but a pattern and I have spoken negatively about them.  I can't remember what I read or heard but it caused me to stop and want to change that and turn it around.  If I remember correctly, it spoke about everyone having a chance at redemption and allowing my words to be used only to honor someone else and not speak against them.

So I have been trying to purposely think about that phrase, "Honor them."  That's very easy to do when someone is cordial or when someone is easy to get along with and deal with, but what happens when they are not? Can I still honor them? Can I go against my emotions and how I feel and do what the Bible tells me to do?

Sometimes you have to do a little soul searching.. And yes there are times when you have to give yourself some time and space to handle your emotions. But at some point you have to make a choice to be obedient or to do what you feel or want to do and that may not line up with what you should do.

So I have been thinking a lot about "honor." And how my words and my thoughts can honor someone vs. being negative.

Whenever I encounter new people, specifically men that want to get to know me, I think that I much more cautious now. I'd like to think I am open to getting to know someone and if they approach me in a respectful manner then we can move to talking on the phone at first.  But if anything in the conversation sounds like something that can be a problem, I don't go any further. I don't really give any explanations or ask for any explanations. Sometimes when people start to explaining things, they can make you question your own initial thoughts..

This one particular person was very free with information and telling me about himself.  And with the help of Mr. Google I found out that there were some things in his past that I was not interested in dealing with.   And so I basically stopped communicating altogether. But this person attends my same church and so I've had to see him since that time.  The last time I saw him, he asked me what happened.  I was kind of vague about it but essentially said it didn't feel right to me so I didn't want to go any further.

But in the back of my mind, I was thinking "You told me all of this other stuff about you that really is meaningless in the grand scheme of things but you didn't tell me X."  After I was driving home that day, I got really convicted about those thoughts.. Here's why.  When I meet someone initially, nobody is going to tell me their whole life story.  What I make want to know and feel is important, may not be something they are comfortable sharing initially.  And they have that right to share as they see fit or not.  And here's the kicker, when I meet people I'd like to think I'm pretty open about who I am as well, but there are also things about me that I won't be sharing right away but may do so with more time.

So I thought to myself, maybe he shares what he is comfortable disclosing initially.  I don't think that means that someone is deceitful b/c who shares the worst mistakes they have made or the worst part of their character or even things that they have done that they aren't proud  of in initial conversations?

I guess my lesson here was while I want people to be open with me, there should be some level of filtering (not outright lying) but discretion when you meet someone. Nobody needs to know your whole life story on the first date.. I'm surely not going to give them my whole life story but that doesn't mean they are a bad person or have bad character.

This really made me think that I am going to have to go back to meditating and reflecting on this.. There's always lessons all around us and sometimes I'm left with more questions vs answers...

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Trusting the Process - Part 2

Originally, when I was thinking about the "process" behind things it all started with a conversation I had with a friend of mine.  She big chopped her hair in January and the other day she was talking to me about being frustrated that it wasn't growing FAST enough for her. She wanted it to be big and at least a certain length. She was bored with doing coils over and over again and wanted to be able to do the other styles natural ladies wear that she sees on social network sites.

When I first big chopped my hair in 2009, it was a big deal to me. I didn't initially like the hair that I saw in the mirror. But I thought to myself, "This is what i set out to do and I'm going to roll with it."  I know that big chopping can be a blow to someone's self esteem. People around you may not be accepting or encouraging. You may have a couple friends who are natural or who will support you even if you have no hair, but there will be people who will feel free to let you know they liked your hair the OTHER way. Or that it doesn't "fit" you and you should get a perm.. I've heard it all..

Amazing how folks' opinions can change with the wind.  I remember when I was going natural, this same friend was like "Why are you going to do that?" And after maybe a couple months or so of coils, she asked me, "How did you get your hair to have those little curls?"

Last Spring my hair was like this.

It surely didn't go from my original big chop to what is pictured above over night... During this time, I had been natural almost 4 years.  Do you know how much can change, grow, develop in 4 years?

That was 4 years of cowashing, deep conditioning, learning to two strand twist, learning to coil, learning to braid, learning to do puffs, learning to do roller sets, learning to flat iron my own hair, learning to use perm rods.. Learning NOT to spend a lot of money on expensive products.  It was a lot of WORK.. I didn't just wake up from a big chop with longer thicker hair...

But there are some other things that I picked up along the way that don't just relate to hair.. Shortly after I big chopped, I spent a lot of time reading hair blogs. I joined forums, specifically on Curly Nikki's site. I made friends with other ladies who were newly natural as well. Those women, I'd say maybe 10 or less women were all over the country. We all had different hair types/textures.  But we supported and encouraged each other daily.. It's been almost 5 years now.. And most of those same ladies are not as passionate about natural hair. I think all of them are still natural and at different lengths.. Some of us have big chopped all over again, some have colored, you name it.  But the support system during the PROCESS was what we all needed at the time.

When I said I didn't particularly care for what my hair looked like once I got out of the chair getting my big chopped, I meant that.  But I had set a goal for myself and I was determined to see it through, even when the circumstances right then didn't match where I thought I would be or what I thought my hair would look like.

But going through the process of growing my hair and learning HOW to style it and what products to use and how to be confident when I'm doing something that others may not agree with, but it feels right TO ME..

And last year when I decided to just chop it all off and start over again, it was more about ME and what i wanted to do.  Nobody made tooo ugly comments although there were some annoying ones. But I didn't have the time, energy or desire to grow my hair long again. But that didn't mean people didn't question the WHY.. Or offer commentary of why I shouldn't have done that..  It's still a process right?

One of the things about chopping your hair off and starting over is that sometimes it gives others the courage to do something they may not have done due to fear.

I cut my hair off for the 2nd time last July.. I don't regret it at all. I've pretty much kept it short for 6 months or so.  And I recently decided I wanted to grow the top a bit for the spring/summer.  These are current looks..

I may decide later on to grow it more. I may decide to cut it all off again.. But whatever stage my hair is in, it will always be a process. There's going to be some work involved. It may not look at that very moment how I want it to look. But I have to stick with it and keep the goal in mind AND not listen to all of the random discouragement around me.. But sometimes we have to be realistic with ourselves.... Things do not always happen over night. Most things don't happen over night. But while we are on the journey to it, we have to walk out and just trust the process..