Thursday, August 2, 2012

Whip it good.

Sometimes there's simply no if, and, or buts about it, there is no other way to get things done than to put your shoulder to the wheel and push the cart along yourself as sweat runs down into your eyes.  And today, at my house, we've been crackin' the whip and getting things done.... even when it appears that we weren't.

Wednesdays are mid-week chores at our house.  We've been working the 'new' chore charts since getting settled in TX about 9 months ago.  It's taken months of near hellish Wednesday mornings to finally get to today: the day 4 out of my 5 kids got their Wednesday chores accomplished without being reminded, and they even did competent, maybe even, dare I say it, great work.  Victory #2 for the week!  Lesson learned: diligence has wicked pay off.  Good things come to those that work for it.  And not just to the parents of the world working unceasingly to teach life skills, but to the kids that are working, sometimes less than tirelessly, learning those skills too.  The look of confident satisfaction radiating from kids when they have done a good job on a chore without prompting from anyone, is proof enough that they feel it.  That little blossoming bit of pride in self for a job well done.  Plus, they get more video game time too :)

But what about other kinds of work?  Chores are one thing.  What about communication?  That's one skill my kids really hate me talking about, but with two boys on the Autistic Spectrum and two with Language Based learning disorders, it is quite possibly the most repetitiously practiced skill at our house.  We also get a lot of practice delivering and accepting apologies.  As being empathetic and having the appropriate regret for each situation is a skill.  As is forgiveness.  And it takes a life time for most of us to become competent in either one.  Mostly because they are both heavily wrapped in a little thing called pride that has to be stripped away one layer at a time before the process can even begin.

How about self discipline?  How many of us buy into the myth that some people are just born with great will power and the rest of us just suck?  Don't buy that garbage.  I mean, who buys garbage anyway--well, my dad used to barter for garbage, but that's another story entirely.  Seriously garbage stinks and this myth is one of the foulest refuse.  Self discipline is a skill, one that everyone can learn and master if they work at it.  See my miracle on a monday post for a little inspiration about kids mastering self discipline.  Still makes my heart sing.  If my gaggle of special needs kids can do it for a overly long doctors appointment, surely we can do it now and again, right?  Personally though, my self discipline occasionally needs to take the backseat to my sanity, but that's just another skill we must also diligently seek after called Balance.

I spent most of the afternoon trying to enroll my children in online school, pay bills and generally be an adult, pushing my kids into the background so that I could focus or attempt to focus.  When my plate gets full my mental capacity shrinks like the rain forest, getting hundreds of acres cut down by the second.  Seriously.  Someday I will learn that a full plate is called a full plate because it is f-u-l-l and there is a reason why my brain is slow and my is patience non-existent when there are a million things going on.   You see, when your plate is overly full all the stuff gets mushed together and mashed into slop, trying to sift through it for anything resembling the original components is akin to the proverbial search for a needle in a haystack.

Sometimes the work we have to do is pruning, taking out those shears, sharpening them up and cutting off the overgrowth, so that real growth can happen.  Pruning is really another term for balancing, which is basically another word for juggling, so if you can prune you can run away and join the circus and live with carnies, right?  So, pruning... like all other skills it needs to be practiced often to gain perfection... and get you that job in the circus.

Today I worked my pruning skill by skipping the usual dinner madness (and other adult chores that needed to be done but I couldn't focus on anyway) by taking the kids to Chick-fil-A for take away (or to-go for all you mono-lingual Americans; the Brits call it take away), and coming home with a few $5 movies and candy from Wal-mart for an impromptu movie party.  And apparently, I am in LOVE with really long sentences today.

mmm... yummy chicken the most delicious way to support your constitutional rights... or not

The other skill I've been working at and whipping into shape lately is my creativity.  Yes, creativity is a skill.  Actually I just read this fascinating book called Imagine: How Creativity Works by Johan Lehrer.    Creativity takes work.  Unfortunately, it is something that kids rock at and adults struggle with.  Somewhere along the way, we simply loose our ability to use it.  Many feel this is due to our current educational system and how little we use that skill after 2nd grade.  Like our muscles, it atrophies from lack of use and later in life when we want to use that skill, a lot of us have a hard time even finding the 'muscles' or rather neurons used to activate it.  There are some things that you can do to work those neurons and prime your creative pump to let the juices flow.  Lehrer highly recommends daydreaming, using outsider perspectives to attack problems, allowing yourself to think like a child, and wallowing in the mud--or more aptly, the dry dirt--of a creative slump.  Basically, he's saying use what you've got and when you've used that up, stretch yourself.  Take a hiatus every once and a while.  Revert and act like a child, lose yourself to silliness and even tantrums, take off your adult hat and play dress up.  See the world through all different lenses.  And put those experience to work.  Engage in them, experiment, take lots of notes.  Never be afraid to collaborate or to take criticism.  No creative work is too sacred for either.  No work we will ever do is actually.

This is something that I tell my kids multiple times a day: allow yourself to be taught, allow yourself to develop your skills.  Give it your best and when someone says, 'that's not good enough' be brave enough to say, 'I'm not finished yet;  I still have more work to do.  But thank you for your input.'  Learning can only occur if we understand what we don't know and skills can only grow if we can allow ourselves to see, or be shown, what we need to work on.  Life is one big skill, one major production.  An accumulation of all the little mini-skills we are honing every moment of everyday.  Never let anyone discredit your work, not even yourself.  Accepting criticism is just one way of recognizing that our work isn't finished.  And that's ok.  If we were finished today, what would we spend the next 70 years doing?  Life would get very boring without something to work on.  We'd all be bored to death or to tears, whichever comes first.  And you know what boredom is, don't you?  It's being locked in a prison cell and not realizing that you are the one that holds the key to your freedom.

So reach in your pocket, pull out that rusty key, unlock those neurons, open whatever doors that stand in your way (did I mention that motivation is a skill too?) and get busy.  Whip it good.

*you can get more information about Imagine: How Creativity Works here.

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