A picture’s worth a thousand words.

Speed Limits

We are now back from vacation.  It was interesting visiting Germany in so many different ways.  It felt familiar and not. . .like being in a fairy tale but without knowing if you were in the Disney version or the original Grimm’s version.

Not that we were ever in danger – let me clear on that point.  But rather the trees were mostly familiar and then some weren’t. . .  The hills looked kinda like Southeastern MN, but not quite. . .  There were charming nooks and crannies and then there were rainy alleyways which could have been hiding werewolves. . .Ancient and changed all at once.

The strangest thing for me, however, was not understanding the words I saw around me.  For the most part.  If it was in English, I got it.  However, most things were not.  So, I didn’t.

Now, I’ve never spoken German.  I’ve never tried to read it.  There is no realistic reason for me to expect to understand the words around me.  And yet, I did.

When we went over, I didn’t expect to understand the people speaking, but for some reason it didn’t occur to me that I wouldn’t understand what was written either.

I’ve always been able to understand written words.  And to put them into a context my brain can use.  And, it really annoyed me that I couldn’t just read the words around me.  Well, read them and have them make sense.  I could read them well enough, but without knowing what the words meant. . .it was really annoying.

It annoyed me enough that now I’ve decided I need to learn to read German.  I’m less concerned about speaking it well, but being able to read it is something that needs to happen.  I bought myself my favorite book’s German translation.  And, a German dictionary app.  And, so far, I’m two sentences in.  But!  They are translated correctly.

B thinks that this may teach me to understand how everyone else reads all the words.  He may be right.

However, because I wasn’t 2 sentences in to my translation at the time of our trip and in order to get around, understand things and be an active participant in our vacation, I had to rely on the kindness of my family (thank you, Kelsey!!) and on pictures.

Some of the pictures, like the one above, were fairly easy ones.  Speed limits for tanks vs trucks. . .adults and children holding hands when crossing the street. . .fresh pastries sold here. . . (those were some of my favorites!)

Some .  . .well, I opened some to interpretation.  The one that probably meant, “Be careful along the edge of the platform so you don’t fall and get hit by a train,” looked an awful lot to me like, “In order to board the train you must do a fancy happy dance.”  Others were families playing soccer in the street while their car waited down the block for them.

And, then there was one that none of us was able to figure out.  I should have taken a picture of that one . . .

I appreciated the pictures.  The signs that had good, strong arrows.  I also appreciated the chance to really understand that not knowing it all is not the end of the world.  That asking for help is not a bad thing.  And, that sometimes smiling, pointing and pantomime can get you breakfast.

 

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Feedback and Failures

I’m roasting a chicken as I write this.

I also over-roasted some veggies.  Way. Over. Roasted. some veggies.

And, the place has smelled like burning something for a while now.

Did I check the veggies?  No.

Why not?

Strangely enough, or maybe not so strangely for those of you who know me, I have no real answer for this.

It would not have been hard to check them.  It probably would have not only salvaged the veggies themselves, but also saved us from the pervasive smell of something burning.

But, I didn’t check them.

Will I check them next time?  Maybe.  And, if I do check them next time does that mean I turned this failure into something productive?

Does that mean my failure became effective feedback?

Does it need to change a behavior to be effective feedback?  Does it need to produce a different, more correct, perhaps, result?

And, if it doesn’t change anything, is that a failed failure?

And, what about the other stuff, the stuff that wasn’t a failure?  In addition to roasting the veggies, I have a chicken in the oven – that looks to be turning out beautifully.

So, I can’t call cooking in general tonight a failure.

Granted, most of the eggs cracked, but the other veggies for the week are all cut and stored and ready to be taken for lunches and snacks.

The kitchen is mostly clean, but the bed will need to be cleared of the laundry before we can use it for sleeping tonight.

Does that mean I failed at housekeeping this weekend?  Because it’s not all done perfectly?  Or, in some cases, such as the vacuuming, at all?  There are all the things I didn’t do this weekend.  And, there are some things I did.

I think, sometimes, I focus on the what I didn’ts rather than the what I dids.  Because when I focus on the what I dids it feels like someone else will point out the what I didn’ts.

And, then I think about what I really value.  And I think about the best compliments I’ve ever gotten in my life.  And I think about how not a single one of those compliments would fit into any sort of a corporate setting/evaluation/rating sort of an event.  Which might be failing.

But, every single one of those compliments makes my heart glow and fills me with immense satisfaction and a sense of living my values.

And, that’s not failing.

That’s important feedback.

No, Women Are Not Confusing. At All.

This past week showed me that sometimes when a woman is crazy, it isn’t you.  It’s her.

I realized that, perhaps, I was struggling with clarity and with not misinterpreting other people’s intentions on Wednesday morning.

Wednesday morning I was walking through the skyways.  In downtown Minneapolis, some of the skyway intersections have automatic doors, some have doors that need to be opened and some don’t have doors at all.

I had reached an intersection with a door that needed opening.  There was a gentleman who had reached the door before me and he opened it and held it for me.  I said, “Thank you,” and walked through.

I have done this before.

However, unlike before when I have done this, afterwards I felt a rush of . . .almost rage.  Yes.  Almost rage.

At the gentleman who had held the door for me.

Now, he was not creepy, he was not inappropriate, he was not unkind or mean or anything other than polite and a stranger who had held the door.

So, why so angry?

Because, after I walked through the door I thought, “What if there had been a dragon waiting on the other side of the door?!”

Yes.  A dragon.  Waiting.  In the skyways of downtown Mpls.

(Never mind that it was a glass door, either.)

Nope.  I was mad because had there been a dragon on the other side of the door, I would have been eaten.  All because this nice man held the door.

Then I got mad at chivalry.  Because what kind of sickness is it that causes men to open doors and let the women go first into possible danger?!

So.  That was Wednesday.

Thursday I’m on an elevator.  There are two women in front of me, a gentleman to the side and then another woman towards the back of the elevator.

The man lets the first two women off, (he stands off to the side so as to be out of the way for them) and then gets off the elevator before myself and the other woman.

Remembering that this was an irrational week for me, you would not be wrong if you guessed my reaction to that was not, “Oh!  How kind!  He’s leaving first so as to distract the dragon!”  But, rather, “What?!?  Are we chopped liver?!”

And then I started to think about women in general and our expectations.  And how impossible it is for me to live up to my own expectations sometimes.  And how impossible it must be for anyone else to live up to anyone else’s expectations ever, because if my own expectations change so dramatically and irrationally and I can’t always figure them out, how could anyone else ever figure anyone else’s expectations out, much less live up to them?

So I figure we muddle through, do the best we can.  Say please and thank you.  And, know that sometimes women are crazy.  And sometimes men are too.

And that, in general, people are just trying to do the best they can.  And you can’t fault them for that.

Especially if there are dragons involved.

Moving to Tahiti.

It’s cold out.  And, it’s getting colder.

Again.

I know I live in MN.  I know its January.  I know this whole winter weather thing is to be expected.

And, I’m grateful for my warm house.  For my warm clothes.  For being able to get out of the cold.

Doesn’t mean I have to like it though.

Or that I can’t dream about moving to Tahiti.

Patience, Grasshopper. . .

I am both a very patient and a very impatient person.

If you are struggling with something but trying, I can have all the patience in the world for you.

If I am struggling with something but trying, I have no patience whatsoever.  It’s as though once I’ve made the decision I need instant results.  To heck with delayed gratification, I want to see the end product and I want to see it now.

I was talking with a therapist about grief and grieving and that whole process and how frustrated I was that I couldn’t feel as though I was just better now.  She told me I needed to be patient.

I was also talking with her about my frustration with my inability to commit to eating better  and exercising more (and thereby losing the 20 some pounds that have stubbornly refused to leave just because I’m asking them to) and she told me I needed to be patient.

Patient.

Able to accept or tolerate delays, problems, or suffering without becoming annoyed or anxious.

Yeah.

So not me with respect to myself.

Except, I’m learning that if it’s okay to be patient with myself and how I’m dealing with losses it’s okay to be patient with myself in other areas..

So, I’m practicing.  I’m practicing being patient.  I’m practicing not being derailed by setbacks and exasperation.  I’m practicing the behavior as I want it to be.

And, strangely enough, it’s satisfying.

After three weeks of diligent eating and exercising, the scale is not miraculously 20 pounds lighter.  And, that’s okay.  I feel better.  I like the habits I’m creating.  I’m enjoying the process.  And, the results will happen.  Eventually.

Sometimes I wish that I could have understood these things a long time ago.  But then I have to remember, I wasn’t ready to a long time ago.  If I had been then, I’d be in a different place now.  With different sufferings and different wishes.

Patience.

Patience isn’t a virtue.  It’s a value.  It’s worth practicing.

Patiently.

Things for which I am thankful for today

Today I am thankful.

I am thankful for B and Sally.

I am thankful for my mom and my brother and my sister-in-law and my niece and my brothers-in-law and my sisters-in-law and my other niece and my nephew and my mother-in-law and my father-in-law.

I am thankful for fun cousins.

I am thankful for jeans that fit right now.

I am thankful for warm blankets to snuggle in to.

I am thankful for interesting things to read.

I am thankful for good cheese and summer sausage.

I am thankful for beet pickles.

I am thankful to have worked out today.

I am thankful tomorrow is a rest day.

I am thankful for crossword puzzles which I can fill in.

I am thankful for being employed in the field in which I am trained.

I am thankful for new people to meet.

I am thankful for good ex-co-workers who are still interesting and fun.

I am thankful for good food in my refrigerator.

I am thankful for hot cocoa mix in my morning coffee.

I am thankful for music.

I am thankful for pictures.

I am thankful for memories.

I am thankful for having time alone.

I am thankful for having time not alone.

I am thankful for opportunities to practice mindfulness.

I am thankful for sitting.

I am thankful for having legs that will run.

I am thankful for having a comfy bed with good nesting covers.

I am thankful for having a washing machine and a dryer where I live.

I am thankful for having one car.

I am thankful for having an indoor parking spot for that car.

I am thankful for having so many things for which I am thankful.

I am thankful.

Loss, Gifts and Self-Care

It’s the first Sunday in January 2014.

The holidays are behind us.  The new year stretches out in almost its entirety before us.

So many options.  So many possibilities.  It’s both breathtakingly amazing and a little terrifying at the same time.  Hard not to let the What Ifs get carried away.  But, I learned a lot last year and one thing I learned was that the What Ifs take up time and energy that I don’t always have so letting go of them got easier to do.

2013 was a hard year.  There was a lot of loss for my family.  There was a lot of planning and then changing the plan and then changing the changed plan.  There was a lot of emotion that doesn’t usually happen on a daily basis and a lot of really hard decisions to make and conversations to have.

Yet, we did it.  We had the conversations.  We made the decisions.  We felt the feelings.  We rolled with the latest and greatest change to whatever plan might have been made.  We got through the year.

I got through the year.

But I certainly didn’t get through the year by myself.

B was right by my side.  My mom, my brother and his family, Sally. . .

And, my friends.  So many friends.

If nothing else, 2013 showed me how incredible my friends are.  People who have supported me without asking, shown up just when I needed them, and made sure I was doing okay in general.

It has been such a privilege to see people showing genuine care.  And not just for me.  To hear from my mom how her friends are looking out for her – the woman is busier now than she’s been in years!  To have B come home from his office telling me his coworkers are asking how I am.  K, way over in Germany, sending texts with lovingkindness.  People letting me know they were thinking about me, without expecting anything in return.

It made 2013 bearable.  However, I’m still incredibly glad it’s over.

And now it’s 2014. And oh man, have I got hopes and plans for 2014.

I’m taking 2014 to invest in myself.  I’m taking the time to get more exercise.  I’m taking the time to cook more.  I’m taking the time to write more.  I’m taking the time to reward myself for following through on my commitments to myself and I’m proactively making the appointments for the rewards!

I’m also understanding that, for me at least, part of taking care of myself is working more on taking care of my friends and family.  It’s not a perfect commitment, but it’s a start.

And, when 2014 has it’s bumps in the roads and the feelings get hard to feel and tough things happen, I will celebrate knowing that I am not alone.

Because for as hard as 2013 was, it showed me quite brilliantly, that I am loved.  And that is such an amazing gift.