being mindful / intentional behavior looking outward
Is it possible that the primary factor in developing close relationships is something we can all do, something that does not require “expert” training or advice? Issue number 25 addresses that which is at the core of strong relationships—a genuine mindfulness that allows us to see the relationship first in all we do—intentional behavior looking outward. When we are relationally mindful, we see that nothing is really routine; we experience the warmth that is most effective in creating increased closeness and relational understanding.
We will add more on mindfulness to our web page and Facebook page from now through the end of June, and all subscriptions ordered by May 2 will begin with issue no. 25. Single copies can be found at Barnes & Noble or ordered with an email request to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Last weekend I found myself sleeping on a grass field under the stars. Living in west Los Angeles, it’s a rare opportunity to see the stars between nights blanketed in ocean fog or the dimming effect of the city lights. But on this night, flanked by sleeping Boy Scouts scattered across a grassy field, clusters of the brightest stars shone down on us as we settled into our sleeping bags. As I drifted to sleep, I stared into the heavens letting my mind wander. Thoughts of my growing two-year-old entered my consciousness and of his younger brother expected to enter our family in a few months. In a self-examining moment I imagine many young parents experience, I began to ask myself probing questions such as, “How am I doing as a young father?” “What does my son need from me that I’m not presently giving?” “What kind of example am I to this precious little one?” As a first-time parent, such internal inquiry comes to me frequently as I travel the journey of perpetual “firsts.” Before I had a chance to answer the many questions that entered my mind, I drifted asleep. The following morning I awoke with those questions still on my mind. As I sat up to survey my surroundings, I noticed a moist sensation that completely enveloped me. I quickly realized that the nightly dew had visited us, coating our sleeping bags in a light blanket of moisture.
Dew plays an interesting part in the Southern California ecosystem. I’ve always been amazed at the vast array of disparate plants that can grow in this naturally dry landscape. In the same garden you can find everything from desert cacti to blooming perennials to colorful tropical varieties. What I find remarkable is that Los Angeles ranks as one of the driest major cities in the country averaging a mere 14 inches per year. How can such an array of plants grow in such an environment? I’ve never claimed to be a botanist, but I believe this can be attributed in part to the continuous, nourishing, and nearly imperceptible dew that descends each evening. Dew may be quiet and unnoticed, but its steady influence empowers a variety of plants to grow and develop.
This brings me to the realization I had waking up in my damp sleeping bag on that sunny morning in Los Angeles. Oftentimes as a parent I hold myself to the wrong standards. While my inclination may be to measure myself by the sheer inches of rain I provide to my growing boy, perhaps what he really needs is consistent, mindful acts of love like the nightly dew. What fatherhood requires of me isn’t a periodic downpour, but a daily, nourishing effort to help a child grow. Mother Theresa, a woman of immeasurable influence in the lives of countless individuals was attributed to have taught, “We can do no great things, only small things with great love.” As I continue to grow alongside my toddler, my only hope is to echo this sentence-long sermon by offering my child a quiet daily dew of love, trust, and mindful example. I can’t wait to see how he blooms.
Written by Josh Ostler, contributor, Seeing the Everyday
Young children are naturally curious as they grow and learn to explore the world around them. Their investigative minds may see the wonder of flour being spilled onto the kitchen floor for finger drawings or discover in Mom’s makeup bag a new set of art tools for the bathroom sink or mirror. As adults, we might come upon such situations in shock and think immediately of the required clean-up or replacement cost for anything potentially ruined. We may feel exasperated in such moments—particularly with our above-average explorers who seem to frequently find themselves in similar messes.
Contributing author Katie Miller shared a wonderful solution to defusing frustration or anger as young children are learning. When Katie was young and would get into a big mess or sticky situation, her mother, instead of reacting harshly, chose to laugh and get out the camera. Such instances were so frequent that they became known as those “don’t-get-mad-get-the-camera” moments, and the evidence is preserved throughout old photo albums. As a mother herself, Katie has practiced getting out the camera, and she reports that it has saved many hurt words and harsh tones from her children’s ears, preventing unnecessary divisions.
Katie’s suggestion has benefited us, and we shared her suggestion last year in hopes that it would also benefit our readers. Due to the tremendous response, we are making the “don’t-get-mad-get-the-camera” promotion an annual event to remind us all to keep perspective and snap a picture. Here are two images from last year’s winning submissions:
This year we have partnered with Becky Higgins, whose philosophy is to “cultivate a good life and record it.” We first met Becky in person a year ago when she contributed a story to the magazine, and we had the privilege of photographing her family. We saw first-hand her awareness of the little things—the conversations, spills, simple games, reading—that occur daily in her home. She makes an effort to live them well, and she promotes documenting our everyday events to more frequently turn our focus to them. To simplify memory-keeping, Becky created Project Life. We have found that her solutions to documenting the everyday encourage us to be more aware of the seemingly small yet meaningful events that we experience in any given day. We are delighted to be partnering with Becky and appreciate her generous giveaway offer, a Project Life® Core Kit, Album, and Big Pack of Photo Pocket Pages ($88 value). Sample pages of how Project Life® can be used for your don’t-get-mad-get-the-camera images:
We would love to hear about your don’t-get-mad-get-the-camera experiences! Post your photos along with a brief description on our Facebook timeline or send them to email@example.com. We will be collecting photos and descriptions throughout the month of April (giving time to encounter your own experiences!), and at the end of the month, we will randomly select five contributors. One recipient will receive a Project Life® Core Kit, Album, and Big Pack of Photo Pocket Pages of the winner’s choice plus a 1-year subscription to Seeing the Everyday. Four additional recipients will each receive a one-year subscription to Seeing the Everyday.
At age eight, Amelia Belchior woke up in her home in Marromeu, Mozambique to learn that her mother had passed away—a short 15 months after losing her father. She and her two-year-old brother were left without parental love and guidance. In the orphanage system, they learned to gain confidence in household work; however, in Amelia’s own words, “I thought I had things under control, but deep inside I always felt something was missing. I felt incomplete. I missed being a child and my self-esteem was low.” Amelia later recognized what was missing at the time: to truly feel cared about—“something every child needs.”
Amelia and her brother were adopted eight years later, and after years of building up self-protections, the transition to break them down and accept love was challenging. “Having come from such difficult circumstances, the transition to [our adoptive parents’] home took some adjusting. No matter how much I rebelled or rejected my new parents when I first came to their home, they persisted in showing love to me and helping me to work on the negative self-views I had developed.”
Amelia describes how her adoptive mother’s persistent, patient encouragement led Amelia to overcome her fears and self-doubts. “After living without parents for many years and then having the blessing of being adopted, I learned why every child needs parents. Through being loved I learned to love; I learned to believe in my inherent worth.” Amelia quickly acknowledges that, “Without my mother’s example and encouragement, I don’t think that I would have felt the love for my neighbors or for myself that I feel now. When I had the support of parents I did better in school and learned manners. I was healthier, happier, and treated others better.”
Amelia Belchior’s full story is found in Seeing the Everyday Issue No. 24.
In a media age that bombards youth with images of what they should look like and gives false importance to outer beauty, it can be challenging to instill in young minds a true sense of inner strength and beauty. How can fathers and mothers compete with the seemingly endless flow of lies that lead to unwarranted self-doubt and anxiety in young people? Though there are many suggested solutions in parenting books, the most influential approach is one that any father and mother can provide without training. We learn from Jenet Erickson’s own reflections the lasting, positive effects of a father whose consistent, deliberate presence formed the necessary attachments that kept his daughters from relying on the media for answers. Instead, they found character and confidence through his constant care. In Jenet’s own words:
In the hours before he went to work and in the hours after he returned, Dad spent his time teaching us and showing us how to do difficult things and better ourselves in the process. From doing math and chemistry problems to hoeing rows of tomatoes and milking cows, from learning to swim to kneading and baking bread, he instilled in his children confidence and capacity. In a way that only he could manage, he challenged us to do more while strengthening us through his knowledge we could do it. Most important, he was seemingly always beside us, willing to reach in and lift the load when it got too heavy, always encouraging us with his confidence. In his closeness and care, we felt strength. In his teaching and challenging, we developed confidence that we could do whatever was put before us.
It wasn’t until I was older that I realized Dad had never talked much about our appearance. I very rarely heard him comment on anyone’s appearance—especially women’s. In his quiet teaching, I knew that what Dad cared about most was that our bodies were healthy and well cared for so they could help us fulfill our dreams and do good for others. In a world that objectifies the body for sexual pleasure and financial gain, Dad seemed to intuitively fill us with confidence that our bodies were about our minds, hearts, and capacities. In Dad’s world, there was simply not time or energy to worry about making our bodies fit a worldly model of beauty. We had too much to do and too much to give. Our deep attachments to him and Mother, as well as understanding ourselves and our self-worth, provided footing to focus on what we could give and do to bless others.
As I look back, I marvel at his wisdom…
Jenet Erickson’s full story is found in Seeing the Everyday Issue No. 24.