Sunday, January 25, 2015

Living with Intention in Relationships


I remember being small and often visiting an elderly couple who always had an awkward silence between them.  They never referred to each other in terms of endearment.  They never touched.  They rarely looked directly at each other.  Their recliners were side by side with a small table between and it might as well have been a brick wall. 

It was not the comfortable silence of two people who have spent their lives in such togetherness that they didn't need words to fill the air because they each knew what the other was thinking without speaking audibly.  It was the bitter tense silence of a lifetime of disappointment, discontent and betrayal. 


Other visitors would reminisce about past times.  I had seen photos of them in much younger days – smiling and playing with their kids and holding hands.  But when they offered comments about those times their comments were sarcastic and negative.  I always wondered what it was that made them so bitter and gruff. 

When he passed away, those dark secrets all came to light.  His other daughter, one from a secret family he had kept all those years, had seen his obituary and made contact with the family. 

They had come from the era where divorce was not considered an option even when a marriage was damaged beyond repair.  Instead, they stayed together and carried that bitterness with them as a heavy yoke.  She hurt beyond words so much so that the words that came out were bitter and harsh.  He silent, guilt-ridden, knowing that he could never make it up to her. 


It was reflected in the family through the generations.  No one could really put a finger on when their attitudes toward each other had changed but clearly she had at some point in time discovered his secret life and harbored deep resentment that they were unable or unwilling to discuss.

So many relationships become toxic like this – slowly eroding over time – until something catastrophic changes it forever.

It’s easy to become complacent and stop doing all those little things as time goes on.  Many people actually joke about it – with a hint of real hurt behind those words.  Many times we don’t realize how much those little things mattered to the other person.  Holding hands, packing a lunch, holding doors, a text or phone call in the middle of the workday, date nights, looking each other in the eye instead of running after the kids and looking at phones while talking to each other…it’s a natural thing for those little things to fall aside as kids and busy schedules and stress increase. 


But that is what makes it so important to be intentional.  To every morning hug and kiss your loved ones goodbye and tell them that you love them.  To send a little “I love you” text at a random time of the day.  To give them an unexpected gift here and there that shows you pay attention to what they like.  To hold hands when you cross the parking lot.  To put aside your phone and sit together at the dinner table and ask your kids and spouse about their day and look them in the eye so they know you are truly listening.  To apologize sincerely for a wrongdoing or misunderstanding.  To make sure you say “I love you” at the end of every day – even when you are fighting.

I’ll admit that I am not always in the mood and not always the best at doing these things.  But when I do, even when times are tough and everything seems like a struggle, it is like the weight of the world lifts and suddenly it is easier to see the light at the end of the tunnel.


There are times when I am so frustrated with the kids after a morning of struggling to get out the door that it’s hard to even speak.  And then we get to school and I’m dropping them off and I see the looks on their faces and know that they are struggling too.  That they are tense and grumpy as I am.  I always, always, hug and kiss them goodbye.  And when I put my arms around them and tell them I love them and to have a good day – I can feel the relief wave through them and they will pull back and look me in the eyes and light up.  And they do have a good day – they do turn their attitudes around.



It can be really hard to break a cycle of any kind, but being intentional can make a real difference, even in relationships that have been hurt or that have become disconnected.

Part 1 of Living with Intention can be visited here.  Comments?  I'd love to hear them!

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Living with Intention: Part 1

One of my absolute favorite quotes that I have repeated to myself a million times
over since I discovered it when I was a teenager!
I’m here!  Happy very belated Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year – ouch has it really been that long since I’ve posted?!  If you follow me on Twitter, Pinterest or Google+ then you’ll know that I’m still alive and sharing content on those streams but admittedly, time and compulsion to write just have not meshed in a long time.  Part of that is due to a promotion at work that has left me very fulfilled with a much lower stress level but also lacking the ability to complete a sentence by the end of most days… 

But I often think of you and want to share things – and I do through those other mediums so please consider following me on one or all of those sites!  I read an article yesterday that I shared on Google+ on the struggle to not melt down like a toddler (while yelling at our children to stop acting the same way) when things aren’t going perfectly and it reminded me of a post I started to write to you all about living with intention. 


In this particular article, this mother talked about choosing to react differently.  One of the saying I use with my very independent children often is “You choose.  You can make a good choice or a bad choice and that will determine how everything else goes.  And you can choose to act differently even after you make a bad choice.”


So often when I say this to my kids I feel hypocritical.  While I try to live by this, I am far from perfect.  And in those moments when I lose it and let the little things get to me, I hear myself saying this to my kids and look at their faces and know they hear it too…


Learning to live with intention is hard work.  Being intentional in your personal life is even harder.  But there are huge payoffs.  Being intentional in your marriage, in your parenting, in your finances – there are benefits everywhere.


When I listen to people who talk about how they are unlucky or trouble seems to follow them or life is so unfair, when I look at the choices they make in life I often see that they do not live with intention.  Sometimes life just happens – but more often, we don’t live with intention and the things that happen are the result of our choices.


Those people around us who seem to be the luckiest people alive, who are really content with their lives – when you really examine how they live, you can most often see that they live with intention in almost everything they do.


My next post will be more on living with intention…  I intend to get it up next week, haha!

Do you feel like you live with intention?  
Are there areas you struggle more with than others?
I'd love to hear your thoughts!

Friday, September 26, 2014

Binder Park Zoo Trip

We are lucky to have great zoos of all sizes in Michigan.  One of my favorites is Binder Park Zoo in Battle Creek.  I've been to this zoo several times and it never disappoints.  My children's schools and daycare usually take annual field trips so I try to make that one of the field trips I take with them.  
On this field trip, we started out with a special up close viewing of a few small creatures - the hedgehog...
turtle...
and dove (we got to pet this one with our pinkies on the way out the door.
I handed my daughter the camera and she captured most of the zoo guests along the way (this is a long post!) - funny little prairie dogs...
this chillin' Red Panda...
hard to see but those are African wild dogs...

The thing that makes this zoo unique is its Wild Africa portion.  You ride a zebra-striped tram (featuring an African tour guide's voice telling you all about your destination) out to a separate area of the zoo that is set up like an African Village.  
There is a large grasslands area with a mix of friendly grass-eaters...

Including one of the main attractions - the giraffes!






You walk around a boardwalk and up through a village with huts that are at land level with the animals 
(and this giant termite home) and feature viewing areas.



Then you walk up a hill that takes you to a "treehouse" platform that puts you at head level with the very friendly giraffes.  You can buy lettuce there to feed the giraffes by hand.



Aren't these babies so sweet!
They really are so cool to see up close - look at that pattern!


You'll pass through a hut into a netted bird tunnel with all kinds of colorful winged guests.




A one mile walking loop leads you from one village to another while asking fun questions along the parts of the trail between animal habitats.
 Boars...
 monkeys (do you see her baby snuggled in front of her?)...
 he was so adorable...
 more monkeys (not skunks!)...see how she is cleaning the fur of the monkey laying down?
 
Another bird enclosure houses larger birds like these storks.

Near the end of the loop is another village - more of a small farming village setup.  This tiny little home is divided into areas for preparing food and sleeping.
 Cattle...
 
 Guinea hens...
and the cattle barn.
After taking the tram back to the main part of the zoo, there is a merry-go-round and educational amphi-theater.  A boardwalk allows you to walk over the wolf enclosure.
 The children's mini-zoo includes a walk-in goat enclosure...
 miniature ponies...
 bunnies...(including a tunnel for small kids to go through under the bunny enclosure)
 donkeys...
llamas...a giant dinosaur with an area where kids can "dig for bones"...and a small train ride.




Some of the other guests in the front area - she didn't get pictures of everything like the kangaroos...
A trip through the covered bridge over the fish ladder will take you to the new black bear exhibit.

These youngesters were a hoot as they battled for their spots in the shade.

The snow leopard is also a hot attraction.
An overview of the zoo map.  

It is a great zoo for people of all ages - plan pretty much the whole day if you like to see everything, linger a bit, or if you have smaller kids who are walking.  There are plenty of options for food, shade and taking breaks.  I prefer to hit the Wild Africa area first thing in the morning before it gets too hot - if you go in the afternoon it will start to feel like you really are in Africa.  The main zoo is good for strollers or wheelchairs but you most likely will not want to do the one mile loop to see all of Wild Africa - a good portion of that terrain is hilly, rough and not paved.

Have you been to this zoo?  What is your favorite part?