Why Bother With Routines?

Why Bother With Routines?

Two small incidents at work this past week reminded me just how valuable routines can be. 

First, on Tuesday morning, I asked the librarian if she had any books on Benjamin Franklin or Henry Ford, two of the scientists that my students are researching for an essay they have to write. 

“Let me ask the secretary if I can borrow her keys to get into the library. I forgot mine because my routine was interrupted this morning, before even leaving the house,” she said.

“I know how that goes,” I told her. “If I get side tracked, I forget things too.”

Then on Wednesday, my principal asked if I wanted to accompany him to visit another school that is noted for their science program. “Pam can’t go with me today. Do you want to go instead?” 

Though I was interested, I glanced at the list of what I already had planned for the day. If I left my class with a substitute teacher, the important lessons I’d organized for my students would go by the wayside. 

“No thanks,” I told my principal. “I need more notice. I’m not a spontaneous kind of a person unless I’m on vacation.”

He understood. 

Benefits of a Routine

I am not obsessed about my routines and they do not control me, but I do know the value of establishing a regular way of doing something, not just for myself, but also for others around me. For instance, students crave a set schedule in the classroom and as soon as possible, I create one for them at the beginning of every new school year. In this way, they quickly learn what to expect when they walk through my doorway. The routine becomes second nature to them and as a result, my classroom hums with the rhythm students who know how to focus on their learning. 

My life did not start out with routines and order. Instead, I grew up in a chaotic household. But, my grandma’s way of living showed me how life could be different. Not only did she keep her house in order, but she lived an ordinary, yet orderly life. Everyday had its own set of chores and everything in her house had its place.  Watching her life showed me the benefits of routines. They brought comfort, confidence and calmness into a person’s life.    

I learned from her life and now benefit from what I learned. First of all, I know that planning for each day and sticking to that plan keeps impulsiveness at bay. I am more inclined to complete and succeed at work and at home when I stay focused on what I need to accomplish. Secondly, organizing my days before they begin saves me time and energy. Whether it’s packing my lunch or laying out my clothes the night before, I don’t have to run around looking for anything because I’ve already gathered what I know I’ll need in one place. Finally, my routines help to keep my mind from collecting too much clutter. Like a pilot or surgeon who checks their checklist before going down the runway or performing a surgery, my checklist assures me I’m clear for takeoff too. 

The best thing about establishing routines is that they free me from the tyranny of the urgent. 

Why bother with routines? Routines are worth the effort it takes to establish them. Once they are in place, we can walk through our days with more certitude, satisfaction and ease.

Why Bother Collecting Wise Words?

Why Bother Collecting Wise Words?

Some people like to collect things, sometimes for their value, other times just for the simple pleasure of collecting something.  My dad collected antiques as well as coins, specifically the Kennedy head half dollar. While still a kid, one of my brothers collected empty beer cans and stacked them on shelves in his bedroom, much to my mother’s dismay. My husband and oldest son stack up pieces of wood from their construction jobs. They use it later to build other things like cutting boards for Christmas presents. 

Oh The Things We Collect

A friend once told me how her husband collects mini toy cars. He uses the guest bedroom in their house for his display cases. Sometimes he sells some on the internet. I had no idea there was even a market for mini toy cars. Another friend told me how her husband fills up their garage with old radio parts and that he sometimes sells those parts, but not often enough so that they have space in their garage to park their car.  Once, a husband of one of my friends confided in me how his wife collects shoes. “She has seventy-five pairs!” he exclaimed. 

Some people can afford to collect art and still others display beautiful pieces made from blown glass. A glass collection would never work for me. Though I can admire its beauty from a distance, I’m too much like a bull in a china store. Objects made of glass does not last very long around me. 

 At one time, when I was a house cleaner, one of my customers accumulated more than 100 kerosene lamps. Dusting them without breaking them was a strenuous strain for my nerves. 

Someone once asked, “I’d like to buy you a birthday present. Don’t you have a collection of something that I can add too?”  They were crestfallen when I told them, “I don’t really collect anything.” 

But on second thought, I do. I keep up a collection of  words. Over the years, when reading inspiring authors, I write down some of their words. At first I wrote their bits of wisdom on note cards and filed them in a wooden recipe box. I even had categories for these quotes: authenticity, change, growth, pain, wisdom and trust. But the box all too soon filled up. So, I began buying “Fat Books.” They are not very big, but they do hold more quotes than a recipe box. So far, I’ve filled up six of these little spiral fat books. They are not in any particular order, but that is okay. Sometimes I like to sit and read a few tidbits of wisdom from them before I start my day. Something in there always makes me smile.

A while back, I made a birthday present for a friend of mine. She does not keep any writing journals on a consistent basis, but she’s often told me how she’d like to. For her birthday, I bought her a plain composition book and at the top of each page, I wrote a quote from my fat books filled with wise words. Sometimes she will call and tell me that she’s opened that journal just to read the quotes. They make her laugh, smile and give her encouragement. As of yet, they have not moved her to write. 

Why bother collecting wise words? Rereading words of wisdom can make us smile, encourage our hearts and remind us that others, like us, have tread the same path of life we now tread. Their nourishing morsels keep us moving  forward. 

 

Why Bother With Knowledge?

Why Bother With Knowledge?

This past weekend, I attended a workshop that taught me about pelvic health. After the first session, I felt a little ashamed of myself. Though my pelvis is an important and central part of my body, I knew so little about it. But after the workshop, I walked away better informed and equipped to make some simple changes to having better health. 

I appreciated how the instructor began her workshop with a simple yet profound statement, “Knowledge is a powerful tool for change,” she said.  I agree. I’ve never believed that ignorance is bliss, rather I believe that ignorance is instead, a roadblock to change. Knowledge, on the other hand, can eliminate ignorance giving us the ability to make different and better choices for ourselves.  

     What Motivates Learning?

I’ve often been a student and I am a teacher. From my own experience, I’ve narrowed down what motivates me to gain knowledge. First, I learn what I want to know. Secondly, I learn when something I want to know is applicable and thirdly, I learn when I have to know.  

Most of my early childhood education involved learning because I had to. I didn’t especially like school, but I knew it was necessary. In order to make progress and graduate, I had to learn enough to pass the tests. Having to learn, though not the greatest motivator, still motivates. 

At work, I have to learn in order to use new software as well as any new curriculum our district adopts. I’ve grown in knowledge concerning giving standardized tests and understanding data from those tests because I’ve had to. Having to learn is not the number one incentive, but it does spur most of us to grow past complete ignorance. 

So, what made me sign up for and attend the pelvic workshop when I did not have to? What made me want to sit inside on a sunny weekend instead of staying home and reading a book while lounging in my backyard?  I wanted to learn. I wanted to grow in my knowledge of how the very center of my body works because I knew it was applicable to my present health. 

Wanting to learn because I can apply the knowledge to something very practical in my life is, for me, the number one reason for gaining knowledge. But no matter our reason for growing in our knowing, it keeps us from settling for ignorance. 

Why bother with knowledge? “Knowledge is a powerful tool for change,” and gives us the ability to make better choices for our lives. 

Why Bother With Community?

Why Bother With Community?

Just recently, I decided to return to the community of yoga teachers. I’ve missed the experience of teaching yoga and it was an exhilarating and encouraging experience to interview the other day for a position I’d once held, let go of and now hope to secure once again. 

      CommUnity

Being a part of a yoga teaching community means that I will get to hobnob with other teachers again. I’ll sub for their classes and they will sub for mine. We’ll exchange ideas, support one another with our knowledge, and seek one another’s company when we attend those required employee meetings. 

Belonging to a community of yoga teachers gives me a sense of belonging to a group.  Within this group, I will find like minded individuals who share common ideas and values. But also within this community, I will find philosophies and ideas that vary slightly from my own simply because no two people think and teach alike.  

But, no matter what type of community we belong to, whether it be a belly dancing community, a biker community or political one, each group is made up of particular, peculiar, and distinct individuals. People are similar, but not exactly the same. 

What we have in common is what draws us together and noticing the differences can sometimes make belonging to a community a bit of a struggle. But these differences do not need to polarize us or keep us from participating in the lives of others. Instead, appreciating and respecting the things that make others distinct promotes an amicable community. 

It has been said that human beings are relational by nature which means we are not meant to isolate and detach ourselves from each other. Sharing the things we have in common and respecting the things we don’t have in common make for better communities. 

Why bother with community? Within the word community is common unity. In isolation there is only a small “i”. We are not intended to do this life alone.

Why Bother Noticing the Narrative?

Why Bother Noticing The Narrative?

I’ve always been an avid reader and read bedtime stories to my sons. Now, as a fourth grade teacher, I  like to introduce my students to the pleasure of reading good stories by authors who write good books. Every year, I read stories out loud to my fourth grade class nearly every day. And no matter the genre of the book, historical fiction like Number the Stars, or realistic fiction such as Old Yeller or Hatchet, my students always ask, “Is this story real?” 

That question always leads us into a discussion about different genres, the setting of the story, events and setting.  Countries such as Denmark, Texas in the 1860s, or the Canadian Wilderness really exist, I tell my students. WWII really happened and as far as the characters go, I like to emphasize the power of an author. For example, before Fred Gipson, the author of Old Yeller, penned his book, Travis, Arliss and Old Yeller did not exist. Mr. Gipson created them. He chose their names, formed their character traits and by his imagination, controlled their actions. I let them ruminate on that fact and then I begin reading them a really good story.

The Power of Authors

Even if we never write a book, we are all authors of our own narratives. We tell ourselves stories every day. We all possess an imagination that can work for or against us. For example, just recently I wove a very good story in my mind.  

Sometimes my job overwhelms me, especially the last quarter of every year. At this time, end of the year state testing for students takes place as well as teacher self-reflection and evaluations. Both of these events are time consuming and energy draining. There are a plethora of forms and protocols that must be followed with precision and deadlines to be met. It is an anxious and worrisome few weeks. 

Recently, I opened an email from my principal informing me that my self-reflection was due in a few days. Reading his words made the muscles in my shoulders tighten and my mind whirl with worry. In my mind I created a narrative that went something like this— “How does he expect me to get this self reflection completed while testing my students? And where are the directions for what I’m supposed to do? I have no support, no guidance and no time. I’m going to tell him exactly how I feel about his expectation and that it is impossible to complete in a few days.  

Then, this is what really happened in the story. Our principal, Mr. C., came to see me in my classroom and said, “Mrs. Luikens, I just wanted to let you know that during our staff meeting tomorrow we will do the self reflection together so that we can support each other as we tackle this seemingly horrendous project that is due in just a few days.” 

“Thank you, Mr. C.”

My story was embellished with worry and resentment while the true story was filled with thoughtfulness and encouragement. 

Why bother noticing the narrative? As authors of our own stories we have the power to create a narrative which may work for us or against us. Having the “real story” will most likely work better for us. 

Why Bother Taking a Slow Walk?

Why Bother Taking a Slow Walk?

My husband and I often wonder what we should do with the “extra” property we own. Our house sits on a large lot in town that measures close to an acre.  Anyone else these days would divide the lot and build another house to sell or rent. But I don’t like the idea of sharing my space with anyone else. Yet at times we wonder.

In the past, when our sons were young, we grew a large garden in that “extra” space. They helped till the soil, plant the seeds, and weed out the weeds. The corn crop was so prolific that my young sons would load up their red wagon and deliver corn around to the neighbors. The garden was a fun and inexpensive family project until the city began to meter the water. Consequently, our fun became too expensive to maintain.

So we continue to wonder and bat ideas back and forth between each other. My husband occasionally talks about building a tiny house, one that we could rent out to tourists. I remind him that having strangers come and go that close in proximity is not an appealing thought to me. Then I counter with one of my own. “How about building a labyrinth?” I ask. He just shakes his head and smiles. 

A Labyrinth? 

 I don’t remember why I first became interested in labyrinths, but once I did, the interest stuck. In my opinion, it would be ideal to have a labyrinth out my back door. Presently, if I want to take a slow meditative walk through a labyrinth, which I like to do on a fairly regular basis, I have to take a fast fifty mile drive to the next town south.

A labyrinth is not a maze. It does not have a number of pathways linked together. Instead, it is a single path, from entrance to center and back again. There are any number of labyrinth patterns with anywhere from 3, 11, to fifteen circuits. The pathway can be made of grass, gravel, dirt, stone or even canvas. They can be inside a church, or outside in a public park. 

I’ve walked one painted on canvas, one inside a church, a stone pathway in a public park, a grassy one behind a church as well as a gravel path behind another church. They are not something that are necessarily advertised or commercialized. I’ve never stumbled across one, but have actually searched them out. 

When I walk the path in a labyrinth, it is similar to the path I walk in life—there are lots of twists and turns and I sometimes wonder if I am on the “right”trail. But one thing is very different when walking the path in a labyrinth and that is my pace. A labyrinth forces me to walk slowly, to keep my eyes fixed on my feet and to concentrate. I don’t think about what is ahead, nor what is behind, rather I focus on just my present step. Sometimes a word might pop into my head—purpose, commitment, or trust and I ruminate on that one word. But my purpose for this slow walk is not to solve a dilemma, or to discover a profound insight. My purpose is to simply slow everything down—my breath, my thoughts and my movement. Walking a labyrinth is how I practice staying in the moment. 

But so far, I will still have to travel those fifty miles to take my slow walk around a labyrinth because I’ve not yet convinced my husband how valuable it would be to have one in our yard.

Why bother taking a slow walk? Even if you have to travel to find a labyrinth, taking a slow walk around a labyrinth is worth the effort. Slowing down the breath, the mind and movement just might open up a whole new path in one’s life. 

Why Bother Hunting for Easter Eggs?

Why Bother Hunting for Easter Eggs?

Easter egg hunts have no religious significance and it is difficult to connect eggs with the Christian celebration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Yet, the tradition of egg hunts and bunnies remains just as strong as the celebration of the resurrection.

The History of Easter Egg Hunts

Just in my family alone, the custom of Easter egg dates back three generations. 

As a child, I remember how we colored eggs using fizzy tablets dissolved in hot water with a dash of vinegar. The smell was not pleasant, but it was fun to watch an egg go from white to red, or yellow. Then, using the wire gadget that came with the egg coloring kit to remove the egg from the cup, we’d leave the eggs on the kitchen table to dry and to cool. 

We did not hunt for our Easter eggs though. Instead, the night before Easter, we’d place our Sunday shoes, white patent leather for the girls, and freshly polished black dress shoes for my brothers, on the stairs that led to our second floor bedrooms. On our way down the stairs the next morning, we’d find artificial grass tucked inside our shoes along with a few or our colored eggs and of course some kind of wonderful candy. We actually ate our colored eggs for breakfast, along with the candy and then skipped off to church, having been made happy by what we’d found in our shoes. I have no idea where this custom originated from, but it made Easter morning almost as exciting as Christmas morning. 

Our three sons grew up with some of their cousins. On Easter afternoon, my brother and sister’s families along with my own, gathered for a large Easter egg hunt. We dropped the custom of coloring eggs and opted instead to buy the plastic eggs and fill them with little prizes—money or pieces of chocolate. Sometimes we took our Easter egg hunt down to the beach, sometimes out on my brother’s farm, and at other times into our backyard. But wherever we went, the dad’s had as much fun hiding the eggs as the kids had in finding them. Each time someone found an egg, there was a look of anticipation on their face. What would they find inside? 

Now I have two grandchildren who are growing up with the similar tradition of Easter egg hunts. Their parents now carry on their own Easter egg hunt with eggs that are filled with something delicious.

Perhaps this custom of the Easter egg hunt is not too difficult after all,  to connect with the celebration of the resurrection. I think of all the wonderful surprises that have resulted in believing in the one who was crucified on my behalf. By faith, I’ve discovered treasures that were once hidden by my unbelief. So many things have become possible when I’d thought them to be impossible. For instance, a long and happy marriage, mental and physical wellness in spite of a crazed world, and continued hope for the present and the future. 

Why bother hunting for Easter eggs? When we search for what seems to be hidden, we won’t be disappointed in what we find.

Why Bother Living Peaceably With Our Neighbors?

Why Bother Living Peaceably With Your Neighbor? 

Every spring I anticipate the return of a pair of ospreys to their old nest located at the top of a tall pole near my house. From whence they come, I do not know. How they find their way back to the same nest is also a mystery. But since their home is in my neighborhood, like any good neighbor, I notice their comings and goings. 

From any of the south-facing windows of my house, I can observe these birds of prey as they work to add fresh sticks and seaweed to refurbish their weather-worn home they abandoned the previous fall. And though the air is filled with the sound of robins, and chickadees, I like the high pitched whistle like call of the osprey best of all. In the early mornings and late afternoons, I marvel at how the male bird brings home the supper, a fish for the female who sits vigilantly upon the eggs protecting them from any harm. In essence, Every spring I get to observe the routine of a pair of ospreys as they live their life in my neighborhood.

Unexpected Conflict

Last year, I noted on my calendar that the return of the osprey occurred on April 8. But this year, April 8, came and went with no sign of them. Instead, I watched as a pair of geese made the old osprey nest their home. 

Geese are plentiful in our area. From my writing roost on the second floor of our home, I often watch out my window as the geese land in the park nearby to meet up with their mates. Geese are so plentiful in our area that people find them to be more of a nuisance than a wonder of nature. For one thing, their scat litters our city beach and complaining tourists led city workers to attempt to get rid of them. First they purchased plastic coyotes to try and scare the geese away. But the geese didn’t even notice them. Then they discussed the idea of robbing the nests and discarding the eggs. Too many residents were outraged by that idea. Finally, they decided to round up the birds and relocate them. I literally ran into the fiasco on one of my early morning runs. It was an amusing sight to watch, kind of like herding cats or kindergartners.   

None-the-less, a pair of geese were making a home out of the osprey nest. I wondered how the goslings would learn to swim so high up in the air and quite a distance from the water. My husband made a good point when he said that they’d have to learn to fly before they swam. Still concerned for the osprey, I wondered where they were and what they would do when they returned to find their home already occupied by Mr. and Mrs. Goose?

I did not have to wait long. A few days later I noticed an osprey soaring above their old nest and swooping low as though he was going to land on top of the geese that occupied his home.  The osprey was aggressive and the geese ducked with every passing of the bird of prey. But the geese did not leave their nest. 

The next day was the same. The osprey attacked the geese by swooping in fast and low and once again the geese ducked, but did not give up their home. The third day, when I came home from work, I asked my husband, “Who won? The geese or the osprey?”

He pointed to a new pole. “The electric company planted a another pole with a box on top and the osprey moved in.”

What good neighbors we have, I thought. The electrical substation is in our neighborhood too and when they noted the trouble between the geese and osprey, they brought in their resources and restored the peace. Now Mr. and Mrs. Osprey live quietly beside their new neighbors, Mr. and Mrs. Goose.

I think on Monday I will deliver some cookies to the guys at the electric company and tell them thank you for helping out. After all, that would be the neighborly thing to do.  

Why bother living peaceably with our neighbors? It is a lot better to live in peace than to live in contention. 

 

 

Why Bother Giving Others the Benefit of the Doubt?

Why Bother Giving Others the Benefit of the Doubt?

Last September, on my way to work, I got a speeding ticket. I deserved it. I was going thirty miles an hour in a twenty-five mile an hour zone. It was not my first speeding ticket. I have a lead foot, but it had been quite some time since I’d been issued a ticket. The officer was polite and I admitted my wrong doing. Hoping for a warning, instead I got a ticket.  As soon as possible, I paid my fine from my checking account and not my husband’s and my joint account. I thought my wrong doing was behind me until our car insurance bill arrived in the mail. My husband noticed an increase in our rates and I shared with him about my speeding incident. Seeking a way to lower the insurance rates,  I signed up for a driver’s defensive course. Our insurance agent assured me it would help.

Putting Pride in my Back Pocket

Thankfully the six hour course was not a huge inconvenience. It was affordable and online. Though it totaled six hours in front of the screen, I could sit for a bit, turn it off and then resume it later. And I actually learned some things, mostly about myself as a driver.

Speeders are not patient people. I know this. But the curriculum did not shame those of us born with a lead foot, or show gory pictures of accidents involving drivers who incessantly speed. Instead, the section on “unsafe driving”  tapped into the core of human emotions. It is suggested that instead of thinking of other drivers as, (fill in this part of the sentence with your favorite expletive), drivers should give each other the benefit of the doubt. Though a very kind friend of mine uses this particular expression often, I’d never thought to apply it to other drivers. 

But with my record of speeding, the expense of a ticket and the hike in our insurance rates, I sat up, paid attention and took notes.

First of all, the narrator stressed to not take the actions of the other driver so personally. I don’t know why anyone would pull out in front of me and then drive under the speed limit and that is the point. I don’t know their story. Maybe they didn’t see me. Perhaps they didn’t mean to. It could be that the car they had to  borrow to get to work that day doesn’t have the same get up and go power they are used to. Whatever the case may be, I don’t have to react as though they are a malicious and evil individual. I don’t have to tailgate, honk my horn or pass on a dangerous curve. I can give them the benefit of the doubt. 

Secondly, though I like to be out in front and not at the end of a long line of cars, I am not all that important. I’m just like everyone else. We all have places to go, people to see and things to do. We are all drivers, on the same road, wanting to reach our destination on time and alive. 

Finally, giving others the benefit of the doubt allows me to be a relaxed driver. Instead of being on high alert to how I can get ahead of others and be first in line, I can be at ease. I might even enjoy the scenery, listen to good music or carry on a conversation with my passenger. A relaxed driver is actually a better driver because they are less aggressive and take fewer risks. 

After passing my driver’s defensive course with flying colors I told my husband that my goal was to never get another speeding ticket. A lofty goal, but a worthy one. 

Why bother giving others the benefit of the doubt? It might be worth it to give others the benefit of the doubt because it makes us more civil whether we are behind the wheel or not.

Why Bother Making a House a Home?

Why Bother Making a House a Home?

Recently, a friend of mine moved into a new apartment and asked if I’d come and help her arrange things in her new space. Of course I accepted her invitation for help. 

Her new apartment is small, but there is plenty of natural light, and a high ceiling, making the space appear larger. On a Saturday afternoon, we stood in the middle of her living room eyeing  her furniture that surrounded us. She told me she was ready to discard all the pieces that no longer were useful or had meaning to her. I smiled at her resolve and we got to work arranging, rearranging and shuffling items into a pile that would later go to the dump or thrift store. When we were finished, we stood back and surveyed our hard work. In a short amount of time we’d turned her new apartment into her home, a place that held meaningful and comforting items that were unique to her. 

     No place like home

I haven’t moved for several years, thirty-one to be exact, and thankfully, unlike my friend, I don’t foresee having to relocate any time soon. But when we first bought our house, I wasn’t sure I wanted to stay long enough to turn it into a home. For one thing, it was too small for our family of five, and I was sure my husband would find that having only one bathroom was too much of an inconvenience. But I was wrong. My husband had a vision for this ole house. As a builder, he sees things I do not and envisions potential where I don’t. 

So we stayed and the changes began. First, we started with small and inexpensive improvements such as chopping out the tansy that grew wild in the backyard, cutting down trees that grew too close to the house and tearing down an old chicken coop that only housed racoons, mice and other rodents. 

Though I longed for an addition to the living room, and a master bedroom with its own bathroom, our budget could not manage that. Instead, my husband added on a few feet to the eating area in the kitchen and built a nook with benches that opened up for storage. We replaced the metal cabinets with wood and the funky green linoleum with vinyl plank flooring. 

Eventually there was new siding, fresh paint, a new roof, new windows and a garage. We never added a second bathroom. We learned to live with one. But we did replace the pink tub and toilet. 

Our sons grew up and left home one by one and the house grew larger with each departure. Now with just my husband and I our house feels incredibly spacious and the one bathroom is no longer a bother. 

I am glad my husband envisioned what I could not. He knew if we stayed long enough, our house would turn into a home. 

Why bother making a house a home? It is worth the hard work and effort that it takes to make a house a home because our home is that unique place that holds meaning and comfort just for us.