Colorful Book Spines

Focus in the Fog

You're doing great.

My kid does that too!

No...that's not crazy.

This season will pass.

You are loved.

You have no idea how talented you are.

These are some simple words of encouragement.  


Maybe, like most of us, a little bit of encouragement helps you keep going.  You can find that here.

 

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I’ve seen a story from the book “Art and Fear”, that’s making its away around social media.



A ceramics teacher announced on opening day that he was dividing the class into two groups.

All those on the left side of the studio, he said, would be graded solely on the quantity of work they produced, all those on the right solely on its quality.

His procedure was simple: on the final day of class he would bring in his bathroom scales and weigh the work of the “quantity” group: 50 pounds of pots rated an “A”, 40 pounds a “B”, and so on.


Those being graded on “quality”, however, needed to produce only one pot — albeit a perfect one — to get an “A”.


At grading time, a curious fact emerged: the works of highest quality were all produced by the group being graded for quantity.

It seems that while the “quantity” group was busily churning out piles of work-and learning from their mistakes — the “quality” group had sat theorizing about perfection, and in the end had little more to show for their efforts than grandiose theories and a pile of dead clay.



There’s quite a lot to unpack here, but at heart I think there’s a simple lesson that I find encouraging:


Just start.

Whether it’s a sport, a skill, or spiritual development I can often find myself looking for the “one weird trick” that will create sustained, rapid growth. If I follow this program, or highlight that technique, or read this study the clouds will open and after a few minutes I’ll come out the other side transformed. There might be some momentary discomfort, but it will be like an 80s movie training montage, four minutes, a little of the right kind of effort, then success.

But that’s pretend.

Sometimes, when talking to kids, we’ll lay out the pattern for how to be “awesome in anything” and it’s pretty simple.

  1. Start

  2. Become consistent

  3. Become strategic

  4. Become sacrificial (shape your life to support victory in that thing)

  5. Refine

Three encouragements:

  1. Whatever thing you’re making, start. You’ll get better later. Start now.

  2. After that, focus on consistency. This is where I tend to fall down and I don’t think that’s alone. Nothing is changed by what I thought about doing, but in areas where I’ve been consistent I can see an equally consistent pattern of growth and change.

  3. (This is a weird one). It’s OK so stop at just OK in some things. Give yourself permission to do this.

If there’s something you wake up thinking about, that you find yourself working into conversations, maybe it’s time to start. Improvement will happen later. Now's the time to start.

Ryan


As Mother’s Day approaches, I think about my experience as a mother. How it’s changed me, grown me, and made me more tired than I ever thought possible. Recently, a number of my former students have become first-time parents. Social media is great for keeping up with this kind of exciting news and I love seeing their ecstatic faces as they hold their adorable little bundles. I can’t help but reminisce on my own experiences having babies. Those beautiful, exhausting, memorable days.


I had my first baby in 2008 and my fourth in 2015. I was surprised by how much had changed in those seven years. For instance, I remember having to watch a VHS tape with my first baby about keeping her safe. Could it have been a VHS? Maybe it was a DVD, but the video was definitely VHS-era quality. Immediately following, I had to sign off on it to verify I had watched it. I remember thinking, “Who would ever shake this adorable human I’m holding?” A few weeks later, on a particularly tough night of cluster feeding, it hit me, “That’s why we watched the video”. Then, when I had my second baby, there was no mention of a video. I’m not sure if this was because it was my second baby and I wasn’t delivering it in prison after having committed a felony or if they just weren’t doing the videos anymore. Who knew? Maybe the second baby would be much more colicky and require a reminder of how to handle it? Of course, that wasn’t true. Never was there a more agreeable baby than my second. Either way, it was strange.


Another important aspect of my hospital stay in 2008 revolved around the Sitz Bath. I had no fewer than four nurses come in and talk to me about said bath. It was confusing. I was like,


“Can you please spell that word for me? I seriously don’t know what you’re saying.”

“S-I-T-Z bath,” the nurse said.


I was even more confused. All I knew was that I would be sitting in water only a few degrees warmer than room temperature in a position too close to the toilet to feel sanitary for longer than I hoped. The “bath” which, let’s be honest, felt like sitting in a used bedpan ended up in my bathroom closet for at least a year after the baby was born. l finally threw it away assuming I’d get another if I had another baby. And guess what? A scant two and half years later, there was nary a mention of the Sitz bath with my second child. This oh so necessary step in healing from childbirth had all but disappeared in that time.

Fashions and baby gear definitely changed between my first and last baby. I felt rather trendy in 2008, but by 2015 I looked like Ross from friends schlepping my baby around in an early 90’s carseat. The clothes changed too. When I had my first boy in 2010, I dressed him in the customary blues, greens, and in patterns of sports, transportation, or dinosaurs. By the time I had my second boy five years later, there were very few patterns, only pithy statements on clothes that were fifty shades of gray. I don’t mean like the novel, I mean actually fifty shades of gray. My baby, in all his colors and patterns made new moms smile and raise their eyebrows -inwardly thinking, “Hand-me-downs”.


I remember also getting weird advice. One nurse told me not to shower right away because it was important for the baby to recognize my by “my scent”. Is she going to have to find her way back to me in the woods? Won’t she recognize me because she’s heard my voice for nine months or because I’m the only one breastfeeding her? No, I was supposed to forgo bathing so she could think, “Mmmmmmm. Mommy’s the one with body oder.” What damage could that do later in life when she cozies up to a stranger on public transportation because he smelled “just like Mom”?


While we’re on the subject of bathing, when did it become so noble to not bathe? My facebook feed is filled with “mommy martyrs” forgoing a shower for the sake of their kids. Unless this trend was started by Russian trolls with stock in dry shampoo, just take a shower already. If you have a newborn, you don’t even have to keep them captive. They’re captive by their own bodies and lack of coordination. Put the baby down pretty much anywhere and start the water. I know those first few weeks are overwhelming, but a little time under a hot shower may actually help.


Let me pause in my judging of other moms to say, “Can we please stop judging other moms?” Shower or not, you're doing the best you can. We all are. So, what makes well-intentioned people become so judg-y when we’re in the presence of other moms? I’ve thought a lot about this and it’s because we’re so inundated with information about what things are safe and what choices are better. This information feels so dire to us, we can’t help but judge others who haven’t read the same articles. But that’s really annoying right? We really need to stop doing that. Except for showers. Take showers. But otherwise, no judgment.


There are so many joys of motherhood. One of them is connecting with and supporting the other mothers in our respective circles. A smile or wink or shrug between moms in the aisle of the grocery store where a toddler is in full on tantrum mode can go a long way. All moms have stories like mine. Weird advice, trends, and times they used something that wasn’t a diaper for a diaper on an in-fated trip to the grocery.

Happy Mother’s Day!

Shannon



A few months ago, I woke up with something on my mind -writing a picture book. I thought that was weird, because I’ve never had a desire to write a picture book. I love them and since I have 4 young kids, I’ve read my share of picture books, but it never occurred to me to write one. But this gnawing feeling wouldn’t let up and I knew I had to try my hand at it.

First, let’s rewind. If you know me, you know I love to put out seasonal and holiday books for the kids. Since I like to keep it fresh, I’ve added some holidays you wouldn’t think about. One of these lesser known types of books are Earth Day books. If you go to Barnes and Noble or look at a scholastic order round April 22, you’ll see books about Earth Day. We have a few, but the thing that woke me up a few months ago, was the fact that I’d never seen an Earth Day book from a Christian perspective.


The books I’ve seen are typical books about why kids should pick up trash, recycle, or save water. And those are great. In fact, we didn’t regularly recycle until our oldest read one of these books when she was young. She urged us to make a change and we did.


The other types of Earth Day books are more poetic, but they don’t really jibe with me. They have a strange “worship the earth”/almost Pagan quality about them. Lots of “Thank you mountains and thank you ocean” -that kind of thing. It occurred to me, that when we look at creation, especially a breathtaking view, our first response is to thank someone or something. In other words, we want to worship. So, why isn’t there an Earth Day book about worshiping God when we see creation? Shouldn’t there be a book that challenges kids and adults to take care of the gifts we’ve been given from God specifically on Earth Day? If I’m a follower of God, the Creator, shouldn’t I be leading the charge in protecting his creation?


And so, I woke up with this urge to write one. I pushed it away for more pressing things on my calendar. However, the next morning, I got that nagging again. I got out my fountain pen (yes, I’m like one of the founding fathers when I’m brainstorming) and I started making notes.


Two things you should know:


1. It’s possible that this book stinks. I haven’t done the amount of research others have done to write a picture book, so I have no idea if it’s any good.


2. I’m not perfect when it comes to being earth-friendly. In fact, last week, on earth day I bought soda in plastic bottles stuck together with animal-killing plastic rings. This I did on actual Earth Day. When it occurred to me, I thought, "I have no business writing anything about conservation." So, if you think you could never have a picnic with me again because you use plastic baggies, think again. I’m guilty too and certainly not one to judge.


But I do think we can make a change by instilling values in our children so they can be a part of the solution moving forward.

You may be thinking, “Wasn’t Earth Day last week?” Yes, it was. Earth Day is for spreading awareness, but the real work begins after we become aware. To summarize an article I read last week, “the earth doesn’t need more environmental scientists. It needs millions of people like you and me making small changes in order to make a big impact.” The research is there. Now it’s time to get to work.


My little picture book may not be the one that gets published, but I sure hope one will. I want a picture book about God's beautiful Earth and a reminder to take care of it. The future is bright if we do.

Blessings,

Shannon

 
 

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