general, life

A bit of open-minded thinking never hurt anyone

Today it might seem I am rambling more than usual.

Can I be honest for a minute?

I know everyone is “entitled” to it, but truthfully; very few things in life aggravate me more than another person’s one sided, the world owes me, my way or the highway, black and white opinions. Particularly when it feels personally directed.

You DON’T know me.

You know the pieces I have shared, the parts I have allowed you to see, and the opinions you have derived from those. We all curate parts of ourselves for public viewing. You don’t know about the events that I have dealt with, the choices that shaped me into the person I am today, or how I got here.

You don’t know that if I had taken the easy road and followed that chapter in the psychology textbook, I wouldn’t be the person I am today.j_murphyquote

I chose the opposite path. The harder path. The road less traveled. It wasn’t always easy, but I did it. I am a relatively private person and I have never really been one to be railroaded. I was often referred to as headstrong, independent, obstinate, strong willed, or stubborn.

I spent my teens, twenties and most of my thirties dodging opinions and criticism, feeling the need to prove myself…Proving I could fit in and choosing a lot of the wrong people to befriend when I was young. (Do you ever really fit in as a tween or teenager anyway?) Protecting myself in the only ways I knew how, because there was nobody to protect me. Proving that I didn’t need anyone and letting go of several good people that I should have valued more. Proving that I could make peace with my childhood. Refusing to self-destruct. Proving I was worthy of love. Proving that being independent doesn’t mean I’m a bitch. Proving I wasn’t “just another pretty face”. Proving I wouldn’t live my life angry. Proving that I could be a young mom, a wife, and do them both well. Proving I would not allow alcohol or drugs to consume me, the way they had consumed several people in my life. (Honest and very humble horn toot: I have bad genetics with regard to drugs and alcohol, so I never took the risk. I have never tried drugs and with the exception of a margarita on my 21st birthday, and a few sips of champagne at our wedding, I stopped drinking at 18.) Proving that I could learn how not to repeat past mistakes.

Proving I am a good person with good intentions.

I do not expect anyone to abandon their personal convictions, but I value open-minded thinking and empathy. So while I respect the idea that we are all entitled to an opinion, if you are only interested in your own, I ask that you kindly stop talking. Listen. Listen and try to hear.

Bill Bullard said, “Opinion is really the lowest form of human knowledge. It requires no accountability, no understanding. The highest form of knowledge is empathy, for it requires us to suspend our egos and live in another’s world. It requires profound purpose larger than the self kind of understanding.”

That passage speaks to me in a way no other has. Ever.

What you discuss within your personal space is your prerogative. Outside of those walls, the world isn’t black and white. There are circumstances you know nothing about, things that have happened and are still happening to the people around you. e_rooseveltquoteShaping those people. Your own circumstances and choices have shaped you. Shape has a different meaning than define.

You might consider looking it up.

Who are we to make another person feel as though they aren’t enough, based on opinions derived from what we see on the outside.

We need to understand that our opinions are the product of our personal experiences. There is no personal growth when we hold on to our opinions and believe them to be the only possible truth.

There will be times when our personal experiences are the truth, but we must make the conscious choice to try to understand this world from other people’s perspectives. To be open to knowledge and growth. If we do not open ourselves to knowledge and #empathy, we risk ignorance, and sadly ignorance just breeds more ignorance.

Forward movement is one of my personal themes for 2017. Part of my forward movement is continuing to acknowledge that I no longer allow space for anyone who makes me feel as though I am not enough. I love to see people succeed. When I give, I don’t keep score. I am a fan of quiet contemplation. If I say that I envy you, stop and take a moment to listen. I promise you it’s not in the way you might think.

Envy:  verb (used with object), envied, envying. To regard (a person or thing without malice) with envy: He envies you for your hard-earned success. I envy your writing ability.

Do not make the mistake of thinking I envy who YOU are, or your material possessions. I envy the ease in which you make decisions, or your ability to consistently live with a carefree nature. I will not purposely place myself in anybody’s crosshairs, but I will advocate for myself loudly when forced. I have learned to speak my personal truths gently, because I know what it’s like to be misunderstood, or not to be heard at all. If my attempts to be genuine aren’t taken at face value, I’m not malevolent or angry, I just change the amount of space I allow that person to occupy in my life.

I know who I am. I have worked long and hard to become the person I am today and today is what matters. Happily, I am still evolving.



Volunteering: It still takes a village, but where is everyone?

Are school volunteers a dying breed?

Our high school’s Project Graduation event, as well as the arts, school athletics, and athletic boosters programs, are very near and dear to me. The last few years, I’m disappointed. I repeatedly see a low level of parent involvement and desperate pleas for volunteers. The same 23 names are somehow attached (organizing, set-up, execution, clean-up) to nearly every school and sports event. Am I the only one who has noticed a significant decline in school volunteerism? Nope. I’m not. How do I know this? I’ve had the “where is everyone?” conversation with coaches, teachers, and most of those 23 people, because I’m one of them. What’s more, I no longer have children at the school. Yes, I am staying involved as an alumni parent! Why you ask? Why not? I have a few good reasons. 1) Schools and school parent groups need your help. 2) Giving back, at some level, to the community my girls benefited from is important to me, and I hope other parents (current and alumni) will be encouraged to do the same. Finally, 3) Many current parents do not appear to be willing.

What’s the deal people?

Uh, hello? Is anybody there? (crickets)

What is it about the word #volunteer that makes people cringe? How is it we have become a society chock full of “I don’t have timer’s”? Real talk: Most of us have a few hours to spare. I mean, let’s be honest here, with social media a swipe away, how much time do you spend perusing Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, Tumblr…I could go on. All the while, staring blankly at your “friend’s” photos of themselves, their family, food, hilarious (or not) videos, vacations, their dog, or what happened on the latest episode of Fixer Upper. Or worse, consuming a nauseating amount of fake news, real news, political opinions, celebrity gossip, actual facts, and alternative facts. Nearly all of us are guilty. According to a 2015 survey, on the Digital Trends website, Americans aged 25-54 checked their phones an average of 17 times per day! That is equal to at least once every waking hour. THAT. IS. STAGGERING! There are 1600+ parents/guardians at the high school my daughters attended. Forget time in general. Can you imagine what could be accomplished if everyone simply gave a few hours of their “social media” time? I can! In fact, if you volunteered, and took a photo (or two, or three) while you were helping out, you would have something really inspiring to post and you would promote community involvement! Correct me if I’m wrong, but I think that’s considered a win-win?

In some cases, money appears to be another detour around volunteerism. It seems many people would rather write a check now as a substitute for their time. It’s not that parent groups don’t appreciate monetary donations. They most definitely do! Sadly, in this era of shrinking school budgets and disappearing programs, there is a very real and desperate need for donations, both monetary and physical! Contributions of time and money are the lifeblood of public education in California!

Seriously though. Why is it when you dare utter the “V” word, people hightail it for the exits? Geeez! It’s not like I said something offensive. I didn’t even ask for their right arm, or first born. It’s only a few hours and if you just ask, there are ways for everyone to be involved! I know you’re busy. We’re all busy! LIFE IS BUSY! We need to reverse this trend and change the culture.

Let’s pause for a minute. Before anyone is offended by the last few paragraphs, allow me to clarify one thing. I absolutely understand that some people, really and truly, for various reasons, are not able to give. The funny thing is, more often than not, those are the people who some how try to give time and/or money anyway. If you are that person, from the bottom of my heart, I thank you!

No, I’m talking to everyone else. Where are you hiding? Your children, your friend’s children, and don’t laugh, but even your “frenemy’s” children. They need you!

Disclaimer: I did not take this photo, but isn’t it great! It’s been floating around for some time. I tried to locate someone to give credit to, but came up empty handed.

There are pitfalls to having the same people repeatedly be the “go-to’s” for every event. Our annual booster crab feed this year is a great example. We ran the event with a bare bones crew. It all went pretty smooth until it was time for the auction check out. The line and the wait were long and there were only two of us to do the payment processing. I appreciate that most of our guests were patient. Maybe it was all the wine? Lol. One guest did skirt the line to come complain directly to me. She wanted to know why on earth, with such a large crowd, we didn’t have more people ready for payments and she didn’t really have the time to wait in line.  I took one very deep breath, then apologetically responded, “I must have missed your request to volunteer. If you leave your name, I’ll be certain to add you to our list for next year!” For a moment she looked surprised, but shuffled herself back to the end of the line. When it was finally her turn, the only words she said were “thank you”, when I processed her credit card.

She’s probably a very nice gal and it’s easy to be critical when you’re not involved.

When I began volunteering, my girls were in preschool. There always seemed to be an overabundance of help. Teachers had enough parent names that they were able to shuffle them around. Nobody felt overburdened or left out. For 5th and 6th grade camp there was a lottery to see who would be chosen to chaperone. Then we moved on to middle school and despite a serious economic recession, which forced a lot of stay-at-home parents back to work, a high level of parent participation continued.

I really began to notice the drop off when my oldest began high school. By the time my youngest arrived, the tide had shifted so significantly it was alarming. As soon as help was needed, all but a few parents would excuse themselves. As a volunteer and fundraising coordinator, for several school related events over the years, here is a sampling of the myriad responses I have received…

  • “I’m far too busy.”
  • “She’s in high school, they don’t need volunteers in high school.”
  • “I don’t do things like that.”
  • “I have no skills to offer.”
  • “I would really rather not.”
  • “You don’t really need me, do you?”
  • “It’s a two hour shift!”
  • “My kid doesn’t want me there.”
  • “I’m just going to write a check. Money is better than time anyway.”
  • “No thanks, I’m good.”
  • “Somebody else will do it!”
  • “You’re the stay-at-home mom. I work, so I would rather go ride my bike.”

The last one is my personal, all time, one for the books, favorite.

I’d like to tell you WHERE you can ride your bike…

The answer to all of the above excuses is: Your answer is incorrect. My husband always says; “you’re either part of the solution, or part of the problem” and he’s right. He chooses to be part of the solution and has been a soccer coach, at the school, for almost 10 years. Some will argue that he gets paid. For the record, none of the coaches that I know do it for the money. For kicks, we worked it out one time. After a minimum of 20 hours per week and personal funds spent on equipment the school district does not provide, he makes far less than minimum wage. Peanuts really. He simply does it for the benefit of the kids and his love of sport.

It may seem counter-intuitive, but as your children navigate their teen years, multiple studies have shown that high school is a time when parents need to be the most engaged and involved. I’m not talking helicopter parenting here, just some visibility. Your kids spend 35+ hours a week at school. Showing interest in their education and activities and being visible benefits them in countless ways. Bonus: Your time not only enriches your son or daughter’s life on several levels; you also enhance the lives of fellow students, the educational environment as a whole, and when you give back, the example you set for them is priceless.

It really does take a village. Is a shift at the snack bar, a few hours at Project Graduation, or helping to brainstorm, set-up, or clean-up at a fundraiser really too much to ask? It’s time you can’t get back and in the big scheme of things, it’s time well spent! If you’re already out there making a difference, thank you! If you’re not, please get involved and volunteer!

– Kim