Assigning Positive Intent

flowers in the yard

I believe that learning how to assign and even to assume the positive intent of others is one of the most important things I’ve learned how to do over the past several years.

I first remember hearing about this concept from my father as he taught an adult Sunday School class that I was attending. He explained that, when someone seems to be angry with you, they very well may not be at all. They might be dealing with a difficult personal or family issue or they could even be experiencing chronic pain – nobody, my father explained that Sunday morning, has an easy time being nice to other people when they have chronic back pain.

Well, that made and still makes perfect sense to me. In addition to the point that people always have other things going on in their lives that we can’t possibly know about, another point is that none of us is the center of anyone’s universe except possibly (probably?) our own. The idea that I would do something purposefully to make a friend or family member of mine upset or to offend them utterly baffles me. I don’t know why I would spend any time trying to do such a thing.

And if I wouldn’t spend my time doing something like that, then why would I assume that anyone else would do such a thing to me?

That was enough to convince me and over the years I’ve gotten much better at assigning positive intent to others and not taking personally any differences of opinion or belief.

The assumption of positive intent has made a huge difference in my life and has been very freeing. I’m free to believe that I’m not the center of anyone else’s world and that nobody is messing with me by just living their lives.

One of the most important places to assume positive intent these days, in my opinion, is online, but it’s also one of the more difficult situations to assume positive intent. We are now exposed to so many more of our friends’ and family members’ beliefs and actions than we were before social media came around that it’s bound to be a rough transition. Family members interacting with high school friends and college friends and parenting friends… it can be a mess sometimes.

It can also seem, occasionally, as though people are posting negative things that are directed right at us and at our choices or beliefs. In reality, the people posting them probably just saw something that lined up with their own beliefs and posted it because they liked it – not because they’re thinking about how you do or believe the opposite and they want to send you some sort of cryptic negative message.

I’ve mostly avoided that sort of thinking, especially after spending several years on a gentle parenting board where we are expected to always assume positive intent with our children as well as with other mothers on the board, and am normally very adept at simply scrolling past most things that I find to be potentially offensive or divisive, but I’ve found that I sometimes get very defensive or even offended responses from my friends when I post something that has been helpful to me personally with parenting or living.

It’s even possible that this post will ruffle someone’s feathers somewhere, although I can’t imagine whose and it’s not intended in that way either… it’s just a helpful topic I have on my mind and that I wanted to share with anyone who reads this ❤

So what are some examples of positive intent, as I see it?

Positive intent (as I see it) says that parents who make different decisions than you do are just doing the best they can with their unique situation and the information they have, even if you think you’d never make those decisions yourself. Positive intent says that those parents also have the best interest of their children in mind, even if you vehemently disagree with how they go about showing it.

Positive intent says that people who generalize about specific parties in politics and denigrate those who support them are just frustrated with the state of politics right now (aren’t we all?) and possibly lack the capacity to express their extreme frustration without also casting aspersions on everyone who supports the party they’re frustrated with. Positive intent also says that those aspersions are not about you or me, but rather tells you a bit more about the frustrations and beliefs of the person making them.

Positive intent says that people are trying their hardest and doing their best to live their lives in a difficult and fallen world, even if you look at them and think that they seem like abject failures by your own definition. Nobody is perfect and everyone falls short in one way or another. Some of us struggle more than others do and none of us have walked in anyone else’s shoes, figuratively speaking, so it really does behoove everyone to assign positive intent.

Positive intent says that we treat others the way that we would want to be treated by assuming that there’s a good explanation for behavior that we could easily take personally or poorly.

If I ever appear to be a jerk to someone then I want to know about it and have a chance to make things right. It only makes sense to me to give that chance to anyone who seems to be acting like a jerk to me. Maybe they thought  I was a jerk first or maybe their mom just died or they just found out they have cancer or they simply woke up late and have been scrambling to catch up all day long… you’ll almost certainly never know for sure unless you assume the best and ask them nicely.

Positive intent says that it’s not all about us and that we should strive not to take things personally unless we have asked for clarification and the person clarifies that it is, specifically, about us.

Almost always though, there’s another explanation; one that doesn’t involve cryptic or indirect personal attacks because, really, who has time for that kind of thing?

Small Houses: Our Story Part One

Small houses have always held an appeal for me. During my childhood, my family seemed to move into larger and larger homes as I got older – we’d get more stuff and need more space to store it all. My husband and I have managed to avoid that so far. We have moved from tiny to large to medium to large and back to small/tiny, then we repeated the pattern once again, staying with various friends and family for a few weeks sometimes between actual spaces of our own. We’ve acquired things and gotten rid of things and try to continually reevaluate what we have and what purpose it serves – this is vital when living in a smaller than average sized space and it’s not something that comes easily or naturally to me at all.

While the average square footage per person in America was 832 in 2009, our own home comes in at 200 square feet per person. That’s including a home office in our third bedroom, which is largely unusable space during the daytime when my husband is working. We sometimes joke that most of his 200 square feet come out of the office space. We also homeschool all our children so, many days, all six of us are home all day long.

On the other hand, this 1200 square foot space is far from the smallest home we have lived in. Our first home, after we got married, was around 300 or 350 square feet, but only two of us and the dog lived there. Over the living room it also had a sleeping loft that wasn’t counted in the square footage. That house was more than big enough! We had a futon couch, a coffee table, a desk, a bookshelf, our bed was up in the loft, and we had a small kitchen table with two chairs that fit just perfectly into our kitchen. The stove was half-sized (and gas!) and we had a clothes closet and clawfoot bathtub in our rather spacious, for the size of the house, bathroom. We had guests over frequently and always made extra food for friends or homeless folks who would stop by for dinner with little or no notice sometimes.

Our little house was located in the middle of downtown San Luis Obispo, CA in a little courtyard with other small cottages as neighbors. We could both easily walk to our jobs and pretty much anywhere else in town or near Cal Poly we wanted to go. Our car didn’t work when we lived there so friends would sometimes give us a ride to Trader Joe’s or the tiny little natural foods co-op we were members of. We could walk to the co-op, and often did, when we needed something small or just a few things. We also lived less than a block away from a large park with a playground, an adult playground (with stationary exercise “equipment”), a giant field, and a community garden. We would walk there in the middle of the night to let our dog run around the field and to exercise on the adult playground. Then we would walk leisurely through the beautiful community garden before heading back to our perfect little house.

Alas, we had only lived there for 7 months when the retirement home that owned our house decided to kick out all their tenants and demolish all the little cottages, including our own, in order to expand their facility. It was a sad day. We could easily and happily have stayed there for much longer and had at least one baby in that space, given the opportunity.

Our next house wasn’t small at all. It was huge! We moved to my in-laws’ 1400 square foot double-wide manufactured home in Washington State after my father-in-law got remarried. Our first baby was born there, but it was odd living in such a large space after our cozy little home. We acquired a great many more material possessions while living there and when we moved into a one-bedroom 700 square foot apartment with our new baby and all that stuff stuff, it looked  just like an episode of hoarders with boxes stacked quite high.

We never really unpacked in that space because we literally couldn’t. There just wasn’t enough room for all our stuff and, with the new baby, I just never got around to decluttering everything. I’d never been taught how to declutter by my parents so the next few years in our next few houses were spent learning on my own, with the help of decluttering books like Sandra Felton’s Messies books and Don Aslett’s Clutter’s Last Stand, how to get rid of things and decide whether something should be kept or not.

Our next place, an 800 square foot studio downstairs duplex, achieved the status of being a home; not just a storage facility with a kitchen, bedroom, and bathroom like our apartment had been. We unpacked our many boxes, decluttered to the best of our abilities, and contributed a ton of things to the local annual Rotary Auction and Rummage Sale. We also acquired more things from the Rotary Rummage Sale, but these were mainly things that we either needed, like a couch, or things that helped us organize the house, like bookshelves for our extremely large collection of books.

We adopted a cat while in the downstairs duplex and lived there until our oldest was around 18 months old and I was 2 months away from having our second child. Then we moved just upstairs into the 1200 square foot duplex above us. It was huge after the apartment and downstairs duplex! We had our second baby there and moved to a 500 square foot house when she was only 5 months old because of heating and cooling issues with the space.

That 550 square foot home was a standalone house, which was absolutely wonderful after the apartment and duplexes. We had an enclosed carport, a covered front porch that was at least 150 square feet, and a detached laundry room that doubled as an office for my husband, which all helped quite a bit with the small space. The yard was lovely and our next door neighbors, whom we shared a driveway with, had chickens, ducks, rabbits, and a large garden that they let us have space in so that we were able to grow some of our own veggies in addition to offering us some of their excess produce. They had apple trees that they shared freely from as well.

We had two children, a dog, and a cat in that space along with a piano and thousands of books. We managed to make food from scratch every single day in the tiny kitchen and even have friends over sometimes. It was quite a nice place, other than how expensive it was and some mold issues, which eventually got to be quite a problem so we seriously began planning to move three thousand miles away to the Georgia/South Carolina border where the cost of living was more reasonable.

At the time of our cross-country move, we had been married for five years and now we’ve been married for ten so I’ll conclude this part of the story now and pick up again soon with the second half 🙂

Exactly, Just Exactly!

The poem below is exactly how I feel right now about my house and about my fourth (and almost certainly last) baby. I just want to snuggle and love on this baby boy as much as I possibly can before he gets big, which I know will happen too soon, and maybe won’t want to snuggle with his mama any more (I don’t even want to think about such a thing!).

The laundry and cleaning does get done eventually, but very gradually and on an as-needed basis. Snuggling the baby, homeschooling and spending time with the older children, and spending time with my husband are taking priority right now.

I can’t imagine that I would possibly ever regret spending more time with my lovely family when I look back on these years ❤

 

Song for a Fifth Child
by Ruth Hulburt Hamilton

Mother, oh Mother, come shake out your cloth,
Empty the dustpan, poison the moth,
Hang out the washing and butter the bread,
Sew on a button and make up a bed.
Where is the mother whose house is so shocking?
She’s up in the nursery, blissfully rocking.
Oh, I’ve grown shiftless as Little Boy Blue
(Lullaby, rockaby, lullaby loo).
Dishes are waiting and bills are past due
(Pat-a-cake, darling, and peek, peekaboo).
The shopping’s not done and there’s nothing for stew
And out in the yard there’s a hullabaloo
But I’m playing Kanga and this is my Roo.
Look! Aren’t her eyes the most wonderful hue?
(Lullaby, rockaby, lullaby loo).

The cleaning and scrubbing will wait till tomorrow,
For children grow up, as I’ve learned to my sorrow.
So quiet down, cobwebs. Dust go to sleep.
I’m rocking my baby and babies don’t keep.

Contentment

Ten years is a long time.

My tenth wedding anniversary recently came and went. It was about a week ago and I was sick with food poisoning for most of the day, but we didn’t have any elaborate plans anyhow so it ended up working out.

Ten years.

I was thinking last night and talking to my husband about the fact that it’s been this long. Ten years married and thirteen years since we started dating, because it was really our double anniversary, and here we are. Four children later. We’ve moved umpteen times and had more than a few vehicles and a ton of different jobs – although neither one of us has ever been fired. We’ve had a lot of joy, laughter, disagreements, and even fights; but a ton of love.

We know so many people who chose different paths in their lives, which is great. Our way of going about things would certainly not be the right way for everyone, but it’s worked out quite well for us.

Our life may not be exciting or glamorous in the usual sense of the words, but it’s steady and comforting. Yes, our three oldest children were spending the night at a friend’s house last night and we just had the baby so we listened to amazing music, chatted with each other, and… cleaned the kitchen before falling asleep.

Extremely not glamorous, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything else in the world right now. It’s not easy, sometimes it’s downright difficult, but it’s so very nice. Also, we woke up to a clean kitchen, which is always pleasant.

So, all that to say that I’m excited to see what our second decade of marriage has in store for us! Probably no more babies, but a great deal of homeschooling and watching the children we have grow older. In the next decade we’ll have three teenagers and hopefully some traveling overseas. I should be a Certified Professional Midwife at some point in the next ten years and my husband will hopefully be making some passive income doing things that he loves to do – he’s setting up the framework for that right now.

It’s exciting to think about! Bring on our 30’s! We’re ready for the next decade 🙂

A New Look!

Oh my goodness. Has it really been two and a half years since I last blogged? Time flies, as they say, and like most sayings, it has a great deal of truth in it. I’m not entirely certain where the time has gone, but it has, and here I am.

In the past three years I have become an apprentice midwife, started a doula service, helped to found a chapter of BirthNetwork National in my town, started midwifery school, learned how to encapsulate placentas, written two first drafts for two novels, taught two children how to read, and had a new baby. I’ve been involved with groups to improve birth options for women in my part of the country and I’ve learned more about birth politics than I ever could have dreamed there was to even know in the first place. I have become quite active on a wonderful message board with members who encourage me in Grace Based Parenting every single day that I read there and I have made a wonderful circle of friends locally, in real life, who encourage me in the same way.

There have been a great many other things that have happened, of course, but I don’t think I could even begin to remember them all, let alone write them all down in the amount of time I have right now.

So, in honor of coming back (really, I’m going to try and stick with it somewhat this time around!), I’ve chosen a new theme for the blog and I hope that this will help with my motivation a bit more as well.

It’s been a busy last few years, but it’s been a very good sort of busy! The very best kind of busy – the kind that involves children, reading, births, babies, friends, and good food (that last one is extremely important, of course).

Here’s to a new look!

~B.

Two Shopping Adventures – Part 1

I’m not much of one for spending a lot of money and I love books so when I heard about the Border’s half off one item coupon, it was a pretty sure thing that I would find some way to get to Border’s! The facts:

1. I love to browse in bookstores and libraries.

2. I love to take my time when doing so.

3. Having children along in any capacity makes those two things virtually impossible.

4. I had not been in a bookstore sans children for a good 5 years.

So, when Phred suggested that I go to the bookstore, without the children, I should’ve immediately flown out of my seat and been in the van heading to the store before he could blink. Instead, I hemmed and hawed about the matter. Should I really go? “Yes, I should,” he insisted. But I was tired and maybe I should just stay home. “No. Go to the bookstore,” my husband insisted once more.

“Oh, okay, I’ll go!” Joyfully, but with a bit of trepidation (after all, this was now the unknown), I gathered my things – no baby things, just mine – and headed out the door. Of course, we’d just bought a new (to us) mini-van, the epitome of mom-dom, and our CDs had not yet been moved into it. The radio had nothing good on so I drove in silence while pondering the madness that was going shopping without anyone but myself for company.

When I got to the store, it was a very exciting feeling. Here I was! At a bookstore! By myself! Wow! What a novelty. Of course I’ve been without my children from time to time since becoming a mother. I don’t stay with them 24/7, but usually when we find a sitter, it’s because I’m going somewhere with my husband or somewhere for my midwifery apprenticeship. I don’t think I’ve ever had a sitter just for me to go out and do something for me which probably sounds a little sad, but it just hasn’t been a priority. I enjoy my children and being with them. They’re only this small once and for a short time. But yes, that’s why this was such a novel experience.

So, I walked into the bookstore trying not to talk to myself out loud because I’m so used to talking to… someone… a child, my husband, my mom… I’m unaccustomed to being completely alone in public. Then I wandered around aimlessly for a good 20 minutes while I tried to remember how to focus all my attention on book-browsing without my attention being divided between browsing and keeping small children safe and within my line of vision at all times.

Eventually, I remembered – it’s so cliche, but yes, it was like riding a bike. Next, to figure out what I wanted! I had no idea. I tried the sci-fi section, but that didn’t seem quite right. I tried the history and biography section, but no, again, I was looking at books that I felt I ought to want to buy (and some were awfully tempting, like that brand new book about alcohol prohibition! I must get that one from the library one of these days…) instead of trying to find the one perfect book that “spoke” to me in just the right way.

I thought of a book that I’ve been wanting to buy for a while so I searched for it on the store’s computer. No luck. They didn’t even carry it new anywhere – just used – and I wanted to buy something that day. My goal, you see, was to buy a book that I could read a bit of while relaxing in the cafe and sipping a lovely, hot chai tea latte before heading home.

Thwarted, I wandered off again and found myself in the gardening section. Cool! Books about native trees and birds and landscaping for my region… they even had Joel Salatin’s book You Can Farm which is one I’d eventually like to buy. Interspersed between all the regular gardening books were more books about marijuana cultivation than I had ever seen before and I used to work at a store that sold hemp products and had a goodly selection of marijuana cultivation and “idea” books. This was endlessly amusing to me, given that I live in a fairly conservative part of the southern United States.

So I browsed through the gardening section for a while. Checking out all the titles and pulling out a few to look at more closely. Finally I chose an Audubon guide to plants and animals and birds in my region. I thought that it would be nice for the children and for Phred and myself to be able to identify those things when we go on walks.

But… I wasn’t totally sure. Because I had planned to buy a reading book, not just a reference book and I wanted to buy a book just for me because that really never happens anymore. So I regretfully put the book back on the shelf.

The next book I chose was a great one! It was all about landscaping and good plants to use in our state. Which ones were native and which ones were good at attracting butterflies and other creatures… most importantly, which ones could grow in mostly shade because that’s what our yard mostly has. But… no… this wasn’t a book to sit down and read. It was a reference book! “Stop picking up reference books and find a book that ‘speaks’ to you!”

That’s when I looked again at the very first shelf I had checked out – the one that had the Joel Salatin book on it – and I found it. A book about a doctor who only makes $11,000 a year for tax evasion purposes. She, this doctor, also lives in a 12’x12′ house which absolutely fascinated me! I knew at once that it was the right book. One that I can learn from and enjoy. One that I don’t agree with completely, but that I agree with enough. One that is a true story, but flows nicely like a novel.

I purchased my book for about $7 total (with the half of coupon) and headed to the cafe where I was able to sit in one of the cushy arm chairs and revel in the first chapter of my book before heading home, rejuvenated, to be engrossed for a time by the needs of my three little people.

And, yes, this trip happened several days ago. And no, I haven’t been able to read any more chapters, but I will, and I am looking forward to it!

Never, before becoming a parent, would I have dreamed that a simple trip to the bookstore could be so wonderfully intoxicating. I love my children more than I can express and I love being with them – all the more so because their needs that I fulfill make something so seemingly commonplace as a trip to the store by myself into a wondrous adventure.

The next adventure involves the children and I’ll write about it later. I hadn’t expected this post to end up being so long 🙂

~B.

Dandelion Wine

I’ve always been fascinated by the idea of dandelion wine. Well, maybe not always, but certainly ever since I read the Ray Bradbury book of the same name. The quote that really caught my fancy was this one:

Dandelion Wine. The words were summer on the tongue. The wine was summer caught and stoppered…Hold summer in your hand, pour summer in a glass, a tiny glass of course, the smallest tingling sip for children; change the season in your veins by raising glass to lip and tilting summer in.

Two years ago, when we were still living in WA, we looked out our windows one fine midday and noticed that our yard was almost completely carpeted with beautiful yellow dandelion flowers and we decided, on the spot, that we should try our hand at making some dandelion wine. We’d never made wine before. We had none of the necessary equipment. So we looked up recipes and methods and headed out to the brewing store to pick up the equipment and then we came back home and made up a nice big batch!

Then we moved across the country and sort of… neglected the brew for the next two years. Oops!

So, we weren’t expecting much when we finally bottled up the wine last Friday evening. The wine ended up being amazingly strong, but quite good! It’s nice and sweet – you can actually taste the dandelion flowers – while also being quite dry and I’m as pleased as I can possibly be to report that it does taste like summer in a glass.

We’ll definitely have to make another batch next summer and this time we’ll actually bottle it up the way you’re supposed to. I’m absolutely thrilled that this batch wasn’t a complete waste though and we should probably try some other foraging-type brews in the future. This was a very satisfying endeavor on the whole. Sadly there aren’t any brewing stores in our new area so we’ll have to plan ahead a bit more next time, but that’s probably not a bad thing.

~B.

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