Saturday, 7 May 2016

Lying, empathy and doughnuts

You can tell that there is a lot going on in my life at the moment because I seem to go in these waves of writing loads of blog posts and then nothing for months and months. The weird thing is that I tend to write more when I am busier. Maybe it is so that I get my thoughts down on a page so I don’t forget in the mad rush of life. Well whatever it is, here is another rambling of mine.

It seems that as parents we are really (and I mean really) bad at telling when our children are lying. A recent new study mentioned in the Daily Mail here and discussed in the Guardian here says that parents are only likely to spot their children lying 1/5th of the time as compared to other adults and even other adults are pretty bad at stopping a lie, getting it correct only half the time. I find this fascinating and scary all at the same time as I wonder does this follow up into adulthood where we still can’t tell when we are being lied to.

I only wonder this because again recent experiences with my friends and family have made me wonder how we overcome this idea that we have to always take a side in disagreements, arguments or any sort of dispute/break-up, etc. As a Mum of two children of different genders I suppose it might be easier for me to understand from both sides:

1. how would I feel if my daughter came home and said that something awful had happened with her boyfriend?
2. how would I feel if my son came home and described the above situation but from the point of view of my daughter's boyfriend?

Luckily my dd is still quite young and although older my ds does not have a girlfriend but this obviously doesn't have to a girlfriend/boyfriend scenario, it could be any disagreement or falling out.

The lying study clearly shows that as parents we always want to believe that our children are telling the truth but not only is there the fact that we are so rubbish at spotting when they are not BUT there is also ALWAYS at least 2 sides to a dispute and we are NEVER going to know the full story.

This is where we, as parents, can learn to be supportive but also be aware that we are flawed in spotting lies and not great at holding ourselves, and therefore others, accountable for their actions. I love this video by Brene Brown about accountability and blame. I used to be a blamer (more about this later!!) There is always a place for accountability for everyone but this involves communication: if you don’t communicate your feelings and just allocate blame everyone loses. The problem is that speaking up can be really difficult for some people (see my previous post about minimisers and maximisers) and so there needs to be an awareness of this in every relationship.

This is the type of education we can give our children growing up but also we can support our grown up children by providing a safe environment where they can be heard when things are not going so well in their relationships. We can help by maybe pointing them in the direction of tools/techniques for better communication, accountability and space in which to have healthy relationships where they can help their friends/partners grow rather than blaming, belittling and dysfunction and as parents wer can do this with love and compassion.

If we can do this with empathy rather than sympathy (another great Brene Brown/RSA short video) then even better. Empathy drives connection (feeling WITH someone) by allowing the following:

1. Perspective taking - ability to take the perspective of another person (as mentioned above)
2. Perspective taking - recognising their perspective as their true
3. Staying out of judgement
4. Recognising emotion in others and communicating that

Obviously all these things can be really difficult but helping someone find these qualities when what they really want to do is blame someone for something is never going to help in the long run. Believe me, I have tried to remove the part I played in a difficult relationship on a fair few occasions. I liked to blame so I didn't have to take responsibility for my part. However I am always 50% responsible for anything that happens in any relationship and so are you. Owning that fact and being accountable for that will help you grow as a person and is such an important lesson to tell our children, young and old.

It isn't easy: I am still someone who tends towards blame as a modus operandi but I now have the knowledge and tools to help me to find a different way and realise that blaming works for a while but like eating a whole bag of doughnuts in one go, it seems a good idea at the time but after a while it doesn't feel so good. One of the easiest techniques for this is putting myself in someone else’s shoes (or number 1 above.)

Such an easy technique but so effective (and I always like the easy solutions!!) With my dispute idea wouldn't it be great to really feel how it would be to hear the other side. To wonder (if it is your son who has told you their tale of woe) how it would feel to hear the side of the other person (imagining they are also your child) who is telling their version of the same tale of woe. Would you do things differently? Knowing that you are never going to know the whole truth would you be more kind, gentle and hold your child more accountable for their own part in the tale? Also knowing that you probably aren't going to know when you are being told a lie would you be more compassion to ALL concerned?

There are always at least 2 sides to every story and those 2 sides can be from very different viewpoints. This is something I have come to realise listening to my own children talk about a disagreement they have had. Dd’s version is always TOTALLY different to ds’s much as my take on an argument with dh is always different to what I thought had occurred. Again this is something I try to model to my children on a regular basis in the hope that as they grow into adulthood they will own up when they have been complicit in some behaviour that wasn’t wholly healthy.

Luckily they have two parents who are very different who are very active in explaining this type of thing. I am always telling people that they only thing I “educate” my children in as a home educating parent is social situations and how to be authentic, accountable and empathetic in all their dealings with other people. Even more lucky for them they also have a multitude of fantastic role-models in their grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, friends’ parents and people that I work with. Home education also means that they can spend a lot of time with all these extra people when they would normally be at school.

Anyway here is an interesting post by Alfie Kohn author of Punished by Rewards. This book is well worth a read if you want to know why rewarding children for doing stuff either with money, stars or whatever other system TOTALLY doesn't work in the long run. However the blog post is about types of motivation and love. Quite relevant to my last blog post about getting the love you want or not!!

And here is the great Doughnut parody by Dustin & Genevieve who are awesome. Enjoy the light relief!!!

Thursday, 21 April 2016

Top tips for a healthy relationship

Recent things in my life have made me think about what I would like to teach my children about communicating and having lasting relationships (if that is what they want.) I have been married to my dh for nearly 21 years and most of the time we are happy but there have been times when things were not great. We argue, disagree and most of these things are due to the fact that we think and act very, very differently.

One of the best things I think that explains some of the issues we have encountered in our relationship I learnt about when I attended the Hoffman Process back in 2009. It is that in most relationships there tends to be one “minimiser” and one “maximiser.” This is taken from the Imago Relationship Therapy developed by Harville Hendrix. 

There are some great explanations out there at the Imago UK page or at these webpages -  Joan Emerson's page or The Passion Doctor

My experience is described in the table below:   
Need all disagreements sorted out now
Need space and time to think but then don’t want to talk about it ever
Needs emotions acknowledged
Tend to withhold feelings
Outwardly express feelings
Tend to keep feelings to themselves
Look outward for approval
Look inward for approval
Tend to be quick thinkers
Needs time to think things through
Tend to be energised by being with my friends
Tend to be tired out by being with friends

My Hoffman teacher Matthew Pruen explained it well as “minimisers are like a tortoise and maximisers are like a monkey banging the tortoise on the shell shouting “come out, I love you” louder and louder. The more they bank the more the tortoise clams up.” He sums it up that minimisers need to learn to speak up and maximisers need to learn to listen.
From my own experience as a maximiser, minimisers need to remember that when they have been given space to think things through, the maximiser is then like a hungry tortoise looking at some lettuce very far away: every step is like torture to get the answer they need.

With my DH his biggest issue as a minimiser is when he hears me talk he hears “never..”; “always..” e.g. “you always forget…” or “you never remember...”. In return when DH doesn’t talk I, as a maximiser, think/feel that my feelings are always ignored, not loved, not respected, etc. You can see with this example what a wonderfully vicious cycle it is. So I need to try and soften my language and DH needs to be aware of my feelings of frustration.

This is where the 5 Languages of Love can really help to make a relationship more robust. So this is another thing that I have done with my children as part of their home education as although it is called languages of love it could easily be called the language of relationship. 

Go to the website and take the test to find out what your primary (and secondary) love language is. The higher the score the more important that language is to you and lower scores indicate that those are languages you seldom use to communicate love. 

Be aware that your love languages may be different to those of your partner and children and that you need to express love to those people in the mode that they want it NOT in the way that you want it. Again I love the simplicity of this idea and although there are things that it doesn’t show (one such thing mentioned below), it is a great start.

5 Languages of Love
Acts of Service
Anything you do to ease the burden of responsibilities weighing on an "Acts of Service" person will speak volumes. The words he or she most want to hear: "Let me do that for you." Laziness, broken commitments, and making more work for them tell speakers of this language their feelings don't matter. Finding ways to serve speaks volumes to the recipient of these acts.

Quality Time
Nothing says, "I love you," like full, undivided attention. Being there for this type of person is critical, but really being there – with the TV off, fork and knife down, and all chores and tasks on standby – makes your significant other feel truly special and loved. Distractions, postponed dates, or the failure to listen can be especially hurtful. Quality Time also means sharing quality conversation and quality activities.

Physical Touch
This language isn't all about the bedroom. A person whose primary language is Physical Touch is, not surprisingly, very touchy. Hugs, pats on the back, holding hands, and thoughtful touches on the arm, shoulder, or face – they can all be ways to show excitement, concern, care, and love. Physical presence and accessibility are crucial, while neglect or abuse can be unforgivable and destructive. Physical touch fosters a sense of security and belonging in any relationship.

Words of Affirmation
Actions don't always speak louder than words. If this is your love language, unsolicited compliments mean the world to you. Hearing the words, "I love you," are important – hearing the reasons behind that love sends your spirits skyward. Insults can leave you shattered and are not easily forgotten. Kind, encouraging, and positive words are truly life-giving.

Receiving Gifts
Don't mistake this love language for materialism; the receiver of gifts thrives on the love, thoughtfulness, and effort behind the gift. If you speak this language, the perfect gift or gesture shows that you are known, you are cared for, and you are prized above whatever was sacrificed to bring the gift to you. A missed birthday, anniversary, or a hasty, thoughtless gift would be disastrous – so would the absence of everyday gestures. Gifts are visual representations of love and are treasured greatly.

The website states that the benefit of knowing, and therefore speaking, someone else’s love language is a greater sense of connection via better communication and increased understanding.
As you can see below in my family our languages are quite different although dh, ds and I all match on the primary language. It is really useful to know these facts and I am going to pin these results up somewhere where everyone can see them remind us all how we want to be appreciated/loved by others.

Acts of Service
11 (1)
9 (1)
7 (1)
Quality Time
8 (2)
7 (1)
6 (1)
Physical Touch
Words of Affirmation
8 (2)
Receiving Gifts
6 (2)
5 (2)

The children are really interested in how these languages may change over time so we are going to redo the test every few months and see if they change as an experiment. I, for one, am aware that at present Acts of Service are really important to me because I am not 100% well and haven’t been for over 3 months. Once my health is better it may be that Quality Time may become more important and Acts of Service less important – who knows. 

Also, an interesting discussion with DH revealed that Words of Affirmation are important to him but more in the guise of “fewer words of defamation” as in those sorts of things mentioned above. My DH doesn’t like me saying things like “You never answer your phone” or “You always forget when I have asked you to do something” so although he doesn’t need to be affirmed, he hates being shamed like this, especially in front of the kids. This is great for me to know as I can try and keep these frustrations of mine more private for his sake. I am also going to endeavour to stop using the dreaded “always”/”never” words which –let’s be honest – I should “never” use LOL.

So these are the two things I would add to any relationship curriculum if it were up to me, which seeing as I home-educate it is. Hope you find it helpful!!!

Friday, 19 February 2016

Reflections on my Permaculture Journey so far

I am sitting in the York University library writing this reflective blog post. I am setting up days like this as it gets me away from the hustle and bustle of daily home educating life. I am also here at the University library because I am "stacking my functions" as we say in Permaculture speak. My dh works here so I am going out to lunch with him. There are precious few times that I get alone with him so driving him to work and working here means that I get some work done without the distractions of the home and children AND I get some quality time with my dh.

 Having spent the morning reviewing my Diploma in Applied Permaculture Design (DAPD) journey I have realised that I have come further than I thought I had. I have documented this journey in the Diary tab of my APD project plan here but you can also see it below. I embedded the Google document on my blog last night as a way to show everyone what I am up to. I also (with a lot of help from my gorgeous dh) managed to find a way to make that blog page the full width of the page. It was too squashed to be able to view the document properly with the two side columns there (as on a normal blog page) so I amended the HTML for that page using the instructions here.

I may well amend the other pages along the same lines for ease of viewing but I was really pleased that I got this one to work as the document is quite busy and needs more space.

Anyway better get back to finishing my Goals articulation. This is the under-pinning, overview document to my APD journey and shows how all my projects, goals and activities are linked to the Permaculture Flower, Ethics and Principles.

As can be seen above and here under the Goals tab, I have attempted to list all the goals and associated activities that I want to get out of doing my Diploma. I have then listed where these goals/activity pairings fit against the Ethics, Principles and Flower in columns C, D and E respectively with the key for these in column H. I have then matched these goals against my 10 projects in column F.

I know my project ideas might change over time but I can then just updated this document. I have also added a weighted value against each aspect of the Principles, etc in column I. This scores show how many times these are listed against a goal so that I have a clear indication of whether I am missing exploring some Permaculture Principle or whether a project isn't as rounded a permaculture project as I thought. It is a simple idea but gives me a very clear indicator of how I am doing on my learning path.

This spreadsheet and all the tabbed sheets within it is how I will keep on top of everything but is also a living, breathing document which will get added to and changed on a regular basis. Embedding it in my blog will be another helpful reminder of the need to review it on a regular basis so I am very glad I worked out how to do that.

Any questions or suggestions please get in touch via the Comment Box below!!!

Sunday, 14 February 2016

My home education lifestyle

Sitting here listening to the noise from upstairs of my children playing with their various friends online, it has reminded me of why I live the life I do.
Over the last few weeks, there have been various reminders for me but there was also that report on ITV Calendar where the family were taught lessons at home.
I am a radical unschooler a.k.a how families used to live, or I am an autonomous educator a.k.a how all adults learn (if they wanted to keep learning) or some other random label. Basically, my kids learn by living and interacting with the world.

At present my 2 kids (in separate rooms) are talking to each other and at least 5 other people online discussing how (amongst other things) they are going to play an online distributed game of Dungeons and Dragons. They share information, are learning how to cooperate in groups, listen to each other, problem solve, discuss differences of opinion, etc.

This isn't all they do but it is the majority of their lives when in the house. It is beautiful to be a part of it when I can hear how they treat each other kindly and the ideas they come up with between them.

This social interaction is, for me, far more important than reading books (one of the most anti-social activities) or learning subjects out of context.
Computers and online activities are the books and radio of our time (in the past both those media were classed as problematic) but I think that being able to communicate with loads of people discussing all sorts of topics whilst playing minecraft, building stuff together, resolving problems, etc. is fab.

There are many ways to learn. Thank goodness.

Saturday, 23 January 2016

Stop procrastinating and just do something

I am sometimes the Queen of Procrastination but recently I have realised that that is ok and actually it is a way for my brain to tell me that I need to decide whether I want to concentrate on one thing or not.

One of the reasons that I am doing the Diploma in Applied Permaculture Design is as a way to concentrate my mind and get myself organised. To this end I am in the process of organising my websites so that there is one that is more secular orientated here where I am marketing myself as a social media, website, organisational guru (need to find a better word for it than that - any ideas let me know!!) and one more spiritual one here where I am marketing myself as a Shamanic Practitioner and maybe writing more personal stuff about things I enjoy in my life etc.

Both websites need work and cleaning up but what I have discovered over the last few years about myself is that if I don't just get on and do something I actually end up doing nothing and getting stressed about it.

So here are my skills:

And watch this space for some more ramblings about my Permaculturing My Life. Living is a verb, Learning is a verb, Permaculturing is my way of combining the 2.

After at least 2 years of procrastinating here is the another start of my Applied Permaculture Diploma Journey.

"If you wait until you can do everything for everybody, instead of something for somebody, you'll end up doing nothing for nobody"

I am changing this quote to "If I wait until I can do everything perfectly for myself, instead of just doing something for myself, I'll end up doing nothing at all." 

Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Getting Things Done so far

Above are just a few of the things that I have been doing over the last few days to try and set up systems which will help me over the next few years with my Diploma in Applied Permaculture Design.

I have written all the design processes and frameworks; design methods and tools; project management tools and other useful piece of information in a card index folder for easy access.

I have set up a written Getting Things Done system in my A5 Filofax using whiteboard paper I bought especially for this purpose. At present this Filofax also has space for my 10 proposed designs although these may be moved elsewhere at some point.

I have got my email account inbox down to 892 emails. I am now going to use a post by Andrea Klinger to organise my email in a Getting Things Done way (see here.)

I have gathered together all the useful books, cards, information and started collating and organising it so that these tools are on hand for me to use in my designs. For example the U101 cards above were part of a Design course that I did with the Open University and could be used for Random Input or when I need inspiration.

I wanted to add the other pictures to show the other things I have done to get more stream-lined and organised. I have started using a Basics Wallet for my frequently used cards and to organise the other 30 cards I have (which were taking up far too much room in my handbag) set up an index system like that shown here.

I am also still regularly doing a Minimalist Month in an attempt to get rid of stuff that I don't need or use any more.

Thursday, 22 October 2015

Trialling out using Hootsuite to write a blog post

I am trying to find different ways to communicate my thoughts at the time that I am having them rather than when I have the time to sit at my computer (when I have often forgotten what I wanted to communicate and why.) So how does writing my blog on Hootsuite work as compared to writing it on blogger?

General Musings

OK I am really hit and miss at this whole blog thing. I am really going to try getting a bit more regular at it as part of my Diploma in Permaculture Applied Design learning pathway and recording. To help in this endeavour I have actually registered on the Diploma and so I am really need to get more focused about it.

As a start I am going revisit my bedroom design and my health design. I am also doing another minimalist month as can be seen below:

There are more things I have got rid of than the things above but again it has totalled more than the 496 things I was supposed to do as part of the minimalist month challenge. This is such a simple thing to do once you get used to the idea and it becomes quite addictive. I have also added the extra layer of randomly picking things up around the house (especially those things that don't have a home and seem out-of-place or a bit forlorn) and asking"does this bring me joy?" This is a question advised in the Marie Kondo book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying: A simple, effective way to banish clutter forever and it really works for me. As part of this latest de-cluttering cycle I asked this question about some of the many ink pens I have and realised that although I really like ink pens I don't need more than a couple and so the extra ones don't being me joy because they never get used and are taking up space in my house that they don't need to.

Anyway I really just wanted to put keyboard to computer screen to prompt myself to start writing again and I have done that.