10 Things I Learned This Month During the Covid-19 Pandemic

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Well, I guess it’s taken this past month of CRAZINESS to finally write in this blog again.

I used to write a monthly post called “10 Things I Learned Last Month” – you can search for past posts in the search bar.

Here is the latest addition of 10 Things I Learned, summing up March 2020 (which seriously felt like an entire year). This past month, we faced the global pandemic of Covid-19, with the U.S. going into a nation-wide sabbatical. Most people, aside from essential workers, are currently working from home, schooling from home, and trying to adjust to this weird limbo life for the unforeseen future. In our home, our family is still figuring out new rhythms that work for us.

In no particular order, here are 10 things I learned this month.

1. I am under more stress than I’ve ever been in my entire life.

There are many things about the current season that are inherently stressful. Global crisis, sickness and death, economic downturn, of course. And also personal things, like worrying about my older friends and family members’ health, helping my kids adjust to lots of uncertainty, and tending to the needs within our church community. And in the midst of stress, I observe interesting ebbs and flows in me that have been unpredictable at times. Some moments I feel certain and secure, armed with a we-got-this attitude. And then other moments I’m crying, stress eating ice cream, and can’t fall asleep because I’m anxious.

2. I need my tribe of people right now.

This is the time to tighten those relational connections with the people that matter most. And I am so grateful I have my people, and ways to deepen those connections. Phone calls and texts with friends have become lifelines. Family conference calls on Zoom and video messages on Marco Polo are keeping us afloat. Thank God for technology that allows us to reach out to others right now.

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3. We are all facing loss and disappointment.

Every single one of us is dealing with losses of some kind. My kids can’t see their friends, and that’s hard. Some of our extended family members and friends cannot work right now, and that’s hard. One big loss for our family is that we were scheduled to officially adopt our foster son this week, but now that’s on hold because the court system in Hawaii is essentially shut down right now. And that’s hard. Really hard. I’ve cried several times from all the loss I’m feeling.

(Since I haven’t written anything here about fostering, this may be news to you. It has been an adventure and joy for our family, and I hope to write a longer post about that at some point.)

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4. I love discovering unexpected beauty around me.

Though life in our home is more chaotic than normal, there are many joys worth celebrating. My kids are so resilient and healthy. Of course there are conflicts, but overall my kids have been really kind with each other. I love seeing their friendships and sweet moments together. There is a lot of fun and laughter in our family.

I also love the beautiful, creative ways people around us are reaching out, connecting with others, and offering what they have to bless others. Humans are so wonderfully compassionate and innovative!

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5. I need to pay attention to my inner world when engaging with social media.

RIght now social media feels like both a wonderful gift and a potential minefield, depending on the moment. On the good end, it’s a way to maintain social connections, read funny things that help me have a healthy level of humor, get parenting tips, and of course, learn about the gloriousness that is Tiger King on Netflix. But if I linger too long on social media, I start to get overwhelmed with news that worries me, posts that make me question whether I’m doing enough, and other things that do more harm than good. So I’m learning how to intentionally pay attention to how my heart and soul are doing while I’m on things like Facebook or Instagram. And at the point when I feel fear or anxiety rising up, it’s probably a wise time to shut it off and find other things to do.

6. More time at home means more time to cook, read, and write.

I am enjoying all this time to slow down and do things that I love, such as baking bread and reading books. Here are a few foods I’ve been making at home:

Feel free to check out my Recipe Archives for more food.

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7. When you know it’s a marathon, and not a sprint, your strategy changes.

At first it seemed like this stay-at-home thing was for two weeks, and our family went into a certain mode. It felt new and exciting, we had a long list of fun things to do, and I had lots of romantic ideas of what schooling at home would be. It was like a Quarantine Honeymoon. Now, with schools seemingly being closed for a significantly longer time, and no clear end date to staying-at-home and physical distancing, we’ve shifted into creating more sustainable rhythms. We have some structure to our day, but also a lot of fluidity, depending on the needs of our family. Here’s a resource list I created called Things to Do at Home With Kids. Some days we do a few organized activities, other days we do none. We’ve set up some longer term work spaces in our house for all the school and Zoom meetings. I think we’re still adapting to seeing this as a longer reality than when it first started, but that’s where our family of six is at.

8. Speaking of Zoom, I’ve been enjoying leading virtual Enneagram workshops.

Since becoming a certified Enneagram coach, I’ve been finding ways to educate and equip people with the Enneagram for personal, professional, and relational growth. And thanks to Zoom, I can continue leading group workshops. They have been so much fun! If you want to know more about the Enneagram and the training I offer for groups and teams, go here.

9. Thank goodness for TV (and other wonderful things).

Seriously, there is so much to be grateful for. I am thankful that we have things like a stable home, jobs, food, our sweet baby boy who is thriving, Netflix, audiobooks, coffee, a front yard and driveway where my kids can play, friends who check in with us, my kids’ teachers who are freaking amazing, a healthy family, toilet paper and hand sanitizer, moments of solitude on my front patio, yoga, my husband finally deciding he’s ready to watch Game of Thrones with me, virtual happy hour, Shipt grocery delivery, my older kids’ ability to be helpful and self-sufficient, pizza, a large stock of wine, and so much more.

10. Easter is stripped down this year, and that’s sort of nice.

With life being simplified and decluttered, this holiday weekend that’s usually full of activities and gatherings is fundamentally different. This year we’ll have a quieter Easter celebration at home, and rest in the truth that Jesus is victorious, life emerges from death, God is good, and we have nothing to fear. Happy Easter, everyone.

What about you? What things have you learned recently?

 

 

How to Apologize

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Yesterday I apologized to my 8-year-old son, Aaron. I got angry, and spoke to him with a tone that was mean and harsh. Immediately after, I knew that my reaction had been unkind and ungracious, and had hurt his feelings. So I apologized to him.

I’ve had many, many times of needing to apologize. With my friends, with my kids, with my husband. And I can’t even count the number of times on any given day that we are coaching our kids to apologize to each other and reconcile conflict. I’m no expert, but I do have the experience of what a good apology can do to repair and strengthen a relationship. In contrast, I have seen how an incomplete or non-apology damages relationship and allows pain to fester.

We all mess up and hurt people. Conflict is inevitable. And when conflict happens, we have the power to choose whether we’ll allow the damaged relationship to stay that way, or to work toward reconciliation. In my marriage, I’ve experienced the messiness of conflict, but also the deep joy and intimacy that follows a good apology.

When we apologize, we open dialogue with the person we hurt, take responsibility and acknowledge the pain we caused, and ultimately, seize an opportunity to do better next time.

A good apology has two key elements:

  1. It shows remorse over your actions.
  2. It acknowledges the pain your actions caused to someone else.

It is not easy to apologize well. It is simple, but not easy. An effective apology takes courage and humility. Oftentimes, we react to our own wrongdoings with shame, fear, or defensiveness, all of which don’t aid us in good apologies. We’ve all probably heard (and perhaps spoken) non-apologies.

Here are some examples of non-apology apologies:

“I’m sorry that you feel that way.” A non-apology that doesn’t admit that there was any wrongdoing.

“I’m sorry that your feelings were hurt, but…” The non-apology that shifts blame to someone else, or essentially says that the other person is being overly sensitive. Adding a “but” to any apology basically ends up being a non-apology.

“Sorry to whoever feels offended.” The generic, vague non-apology that doesn’t require taking responsibility.

“Sorry.” Followed by a “Let’s just move on.” Another vague non-apology that doesn’t take responsibility for any specific wrongdoing, and doesn’t do any repair.

The Pre-Step: Listen

To truly apologize well, one must first seek to understand how the other person was hurt or affected by the wrongdoing. That means listening with empathy. Before apologizing, it may be helpful to clarify what the wrongdoing was. If I hurt someone, I usually first ask the person something like, “How did I hurt you?” or “What did I do that caused you pain?” Then I shut up and listen. Without protests or justifications. Only after getting to a place of understanding the pain I caused, I can then truly apologize. Listening also creates a pathway for the person to receive my apology, because they know that I am clear about my wrongdoing.

Now let’s look at the steps of a good apology. A good apology will communicate three things: remorse, responsibility, and remedy.

How to Apologize

Step 1: Express Remorse

An apology needs to express remorse (or regret) for the actions that caused pain. Use the words “I’m sorry” or “I apologize.” These words are simple, yet powerful. There is no apology if these words aren’t said.

In my apology to my son, I said this, “I am sorry that I snapped at you yesterday. I reacted too harshly, and wasn’t gracious.”

Step 2: Admit Responsibility

Take responsibility for your actions, and the effects they had on the other person. This step involves empathizing with the other person (no matter what your original intentions were), and demonstrating that you understand how you made the person feel.

“I know that I hurt your feelings, and made you feel bad. That was wrong.”

Step 3: Remedy the Situation

When you remedy the situation, you repair what has been damaged and make it right. You also commit to do better next time.

My words caused Aaron to feel bad. To repair that, I told him, “You are important to me, and I love you. I want to treat you with kindness. I’ll work on speaking more gently to you. And if I speak to you harshly in the future, you can call me out on that.”

Remedying the situation leads you to consider how to treat the person better, and not cause them the same pain as before. Remedying the situation means assuring the person that you will change your behavior, and following through on it. This is a commitment on your end to rebuild trust through doing better in the future.

A few other thoughts on apologies…

  • If apologies don’t come naturally, prepare your apology. It may help to write out what you want to say. You can also role-play your apology with a trusted friend.
  • An apology needs to acknowledge the truth of the other person’s feelings. It’s not a matter of who is “right” or “wrong,” since we all experience and interpret situations subjectively.
  • Express your intentions, but don’t excuse your behaviors. This takes nuance and thoughtfulness. You may express that your intention wasn’t to harm the other person, and that you value and care about him or her. But keep the focus on the wrongdoing, and take responsibility for it.
  • You can ask for forgiveness, but you can’t force it. Our family considers forgiveness to be an crucial part of repairing damaged relationships. But forgiveness isn’t always instantaneous, and is sometimes a process that may take time. We encourage our kids to ask for forgiveness as part of the Remedy the Situation in Step 3. The kid being asked for forgiveness is allowed to take time and space, and forgive the wrongdoing when they are ready.

If we’re willing to do the hard work of apologizing well, we’ll reap the benefit of deepening relationships with the people in our lives.

 

Happy 5th Birthday, Alexandra

I write letters to my children on their birthdays. Here is last year’s letter to Alex.

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Dear Alex,

Five years ago we were surprised by your arrival. Born three weeks ahead of your due date, you were a tiny little thing.

And now you’re five years old. Full time preschooler and warrior girl. You are a wonder. You jump into life with such energy and exuberance. I love how you challenge me to enjoy life more freely.

This year was full of new things for you – a home in a new city, a new preschool that you love, getting a puppy, getting better at swimming and reading, learning hula. You also ate a live cricket, which your dad (NOT ME) fed to you.

You love making art and doing your morning pages. You enjoy helping with house chores, listening to stories, playing with friends, and making people laugh. Your personality is full of strength and zeal. I love seeing you grow and explore.

Happy birthday, Alex! Here’s to a wonderful year, my beloved daughter.

Love, Mom