This project's goal is to give each family member and myself just 10 minutes of unconditional positive regard every day. All attention is focused on the other person for those 10 minutes and only positive comments or thoughts are allowed. Just 10 minutes often becomes much more. Try it and see. You'll find the Just 10 guidelines on the right side of this blog.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Just an Ordinary Dance

My Just 10 today was about accepting the ordinary, more specifically, my "ordinaryness."

For years, teachers and later professors, encouraged me to write.  I was embarrassed and flattered and then later burdened by the expectation that I had to be outstanding if I were to write anything at all.  I think I'm over that now.  I recently read this in Rhonda Britten's book Fearless Living:

"It is our ability to be ourselves that allows our uniqueness to shine.  To live with intention and be ourselves, we must be ordinary."

I finally understood what that meant.  My soul had come home.

And, so, during my "walking" Just 10, I planned on pondering the wisdom in celebrating all that is ordinary about me and what to write.  Of course, I wanted something deep and profound.  At the very least interesting and inspirational.  My head had other plans.  I kept hearing pieces of an old hymn but couldn't really remember many of the words.  "Dance, Dance where ever you may be.  I am the Lord of the Dance, said he. . . blah, blah blah . . .where ever you may be." 

I tried to metaphorically "flush" my head so I could get back to more profound thinking.  That blasted song kept interrupting.  I gave up.  I let the pieces of the song "swirl around my bowl of thought."  The rhythm of the tune fit perfectly with the cadence of my step.  I was having fun, stepping to a lively tune with only broken memories for lyrics.  It may have been all the endorphins my walk was generating.  I loved the idea of comparing life to "the dance."  Sometimes it's a waltz,  occasionally a steamy tango.  A lot of the time, I'm clunking across the dance floor with two huge, awkward, left feet.  And that's just the way it is.

Being ordinary is the only way to really get out on the dance floor.  Trying to be something I'm not or setting the bar so high with expectations is crippling.  When I do that I'm stuck sitting on the side lines, waiting to be asked but no one ever comes.  When I forget myself, long enough to enjoy being ordinary, I find myself  out in the middle of the dance thrashing around like a wild woman having a wonderful time.

The only writing that matters to me is a writing that is grounded firmly in the ordinary bits and pieces of my life.  I'm never going to pen the next great American novel and it's pretty doubtful that I will become a household name known for a witty and erudite national column.  I can write about what I know, the ordinary things in my life, for the pure and simple pleasure of it.  For whatever it's worth, I share some of my writing here because I enjoy doing so and the words flow naturally.  Whether or not it's good or better yet, outstanding, doesn't really matter any more.  The Lord of the Dance has turned on the music and my feet are out on the dance floor.

I was curious about those lyrics and am pasting them here.  I got them from the following site:

Lord of the Dance

words by Sydney Carter, music traditional
I danced in the morning when the world was begun
I danced in the Moon & the Stars & the Sun
I came down from Heaven & I danced on Earth
At Bethlehem I had my birth:
Dance then, wherever you may be
I am the Lord of the Dance, said He!
And I'll lead you all, wherever you may be
And I'll lead you all in the Dance, said He!
(...lead you all in the Dance, said He!)
I danced for the scribe & the pharisee
But they would not dance & they wouldn't follow me
I danced for fishermen, for James & John
They came with me & the Dance went on:
I danced on the Sabbath & I cured the lame
The holy people said it was a shame!
They whipped & they stripped & they hung me high
And they left me there on a cross to die!
I danced on a Friday when the sky turned black
It's hard to dance with the devil on your back
They buried my body & they thought I'd gone
But I am the Dance & I still go on!
They cut me down and I leapt up high
I am the Life that'll never, never die!
I'll live in you if you'll live in Me -
I am the Lord of the Dance, said He!
Chords: KEY C
Background: The lyrics for this version were adapted from a song called "Simple Gifts" by Sydney Carter in 1963. The music is a 19th century Shaker tune. Read more Lord of the Dance FAQ.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

I Had a Dream

The other night I had a dream  that I was profoundly sad and had lost the will to speak.  In the dream, I tried to run away but I soon discovered that I couldn't run from the sadness or myself.  During my Just 10, I knew that I had to honestly face the fact that there are many aspects of our current situation that leave me with a deep sadness.

The same day,during my son's Just 10, we had to confront his own sadness about the possibility of losing the house.  This is a boy who needs routine and predictability.  I had to admit that I don't have any definite answers and in doing so felt a piece of my own heart break for him.  My son often has a hard time managing his sadness.  Looking toward the positive doesn't come easily.

I found myself talking about how it's ok to feel sad.   It's still very important not to let the Sad Monster that lives inside us to escape and start capturing all the happy feelings.  Yes, it's a simplistic idea, almost Dr. Suessian, but it made sense to both of us.  The inner Sad Monster has it's own cave and we can sometimes come to it and talk but we need to make it clear that he can't go gobbling up everything because he's hungry.
If we fail to feed him, he can't grow.

In the past, that Sad Monster ate huge chunks of my life.  He was on a wild rampage and left so much destruction in his wake.   There are still days when it would be very easy to let him loose but I am slowly learning that I can accept that he lives in a cave inside me.  Sometimes, I can sit outside that cave and talk to him or just sit and feel sad.  Then I can walk away and go back to the rest of my life.  I can't make him disappear.  In learning to sit with him, I learn from him and the happiness that life also brings is all the more sweet because of my Sad Monster.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Adventure Sunday

We have a wonderful piece of undeveloped land in our neighborhood. . . well not exactly undeveloped.  It is in transition and we already miss the way it used to be when we first moved here.  Today, I realized that it was way past time to explore it.  When I mentioned the idea to the kids they were very enthusiastic.  Andrew said it would be great to go "adventuring".  And so we did.

We spent our Just 10 today in the company of mother nature and each other.  We saw a wild rabbit, giant bumblebees on wildflowers, lots of interesting birds, (and a lot of interesting big bird poo), a ladybug and a submerged shopping cart that had us playing quite the guessing game until we used the binoculars. 

I felt young again.  That was such a good feeling after last night.   I saw how Patty Duke is looking these days and was shocked.   She looks good just old.   She really isn't that much older than I.  Is she?  When we were preparing for our adventure.  I knelt on the floor and felt the lovely pain of an old knee.  In the company of my children and nature,  I forgot about my knee, the shock of aging.  There was too much to see, too much to discover.

As we walked home,  both children asked if they could do it again soon and I quickly replied "Yes".  Maybe we should make time for a Just 10 adventure every Sunday.  We don't always have to explore the neighborhood field but there is a world out there waiting to be discovered.  We just have to open our eyes and see the world as the young see it.  Adventure is everywhere.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Sounds of Silence

Today, my husband and Ispent our Just 10 on a walk.   He didn't talk much.  I talked general information but little substance.  For the most part we just walked together.  I realized that Just 10 with my husband isn't always about what we say or what we hear, it's more about who we are and simply choosing to be together.

Several years ago, I had a so-called friend write an e-mail to her sister in which she stated that I was "married to a loser."   I "accidentally" received this e-mail when the sister replied and somehow cc'd me.  I think the comment would have stung less if it had been about me.  Yes, from the outside, I see why someone might come to that conclusion.  My husband is frightfully underemployed.  He hasn't been able to really provide for his family since 2005.  By some standards that would make him a loser.    I made a commitment for "better and for worse, for richer and for poorer."  Every day I make the choice to stand by him and to walk with him on a path that is often rough and unforgiving. 

I am free to leave at any time.  I can survive on my own.  He can survive on his own.  I stay because I choose to remain, because for me at this moment,  it is the right thing to do.  Sometimes doing what we believe to be right will be criticized and judged harshly by others. 

The friend that believes my husband is a loser is no longer a friend.  It was not a relationship that was worth saving.  I made the choice to end it.  She was not a supportive or kind presence in my life and I had held on to the relationship too long out of habit.  When I did share time with this friend, I always felt on guard.  She was often critical.  I'd failed to listen to my heart.  Being with her hadn't felt right but I attributed that to my own insecurities.    I now know that my insecurities we never the problem.

I chose to spend much of my Just 10 with my husband in peaceful silence this morning.  It felt like the right thing for me to do.  We are who we are, flawed and imperfect, and today we walk together.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Sick as a Dog

Yesterday, our little mini-dachshund, Ruby, hadn't had anything to eat or drink for 24 hours.  Since she weighs less than 10 lbs.  I knew we had to get some fluids in her.  It was after hours so I called around and found an emergency animal clinic that was open evenings.  It costs $90 just to be seen.  Any treatment or medicine would be extra.  We don't have $90.  So I began a search for options as a low-income pet owner. 

There is this lovely thing called "Care Credit" with an interest rate around 25%.  Of course, I didn't qualify.  Twenty-five percent interest sounds like usury to me but apparently it's legal.  There are funds for low-income pet owners through Dove Lewis but there has been such a big demand that there are no funds left.  The voice at the end of their phone was kind but none of the referrals he gave me were helpful.

I accidentally called the clinic that started my search  as I tried to explore my options.  When I expressed my disappointment at bothering them again, the voice at the end of the phone said, "Yeah, Why are you calling me back?  What do you expect me to do?  It costs a lot of money to run an animal clinic."  This was not the voice of understanding and compassion.  I was very angry and said, "Well, we'll just have to watch her suffer." and hung up the phone.   Rich or poor, I'll never go to that clinic.  I do understand that things cost money, more than she could apparently comprehend.  I wasn't asking for a handout.  I was hoping for options and compassion.

Earlier, I'd been advised against trying "force" water in her but we had to try.   My husband and I filled a dropper and held it to her mouth.  She licked eagerly.  We made her some of her favorite food, scrambled eggs, and she ate it and then drank more.  Today, she is doing so much better.  If Ruby weren't doing better, we would have to watch her suffer.   I can't help but wonder how many other pet owners have found themselves in the same position.  How many people with no health insurance and no money go without treatment?  How many wait until it's too late?  How many low-income people have been on the receiving end of a callous voice at the end of the telephone?  How many people really know from personal experience how much money it takes to survive?   (Surviving isn't thriving by the way.  I'm talking just getting by.)

During my Just 10 today, I realized that I'm in a position to give a voice to people struggling with poverty.   As long as profit is more important than the welfare of people (and animals in my book), there is work to do.

In addition to giving my family their Just 10, I want to spend at least Just 10 a day, giving a voice to the poor.   I may have no control over so much of what has happened in the last few years but I can control what actions I take and the choices I make however limited they might be.  I have so much good company.  Alone, I'm just a tiny voice in a huge storm but if we start joining our small voices, the world will have to hear.

I've got a few politicians to write and an adorable little dog that is asking for a biscuit.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Difficult Conversation

Lately, I've had to have several difficult conversations with our children.  Giving them bad news and  preparing them for challenges ahead isn't something I enjoy.  I also don't believe in lying to them.  Even though they are children there are some things they have a right to know.   Balancing between what has to be said and what they don't need to hear is sometimes a difficult thing.

I'd like to think that our frequent Just 10 conversations are making the challenging conversations easier.  I'm more than just a bearer of discipline and bad news, I'm also an open and responsive parent that is learning to listen as much as talk and to really hear what they have to tell me.

Gradually, the tone set during our Just 10 conversations is spilling over into the rest of the day.    I'm more aware of when I am being critical and better able to adjust my attitude and try a better approach.   During our Just 10,  I  experience them as separate and unique individuals and help them celebrate who they are.  This is especially important as they enter the ages when conforming means so much. 

Now, as the financial pressures threaten our home and future, it's more important than ever to strengthen the bonds we share as a family.  We need to remember that what is most important can't be bought or sold.  Where ever we are, we have each other and that will always be priceless.  Our Just 10 conversations remind me how rich I truly am. I am filled with hope in these difficult times.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Ten Funny Minutes

My son was in rare form during his Just 10 this morning.  He shared with me some of the stories he is working on in school.  One of them is about a fast food restaurant, called Fat Boys Burgers.  Fat Boys has an odd assortment of celebrities working there like George Foreman and a canary with a voice translator.

The other story he is working on features a poor, grumpy, old man named, Gerbert Berger Neninger who comes from a very poor area.  He travels the world looking for money to help out his town.  He's organizing it like a tv sitcom and thinks that Gerbert should be played by Arnold Schwartzenager.   His title for his series is "The Approach." 

My son is full of surprises. Even though he has Aspergers, he also has a keen sense of humor.  Andrew's mind is so active that he is often bored and has a lot of trouble with focusing.  If only I can find the secret to help him focus.  This kid could take the world by storm.

During a normal work day at the high school, I meet students who are full of surprises as well  but may not do well academically.  I sometimes wonder if their talents have been discovered by the significant people in their lives.  I wonder if they have someone to really listen to them, to enjoy them and reflect back the positive.  Are they encouraged to celebrate their uniqueness and to shine in a world that is often too dark?

This awareness makes the Just 10 I spend with my own children that much more important.  They do not live on this planet alone.  They have a lot to contribute.  Part of my job is to help them to uncover their gifts and talents and to encourage them to share those things with others.    Just 10 helps me do just that.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Saying No

Today, my Just 10 was spent walking off some frustration.  A brisk walk to work let me uncover why.

Not having enough money to make ends meet is extremely stressful.  So many things that have happened are outside my control.  I struggle with surrendering those things that I can't change and figuring out what actions to take.  Choosing how to spend my time and saying no when necessary is one way for me to take action.  It isn't always easy.

Yesterday, I got an e-mail request regarding a book group a friend and I are starting.  An interested person wanted to call and talk to me.  This isn't a bad request.  I understand being cautious.  The trouble is I absolutely hate talking on the telephone and I had disclosed what I was comfortable disclosing in previous e-mails.   Yes, this may be a bit peculiar, but it's me.  So I said, "no."  This wasn't an answer she wanted and she concluded it must be a scam and/or I was an extremely negative person.

Sometimes setting boundaries results in judgment by others.  It was important for me to say, "no" to be in charge of my time.  Just 10 is really helping me see how valuable my time is and how important it is to spend my time wisely.  Reassuring a stranger didn't make it on my list of priorities.  I can never remove the risk she would take in joining a group of strangers.  We all face the unknown.  My words on the telephone could never prove who I am.  It wasn't wrong of her to ask but I don't think it was wrong of me to say no either.

The first book we'll be reading is called Fearless Living by Rhonda Britten.  I didn't miss the irony of this experience against the title of the book.  After my Just 10, I felt at peace with my no, even though a cautious woman did not.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Girl Talk

Coordinating schedules with my daughter for our Just 10 is the hardest.  She is busy with school and friends and is also the least likely to ask for her 10 minutes.  When she did ask recently, I was determined to make time.  Yesterday evening after dinner dishes were done and the kitchen tidy, we sat down together.

She started our time together by giving me a synopsis of her favorite book series, that begins with the book Ever More.  At first, I failed to listen well.  As I noticed her dirty glasses, I asked her, "Do you know how dirty your glasses are?"  I immediately realized that I had broken one of the cardinal rules of Just 10.  I'd been critical.

I apologized for the rough start.  Asked for a "rewind" and to start again.  This time I listed to her lengthy explanations of plot and character and began asking questions to help me focus on what she was telling me.
Soon we entered into areas involving school, her friends and how she copes with the unpleasant.  (Those of you who know my daughter know that she tends to be very upbeat and optimistic.)  I've always been curious as to what goes on inside her head.  Yesterday, she gave me a glimpse of inside her pretty head and I am proud to say she is my daughter.

Our Just 10 soon became a just 30.  I got off to a rocky start but realized that I could begin again.  It really is important to give my family positive time especially after a day, a week or  a month filled with instructions and correction and just plain "chewing them out".    If I don't take time to really listen, to let them feel safe and free from judgment or rebuke, I won't really know who they are.  My perception changes when I give them Just 10 and I learn that I not only love my family but I really like them too.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Life Wide Open

Yesterday evening I discovered that I actually have a few readers.  My first response was slight embarrassment.  I have always tended to be a bit of an introvert who keeps a lot to myself so it is a bit ironic that I'm writing about things so close to my heart for all the world to see.  And, yet, starting this Just 10 project and writing this blog has been such a positive experience that not sharing myself and my experiences seems a bit like, "keeping my light under a bushel."

I just started the book, Getting Up When Life Knocks You Down: Five Steps to Overcoming A Life Crisis by Jerry White.   This is a man who isn't "hiding his light."   Jerry stepped on a landmine in Israel and his life has never been the same since.  He is a founder of Survivor Corps and works to end the use of landmines.  He took the lessons life has taught him and the lessons learned from other survivor stories and came up with five steps to overcome a crisis.  Since 5 is half of 10, there seems a mathematical justice in sharing his five steps with you, here at In Just 10

1.  Face Facts. . . be honest with yourself about what's really happened.
2.  Choose Life. . .Daily make the choice to say, "Yes" to the future
3.  Reach Out. . . "Let the people in your life into your life."
4.  Get Moving. . .Take action.
5.  Give Back . . ."Share your experience and your talents."

Just 10 is my way of facing facts, choosing life, reaching out, taking action and giving back.  It's so simple that I'm a little bit embarrassed that I haven't started using it years ago.  Apparently, now is the also the time to share the idea with you.   My life is wide open.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Manifest Your Destiny or Magical Thinking?

Yesterday, a friend gave me a pep talk.  She felt that my strategy of expecting nothing was fulfilled by nothing.  I countered with "expecting nothing makes everything a wonderful surprise."  She didn't buy that but I did and still do.

That same day I had one of my shower inspirations.  Still half-asleep and slowly waking in the shower, I thought a quick prayer:  "God, please send us a miracle."  The answer in my head, heard loud and clear was "You are the miracle."  Of course, my first impulse is to argue and deny this but again, I heard, "No, you and everyone else are miracles but very few people ever realize it and start living to their potential."  So during my private Just 10, I pondered these two events.

While  "you are the miracle, "   remains unclear and undefined, it seems a more helpful frame of mind then expecting what you think should happen to happen.  I've tried that and life has knocked it right out of me.  You can't manifest your destiny by expecting specific things or events to occur.  Hoping is great but expecting, no.

One of the main lessons my life has taught me is that, I'm not in charge and I don't have to be.  Expecting something specific and then not getting it seems to me to be an error in thinking, a type of magical thinking that opens a door to heartache and bitterness.

Life is a wonderful, terrible adventure.  Bad things will happen to me, things I don't deserve, things that aren't a result of my not manifesting my destiny by thinking things into being.  I don't have that kind of power.

I am a miracle and life for all it's good an bad will unfold before me.  My job is to rise to the occasion, to survive the struggle, not broken or bitter but stronger and full of compassion and conviction.  My job is to find the miracle in all the broken pieces and not lose hope and never lose the capacity to love.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Living Out Loud

Living out loud and writing a blog isn't difficult when things are going well but it's much harder to share when things are not.  My husband and I have struggled with money issues for several years.  It's been a battle that we now seem to be losing.  Contemplating our limited options and the future is a hard, hard thing to do.

I spend too much time in my own head.  I dodge reality with repetitive computer games, I eat too much as a way to compensate for not having enough and as a way to forget. I understand why I do these things but I still want something more from myself.  The only way to do that is for me to focus on what I can do.   Now is the time when Just 10 becomes most important, when things are hard.  It's important that I spend time with my children and that I'm fully present and not preoccupied with money worries.  It's important that I spend time with my husband so he knows, that for better and for worse, he is not alone.   We're in this together.

Giving up on the Just 10 project might be easy but it would not be the right thing to do.  This is when spending time with my family and giving them unconditional positive regard is the most important.  I can't fix most of the problems that plague us right now but I can still choose how I spend my time and how to show my love.

Love wins out over money any day.  I'm determined to let it win today and in the days ahead.  The Just 10 project is going to help me get there.

Friday, April 9, 2010

The Just 10 Challenge

I truly believe that Just 10 is a great idea and has such potential.  So I'm issuing a challenge.  Using the Just 10 guidelines (listed yesterday and at the bottom of this blog.) try it at home for one week.  You don't have to be perfect.  If you miss a day or a time for a loved one or two, don't give up.  Just try again the next day.  After one week, let me know how it went.  I know you'll be wonderfully surprised.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

The Quantum Mechanics of Just 10

Just 10 how-tos are simple.  Here are a few guidelines that work for me.

It requires 10 minutes of free time.
Your full attention is on the other person.
Free yourself from distractions.  Turn off the tv, radio, etc.  Let the phone got to voice mail or turn it off.
(When our dog comes to join us, we don't pick her up.  She can have her own Just 10 another time.)
Listening is more important than talking.
Listen with your whole body.
Any thing you say must be positive and display unconditional regard.  No criticizing, lecturing, teaching, admonishing, or correcting is allowed.
Just 10 time is comfortable, relaxed time.  Let yourself relax.
Don't force the other person to talk or share with you.  It will happen naturally when they know they have your full attention and a receptive spirit.
Spending Just 10 in silence isn't a bad thing and it may happen from time to time or at various times during Just 10.  Silences can convey things that words can not.  Don't be afraid of being still. 

When I sit down with my family members,  we usually sit on the ends of the couch and face each other.  Sometimes we put our feet up and share a blanket.  We often enjoy gentle silences and I don't pressure them to talk.  They always know they have my attention and the words come easily and quickly when they have something they want to share.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Transforming Relationships

Initially, the idea of devoting ten minutes of unconditional positive regard to each family member every day felt awkward   In no time at all, it has become the best time of my entire day.  It's changing the way I see my children, my husband and myself.

For example: our son has Aspergers.   Knowing how to redirect, motivate, channel his energies and cope with his meltdowns is not always easy.    His name is said often in utter frustration and as the one-word code for "Stop whatever you're doing, it's driving us crazy."

Spending Just 10 with him forces me to shift my thinking in a subtle yet dramatic way.   Instead of trying to stay one-step ahead of him or be ready to  implement damage control after an incident or poor choice,  I'm able to meet him in the still, quiet place of the now.  We both relax into easy conversation and it isn't a struggle for me to avoid lecturing or teaching.  I find that listening, asking questions and respecting who he is feels right and we rarely confine our time to a mere 10 minutes.

We both enjoy our Just 10 so much that he makes a point of asking for it every day.  In our Just 10, I'm beginning to discover who my son is.    I find that I not only love him but I also really like this person.  The same is true of each family member as we spend Just 10 together. When I give them unconditional acceptance I begin to really see and understand who they are.  I am so blessed to have them in my life.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Just Ten Minutes to Worry

The last few days I have been hopelessly preoccupied with financial worries.  My armor of denial  isn't protecting me and I'm feeling overwhelmed.  I haven't felt in the right frame of mind to even make time for Just 10 and I certainly haven't felt like sharing my thoughts.  So as I sat staring at the computer, I remembered the wise advise that one can set aside a limited time for worry each day.  I'm going to adapt that advice to my Just 10 project and allow myself ten minutes in the morning and evening to worry.  When the time is up,  I move on.  When worry arises during the day, I set it aside and focus on it during it's Just 10.

During my private Just 10 today I realized that out of this experience, I'm left with two strong ideas.

    1.)  Money and possessions will never be more important than the people I love.  What I have and where   I live will never be as important as they are.  While the monetary sacrifices I've made over the years have been criticized by others, I have no regrets.

   2.) I need to do what I can to be an advocate for the poor.  Having lived for several years below the federal poverty level, I know first hand some of the problems poverty brings.  While we are "rich" compared to the poverty in many third world countries, poverty in America is still a big problem.  Most of America's poor isn't panhandling at on-ramps.  The majority of poor are invisible.  There people who had a medical crisis or lost their jobs.   Poverty is a problem that has a huge cost to society.  We need to accept the responsibility to be part of the solution.    We need to question the values of a consumer society.  We need to hold financial institutions accountable and work toward regulation of big business for the benefit of all.  We need to ensure (and insure) the health and well being of every citizen.

If there is any silver lining in this dark cloud of mine, it is that I have learned how important it is to "light that one candle and not to curse the darkness."