Saturday, December 10, 2011

The Complaint Free Challenge

OK, I got this idea from a random audiobook I picked up at the library (A Complaint Free World by Bill Bowen). Maybe it's just another hokey self-help fad, but it was just intriguing enough (and speaks to my awareness that I do complain too much) that I'm giving it a shot. Many years ago, one of my sisters told me, "All you do is complain." It was surprising to me because I really didn't perceive myself that way.  It's been a few weeks since I've begun the challe nge, and I'm not under any illusions. I complain quite a bit - but at least I'm a lot more aware of it now. And I've managed to go two consecutive days without complaining since November 12. How about that.

The goal is to go 21 consecutive days without complaining, criticizing, or gossiping. I'm also adding "yelling at my kids," one of my less noble habits, to the list. The method is to wear a bracelet, rubber band, or whatever around your wrist. When you catch yourself complaining, criticizing, or gossiping, you switch the wristband to the other wrist and start over. When you reach 21 consecutive days without moving the wristband, you win. Everyone around you wins too.

A caveat about the book: the author claims quite a bit about how your life will change and how the universe will bless you if you do this challenge. I'm not necessarily endorsing the whole book here, but I invite you to join me in the challenge if you're interested. No reading required.

Some rules: complaints, criticism, or gossip that happens in your head is free. Any of the above that comes out of your mouth requires a wristband switch. Even if you're just complaining to yourself (which I've discovered I do!) you have to move the bracelet if the words escape your lips.

The idea is NOT to just stuff it when something bad happens. You are allowed and encouraged to request what you DO want, but only from someone who can help the situation. If the waiter brings you cold soup, you don't gripe to your table companions or yell at the waiter. You simply inform the waiter (politely) that your soup is cold and ask for hot soup.

If you have a friend who agrees to play the game with you, that's great. You may point out the friend's need to move her bracelet, but if you do so, you must also move your own bracelet.

Gossip is actually allowed, if: 1) whatever you're saying about the person is complimentary, and 2) you would repeat it word for word in the person's presence.

One thing I found helpful from the book was this description of how we change or learn a new skill. The progression goes like this:
 - unconscious incompetence (we're unaware of our complaining)
- conscious incompetence (we become aware of our complaints)
-conscious competence (we start to be able to control our complaints, but it requires conscious effort)
- unconscious competence (we reach the point where complaining is no longer automatic)

The analogy that came to me is driving a car. At first it requires a lot of conscious effort and we find it difficult to attend to all the details needed to drive safely and smoothly. But eventually, we develop the skills and habits to drive well even while on "autopilot." We still have to pay attention, but it gets easier.

So...we'll see how this goes. The average person takes 4-8 months to complete the challenge. I'm shooting for May 12, which would be 6 months. Even if I don't make it by then, I'll be giving my family, friends and myself the gift of not hearing as much whining from me.

E-mail me or comment if you're interested in taking the challenge with me!

Monday, December 5, 2011

the Truth

Well, it finally happened. Alex and I had the big talk. I told her the truth.

No, not about sex. (She already knows about that.) About Santa.

A little history...last Easter we surprised the kids with new bikes on Easter morning. We had them going with the whole Easter bunny story, UNTIL we stepped outside to go to church and Alex saw the bike boxes in the recycler. All of a sudden she stopped. It all dawned on her. She turned to us and said, "Wait...the Easter bunny didn't give us those bikes - YOU GUYS did it! You LIED to us!" We admitted to all the deception and tried to explain why we "lied" - but she was angry and feeling betrayed. I felt bad - I don't remember getting mad at my parents when we figured it out as kids - but I could see how she felt lied to. She made us promise to tell her the truth in the future. forward to this Christmas season. I thought maybe the Easter bunny realization would carry over to Santa and she would have it all figured out, but nope...she and Sam were still believers. Until yesterday. Bryan and I had talked it over a couple weeks ago and decided we need to come clean this year. We didn't want to betray any trust or repeat the whole scene where she felt cheated and deceived and lied to. Bryan remembers feeling disappointed and betrayed by his parents when he found out the truth. And I heard from another friend who remembers clearly how hurt she was, that her trust in her parents was damaged and she felt she couldn't talk to them about it, and it even got her questioning her faith in God (which is logical).

Anyway, we hadn't found the right opening so we never actually followed through. I still have mixed feelings about dashing a child's innocent beliefs in Santa. But yesterday, Alex mentioned Santa and I knew I had to take the opportunity.

So I told her. I reminded her that she asked us always to tell her the truth and that we want to honor that. I tried to break it to her gently. I explained that it is a story that began with a real person named Saint Nicholas who loved children, protected them, and gave them gifts. I told her how people all over the world are inspired by Saint Nicholas and how the story grew. Just like the stories we see in the movies, the Santa story is "based on a true story" but has added bits of fairy tale and magic. It's not "real" but it points us to the truths of Christmas, like the love of God for us and the joys of giving. She took it all in calmly, though I could see her mind was working on processing this new information. She asked, "Then who is that guy in the white beard?" I explained that the Santas we see around town are people dressed up like Santa. "Why in the world would they do that?" she wondered. So funny, the way her mind works! Overall, it was a good conversation. Whew!  I reminded her that Christmas is really about the birth of Jesus. She said, "Oh, I know. I told my Sunday school class the whole story of Christmas. No one knew it except me and the teacher. I was the hero."

So the truth is out. Part of me still feels sad, but she is growing up and I knew the truth would come out one way or another. I'd rather she hear it from me than from kids at school. I feel I did the right thing to maintain her trust.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

MauldenNews November 2011

Let's see...November...what do I remember...?

I spent the first half of the month doing my twice-a-year inpatient/outpatient neurology rotation at the VA. I like my job and all, but once I was able to turn off the pager, the real fun began...girls' weekend!

Start of the Mesquite Tri-States Marathon (Utah, Arizona, and Nevada)! (Pictures courtesy of Tammy - thanks for your excellent photography - as usual!)

The route was scenic, the weather was GREAT, and it was fun except for the last 3-4 miles when I was feeling the pain. But it was worth it for this...

Seemed like I just got back from Mesquite and it was time for Thanksgiving.  We had a great time with my sister Mary and her family. The kids made creative Thanksgiving dinner drawings which we used as placemats, and we made the most of the nice weather by playing soccer in the park and feeding the ducks and geese with all the kids after the big turkey dinner. (Last year we went sledding - this year - no snow!) 

Other events - we went swimming at Murray City pool (big indoor water slide - whee!)
 - I took Sophia and Alle around the neighborhood playing "bigger and better." We started with a paperclip and ended with a cute bunny doll, a big decorative basket, a hat, and a pumpkin. 
- We made peppermint and gingerbread play-dough, and decorated gingerbread houses.

Last but not least, my book of the month: "Unplug the Christmas Machine" by Robinson and Staeheli. We are "unplugging" this year and I already feel more relaxed. What are your tips for simplifying Christmas and making it a time of true peace, joy, and renewal? Hope to hear from you!