The horse's pasture to the East...

Sunday, February 18, 2018

#LittleThingsCount or How to set a positive pattern, a wave ...

I've spent a lot of time this week talking with friends and relatives, reading the news and watching videos. I think our country has hit a tipping point when it comes to domestic violence ie. shooters in schools and at concerts and other public venues. And it should! We should all be shocked, horrified, angry, crying and searching out ways to make a much needed change. 

I've read all of the eliminate guns, bring in more guns for defense and everything in between. But I think it's more complicated than that. We have changes in fundamental ways that are going on in our society that are, I think, part of the root system of the violence that blossoms later. 

One friend said to me, " I just don't watch it. I don't want to know. Don't talk to me about it. " I understand that and I did as asked, but I think that's wrong too. You can't put your head in the sand and act like it's not there. You may have your head hidden but your butt is still up there in the air, a perfect target. Nope. Hiding doesn't work. And it only takes a few good men (or women) standing by quietly and doing nothing to allow bad things to get worse.

Another said, " We'll just have to get used to it. We live in a violent world. People shooting other people just happens. No sense worrying about it because we aren't going to stop it. " Nope. That doesn't work for me either. It's just more of the same 'hide your eyes and sing la-la-la' thing. So I thought about it while I did chores, ran ideas past my inner eye. I day dreamed and night dreamed, cried and worried. I'm not very good at doing nothing. I don't like feeling helpless. It makes me feel trapped and I am claustrophobic by nature. Give me some space and I will find ways to make it change, at least in my home environment.

I spent a good part of the morning sitting here and talking with John, throwing ideas out at him. It's cathartic for me. I let every smart, funny, silly, angry, goofy, undoable thing come out and sooner or later something clicks. This morning the phrase I kept using over and over was, 
" It's the little things that count. " 

I chanted it to myself while I made Sunday morning blueberry and pecan pancakes, made the bed, put the horses out in the pasture, and cleaned. Eventually it turned in to, "Little things count." I chanted it while I threw sticks for Scout, something we do every day. He loves his stick game. "Scout, little things count!" and I would pick up a stick from the beloved stick pile and throw another one. He would bring back his favorite and that becomes the 'stick of the day'. " AH HA! See! I told you. Little things count. " In this case the 'little thing' was the exact right stick, according to Scout, that counted. None of the others would do. It had to be THAT stick. 

'Little things count'. And I started to notice all of the hundred and one 'little things' that we did, the ones that really did make a difference. Timing when playing/working with my horses. The release and it's exact timing is crucial. And when something isn't working, breaking apart because of too many thresholds or too much information too soon or not enough Friendly Game or even acknowledging that there seems to be a tiny hitch in the gitty-up from muscle soreness then stopping and letting the goal go and moving back a square to something easier and more positive and attainable. 'Little things count.'

I saw it in the process of cleaning the counters before I cook and during while mixing things too. It was in choosing pretty napkins and using my favorite Blue Willow plates because I like Sunday breakfast. It was there when I made the bed and stopped to even out the blankets so one or the other of us wouldn't hog them tonight because they're further down one side than the other. LITTLE THINGS COUNT.

And that leaped to what we do while our children are growing up. I didn't think of it in these terms because that was a different era. My children were born in the last quarter of the twentieth century. I was the previous generation, the Boomers born just after WW2, smack dab in the center of the century. I was raised to do little things like making my bed, brushing my teeth, setting the table and eating at the table. Dinner time was dinner time, period. I did my homework. I took care of my dog and cat, put my dirty clothes in the hamper and, later, put them in the washing machine and did my own laundry. I learned how to mow the lawn and dust the furniture. My Grandparents taught me how to gather eggs, clean the hen house (not my favorite job but I did it), scoop poop, pull weeds, can tomatoes. We just did it. And all of those little things counted.

My sons did the same. Breakfast was at the table, beds were made before going off to school. Teeth were brushed morning and evening, toys put up because, quite frankly, Mom did not like stepping on Legos in the middle of the night barefoot! We read a book and told stories before bed time. Homework was done and piano was practiced. They had paper routes and were responsible for collecting money, paying the newspaper, keeping their own books and choosing when to stop delivery because the patron was not paying. They made money with lemonade stands and, later, part time crappy jobs working at gas stations, fast food places, delivering furniture, picking up recyclables. The hours were a grind for them and the pay wasn't much but they did it for spending money, to save for goals in the future and to pay for gas and insurance for their old cars. 

Their hair had to be brushed, they held doors for older people and said please and thank you, yes ma'am and no sir. They knew how to shake a hand and look a person in the eye and smile. For all of us our word was our bond. When I worked as a designer and commercial architectural artist, I worked without contracts because my word was ALWAYS my bond. I did that until a very wealthy man, whom I did a great deal of work for because I was so excited to be included in his collection, and work as a designer to help install other museum quality pieces, tried to cheat me. When I learned how to fight back, using the images and notes from a work journal I kept, and eventually got the money we had agreed upon, I asked him why he did that. He said, "Because most people aren't as tenacious as you are and I get away with it. It's a game."

I want you to look at that last line. "...It's a game." He honestly thought that was OK. People, it's the LITTLE THINGS THAT COUNT. When you are that kind of roll model for your children, co workers, grand children and friends, you are creating a small wave of ill feeling that rolls, over the years, in to something much bigger. It's like one of those cartoon bits of snow rolling down the hill that turns in to the giant snow ball that smashes poor Wiley Coyote. It started out tiny, easily overlooked and gathered steam and extra snow. When it hit, it was HUGE. It counted. IT COUNTED.

So you're wondering where I'm going with all of this. I am going to start one of those hashtag thingies (I can say that since I am one of the 'Ancient Ones') and I'm calling it, " #LittleThingsCount " . I'll start posting it to Instagram and Facebook, Pinterest and here. In it I'm going to start putting 'little ideas' about the things anyone can do to set up habits that roll in to good habits later in life. It won't be complicated or weird. Just ideas like how to set a table or make a bed quickly in the morning. Ideas for keeping breakfast simple enough that you and your children can have fifteen or twenty minutes together in the morning before you all jet off to whatever place you all need to be in. Ideas for setting devices aside and playing a board game instead or how to unplug and read a story or, even better, tell your own stories in the evening. 

LITTLE THINGS COUNT. They really do. If you start now, today, even with your teenagers or your spouse, your room mates or just yourself, it really will make a difference. Heck, you start it today by walking next door or across the street and clearing the snow from your neighbor's driveway just to help. Or share some of those tulip bulbs you bought on sale...or take a plate of cookies you made next door JUST BECAUSE. Hold the door open for the person behind you. Smile at the next person you pass. If you're from the Midwest and live in the country, you probably know the wave from your truck. People don't even lift their hands off the steering wheel but we all smile and wave with a few fingers. It's Midwestern friendliness. I grew up doing that. Maybe people should do that when they're trapped in traffic. Instead of getting angry, turn to the people in the car next to you and smile and wave. It will puzzle them but do it anyway.

I think you'd be surprised how much you can brighten someone else's day if you simply smile at them, acknowledge them as you go past. We are an example everywhere we go. Be one of the bits of light for someone else. I promise you, your children will see you do that and will learn from you. 

We have an eye blink of time to have an impact on our children and grandchildren. Give them good memories to draw on as they get older. Create or recreate new patterns that show them how to be people others want to be around. It's really not that hard to do. 

Maybe if we all think in terms of what we can do right here, do the best that we can with what we have where we are to make a positive wave start, maybe it will head off a catastrophe in the future. You never know where the seeds you plant are going to bloom. #LittleThingsCount

I am, ever yours, Nancy, moving forward in little ways

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