A lesson on spills and other messes

October 13, 2008 at 4:15 pm | Posted in art, country life, faith, family, knitting, Life, love, pets, photography, relationships | 13 Comments
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Life has a way of teaching lessons when it is least expected. Learning that, and knowing it is perhaps one of the best lessons I have grasped so far in my own life.

Look, listen, watch, observe, take note.

Perhaps one of the greatest errors a person can make in life is to be too involved, so very involved and wrapped up in what is going on at a given moment that you fail to step back and really look at what is going on and see it for what it is rather than for what it feels like it is.

When I was in my twenties and my children were children (as opposed to the young adults they have grown to be) I worked for a short time at a Montessori school where they were enrolled. Living in Los Angeles and not having faith in the public school system there, I chose to enroll my children in private school and the Montessori method was my choice at the time.

It was strange, the path that led to my working there. You see, I had a problem with houseplants. I struggled with my love of them and my inability to care for them properly. I cannot even count the number of times I have had to apologize to shriveled, choking houseplants during the course of my life so far. I love them, I love having them in my home, but life would get the better of me and I would forget to care for them, then I would remember, and give the poor dehydrated remains of one or more a drink of precious water and utter yet another apology.

I decided one day that if I were to get some education under my belt on the subject of houseplants and how to care for them, I would become more conscious and more responsible and therefore more trustworthy with their care. So, I went to the bookstore and bought a few books and also to the library for even a few more.

I read and I absorbed and then invested in a few more plants to care for. Just as I was poised to care more deeply for the few plants in our home, I found out the Montessori school my kids were going to lost the person who was caring for their many plants. In a conversation with the owner and director of the school I mentioned my quest to become a better house plant caretaker and the next thing I knew I had a part time job caring for the school many plants.

What a boon. I could earn a bit of extra cash while expanding my knowledge and responsibility in an area I needed so much to improve. That was kind of a cool opportunity.

As I began caring for the plants, some of the children at the school started following me around and chatting with me. It was nice at first, but then it became sort of embarrassing, because whenever I would enter a classroom to care for plants the kids would jump up like a bunch of hungry kittens, leaving whatever they had just been doing and circle around me as I made my way from plant to plant.

One day the director approached me again and said that I was creating too much of a distraction for the kids and that she would have to make a change. Drat, my heart sank because I knew I was about to lose my sweet little part time job. No, actually what she had in mind was to hire me as a teacher.

What? Wow, what an idea. I had no training, but she said it wasn’t a problem. She would personally train me and she felt the kids would love having me there.

So, I went for it.

I loved learning more about the specifics of the Montessori method. I was working with the littlest kids and learning all of the lessons they were to learn. Folding napkins and towels, tying shoes, learning to “host” or “hostess” their very own little parties. It was beautiful and made quite a bit of sense to me. My favorite lesson had to do with spilled water.

You know how people tend to freak out when a child spills something. As a clumsy child who used to drop and spill things and felt awful for it, I could identify with the problem quite easily.

The purpose of the spilled water lesson was to demonstrate to a child through the teacher’s response to spilled water that really, spilled water is not a big deal. You just clean it up and move on.

In this lesson the child fills up a pitcher with water which will then be carried to a little table. Inevitably, the water is bound to spill at some point. When it happens, the teacher does not react at all. Instead she/he just graciously and peacefully demonstrates how to wipe it up with a towel and proceed from there. The lesson is: It’s not a big deal, not a problem at all.

If you do this with a child, they will actually spill less frequently because they won’t be nervous about spilling — or making other mistakes if you carry it far enough.

I loved that lesson and found it to be extraordinarily profound, something that could be applied throughout life. I didn’t just learn how to apply that lesson to a child in a classroom, I learned the lesson myself and saw how it could permeate every corner of my life and how I could use it to try to permeate that concept into the lives of others who I meet along the way.

The thing is, life is sloppy. Stuff happens. Let’s not, everybody, freak out.

If you have been following my blog all along, perhaps you recall a post in which I shared an experience I had driving on a freeway in Southern California. One driver made a sloppy, dangerous move and I held my breath wondering if someone else would react and cause a chain of reactions that would result in an accident. When no reaction occurred, no accident followed, and I had one of my favorite epiphanies of all time … “it is our reactions to the events in life that cause all the havoc, not the events themselves.

This weekend I witnessed a mom who, while brushing out her five-year-old’s daughter’s hair, discovered a tick on the little girl’s neck. Understandably, the mom was very upset. Unfortunately, she freaked out that led to more freak out from other quarters. Her little girl became very upset and confused, crying, screaming, wriggling, pleading to be let go and more. Before long the little girl was surrounded by adults doing various things to get the tick out of her neck. Of course, the adults were all well-meaning and wanted to save the little girl from something worthy of being saved from.

The reactions of the various adults to the fact of the tick created a great deal of havoc, and ultimately trauma for a little girl who only moments before had been quite content and enjoying life. I don’t mean to criticize her mom, because I do understand why the tick upset her so. If, however, she had remained calm when she saw the tick — just like in the lesson of the spilled water — the tick could have been peacefully and gently removed and a little girl would have been saved quite a bit of overwhelming fear and confusion.

Spills are important, and should be dealt with. Ticks are important and should be dealt with. Household, business, national, and world economics are important and should be dealt with.

But, let’s not everybody freak out. Freaking out and reacting creates havoc.

Perhaps if we all step back, look and listen we will be able to see beyond the headlines and the reactions of others. Doing so would yield more understanding and increase our ability to make informed decisions rather than reactive judgments.

Many politicians and members of the press right now are praying on the emotions and reactions of decent, humble people who just want to live a good life and find a bit of something here and there to enjoy. The politicians seek power that and are willing to foment turmoil in you and I in order to achieve their ends. The press wants to sell advertising and are willing to stir up and fan the fires of controversy and anguish in order to keep people stirred up and needing more news so that there is more advertising to sell.

Regardless of their games, deceit, shenanigans, and self-serving interests leading to self-serving actions … you and I have quite a bit of control over our own lives. We don’t have to react when stirred. Members of the press would love to get us all stirred up and in a panic and making bad decisions with our money and finances right now out of fear. That would be great for the headlines so they could sell more papers, get more clicks, and gain more viewers. Panic and mistakes and loss and suffering are much more interesting to report on than peace, tranquility, balance, making-do, earning a living, supporting one another, etc. To them, at least.

But you and I, we are in this together. We are the common woman, the ordinary man. We are out here living our lives, cooking our food, knitting our socks and sweaters, planning our holiday meals, bringing home pay checks, balancing our personal budgets, and making do with less if we have to but continuing to carve out our own pretty little pieces of life.

We laugh together, we hire each other, we buy each other’s goods and services, we share those things we have an abundance of freely, we celebrate little things together, gather for potluck dinners, help our children clean up spilled milk, and we gracious share the road with one another in hopes of getting to our various destinations together and separately, safely.

Our lives are inexorably intertwined with one another because we are out here in LIFE, interacting with one another and most of us are doing so without trying to upset or manipulate one another for any kind of personal gain. When one of us is in trouble, another of us comes to our aid. We baby sit for each other when time is running short, we make sacrifices for each other because we are mostly decent and good. I do so love us, we the people — not just we the people of America, but we the people of Planet Earth. We are all children of God, brothers and sisters to each other. Most of us do have an ability to get along with one another and cherish opportunities to exhibit goodwill, friendship and generosity.

From these and other life lessons, I have learned to stay level headed when things get rough; spend more time observing and less time reacting. I do my best to stay calm, stay true to the course, and remember to look for the big sign posts as well as the little lessons in my life, they help me find my way.

I will do my part for you, dear reader, by continuing to share photographs, thoughts, sightings, patterns, recipes, and my genuine love of life in all its moments, great and small, good and bad.

~ firefly


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  1. I think we will all be relieved when the election is behind us, even if it doesn’t turn out the way we chose. I am so tired of the negativity, the outright lies, and the constant barrage we get on TV and radio. Last week, my five year old grandson said, “I can’t deal with is any more!” I don’t want to hear about politics any more. Out of the mouths of babes!
    Thanks for the reminder to focus on the positives in our lives, and we do have many things to be grateful for.

  2. What a great post! Thanks for the spilled water story and the super photos.

  3. Amen to that!

  4. You do take some beautiful pictures and I enjoy very much your thoughts on life. Very good point on being slower to react and causing less havoc.

  5. Thanks for sharing these thoughts. I noticed the same when dealing with my son. Live is so much easier with him when I don’t make a big fuss about things and just stay calm and show him how things can be dealt with without freaking out.

  6. Several times in the last couple of years I have said I’m tired of people trying to frighten me. Be they the media, the politicians, the leaders of this or other countries, friends, and even some relatives. The rhetoric used to try to make points of fear such as terrorists, not having fuel, lack of crops for food, losing homes, jobs, medical benefits and savings effects everyone. It is true that do to unscrupulous people, a poorly run government, greedy corporations and many people who can’t control their spending a lot of these things are happening now but we must keep our heads, guard against these things continuing, and do our best to conserve in any manner possible. We must make sure we actually can afford and need what we purchase. But most important we have to be aware of the conditions around us. We must verify that the crisis is progressing, even though slowly,towards improvement. I intend to enjoy watching life’s colors, sounds, and smells with no more fears.

  7. Very true post, it is a pity everyone does’nt learn from their lessons. Great pictures.

  8. Great post! I’m all for no more spilled water or milk. You did a fine job of telling us how life is and how it can be.
    The photographs are great. It is good to see the kittens, the fall colors and especially the swans!
    They are moving along without any spilled water and panic of life. Beautiful! Best to you.


  9. How nicely said, isn’t it funny how sometimes you need to read or see something to make your day brighter and then you just happen upon it. Well I just did by visiting you. Your thought are beautiful and yes we shouldn’t worry about the spilled milk. Your photos are lovely as always, thanks for sharing.

  10. Breathing deeply, trying to remain calm… I agree it helps. Thank you for the gentle reminder.

  11. Great post. Thanks for lesson in how to deal more gently with my little ones and with the problems and challenges we all face as adults. Again, thank you.

  12. Hi Firefly, Loved your post, you are probably about ready to post another…I forget to slow down some times and enjoy life. Your story today rang true with me. My husband and I have been working with the 2’s at our church and spilled water is a weekly occurance and you are right as long as we don’t make a big deal things run smoother. I know that people have been freaking out about everything lately, but our pastor said it best. This is our time to show the world that God is in control and we don’t need to worry or be stressed. God has my back and that I am thankful for. I couldn’t imagine going through bad times without Him. Thanks again for your post, its always good for the soul! Ann

  13. Thank you for a lovely reminder that TOGETHER we will not only survive but flourish, and that the less we make of the world’s “big deals” the more peaceful we will be. I stopped listening to and reading about the election very early in the campaigns. I had made up my mind and that’s all I needed to know. I don’t need TV news and the newspapers to tell me what and how to think. I am so much more peaceful not reacting to their spilled water!

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