Posts tagged Turn It
Turn It: 3 ways to a great Thanksgiving

Today marks the final post in our Turn It series, and I am so grateful to Joy for her incredible creativity and generosity of spirit. I have been inspired by these posts, and challenged to turn the negative into a helpful positive. We hope you've enjoyed the journey, too. Here are three very practical ways to make tomorrow a great one! xo, MJ

Well friends, the holiday season is officially here! We’ve made it to Thanksgiving day, which means that many of us are headed out to feast with family and friends. While this is meant to be the happiest time of the year, it can sometimes be tough to be with people we wouldn’t generally spend time with otherwise.

Once upon a time, I dated someone whose mother was very difficult to be around, and we spent Christmas at her house that year. We were expected to sit in front of the television for the entire three day period and do nothing but watch terrible TV movies. At one point, I tried to sneak away to read for awhile, and she commented loudly, “Oh, are we too boring for her?”

Luckily, I really enjoy my family and James’, so I don’t end up in these awful holiday situations -- but that experience did teach me a few coping mechanisms. Should you find yourself dealing with a difficult family member this season, my hope is that these tactics will help you turn a dreadful situation into a happy (or at least tolerable) one.

Take a clue from Downton Abbey.

If you’ve ever watched Downton Abbey, you’ve witnessed the conversational choreography that we seem to have lost somewhere along the way. Practice being a great conversationalist by being curious and letting that difficult family member talk about his or her interests for five to ten minutes, seeing what you can learn from the chat. Then, politely excuse yourself by helping out in the kitchen, using the restroom, or heading out for a breath of fresh air. You’ll find that sometimes these individuals just need someone to pay attention to them for a few minutes, and then they don’t need to get attention by being nasty.

Become Martha Stewart.

In other words, bring along a project that everyone can contribute to. As the project coordinator, you’ll get to focus on it throughout the holiday, while each person adds their little touch. Create an ornament making station, make wreaths, make a scrapbook, work on an advent calendar. When you have a project to focus on, you have something to direct conversation toward.

Move it.

So much of the holidays is about sitting down and eating, but getting up and out puts everyone in a much brighter mood. Turn on the Wii and dance or bowl, go for a walk outside, or consider a short hike. I once read that it’s best to have difficult conversations while doing an activity, like driving. It rings true for family get togethers as well -- even if you don’t have anything particularly difficult to discuss, the forward movement opens up the door for communication that might not come naturally while sitting across the dinner table.

Thank you so much, Joy!! I can attest that even a walk around the neighborhood can bring a fresh perspective to a group stuck in a rut. Wishing all of you a blessed Thanksgiving.

Any other helpful ideas to Turn It for the holiday season?

Turn It: Granny Smith Blessings

Today's post is an addition to the Turn It series and a beautiful bonus from my friend, Paige. Check her out over at Approaching Joy, but not yet...cause you gotta read this first!Isn't the natural world awesome?

I mean if it were my job to make apples, I'm pretty sure I would have been impressed with a Red Delicious and would have stopped there. 

But Nature?  Not a chance.  

Granny Smith, Gala, Jonathan…Nature knows that when it comes to apples (and most everything else) variety, options, something that differs from the rest is a good thing.  

I think it's the same with our own blessings and the things which we count under "things to be thankful for" column.  It's easy to see the good things and be thankful for them - super supportive friends, a loving family, a home that is comfortable and warm. These things are the obvious blessings of the "Red Delicious" variety.  

It's the other things that aren't easy to see as blessings.  Stressful Mondays, mortgage payments, traffic jams, crying kids… these all just seem like the low points of life.  But when you take a second and step back, you realize that these are simply Granny Smith blessings.  


The stressful Mondays mean you are healthy and productive.  

The mortgage payments mean you have a roof over your head.

The traffic jams mean your family wasn't involved in the wreck ahead.

The crying kids mean you were blessed with little ones.


So many people don't have these things to be thankful for.

So next time you're sitting in traffic, writing that check, or wiping those tears, remember that this distinctly tart variety of blessing makes you appreciate the sweeter blessings more fully.


Thank you for your words of perspective, Paige!! Those tart blessings are right there for us to discover if we just turn our perspective a bit. So good!!

XO, Paige and MJ

Be Happy: In the end

Today's post is another great installment in the series Turn It wherein Miss Joy from Frock Files and I offer some perspective on life's challenges thrown our way. Check out more posts here, here, and here!!

Button pushing. Sitting and twisting that one nerve you have left. The last straw of patience.

You have had that morning or afternoon, haven't you?

These two little ladies could tell you the color, shape, size, and exact location of my buttons. Despite my best efforts, (seriously, how did they figure it out so fast?) they know how to tease, taunt, and aggravate one another and me. To their credit, they also know how to love and share like nothing else, too, but that's not this post.

Thursdays are our extra-busy, what-was-I-thinking-when-I-crafted-this-schedule kinda days. After school pick-up blends right into ballet one, then pre-ballet, that then overlaps with gymastics and somewhere in there we have homework, dinner, and bath/showers.

As you might predict, Thursday evenings can also be our crankiest, and that's not even taking into account children's behavior.

M and C were having a back and forth evening. M would call C a name, and C would lash out at M. M would cry, and C would tattle. For a solid two hours, it was a bad ping pong match of little girl banter at a high pitch frequency.

Typically my hubby is here for teeth brushing, prayers, and general calm, but this Thursday was an extra ordinary one, and he had a late night meeting.

After tucking my 3-year old son into bed, I walked over to the argument that I'd already heard brewing. I could not handle any more name calling, and I (had my own little tantrum) informed the girls that they were to go straight to sleep with no story (very rare). And that they'd better "learn how to treat each other a whole lot better."

I even had a dramatic huff (unintentional) as I closed the door. I really don't know where they get this melodrama. :)

It was quiet for a moment.

I stood outside the door and I listened. I heard the slow build up of tears coming from my younger daughter. She loves bedtime stories. And, moreover, she knew that I was upset ...they'd pushed just a bit too far.

And then I hear M say in her gentlest tone, "Sissy? Don't cry."

Whimpering quiets.

"Sissy? Do you want to hear a story?"

C: sniff "Yesss."

M: "Once upon a time there lived a magical princess and her sister. They lived in a beautiful castle way up on a hill.."


This time from me. My anger totally diffused. M went on to tell a lovely fairytale about the two of them saving the kingdom and living happily ever after.

I wasn't in the room, but I'm pretty sure little C fell right to sleep with a happy grin on her face. Her big sis who she loves and adores (and swats) created a whole world just for her.

And M, well, she felt her own magical powers to calm the storm.

And in the end, that's what they'll remember from the day - that extra special, one-of-a kind, sister moment. And if they had to turn all my buttons to get there

So be it.


Turn It : Embracing the Chill

Welcome back to the Turn It series!! Joy from Frock Files and I are sharing stories/ideas/fresh perspectives that we hope will make you recognize opportunity in the problems that come your way and prompt you to use your creative juices for the power of good. Here's more from the incredible Joy:

Last week when we drove up to Vermont, we were surprised to see that many of the trees had already lost their leaves. Even though the color maps showed that the area had just peaked, they were gone -- basically overnight. Because I love fall so much, I become a live in the moment person during this short period, and I’m baffled by people who proclaim that they can’t enjoy autumn because it just means that winter is coming. But when I saw those trees, I knew that it was time to begin bracing myself for the reality that’s on its way.

Since I’m from Hawaii, I generally spend the winter wondering why I moved to the Northeast, where at least five months of the year are just plain hard. It’s a silly question, though–I know exactly why. It’s because there’s nothing like the excitement of the first yellow-green leaves on the trees in the springtime, or driving down the freeway in October to a blur of trees so brightly colored they could be ablaze. And hey, that picture
up there is of the forest I drive through every day–it’s pretty easy on the eyes even when it’s covered in snow.

This series is all about turning those tedious or dreadful or ominous things into ones in which we can delight, and I’ve decided that perhaps what I need is a change of perspective as I prepare for winter. Creating a list of activities I really want to do this winter actually has me looking forward to the snowy days ahead.

  • Read, Read, Read. It’s recently occurred to me that I miss reading books. Reading long form works satisfies me in a way that short snippets of information just can’t. I’m working on creating a reading list for myself. If you want to make one too, the New York Times Sunday Book Review is a fantastic place to start. And I do hope you’ll share your picks with us!
  • Decorate. I moved back to Boston in June. It took us three months to turn the second bedroom from storage unit to empty space, and another month and a half to finish painting the four walls. When the weather’s great, the last thing we want to do is be inside. Wintertime provides great motivation to make our home as cozy and gorgeous as possible. On our agenda: installing our own crown molding, painting the bathroom with stripes, and furnishing the office/guest bedroom. Decorating also involves lots of movement, which I can’t get enough of in the cold months.
  • Craft. Louise of Laid Off Mom started a craft date a few months back, and she invited both MJ and I to join in on the fun. The project unleashed a whole crafty side of me that I didn’t know existed! I’m excited to spend more time creating things. Need inspiration for your own craft projects? I’ve been collecting lots of craft ideas over on my Pinterest board dedicated to the topic.
  • Make Warm, Delicious Things. I’m such a sucker for stews, soups, and hot drinks. In Portland, I was introduced to something called hot buttered rum. Have you ever heard of anything with a more delicious name? Anyway, it’s unreasonable to have these things when it’s hot. But when it’s cold, I feel like it’s for survival.
  • Learn a Foreign Language. A few years ago, we went to Montreal and sheepishly had to ask people to speak to us in English. With a trip to Paris in our midst, I’m putting my foot down and we’re going to learn some French this winter beyond “Où est la bibliothèque?”
  • Do a Movie Exchange. I have a handful of favorite films James hasn’t seen. He has a handful that I haven’t seen. We plan on methodically trading off nights: one night, we’ll watch Marie Antoinette (mine); the next time, we’ll watch Brick (his).

What are you looking forward to doing when things get cold outside?

Ooh, now I'm dreaming of hot cocoa and winter baking afternoons. Thank you Joy for these great ideas (I so want to do a movie exchange!!). What are planning to do to make the most of the upcoming winter?


Happiness: Turn It from Two Dads

 It's time for some happiness, friends! Welcome to Thursday and the every-other week series that Joy and I have going on. It's lovingly titled Turn It, and we're talking about how difficulties can become strengths when viewed differently. If you missed Joy's first post about the amazing work being done with MRIs and children's fears, go ahead, check it out (and join us back here!!).

I have two (short, I promise) Turn It stories to share with you this week.

1. Have you seen this story floating around the interwebs? If you were brave enough to follow the link, you'll see an adorable photo/video of a little boy named Carter. Carter travels via wheelchair because of spina bifida.

And if you click over to see this photo of Carter in his Halloween costume, you won't see a little boy who suffers from a challenging disease. You'll see a thriving boy who is living a happy childhood thanks to the assistance of his loving father.

Carter's dad turned it. Carter's wheelchair serves as the foundation to a magical ice cream truck complete with service windows full of ice cream cones. Not just anyone can wear this incredible costume. It was made to delight and show off the talents of one very special ice cream truck driver.

2. Story two comes from my home. The main character of this story is my husband. He is a problem solver by profession and vocation, and he so easily carries over these talents to his life as a dad.

As a co-parent with him, I find myself watching some of his (very successful) strategies.

We have three kiddos (7, 5, and 2), and boo boos, scrapes, cuts, and bruises are a daily happening. My husband and I are working to raise strong children, able to express themselves while also knowing when the sobbing over a hangnail is just too extreme.

A while back, we had reached a stage of parenthood when our children were running to us with every knick and teeny, tiny mark. My reassurance that said injury would be fine seemed to only aggravate every attention-seeking need my children have. The crying seemed to multiply.

My husband started a ritual that is now a part of our family dynamic. When M falls down and hurts her ankle, she comes over to her dad (same process here). Her dad listens carefully and attentively (that's what we all want anyway, right?), and offers his hand. He then says

"Squeeze my hand and show me how bad it hurts."

My daughter squeezes with all her might and receives the silliest, loudest, funniest reaction from her father. She in turn laughs, forgets the pain, and makes her own face to top his performance.

Last week my 2-year old son observed his older sister C fall down from the monkey bars. He ran over to her, offered a caring face and an outstretched hand. He said, "Squeeze my hand and show me how bad it hurts." He does a great silly face; I think it's in his genes.

Today is my baby boy's third birthday. And I am incredibly grateful that his life entered mine. Happy birthday L!

Have you noticed someone around you turning their difficulty around? In even small ways?


Turn It : A new collaborative series


Oh, my dear readers, I think I have a really good something for you. It's a new series coming atcha every other Thursday from now until Thanksgiving (it's all about gratitude, my friends) only here at Pars Caeli featuring the writings of the talented Joy from Frock Files and me. Joy and I have been all crafty behind the scenes coming up with some stories/ideas/fresh perspectives that we hope will make you recognize opportunity in the problems that come your way and prompt you to use your creative juices for the power of good.

I am so indebted to Joy for her many gifts and especially for this one right here:

Doug Dietz was at a hospital to check out an MRI machine that he had created. He was proud of it and excited to see it in action. But when it came time for the patient to get into the machine, it was a painful thing -- the machine was being used to scan a 7-year-old girl who, for obvious reasons, found the whole experience to be absolutely terrifying.  For an MRI machine to work, the patient must lie still. Getting that scared little girl to be still while the machine made loud, foreign noises around her was impossible. Her parents were upset, the technicians felt helpless, and the little girl did not want to have the scan done.

This was a lightbulb moment for Dietz. While he could have turned around and dismissed the experience by saying there was nothing he could do about it, Dietz instead began thinking about how they could transform the experience for kids by using their own strength of imagination. Along with a local children’s museum, Dietz observed children, interviewed doctors and parents of patients, and began to understand how they could incorporate the simple act of play into the MRI procedures.

The team took their findings and went to work on the MRI rooms with adventure themes. One was turned into intergalactic expedition, simply by painting the walls with murals that looked like outer space. And what better rocket than the already space-age looking MRI machine? The patients became astronauts, while the technicians became mission control. As the once frightening noises of the machine began, the technicians spoke through the machine’s speakers to let their astronaut know that the rocket’s engines were starting up. By making the experience fun, Dietz turned the experience from one of tears to one in which kids come out excited, saying to their parents, “Did you see how fast I was going?”

When this story aired on TED Radio Hour a couple of weeks ago, it struck something deep inside me. While, of course, it made me so grateful that the kids I know are healthy, it made me think about something that’s become increasingly important in my own adult world, as well: sometimes a simple change of perspective is all you need. I thought of all the things I dread and how easily I could turn them around if only I’d incorporate some imagination and play into the ways that I understand them.

From now until Thanksgiving, MJ and I will be doing a series here on Pars Caeli with different ideas about how we can implement this kind of transformative process in our own lives -- for ourselves, the children around us, and our loved ones. By shining new light on unpleasant experiences, we can begin to enjoy our lives more fully -- and that’s definitely something to be grateful for. We hope you’ll join us as we begin this exploration into the power of perspective!

Is there something in your life ready for the Turn It challenge?

XOXO, MJ (and Joy)