Compassionate Listening

Everywhere you look, people are fighting over something. They fight over big things: religion, land ownership, taxes. They fight over little things: who gets the last Oreo, what time is bedtime, who will take the dog out in the middle of the night.

Yes, people can bicker and argue. They often do. But there is another way to solve problems: compassionate listening.

Compassion does not force its viewpoint on others. It does not try to argue the other side to the ground.

At the same time, compassion does not ignore disagreement.

Compassion, instead, seeks to understand. Compassion looks at the issue and asks where the other viewpoint comes from.

You may think that “compassion” is not the way to win a fight. And it may not be. But compassionate listening can be a way to resolve a problem.

By seeking to understand the opposing viewpoint, you may see a side to the problem that you didn’t see before. You will be able to persuade your opponent better because you can take their viewpoint into account in your arguments better.

In fact, one of the most widely-read books on negotiation, Getting to Yes by William Ury, advocates compassionate listening. Without using the word “compassion”, he recommends (among other things):

  • attack the problem that needs to be addressed without attacking the people with opposing viewpoints
  • Instead of sticking with your position, focus on what you really want

For example, two brothers both want the last Oreo but can’t both have it. (Purely hypothetical, really.) The brother using compassionate listening would:

  • argue that he wants the Oreo without bringing up his brother’s stinky breath
  • Focus on what he really wants (chocolate) rather than solely on getting the Oreo.

If the brothers are able to talk rather than fight, they may discover that while one wants chocolate, the other wants cream filling. (Great! Then they can share the cookie.) Or that Mom has brownies in the oven. Or a million other ways to resolve the problem.

At the very least, the brother who listens compassionately does not escalate the fight.

Over 1,000 people are writing today about “compassion.” If you look at the #1000Speak hashtag, you will see hundreds of blog posts, as well as videos, podcasts, vlogs, and other various media about compassion. 


If We Were Having Coffee … Knitting Edition

Photo by Ballistik_Coffee_Boy, courtesy of Creative Commons

Photo by Ballistik_Coffee_Boy, courtesy of Creative Commons

If we were having coffee this morning, I would moan to you that my brain isn’t coming up with 99-word stories lately. Lately being the past few days. I would complain that I haven’t had time to write lately, which is only somewhat true, because I’m sure I could squeeze in fifteen minutes somewhere to write. Every day.

I would tell you about the hat and mittens I knit for Cassatt. The boys are getting closer in size, and we only had one pair of mittens that fit their size; Cassatt needed some bigger mittens. He got me yarn for Christmas, so I made him a set. Now that project is done, and my fingers are itching for a knitting project. I think I will get out the tablecloth.

My mother-in-law was crocheting this tablecloth, and when she passed, the only thing left to do on it was the edging. It is a beautiful tablecloth, and our family will treasure it for years. Judy was skilled with her hands; she loved crocheting, quilting; and needlepoint. We have some beautiful blankets that she made.

If we were having coffee, I would complain about Picasso running in and out of the room. They are watching Dinosaur Train as we sit and sip, and it must be exciting, because he is running all over. He gets scared of the strangest things though. We got a book from the library about an alligator who swallows a watermelon seed, and that book scares him. Not the alligator, he doesn’t mind that. But he’s scared of the part where the alligator imagines a watermelon growing in his stomach. It’s silly.

If we were having coffee, we would be complaining about the cold weather. It’s been terribly cold the last few days; so cold that I took Picasso to school instead of letting him ride the bus. It’s gotten warmer–it’s in the twenties now–but the snow powder that fell on Wednesday is still blowing around. There’s not much, less than a quarter-inch, but it’s the kind that would normally melt as soon as the sun touched it. We’re supposed to get freezing rain today and tomorrow, which I’m not looking forward to. I hope school is not cancelled on Monday.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you my angst about going to a birthday party this afternoon. It is at Dave and Buster’s, which is crazier than Chuck E Cheese. And bigger. My husband hasn’t decided yet whether he’s going, and I don’t look forward to taking the boys by myself.

If we were having coffee, I would ask:

  1. Do you do needlework of any kind? What do you do? What are you working on?
  2. What are you struggling with this week? What are you excited about?
  3. How is your weather?

I hope you have a great week!


If We were Having Coffee … (New Year’s Edition)

Photo by Ballistik_Coffee_Boy, courtesy of Creative Commons

Photo by Ballistik_Coffee_Boy, courtesy of Creative Commons

If we were having coffee, I would tell you how excited I am to start off the new year.  I would tell you about our quiet New Year’s Eve and about the excitement of Doughnut Magic. I would talk to you about how I did more writing over Christmas vacation than I have done for a long time, and that I’ve finally started writing about my characters again. (There’s not enough structure yet to call it a novel, although I dream it will get there someday.) I would ask you how your Christmas vacation went, and whether you stayed sane while your kids were off school.

I would talk to you about your thoughts about Ferguson, about whether you think protests are accomplishing anything and what better ways you think the protesters could get their message across. I would express my frustration with the anger and bias I see on both sides of the issues, and my wish that people could see past their hurt feelings to listen to the other side.

I would be chomping at the bit to get to my volunteer-work life. I would share my excitement about a grant that my local CHADD group got, and some of my dreams about spending it. I would talk about the speaker we are having at our meeting Wednesday, a professional organizer, and how excited I am to hear her speak.

I would tell you about the editing class I’m taking online. I hope it will help my writing, and I may look for some freelance editing work once it is over. I am learning about a whole different world that lies underneath writing.

I may tell you about the chicken pot pie I made for dinner tonight. Tom got me a stand mixer for Christmas, and I used it to make pie crust. The pot pie was good. I made an extra one to go in the freezer for a busy night (or maybe just one where I forget to plan dinner ahead of time.)

I would ask you:

  • What are you excited about as we start the new year?
  • What changes are you making this year?
  • What’s the best recipe you made in the past week?

I found a meme on Just Gene’O titled If We were Having Coffee. I liked the theme and wanted to have coffee with you. 🙂 Hop on over to his New Year edition of If We Were Having Coffee.


Santa Magic

“I love Santa,” Cassatt said to me as he snuggled into bed.  When I asked why, he said, “because he’s my favorite.”

I can’t help but be amazed at my children’s belief in Santa.  Even though he is everywhere this time of year, even though the world is oversaturated with Christmas cheer, they believe in the magic.  They believe that Santa will leave them presents on Christmas Eve, and that he knows them and cares about them.

In my children’s belief in Santa, I feel some success as a parent. I have not imbued them with adult cynicism.  I have not created their world as I see it, but they are free to be children, to believe in Santa.

For me, the magic is in their belief.  In seeing the world through their eyes, full of magic and wonder.  This is the joy of Christmas.

Flash Fiction

I have been writing a lot of flash fiction lately–mostly in response to prompts I find at Carrot Ranch and Flash Friday.  (I find Carrot Ranch easier because they give me a full week to procrastinate.)  It’s a fun medium, and something I can tackle in a short period of time.

I entered the Flash Friday contest last week and wound up as a semifinalist.  Here is an excerpt from my round 2 piece:

Lit only by fluorescent lights and the green glow of the Computer Monster, three insubstantial walls contained my world. The world was silent, but for the soft click-clack of computer keys. I was not alone in my quest to find sunlight.

Click through for the rest of the 280 word piece.  Or just read the whole blog.

New Year

Is it possible that 2015 is almost here?  Already?  EEK!  I’m in the middle of holiday planning, and the new year is going to sneak up on me!

The new year is a fresh new page, a blank slate for me to write on.  And I can’t wait to write on it!


A bit about me and this blog


Hello!  Many of you visiting today are new here, so I’d like to formally introduce myself and my blog.  Relax, grab a cup of coffee, and try to catch your breath if you have children hanging off of you.

I live in St. Louis, Missouri.  South county, to be more specific.  I live with my husband Tom, and with Picasso, who is 5 and in Kindergarten, and Cassatt, who is 3 and started preschool this year.  That means I have two child-free mornings each week!  Mornings that go by all too fast with cleaning, errands, laundry, meetings, Bible study, and I try to fit some writing in there too.

I am active in a local MOPS group.  My time there is a chance to breathe.  Picasso is upset this year that he doesn’t get to go, and I am still adjusting to picking up only one child from childcare!  I am the fundraising chair for our MOPS group, which keeps me busy at the beginning of each semester (and during fundraising time, which is now.)

I am also heavily involved in CHADD (Children and Adults with ADHD); I am the coordinator of our local chapter.  So I am working hard to spread the word, and somewhat overwhelmed by how big and separated our city really is.  It’s amazing how much work goes into marketing!  Hats off to those who do it well on a small budget.

Once upon a time, I went to law school. I had my own law practice, where I practiced family law and advocated for families working through the IEP process at school.  My license is currently inactive, as my life is too busy to practice right now.  I do keep active with my advocacy work through CHADD, however.  For a while, I had a series on the Advocating for your Child on this blog.

For now, I write.  Most of my writing right now is short fiction, which you can read over at my other blog, Fiction as Life.  I have been published in MOPS’s Hello Darling blog, and have a poem that will be published in When Women Waken in early November.

IMG_20140715_084342This blog is a haphazard mix of posts.  If you stick around, you will find I am not very consistent with posts.  I have made a commitment recently to post more regularly, please help keep me on track with that!  I post everything from kitchen how-tos to posts about my family and my garden to advocacy posts.  I have posted a few times about Ferguson, which is very close to me and appeals to my yearnings for justice.  For the most part, however, I stay away from political posts.

Now you know about me, I would love to hear about you!  What are your hobbies?  What would you like to see more of on this blog?


We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal …

The opening of the Declaration of Independence echoes in my head as I contemplate the horrific events in Ferguson last weekend.  Because it is clear that not all people are considered equal in our society.  And also this (from the 14th Amendment to the Constitution):

… nor shall any State … deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws

Last night, in the middle of everything that was happening in Ferguson, I tweeted:

What is “a culture that does not view everyone equally”?

It is a culture where white police officers think it is OK to tell a black teenager to “get the F*** on the sidewalk.”

It is a culture where people are feared based on the color of their skin.

It is a culture where black people are sixty-six percent more likely to be pulled over than white people.

It is a culture where I would not go stand in solidarity to protest a heinous killing because of the color of my skin.

It is a culture that redlined zones for “people of color” to live, separate from white people.

It is a culture where these zones still exist, even if not legal.

It is a culture where what you have is more important than how you got it.

It is a culture where some schools are not given sufficient resources to teach their students.

It is a culture where what happens to some will not happen to others because of age, race, and income.

It is not one culture, but many intertwined cultures.  Each one needs to change, and they cannot change independently of one another.


Writing and Children

I have been taking some creative writing classes, and have fallen in love with my new hobby.  I’ve gotten some books from the library to help me learn to write better.

Your Child’s Writing Life

One book, in particular, Picasso has taken a great interest in.  It is Your Child’s Writing Life and it shows you how to teach your children to be life-long writers.

I picked this one up at first because I thought it would give me (as a beginning writer) some ideas on how to write well.  Instead, it has encouraged me to teach Picasso to write.  We have started some new routines to encourage this.

First, we created a word jar.  When we find words we love (or just words he wants to put in there), we write them down and put them in the word jar.  Every so often–hopefully weekly, but so far it has been daily–we pull out the words and read them.

We have also started daily writing practice.  Every day we set the timer for five minutes and sit down and write.  I try to write a quick story in that time so I can read it to them at the end of that time.  Picasso either draws a picture or copies some words from the jar during that time.

I hope I can continue to encourage Picasso (and hopefully Cassatt as well) to love writing with these practices!

Big Sugar Creek

Big Sugar Creek

Big Sugar Creek Natural Area. Photo courtesy of Missouri Department of Conservation.

The stream is cool and crisp, with a rocky bottom and jagged rocks on the shore. A high bank suggests a raging current during spring flooding, but today it is inches deep in most places, so slow that you barely feel it moving when you wade into its clear waters. Tall trees line its bank, providing shade most of the day so it is comfortable even on the warmest days. During the hours spent at the creek, wildlife watches the family invisibly through the trees.

Parents set up chairs in the creek to sit and cool their feet while they observe. The children throw rocks into the stream. They make a tremendous splash, and can even get a parent wet without touching them! Dad shows them how to skip rocks, which they abandon after several failed attempts when they realize the rocks can actually change the flow of the water. They then enjoy themselves damming up the water with rocks and silt. The dam raises the water level so that water is washing in lines and rivets beyond the dam, then settling until it reaches another child-made dam downstream. Water begins rushing upstream as well, as it flows into shallow tributaries.

Parents pack up their chairs as the children towel off. They have somehow gotten themselves wet from head to toe in the shallow creek. It is time to leave to find lunch. The stream bids farewell to its guests, waiting to welcome them back another day.

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