Friday, September 25, 2015

The Best Piece of Advice Ever~ Guest Post from Jenny

Good morning friends! I am taking my sweet time, recovering from having a baby. Thankfully
Jenny Cook is here to save my skin. Today, I'm sharing a guest post that she so graciously offered to write for {Picture a Skyline.} Jenny is the rather casual proprietress at Life in the Cookie Jar and also a contributor to Real Housekeeping and Shine Catholic.  She, her husband, and their three little kids live in a little house near Portland, Oregon.  
Take it away Jenny... and thank you!

Pretty bold statement, I know.  Right up front, please know that this is not advice I am perfect at following.  But I strongly believe it and attempt to make it a practice in all areas of my life.


Find someone who has what you want, and ask him/her how he/she got it.

This statement is not primarily aimed at material things, although it could be.  If you know someone who has a beautiful house which impeccable style, and you also know them to be generally frugal, ask them where on earth they got those adorable throw pillows or where they learned to arrange flowers so beautifully.

I mostly use it in terms of skills that I wish I possessed or skills which I have but need to improve.  For example, when I see parents whose children are a joy to be around, I ask them about their parenting techniques.  

I draw upon my circle of friends for parenting advice, because I spend enough time around them as a family to know their children well. I’m around them enough to see the kids on their angelic days and perhaps their not-so-angelic days.  I’m around the parents enough to know whether I like the way they parent.  

(That said, even people you don’t know IRL (in real life) can be a resource. I have emailed bloggers who have written extensively about their family life to ask them questions.  And they’ve written back!)  

I suppose you could say that I’m arguing for renewing the apprenticeship model of learning.  I was a teaching apprentice for two years, and I can’t imagine learning the art of teaching any other way.  My husband is currently entering into his third year as a carpentry apprentice.  Both of these were paid apprenticeship models, which is an idea whose time has come, gone, and should come again.  But you don’t have to be in a formal master-apprentice relationship to reap the benefits of learning from others.  

The other day I had a challenging parenting situation arise.  I’d talked to my husband about it but we were at a bit of an impasse with not knowing how to proceed.  I called my friend who has a couple of kids the ages of my kids and a couple who are older than mine.  I laid out the situation and asked, “What do you think we should do?”  We had a 20 minute conversation about possible ideas and things that have worked for her.  When we hung up, I felt such relief.  It wasn’t as if she had imparted some magical new revelation from on high that no other person on this earth has ever known.  She listened, asked clarifying questions, and gave me her two cents.  It’s just that her two cents is in a currency that’s worth more than mine, because I recognize that as far as parenting goes, I’m a greenhorn.  While I’m sure my friend would never call herself an expert, she has already parented three of her children out of the “terrible threes” and her son who is himself now three is far from terrible!  She’s further down the road, and I respect her as a parent...why wouldn’t I want to apprentice myself to her, so to speak?

Additionally, I think there is a huge psychosocial benefit to the idea of reaching out to ask for help and advice.  It forces us to get outside of ourselves.  Ironically, ever-expanding social media technology tends to isolate us.  Why ask another person when I can just look it up online or buy that new book about simplifying my life and organizing my house?  By asking others, we have to have relationships outside of our home and to get to know the person sufficiently well to know what their talents, gifts, and skills are.  We have to know ourselves well enough to realize a deficit that we would like to remedy.  We have to have the humility to want to ask for help and the guts to go ahead and ask.

As you think about your life today, are there any areas in which you’d like to improve yourself?  Maybe it’s a hobby, like cake decorating or gardening.  Maybe it’s more of a practical life skill, such as car repair.  Perhaps your spiritual life is in a dry spell, or you’re entering into a new phase of parenting and feel in over your head.  The possibilities are limited only by your own ability to assess your personal situation.  What, if anything, do you most want to fine-tune in your life?  Do you know anyone who seems to be a few steps ahead of you in that regard?  As women, I think we’re constantly comparing ourselves to other women anyway.  Let’s at least make constructive use of those comparisons by asking those women how they’ve gotten where they are instead of berating ourselves for not being there yet.  

Finally, you probably have some skill, talent, or life experience which someone else would like to have.  I hope you will consider making yourself available to those who ask, “How do you do it?”  Likely as not, the people in your life have already seen this (given our aforementioned propensity to measure ourselves against others) and may already be yearning to know your “secret.”  If they ask you, you don’t need to hem and haw about how you’re not actually that successful.  You’re allowed to be good at things and to know you’re good at them!  If you’re asked for advice, give it with the reminder that they can take what they like and leave the rest.  You never know whose lives you’ll touch by this simple act of sharing your experience and strength.  

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