Author: Mary Ann Johnson

“Mom, You Matter Too!”

When I was sixty-three Don and I lived in a two-bedroom apartment. Jodie and her family came to live with us while they waited for their home to sell and another one to come into their lives. I had forgotten this event until I was reminded while reading an old article I had written. It was hysterical and not a much different story than what my life looks like now, full-time.

Here is a snippet:

“Tonight, I cooked dinner with a baby riding on my hip and a three-year-old helping me brown onions and hamburger on the stove for “jelly” sauce (spaghetti sauce). It was a bit cumbersome trying to keep a three-year-old out of harm’s way while allowing her to help and an almost one-year-old grabbing for everything he could reach.

I did this while trying not to step on anything that would send me crashing to the floor, seeing that the baby on my hip had emptied the utensil drawer, which is why I had him on my hip. I could hear the four year old making lots of noise from the living room. He was running his trucks through the maze he had made in a random pattern on practically every square inch of the living room floor. All’s well here, back to the “jelly” sauce.

Meanwhile, the six-year-old was yelling for help with her iPad. Maggie has cerebral palsy and has a way of letting us all know when her iPad is not cooperating with her limited hand movement. Right now, she was letting me know…loudly.

“Jelly” sauce simmering, noodles boiling, and three-year-old slopping melted garlic butter on a tower of French bread while I helped Maggie with her iPad. I heard Mary say, oops, never a good sign. Seems as if some of the garlic butter has found its way down her chest and onto the fabric-covered chairs. No problem, just mixing with the strawberry ice cream drops from the night before.

Then I smelled scorched bread. Our garlic toast is going to be a bit crisper and darker than I had planned. I holler to the almost-four-year-old, “Jack go tell Grandpa that grandma needs him…NOW!”

I know you are laughing – not at me but with me. You have probably had your share of days just like this one! Back then we had Jodie and her family for a few months but since then our families have combined permanently. We are a four-generation home and trust me, even though the kids are older, we have many days just like the one I described above.

Parenting is no joke. It’s a lot of work, time, and effort, and requires that we learn and practice new skills. I have experienced the good, the bad, and the ugly of parenting and I survived. Better than that our children survived all that we didn’t know how to do and all the mistakes we made. I’m sure you sometimes wonder if you will survive and if your kids will.

A text of great worth!

I received a text from a dear friend. We have mentored together on and off for several years. Every now and then I reach out to see how she is. Often, she will send me a random text letting me know how it’s going. When times get rough, well, we work together again.

As I was saying, I got a text from her that I knew you would all LOVE because it is so how parenting is. I asked her if I could share.

My friend and I had been talking a few months before about taking care of ourselves in ways that are actually manageable when you have kids. She has three boys, five, two, and, a baby.

She sent a photo of her cluttered counter. A candle was burning in the center of the mess. These were her words – ‘I thought you might appreciate this picture. I am home-bound today with a sick child and no car. I got very little sleep But I am still taking care of me. The candle is lit, despite all the clutter. Lol This is life.”

This is life for moms and dads. But Bethany is in the process of finding ways to nourish herself when there isn’t a way to leave ‘parenting’ behind for a lunch date, a nap, or even a walk.

Self -Care is a skill you can learn

This is a vital skill to learn and practice and it is a skill. Anyone can take care of themselves better. I know because I have had to do this. It hasn’t gotten any easier at seventy-two. I have to keep practicing but I am far better at it than when I was thirty! Yesterday when I sat down to write this article my twelve-year-old granddaughter decided to sew something for her hamsters. Over the next hour and a half, she came into my office at least five times needing help. This is what living with children is like. So how do you manage life with children and take care of yourself?

You’re going to spend far more time with your children than you’re going to spend without them, so it’s imperative to learn how to self-care while you’re in the thick of parenting. It’s simple, it’s doable, and it takes small amounts of time and virtually no money; but it can and will pay huge dividends. Self-care can be as simple and plain as having a cup of herbal tea while you read to your children. It might be taking a few deep breaths while soothing a screaming child. You could turn on your favorite music and dance in the living room with your kids. Add laughter!

Self-care can be taking a walk with your children, and pushing a stroller, to take the edge off the day. Sitting in the swing and watching your children play can give you fresh air and a breather from all you feel pressed to do. Go to the bathroom more often if that’s what will buy you a few moments alone. When you’re on the edge of losing your temper, getting irritable, or feeling resentful, ask yourself what you need to stay in control. Pay attention to yourself.

Do something that feels nurturing to you. Give yourself space to get it together. When you pay attention to how you’re feeling, to what’s happening in your body, that’s self-care. This can be done while you’re in the thick of parenting. On this day, for Bethany, it was lighting a candle just to say,

“I matter too!”

Raising Financially Literate Kids: Tips to Help You Navigate the Financial Journey of Parenthood

It can be tiresome and overwhelming to constantly explain the intricacies of money to your children. Even if you’re a seasoned parent, you might still be unsure of how to talk to your kids about finances. But don’t worry—there’s no right or wrong way to approach the issue. As long as you’re feeling genuine and honest with them, your kids will understand that you’re just looking out for their best interests.

Even as early as age 3, kids begin to understand that money equals security. So, the earlier you can begin discussing finances with your kids, the better. My husband and I didn’t know much about money management when we had our seven children. We flew by the seat of our pants and that didn’t work out as well for us as some knowledge about budgeting, saving, and investing would have. It also made it more difficult for our children as they moved into adulthood. BUT there is a wealth of great information and useful strategies out there now that can help you navigate better than Don and I did and will help your children manage money better. Laura Pearson and I teamed up to offer you some strategies that can help you navigate the financial journey of parenthood. Laura Pearson is passionate about teaching the younger generation. Edutude was built to share resources on how to keep children engaged and in love with learning.

Plan Ahead

When you know you’re going to have kids, start planning for their future financial health as soon as possible. This may seem like a daunting task, but it doesn’t have to be. With a little bit of research and effort, you can create a financial plan for your family that will help your kids understand money and make smart decisions from an early age.

One of the best ways to start planning for your children’s future finances is by creating a family budget. This doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing approach—you can start by breaking down large purchases (like a house, car, or vacation) into smaller monthly amounts.

Money Under 30 notes that this will give you a much better understanding of your family’s financial situation, as well as give your kids a better sense of how much money they will have at the end of each month.

Make a Budget

One of the best ways to teach your kids about money is by showing them. As discussed above, breaking down large purchases into smaller amounts can help you better understand your family’s financial situation, as well as give your kids a better sense of how much money they will have at the end of each month.

Another important way to show your kids is by creating a budget together. While creating a budget can be a bit tedious, the more you do it, the easier it will get. Once you have your budget in place, try to stick to it as best you can.

This not only helps you understand your own spending habits but it also gives you insight into how your family can be better stewards of money.

Finally, it’s never too late to teach kids about business. Budgeting skills come into play here, as well. While there are many ways to acquire startup capital, your young entrepreneur must know how to allocate these funds for success.

Teach Financial Habits

One of the best ways to teach your kids about money is by modeling financial literacy behavior. This is why it’s important to regularly take the time to talk to your kids about money—both when you’re together and when you’re apart.

Regularly talking about finances shows your kids that you trust them to learn about money on their own. Plus, it gives you a chance to go over any topics you’ve neglected, as well as introduce new ones.

Lastly, when it comes to modeling financial literacy habits, there are a few key things to keep in mind:

Start early: Lifehack suggests modeling financial habits as early as possible by talking to your kids about how finances work and what is important to remember.
Be consistent: Make sure to follow through by regularly talking about finances, acting as a good example, and modeling financial literacy habits.
Have open-minded discussions: Don’t be afraid to have open-minded and constructive discussions about money with your kids.

With these tips in hand, you’ll be better equipped to raise financially literate kids.

A lot of peace of mind comes with this, as you know you’re doing all you can to set them up for success in life now and in the future.

Image via Pexels 

How To Be a Great Stepfather – Nine Tips

This article was written in 2011 but it covers a topic that many must grapple with, how to be a great stepparent.

I appreciated Kash’s insight and how wonderful he has been to his stepkids. His thoughts come from his real-life experience. Eleven years have passed, he is still doing a great job and they love him. His story is worth the read. You will also find nine tips from another stepparent, Dr. Phil. : )

“My kids are great! They are energetic, imaginative, loving, and occasionally ornery. I have three girls and one boy, whose ages range from three to eleven, and they have been my kids for exactly four months.

Being a “step-dad” is not something I expected a year ago, but it was not an idea that scared me either. I have five siblings that have 13 kids between them, and I have always enjoyed spending time with their children. Now that I have four kids to call my own, I have a different perspective on the relationships that I have with my nieces and nephews. The responsibility one has as a parent is enormous. An uncle can feed his nephews a bunch of sugar and then send them back to their parents; a stepfather does not have that luxury.

The important thing for a stepparent to remember is that you are an adult, and the kids are…kids. They have lost a parent, whether through a divorce or otherwise. Someone who has been there consistently for most of their lives is now only there occasionally. It is not your job to replace that parent. It is, however, your job to be a new parent, one that is patient, loving, and willing to teach the same qualities to your new kids.

Like all parents, a stepparent’s patience is tested on a daily basis. My philosophy, when faced with a new problem, is “Yield to the expert”. My wife knows her children better than anyone. So, I ask her opinion on almost everything. She is very patient and very willing to teach me how to be a good dad. I am very blessed to have the family that I do and love them very much.”

I did some research and Kash was on top of it and has been a great stepfather.

Nine tips on being a great stepfather

1. Don’t Plan to be the disciplinarian. There are boundaries to your authority. Be reasonable, and as much as possible show them that what you have to say is sensible. The stepparent, although not actively initiating direct discipline, should certainly work to maintain the normal boundaries that exist between an adult and a child. Support the decisions that are made by your wife. A stepfather is not simply one’s mother’s husband. He is in fact, an adult and an authority figure in the home.

2. Don’t ask them to call you “Dad”. Don’t be selfish and demand it.

3. Don’t ever bad mouth their dad, no matter what kind of person he is. Usually, they’ll side with dad, but even if they don’t, you have no right to interfere in that relationship.

4. Act responsibly, be there for the kids when they need you, share their joys and sorrows with them, build them up as much as you can, help them with their homework, offer advice, explain how things work, organize their day, and so on — all the things you’d do if you were their actual father, remembering that relationships take time to build.

5. Listen to the children.

6. Take cues from mom. Deal with major disagreements out of earshot of the kids; in everything else, follow mom’s lead.

7. Don’t try to win them over with gifts, trips to the amusement park, or whatever.

8. Share. Be open about your life, career, likes, dislikes, and interests — and make an effort to learn about theirs. Take part in their activities and involve them in yours. Not only will you find some common ground to connect on, but you’ll be able to take part in their development as people, which is what this is all about.

9. Forgive. Forgive them for being difficult, forgive mom for not always lending you a hand when you’re lost, forgive their friends for not understanding your new place in your kids’ home, and most of all, forgive yourself. You are going to make a lot of mistakes

“The key is to remember that the children are passengers on this train. They didn’t get an opportunity to choose whether they wanted a new family member, so great care and patience should be taken to help them adapt to the situation.” Dr. Phil

When we love first we can overcome many obstacles, even when stepparenting!

Kash is a native of Colorado and currently lives in Grand Junction with his wife, Marie. He has four stepchildren and he and Marie have had two children together. Kash grew up in a family of 6 children. He is the fourth child just like his wife, Marie. He was raised by his mother with the help of his grandfather and two of his grandmothers. Kash loves to read all kinds of books.

Tips for preparing to Be a Father or Why Take Care of Your Wife : )

As I said last week, in 2011 I asked a few fathers and grandfathers to share their parenting experiences. Well, one of the sweetest responses came from a yet-to-be father. Brady Houston is my son-in-law, married to my youngest daughter. At the time he wrote this they had been married just a year. Enjoy.

It’s still hard to believe that I’m finally at a point in my life where becoming a father is an imminent reality. My wife, Kate, and I have had many conversations during this first year of our marriage about parenting, and I have often thought about how I can prepare to become a father. All those parents out there are surely scoffing, “Preparation? No such thing.” I am the first to cede that no amount of planning can truly prepare me to be a dad, but I have learned a very valuable lesson during this first year of marriage that I believe will greatly help my wife and me.

Kate and I went to dinner with my parents a few months ago, and we asked them about their preparation. Among the answers they gave us was a comment my mom made to me, which I hope to never forget, “Take care of your wife, and she will take care of your kids.” With that simple phrase, my mother taught me that first and foremost, I need to make sure my wife feels loved and appreciated, and she in turn will nurture our children.

Since then, I have redoubled my efforts

to make my wife feel like she is special to me by doing things like:

  • planning weekly meaningful dates
  • voicing my appreciation for her
  • serving her in whatever ways I can

I hope that learning to take care of my wife’s needs now, will allow me to continue when we have children and that by so doing my children may receive the nurturing that they need.

Brady and Kate now have three kiddos ranging in age from ten to three. Life can be busy and chaotic. Brady has been working to follow his three tips. Because he works at home he helps out and Kate can plan time for herself. Of course, he plans time just for the two of them. This last weekend they went to Las Vegas. He is doing his best. Way to go Brady!

Now a few comments from the mother-in-law. : )

This couple was wise because they:

  • They thought ahead about the prospect of parenting and particularly for Brady, fathering
  • They asked for advice from those who have gone where they are going to go
  • Brady and his wife are jointly making plans
  • He has implemented some of the good advice he received

I think that Brady is in the process of being a GREAT dad!

Brady Houston is married to Kate Johnson Houston. Brady works for Amazon and Kate is back in school. They have a very busy life. 🙂

Balancing Family and Work Time for Fathers

In 2011

I asked some fathers and grandfathers to share some of their feelings and experiences about fatherhood. My friend Darrell Hendriksen shared this story with me. I think this is where many busy fathers find themselves and it will be instructive. After all, parenting is about being present despite our busy-ness. Here is his story:

My wife and I own an older home that we have been remodeling one room at a time. A few years ago, in early spring, we decided that it was time to remodel the long-neglected front porch. Knowing that I would only be able to work on it during the warm months, I planned to work on it every Saturday from sunup to sundown, trying to beat the deadline of autumn weather.

As a father of three, I have always tried to be conscious of and involved with spending quality time with my children. To this end, I determined that to complete the porch by autumn I would need to devote each Saturday in its entirety to remodeling work, which would allow me to dedicate weekday evenings to my children.

As the weeks passed and the project dragged on, I became increasingly concerned that I wasn’t going to get the job done before the summer ended. If the porch wasn’t painted in time, the wet and cold winter was going to cause extensive damage to the newly installed wood porch. Notwithstanding my supposed balance between home remodeler and devoted father, I found myself more and more answering my sons’ requests for my attention with, “Not now, son- I’m really busy”, or “I will as soon as I’m finished nailing these planks”.

I remember going to bed very late one Saturday night, having once again missed our nightly family ritual of brushing teeth, reading a bedtime book, reading scriptures, singing, praying together, and tucking the children into bed with kisses and hugs. This nightly ritual had long since become a cornerstone in our family traditions, and I felt awful that I had missed it again. In my mind’s eye, I saw them with sad expressions on their faces, asking my wife, “Where’s Dad”? This, coupled with my increased frequency of choosing work over my sons, had me downright depressed.

I felt like an absent father, and the last thing I wanted was for my children to have even a hint of a feeling that they wished I was with them more. They are the most important thing in my life. I knew it, but I didn’t know if they knew it.

I could have said “I’m doing this work for you” all I wanted, but if they didn’t feel like I was available for them, all my work would’ve been meaningless. What good is a fancy remodeled house if all it’s good for is a place for a disconnected family to eat and sleep? A house is a house no matter how old the carpet or the color of the paint. What I wanted was a home- the kind that comes from absolute family unity and love. As ‘head of the home’, I knew it had to start with me.

That very minute I committed that my new rule was to never be “too busy”. Whenever my children come and ask me to read them a book or push them on the swing, or whatever– I say, “Yes”! When I put down what I’m doing right then and there, I immediately let them know by my actions that they can approach me. When we’re finished, I invite them now, to come and help me.

Regardless of age or capacity, there are four distinct fruits of this conscious effort to be more present in my children’s lives:

• My children know that they are paramount in my life
• I now have a direct opportunity to teach my children how to play and work
• My children and I, and therefore the entire family, are closer to each other
• Spending time with my children is FUN!!

When I ask my children to help me with a work project, they react as though I told them we were going to Disneyland. They are so excited to spend time with me- they love just being around me. But rather than simply being in close physical proximity to each other, parents must take advantage of these opportunities to consciously engage with their children. We need to ask them about things happening in their lives, that are important to them. We need to take the time to teach them about the world around them. These are the moments that combine to form a child’s character. The word parent is a noun, but too often we fail to seize the opportunity to use it as a verb- actively rearing them by loving, guiding, teaching, and showing them the way.

I don’t believe my children had really regarded me as ‘too busy’ but I had been, and that was enough to cause a problem. This feeling has long since dissolved, and I now revel in the opportunity to genuinely rear them, not just provide a place for them to live. Initially, I feared that my remodeling progress would slow, but it hasn’t. In fact, it has increased because my children are a bit older now and are confidently learning these skills for themselves.

It is so important that we consciously schedule time with our children, just as we would any other appointment or meeting. If we want our children to know we love them, we must show them by giving them our time and affection. We must also tell them we love them. Life is full of things to do, but our children deserve more than to be regarded as a task or burden. Since our children are our most important responsibility, let them be at the heart of our lives.

Let us regard everything we need to do in life as an opportunity and a venue for accomplishing this, the most important position in our lives- that of a parent. If you want to know what they’re thinking- ask them. If you want them to become something- teach them.

Do not assume they know you love them- tell them. Show them.

Darrell Hendriksen lives in Salt Lake City with his wife Heather and their three boys. He enjoys running, hiking, camping, gardening, making music, and doing handyman work- none of which would mean much without his wonderful family by his side.

Emotional Weight – What! Part 3

Last year, I wrote a powerful short story about the field I cleared and took care of for a few years.  Every time I go into the field to maintain the work that I have done I am reminded of the powerful lessons I learned when parenting and that was confirmed for me in the field. This morning I had another experience that is worth sharing, as some of you may be where I have been and find myself again.

The home we live in was built in 1960. At that time West Point was a small farming community and there were more fields than homes. I believe that our home and the neighbor’s home with the field were built on top of an old dumping ground. While working in our yard I have dug up old bags that at one time held garbage, some remaining. But the biggest clue is the cement that surfaces in the field.

For many years the field next to our home, which I currently keep in order, had decades of debris on the ground and forests of weeds, grass, and sapling trees. After I cut down all the saplings and removed the weeds and grass to bare ground you could see all the cement. I gathered a bucket a day and piled it by the fence. When I had gathered what I could see I thought, “I am glad that job is done.”

Guess what, it isn’t done. Each year more bits of the cement surface. There is no debris, plants, or saplings to hold it under the ground. So each year I have found myself gathering up a bucket a day for a few weeks and adding the contents to the cement pile. Now, if I didn’t understand that sometimes there are layers to the work we do, I would be discouraged. But I know that what was buried will eventually surface and then I can clear it away.

This is like personal healing. It takes work to heal from trauma, tragedy, or from the everyday hurts that we experience as children in school and in our families. We realize there is an issue, so we do the work to heal. We think we have it all taken care of. But down the road more feelings, or stories may show up. When I experienced that in the past I would feel like a failure. I mean didn’t I already do this work. Maybe I just didn’t do a good enough job.

This isn’t the case. Healing is like working in the field. You clear the bits of cement but down the road, more cement may appear, freed from the dirt and rising to the light. You haven’t failed you are just doing the work of healing and it takes time; it is a process.

A few months ago, I had another layer of an old wound resurface. I had worked on this wound a few decades ago and thought it was healed. But here it was again, a new layer to an old story that negatively impacted my life.

I can choose to carry the emotional weight of this wound, or I can take a step. I decided to take a step. I wasn’t sure how to clear what had surfaced so I prayed. I felt that I should buy a love seat for our very tiny living space so that my mom and I could sit next to each other rather than across the room from each other. I was to hug her more, touch her more. Hmmm. We are neither one very touchy-feely, so this was a big step.

Then last week I had another thought. I write three things daily in my gratitude journal. The new thought was that I should write three things about my parents that I am grateful for and do it for at least a month! Wow, a month. That is ninety things I am grateful to my parents for.

I have a wound that I thought was healed but there is another layer. I know I can heal the whole wound from my experience. I know better than to carry the emotional weight of letting it sit. I have decided to move, and the thoughts and resources are coming. It isn’t always easy but I am making progress.

When we find a place where we are not yet whole, we not only carry the pain of whatever the experience was, we carry the emotional weight until we move and do something to heal. That requires that we let go of victimhood. This is easier said than done. I have been on both sides of this fence so I know if we take a small step then resources come, and we can heal. We can let go of that emotional weight. We can STOP being victims of the past or the present.

You are responsible for yourself, your responses, and your happiness. You oversee your healing. Your job is to:

•Be consistent in your efforts
•Believe that you can heal
•Know the resources you need will come
•Understand that you are not a failure because there is still work to do
•That Heaven will support you
•Then take a step

Don’t put off healing. Don’t carry emotional weight that you can put down. Work on what comes up as long as needed, until you are fully free. CHOOSE not to carry the emotional weight of victimhood or old wounds and trauma.

If cement pieces surface in your clean field commit to picking up a bucket a day for as long as it takes. I have done this work. I am doing this work and you can too.

I have a worksheet that details one of the earliest tools I used to begin cleaning my personal, inner field.

If you would like a copy reply to me and I will send it to you. : )

Emotional Weight – What! Part 2

Can A Clean Bathroom Help You be Happier?

I LOVE to clean. I know, I know, that makes me a super nerd. But it’s true, I do love to clean. And frankly, I’m good at it. I see things other people don’t. I am efficient and I know how to do the job in far less time than most.

But there was a time when my bathroom would get very messy. Sometimes I would let it go for three months (yes, three months!) Every day when I had to go in there, I would tell myself, “I have to get this bathroom clean.” I do not mind cleaning bathrooms. I don’t have a squeamish bone in my body. The problem was distractions, and no one sees the bathroom.

At that time, most of my home was one large room. Today my home has a similar layout except there are two bedrooms that open into the main living area. When I decided to clean, I would begin in that main section because we spent most of our time there. Then I would clean our bedroom which opened into the main room. The door was always open and you could see right in.

My plan was always to do the bathroom after the main room and the bedroom because who doesn’t want a clean bathroom. But I would run out of energy. And if energy wasn’t an issue, I would be distracted helping my daughter in her part of our home, helping one of the kids, being called out to the yard for a job, cooking a meal, or having an errand that needed doing. Nothing has changed since then in the size of my living space or my business; except I get the bathroom cleaned.

Keep reading and I will tell you how I got to this place.

Back then the bathroom was a BIG emotional weight. We carry emotional weight in different areas of our lives. We take care of the parts that others see, keep putting off what can’t be seen, and then carry the emotional weight. Crazy, because it doesn’t have to be this way and it keeps us from living a happier life.

Let me share a secret with you that anyone who is good at cleaning knows. You don’t have to clean the whole room for it to appear, feel, and actually be cleaner. You don’t have to clean the whole room to lift the emotional weight. I have learned this through experience.

When I would take my shower I would think, “Man, you need to get this bathroom clean!” I would sit on the toilet and observe the piles of hair in the corners, the grunge on the sink, the stain around the toilet. This is a gross conversation, but I know you have been here and there is a point.

The Story Continues

One night when I was in the shower, I noticed that the bottom fourth of the shower curtain was grey-orange. You know exactly what I am talking about. You may think it’s age, body oil, or soap scum. Here is what it is, bacteria; those little guys that grow in moist, warm places. I had been watching this colony grow, as I said, for a few months and every time I took a shower, I’d say to myself, “You have got to clean this bathroom!” Then I would remember all the things I had to do, and what it was going to take to get it done, and a sense of overwhelm would descend. I would pick up that emotional weight I mentioned and leave the bathroom for other pressing things.

One night I did something different. That night I did what I know works, but I had just not done. I took a step; one step and it was enough to allow me to lay down that emotional weight and go to bed feeling happy with myself. I stepped out of the shower dripping wet, grabbed the bleach cleaner which sits behind the toilet, and I sprayed the heck out of the bottom fourth of the shower curtain.

This is what I knew I would find the next morning, a perfectly white, clean shower curtain. The colony was gone! I picked one small thing in my bathroom, and I took care of it. I stopped waiting until I had time to clean the whole BIG mess. I just picked one thing that I knew would make a difference and I did it.

Again, the KEY

This is a key to taking care of all the messy issues in life. It doesn’t matter if we are talking about our bathroom, relationships, money problems, a need for more education, learning to care for ourselves, getting control of our thoughts and emotions, overcoming an addiction…it doesn’t matter. The process works. You must choose something and then do it. It doesn’t have to be the biggest thing in your mess, just something that will make a difference, help you feel better, and give you hope, that yes, in time, you will have the whole thing cleaned up.

It’s easy to leave the back rooms of our lives in a mess because no one sees them but you will always carry emotional weight until you decide to begin working on the mess.

Think about what it is in your life that causes you to feel overwhelmed, less than, out of control, etc. Choose one small thing that you can do to make a difference in how you feel now; one small thing that will give you hope that you can clean this mess. Look, my whole bathroom really needed to be cleaned but I felt proud of that shower curtain, and it carried me through the day!

This experience happened eight years ago. Today I am very good at starting, most of the time. My bathroom is rarely a mess because when I notice the ring in the toilet, pee behind the toilet lid, grunge in the sink, whatever it is, I clean that one thing. Next week I will share how we can put down the emotional weight of a different sort.

Put down your emotional weight. Move. Take a step, even a small one. 

It can and does make all the difference in the amount of happiness
you will feel each day.

Emotional Weight – WHAT! Part 1

What is Emotional Weight?

A young lady confidently walked around the room while explaining stress management to an audience. With a raised glass of water everyone knew she was going to ask the ultimate question, ‘half empty or half full?’ She fooled them. “How heavy is this glass of water?”, she inquired with a smile. The answers called out ranged from 8 oz. to 20 oz.

The young woman replied, “The absolute weight doesn’t matter. It depends on how long I hold it. If I hold it for a minute, that’s not a problem. If I hold it for an hour, I’ll have an ache in my right arm. If I hold it for a day, you’ll have to call an ambulance. In each case it’s the same weight, but the longer I hold it, the heavier it becomes.”

That is what I have experienced with emotional weight. Emotional weight is generated when we have things, we know we should do but we put them off. Emotional weight is created when we are not in integrity with ourselves.

Let me give you an example.

I want to have my Saturday free. For that to happen I have to do a little writing every day. I decided to write for thirty minutes each day. It’s not enough time to complete an article, format it, put the newsletter together, and record the podcast. However, thirty minutes gets me going and then I usually write for a longer stretch. For me, it isn’t the writing that is the challenge, it is the starting! You can see that these thirty minutes would be pivotal in keeping on top of my writing deadlines. Even though I have told myself I will do this, and it is printed on my daily worksheet, I frequently do not comply with my own decision. When that happens, I pay a price. I find myself chained to the computer on Saturday when I want to be with my family or out in the garden. Sigh!

Like the glass of water, the burden of that emotional weight gets heavier and heavier. I know I am not in integrity with myself.

To free myself, I need to begin. I need to write each day for thirty minutes. The reality is that I will miss a day here and there but if I just pick it up again the next day, no weight. It is the promise to myself and then not keeping the promise that causes the weight. This happens to all of us.

The Key!

The key to removing the emotional weight is to move. Do one thing. If I wrote even three days a week to begin with, can you see how much better I would feel? I need to start and then practice with consistency keeping my promise to myself.

You know you can’t mentor what you don’t do so I have been keeping my word this week. It is Wednesday and I have made significant progress. I’m feeling pretty good about myself.

I am sure you have something that is causing you to feel emotional weight. Maybe you have promised yourself to do it. Maybe you have a plan for accomplishing it. But you haven’t moved. You haven’t done what you said you would. You know you are out of integrity, and it is heavy.

I encourage you to put that emotional weight down. Begin. You can’t fail, although you might have to make some adjustments. I assure you that the relief you will feel from beginning is wonderful. There will be a sense of satisfaction. Putting down emotional weight by taking that first small step feels really, really good!

Next week I am going to share a second, more universal example. I laugh to myself because I’ll bet 99.9 percent of you will be able to relate.

A Mother’s Day Replay!

On Mother’s Day in 2012 my daughters hijacked my blog and gave me a HUGE Mother’s Day surprise. I was reviewing that old blog recently and reread their messages to me. I was again moved to tears at their kind words and generosity of spirit. I never was a perfect person, let alone a perfect parent. But my daughter’s words reminded me of what I weekly work to remind you – our kids aren’t looking for perfect. They want us, with all our flaws and all our love. When we stay the course, do the best we can, and keep learning, IT WILL BE ENOUGH!

Happy Mother’s Day to you all.

A decade has passed, and they have grown so much. Their lives have been challenging and beautiful. I put current pictures in the article, so you could see them as they are now. : )

May 13, 2012

We’ve hijacked our mother’s blog for a surprise Mother’s Day Tribute. We wanted to share with all of you, her dear readers, and friends, how honored we are to be her daughters and what she means to us. We are grateful for your joining us to celebrate our mother and yours.

Kate Houston
I remember one of my favorite things when I was living at home was sitting in our “library” with you talking about our love for books. You taught me to hunger for knowledge.

When I was young you showed me how to make a meal out of almost nothing, how to grow a beautiful garden, and how to REALLY clean. You taught me how to be a homemaker.

The summer I wanted to study abroad in Europe, and we had no money, you spent the whole summer baking cakes and selling water bottles with me. You taught me how to work for what I want and be creative doing it.

When I wanted to be a varsity cheerleader my senior year of high school, even though I had NEVER cheered before, you were right there on the day of tryouts to make sure I stuck it out until the end. You taught me how to dream and dream big.

Growing up you loved to teach us how to make sugar eggs, gingerbread houses, and frosting flowers for cakes. You taught me the importance of cultivating my talents.

When you were in your 40s, you had seven children and an incredibly busy life, and yet you finished your master’s degree. You taught me the value of education.

When times were tough and family life was especially hard, I’d walk past your open bedroom door and ALWAYS see you on your knees. You taught me how to have a relationship with Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ.

Mom, it’s easy for us to look back on our time as a mother and wonder if anything we did gave our children what they needed to be successful in their life. Sometimes we look back and feel discouraged because as far as we can see, what we did wasn’t enough. But it’s the little things, the daily things you taught me that made all the difference. Because you were the person that you were, I am the person that I am today. Through your service to others, you taught me how to serve. Through your example of forgiving and being patient, you taught me how to forgive and be patient. Because you grew and blossomed, like the flowers out back in our garden, you taught me how to grow and blossom.

Now I’m getting ready to take my first steps into motherhood and because of you, I am not afraid. You have already walked the paths down this unfamiliar road and through the wisdom you have gained, you will teach me what it truly means to be a mother. Thank you, mom.

Marie Henry
There are so many things that I have learned from you but there are two things in particular that have forever changed me and how things have gone in my life. The first one was prayer. I remember always walking in on you praying. I knew Heavenly Father was your friend and that you trusted him.

When I decided to come back to the church, I knew what to do. I knew I could talk to Him about everything. That it was okay if I was angry, even at Him, as long as I talked to him about it. That even if I sat there and said nothing at least I was in the right place. I knew I had to build up trusting Him but I trusted you, so I knew I would get there and that it would be okay. The second thing was to never ever give up, that change is possible and that it is very real. That you need not give up hope. There is a way to return to happiness, and it is through Jesus Christ.

The past 13 years have been quite the journey for me and my family. There were times I didn’t think things would ever turn around or feel differently, but then I would pray and get through the day. I knew from watching you that no matter what you don’t ever, ever give up. You continue to fight even if the answer takes years to come.

Now, look where I am at. I finally love being a mother. I feel content and peaceful with myself and how things are going in my life, and I have the greatest man as my husband. There are many things I get to pass on to my children but the two things I continue to tell them about are to always pray, no matter how you feel, and to never ever give up, that Heavenly Father is there for us and no matter what you fight to stay on his side.

I know that one day you were praying, in the kitchen, I believe, and you said to Heavenly Father that we would have all been better off if he had just sent us to someone else. He said to you, that may be true, but he sent us to you. Well, I am proud that he did. I am very grateful to have you as my mother.

Our lives here on earth are meant to have trials in them. I left your home knowing how to make it through and come out the other side being a better me and closer to the Lord. Having fewer trials really doesn’t matter. That I know how to make it back home to Heavenly Father is what I came here to learn and learn it I did. I am grateful for the family I have and PROUD I get to say you are my mother. I love you.

Jenny Johnson
I really love my mother. And it is one of those interesting loves; the bigger the love gets, the bigger my heart gets, and the more it makes me love the entire world. Amazing!

I remember being a child and mom would take all her 7 children with her to the nursing home on Sundays just to visit the patients who weren’t getting usual visitors. It was the family’s volunteer work.

That is how I now kind of define my life. I prioritize (highly) having volunteer work in my life that serves the geriatric population. Also, I just finished the endeavor of earning my master’s degree. I will now start working as a professional in the skilled nursing home to serve the geriatric population with different modes of therapy. I feel so happy and grateful because I know that working in this environment and serving this population is really going to feed my life, daily! She has taught me that despite possibly never bearing children, there is a viable way for me to mother this world! I serve…and it makes me happy. It is how I run my life. This is the legacy my mother has left in my life. An ocean of thanks to you, my sweet mother.

A handful of years ago, when I was in a severe car accident and wasn’t walking, my mother flew to California and took care of me for 4 months. I mean REALLY was taking care of me, as if her 30-year-old daughter was 3 again. Feeding me, cleaning me, helping me move from point A to point B, etc. That was such a wonderful blessing given to each of our lives because what came out of that intimate tragedy was that my mother became one of my dearest friends. I feel so supported, loved, and valued and that, again, strengthens and augments my desire to serve and support this entire world, and it makes me love this world even more. A canyon of thanks to you, my sweet mother and friend.

What my wonderful, beautiful, vibrant mother is teaching me now about being a woman is that personal evolution never stops, and it is never too late to become 10 times more than you have ever been. Beauty, wisdom, self-love, personal manifestation, grand service – these are things I am learning from her and really beginning to value because she is performing these things and becoming these things and mastering these things and it is all so amazing to watch! She is painting such a colorful masterpiece across the canvas of her life. She is leaving such a mark, and I feel so honored and blessed to be a part of it. I love you mom, to the moon and back! A universe of thanks to you for everything.

Jodie Palmer
I turned 40 years old a few weeks ago. It’s sort of a surreal experience for me because it’s the only age that I distinctly remember my mother being. She gave birth to her last child at 40, and so have I. I am now where my mother once was, a place I remember her being.

A fascinating thing has happened now that I’m standing in the shoes, I remember my mother wearing. She has suddenly transformed into something more than my mother. I’m connecting with her as a woman.

It’s been hard to try to put this transformation into words or describe what it means to finally see my mother as a woman. I hate to admit it, but my mother has never been a “real” woman to me. She’s been . . . my Mother. Something different than, “a woman.”

Throughout my life, I’ve been walking these antipodal paths of both discovering who I am as a woman, and consciously putting myself together into who I want to be. But the change that has happened for me is that I am beginning to see my mother in the context of who I am as a woman—this complicated mixture of contradictions and messiness, grace and beauty, vices and flaws, backbone and tenacity, soft and tender places, guarded and hidden places, confusion and wisdom, fullness and emptiness and so much more all wrapped up in one heart.

I find myself feeling so tender towards her, not in a reminiscent way, as is usual for Mother’s Day, but in this current, primal, female, connected, Red Tent sort of way.

As I was attempting to write this tribute to her, I came up with my usual celebrations of memories, the ones that have informed my whole worldview and way of being with the world. Like the time she packed us all into the car to return something that had recently been purchased because we needed the money. On the way out of the parking lot, there was a man holding a sign asking for help. She rolled down the window and gave the man part of the change we had just received. She shared and gave, even when it hurt.

Or the time when she washed the body of a woman who had died and had no one in her life to give her that one last loving honor. She is a rememberer of the forgotten.

There are so many other memories that have served as the elements taken up as food by the beautiful garden of my life.

But, today I want to honor my mother differently than I have ever been able to before. I want to honor her as a woman. I want to honor her complicated, contradictory, messy, deeply beautiful, wise, lovely self. All of it is beautiful to me, and so needed by me, as a woman. All of her is so needed by the world. And the world is better for it—the little worlds of her children and grandchildren, the little worlds of her client families, the little worlds of her neighbors, and the strangers that cross her path. All these little worlds collide together in one big bang of goodness and beauty for all the rest of us.

That’s the beauty of women, we are wombs and birthers of beauty and goodness in the world through the complicated mixture of who we are. We are good for the world . . . And the Lord God looked and said, “It is good.”

I am honored to be a woman born and grown from this woman. I am honored to have her blood and her bone, her spirit, and her heart living in me.

I am grateful for these new eyes that have allowed me to not only see her differently but see my daughters differently. I newly see, and feel, that we are sisters, we are friends.

Again, Happy Mother’s Day to you all.

Getting on top of the mess – A Lesson on Consistency

A few weeks ago,

I felt pressed to visit my friend, Judy, whose husband died last year, and I felt she needed something. After two days of this ‘pressing’ feeling, I went. I found that she was stressed out about her front yard and being able to manage it. One bush had a ton of grass growing around the base, and Judy could see it from her front window. She was reminded every day that it needed weeding.

Judy has always managed the front garden beds; her husband didn’t weed. Don ran the machines. : ) But he is gone, so the whole dynamic has shifted, leaving Judy feeling stressed. It wasn’t more than she was used to, but she was alone, and that complicated things in both her heart and mind.

She was also feeling a tad angry because no one had ever stopped to help her. When she was out front weeding, her neighbors would wave or honk as they drove by. Anger is a secondary emotion, and I believe what she was feeling was invisible as if she didn’t matter. I have been there, and I can relate. Our number one need is to be seen; to matter.

Anyway, I could see how simple it would be to get her yard in shape and maintain it. After all, I am the queen of consistency, which is a principle of power. : ) I talked to her about what I had learned from two hard years in the neighbor’s field. I had experienced that it didn’t matter how intimidating the job, with God all things are possible if we are consistent with small amounts of time.

I encouraged her to work in her yard in the morning for 20-30 minutes five days a week. Then I felt impressed to tell her that I would come on Monday and get her started. I did. Then I decided to go every day that week because people need to practice being consistent. They need support while developing a new habit or instituting a new system.

Judy and I were able to get almost the entire front bed done, and Judy felt great about it. We never worked over 30 minutes, in fact, most days, twenty. Judy said that this felt like something she could continue to do.

As I hugged her goodbye that Friday morning she mentioned that it would be great to have some accountability so she would keep going. : ) Isn’t this why we hire coaches and have best friends. LOL We all need support and accountability.

I texted her Monday and then again on Wednesday. She was staying consistent. By Sunday Judy had finished the last of the front beds. (She had decided to not take Saturday off.) We had only gotten started on that bed Friday, and it was a bit intimidating, with lots of grass. Way to go Judy!!

I have been practicing consistency since I was a mom with seven children. I wasn’t always consistent, but I have had to learn some hard lessons about the power of consistency. It’s not the BIG moves we make in life that make the difference; it is the small and simple things that we do consistently.

If consistency is not your forte, it can become so, I promise. I have learned how to be consistent; I have mentored many mothers and helped them become consistent, and I have been an accountability best friend often. I have seen this skill learned.

BUT, and this is a big BUT, you do not become consistent by working on all the places in your life that are a mess. You must choose one small place to begin. Maybe it is making your bed each morning no matter how tired you are or how badly you need to pee. LOL

Maybe it is having your family put their dishes in the dishwasher after every dinner meal. It might be doing the laundry on Thursday, no matter what. Possibly it is going to bed at the same time each night, regardless of what is left to do. I have had to practice ALL these things over the years and many more.

Here are five tips to get you started.

1. Pick one thing. What are you going to work on? For Judy, it was keeping the front garden beds weed-free. For me, right now, it is getting up at the same time each morning. What is your plan?

2. Know the steps you will take. Judy decided that each morning, five days a week, before noon, she would weed; unless it was raining, and then she gets a break. : )

For me, it is to make sure my alarm goes off at the same time each day, six days a week. Church begins late on Sunday, and I allow myself to sleep in.

3. Understand flexible consistency. When I first began talking about this idea, I got blank stares. I mean, if you are consistent, it is exactly the same every day, right? Well, within a consistent framework. Judy gives herself all morning to get it done. She hopes to be out in the yard by eight, but things happen.

I work with moms, and something is always happening! When I first coined the phrase, I was working with homeschool moms. For some, if they didn’t get school started by 8, they felt like failures. That kind of thinking does not help maintain consistency. Flexible consistency would say that you plan to begin school sometime between eight and nine-thirty. Flexible consistency fits a family better.

What flexible consistency does not mean is that you can do it or not. Don’t get confused. You do it every day.

4. Practice – not perfection. We will rarely if ever, be perfect at anything. I am darn good at self-management, but I am not perfect. I can hear my husband breathing a sigh of relief because I am VERY self-directed, and perfect would drive him nuts. LOL I get up at the same time most days. However, now and then, I don’t, for one reason or another. I do not panic. I simply get up on time the next day.

Even if you are not perfect, keep practicing. It is the simple act of consistently doing something the best you can that will, over time, make all the difference.

5. Get support and be accountable. That may mean a therapist, a mentor, or a coach. It could be your best friend who asks you how you are doing, or it might be a neighbor like I am to Judy. Support and accountability can make all the difference in your quest for consistency.

I am a list gal and have a list for every day and everything. I feel deeply accountable to my list because I want to cross it off. I don’t need a friend to check on me. The list does the job.

But a list would never work for my husband. He needs someone to be accountable to. That is what Judy needed. It doesn’t matter what works for you, find a way to be accountable and get support.

If you will pick one thing, know the steps, be flexibly consistent, practice the best you can, and get support and accountability, then you can become the queen of consistency in your life too, one thing at a time.

When you are consistent over the long haul you can make magnificent changes.

I promise!