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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I felt pressedto 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.
When our oldest son was young, he became involved in drugs. Don and I were totally out of our element and didn’t know how to respond. We took a parenting class.
Eventually, Seth, at fourteen, left home and moved to the riverbank for the summer. For the next few years, he was home and then gone again. We tried contracts, and tough love, making him earn back his possessions. If it was out there and we could access the information, we gave it a try. Remember that this was before in-home computers were widely available, so resources were harder to come by.
Eventually, we had three other children become involved in drugs.We faced some challenging things. Kids who came home after curfew. We couldn’t let them in because they knew the boundaries. Those clear rules didn’t make listening to them call out to us any easier. Phone calls from kids late at night who were miles away from home and wanted to be picked up. We couldn’t because they knew the boundaries but that meant a lot of knee time praying for their safety. There were the moments when we, as adults lost it and behaved like children. And then the grief over having to tell friends they couldn’t come to our home because of drug issues. Sometimes we were all the family they had. These were really tough times.
Our kids didn’t always like us, and we worried about someone dying or going to jail. We had some narrow escapes on both counts. Some parents don’t escape these painful outcomes.
Here is why I am sharing some of the darkness we experienced. I want you to know that even in the darkness if we are doing our best, we are a light for our children. What does that even mean? Let me share a message that I got two years ago from my oldest son, who is closing in on fifty. It filled my heart with peace and gratitude.
“Mom, when it comes to all the kids that hung out at our house, even though you didn’t see it, you were a mom to 150 kids. Our home life was so different than everyone else’s home life. That’s why people liked coming to our house because it was such a safe place. Even though we all had our issues, it was a safe place. I still hear it from so many of my friends. It was that you were a mom. It was a safe and secure place for more people than you’ll ever realize, mom.”
So there it is. Our lives weren’t perfect.
Don and I had a ton of baggage. We were inept at parenting. I have talked about that before. We didn’t know how to respond. We tried stuff, most of which wasn’t helpful. Our kids suffered. We suffered.
BUT here is what I want you to hear, we stayed the course.
We remained loving adults in our children’s lives and unknown to us, in the lives of countless other youth. We were home, and we had dinner together.I read to the kids,not consistently, but enough. We attended church together and went on trips to grandma’s. We went camping. We weeded the garden together and did some family canning. It was all ordinary, no big fancy anything, just plenty of family time.
Don and I made a boatload of mistakes. But we were there. Our kids could count on our being there. They could count on boundaries that didn’t change just because we were tired, angry, sad, or afraid. Our kids could trust us. This is all we really brought to the game: love, dependability, and trust.
I have shared some dark memories. Let me share some of the light from today that lets me know our children are OK. A few years ago, they began having a sibling call once a month. Anyone available got on, and they shared their lives. All seven of the kids made time for this call.
Later it was a video app. We have two video groups. The whole family is on one. The grands see and hear us, and we see and hear them. They see and hear their uncles and aunts. Everything gets shared: grades, holidays, mini-disasters, work, sports, etc. There are always videos to watch.
The second one is for the adults, us, and our children. The talk there is more personal: lost jobs, new jobs, illnesses, relationships, etc. Deep feelings are expressed.
Every other year we gather for a reunion. Rarely does anyone miss. Two years ago, we had to cancel our reunion because of covid. Last year we held it and our breaths hoping that everyone would be healthy and safe. We couldn’t wait any longer. The videos were filled with a longing to be together. On the last day, our youngest son asked us to do it again this year. The ‘yes’ vote was unanimous.
Early last spring, I decided that I needed a shed. I wanted to clean out more space in the garage for my daughter’s family, and well, I am a handywoman, and a handywoman needs a shed! : )
I found what I wanted and bought a kit. Then I headed out to Washington to help one of my daughters. While I was gone, a miracle occurred. I was worried as to how that shed was going to get built. Both my daughter and her husband work long hours. Then there are four kids to take care of after that, one with severe CP. I couldn’t do it alone, and my husband’s physical abilities and health made it impossible for him.
When I returned to Utah, there was a finished shed. Jodie had called Seth, our oldest son, and he took some time off from work, drove ten hours one way, and helped her and her husband, Doug, build the shed. Later, I painted it with the help of my nine-year-old grandson. I call it ‘The Shed that LOVE built.’ I can’t look at it or go inside without feeling loved.
How does that happen when a family is in so much pain and danger for so long? How does it come right? When you stay the course, when you keep parenting the best you can, when you keep learning and growing and changing, well, that is what helps it happen.
It doesn’t matter where you are in your family’s life. It may be a dark place, and you may feel hopeless and helpless. But you are not. Pray for help. Seek resources. Never give up. Stay the course. Be the parent you promised to be when you began, as best you know how.
Be there. Be dependable. Be trustworthy. It can and will make all the difference.
As a parent, have you ever wondered how you could resolve issues in your home more creatively, so everyone was happy? Sometimes, to get what we need, it appears that someone else has to give up what they need, and often it is the parent. That can be so maddening!
I know because it happened a lot when I was raising my seven children. It caused me to feel frustrated and, often, angry. Not good for my relationships with my children.
When a situation arises that needs to be resolved, and we are faced with two choices that seem equally bad or unfair, that is called the Sucker’s Choice, and if one is chosen, it will inevitably leave someone feeling wronged.
Don’t pick one of them. There is always a third alternative, and you can find it with a bit of creative problem-solving. I know, I thought just what you are thinking, no there isn’t. If there was, I would have thought of it. When I first heard about the Sucker’s Choice, I didn’t believe it either, but I have learned that it is true. There is always a third alternative in every situation and often more.
Eight Steps to More Creative Problem Solving
Some years ago, I made a video discussing eight steps to help you become a more creative problem solver. I shared a perfect example of what a sucker’s choice looks like in real life. You will smile and probably say, “Oh man, I have been in situations like that!” It is worth a listen, and I hope you will take the time.
Recently, I had an experience that revealed an old dream of mine that had come to pass.
I had just come through a time when I felt like a failure in several areas. As a result, I contemplated my life, how I was living it, and wondered about my impact on the world.
I knew that caring for my mom and husband mattered. I knew that helping my daughter with Maggie, my special needs granddaughter mattered. I knew that my weekly writing mattered because I got mail.
However, it’s easy to fall into a funk and doubt yourself. It happens. The key is to get out as quickly as you can. I went to God in prayer and talked to him about it. He knows me best, after all.
Not long after that prayer, I was caring for my mom. I had bathed her and helped her pick out clothes to wear. I was clipping her toenails and fingernails. Into my mind came a picture of my seventh-grade self. I was at a nursing school on a field trip. I was learning how to make hospital corners on a bed. I was in this place with other girls my age because I wanted to be a nurse, and we were part of a nursing club. That’s how much I wanted to be a nurse.
When I went to college, I thought it would be better if I became a Special Education teacher like my dad, so I let the idea of nursing go. I quit school one semester before graduation because I had my first baby. When Jodie was three and a second baby had been born, I went to work and helped my husband graduate. Then, life happened; five more kids, a couple of moves, no more school, no teaching degree, no nursing degree.
When my seventh-grade self came into my mind, I clearly saw that my desire to become a nurse was here, in my life, at age seventy-two. I was caring for three people. I managed meds and feeding tubes. I changed diapers on an almost adult and dressed, fed, and bathed those who could not do it independently. In addition, I handled doctor’s appointments and therapies.
This realization was so shocking that I went back to God and asked Him to show me what other dreams I had accomplished in my life but hadn’t acknowledged.
Seven more dreams came clearly into my thoughts.
– Have a large and successful family
– Be a Special Education teacher
– Speak from stage, teach, and mentor
– Become a writer and publish a book
– Live with my husband for 50 years, sleep in the same bed, and be deeply in love
– Have the trip of a lifetime with Don
– Live a Tasha Tudor life
Five of these dreams were formed before I was fifteen years old. The rest were clearly in my mind by the time I was thirty. Back then, I thought of them as dreams, but now, years later, I know that they were goals because I never completely let go of them. I didn’t have them on a vision board or written down. I hadn’t attended any classes on controlling your thoughts or visualizing. All I knew was these things mattered to me. How to manifest what you want in life would come to me later, in my sixties, but by then, because I held on to these dreams, they had almost all come to pass, and by the time I was seventy, they had all come to pass.
Some of these dreams seemed impossible. Others began to feel as if I shouldn’t want them so much. I mean, I had a family and a life without them. But I couldn’t shake them.
As briefly as I can, let me share each goal and its fulfillment. This will be important later.
1. Have a large and successful family – When I was a girl, I decided that I would have a big family. I wanted my kids to be successful in life. We had seven children, and then we entered 13 troubled years. Some of our kids used drugs, one had a child out of wedlock, one was gay, and there were other issues. I felt like a failure. Don felt like a failure.
However, I realized a few years ago that we accomplished this goal. We have seven very whole adults. Of course, no one is free from baggage, but they are kind, loyal, integrous, honest, hardworking, love nature, are loyal friends. They are good, good people.
2. Be a Special Education teacher – When I went to college, I decided to become a special education teacher. However, I quit school one semester before graduation when I had my first baby and then put my husband through school. I thought I would go back and catch that final semester, but we moved, and it didn’t happen. This was before the days of online schooling.
After my seventh child was born, in my forties, I returned to college. However, because special education had advanced so much in the ensuing years, I realized I would have to redo too much. I opted for an education degree instead.
Guess what happened. In my fifties, I had a granddaughter born with severe cerebral palsy. I often need to care for her, so I learned to manage her meds and feeding tube. I dress her, brush her teeth and hair, and feed her. But I have done more than care for her physical needs. I helped her write in a journal for over ten years by becoming well versed in how to question her and get answers even though she couldn’t speak. I helped her learn the alphabet. I held her hand and helped her write because she couldn’t hold a pencil independently. We have filled many journals. I have conversations with her. I have helped her with schoolwork. I was her full-time aide in school one year. I occasionally was her online aid during Covid.
I may not have a degree in special education, but I have had the privilege of living and working in that field. I have accomplished this goal.
3. Speak from stage, teach, and mentor – I wanted to speak from stage as early as five years old. I LOVED it! I was NEVER afraid to get in front of an audience and took every opportunity that came my way – church, debate, speaking competitions in junior high and high school, singing a solo in front of my seventh-grade class. Later the desire to teach and mentor became strong. Then as mentioned, life and family happened. But that led to some fantastic opportunities to work on this goal.
I taught myself to decorate cakes beginning in ninth grade. I learned how to make gingerbread houses and then villages in that process. Next, I began teaching my children’s school classes how to build a gingerbread house out of graham crackers and milk cartons. I did this every year for over twenty years. Then I began teaching some community education classes on cake decorating and gingerbread creations. Eventually, I stood in front of high school classes and adults teaching this craft in many small towns and cities.
I had four daughters and became a Girl Scout leader in Billings, MT. I also chaired multiple day and overnight camps, coordinating week-long camps for over 100 girls at a time. In addition, I trained over fifty leaders on how to teach and work with children during my tenure.
Can you believe that I was still wondering how I was going to speak, teach, and mentor others at this point in my life?Then I moved to Utah and became involved in the homeschool community. Because I had homeschooled two of my seven children, I began to teach and mentor. I created and led many in-person events. I pursued this love for over twelve years. I traveled all over the United States, teaching what I had learned in thirty-nine years of parenting seven children in my home.
I hadn’t thought about it, but I accomplished this lifelong goal as I lived my life and raised my family.
4. Become a writer and publish a book – When I was about 7, my Grandma Gardner gave me a blank book to write in. At about this same time, I discovered a whole row of Oz books in the Afton, WY. library. I read ALL the OZ books. Did you know there are 14 of them? I knew then that I was a writer. I knew I would write a book someday.
But the truth is, as life happened, I worried that I wouldn’t write a book. I was busy parenting, and what did I have to say that anyone would be interested in? Well, it seems there was a lot, in fact, parenting and connecting with kids! In 2010 I started a blog. By 2016 I had written well over 500 articles. These articles and some of my research became the basis for my book, Becoming a Present Parent: Connecting with your children in five minutes or less, published by Cedar Fort Publishing in 2017. Imagine that!
I have become an accomplished writer. I am a writer in the best sense of the word because I impact others for good.
5. Live with my husband for 50 years, share the same bed, and be deeply in love – When I married Don, I decided that we were going to be married at least 50 years and that we would share the same bed, no matter what and that our love would be real and boundless.
I came to this decision as I watched two sets of grandparents. First, my Cazier grandparents celebrated their 50th wedding while I was a young mother. Then grandma got Alzheimer’s, and grandpa cared for her until she died, even though she didn’t always know who he was. He LOVED my grandma!
Don’s Landis grandparents didn’t sleep together or share the same room. There were health issues and other things. I determined that I would always share Don’s bed, no matter what! We are now in our 51st year, and we are still in the same bed. I have had to make concessions so that could happen because of his health, but inside there was this unspoken goal, and it made the choices manageable.
In our marriage, when life got hard, I would have the word divorce come into my mind, and I am sure it came to Don’s. But this quiet, heart-felt goal helped us hold on, and in the end, it all came out right, despite the trouble we weathered as a family. I knew that Don and I had reached a unique level of love for one another when we took our lifetime trip.
6. Have the trip of a lifetime with Don – We had never gone anywhere far from home in all the years we had been together. Unfortunately, our honeymoon wasn’t very successful. LOL I thought about where we could go to have a fabulous trip. Don’s health made travel and walking difficult. I settled on Hawaii not because I had wanted to go there my whole life. In fact, I had other places I really wanted to go, like Maine. : ) But Hawaii seemed like a place you would go for the trip of a lifetime. It was exotic but still in America with good health facilities.
I held onto that goal for over ten years while Don’s health declined, the medical expenses grew, and retirement loomed. Then last year, I got a call from my sister, who was heading to Hawaii with her husband. She invited Don and me to come. Everything would be paid for except our airline tickets, food, and souvenirs. I couldn’t believe it. But in the end, I knew we couldn’t make this lifetime trip. When we saw my sister’s videos, we knew we had made the right call.
I thought that goal was over. But for our fiftieth wedding anniversary, our children bought us a night in a fabulous cabin in Springdale, Utah, where many of them had lived and worked. Don and I scheduled two more nights in a small house in Hurricane, Utah, just down the road from Springdale. Hmmm, not very far from home.
I want you to know that this was the TRIP OF A LIFETIME! I got everything I had ever wanted. We might as well have been on the honeymoon we wished we had had. We had so much fun. We were alone for the first time in decades. We sat in the garden and swung, listened to music and a book on tape. We ate out and met people who knew and loved our kids.
We talked a lot, kissed, hugged, and sat in the sun. We learned things about each other that we hadn’t discovered in fifty years together. Our sense of love, concern, and caring for each other was palpable. I realized it wasn’t the place that mattered, it was the content, and it was PERFECT.
Last week, I read an article by Marni Pherson Kuhns on the Leslie Householder Rare Faith site. I know both women. I have spoken on the same stages they have. I have sat in classes with them and in classes taught by them. They have mentored me. Leslie’s book writing class got me thinking again about that old goal of publishing a book.
Here is how Marni began her article:
“Have you ever written down a goal, forgotten it, and then found that piece of paper later and discovered that you accomplished the goal you wrote down? If so, you have reaped the rewards of living in harmony with the Law of Perpetual Transmutation. The Law of Perpetual Transmutation states that everything is either moving in or out of form.”
Marni’s words mirror the message I am sharing with you today, and I hope you are listening! I have experienced this law in my own life. I didn’t write these goals down for the most part because I was a child when they were born. But I occasionally brought them out of my heart and looked at them, and I wanted them. And they came to pass. Not always in the way I anticipated, but the results were exactly what I wanted.
I am sure that you get lost in life just like I do. I am sure that parenting takes a great deal of your mental bandwidth. You probably have dream goals that you love and want, that you have hidden in your heart because there doesn’t’ seem to be a way to get them.
I am here to tell you that you can have them. If your dreams matter to you, if you talk to God about them, if you pull them out of your heart into the sunlight now and then, they will grow. We don’t have to abandon our role as mothers or homemakers to realize the dream goals in our hearts.
My family is whole, healthy, and successful despite some severe challenges. I never went to nursing school, but I am a nurse. I don’t have a special education degree, but I have opportunities to work in special education every day, right in my home.
I found a way to teach and speak right where I was, helping with things that helped my kids, in my hometown. And then later, I flew all over the country speaking from stage and teaching. I was patient and served where I was, and it led to something bigger.
I never took any writing classes in college, but I am a writer. I write an article every week, and I get mail! In addition, I have a published book. This came to fruition in my sixties and seventies.
We had trauma in our family. We sometimes wondered if we could weather the storm. Life was sometimes very hard. BUT we made it despite all that and the ill health that followed. We have been together almost 51 years, and we are deeply in love.
At seventy-one, I had the trip of a lifetime. It was a miracle and a gift.
If you hold on to your dream goals and have faith in yourself and them, they will come to pass. You may be older or not. They may not look as you envisioned them but get them, you will. You will experience what Leslie and Marni call the Law of Perpetual Transmutation.
I suspect that part of the reason is that I can almost always relate to where they are. Been there, done that. For example, I am a ‘get my ducks’ in a row sort of gal. I know what that looks and feels like.
One day in a mentoring session, a homeschooling mom with multiple children, who had one of her grown children’s families moving in with her, said to me, “I want all my ducks in a row. You know, to be on top of my game.” So I asked what being on top of her game and having all her ducks in a row would look like.
She quickly laid it out for me – The whole house clean and in order. All the food purchased for the huge breakfast spread she was planning for the two families as they merged. Making sure that everyone was well fed and entertained on this special day. The list went on like this. It wore me out just hearing the list. I know that thinking about the list was wearing her out. It was in her voice. She wanted to know how to get it all done, still educate her kids, and stay sane.
I then asked her, “Well, what do you think God would say if you asked Him what it meant to have all your ducks in a row and to be at the top of your game.” That stopped her in her tracks, and she had to think. It was a very different list she gave me – hug everyone, talk to each other, be calm, smile a lot, feel peace, enjoy my family…a very different list!
We brainstormed how she could be at the top of her game and have her ducks in a row God’s way and not worry so much about her way. I am happy to report that she and her family had a wonderful time. It was peaceful, fun, and restful. She talked and laughed and hugged a lot.
Here is an example of what that actually looked like.
The morning of the previously planned HUGE breakfast spread, she got up, made coffee, poured a cup, and went into the living room where her daughter-in-law was. She sat down beside her, and they had a long and lovely conversation. No HUGE breakfast spread, just a simple breakfast shared with family.
I have learned from long and sometimes bungled experience that what our families want is us, our time, our face, our heart, our ears.They want us. Hash browns, pancakes, eggs, toast, and the most beautiful fruit plate cannot compete with smiling eyes and our Presence.
Let’s get our ducks in a row and be at the top of our game, God’s way more often.
Let’s give our families the gift of Presence and Peace, the gift of US.
He is very excited about this birthday, which has gotten me thinking about our experiences together.
We had a fun day experimenting with baking when Ben was just two years old. I was baking gingerbread cookies. Baking over 2000 gingerbread men is a yearly tradition in December in our home. It is a BIG project! I was deep into the project when Ben came down the stairs into our part of our three-generation home. When he saw the flour, eggs, and partially made dough, he was desperate to help.
I am a very competent baker because I have been doing it for over fifty years. However, when you add a two-year-old to the mix, the whole thing changes.
Ben was interested in everything. He wanted to stir the dough. Ben tried rolling the dough, patting it, and cutting it out with the cookie cutter. He ate dough and dropped flour. He was having a GREAT time! I, on the other hand, felt a tad fussed. I hadn’t anticipated his ‘help.’ I just wanted to get the job done as quickly as possible because I had other pressing projects.
And there it is; adults are end product-driven while children are process-driven.
It would have been so easy to say, “Benny, grandma is busy. Run upstairs, and I’ll let you know when the cookies are baked. Then you can have one.” As a young mom, I had done that in the past, and I was sorely tempted.
Here is what I did instead.
I let him help and I watched him for a few minutes as I kneaded my ball of dough, and he kneaded his. I saw his sheer delight in doing something new. I observed as he “floured” the counter and the floor so his men wouldn’t stick. I listened to his laughter as he rearranged my utensil drawer. I watched him stack up the Christmas packages into a tower and then watched as they came tumbling down; our small tree was on the counter. And guess what, my heart softened. I loved watching him. It was fun, and he made the whole project even more worthwhile.
It did take longer, and my floor was a disaster. I had to eventually re-do the utensil drawer. The packages had flour on them, and the corners were a bit flattened. But Ben and I made a memory.
The best gift we can give to our children is to be Present with them and make them more important than the project. We and our time are the very best gifts.
Today when I showed Ben the photo of us baking together, he yelled out in an excited voice. “I remember that!” He was smiling from ear to ear. I also had a photo of him sleeping on my couch at the end of our project, and when he saw it, he said, “I even think I remember getting worn out!”
It doesn’t matter if Ben can really remember that experience or not; he was only two. What matters is that he remembers how he has felt around me, his grandma. He has felt seen and heard. No matter what we are doing with our kids or grands, it is all about relationships and making memories. Let’s make our kids more important than projectsas often as possible. We can’t every time, but we can more often. The effort we make will improve our relationships
The trip was a mixed bag, if I am honest. The kids and I had some great times, and I kept Gus worn out. : ) He had one nap and wanted another Saturday, but we were busy. This from a boy who has all but given up naps.
But as I said, it has been a mixed bag. I brought a deck of question cards which we used at meals and bedtime. It was hilarious and so much fun. BUT Sunday night, we had a zinger of a question – Tell me about an experience that helped you feel my love for you? Gus just laughed. Tessa said, “Well, you have let me snuggle with you.” She has slept with me every night. She wakes up in the wee hours and crawls in. You all know how kids spread out!
That has been part of the reason for Elliot’s answer –“Well, I haven’t gotten yelled at too much.” What? I don’t yell, but I have a stern voice that comes out when I am tired, frustrated, or at a loss about what else to do. My hormone replacement pills went missing for three days, which didn’t help, but he was right; I had some grouchy moments with everyone.
I went to bed that last night a little teary-eyed and thought about it. I mean, grandma’s want to be perfect, and frankly, I am not. There are moms who trust me and what I share here. I couldn’t let them think that I am super happy all the time, not ridged occasionally, always patient and upbeat, or that I don’t ‘yell.’ It wouldn’t be fair.
In fact, just yesterday, one of my clients said, “I saw some of your posts from Seattle. It looks like you had a wonderful time, and so did the kids. You are amazing.” And many Facebook comments were saying the same as if we had a perfect time and I was always smiling and fun and, well, perfect.
Those comments and what my client said stung a bit. Here is the truth – I am amazing, BUT I am also ordinary. I am just an everyday woman doing her best, and my best isn’t always enough. My best fluctuates.
Wouldn’t it be great to be perfect, to play all the time and like it, never to get tired and crabby, always to be cheerful and fun, never to use your ‘stern/yell’ voice. It would eliminate the worried nights when you know you haven’t been the way you want to be. But here we are, just ordinary people working to do the ‘extraordinary’ thing, caring well for others.
This doesn’t just happen to me when I wrangle three little kids at seventy-two years old. It happens at home, wrangling my mom and my husband and all the rest that goes with living in a four-generation household. I have been working on changing my way of being to be more charitable. That last night in Seattle, I felt as if I had made NO progress at all in decades. I mean, I still get grumpy, am impatient, and am not always long-suffering, kind, humble, well behaved, concerned with others rather than myself, grateful, not provoked, etc. I can list them off because I have them written on the first page of my scriptures. I look at the list regularly because, after all, it is my goal.
There is a space between stimulus and response. The thing that has changed for me over the years is that that space has gotten wider. I rarely go off now and wonder what happened. I know I am choosing. I see that space, and I feel myself making a choice. Sometimes that is harder and is a mixed blessing for sure, to know you chose to be uncharitable with those you love. Thank goodness God, and Christ love me despite my weakness.
Monday, my last day as caretaker for the kids, was good. I got them off to school with minimal chaos and lots of smiles and hugs. I managed Gus well, who was tired and a little grumpy. After school, we used our question cards, our goal was to ask them all, and we made it. : ) We had a great supper and laughed and talked. Then mom and dad came home, and happiness exploded all over everyone.
That last night in Seattle, as I lay in bed pondering the good and not so good times we had, I wondered how the grands would feel the next time I came to visit? It was a question mark in my mind. However, little kids are forgiving. They love unconditionally. A couple of weeks ago, I posted on Facebook about my grandma and the tough times we had because I was a bed-wetter. But I still loved her. I always wanted to go to her house.
I feel that is the case here because of what Tessa did on Sunday. We were in the kitchen, and I was fixing some food. She said, “Grandma, let me see how tall I am to you.” So we stood chest to chest, and she measured from her head to my body. It was right at my neck. Tessa laughed and said, “I am as high as your neck, grandma. You are up to your neck in love!”
I would rather not have written this article, but I cannot let my friends and fellow parents think I am perfect because I’m not. And neither are they. It isn’t fair to simply post pictures of smiling kids doing crafts, rollerblading, and all the rest. We have to support each other in our weaknesses and our strengths. So thanks for being here, reading what I write, believing my words, and allowing me to be honest. : ) I still work on my goal of a tender and softened heart, to feel charity every day. I suspect that I will get better and better. In fact, when I shared this experience with my daughter Jodie, she assured me that I was SO much different than when I was a young mom. Glad to know I am making progress even when it feels like I’m not.
So hang in there, keep working on yourself. Be consistent. It is a lifetime job. Don’t let discouragement get in your way.
Getting up when you fall, being consistent in your efforts pays off. Really!!
I have been thinking back to 2015. In February of that year, I had a friend who turned 111. You read that right, 111! She lived with her daughter, who was 87. Anna was in good health and could get around with her walker; she bathed herself, fed herself, and was as sharp as a tack. Anna is gone now, but caring for my mom, who is turning 91 in March, made me think back to some important things I learned about management vs. relationship from Anna and her daughter.
It was fun watching Anna. Sometimes when I was with her, it was like watching a slow-motion movie. She conserved her energy. She did everything slowly and with great thought. I guess in 111 years, you figure out that there is no need to hurry. There is time for anything that matters.
She also conserved her energy during conversations. She listened a lot. If you asked her a question, her answer was short and to the point. I guess in 111 years of living, you learn that you can get more from listening than from talking and that most things don’t need to be said.
My mom can’t do without help many of the things that Anna could. Mom needs more help because she has Alzheimer’s. However, she can feed herself, take short walks, help me in the kitchen, and have a good conversation.
Interestingly, I find myself in the same mess that I noticed Anna’s daughter got into. She and I both got stuck in management at the expense of the relationship.
What did that look like for Anna’s daughter in 2015?
Anna’s daughter was 87, no spring chicken herself. At that age, she found herself in charge of a woman aged 111. That could be hard. A considerable percentage of their conversations sounded like this:
Mom, please take your shower and don’t mess up the bathroom.
Mom, stop slurping your food. You’re going to choke.
Mom, why did you do that!
Mom, wake up. You can’t sleep at the table.
For goodness sake, get dressed. It’s already 10.
Mom, you’re wearing me out.
To me, she might say:
Mom has really been naughty this week.
I’ll tell you, I am so worn out.
I think that mom is having a pity party. She just wants attention.
Sometimes I think she pushes my buttons on purpose.
What does this look like for me, today?
Because my mom has Alzheimer’s, I can’t make the kinds of comments that Anna’s daughter made. But here is my confession, I think the thought and feel the emotion that goes with it.
Mom, it’s eleven. Get up. It’s bath day, and I have a lot to do!
Mom, that house dress is not a blouse.
Do you need a personal invite to dinner?
For crying out loud, hang up your robe.
Man, I need a BREAK!
Does this sound familiar to you? Of course, it does. It sounds like Anna’s daughter, and I are talking to or about a three-year-old, a nine-year-old, a twelve-year-old, etc. When I had kids living at home, I spoke to them as Anna’s daughter talked to her mom. I thought the same kind of things I think about my mom. Here is the crux of the matter – when you are in the position of custodial care for another person, you can spend a lot of your time in management and only a fraction in the relationship.
Anna’s daughter loved her mom a lot, and I love my mom a lot. But we both oversaw the health and well-being of another person. That is a great weight of responsibility. There is food to cook, clothing to wash, floors to clean, beds to make, and on and on. It doesn’t matter if you are 20 years old and have a one-year-old, are 35 with seven children, 87 with a mother who is 111, or 72 with a mom in her 90s with Alzheimer’s; there is a lot to manage! Add to this, if you are a parent with kids at home, your need to teach and direct your kids to grow into able adults.
You can see why the above types of conversations and thoughts are so common and why the conundrum of management vs. relationship exists.
Five Simple Tips to Increase Our relationship Time Regardless of the Work Load
1. When you walk through a room and see one of your children, touch them on their back, arm, or shoulder. Don’t say anything. Just give a squeeze or a pat. You can do this a hundred times a day and use up only a few minutes.
I have begun using this tool with my mom. I call it‘random touch.’ Neither my mom nor I are natural touchers. I have to think about it. I make sure I hug her goodnight now. I touch her shoulder when doing her hair or sitting by her. She is beginning to hug back.
2. Havemini conversationswhile you are in the car, waiting at the doctor’s, etc. Just say something random and then listen. For example – “When I was a kid, I loved red socks.” Or, when your child makes a statement, ask a question about it. For example – “Look at the sky. Not a cloud in sight. Isn’t it beautiful?” Question – “Why do you like that?”
My husband asked my mother this very question today when she commented on the sky. He is a master at this. I am still practicing. : )
3. When a child comes and asks a question, stop what you are doing and make eye contact, smile. Then answer. If you feel interrupted, keep it to yourself. This is called ‘active listening.’
I must practice this with my mom. She will come and ask the same question repeatedly. For example, “Are we going for a drive?” “Yes, mom. In a few minutes.” Her memory is about 2 minutes long. It can be wearing answering questions, but I have learned that when I stop and look up at my mom and manage my irritation, she smiles back, feels heard, and our relationship is enhanced. Here is something else, when she smiles, my frustration lessens.
4. Havefamily reading time, even if it’s only once a week for 15 minutes. Be consistent with whatever you can do. The number of days in a week and the amount of time per session matter far less than being consistent. While reading, cuddle up. Lots of pillows and blankets.
In our family of old folks : ) we don’t cuddle up, but we do sit at the kitchen table and read. It isn’t easy. Although my mom and husband have lots of time, I do not as a full-time caregiver. Therefore, I must make this a priority. I can tell you that it does make a difference in the feeling in our home on the days we get it done.
5. Have dinner conversations no matter who spills milk, slurps their soup, or tips over their chair. You can get it going by saying, “Guess what I saw today,” or “Do you know what my boss did,” or “Hey, did anyone have anything fun happen today?” Coming back from your fifth trip to the kitchen to get something for someone – smile and say, “Guess who I saw today,” you know what to do. : )
This can be a challenge. In our home, we can eat a whole meal and not say a word. Having a conversation is something that both Don and I must think about for it to happen. Recently, I got a deck of cards with questions on them. Picking one out of the deck is helpful. LOL
Listen, I am practicing these tips just like you will have to do. It never gets easy because there is so much to manage in a family. But from experience, on the ground, ‘right now’ experience, I can promise you it is worth the effort and will go a long way in cementing your family relationships.
Don’t allow management to override your relationships!
Mary Ann Johnson | Relationship Transformations for Busy Parents, 2017