Category: Family Culture

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.

A Tasha Tudor Life

Live a Tasha
Tudor Life

Last week I wrote about the dream goals that had come to pass in my life when I wasn’t looking. : ) It was a varied list. The last item on the list was ‘Live a Tasha Tudor life.’ So, before I tell you about Tasha Tudor and what this means to me, let me tell you about the last thirteen years.

If you read last week’s article, you know I wanted to be a writer, publish a book, speak, teach, and mentor. I have accomplished all of that. But here is the caveat.

When I moved to Utah and began speaking on a broader scale, I was introduced to teachers, mentors, and peers helping others build businesses. I began to feel that writing, speaking, teaching, and mentoring required that I have a business that generated money, not just enough to pay the bills, because none of this can be done for free, but a six-figure income.

To grow, I needed contract help, if not employees. I needed access to lots of people, a list. I needed a nice car and a big home with acreage so people could see my success. I needed to lose weight and appear a certain way on stage. The list went on. I had all these things on a vision board so that I could visualize my business and personal growth every day.

As I moved along, working to become successful, guess where I ended up? Burnout! My enthusiasm waned drastically. I was stuck in inertia. The two things that kept me afloat during this time were the book I was writing, remember, I always wanted to write and publish a book, and my desire to impact others’ lives for good through writing, speaking, teaching, and mentoring.

I couldn’t shake this thought that weighed on my mind – because I hadn’t been successful in creating a big money-generating business, I was a failure after almost ten years of trying. But then, while mentoring a mom in August of 2020, I realized that I had been chasing the wrong dream goal! As I talked to her about her desires, I saw the goal I had accomplished and hadn’t even recognized in my mind’s eye. Building a large and successful business was not in harmony with the thing I had planted deep in my heart decades before.

A few years before writing my book, we moved into our daughter Jodie’s basement so that we could assist in caring for our special needs granddaughter. We had no large house, no fine car, no big estate. Then we all moved to a small town in northern Utah, on an acre of land, with a handicapped-accessible home built in the 60s. We had chickens, dogs, cats, fruit trees and berry bushes, and a garden. We were a four-generation household in two separate spaces, but it wasn’t the big house on a large acreage on my vision board.

This Could Be The Place!

One day as I was staring out at the pasture, this distinct thought came to my mind, “This could be the place.” I didn’t get it. I thought, “OK, I don’t have the big house, but I have acreage with blackberry bushes and fruit trees. It’s something.”

But as I spoke with my mentee almost two years later, I realized that I had gotten the thing I had held in my heart for decades – a Tasha Tudor life.

I read about this author-artist when I lived in MT, speaking and teaching for the Girls Scouts, community education classes, and the schools. Tasha Tudor was an author of children’s books, an illustrator, and an artist who is as beloved today as she was in her time. I have read many of her books to my children.

Tasha loved the land and enjoyed working it, growing things, and harvesting. She cared for chickens, a dog, cows, and goats. When Tasha was sixty, she moved to a small cottage. She had berry bushes and fruit trees, and people came to drink tea and visit because she was wise.

When I read the description of her life and accomplishments all those years ago, it spoke to my heart, and I said to myself, “That is what I want when I am old. I want to have lived a successful life and to have impacted many people for good. I want a place to garden, a place to walk barefoot, a place to visit with friends, and a place to share what I have learned. I want to write for adults and kids. I want to paint.”

Today, I live in a cottage-sized home on a beautiful property with a garden, berry bushes, and fruit trees. I care for people that I love. I mentor women. I share what I have learned. I write, and people read what I write, and they let me know that it has helped them. I have written and published a book. I am sure I will write and publish others, and some will be for children; the kind of books I wrote for myself when I was eight and began. I have dabbled in painting. I’m not very good, but my kids love my work. Friends come to visit, and we sit in the backyard and talk about life.

I garden, bottle, and dry vegetables and fruit. I drink herb tea and sit in the sun when I can. : ) I walk barefoot in the grass. I have created a Tasha Tudor life, and I didn’t recognize it for a few years. It doesn’t look at all like what I thought I was supposed to want, what the results of writing, speaking, teaching, and mentoring should look like.

Some of my peers think I am running away from my dreams, but I realized that I was fighting for the wrong dream. I was working for a goal that others wanted.

I now know that I wasn’t a successful businessperson because I didn’t want a business. I was not fond of the stress, work, and worry. I didn’t even want a six-figure income. I just wanted a small and comfortable space. I wanted a garden and berry bushes. I wanted to write. I wanted to be available to those who needed me. I wanted a sufficient income with some to spare for others. I desired to walk barefoot in the grass. I wanted to be grounded to the earth.

And here is my message – are you clear about what you want?

In our day, there are so many voices shouting that we can have it all, a career, a successful business, a fabulous family, and on and on. There is so much written about parenting, how it should be done, what it should look like, and how you should be and feel. You, like I, can get lost in all the words.

As a woman, you need to be clear about your dream goals and what you want, not what the world says you should want. As a parent, you need to ‘see’ how you want to parent, what you want your family to look and feel like.

There are many ways to do a thing right. This goes for parenting. Your way doesn’t have to look like my way or the newest bestseller’s way. It needs to be what works for you and your family. If you lack the resources to accomplish that, they are out there. If you need healing to do a better job of what you want, you can find it. I know because I have had to get clarity for myself. I have had to let go of baggage. I have had to sift through the noise.

I am not saying that it isn’t a wonderful thing to have a successful, six-figure business. I am not saying we shouldn’t have careers. I am not saying we can’t get parenting clarity in a book. I am saying that it is vital to know what it is you want so that you don’t waste years and your precious energy working for something that is someone else’s goal.

I still have a vision board. There isn’t a house or car on it. There aren’t any fancy trips, clothes, or jewelry. My vision for the future is about ways of being that matter to me because that is where I am at this point in my seventy-two years of life. What matters has changed! When I take something off my vision board, I feel great satisfaction knowing it was energy well spent.

Would I like to make money writing, teaching, and mentoring right here in my Tasha Tudor life? Sure. Do I want a business? No. Can I have the one without the other? Yup. Tasha did, and so can I : )

Get clear on what you really want, and then move forward! 

To Waste or Not to Waste – That Is The Question

A mother asked me how I handled it when my children wanted to make something that I knew wouldn’t be used after it was created. How did I feel about the waste of resources and the mess that would be left? That is a great question. In fact, this same question comes up often when I am working with moms, and I have put some thought into it and decided that an even better question would be:

“How do we determine when materials are being well used and when are they being wasted and if the mess will be worth it?”

When my youngest daughter Kate was seven, she and a friend created a boat out of an old wooden crate. They spent a few days on it and used a lot of paint, brushes, nails, and other materials. When they were finished, they had a creation that delighted them. They played in that boat all summer. But it did require a fair amount of resources and when seven-year-olds paint and hammer, there will be a mess. 

When my grandson, Jack, was seven he created a robot out of a piece of plywood, tin foil, empty paper roll tubes, and tons of glue, expensive ‘real sticky glue’ as he called it. It turned out spectacularly, but it didn’t have any use. It was too big and not sturdy enough to hang on a wall. It lay on the concrete at the bottom of the back steps to be admired by the whole family until it rained. Then all the pieces were gathered up by an adult and taken to the dump.

Both children learned a lot from their experiences. They utilized skills they would need to hone to become well-rounded adults.  Here are some skills they had to use to make their creations.
They need a vision
It took initiative
They had to bring the vision to life
They needed to gather the needed materials
They had to problem solve
They worked independently
They had to decide when to ask for help and what help they need

These important skills, which they were able to practice, made the use of the materials perfect and justified the mess in my mind. Seriously. : )

Today, let’s explore one of the reasons why parents have so much trouble letting their kids waste, i.e. create, with paper, glue, paint, and so forth, and why it’s tough to face the clean-up afterward.

Adults are End-Product Driven while Children are Process Driven

The end product is what matters to adults, how it looks, and its usefulness. To children, it is all about the process. Children care about how it feels to create. They aren’t as concerned with the usefulness of the finished project or in fact, how ‘perfect’ it looks. They don’t worry about the mess they are making because they are so caught up in the creative process.

Because you care about the end product, you will be viewing your children’s activities through those lensesunless, of course, you will consciously take those glasses off and see what your children see.

Don’t manage your children’s efforts in an attempt to make the project turn out the way you think it should. Don’t worry so much about waste or mess. Think instead of what your children are gaining while creating. 

When you decide to see your children’s projects differently, you will better evaluate the ‘correct’ use of materials. It will be more about them and less about you.

In our communities, we could use a few more adults who aren’t afraid to turn their dreams into reality because they spent their childhood doing it.

What Does it Take to Have Our ducks in a Row?

I love working with moms.

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.

The Most Important End Product – Relationship and Memory

This month my grandson, Ben, turns 10.

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 projects as often as possible. We can’t every time, but we can more often. The effort we make will improve our relationships

It isn’t always easy but it is simple.

Think about your child and

let the project be secondary.

Be Careful of Expectations

Majestic

I knew a BIG black dog named Majestic. He belonged to my friend Cathy. I am sure that in his prime, he was majestic. But when I knew him, he was far along in age and had begun to slow down…a lot! His hips hurt, and his eyesight had gone.

Majestic could no longer run freely and chase balls. He frequently bumped into furniture if someone moved it. If you came into the room and walked towards him, Majestic would stagger to his feet and try to get out of your way, not sure which way to go. He couldn’t wrestle with the kids anymore.

You would think that this once-majestic dog would have been miserable. But he wasn’t. In fact, Majestic wasn’t sad at all. Instead, Majestic was glad to be alive. He was open to sniffing your hand, getting a pat or two, and sleeping in the sun. He was grateful for every good thing and seemed to take the bad in stride.

When Majestic passed away, I thought a lot about his acceptance of his life. How could a once energetic and magnificent dog be happy with where his life had taken him – to aching hips and blind eyes? I have concluded that it has to do with expectations. Majestic didn’t have any. He lived in the present, cared about his relationship with ‘his people,’ and took things as they came.

I have noticed that my expectations are the thing that gets me into the most trouble. If what I think should happen doesn’t, I have a hard time enjoying what is.

Examples of Expectations Gone Awry

Here are some perfect examples of what I am talking about. A friend of mine took her family of three boys, ages 9, 6, and 3, on a road trip. They were finishing up a year’s study of minerals and rocks. During that year, the family had terrific experiences. This trip was going to cap it off perfectly. She knew just how it was going to go.

A few weeks later, she gave me a call. I asked her how the trip went, and she said, “Well, it was OK, but it didn’t turn out as well as I hoped.” So, I asked her what went wrong, and she told me all the things that they didn’t get to do.

I then asked her to tell me what they did do. They went to a dinosaur dig and had a fun day. They sang a ton of songs in their van as they traveled. They had great conversations about how the earth was created and what space is like. They dug for gems one afternoon.

“My goodness,” I replied, “there are mothers out there who would give anything for a week like that with their kids.” There was a pause on the other end of the line, and then she said, “Your right. I guess it was a pretty good trip after all. I hadn’t thought about it that way.”

Another mom was telling me about their failed home school day. She described the project she had planned for her kids. The finished product didn’t turn out very well, in her opinion. I asked her if they had fun and learned things. She said yes, but she wished the end product had turned out better.

This mom missed the point of doing the project with her children – to be present with them, connect and have fun and learn a little. But, as far as I could see, and in fact what her kids saw, it was a great home school day, and the project was enjoyable.

Just the Opposite!

Another friend and her children worked in their garden all day long. It was coming along beautifully as they dug and planted seeds. When mom wasn’t paying attention, the water got turned on and was on for some time. The garden was ruined. This mom could have said to herself or her kids, “What a waste of a day!” But she didn’t. She was grateful for the fun time they spent together, and she told me it was a day they won’t soon forget, even if they must redo it.

The Difference Between Adults and Children

Adults care about the product or outcome. This sets us up for frustration, disappointment, and sometimes anger when things don’t go as planned. Kids, on the other hand, care about the process. They are interested in what they are doing and learning. They like the paint’s feel, the clay’s denseness, the cool dirt in the garden. They want laughter and mini-conversations.

The outcome will always matter to adults, but when you’re with your child, make the mental shift from the result to the process. Let your preconceived expectations go. If you can keep your mind on the child and the joy they’re experiencing, you’ll have a far different experience. This is true in organizing, playing, working, taking a hike, going on vacation, shopping, gardening, whatever.

I understand this comment by the motivational speaker Dan Clark: “Begin with the why in mind rather than the end in mind.” I love his statement because when adults adopt this attitude, our kids and we have more fun and satisfaction in just about everything we do together. Rather than focusing on how it turns out, we focus on the child. Our expectation becomes the relationship.

Remember why you’re going for a family trip, why you’re letting the kids help you paint, why you’re planting a garden together. Remember, the purpose for just about everything you do in your family is to build relationships. So, link your satisfaction to your ability to enjoy what is with your family even when it falls short of your expectations.

Time with Our Kids Is What Matters Most

Time spent isn’t just worthwhile if everything goes well. All the time we spend with our children matters, both in the good times and not-so-good times.

And there it is. We sometimes suck the joy right out of an activity, a family trip, a child-parent moment because it wasn’t what we had in our mind; it didn’t stand up to our expectations. Keep expectations from getting in the way of enjoying your family. Keep the perfect from becoming the enemy of the good. Let go of expectations and be Present!

Who do you know that has trouble with expectations? Help them out. : ) 

Your Goals are Inside You!

I want to share a remarkable experience and a dear friend with you. I got an email from Livia Pewtress asking me to take a test online to see my mindset quotient. I don’t do much of this type of thing anymore, as full-time caregiving doesn’t leave much space in my life. So, I almost hit delete but had a feeling I should take the test.

Then I discovered that this test would lead to a call to talk about the results—all free. I wasn’t overjoyed about this, again, a time thing. But Livia is a good friend and an intelligent woman, so we booked a call. I took the test, and we spoke on the phone.

She helped me understand the results, and frankly, they made my day. I have gotten better at a few things that matter to me in my way of being! Then she began asking about my goals. I haven’t even thought about goals for over three years. BUT I was surprised – I had some very concrete goals – mentally, spiritually, physically.

Then Livia asked what was holding me back from accomplishing some of these things. The answer was the same in every case –

I can’t seem to find a space for myself on the list.

 

And there is the rub for most of us. We can’t seem to get ourselves on the list. I have self-care systems – reading in the bathroom, a hot shower before bed, meditating most mornings. But what I don’t have is a sound system for learning, growing, thinking, taking classes, making plans, being time organized, etc.

I have been giving this some serious thought. The first thing I did was record the goals I have for the next couple of years that came out so easily when Livia asked me about them. I typed them out and taped them inside the front cover of my gratitude journal so that I see and review them each day.

I created my ‘God – To-Do List’ on the back cover. These are a few things that I have no idea how they will come to pass without help and intervention of the Lord. They are BIG. I don’t worry about them at all, but I do look at them weekly, and I send my prayers for assistance heavenward. The amazing thing is that this week I was given a thought on moving forward with one of them. How cool is that!

Ok, so now I have a clearer idea of what I want to accomplish in the next couple of years, but how do I find time to do any of the work? Some are simple because they are a matter of daily practice, like giving my mom more random touches and not judging my husband and his health decisions. But others are far more challenging because they require a time commitment, and when time is at a premium, well, those commitments are hard to make and keep.

For example, one of my goals is to write for thirty minutes daily so that I am not trying to put an article, newsletter, and podcast together at the last minute. I have been experimenting with how to make this work. Unfortunately for me, I have only found one thing so far that works – I must get up earlier. Don’t you hate that!? Me too, but I get my writing done when I do it. Today, for example, I got up at 6 am, and I was able to format my article on the website. I had gotten up early a day ago and got it written.

Of course, it is still a work in progress because sometimes I have to get Maggie ready for school, at 5:15, and there is no time to write. I still have not developed a consistent plan, and consistency is the key to success. Part of the reason I am not yet consistent is that I haven’t picked a consistent get-up time. I haven’t wanted to because I know it will take more of a commitment than I feel able to make right now.

When I was writing my book, I got up six days a week, for six months, at 4 am. Oh man, that was hard, but the consistency is what got the book written. This is the kind of commitment it will take to get 30 minutes of writing time in every day!

As you can see I am still in the experimental stage, and I am also a bit resistant to what I know I need to do. : ) And that is how it goes. First, we look at what we want to accomplish and determine what would make it happen. Then we must honestly tell ourselves what we are willing to do and what we won’t do. Then we begin experimenting and adjusting. It feels messy.

There is another goal I have been experimenting and struggling with – thinking about food so that I prepare what my husband needs to eat. I am so disinterested in food that this is a toughie for me. BUT I have come up with a system that is working for now, although I know it needs some revision. And an interesting caveat to this is that one of my goals is to give away 20 pounds and free up some energy. I don’t even have to think about how to do that. Helping Don is moving me in that direction!

Then there are the two courses I bought and want to finish and a recording of my singing. I don’t know how to make those happen yet, and I am not even thinking about them because I am still working on getting systems that work for writing and meals. Remember that 1% rule. LOL

I didn’t write this article to give you some stellar ideas on how to get your goals accomplished. It was written to show you that everyone struggles with this. There is no EASY when it comes to having goals and making them happen. It is a process.

Here are some takeaways that I hope will be helpful for you busy moms and dads.

•Think about what you would like to see happen in your life in the next year or two. A family vacation. A new job. Taking a class or finishing one. Reading a specific book. Being kinder, more charitable. Whatever. Your goals do not have to be earthshaking, just clear. Write them down!
•Pick one and work on that. What is required? How can you begin? Do you need a system or just a commitment to consistency? What personal changes are needed and so forth?
•Then move. Do something. Experiment. It may feel messy. You may try and fail and try and fail. The try part is what matters.
•If you need help, get it. Wise people seek wise help.
•Never quit. If you are consistent and keep going, you will be successful. I am counting on that. I have
experienced that. It took me over ten years to stop yelling! : )

This is what was most hopeful and helpful from my call with Livia. I didn’t know that in all the chaos of learning how to care give the last three years, I had any goals floating around in my head. In fact, not only were they there, but they were concrete. I knew them and, when asked, was able to say them out loud.

Maybe you have a new baby, and your life has been upended. Perhaps you have moved to a new state, or you or your spouse has gone back to school. Maybe your job has gone away. Maybe you or someone you love has been ill for a while. Possibly your workload has changed, gotten heavier. Perhaps you have a house full of kids under twelve or a house full of teens and preteens.

All these things can throw you into a state of chaos and the unawareness that I was in. But you don’t have to stay there. No matter how chaotic and unfamiliar your present life is, you can ferret out your goals because they are there, inside you! Write them down, pick one and begin moving.

If I can do this, you can do this!

Christmas Past – A Gift of Charity

I wrote this true short story many decades ago for my parents, for Christmas. I was working on letting them know how much I appreciated all they had given me despite the lacks in my family of origin. Isn’t that how it is in most families. Our parents can only bring to their parenting what they have and they add to their skills as they go. Being the first child, I experienced some of those lacks but as I grew, I also saw my parents grow. Anyway, I wanted them to know how grateful I was.

I posted it on my old website way back in 2011. I can’t believe that ten years have gone by! I wouldn’t have thought to repost it this year except for an unusual happening.  I was asked to submit a Christmas story for an anthology, which I did. I submitted this story.

I have to say that it doesn’t match most of the stories in  Tis the Season: A Christmas Survival Guide. The stories are not the magical kind we usually read about but are filled with tales of the chaos and sometimes hurt that accompanies the holiday for many. I don’t know why my story was chosen as it is peaceful and loving. It is also the final story in the book. I suppose it was becuase I ended it with ‘Merry Christmas.’ : )

At any rate, it caused me to think again about this family happening and my parents who were doing their very best for me and my siblings. I thought it might bring some treasured Christmas memories to your mind at this season of family and Christ. I hope you enjoy the read, the heart, and the generosity of both parent and child.

Christmas Past – A Gift of Charity

A true short story, written by Mary Ann Johnson years ago when her children were young, and she was remembering.

black and white photo of little girl smiling
Mary Ann, almost five, see the buttons!

THE HEATER MADE a steady hum as it singed the small bits of pine I had placed on top. I’d never seen a heater like it until we moved into the new house. It was brown, shiny, and huge. It wasn’t as homey as Grandma’s Ben Franklin, but it was warm and didn’t create clinkers, for which I was grateful. The pine was Mother’s idea. She liked the smell the needles gave off as they slowly turned brown.

I was five years old, and Idaho Falls was cold and windy. Inside, it was warm and cozy. There were six of us, and the house was small. I saw it years later and small was a generous word for it. At the time, it seemed perfect.

Christmas was coming, and as always during that season, the sewing machine was humming away. Pieces of black velvet and red taffeta littered the floor. I noticed the buttons first, the most beautiful buttons in the world, shiny white with rhinestone centers. Those buttons were a treasure sewn on a cardboard square. I would have paid at least a quarter for them, a vast sum hidden away in my bank.

But the buttons weren’t for sale. They were going onto elegant dresses that my sisters and I watched take shape until I could hold back my curiosity no longer.

woman smiling picture
NaVon, our mom, a mere 23 years old.

“Mom, are the dresses for us? Can we wear them?”

“No,” she replied.

Who else would they be for?

With patience, mom explained that there was a family who needed help making Christmas special. We had so much, she said. She ticked our blessings off on her fingers. I remember the empty feeling in the pit of my stomach. I had never had a beautiful dress like that, never a dress with buttons that shone like stars.

As the days passed, the emptiness in my stomach was being filled, for as my mother sewed, she poured into me a feeling of gratitude for blessings received and a spirit of giving. She made me a co-conspirator. I cared for the baby, played quietly, and picked up those lovely scraps so she could continue to sew.

Soon the dresses were finished and gone. The gifts of love had been delivered. Then my mother began pouring charity into the empty place that the actual departure of the dresses left.

“Now girls, when we go to church, you’ll see those dresses on three other little girls. Don’t say a word. We want them to feel happy and proud. This is our special Christmas secret. Remember that it’s important for people to have dignity and be happy.”

We three, Cindy, Shirley, and I, turned our young faces to her and beamed. We trusted the words of our mother. We knew we could keep the secret. I had a feeling of joy in my stomach. Emptiness no longer lingered there.

Christmas night was torture. Every child has felt the pangs of anxiety: will the doll be there, the train, the blocks? Every child has felt the excitement. How can I wait? How can I sleep? Sleep stayed away for a long time.

It was still dark when we raced to Mom and Dad’s room. They arose slowly—too slowly! — finding slippers and waking the baby. Then there was the interminable wait as Dad lit the tree and turned up the heat. Finally, we were free to run pell-mell into an ecstasy that would last all day.

three sisters smiling picture
Shirley Kay, Cindy Lu, Mary Ann

What? I stopped short. There they were among the gifts: those buttons attached to black velvet and red taffeta dresses. What a surprise and joy.

As I sailed into church later that day, I was wearing a prized gift, but the most precious Christmas gift I received that season was carried in my heart: gratitude for what I had, the love of sharing, and charity for others. This gift, given to me by my mother so many Christmases ago, has made all the difference in the quality of my life. Thanks, Mom!

Also, a thank you to my dad, who is now gone. He made wonderful toys with his own hands. We had them for many, many years, and they delighted all nine of us children.

baby cribs picture                  cupboard pictures                 toy horse picture

Merry Christmas!

I Hit My Daughter. WHAT!!

A while back, I began thinking I needed to tackle the tough things I learned as a mom. But I have put it off. How do you talk about the tough stuff? I have given it a lot of thought. I know this is a direction I should go. I have wondered why. Maybe because times are hard right now, and I feel sure some struggling parents out there need to know that even very imperfect people can and do raise beautiful and successful families. So I will give it a go, and if I survive and you survive, I will know it was the correct move. : )

At one time, we had one child just out of high school, three younger teens, and one pre-teen. That is a lot of hormones! Some of those kids were struggling in school and life. We weren’t getting much support from the school, community, or our church family. In fact, a couple of my children were shunned by families at church whose children they had played with for years. I guess our struggles were too scary for some of the parents we had spent a few decades with.

All that put me on edge. I felt like a failure, and I was mad. I wanted my family to look and feel like it had just a few years earlier and like my friends’ families looked. It was challenging to stay up until all the kids were back in the house and then get up in the morning and function. It was tough when a child didn’t come home, and I searched for them late into the night. It didn’t help that my sweet and worried husband was on the road five days a week for some of those years. Man, some days, I felt like I carried the weight of the world.

One afternoon one of my younger teens was mouthing off. I tried reasoning with her. She began hollering and talking very rudely. The tirade went on for a while, and finally, I hit her in the shoulder with my fist. WHAT!!! What kind of mother does that? Well, the kind I just described in the paragraph above. My daughter ran to her room and slammed the door. I fell to my knees and wept.

While I was weeping, I began to pray. I plead with my Heavenly Father to forgive me for not managing myself like an adult, for not being more long-suffering and loving. In my heart, I knew that I could never fix this. I had done irreparable damage to this important relationship.

But WAIT! Into my mind came this thought, “Go and put lotion on her feet.” You’re kidding, right? I had NEVER done that before. But it was a clear thought, and I have had many experiences calling on a power greater than myself. I knew what it felt like to get a response, and this was a response from that power.

I got up and walked down the hall. I felt as if I had lead weights on my ankles. That was the longest walk of my life! I was afraid because I didn’t want to be yelled at or rejected or pushed to the edge again. I couldn’t see how this could work. Not in a million years. I had just socked my fourteen-year-old daughter with my fist.

I have to be honest; I stood at that door, petrified to knock for over five minutes with a bottle of lotion in my hand. But I did knock. “Who is it?” “It’s mom. Can I come in?” “Yes.” I opened the door and sat on the bed. My daughter was sitting with her back against the wall, and her feet were stretched across the bed. I reached out, took one of her feet into my hands, and began to rub lotion on it. I rubbed that foot for at least three minutes. Then my daughter moved that foot away and gave me her other foot. I began lotioning that foot. We sat like this, with me rubbing her feet and she leaning against the wall, watching me.

Finally, she pulled her foot away. I looked at her and said, “Marie, I am so sorry I hit you. It was wrong, and I am sorry.” She said, “That’s OK.” Then she began talking, and before I knew it, all her anger, sadness, fears, and worries were spilling out. She was accusing Don and me of things, describing things in a way that was not how they happened. I wanted to defend us, her parents. I wanted her to understand what she didn’t see clearly, but in truth, my tongue was tied. I couldn’t utter a sound, and after a few minutes, I no longer wanted to. I wanted this sweet child to be able to say whatever she needed to say, right or wrong. I wanted her to know that she was safe with me. The tirade went on for at least fifteen minutes.

Then it stopped, just stopped. Marie looked at me, and I took her into my arms and said, “Marie, I am sorry. I love you.” And I was sorry. I was sad that I had not remained in control of my emotions, that she had angry feelings. I was sorry that she had stored so much emotion. I was sorrowful that my sweet daughter was struggling. She leaned into me, and I held her for a long time. Then we parted. I got up, touched her cheek, said “I love you” again, and left the room.

You would never have known I had hit her or that she had dumped on me for fifteen minutes. The energy was different for the rest of the evening. We smiled. It felt good. Oh, life didn’t get easier for our family or this child for a good while. But for that day and a few after, we were tied heart to heart.

This experience taught me two critical lessons 

1. You can repair relationships. I saw firsthand that you can heal a relationship when you are invested and are willing to seek counsel outside of your own. For me, it was asking God. Others ask a counselor or therapist. When we want to heal a relationship with a child, and we are willing to seek a way, solutions come.

2. You must listen. Even if you want to defend yourself or feel it’s not true, you must be quiet and let your child know that you heard. More than rubbing Marie’s feet, I think it was the safety I gave her to say what was burdening her heart, true or not, that made all the difference. Despite my socking her, she saw and felt that I was a safe place for her. I know this is true because Marie would come to me for counsel, help, and hugs during the hard years.

One day, while she was still struggling herself, and we had other struggling children, I found a note. Marie had written it because she knew how hard it was for me, Don, and our family. She wanted to do for me what I had done for her on that long-ago day when I reached out to heal a relationship. She wanted to help me feel better.

An excerpt from that beautiful letter:

“You’re doing everything you can to try and make our home and family what it should be. I wanted to let you in on a secret of mine. Our house is a temple. I love my home. I come here for protection and solace. This place is a haven, a place for love and spiritual replenishment. When times are the worst, I long to be home where there’s peace for my soul. No mother. Your efforts are far from in vain! I wanted you to know how much I love you and how much I love my home.”

No matter what is happening in your family, if you stay the course, ask for help from divine and earthly sources and believe that meaningful relationships can be healed, it will be enough no matter how bumpy the road is.

It will be enough!

Experiments to Improve Family Relationships

Experiments to Improve Family Relationships

 

A few years ago, I mentored a mom who has four children. I had known this woman for a while, and we were friends. She is a great mom and a wonderful person. At one of our sessions, we talked about her relationship with her 17-year-old daughter.

My friend was answering some thoughtful questions about “how” she is when she is with her daughter. She realized that she was often too critical and that their conversations were usually about chores and schoolwork even though her daughter has things she wants to share. The seventeen-year-old wanted to talk with her mom but she didn’t seem to know when the time was right. She chose to share when her mom was working, getting ready to go somewhere, or helping another child. They wanted to spend more time together, but they were both often tired and on edge. To avoid blow-ups they avoided each other.

Experimenting With Making a Change

When mentoring I often ask my client to pick one or two things that they would most like to see changed in the relationship with someone that matters to them. Then I ask them to come up with an experiment to see what might happen to the relationship.

I love experiments because they are just that, experiments. They are designed for the purpose of seeing if you can get a certain result by doing something new or different. Sometimes the experiment is successful and sometimes it isn’t. When you don’t get the desired result, you just design a new experiment. No failure here.

This mom came up with an experiment to increase the time she and her daughter spent talking and to decrease the time they feel tired and at odds with one another.

I want you to remember that this girl is 17, almost 18 years old. I work mostly with children from infancy to 12 or 13. Nevertheless, the mom tried using a connection technique that I teach all the time to use with children. For one week she was going to give her daughter as many random touches as she could remember.

A random touch looks like this:

• As you walk past the child you reach out and touch them in a friendly way while smiling. No conversation is necessary.
• If you see a child sitting on the couch, a bed, or any place like that, you plop down by them, lean back, and rest for 10 to 30 seconds. Then you squeeze a knee or pat a shoulder and go on your way. No conversation is necessary.

The Result of the Experiment

Here is what came out of the experiment. The relationship felt better. They spent more time together even when tired. Mom was more aware. The daughter talked and mom listened more. My friend and client said that looking at the relationship and asking questions about it helped her to be more conscientious about the fact that the relationship was more important than the management part of parenting. She also said she felt more purposeful in the relationship. She was keenly aware of what she wanted the relationship with her daughter to look and feel like.

After a few weeks of the experiment, she and her daughter had four weeks left of life as they had known it. Her daughter was graduating and moving into a new phase of life. She was leaving home to work for the summer. She and her mom decided to go to lunch once a week for the final four weeks. They were really looking forward to it despite being at odds just a few weeks earlier.

In a family, relationships trump just about everything else. How we see people matters. Our stories about them and their behavior impact how we, as adults, treat them. It doesn’t take much to “shift” a relationship into calmer and more peaceful waters. I like to remember that it isn’t the big things that make relationships firm and comfortable. It is the small and simple things we do on a consistent basis.

Questions To Ask About Your Relationship with Your Child

Here are a few questions that you can ask yourself about the relationship you have with each of your children:

• What is the primary conversation you have with the child? What are you talking about?
• What is the energy/mood between the two of you most of the time?
• What assets does the child bring to the relationship?
• Are there behaviors that block the relationship?
• What are you tolerating in the relationship? A toleration is anything that is draining your energy.

Now design an experiment to try something new. Remember that it is an experiment. You don’t know how it will turn out and that is OK. If you don’t get the result you want, design a new experiment. Like any good scientist, you will eventually find what works!

Share this exciting information with those you care about. Not everyone knows they can experiment.