Category: featured

A Gift for You – The Week Before Christmas Packet

Christmas is just around the corner.

It’s a joyous holiday celebrated around the world by both Christians and non-Christians. It’s a time to celebrate family, friendships and for Christians, Christ. It’s filled with parties, gift-giving, food, and fun. BUT it can be exhausting!

If you’re like me, you’ve had Christmases that when all was said and done, felt disappointing. Oh, the gifts were good, and you got everything on your to-do list done but something was missing. After a few decades of thinking about that after-Christmas feeling, I know what it is for me. I didn’t spend enough downtime with my family, I failed to connect heart to heart and laugh to laugh. I was just too busy.

When I pinned this down for myself, I thought, “I bet I’m not the only person out there who feels this way.” So, I compiled a packet of simple, inexpensive and family-centered activities to help myself and others spend some quality time together at Christmas. I combed the Internet and gathered information and links so you wouldn’t have to. You can print the PDF HERE.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful to spend five, six or even seven quiet evenings with just you and your family celebrating this remarkably joyous season? I’m with you, it would. We can make that happen by cleaning out our calendar and making a commitment to do it.

When I first put this together I tried it out. I had a few of my grands over and we did two of the activities. We made donut snowmen and donut reindeer. We learned that frosting and candies do not stick on powdered donuts very easily! We learned that if you don’t keep an eye on them, the noses will disappear from the snowmen’s faces. (Jack was that you?)

We learned that working on the floor is perfect, as the mess is right where you can sit in it easily! We learned that cutting pretzels for antlers is not as easy as it looks and if you don’t do it right you have ears. Reindeer look very funny with ear-shaped antlers. We learned that we love working together and that the whole project only took about 20 minutes. Then we ate!

Here’s to spending time as a family, calming the craziness, celebrating together and gearing up for a fabulous 2020. You can print the PDF HERE.

With holiday wishes for joy,
Mary Ann Johnson

Why not share this with someone

you care about. : ) 

Help Kids Give Christmas from the Heart

Kids LOVE making Christmas gifts. Helping them can seem overwhelming during this very busy season. However, with a bit of thought and time, you can help your children give gifts from the heart.

When I had two children left at home, ages five and eleven, we decided to make Christmas gifts. We had set some guidelines:

 

  • They had to be usable and worth giving
  • They couldn’t cost a lot of money
  • The child had to be able to make it with minimal help

This was before every home had a computer! What I had instead was a butter-colored, six drawer file cabinet which was filled with things I had collected over a lifetime of teaching children. We searched through files marked Christmas, gifts, sewing, patterns, and so forth until we found the perfect items.

My son, who was eleven, chose to make footstools for his grandparents and dad. I took him to the lumber yard, and he asked scraps and they gave them to him. I took him to the local upholstery shop, and he asked for scraps which they gave to him. In other words, I let my children choose the gifts, helped them gather the supplies for the gifts and then assisted when they needed me in making the gifts. But these gifts really did come from them.

The following ideas are simple, inexpensive and your children will need minimal help. But the satisfaction of giving a gift from the heart will be priceless.

Gifts Kids Can Make for Christmas

1. Make a book for a toddler. Get a small photo album and have your older child print pictures from the Internet or they can draw simple objects. Glue the picture to a piece of heavy paper or poster board which has been cut to fit. Label the item, write a short sentence or paragraph for a story.
2. Write a story for a parent or grandparent. Buy a small notebook with unlined paper or put some plain paper into a folder. Have your child write a story and then illustrate it. If your child is new to writing, you can write their story for them on the pages they have illustrated. Part of the fun with younger children is helping them come up with a story while you write. This can make for wonderfully funny and warm moments together. My Kate, when she was small, wrote two stories that I still have. One was called The Golden Tear and was a fantasy. The other was called “Glass Is Not Cement” a hilarious story of a real experience that she had. (She used an aquarium for a step stool!)
3. Another great gift idea that an older child can make is a Quiet Book. We have made these, and they are just plain fun. This also works well as a project for a whole family. Each member of the family makes one page for the book. Here is a wonderful site that has some darling free templates.
4. Bookmarks. Over the years we have made many, many bookmarks. If you google bookmarks for kids to make and hit images, you will find more ideas than you can shake a stick at! Here is one easy idea.
5. Decorated Wooden Spoon. Here is a gift that I saw on TJEDMUSE, suggested by Debbie. I thought it was a wonderful idea. When I was young, about 11 or 12, I got a wood-burning kit for Christmas and I loved it. Choose a wooden kitchen implement such as a spoon or rolling pin. Use the wood burner to inscribe an inspirational word or picture. If you choose something like a spoon you can turn it into a great wall decoration by adding ribbon and silk flowers to the handle and then hot gluing a hanger on the back of the handle.

6. One year we made corn/rice warmers for our friends. I still have mine. I store it under the head of my bed for cold nights. I just pop it into the microwave for a minute and voila warmth. Because I had children making these, they were very simple. We cut squares from flannel about 9X9. We sewed up three and ½ sides filled them with feed corn which I bought. Rice works just as well. Then we hand sewed the opening shut. I was able to teach my kids how to use the sewing machine and how to sew with a needle and thread. Just a note – When I was teaching my 5-year-old to use the sewing machine I stood behind her and ran the pedal with my foot. I helped her push the material through the feed dog and keep it straight. It worked well and as far as she was concerned, she had done the sewing!


7. Old Fashioned Sugar Cookies. I know, I know, everyone gets cookied to death at Christmas. However, my children loved making them. This is a whole afternoon project or two short afternoons. Kids make the cookie dough, roll it out, bake the cookies and then decorate them. The recipe that I am giving you is very old and uses far more flour than sugar, so they are perfect for frosting. When kids are frosting cookies, it is a messy business and never looks beautiful the way you would do it. But please, don’t help them too much or fix their cookies. What we like to do is let the cookies sit for a couple of hours uncovered so the frosting crusts up a bit. Then we put them in freezer bags and write “A Christmas Gift for New Year’s Eve – please freeze” on the bag. Add a bow and maybe a couple of hot chocolate packets. What a great gift!

Old Fashioned Sugar Cookies
2 c sugar 7 c flour
1 c shortening ½ tsp salt
2 eggs 1 tsp soda
1 tsp vanilla ½ c evaporated milk (plain milk works but canned makes the flavor so yummy!)

Cream the sugar and shortening. Add eggs, vanilla, salt, and soda. Mix well. Add flour and milk alternately. I always end up mixing with my hands. It works so much better! The dough must be just stiff enough to roll out and handle nicely. Flour your table before you roll it out. It also helps to dip your cutter into the flour before cutting the dough. Bake at 375 degrees for about 8-10 minutes. The longer baked, the crisper, the shorter baked, softer.

Merry Christmas and

happy gift making. : )

By the way, if you love candy, frosting and graham crackers why not tackle a village of small gingerbread houses. It is a fabulous family activity? It’s fun and the way I help kids do it, it’s as easy as pie!! Sounds too hard? Try making a passel of old fashioned gingerbread men. They are delicious and simple.

Why not share this with someone

you care about. : ) 

Do You Undermine Your Growth and Success

Recently, I taught a class on consistency. I have taught this topic many times and have written about it often. I gave the class some tips on how to work toward being more consistent. However, this year I added a new tip that I have learned the hard way over the last couple of years. It applies to more than just remaining consistent. It applies to every change we want to make or promise we want to keep.

It’s a challenge to commit to something new or to make a change. But when we resent and blame others it saps the energy needed for follow-through. When we’re mired in resentment and blame it undermines our personal growth and success.

A Real-Life Example

I get up early and my husband sleeps in. He’s retired and doesn’t need to get up early, so he doesn’t.

I, on the other hand, have decided through experimentation that when I get up earlier my life feels better. I accomplish more, which matters to me. So, I made a commitment to get up at 5am. I sometimes felt resentful that Don slept in. I felt resentful that he could stay up later.

Often when I woke up, I wanted to sleep longer, and I had to force myself out of bed. I would look at my husband and feel resentment that I had to toe the line, do this hard thing and he didn’t. How unfair. When I let myself tell that story it became very hard to get out of bed and stay out.

If I did go back to bed, when I got up, I would feel terrible because I hadn’t kept my promise to myself. So, I would blame Don. After all, if he wasn’t in bed I would have gotten up. It was his fault. “Why can’t he get up early too and then it would be easier for me.”

This type of thing happens at work, with our kids, in relationships, all the time. It can derail our desire to eat well, keep up with our home management chores, connect with our children, lose weight, exercise, and the list goes on. When we let blame and resentment color our personal commitments, whatever they are, we will have a harder time keeping them.

Here’s the deal. It’s my commitment to get up early because of the things I want in my life. Don never made this commitment. No one makes me go to bed early. No one makes me get up. I can change my promise to myself at any time. It’s all up to me. That’s the true story!

There are many ways to maintain control over resentment and blame. Here are three.

Three Tips To Manage Blame and Resentment

• Stop and examine your story. What are you telling yourself? Is it true? If not, what is true. In this case, Don hasn’t made the commitment, I have. Whether I do it or not isn’t about Don, it’s about me.
• Release blame and resentment. These two emotions sap the energy required to stay the course. If you feel them know that there is something in your story that needs to be examined. Do an honest evaluation. Then let them go.
• Revaluate your commitment. Does it need to be adjusted so it feels manageable? In this case, mine did need an adjustment. I opened my window of ‘get up time’ from 5 am to between 5 am and 6 am. It felt less restrictive. I also gave myself a day off. On Sunday I let myself sleep in until 8 if I want to. I often don’t but I know that I can.
• Don’t quit. Whether you keep your promise to yourself, your personal commitment is all about you. So, when you feel like quitting, don’t. Keep going. If you fall off the wagon get back on as soon as you can. Manage your story. This is about you and what you want in your life.

Your shares are appreciated. Thank you!

Get a handle on what matters!

Many years ago, I read a book that illustrated how we can fit more of what matters into our day. We’re all busy. We have tons to do, less time for rest, and most of us suffer from a feeling of overwhelm. We can do something about this. We don’t need to be victims of busyness.

Here is the visual. A mason jar was half full of sand. Then a cup of pebbles was added. Finally, some large rocks were put on top. The problem was that there wasn’t enough space left for most of the rocks. A perfect analogy for a busy parent.

The sand is all the small disruptions and distractions that happen during the day. The pebbles are emergencies, unplanned urgencies, and small tasks that show up unannounced. The rocks are our top priorities, the things that make our lives feel the best, that we care about most, and we find very little time for them.

UGH. Does this sound familiar. You go to bed at night and know that the things that matter most didn’t get done because so much other stuff got in the way? I’ve been there! But as I repeat many times, you are not a victim, and neither am I. We have power in our lives, and we can take control of this whole jar business.

Here is what works better. Put the large stones in the jar first. Then add the pebbles and finally the sand. You can fit so much more comfortably into the jar. There are many tools/strategies to help us put the rocks in the jar first. Here is just one that has been helpful to me.

My number one strategy to put the rocks in first!

I have a morning and evening routine. I get up early every day and I know what to do in the first hour. I pray, read my core book, and exercise. On a good morning, I may even have time to study something I want to know more about. Some mornings, because life is life, all I get done is my prayer. That one thing gets me off to a good start, no matter how hectic things get. I get to count my morning routine because I did something in it even if I couldn’t do it all.

My evening routine has me ending my day at a certain time or as close as I can get to it. : ) This one thing is vital! Otherwise, I’m tempted to work right up to the time that I fall into bed exhausted. Since I put my rocks at the top of my to-do list they will be done, for the most part. Then, no matter what else is on the list that doesn’t get done, it’s ok, because they aren’t the most important things.

Then I shower because it relaxes me. It’s my gift to myself each evening. I read my core book with my husband and mother, write in my gratitude journal, pray and then turn out the light. No matter how the day has gone, if I manage these two routines, even if I can’t do everything, I feel more successful and in control. They ground me.

Your shares are appreciated. Thank you!

What We Need Will Show Up

My family took a drive to the mountains to see the fall colors. It was a perfect day. We stopped for a picnic in a small-town park. We parked on the South end where there was a pavilion of tables. On the east side of the park, we could see a playground. The north side of the park housed an event building. On the west was a closed concession stand. But there was no restroom.

We needed a restroom, so I suggested that Don get in the car and find a gas station for us to use. Here’s what we didn’t know. If you walked north, across the park, next to the concession building was a stone restroom. It was obscured by the concession stand and a large tree.

Life’s like this. Parenting is like this. We can find ourselves in great need of something that doesn’t seem available to us. We might lack skills, resources, or information, which makes it challenging to grow, change, be better, have peace, etc. Often, like the bathroom, we may know what’s missing but don’t know where to find it.

In my experience, if we’re looking for answers to problems in life or our family, we can find them. It may take time. We may not be ready yet. We may have to search. Let me give you an example.

Given time, answers come

I suffered from severe postpartum depression. This was at a time when this malady didn’t have a well-known name. My physician couldn’t understand what I was explaining to him. The resources I needed didn’t seem to exist. My lack of knowledge about what was happening to me and what could be done about it caused pain to me and my family.

Between my sixth and seventh pregnancy, I happened upon a two-paragraph article in our small-town paper that used the term ‘postpartum depression’ and briefly described the symptoms. It was as if a light had suddenly gone on in a dark room. I knew that I wasn’t out of my mind or a b—-.

My physician still had very little information and the internet didn’t exist, but just knowing how I felt had a name was life-changing. It altered how I managed my last pregnancy. As time went on, I learned more and more. What I learned has been helpful to all four of my daughters who also suffer postpartum depression. I’ve been able to help other mothers. The information has been valuable even though it came late in the game.

This can seem unfair and daunting. But if we don’t give up the resources we need will show up. And when they show up, we’re ready for them. We learn new ways of being, new skills. Then things get better. We get better and do better. We become a resource for others.

Looking Forward is When Growth Comes

It’s futile to look back on the place or time where we lacked information or resources. It’s helpful to focus on the fact that we eventually found what we needed and that we implemented it.

One of the most important things we can do is be kind to ourselves as we learn and grow. The second is to keep growing. If something’s not working in your life or family, then search for what you need. Read. Get a mentor. Take a class. Attend a workshop and what you need will show up! When it does, it can change everything.

Your shares are appreciated. Thank you!

How To Know What is Most Needful

Does anyone care about your struggle?

I believe in a power outside of myself which can and does help me manage some very difficult days. Regardless of your specific spiritual practices, if you believe that you’re guided and aided, then this article will be useful to you. I’ll be using the term Christ and Lord, but you can substitute whatever works for you.

In every moment, of every day, Christ knows what is most needful. He waits for any opening into our hearts and thoughts so that we too can know what is most needful. Often, we shut Him out by being too busy, overwhelmed, and overloaded with stuff to manage and do. But Christ never leaves us. He is beside us, waiting patiently for us to hear Him.

Christ loves us infinitely. He wants to guide us as we move through our days. He wants to help us with the laundry, our frustration with our child, our disappointment with a spouse, our endless to-do list, what to make for dinner, who to hug and when, being on the right road and getting to our destination safely, and a hundred other things.

Does this surprise you. Many believe that Christ is aloof, unaware, uncaring or even angry at the mess we often find ourselves in. Many believe that unless we have it all together God cannot help us. I know this is untrue!

Will we be helped if we’re in a mess?

We don’t have to wait to invite God into our home until we can kneel in prayer, until we have time to study the scriptures, until our home is clean and orderly, or our hearts are unburdened. You may be struggling to pray. You may talk to God all day but never make it to your knees. You may not be getting to your scriptures/core book daily. Possibly you aren’t managing your home well. Maybe your heart is a mess. You might even be angry at God.

Waiting to invite the Lord into your life until you get your mess cleaned up is like waiting to go to the ER when you’ve stopped the bleeding. Christ doesn’t love some future version of you. He loves you in your mess. Christ is here to help you with your mess. I know this is true! Seven decades of working on my mess have proven it to be true!

How to know what is most needful!

If you’re in a mess and overwhelmed, if you’re struggling to pray and study the scriptures/your core book, if you’re struggling with your relationship with Christ/Deity, there are things you can do to invite Him into your life anyway.

First – Be Aware – Know that even in your mess you’re loved. Hold on to the belief that if you’re doing your best, as poor as that may be, Christ wants to help you manage your day. When you’re aware of his love and presence you’ll hear Christ speaking to you.

  • Tighten the lid
  • Don’t delete that yet
  • You need gas
  • Jack needs a hug
  • Don’t say that
  • The roast is burning
  • Your mom is sad

The more that you hold Christ’s love and concern for you in your mind the more often you’ll hear the still small voice.

Satan/The Negative will spend most of the day pointing out your flaws so that you’ll feel less and less worthy. This can take you to the place where you begin to doubt your value to Christ, that He is with you, and you begin to block Him out. Resist! Stay aware of Christ’s infinite love and deep concern for everything in your day.

Second – Respond immediately – When you have a small thought and it’s good, do it. Tighten that lid. Don’t delete your file. Stop and buy gas. Hug that child. Don’t make that remark. Check the roast. Tell your mom you love her. When you respond immediately, you’re inviting the Lord to be with you. You welcome him into your life.

Third – Simplify – When we simplify our lives, we manage them better. We can spend more time mentally, emotionally, and physically where it matters and less in activities, that in the long run, are not going to matter. We open time to think. When we simplify our lives, we tune into Christ.

Anyone can clean a closet but how do you bring the Lord into it? When we remain aware that Christ loves us and cares, when we respond immediately, then we can know when to clean the closet, which closet to clean and when to just let it go.

I want you to visualize something. Close your eyes. Now imagine you have threads of energy attached to your shoulders and these threads connect to every item you have in your possession. Every item—every dish, cup, and pan; pictures in the photo album, DVDs, the hammer; every nail, sock, book, magazine, sweater, car, guitar pick, toy, book, and even your computer files. It’s one energy thread per item. Now, what if you also attached a thread to every item on your calendar – every shopping trip, doctor’s appointment, soccer practice, piano lesson, event or activity, church, service, and each thing on our never-ending to-do list. This is a heavy load to drag around. No wonder you go to bed weary and wake up tired! It’s challenging to find space in life for the Lord when you’re overwhelmed and weary.

As we simplify and get rid of excess stuff, and trim down our calendars, we create mental, physical, and emotional space in our lives for the Lord. That’s because there’s less that must be managed, cleaned, picked up and taken care of.

As we make space for the Lord, we’ll be wiser, we’ll do what is most needful more often, and we’ll feel more successful in our efforts.

Inviting the Lord into our lives each day is the most needful thing.

Your shares are appreciated by me and others who need to hear this. Thank you!

Grandparents Don’t Come from Cookie Cutters

Every year at Christmas I make a few thousand gingerbread cookies. It’s a family tradition that’s been going on for almost fifty years. The cookies all look the same with their ginger brown bodies and cinnamon eyes. You know that each one is going to taste delicious.

However, grandparents aren’t all cut from the same dough. They don’t look alike, they don’t live the same, they each bring something unique to their grandchildren.

I had three very different grandmothers. I loved all three in very different ways.

Grandma Roze

Grandma Roze looked like the quintessential grandmother. She was soft and round with grey hair. But that’s where it stopped. Grandma Roze had only a fourth-grade education but she owned the ‘Sweet Shop’ which was situated next to the town’s only theater. There were no treats in the theater. If you wanted treats during the movie you had to see my grandmother. She managed her shop for thirty years. She was a great businesswoman.

Grandma Roze was stern! You didn’t mess around in her house or there would be trouble, but she always had food on the stove. You never went hungry at grandmas. She was a great cook and liked to bake. For Christmas, she would send us a huge box of home-made cookies that were kept safe in show house popcorn. I lived for her package at Christmas time. She was the BEST grandma.

Grandma Verenda

Grandma Verenda was Grandpa Dean’s first wife, my mother’s mother. She was tall, slender and beautifully coiffured. I never actually met her until I was in my teens, but I knew unequivocally that she loved me. How did I know this? She never forgot my birthday. I got a card and some money every year and she sent a fabulous gift every Christmas. We always got silky underwear with the days of the week embroidered on them. When you’re in a family of nine new underwear is priceless! She also sent hand lotion and perfume. It was magnificent. I waited with bated breath every December for that box. Anyone who was so diligent and sent such beautiful things just had to love you. She was the BEST grandma.

Grandma Ann

Grandma Ann was Grandpa Dean’s second wife. She was a schoolteacher, compact, and brooked no nonsense. She lived in a brick house in a beautiful small town. We didn’t go there often because she didn’t like my dad. We all knew it. Even though I knew how she felt I loved going to Grandma Ann’s. She had a special cupboard. It was filled with paper, crayons, markers, chalk, small blank books, pencils, and pens. It was the most amazing thing. I knew that despite any trouble the adults were having my Grandma Ann must care about us because she kept that cupboard stocked and when we got there, we could take whatever we wanted. I opted for the little blank books because I was sure, in my little girl’s heart, that I would be a writer someday.  She was the BEST grandma.

 

These three wonderful women were nothing alike. My relationship with each of them was very different. However, I never compared these grandmas to each other. As a child, I loved each one. I knew that time and distance and family issues didn’t matter because each one brought something wonderful into my life.

Grandparents don’t come from cookie cutters. They’re each different. They each bring something needful to their grandkids.

Recently, I wrote an article on what makes a GREAT grandparent. I shared the stories of six grandmothers who were different from one another. But in every case, their grandchildren thought they were the BEST. 

Children are wonderful. They accept what’s offered. My grandmas each offered me something different. Each one added something meaningful to my life. I never compared them. I knew they loved me and that was enough. I had three of the BEST grandmas.

If you had a wonderful grandmother please tell us about her in the comments below. : )

Lifting The Burden of Work and Family

Judgment is NOT Helpful!

I have an older client whose wife has become unable to do many of the household tasks that she used to do. I was at his home one day, a few days after their family had gathered to celebrate the end of summer. There were about 27, many of them children. They had water fights and silly string fights. This made for a lot of towel use. As he came up the stairs, he let out a tired breath and said, “How do women do it. The laundry alone is overwhelming.” I asked him what their laundry room had looked like when they were raising their family. He replied that there was always a heap of dirty clothes on the floor and another of clean laundry. I then asked him, “What did you think about that back then?” He didn’t hesitate to answer but blurted out, “Why can’t she get this cleaned up!”
He looked a bit sheepish and told me that he realized now, years later, that he should have been kinder in his appraisal of the job his wife was doing. He could see that his judgment was harsh, and his help was too little.

Here’s the thing about my friend who was washing the family towels. He went to work every day. He had to juggle the needs of the boss, his teammates and his own. He had deadlines to meet. He dealt with situations and expectations over which he had no control. Then there was the commute. He may have felt that his days were far more challenging than his wife’s.

Life is a challenge. Being part of a family is a challenge. But there are a few things we can do to lift our own burden, as well as the burdens of those we live with.

Tips to Lifting Burdens

• Decide to think the best of others. Give people the benefit of the doubt. In most cases, we’re all doing the best we can. When we decide to think the best
of others, we can manage our thoughts and the resulting stories more effectively. We will be more willing to lend a helping hand.
• Regardless of how or what another person is doing view them as a person. Treat them as you would want to be treated if you were in their place.
• Suspend judgment. Ask questions. Actively listen. Get clarity before you judge.
• Choose kindness over frustration. We’re all learning. When we choose kindness, we increase our ability to problem-solve.

Running a family can be daunting. Supporting a family can be daunting. There are so many moving parts to family life. If we learn to reserve judgment and respond with kindness, we will have far better outcomes and our family relationships will feel stronger and safer.

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What does an algae-filled pool have to do with successful parenting?

This summer my grandchildren spent hours with their friends in the pool in our back yard. Sadly, the weather cooled and so the pool was drained for the winter. Due to the placement of the drains three inches of water remained in the pool. Time passed.

One morning as I went into my office, I investigated the pool. There were three inches of green, algae-filled water. I thought, “Man, this is going to be a project to clean.”

I returned to the office and completed my morning routine. Then I sat down at my computer to begin writing. Into my mind came a clear thought – “You need to clean the pool.” WHAT! I had a full day of writing. But it was a clear, good thought so I got up and left the office. As I stood on the patio, I wondered how I was going to remove gallons of water from the pool bottom.

I decided to sweep a 5-gallon bucket through the water, lift it and pour it over the side. This worked. However, that was a lot of stooping, sweeping, rising and tossing. I persevered. After an hour and a half, I had to stop for an appointment. I thought, “I’m done for the day.”

When I finished my appointment, I headed for the office but again had the thought that I needed to clean the pool. I rolled up my pants, got my crocks and resumed the work. Eventually, my daughter who was on a break came out and said, “Mom, you don’t have to do this. It’s not your job.” I assured her that I knew I was supposed to clean the pool. She suggested that I use the shop vac. What a great idea!

The shop vac sucked up the water well, but it was far too heavy for me to hoist and dump over the side. Even only a quarter full it was too heavy. I returned to bailing with the 5-gallon bucket.

I could see that I was making progress, but it was labor-intensive and taking a long time. If any fathers are reading, please don’t stop because this scenario is so stupid. I know it! : )

Eventually, I decided that I could use the shop vac, suck up the water, and then bail water from the vac and throw it over the side. Each load of water in the shop vac was three buckets to dump. I know it doesn’t seem like much of an improvement, but it was. It felt easier even if it wasn’t faster.

When my daughter had another break, she came out to help. By then I was almost done. Jodie sucked up water while I swept the algae and sand to the center of the pool. Then she and I together would hoist the vac and dump it. We did about 5 dumps. She returned to her work and I did the final sweep and vacuumed up the residue that was left.

It was done and it looked fabulous. When I began the job, it was intimidating. After all, I’m 69, it was a lot of work and took a lot of time. I didn’t know if I could do it. But I was determined. I did what I could with what I had and as I went along my resources and support improved and I was able to finish the job.

I know that a couple of men could have done it in half the time. If I had had better tools the whole job would have been faster and easier. But I only had what I had. I could do it or not.

The Point of the Story

It’s a perfect example of parenting, my parenting. When I began, I had a pool of green scummy water to deal with that came from my growing up. I had a wonderful family, but like all families there was stuff. And my stuff had lain dormant for a long time. It was as nasty as that pool water.

Parenting for me was laborious because I lacked skills, had few resources and very little support. Don and I married and moved far away from family and friends. As the years passed, I tried different things. I learned new skills, found resources. Things got better.

Sometimes, I would look at how we were coming along, and it felt like looking at that pool job. It was hard. It was long. Frankly, I didn’t know if I could hold out to the end. But Don and I did. We actively parented for 39 years.

How Did It Turn Out?

As some of you know we had kids struggle with drugs, alcohol, dropping out of school and identity issues. It was tough. Our kids are all over thirty now and many are in their late forties. They’re smart, loyal, loving, kind, generous people. They can be trusted to do what is right.

I read a wonderful book, That We May Be One, by Tom Christopherson. His family had their share of trials, but his parents determined their success by how connected and bonded the family was. I have chosen to do the same.

My children talk to each other often. They gather at our family reunion regularly. This week one of my children found themselves in an unexpected financial bind. The word went out to the family and in less than 24 hours it was resolved with all of us pulling together.

It doesn’t matter what the water in the bottom of your pool looks like. It doesn’t matter how inefficient your tools and resources. If you will do what you know is right consistently, better tools and resources will come. You’ll get better. If you’re determined to parent as well as you can, to connect your family, to increase your skills and access the resources you need, then you’ll be successful. When you stay the course, no matter what you lack, what you need will show up. Simple things, done consistently over time, make all the difference.

If you relate to this article please share it with others. They will thank you for it. 🙂

 

It’s Not Education or a Degree That Thrills Me

Sometimes Bad Things Happen to Good People

Recently, my 45-year-old son graduated from college with a bachelor’s in philosophy. It wasn’t easy because he has a past that could have made it impossible.

When Seth was a small boy, he had some experiences which hurt his heart and soul. Sometimes, no matter how carefully we try to guard our children bad things can happen. This set him on a troubled road. He used drugs, dropped out of high school, went to jail, and was sentenced to the D.O.C. (Department of Corrections) and a work-release program. He stole some cigarettes from a closed gas station and received a felony that would make life hard.

The future looked poor. However, he was a good person, as most of us are. When his son was born, he decided to make a change. It wasn’t easy because of the past. People weren’t sure they could trust him and so they didn’t want to risk giving him a chance. He just kept looking and eventually, he found a man and a company that employed him. He worked in an underground mine running a huge haul truck and eventually became an underground miner.

However, after just a couple of years, his body wouldn’t take the shaking and jolting of the machine any longer and he was back on the hunt. He was hired at a scrap mental company sorting metal.

Setting the Goal and Sticking With It

Seth had a goal to make something of his life so he could be an example for his son and he became one of the BEST scrap mental sorters they had. Eventually, he was promoted and found himself running the front office involving the 20-ton scale and the selling and buying of scrap metals. Then during the market collapse of 2007, Seth was laid off.

He eventually found a job as a machinist and was promoted after a couple of years to the position of Quality Management Systems Specialist creating a Quality Management System training program and taught it to the employees at his plant and others in the state. This was the job that changed the direction of his life. He began to believe that he was smart enough and capable of returning to school.

While Seth was working at the mine, he developed a love for rocks and minerals. He studied them and began collecting them. He also learned to pan gold and joined an online club of like-minded people. Eventually, this love of rocks and minerals got him thinking about college. He determined to become a geologist. But he was pushing 40 and he had a felony on his record. He bravely decided to go for it.

At the University of MT, Seth did what he had done at the scrap metal job and as a machinist. He moved up. He impressed his professors and counselors and they asked him to mentor ‘at risk’ college students. His efforts were so effective that he was often able to keep all his mentees in college. He taught some classes. He was making a difference as he pursued his own goals.

All these opportunities moved him from seeking a degree as a geologist to getting a degree in philosophy. What a major jump!

We didn’t put Seth through school. He worked his way through! It wasn’t easy. I can remember times when he called me in tears seeking encouragement. He thought about quitting. After all, he was going to be 45 by the time he was done. It seemed indomitable at times!

This spring Seth accomplished his goal and graduated with a degree in Philosophy.

Anyone Can Build a Meaningful Life!

There is a purpose in my sharing Seth’s journey with you other than a mother’s bragging rights. It’s not the education or the degree that thrills me. It’s that he was kind to himself, trusted himself, set a goal and then accomplished it.

The reason that I find that so magnificently thrilling is that when we can set a goal and stick with it, no matter how hard, then we can always take care of ourselves and others. We can always make, not just a living, but a life. Way to go Seth!!

P.S. Currently Seth is pursuing setting up a program to coach troubled youth. He understands that you can’t just take kids out of bad situations. You must help them be kind to themselves, trust themselves, set a goal and then accomplish it. You must change how they think.

If you know someone who needs to be reminded that they can make a life,
please share this article. : )