Category: Making changes

Emotional Weight – What! Part 3

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Emotional Weight – WHAT! Part 1

What is Emotional Weight?

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

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

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

Let me give you an example.

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

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

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

The Key!

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

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

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

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

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

Getting on top of the mess – A Lesson on Consistency

A few weeks ago,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here are five tips to get you started.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I promise!

Are You Up To Your Neck In Love?

Monday was my last day in Seattle.

The trip was a mixed bag, if I am honest. The kids and I had some great times, and I kept Gus worn out. : ) He had one nap and wanted another Saturday, but we were busy. This from a boy who has all but given up naps.

But as I said, it has been a mixed bag. I brought a deck of question cards which we used at meals and bedtime. It was hilarious and so much fun. BUT Sunday night, we had a zinger of a question – Tell me about an experience that helped you feel my love for you? Gus just laughed. Tessa said, “Well, you have let me snuggle with you.” She has slept with me every night. She wakes up in the wee hours and crawls in. You all know how kids spread out!

That has been part of the reason for Elliot’s answer –“Well, I haven’t gotten yelled at too much.” What? I don’t yell, but I have a stern voice that comes out when I am tired, frustrated, or at a loss about what else to do. My hormone replacement pills went missing for three days, which didn’t help, but he was right; I had some grouchy moments with everyone.

I went to bed that last night a little teary-eyed and thought about it. I mean, grandma’s want to be perfect, and frankly, I am not. There are moms who trust me and what I share here. I couldn’t let them think that I am super happy all the time, not ridged occasionally, always patient and upbeat, or that I don’t ‘yell.’ It wouldn’t be fair.

In fact, just yesterday, one of my clients said, “I saw some of your posts from Seattle. It looks like you had a wonderful time, and so did the kids. You are amazing.” And many Facebook comments were saying the same as if we had a perfect time and I was always smiling and fun and, well, perfect.

Those comments and what my client said stung a bit. Here is the truth – I am amazing, BUT I am also ordinary. I am just an everyday woman doing her best, and my best isn’t always enough. My best fluctuates.

Wouldn’t it be great to be perfect, to play all the time and like it, never to get tired and crabby, always to be cheerful and fun, never to use your ‘stern/yell’ voice. It would eliminate the worried nights when you know you haven’t been the way you want to be. But here we are, just ordinary people working to do the ‘extraordinary’ thing, caring well for others.

This doesn’t just happen to me when I wrangle three little kids at seventy-two years old. It happens at home, wrangling my mom and my husband and all the rest that goes with living in a four-generation household. I have been working on changing my way of being to be more charitable. That last night in Seattle, I felt as if I had made NO progress at all in decades. I mean, I still get grumpy, am impatient, and am not always long-suffering, kind, humble, well behaved, concerned with others rather than myself, grateful, not provoked, etc. I can list them off because I have them written on the first page of my scriptures. I look at the list regularly because, after all, it is my goal.

There is a space between stimulus and response. The thing that has changed for me over the years is that that space has gotten wider. I rarely go off now and wonder what happened. I know I am choosing. I see that space, and I feel myself making a choice. Sometimes that is harder and is a mixed blessing for sure, to know you chose to be uncharitable with those you love. Thank goodness God, and Christ love me despite my weakness.

Monday, my last day as caretaker for the kids, was good. I got them off to school with minimal chaos and lots of smiles and hugs. I managed Gus well, who was tired and a little grumpy. After school, we used our question cards, our goal was to ask them all, and we made it. : ) We had a great supper and laughed and talked. Then mom and dad came home, and happiness exploded all over everyone.

That last night in Seattle, as I lay in bed pondering the good and not so good times we had, I wondered how the grands would feel the next time I came to visit? It was a question mark in my mind. However, little kids are forgiving. They love unconditionally. A couple of weeks ago, I posted on Facebook about my grandma and the tough times we had because I was a bed-wetter. But I still loved her. I always wanted to go to her house.

I feel that is the case here because of what Tessa did on Sunday. We were in the kitchen, and I was fixing some food. She said, “Grandma, let me see how tall I am to you.” So we stood chest to chest, and she measured from her head to my body. It was right at my neck. Tessa laughed and said, “I am as high as your neck, grandma. You are up to your neck in love!”

I would rather not have written this article, but I cannot let my friends and fellow parents think I am perfect because I’m not. And neither are they. It isn’t fair to simply post pictures of smiling kids doing crafts, rollerblading, and all the rest. We have to support each other in our weaknesses and our strengths. So thanks for being here, reading what I write, believing my words, and allowing me to be honest. : ) I still work on my goal of a tender and softened heart, to feel charity every day. I suspect that I will get better and better. In fact, when I shared this experience with my daughter Jodie, she assured me that I was SO much different than when I was a young mom. Glad to know I am making progress even when it feels like I’m not.

So hang in there, keep working on yourself. Be consistent. It is a lifetime job. Don’t let discouragement get in your way.

Getting up when you fall, being consistent in your efforts pays off. Really!!

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!

Wise People Seek Wise Counsel

Wise people seek wise counsel.

That might mean a good counselor or possibly a mentor/coach. It might be a friend who is where you want to be and is willing to share insights. It may be another parent who manages what you are struggling with and is willing to walk you through how they have accomplished what they have accomplished.

1. Friends – I recall many decades ago I was struggling as a mom with a house full of kids. I was yelling and stressed and trust me so were my kids. However, I had a friend who was calm with her children, and she had one who was a tantrum thrower. I asked her about it, and she showed me how she dealt with her over-the-top child. I was astonished. It had never occurred to me that you could remain calm when your child was not. I had not seen that from the adults in my life.

This friend of mine helped me practice and talked with me weekly for a good while. She helped me on my journey to a calmer way of being. It didn’t cost a cent.

2. Hire a mentor/coach – When I was writing my book, I needed some help. I was doing OK in the writing department, but I needed accountability. So, I hired an accountability coach. We talked on the phone once a week. She had published several books and was able to show me the flaws in my excuses as to why I couldn’t do this hard thing. Having her to bounce my doubts and fears off made all the difference.

3. Hire a trained counselor – Another time, decades ago, when I had a child struggling in a way that I couldn’t manage I hired a counselor. As my daughter and I met with her she was able to help me see how to help my child and she was able to show my child ways that she could help herself. 

Recently, I advised one of my mentees to hire a trained counselor to work on some issues that are wreaking havoc in her marriage. She has and it is making a difference. Wise people seek the correct wise counsel!

4. Read books – When I was a very young mom, with only two children, I began reading a book on parenting. It was so over my head that I couldn’t finish it. I hated that book because it made me feel so inadequate, but it had shown me that I needed some skills that I had never seen used. I must admit it took a few years for me to get serious about changing my way of being as a parent. When I did another book showed up, and then another book. Change for me was a process. I never did finish that first book but what little I read led me on a path to where I am today.

5. Prayer – One of my first lines of defense, when I am in over my head, is prayer. Yes, you heard that right, I pray. I have had decades of experience in hearing the voice of the Spirit and it has saved me a lot of grief. When I realized I would have to stop teaching and speaking, to care for my mother and husband I was at a loss. This was my dream and being a full-time caregiver wasn’t! But I also knew this was the correct path. How would I know what to do? How could I stay out of resentment? How could I still write when my time would be at a premium?

Prayer has been the BIGGEST help of all! I am counseled as I go through my day. I have been shown how to deal with resentment. I have been shown what my mother and husband need, things I never would have thought of by myself. My heart has been softened. I am learning to touch more. : ) It has made a world of difference in the last three years.

And I have been counseled as to how to continue to do what I enjoy, that helps me make a difference in the bigger world, write. That has meant a great deal to me. I know that I am loved!

Wise people seek wise counsel from the sources that are available to them.

As we seek help more resources open. I have a friend who is a single mother. She is also self-employed and homeschools. Wow! Yes, she is a busy woman, but I can tell you she is also happy. That hasn’t always been the case.

When I first began working with her, she was feeling very stuck in life, as a person, as a mom, and as an entrepreneur. She had been in this stuck place for a few years. But within six months she was unstuck in all three areas and moving forward. How does that happen?

Well, she reached out to me, and I was able to help her with her homeschooling dilemmas and point her to other resources that made a difference. That’s what she came to me for. But I was also able to help her with some of the places where she was stuck in life. Why? Because I am much older and asked lots of thought-provoking questions. I was able to help her see what she couldn’t see amid her worries and fears. We became friends, she trusted me, and she moved forward even when the path wasn’t totally clear!

I couldn’t help her with her business but because she had experienced the value of seeking wise counsel a resource opened which revolutionized her work. It took six months but by the end of that time, she had outsourced much of the load, had learned new strategies which streamlined her business and increased her income. All this before she even thought about adding new clients or raising her rates. Seeking wise counsel changed her life, her kid’s education, her work.

As an aside, let me say that a few years have passed, and she is again stuck. Yes, that is how life works. It is never easy or smooth. But she has learned that wise people seek wise counsel. She knows from experience that if she stays the course, takes responsibility, and prays, the resources she needs will show up.

If you are struggling as a parent, take the time to honestly look at the issues. Do your systems stink? Do you lack skills? Is your confidence in the toilet? Do you feel unfulfilled in some way? Are your most important relationships rocky? Do you need some behavior modification? Have you forgotten how to care for yourself?

Be open to learning and resources show up. Read, ask good questions. Look at your situation honestly. Make the changes you can. Then do a bit more, look deeply at yourself.

In the end, it is all about you. You are the only person you really have any control over. You are the one who must grow and change no matter what anyone else around you does. You have heard one of my favorite quotes before. This one voice made me so mad and changed my life at the same time. What Viktor Frankl said is true, whether you are ready to believe it or not. If you are not ready to accept it do what I did. Let it settle into your heart until you can bear it and then it will change you and your life.

“When we are no longer able to change a situation,
we are challenged to change ourselves.”

Wise people seek wise counsel. Determine what you can change and then take control of yourself. Let go of blame. Seek the help you need to begin making a change. Practice. Doing this gives you all the power and will revolutionize your life.

I am speaking from seven decades of experience on both sides of this fence.
I hope you believe me. : )

Our Stories Shape Our Lives – Part 2

Do you ever feel like you do everything, and everyone else in your family sits by and watches! I know that feeling well. Last week I shared an example of how powerful our thoughts and the stories they create are in the happiness we experience in life. Today I want to share another example.

Back in 2015, before my mother came to live with us, there were two people living in our home, me and my husband, Don. Our children were out building their own lives, so the workload was less, but I was still taking care of most of the “family” stuff. I did most of the dishes, cooked most of the meals, did most of the cleaning and laundry.

I decided that I needed more help. I discovered that Don would fold the laundry if I put it in a basket on the couch. We had a conversation about meals, and Don determined that he would cook on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, my busiest days. He began vacuuming more often.

In the laundry room, there is a clothes hanger. When outer clothes are washed, they are taken straight out of the dryer and hung up. Saves on ironing! The challenge was getting the hung clothes from the laundry room to the bedroom closet.

After our talk, I noticed that Don was taking the hung clothes to the bedroom closet. That is, he was taking his clothes. I observed this phenomenon for quite a few weeks.

Each time I noticed that he had hung his clothes in the closet and that mine were still in the laundry room, I would feel a slight twinge of irritation. After all, when I hung the clothes in the closet, I would take them all, his and mine. After a few months, I began to feel something besides irritation. It was easy to allow thoughts such as these to enter my mind: “What, doesn’t he think that I matter?” “If he cared, he would put all the clothes away.” “Is he just trying to make me mad?” I recognized this place – story land – and I have learned that there is very little happiness there.

Take Control, Don’t Allow Negative thoughts and Stories

So, I did what I have learned to do, I wouldn’t allow those thoughts to fester in my mind, and so I asked Don about it. “Don, when I put the hanging clothes away, I put them all away, yours and mine. But, I noticed that when you put the hanging clothes away, you only put yours away. Is there a reason for that?”

You would laugh if you could have seen the look of confusion on his face. It was priceless, and he said, “Well, don’t you have your clothes in some kind of order?” Boy, I got it right then, and I began laughing. My closet would have been a maze to my husband. All my clothes are hung in order of color and type of garment. My new story – he was doing me a BIG favor by not hanging my clothes in the closet!

We have more control over our thoughts than we realize. We can choose which thoughts we are going to hold in our minds and which ones we will get rid of. It takes some work, but you can learn to control your thoughts and the stories that they create.

Good Relationships Flourish When Stories are Positive

When you hold thoughts about what you want rather than what you don’t want, you can improve your family relationships in some significant ways. Want to read a fantastic example of how one mother completely changed her relationship with a “problem” child by simply changing her mental story about him? It will enlighten you, and I hope it gets you thinking about your stories and how they affect your family dynamics.

When you lose control of your thoughts, you lose control of your life. 

6 Steps to Take Control of Your Thoughts

  • Identify – Begin by identifying your daily negative thoughts. Write them down. Have a notebook to keep track of them or try journaling.
  • Say NO – Don’t allow the thought to stay in your mind and turn into a story.
  • Rewrite – Immediately change the negative thought into a positive one. For example, if you wake up thinking, “I am so tired!” immediately say out loud something like, “I am going to have a terrific day.” You don’t have to believe it; just say it.
  • Vocabulary Counts – Use positive language. Not “I am not going to yell,” but “I am calm.”
  • Facts, not Assumptions – If you have negative thoughts about an experience or a person, don’t make assumptions; get more facts. Ask!
  • The benefit of the doubt – It helps to believe that people are doing the best they can. They usually are even when it doesn’t look like it.

As we learn to control our thoughts, we give our children a considerable gift. They will know that they are responsible for how their lives look and feel. It will give them a leg up in the world and their relationships.

Change your thoughts and change your world. Norman Vincent Peale

Do you want a tool to help you begin taking control of your daily thoughts? If you do, reach out, and I will send you a worksheet to get you going on the road to better family relationships.

Focus and Light – We never have all we need but it will be enough

I have a field that I keep weed-free.

I have been doing this now for two years. I have learned many things while toiling in the field. This week, two experiences gelled for me that I believe will be highly meaningful to some of you. Because I want you to get the full import of what I am attempting to share, I will take the time and words needed. Thank you for bearing with me.

I have been able to keep this field cleared on my own with just a hoe. I go there six days a week for 15 to 30 minutes. I have carved the field into sections in my mind, and I do one area each day. But, here is something I have noticed. No matter how careful I am in each section, I miss weeds!

Since the field is weedless dirt, I can see where I have walked in each section. Often, right next to a footprint, there will be a weed or a small group of weeds. This is a consistent phenomenon. How does it happen? I scan the whole area around me before I take the next step. But no matter how careful and methodical I am, it happens every day! I have thought a lot about that.

Here is what came to me this week – focus and light.

You can only focus on one thing at a time. Then you shift your focus to the next place and so on. You cannot focus on the entire section, or even the whole area right around you, just one spot at a time.

Here is something else. When I walk out to the field, I hoe weeds as I move to the section I intend to work. There is lots of dirt, and those tiny green seedlings are clear. I can see them, and I hoe them up as I go. But the odd thing is that as I make my way back from the section I just finished, I see weeds I missed. What! In this case, it is an issue of light—the light matters regarding what weeds I can see. Depending on the direction of the light, I can see certain plants but not others. It happens every day. Like focus, it determines what seedlings I see and what seedlings I miss.

This focus and light issue happens in parenting. We can see a problem that needs resolving, and we give it all we’ve got. Then later, we realize that there was another issue just as vital, if not more so, and we missed it. It can cause us grief because if we were being good parents how could we miss something so important.

Let me give you a real-life example so that you understand what I am sharing with you.

There was a time when four of our oldest five were struggling in school and with drugs. It was bleak. I was a focused, good mother. I spent enormous amounts of time trying to help these kids, keeping them alive, finding them services, attending counseling, etc. It has been decades since then. They are in their forties and fifties, have worthwhile lives, contribute. I believe they are reasonably happy.

But in my effort to focus on what seemed so important, vital even, I missed the pain of my two youngest children. I was there physically; we had meals on the table, I attended concerts and football games. I loved them and made sure they were safe. But I wasn’t emotionally available to them. It was all going to the four I was keeping alive.

These two youngest are now in their thirties. They also have worthwhile lives; they contribute, they seem reasonably happy. But I know they are still dealing with the pain of feeling abandoned, unseen. This was never my intention. I thought I was getting all the weeds, but I missed some despite my careful scanning of the area.

And then there was the issue of light (knowledge). My resources were limited, my information was lacking, and I couldn’t see what I couldn’t see. As I have moved forward, I have gained more knowledge. I can clearly see what would have worked better for the four than what I was doing. I also know how I could have helped those younger two, so they felt seen and heard.

I have been tempted to allow myself to feel like a bad mom, a failure. The truth is that for a long time, I did allow that. Then I gained more knowledge, light, and I STOPPED!

Thursday, this whole issue of focus and light was brought home to me even more. I wasn’t weeding a section of a vast field. Nothing was overwhelming in what I was weeding. I was working the strip between the sidewalk and the road. It is about 3 feet wide and 12 feet long and gravel-covered. Those weeds stick out like sore thumbs. You can quickly scan from one side to the other with each step. When I got to the end, I was feeling good. I was sure I had gotten every weed. But on the way back, right where I began, I found two weeds that I had missed.

Then I weeded a strip down the side of our driveway. It is only 1 foot wide. Easy peasy, right? And besides that, I was weeding on my hands and knees. But you know what, as I reviewed my work, I still found a couple of weeds I had missed.

Our focus and knowledge aren’t ever going to be perfect. Despite our best efforts, we can and will miss things that matter. If we could see them, we would do something about them but we don’t see them. What can we do when this happens, and our children are wounded because we are human and imperfect? It isn’t helpful to berate ourselves. Guilt is not an emotion. It is a state of internal condemnation. It damages and does not enlighten. Some call this state shame.

When we find ourselves lacking in our parenting skills there are better ways to respond. Here is what I have learned after many decades.

Speak kindly to yourself despite your failure. Forgive yourself for not being perfect, for lacking the knowledge you needed, for not seeing every need.
Be honest and take responsibility for what you missed. You did miss it. Avoid blaming anyone or anything else. Your honesty will help you see clearly so that you can move forward.
Increase your knowledge so you can make whatever repairs you can.
Remember that your kids came with an empty bag. You have added something to it even though you didn’t want to or plan to. Know that the cleaning out of their bag will help them become the people they are meant to be.

As for my two youngest, they have some work to do. It is their work. But I am here to support them. I pray so that I can know how to do that in the best way. Often, I am counseled by the Spirit to step back and leave them to their work. At other times I am guided to reach out.

They will do what my five oldest have done and are still doing. These older ones are emptying out their bags, and they are growing into amazing men and women. I’ve seen it. You will see it. If you never give up on your family, if you don’t berate yourself for being imperfect, if you keep growing and learning, increasing your light and knowledge, then you will see what I have seen. You are a good person and parent. You are doing your best, and as you improve your best, it will be enough!

Let parents you care about know that they can do this despite being imperfect!

How I feel about sleep and what I have learned

Recently, I was up until 12:30 a.m.

I usually go to bed between nine-thirty and ten. That is because I have experienced the value of going to bed early and rising early. I have learned that your body works better if you go to bed around the same time each night and wake around the same time each day.

I haven’t always known what I know now about good sleep. I used to be a night owl, and I was very resistant to believing that making these two changes in my life would really matter. But eventually, in desperation, I made the change. It was HARD! It was a whole year of HARD. There were times when I didn’t think I could make myself keep doing it, but I did, and it changed my life.

But things happen, and on this night, I chose to remain up. The next day, doing a simple, close-to-home errand, I had difficulty staying awake at the wheel. Although I had stayed up late, I had gotten up at my usual time, between 5:30 and 6:30. I was TIRED!

I am not a napper! Seriously, I have to be sick or very under the weather to take a nap, but I fell asleep in the chair on this day. When I woke up that morning, I felt worn out, stressed, and frankly, as the day wore on, a bit depressed. Not like me!! My tone of voice, from the get-go, was sharp. It didn’t take much to set me off. It wasn’t easy to get a handle on my responses, even as I worked on my stories and endeavored to think positively.

Now I want you to picture something in your mind.

What if I wasn’t seventy-one but was thirty-five. What if I had three or four little kids to care for. I can tell you what would happen because although I am seventy-one, I was thirty-five, and I did have lots of little kids. I have lived this!

On a day like this, I would yell more often. I might spank. I, for sure, would use time out and lectures in a loud voice. I would have difficulty being present, stopping what I was doing, and looking my children in the eye. Listening would be challenging. I would have many grouchy, angry moments. I would see my kids as naughty rather than as children who need me to pay attention.

Sleep Myths

Recently, I ran across a site which listed some myths about sleep. Because I have learned the truth the hard way, I knew that they were myths. However, maybe you are still feeling some resistance to the idea that staying up late to get some alone time is counterproductive. If so, I feel your pain. I was in that place for well over thirty years before I finally decided to put it to the test.

Here are some myths. You can get more in-depth information on them HERE. 

  • It matters more when you sleep than how long you sleep, as long as you sleep enough hours.
    When we sleep matters! There is no comparison to the efficacy of sleeping in the dark of night compared to early morning or afternoon sleep. Here again, I have put this to the test. All I can say is that in my experience, there is a vast difference in how you feel upon waking, and a considerable difference in how you manage your day.
  • Your body gets used to getting less sleep.
    NOPE, not true. You can train your body to go to bed late and get up early. I did that. However, it made a difference in my ability to respond well, to feel well, to care about the needs of others, noisy, busy kids, for example.
  • Many adults need five or fewer hours of sleep.
    Generally, this is NOT true! One of my oldest friends, Janice Johnson Stauffer, has a unique situation. In her family, some of the members have the ‘short sleep gene.’ They can’t sleep longer than five hours. She tried to force herself to sleep the seven to eight hours that most of us need for years. Then through some testing, the family discovered this gene. It has made it possible for her and others in her family to do what works for their bodies. However, there are members in her family who need seven to eight hours. You can read more about their family HERE. It is a CNN documentary. Advance sleep-phase syndrome is found most often in middle-aged to older adults, with an estimated prevalence of about 1 percent. I wish I had this gene. But it affects only about 1% of us. The truth is most of us, to manage well, need seven to eight hours of nighttime sleep. I, and you, most likely, will just have to suck it up! : )
  • How long you sleep is all that matters.
    Sleep duration matters but there are other, just as important, aspects to sleep. Quality of sleep matters. How do we get that – no blue light a few hours before bed, no food about three hours before bed, sleeping at night rather than in the day, fewer disruptions. I have to laugh at that last one. If you are my age, you may get up often to go to the bathroom. If you are in that twenty to forty-year-old range, it will be babies and kids waking you up. But hey, we can only do what we can do.:)
  • The ability to fall asleep anywhere and at any time means you’re a ‘Good sleeper.”
    NOPE! It is an indication of sleep problems. It could be that you are not getting good quality sleep, and you are just plain tired. It could also indicate sleep issues such as:
    -Insomnia
    -Sleep apnea
    -Circadian rhythm disorders
    -Narcolepsy and others.
  • Napping makes up for a lack of sleep at night.
    Remember that sleeping in the dark thing? It matters! When we have not gotten enough quality sleep, we sometimes try to make up for it with a nap. Unfortunately, the few times I have tried this, it throws my sleep schedule off, and I wake up sluggish and disoriented. Naps are not bad, but they won’t serve you well if you are trying to recover from late nights.

Here is the hard truth 

Most people need seven to eight hours of nighttime sleep with as few interruptions as possible. You will always struggle to parent well if you are perpetually tired. I’ve been living this new way for well over a decade now, and it’s been amazing. I enjoy going to bed earlier and getting up earlier. I can’t even believe it myself! My thinking is clearer. I have time to do things that make my day more productive—prayer, personal study, meditation. My whole day runs better. I remain calm more often. I have more patience, and I feel less stress.

It’s doable even if your kids get up at 5:30. You may not get the quiet morning routine that I have finally achieved. Your day will begin earlier. These are the hard facts. What will make this trade-off worthwhile is how you’ll feel during the day. You may have less alone time, but you’ll find it easier to be Present. You’ll find yourself feeling happier and responding like an adult more often. You’ll like yourself and your children better.

How to Begin

I recommend you begin going to bed at least 30 minutes earlier than you do now, an hour if you can commit to it. Don’t get on the computer or scroll your phone after 9 p.m. This will absolutely help you get to bed earlier!

Going to bed earlier will change your days! Nevertheless, some of you will resist. If you do resist, it will come up repeatedly until you finally get desperate for a way to feel better as a parent, to feel calmer, more in control, more patient, happier, and healthier. When that time comes, you’ll remember this counsel, and hopefully, you’ll take it. It won’t be easy, but if you remember that simple things, done consistently, over time, make big differences, you’ll be able to persevere as long as it takes to make this your new habit.

You CAN get more and better sleep. Just decide and then be consistent!

We All Need More Light

The other day when I went out to water the garden,

I had an interesting thing happen that reminded me that sometimes, we can be blind to what is right in front of us.

The backyard hose is attached to a faucet that uses groundwater. Then the hose snakes across the lawn, over a small fence, and into the garden where it connects to another faucet that waters the garden. When I water the garden, I do the same thing almost every day. First, I walk out to the back faucet and turn on the water. Then I go through the garden gate and turn on the second faucet which lets water into the garden.

On this day, Doug had unhooked the groundwater hose the day before to fill the swimming pool. He had connected it to the house faucet so that city water would be in the pool. I knew he was doing this. I saw the hose hanging over the side of the pool. Yet, I went over to the faucet, turned it on, and got a face full of water. What! I could see the hose wasn’t connected, but my brain did not switch gears from what I do almost every day to what was happening this day.

How can that even happen?

But this kind of thing does happen in everyone’s life. There are times when we don’t see what is right in front of us. We may behave in unhealthy or damaging ways to our family or ourselves and not even know it. We do what we have always done.

When we moved with Jodie’s family this last time, we had to build a kitchen for my family, where a storage room had been. Everyone tried to talk me out of the light I choose to go over the kitchen sink. After all, it was a bathroom fixture. I didn’t care, I loved how it looked, and it was so illuminating. Every time I use that light, I am amazed at how much better I can see. The odd thing is that I don’t always use this extra light. Sometimes I will be washing potatoes or doing dishes and think, “I have enough light.” And I do, sort of. Then I will have a change of heart and flip the switch that is right in front of me, and voila! I can see so much better. There are other times when I know that I need more light, and I hurriedly flip the switch. I am always shocked at how much better I can see and how much more efficiently I can do whatever job I am doing because the details are more apparent.

This happens in life, in parenting. Wouldn’t it be nice to have all the information and knowledge we need no matter what came up? But we don’t. Often it takes time for us to determine that we lack the knowledge we need to do a better job of whatever it is. It can take a great deal of time before we realize that something we are doing may be harmful or counterproductive. For example, it took me almost ten years to understand that raging wasn’t a great way to manage problems and another ten to find the resources and support I needed, the light, to make a permanent change.

Often, when we realize that we have a lack of knowledge or skill, we beat ourselves up. When we find that our behavior is harmful, we feel tremendous guilt and shame. That is as foolish as me berating myself because I didn’t turn on my sink light right away or because I didn’t ‘see’ that the hose had been disconnected. Beating ourselves up and wallowing in shame and guilt for not having needed knowledge and resources is counterproductive. Instead, we should search for whatever resource will help turn on the light and make the details for change clearer.

‘Seeing’ Clearly Can Make ALL the Difference!

In my life, there have been times when I have said, “I can see fine.” I would keep moving forward and struggling because the truth was, the hose was unhooked, but I didn’t see it. Sometimes we cannot see what is right there in plain sight. We need help. It isn’t that we are inadequate, or stupid, or uncaring. We lack the information we need. Eventually, I would reach out for help via a friend, a book, or other resources. Sometimes it would be a class. Then the details became more evident, I made changes, and life got better in that one thing.

When I finally understood that I should stop yelling I didn’t know how. I couldn’t just stop. I needed to ‘see’ what was causing me to rage and how I could make a change. The first resource came in the form of a neighbor who offered me a pamphlet on anger management. That was very embarrassing but was the first step in changing my life and the lives of my children and husband.

Now, when I realize that I have a weakness or am erring somehow, I rejoice. I do not allow guilt to crowd in. I do not wallow in shame. I do not beat myself up! After all, I can’t change what I cannot see. When I do finally ‘see,’ I reach out. I look for the switch I need so I will have more light. I begin with prayer. I ask for help, and resources always come.

When you find yourself in the dark or semi-dark, STOP feeling like a failure. Instead, look for the switch, which is never too far away, and flip on the light. If you find yourself with a face full of water, so to speak, look for the hose and get it connected.

We do not need to be sprayed in the face over and over again. We do not need to work in darkness where we cannot see the details. Light can be ours, and it will lead us to change and growth. Really!!

Help a friend to ‘see’ more clearly.

Share the light. : )