Category: Making changes

The Big Epidemic

The idea that we should be careful to keep our priorities right in terms of not letting lesser concerns get in the way of greater ones so that we find ourselves “in the thick of thin things,” is good advice.

The Big Epidemic

However, getting stuck in the thick of thin things seems to be epidemic in today’s world. It can be a challenge to discern what the thin things are and sidestep them. This is a problem for every parent. There are so many things we need to do to manage our home, make a living, and frankly, get some time to ourselves. And then there are the expectations of the world; what parents are supposed to do to really give their kids a good life, to be great parents.

Let me give you two very different examples of the difficulty of staying out of thin things from two very different moms. One is middle aged and is schooling her children at home and one is older with five grown children. And just for fun, I’ll share how the issue was solved.

Phones, Screens, Frustration!

I was working with a mom who happened to be homeschooling. She really wanted to be Present with her kids during the time they were learning together but she kept getting sucked into thin things.

If the phone rang it had to be answered – it might be important. The computer and other screens were also a siren’s song. Just glancing at the screen for a few minutes couldn’t be harmful, right!

As this mom put it to me, “during our learning time are a tool of Satan!” Pretty strong words! That tells you the level of frustration this mom felt at her willingness to let the unimportant intrude on the important.

This mom, like all the parents I work with, really does want her children to know that they come first, that she loves being with them, and values her time with them. But she was struggling to not walk away from being present with her kids to take care of what was coming in from the world. It was making her feel terrible.

Wisely, she pondered the situation, did a bit of knee time and came up with a solution. She decided to turn off the screens when she wanted to be present with her kids during their learning time. She turned the computer off at night, so it wouldn’t be a temptation in the morning and then when she got down to business with her children, she put her phone on silent.

The outcome is that she’s been able to be truer to her family and herself. She can be present for small amounts of time and accomplish her goal of teaching her kids, but more importantly of sending the message that they matter to her and are at the top of her list.

Expectations, Stuff, and Guilt!

I have another friend who has raised five children. In a recent conversation, she mentioned her dismay at all the stuff that she still had from when her kids were living at home. You know the kind of stuff we save – school photos, childhood drawings, old school papers, awards, etc. She felt that somehow, she had let her kids down because they didn’t have all this stuff in beautiful scrapbooks. I mean, all her friends had made beautiful scrapbooks for their kids, she was sure of it. She felt guilty. It weighed on her mind.

This is what she said to me “I guess I was too busy helping kids with lessons, sitting through games, playing, supporting plays,” … her voice trailed off.”

When I called her on this she smiled and said, “Your right. All that stuff I did with my kids was really more important, wasn’t it?”

Seth and his treasures : )

Now there isn’t anything wrong with a beautiful scrapbook or looking at a screen if they don’t take us away from time we should be connecting with our family. I made a few scrapbooks for some of my older kids, but they didn’t have any fancy pages. I just paper punched the sheets and put them in the binders. My son, Seth, who is on the downside of forty, still has his and thinks it’s the best. He never missed beautifully crafted pages. Andrew doesn’t even have a scrapbook, he was farther down the line but he loved the box of his stuff.

And if you feel pressed about all that stuff you seem to be collecting for

Andrew and his box of ‘stuff’.

your kids here is a thought. A couple of Christmases ago I bought some pretty storage boxes. Then I sorted all the stuff, and after seven kids there was a bunch of it! I put each child’s treasures in a separate box and that’s what Don and I gave them for Christmas.

How did that go? They LOVED them. It was so fun to watch them sorting through the contents. You could hear, “Do you remember this.” “Oh my gosh, I can’t believe I did that.” They sat and reminisced for a couple of hours. Since then they have discarded most of what I thought needed to be saved all those years ago.

Funny how we downplay the time we spend with our family, connecting with one another. We rarely give it the kudos it deserves. Funny how we sometimes elevate the value of things that matter far less.

As the world gets busier and noisier and the expectations increase, it becomes critical for us to carve out time for those things that are of greatest importance, our children, our family, our time together.

“We become so caught up in the busyness of our lives. Were we to step back, however, and take a good look at what we’re doing, we may find that we have immersed ourselves in the ‘thick of thin things?’ In other words, too often we spend most of our time taking care of the things which do not really matter much at all in the grand scheme of things, neglecting those more important causes.” (“What Have I Done for Someone Today?” Pres. Thomas S Monson, Oct. 2009)

Being present doesn’t require a lot of time. It does require letting go of outside influences and focusing on those who matter most. When we look someone in the eye and listen, we send a very clear message: I see you. I hear you. You matter to me.

Your shares are the best compliment. : ) 

I’ve Got The TONE!

 

Nature abhors a vacuum.

 

Aristotle believed this was true and so do I.

I used to rage/yell. Even though it took ten years to stop raging and many years before that to even see that raging might be a problem, I have felt very proud of the accomplishment. However, if we’re open to growth we won’t rest on past laurels.

Not too long ago I was having a conversation with my son-in-law, Kash. He’s married to my third daughter and we see their family a couple of times a year. I like Kash a lot.

He and I were talking about making changes, what that process looks like and so forth. I happened to bring up the raging thing and this was his reply, “Well, you know what I hear in your voice most of the time – frustration and annoyance.” WHAT!!!

Man, that was like having cold water thrown in my face. Whew! But I have learned over many decades to pay attention when the Universe/God speaks, even if the voice is funneled through my son-in-law. So, I spent some time pondering what he had said and, being a praying person, I spent some knee time asking God about the situation.

When You Discover a Weakness

CELEBRATE! 

 

Guess what? He was 100% correct. Now in my past, I would have felt terrible and castigated myself for having yet another weakness. But no more! I do not do that “beat myself up for not being perfect” thing. In fact, after catching my breath I did a halleluiah dance. Really, in my mind I celebrated.

It’s been over twenty years since I stopped raging and it had finally become time for me to make a new advancement in my life. I know this because I have been shown a current weakness that I’m prepared both mentally and emotionally to change. It’s an event to celebrate.

After I returned home, I made it a priority to see what this frustration/annoyance looked like in my daily walk. It was easy to see, now that I knew it existed. It’s a tone in my voice. It’s not the words or the feelings behind the words. What I had done over twenty years ago was replace raging with a tone.

You see, what I didn’t realize back then that I understand now is that you can’t just say, “I’m going to stop yelling/raging.” You must also decide what you’re going to do instead. You must replace one way of being with another. Remember the earth abhors a vacuum. By default, I replaced raging/yelling with a tone of voice that lets people know I’m not happy or satisfied with them or the situation.

I decided that I wanted to replace the ‘tone’ with a calm and peaceful response. I have written about taking control of our response many times and I know it’s doable! I believe that I’m 100% in control of my response no matter what is happening.

So, I’ve been paying attention. Man, this has become a deep-seated habit for me. Every day I hear the tone many times. If I didn’t know what I know I would be discouraged because on the surface I don’t seem to be getting a handle on it. However, I’m clear about what change looks like and frankly, it looks like failure long before it begins to look like or actually become success.

You may be at a place in your life where the Universe/God knows you’re mentally and emotionally ready for a change. Celebrate and decide what you will replace the current behavior with. Then get clear on what change looks like in real life. Here are the steps that I have experienced repeatedly and have watched those I mentor experience. Understanding and embracing these truths will help you stay the course while making lasting changes.

 5 Steps to Lasting Change

 

1. Recognize that there is a need for change or adjustment. I recall weeping on the phone during a session with one of my mentors. She asked me why I was crying, and I replied, “I am ______ years old. I should have known that!” She reminded me that we come to knowledge when we’re ready to do something about it and not until. You can read, hear or be taught something and never really internalize it. That’s because you weren’t ready. When we’re ready the teacher will come in some form. There is no need to weep over the time that it’s taken to become ready. Just celebrate that you are now ready and then go to work!

2. You will continue behaving in the old way for a time, but the difference is that you recognize that you’re doing what you don’t want to do. Because this step can last a while it can be discouraging and we are tempted to think, ”I’m never going to overcome this, or change this.” But the truth is that this is what the second step looks like so don’t get discouraged. It can and often does look and feel like failure before it looks or feels like progress.

3. Eventually, as you begin doing the very thing you have decided not to do you will catch yourself in the act and reverse course. This step can feel a bit challenging because it usually involves apologizing, some explaining and then starting again. But it’s worth it!

4. The next step is having a desire to behave, speak or act in the old way but then choosing not to. There is a space between stimulus and response and in that space, we get to choose. When we begin making a change that space is small and for some, seems non-existent, but I promise it’s there. I also promise that we can increase this space for choice.

5. Our way of being has changed. We no longer think about responding in the old way. We just respond in the way we have chosen. Our very nature has changed. We have become a new person in that one thing. We no longer must practice because “we are changed”.

Anyone can change. We just need to understand what change looks like in real life, the steps, and then be persistent and consistent.

Your shares are the best compliment. : ) 

Exploding is ALWAYS a Choice

I bet you clicked this email because the subject line ticked you off! Twenty years ago, it would have ticked me off too. However, I hope to move you in the direction of accepting this as true because it has great bearing on what we have been discussing for the last two weeks.

We have talked about how our perception of what is happening fuels our emotions and leads to a response either positive or negative. We have also looked at seven tips to help you learn to control your responses when things go wrong.  However, you have to believe that controlling your response is even possible.

How I Learned to Take Control

When I was a young mom, I was prone to exploding/raging on a regular basis. I am not proud of this fact and it took me quite a few years to come to the realization that exploding/raging was not only ineffective when dealing with my husband and children but that it was detrimental to healthy family relationships. You see I came from a family of exploders. It’s what we did, how we dealt with disappointment, sorrow, frustration, etc.

Eventually, I did begin to see that exploding/raging was counter-productive and that it never resolved whatever it was that was causing me to explode/rage in the first place. But I couldn’t see how I could ever stop this behavior because it was so immediate. I mean there would be a stimulus of some kind and then an explosion. There wasn’t even an opportunity to not explode/rage.

However, as the years went by, I began to learn more about stimulus and response and I realized that there was a moment of choice. It took me a long time to accept this because if it was true then I could choose to not explode/rage. It made me responsible for what I did and took the responsibility away from the circumstance or another person. It made me 100% in control of my response.

That was intimidating! It felt like a huge and burdensome responsibility.

One thing I learned and began to believe in fully was that there was a space between stimulus and response, no matter how small. When I had accepted this as true I was able to move to the next step: believing that I had the power to increase this space.

The first thing I did was begin to analyze what happened after each explosion. What triggered it? What was my perception of what was happening? Was I blaming anyone or anything? What was I really feeling because I knew that anger is always a secondary emotion? Was I disappointed, embarrassed, feeling disrespected, what?

Looking carefully at what caused me to explode was helpful.

It didn’t take long for me to begin to be able to see in my mind what was happening. I could see the trigger and then see the explosion and in between, I felt a tiny space for choice. I also began to see that I chose to explode. It’s hard to put this into words but I think if you’re a person who lets your response get out of control you will know what I’m talking about.

Next, I stopped beating myself up when I behaved inappropriately, and I just looked at what had happened. I gave myself credit for wanting to do better, to be better.

As I did this, I began to feel hopeful that yes, I could take control of my responses. I began to feel the space between stimulus and response get larger, I could feel myself making the decision to explode. Rather than feeling badly about this I allowed myself to celebrate that I could see myself choose. This made it possible, over time, to begin making a different choice.

Eventually, I stopped exploding/raging. I rarely do it anymore. I still see the space in most situations and I feel myself choose.

A couple of weeks ago I told you about my husband and my good sewing scissors.  What I didn’t reveal in that story was that when I picked up the scissors, I felt the space for choice and I saw myself choose to be angry. Then I marched into the house and confronted my husband. I didn’t explode/rage as in the old days, but I was clearly annoyed with him.

As I walked away from him after my harsh words, I felt myself in that space between stimulus and response and I knew that I wanted to remain angry at him. So, I came to a dead stop in the middle of my kitchen and asked myself, “What are you really feeling.”

Here it is in a nutshell. I was frustrated that the office wasn’t finished. I was feeling anxious because the weather was changing and all my office stuff was under a tarp on the patio. I was weary of controlling my anxiousness because this part of my life was out of order.

Then I did what I have practiced for years now, I chose to let go of my desire to remain angry and I smiled. Smiling releases endorphins and even if the smile isn’t genuine it changes how you feel. I was able to pull myself together, apologize to my husband and talk about what was really going on.

Exploding/raging or even being angry, no matter the underlying cause, is always a choice. You are 100% in control of how your life looks. If you feel like you have no control, I promise that when you this you plant your feet on the path to control. As you increase the space between stimulus and response you will find a sense of freedom and you will be happier!

Seven Steps to Increasing Your Ability to Choose

Let’s put the steps I took to increase the space between stimulus and response into order:

1. Believe that there is a space between a stimulus and your response and that no matter how small it is now it can be increased
2. Believe that it is in your power to increase your space for choice no matter how poorly you are doing at present
3. Understand that when you take 100% responsibility for your life and your responses it is not burdensome but is the most freeing thing you will ever do!
4. Once you have these beliefs planted in your mind, begin analyzing every time you respond inappropriately. What were the real reasons? What triggered it? What was your perception of what was happening? Were you blaming anyone or anything? Be honest.
5. Never berate yourself for falling back into the old behavior. I gave myself credit for wanting to do better, to be better. It’s a wonderful thing to come to know where you are in error and then taking steps to change, no matter how long it actually takes to change. Celebrate that!
6. Begin to mentally see the space between the stimulus/trigger and your response. Mentally see it enlarging. If you are a praying person I have found this to be invaluable in assisting me to see in my mind this enlarging of the space for choice.
7. Avoid discouragement. This isn’t an easy or quick process for most of us but it is doable over time. How long did it take me to stop exploding/raging? Ten Years!
8. Never quit. Keep seeing. Keep analyzing. Hold on to the belief that you can choose anger or not.
9. Remember that small and simple things done consistently over time bring the desired results.

Your shares are the best compliment.

What Can You Do When You Have a Mess?

 

See those garbage bags-been there three days. They might get thrown outside today!

The last three weeks have been packed. I tried to get Christmas done and mailed before my trip to Seattle to help my daughter who is pregnant and very ill. But life is life and I live in a four-generation household and… well, I didn’t get it done.

Seattle was wonderful, busy, fun, and tiring all at the same time. I came home with croup. I know, only kids get croup but every few years I join them. I don’t feel ill, but I sound terrible and feel totally worn out, so Wed. and Thurs. I didn’t get much accomplished. But I couldn’t rest on Friday because there was so much to do.

 

Here’s what I was trying to accomplish on Friday 

  • Bake three apple pies
  • Make another tent kit
  • Go to the doctors
  • Get my mom to take a bath and trim her hair
  • Make 50 pancakes and a pot of green chili
  • Create and format a special document
  • Get all the rest of Christmas wrapped and shipped

I have a friend who had surgery the day before I flew home from Seattle. When I asked how I could help her she said that she was having tons of visits and treats but that her family could use some nurturing. Hence one apple pie.

My neighbor loves apple pie too and I have had her on my gift list for three weeks. I wanted to give her a pie and if you’re going to make one pie you might as well make two right! But if I bake and give away pies, I must make one for my own household or there would be a rebellion. So, three pies.

Saturday morning our church planned a Christmas breakfast. That’s right, breakfast. I would have opted to take a breakfast casserole, but my husband has a family tradition of Green Chili Pancakes and it’s so unique that he really wanted to share it. The problem is, he doesn’t know how to make it, I do. His grannie taught me. : ) So I needed to make 50 pancakes and then a huge pot of the green chili sauce.  It was too much to do Saturday morning, so it had to be done on Friday. This is very delicious by the way.  You can print the recipe HERE.

Now all of this wouldn’t have been too bad, but we had a double doctor’s appointment in the afternoon, we had to stop at two stores on the way home to get some items we needed to finish the above projects and that whole thing took three hours.

I was still trying to get my Christmas items packed and shipped but found that I needed one more tent kit. Long story. And I also realized that I needed a formatted document to include with a special framed family genealogy chart we are sending to our children. We are direct descendants of William Brewster of the Mayflower and I wanted to help each family understand who he was, what his family was like, and why they came to America.

I was able to create and format the document but never made a dent in the gift wrapping or the tent kit making. I did get mom bathed and her hair trimmed. Big woohoo!

It’s Saturday morning now. The church breakfast is done. The chili pancakes were a success. Everyone loved the pies which have been eaten and I am heading off to do the tent kit and get the rest of the stuff wrapped and shipped. My house is a disaster and the kitchen cabinets can’t even be seen. I haven’t vacuumed, dusted, or cleaned anything. Laundry is piling up but I did get one load in before the breakfast. Another big woohoo!

Here’s my point – life can be overwhelming even when we don’t plan for it to be. Sometimes we get stretched out, tasks bunch together and it feels heavy. In those moments, in my past and younger life, I would go to bed feeling like a failure. I would wonder why I couldn’t get more done. Why wasn’t I like so and so who not only gets more done but looks great too and on and on!

Here’s what I don’t do anymore:

  • I don’t compare myself to anyone! Really everyone has their hidden disasters!
  • I don’t beat myself up because I’m not perfect, slow, behind, didn’t plan better, start sooner, stay well, look put together, etc.
  • If I find myself having a hard time managing my thoughts about myself I pray. Find something that works for you!
  • I work diligently to refrain from blaming anyone, or anything for my slowness, tiredness, lateness, etc. I don’t blame! Sometimes it is what it is.

Here’s what I do to manage those times when life is just too much:

  • I practice remaining calm and if I need to I go to the bathroom and read a few paragraphs and breathe
  • I do what I can and I let it be enough
  • I remember to do the few things that make me feel cared for (my nightly shower and reading in the bathroom)
  • I make an effort to get enough sleep even if it means not getting as much done in a day
  • I take time to remain Present – at least once a day. Being Present happens in 5-minute chunks. This takes practice, even for me
  • I pray a lot! and I force myself to smile : )

I hope that this holiday season you’ll work on being your own best friend. Say no a bit more. Compare less. Talk nicely to yourself. Remember small moments of self-care. Smile even when you don’t feel like it. Be Present at least once a day with someone you care about. It can take 5 minutes or less!

Your shares are the best compliment! : ) 

7 Tips for Controlling Your Response When Things Go Wrong

Last week I shared two stories about how our perception of what is happening fuels our response; that paying attention to our thoughts and the stories and emotions they generate is important when parenting and is a skill which can be learned and practiced.

Yeah right!! There was a time when I didn’t believe that I could control how I felt let alone that it was a skill which could be learned. Many of you may also have a difficult time accepting that you can control how you feel and respond.

CAN CONTROLLING YOUR STORY MAKE A DIFFERENCE?

I was a reasonable person, and I lived a good life but, darn it, stuff was always happening. I mean, if the kids are acting crazy, it’s going to make you feel crazy. If milk keeps getting spilled, if the house is getting trashed, and if grades are down, you feel down yourself. When money’s tight or your spouse isn’t helping you out, you feel overwhelmed. If you feel unsupported or if you have a health issue, all of this is going to mess with how you feel and respond, right?

Back then I knew the answer was a big fat yes! But time and experience have proven to me that you can control how you feel by taking control of the stories you tell yourself.

THOUGHTS CREATE OUR STORIES

Perspective is an amazing thing. It is, simply put, the story we tell ourselves: what we think is happening or has happened. It all begins with a thought. Once we have a thought, if we hold it in our minds, it becomes a story because our brain does its job and goes to the files and finds evidence that our thought is correct. This process takes fractions of seconds and this scenario repeats itself hundreds of times each day.

You change your story by controlling your thoughts. You manage your emotions by controlling your story. When you do this, you take more positive actions and you get better results. It is a skill and the more you practice it the better you get!

TIPS FOR HAVING BETTER STORIES

TIP 1—Take responsibility and stop blaming
When we choose to tell ourselves stories that blame others, we decide to become victims. Victims parent poorly. I hear parents blame their kids all the time for how they’re feeling.
• You make me so mad.
• You have ruined my day.
• I can’t think straight because you’re so noisy.
• I wouldn’t be yelling if you would listen.

Blame is always an indicator there’s a problem with our way of being or how we perceive what’s happening.

TIP 2—Decide to think the best of others
A father expected his 16-year-old daughter home at a certain time but she was late, very late! He began writing a mental story. He imagined all sorts of scenarios for why she was late. She lacked respect for family rules. She was thoughtless. She was irresponsible. The later she was, the bigger the story grew and the angrier he became. As she opened the door, he exploded with, “You’re late! You know the rules, and you broke your promise. You’re grounded, young lady.” Of course, his daughter ran to her room crying.

To let you in on the facts, the girl’s date had taken her to a drinking party after the movie. When she asked him to take her home, he refused. She had tried to call home, but the line was busy. So she called a friend who got off work at midnight and came and got her. In the meantime, she sat on the curb in the dark because the party was out of control and not safe.

The father’s story was at the heart of the problem, not his daughter’s lateness. When we decide to think the best of others, we can manage our thoughts and the resulting stories more effectively.

TIP 3—Choose words wisely
“What’s in you is what comes out.” It’s true! Pay attention to the words you say in frustration, sorrow, and anger; you’ll get a good idea of what you’re holding onto in your subconscious mind.

Our words reveal what we truly feel. The words that we allow to come out of our mouths are what ultimately drive feelings and the resultant actions and bring the results we live with daily.

Watch the words you use when thinking or speaking about your children and teens:
• Childlike vs. naughty
• Young vs. clumsy
• Needs more direction vs. oppositional
• Tired vs. grumpy
• Preoccupied vs. lazy
• Angry vs. rebellious
• Being a kid vs. messy
• Wants my presence vs. needy
• Has a need vs. is pushing my buttons

TIP 4—Check your core beliefs
We can get an idea of the beliefs we’ve formed growing up by paying attention to the stories we tell ourselves over and over again and by listening to the words coming out of our mouths. These beliefs may not be supportive or helpful in having good relationships with others or in our ability to be Present and parent well. Once we’ve found a core belief which is not helpful, we can get rid of it by rewriting the story.

TIP 5—Track your thoughts
Because thoughts are powerful, we need to gain control over them in order to stop getting more of what we don’t want. Once you’re aware of a negative thought, you need to capture it—write it down. You might be thinking it’s crazy to write down negative stuff, but I’ve lived this, and I know it works! So pay attention to your negative thoughts and write them down. Look for patterns, unsupportive and destructive stories and repeating themes. You can shred or burn your daily list periodically. Take control!

TIP 6—Teach others what you’ve learned
Teaching others what we’re learning and experiencing is a powerful tool that helps us make even greater changes. As we teach others, we clarify for ourselves. If we teach what we learn to our family, we’ll be heartened as we see them making changes also, and our whole family will be blessed.

TIP 7—Keep practicing
Keep working at controlling your thoughts. This is something you need to do daily. There isn’t a point when you’re so good at it that you can stop working on it

Would you like to know more about these seven tips on controlling your responses with your children, then check out the book Becoming a Present Parent: Connecting With Your Children in Five Minutes or Less.

Your Shares are the BEST Compliment. : ) 

When the Result Stinks You’re the Problem!

My mom, NaVon Cazier

My mother has come to live with us. She is eighty-seven and has Alzheimer’s. That makes every day an adventure.

My mother and my husband both go to bed a bit later than I do because they sleep in. Recently, early in the morning, I used my blow dryer for about a minute and a half. This is not an exaggeration as my hair is short and I do very little to it.

All of a sudden my mother appeared at the bathroom door demanding, “What in the H___ are you doing that in the middle of the night for!” Whoa, that took me back and I replied, “Well mom, it isn’t the middle of the night. It’s six forty-five and I am getting ready for work.” By this point, she was already heading back to her bedroom mumbling about the inconsideration of some people and having her sleep disturbed in the middle of the night.

My husband, Don

I have a wonderful pair of scissors. They cost a bit of money and I keep them in a drawer with my sewing supplies and I NEVER use them for anything but cutting material. Recently, I was sewing an item and left the scissors sitting on a pile of material scraps on my kitchen counter.

Later that day I found them outside, on the patio, in front of the door of our new office where my husband had been doing some electrical wiring. I knew that my husband, unable to find the pliers, had used my good scissors to cut his electrical wires! I picked them up and marched into the house, stood in front of my husband and said in a very irritated voice, “Why were my good sewing scissors outside by the office? These are expensive scissors and are only for cutting material!” Needless, to say he was taken back and replied, “I don’t know why they were outside.”

These are two really wonderful examples of how the story we tell ourselves can and does impact how we respond.

OUR RESPONSE MATTERS   

When we’re parenting children understanding the connection between what we think is happening or has happened and how we respond really matters.

It matters for two reasons:

  • What we think will determine if our response is appropriate or not
  • Our response will send a message to our child about how we feel about them and often about who they are regardless of whether this was our intention or not

Frequently, if our story is skewed, our response is harsh and inappropriate and the message it sends is damaging to how our children feel about themselves.

In the case of my mom, her story was that it was the middle of the night and so she felt that I was totally inconsiderate of the rest of the family and that fueled her angry response.

In the case of the scissors, my story was that Don was using them inappropriately and that he was an adult and should have known better and that fueled my accusatory and angry response.

In both cases we were wrong in what we perceived was happening.

My mom and I both sent a message that we didn’t really intend to send. My mom was bugged that her sleep was interrupted but she doesn’t really believe I am an inconsiderate person but if I had been an impressionable child or teen her response could have sent a negative message that could have been internalized as true.

I know my husband isn’t inconsiderate and inappropriate but my message implied that he was both. Often the message that we send to our children when we’re not in control of our response is that there is something wrong with them, not with what they may or may not have done.

Thoughts, perceptions, and beliefs create a story and based on those stories we feel an emotion and then respond. Our response generates a result which can be good or bad, helpful or unhelpful.

Paying attention to our thoughts and the stories they generate is important and is a skill which can be learned and practiced. As we do so our lives get better and happier because we have more positive outcomes for ourselves, our relationships, our children, and our family.

Next week I will share seven tips to help you begin practicing the skill of controlling your response even when you are angry, frustrated, irritated, etc.

Your shares are the best compliment.

 

A Home Management Tip for Autumn

Stuff! Stuff! Stuff!

I lived in Montana in the same house for over twenty-one years with a husband and seven children. I bet you can imagine the amount of stuff we accumulated!

We frequently had to reorganize the garage. One whole end of the garage was a special room dedicated to storing stuff. In the house hours of time went into cleaning out closets, drawers, and toy boxes. I can recall the time required to sort, launder, store, and fold all of the clothes and bedding we managed to accumulate.

Eventually, we decided to move to Utah. I was ready! I began cleaning out the house. I held numerous garage sales. I wanted to let it all go. My husband felt stressed when he left for work because he wasn’t there to monitor what was being sold. He was worried about what we were going to have to replace.

Here’s what happened. After over thirty years of living together and raising seven children, we pared it all down to one small U-haul and a van. Would you be surprised to know that in all the years since we haven’t replaced a single item?

More Stuff!

“ …We invest a great deal in the acquisition of stuff. Companies bombard us with slick, relentless propaganda as to why we must have their stuff, and we judge an individual’s success by their stuff’s sheer quantity and supposed quality… Stuff beyond our basic needs does not liberate. Consider the overall investment of your time. You have to shop for stuff. You have to clean, maintain, and organize stuff. You lose stuff. You look for stuff. You polish stuff, secure it against theft, trip over it, recharge it, upgrade it, accessorize it, pack it, move it, unpack it, insure it, fix it, and eventually sell, trash, or bequeath it. Stuff has no use beyond this life, and it takes a lot from us.” -Shawn Miller

If you’re having a hard time keeping your home clean you probably have too much stuff. If your dishes are always piled up you probably have too many dishes. If your kid’s rooms are a disaster they probably have too many toys, too many gadgets, and too many clothes.

Stuff is Energy Draining!

Each item we own requires some of our energy. The more belongings we have, the more emotional energy, as well as physical energy, is needed to maintain it. I want you to visualize something.

Close your eyes and imagine you have threads of energy attached to your shoulders and these threads connect to every item you have in your possession. Every item—each dish, cup, and pan; pictures in the photo album, CDs, and hammer; each nail, sock, book, pile of papers, sweater, car, guitar pick, and even your computer files. It’s one energy thread per item.

Now envision wherever you go you energetically drag all your possessions with you. You drag them via the connecting threads of emotional energy. How much are you dragging?

What if you eliminated a quarter of your belongings? How much lighter would you feel? Would you even miss any of the things you discarded or gave away? Through my experience, the answer is surprising: not really.

I have a very wealthy friend; she could buy just about anything. Her home is lovely, not cluttered or crowded. There isn’t a plethora of stuff. She gave me a perfectly beautiful blouse one day and I asked her why she was giving it away. She replied, “I have a rule. If I buy something new I have to give something away.” Wow, really wise woman!

In last weeks article, I talked about a principle which allows us a great deal of freedom – keep things simple. Getting rid of stuff is a way to simplify your life, to free yourself and Autumn is a perfect time.

Of Hens and Families

                                                   A Very Bright Chicken!

We have chickens, free-range chickens. That means they are never locked in the coop. That has its advantages and disadvantages!

•It feels like country even in the city
•They poop on your patio and steps
•Breakfast can always include eggs
•It takes a hunt to get those breakfast eggs
•There are fewer bugs everywhere
•Ripe garden tomatoes might not make it into the house!

You see the last thing on the list- Ripe garden tomatoes might not make it into the house! That has been happening to me all summer. In fact, I have been picking my tomatoes when they are still slightly orange with a bit of green. It’s annoying because the reason to plant tomatoes is that you want ripe from the vine tomatoes.

I’ve been watching for the culprit who’s getting into the garden. Today I found her out! She is the mangiest chicken in the flock. She’s missing feathers on her neck and on her behind. She’s skinny and scraggly. You wouldn’t think much of her. However, you would be wrong! She is smarter than the average chicken despite her looks.

This morning I discovered her in my garden and I shooed her out. Then, because I can’t figure out how she gets in I watched her. Within minutes I saw her scoot under the fence at the corner where it connects to our neighbor’s fence. I shooed her back out. Then I placed a large rock in front of the low spot.

These low spots are actually created by the chickens themselves. They love taking dirt baths. Over time they can create quite an indention.

That’s what has happened around the perimeter of my garden. When I discovered this I placed cinder blocks in every indention I knew about. That’s why I couldn’t figure out how Scraggy Hen got in this morning.

After I blocked her newest entrance I watched her pace from one end of the garden to the other looking for a way in. I could feel her frustration as she paced back and forth trying this and that.

Although I felt for her plight what I felt, even more, was the desire for a ripe red tomato out of my own garden so I turned my gaze away and I went back to my cleaning. The next time I looked her way she was in the garden! How did she do that!!

I shooed her out and then I watched some more. For just a few minutes she went back to pacing the fence line, then she veered to the left towards the pasture fence. The fence at the back of the garden is also the fence to the back pasture. It’s made of far different wire than our chicken wire garden fence.

This fencing is meant to keep out cows and sheep, not chickens. Scraggy Hen looked along that piece of fence line until she found a place where the wires were just a bit more open and through them she went. Now she was in the pasture and she headed for the section that is at the back of the garden, where she searched until she found a larger opening. Voila, in the garden again!

What Do Chickens Have To Do With Families?

Now, this post isn’t about hens and gardens or even ripe tomatoes. It’s about the challenge we have to work out a solution when something that used to work stops working for our family or family relationships.

Scraggy Hen had been getting into my garden the same way all summer, under the fence. She had a routine going. Get in, eat all the tomato you can and get out before Mean Lady shoos you out. Then today it stopped working. Scraggy Hen paced up and down along the fence line for a long time. She would finally wander away and then eventually come back and pace some more. It was frustrating to watch and if chickens feel then Scraggy Hen was frustrated. She just kept checking the same old spots but they were blocked and she couldn’t get through anymore.

That can happen in family relationships and family systems; what used to work stops working and then we mentally pace. We keep trying to do it the old way. We feel frustrated, angry, annoyed, sad, victimized and any number of other human responses.

Back to Scraggy Hen. She got tired of pacing that fence line. She wanted ripe, red tomatoes for breakfast. She had had them before and wanted them again. So she checked out a new fence line and got through. Back into ripe, red tomato heaven!

For Better Solutions Get Out of The Box

What Scraggy Hen did was get out of the box. She stopped thinking in the same old familiar pattern and tried something different. She stopped being frustrated and feeling victimized. She took control of her response and began to think outside of the box. When nothing was going right she went left, literally.

Scraggy Hen was used to getting into the garden a specific way. When that way stopped working she had to find a new way. She had to leave the comfort zone of what she knew and try something else.

There are books written about how to become an out of the box thinker, to find better solutions. But here are some simple steps to begin practicing now.
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•Stop accepting victimhood and begin taking control of your responses.

When things aren’t going well it’s easy to feel like a victim of other people, even our kids. However, we are always in control of our response and when we believe and live as if that is true, it goes a long way in helping us manage even unmanageable situations and come up with better or new solutions

Repeat to yourself every time you feel that someone is doing something to you – I am not a victim!

•Leave your comfort zone

We all have ways that we have always done things or think that they should be done. It’s easier to follow the status quo but families who thrive keep changing whatever needs to be changed. They aren’t afraid to try doing something in a new way. In every family, everything is an experiment. Some work and some don’t and it’s OK. Try another experiment!

•Challenge your assumptions (stories)

Often when things stop working or go awry we assume it’s the other person’s fault. However, as we remain in control of our response to what doesn’t feel right we can also begin looking at our own motives, desires, and stories. What is fueling our feelings and our actions?

•Ask yourself searching questions

For example – instead of blaming your kids for not doing their chores ask yourself questions about how you are when you’re attempting to get them to do their chores. Are you present? Are your boundaries good? How do you feel about chores and what energy are you bringing? How is your consistency? Are you allowing yourself to feel like a victim? Why? When we ask ourselves searching questions about what is happening or not happening we can often make slight changes in our own behavior that can right a sinking ship or help us find a new ship altogether.

• Step out of your shoes and step into that of your spouse and children

It’s easy to get stuck in our own heads and in our own feelings. But when we step out of our shoes and into someone else’s we get a better idea of what’s driving another person’s behavior. For example, I had a friend who’s 13-year-old would not talk to her. It made her feel like a bad mom, that her daughter was mad at her or that she didn’t love her. She kept trying to get her daughter to talk to her. It only widened the gap.

Finally, this mom stepped out of her shoes and into those of her daughter. She decided that being 13 was probably a tough place to be and that what her daughter might need was a consistent connection, not words. She spent 3-5 minutes sitting on the edge of her daughter’s bed each night in the dark, in silence. She gently laid her hand on the bed next to her daughter’s arm. After a few weeks, her daughter began opening up. This mom stepped out of the box in her thinking.

•Don’t Take The Need for New Solutions Personally

Life is full of ups and downs. We can ride these waves of change better when we’re open to exploring different options and trying new experiments. Don’t take the need to change personally. Don’t make it about how you are doing as a parent. Just try a new experiment.

Your shares are the best compliment. : ) 

Flying By The Seat of Your Pants Is Uncomfortable!

Being a mother of seven busy children was a BIG job. One of the difficulties I ran into was managing all the mess and work that comes with a family. Believe me, you don’t have to have seven kids to figure out that a family takes work.

I do a lot of mentoring with mom’s and dads who feel a bit over the top with managing all that they have on their plates and still finding time to enjoy being in their homes with their families. One thing that we always take a good look at, as we analyze feelings of frustration or anger, are family systems.

I had a mom tell me that one thing that really got her down was that after dinner everyone scattered and she was faced with cleaning up the mess by herself. She felt she was in this bad place because she didn’t have a system.

Here was the real problem – she had a system that didn’t work well for her. The system that she and her family were using was that after dinner everyone scattered and mom was left to clean up. Yup, that was their system. It was a system by default but a system none the less. Flying by the seat of your pants is uncomfortable!

When looking at family systems I have a parent make a list of the top three things that happen in a day that cause them to feel like leaving home, you know, those times when they feel most frustrated or angry at their children or family. Then we take a look at what system is being used. We take an honest look! Once we know what has been happening over and over we can design an experiment to determine what might feel and work better.

I LOVE experiments! When a scientist wants to see if they can get a certain outcome they design an experiment. If they don’t get the outcome they want then they try something else. The scientist doesn’t berate him or herself at the end of a failed experiment. They just try another experiment. But moms and dads can be pretty hard on themselves if something doesn’t work out well the first time. Maybe that’s why we fly by the seat of our pants so often and have systems by default. We don’t want to fail. But as I said, you can’t fail with an experiment because, that what it is, an experiment. So, begin taking a hard look at your family systems.

As I help someone design an experiment we take into account their desires, energy level, family personalities, etc and come up with something that has a chance to work in their family. Over the years I have seen many successes.

I devised some very successful systems over the years to manage my own life and family. They worked for me but they may not work for your family. But I want to get you thinking about your own systems.

THREE SYSTEM EXAMPLES

A. Laundry
With seven kids clothes and towels can become a chaotic mess. I was doing piles and piles of laundry every week. I couldn’t keep up and realized that I need to upgrade whatever system it was that we were using. My experiment had three prongs to it and although parts were certainly not what most people would choose, it worked for our family.

1. One of the items of clothing that became problematic was pajamas. We had a really terrible system. You wore them, took them off, dropped them wherever, and then the next night you got clean ones. Yup, that was our laundry clogging system.

So I put hooks on the kids’ walls. I didn’t feel that we needed clean pajamas every day. So in the morning they hung them up and put the same ones on at night. If they ended up on the floor then you had to wear them anyway. PJ’s were good for at least 3 days. It really helped cut down on laundry.

2. Towels were another issue. Often towels ended up on the floor, and remember I had seven children. By morning, especially in the summer, the towel was sour and headed for the laundry. Uggggggh I hated that because 4-7 towels a day was excruciating.

So I added another hook for their towel. I gave each child a towel and it was the only one they got for a week. If hung up it was good for a week because it was used to dry a clean body. I didn’t give in to cries of, “But my towel stinks.” If your towel was on the floor and got stinky you had to earn another towel. It wasn’t a very popular system but it worked and the kids soon learned to hang up their towels.

3. Here was the third prong to the new system – when you were 12 you did your own laundry. I took the time over a number of weeks to help a new twelve-year-old learn how to do their laundry. Then they were on their own. I didn’t monitor their laundry. There were a few times that someone had to borrow underwear from a sibling or wear a dirty uniform to gym class but it was a great learning experience and everyone got better at it.

B. Cleaning rooms

I had different systems for getting kids to clean their rooms over the years. As their ages changed so did our systems. At one time I had five kids over 12 and under 18. Their rooms were horrible and we didn’t have a system at that time that was working and I was weary of talking and cajoling to get older children to manage the mess.

So I told my older children that I wasn’t going to remind them to clean their rooms anymore. But we did have some rules:

•Your mess cannot spill out into the hallway.
•If you choose a mess you have to keep your door closed.
•If it smells you will have to take an evening or afternoon off and clean your room. No activities until the smell is gone.
•Every bedroom has to be put in order once a month. You can do it or I can do it. If I do it then I get to decide what stays and what goes.

I know lots of moms are gasping right now but I love cleaning and I loved getting my hands on those kid’s rooms. : ) This was very workable for me.

I had two sons who couldn’t care less about their stuff so, often as not, I picked up their rooms once a month and I chucked a lot of junk. It felt fabulous.

I had a third son who cared about all of his stuff and I rarely had to go into his room. Two of my daughters fell into this over 12 under 18 category and for the most part, managed their own rooms because they didn’t want me messing with their stuff.

Sometimes, as I began a room a horrified teen would come running in and say, “I got this mom.” You may think this was a terrible system but it worked for us.

THAT IS THE POINT!

And that is the point, do you have systems that are working for you and your family? If you find yourself feeling overwhelmed and angry at your family or children then take a look at your systems.

DESIGN AN EXPERIMENT, CREATE A NEW SYSTEM

•Write down the top three things that make you most upset with your family or children.
•Stick with three items because what you want is movement, not overwhelm.
Narrow your list to the one that you want to change most.
•Honestly look at your current system. Acknowledge those that are systems by default.
•Design and experiment with a new system based on your desires, energy, family personality, etc.
•If it works great, and if not, go back to the drawing board. Design another experiment.
•Remember, whatever you can get your family to ‘buy into’ they will take more ownership of and it will work better and longer.
•Be clear that very few systems work forever and be open to new experiments every now and then.

When we take responsibility for how we feel and stop blaming our family or kids, then we can come up with solutions that help us feel better. We will be able to look at our current systems honestly and design something that works.

Create A Culture of Togetherness

Tightly knit families with good relationships don’t just happen. We have to have some idea of what we want and then take one small step towards that bigger picture.

Every family has a culture. They’re all different. In my family’s culture kids and adults didn’t play or work together. Even at family reunions that theme played out. There were activities for kids and different ones for adults.

My mom and dad did a lot of stuff for us but not with us. My dad loved to garden but he did it alone. If we needed to weed or water we were sent out to do it. He did his part and we did our part. My mom planned fabulous birthday parties. She did it all and they were great. We attended. We didn’t plan together or organize them together.

I know that there are lots of families with a culture like this. Kids learn and work separately from parents and families spend many hours each day away from one another.

When I was a young mother I had a beautiful garden in our backyard. I usually gardened by myself. I liked the solitude. I would send the kids out to weed. But at some point, I realized that I wanted a different family culture. I wanted a different bond with my children.

So each weekday when I got up at 6:30 I woke a different child up to help me in the garden. I did this all summer. They were not happy about it. But soon we started talking about all kinds of things. They shared what they were feeling with me and I was able to share with them. It was a remarkable summer. The fruits from the garden that year seemed sweeter than ever before.

The Advantages of a Culture of Togetherness

What are the advantages of parents who are present with their children, who foster a culture of togetherness? Learning and working with a child tells them you are concerned about them and that you like them, that they matter. It strengthens self-esteem. It allows children to model what you are doing and to ask questions. They learn more. Deep and thoughtful conversations can come out of casual activity with a mom or dad. Relationships are stronger.

Ways to Create a Culture of Togetherness

But connecting as a family can be a challenge if that wasn’t part of your family culture growing up or if you have gotten used to doing your work and learning while your kids do theirs.

A family culture that fosters healthy, connected relationships don’t just happen. It takes some work. If we want to have a culture of togetherness we have to do something new. We have to take a small step and then be consistent. Simple/small things done consistently over time bring big results.

Take a look at your current family culture. Is it as connected as you would like? If not, figure out one thing that would make a difference in the feeling of togetherness in your home and then implement it.

Do you need to give up using technology when you’re working with or listening to your kids? Do you need to listen more, yell less, play with your children, have more mini-conversations, or tuck them in at night? What is it for you?

You might decide to have your family participate in fewer clubs and classes and allow your children to spend more time at home while you involve them in life’s activities: cooking, repairing something, learning a new skill, or playing.

Maybe a morning devotional would benefit your family. How many mornings will you commit to – one, two?

You could try reading together. Reading as a family and then talking about what you are reading creates a feeling of safety and warmth.

You might consider one evening a week doing something as a family. Keep it simple. Take a walk, play a board game, or serve someone.

For some families just sitting down at the table and eating would be a big accomplishment. If eating together is not something you have been doing regularly why not set a goal to do it once or twice a week. Then be consistent.

Whatever you choose, make a commitment to it. Be consistent and be present. Don’t talk on the phone, fold laundry or watch TV out of the corner of your eye. When you are doing that one thing consistently then choose another and go to work again.

And finally, remember being consistent is not the same as being perfect. Perfect isn’t what we need as families. What we need is connection and togetherness consistently.