Category: Controlling your Thoughts

Let the Gifts You Have Mastered Count

Yesterday, after an hour’s drive, I spent the day helping a friend clean and organize her garage. Wow, it was a hot day, punctuated by a downpour, in the afternoon. I got to work with her sons which was a treat. They did good. : )

At one point, my friend asked me if I ever got tired of being called on to clean and organize other people’s messes. Fair question. She felt bad for asking me to help her. But I responded with this. “Would you feel bad asking if I played the flute? Would you ask me to play at a funeral, a wedding, or in a parade? Would you be hesitant to ask? No, because it would be my talent. What I do is no less a talent, and I am glad to share it when possible. What I do isn’t any less valuable, just less showy. So, when asked, I use my talent to clean and organize.”

I have thought a lot about this conversation. Here it is in a nutshell. I am excellent at three things that make me a superior organizer and cleaner: consistency, focus, and a sense of order. I can’t take any credit for these three things. I was born with them. I know you will want to argue this point, but I have lived in my skin for over seven decades. I was this way as a small child. I was born with these gifts. I can’t take credit.

Here is what I can take credit for.

I practiced every day, for decades. Sometimes I did better than others but over time, I became a master. I can take credit for that.

That is how talents are. We have a natural propensity for something – fishing, dance, playing an instrument, comedy, gymnastics, football, cleaning and organizing, planning, listening to another’s grief, gardening, cooking, caring for the old or ill, connecting with children, the list is endless. Some take this natural gift, and they use it regularly, they practice, and they become masters. Others don’t and although they have a gift, they don’t become masters.

Case in point

I was a very talented dancer. I thought about going to Europe to study. I read books about dance, and I danced my little heart out. One of my teachers said I was gifted, and I was. I could have pursued this goal. However, I discovered that as good as I was, it wasn’t the thing I valued most. So, I let it go and I’m glad I did. In dancing’s place, I have a family of seven accomplished children. I have a marriage that is filled with love after 51 hard and sometimes brutal years. I have learned much about charity, humility, and a generousness of spirit. It has been these other things that I pursued that have led me here, to who I am today.

What natural gift have you honed? Look closely. If you think you have let your life slip away and that you haven’t pursued your dreams, look again. What gift have you perfected over the years that serves you and others and feels more valuable than what you let go of? Celebrate that! Stop feeling like a failure.

I am a success. I change people’s lives; not in a way I thought I might, decades ago, but in the way that has lifted me and others, that has changed me and deepened my soul.

Let the gifts that you have devoted a lifetime to perfecting count!

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.

Our Stories Shape Our Lives!!

Stories shape our lives!

I am talking about the stories we tell ourselves about other people, their motives, our children, what happens to us, and so forth. These stories are written by what we think, our thoughts in pictures. I am a believer in this by experience, not theory.

In my one-on-one mentoring, I often remind a parent that they have control over how something is going to feel and look based on what they tell themselves.

I want to illustrate what I mean by sharing an example with you.

A few years ago, at the county fair, my husband bought a stovetop grill. He was anxious to try it out. The next day was Sunday, and we had church meetings that would take all morning. Following church, we had an important wedding reception. A DO NOT MISS event!

Knowing my husband well, I said, “Don, you won’t be able to grill chicken tomorrow after church; it will take too long. We need to come home, eat something quick, and get to the reception.” I know he heard me because he was looking at me and nodding his head. Does this sound familiar so far?

As I slipped into my last meeting for the day, I noticed that Don was nowhere to be seen. I knew immediately what had happened. He was skipping out to go home and grill that chicken! Sure enough, as I walked into the house, there he was grilling, sorta. The chicken was still totally raw. He had seasoned it and gotten everything ready. Then he had to heat the grill, and he was just putting it on when I walked in. Ok, so you probably know what was running through my mind. “He never listens to me” or “He doesn’t care a fig about what I say” (interpretation – He doesn’t love me!). We got to the reception as they were taking the tablecloths from the tables.

I have had tons of experience with this idea that we shape our experience and how we will feel based on the story we tell ourselves. So, I took control of my story and put it on hold until I could get more facts. That evening I asked my husband, “Don, yesterday I mentioned that there wouldn’t be enough time to grill chicken. I can only see two reasons that you might have gone ahead. One, you didn’t listen to what I said, or two, you didn’t care what I said. However, I know you, and you aren’t insensitive, and you do care about my feelings, so I am wondering what the third option might be.” (There is always a third option.)

He looked at me in total sincerity and said, “Well, I just thought I could do it if I came home early.” I knew at that moment what he said was true. He did think he could do it and was surprised when he couldn’t. By taking control of my story, I saved us a lot of hurt feelings, maybe even a big fight, and more importantly, the erroneous idea that he doesn’t love me, hear me, or care, which would continue to color all our future interactions.

We are 100% in Control

When we control our thoughts, then our stories are better, and our results are happier. In my next blog, I am going to give you an even better and much funnier example. So, stay tuned!

Have you had experience with this idea of taking control of your thoughts and the inevitable story they create? How does using this information look in your family?

No One Can Take Away What You Put In Your Mind

I recently finished reading The Choice. The author, Dr. Edith Eva Eger, spent part of her teen years in Auschwitz. She shares things she learned while there, after she left, and while working as a psychiatrist with other trauma victims. It was gut-wrenching and not a pretty read. I had to endure a bit of foul language. It went with the territory.

I could relate to many things she shared, as I have also experienced trauma. I could affirm many of the healing tools she spoke about because I have used them.

One that has made ALL the difference for me in the latter part of my life is encompassed in a phrase Edith’s mother shared all the time and which Edith carried into the concentration camp – “No one can take away from you what you put in your mind.”

I know from my own experience that this is true. We can choose our story no matter what is happening. We can choose to forgive. We can choose to love. We can decide how to respond. We can think negative thoughts or positive. We can choose. Our ability to choose what goes into our minds is the greatest gift we have been given on this earth. It makes ALL the difference.

We don’t need to be dealing with trauma for this to be true. It is true every day, in every situation. It is true as we deal with friends, family, and even enemies. It is true in abundance and scarcity. It is true in sickness and health. It is always true. What we think about and how we frame it determines our lives, whether we are growing or dying, whether we are happy or dissatisfied, whether we are contributing or not.

You change your story by controlling your thoughts. You manage your emotions by controlling your narrative. When you do this, you take more positive actions, and you get better results.

Tips for Better Thought Management

Here are some tips to begin to master your thoughts and hence, your responses. I have been using these tools for the last fifteen years, and I can promise that it will change your life if you use them.

TIP 1—Take responsibility and stop blaming
Blame is an indicator there’s a problem with our way of being or how we perceive what’s happening, or in other words, our thoughts.

TIP 2—Decide to think the best of others
The key to overcoming the natural man’s tendency to assume the worst about others’ motives is not to polish our apology skills nor learn to control our anger and frustration. Rather, the key to overcoming this destructive behavior is to question our story. Examining the negative story we tell ourselves . . . causes us to consider alternate explanations for their apparently hurtful behavior. To accomplish this, ask yourself one question: “Why would a reasonable, rational, and decent person do this?” Or, if this is too unwieldy, ask, “Why would a decent person act this way?” (McMillan, “Master Your Stories and You Master Your Life”)

TIP 3—Choose words wisely
Dr. Wayne Dyer has said, “What’s in you is what comes out” (“Why the Inside Matters”). 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.

TIP 4—Keep practicing
Managing your thoughts and putting good things in your mind 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. Negative thoughts will come, and they’ll need to be managed.

Dr. Eger was able to survive the concentration camp because she controlled her thoughts. She held on to the good and let go of the bad. She remembered the joy and dismissed the pain. It all took time. Some took a lot of time, but as she persisted, she was able to heal.

Thoughts and the resulting stories are powerful in determining our happiness level. When my granddaughter, Mary, was six, she loved to watch the fish in our tank. We have a very sleek, silver catfish that swims fast and erratically whenever anyone stands in front of the tank. I believe the fish does this out of fear or because it has been disturbed.

One day Mary asked me, “Do you know why this fish swims so fast when I’m looking at him?” I replied, “No, why?” She responded with, “Because he likes me!” Like all of us, Mary gets to write the story, and her story makes her happy. And for all I know, her story may be as valid as mine.

You can find more tips and some amazing true stories in Chapter Five of my book Becoming A Present Parent: Connecting with Your Children in Five Minutes or Less. It is worth the read!

Keep Your Hand on the Helm of Thought

You Have Control Over How Your Life Feels!

I’ve written many articles on the power of accepting that you have control over how your life feels. This control comes from learning to manage your thoughts. I write about it because, for three decades, as a mom, I didn’t believe this was true. I felt hammered and blown about by life. Then one day, I came face to face with the truth – I had control of my life through how I thought about my life.

I didn’t want to accept this truth. It was a heavy burden, too much responsibility. I fought against believing this truth for over a decade. Then one day, I came to know it was true. When I accepted that I was 100% responsible for how my life felt, I discovered that it wasn’t a heavy burden at all but one of the most freeing truths I had every embraced.

Planting Seeds

One of the earliest books I read that talked about the power of controlling our thoughts was As a Man Thinketh by James Allen.

“Yes, humanity surges with uncontrolled passion, is tumultuous with ungoverned grief, is blown about by anxiety and doubt. Only the wise man, only he whose thoughts are controlled and purified, makes the winds and the storms of the soul obey him.

“The tempest-tossed souls, wherever ye may be, under whatsoever conditions ye may live, know this-in the ocean of life the isles of Blessedness are smiling, and the sunny shore of your ideal awaits your coming. Keep your hand firmly upon the helm of thought. In the bark of your soul reclines the commanding Master; He does but sleep; wake Him. Self-control is strength; Right thought is mastery; Calmness is power. Say unto your heart, “Peace, be still!”

Pretty deep. I was in high school and borrowed the book from my dad, who had gone back to college when I was in 10th grade. I didn’t understand it fully then, but a seed was planted.

One of my favorite quotes is from Viktor E. Frankl, a Holocaust survivor. He said, “When we’re no longer able to change a situation—we’re challenged to change ourselves.” He reminds us in his book, Man’s Search for Meaning, the one thing that can never be taken from a person is their ability to choose how to respond (Frankl). I would add their ability to control their thoughts, which leads to the best response. Isn’t it interesting that I read this book back in those high school days also?

Negative Thought Narrows, Positive Thought Expands

A couple of years ago, I read an article by James Clear in the Huffington Post – “Research has shown … negative emotions narrow your mind and focus your thoughts.”

Your brain shuts everything else off and focuses on the negative emotions of fear, anger, frustration, or stress. You can’t see other options or choices. On the other hand, positive emotions do the opposite.

From a research study by Barbara Fredrickson, a positive psychology researcher at the University of North Carolina, “When you’re experiencing positive emotions like joy, contentment, and love, you’ll see more possibilities in your life. Positive emotions broaden an individual’s momentary thought-action repertoire: joy sparks the urge to play, interest sparks the urge to explore, contentment sparks the urge to savor and integrate, and love sparks a recurring cycle of each of these urges within safe, close relationships. The broadened mindsets arising from these positive emotions are contrasted to the narrowed mindsets sparked by many negative emotions.”

It is a Daily Practice

I have to work on controlling my thoughts every day. It’s easy to fall back into old patterns of blame and complaint. But I do work on it every day.

The result – I stay in blame and complaint for less time than in the past. Days have become hours, and often hours have become minutes.

If you’re feeling some push back to this idea, I understand. I’ve been there. But if you’re struggling to feel joy in your life, give it a try. Please take responsibility for your thoughts and your responses. Stop blaming. Take responsibility for your words, which are your thoughts in concrete form. You’re in control. Knowing this gives you all the power.

Help Other’s Know that there is a Way to Take Back Their Power. : ) 

It Is Wise…

My sister uses only white dishcloths. When they are soiled, she boils them on the stove until they are white – I mean white! There is not a stain on them. When they begin to fray or wear out, they end up in the rag bag or the garbage.

On the other hand, I use any color dishcloth, and I don’t care if they are stained. When my dishcloths are soiled, I throw them in the washer. I do this until they are beginning to have seriously frayed edges and small holes. Only when they are not holding up to the job, do they head for the ragbag or the garbage.

This same sister had a rat that lived under her kitchen floor. It was a white pet rat, and it was blind. But it was a rat! A few times a day, he came out to be fed. After all, he was blind. I have a hard time allowing my husband to have one small dog.

In my family of origin, all the pans were dark. I thought that if you cooked in a kitchen pan or used a baking sheet, it got dark. There wasn’t anything you could do about it. However, as I got older, I noticed that my grandmother’s pans were ALL shiny and new looking. Hmmm!

What I discovered as an adult was that if some remnants of oil remained on a pan, then when it is next used, those remnants would be dark. Left long enough, the bottom of the pan would be dark. Since then, I have noticed some women with shiny pans and even more whose pans are dark. Mine are, for the most part, dark.

Here is something else I have noticed. Some people make hospital corners when they make their beds, and some don’t. I joined the nurses club in 7th grade and learned how to do a hospital corner, and so I make them.

Here is something I have never done in my home. We have never eaten a meal at the kitchen bar. We always ate at the table. I have a friend whose family eats almost all their meals sitting on stools at the bar. They seem to like that. It feels odd to me.

I was recently at the home of a friend, and I noticed that she had labeled baskets in her laundry room. There was a basket for whites and one for darks, one for jeans, and so forth. Then there were marked baskets for each person. As clothes were washed, they could be sorted and put into the correct room.

It caused me to think back to my laundry room when I was a young mom. Everything went into a pile in the middle of the laundry room floor. When washed, clothes went into a different pile until they were parceled out to different rooms where it was hopefully folded. If it didn’t get sorted and sent to the correct room before a need arose, whoever had the need would dig through the pile until they found what they were looking for. And sometimes whites and darks went into the same load because I was plain tired and wanted it done! That’s how it went in my home of origin too.

I know a family that plays games a couple of times a week. I never did that with my family. We didn’t play games with adults when I was growing up either. We took drives together, though, and we went camping.

One of my good friends would visit far-flung places in the States with her family a couple of times a year. That seemed out of the ordinary to me. We drove to my grandmas and played with cousins or went camping in Yellowstone Park.

I’ll bet as you have been reading this, you have made some mental judgments. They will have been based on your version of how something ought to be done. That is natural, but it can be dangerous.

It is usually counterproductive to compare. There are as many ways to run a home and family as there are families. Some methods are more orderly than others. Some may appear to work better than others. Then there is just personal taste. Women tend to put their systems or ways of doing things against their neighbors and friends. Often, they come out as the losers in some imaginary game of ‘Who Does It Better.’

It Is Wise…

It is wise to look at what works in your home and be OK with it. If something isn’t working, ask the simple question, “Why doesn’t this work.” Then experiment with new systems or ways of managing a thing until you find what does work.

It is wise to look for systems or ways of managing if what you are doing doesn’t or has stopped working. Others can share what works for them. If it sounds good,  give it a try. Just remember that it isn’t a case of ‘Who is doing better.” It is merely a case of “What works for us.”

It is wise to keep comparison and judgment out of your life. You will find that your happiness and contentment will increase. Your family and home will feel and fit more comfortably.

If this article could help a friend, let them know about it.

The HARDEST thing to choose!

A 92-year-old, petite, well-poised and proud man, who is fully dressed each morning by eight o’clock, with his hair fashionably combed and shaved perfectly, even though he is legally blind, moved to a nursing home today. His wife of 70 years recently passed away, making the move necessary. After many hours of waiting patiently in the lobby of the nursing home, he smiled sweetly when told his room was ready.

“As he maneuvered his walker to the elevator, I provided a visual description of his tiny room, including the eyelet sheets that had been hung on his window. ‘I love it,’ he stated with the enthusiasm of an eight-year-old having just been presented with a new puppy. Mr. Jones, you haven’t seen the room; just wait.’

That doesn’t have anything to do with it,’ he replied. Happiness is something you decide on ahead of time. Whether I like my room or not doesn’t depend on how the furniture is arranged…it’s how I arrange my mind. I already decided to love it. It’s a decision I make every morning when I wake up. I have a choice; I can spend the day in bed recounting the difficulty I have with the parts of my body that no longer work or get out of bed and be thankful for the ones that do.

“Each day is a gift, and as long as my eyes open, I’ll focus on the new day and all the happy memories I’ve stored away… Just for this time in my life.” – Well Built: Inspiring Stories from the Boardroom to the Frontline By Bob Buck

I enjoyed reading this short story because it highlights an important law of success –

it happens in our minds first.

The other day Don did something that ruffled my feathers! I felt the anger well up and the inner pout come out. As I stood at the sink fuming, I realized that I had a choice to make. I could be angry and let Don know it or I could flush what was bothering me and just be happy. I decided to let it go and just be happy.

It wasn’t easy. That negative emotion wanted to run around and around in my brain replaying whatever it was that was upsetting me. I had to find a way to shove it out for good. I choose to be grateful. I began thinking up a list in my mind of all the things that I like about Don, all the fun and pleasant memories that I have of the two of us. Guess what, the negative feeling dissipated and I felt happy.

As we parent our families there is plenty to stress us especially during these trying days of Covid-19 and social distancing. Children aren’t perfect, we aren’t perfect, systems and tools don’t always work the way we want them to, sad things happen, bad things happen, relationships can turn bumpy, our family culture is often a poignant mirror of all the work we need to do. Despite all this we can choose to be happy. The truth is that happiness is an attitude. It’s not something created by outside circumstances, but instead is completely within our control.

Here are a few techniques

to help you choose happy when you’re tempted to choose something else.

1. Be grateful – This tops my list. It works every time. When I am feeling really put out or downtrodden, if I begin thinking about all the wonderful parts of my life, I just can’t help but perk right up. If you need to, write a list. Seeing it in black and white helps.
2. Take care of yourself – What are some of the small things in life that make you feel good? Do one daily. Take a short walk, write for a few minutes in your journal, have a short meditation, watch the sunset, hug a child. For me, it is a hot shower just before bed every day. I love it! Whatever reminds you that you are a human being and not a human doing will improve your outlook on life.
3. Be creative – Creativity and self-expression generate happiness. Schedule some creative time each day, even if it’s just a few minutes of writing, painting, baking, or sewing.
4. Move – Move a little every day to stay happy. It releases endorphins, the feel-good hormone.
5. Read and listen to inspirational material – It helps to be reminded of positive thoughts and positive attitudes. Read in your spiritual cannon or get a small book of positive, inspirational thoughts and keep it by your desk. Read one or two thoughts each day. Every morning I have a private devotional. I have a short list of songs that move my heart. I choose one to listen to every morning, then I pray. I read a few verses in my spiritual cannon. It makes a difference!
7. Contribute – Serve others. Think about the needs of others. Make a difference. It boosts your self-esteem, your gratitude, and feeling of well-being.
8. Be in nature – Nature rejuvenates and restores the human spirit. Give yourself the gift of visiting it frequently. Take a walk or just sit in the sun in your back yard and rest for a few minutes! : )

No matter how many wonderful things you do to create a positive, happy, satisfied life, you could still end up in unhappy stressed situations. Ultimately, happiness, gratitude, and a feeling of satisfaction is a choice.

Know someone who needs some

‘happy’? Please share.

You Can’t Know Until You Get There

Sometimes parenting seems like a thankless job. Many things must be done. Often, it seems, those we serve aren’t aware of, resent, or push away our efforts. I’ve learned that you really can’t know until you get there. That’s the problem in a nutshell. Our children don’t deliberately set out to be ignorant of the blessings, help, and support we give them. But it can seem like it because we expect them to see through our eyes and our experience. But they can’t because you can’t know until you get there.

I remember a conversation with a teen of ours who was struggling. She couldn’t understand why we were so worried and up in arms. She was fine! Then she had a child and that child became a teen. Then my child understood and talked to me about all we had tried to do for her and how grateful she was. You can’t know until you get there.

I recall dragging my kids to prayer in our bedroom each morning. Oh, my goodness, the fussing, snoring, and resentment. Later, much later, one of those same bleary-eyed kids told me that those prayerful moments had meant so much later when she was away from home, alone, and in trouble. She said the memory and practice was a lifeline. It gave her the courage to seek divine help which changed her life. You can’t know till you get there.

As a mother of seven, meals were HUGE! I made meals that were attractive and varied. They took time to make and then people didn’t want to eat what was served. Getting the response I got, year after year, was exasperating. Recently, one of my daughters said, “Mom, I don’t know how you did it. You made such great meals. I struggle every day to figure out what to cook and then to get it done.” She has finally gotten there. She appreciates my efforts, but it came over 2 decades after the fact. You can’t know till you get there.

A few years ago, one of my sons in his forties, embarked on a challenging educational path. He would call home looking for support, someone who would tell him how wonderful he was and that he could do it. This is the same son who resented our efforts to guide him along an easier path when he was a teen. But here, a few decades later, he was reaching out for that very thing. It mattered to him and he knew the value. You can’t know till you get there.

There isn’t a timeline for getting there. Just this last week I was talking to a friend who’s an expert knitter. She’s in her 80’s and has a daughter in her 60’s. She was showing me a sweater that she’d just finished that you could have bought in any high-end store. It was gorgeous! She said that her next project was a sweater for her daughter. I replied that her daughter was lucky to have a mom who could knit a sweater that would cost a few hundred dollars. She replied, “I don’t think she knows or feels lucky.” There it is again. You can’t know till you get there. One of these days the mother who knits will pass away and then her daughter will miss the sweaters and she’ll know how lucky she was all those years.

I’m not saying we shouldn’t teach our children to appreciate their blessing. We should. However, sometimes you’ll feel invisible and unappreciated. When that happens remember they’ll understand and be grateful when they get there. This is a useful practice because just knowing that it takes time to get there helps as we do what must be done for those we love. Knowing that they will eventually get there and that it will matter to them then, makes Now better.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Point of the Story

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

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

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

How Did It Turn Out?

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

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

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

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

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