Category: Controlling your Thoughts

You NEED a Short R&R List!

My sister is a very over-worked school teacher! The other day she was lamenting how hard it was to find time to relax and rest. She is at school from 7:30 until four thirty and sometimes later. Then there are papers to grade and she still has a family to feed and a home to run. A few weeks ago she asked me how I find time for R&R. I may not be an overworked school teacher but I have a job, I write, run an online business, do personal mentoring, manage a household and live with grandchildren. I understand and live the difficulty she was asking me to address.

So I gave her my short R&R list:  I take a shower every evening just before I go to bed and put lotion on my feet. I told you the list was short.

I’m on the far right, back row and 16 years old.

I began this little ritual when I was sixteen years old. I worked at my dad’s drive-in restaurant after school and on Saturdays, went to public school every weekday, had loads of homework, and was very busy in my church. Oh yes, did I mention I was the oldest of nine children at the time and trust me that comes with a large share of work and responsibility. Some days it was almost impossible to find time to rest and relax…if you could even find a private or quiet space in our home to rest and relax in.

So I began taking a bath and putting lotion on my feet each evening after the littler kids were in bed. It was wonderful and my parents, sensing my need, didn’t give me grief about water (a precious commodity in an 11 person household) or for tying up the bathroom.

Once I began I never stopped. It doesn’t matter how tired I am, how much is still left to do or how late it is. I always give myself this one thing even if I can’t give myself anything else.

I’m sharing this because my sister was surprised that I put taking a shower on my R&R list. I mean it’s a very plain, everyday, ordinary thing that most people do. Right? Here is the difference. I do it for the express purpose of caring for myself and so it doesn’t feel ordinary or everyday to me. It feels loving.

And therein lies part of the problem when we work to carve out some rest, relaxation or alone time for ourselves in a family. Many people look for something out of the ordinary – going to a movie, a few days away, a date, etc. They look for something that gets them away from home and responsibility, kids and noise.

But as I have said before, if we think of taking care of ourselves as being child-free, away from home, in quiet, then most of us are going to get precious little of it.

How can we care for ourselves right where we are, in the thick of parenting? We need to get creative and we need to manage our story about what is required to care for self.

One of my good friends had a unique solution. She had a treat box, up high, which no one knew about. When she needed a break or the feeling of being cared for she would go to her room, take down the box and have a handful of licorice bits, one of her favorite treats. It took only a few moments. She smiled when she told me about it. It gave her real pleasure to have this little secret, this small piece of R&R.

Here are a few other things that I do to care for myself:

The bathroom is on my self-care list

1. I read in the bathroom. I don’t know about you but I know I am going to be in that room at least three times a day. And right next to the toilet is a large basket of books and magazines. I may only get to read one or two paragraphs before someone knocks on the door but I love those few moments of reading. It feels restful, rejuvenating and makes me smile.

2. I sit down and shell peanuts. It gives me a reason to stop what I am doing and sit for a few moments as well as have a treat. Most of the time, I have grandkids shelling right along with me. You might think that that would negate the feeling of self-care but it doesn’t because I know I am deliberately allowing myself to sit and rest and have a treat. It feels like self-care because I have decided it is – kids or no kids.

3. I also crochet. It’s calming to me. I can do it without thinking. Noisy kids and chaos don’t matter. It’s relaxing in the midst of family. When I engage in this activity, I know I am caring for myself because I am sitting down and doing something that I enjoy. I don’t usually get more than 10-15 minutes but it’s enough. Quiet and aloneness aren’t required.

Here is what I hope you are beginning to understand:

  • Being alone and in quiet are not always required to feel that you are caring for yourself
  • Self-care can be ordinary, nothing special
  • Self-care doesn’t have to cost anything and can happen right where you are, in the midst of family
  • The story we tell ourselves goes a long way to making an activity feel like self-care

I hope you get away now and then. But even more, I hope you will begin practicing self-care right where you are. Write down your own short list. Then be consistent in doing the few things you have written down. It doesn’t have to be every day, like a shower/ bath but they all need to be things that you can do at the drop of a hat, even with your family all around you.

As you practice you will find it easier to be patient, you will feel less resentment and you will have happier days.

Here’s to more joy,
Mary Ann

??? What do you do when you want to care for yourself and you have huge responsibilities, loads of work or very little time? What do you do when you want to care for yourself and you have a house full of children? I would love to know and so would my readers. We could all use suggestions. Please leave a comment and share what has worked for you.

I WILL BE SPEAKING at the Winter Homeschool Conference on January 27, 2018, in Layton, Utah. This conference is designed to support and rejuvenate home educating parents who want to thrive, not just survive the homeschooling experience. You don’t have to be currently homeschooling to attend! I will be speaking on Process vs Outcome. Knowing the Difference Can Change Your Family. If the topic resonates with you I would love to have you join me.

P.S. You can learn more about seven ways to get better self-care in my new book Becoming a Present Parent, Connecting With Your Children in Five Minutes or Less. Knowing the difference will help you let it be enough. You can also receive a chapter from the book on Touchpoints, creating points of connection rather than having points of contention, FREE by visiting becomingapresentparent.com It can be life-changing for your family. I promise!

A New Way of Being in 2018

A few years ago I came home and on the counter was my blender…filled with flowers. I loved the flowers but I couldn’t understand why they were in the blender!!

When we moved last time I really downsized. I kept only two vases. One was filled with plants I am rooting. That left just the red one under the sink…too narrow of a neck for the flowers I found on my counter, in the blender.

I took a minute and stood in the middle of my living room and thought about what I might have that I could put this big, beautiful bouquet of flowers in. I mean, I couldn’t leave them in the blender. Right? Only a man would put flowers in the blender! Right?

I have a curio cupboard filled with stuff. In the cupboard, I discovered a beautiful clear, glass cookie jar. It was perfect for the flowers and the arrangement looked so nice.

Here is the thought that I had when the flowers were arranged in that beautiful, glass jar:
“What’s wrong with Don? He could have found this jar just as easily as I did. Why in the heck did he put those flowers in the blender? Men!”

Now in my past life, this is what would have happened when Don got home:
Hi Don. Thanks for the flowers. They’re beautiful but why did you put them in the blender?”

“Well, I couldn’t find a big enough vase.”

“Honey, there was a glass jar right in the curio cupboard. You can see it as well as I can. You just have to look. Anyway, thank you for the flowers. I love them.”

Ladies, does this scenario sound familiar to you? I am sure it does. Here my man brought home flowers but he would have gone away feeling unappreciated for his efforts and me, well, I would think that despite the fact that he brought home flowers, he was kind of lame for not putting them in something pretty, instead of the blender. In fact, I would have thought he was sort of lazy for not taking the time to find anything else.

Fortunately, I had time to think this through before Don got home and I am old enough to have been down this road many times in the past. I was looking for a new road! Here is what I realized. He wouldn’t have been free to use that glass jar even if he had seen it. Why? Because he wouldn’t have known if it was an antique or just stuff. If he had used it I might have come home and said, “Gee Don, why did you use that. It was Great Aunt May’s and it’s worth a lot of money. Why do you think it was in the curio in the first place?” I’ll bet this sounds familiar to many men. They just can’t do it right.

I was telling this story to a friend the other day. She nodded her head and said, “My husband is always saying, “Can I do anything right for you? Anything?” Gee, Don has said that to me! It isn’t that they really can’t do anything right. It’s really about complaining because it isn’t done the way we think it should be done.

This is the bind that our husbands and our children find themselves in quite often. They do the best they can but it just doesn’t make the grade and we let them know it. I propose that it’s better, more often than not, to just accept what is offered without complaint or criticism.

For example:

•Your husband brings flowers home, can’t find a vase, and so he puts them in the blender. Kiss him soundly and say, “Thank you so much, sweetheart!”
•Your 12-year-old son does the dishes without complaint. When he is done you notice that he hasn’t swept the floor so you point it out. “Sigh”, this comes from the son. It would be better to give a quick hug, say thanks and acknowledge that the job was done without complaint. Then, if you must, at a much later time mention that when he does the dishes next time would he please sweep the floor.
•Your husband helps the kids with their baths. There is a lot of laughing and good times going on. When they are done and in PJ’s and sitting on the couch you huff out of the bathroom because there is water all over the place and the towels are on the bedroom floor. You do one of two things – march into the living room, angry that you are again stuck with cleaning up, and loudly ask everyone to go clean up the floor and hang up their towels or you stay quiet and just put on your martyr face so that HE knows that you are upset. It would be better to join everyone in the living room, even if for only a few minutes. Give some quick hugs, thank your spouse for a job well done and then quietly wipe up the floor and hang up the towels. Later, in a day or two, if you must, you then ask him to wipe up the floor and have the kids hang up the towels next time, please, with a smile.
•Your five year old sets the table for dinner. He forgets the napkins and two plates don’t have forks. He comes to you beaming from ear to ear and lets you know he has done the job. You point out that there are no napkins and forks are missing. The job gets finished, the smile is gone. It might be better to give the five-year-old a big hug and ask him if he wants to learn how to fold napkins in a really cool, new way. Sure he does. You show him how, help him do it and now there are napkins on the table. You quietly put on the two missing forks. Later you have a Family Learning Time and everyone practices setting the table.

There are three things I am pointing out:
•Sometimes it’s wise to just accept the job as is and be grateful. No complaining!
•Timing in teaching is everything. We all want to feel valued for what we do even if it isn’t perfect.
•Even though we want our family to do their best, their best isn’t always going to be our idea of “best”. That’s OK.

Let’s all practice a new way of being in 2018. Let’s all complain less and be kinder. I think we will like the results. I know our families will!

What do you think? True or not? Doable? Leave a comment.

Here’s to more joy,
Mary Ann

I WILL BE SPEAKING at the Winter Homeschool Conference on January 27, 2018, in Layton, Utah. This conference is designed to support and rejuvenate home educating parents who want to thrive, not just survive the homeschooling experience. You don’t have to be currently homeschooling to attend! I will be speaking on Process vs Outcome. Knowing the Difference Can Change Your Family. If the topic resonates with you I would love to have you join me. ​​​​​​​

 

P.S. You can learn more about parenting with gratitude in my new book Becoming a Present Parent, Connecting With Your Children in Five Minutes or Less. Knowing the difference will help you let it be enough. You can also receive a chapter from the book on Touchpoints, creating points of connection rather than having points of contention, FREE by visiting becomingapresentparent.com It can be life-changing for your family. I promise!

If You Can’t Say Something Nice, Don’t Say Nothing At All

Taking care of ourselves when we’re parenting is NOT selfish; it is an investment in our family. When parents care for and nurture themselves they parent better. They are able to remain calm when life is tough, have extended patience and be Present more often.

Last week I mentioned that I do seven simple things that help me care for myself no matter how busy or frustrating the day. This week let’s talk about the NUMBER ONE way to nurture and care for yourself as you parent your family and maintain relationships.

TALK NICELY TO YOURSELF

Think and talk nicely to and about yourself. We would rarely speak to others, even those who are messing up, the way we talk to ourselves. Pay attention to what you say and how you say it. I cannot express the importance of this one step. It will change everything!

It’s magic when it comes to helping you parent well and be Present. As Carol M. Colvin, life coach, stated, “When we say things like ‘I’m such a loser,’ ‘I’m an awful mother or father,’ ‘I’m so fat,’ or ‘I’m just not good enough,’ we do devastating damage to our souls. If we continue to think and speak negatively about ourselves over time, we’ll find that we’ve eroded our self-esteem and extinguished our inner light.”

You need to be your own best friend, no matter how you’re doing presently. Best friends speak kindly to each other and are honest and support one another, even if one of them is floundering. It’s self-care when you treat yourself like your own best friend.

I make it a habit to rephrase any negative words or thoughts immediately. For example—if I say, “I’m so impatient,” I immediately rephrase and say out loud, “I work to be patient and I’m making progress.” It won’t always feel true. Rephrase anyway. The most powerful voice in the world is your own, so rephrase out loud.

I made myself a “Who I Am” poster. I copied a drawing of a woman from the Internet. I picked a drawing that looked like the kind of woman I felt I wasn’t but wanted to be—perky and cute.

Next, I did some free writing. I wrote all the things I wished I was inside the body of the woman. I wrote exactly what came to my mind without judging the thoughts.

Each day I would stand in front of my poster, strike that perky pose and repeat all of those amazing qualities. It felt so weird at first! After all, it was clear I didn’t currently exhibit many of these qualities, but I was also fully willing to accept that these were my actual strengths in embryo.

I did this little exercise for well over a year. It felt better and better. Those qualities felt truer and truer. But here’s when this little exercise in self-care was the most powerful: When I messed up, I would march myself to my poster and recite all those qualities that were mine, even those in embryo. With tears streaming down my face or anger in my heart or dislike of self coursing through me, I would repeat them loudly and with conviction.

As I repeated the attributes, I accepted that this is who I am despite my weaknesses and my errors in judgment or my occasional poor choices and behavior. By the time I was done reciting, I would feel better. I would be able to do whatever I needed to do to make the situation right. Apologize. Forgive. Pray for a better solution, whatever the need.

I still have that poster in my office where I see it daily. Whether I’m doing well or poorly, I’m reminded of who I am! These are the thoughts that I want to hang on to each day as I work toward becoming the best person I can be. Those attributes are what I replace my negative thoughts with.

There are few things that you can do that will help you care for yourself as powerfully as speaking kindly and with respect to yourself and about yourself, even when, in your mind, you least deserve it.

What strategies do you use to speak more kindly to yourself? What do you do to feel better about yourself when you know you have messed up? Please leave a comment and I will respond. : )

Here’s to more joy,
Mary Ann

What is Present Parenting?

P.S. You can learn more about the difference between the 1% principle and the 100% devil in my new book Becoming a Present Parent, Connecting With Your Children in Five Minutes or Less. Knowing the difference will help you let it be enough. You can also receive a chapter from the book on Touchpoints, creating points of connection rather than having points of contention, FREE by visiting becomingapresentparent.com It can be life-changing for your family. I promise!

If you are interested in parenting with a deeper intent why not check out the Home and Family Culture Podcast. I will be sharing information on intentional parenting and you can download a PDF to walk you through the process.

Want Better Relationships – Like Yourself First!

I keep thinking that I’ll switch topics from the power of controlling our story and response to another parenting topic but every day provides a new and powerful example of just what it looks like to control how we think and act.

Stories of real-life examples are impactful in helping us relate to principles in a way that allows us to get clarity on how to live them better. There’s value in ‘seeing’ a principle at work because it extends our knowledge of the principle and knowledge is power when it comes to personal change.

Here is an example from this week.

When I was writing the book Becoming a Present Parent I found myself constantly distracted and it was hard to make headway. So I pondered what I could do to find more consistent time to write. My most clear and compelling thought was to get up at four in the morning which would give me three uninterrupted hours. It was one of the most challenging and rewarding things I have ever set out to do. For over six months I got up early six days a week and wrote. It was exhilarating to see the book come together.

That was over 1 ½ years ago and a recent move. I have got to confess that I fell off that wagon and I’ve struggled to get back on. I’ve been making an effort to go back to my early morning routine because I have some studying to do that is kicking my rear and I need more quiet, focused time.

Each day since I determined to get up at four a.m. I have awakened to the alarm and then changed the time to 5:30 or 6. Of course, I want to get up, I know I should get up but when it comes to getting up I have an argument with myself and I lose. Here’s the story I’ve been telling myself about the situation: I’m just rebellious. I know I should get up but I just don’t want to. I’m being a lazy lump!”

On Monday I told my daughter how I was feeling. She replied, “Well mom, maybe you’re just being charitable to yourself. We’ve just moved, have been renovating every day and you are tired. Maybe you’re just listening to your body and taking care of yourself.” Wow, that felt a lot better than the story I’d been telling myself.

On Wednesday I helped my 95-year-old friend in her yard. It was laborious, to say the least. My back was sore and so were my legs. I felt very weary. In fact, I went to bed at 8:30.

Now, from 8:30 to 4:30 is eight hours, the amount of time I feel I need and want to sleep each night. But when the alarm went off I was still TIRED. I wanted to lie there and rest a bit more. So I did. The difference was this: I thought it over and made a decision. I didn’t argue with myself or feel like a lazy lump. I just decided to give myself an extra hour of sleep.

I know I need to get up at 4:00. I feel very strongly about that and I will. But while I’m getting back into the traces, so to speak, I’m going to be kinder to myself. I’m going to be more generous with the story I tell myself about the process I have to go through to make it happen.

Remember last week? I shared the idea that when we think positively about any given situation it increases our ability to come up with options for moving forward. With this in mind, I know that as I remain positive, continue in my efforts to accomplish a challenging goal and don’t quit, I will succeed more quickly.

The story we tell ourselves about ourselves, others or situations impacts how we feel and then respond. Getting control over our story and the ensuing response gives us greater power over our lives. It’s worth the effort!

If you want to begin taking control of your story, then I want to help you. I have an exercise that I want to share with you, FREE. It’s a simple PDF which will walk you through a 30-day exercise that will help you see patterns in your negative thoughts and will give you clarity on what you need to work on first. If you’re interested then click here. It will be available for download for one week.

I’d like to know what you’re struggling with right now and how changing your story could help you have a better outcome. Please leave a comment. I will respond. : )

Here’s to more joy,
Mary Ann

P.S. You can learn more about controlling your thoughts and emotions for better family relationships in my new book Becoming a Present Parent, Connecting With Your Children in Five Minutes or Less. You can also receive a chapter from the book on Touchpoints, creating points of connection rather than having points of contention, FREE by visiting becomingapresentparent.com It can be life-changing for your family. I promise!

Want to know more about Present Parenting? –

Of Cats and Dogs

I grew up in a family that always had a dog. We had Sheppard’s and once we even had a giant poodle. We named him Expense.

But dogs in our family didn’t live in the lap of luxury. They ate table scraps for the most part and for the rest they beat the streets, so to speak. They stayed outside no matter what the weather and I came to know that my dad just tolerated them. He didn’t like dogs but he had nine children and felt that a dog was a must.

As for cats, they were the scourge of the earth. My dad would no more have had a cat than live underground. As much as he disliked dogs, he hated cats.

Not surprisingly, I grew up an avid dog and cat hater. There wasn’t a single thing about them that I could stand. It creeped me out to have a cat rub up against my leg. I felt like throwing up if a dog licked me or put his cold, wet nose on me anywhere. I couldn’t even stand the feel of cat or dog fur. And I absolutely could not abide the smell of dogs. If I was in the same room with them I could smell them and it was disgusting.

But I had seven children and a husband who loved dogs so like my father before me we had dogs and I couldn’t stand them. I was not cruel but I was not kind. I wasn’t terribly harsh but I wasn’t gentle either.

When I was in my fifties I had a dear friend named Ruby. She raised little dogs and she was dying. She had daughters who also raised little dogs and she knew they would take her dogs. But she had this big old grey cat named Big Kitty. Her girls were not interested in that scruffy old cat.

So Ruby asked me to take Big Kitty. I agonized over what to say. So did my husband because he also disliked cats. Nevertheless, for the sake of a dear friendship, we took the cat. He lived with us for a few years. In that time, for Ruby’s sake, I made a decision that I would care for that cat and I did.

But I could still barely tolerate dogs. Then we moved from Montana to Utah and lived with our daughter and her family.

She had a timid little dog named Odie. He was a small dachshund and he was terrified of me. He had good reason. I called him dumb dog in a loud and irritated voice on many occasions.

Other people loved animals. Why didn’t I?

Then one day I made a decision. I decided that I didn’t want to dislike cats and dogs anymore. I had watched other people and they loved their dogs and cats. I began to think that I might be missing something. But how in the world was I going to find out if I couldn’t get over my aversion to the smell and touch of an animal?

Because I am a praying person that’s what I did, I asked God how I could come to like animals. The first thought I had was to make friends with Odie. So every day after work I would come into the yard, call Odie and then touch his head. As he came to me he walked on his short little legs like a condemned man heading to the gallows. And when I reached out to touch his head he would pull back a bit. Poor little guy. I could barely touch his head and give a little pat. That was all I could handle. As the weeks went on I went from barely a touch on the head to an actual pat and then to stroking him once or twice.

I did this for many weeks and then one day I sat on the back steps, pulled him into my lap and sat there for a few minutes. I didn’t pet him but I held him. It’s well to remember that I couldn’t stand the smell of dogs or the feeling of their fur so this was huge!!

Eventually, Odie and I became friends. I felt tenderness for him. I never touched him a lot and we didn’t pal around but we became friends.

During this time our last child left home and Don, my husband began to long for a dog. I dreaded that. It’s one thing to be friends with someone else’s dog but it’s another to live with one. So I stepped up my prayers. I began telling myself that I liked dogs. They were man’s best friend after all and if they were man’s best friend they could be woman’s too.

I petted all of my client’s dogs. I talked to the neighborhood dogs. I patted them and then one day Patch came to live in our home and guess what! I like Patch. I can pet him and I’m not grossed out. I do still avoid his wet nose but I like him. I am kind. We are friends. In fact two days ago I went back to bed. I get up very early and walk with my daughter but this day I was tired so I went back to bed.

Patch and don in their favorite place. : )

After I let Patch out in the morning he runs and jumps on our bed and snuggles with his pal, Don. This morning, the morning I returned to bed, he had his side pressed up against Dons back. That meant he was sort of on my side. I looked at him and thought about tossing him off. But I got into bed, turned over and went to sleep. You cannot imagine how amazing it was to me to be in the same space with a dog and be able to sleep.

At this time we also have a cat who lives with our daughter . He has decided that my office chair is his personal retreat from children and noise. I let him have it!

Jax on my office chair.

So what happened between finding cats and dogs absolutely disgusting and becoming their friend. It was a decision. I decided to change my story from dogs and cats are filthy and disgusting to dogs and cats are wonderful animals and I am OK with them.

I am not yet Patch’s pal. I don’t hold him on my lap but I pet him. I don’t talk baby talk or feed him from my hand or sleep with him. But I like him. He’s a good dog and I find this particular miracle wonderful.

Here is the truth – When You Change Your Story, You Change!

When I changed my story about animals and about how I wanted to see them, I experienced a change. Understanding that your story can and does influence your response to your spouse, your children and yes, even to cats and dogs is powerful and frankly, life-changing.

Does this ring true for you?  Please share your feelings with me by leaving a comment.

Here’s to more joy,
Mary Ann

P.S. You can learn more about controlling your thoughts and emotions for better family relationships in my new book Becoming a Present Parent, Connecting With Your Children in Five Minutes or Less. You can also receive a chapter from the book on Touchpoints, creating points of connection rather than having points of contention, FREE by visiting becomingapresentparent.com It can be life-changing for your family. I promise!

Want to know more about Present Parenting? – 

 

Want More Internal Resources When Dealing With Your Kids?

For the last few weeks, I have been sharing information on the value of seeing situations in our lives in a more positive light. It requires that we let go of blame, fear, anger and so forth. But that takes some practice. So why would we even want to do it?

Negative thoughts hinder you from achieving things you want but research has shown that positive thoughts do the opposite.

Barbara Fredrickson is a positive psychology researcher at the University of North Carolina. She’s been able to demonstrate that positive thoughts can create real value in your life. She took five groups of people and showed each group film clips. Two groups saw clips of joyful things or sights that engendered contentment. Two groups saw clips which brought forth feeling of fear or anger. The control group saw neutral images.

Afterward, each participant was asked to imagine themselves in a situation where similar feelings would arise and to write down what they would do.

Participants who saw images of fear and anger wrote down the fewest responses. Meanwhile, the participants who saw images of joy and contentment wrote down a significantly higher number of actions that they would take, even when compared to the neutral group.

In other words, when you’re experiencing positive emotions like joy, contentment, and love you’ll see more possibilities in your life. Your thoughts will be more positive. That means the truths you embrace or the stories you tell yourself will be more positive. That will help you see more options for response.

I was mentoring a self-employed mother who was telling herself a negative story about her son’s actions. She felt he was whiny and needy. He was a bother when she was trying to work. Her responses to her son were causing a strained relationship between them. She was having difficulty figuring out how to fix the situation.

Here’s what happened when she began telling herself a more positive story. When I asked her to tell me more about her son, she replied that he was bright, loving, and responsible. So she decided to remind herself of these qualities each time she began to experience annoyance or frustration rather than think about his whining.

When I talked with her next, I asked her how it was going. She replied she and her son were no longer at odds. She enjoyed his company. She could see that he was just interested in what she was doing, and they had had opportunities to connect on and off during the day. She was able to respond positively to him more often. She was able to be Present more frequently.

When her story was negative, she had fewer ideas on how she could deal with the situation in positive ways and, in fact, dealt with her son in more negative ways. This set up a negative cycle between them.

Her son tried harder to be heard and seen, her annoyance was heightened, and she responded in more negative ways. Her son would try even harder to be heard and seen, and the cycle would repeat.

When she changed her story and generated more positive feelings, she found more creative ways to respond. The new responses changed the dynamic or cycle with her son. This mom got better results because her feelings were positive. Her feelings were positive because she changed her story about her son. She found ways to be Present despite her work or his needs.

Remember that every situation and experience is made up of multiple truths. When we choose to focus on the more positive aspects of what happens in our lives we will be able to be Present more often and more consistently which will help us have happier family experiences. That’s why it’s worth the work and practice to take control of our thoughts, feelings, and the resulting stories. We will be able to respond better, even in negative situations. And that will get us a better result!

Have you had an experience where changing your story about a person or situation has changed your ability to respond well? Man, I really want to hear about it! Please share in the comments section.

Here’s to more joy,
Mary Ann

P.S. You can learn more about controlling your thoughts and emotions for better family relationships in my new book Becoming a Present Parent, Connecting With Your Children in Five Minutes or Less. You can also receive a chapter from the book on Touchpoints, creating points of connection rather than having points of contention, FREE by visiting becomingapresentparent.com It can be life-changing for your family. I promise!

How to get what you want!

When You Change Your Story, You Change

I was mentoring with a woman I loved and trusted. I was mentoring because, well, I wasn’t as happy with my life as I felt I should be. Each week we talked about things that were seemingly out of my control, which were making me miserable.

One day I was complaining about how my husband managed money. I was fed up with having the same discussion over and over again. Finally, my mentor said, “Mary Ann, you’re not a victim. You can choose to leave.” I was shocked. No, I couldn’t. After all, he was my husband, and I loved him. My religion would make leaving difficult and I had seven kids and . . .

Suddenly I realized I could. I could leave. I wasn’t a victim. I had the ability to choose how I was going to respond to this situation. I was in control of the story and the outcome.

I’m happy to say many years have passed, and I’m still married to the same man. I love him and occasionally we still have a money conversation but it has changed because my story changed.

You see, at the time, this was my story. “My husband doesn’t care how I feel. If he did, he would spend money differently. He does what he wants to do. My life is painful because of my husband.” Wow! Feels dreadful, doesn’t it?

Now, years later, here’s my story. “I have a great relationship with money. I always have what I need. Don’s making progress on his relationship with money. I’m supporting him, sharing what I’ve learned, and enjoying my healthy relationship with both Don and money.” Doesn’t that feel better?

You might be thinking, “That’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard! You still have to live with the results of his choices. How can you be happy? Nothing has changed. You’re hiding your head in the sand and being a Pollyanna.”

If I weren’t living my life, I would agree with you. But I have firsthand experience that has proven when we change our story, everything changes.

In the case of my husband, myself, and our money conversation, when I changed my story it changed me. I no longer felt threatened, put upon, hurt, scared, or angry. It stopped impacting me as negatively.

In Every Situation, There is More Than One Truth

Here is something I have come to understand. In every situation, there is more than one truth. We get to choose which truth we want to focus on and that becomes our story. Our story fuels our response.

Take my family for example. You can say that Don and I raised seven beautiful, happy and productive adults. That is certainly true. However, it is also true that Don and I made mistakes; some of our kids struggled a lot and used drugs. That is equally true. Everyone who knows us gets to decide which lens they will see us from. Believe me, there are people in both camps. And frankly. Don and I have had to decide which lens we would see ourselves and our family through.

Jenny, the daughter I talked about two weeks ago was in the same boat. She could see the man who hit her with his car as a drunkard who lost control and drove on the wrong side of the freeway and destroyed her life as she knew it. He deserved to pay. That was absolutely true. Here is what was equally true and which Jenny decided to focus on. Here was a man in trouble who needed help. He had a family and a life but he was in trouble. She wrote to the judge asking her to not just punish him but to help him.

In every situation, there is more than one truth, sometimes many truths.

In our situation, with money, it was true that Don struggled to manage well. It was true that I felt scared and threatened about money. It was true that Don loved me and wanted to do the best for his family. It was also true that I was acting like a victim and allowing that place to determine my response. Thankfully I chose this truth, which has proven to be as true as any of the others – I am not a victim, I can manage money. I am not afraid of how money shows up in my life. I love my husband, he loves me and he is doing his best.

What You Say Is What You Get

You’ve all heard this old saying or something like it, “What you say is what you get.” It’s true. I have lived it.

If you say “My kids are driving me nuts,” they’ll drive you nuts. If you say “I can’t stand my kids today,” or “My kids are so sloppy, messy, noisy, naughty, and so on,” that’s what you’ll get. It’s what you perceive is happening, regardless of what’s actually going on. It’s your story. This will influence your response and your ability to be Present.

James Clear wrote for the Huffington Post, “Your brain is . . . programmed to respond to negative emotions . . . by shutting off the outside world and limiting the options you see around you.”

In our families, in order to have better outcomes and happier days, we need more options, not fewer when it comes to responding to the chaos, noise and sheer work of juggling all that’s required. And there are ways that we can increase our internal resources so that we can and will have more options and respond better – because we will have a better story.

Next week I’ll be talking about that. You’re going to find it uplifting and enlightening. And remember there’s always more than one truth in every situation. Pick the one that will help you get the results you want!

What have you learned that helps you control your story and your response? Please share in the comments section.

Here’s to more joy,
Mary Ann

P.S. You can learn more about controlling your thoughts and emotions for better family relationships in my new book Becoming a Present Parent, Connecting With Your Children in Five Minutes or Less. You can also receive a chapter from the book on Touchpoints, creating points of connection rather than having points of contention, FREE by visiting becomingapresentparent.com It can be life changing for your family. I promise!

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React or Respond. We decide!

For the last two weeks, I have been writing about families and how we respond to one another.  I wrote that how we chose to see what happens to us can and does impact how we deal with difficult circumstances.

Our brains are wired to create a story around all of our experiences. 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; usually, evidence based on past experiences. This process takes fractions of seconds.

Once we have our story, feelings are generated. These feelings move us to an action or response. Our response produces a result, either good or bad. This little scenario repeats itself hundreds of times each day. The better the response the better the result. We can’t run away from this principle. We live it out whether we understand and accept it or not.

Today I want to illustrate how our story can impact our response.

My husband Don is a gadget man. One fall he bought a new stove top grill at the county fair and was excited to use it. The next morning was Sunday, and we needed to get to a very important reception right after church. I said to Don, “Honey, there isn’t time to grill chicken today and make it to the reception. You’ll have to grill chicken tomorrow.”

After church, Don was nowhere to be seen. I surmised he had left early to go home and grill chicken! Sure enough, when I got home the grill was on and he was cooking. We were going to be late for the reception!

When we got to the reception, they were cleaning up. The bride and groom had left.  I was so angry!

Here was my heat of the moment story—“There are only two reasons Don would have done this. Either he didn’t hear a word I said because he doesn’t listen to me, or he didn’t care what I said.”

I was practiced at controlling my thoughts by now, and I knew this particular story was about blame and would color our relationship for weeks. Not appealing at all. So I looked for a new story. “I know Don. He loves me. He isn’t insensitive. There must be another reason he went ahead and grilled that chicken.”

Later in the evening I calmly said, “Don, remember when I said there wasn’t time to grill chicken today. I can see two reasons why you went ahead and did it. Either you didn’t hear what I said this morning, or you didn’t care what I wanted. But I know you, and you love me. You’re not insensitive. So there must be a reason I haven’t thought of.”

He looked at me with a stricken face and replied, “Gosh Mary, I thought I could do it in time. I thought the whole thing would take thirty minutes. I didn’t know it would take so long.”

I had to laugh because I could tell from his poor face he had really believed it would only take thirty minutes and was shocked to find out it wasn’t true. He never intended to ignore me or hurt me or make us late. He didn’t plan anything of the kind. He was moving forward based on an unrealistic expectation.

I was able to revise my story, even in the heat of the moment, because I took responsibility. I stopped blaming. I could see my story was the issue, not Don’s actions.

When I changed from a blaming, negative story to a more positive story I was able to come up with a plan for moving forward that got me a really good result. When we take responsibility for what we think and how it makes us feel we will be able to respond to negative situations better. That will have a VERY positive and connecting impact on our families.

What has been your experience with taking control of what you think and feel? Please share in the comments section.

Here’s to more joy,
Mary Ann

P.S. You can learn more about controlling your thoughts and emotions for better family relationships in my new book Becoming a Present Parent, Connecting With Your Children in Five Minutes or Less.  You can also receive a chapter from the book on Touchpoints, creating points of connection rather than having points of contention, FREE by visiting becomingapresentparent.com  It can be life changing for your family. I promise!

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You Control Your Feelings. OH REALLY!!

Thoughts + Feelings = Quality of Relationships

Last week I wrote a post about some things we can do to untangle differences in our family. It generated some conversation! Readers added other important elements in their comments. They said, “We need boundaries. We need to value and respect ourselves. We need to make sure others know lines they cannot cross. We should never allow abuse.” I agree with all of those sentiments.

But I also know that in everyday families most things can be worked out as we choose to remain calm and kind. I also know from mentoring many years that there are two things that are key to helping us be calm and kind.

In one of the comments by a reader, both items were mentioned: “Thus changing how we think…and react … can change the dynamic of the relationship.”

Controlling the story we tell ourselves about what is happening can help us control how we feel and ultimately how we respond. A better response gives us a better outcome. We are able to remain calm and kind.

Many of you may have a difficult time accepting you can control how you feel by taking charge of the story you tell yourself.

I mean, if the kids are acting crazy, it’s going to make you feel crazy. If your spouse doesn’t notice how nice the house looks it can make you feel unimportant or undervalued. 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, right? At one time in my life, I knew the answer was a big fat yes!

Let me share one of a number of experiences that opened my eyes to the truth that our story can and does create how we are going to feel and in turn how we will respond to problems. We have control over our response!

The actual crash site! They are cutting Jenny out of her car.

My daughter, Jenny, had been hit head on by a drunk driver. He’d been going eighty miles an hour on the wrong side of the freeway. Those few terrible seconds changed Jenny’s life forever. She was ready to graduate with her BA but the accident left her unable to walk or find words for simple things such as orange or shoe. She couldn’t track conversations or make sense out of what people were saying. Her center for receiving social cues was damaged.

In 2012, Jenny’s six-year journey to get her life back ended when she graduated with her Master’s degree in Speech Therapy. When I think of Jenny’s experience, I know her recovery was because of a crucial step she took long before the accident. She had decided to take control of her thoughts.

Quotes decorated her walls and reflected how she wanted to view herself and life. When something bad, confusing, embarrassing, or hurtful happened to her, Jenny would recite one of her quotes in response. Then she would move forward.

In a time of darkness, confusion, and both physical and mental pain, she chose to look at life through a

“If you correct your mind, the rest of your life will fall into
place.” Lao Tzu – One of the quotes from Jenny’s pre-crash wall.

lens of light. She decided to embrace happiness no matter how hard the day. She controlled her thoughts, and she controlled her words. She controlled her story! I don’t want you to think the years after her accident were easy— they were long and painful—but she had decided to believe life was beautiful and there were lessons of value in each experience for her as a result.

Despite all of the difficulty and loss, Jenny would not discuss, in negative terms, the man who hit her. She wasn’t going to waste one minute on anger. Jenny wouldn’t verbalize the bad but chose instead to think and talk positively. She behaved this way before the accident and maintained this way of being after the crash. Jenny told her story in a way that did not include her as a victim.

One of my favorite writers is Viktor E. Frankl, a Holocaust survivor. He reminded 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. I would add that their responsibility to mentally write a story leading to the best response is also completely within their control.

Perspective is an amazing thing. It is, simply put, the story we tell ourselves: what we think is happening in our lives right now, what we believe happened in the past, and even what we think will happen in the future.

Once we have our story, feelings are generated. These feelings move us to an action or response. Our response produces a result, either good or bad. This little 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. Jenny has proven this to be true! I’ve proven it to be true in my own life as well.

In what ways have you been able to take control of your stories? In what ways do you still struggle to believe that no matter what happens you can control how you feel? Have you learned how to stop being a victim? I’d love to hear your responses in the comments section.

Next week I will talk more about how the stories we tell ourselves affect our response. The week after that, we’ll look at how positive stories can increase your inner resources, helping you better handle the things that come along in every family.

Here’s to more joy,
Mary Ann

P.S. You can learn more about controlling your thoughts and emotions for better family relationships in my new book Becoming a Present Parent, Connecting With Your Children in Five Minutes or Less.  You can also receive a chapter from the book on Touchpoints, creating points of connection rather than points of contention, FREE by visiting becomingapresentparent.com  It can be life changing for your family. I promise!