Category: Life Skills

Anne Murdock – Cleaning –Why Am I in Such a Mess

Anne Murdock just retired from decades of working with special needs children. That is our big link, as I have a special needs granddaughter. We met in church and became fast friends. Although I moved, we have stayed in touch. Recently we began meeting for lunch. We each drive about 30 minutes and it has been fun.

A few months ago, we discussed a cool system Anne uses to help women stay on top of their work at home and have fewer moments of feeling like they can’t manage. It’s called Household Bingo. You check off the boxes as you finish jobs until you have a bingo. Take time to reward yourself, read a book, take a walk, listen to music, etc. Then you work for the next bingo. Eventually, you will have crossed everything off the card. Then you create a new card by asking the question, “What is most pressing right now?” Sounds interesting, doesn’t it!

It is a simple system using the principle that small things, done consistently, make big things happen.

The first image is the template for the game. Looks like a bingo game, right. : ) Anne has given several printed grids to friends who then write 20-minute tasks in the boxes.

The second image is the card Anne is currently working on.

These are “bigger” tasks, maybe more than 20 minutes. She designed this card with ‘things that are bugging me’ in mind.

Occasionally you will be called to work on something that isn’t on your card. You still make it count! When Anne accomplishes something big that is not on her card, she turns it over, writes the item on the back, and crosses it off. When she has 5 items crossed off on the back, she treats herself to some personal time. Don’t you love that! I know I do.

This is basically how it works. There are options so you can experiment. : )

You write rooms you want to keep up or a space you want to conquer across the top. Of course, there is a free square because we all need a free moment. Then in each square, you write down jobs that will take 10-20 minutes to accomplish. You give the room or space 20 minutes a day. If your card is for spaces you want to conquer then you list steps you can take to get the whole job done, over time, that require 20 minutes.

If we use our card to maintain, the goal is to keep the room in order, so we don’t become overwhelmed as things pile up. If we use the card to conquer a space, the goal is to get it in order over time. And it always takes time because these spaces are usually very out of order. You know, spaces like the garage, the laundry room, the storage room, and so forth.

I asked Anne to give me some examples of jobs she puts in the squares when she is working to maintain a clean home. She said that she usually has a row called COMMON AREAS. These are hallways, foyers, living room, etc. One 20-minute job she has in this row is ‘dust all the windowsills’. She writes the things that constantly get put on the back burner so that we can get to the next meal or meeting, but that bug you when they don’t get done.

Another example she gave was in the BEDROOM row – ‘Organize two drawers’, or ‘clean the upper shelf in the closet’, or ‘organize the clothes that hang in the closet’. These are the types of jobs that we close the door on and over time wonder why we are in such a mess!

An example of a 20-minute chore she gave for the BATHROOM was ‘really clean the floor’ or ‘spray and wipe down the shower’. Again those chores we close the door on until they are so grungy we must do them. But in the meantime, they are an emotional weight we carry.

Here is an example from her “conquer a space” chart. She has a storage room as most of us do. In this room, she has six free-standing sets of shelves. In one of her squares, it says to clean two shelves in one set of shelves. The goal is to clean them all in a week or maybe a month, depending on how much organizing is required. You get to set the timeline. If it is a job that can be done in a week great. If not, then you give yourself 20 minutes a day for a month. Whatever it takes. But over time the storage room is in order, and it stays in order.

Anne shared some experiences she and her friends have had, and I think you will find them interesting.

Success Stories

Story 1: Anne got herself some quilt squares a few months ago. When I called her today to have her explain some of the fine points of Household Bingo, she proudly told me she finally finished one square. How did she finally do that? She put it on her Bingo Card. Then she broke down the steps that needed to happen. First, she had to get the correct type of ruler. This had been holding her up. You see, this game can work on any project that is holding you hostage. : )

Story 2: Anne has a friend who is a bit of a hoarder. She has a space in her basement she has dubbed the dungeon or the pit. She has collected a lifetime of stuff from her parents and numerous moves. She recently told Anne, “I haven’t gotten very far but I give myself a star for every 20 minutes I spend. So far, I have 20 stars and I am making a dent.” She has been able to work on the stuff she has from her mom, her dad, and her collection of fabrics. It feels good!

Story 3: This same woman has an older, special needs daughter. Her capacity is around age 9 or 10. Her room was driving her parents nuts. So, they taught her to play Household Bingo. With repetition, her room is now in order, and she can keep it in order, in just 20 minutes a day. Her parents are relieved, and she is happy.

Story 4: Anne has a friend with children in elementary school, middle school, high school, and college. The children were struggling to do daily chores. Charts were made based on age, one for the elementary kids and one for the teens. Each child selected a chore each day on the bingo chart. The children marked the chart using their initials/color marker to indicate it was complete. When the child got a bingo, the reward was to take the next day chore-free. Getting 4-5 chores done daily 5 days a week made weekends more available for family fun.

Anne told me that the game can be very effective with children and 10-minute chores. As you can see the game is adaptable for ages and stages. Children are motivated to get a bingo when the reward is to not have the chore the next day or to spend 20 minutes with mom or dad doing an activity of their own choosing, playing a game, talking, making a treat, etc.

Story 5: Anne’s husband has an uncle who has a very large, immaculate yard. His family members are always telling him to slow down because they think he is spending hours keeping that huge yard in such amazing order. Recently he posted this on their family site – “You all keep saying I shouldn’t work so hard in my yard, but I don’t. I putter here and then I putter there. I give it a short amount of time and then I go in the house. I just consistently take small bites. I look to see what needs the most attention right now and then I do some of that. Then I go into the house.”

I don’t know how many times I used this phrase in my book Becoming a Present Parent Small steps, taken consistently, bring BIG things to pass. This principle is true, and it can help you keep your home in order and clear out the spaces that make you feel powerless and unsuccessful. It can help your children manage themselves and their chores.

If you need a system and this one speaks to your heart, then engage in an experiment. It may be just the thing for you and your family.

P.S. Nothing works forever. Even good systems occasionally need to be revamped. That is important to keep in mind. It isn’t a failure, but time passes, and circumstances change.

Do another experiment. : )

 

Donna Goff – Cleaning – A System For Staying on Top

I have the wonderful privilege of having wise and dear friends. When we can be together, we talk about the things that cause us trouble and what we are doing to ease the way. The issues the mothers we work with come up. I make notes and I share our thoughts with you. Sometimes the thoughts get buried in life for a time and then reemerge.

That happened a while ago. I was searching for something on my computer and found notes from an email conversation I had with Donna Goff. It had been incorrectly filed. : ) Then I discovered another set of notes from Ann Murdock who I had lunch with a couple of months ago.

In the next two articles I am going to share their ways of managing the daily work we all have and then on week three I will share my system and some thoughts. They are very different. One may appeal to you and then again, none of them may strike a chord. We all must find what works for us, but this might be a step toward helping you come up with a system that works for you.

Donna is an amazing person, mentor, and mother. She has a beautiful website called Mentoring Our Own – Helping Homeschool Moms Succeed.  I share her articles in my newsletter on occasion. I have spoken on stage with her, and we have had some joyful conversations.

Sometime back I wrote a few articles on emotional weight. Then Donna talked about emotional stress on her site. Guess what? Some of that stress comes because we get so involved that our work at home gets ahead of us and we begin to feel like failures. Our daily lists get so long that it seems we will never get done, which adds to the emotional weight we already feel.

I reached out to Donna because I was interested in how she managed. I had worked for over seven years to develop a system of my own and was interested in hers. She sent me a detailed reply filled with great information. Today I want to share her system with you. Donna is a woman who can mentor you online and help you manage yourself, and your family, and if you are homeschooling, that too.

Let’s begin with her reply to my query –

Mary Ann,

What can I say, but thank you? When I read your newsletter, I can see that we think alike. I guess when you are raised in an era when cleaning is a habit, it is what we want. When we work with younger moms, we can see how not having a clean space and all the training that it involves, plays out in their lives.

Let’s start by looking at Donna’s ‘refuge haven’ routines. She came up with them over a decade ago and there were seven dailies.

THE SEVEN DAILIES

1. 30 Minute Personal Devotional
2. Walk
3. Shower, Dress, Groom
4. Laundry. Start and see-through.
5. Breakfast, Dinner Prep
6. Home Learning
7. 30 Minute Clean

A few weeks later she added ‘zones’ to her 30 Minute Clean. There were seven zones. She took #7 from her refuge haven routine, ‘the 30 min clean’, and turned it into 30 minutes of ‘Power Clean’.

This wasn’t just your regular surface cleaning. It was deeper than that. BUT she only worked until the timer went off. Then she was back in that same room for 30 minutes the next day and eventually, it was all managed. The first time through takes weeks and weeks. But once done, the next time through takes less time. As a person who LOVES deep cleaning, this sang to my heart. So much easier than trying to deep clean an entire house once a year!

THE SEVEN ZONES

1. The Sanctuaries (our bedroom retreat, and other bedrooms)
2. Lumber Rooms (storage areas where things lumber about, you can’t put things away if it is a mess)
3. Creation rooms (sewing and shop where repairs are made)
4. Curb Appeal (from curb to porch to foyer).
5. Living Rooms (areas where we spend most of our day and receive people)
6. Sustenance Rooms (Where we prepare food and where we eat).
7. The Necessity Rooms (bathrooms)

I loved her words to me, concerning the enormity of this work of keeping a home in order “So, yes, I do have the bathrooms last, but for the 30 Minute Power Clean, I can handle what bugs me the most, and I love a clean smelling bathroom. Whatever bugs me the most, means I prioritize, and the important things are not sacrificed to getting a list done and then migrating the important things to another day.

If you have 14 things on a list and tackle the easy stuff first, just to Dump the list, the harder thing gets passed on and it is easy to feel like you are never done. But if you handle the hard thing first, the other things on the list move up in priority, but they get done. Each day is cleaner.”

This has certainly been my experience. I have written about cleaning what you see, right when you see it. I didn’t think of it in terms of a 30-minute power clean but if I am in the bathroom and the space between the tank and the toilet lid has grunge, I grab a cloth or wipe and clean that one thing. Then the next day I hit the floor right at the base of the toilet, and so forth. What delighted me about the 30-minute Power clean was that it was a plan. I love planned work. : )

Here again, I want to share her words from our email –
“Each day feels more productive. Lots of baggage gone, it gets addressed. I used to do my room last. No, I needed a sanctuary. Isn’t this true for all of us? We need a place to go to rest and rejuvenate.”

You all know the bathroom is my rejuvenation space. It’s where I read and sit behind a locked door and no one bothers me, well, at least not for five minutes. LOL

“I do lumber rooms next. They are like the plug to the house. If storage areas are clogged, then rooms are clogged with seasonal stuff. So, clean the lumber areas and it works like a funnel, in cleaning the house.

“If creation rooms are in disarray, then fixing things stacks up and does not get back into use.”

I know this happens because it is one of my sister, Nanette’s, challenges. She has a whole room for creating things and it often gets out of order. Working for 30 minutes in the creation spaces is a good way to make sure the rooms you use often don’t go undone until it takes days to put them back in order. : )

“Then I go to curb appeal or the entry from the curb to the foyer, then the main living areas. That is where most people start. They start with what people see first. But for the sake of smoother running home and less baggage, it is not the first for me.

“Then the sustenance rooms. That area takes the longest to deep clean, cabinets and drawers. Yes, I did place the Necessity rooms last. They are the rooms that are kept smelling nice and are easiest to keep clean each week. They are also my smallest rooms. I have three, two on the main floor. It takes less than 15 minutes to clean a toilet, wipe a counter, clean a mirror, clean the floor, and remove the trash. The combination of a 30-minute power clean, and zone cleaning can get me through. But when things get really chaotic, I live on minimum maintenance, and then as they settle, I hit the rest, and then after the lion is tamed in a few weeks, the zones get added back in.

I do want to thank you for all you do and for sharing my stuff with moms.”

Mahalo nui loa,
Donna

Isn’t this fun, thinking about cleaning in a new way? When I put my system together, which I will share in a couple of weeks, I had to think differently. It was rejuvenating. A new way of looking at your household work may be rejuvenating to you also.

Just remember that everything is an experiment. You must give it a try and then adjust. Part of Donna’s plan may work splendidly for you and other things may require an adjustment. And then again, you may need something totally different. So, experiment.

Don’t stay bogged down in what isn’t working.

 

P. S. You can check out more of Donna’s home management strategies HERE.

Simple Techniques for Stress-Free Single Parenting

Photo via Pexels

Life as a single parent is a challenging journey, but it can also be filled with growth, resilience, and moments of joy. I have a daughter navigating this path, and it can be both painful and joyous watching her and her children as they move through this new territory. To manage well requires a blend of practical strategies and emotional fortitude.

Understanding how to manage as a single parent, either a mom or dad, requires support and resources. In April of 2023, I posted an article by a fellow writer, Laura Pearson, filled with resources to assist parents returning to school. Today I am sharing another of her articles with resources for single parents. If you are a single parent this will probably not be new information for you, but I hope the included links will be useful in helping you move forward in investigating these and other resources that may be just what you need.

Simple Techniques for Stress-Free Single Parenting by Laura Pearson

Set Aside Time for Self-Care
In the whirlwind of single parenthood, it’s easy to overlook your own well-being. However, taking care of yourself is paramount. Carve out moments for self-care activities that rejuvenate you physically, mentally, and emotionally. Whether it’s a brief yoga session, a soothing bath, or even a quiet moment with a book, these small breaks will help you stay grounded and resilient.

Building a Support Circle
You don’t have to navigate this journey alone. Reach out to your family, friends, and other single parents for support; you can also look for resources online. Building a strong support circle not only provides practical assistance but also offers emotional solace. It’s a reminder that you’re not alone in this adventure.

Involving Kids in Household Chores
Teaching responsibility from a young age can benefit both you and your children. Assign age-appropriate chores to your kids and make household tasks a family affair. Turn cleaning, decluttering, and organizing into a game guess how quickly you can finish! Involving your children not only lightens your load but also fosters teamwork and responsibility.

Establishing Consistency with Rules and Routines
Children thrive on routine and structure. Establishing consistent rules, schedules, and routines helps organize your day and provides your children with a sense of security. Predictability eases the challenges of single parenthood and fosters a harmonious household.</strong

Open Communication with Your Children
Maintaining open lines of communication with your children is a crucial aspect of single parenting. It’s important to encourage them to share their thoughts and feelings openly. This safe and open dialogue helps foster a deep sense of trust and understanding between you and your children. Ultimately, this approach makes navigating the complexities and challenges of single parenthood a more unified and manageable experience.

Financial Planning and Budgeting
Single parenthood frequently involves navigating financial constraints. To address this, creating a budget, meticulously managing expenses, and planning ahead are essential steps. Practicing financial savvy not only secures your family’s stability but also serves as an excellent role model for your children. These actions demonstrate the importance of financial responsibility and forward-thinking in ensuring a secure future.

Utilizing Community Resources
Don’t hesitate to tap into the resources available in your community. Seek counseling services for emotional support, join support groups for shared experiences, explore childcare services for convenience, and explore financial aid programs designed to assist single parents. Your community can be a valuable ally in this journey.

Pursuing an Online Degree for Career Advancement
Investing in your education can significantly improve your career prospects and income; you may consider this option by enrolling in an online degree program. The flexibility of online education, with its adaptable schedules and remote learning options, allows for a balance between your parenting responsibilities and your educational ambitions. This path not only enhances your qualifications but also opens doors to diverse nursing careers in education, informatics, administration, and advanced practice.

Life as a single parent may have its share of hurdles, but with these strategies in your toolkit, you can transform it into a fulfilling and successful journey. Remember, you are stronger and more resilient than you might realize, and your dedication to both your growth and your children’s well-being will lead to a brighter future for your family. Embrace the support around you, invest in your education and self-care, and maintain open communication.

You’ve got this.

Are You Prepared for the New Year? I am NOT talking New Years Resolutions!

I no longer make New Year’s Resolutions. Instead, I have a few useful tools I use.

For a few months, I have been contemplating the new year. I asked myself questions and then thoughtfully answered them. What has worked and what hasn’t? Where have I made progress, and where have I lagged? I looked over my daily commitments from 2016 to 2023. (Some people call them affirmations or declarations.) I don’t change them every year. In fact, I used the same ones from 2016 to 2019. Then I adjusted them for 2020 to 2022. Last year I had new things I wanted to keep in my head daily. For 2024 I rewrote them. I needed more brevity and greater impact.

My commitments and goals have been a work in progress since the last week of December 2023. I have read them every day and made any adjustments that came into my mind. As I worked on this article, I made three final adjustments.

I also asked this question – What do I want to see happen in the next three years? I felt this was vital because I had accomplished some big things in the last ten-plus years. This year, I finished a major dream and milestone that I will share in an upcoming article. But I had no new goals, no big dreams, no impossible things to bring to pass. I need that in my life!

After some prayer and thought I came up with three items. They aren’t earthshaking but as I accomplish them I am going to feel like a big deal. : ) I know it’s important to have something to work for, to care about, something that will stretch you. My goals all have to do with money. Now feels like the time to focus more on this part of my life. I am not seeking a six-figure income or anything grand. I am reaching out for what I know fits the season I am in and will bless me and my family. I have had to work diligently on my money stories for a few decades. I have made significant progress, so I am excited about these goals.

My new goals aren’t as exciting as some of my past goals – writing and publishing a book, becoming a well-known teacher and speaker, creating a musical recording, and finishing my audiobook. As of December 30th, 2023, I have accomplished three of these things, and the audiobook is well on its way. But these new goals fit the season I find myself in now. That was a wise move on my part. : )

Another thing I began doing, just two years ago, was choosing a word for the year, a word that I could bring to my mind anytime, anywhere, and remind myself of what direction I was going. Last year my word was LOVE. This year my word is FINANCIALLY INDEPENDANT. I know that’s two words but it is one thought. LOL Wealth is not my goal. Independence with money is.

My friend, Heid Totten’s word for last year was wealth and she increased her income by 50%. This year her word is “rest” so she will intentionally create experiences that provide that. Truly, manifesting matters!

I recommend these practices to you.

-Do you have affirmations/commitments that you repeat out loud daily? Maybe it would help you make progress if you did.
-Do you know what you want to see happen in your life in the next 3-5 years? It would be useful if you had a direction you were going. if you could have one or two wonderful things happen or accomplish in the next three years, what would they be? You can’t hit a bull’s eye if you have no target.
-What word fits your great desire for this coming year?

It isn’t useful to copy what someone else is doing. It is vital that you put in the thought time to determine your own needs, your own path, and your own goals. But it’s often helpful to have a starting point. I thought that sharing my 2024 affirmations/commitments and goals with you might get your thoughts moving and your heart ready to write your own.

I shared a quote last week that I have on my wall. It’s next to my side of the bed and I read it often. I have experienced its truth.

“Create a vision, present it to the Lord, tell Him this is what you would love, and then ask Him to help you identify your next ‘right’ step. You don’t even have to be totally confident that He is guiding you. If you do this exercise, then I assure you, as you give it your best shot to move forward with the next ‘right’ step, He is.”

The commitments I say every day are visions of what I would love. My three year goals are visions of what I would love. My word for the year is a condensed form of what I would love. I know that as I present them to myself every day and to the Lord, he will lead me step by step to their accomplishment.

Take the time to identify what you would love to have or be, and then present it to the Lord. Move Forward!

 

P.S. You will not believe what happened tonight. It is Friday and I have been busily working to get this article finished. I took a short break and checked my messages. There was one from my friend, Mary Black. She is part of a financial firm and she and one of her partners have decided, because of the need they have seen, to do a workshop on Financial Awareness for Women. She invited me to attend. WHAT! Didn’t I just share that my 3-year goals were all about money? I have prayed about them and have been manifesting them for a couple of weeks and the next right step has shown up. This is how it works and it is wonderful!

P.S.S You can find my goals, commitments, and word for the year HERE.

 

Thoughts On My Wall

Last week, I shared my daughter’s journey from a traumatic brain injury to a life of love and service. I shared one of the secrets to her success – she had taken charge of what she focused on.

I, like my daughter, put ideas on my wall.

I post on my walls thoughts and ideas that I want to understand and incorporate into my life and way of being. I am a person who decries clutter. Order is the name of the game for me, so it hasn’t always been easy to put things on my wall. LOL However, I have experienced the value of this practice, and I embrace it.

I have shared that I was mad when I learned that I was 100% responsible for my choices. I didn’t believe it. It couldn’t be true. It took me ten years to accept the truth and begin living it. Giving up a victim mindset can be a challenge.

I have lived this truth for many years now, and I know from experience that it is life-changing when we know we are in control of our response. This one principle has made a significant difference in my life. One thing that I do to help myself stay out of victim mode and manage my stories and response to them, is to post on my walls things that help me maintain perspective. I choose ideas I want to understand more fully and live better, thoughts that buoy me up and give me solace. I also focus on things that are not yet part of how I am, because I know that reading them often will help me integrate them into my way of being.

I thought it would be fun to share some of what I have on my walls with you. If it resonates you may want to post it on your walls. If not, enjoy the read and then find what does resonate. I have many thoughts from spiritual leaders in my faith. You will find the same in your faith. I have quotes from people I trust or admire. Some come from books I have read. If it rings true or is principle-based, it can find its way to a wall in my home.

I apologize because I haven’t always put the source on the quote. However, I will share the source if I know it. : ) Even though I don’t always recall where I heard certain words and phrases, it doesn’t matter. They captured my heart in the moment, and I put them on my wall.

I will explain why some quotes are on my wall. It will help you going forward to find great thoughts for your walls.

25 Wonderful Thoughts

1. The picture at the top of this article was gifted to me by my granddaughter Mary, when she was ten. She said, “Grandma, you and I are the same.” I hung her drawing on my wall to remind myself that those I love are watching me, and I need to be careful to be worth watching and emulating. Also, the sentiment is true, there is beauty everywhere, even in the hardest times. There are days when I need to be reminded of this truth. (See Photo)

2. I have this painting on my wall, among the quotes, because it has deep meaning for me. The words came in a dream, and I held them in my heart for years. Eventually, I found a friend and distant relative who painted the dream. It reminds me of what I’m here to do. “Mission Statement – The Savior is healing me. I release old wounds and baggage. As I heal, I am healing generations. I feel satisfied bringing light to others.” Mary Ann Johnson

3. “Whatever my lot thou hast taught me to say, it is well with my soul.”

I heard this in a story told on a Christmas program a few years ago. A father lost his four daughters in a tragic sea accident. He immediately sailed to his wife’s side. As he passed over the place, in the ocean, where his daughters were lost, he said these words to himself. This is how I want to manage loss and suffering.

4. I read the book The Happiness Project by Gretchen Ruben. As she suggested, I wrote my own happiness commandments. I pondered for many days and finally narrowed my personal commandments down to these three. This card has been on my wall for many years. These personal commandments have had a huge impact on my way of being.

5. “I like to think of waiting in terms of a waiter at a restaurant. In this sense, to wait on someone is to serve that person. A good waiter – or server – gives his or her customers excellent care and attention by checking on them often, learning their desires, and attending to them. When I adopt this attitude toward the Lord, it adds purpose to the time I spend awaiting a particular blessing. Time seems to pass more quickly when I am diligently working to serve God. Ironically enough, it’s through this work that I ‘renew strength.’ ” From a talk by Christy Nielson

6. “What is the great cause of Christ? It is to believe in Him, love as He loved, and do as He did.” From a talk by Dieter F. Uthcdorf

7. “God’s prosperity is the power to press forward despite the problems of life.” From a talk by L. Whitney Clayton 

Many years ago, I was in a very lean time, and I asked God, in prayer, to bless me with prosperity. He did. It was the most amazing year of my life and I felt so much abundance. Our income did not change. In fact, nothing changed except how I felt about my life. It was amazing. Years later I saw this quote and I knew exactly what it meant!

8. “Both abundance and lack exist simultaneously in our lives, as parallel realities. It is always our conscious choice which secret garden we will tend…when we choose not to focus on what is missing from our lives but are grateful for the abundance that is present – love, health, family, friends, work, the joys of nature, and personal pursuits that bring us happiness – the wasteland of illusion falls away and we experience heaven on earth.” Sarah Ban Breathnach

As I said in #7, I have lived this!

9. “Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.” Hebrews 4:16  From the King James Bible

10. “Life is incredibly unfair – in your favor.” Jennie Taylor

Jennie’s husband was killed in war, and she was left with a family to care for. I listened to her talk about navigating that terrible loss and I was moved beyond words. I was also chastened for my penchant to complain. Jennie taught me the power of these words and also these… “We want everything to happen for a reason. A better mindset might be to let God make reason of everything that happens.” Jennie Taylor

11. When I became a full-time caregiver and made the choice to let my career go, I got a lot of flack from people. Many business associates felt that I was taking the easy way out, business building can be a challenge. Others felt I could do it all if I really wanted to. I spent time pondering and praying. Eventually, I wrote this statement for myself so I would never again second guess the choice I had made. I have it on my wall because caregiving is stressful. It has many challenges and few of the perks of being a teacher and speaker. I must remind myself who I am, why I am doing what I do, and that it is right for me, at this time. Three years have passed, and this is as true today as it was the day it was written.

“So here is my clarity – It won’t be what you would usually think. I live in a four-generation household that is filled with active children and those who are ill. I am also a published author, teacher, and coach. I post daily on Facebook, a meaningful thought for the parents I write for. I write and publish an article each week, which always elicits comments of hope from my readers. My published book is fabulous, and the day will come when I will again promote it and speak and teach on the contents. I have a couple more amazing books in files on my computer which will wait patiently for me. But for now – I am caring for my mother and my ill husband, and helping my daughter care for her 14-year-old with special needs. This is my path, my mission for now, and my time to serve and patiently wait. It is enough for me.” Mary Ann Johnson

11. “Celebrate endings because they precede new beginnings.” Jonathan Lockwood Hule

When I read these words, I knew I had to post them on my wall because I balk at change. I knew that I needed more flexibility of mind and heart. I read these words often.

12. “I will not leave you comfortless. I will come to you.” John 14:18 From the King James Bible

13. “You can’t wait until life stops being hard to be happy.” Jane Marczewski

Jane was known as ‘Nightbirdie’ on the show America’s Got Talent. She had cancer but decided to audition anyway. Simon Cowell gave her a Golden Buzzer. Jane died before the end of the season, but she had lived these words spoken on stage. I don’t watch TV, but my husband does and while doing dishes I saw Jane’s first appearance. Much later I learned she had died. I decided that her words would help me in the years to come and so I searched for them. They are now on my wall.

14. “We can feel heartbreak and joy at the same time.”

15. “Create a vision, present it to the Lord, tell Him this is what you would love, and then ask Him to help you identify your next ‘right’ step. You don’t even have to be totally confident that He is guiding you. If you do this exercise, then I assure you, as you give it your best shot to move forward with the next ‘right’ step, He is.”

16. “Be less worried about what you are doing and think more about who you are becoming.” From a talk by James E. Faust

17. I took a wonderful class on money stories from Erin Mathis Feik. I worked on my money stories for over fifteen years. I had made tons of progress, but Erin was a friend and I decided to see what she had to say. Here is what I distilled from the class. I read these words often and find them helpful, especially in these current, challenging financial times. (See Photo)

18. “Not what we give, but what we share. For the gift without the giver is bare, who gives himself with his alms feeds three, himself, his hungering neighbor, and me.” from The Vision of Sir Launfal by James R. Lowell

I have this posted next to a small picture of Jesus Christ, on my bathroom wall. I see it every day.

19. “God sometimes calls us into service at the most inopportune times. Often, we find a hundred reasons to say no…God wants our availability. He wants our hearts and minds and lives. He wants us to say in the words of Isaiah, ‘Here I am, send me.” God does not judge us by a set of standard performances. He makes a total claim on our lives and expects full use of all our talents. He judges us in terms of what we are capable of doing. In many situations, is not a call simply a realization of a need and an agreement that you have the ability to fill that need if you are only willing to do so?” Millard Fuller

When someone needed to care for my mom who has Alzheimer’s, I was traveling the country, speaking, guiding workshops, and really enjoying myself. I had just had a book published. My husband was already struggling with his health, and I was helping my daughter care for her special needs daughter. I knew the decision to take my mom into my home would come at a cost. However, I didn’t know the cost would be as high as it proved to be. Eventually, I had to let it all go, the speaking, the teaching, the traveling.

I have never regretted the decision, but resentment can come knocking, and maintaining perspective can be a challenge. When I read these words, I had to post them on the wall because this is where I find myself today. They help me stay in a good place so I can better love and care for those I serve.

21. “Being a widow is uncharted territory. It is a place of paradox-empty/full, heartbroken/healed, etc. Sometimes I miss so much I can’t breathe. Yet, having him helping from the other side of the veil has been incredible. Soooo many blessings.” Kim Gleason Davis

I have worried about losing my husband since the day we married. That is because he has been a truly safe place for me. I have talked to dozens of widows over the years to hear their stories, so I could be prepared for the day that this safety left. I know it is silly, but there it is.

However, I have known for a long time now that there are some things you can’t prepare for. When I read this post from my friend, Kim, I had to save it because I will need it in years to come. It resonates with me so powerfully because for decades I have said, “Don is my breath. How will I breathe when he is gone?” Kim reminded me how.

22. “Intelligence isn’t in you; it exists around you and you are to connect with it. Answers don’t have to be in your mind. You don’t have to be able to recall everything you read. You just trust that you are an intelligence in a sea of intelligence and answers and information will flow into you. When you begin pondering something and start talking about it, information flows in.”

As I have aged, my ability to recall details has diminished. I was frightened at first, but then I read this, I believed it and I hung it on my wall. I always seem to find the information I need whether it comes readily to my mind or not. Information, when I need it, does flow in!

23. “Nothing in nature lives for itself. Rivers don’t drink their own water. Trees don’t eat their own fruit. The sun doesn’t shine for itself. Flowers don’t spread fragrance for themselves. Living for others is the rule of nature.”

I come from a time when this was lived more than now. I have watched the world become more selfish and self-centered. I need this reminder to remain as I was taught, to take good care of yourself so you maintain your strength and then care for others.

24. “The Lord has a plan for me, and it will be a gift.” Mary Ann Johnson

After I quit speaking and teaching, I wondered if I had made the best choice. One day while coming in the back door I had this very clear thought flash into my mind – This will be a gift. I immediately came into my office space and wrote these words down and hung them on my wall. I wanted to remember what I had just been told. Five years have passed since that day, and I am seeing the gift being created!

25. “Charity – Patience is a reverence for the agency of others. The Lord’s commitment to agency is deeper than even your own. When we are patient with others, we are giving them space to use their agency, even if it complicates things for us or is different from what we would do. Patience is cheerfully doing all things as required by God. The fruit of patience is love unfeigned. We must have patience in order to withstand pain and grief without complaint or discouragement, which detracts from the Spirit.”

I asked for the gift of charity over a decade ago. As I began studying it, I realized that charity is made up of multiple ways of being. I have since begun studying the parts of this gift I desire. I have many quotes about charity and its parts on my walls. I cannot become what I don’t understand and practice.

I have so many other wonderful thoughts and ideas on my walls. I mean, I have been collecting them for years. : ) It is only possible to take one down if I have become the words or if they don’t apply anymore. There was no way to share them all with you, but I hope you have enjoyed these twenty-five and the stories that go with many of them. I am sure you can tell what my focus is at this season of my life. : )

Take the time in this coming year to find words that will help you stay on track and keep working towards who you want to become. Take charge of what you focus on.

It will elevate your mind, heart, and life.

You Are What You Think About and Focus On

In 2003, my world turned upside down when my daughter, Jenny, was hit head-on by a drunk driver going the wrong way on a California freeway. Five years later, I wrote an article about Jenny’s journey and how she turned a major head injury into a life worth living. Another eleven years have passed, and I have watched my daughter live these words – You are what you think about and focus on.

Jenny’s sixteen-year odyssey is powerful. If you find yourself frustrated, angry, discouraged, resentful, sad, feeling less than, or any number of other difficult emotions, then this is a true story for you.

After a struggle with drugs, Jenny got clean, changed friends, and was one semester shy of graduating with a bachelor’s degree. All that came to an abrupt halt when she was hit by the drunk driver.

In May of 2012, Jenny’s first five years as a brain trauma survivor ended when she graduated, not just with a bachelor’s, but with her master’s degree in speech therapy, a skill she had learned to value as she regained her ability to speak after her accident. She set out for a new life, in a new city, at a new job, helping other people put their lives back together.

On that amazing day, it was wonderful to sit in the auditorium and watch her walk across the stage. It was overwhelming to see all the people who had come because they loved our daughter and wanted us to know what a successful job we had done raising her. It caused me to do some serious introspection. We did do a good job of raising our children; not a perfect or pain-free job, but the best job our knowledge allowed. We know this from the fruit – seven loyal, kind, adults with integrity.

But when I think of Jenny, I know that her recovery from an accident that left her unable to walk, think of the word for shoe, orange, etc., track conversations, manage social cues, or remember anything, was due to her preparation for life. Let me share her secret for living well, no matter the circumstances.

Take control of your thoughts!!

When I was at Jenny’s home the week of her graduation, I noticed quotes on the walls in every room. They were the fodder for her recovery; they showed the core of who she had decided she wanted to be long before her accident. She had begun choosing her thoughts in her late teens. This didn’t prevent her from taking a hard road to adulthood, but it helped her stay alive and hang on to values on how to treat others until she could put into practice what she wanted her life to look like.

After Jenny’s accident, these thoughts, which she had seen and read every day of her growing up, got her through. They had become part of the fabric of her thinking. Brain trauma is hard. It makes normal living a lot of work, but to finish college and go on to have a successful career helping others, well, that was a miracle of persistence, faith, and the beliefs she had fed herself for decades.

Let me share some of what Jenny had posted on her walls.

  • If you correct your mind, the rest of your life will fall into place.
  • Life is not about finding yourself; life is about creating yourself.
  • “When I started counting my blessings, my whole world turned around.” Willie Nelson
  • When we strive to become better than we are, then everything around us becomes better also.
  • Live generously, love passionately, and be all that you want to see in the world. Shine your awesome love and light on all around you with no strings attached. Do it just because it’s who you are. Love is your nature. Sow it in your mind. Plant it in the world and enjoy the thrill of seeing love multiply and spread. All for love and love for all.
  • I’d always heard that your entire life flashes in front of your eyes the second before you die. First of all, that one second isn’t a second at all – it stretches on forever like an ocean of time. I guess I could be pretty pissed off about what happened to me, but it’s hard to stay mad in a world where there’s so much beauty. Sometimes I feel like I’m seeing it all at once, and it’s too much; my heart fills up like a balloon that is about to burst. Then I remember to relax and stop trying to hold onto it, and the beauty flows through me like rain, and I can’t feel anything but gratitude for every single moment of my little life. You have no idea what I’m talking about, I’m sure, but don’t worry, you will – someday. (From the movie American Beauty)
  • “I’ve learned from experience that the greater part of our happiness or misery depends on our dispositions and not on our circumstances.” Martha Washington
  • Turn your face to the sun, and the shadows fall behind you. A Maori Proverb

During my almost 74 years, I have learned that we have a choice in life. We can choose how we are going to react in any circumstance. I recall reading Victor Frankel’s book, Man’s Search for Meaning, as a teen, and I have never forgotten him saying “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”

Despite facing an addiction in those early days, Jenny had chosen to look at life through a lens of light. She was working diligently to get control of her life by choosing to embrace happiness no matter how hard the day. She was making every effort to control her thoughts!

Jenny didn’t engage in negative conversations. She wouldn’t verbalize the bad but chose to talk about the good. After the accident, she would not say an unkind word about the other driver. She said that she wished him well, that she hoped for joy in his life. She knew the struggle he was facing, one she was conquering. She wasn’t going to waste one minute on anger. She embraced what she had posted on her walls.

Change your thoughts, change your life.

Controlling your thoughts can change your life completely. We all can choose our response in every situation. Accepting personal responsibility for our lives and not blaming others, money, time, or circumstance makes all the difference in the quality of our lives. When you give up being a victim, you free yourself from whatever has you bound.

Watch your thoughts, for they become words.
Choose your words because they become actions.
Understand your actions, for they become your habits.
Study your habits, for they will become your character.
Develop your character, for it becomes your destiny. Lao Tzu

Jenny has proven this to be true!

I, like you and my daughter Jenny, must work daily to maintain this way of thinking and living. It is a practice, and it takes work every day. My walls are hung with things I want to understand and live better. Next week I will share some of those thoughts, beliefs, and quotes with you. I hope you will take some of the words of wisdom that Jenny and I choose to look at each day and put them on your walls because what you surround yourself with, what you choose to think about and focus on, does make ALL the difference.

You Are What You Think About

and Focus On

Today Jenny works in senior and rehab centers helping others who have experienced trauma learn to speak again. She and her husband, Brett, have an online Christian ministry, Humans of Surrender, helping those who struggle with addiction to find help and embrace God. They have a beautiful church on their wooded property called Grace Wood where everyone is welcome. From traumatic brain injury to a life of service and love is an amazing journey proving once again, that when you control your thinking you can change your life. Jenny is adamant about one other thing and I agree – When you add God and Christ to the mix of managing your thoughts, you have better outcomes. : )

Say Yes More Often Than No

I bought Mom a beautiful fake flower in a glass bowl. My mother loves flowers, but we can’t have any living plants in her room because she pours water on them continually. There are some problems with that.

1. Plants die if the roots are submerged in water. We have lost a few.
2. Eventually, they begin to smell.
3. She uses the water she is supposed to drink, and then it’s impossible to track her water consumption. Water is a vital part of what I manage because one of the first things to go with dementia is a sense of thirst, and dehydration is a real issue.

The day I bought this lovely plant, I entered her room to find the pot filled with water! I felt irritated and explained to Mom that it wasn’t a living plant, it didn’t need water, water might ruin it, etc. Then I cleaned out the pot and the mess on the dresser. I refilled her water glass.

When I returned, she had again filled the vase with water. This is what dementia is, and it isn’t her fault, but I was tired and felt angry to have another mess. I knew she couldn’t recall our previous conversation, and if I said it all to her again, she wouldn’t remember. However, if she kept putting water in the vase, I would have to remove the plant from her room. I mean, it was a fake plant and didn’t need water. Right!

Later, standing at the sink washing dishes, I had this thought, “What does it matter?” I was astonished and stood thinking about it. What did it matter? If water were in the vase, it would just be there. The stems were plastic, and the vase was glass, so water shouldn’t hurt. I didn’t want water in the vase, it was out of order. But what did it really matter?

I returned to my mom’s room and said, “You know Mom, if there is water in this vase, it doesn’t hurt anything. It doesn’t matter. Why don’t you put some water in the vase, and then you won’t worry about it.” She poured water in the vase, and it made her happy. After all, to her, it was a living plant. She sat back in her rocking chair, and I said, “I’m sorry, Mom. I can get grouchy.” She smiled and replied, “That’s OK.” Then we hugged. Eventually, the water evaporated, and she never refilled it. It was only on her mind that first day. Not a problem at all.

As I thought about this experience, several things came to my mind.
•There isn’t just one right or OK way to do a thing.
•Flexibility when working with others smooths our daily interactions.

When something seems wrong, bizarre, or dangerous, we need to stop and consider if that is a story, we are telling ourselves or if the facts indicate it’s true. If it’s true, then we need to act. However, if it’s just not how we would do it or if it seems out of order to us, then we should step back and see how it could be made manageable.

When we do this, it can impact our relationships in a big way. It is freeing to us and validating to others when they are allowed to make decisions for themselves even if they are different from what we might do. My boys and their bedrooms are a good example.

Managing a Boys Dirty Room!

I am a very tidy person, and I like order. When I was younger, I felt this was right and the only way to be. That caused me some problems because order and tidiness aren’t important to everyone. Take my three boys for example. Their rooms, in my opinion, were pigsty’s. The floors, dresser tops, closets, bed, and every space in their rooms were littered with stuff.

Of course, I spent lots of time yelling about their messy rooms. I had consequences if the rooms were out of order. It never made a dent. Even on days when I wouldn’t let them leave till their rooms were clean, by that night, they would be in disarray and cluttered again.

I finally got tired of yelling and how it made me feel, how it was hurting my relationship with my boys. I knew there had to be another way to handle it, so I prayed and pondered the situation. I came up with a plan that worked perfectly for many years.

I sat the boys down and told them how their messy rooms made me feel. I told them that I knew they didn’t feel the same way, so here was how we were going to handle our differences.

If I couldn’t see the mess, I would leave them alone. That meant they had to keep their doors closed with nothing spilling into the hallway. Maybe they would clean them occasionally, but that was up to them.

The caveat was this, every six months the room had to be deep cleaned. I would tell them when the cleaning week was. They could clean the room, or I would. They could decide what stayed and what went if they cleaned their room. However, if I cleaned their room that decision was up to me.

My sons Barry and Seth never cleaned their rooms, and I was more than happy to go in every six months and dung them out. Cleaning is my thing and I like it. They didn’t care if I junked stuff. It was perfect.

My son Andrew didn’t want me in his stuff so every six months he would deep clean his room and I stayed out. That also worked perfectly.

I know this wouldn’t appeal to everyone, but for us, it was a great way to handle the issue. No more yelling, no more Saturdays with upset boys sitting in their rooms feeling angry. And every six months I got to do my thing. As I said, for us it was perfect. Don’s Christmas ornaments are another good example.

Don’s Christmas Ornaments

Don loves decorations at Christmas. I used to go all out. Our home looked like a Better Homes and Gardens picture. But I’m older now, and I don’t care about most of the trappings of Christmas. Much of what I do these days is for Don. I would buy a big poinsettia and call it good. LOL

Last Christmas, as has happened for many years, Don didn’t want to take down the tree. He would leave it up till April if he could and did do that one year. : ) I, of course, wanted the tree down and all the paraphernalia put away. You know, back in order. But he was firm in his desire to be able to see his favorite decorations longer. What could I do?

Again, I prayed and pondered the situation. One morning I saw this picture in my mind; all of Don’s favorite ornaments hung on the wall behind his desk. And that is where they hang year-round, to this day. It isn’t what I would do because it is cluttered to me. However, I can live with it, and he is as happy as a clam because it’s how he would do things.

My daughter Jodie, has a wonderful saying that she lives by. I have seen her use it consistently in her home, and I know the results. I am often amazed at her yeses, and I have learned a lot about flexibility watching her with her children. Her belief in this saying has paid off many times. I work to remember this more often and it helps me focus on people, not things, and my way of how it should be done.

What if we said yes as often as we could and not only when we had to?

Are You Self Aware? What Does That Even Look Like?

Last spring, I was listening to a talk at church and the speaker gave a statistic that I found intriguing and a bit surprising. He said that most people think they are self-aware but that when tested only about 15% are. That is a low number of people who really know where they are emotionally, at any given time.

You are probably not surprised that this information would catch my eye. After all, I did a little counseling for myself this year because I knew there were issues with my self-awareness which made it difficult to manage triggers and stress.

What does being self-aware look like?

John Duffy, a clinical psychologist and author, expressed it this way – “In effect, self-awareness is the recognition of one’s own emotional state at any given point in time…To the degree that we can manage our emotional states, we are better able to manage…other elements of our lives as well.”

Amy McManus, a marriage and family therapist, describes self-awareness this way – “Self-awareness is the ability to look at your own words and actions from a perspective outside of yourself; to see yourself as others see you.”

Can you see how helpful it would be to be able to see yourself as others see you and then choose how to respond rather than being triggered or feeling less than? Can you see how empowering it is to be aware of your current emotional state so that you could take steps to manage how you feel?

This information was helpful for me last spring when I could see that I was on the edge of a cliff. My emotional state was in disarray after almost five years of full-time caregiving, and I needed help so that I could continue to manage.

As a mom, co-worker, wife, neighbor, etc. we would all do better if we could recognize our current emotional state, accept it, not feel like a loser if it is in disarray, and then do something to get back on track.

This is what I did last spring, got help, so I could work on getting my emotional state back into a place where I could manage myself and continue to care for those I love.

We tend to think we’re self-aware when we’re not. Remember those statistics – only 15% of the population is self-aware most of the time. Katie Krimer, a licensed clinical social worker, said that many people “feel that they know and understand themselves much better than they actually do. They may even have avoided building self-awareness because it involves looking at oneself as honestly as possible, and this can often invoke feelings of shame that can be difficult to handle.”

In my opinion and experience, to become more self-aware we need first, to give up shame because there are times you are not in a good place. This frees us to seek whatever help we need, to put ourselves back in order. If we are ashamed that we aren’t ‘perfect’ then we will shut down, hide from ourselves, and not seek help. As you can tell from the statistics, that is the choice many make whether intentionally or unintentionally.

Self-awareness is a skill important for a more fulfilling life

Self-awareness is important for a fulfilling life, one is freer from triggers, and feelings of shame, and able to respond more often rather than react.

Here is another bit of wisdom from John Duffy – “If you can manage your own emotions, you are more than likely able to exert an impact on the emotional vibe of a family, a work situation, or a social encounter. All of that is to say, self-awareness can be incredibly useful in driving a more aware, fulfilled life.”

The cool thing about a skill and self-awareness is a skill, is that it can be learned and mastered. It isn’t a natural talent so anyone can be better at self-awareness.

Last year when I was on a Mother’s Day retreat my daughter, Jodie, stopped by. She was helping me, so that I would be free to stay by myself for a few days, doing what I wanted. We didn’t plan it, but when she got to where I was staying, I spent an hour talking with her about the state of my emotions, and where I really was. It wasn’t comfortable because I am the mom, a writer, a mentor, and I should have all my ducks in a row, right? But it was helpful.

We strategized a few things that would help me physically manage better at home, as well as emotionally. In order for this conversation to occur I had to be willing to accept that I am not perfect, I do have ‘stuff’, and that it is OK. It doesn’t diminish my worth or my ability to help and serve others. In fact, that conversation allowed me to serve better, going forward. All those months ago, it was worth being vulnerable so that I could receive help to see what I needed to do. As has been said, self-awareness is a skill for a more fulfilling life.

So how can we cultivate greater and more consistent self-awareness?

I read several articles on this topic because, like most of you, I wasn’t sure how to cultivate self-awareness. I know that I can be self-aware, but I also know there are times I avoid it.

As I read there was a plethora of thoughts on how to cultivate self-awareness. I have chosen, for myself, only those that I am currently willing and/or able to do. As you do your own research you will see many other ideas and then you can choose what will work for you right now. I am sharing the link to one article I read and one talk I listened to, to get you started.

Here Is What I Committed To

1. Seek feedback from those you trust. That is what I was doing with my daughter on my Mother’s Day retreat. It is what I did when I chose to do some work with a professional counselor last spring.

2. Practice gratitude. This is a long-term practice for me. I have filled several gratitude journals. I write three things daily. My goal has been to not repeat myself. That is a challenge. : ) I will continue this practice.

This week I began a new gratitude journal after two years of writing. I still strive to write down new things. I am not above writing down eggs, watermelon, my mom can still dress herself, or cereal for an easy breakfast. LOL

This one practice has been helpful on many levels, not just with self-awareness. I recommend it highly!

3. Examine your triggers. Recently, I was on a wonderful podcast called Beyond the Cookie Cutter.  In that podcast, I talked about a moment when I was triggered by something my husband did. Mary Black, the host asked me to explain how I worked through the situation to determine what the trigger was so I could get my emotions back in order. You may find my experience of use as you figure out how to do this yourself. 

4. Let your walls down. This goes along with number 1. You do this best with those you trust. As I shared in the podcast, my husband can trigger me. But of all the people in the world, I trust him most. So, we have talked about it. He knows I am continuing my work to heal my triggers, which aren’t about him at all. He is being patient. : )

5. Look in the mirror-literally. I have been looking in the mirror at myself for years. I have aged considerably in the past five years, since becoming a full-time caregiver. However, aged or not, I like looking at myself in the mirror, even on days I am mad at myself because of a choice, a behavior, or a lack of self-management, etc. With much practice, I have learned my value and I love myself. This is a skill I have mastered! P.S. This is probably one of the reasons I am free to be vulnerable with those I trust and with you, my readers. My love for me isn’t dependent on how I look or any state of perfection.

When I look in the mirror it has been to tell myself how good I am as a person and to give myself some love. As was said in the NBC News article – to learn to track attention and emotions and gain new insights into how thoughts are affecting in real time — this sort of mimics face-to-face conversations that involve deep listening and being fully present with another person.” I plan to be deeply present with myself for a few moments on a regular basis and to continue to look in the mirror and tell myself how much I am loved!

So, look in the mirror and love the woman you see looking back with all her imperfections, disappointments, sadness, etc. Know that she is of worth and that you are moving her forward.
I have shared with you what I am currently willing to do to be more self-aware. However, there are many other possibilities. Check out the other ideas for yourself and choose what you can commit to.

Becoming self-aware is life changing and it is a skill we can master!

P.S. Mediation came up often on the lists. I have meditated in the past but right now, I can’t commit to it. However, it was powerful for me a decade ago and there is a wonderful TED talk on meditation and self-awareness. You may be ready to commit to this. If so listen HERE.  I was so taken by this talk that I may reconsider and commit myself. : ) It was beautiful, simple, and doable. Pondering my options. : ) Here is a good article to get you started on your own search for greater self-awareness.  What is Self-awareness? And how can you cultivate it?

Putting People Ahead of Projects. Can It Be Done?

Here are two stories that will become one.

I am a finisher. This will be important for you to remember as you read this article. Being a finisher is a blessing in my life and the lives of those I live with and serve. But it has its drawbacks. I can get caught up in projects and leave people behind.

Story One

I needed a mammogram. Ugh, I would like to be done with that forever, but whether I like it or not, I needed one. On the appointed day, I showed up and was pleasantly surprised by the technician. She was awesome! Vicki and I had a fabulous conversation about interesting and important things while we took care of this slightly unpleasant task.

I could tell that in some ways, we were alike. She is also a finisher. Our conversation got around to the topic of being patient with people when they got in the way of the work at hand. This was a problem for her at home and work. Boy, could I relate. Projects or work can supersede the very people we are serving. We laughed about it.

Then the conversation took a serious turn. Vicki was down on herself because she was new to the ‘I need to be more responsive to people’ party. She said, “I’m never going to get this.” I have felt this way myself. I told her, “You will get this and have a change of heart if you keep working on it, if it is a true desire of your heart. I know because I have been doing this work of changing for a long time.”

Story Two

The next day I was at my neighbor’s home picking mulberries. I had gotten up very early to do the job because I oversaw getting Maggie up, dressed, and into her wheelchair that morning. I had almost finished one section of the lower branches of the huge tree. I had a clear thought come into my mind, “Remember, Jodie is working, and you need to get Maggie up and dressed.” I have a good handle on time, and I had already felt that it was close to the time that Maggie would need me. But I kept picking. I told myself, “It’s just going to take a minute. I’ll be quick.” Sound familiar? Maggie can do nothing for herself, and she was dependent on me, and so was her working mom, but I wanted to finish.

I heard a ping on my phone, but I ignored it and kept picking. Five minutes later I was so pressed by the feeling that I had to go that I checked my phone. Jodie had gotten a message from Maggie saying she was awake. Fortunately, Maggie’s iPad was propped on the bed in front of her just in case she woke up and needed to let someone know. Jodie was texting to tell me Maggie was awake and to give me a few instructions for getting her dressed and out of bed. Maggie had just had surgery so I needed some coaching as it wouldn’t be a routine morning. Another reason that putting Maggie ahead of the mulberry picking was important!

I can’t believe it, but I began picking again. I mean, I was almost done with this section. I wanted to finish. Then I could pick up where I left off later. But again, I was pressed to STOP, and this time I did.

As I walked home, I felt slightly irritated. When I was in Maggie’s bedroom it all changed. She and I have fun conversations and laugh when I am caring for her. We use our system of questions and answers to communicate. I like working with her. She is funny and so cheerful. As I was ‘talking’ with her and getting her dressed I was overcome with a sense of gratitude. I felt grateful that she was my granddaughter and that I could serve and love her, talk with her, and laugh with her. I felt in a real way, the value and importance of what I was doing. It eclipsed any satisfaction I would have felt had I completed that section of the mulberry tree.

Learning to STOP what we are doing in favor of something that is truly more important, usually having to do with our spouse or children, is a process. I worked on this for many years as I parented and I am still working on it as I grandparent. I am certainly better than I was in the beginning, but I have had to learn to give myself space and time to keep practicing. Changing one’s way of being, whatever that may look like for you, takes intention, effort, consistency, and time. I have had to learn to forgive myself when I must be reminded that something else matters more than my current project.

A change of heart, a new way of being, can take years to achieve and then it isn’t usually a done deal. We must be reminded occasionally of what we know and our new way of responding. Perfect rarely happens. Changing our way of being is not the same as ticking something off a list, like making your bed every morning. It is deeper and it matters more.

As you work on STOPPING when your child needs you, it will impact your relationships hugely. It can make all the difference as they move from childhood to adulthood. It can and will cement relationships, and your children will be able to trust you. They will come to you when they are in need because you will have sent a clear message that they matter and that you value them over all the projects you must do in a day.

I would rather not have confessed to this crazy mulberry experience with you. It would be cool if I could tell you that I always put people over projects. But helping you understand what change takes, how important allowing yourself to make mistakes is, accepting your imperfections, and keeping going compels me to be honest, and vulnerable. : )

We all have ways of being in our family and with others that need to be adjusted. We all do! So, take heart, decide how you want to be, and then go for it even if you are still working on it decades later. Reaching the end isn’t what matters. It is your children watching your journey that in the end will make all the difference.

It has made a difference for my children.

How We Talk About Ourselves Sends a Powerful Message to Our Children

A few months ago, I had a conversation with one of my daughters on the issue of pride vs pridefulness. It was amazing and insightful. I can’t do justice to the topic in one article so I will cover it in the following three articles.

Here are the messages I will share over the next three weeks:
1. How we talk about ourselves sends a powerful message to our children
2. No matter how imperfect we are, we are giving things to our kids that we won’t know the value of until much later
3. Duality is real, especially in parenting. Two things can be true at once, even if they are contradictory.

I am breaking this one conversation into three shorter articles because the concepts are important, and I want to make sure you hear them and don’t get bogged down with a lengthy read.

How we talk about ourselves sends a powerful message to our children.

Let’s begin by defining pride and pridefulness. I used Webster’s 1828 dictionary, which is my favorite.  Pride – Generous elation of heart; a noble self-esteem springing from a consciousness of worth. Pridefulness – Having an excessively high opinion of oneself. Thinking too highly of oneself; conceited, arrogant, or overconfident.

Our conversation began with Kate sharing an amazing accomplishment she had experienced. She backed up a trailer all by herself and she was dang proud. It was a very tight space and she had never done that before. She had to course-correct a lot, but she got it done. Can I say how impressed and proud I was? I don’t back up anything! Period. I just don’t, so this was very impressive to me. I could understand why Kate felt pride in what she had done.

The following day Kate was taking her daughter to swim, and she saw the trailer. She felt pride wash over her. So, she shared it with Tessa. “Hey, do you see that trailer? I did that. I backed that trailer up and I was really scared but I did it anyway. And I am proud of myself.”

After she shared her feelings with her daughter, she made sure to send the message that it’s OK to feel confident in yourself. It’s OK to feel pride in what you do because pride is not the same as pridefulness.

Kate’s Sixth-Grade Experience

This led Kate and I to a conversation about the difference between pride in ourselves and pridefulness. I think that our conversation hits at one of the challenges moms and women face – can I think proudly of myself and my accomplishments without being prideful? Can I teach my daughters that it’s OK to feel confidence and pride in themselves?

Kate shared an experience she had in sixth grade where she learned to be self-deprecating. She was trying out for volleyball. Another girl hit the ball over the net. Kate said she was amazing; her serve was so powerful. Kate and the other girls were impressed with that beautiful serve. Some of the girls began asking her, “How did you do that? You were so amazing. It was so incredible.” The young girl replied, “Oh thank you so much. I worked all summer long. I practiced a lot.” As she walked away, the girls who had asked the question and had given her so much praise were like, “Oh my gosh. She is so full of herself. Ugh.”

A second girl whose serve was just as good as the first girl was also complimented by the other players. Her response was, “Oh no, no, you guys. I suck so bad. I am really terrible.” Then the group of girls with Kate were even more effusive in their compliments. “No, you were so good. Really. Like you are amazing.” When she walked away the group of girls had nothing negative to say.

Kate remembers observing this interchange as a sixth grader and thinking to herself, “That’s how you do it. Now I understand.” Here is what she learned – If you are confident people won’t like you. However, if you are insecure and say bad stuff about yourself then people accept you.

We can feel pride in our accomplishments without being prideful. Let’s send positive messages on this issue to our children so they are allowed to feel good about the things they master. We do this best by example. If we’re OK taking honest credit for what we accomplish then our children will learn that doing so is OK. Sharing my daughter’s sixth-grade experience with your kids can get an honest conversation going.

How we feel about ourselves, how we talk about ourselves, sends a powerful message to our children.