Category: Uncategorized

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.


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!


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,

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.

Recharging – Do You Know What Works for You?

This last December I was able to spend three days by myself in the home of a friend. She was away and gave me the key. Can you imagine how fabulous that was for me? No one to worry about, or care for. No pills to manage or porta potty to empty. I was happy, but I didn’t do what everyone else might do. I had what I called ‘My Vacation List.’ I had to laugh because there were 22 things on the list I wanted to get done. It didn’t include watching movies, taking long baths, or going out to eat, although I did all three. : ) No, it was things such as writing 5 Facebook posts, writing a book review, cleaning up the photos on the phone, taking a tour of my MDM class, and deciding what classes to take at the Family History Library. Doesn’t sound much like a vacation, does it? But it was!!! These are the kinds of activities that recharge me. I LOVE getting on top of all the nitty things I never get to. : ) Order is restful and satisfying to me.

That reminded me of a time in 2011 when I stepped away from my business for four days after Thanksgiving. Back then I was deeply into speaking, mentoring, and teaching classes. The things on my ‘2023 Vacation List’ were part of my business life back then. It would not have felt like a rest. However, again, I didn’t do what many of you would do.

In 2011, before full-time caregiving, I loved my work, but it was fraught with hard things. Running a business entails many tasks I was just learning to do. Technology was often baffling. I had an article to write and mentees to work with. Then there were presentations to prepare and give. I had to navigate airports and hotels by myself. I needed to reboot!

So, what do you think I did for the four days after Thanksgiving? I cleaned like a crazy fool. I rearranged both my kitchen closets. I mopped and moved furniture and scrubbed and… I know this doesn’t sound like much of a vacation to many of you. But I cannot tell you how wonderful it was to do something so normal, that I was totally familiar with and very good at. Cleaning and organizing recharge me BIG TIME. I love doing this stuff and back in 2011, I wasn’t getting enough of it. There was too much business and many presentations and classes to give.

At the time I thought I might be the only woman in the world who would opt for cleaning to reboot or recharge. Then I read an email from a mentor of mine, Leslie Householder. She said, “In my rebellious moments, I derived tremendous pleasure out of cleaning a toilet, or reorganizing a cupboard.”

Later, I read this in The Pioneer Woman – “Looking at the calendar, I keep trying to schedule a break. I want to go shopping with my mother. I want to have lunch with a new friend in Houston. I want to get back to walking in the morning. I want to teach my children how to clean a toilet…” I had to laugh. : )

Many of you who are still in the trenches with a house full of kids, piles of laundry, dishes to do, and owies to kiss may be thinking that no way would cleaning toilets or organizing a closet refuel you.

That’s the point, it is important to know what recharges your tank. Is it a late-night hot bath, a good read, taking a walk, calling a friend, getting out of the house for an hour, a date, someone else cooking dinner, or cleaning a toilet and organizing a closet?

Find Ways to Take Regular, Short Breaks

During one of my parenting workshops, a mom said she didn’t know what would recharge her. I could relate! I had been stuck in that same place; things that used to work weren’t working anymore. So, I did what I usually do when stumped for an answer. I prayed. The answer that I got surprised me. It went something like this, “Take more breaks. Play music while you work. When it is getting to you, take a 10-minute walk.” Simple isn’t it and this from a trustworthy source. At the time it was just what I needed but wouldn’t have thought of myself.

Most of us cannot take a four-day break on any kind of regular basis. In fact, most of us don’t know how we can take even a 10-minute break. However, it is important to find simple ways to recharge.

One day, in my business building years, I had been at the computer for many hours writing and learning how to manage the technology. I hadn’t taken any breaks except to hit the bathroom. My neck was beginning to hurt. I had angry feelings building up. I felt stressed! The bad thing was that my husband was due home in about an hour and you can imagine the possible end to this story except, I took God’s advice. I stopped! I took a ten-minute walk. When I got home, I turned on music and drank some water. Then I went back to work. It was amazing to me how much better I felt and how much I was able to accomplish. I was also aware that I had derailed some angry, frustrated feelings that would have leaked onto my unsuspecting husband! They didn’t and we had a pleasant evening.

If we take the time to know what recharges us and then take regular, short breaks we will feel less stress and less frustration; we will be happier, our children will be happier, and life will feel better.

You need to know what recharges you, regardless of what others do and this will change from time to time. When you know what works find ways to incorporate it into your days, ten minutes at a time if that is all you can get. This exercise in listening to and caring for yourself will pay dividends in your feelings of happiness and contentment. Your energy level will rise, and your stress level will decrease. You will manage your emotions better. When you take care of yourself in ways that work best for you, you will take better care of your family and your relationships.

Postscript – My daughter informed me that a shower at night can’t be considered self-care, it is a necessity. She read this in a book. Hmmm, I have been using this tool very effectively for well over sixty years. For some, recharging or caring for self must be out of the daily walk we are usually engaged in – days away by yourself or with your spouse, shopping with a friend, lunch at a restaurant, a movie… I cannot accept this definition, just so you know. I have lived a long seventy-four years. I was a stay-at-home mom with seven children. I had children living in my home for thirty-nine years. Now I live in a four-generation home and care for my mother who has dementia, my husband who has many health issues, and I help my daughter who is a single mother of four, one with severe CP.

I try to get away once or twice a year if I can. I have lunch with a friend every 3 months. But what I need most are ways to recharge in the chaos of daily life. I know that order and physical work are what do that for me, no matter how crazy it may sound. My nightly shower with a candle and prayer is a staple. These things work for me!

I have become very good at finding ways to recharge and care for myself in the thick of things. It has been a necessity. If you can get away regularly, great. The point I am making in this article is that you must discover what replenishes you daily, whether cleaning a closet, taking a walk, or hitting the store. Then when it stops working, and it probably will, go back to the drawing board. What wouldn’t have worked for me in 2011 was just what I needed in 2024.

It doesn’t matter how you recharge. When you know what works, do it daily and the heat of the day will be less intense.

SPARKS = Loving to Learn

In the last two weeks, I’ve given you some information on Sparks and how to use them to connect with your children. In the article on March 10 – SPARKS – The Big Fail, I mentioned that when we learn to utilize Sparks, we can help our children love the idea of learning.

Kids have a lot to learn, and often, whether we homeschool or use public or private schools, the love of learning can get buried. We can’t prevent times when school is boring or too hard. But we can keep the desire to learn alive, as we utilize our children’s Sparks.

When I was speaking and teaching, I spent many hours helping parents use their children’s Sparks. I wrote LOTS of articles on the experiences actual families had. I wasn’t the only one experimenting and learning. Today’s article was written in 2012, the same year I had my big fail and many big wins.

My friend, Leah, was taking her family to Florida and wanted them to LOVE the trip and to LEARN a lot. She took the time to think it through and prepare her family for the trip. She got their minds going. Her children were older than my grands but her use of Sparks worked as well for her, as it had for me. We both knew what I wrote in the article two weeks ago – Life is about learning, and the best-lived lives happen when we continue to learn. Leah wanted this for her boys.


Here is an email I received from Leah and my response. Then I will share what Leah did with the information and how the trip went.

Hi Mary Ann,
I have a favor to ask. I really need a “jump start” and I knew you could help me. I feel a little like I am in a brain freeze right now…We are taking the kids to Orlando for a huge Disney World trip. I want to inspire some Florida learning…but I need a tiny little jump start. Off the top of your head…could you walk me through some first starts? Just to get me motivated and the juices flowing. Just a few quick ideas of how or where I could start! Thank you! Leah S. (shared with permission.)

Here is what Leah was really asking – We have this terrific trip coming up. How can I get my children on board, be excited to learn, and have a great time too?

Here is what I came up with in just a few short minutes, seriously just a short time:

1. Start with a map. It’s fun for children to see where they live in relationship to where they are going. Attach the map to a wall and run a piece of yarn from your state to the one you visit. If you have older children, they can rubber cement the string along the major roads you will be traveling. (Just today, 3-19-24, my husband asked me to show him on a map where a relative lived, in relation to our daughter who lives in MO.)

When I was in school one of my favorite things was to make my own maps. You can print a map or draw one. Let your children find the information to complete their maps or do one map as a family.

Here are some things you can put on your maps– state capitol, the state abbreviation, the largest city, major rivers, and lakes, and major industries (find out what part of the state the industries are found and then draw a picture or glue a miniature to that area), state nickname, motto, and song.

Now you can draw a picture on the side of the map of the state flag, state bird, state tree, state flower, state mammal, and state water mammal, etc. This will not appeal to all children, but I would have loved it and so will others, especially if it is done as a family.

2. Know up front where you are going. States are big places and usually varied in their topography. So, plan ahead. Then you can go online and find out what fun things there are to do where you are going and what the landscape is like.

3. Get some great books from your library, with pictures and information about the state you are visiting. As you know from last week’s article SPARKS -The Big Win, I love books and so do my children and grands. When I have opportunities to learn with them, we begin with books.

4. Read a chapter book as a family. Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings loved and wrote about the people of Florida. She wrote The Yearling which takes place in Florida. There is also a state park in Florida called the Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings State Park.

5. Get some books about the odd and wonderful animals you can find in Florida: dolphins, manatees, panthers, alligators, etc. Play charades using only the animals and birds found in Florida.

6. Learn about some of Florida’s famous sports teams.

7. Give each child a journal, rubber cement, etc. so they can write about the trip, and capture photos, postcards, and other mementos, rather than waiting until they’re back home. In the moment there is more excitement and enthusiasm for the job.

These fun ideas make learning about any state interesting and exciting. When you have a family trip coming up you can do many things to interest and excite your children. Begin talking weeks before the trip. Have mini-conversations and dinner conversations. Have conversations in the car, driving from one appointment to another. Get the fire going.


The next day Leah emailed back and confirmed what I had been teaching moms and dads for years. When you step out and start, resources (thoughts) show up no matter what you’re trying to accomplish. I want you to see what happens when you start, even if you are scared, don’t know anything, or feel unable. Here is Leah’s email. (Shared with permission.)

Hi Mary, I emailed you during some feelings of doubt in my efforts and frustration (you may have been able to tell). My 9-year-old, Miles, was looking over my shoulder reading my email, so I was a little embarrassed that he may have seen it. I tell you that because I wanted to start TODAY with Florida stuff. So, I did just that…just stared…started with a map.

labeling, tracing, and coloring. We traveled from Utah on the map state by state. We looked at all the states we would fly over and talked about what we might see out the window.
Then we got into the explorer Ponce de Leon for a while, and are getting more info on him and his explorations. We talked about the American Revolution and how Florida was under Spanish rule.

Then we got to the Seven Mile Bridge in the Florida Keys; now we are studying bridges, how they’re constructed, and even building a bridge for our hot wheels out of popsicle sticks. got us cars came about because the original bridge wasn’t necessarily designed for automobiles. What was it like to live without cars, when in history did they begin to have cars? Then we went into boats and how they cross these bridges. We built a bridge out of Unifix cubes and tried at dinner to use our spoons and forks to understand how they could anchor pillars, or the like, into the ocean to sustain a seven-mile-long bridge!

Then we got into how long seven miles is and the running race held on the bridge every year. I could go on and on, ALL in ONE day. And we could have done more.

I was exhausted though and ran out of time! : ) Now I have so much more to go on, thanks to you. The kids are thrilled and say it makes more sense when they know about the place they’re going. Thank you, thank you for your quick response. I do have a lot of faith in you and always will! Love, Leah”


These kinds of activities and conversations went on for the few weeks before the trip. The kids were so on board. They loved learning all this cool stuff. There were awesome dinner conversations and car conversations.

When Leah and her family returned from their trip to Florida, she told me it was AMAZING!! One of the things that made it so amazing was planning ahead, creating a Spark and then a roaring fire, teaching, and being with her boys. The process had them very excited and created great anticipation.

When you watch for Sparks, and then respond, it can be magical for your family and help children have a lifelong desire to learn, no matter what happens in their schooling.

Sparks – Watch and respond. It makes a difference.


Last week I shared information about Sparks and how valuable they can be in building child-parent relationships. I also shared my big failure when it came to one of my grandsons Sparks. Let’s have a quick review.

In my book Becoming a Present Parent  I wrote that the value of seeing your child’s Sparks is that it’s a wonderful way to get Present with your child. It’s powerful not only in helping them love learning but also in creating tighter relationships. So, what is a Spark? Simply put, a Spark is anything that a child says or does that lets you know they’re interested in something right now.

Last week I told you that over the next couple of months, I would randomly share examples of Sparks, how fun they can be, and how connecting. Today, I want to share a BIG win. This, like the fail, took place in 2012.

The Octopi Spark

Ring! Ring! “Hello.” “Grandma, I want to learn about octopuses.” When there is a “spark” you have to jump on it. Remember my elephant fiasco?

What is octopus plural?

According to Merriam-Webster, throughout history the word “octopus” has been pluralized as octopuses, octopi, and the more unusual octopodes. Any of the three options is fine proving that grammar isn’t always black and white. This is a fact that we learned while engaging in Jack’s Spark, octopuses. Jack, Maggie, Mary, and I thought you would like to know. : )

Books, books, books! We always start with books when following a Spark. My grands love books and books about octopuses were no exception.

This was the funniest thing we learned in our books – The octopus has a squirter (siphon or funnel) and he uses it to shoot backward. We practiced sucking in air, and then shooting it out as fast as we could and letting our hands shoot backward. Mary loved it, Jack was a bit unnerved, and Maggie just laughed.

Want a few more amazing facts to help kids learn about octopuses?

  • An octopus can open a jar lid to get at the food inside.
  • The octopus has a parrot-like beak – yikes and he isn’t even a bird!
  • An octopus has eight arms and no legs.
  • An octopus has no bones so it can wiggle into very tiny spaces.
  • An octopus hunts for food at night.
  • If an octopus is under attack it can squirt a cloud of black ink and get away.
  • Moray eels like to bite off octopus arms for lunch!
  • An octopus can change its color from black to white to red.
  • An octopus can change the texture of its body so it is hard to find.
  • An octopus’s home or lair is called a midden.

I love crafts that cost no money and use what I already have on hand. In this case. we used toilet paper rolls, construction paper, tape, wiggle eyes, and stickers. We created our own octopi and the grands had a grand time. No pun intended. I have given you instructions below so that you can help your kids make their own octopi. Last week I shared that you can light a Spark and use it the same as if it originated with the child.

Please notice Jack’s face. Because I jumped on this Spark he was fully involved. He enjoyed every minute we spent together.

As usual, we ended our activity with another very silly book about an octopus who almost became soup. The pictures were funny and Maggie, who is 5 ½, with cerebral palsy, laughed and laughed at the silly things that went on.

I must confess that we did not eat any octopus for lunch! We found chocolate teddy grahams, cheese, and hot dogs much more satisfying.

We had a wonderful time together laughing and learning. It was a fun Spark and we loved being together.


1. Cut the toilet paper roll in half. Measure it on your construction paper and draw a pencil line.

2. Cut eight strips (arms) from the edge of the paper to the pencil line.

3. Glue or tape the construction paper to the toilet paper roll with the arms hanging down.

4. Roll the arms on a pencil or marker so they curl up.

Books About Octopi

  • Octopuses by Michele Spirn
  • The Octopus by Mary M. Cerullo
  • Octopus soup by Mercer Meyer
  • Cowboy and Octopus by Jon Scieszka – I do not like this book but Maggie (5 1/2) laughed uproariously!
  • Octopuses, Squids, and Their Relatives by Beth Blaxland
  • Octopuses by Carol K. Lindeen
  • An Octopus is Anoying by Patricia Lauber
  • Gentle Giant Octopuses by Karen Wallace
  • My Very Own Octopus by Bernard Most
  • An Octopuses Garden by Stephanie Steve-Borden
  • Octopus Socktopus by Nick Sharratt
  • Have You Ever Seen an Octopus with a Broom by Etta Kaner

Watch for Sparks from your littles to your teens. Sparks will help you listen, enjoy, and bond.

Don’t Be A Mastodon

I have wonderful friends. Some are past mentees, past mentors, and class attendees, and some are past teachers of mine. We have remained connected. Just this week one of those friends reached out. We had a wonderful conversation which I will share in an upcoming article. But she said something I want to share today. She said words to this effect – I love reading your articles. I love how you share your life; and how transparent you are. It helps me in my life.

I was moved by her comments. Sometimes I wonder if I am too honest, or too transparent. It was a relief when I finally learned that helping others doesn’t require perfection or an all-knowingness on my part. But still, I occasionally wonder. LOL My friend, after sharing her current success, asked me how I was doing. I told her I am facing a change in my life plans and I’m working on managing it.

Last week I included in my weekly newsletter the link to a podcast I did a few weeks ago for Beyond the Cookie Cutter. It was about managing change. Then this week, out of nowhere, I found myself faced with another possible change. It will require a shift in a hope I have held on to for a long time and an adjustment in how I deal with a current situation. This reminded me of where I was back in 2013 and some hard lessons I had to learn. I want to share what I learned in 2013 because it is so 2023. LOL

Driving home from an event a few nights ago I had a very enlightening and somewhat painful conversation with my daughter about a possible change in something my husband and I have counted on for a few years. It would be easy to ignore her observations but then I would be in the position many mastodons found themselves in. Stuck in a black tar pit. If the mastodon didn’t find a way to extract herself from the pit, then death and petrified bones were the result. This can and does happen to people. Many of us know someone who is stuck and can’t seem to move forward. Sometimes they spend a lifetime stuck and leave life never having freed themselves.

I have written several articles this summer on getting unstuck, and getting help to grow. I don’t want to belabor the point but, well, it keeps coming up in my life and the lives of those around me. As I said, I am sharing some observations from 2013 because they fit perfectly for where I find myself in 2023.

The last two years I have had a few mastodon moments where I have found myself trumpeting loudly (to God at least, “Help, Help! Get me out!!) and I have gotten out and moved forward only to find myself in a new tar pit. The last few years have been filled with growth moments. Not sure why that is but life is very onion-like, and I suspect that I have reached a place in my life where I am ready, willing, and able to do some serious growing and changing. It can feel uncomfortable while being freeing. : )

In 2013 I was struggling to get out of bed because I was unhappy with myself and others. I had to learn some important lessons about sleep and personal happiness. I did learn them and have written about them. That knowledge has been life-changing when life gets tough! Recently, despite my hard-won knowledge I have found myself in that same fight.

What is Wisdom and why do I need it?

I have an exceptionally strong will so I do get out of bed, no matter what. However, willpower isn’t enough. It won’t and can’t carry you far enough to get unstuck. It requires wisdom to do hard things long enough to effect lasting change. What is wisdom? It is knowledge understood, which when coupled with faith, knowing it is true, moves us to action.

I have learned that we are responsible for how everything looks and feels in our lives. I have experienced this principle for myself, and it is fabulously freeing! You may not believe it. In fact, you may be saying “That is the stupidest thing I have ever heard”. That is exactly what I said back in 2013. But that seed planted so long ago has grown into a tree, with fruit to boot, and I know it is true.

Because of the wisdom I gained back in 2013, I have been moved to action over the past couple of years. I have taken responsibility for the fact that I have had low-in-spirit moments and that I haven’t wanted to get out of bed at times. I haven’t looked outwards for anyone or anything to blame. I have gone inward to look for the culprit.

I have prayed a lot! I have pulled out my best tools and I have been using them. P.S. If you need tools reach out and I can share what I have used with you. No cost, just friends sharing.

I have checked the past: is there any grudge I am holding on to, any anger, or other negative feeling? If I have run across anything I have used my forgiveness exercises to root it out.

I have checked my shame bank. Have I made any recent deposits or is there anything hanging around in there from the past? An empty shame bank is a wealthy shame bank.

I have been checking in with my body and asking questions. Your hip hurts. Hmmmm, why? Your neck is sore, let’s look at that. I have paid attention to my body clues and followed them. I have a couple of books that I go to, to help me understand what my body is saying. When I find anything that rings true, I go to work on it, again using prayer and my quiver of wellness tools.

I have utilized mentors. Remember that willpower is not enough. It requires wisdom to make lasting and useful changes. I have learned that when you are stuck and have done all that you can, get a mentor, someone who can help you see what you cannot see or do not want to see. Right now, the mentors I am utilizing are the friends I have made during the last decade of my life. And, as you know, a counselor for a short time this spring.

There are days I would like to stay in bed, but I am not stuck like those poor mastodons! I am taking small steps and feel able to take each one.

Mentoring gets you unstuck!

In 2013 I wasn’t caregiving. I was building a very successful and fun business teaching parents to connect with their children. I was traveling and garnering the friends I mentioned earlier. But inside I was stuck and hiding. I have a purpose for sharing my 2013 experience. It isn’t that I want you to know that I periodically get stuck although I do want you to know that. It isn’t because I want you to know that no matter how put together you seem, we all have challenges, we all are growing, although I do want you to know that.

I am telling you because I want you to understand that when you are stuck you need help from the mentors around you. It doesn’t matter if you are stuck in your business, parenting, personal development, education, health, or relationships. You need a fresh perspective. You need someone who can help you go where you may not want to go. When you understand this and believe it is true you will have another drop of wisdom to call upon in times of need.

A mentor is someone who can listen and support. They are usually a few steps ahead of you in whatever you are working on. It could be a friend, a paid mentor or counselor, a spouse, a parent, or as in my case this week, one of your grown children. One of the best mentors is God, but often He sends you to a person who has what you need.

Although I now may need to move in a direction I didn’t plan to go, I feel confident I can do it. I can get out of bed; face the challenge of yet another change I hadn’t planned on and be ok. Taking responsibility, throwing out blame, being honest with yourself, mentoring with those you trust, feels far better than lying in bed…stuck!

Good tools and mentoring can help you manage change and growth even when it is hard. So, reach out and keep growing.

Not as Bad as I Thought!

Do you ever have the feeling that your efforts aren’t good enough, even though you are giving it all you have at the time? I have and still do, occasionally.

For Example…

I have a sister who is fabulous at scrapbooking. The pages she creates are beautiful with paper flowers, butterflies, bows, wagons, trains, and other cute decorations. It makes her kids ‘stuff’ stand out and look great. I have never scrapbooked. I don’t think it was a thing until after most of my children hit their teens and some were gone from home.

I did have boxes of their stuff, each neatly labeled with their name. Everything was orderly and well cared for. I knew it was important to keep their art, crafts, papers with A’s, photographs, and awards. But I hadn’t done anything with all that stuff.

When my children were adults, I still had their stuff in boxes. Just a few years ago, I decided that for Christmas I would buy some beautiful boxes and give them their stuff as a gift. I bought the boxes and transferred their treasures into them.

It was fun watching the kids sort through their papers and get excited. “Hey, look at this. Do you remember when…” “Do you see this? Can you believe I finished? It was so hard.” “Do you remember when we all…” It was a great gift, and I knew it was a hit.

However, as time passed, I occasionally felt that I should have put all their stuff in cool scrapbooks. I mean, it had become the rage, and everyone was doing it.

The Discovery that Felt so Good!

Now remember that my youngest is 34 and my oldest is fifty-one. They have been gone from home a long time. But last month, Jodie had a beautiful scrapbook on her kitchen counter. I had made it! What!! Seeing it again, after decades, helped me remember that I had indeed, made a book for each of my children. Granted, there were no cutsie things inside, just papers, photos, certificates, etc. Everything was handwritten, nothing fancy, but there was a book!! And to that, I added a cool Christmas box years later! Go, Mom!

Here is what I know and sometimes forget, and which you may not know yet – doing something a specific way, the way another mother does it, isn’t going to matter in the long run. What we do for our family, with love, is what does and will matter to our children over the long haul. It wouldn’t have mattered if I had never made a book containing some of their stuff. They loved the Christmas box because they knew I cared about them and their memories. That is what counted and for them, it would have been enough.

If we are filled with regret or worry over all the things we didn’t or don’t do as well as another mother, we consign ourselves to living in a dim room. But as we accept our efforts, whatever they are, time will clean house and leave us in a far brighter place. The good we did will become apparent.

Scrapbooks or even saving our kids’ stuff, isn’t the defining thing in good parenting, but I hope you get my point. We can’t and won’t do everything well or the way some other mother or family does it. But our efforts will pay off in the end if we do our best and work to become better. Notice I didn’t say do better. It is far more meaningful, as our children grow if they see us become better.

This Mother’s Day I received messages from women and mothers in my family. I wasn’t a perfect parent. I made lots of mistakes. I was frequently in over my head. : ) BUT I did do my best. I gave what I had and as I cleaned out my bag of garbage, which we all have, my best became better. Please allow me to share a couple of my Mother’s Day messages and know that the feelings they shared have developed over time, as they have become women and mothers themselves.

One thing I love most about you is this, my entire life you have always wanted to become a better person. You did things to change yourself, develop new characteristics, and find who you really are. That rubbed off on me. I really appreciate that. I always do a daily self-inventory and stay aware of where I’m at and who I am. So grateful to have developed the nature to want to do better. Thank you, Mom. I love you very much.
•We really love and appreciate you Mom and all you have done for us. (speaking of her family) I appreciate that you have taught me to pray well. I like how you said it in your last article, you are blunt with Heavenly Father, and he is blunt with you. That is an important thing to understand, that we can just say how we feel. I love you.
•Happy Mother’s Day Mom. Thank you for blessing us with so many wonderful people. Because of you, I have an amazing man in my life and an amazing baby, and it all started with you.

Speak kindly to yourself in the moment, accept your efforts, and be patient with yourself as you change and grow.

We really are doing better than we think
and time will show us this!

My Rocky Relationship with Time and Happy Mother’s Day

On my wall, I have pictures of things I want to accomplish in my life. One is of me happily hugging a clock. Why? Because I have had a rocky relationship with time. However, I want to have a better relationship with time.

I know this is possible because I used to have a terrible relationship with money. After cleaning up my money stories, using tools, and lots of practice, I finally became friends with money. We still have moments when we fall out of our friendship, but those moments are rare and don’t last long.

After years of work, I was able to take the photo of me hugging a dollar bill off my wall and put it in the book that contains all the important and beautiful things I have accomplished.

I must confess that this photo of me with time has been on my wall for over a decade. Yikes. I have had access to fewer resources than I had with my money issues. So, although I have practiced what I know, I have made less progress. I have prayed a lot!

Over a six or seven-year period, with God’s help, I created a daily worksheet that is very helpful for me. However, it hasn’t completely resolved my rocky relationship with time, although it has helped. I have continued to pray because I am certain that time and I are destined to be friends!!! Recently, I had an experience that was very moving and which, in time, led to a most enlightening thought.

Let’s begin with the experience.

In my church, we have a class called Finding Strength in the Lord: Emotional Resilience. I decided to take it. My husband said he would take it with me. Many of the chapters covered things I have already worked out in over 30 years of self-healing.

But Chapter 4 – Managing Stress and Anxiety was not one of them. Here is why. This chapter is built on the foundation principle – Use Time Wisely. There it was, my nemesis, time. As we read through the material, I saw myself, but I wasn’t seeing answers. Nothing new. Nothing I hadn’t tried.

Then we watched a video of a beautiful woman in Africa. She was sharing with a young man how she used her time, how she determined what to do with her time, and how she was able to do what she did each day and still serve others. I could relate with her instantly because those are the challenges of my life, knowing what order to do things in and how to serve better so that I feel my day was well used. Her counsel to the young man was life-changing for me from the moment I heard it. You can watch this short and moving video HERE.

I wrote down what she said in a small notebook which I keep with me as I pray each morning, so I don’t forget the important things. First, I ask God to consecrate my efforts that day. I did some research to make sure I knew what this meant. It means to make or declare sacred or to dedicate for a sacred purpose. Imagine folding laundry, checking on a neighbor, or cooking breakfast as a sacred purpose.

Then I commit to doing my very best. If I do my best, then God can make my effort sacred. That was so uplifting to me.

Then I ask God to do what I can’t. At the end of each day there are so many things I didn’t get finished and others that I did, but not as well as I hoped. Knowing that He can make up the difference in my less-than-perfect efforts felt relieving.

Then I ask who I can serve. Of course, I am already serving in my 4-generation home but now and then someone will come to my mind. Text so and so. Call so and so. So and so needs help with _______. Recently I had this thought, “Drive to so and so’s house and give her a hug. She needs one.” It is never convenient, but I am learning to listen and respond better. The goal is to do what matters most even if a myriad of other things don’t get done!

In fact, learning to listen is pivotal in managing time. Notice I have handwritten that word on the list. : ) I must be honest that this is an ongoing process for me. I want to rush to the next thing but if I will stop and listen, I really do manage better.

Then I ask God to help me order my tasks for the day. I can feel the direction I get. Sometimes I go through an entire day and get none of my ‘stuff’ done because I was busy doing His stuff. I am learning to be OK with that. Again, it is not easy for me. LOL

The video of this sweet African woman was the experience that led to the amazing thought. Can I say here that none of the information in the video was completely new to me, but it pierced my heart in a new way? And the thought that came a few weeks later wasn’t new either, but as it came, I saw in my mind’s eye, what I already knew, differently.

The Thought!

Here it is – “Being a friend to time doesn’t mean getting it all done each day. It means getting all the best things done! It is a matter of perception and priority.” I added that to my self-portrait with time because I know it is something I must understand better.

Has life turned around? No. Do I still struggle with all there is to do on some days? Yes. Do I have to make myself put the best first? Yes. Am I successful with this regularly? Not yet! There is no magic here. But I can feel change occurring in my way of being. Here is what that looks like.

Notice on my list, under night prayer – REPORT and ask questions. Many of you know that one of my most consistent and longest-running self-care items has been to take a shower each night. After I read the book Sabbath, a fabulous non-denominational book, I began praying for someone as I showered. It felt lifting after a long day to care about someone else’s need enough to pray for them. Now, when I am done praying for someone else, I report how the day went. Some days I tell God that it sucked. I am blunt with Him, and he is blunt with me. It works. : ) I let Him know the days when I feel less than because of what I didn’t do or hear. I celebrate with Him the days that shine when I feel on top of the world.

In every case, I end my shower feeling OK because I am assured in my heart that no matter how the day looked or felt, I did my best as I promised I would. And I know that He has made up the difference and that whatever I have been able to do has been made sacred.

This has begun to change my relationship with time. Is the picture still on the wall? Yes. I have many miles to go before I can put this to sleep. I am just scratching the surface of this relationship, but I am learning, and I am changing. I am satisfied for now.

I wanted to share because I know that many of you also struggle in your relationship with time.

Begin to think differently about time.

P.S. I am writing this some weeks after I wrote the rough draft of this article.

I feel compelled to be honest. For the first few months, I did so much better. Then last week I hit a snag. By Saturday I had decided that I would not go to church. I needed a day with NO responsibilities or appointments. I was feeling a great weariness. I knew I was standing on a cliff edge and needed a break. I felt that time had treated me poorly. 

But the next morning when I woke up Don had awakened just a few minutes before me, and we were both wide awake. That never happens on Sunday. We decided to go to church. Because of the decision to go to church, I was able to bless three lives in very different ways. Maggie, my granddaughter, was able to go to Primary which she loves. Her aide, Tracy was able to attend a family gathering, and Jodie was able to go to a different church building with a friend.

That was wonderful but when I got home, the feelings from the night before caught up with me and I came completely undone. There was an issue that I couldn’t resolve, and I had no reserve to tide me over while I worked on it. I was so undone that my sweet husband came into the room, put his hand on my shoulder, and said, “I am going to say a prayer for you.” I had been praying in my mind continually since I had begun falling apart and I was crying, a thing I rarely do. But Don’s prayer was the needed extra and I was able to resolve the problem a short time later.

When We Really Are Doing Our Best to Manage Time Well, God Will Bless Us!

I have been trying to give myself a day off for Mother’s Day. Every Mother’s Day for over fifty years I have asked for a day off – no cooking, no serving, time to myself, you know. : ) I have never been given that gift. I get cards, flowers, breakfast in bed, the traditional gifts. 

This year I decided to give it to myself. However, we had a couple of large, unexpected medical bills and a few other unexpected expenses. It is also our anniversary month. Our daughter gifted us a couple of days at a BnB, but I needed to make sure we had funds to eat out, etc.

When I realized that I would need to forgo giving myself a day and night off for Mother’s Day my brain went to work. I asked Jodie if she would be using the office on Friday and Saturday. She said it was free. I thought about how I could go to the office write and do the things I hoped to do on my Mother’s Day off. There were questions – could Don cook six meals and bring food out to me without needing help? Could he manage Mom and her needs? Would the grands be able to forgo asking me to cut a shirt, fix a button, glue a broken item, or take them somewhere?

This morning Jodie asked me if I was still going to use the office and how could she help make it work. We had a long conversation. Later that day I received a message from my sister offering me her home for the Mother’s Day weekend. She and her husband would be gone. WHAT!

As poorly as the last week and a half have gone, as challenged as I have been to keep my time perspective in order, and even though I had a meltdown, God was blessing me for my efforts because I really had been doing my best to manage my time despite how it looked. He was consecrating my efforts as poor as they may have been. He was making up the difference!!

Why am I sharing this and not leaving this article on that hopeful note above?

Because this is real life we are talking about. A change of heart and a changed mindset take time. And even as the changes begin to happen things can and do go south. Then we must pick ourselves up, throw away the whip we want to beat ourselves with, take a breath, smile, and begin again.

The next day, last Monday, I was back on track, feeling powerful and in control, and making progress. I was smiling at time, and we were glad to be working together. Tuesday we were still on friendly terms. : ) As I have said so many times – Growth is up and down but if we don’t quit, we will win!! Time and I are destined to be friends!

As I put the final touches on this week’s article, I am doing it from my Mother’s Day Retreat; it is Friday. I am alone. It is quiet. I have space to breathe and rest. I hope that your Mother’s Day, despite any ups and downs you have had in the last week, will be blessed.

I loved the video and the counsel. Despite the occasional down day, week, month, or even year, I am making progress. Time and I smile more at one another than we frown. : )

When the rough draft was written this wasn’t a Mother’s Day post. Funny how that worked out. LOL

Happy Mother’s Day


I Don’t Run, or Do I?

In August 2010 I wrote an article that I posted on my original blog, Home School Coach. It was titled I Don’t Run. In the article, I shared why I had begun running and why it wasn’t working out well. I also shared that I didn’t intend to quit running despite the difficulty.

It’s funny, but the reasons that I was having such a hard time running have been resolved over the last thirteen years. I have gotten a handle on sleep. I go to sleep early and rise early.  I get enough sleep and I sleep at the correct times of the day.

I don’t eat junk or drink soda and my food is healthy. In the article, I said that having to think about food and cook differently is such a bother. It makes me laugh because that hasn’t changed, but I am doing it consistently anyway.

I now drink enough water and I exercise five days a week, most weeks, so I’m far fitter at 73 than I was at sixty. I also weigh 30 pounds less than when I was sixty. I have made many changes in my lifestyle and my thinking since 2010.

However, I did quit running. I didn’t have a strong enough reason to continue and walking is easier.

Here is why I am sharing this with you:

When you have a strong enough purpose, belief, or why, you can do and change anything. I have lived this truth and I want to share some real-life examples with you.

Example 1

In my 73 years, I have learned that I can make myself do anything I need to do. I have learned that if I can’t make myself do something then there is a problem with my why or my belief in myself. I know that anyone reading this article will relate.

Back to the running. Recently I had to run for about half a block. I was pressed for time and being on time mattered a great deal! So, I ran. There was no grace in it, no flow; a bit more like lumbering, but I did it. When I reached my destination, I had to stand and work on breathing for a while, but I was smiling because I had just run a little over half a block.

As I said, I walk. Every day I walk with my weights. They are only 3 pounds, but they are weights, and I am walking with them. It counts! : ) As I walk I raise one arm into the air until I can’t hold it any longer and then I raise the other arm. I usually do 2 rotations of this and then I speed walk the rest of the way.

After my running experience, I wondered if I could run regularly. So, I gave it a shot. I ran half a block and then tried to breathe the rest of my walk. LOL The next day I wanted to see if I could do better. I ran a whole block in both directions, with some breathing time in between. That made me feel as if I could really run, like daily. In my mind came a goal – by Fall I will be able to run my whole route. To be sure, it is a short route of only five blocks but imagine me doing it at 73.

Why would I run if a brisk walk with my weights, at seventy-three is sufficient? Remember when I said you need a strong enough why. Well, my ability to remember details has lessened in the last two years. I care for my mom who has dementia and my grandmother on the other side died of Alzheimer’s. This creates a BIG why for me. I need and want a healthy brain. Walking is a great exercise, as is lifting weights, even if they are only 3 pounds. But it seems I need something more. Running is what I am determined to experiment with.

I have done a lot of study on the issue of brain health in the last five years. I have taken classes and read many books. I know what I need to do to have a healthy brain; this is my why and it is a BIG one!

Example 2

Let me share another real-life example. I have always hated the cold. When I was a kid, coats weren’t cool, sorta like now, but I wore mine. I would rather be warm than cold. The same went for boots and gloves. I wasn’t cool looking, but I was warm.

I never enjoyed swimming because I don’t like the cold. Give me the beach over the water. I love the sun and warmth. I take showers hot enough to boil lobster, even in the summer. LOL I go out of my way to avoid being cold.

As I studied, I learned that when your skin temperature drops it helps manage insulin spikes, hence body and brain health. I read this in Why We Get Sick: The Hidden Epidemic at the Root of Most Chronic Disease–and How to Fight It. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who has any type of health issue!

This information impressed me as a simple and effective way to fight insulin resistance, lose weight, and maintain better body/brain health. Now when I feed the chickens, I go coatless or in a light sweater. As I struggle with the cold, I remind myself that this is going to help me remain healthier longer. Over time, the chilliness of my skin has begun to feel good. This adjustment in my thinking has shocked me. As I said, I have always HATED being cold!

Then in the series Limitless, starring Chris Hemsworth, which my husband was watching,  I learned that if you use cold water after a hot shower, it helps your brain. That was the whole premise for the series, to discover ways to have a healthier brain. I knew this was something I should try. I couldn’t imagine doing it, but I wanted to. Remember I have a very STRONG why.

For a couple of weeks, after my hot shower, I would turn down the hot water until I couldn’t feel warmth, but the water wasn’t icy. Then a few weeks ago I began making the water colder, much colder. I know that in time the water will be icy, like a frozen lake. It doesn’t feel foreign anymore and is almost pleasant. I only do it for a couple of minutes but that is a significant start.

If you had asked me even six months ago if I would run or stand in cold water on purpose, I would have emphatically said NO!! But here I am doing both because I have a strong enough why.

And that’s what it takes to make big changes. A reason that helps you overcome your resistance to doing what you aren’t even sure you can do.

I Have Made Major Changes and So Can You

I have made major changes in my life. Each change had a different why. They each required me to believe in myself, that if I was committed, consistent and had the right resources I could do it.

•I stopped raging and yelling.
•I overcame my fear of heights. I climbed a tall pole and walked across a 20-foot cable
without holding on to anything. I did it twice.
•I learned to manage my fear of speed and went on a short zip line. I may never do it again,
but I did it once.
•I gave up sugar, changed how I eat, and lost over 30 pounds.
•I began exercising regularly.
•I have made significant progress in giving up complaining, which was a family tradition in
my childhood home and extended family.
•I have learned to manage my penchant for annoyance and frustration with others ‘stuff’. I
will probably be working on this for the rest of my life, but I am making progress.
•I have rewritten some damaging money stories from my childhood and have gotten a grip on
money management.
•I overcame the effects of child sexual abuse.
•I have gone from having no boundaries to being able to say no and keep myself safe. Continue reading

What Does Chris Hemsworth Have to do With Being Stress Proof?

Don began watching a series titled Limitless.

Chris Hemsworth, of Thor fame, was concerned about his health and aging and went looking for answers as to how to maintain longer.

After Don watched the first episode he said to me, “Mary, I need you to watch this with me because I think it will help me.” I sat with him as he rewatched the first episode in the six-part series. Frankly, I was interested in this for myself because when you are a full-time caregiver and one of the people has dementia, well, there is stress. : )

I have studied stress, and I know it can cause disease and premature aging. It can wreak havoc on your brain health too. No one wants that. So, I have been working on managing my own stress. In the show, they repeated what I have learned – Controlling chronic stress responses in the body lessens the risk of poor health.

In the episode, Stress Proof, they put Chris into some ridiculously stress-filled situations, and I asked Don how in the world this would apply to a regular person. I’m not going to walk across a beam hundreds of feet above the ground or take drown-proof training. It wasn’t long before it became clear.

Chris was working with a well-known psychologist and as they went through the experiences, she taught him skills that would help him manage his stress better. None of them was new to me. However, it was fascinating to see Chris Hemsworth use them in the moment, to calm his heart rate and breathing. He wore a wired vest that allowed both to be recorded. Just fascinating.

When the psychologist asked Chris why he was willing to go through the crazy experiences she was putting him in he replied, “I don’t want stress to rule my life.” One example he gave was the stress of taking his three kids to a restaurant and them getting crazy loud. I had to laugh. Being a star doesn’t change parenting at all. In fact, according to what I learned as Chris talked and answered questions, he has as much, if not more stress than any of us.

Here is why my husband thought this program could help him.

His health issues require him to have MRIs. The cylinder they usually use is totally out of the question due to his claustrophobia and his anxiety issues. He was able to do it only once and that was in a special unit shaped like a hamburger, with a top and bottom that come together leaving the sides open. However, no matter how great the need, he has not been able to make himself do it again.

After the episode was over, we talked about it. Here is what my husband is considering.
• Setting a date for an MRI.
• Practicing the skills that Chris learned
• Doing the MRI using those skills to get through it

So, what are the skills?

There were four and they are simple and very doable. As I said, these are things I have already been using. However, I am determined to use them more consistently!

1. Positive self-talk. I have written articles on this – controlling my story about myself, and everyday circumstances is what I do every day. It is a constant practice. While Chris was working through the difficult experiences placed before him, he practiced saying and thinking these kinds of things: I can do it. I have what it takes. This is possible for me. I can see myself doing this successfully.

After he had finished a couple of days of seriously stressful situations and was ready to face the final challenge he said, “I am becoming comfortable in uncomfortable environments.”

2. Segmentation. Simply put this is a fancy word for breaking things down into small steps. For my husband Don, that might look like this. Walk to the machine. Get in the machine. Breathe for one minute. Breathe for one more minute and so forth.

At the end of learning about skill number two, Chris said, “I walk through fear. I don’t try to make it go away.” This is what Don is going to experiment with. This is what Chris must do the next time he is in a restaurant with his kids, jettison the fear of what people think and the photos they are taking and focus on his kids, a few minutes at a time.

3. Box breathing. Again, a fancy term for something simple. Box breathing, also referred to as square breathing, is a deep breathing technique that can help you slow down your breathing. It works by distracting your mind as you count to four, calming your nervous system, and decreasing stress in your body. You picture a box and count to four while breathing in. Then count to four along another side of the box while exhaling, and so forth. The point is to control your breath and stay centered in the present moment, to keep your mind from looking at worst-case scenarios and fear-based stories.

4. Mindful meditation. Mindful meditation is a practice that teaches you to slow down racing thoughts, let go of negativity, and calm both your mind and body. I know how powerful this can be. About a decade ago I read a book called Eight Minute Meditation by Viktor Davich. You practice different types of meditation as you read the book and each last only eight minutes. I hated it!!!

Sitting and clearing my mind for eight minutes was more than I thought I could do. However, I found one that worked for me. It was breathing. : ) I focus on my nose and repeat in my mind Breathe in, Breathe out, over and over again. I have used this meditation daily for all these years. It is why I can go to sleep every night, no matter what has happened in the day or what may be coming in the morning. I meditate myself to sleep.

When Don, with my support, practice, and reminders, overcomes his inability to get an MRI it will translate into his being able to manage other challenging things in his life.

Parenting is stressful. Being married is stressful. Ill health causes fear and stress. Some work in very stressful environments. Relationships of all kinds cause stress. Learning how to manage these everyday and unavoidable stresses can lengthen our life, reduce illness, and help us enjoy the moment more often.

Here is an example of a stressful situation and how these skills could have helped.

Don, mom, and I had an appointment. We left in plenty of time because my mom and Don cannot walk far distances or with any speed. When we arrived the facility was redoing parts of the parking lot. There was not a single handicapped parking space open. I dropped mom and Don off and then went looking for another parking place. I can walk fast and far when needed. : )

However, on both levels of the parking area, there was not a single space. Besides that, I was behind an older woman driving very slowly and stopping frequently, for every small thing. I felt my heart rate rise and negative thoughts filled my mind. Lady, move it! Augh, I’m going to be late. They will make us reschedule, and so forth.

I did find a space to park across the street, on another side of the facility, that had been put together for this eventuality. However, there were no signs advising anyone of this lot. When I exited my car, I walked as fast as I could to the building, breathing hard, and worried we would miss the appointment which would have caused some problems for us.

We made it with one minute to spare. As I sat puffing away and feeling stressed, the skills I just mentioned came to my mind. For someone who understands these and uses them, I was mortified that I hadn’t used a single one in this instance. Here is what I could and should have done:
• Used the breathing technique that I use every day that helps me stay calm and go to sleep.
• I could have talked positively to myself.  You will make it. It is going to turn out alright. Don’t worry, you got this. And I did have it, we did make it, and it did turn out ok.

When you are ready to explode at one of your kids or your spouse, practice box breathing or another type of breathing that works for you. When you feel fearful or overwhelmed, practice segmentation. Break whatever it is down into small steps in your mind and then take them one at a time.

When you find yourself in a place or with people who are making you feel uncomfortable or less than or if you have behaved in a way that has you angry at yourself, practice positive self-talk. Trust me, this works!

And if you are wise, you will learn how to meditate for at least five minutes a day, or as many days a week as you can manage. I used to do it every day for eight minutes. When we moved, I stopped. That was five years ago. I realize I have cheated myself. I am in a stressful place with people I love, but nonetheless stressful. I have determined to get back on the meditation wagon. I know I do it every day to put myself to sleep but I think I need to do it every morning to stress-proof myself for the day.

If this information intrigues, you even a small amount, I highly recommend you watch the six-part series called Limitless with Chris Hemsworth. At least watch segment one – Stress Proof. You will find it on Disney Plus, Hulu, and Netflix. You can watch the trailer HERE.

You are going to enjoy Chris’s comments about his own stresses and his family.

You will feel so normal. LOL

Tips for preparing to Be a Father or Why Take Care of Your Wife : )

As I said last week, in 2011 I asked a few fathers and grandfathers to share their parenting experiences. Well, one of the sweetest responses came from a yet-to-be father. Brady Houston is my son-in-law, married to my youngest daughter. At the time he wrote this they had been married just a year. Enjoy.

It’s still hard to believe that I’m finally at a point in my life where becoming a father is an imminent reality. My wife, Kate, and I have had many conversations during this first year of our marriage about parenting, and I have often thought about how I can prepare to become a father. All those parents out there are surely scoffing, “Preparation? No such thing.” I am the first to cede that no amount of planning can truly prepare me to be a dad, but I have learned a very valuable lesson during this first year of marriage that I believe will greatly help my wife and me.

Kate and I went to dinner with my parents a few months ago, and we asked them about their preparation. Among the answers they gave us was a comment my mom made to me, which I hope to never forget, “Take care of your wife, and she will take care of your kids.” With that simple phrase, my mother taught me that first and foremost, I need to make sure my wife feels loved and appreciated, and she in turn will nurture our children.

Since then, I have redoubled my efforts

to make my wife feel like she is special to me by doing things like:

  • planning weekly meaningful dates
  • voicing my appreciation for her
  • serving her in whatever ways I can

I hope that learning to take care of my wife’s needs now, will allow me to continue when we have children and that by so doing my children may receive the nurturing that they need.

Brady and Kate now have three kiddos ranging in age from ten to three. Life can be busy and chaotic. Brady has been working to follow his three tips. Because he works at home he helps out and Kate can plan time for herself. Of course, he plans time just for the two of them. This last weekend they went to Las Vegas. He is doing his best. Way to go Brady!

Now a few comments from the mother-in-law. : )

This couple was wise because they:

  • They thought ahead about the prospect of parenting and particularly for Brady, fathering
  • They asked for advice from those who have gone where they are going to go
  • Brady and his wife are jointly making plans
  • He has implemented some of the good advice he received

I think that Brady is in the process of being a GREAT dad!

Brady Houston is married to Kate Johnson Houston. Brady works for Amazon and Kate is back in school. They have a very busy life. 🙂