Tag: by small and simple things

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Point of the Story

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

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

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

How Did It Turn Out?

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

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

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

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

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

 

The Gum Grandma says, “Let’s get Retro!”

How can you create relationships

with people you only see once or twice a year?

That’s a question I’ve asked myself because most of my 13 grandchildren live far away. In fact, most of my children live far away.

One of my children’s complaints about their grandparents was that they weren’t very connected with them. We lived in Montana and it was a looooong drive to see them. They wanted to hear from their grandparents. So, when I became a grandparent, I decided to make the effort to connect a bit more. There have been years when I was fabulous and years when I wasn’t. But all in all, over a long period of time, I think it has worked out well.

With my children, we have learned how to use technology to stay in touch. We have a video app. that we talk on so we can see each other. It’s always nice to see someone’s face. We don’t spend hours a day on this endeavor. However, there will be a post every few days about the mundane as well as the exciting. We got to travel along when our son and daughter in law went to Costa Rica. We can get a blow by blow account when a baby is on the way. We have listened to violin recitals, watched portions of plays and seen some baseball games. We know when someone’s out of work or has gotten a new job.

The grands get on every now and then. Those over eight will share what’s happening at school, a test or activity. Parents will get the littles on every now and then and I love seeing how they’re growing up. I reply by singing songs to them or telling jokes.

But here is what I have done most consistently. I write letters and send cards. I know its old school, but it works for creating very connected relationships. There’s something thrilling about opening the mailbox and seeing a real letter. It even makes me feel a bit excited when it happens, which in our world of technology isn’t often.

A few months ago, I was having a conversation about writing letters and sending cards with a friend; I send hundreds a year. She said that she didn’t think it mattered to people anymore and that I was wasting my time and money. So, I asked the question on my Facebook page and got a lot of responses. Out of all of them, only one person felt like my friend. Everyone else talked about how they loved getting letters and cards as kids and how it’s still cool when it happens.

Let me give you some examples of how impactful a simple letter or card can be in the life of someone else and how connecting it is.

I have a nephew who has had a hard time growing into adulthood. So, many years ago, I decided to send him a card for every birthday.

A couple of years ago my nephew, who is now an adult, was really struggling with his life. That year when he got my card, he happened to be at his mom’s. She told me that when he opened it, he looked at her with a big smile and said, “She never forgets!” It matters to him!

Another sister has a granddaughter who has had some significant challenges due to divorce and parents who struggled, so when she was turning 16, I decided to send her a card. When she opened the card, she looked up and said, “This is the only card I have ever gotten for my birthday!” It isn’t that no one is saying Happy Birthday, it’s just that it’s all digital. That card meant a great deal to her.

Last year I sent an anniversary card to one of my sisters. On her anniversary she called, and this is what she said. “When I woke up this morning I couldn’t get out of bed. There wasn’t any reason to get up. Nothing new or interesting was going to happen today. But when I got up there was your card. You can’t imagine how much it meant to me!”

When my kids were teens some of them struggled with drugs. They didn’t always live at home. So, I began writing letters. I sent the letters to all my kids, even those who were at home. I bet they thought I was crazy to send a letter through the mail when I could have just handed it to them. But I know the letters mattered and kept our straying children connected enough to us that they never got lost. At some point, one of them took all the letters and put them in a book which she then gave to everyone for Christmas. It mattered!

Here’s another cool thing about cards and letters 

In my letters and cards to my grandchildren, I always tape a piece of gum. On a birthday I may add a couple of dollars. That’s all. Years ago, as a family, we determined that we would not spend lots of money on gifts for either birthdays or holidays. We have all stuck with that intention. However, my grandchildren have other grandparents who send cool gifts in the mail. I worried about that. But I didn’t need to.

I voiced my concern to one of my daughters and here is her reply. “Oh my gosh mom, the kids LOVE your letters and cards. They care far more about them than any toy they get in the mail. In fact, they call you the Gum Grandma!”

Cards and Letters aren’t just for Grandparents 

You know, this isn’t just useful if you’re a grandparent. It’s valuable advice if you’re a parent who shares custody or who lives in a different state from your child. Get retro. Send a letter or card and do it regularly, even if you live in the same town. You’ll be amazed at how impactful it will be to your relationships.

So, what do I write about? Anything and everything. I write about the nearest holiday, what is happening in the news, what I am learning about, where I have been, what I am doing. Stuff, any old stuff. The letter can be long or short. It doesn’t matter. What matters is that someone took the time to sit down and share a thought or two. A card or a letter says loud and clear, “I see you. I hear you. I love you. You matter to me!”

How do you feel when you get a letter in the mail? How did you feel when you were a kid and it happened? I’d like to know.

Your shares are the best compliment : ) 

Complaining and Charity-The Connection

There is NO silver bullet for change

Simple things done consistently over time are what bring the changes that matter in our lives. Often we look for a silver bullet but time, increased understanding and practice are what are required for lasting change. Here is an example.

The 1% Principle

I learned about the 1% principle way back in 2011. It basically states that when you work on the one most important change you need to make it exponentially expands that change for good in your life – it affects not only the 1% you were focusing on but all the rest of your life as well. That sounded really important to me and even true.

But it wasn’t until the fall of 2013 that I put it to the test.

I wanted to flow into 2014 gracefully and make needed changes. So I began taking that desire to the Lord (my chosen source for information) and asking him for some guidance. I phrased it this way, “What is the one action step I could take in 2014 that would make the most significant change for good in my life?”

You will notice I asked for an “action” step and only one of them. Remember the 1% principle.

God must have wanted to see how serious I was about the question because I prayed that same prayer every day for three months! Then one night I knew the answer – stop complaining!

That response shocked me because I certainly wasn’t a complaining person. However, over the next few weeks, as I watched myself, I found that I did a fair amount of complaining.

• Can’t you put your socks in the hamper?
• This meat is so tough.
• I can’t believe the city decided to fix the road now!
• Stop being so noisy.

I worked on this one thing for the next couple of years but eventually, I went back to my knees because I didn’t feel that I was making much progress. This time the response came immediately and was just as shocking. Be grateful! I have worked on that for three years now. I have used gratitude journals, better prayers, more service, and I have become more grateful and I do complain a bit less.

But this year I felt the need to understand this whole complaining thing better. I recall a conversation I had with a friend not too long after I was counseled to stop complaining. She said, “You’re not a complainer. Everyone says stuff like that. It’s just talk.”

Words are Powerful!

One of the topics that always comes up with families I work with is how powerful that ‘talk’ or our words and thoughts are. They carry enormous weight.  I understand that subject well and I have used a number of exercises over the years to get a handle on my own words and thoughts. In fact, there’s a whole chapter on the topic in my book Becoming a Present Parent. 

So although I am aware of when I complain and work to keep on top of my thoughts and the words I use I still felt that something was missing because I still complain. There seemed to be a gap in my understanding that if understood would radically assist me to complain less and be more grateful.

I have to take a short detour here in the narrative. At the same time I began working on complaining less I made a serious decision to become a more charitable person, less judgmental. That has been a work in progress too. Here is how they’re connected.

Last week I was sitting in my office pondering what I knew about complaining, thoughts and words and how they affect our lives. In that moment a light bulb went on in my brain. Complaining was more than just being bugged about something or someone.

Complaining is actually any negative thought we have. Any negative thought. And in that same moment I came to understand that when you are having a negative thought, even before the thought becomes words or action, you step back from charity. You cannot be negative and charitable at the same moment any more than you can experience fear and faith at the same time.

I have been embracing this new information for a week now and it has radically changed what I allow into my mind and out of my mouth. It’s a simple concept but it isn’t always easy to implement. Entertaining negative thoughts and speaking complaining words are as my friend said, “What everyone does.” It is a bad habit!

What You Get if You do the Work

But here is what can change in your family and life when you change the habit of entertaining negative thoughts and speaking negative words:

• You get better and more inspiration. You cannot hear God (your Higher Power) when you are listening to the negative

• Your relationship with yourself will improve. You cannot be charitable to yourself and your weaknesses when you use unkind words about yourself.

• When you truly love and accept yourself, warts and all, you will love your family better. You will be more charitable when someone messes up.

• Your family relationships will improve. You cannot be charitable, teach effectively or build up those you love when you hold negative thoughts about them or their actions or speak negatively to them.

• You will be a more effective example and teacher. Children learn better when there is less yelling, tension or judgment.

• You will yell less. If you hold negative thoughts and emotions long enough the complaining words will come out and spill onto others, despite your best intentions

• You will grow as a person. The process of learning to control your thoughts, words, and stories will teach you new things and elevate your way of being. That is what happened to me last week.

• You will be more charitable and less judgmental

• You will feel more gratitude, even for the hard things, because you will recognize them as opportunities for growth.

I have been working to lessen my own complaining for five years. Yet just last week I got another part of the puzzle and it’s exciting.

Sometimes we equate the time it takes to make a significant change in our lives with failure; “If we were really any good we would have gotten a handle on this by now.”

But that’s a lie. Simple things done consistently over time (whatever amount of time is required) is what bring changes that matter and adjust our lives for the better. I have been working on becoming a more grateful, non-complaining, charitable person for five years and I just had a new lesson. Thank goodness time spent does not equal failure. It equals eventual success no matter what it is we’re working on.

So don’t get discouraged. Just keep working on whatever is your 1%. When you don’t quit, change is guaranteed.

• It took me eight years to learn to sew well.
• It took me over fifty years of singing to be able to read music.
• It took me ten years to stop raging and yelling.

Simple things done consistently over time are what bring the changes that matter in our lives. Don’t Quit!

Want a clearer view of what change in real life looks like and tips to make changes that stick?

 

If you like this post and it would enlighten a friend pass it on using the social share buttons.

BUSTING THE MYTH OF THE SILVER BULLET

In her book Daffodil Principle: One Woman, Two Hands, One Bulb at a Time, Jaroldeen Edwards recounts the day her daughter, Carolyn, drove her to Lake Arrowhead to visit a daffodil garden. It wasn’t just any daffodil garden. It turned out to be five acres of beautiful golden flowers nodding in the breeze.

As Jaroldeen gasped in amazement, she asked the question that everyone who visited the garden asked, “Who did this?” On the porch of a small and neat A-frame house was a poster answering the question.

The first response to how many flowers there were was “50,000 bulbs.” The second fact listed was, “One at a time, by one woman, two hands, two feet, and very little brain.” The third was, “Began in 1958” (Edwards, Daffodil Principle).

When we multiply small amounts of time, with small increments of daily effort, consistently, we can accomplish magnificent things.

Last week I shared that it took me almost fifty years to learn to read music and almost ten to learn to sew. I had to keep practicing and getting help from those in my life who knew more than I did in order to eventually sew and sing well.

Whenever you hear that a person has achieved an extraordinary goal, rarely, if ever, are you told the process they used—that is, the ordinary actions they took consistently. You only hear the outcome.

We’re led to believe extraordinary successes in business, home, parenting or life are a result of significant actions, but they’re not—they’re a result of daily actions done consistently over time.

I enjoy the story of Naaman found in the King James Bible. Naaman was a captain for the king of Syria, “a great man with his master . . . because by him the Lord had given deliverance unto Syria: . . . a mighty man in valor, but . . . a leper.” (2 Kings 5:1).

At the direction of his king, Naaman went to Elisha the prophet to be healed of his dreaded affliction. When Naaman got to Elisha’s house, Elisha sent a messenger out to him who said, “Go and wash in Jordan seven times, and thy flesh shall come again to thee, and thou shalt be clean” (2 Kings 5:10).

Wow, Naaman wasn’t even going to have to do the consistently, over time thing. He was only going to have to repeat the action a mere seven times. But Naaman was angry with Elisha. He felt the prophet should have come out of his house to see him and he should have done some big thing to take care of this big problem.

He said, “I thought, He will surely come out to me, and stand, and call on the name of the Lord his God, and strike his hand over the place, and recover the leper” (2 Kings 5:11)

Naaman was ready to go away in disgust at the simple instructions he received, but he had a wise servant who reminded him of the principle we’ve been discussing—simple things, done over time consistently, bring significant results. His servant said, “If the prophet had bid thee do some great thing, wouldest thou not have done it? How much rather then, when he saith to thee, Wash, and be clean?” (2 Kings 5:13).

Naaman came to his senses and he “dipped himself seven times in Jordan, according to the saying of the man of God: and his flesh came again like unto the flesh of a little child, and he was clean” (2Kings 5:15).

As parents, I think we are, at times, like Naaman. We know we have problems and issues, but we expect a significant or seemingly important thing to come along and bail us out of our affliction. In reality, it is truly the small and simple things we can do daily that, in the end, will make all the difference.

Understanding this is especially important in parenting because it nearly always takes until a child leaves home and creates their own life to see the results of our efforts to parent well, teach our children and create a wholesome and happy family culture.

While they’re growing, it’s tempting to let ourselves feel failure because we don’t see our children as learning the important lessons that will help them be successful people. Often we feel there is something amiss in our family culture or in how we parent.

Remaining Present while we parent, not checking out because of discouragement or feeling overwhelmed, is dependent on doing simple things consistently rather than searching for a one-time fix.

Have you ever found yourself in Naaman’s shoes? I certainly have. But now that all of my children are grown and gone I can look back and see that it truly was the small and simple things that we did consistently for their whole lives that made the real difference. I’d love your comments.

By Small and Simple Things….

There is a valuable principle that if we understand it, can change our lives and that of our family – that consistency in small things, over time, brings big results.

But most of us, when faced with growth or change in ourselves or in our family look for a silver bullet. We want one big effort, one new system, one big push to be all that’s needed. But the idea of a silver bullet is a myth. We accept this myth because the truth of small steps over time seems daunting.

Why would we rather do one big thing to change our lives? Although the big thing may take a massive effort on our part, if we gave the effort, then the work would be done. But the truth is we have to decide what we want and then follow through—over and over and over and over . . . ! There is no one and done.

In seventh grade, I took a sewing class. I made a plaid skirt and it was a disaster. But I was unfazed. I took sewing in eighth grade and again in ninth. I never made a single item that was wearable. I couldn’t seem to understand the directions even when they were explained to me. I couldn’t understand the machine. But I REALLY wanted to sew. So my mother signed me up for a class at the local sewing center the next summer. The results were the same.

When I was a senior in high school I took a final sewing class. I picked out some darling pink and brown striped material for an outfit and went to work knowing that it was going to be fabulous. When I put it on the crotch was at my knees, the zipper zipped up the inside and the facing was on the outside. I had done my very best and my best stunk!

When I was twenty years old I became engaged. I was the oldest child of nine children and so I determined that I would make my wedding dress. When I came home with real satin, beads, and lace my mother looked like she was going to cry.

I set to work determined to be successful and it appeared that I might be until I had sewed my first two seams. They were done incorrectly. As I picked out the seams I realized that on satin, every pinhole shows and it doesn’t stop showing, ever. I knew I was in big trouble!

In my moment of need, I asked my Higher Power, God, for help. I reminded him that I had made absolutely every effort to learn to sew. I had asked for help from the experts in my life. I had put in the time. I had practiced repeatedly. I asked God to help me remember everything I had learned. I asked that I would understand the directions fully and that I wouldn’t make any more mistakes. And guess what, I didn’t. I sewed that dress without having to pick out another seam. I knew what to do and I did it well. The dress was simple but beautiful. In fact, my cousin was married in that almost 50-year-old dress this fall.

When I was in 10th grade I wanted to sing in the school choir. I loved singing so I tried out and I made the cut. Here’s what the conductor didn’t know; I knew nothing about music. I couldn’t read music, didn’t even know the name of the notes. I didn’t know what pitch accompanied each note. I couldn’t always hear the notes. If I didn’t sit next to someone who really could follow the music I was lost and just had to mouth the words. But I loved to sing. So I stuck it out for two years until we moved. I didn’t get any better.

As an adult, I sang in every choir, in every church group, in every town we lived in. I never did get any better at reading music.

By my sixties, I had done all I could to learn to read music. But I still struggled so I did what I do. I went in prayer to my Higher Power, God, and I reminded him that I had spent almost fifty years practicing and working to learn how to read music. I asked him to help me understand.

About a year later I noticed something amazing. I seemed to be able to follow the music. I knew the pitch for each note. In fact, women who were struggling to learn a part would stand next to me and follow my lead. It was absolutely astounding!

Sometimes it takes years and even a lifetime to learn how to do some things well. Parenting is one of those things.

It took me well over fifty years to learn to read music and almost ten to learn to sew. In all that time I didn’t berate myself. I didn’t feel humiliated or embarrassed because I couldn’t do it independently, without a lot of help. I kept asking for help from many sources, classes, people, books. I didn’t feel like a failure and I never quit. I just kept singing and sewing.

Most things that we eventually master take lots of practice and time. But we cannot become masters if we berate ourselves, if we feel like failures and if we quit. There are few things where this applies as well and consistently as it does in parenting.

Here are the simple steps that I took consistently over time in order to learn to read music and to sew:
• I desired a new skill
• I learned all I could from multiple sources
• I practiced
• I ask for help from people and my Higher power
• I was consistent in my efforts
• I was kind to myself and kept trying even when it seemed as if I was failing
• I did not quit for as long as it took

Real growth and change come from learning to move toward our goals and desires one step at a time, consistently, for as long as it takes. Having the family you want will take time. Becoming a Present Parent takes time. Raising successful children takes time. It requires accepting the principle that small and simple things done consistently over time bring big results. You have to keep learning, practicing, failing and trying again. And it never hurts to ask your Higher Power for help to understand what you and your family need.

It takes time and practice to make lasting change and to grow as a person or as a family. We must commit to it. We need to consistently do the work. We have to believe we can accomplish our heart’s desire. In fact, it has to be our heart’s desire.

Doing simple things, consistently over time, is what will ultimately give us the success we seek as individuals and as families.

What do you think? Has this principle made a difference for you or do you think it would when it comes to your parenting efforts?  Leave a comment and I will respond. : )

Here’s to more joy,
Mary Ann

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

What is  Present Parenting? –