Tag: control your narrative

Personal Growth When Life Turns Upside Down

Jams and Grahams – a Caregivers Story of Personal Growth

Last week I shared a tremendous story of how my sister maintained her sense of value and happiness and was able to problem-solve effectively during a very stressful experience. Today I want to share one more that is equally amazing. This happened on Christmas day, 2022, so I wanted to share it before we were too far into the new year.

My sister Rozanne’s husband has had two strokes. They have upended their lives. Some days can be very challenging. As she said, “Since the second stroke, it has been six months of ‘adding in and letting go,’ of various expectations, for both of us.”

Christmas was not the same. There were no gifts under the tree they had purchased for each other. It wasn’t something her husband was capable of, and she had been busy taking care of Christmas for her grown family and others she loves and cares about.

Nevertheless, we want to carry on with traditions, so on Christmas morning Rozanne placed a bow on a box of jam that she had purchased for Daryl. He loves jam. She chose not to wrap the box, only adding a bow. At this challenging time, she had been practicing letting go of what had seemed important in the past but that she now knows is unimportant. After all, since her husband’s stroke what was necessary and important had changed a lot.

The box of jam looked lonely sitting there. Then she remembered Daryl had asked his son, Kenny, to buy a box of graham crackers for her, because he knows she loves them. They were in the kitchen cupboard. She went to the kitchen and retrieved the box of crackers and placed them under the tree next to the jam. Into her mind came these words, ‘Jams and Grahams,’ a Caregivers’ Story of Personal Growth. As a full-time caregiver, I can relate to my sister’s experience!

You see, life isn’t static. It changes. Sometimes the change is exciting and pleasurable. Sometimes it requires that we manage our story and in turn how we choose to feel.

The Rest of the Story

My sister could have mourned the changes that Christmas morning, but instead she took charge of the story, and the result was joy, not sorrow. Let me share the rest of the story and you will see what I mean.

Daryl was happy to see two gifts under the tree. He took his bottles of jam and put them in hiding. : ) As my sister walked to the kitchen to put her graham crackers back in the cupboard she noticed that Daryl had taken the bow from his jam package and placed it on her cracker box. My sister said, “The picture in my mind of that sweet gesture, will remain in my thoughts, for the rest of my life.”

This year, choose to suffer less. Choose to remain in control of your stories. Write them in your mind in a way that lifts you, no matter what happens. You are 100% in control of your response to whatever comes your way. You can’t control everything that happens or how others behave, but you can control your response.

Here’s to a ‘Character Building’ New Year full of personal growth.

How To Have Better Outcomes

I received a call from my sister, Rozanne. She was giving me an update on a difficult situation in her life. It was such a profound example of taking responsibility for your responses and choosing to let go of suffering, I asked her if I could share the experience with you.

I know how important perspective or the story that we tell ourselves in any given situation is. I have learned how to take control and have gotten good at doing it. It requires lots of practice. Each time I am triggered in any way, I stay out of blame, and I seek the facts, not what I feel, but what is true. Often there are few facts and many assumptions.

I have also learned that when we blame, complain, or stay in the negative, it is harder to problem-solve and get a result that blesses us. Often, we choose to suffer. I learned this lesson over time. You can read about it HERE.

Anyway, back to my sister’s experience. I think you will see both life principles at work. You will also see how using them made a huge difference in her outcome.

My sister had a new job and was working part-time.  After being there a short while, one of the supervisors had to take leave due to ill health. Rozanne was bumped up to full-time.

Quickly my sister noticed that there were many unkind things being said about the supervisor who was on leave. Most felt she was not on the level and was taking advantage of the system. Rozanne, when caught in one of these conversations, would reply, “You don’t know that.”

At the end of 2022, the supervisor was scheduled to return to work after being gone for five months. Rozanne was going to lose her full-time position which paid $900 a month. She was given only a couple of days notice of the coming change. Her husband has dementia and they had gotten used to having the extra funds in their budget. $900 was a huge cut in their total income. Occasionally, this thought would come to her mind, “This isn’t fair. Maybe she is using the system. I should fight this.” However, she would not engage with this thinking. She threw it out and replaced it with this, “I’m glad she’s better and can come back. I know I will be taken care of, and all will be well.” Rozanne decided to trust God and take control of her perspective. She began looking at her options to recoup the $900.

The week the supervisor returned, Rozanne was asked to retrain her. Wow, how would you feel about that? Rozanne had to work to keep her story positive. She was determined to be a blessing to this woman who had been out sick for so long. She had no facts or reason to believe that the supervisor had done anything wrong.

Here is the truth.

We get to choose how we see things. It is a choice. You have 100% control over your responses even when you cannot control the circumstances. My sister believed this.

The day before the supervisor’s return, a coworker who would be working with the supervisor and Rozanne said, “Well, I may have to work for her but I’m not going to speak to her.” Rozanne asked her why not? The worker replied that this woman had taken advantage of the system and so she wasn’t going to be nice to her. Five months is a good amount of time for a random piece of gossip to really take root.

Rozanne asked her co-worker other questions which were thoughtful and kind. After her questions and her co-workers’ responses Rozanne leaned in and gently said, “You really don’t know,” Her coworker thoughtfully responded, “Well, I guess that’s true.”

The next day the return of the supervisor and her retraining went well. She and Rozanne had great conversations and smiled a lot. Rozanne showed her how to do a couple of tasks in a more efficient way and the woman followed her lead and was grateful.

The coworker Rozanne had spoken with the day before was a new woman when she came to work. She was kind, smiled, and had a good conversation with the returning supervisor. Rozanne said, “I was rather shocked by her delightful countenance toward the Supervisor, but our conversation may have contributed to her change of heart.” It was a pleasant day for all three women. They had made it a good day by choice! They chose the perspective or story they would attend to in the situation. They stayed out of the negative, they choose not to suffer.

Here is the rest of the story.

Rozanne knew she had to make up the income loss. There would be some income from the part-time position she was returning to but the amount would change weekly as she would be on call. She chose not to count that in her budget. She wanted something more secure and stable.

Rozanne teaches exercise classes for the elderly in her city. She has certifications and many years of experience under her belt. She had a thought that she should request a raise. She was teaching four classes weekly and making $90 per class. With the current cost of living, she felt a raise to $125 dollars per class would be reasonable. This was a scary thing for her to contemplate doing but the thought was clear. She went to her computer, sat down, and drafted a letter. After a moment of consternation, she hit send. Within minutes a reply came through that her request for a raise had been granted. WHAT!!! 

Later that day she received a letter from the government that her husband’s Social Security had been raised by $100 and hers by $75. Things kept happening and within 48 hours Rozanne had replaced the whole $900.

Was this a lucky break? Was it a coincidence? NO. I have lived this and so has my sister. She took control of her story. She stayed out of blame and the negative. She looked for answers, remained calm and trusting, and took a step. It was a scary step, but she took it. God had her back because she was living true principles.

Rozanne was blessed as she took control and stayed out of victim mode, and this blessed others. The supervisor was welcomed back. She had a wonderful day and could move forward with confidence. The coworker learned the value of letting go of gossip and controlling her story. She had a lovely day and will now continue to support the returning supervisor and will help put gossip to rest. And Rozanne, well she had a great day also, and because she remained positive and was willing to step out in faith and trust, her problem was resolved.

I know this story was long, but it’s important. I have three happiness commandments posted on my wall. They are based on true principles, that when lived, help us let go of suffering, control our responses, and live better lives.

1. Be a Pollyanna. Look for the good. Trust that it is there. Stay out of the negative.

2. Clean the ditch. Farmers know that despite their best efforts ditches get clogged with
garbage. They must be cleaned out regularly so that water can reach the plants and they can grow. It is the same with our thinking.

3. Let go of suffering. Suffering is often a choice based on our perspective, our story. Take the time to clear your mind and look at the facts. Build your story around those facts and then add all the positives you can.

These three ways of being drastically changed my life and if you will use them as my sister did, and as I do, they will change your life too.

Let me end with what Rozanne said to me at the end of our phone conversation. It is worth printing and hanging on your wall:

“Sometimes Heavenly Orchestrations feel like mud! But they work out if we have faith because mud is filled with nutrients and nothing can grow without it.”

Our Stories Shape Our Lives – Part 2

Do you ever feel like you do everything, and everyone else in your family sits by and watches! I know that feeling well. Last week I shared an example of how powerful our thoughts and the stories they create are in the happiness we experience in life. Today I want to share another example.

Back in 2015, before my mother came to live with us, there were two people living in our home, me and my husband, Don. Our children were out building their own lives, so the workload was less, but I was still taking care of most of the “family” stuff. I did most of the dishes, cooked most of the meals, did most of the cleaning and laundry.

I decided that I needed more help. I discovered that Don would fold the laundry if I put it in a basket on the couch. We had a conversation about meals, and Don determined that he would cook on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, my busiest days. He began vacuuming more often.

In the laundry room, there is a clothes hanger. When outer clothes are washed, they are taken straight out of the dryer and hung up. Saves on ironing! The challenge was getting the hung clothes from the laundry room to the bedroom closet.

After our talk, I noticed that Don was taking the hung clothes to the bedroom closet. That is, he was taking his clothes. I observed this phenomenon for quite a few weeks.

Each time I noticed that he had hung his clothes in the closet and that mine were still in the laundry room, I would feel a slight twinge of irritation. After all, when I hung the clothes in the closet, I would take them all, his and mine. After a few months, I began to feel something besides irritation. It was easy to allow thoughts such as these to enter my mind: “What, doesn’t he think that I matter?” “If he cared, he would put all the clothes away.” “Is he just trying to make me mad?” I recognized this place – story land – and I have learned that there is very little happiness there.

Take Control, Don’t Allow Negative thoughts and Stories

So, I did what I have learned to do, I wouldn’t allow those thoughts to fester in my mind, and so I asked Don about it. “Don, when I put the hanging clothes away, I put them all away, yours and mine. But, I noticed that when you put the hanging clothes away, you only put yours away. Is there a reason for that?”

You would laugh if you could have seen the look of confusion on his face. It was priceless, and he said, “Well, don’t you have your clothes in some kind of order?” Boy, I got it right then, and I began laughing. My closet would have been a maze to my husband. All my clothes are hung in order of color and type of garment. My new story – he was doing me a BIG favor by not hanging my clothes in the closet!

We have more control over our thoughts than we realize. We can choose which thoughts we are going to hold in our minds and which ones we will get rid of. It takes some work, but you can learn to control your thoughts and the stories that they create.

Good Relationships Flourish When Stories are Positive

When you hold thoughts about what you want rather than what you don’t want, you can improve your family relationships in some significant ways. Want to read a fantastic example of how one mother completely changed her relationship with a “problem” child by simply changing her mental story about him? It will enlighten you, and I hope it gets you thinking about your stories and how they affect your family dynamics.

When you lose control of your thoughts, you lose control of your life. 

6 Steps to Take Control of Your Thoughts

  • Identify – Begin by identifying your daily negative thoughts. Write them down. Have a notebook to keep track of them or try journaling.
  • Say NO – Don’t allow the thought to stay in your mind and turn into a story.
  • Rewrite – Immediately change the negative thought into a positive one. For example, if you wake up thinking, “I am so tired!” immediately say out loud something like, “I am going to have a terrific day.” You don’t have to believe it; just say it.
  • Vocabulary Counts – Use positive language. Not “I am not going to yell,” but “I am calm.”
  • Facts, not Assumptions – If you have negative thoughts about an experience or a person, don’t make assumptions; get more facts. Ask!
  • The benefit of the doubt – It helps to believe that people are doing the best they can. They usually are even when it doesn’t look like it.

As we learn to control our thoughts, we give our children a considerable gift. They will know that they are responsible for how their lives look and feel. It will give them a leg up in the world and their relationships.

Change your thoughts and change your world. Norman Vincent Peale

Do you want a tool to help you begin taking control of your daily thoughts? If you do, reach out, and I will send you a worksheet to get you going on the road to better family relationships.

Our Stories Shape Our Lives!!

Stories shape our lives!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We are 100% in Control

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

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

Be Wary of Comparison

I have a friend, Audrey Rindlisbacher, and recently I was listening to an early morning Facebook Live she did. The topic was ‘comparison.’ Audrey is an exceptional woman who has been speaking and teaching for years on great books. I have sat with rapt attention in her classes. She inspires me with her knowledge of natural law and principles.

Not too long before she did this Facebook Live, she spoke with another woman that she considered exceptional. This mom had been the Young Mother of the Year, had multiple degrees, and currently lives in a foreign country where she has been for the last ten years with her family doing full-time work with refugees. Audrey admitted that during her conversation, she had thoughts like these – “You have always wanted to take your kids and do some humanitarian work. Why haven’t you? If you had, your family would be so much better off. You are so lame!”

I had to smile inwardly because when I first heard Audrey speak, I had similar thoughts – “Man, you should have read more great books than you have. Why haven’t you gotten as much out of them as Audrey has? How come you don’t understand natural law and principles as she does. Reading isn’t enough; you needed to think as she has. You are so lame.” When we begin comparing ourselves to others, our self-talk plummets! When our self-talk dives, then our life-results also dive. We must speak kindly about and to ourselves.

Another reason to speak well of ourselves is that how we are and what we do, speaks volumes to our children. We want to model a way of being to our family that will help them as they tackle hard things in life and as they begin seeing that where they are and how they are doing is different from someone else.

Tools to Derail Comparison

When I find myself treating myself poorly or comparing myself to others, I have a couple of tools I use to get myself back on track.

1. Focus on gratitude. When I shift from seeing what I am not or what I don’t have and focus on who I am and what I have, my self-talk improves. My result improves. There are many ways to stay in gratitude, but one that I use is a gratitude journal. Each evening before bed, I take a moment and write at least three things I am grateful for. No matter how terrible the day has been, I have yet to be stumped. I can always find at least three and usually more. Keeping my eye on what I have that is good keeps my mind on a higher plane, so I don’t spiral into negative thinking and self-talk.

2. Limit social media. As much good as social media has provided, it is a hotbed of comparison and envy. Currently, three of my daughters have taken breaks from social media. No Facebook, no Instagram. They have found that they feel better about themselves when they cannot compare their worst to someone else’s best. I spend less than 1 hour on social media each day, and on days when I don’t need to be on it for work, I spend none at all.

You don’t have to give up social media. Just limit the time you spend there. If you have a hard time, then turn off your notifications. Give yourself set times during the day to participate. When we compare ourselves to others, it creates unrest within us. It sucks the joy out of our accomplishments. It diminishes us in our own eyes.

We each have strengths and weaknesses. We all do well at times and at others do poorly. We all are in the process of becoming. Accept that you are still learning, growing, evolving. Be kind to yourself. Speak and think with generosity, and it will improve your pace. It will also give your children a better example of what to do when you are not perfect. It will do your family good.

Take the time to let a friend know about these simple tools to derail comparison. 

No One Can Take Away What You Put In Your Mind

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tips for Better Thought Management

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

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

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

TIP 3—Choose words wisely
Dr. Wayne Dyer has said, “What’s in you is what comes out” (“Why the Inside Matters”). It’s true! Pay attention to the words you say in frustration, sorrow, and anger; you’ll get a good idea of what you’re holding onto in your subconscious mind.

TIP 4—Keep practicing
Managing your thoughts and putting good things in your mind is something you need to do daily. There isn’t a point when you’re so good at it that you can stop working on it. Negative thoughts will come, and they’ll need to be managed.

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

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

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

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

Keep Your Hand on the Helm of Thought

You Have Control Over How Your Life Feels!

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

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

Planting Seeds

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

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

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

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

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

Negative Thought Narrows, Positive Thought Expands

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

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

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

It is a Daily Practice

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

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

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

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

There is NO Perfect in Parenting!

Perfect is NOT reality, especially in Parenting!

I had two daughters who had babies last year – one in June and one in Dec. One daughter suffered from postpartum anxiety, not to be confused with the blues or even depression. It was excruciating. Just functioning was a challenge. Besides the new baby, she had one preschooler and one grade-schooler.

Despite her struggles with health and energy, I saw her remember what her kids needed to do to be ready for school. I watched her get them to their events and lessons. I saw her force herself to school with her new baby to participate in a classroom party with her daughter.

My other daughter has tweens, teens, and grade-schoolers. She was up multiple times a night. But one morning bright and early I witnessed this: she was in the kids’ rooms getting them up, reminding them of what they needed for the day, giving cautions about getting to work on time and bringing instruments home after orchestra so they could practice. It was all in her head, and despite her baby fatigue, she was letting it out at the right time, with the right tone. There is no getting around it,

MOTHERS ARE AMAZING EVEN WHEN THEY’RE STRUGGLING.

 

My sons-in-law also experienced the addition of new babies into their families. One is in the last stages of genetic blindness and was ill at the time of the birth. However, he donned a mask and was by his wife’s side, not just during the delivery but until his wife came home a day later, even though fluorescent light burns his eyes. Then he returned, mask in hand because the baby had a severe bilirubin issue. His eyes burned as he endured hours of blue light. I watched him get up at night to feed his son, diaper, and cuddle him.

The other dad had a two-plus hour compute every day into the city. He left work early so he could get home sooner. When he got back, the load shifted from his wife’s shoulders to his own. He made food, played Candyland, fed the dogs, tucked kids in bed, and comforted his wife. There is no getting around it,

FATHERS ARE AMAZING EVEN WHEN THE LOAD IS HEAVY.

 

Neither of these couples is doing it perfectly. There are down days, moments of resentment, and checking out. BUT they get up daily and do it again because they love each other and their families. There is no way around it,

PARENTS ARE AMAZING EVEN WHEN THEY AREN’T PERFECT!!

Know a parent struggling because they aren’t perfect. Share. : )

Welcome To My Morning

Recently I was taken back in time as I listened to a soundtrack by John Denver. He was a singer-songwriter from the1960s through the 1990s. I was a young teen when he began his career and I enjoyed his music.

One song, that I listened to on this day was particularly meaningful – Welcome to My Morning. Look at the opening stanza.

Welcome to my morning
Welcome to my day
I’m the one responsible
I made it just this way

Many years ago, I finally understood and came to believe that I was truly responsible for how my days look. That belief can be a bit intimidating because if it is true then we must take 100% responsibility. Yikes! We must give up blame. Double yikes! We must stop being victims. Triple yikes!!!

But it’s true. And here is why. We cannot control other people or their actions. We cannot always control the circumstances that we find ourselves in. But we can always control our response to them. That is the key to the tenor of our days – our response.

Make Controlling Your Response a Daily Practice

It isn’t always easy to stay in control of our response but there are a few things that we can practice daily that will help us get better at it.

• Pay attention to your thoughts – Thoughts generate emotions and emotions move us to action. Our action will trigger a result, either positive or negative. So, it’s important to monitor your thoughts. Make the effort to keep them positive. Don’t let your mind make stuff up which it will try to do. Our mind wants to make sense out of things and sometimes we put our own spin on the facts.
• Think the best of others – It is easy to have negative thoughts about others and their motives, but if we make it a practice to think the best rather than the worst it goes a long way to helping us control our response. When someone cuts us off in traffic we can think, “That dumb jerk.” Or we can think, “She must be in a real hurry. I hope she gets there safely.” We get to decide how we will view the actions of others. When we decide to think the best of others, we can manage our thoughts better
• Give up blame. Blame is always an indicator there’s a problem with our way of being or how we perceive what’s happening. Taking responsibility for how we perceive what’s happening can and does make a difference in our outcomes.
• Practice gratitude. It’s remarkable how thought shifting gratitude can be. For many, it doesn’t come naturally because life is hard. People are rude and inconsiderate. Bad things do happen to good people. But gratitude is something we can cultivate and when we do, it goes a long way to helping us have more positive thoughts. That leads us to better responses, and we have better outcomes.

I love this example from my friend April Hiatt, who had attended a class I taught on this topic. She was practicing giving up blame, thinking the best of others, and being grateful.

“I opened the dryer door to discover wet clothes. Jonathan (my 14-year-old) didn’t press the start button when he transferred loads. I was three words into my grumble when I heard myself say out loud “Oh, I’m so glad I checked the dryer.” The next words were of understanding, with a deep feeling of love . “I’ve done this same thing before .” This whole cycle took under 3 seconds, and it happened without me really thinking about it. Wow, I’m amazed.”

We need to make setting our intention for the day a practice. We will have to do this our whole lives. Eventually, it does become easier, but it is a life-long work. We must decide that we’re going to have a good day. We must decide that people are basically kind. We must decide that life is good. These daily decisions help us respond better.

When you wake up and have a headache you can roll over and think, “This is going to be a lousy day.” Or you can close your eyes and think, “I’m glad I have something I can take for this.”

I know, it feels irritating to even think about it. That’s exactly how I felt when I first learned this principle, that I am responsible for how my life feels. But I want you to know that as I embraced this truth it changed my world. It gave me all the power!

You can listen to John Denver’s beautiful song HERE. Enjoy.

7 Tips for Controlling Your Response When Things Go Wrong

Last week I shared two stories about how our perception of what is happening fuels our response; that paying attention to our thoughts and the stories and emotions they generate is important when parenting and is a skill which can be learned and practiced.

Yeah right!! There was a time when I didn’t believe that I could control how I felt let alone that it was a skill which could be learned. Many of you may also have a difficult time accepting that you can control how you feel and respond.

CAN CONTROLLING YOUR STORY MAKE A DIFFERENCE?

I was a reasonable person, and I lived a good life but, darn it, stuff was always happening. I mean, if the kids are acting crazy, it’s going to make you feel crazy. If milk keeps getting spilled, if the house is getting trashed, and if grades are down, you feel down yourself. When money’s tight or your spouse isn’t helping you out, you feel overwhelmed. If you feel unsupported or if you have a health issue, all of this is going to mess with how you feel and respond, right?

Back then I knew the answer was a big fat yes! But time and experience have proven to me that you can control how you feel by taking control of the stories you tell yourself.

THOUGHTS CREATE OUR STORIES

Perspective is an amazing thing. It is, simply put, the story we tell ourselves: what we think is happening or has happened. It all begins with a thought. Once we have a thought, if we hold it in our minds, it becomes a story because our brain does its job and goes to the files and finds evidence that our thought is correct. This process takes fractions of seconds and this scenario repeats itself hundreds of times each day.

You change your story by controlling your thoughts. You manage your emotions by controlling your story. When you do this, you take more positive actions and you get better results. It is a skill and the more you practice it the better you get!

TIPS FOR HAVING BETTER STORIES

TIP 1—Take responsibility and stop blaming
When we choose to tell ourselves stories that blame others, we decide to become victims. Victims parent poorly. I hear parents blame their kids all the time for how they’re feeling.
• You make me so mad.
• You have ruined my day.
• I can’t think straight because you’re so noisy.
• I wouldn’t be yelling if you would listen.

Blame is always an indicator there’s a problem with our way of being or how we perceive what’s happening.

TIP 2—Decide to think the best of others
A father expected his 16-year-old daughter home at a certain time but she was late, very late! He began writing a mental story. He imagined all sorts of scenarios for why she was late. She lacked respect for family rules. She was thoughtless. She was irresponsible. The later she was, the bigger the story grew and the angrier he became. As she opened the door, he exploded with, “You’re late! You know the rules, and you broke your promise. You’re grounded, young lady.” Of course, his daughter ran to her room crying.

To let you in on the facts, the girl’s date had taken her to a drinking party after the movie. When she asked him to take her home, he refused. She had tried to call home, but the line was busy. So she called a friend who got off work at midnight and came and got her. In the meantime, she sat on the curb in the dark because the party was out of control and not safe.

The father’s story was at the heart of the problem, not his daughter’s lateness. When we decide to think the best of others, we can manage our thoughts and the resulting stories more effectively.

TIP 3—Choose words wisely
“What’s in you is what comes out.” It’s true! Pay attention to the words you say in frustration, sorrow, and anger; you’ll get a good idea of what you’re holding onto in your subconscious mind.

Our words reveal what we truly feel. The words that we allow to come out of our mouths are what ultimately drive feelings and the resultant actions and bring the results we live with daily.

Watch the words you use when thinking or speaking about your children and teens:
• Childlike vs. naughty
• Young vs. clumsy
• Needs more direction vs. oppositional
• Tired vs. grumpy
• Preoccupied vs. lazy
• Angry vs. rebellious
• Being a kid vs. messy
• Wants my presence vs. needy
• Has a need vs. is pushing my buttons

TIP 4—Check your core beliefs
We can get an idea of the beliefs we’ve formed growing up by paying attention to the stories we tell ourselves over and over again and by listening to the words coming out of our mouths. These beliefs may not be supportive or helpful in having good relationships with others or in our ability to be Present and parent well. Once we’ve found a core belief which is not helpful, we can get rid of it by rewriting the story.

TIP 5—Track your thoughts
Because thoughts are powerful, we need to gain control over them in order to stop getting more of what we don’t want. Once you’re aware of a negative thought, you need to capture it—write it down. You might be thinking it’s crazy to write down negative stuff, but I’ve lived this, and I know it works! So pay attention to your negative thoughts and write them down. Look for patterns, unsupportive and destructive stories and repeating themes. You can shred or burn your daily list periodically. Take control!

TIP 6—Teach others what you’ve learned
Teaching others what we’re learning and experiencing is a powerful tool that helps us make even greater changes. As we teach others, we clarify for ourselves. If we teach what we learn to our family, we’ll be heartened as we see them making changes also, and our whole family will be blessed.

TIP 7—Keep practicing
Keep working at controlling your thoughts. This is something you need to do daily. There isn’t a point when you’re so good at it that you can stop working on it

Would you like to know more about these seven tips on controlling your responses with your children, then check out the book Becoming a Present Parent: Connecting With Your Children in Five Minutes or Less.

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