Tag: self care

Guess What Happened Last Saturday?

Last week’s article was vulnerable, and I got lots of emails from women who appreciated my candor. I am relieved. : )

Each week I need to get my article written, formatted, and scheduled, the newsletter written and formatted, and the podcast recorded by Friday night. That is because I NEED Saturday for myself, to do what matters to me. I work diligently to make this happen.

I want to share what I experienced on Friday night and Saturday morning just before that article posted at 9 am Sunday because it is precisely what the article was about. This will not be any easier to write than last Sunday’s article but you are all moms, grandmothers, and women. We struggle with many of the same things, and I know what happened will bring home the message from last Sunday’s article.

Ah, Expectations!

As I said, I work hard to make Saturday my day, as much as that is possible. On Tuesday, I told my husband that on Saturday, I planned to spend the entire day in the yard, and he would need to fix breakfast and lunch. We didn’t have any obligations or appointments that I knew of. I wanted to transplant a dozen plants out to the garden, clean the patio boxes, weed eat, cut down the tree-sized weeds by the chicken coop, and cut back the ornamental grasses.

I want you to know that I LOVE hard labor. I am a crazy woman, I know, but I like the sun, the air, the hoe in my hands, and even working on my knees. This was going to be an amazingly restful, rejuvenating, and satisfying Saturday, despite the work.

Thursday night things began to unravel. There were activities Saturday that would require either Don’s or my attention at home and in the house. But Don knew my plan, right!

Friday evening, I reminded Don that I was going to be in the yard all day Saturday, and he would need to watch Maggie from 10 until 3 and take care of breakfast and lunch. He said, “Wait, can’t I go to Jack’s football game?” I came uncorked. I stood up and strode across the room while yelling, “I told you I needed this Saturday for me,” and I slammed the bedroom door behind me.

The next morning I got up early because I had a lot to do. I thought about the night before. I had to ask myself, “Why were you so mad that you couldn’t respond like an adult.

I have been practicing controlling my stories for over a decade and I am very good at it. This was a chance to practice some more. LOL I wanted to blame Don for my anger because he had forgotten my Saturday plans but I knew that wasn’t the real reason I was angry.

I knew what it was. I mentioned it in Sunday’s article – if it’s to be it is up to me. I am on my own. I wasn’t going to get the support I needed to do what mattered to me. This is a very old story from my childhood. It rears its ugly head from time to time. It isn’t hard to ferret out.

I also know it is a LIE. My family loves me very much. My husband cares and does his best to be my friend and sweetheart. I have friends that would come to my aid if I asked.

So, what was really happening here? I realized I felt angry in that Friday night moment because my life is different than I planned. I take care of my grands. I care for my mom who can’t care for herself. I care for my sweetheart because he needs help. I don’t speak or teach much anymore. I stood at the sink and wanted to blame someone, maybe God, my circumstances, or others.

My Life is a Choice

However, I had to be honest, I have chosen this life. When Jodie moved 30-minutes away we knew we would not be able to help her as much. We thought about combining our households. I thought about it for 3 months and then I choose to move to Jodie’s home.

When it became obvious that my mother was no longer able to care for herself my sisters and I had to decide, whether we would put her in a nursing home or one of us would care for her. We had many conversations. In the end, I decided to take her. I had learned to be flexible, so I felt I could deal with what comes with Alzheimer’s. I was self-employed, so my schedule was my own. We lived on a mini-farm and she could have her chickens and dog. Again, I put a lot of thought into it and made a clear-headed decision to bring her to our home.

After the first year, I needed to make some decisions about traveling, teaching and speaking. It wasn’t an easy decision and didn’t come overnight. It took me some months to determine how I felt. I decided I could write weekly and that would be enough to continue impacting moms I had come to love.

This year I took on a couple of things that I wanted to do but they have caused me work and stress. I have done well and learned a lot, but the feelings of worry and stress that come with new things joined the fray in my mind and heart Friday night and Saturday morning.

All this thinking, pondering, and being honest happened in that first early morning hour on Saturday as I stood at the sink cutting fruit to dry. However, knowing the truth didn’t take my angst away. I knew I wasn’t done, even though I had sorted out the story. I knew I needed outside support. I didn’t want to call the person I knew could help me the most because I was so emotional, and I didn’t want to bother them. I was fighting the inner battle I wrote about last Sunday.

Then the contents of the article I had written for all of you came into my mind. I made the call. After all, you have to live what you preach. : ) It was a helpful half hour. My friend said, “Thank you for letting me talk you off the cliff.” And there it is. I know what I know, and I share it with you, but I, like you, must decide to use that knowledge.

Let’s Be Wise

That is the definition of wisdom, using what you have learned. Let’s all be wise and reach out for support and help when we need it. Let’s control our stories. Let’s seek the resources we need to heal and grow.

This last week my daughter texted this photo to me. She said, “I thought you would like this picture of a tree making the best of its surroundings. I thought of you right away when I saw it.” That is a legacy I am proud to leave my children. They have seen me learn to search out what I need so I can thrive in difficult circumstances. I have some adult children in that process now, and I am very proud of them!

Let’s not be afraid to be vulnerable, to let others know we don’t know it all and we are not perfect. Allow yourself to find the resources you need to become a better, more whole human being.

Be wise. It will make you a better parent.

“Mom, You Matter Too!”

When I was sixty-three Don and I lived in a two-bedroom apartment. Jodie and her family came to live with us while they waited for their home to sell and another one to come into their lives. I had forgotten this event until I was reminded while reading an old article I had written. It was hysterical and not a much different story than what my life looks like now, full-time.

Here is a snippet:

“Tonight, I cooked dinner with a baby riding on my hip and a three-year-old helping me brown onions and hamburger on the stove for “jelly” sauce (spaghetti sauce). It was a bit cumbersome trying to keep a three-year-old out of harm’s way while allowing her to help and an almost one-year-old grabbing for everything he could reach.

I did this while trying not to step on anything that would send me crashing to the floor, seeing that the baby on my hip had emptied the utensil drawer, which is why I had him on my hip. I could hear the four year old making lots of noise from the living room. He was running his trucks through the maze he had made in a random pattern on practically every square inch of the living room floor. All’s well here, back to the “jelly” sauce.

Meanwhile, the six-year-old was yelling for help with her iPad. Maggie has cerebral palsy and has a way of letting us all know when her iPad is not cooperating with her limited hand movement. Right now, she was letting me know…loudly.

“Jelly” sauce simmering, noodles boiling, and three-year-old slopping melted garlic butter on a tower of French bread while I helped Maggie with her iPad. I heard Mary say, oops, never a good sign. Seems as if some of the garlic butter has found its way down her chest and onto the fabric-covered chairs. No problem, just mixing with the strawberry ice cream drops from the night before.

Then I smelled scorched bread. Our garlic toast is going to be a bit crisper and darker than I had planned. I holler to the almost-four-year-old, “Jack go tell Grandpa that grandma needs him…NOW!”

I know you are laughing – not at me but with me. You have probably had your share of days just like this one! Back then we had Jodie and her family for a few months but since then our families have combined permanently. We are a four-generation home and trust me, even though the kids are older, we have many days just like the one I described above.

Parenting is no joke. It’s a lot of work, time, and effort, and requires that we learn and practice new skills. I have experienced the good, the bad, and the ugly of parenting and I survived. Better than that our children survived all that we didn’t know how to do and all the mistakes we made. I’m sure you sometimes wonder if you will survive and if your kids will.

A text of great worth!

I received a text from a dear friend. We have mentored together on and off for several years. Every now and then I reach out to see how she is. Often, she will send me a random text letting me know how it’s going. When times get rough, well, we work together again.

As I was saying, I got a text from her that I knew you would all LOVE because it is so how parenting is. I asked her if I could share.

My friend and I had been talking a few months before about taking care of ourselves in ways that are actually manageable when you have kids. She has three boys, five, two, and, a baby.

She sent a photo of her cluttered counter. A candle was burning in the center of the mess. These were her words – ‘I thought you might appreciate this picture. I am home-bound today with a sick child and no car. I got very little sleep But I am still taking care of me. The candle is lit, despite all the clutter. Lol This is life.”

This is life for moms and dads. But Bethany is in the process of finding ways to nourish herself when there isn’t a way to leave ‘parenting’ behind for a lunch date, a nap, or even a walk.

Self -Care is a skill you can learn

This is a vital skill to learn and practice and it is a skill. Anyone can take care of themselves better. I know because I have had to do this. It hasn’t gotten any easier at seventy-two. I have to keep practicing but I am far better at it than when I was thirty! Yesterday when I sat down to write this article my twelve-year-old granddaughter decided to sew something for her hamsters. Over the next hour and a half, she came into my office at least five times needing help. This is what living with children is like. So how do you manage life with children and take care of yourself?

You’re going to spend far more time with your children than you’re going to spend without them, so it’s imperative to learn how to self-care while you’re in the thick of parenting. It’s simple, it’s doable, and it takes small amounts of time and virtually no money; but it can and will pay huge dividends. Self-care can be as simple and plain as having a cup of herbal tea while you read to your children. It might be taking a few deep breaths while soothing a screaming child. You could turn on your favorite music and dance in the living room with your kids. Add laughter!

Self-care can be taking a walk with your children, and pushing a stroller, to take the edge off the day. Sitting in the swing and watching your children play can give you fresh air and a breather from all you feel pressed to do. Go to the bathroom more often if that’s what will buy you a few moments alone. When you’re on the edge of losing your temper, getting irritable, or feeling resentful, ask yourself what you need to stay in control. Pay attention to yourself.

Do something that feels nurturing to you. Give yourself space to get it together. When you pay attention to how you’re feeling, to what’s happening in your body, that’s self-care. This can be done while you’re in the thick of parenting. On this day, for Bethany, it was lighting a candle just to say,

“I matter too!”

Your Goals are Inside You!

I want to share a remarkable experience and a dear friend with you. I got an email from Livia Pewtress asking me to take a test online to see my mindset quotient. I don’t do much of this type of thing anymore, as full-time caregiving doesn’t leave much space in my life. So, I almost hit delete but had a feeling I should take the test.

Then I discovered that this test would lead to a call to talk about the results—all free. I wasn’t overjoyed about this, again, a time thing. But Livia is a good friend and an intelligent woman, so we booked a call. I took the test, and we spoke on the phone.

She helped me understand the results, and frankly, they made my day. I have gotten better at a few things that matter to me in my way of being! Then she began asking about my goals. I haven’t even thought about goals for over three years. BUT I was surprised – I had some very concrete goals – mentally, spiritually, physically.

Then Livia asked what was holding me back from accomplishing some of these things. The answer was the same in every case –

I can’t seem to find a space for myself on the list.

 

And there is the rub for most of us. We can’t seem to get ourselves on the list. I have self-care systems – reading in the bathroom, a hot shower before bed, meditating most mornings. But what I don’t have is a sound system for learning, growing, thinking, taking classes, making plans, being time organized, etc.

I have been giving this some serious thought. The first thing I did was record the goals I have for the next couple of years that came out so easily when Livia asked me about them. I typed them out and taped them inside the front cover of my gratitude journal so that I see and review them each day.

I created my ‘God – To-Do List’ on the back cover. These are a few things that I have no idea how they will come to pass without help and intervention of the Lord. They are BIG. I don’t worry about them at all, but I do look at them weekly, and I send my prayers for assistance heavenward. The amazing thing is that this week I was given a thought on moving forward with one of them. How cool is that!

Ok, so now I have a clearer idea of what I want to accomplish in the next couple of years, but how do I find time to do any of the work? Some are simple because they are a matter of daily practice, like giving my mom more random touches and not judging my husband and his health decisions. But others are far more challenging because they require a time commitment, and when time is at a premium, well, those commitments are hard to make and keep.

For example, one of my goals is to write for thirty minutes daily so that I am not trying to put an article, newsletter, and podcast together at the last minute. I have been experimenting with how to make this work. Unfortunately for me, I have only found one thing so far that works – I must get up earlier. Don’t you hate that!? Me too, but I get my writing done when I do it. Today, for example, I got up at 6 am, and I was able to format my article on the website. I had gotten up early a day ago and got it written.

Of course, it is still a work in progress because sometimes I have to get Maggie ready for school, at 5:15, and there is no time to write. I still have not developed a consistent plan, and consistency is the key to success. Part of the reason I am not yet consistent is that I haven’t picked a consistent get-up time. I haven’t wanted to because I know it will take more of a commitment than I feel able to make right now.

When I was writing my book, I got up six days a week, for six months, at 4 am. Oh man, that was hard, but the consistency is what got the book written. This is the kind of commitment it will take to get 30 minutes of writing time in every day!

As you can see I am still in the experimental stage, and I am also a bit resistant to what I know I need to do. : ) And that is how it goes. First, we look at what we want to accomplish and determine what would make it happen. Then we must honestly tell ourselves what we are willing to do and what we won’t do. Then we begin experimenting and adjusting. It feels messy.

There is another goal I have been experimenting and struggling with – thinking about food so that I prepare what my husband needs to eat. I am so disinterested in food that this is a toughie for me. BUT I have come up with a system that is working for now, although I know it needs some revision. And an interesting caveat to this is that one of my goals is to give away 20 pounds and free up some energy. I don’t even have to think about how to do that. Helping Don is moving me in that direction!

Then there are the two courses I bought and want to finish and a recording of my singing. I don’t know how to make those happen yet, and I am not even thinking about them because I am still working on getting systems that work for writing and meals. Remember that 1% rule. LOL

I didn’t write this article to give you some stellar ideas on how to get your goals accomplished. It was written to show you that everyone struggles with this. There is no EASY when it comes to having goals and making them happen. It is a process.

Here are some takeaways that I hope will be helpful for you busy moms and dads.

•Think about what you would like to see happen in your life in the next year or two. A family vacation. A new job. Taking a class or finishing one. Reading a specific book. Being kinder, more charitable. Whatever. Your goals do not have to be earthshaking, just clear. Write them down!
•Pick one and work on that. What is required? How can you begin? Do you need a system or just a commitment to consistency? What personal changes are needed and so forth?
•Then move. Do something. Experiment. It may feel messy. You may try and fail and try and fail. The try part is what matters.
•If you need help, get it. Wise people seek wise help.
•Never quit. If you are consistent and keep going, you will be successful. I am counting on that. I have
experienced that. It took me over ten years to stop yelling! : )

This is what was most hopeful and helpful from my call with Livia. I didn’t know that in all the chaos of learning how to care give the last three years, I had any goals floating around in my head. In fact, not only were they there, but they were concrete. I knew them and, when asked, was able to say them out loud.

Maybe you have a new baby, and your life has been upended. Perhaps you have moved to a new state, or you or your spouse has gone back to school. Maybe your job has gone away. Maybe you or someone you love has been ill for a while. Possibly your workload has changed, gotten heavier. Perhaps you have a house full of kids under twelve or a house full of teens and preteens.

All these things can throw you into a state of chaos and the unawareness that I was in. But you don’t have to stay there. No matter how chaotic and unfamiliar your present life is, you can ferret out your goals because they are there, inside you! Write them down, pick one and begin moving.

If I can do this, you can do this!

Four S’s for a More Successful Year

I gave up New Year’s Resolutions many years ago. I always felt set up for failure. I have found it more useful to periodically evaluate how I am managing my life, how I am feeling about it, and what simple adjustments I could make so that I fare better. I emphasize the word simple. I also keep the list short! I want success and not overwhelm.

The first half of 2020 was challenging for me. In March, I found myself feeling like crying every day. I do not cry! I was so exhausted that it was worrisome. This all compromised my ability to remember things. Nothing outwardly changed. I looked and behaved the same, but it was taking all I had to keep living in my usual way.

Consequently, I began the process of evaluation earlier in the year than usual. What was off? What was making the difference? How was my sleep, my eating, my exercise, my relationships? I was searching for an answer to how I was feeling. In June, I had a thought that led me to a resolution. I remembered a medical condition I had dealt with over a decade and a half earlier. I went to my practitioner, got what I needed, and I was back on track. It was such a relief.

But all that thinking during the spring, all that introspection, reminded me of some behaviors that can significantly impact how we parent, how we manage relationships, how we manage ourselves, and how we feel. I thought as we enter this new year, particularly a year that will still contain Covid, lack of family, more in-home responsibility for parenting and education for some families, that you might benefit from seeing my short and simple ‘go-to’ list when I find my life a bit off-kilter. : )

Four S’s for Success

Sleep I’ve had tons of experience with this one thing! I was a night owl. I would be up until eleven or twelve getting kids managed and into bed and putting the house back together. Afterward, I read until somewhere between 11 p.m. and 2 a.m. In the morning, I would drag myself out of bed at six or seven, depending on when my kids got up. How do you think that worked out? I’ll bet some of you know. It was a disaster. It’s virtually impossible to parent well when you can barely see for lack of sleep.

Periodically, for over 30 years, I would go in prayer and ask how I could better handle my life. I would always have the same thought, “Go to bed earlier and get up earlier.” I would dismiss the whole idea. I didn’t want to follow that counsel. I wanted my house in order, and I wanted alone time. I was convinced the only way to get either one was to stay up late. So, I resisted. After years, I got desperate. I asked a final time. The impression was the same. “Go to bed earlier and get up earlier.” But this time, I didn’t resist.

I made the decision I would go to bed earlier and get up earlier. Can I say it was hard?! It didn’t get easier after the first month, or the sixth, or even the ninth. I’ll be honest; I struggled for a full year to keep my commitment before it finally began to feel good. But I’d made a decision. I was choosing something different. It was about taking care of self.

I’ve been living this new way for a few years now, and it’s been amazing. I enjoy going to bed earlier and getting up earlier. I can’t even believe it myself! My thinking is clearer. I get to do things that make my day more productive—prayer, personal study, meditation. My whole day runs better. I remain calm more often. I have more patience, and I feel less stress.

If sleep is an issue for you and you decide to take the route I did, it may not be easy, but if you remember that simple things, consistently done over time, make significant differences, you’ll be able to persevere as long as it takes to make this your new habit.

Simplify The word simplify means to make simpler or easier to do or understand. To simplify is a principle wise men and women have espoused throughout the ages, and with good reason. When we simplify our lives, we manage them better. We can spend more time, both mental and physical, where it matters and less on activities that are not going to matter in the long run. We open time to think. We stop spending so much time putting out fires. When we simplify our lives, we can tune into our children, our spouse, our God.

One of my past mentors said something very profound to me. It’s changed the way I make decisions about spending my time and my family’s time. She said, “Every yes is a no to something else!” Let’s make sure that what we’re saying yes to will, in the long run, bring us true happiness and stable family relationships.

How much time do you allot for technology? How often do you shop? How many hours are you spending in the car, and are you going places that matter? How much time is required to keep your closets and drawers in order? What are your commitments? What are your kid’s commitments? How often do thoughts about past hurts surface? How frequently do you feel resentment?

When you clear out stuff, heal your heart, and empty your calendar, you’ll be less overwhelmed and have more energy. You’ll be able to give more to your family. This investment in simplifying will free you up, and your life and family will be happier. When we simplify, we free up time and energy.

Self-care Self-care is crucial for parents because it helps them maintain calm for more extended periods. Self-care facilitates patience and staves off, taking our frustrations out on our children. Self-care helps us remain free of resentment, exhaustion, or feeling depleted. It keeps us healthier. Self-care allows us to tune into the joy and satisfaction of having children, even during overly busy or chaotic days.

Self-care benefits not only us but also our whole family. It’s an investment in our family relationships, rather than a selfish indulgence. Self-care is a choice.

You’re going to spend far more time with your children than you’re going to spend without them, so it’s imperative to learn how to self-care while you’re in the thick of parenting. It’s simple, it’s doable, and it takes small amounts of time and virtually no money; but it can and will pay huge dividends.
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Self-care can be as simple as having a cup of herbal tea while you read to your children. It might be taking a few deep breaths while soothing a screaming child. You could turn on your favorite music and dance in the living room with your kids. Add laughter! Self-care can be taking a walk with your children to take the edge off the day. Sitting in the swing and watching your children play can give you fresh air and a breather from all that you’re feeling pressed to do. Go to the bathroom more often if that’s what will buy you a few moments alone.

Being kind to yourself will make life feel lighter, and your relationships will improve. You’ll feel happier overall. Your self-esteem will go up. You’ll be a better parent. In short, when you care for yourself, you care for your family.

Season Let me show you two Christmas trees. In 2019 I had two grandchildren born, one in July and one on Dec. 30. This Christmas, both sets of parents pondered what to do about their Christmas trees. They have older children. They like their homes to look festive. In the end, they adjusted for the season they are in. One kept all the ornaments on the top half of the tree. The other had a very small tree on a tabletop. It isn’t what they love or do every year, but it is what they did this year. Your season matters and when you honor the season you find yourself in, things feel more peaceful. They could have spent the whole season spanking baby hands or grieving over broken family mementos. But they choose to respect the season their family was in.

When you have a new baby, managing your life is entirely different from when you have a couple of teens. When we simplify how we decorate our home, what is on our to-do list and calendar according to the season we find ourselves in, we will be happier and less overwhelmed. We will feel more peace and manage everything better.

This year why not take a careful and honest look at how you are handling the four S’s in your life. With a few simple adjustments, you may have a more peaceful and successful year.

We could all use this reminder. Why not share with another parent?

Did She Fall Off The Planet??

It has been three weeks, and you haven’t heard from me. “Did Mary Ann fall off the planet,” you may have asked yourself. Well, I did, sort of. It has been a long and busy spring and summer.

My daughter began working, as well as her regular teaching and mentoring. I have taken on the role of caretaker for the grands. It isn’t a challenging job. They are good kids. I clean a bit and break up a fight now and then. I track who is home or where they have gone and with whom. It isn’t a hard job. But it reminded me of what it is like to be responsible for children. There is a weight to that, and I have felt it this summer. And kids take time. They need questions answered, need help finding shoes, getting lunch, and making decisions. The grands need reminding to get off of tech, to do chores, and to do them well. Parenting, even if you aren’t the parent, takes time and energy.

My husband’s health is and poor. Surgery is on hold. His medication has made him grumpy and has messed with his ability to “do.” That makes him grumpier and me busier helping him out.

My mom’s Alzheimer’s is progressing. She has forgotten how to do a few more things. She has had more health issues. Not life-threatening ones. But it has necessitated a morning and evening routine of caring for her legs, face, eyes, and head. It takes 30+ minutes. She doesn’t recognize thirst or hunger and needs constant monitoring.

I work producing a podcast page for a small company, and that has its deadlines. I still write and post consistently. It takes effort and energy to be consistent when life is a bit chaotic and full. I’m still mentoring and that requires focus and presence.

One Saturday in July I couldn’t get up.

The vertigo was overwhelming, and it caused severe nausea. It lasted all day, and I knew what was up. My body had said, “Enough. We are done. We need a rest.” I was bugged with my body. My spirit hadn’t signed on to this plan. As far as I could see, it just put me a day behind. However, I have learned to listen and talk with my body, so we had a heartfelt conversation. I knew that I had to find space in my days for rest. After all, it’s one of the things that I coach moms on when we work together.

So, I took a good look at my schedule, and I asked myself, “What can go for a time. Where can I make space.” I cleared out several things, including writing and all of you. I did, figurately speaking, fall off the planet, at least the social media planet.

I planned to give myself a week, but then I took two. Then I willingly granted myself three, three glorious weeks with few deadlines or commitments. I was still caretaking, and kids don’t go away. I had a garden to care for and harvest. Working didn’t stop. My mom and husband are still here. Here is what stopped – most of my deadlines and commitments. I had cleared space, and it made a HUGE difference!

Parenting doesn’t go away. The need to make a living doesn’t go away. We will always have to do laundry, clean our homes, fix meals, kiss owies, etc. BUT we need to make space. We need to find room to breathe, sit still, think, plan, rest, and meditate.

I have a morning routine that includes quiet time, study time, and meditation. It gears me up for the day. I also have an evening routine that helps me wind down for the night. So, what happened. Why did I find myself in such a crazy mess? I let these management tools slide as we moved into summer, and there is a cost to allowing what works fall by the wayside to make room for busy.

Five Simple Things To Help You Make Space

I know this and my body finally reminded me of what I know. I am back on track. If you find yourself stretched too thin, feeling angry or resentful, or falling ill, you are too busy. Here are a few, simple things you can do to lighten your load and find space to breathe. You will be a better parent for it.

•Even if you need to get up a bit earlier, have a morning routine. It may only last 15 minutes but have one. Some days you won’t get to it because little kids don’t live on a schedule, but you will get it often enough to make a difference.
Have an evening routine. Set a time to end your workday and then do something you love: sit, color, sew, read, rest, visit with family, watch a movie. Give yourself time every evening for yourself. As I said above, with kids, you won’t get it every day, but what you can get will make a difference, even if it is only 15 minutes. Simple things done consistently make a difference.
Take a good, hard look at your calendar. What are you doing out of obligation? What can someone else do just as well as you? Let it go, reassign. Make space for family and self.
Take social media breaks daily, weekly, monthly. Put the phone and computer away. You may think you will miss something important, fall out of the loop. I just took off three weeks, and I am OK. You will be too.
Get enough sleep. Staying up late to find time for self isn’t wise or successful for most of us. Getting enough rest and using some of the above tools to carve out time will pay dividends in your ability to parent better.

I am back, and I feel much better. Some things that I dropped from my calendar are staying dropped. I liked the social media vacation and will do it again. : ) My morning and evening routines are back in place, and I am ready to rock and roll into the fall. Thanks for still being here, friends!

Do you know someone who needs to ‘fall off the planet for a while?”

Why not share these simple tips.

The HARDEST thing to choose!

A 92-year-old, petite, well-poised and proud man, who is fully dressed each morning by eight o’clock, with his hair fashionably combed and shaved perfectly, even though he is legally blind, moved to a nursing home today. His wife of 70 years recently passed away, making the move necessary. After many hours of waiting patiently in the lobby of the nursing home, he smiled sweetly when told his room was ready.

“As he maneuvered his walker to the elevator, I provided a visual description of his tiny room, including the eyelet sheets that had been hung on his window. ‘I love it,’ he stated with the enthusiasm of an eight-year-old having just been presented with a new puppy. Mr. Jones, you haven’t seen the room; just wait.’

That doesn’t have anything to do with it,’ he replied. Happiness is something you decide on ahead of time. Whether I like my room or not doesn’t depend on how the furniture is arranged…it’s how I arrange my mind. I already decided to love it. It’s a decision I make every morning when I wake up. I have a choice; I can spend the day in bed recounting the difficulty I have with the parts of my body that no longer work or get out of bed and be thankful for the ones that do.

“Each day is a gift, and as long as my eyes open, I’ll focus on the new day and all the happy memories I’ve stored away… Just for this time in my life.” – Well Built: Inspiring Stories from the Boardroom to the Frontline By Bob Buck

I enjoyed reading this short story because it highlights an important law of success –

it happens in our minds first.

The other day Don did something that ruffled my feathers! I felt the anger well up and the inner pout come out. As I stood at the sink fuming, I realized that I had a choice to make. I could be angry and let Don know it or I could flush what was bothering me and just be happy. I decided to let it go and just be happy.

It wasn’t easy. That negative emotion wanted to run around and around in my brain replaying whatever it was that was upsetting me. I had to find a way to shove it out for good. I choose to be grateful. I began thinking up a list in my mind of all the things that I like about Don, all the fun and pleasant memories that I have of the two of us. Guess what, the negative feeling dissipated and I felt happy.

As we parent our families there is plenty to stress us especially during these trying days of Covid-19 and social distancing. Children aren’t perfect, we aren’t perfect, systems and tools don’t always work the way we want them to, sad things happen, bad things happen, relationships can turn bumpy, our family culture is often a poignant mirror of all the work we need to do. Despite all this we can choose to be happy. The truth is that happiness is an attitude. It’s not something created by outside circumstances, but instead is completely within our control.

Here are a few techniques

to help you choose happy when you’re tempted to choose something else.

1. Be grateful – This tops my list. It works every time. When I am feeling really put out or downtrodden, if I begin thinking about all the wonderful parts of my life, I just can’t help but perk right up. If you need to, write a list. Seeing it in black and white helps.
2. Take care of yourself – What are some of the small things in life that make you feel good? Do one daily. Take a short walk, write for a few minutes in your journal, have a short meditation, watch the sunset, hug a child. For me, it is a hot shower just before bed every day. I love it! Whatever reminds you that you are a human being and not a human doing will improve your outlook on life.
3. Be creative – Creativity and self-expression generate happiness. Schedule some creative time each day, even if it’s just a few minutes of writing, painting, baking, or sewing.
4. Move – Move a little every day to stay happy. It releases endorphins, the feel-good hormone.
5. Read and listen to inspirational material – It helps to be reminded of positive thoughts and positive attitudes. Read in your spiritual cannon or get a small book of positive, inspirational thoughts and keep it by your desk. Read one or two thoughts each day. Every morning I have a private devotional. I have a short list of songs that move my heart. I choose one to listen to every morning, then I pray. I read a few verses in my spiritual cannon. It makes a difference!
7. Contribute – Serve others. Think about the needs of others. Make a difference. It boosts your self-esteem, your gratitude, and feeling of well-being.
8. Be in nature – Nature rejuvenates and restores the human spirit. Give yourself the gift of visiting it frequently. Take a walk or just sit in the sun in your back yard and rest for a few minutes! : )

No matter how many wonderful things you do to create a positive, happy, satisfied life, you could still end up in unhappy stressed situations. Ultimately, happiness, gratitude, and a feeling of satisfaction is a choice.

Know someone who needs some

‘happy’? Please share.

This Is the Most Fun Thing I Have Ever Done!

Some years ago, we had a dirt pile in the corner of our yard. Then my daughter decided to create something beautiful in that space.

She measured and cut the wood and figured out how to hold it all together. She built a fence to keep the dogs out. She planted herbs, tomatoes, peas, a watermelon, and a pumpkin. She built trellises for them. As a final touch, she added a metal baby robin, a fairy statue, and a brick walkway. It was beautiful!

My daughter said, “It took me two weeks to do a one-day project”. That was because she had three small children, one with cerebral palsy. The fact that she couldn’t focus and get the job done more quickly was a bit frustrating. Yet, despite the frustration, she said, “While I was building the garden, it was exhilarating. It was so exciting and rejuvenating.” Building that garden gave my daughter a wonderful sense of “This is the most fun thing I have ever done!”

My daughter was startled by the absolute joy she experienced as she figured it out and then built the garden. She thought a lot about that and remembered that she had felt this overwhelming joy before when she was four.

On our porch, she found two pieces of wood. She decided to make a plane. She asked for her snow pants because every builder needs overalls. She wanted a hammer and nails. Then she proceeded to make a plane. It didn’t look like a plane, just two sticks nailed into a T which she painted. She thought it was grand!

My daughter loves to build things. She also knows that she doesn’t build often enough. She works on ways to add that element into her life. When she makes time to build, no matter how stressful life is, she manages better.

Satisfaction and Joy Make Us Better People

There’s value in determining what brings us a sense of satisfaction and joy. As we create opportunities where we experience these feelings, we’re better mothers, fathers, grandparents, neighbors, friends, and people. These feelings enhance our ability to problem-solve instead of blowing up or becoming depressed. They ease the stress of modern life. They increase our patience and our ability to reach out to others, to forgive and to love.

The key is knowing what brings us these feelings and then finding ways to include them in our lives more often. We must make space for them. This isn’t always easy, but it is doable!

Do the work of figuring out simple things that feel exhilarating, satisfying and joyful to you. As you implement more of these activities into your life you fill your bucket. This enables you to give more to your family, friends, and community. Above all, it increases the quality of your life.

Let me leave you with an example from my own life. I love organizing things. Yup, work. I know it wouldn’t feel joyful and satisfying to everyone, but it is to me. So, I make plans on a regular basis to order something in my life, a drawer, a closet, a shelf in the garage, under my bed, etc. I organize something at least once or twice a month. I’m busy so I must plan it. I must get the support of my family to make space for it. But it’s worth it because it feels exhilarating, satisfying and brings me joy.

Someone once said that life is not a dress rehearsal. This is the real deal, so find ways to live a life of satisfaction, fulfillment, and joy no matter how busy life gets. Determine what generates these feelings for you and then find ways to incorporate them into your life.

Feel moved? Please comment.  Then share. : )

You NEED a Short R&R List!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The bathroom is on my self-care list

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

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

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

Here is what I hope you are beginning to understand:

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

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

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

Here’s to more joy,
Mary Ann

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

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

Is self-care and having children mutually exclusive?

We often think of taking care of ourselves as being child-free, away from home, in quiet. But if that’s the definition of self-care, most moms and dads are going to get precious little of it.

When we’re looking for alone time, we need to get creative. How can it be managed right where we are, without expending too much money or time? How can it be made doable even with small children? There’s always a way to care for yourself right where you are.

Here are three examples of how parents got creative in order to take better care of themselves. They’re about moms but this applies equally well to dads.

Experiment 1

Deon was feeling burnt out and needed a way to have space away from her family when she felt over the top. In one of our conversations, she told me about her bedroom. It had a lovely window seat that looked out onto a green field. The problem was it was the messiest room in her home. So together we came up with a list of things that she could easily do to make it an inviting space.

She cleared all the stuff off of the window seat and got a basket for her husband to put his stuff in—so it would stay cleaned off. She made changes in how they managed the laundry, so it wasn’t always piled on her bed. She painted a wall. She added her favorite books to the window seat.

Deon talked with her family. She told them that when it became difficult to react the way she wanted, she was going to her room to regroup for 5 minutes. She would take a personal time out. She asked for their support in allowing her to do this when she needed to. They all agreed to help her out. (Yes, she does have a couple of small children.)

When Deon is on the verge of exploding or ceasing to be the adult, she retreats to her bedroom. She sits in the window seat and looks out on the field. She breathes deeply; she may read one or two paragraphs in her book. Then she heads back out into the fray. She’s managing better, her kids are happier, and her husband is relieved. This experiment has had a positive impact on all of them.

Experiment 2

Amy has multiple health issues that tax her strength and resources for parenting. She expressed her desire for alone time each week so she could paint and write, feel better, and get a handle on her health.

Finding time wasn’t her only issue. She also has a child with serious health problems. Amy worried that if she took time away from her family, something might come up with her ill child and her husband wouldn’t be able to handle it
.
Nevertheless, she was willing to try an experiment. She asked her husband if he would take over for two hours a week, in the evening, so she could write or paint. He was open to the idea.

Amy chose a room at the other end of the house, away from the family room where her husband and children would spend their time. That way she could have her quiet time and be close at hand in case of an emergency.

The first week was a grand success. Amy was frankly impressed with her husband and was surprised that he managed so well without her. She was equally surprised that her kids managed without her. She’s been doing this for a while now. It’s given her husband an opportunity to be with the kids, and she’s been able to fulfill her need to write, paint, and have time to herself. The whole family is happier.

Experiment 3

Melanie has a large family, and her husband is often gone. She wants time to be by herself and read. She asked me how I find time to read because I raised a large family and now I live in the same home as my grandkids.

I mentioned to her that my bathroom was my retreat. I shared the simple things I’ve done to make it a sanctuary. A beautiful picture hangs on the wall. My favorite colors are in the shower curtain and rugs. A vase of flowers sits on the floor. Most importantly, there’s a basket of fabulous books and magazines next to the toilet.

When I go into the bathroom, which is at least three times a day, I read one to three paragraphs. Occasionally I’m lucky and get a whole page. You’d be amazed at how much you can read in a year, one to three paragraphs at a time.

Melanie decided to give it a try. One of her worries was that her bathroom was always so messy because of the kids. When she began putting it to rights, she discovered that almost all of the clutter was hers. She devised simple systems to keep her stuff corralled. She added flowers, a new rug, and a basket of books. At last report, she was enjoying her mini-moments of peace and reading. It has made her feel more taken care of, and she’s happier with her children.

You’re going to spend far more time with your children than you’re going to spend without them, so it’s imperative to learn how to self-care while you’re in the thick of parenting. It’s simple, it’s doable, and it takes small amounts of time and virtually no money; but it can and will pay huge dividends.

Self-care can be as simple and plain as having a cup of herbal tea while you read to your children. It might be taking a few deep breaths while soothing a screaming child. You could turn on your favorite music and dance in the living room with your kids. Add laughter!

Self-care can be taking a walk with your children to take the edge off the day. Sitting in the swing and watching your children play can give you fresh air and a breather from all that you’re feeling pressed to do. Go to the bathroom more often if that’s what will buy you a few moments alone.

When you’re on the edge of losing your temper, getting irritable, or feeling resentful, ask yourself what you need to stay in control. Pay attention to yourself.

What are the creative ways that you use to find some time to care for yourself? I would LOVE to hear about them.

Here’s to more joy,
Mary Ann

GREAT NEWS!!!!!!  Just in time for the holiday season. On December 21st I will be giving away 5 copies of Becoming a Present Parent via a Goodreads Give Away. There are no strings attached. You won’t be added to any lists. So head on over and enter. You just may be a WINNER!

Becoming a Present Parent by Mary Ann Johnson

Becoming a Present Parent

by Mary Ann Johnson

Giveaway ends December 21, 2017.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway

Goodreads Book Giveaway

What is Present Parenting?

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

Self-Care in the Thick of Things

Self-care is crucial for parents because it helps them maintain calm for longer periods of time. Self-care facilitates patience and staves off taking our frustrations out on our children. Self-care helps us remain freer of resentment, exhaustion, or feeling depleted. It keeps us healthier. Self-care helps us tune into the joy and satisfaction of having children, even during overly busy or chaotic days. Self-care benefits not only us but also our whole family. It’s an investment in our family relationships, rather than a selfish indulgence.

Here are some tips to help you begin thinking about how you can do more self-care right where you are – in the thick of parenting.

1. Make it simple and doable – Self-care can be as simple and plain as having a cup of herb tea while you read to your children. It might be taking some deep breaths while soothing a screaming child. You could turn on your favorite music and dance in the living room with your kids. Add laughter!

2. Pay attention to yourself – When you feel like you are on the edge of losing your temper, getting irritable or feeling resentful ask yourself what you need to stay in control. I can still vividly recall what that moment felt like when I was going to stop being the adult. It was almost always when I had pushed myself for too long or was too tired. What I needed was to just STOP. In those younger years, I didn’t stop and the result was inevitable. If you find yourself in that place, STOP. Stop working. Sit down. Hug a child. Breathe deeply. Get a drink of water. Walk out to the yard. Do something that will feel nurturing to you.

3. Take care of your physical self – Get more sleep. Go to bed a bit earlier even if it means you don’t get that alone time you try to snatch after midnight! Don’t get on the computer after 10 pm. Really, this will absolutely help you get to bed earlier! Eat better. Don’t let lunch be the crusts off of your kid’s sandwiches. Don’t eat over the sink. Sit down for goodness sake and eat. It only takes five minutes! Exercise. Learn the difference between mom walks and kid walks and take a healthy measure of both weekly. Think and talk nicely to and about yourself. You would rarely speak to others, even those who are messing up, the way you talk to yourself. Pay attention to what you say and how you say it to yourself and then take the time to re-frame what you say into something more positive, supportive, and true.

4. Smell the roses – Stop rushing through the day in order to get your “list” taken care of. Join in your children’s laughter. Smell their hair and skin. Get good at random touches and mini-conversations. Sit on the lawn and listens to your children’s chatter. Take a moment off, even if it is only 5 minutes. It will be enough!

Taking care of yourself does not make you selfish. It shows that you care about yourself and your family relationships. Being kind to yourself in everyday life is one of the best things you can do. Life will become lighter and your relationships will most likely improve. You will feel happier overall. Your self-esteem will go up. You will be a better parent.

 

AN EMPTY LANTERN PROVIDES NO LIGHT.  SELF-CARE IS THE FUEL THAT ALLOWS YOUR LIGHT TO SHINE BRIGHTLY. PIPER LARSEN

 

How do you care for yourself in the midst of a busy and chaotic day at home? Please share.

Here’s to more joy,
Mary Ann

GREAT NEWS!!!!!!  Just in time for the holiday season. On November 21 I am giving away 5 copies of Becoming A Present Parent via a Goodreads Giveaway. So on November 21 hop on over and enter. You may just be a winner. : )

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Becoming a Present Parent by Mary Ann Johnson

Becoming a Present Parent

by Mary Ann Johnson

Giveaway ends December 21, 2017.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway

What is Present Parenting?

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

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