Tag: you can change

My Meat Chopper is a Metaphor for Growth. Really! : )

My granddaughter joined a group called Girls on the Run. She was excited to learn how to run. Because she hadn’t done this before Matilda was a bit apprehensive, so her big brother ran the race with her. Ya gotta love big brothers who care! She had a wonderful experience and wanted to support the group. She sent me an online catalog. Part of the proceeds would go to the group. As a dutiful grandparent, I looked it over.

There wasn’t a single thing I needed or wanted. I am a minimalist by nature and experience. I have what I need and nothing more. Not only wasn’t there a single item I needed or wanted but they were all pricy, and I am frugal by nature. What was I going to do? Well, there was one gadget I had seen in a few of my friends and siblings’ kitchens. I knew what it was for. It was used to break up sausage and hamburger while cooking.

In my kitchen, I grab the burger or sausage and mash it into bits in my hands as it falls into the pan. This works for me. But I had to buy something, and this was the cheapest item. I love my granddaughter, so I ordered it.

It sat in my utensil container for weeks, unused. Then one day I noticed that I hadn’t gotten my hamburger bits as small as I wanted them for a particular dish. I grabbed the meat chopper, because it was close, and cut up the partially cooked chunks. Hmmm, that was easy even though the meat was hot and partially cooked. I could have gotten the job done with a spoon, but it would have taken more time.

Since then, I have begun using the meat chopper more often. It is fast, I don’t have to wash my hands, and I can chop as I cook. I have decided I like this tool. I mean, I can manage the old way, it works, but this works better.

As I was making spaghetti sauce this week, I thought about how finally experimenting with the meat chopper is like the process of growth and change. We learn to do things a certain way. It’s how our mom or dad did it. It’s how our extended family did it. It seems to work. Then someone introduces us to a thought or idea, that suggests that whatever it is, can be done in a cleaner, easier, more successful way. There may even be a suggestion that what we think is working really isn’t, and we need to make a change. That can feel intimidating.

Do you hang back? I mean, you thought things were OK. Even if you knew they weren’t working all that well, you might feel unsure about your ability to make a change. Maybe the thought that what you have been doing, that isn’t working, makes you mad, and you want to turn your back on the new idea or suggestion. Been there, done that! It took me a long time to learn that even when something seems to be working it might work better managed another way and that if something isn’t working, you really can make a change.

Here is my Point:

We can get stuck in how we approach problems, and health issues, manage ourselves and relationships, discipline children, or chop cooking meat. We can be resistant to experimenting with something new. But often, if we open ourselves up to new thoughts, ideas, ways of being, and resources, we can learn to manage better.

I can’t begin to tell you all the resources I have taken advantage of in the past 40 years. Here is a very abbreviated list of some things I have changed over the years because I finally began experimenting with new thoughts and ideas.

  • I now mash my meat faster, cleaner, and more safely when it is cooking. LOL
  • I listened to a friend who taught me how to manage when my kids were not doing what I wanted. Over time, with her continued advice and support, I changed the relationship I had with my children.
  • When my neighbor, who was a nurse, gave me a pamphlet on anger management I was shocked. But her concern and the ideas she presented stuck and over time I did get control of my anger. I stopped raging and yelling.
  • I took a couple of classes to learn to manage my money stories, the ones I got while growing up. This information has changed many things. The work isn’t fully done, but I feel more at ease with money.
  • I had some serious reservations about anything outside of traditional medicine. I was totally in a box about it. However, a time came when I finally climbed out of the box and saw a homeopathic doctor. WOW! She was able to crack some health issues for me that had caused me to suffer for years.
  • After having it come to me three times, I tried energy healing which seemed like wowo to me. I was able to heal from some childhood trauma and begin to regain boundaries. It wasn’t something I entered into lightly. I did considerable knee time in order to choose the right practitioner and remain safe. It was a short stint of work, but it was so important in my life.
  • After having a particular book on energy types come around three times, I finally read it. I had been totally uninterested because for over a decade I had heard about energy types at business meetings and I wasn’t all that impressed with the information. I was grateful that I finally listened to my inner voice about this particular book. It answered the question as to why I sometimes felt like two people in the same body. It also helped me appreciate my husband more.
  • After some years of resistance, I read two books on emotional healing, a thing that I didn’t put much stock into. They were written by women with very different spiritual outlooks. However, both were pivotal in my learning to communicate with my body, and it has made a difference in my health. I love my body and we now communicate. : )
  • I grew up in a family and an extended family of complainers. It was what everyone did. It was normal. But eventually, I heard from others that I admired, that complaining wasn’t an innocent pastime and caused problems in life. Well, I wasn’t ever going to be able to change that! But, eventually, I decided I could change.  I read a fabulous book and I have made changes. I am not perfect at this skill yet, but I am getting darn good.

Not everything that has come my way has been the right thing for me. I had to learn how to discern when to accept a new resource, idea, or thought. That is a skill that took time to learn. It isn’t wise to read every book, go to every class, listen to every friend, or accept that something you are doing is wrong on the say-so of another person.  So how can you know what to try and what to walk away from?

Tips for Discernment:

1. When confronted with a new idea, thought, tool, class, book, or another resource, I ask myself if there is really an issue it might address better than how I manage now. I look honestly and deeply at the situation. I ask myself hard questions and give myself honest feedback. It can be painful. This is, in itself, a skill that must be practiced. But over time you can get better at being honest with yourself.

2. If I think there might be some efficacy to experimenting, I counsel with my Higher Power to get questions answered and fears allayed. Then I decide to move forward. Since I’m not perfect at hearing the Spirit or my own inner voice, I may decide to walk away and then have the same information resurface again. If something comes my way three times, then I really do take notice and put more effort into learning about it and making a decision.

3. After I have made a decision, I take that decision, in prayer, to the Lord, and I ask him if what I have decided to do is going to be good for me and if now is the time.

4. If I have good feelings after that prayer, I go for it. Sometimes I feel moved to wait. I have had times when I have been told, “Not now.” Then later, sometimes years later, I am told to go for it. The truth is, no matter how good the information may be, you have to be ready to receive it. Occasionally, I know it is not for me, ever, no matter how good it is.

Let me share some examples:

A. I considered energy healing dangerous and dark. However, it kept coming up. I went through the process above sure that the answer not to become involved was correct. I got the opposite response to my prayer, and I was shocked. I was led to a safe and knowledgeable practitioner and did a short stint of work with her. I was able to clear up a situation with my dad who had been dead for over a decade. So freeing.

B. In the early 70’s I had three children and was a wreck. I didn’t know at the time that I was suffering from severe postpartum depression. I thought I was just a horrible person. One of my dearest friends suggested I read a parenting book. It was a New York Times bestseller and it changed many things for the better in her family.

I wasn’t as familiar with the process I have just outlined but I did pray. I knew clearly that reading this book was a bad idea for me. I didn’t know why, I just knew I wasn’t to read it. It wasn’t until a few decades later that I read the book. I was ready, but I could see how damaging it would have been for me back then, despite the great ideas it contained. I would have had my ‘badness’ confirmed.

Sometimes there is only one thing out of a whole class, book, doctor’s appointment, counseling or mentoring session, conversation with another trusted adult, etc. that you need, but that one thing has an impact that was worth whatever time or money it cost.

In the mid-eighties, I took the class Parenting with Love and Logic. I had so much baggage at that time that only one thing stayed with me. That one thing helped me manage our family during the drug years. It made ALL the difference when dealing with kids who were not manageable.

Other times, the entire resource can be life-altering, and is well worth your time and/or money.

My final words:

We need to hang on to what is working. There is always more than one way to do something right. We also need to be open to broadening our knowledge base. We need to jettison the fear of change. We need to be willing to grow. We need to trust ourselves that we can change and then be willing to experiment with new ideas and thoughts. We need to be discerning in how to move forward.

Be willing to learn, change, and grow. Your life will be better!

2022 Was Really HARD!

2022 was hard! There was a reason for that, and I was finally brave enough to tell you about it in last week’s article, Tracking Can Turn Your Life Around. The whole experience caused me to ask the question: “Why do things have to be hard and uncomfortable so often? After all, I am 73 and I have had a lifetime of hard. When will it get easier?” Please don’t think this is the first time I have pondered this question. I know the answer, and you probably do too. We are going to discuss it here, but the question rears its head every now and then, anyway.

I want to tell you about a church meeting I attended on January 8, 2023. At this meeting, people in our congregation had the opportunity to share some of their deep feelings about Jesus Christ and God. This information will apply even if you believe in a different higher power or none. So read on. : ) I always carry a small notebook because I never know when I will hear something I want to remember. This was one of those times!

Comment 1

A woman who teaches older grade school students spoke. She admitted that just before the holiday break she taught a math concept that was REALLY hard for her. During class one of her bright-faced children (her words) looked up and said, “This is too hard.” She replied, “I know, but that’s what’s going to make you great.” She went on to explain to us that this is what God does. He allows us to have hard experiences because when we learn from them, that is what makes us great. Note the phrase ‘when we learn’. It matters.

Comment 2

A man shared that in our congregation he has a friend who builds guitars. I know his friend, but I didn’t know he made guitars. His friend’s health has been failing but here he is, still building beautiful guitars. The man telling the story said that when he visited the guitar builder’s home and saw the workshop, he noticed a newly finished guitar. He said it was beautiful and glossy. At some point, he was able to strum on it and it sounded wonderful.

The guitar had some amazing curves. He asked his friend how in the world he got the wood to bend in this shape. He was told that the wood had to be submerged in water for some time. Then it was clamped onto a machine which heated it up. And voila, the perfect curves to make perfect music. Hmmm, doesn’t that sound like some of your weeks, months, or years? It certainly sounds like my 2022; in over my head, and then clamped down and heated up.

Comment 3

A third person said that she had learned that God gives perfect trials to imperfect people and that if we have faith, we learn and grow as we willingly embrace the hard thing. Pay attention to the words ‘willingly embrace’. Again, they matter.

These beautiful sentiments fit perfectly with what I experienced in 2022. When I finally willingly embraced the hardships of the year, I began to unravel the challenges and learn more about myself.

As I mentioned in last week’s article, in 2022 I had a story that was causing me a lot of grief. Here it is – There is no place in my life for me, I am invisible. I said it out loud in anger on occasion. After the passage of time and some serious thought and prayer, I was eventually able to see this story for what it was – a lie. I am still working on resolving why I was telling myself this story and structuring my days so that the story looked and felt true. I haven’t worked all of that out yet, but just knowing it wasn’t true has helped me stay out of resentment.

It took almost an entire year because:
•I was sure I already had the management of my stories down pat and I wasn’t yet open to
  learning at a deeper level.
I pushed against the hardship, rather than willingly embracing it so that I could learn.
I forgot the truth that I am 100% responsible for how my life feels and for my response to
it. I can’t control all the circumstances and people around me, but I can control myself.
When I was finally ready for the lesson it came. I am becoming greater for having had the
experience. I am wiser. I can manage my stories even better because I am a little less
cocky. : )

I wish I had gotten to this place earlier in the year. It took until November. I suffered and my family suffered. As I have said often enough, suffering is a choice. We suffer until we see our story, rewrite, or manage it, give up blame, and are willing to learn something new about ourselves.

Now when I find myself putting everything ahead of my own needs and my writing, I stop and say, “Mary Ann, this is a choice. If you are going to make it, you must be responsible for it, how it feels, and the consequences.”

I still choose to put myself and my writing last on occasion, but I am no longer resentful of my responsibilities or my family. I have chosen to be where I am, doing what I am doing. No one made me come to this place! I know this is about me and not them. As I unravel why this situation occurred, I am going to learn some amazing things about myself and my mission. I know it. I look forward to it.

Do You See the Relationship?

Do you see how this relates to the comments of those three sincere members of my church congregation? I know I have been placed where I am, in a challenging situation, because I am learning some life-altering things and practicing skills that I have used for a long time but needed to refine. I am growing as a person, as I come face to face with myself. My ‘greatness’ is increasing. : )

Do I like it? Not much. It was far more fun to travel the country teaching and speaking. It was more peaceful when it was just Don and me, alone in our own home and he was well. But I wasn’t growing like I have the last five years as a full-time caretaker to my 92-year-old mother, Don, and my 16-year-old granddaughter with severe cerebral palsy, in a four-generation home. And my growth, as I have shared it, has made a difference in the lives of others who are learning from me. It shortens their learning timeline and makes it more bearable as they learn.

Recently, I was reading an email from Amy Walker, an old mentor of mine. She told the story of a man she was helping as he built his business. One day, as he sat in her office, he came face to face with a huge challenge. In the middle of the stress, he stopped and said out loud – “I am at the perfect place, at the perfect time, having the perfect experiences, for my perfect good.” Amy was astounded that he had memorized this thought and could pull it out in the moment of need. She has since memorized this for herself. I have taped it to my computer, and I read it every day.

2022 was HARD. Nevertheless, I was in the perfect place, at the perfect time, having the perfect experience, for my perfect good. I still am. I am grateful.

 

P. S. When I sort out the reason for my untrue story, I will most assuredly share it with you. In the meantime, I will continue to practice what I know and watch my stories even more carefully. : )

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

Don began watching a series titled Limitless.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So, what are the skills?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You will feel so normal. LOL

Getting on top of the mess – A Lesson on Consistency

A few weeks ago,

I felt pressed to visit my friend, Judy, whose husband died last year, and I felt she needed something. After two days of this ‘pressing’ feeling, I went. I found that she was stressed out about her front yard and being able to manage it. One bush had a ton of grass growing around the base, and Judy could see it from her front window. She was reminded every day that it needed weeding.

Judy has always managed the front garden beds; her husband didn’t weed. Don ran the machines. : ) But he is gone, so the whole dynamic has shifted, leaving Judy feeling stressed. It wasn’t more than she was used to, but she was alone, and that complicated things in both her heart and mind.

She was also feeling a tad angry because no one had ever stopped to help her. When she was out front weeding, her neighbors would wave or honk as they drove by. Anger is a secondary emotion, and I believe what she was feeling was invisible as if she didn’t matter. I have been there, and I can relate. Our number one need is to be seen; to matter.

Anyway, I could see how simple it would be to get her yard in shape and maintain it. After all, I am the queen of consistency, which is a principle of power. : ) I talked to her about what I had learned from two hard years in the neighbor’s field. I had experienced that it didn’t matter how intimidating the job, with God all things are possible if we are consistent with small amounts of time.

I encouraged her to work in her yard in the morning for 20-30 minutes five days a week. Then I felt impressed to tell her that I would come on Monday and get her started. I did. Then I decided to go every day that week because people need to practice being consistent. They need support while developing a new habit or instituting a new system.

Judy and I were able to get almost the entire front bed done, and Judy felt great about it. We never worked over 30 minutes, in fact, most days, twenty. Judy said that this felt like something she could continue to do.

As I hugged her goodbye that Friday morning she mentioned that it would be great to have some accountability so she would keep going. : ) Isn’t this why we hire coaches and have best friends. LOL We all need support and accountability.

I texted her Monday and then again on Wednesday. She was staying consistent. By Sunday Judy had finished the last of the front beds. (She had decided to not take Saturday off.) We had only gotten started on that bed Friday, and it was a bit intimidating, with lots of grass. Way to go Judy!!

I have been practicing consistency since I was a mom with seven children. I wasn’t always consistent, but I have had to learn some hard lessons about the power of consistency. It’s not the BIG moves we make in life that make the difference; it is the small and simple things that we do consistently.

If consistency is not your forte, it can become so, I promise. I have learned how to be consistent; I have mentored many mothers and helped them become consistent, and I have been an accountability best friend often. I have seen this skill learned.

BUT, and this is a big BUT, you do not become consistent by working on all the places in your life that are a mess. You must choose one small place to begin. Maybe it is making your bed each morning no matter how tired you are or how badly you need to pee. LOL

Maybe it is having your family put their dishes in the dishwasher after every dinner meal. It might be doing the laundry on Thursday, no matter what. Possibly it is going to bed at the same time each night, regardless of what is left to do. I have had to practice ALL these things over the years and many more.

Here are five tips to get you started.

1. Pick one thing. What are you going to work on? For Judy, it was keeping the front garden beds weed-free. For me, right now, it is getting up at the same time each morning. What is your plan?

2. Know the steps you will take. Judy decided that each morning, five days a week, before noon, she would weed; unless it was raining, and then she gets a break. : )

For me, it is to make sure my alarm goes off at the same time each day, six days a week. Church begins late on Sunday, and I allow myself to sleep in.

3. Understand flexible consistency. When I first began talking about this idea, I got blank stares. I mean, if you are consistent, it is exactly the same every day, right? Well, within a consistent framework. Judy gives herself all morning to get it done. She hopes to be out in the yard by eight, but things happen.

I work with moms, and something is always happening! When I first coined the phrase, I was working with homeschool moms. For some, if they didn’t get school started by 8, they felt like failures. That kind of thinking does not help maintain consistency. Flexible consistency would say that you plan to begin school sometime between eight and nine-thirty. Flexible consistency fits a family better.

What flexible consistency does not mean is that you can do it or not. Don’t get confused. You do it every day.

4. Practice – not perfection. We will rarely if ever, be perfect at anything. I am darn good at self-management, but I am not perfect. I can hear my husband breathing a sigh of relief because I am VERY self-directed, and perfect would drive him nuts. LOL I get up at the same time most days. However, now and then, I don’t, for one reason or another. I do not panic. I simply get up on time the next day.

Even if you are not perfect, keep practicing. It is the simple act of consistently doing something the best you can that will, over time, make all the difference.

5. Get support and be accountable. That may mean a therapist, a mentor, or a coach. It could be your best friend who asks you how you are doing, or it might be a neighbor like I am to Judy. Support and accountability can make all the difference in your quest for consistency.

I am a list gal and have a list for every day and everything. I feel deeply accountable to my list because I want to cross it off. I don’t need a friend to check on me. The list does the job.

But a list would never work for my husband. He needs someone to be accountable to. That is what Judy needed. It doesn’t matter what works for you, find a way to be accountable and get support.

If you will pick one thing, know the steps, be flexibly consistent, practice the best you can, and get support and accountability, then you can become the queen of consistency in your life too, one thing at a time.

When you are consistent over the long haul you can make magnificent changes.

I promise!

Are You Up To Your Neck In Love?

Monday was my last day in Seattle.

The trip was a mixed bag, if I am honest. The kids and I had some great times, and I kept Gus worn out. : ) He had one nap and wanted another Saturday, but we were busy. This from a boy who has all but given up naps.

But as I said, it has been a mixed bag. I brought a deck of question cards which we used at meals and bedtime. It was hilarious and so much fun. BUT Sunday night, we had a zinger of a question – Tell me about an experience that helped you feel my love for you? Gus just laughed. Tessa said, “Well, you have let me snuggle with you.” She has slept with me every night. She wakes up in the wee hours and crawls in. You all know how kids spread out!

That has been part of the reason for Elliot’s answer –“Well, I haven’t gotten yelled at too much.” What? I don’t yell, but I have a stern voice that comes out when I am tired, frustrated, or at a loss about what else to do. My hormone replacement pills went missing for three days, which didn’t help, but he was right; I had some grouchy moments with everyone.

I went to bed that last night a little teary-eyed and thought about it. I mean, grandma’s want to be perfect, and frankly, I am not. There are moms who trust me and what I share here. I couldn’t let them think that I am super happy all the time, not ridged occasionally, always patient and upbeat, or that I don’t ‘yell.’ It wouldn’t be fair.

In fact, just yesterday, one of my clients said, “I saw some of your posts from Seattle. It looks like you had a wonderful time, and so did the kids. You are amazing.” And many Facebook comments were saying the same as if we had a perfect time and I was always smiling and fun and, well, perfect.

Those comments and what my client said stung a bit. Here is the truth – I am amazing, BUT I am also ordinary. I am just an everyday woman doing her best, and my best isn’t always enough. My best fluctuates.

Wouldn’t it be great to be perfect, to play all the time and like it, never to get tired and crabby, always to be cheerful and fun, never to use your ‘stern/yell’ voice. It would eliminate the worried nights when you know you haven’t been the way you want to be. But here we are, just ordinary people working to do the ‘extraordinary’ thing, caring well for others.

This doesn’t just happen to me when I wrangle three little kids at seventy-two years old. It happens at home, wrangling my mom and my husband and all the rest that goes with living in a four-generation household. I have been working on changing my way of being to be more charitable. That last night in Seattle, I felt as if I had made NO progress at all in decades. I mean, I still get grumpy, am impatient, and am not always long-suffering, kind, humble, well behaved, concerned with others rather than myself, grateful, not provoked, etc. I can list them off because I have them written on the first page of my scriptures. I look at the list regularly because, after all, it is my goal.

There is a space between stimulus and response. The thing that has changed for me over the years is that that space has gotten wider. I rarely go off now and wonder what happened. I know I am choosing. I see that space, and I feel myself making a choice. Sometimes that is harder and is a mixed blessing for sure, to know you chose to be uncharitable with those you love. Thank goodness God, and Christ love me despite my weakness.

Monday, my last day as caretaker for the kids, was good. I got them off to school with minimal chaos and lots of smiles and hugs. I managed Gus well, who was tired and a little grumpy. After school, we used our question cards, our goal was to ask them all, and we made it. : ) We had a great supper and laughed and talked. Then mom and dad came home, and happiness exploded all over everyone.

That last night in Seattle, as I lay in bed pondering the good and not so good times we had, I wondered how the grands would feel the next time I came to visit? It was a question mark in my mind. However, little kids are forgiving. They love unconditionally. A couple of weeks ago, I posted on Facebook about my grandma and the tough times we had because I was a bed-wetter. But I still loved her. I always wanted to go to her house.

I feel that is the case here because of what Tessa did on Sunday. We were in the kitchen, and I was fixing some food. She said, “Grandma, let me see how tall I am to you.” So we stood chest to chest, and she measured from her head to my body. It was right at my neck. Tessa laughed and said, “I am as high as your neck, grandma. You are up to your neck in love!”

I would rather not have written this article, but I cannot let my friends and fellow parents think I am perfect because I’m not. And neither are they. It isn’t fair to simply post pictures of smiling kids doing crafts, rollerblading, and all the rest. We have to support each other in our weaknesses and our strengths. So thanks for being here, reading what I write, believing my words, and allowing me to be honest. : ) I still work on my goal of a tender and softened heart, to feel charity every day. I suspect that I will get better and better. In fact, when I shared this experience with my daughter Jodie, she assured me that I was SO much different than when I was a young mom. Glad to know I am making progress even when it feels like I’m not.

So hang in there, keep working on yourself. Be consistent. It is a lifetime job. Don’t let discouragement get in your way.

Getting up when you fall, being consistent in your efforts pays off. Really!!

We All Need More Light

The other day when I went out to water the garden,

I had an interesting thing happen that reminded me that sometimes, we can be blind to what is right in front of us.

The backyard hose is attached to a faucet that uses groundwater. Then the hose snakes across the lawn, over a small fence, and into the garden where it connects to another faucet that waters the garden. When I water the garden, I do the same thing almost every day. First, I walk out to the back faucet and turn on the water. Then I go through the garden gate and turn on the second faucet which lets water into the garden.

On this day, Doug had unhooked the groundwater hose the day before to fill the swimming pool. He had connected it to the house faucet so that city water would be in the pool. I knew he was doing this. I saw the hose hanging over the side of the pool. Yet, I went over to the faucet, turned it on, and got a face full of water. What! I could see the hose wasn’t connected, but my brain did not switch gears from what I do almost every day to what was happening this day.

How can that even happen?

But this kind of thing does happen in everyone’s life. There are times when we don’t see what is right in front of us. We may behave in unhealthy or damaging ways to our family or ourselves and not even know it. We do what we have always done.

When we moved with Jodie’s family this last time, we had to build a kitchen for my family, where a storage room had been. Everyone tried to talk me out of the light I choose to go over the kitchen sink. After all, it was a bathroom fixture. I didn’t care, I loved how it looked, and it was so illuminating. Every time I use that light, I am amazed at how much better I can see. The odd thing is that I don’t always use this extra light. Sometimes I will be washing potatoes or doing dishes and think, “I have enough light.” And I do, sort of. Then I will have a change of heart and flip the switch that is right in front of me, and voila! I can see so much better. There are other times when I know that I need more light, and I hurriedly flip the switch. I am always shocked at how much better I can see and how much more efficiently I can do whatever job I am doing because the details are more apparent.

This happens in life, in parenting. Wouldn’t it be nice to have all the information and knowledge we need no matter what came up? But we don’t. Often it takes time for us to determine that we lack the knowledge we need to do a better job of whatever it is. It can take a great deal of time before we realize that something we are doing may be harmful or counterproductive. For example, it took me almost ten years to understand that raging wasn’t a great way to manage problems and another ten to find the resources and support I needed, the light, to make a permanent change.

Often, when we realize that we have a lack of knowledge or skill, we beat ourselves up. When we find that our behavior is harmful, we feel tremendous guilt and shame. That is as foolish as me berating myself because I didn’t turn on my sink light right away or because I didn’t ‘see’ that the hose had been disconnected. Beating ourselves up and wallowing in shame and guilt for not having needed knowledge and resources is counterproductive. Instead, we should search for whatever resource will help turn on the light and make the details for change clearer.

‘Seeing’ Clearly Can Make ALL the Difference!

In my life, there have been times when I have said, “I can see fine.” I would keep moving forward and struggling because the truth was, the hose was unhooked, but I didn’t see it. Sometimes we cannot see what is right there in plain sight. We need help. It isn’t that we are inadequate, or stupid, or uncaring. We lack the information we need. Eventually, I would reach out for help via a friend, a book, or other resources. Sometimes it would be a class. Then the details became more evident, I made changes, and life got better in that one thing.

When I finally understood that I should stop yelling I didn’t know how. I couldn’t just stop. I needed to ‘see’ what was causing me to rage and how I could make a change. The first resource came in the form of a neighbor who offered me a pamphlet on anger management. That was very embarrassing but was the first step in changing my life and the lives of my children and husband.

Now, when I realize that I have a weakness or am erring somehow, I rejoice. I do not allow guilt to crowd in. I do not wallow in shame. I do not beat myself up! After all, I can’t change what I cannot see. When I do finally ‘see,’ I reach out. I look for the switch I need so I will have more light. I begin with prayer. I ask for help, and resources always come.

When you find yourself in the dark or semi-dark, STOP feeling like a failure. Instead, look for the switch, which is never too far away, and flip on the light. If you find yourself with a face full of water, so to speak, look for the hose and get it connected.

We do not need to be sprayed in the face over and over again. We do not need to work in darkness where we cannot see the details. Light can be ours, and it will lead us to change and growth. Really!!

Help a friend to ‘see’ more clearly.

Share the light. : ) 

I Am a Pathmaker and So are You!

I was afraid of everything!

I had few boundaries! There were good reasons that I found myself in this place as a mother; sexual abuse, controlling adults, fear brought on by the cold war, and the upheaval of civil unrest, a belief that I shouldn’t have been born. Life and the future felt uncertain. I had no way to make sense of what was happening in my world and the larger world, no one to talk to about it, and it added to the fear I had held inside since I was a toddler.

Although I was a good driver, I was too afraid to drive myself to college in Utah and home again to Colorado. I hired friends to drive. I worried about getting a ticket because I was afraid of getting in trouble. My experience had taught me that getting in trouble on any scale brought painful consequences.

Because of fear and boundary issues, it was challenging to advocate for my children in school and elsewhere. In addition, it was hard to discipline correctly. I believe this was one reason I raged. Anger helped mask the fear so that I could stand up for myself and my rules.

I had never felt like an adult. I couldn’t call any adult by their first name, even if I was older than they were. I had no confidence in myself, which was a tragedy of sorts because I was quite an extraordinary person.

That was a boatload of stuff to carry

into parenting.

How does a person parent when they are carrying so much baggage? Well, you do your best, and you run away a lot. I did that by becoming an excellent cake decorator, I taught community classes, I was president of the Band Parents and other groups, I served on boards, and I traveled the state teaching for the Girl Scouts. These activities masked my sense of worthlessness, but my emotionally running away wasn’t healthy for my family. As my children entered their teens, they were also wounded. We all suffered.

Recently, Don and I were having a conversation about my college years and the challenges of being so afraid and lacking any belief in my ability to make good choices. He said, “Well, you are more than over that now.” Truer words were never spoken.

How did I heal? How did I begin to understand boundaries and put them into my life? How did I stop raging? How did I cast off victimhood and begin to believe in myself?

I prayed a lot! I sought resources, and help came. I read books, lots of them, and attended classes. I looked for friends who were healthier than I, who had healed. I practiced what I learned. I was consistent in my efforts. I began speaking to and about myself with charity. I made a list of all those who had ever hurt me, and I forgave them, even my abuser. I asked them to forgive me for holding on to the pain for so long. I stopped being a victim in my mind. I began to believe that I was 100% in control of my responses. I’ll never forget the day that this truth finally sank into my heart. It made ALL the difference. The day I knew this was true, I had my power back.

While Reading Isaiah, the Light Came On

One day, early in my healing, I was studying Isaiah in the Christian Holy Bible. At the time, I was very new to the idea that I could heal, that I wasn’t a victim, that I had worth, that I was the mother of my children by design and not by accident, and as imperfect as I was, it would be enough. I read these verses – “And the Lord shall guide thee continually, and satisfy thy soul in drought, and make fat thy bones: and thou shalt be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters fail not. And they that shall be of thee shall build the old waste places: thou shalt raise up the foundations of many generations; and thou shalt be called, The repairer of the breach, The restorer of paths to dwell in. Isaiah 58: 11-12

These words burned into my heart and soul – this was my mission in life – to heal myself and help others heal. I was a pathmaker. This knowledge was life-changing for me, and I stopped feeling bitter; I stopped feeling angry. I stopped being a victim, and I began my search for healing in earnest.

Some years later, when things got tough in our family, and I felt as if we would fly apart at the seams, I had a dream. I was flying over a beautiful valley. I was dressed in white, and my skirt was flowing in the breeze. My hair was blowing back, and I felt free and happy. Eventually, I noticed that boxes, bags, satchels, and trunks were falling to the earth from my body. Then I awoke.

I immediately knew the interpretation of this dream. I was being reminded that I was a pathmaker. I was healing myself with the help of Christ, and it would heal my family going forward and backward. I knew this with every fiber of my soul. It didn’t make the journey easier, but it kept me on the journey. I had my license plates changed to say Pathmaker.

Each day I recite these words – The Savior is healing me as I release old wounds and baggage. He softens my heart. As I heal, I am healing generations. I feel blessed to be helping free my family, myself, and others.

A year ago, I met a relative I didn’t know existed. She is a painter, and I told her about my dream. She painted it for me, and it hangs on my office wall. Every day I repeat the above words out loud, and I look at my painting.

I have made enormous progress. I am no longer afraid; I am brave; I can stand up for myself and others. I have boundaries, and I keep them. I know when to sacrifice and when to walk away. I know who I am and my value in the world. I trust myself to make good choices and to help others do the same.

We can change anything!

I am living proof of this.

Pray for guidance to healing. Let go of victimhood. Seek good resources, and they will come. Practice what you learn. Speak kindly to yourself, and about yourself. Forgive others. Believe that you are 100% in control of how you respond. There is no timeline for healing. It will take what it takes. For me, this healing and change took decades. Change didn’t come easily or quickly, but it came just the same.

I am now 71. Am I done? No. Healing and helping others is like an onion. There is always a new layer. Find joy in this journey. You can do it. You can be whole!

What about your family, those who suffer because you have baggage

Well, as I see in real-time, they will do the same. Your children will follow your example, and they will heal faster than you.

One day, one of my sweet daughters, who was also sexually abused, talked about the healing process she was going through. She was barely in her 30’s. I was in my 50’s and all my children were gone from home. I wailed, “How did you do it. Why did it take me so long? Why couldn’t I get better faster, so you were safer?” I felt such grief. Then she said, “Mom, I am healing faster because you were healing first. It has made my way easier.”

So let go of your worry. Do the best you can. Trust yourself and God that you can be whole. Trust your children that they will also do the work we all have to do. Then keep changing and growing. Healing and growing are each of our ultimate missions.

Choose one thing to start with, just one.
•Pray for direction
•Seek useful resources, whether a person, a book, a class, etc. Then practice what you learn. Be consistent in your efforts.
•Practice speaking to and about yourself with charity.
•Forgive one person who has harmed you, and then ask them to forgive you for holding on to the hurt. (This process is not done in person with others. If this is the step you choose, reach out to me, and I will send you a free PDF giving you directions.)
•Accept 100% responsibility for your responses to whatever is happening. When you feel like a victim or lose control, and you will, forgive yourself and begin again.

It doesn’t matter which thing you begin with. Just choose one and begin. Then stay the course no matter how long it takes. When you feel more confident, not perfect but more confident, in that one thing, choose another. If I can heal, you can heal. If you can heal, your children and family can heal. Healing and growth are lifelong processes that we all have, no matter the extent of our wounds.

So, begin!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Point of the Story

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

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

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

How Did It Turn Out?

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

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

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

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

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

 

Change Looks Like Failure First!

Change can be hard. One reason that change is so challenging is that we misunderstand what change actually looks like and we also misunderstand the time that is required for change.

I have read many books on change. There is the standard – it takes 30 days to create a new habit. If we are talking about making our bed daily or exercising every morning then that is probably true. But if we are talking about changes that involve our character or our ability to respond differently in times of stress then maybe, just maybe, it will take more.

When I wanted to stop yelling that required a huge mind shift. I had to come to believe that I could actually stop yelling, that it was in my power to make that change. Accepting that fact took a few years.

Then I had to figure out what to do besides yell because it’s easier to replace a behavior than to stop a behavior. Once I knew what I was going to do instead of yelling I had to practice, practice, practice.

And here is where it’s important to understand what change looks like. Change looks like failure long before it looks like success.

Steps to Change

Step One – Realize that you need to make a change.

Step Two – Begin to believe that it is within your power to make a change.

Step Three – Determine what needs to change. Let me give you an example. I needed to get a handle on my complaining. It wasn’t that I wasn’t happy but the words of complaint just kept falling out of my mouth. It’s just too hot! I don’t know why you can’t put your socks in the hamper. I wish the prices weren’t so high. Why won’t my hair just do what I want it to? This meat is overcooked.

When I had this conversation with a friend, she said, “Well, everyone does that!” She is right but that doesn’t make it a healthful or useful practice. I knew that if I controlled what came out of my mouth I would experience far more moments of happiness during the day.

I determined that I needed to express gratitude more often and I did this by using a small notebook where I wrote down what I was grateful for as I went through the day. I also had a second small notebook where I recorded my complaints. Then I would tear up those pages each night. These exercises may seem simple and even silly but they kept my mind on what I wanted to do instead of what I had been doing.

Step Four – Make a firm commitment to doing the work and giving it all the time required. I can always tell when I only wish I was different or hope to be different and when I am committed. That is key. You have to have a firm intention that no matter what it takes, how long it takes or how discouraging it feels you will keep going.

The Process of Change

A – Realize that you will continue to do the very thing you want to change. This is the step where change looks and feels like failure. When I was working to replace yelling with self-control I would often yell. Right after I yelled I would think in my mind, “Rats. I yelled. I don’t want to yell anymore!” I would feel bad and I would feel like a big failure at this self-control thing.

However, I eventually came to understand that every time I recognized that I had errored, gave up blame and took responsibility for my actions and then determined to do better, I was making progress.

B – Stop. Eventually, I would stop in mid-yell. I would mentally catch myself and reverse course. This entailed a fair amount of apologizing. It was uncomfortable but it was progress. I caught myself and made an adjustment.

C – Change. Finally, I would think about yelling and I wouldn’t. I would choose to respond differently. It felt wonderful when I began to experience this step more often. That didn’t mean that I didn’t fall back to step three and four; I did, for a long time. But eventually, I found myself staying in control more often.

It Takes Time to Change Our Way of Being

Here is another place where people in the process of change find themselves in trouble. We think that if it takes 30 days to develop a new habit then that should equate to change but it doesn’t. The kinds of change that I’m talking about, those that make us better people and parents, are changes not just in what we do but in our very being, our character and that requires time.

It took me ten years from the time I realized that yelling was not a good coping skill or parenting tool to consistently staying in control. And the truth is, I can, on occasion, still find myself yelling. It is a lifetime work for me. However, if I had bought into the idea that I needed to accomplish this significant change in 30 days or one year or even five years, well, I might have given up and never made it to where I am today.

My current project, giving up complaining, has been in process for over six years. Sometimes I feel discouraged. But I express gratitude more often than in the past, even though I still complain. I am making progress.

Changing our way of being, who we are, how we respond, doesn’t have to take ten years or even six. But if it does, hang on and keep working.

As Nelson Mandela said,

Your shares are the very best compliment. I also love hearing from you so PLEASE leave a comment.

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.

Your Shares are the BEST Compliment. : )