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Thursday, July 28, 2011

I Know What it Means to have Plenty

I have something hidden deep in my heart. It's a secret. It's a concern. It's a situation that seems to never end. I can't hardly shake it - how can it when it's my reality? But when the weight of it gets too hard to carry, when I'm about to drop out emotionally, I get a day like yesterday.

Another week had gone by and once again the Tribe managed to devour every ounce of food we purchased just days ago.
Thank goodness it was grocery shopping day the cupboards needed to be filled.
Desperately.
Now I don't know if you enjoy grocery shopping - to me it seems like an endless, winless game.
I buy it they eat it.
I buy more they eat more.
It never ends.

But then I got good news.
An opportunity. January and February just looked a little brighter.

And then I got a message. Would I like some free sweet corn?
<----------This is what I got!
(Maybe a good 10 dozen!)

And then another call. Come over for a special delivery. A thoughtful gift.

We gathered the kids round the table. Shared with them all the good news, all the blessings we received. A job. An offer. A gift. More corn than we could possibly eat in a day. The prayer that evening was certainly heartfelt as we literally had quite a bounty by the end of the day.

I woke with a bare kitchen and went to bed with an abundance! and that's what I needed. My psyche needed a little boost. I little reminder that it is ok! it will be ok. Isn't it always?

I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. (Philippians 4:12 NIV)

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Not Heading to Reality TV Anytime Soon!

(this article originally appears in the 7/26 edition of The Review Atlas as a part of my weekly Practical Parenting series)

My teenage daughter is convinced that our tribe could be the world's next great reality T.V. family. And by convinced I mean she doesn't just think it's a great idea or that it would be fun, she actually interrupts the ebb and flow of our home life to suggest, "See? The audience would eat this up!"

There's two immediate problems with her idea. One, she's deluded to think we are even remotely interesting and two, my hairstyle is much too normal to be ridiculed and/or imitated by the masses.

Last night during dinner, while six of us were crammed around the tiny kitchen table and I was denying for the umpteenth time my preteen son's relentless request to join Facebook, my daughter pointed out how comical the conversation would play out on our show. She may have even gone so far as to suggest camera angles. That's when my drama queen twins' chimed in, faked a few tears and pleaded "Yes, Mommy! Pleeeeeeease? Please can't we have our own show? Why won't you let us have our own show?" "See?" my teenager smugly said. "This would be great stuff!"

Sure kids, I'll pick up the phone and drop TLC a line. I'm certain we could be in their new line up by this fall. While the idea is ridiculous, it never ceases to amaze me how different of a world my children are growing up in than I did.

When I was a kid (I swore I'd never say that!) my friends had to call my house, get through busy signals and ask my parent's permission to see if I could talk on the phone! If I was granted permission I had to stretch the cord ten feet into the pantry in effort to have a semi private conversation! Now kids have their own cell phones and parents have lost all awareness as to who their child is talking to.

When I was a kid you got up early on Saturday morning to watch cartoons. Now we have entire channels dedicated to airing any and all types of cartoons twenty four hours a day. If I wanted to relay juicy gossip to a classmate I wrote it down in a note, folded it neatly in the shape of a tulip or star and passed it to them - by hand!  Now we've reached an era where over forty states have dropped teaching cursive handwriting in schools because kids don't write anymore! They can text at the speed of light!

We were so un-technologically advanced we used our thumb to manually advance our camera film, (completely unaware if we'd taken quality pictures), take it to the local pharmacy and wait two weeks to see the results. Today's cameras can take your photo and instantly publish it to the social media outlet of your choice.

In my day, my parents borrowed a video camera from a friend for special events and today anyone with a smart phone can take video with a simple push of a button.  You can upload it to YouTube in a nanosecond and broadcast yourself to the entire world. Justin Bieber and laughing babies have taken the internet by storm thanks to amateur home videographers.


Our Jon & Kate Halloween Costumes 2009
What used to be private is now public. What used to be important is now common. And what used to require patience is now instantaneous. While I'm flattered that my daughter would share a screen with me if she could, I'm concerned with her infatuation to broadcast her life as if she deserves an audience.

Aren't the magazines full of enough not-so-innocent starlets soaking up they're five minutes in the spotlight? Isn't it ok anymore to be simple? Good? Humble? And if it is how can I teach that to my daughter when her Twitterfeed is full of the foolishness of girls who are famous for nothing more than being famous?

I'll not be channeling my inner Kate Gosselin anytime soon. I have no desire, much to my children's chagrin, to be the next famous T.V. family! Why would I invite the world to witness our chaos, my OCD tendencies or the sorry excuse of a family pet we call Libby?  Instead I'm going to spend the next few years making sure that in the midst of a YouTube culture my children understand that a good life is one that is lived well when nobody is watching you! Why? Because I'm the (very un-famous) mom and I said so! That's why!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

On Being on Summer Break

 
  7 days in a week
+6 blaring television sets
+5 bored kids
+4 long baseball tournaments
+3 hot n humid months of summer break
+2 many trips to the grocery store
+1.5 bathrooms

=1 harried mother


What do you do when you're about to lose your mind? Do tell...

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Having Hope

Wordle: HOPEI personally think that the absolute hardest thing to ever come to in your life
no matter who you are,
where you are
or
how much money you make is the day when you realized you've lost hope.
Have you ever felt like you lost every ounce of hope you were clinging to?

Grief is painful.
Breakups hurt.
Sickness destroys ... all of these are terrible but I think they pain they offer is often compounded by an abandonment of hope.

If the day comes when you realize you've stopped believing.
When you have convinced yourself you'll never get around that corner.
When you don't believe tomorrow will be better and you realize your hand has let go and released all your dreams.... I think those are the worst days.

I've found, however, that hope is very surprising. Hope has snuck up on me from time to time.
One day, you can fully believe that you were wrong,
that that thing will never happen for you,
that it's not going to get better and
this is as good as it will get and the next moment briefly, seemingly out of nowhere
it dawns on you that
you forgot you stopped believing.

Like a flicker of a light inside your mind calling to your heart.

Believe.
Don't give up.
Hope.

You turn your head ever so slightly and let the weight of the moment roll over you. The experience is so foreign to you, you've been kicked down so long, you dare to wonder if it's real.
Well, I want you to know that it is real.
It's hope.
That is the way hope works.
She's sneaky.
She pops in in an instant and double-dog-dares you to reach out and grab hold.

So friend I say grab ahold. Take you hand, reach out and wrap your five fingers around that four letter world and hold on for dear life.

Listen, there are times in life when we all find ourselves
stretched,
broke,
sick,
lost or
misunderstood.
We can't avoid those seasons.

So when you're lost - nurture hope.
When you're afraid - have hope.
When you're sick - be hopeful.
When you're hurting - hope evermore.

Hope makes all the difference in the world. Do not let go of her. Nestle her in the pocket of your heart if you must but keep her close by.
Hope doesn't disappoint.

There is surely a future hope for you, and your hope will not be cut off. (Proverbs 23:18 NIV)

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Encourage Reading Anyway You Can!

(this article originally appears in the 7/19/11 edition of The Review Atlas as a part of my Practical Parenting series)

http://www.flickr.com/photo8/
 I can always tell who the last one to sit in the bathroom is based on what reading materials are left next to the toilet. Never mind that I have a basket set up that holds all sorts of books, crossword puzzles, maps and magazines to keep all periodicals organized, my family regularly neglects to return their reading materials to their proper organizational container. This tends to drive me as crazy as when they refuse to reload the toilet paper holder the proper way; with the paper hanging over not under!

I wonder if my family will kill me for discussing our bathroom habits publicly?

Truth is while I get aggravated that my kids don’t put stuff back where they found it I am more pleased that they are reading. Even in the bathroom? Yep, even in the bathroom!

Around five years of age children learn to read and for most of them this can be a very exciting time. Kids’ eyes become open to the exciting world of print and they begin to notice words on everything from commercials to food packages and street signs to remote controls. They become voracious readers and have an innate drive to read as much as they can.

So what happens? Where did all that love for reading go? Shouldn’t we be surrounded by a plethora of adults who long for books and information? Why aren’t all our noses stuck in a good novel? Why do we love reading when we learn how to do it but abandon that same affection as we grow older?

A shift happens, shortly after we master the skill, when reading stops being entertaining and becomes primarily educational in purposes. In the beginning, a book contains story and wonder but soon we assign reading for homework, for retention and for good grades. Reading is no longer pleasurable but a chore and for many that association is so overwhelming that they lose the drive and, sadly the time, to read for enjoyment. Reading becomes work. Hard work.

And that’s precisely why I have strategically placed books in our bathroom.  I believe children, who can read, will read if parents accommodate two basic needs: interest and accessibility.

Since we understand that reading greatly enhances our children’s success at school, parents should make sure books are available to their children. Sometimes we must be very sneaky about it (i.e. my bathroom). If your child does not love reading you should evaluate where reading materials are placed in your home. Take the kitchen table for example, how many of us sit and read the same cereal box over and over? Why? Because we are a captured audience and there is nothing else to do so we read what’s in front of us! A discerning mom once told me her trick to get her kids reading at breakfast. She keeps a pile of newspapers, advertisements and junk mail on her kitchen table. Her kids stopped fighting because they are too interested in reading the comics and want ads! Brilliant!

Kids, even those that say they hate reading, will pick up a magazine that captures their attention. Parents should know what interests their children and set out corresponding items. Think beyond books. Imagine setting out Sudoku, word searches, magazines, newspapers, junk mail and comic books. Sometimes we mistakenly believe that if our children are not reading the latest Newbery Award winner that they are not reading.

This is not so! Some of the most popular items read in my home today are picture encyclopedias, collectible pricing guides, how to draw, Guinness world record and movie books. These books, while a far cry from the classics, are devoured by my children. When parents take the time to make available reading materials that match a child’s interest they find that the amount of time spent reading rises significantly.
Children who are encouraged to read for fun are more likely to make room in their lives for reading than those who feel that reading is purely academic.

So when the house plan book is left out I know my husband’s been in the bathroom, Dr. Seuss books indicate the twins have been visiting and when I find the sports section of the paper I know it’s my sons who have been sitting on the throne. Each time I go into the bathroom I mumble under my breath as I straighten up the hand towels, wipe dried toothpaste out of the sink and pick up the books left on the floor.  But then I stop and remind myself to be thankful that they are reading.

If, by the way, you think I’m being unfair neglecting to mention my periodical of choice when I’m in the bathroom, well you’re a little na├»ve. Mother’s of young children don’t have time to read in the bathroom. Every time I sit down someone inevitably yells, “MOM!” and pounds on the locked door. How do I know? Because I’m a mom and I live that reality everyday! That’s how!

Monday, July 18, 2011

"I Am" - a guest post

Friends,
Today I am happy to have my first guest post! Meet Stacia Mattan. Stacia is the author of a new blog "Clinging to Cool". She lives in the same small town I do, our paths cross often on the school yard and she's pretty all-around fantastic. Stacia is writing a better story with her life. She, like many of us, didn't get the lot in life she imagined. What makes her stand above the crowd is her distinct ability to keep moving, make the most of it, laugh in the face of danger and advocate for autism.
I hope you enjoy this heartfelt blog.
Stephanie



I Am.

One night, a couple of years ago, it was that time of night most parents dread. The hours between dinner and bedtime when you are trying to wrangle tired children into the bath and settle them down in the hope that they will eventually fall asleep and give you a breather. My son was nearly 4 at the time. His autism was pretty severe then. In fact, at 4 he was only just beginning to speak to us. He was mostly silent until age 3. From 3 to 4 he spoke in a combination of cave-man speak and lines from TV shows. At 4, small sentences were starting to come and we would get the occasional glimpse into his amazing mind. However.. communication was very slow to come. His mounting frustration over the inability to understand and be understood resulted in behaviors, episodes, meltdowns that were so awful I can barely speak of them.

After one especially harrowing meltdown - I sat on one end of couch in silence. My husband sat on the other end. Our son sat between us, seemingly oblivious to my tears and totally engrossed in the task of spinning the wheels on his toy car.

I looked at my husband and very quietly said "I hate autism".

My son, without looking up, said "I am autism". I'll let that sink in for a moment.








I mean, this kid had barely spoken an original thought to me in his life. His main reason to speak at all was to get his needs met "Milk" "Cookie" "Read book" "Go out". And now, he drops this bomb on me.

And I won't lie. It made me feel like crap. As if I didn't already feel like the worst mother in the world... this really put me over the edge.

But it needed to be said. With those three words, I realized that I can't compartmentalize my son. I can't hate the autism but love the child. He is the sum of his parts. I mean, how would I feel if someone said "I hate women...but you're ok"?

I had to learn to love ALL of him. I don't mean tolerate, I mean love. And some days autism is not very loveable.

His words resonated with me long after that day on the couch. I think I am not alone when I confess that I am a very harsh critic when the subject matter is me. For years, I could see the best in everyone else, but when it came to myself I saw everything I didn't like. I was too fat, too short, too pale. I laughed too loud, made jokes at inappropriate times, tried too hard to be the center of attention. I wasn't athletic enough, brave enough, coordinated enough. But after having my children... and especially after John's poignant declaration on the couch... I decided I will no longer hate parts of me. Because I can't hate parts of me, and still claim to like myself.

If I impart nothing else to my children, I want them to love themselves. I want them to have a life where they don't look to others for validation. So I choose to lead by example. I strive every day to show my children that I have self confidence. That I am imperfect and love myself anyway.
I am flawed.
I am overweight.
I am loud.
I am pale.

but

I am funny.
I am smart.
I am kind.
I am hopeful.
I am generous.
I am loving.
I am all the parts of me.
I am. Me.


Stacia, Jon & Molly: Imperfect and Happy

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Kyla's Not Normal: Blogs, Blogs, Blogs

Kyla's Not Normal: Blogs, Blogs, Blogs: " So, I've just spent the last few days catching up on my backlog of blogs I follow updates. They really stacked up while I was gone. Who kn..."

This is an excerpt of a mention from a follower. Check out her blog ....
Thanks Kyla!

Guest Post

I have scheduled my first guest post to go up tomorrow! So excited! Stay tuned!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Take me Out to the ballgame!

While some stand and stretch at the 7th inning to sing this classic-as-apple-pie song, I'm stalling, staying in the air conditioning vacuuming! Yes! That's right doing housework! Because cleaning my floors in the cool beats sweating at the ballpark! I'm not standing and singing, eating popcorn or peanuts ... No, this weekend is my 12 year olds HOME tournament for All Stars. That means I can come home in between games! and I am. I'm home, plunking out a blog, sweeping dog hair off the floor and making gallons of sweet tea. I have 35 minutes until I have to be back at the park (volunteering in the concession stand thank you very much Mr. Sikorski -not!).
Take me out to the ball game??
No thank you?
More like Make me go out to the ball game!
Ah! The price of motherhood!

btw the following are photos taken by my extremely bored 6 yr old twins who I kept occupied when I allowed them to take some pictures with me camera! enjoy!







Friday, July 15, 2011

Begonias

These lovely Begonias are the centerpiece on my kitchen table. I find myself here today reading through my Facebook newsfeed and getting caught up on two days worth of Twitter timeline. It's a new day today....Friday at that. I guess you could say it's not been one of my best weeks. I've certainly had better. There's a lot I've not done well in the last for days (you'll save me the pubic embarrassment and forgive me if I don't bullet point the low points, right?). Some weeks are like that aren't they? No matter how hard you try you just can't make a darn thing actually come together ... and since I'm a do-er ... doing all I can and getting no results really, really frustrates me. But this morning my coffee and these Begonias are my sanctuary. Instead of forcing an upbeat blog I submit this .... my real life, real confession and the one and only Begonia plant I've managed to keep alive! Well, there's something to be happy about, eh? TGIF!

What are you happy to have accomplished this week even if it's crazy big or ridiculously small?

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Singing Ke$ha


These are my twins. They are 6 years old. They love music. Particularly Ke$ha ... don't hate on that ... I'm fully aware her lyrics are a bit ...ahemmm, mature for my sweet little ones, however, at least they don't know ALL the words and let's face it this is just too darn cute. I think I actually paused cooking dinner for the Tribe (now that's really saying something!) to catch this mini-performance on camera.

If you're a parent of young children I'd love to hear how you deal with inappropriate lyrics on the radio?

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Children need Loveys, Parents need to be Lucky

(this article appears in the 7/12/11 edition of the Review Atlas as a part of my weekly Practical Parenting series)

When Chinka is missing my entire house gets turned upside down in search of her whereabouts. It’s true. All seven of us must immediately stop what we are doing and search frantically for her. And by frantically I mean fever pitch full tilt effort! Who is Chinka? Glad you asked.

Chinka is life sized, white, stuffed cat and she is my six-year-old’s lovey. Chinka is filthy, ragged, old and missing a nose. She’s literally been loved till it hurts. Chinka is also precious and extremely imperative to my daughter’s healthy sleeping habits (and mine by association)!

If you’re a parent you understand what I am talking about. Some studies indicate that almost 70% of all children have become attached to a special doll, animal, pacifier or blanket and child development experts say that it is a healthy habit.

Many parents worry that children who are attached to loveys are showing signs of stress or anxiety but actually the opposite is true. Most children use their items of affection as a transitional tool, that is, it becomes a way to help them cope during stressful situations. When mom or dad must leave for work, for example, a lovey can offer reassurance during that difficult goodbye. Many children rely on special blankets and stuffed animals particularly during the night as a way to cope from being away from their parents while sleeping.
Experienced moms have duplicate loveys in case one ever goes missing but this plan can often backfire as parents usually have no influence over what item becomes a favorite. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, most children choose for themselves a security item between the ages of eight and twelve months. That means parents must be crafty and observe when a child is showing signs of attachment. It’s the smart ones that go out and buy four backup blankies in case one ever gets misplaced.

If only it were that easy.

Most children intuitively believe their animal or blankie posses a unique essence or life force. Your child may or may not understand that their item is not alive but regardless they will treat it as if it is. Which is why I have never been able to pull off a successful bait and switch when Chinka goes missing.

Interestingly, a study done at the University of Bristol in March of 2007 found that children can tell the difference between their lovey and an exact replica. In the experiment children ages 3-6 years old were asked to bring their attached item to a lab where they were shown a copier cabinet that could duplicate any item put inside. In one box a green block was placed and within moments a second, identical block appeared in a neighboring cabinet. Children were then asked if they would place their item in the cabinet. Of the 22 children who did have attachment objects, four stubbornly refused to allow them to be copied at all. Of the 18 who did let their precious items be copied only five opted to keep the "duplicate".

All this information is a very, sharp double-edged sword. It means parents who have children with loveys don’t have to worry that their children are showing signs of some sort of psychological turmoil unless of course that very same item should ever become lost…which of course it will. I know because my whole world has shifted on it’s axis once or twice when Chinka has been missing.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (I wonder; do they have kids?) remind us that security blankets are just a natural part of growing up and will eventually be given up. The only trauma comes when we tease our children about their item of affection or pressure them to let go of them before they are ready.

So good luck mom and dad. I hope you never experience the neuroticism that comes when your child becomes attached to a lovey. I hope you never loose it, accidentally wash it or sell it at a garage sale. And God forbid if you do ….well, you too can join my club and kiss your sweet dreams goodbye. Why? Because I’m the mom and I said so! That’s why!

Monday, July 11, 2011

19 Years & Counting

Happy Anniversary, Darling!


1992
  
1993


1998

2004




2005

2009

2010

and now!



Saturday, July 9, 2011

Story Elements - Scene (pt 2)

So now that you understand the importance of scene in a story and in your life (if you don't review yesterday's blog entry) now what?

The way I see it most of us either:
a. like the scene just fine right where we are
or
b. wish the Big Director in the sky would yell "Cut!" and a big arm on a ? would slam down.

I bet most of us would go with b.
But it's just a hunch.
I used to wallow in that kind of thinking too:
  • if I only didn't live in this small town
  • if I only I had a different house
  • if only I had a different job
  • if only I had a different life
  • if only ...
  • if only ... 
  • if only ...
So here's what I recommend: if you need your scene to change...change it. We have the ability to write on our own story, you know. God may be the ultimate author but remember he gave us the power of choice and free will. We can choose to make a difference. We can choose to try a new thing. We can choose to move across country and get a fresh start. We can choose.

Some of us are just afraid to.
What if I get it wrong?
What if it wasn't God's will?
What if ....

What if it is His will? What if some changes require us to be actively involved in the process? Instead some of us get stuck staring up at the sky for change to happen as if it's miraculous. Sure miracles happen but your bush is on fire, your donkey talks to you or you're a virgin about to give birth to the Messiah, I'm pretty sure it's ok for you to make a choice and set a course for your future.

If you get it wrong .... or if you actually do make a bad decision ... well, if your heart is set towards your Maker will it have been a mistake? or will it be a part of your story that He uses to show you the power of redemption and mercy? (what's that? stay tuned, we'll get to that part of the story too!)

There's one more thing: some scenes you can't change. We need to recognize that. This is very important. Many of us spend time regretting things that while they may indeed be regrettable, aren't changeable.
You can't change the past.
You cannot.
You can't not marry that person, ungive birth, erase that experience off your resume, change who your parents were or who you were when you drank too much...

Changing the scene in your life doesn't require changing where you have been....it's changing where you are going. If you need it.

I believe it's possible to learn to be content in the scene of life you are living now. I believe you can come to grips with all that's happened to bring you to this point and I believe you can have hope for the future story yet untold.

Because scene is important. If you don't like the scene being created in your story do something about it. Create a better one surrounded by the people you love, the people who love you. Because without a scene there is no story to be told.


Friday, July 8, 2011

Story Elements - Scene

image from disney-desktop-wallpaper.com
Every story has a scene.
Scene is where the story takes place.
Some stories have many different scenes.
Some stories have a scene.
There cannot be a story without a scene.
It's true, have you every watched a movie and the screenplay happened nowhere? Of course not! A story has to happen somewhere!

The Bible, like any good book, has a great opening scene: the Garden of Paradise. It's where we learn that God created a human being who had the awesome privilege of being in direct relationship with God. The Garden is the setting (or scene) where we learn:
  • of God's love for His creation
  • about the purpose of man & woman
  • about the responsibility we have to the earth &
  • about the power of choice, trust and discipline

It's got all the elements of a really great story. Knowing and understanding this gives us the ability to believe that God not only understands the elements of story but that He's the actual author of story. Which means while you too are on this earth, you've been set into a scene of the story of the human race. You're a part of His story!

And you can't possibly be a part of His story and not have significance or meaning. I mean if God is the author of story and your life is a part of that story .... isn't that incredibly, well ... cool?

So if He authors story, and I believe He authors my story, then I must believe that where my story plays out is also significant.

But what if you don't like your scene? What if you're trying to escape your location?
or
Maybe you're lucky enough to enjoy where you are living out your story. Are you?

What do you do then? More on that tomorrow!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Story Elements

Scene.
Character.
Conflict.
Climax.
Resolution.

These are the elements of every story. I mean imagine a story that takes place, well, nowhere.
Can you imagine it? No, really, try .......

It can't be done. A story can't happen without a location or scene. You need a garden or a home or a hospital room.

Every story needs a character: preferably one we love or love to hate. The characters we root for have conflicts that we hope they will overcome. Our eyes become riveted to the screen as they face their abusive father, or are tempted with a bottle of alcohol or weep at the grave of a loved one.

These are story elements and as I was reminded at The Storyline Conference last month, the same things that make up a good story also make a good life. Scene, character, conflict, climax .... all make up a good movie or book but a life.
Your life.
My life.
So how can we carve a great story out of lives...
from where we are (scene), with our family (characters), who mistreat us (conflict) despite the awesome new job we just landed (climax)?

How can we? More on this very question tomorrow!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Good News Parents! Stress is Inevitiable!

(as seen in the 7/5/11 edition of The Review Atlas as a part of my weekly Practical Parenting series)

Are you stressed out? Most of us admit that we are stressed to some degree about something. Stress can be dangerous too, as it is a leading cause of many serious health problems. Which is bad news for parents. Parents, in case you didn’t know, are always and forever stressed.

We are stressed before we even give birth. What color should the nursery be? Will I need pain relieving drugs? Will my water break in public? What if my baby’s allergic to peanuts?

Then we actually advent into the job of parenting and we worry if they are still breathing, eat too much, poop too little and what position is the safest for sleeping. And that’s only in the first year of life! Temper tantrums, potty training, preschool, high school, boyfriends, girlfriends, honor roll, driver’s licenses … none of that has even happened yet!

According to marketing guru Seth Godin, stress is the tension that happens when you simultaneously do and don’t want to do something. You want to teach your toddler to use the bathroom but you don’t want to deal with the accidents. You want your feverish child to get better but worry about giving her too much medicine. You want your teenager to take driver’s education classes but you really don’t want them cruising around town with a car full of friends.

At the 2011 Chick-fil-a LeaderCast, conference Godin reminds us that we don’t usually get stressed out over eating lunch. Why? It’s because there’s no drama in choosing to satisfy your hunger. If, however, you go out to eat at a new restaurant you may experience stress because you want to eat but don’t know what to order off an unfamiliar menu.

What all this means is that stress is most likely inevitable. As long as you’re alive there is an ongoing tension in life. This is especially true for those of us in the parenthood.
So what can we do?

Well for starters take a deep breath. No, seriously, take a deep breath. Increasing the amount of oxygen into your system can help clear the mind and regulate your breathing and we all function better when we are calm and thinking clearly.

Before you lose your last nerve on that incredibly annoying behavior your child is displaying, take a breath and then think through your response in your head. Too often we respond and deal out punishments from our points of stress rather than mature reasoning.

When you choose to respond to your child make sure you choose meaningful and relevant words. "I’m never cooking dinner for you again if you keep acting like that!" is a completely ineffective statement. Granted, you may actually feel that way but it does nothing to further the goal of getting your child to eat their dinner.

Also, don’t ask your child questions you don’t really want the answer to: "Are you even listening to me?", "Do you want me to come over there and ring your neck?" or "What were you thinking?"

Your kids will stress you out. There is no doubt about it, no way to get around it. When you became a parent you opened a mysterious portal into the simultaneously joyous and most stressful job of your life. Deal with it. Stop complaining about it. Stop avoiding it. Buck up and be brave enough to tackle the job.

Be brave enough to recognize the stress of, being the parent you wish you were and the parent you actually are, and use that harsh force of reality to propel you into being a better Mommy of Daddy.

So for those of you out they’re who are prone to stressful dispositions, may this article be a small encouragement for you. None, absolutely none of us, can eliminate stress from our lives. But that’s good news because kids don’t need perfect parents. They need present parents. Learn to function in the tension of what you want to do and what you can do and you’ll be a shining example of health to your child. This is what makes parenting worth it! Why? Because I’m the mom and I said so! That’s why!




Monday, July 4, 2011

Stress

I am working on my piece for Tuesday's edition of The Review Atlas and my Practical Parenting article. Yesterday's blog and the video with Seth Godin has really gotten me thinking about stress.

What stresses you out?

Godin says that stress is what happens when you simultaneously do and don't want to do something.
  • When you do want to travel but worry that planes are unsafe
  • When you want to be a parent but are afraid you'll botch your kid up
  • When you want to go on vacation but know it means you need a swimsuit

Isn't this right?
Isn't this what causes stress?

So it's got me thinking:
What if I can't eliminate stress from my life........ unless of course I'm willing to stop wanting anything..... which I don't think I'm willing to do.

I mean I want to travel.
I want write.
I want to raise kids who want to make a difference.
I want to be loved.
I want to be liked.
I want ....

All of these things take risks.
In order to travel I hafta leave,
in order to write I have to publicly publish my thoughts,
in order to be loved I have to risk giving love....

So the question becomes not: How do I eliminate stress from my life?
but
What do I really, really want to do/be/experience?



What do you think? Can stress be eliminated? Should it?

Saturday, July 2, 2011

I have just gotten some of the best news of the year -to date!

This blog began almost a year ago because I made the conscious decision to pursue my dream of writing.

Questions I am regularly asked:
What do you want to write? (everything I know a lot about)
What will your book be about? (someday)

I'd like to think that this blog has been a bit of a training ground for me! A chance to practice my writing skills, place to work out my thoughts and hopefully pick up a few faithful readers along the way (for encouragement).

Today though, I took some time to go back through all the bloggers I follow and catch up on about a week's worth of stuff I wanted to read! That's when I came across this on Michael Hyatt's blog:




Backstage with Seth Godin from Michael Hyatt on Vimeo.

I'll save you the time of explaining who Seth Godin is (google him in your spare time) but let's just say he's pretty much a marketing genius.... and the bearer of my own personal Good News!

His advice to wanna-be writers like me, give away your first book. GIVE IT AWAY !?! Say what? The way of publishers and publishing companies is the way of dinosaurs. If you want to be a successful writer you write your first book, save it in a PDF and then email it to your 20 closest friends and loved ones. If they like it they'll forward it on to 20 people, if they don't you're probably not a good writer and you shouldn't pursue writing. If they do like it and those 400 people each forward it on to another 20 then that's 8,000 readers who got your book for free. Suddenly you've gone come out from obscurity and Godin says, the publishers will be lining up out your door for your next book!

How much relief does this give me? I'm so small. So rural! So...nobody with no connections. But if I can write well....and get it all down.....and email it to you....and you like it....then my dream (!!), my dream of making a difference with my words will come true!

The dog days are over my friends....I got some serious work to do!


What do you think? Is that a crazy notion? Should you give away your first baby? Lemme hear your thoughts: 

Scars

from the achives October 2009:
Ebay 2005

One day a few weeks ago, I updated my facebook status:
"Sometimes the school of hard knocks leaves a scar" .
That same day I sliced open my thumb and needed 4 stitches.
Oh, how we learn best the hard way.

It was dumb really. Knowing full well you don't grab the lid and force it off a tin can - I did it anyway and suffered the consequences.

4 stitches on the inside of my right hand. My dominate hand. It kinda handicapped me for awhile.

Still almost 4 weeks out after the initial injury I am still fully aware of what I've done.

Physically, I can see the bright, new, pink flesh . The torn skin remains a little peely and I can easily tell where the stitches were. Even today, when I try to use my right hand in certain ways the new skin protests; it's not ready to grip a jar or open a bottle. It warns me - try that and I'll cause you pain.

Emotionally, however, what about the scars that take longer to heal? How do we feel about that?

I only hurt my thumb. Minor . . minor injury. But what about the bigger scars? In more tender places?

Say . . . the heart.

I'm a tender person. I cry when I see suffering or at my favorite song.
I tear up at movies, commercials about Christmas and dogs and . . . for my children.

My physical heart is fine.
But my heart-heart - well last time I looked it was still bright pink and the new skin is still a little tender.
With the amount of time that has passed, it seems like the old scar should be all healed up by now -

Maybe the Irish band The Script sums it up well in their song Breakeven:
"cos when a heart breaks no it don't break even."

My thumb... it will be back to normal in no time. But a heart?
How long does it take for a broken heart to heal? One that's been broke uneven?

To look at my thumb - well it looks fine; my heart - it too looks ok.

But I know from experience that sometimes things take time to heal
My thumb = weeks. My heart = ?
Who knows.

But I know it will. My body is meant to mend - my heart will as well.
It just takes a little time.




Abby 2010
ammendment: today is the first of July. Nineteen months after I originally wrote this piece. I am happy to say that I am in a much better place today....much better. So it's true - in time things can heal. So what we need to remember is that: it will heal. How much time it takes is unknown....but it will heal.
I looked at my thumb just now - the one that had stiches - and I had to LOOK for the scar. It isn't even visible anymore unless I look for it. 
That's good right?
The scar is there. I have evidence that it healed. But I hardly even know it exists. 
Allow your scars the time they need to heal.
For if you give them time to heal properly....they will. 

Friday, July 1, 2011

Parents Should Unplug Too!

(as seen in the 6/28/11 edition of The Review Atlas as a part of my weekly Practical Parenting series)



I love my Blackberry. I carry a laptop. My family owns gaming systems, DVD and mp3 players as well and have downloaded dozens of apps. When I say the word "screen" in a conversation with my parents they think I'm talking about the netting on my window that keeps out bugs. But to my children "screen" could mean any one of our electronic gadgets or television sets. Talk about a generation gap!

Recently while traveling we stopped off at a fast food restaurant for a bathroom break and a bite to eat. As I entered the establishment I took a quick survey looking for the restrooms. I immediately located my target but not before noticing a woman sitting in a booth with her food and an open laptop.

Isn't it great all the establishments that are offering customers free WiFi access? You see, I get a kick out of  working lunches. I can socialize with my colleagues and simultaneously knock out some work. Multitasking done rightl is one of my favorite things on the planet!!

I was, however, quickly saddened as I observed this lap-topped woman. She was sitting with two young boys and while she was typing away on her keyboard they were silently eating their food and fingering their kid’s meal prize. There was no conversation. There was no interaction and no eye contact. The only thing they had in common was the fact that they were gathered around the same table. They all looked kind of ...........pathetic.

I became curious as to what the woman was feverishly working on. I wondered what could be so important that she couldn’t even look up from her screen. Was she a writer working on a climactic chapter? Could she be in email negotiations for a promotion? Maybe she was paying bills online. I decided I just had to know what she was up to. So after collecting my food I planned to strategically walk past her table and sneak a peak at her screen.

My heart pounded as I went out of my way feigning an exit. Why was I feeling so uncharacteristically nosy? Were my shenanigans obvious? Why was I so bothered with this stranger’s attention on her computer?
There was no mistaking the classic blue and white pattern on her screen. It was Facebook. She was logged into social media enraptured with virtual conversations. She was ignoring the people (were those her sons?) in her immediate environment for an alternate reality.

And as appalled as I was at her behavior I was even more disheartened at a painful truth; she could have been me. I've ignored my children when my Blackberry blinks. I've half listened to other people's stories so I can update my status. I read emails while pretending to carry on a conversation. I've put up screens between me and the faces of my children. The truth is I saw in that woman what I look like and I was mortified.

You can tweet, Facebook, text or email me. You can comment on my blog, leave me a voice message and messenger me. Which begs the question: Have I really made it easier for you to get my attention than I have for my own kids? God help me if I’ve allowed social media to take precedence over the real people and real relationships in my real time life.

First and foremost we can create better habits by setting down our devices. Power it down or put the phone away. Break the need to carry it with you twenty-four/seven. Stop narcissistically staring at it to see if it's beeping or blinking. And if that's too much of a stretch for you, at least begin by setting it down when your children are talking to you. Literally put it down and turn your body to face the person who needs your attention.

If you work on a computer like I do it’s a good idea to practice removing your hands from the keyboard when someone requires your attention. I am pretty good at looking like I am listening but the truth is I’m usually faking it. I can't fully comprehend what you are saying when my fingers are flying across the keyboard. If you are genuinely at risk of losing an important thought during an interruption finish the sentence you are typing by all means but as soon as you get to the period pick up your fingers and look at the person who's speaking to you.

Honest to goodness as I typed these very words your reading my six-year-old daughter approached me and asked me to read aloud to her from a library book. If I’m brutally honest I’ll admit that I didn’t want to stop writing and read to her. I have deadlines after all. But what is more important my screen or my child? Which is more valuable my work or my little work in progress?

In this day and age screens are everywhere. We have access to more information than ever and it can be quite addicting (Blackberrys aren’t nicknamed Crackberrys for no reason, you know). But let us not loose sight of what is real and what is really important. Don't allow the blinks, dings and status updates to take precedence in the real world. If you're virtual world ever becomes more important to you than a lunch date with your child you need to unplug quick. Because a happy meal ain't happy if they have to share it with a screen. Why? Because I'm the mom and I said so! That's why!

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