Wasted Worry

Ever since I read Fight Back With Joy, I’ve been thinking a lot about my level of worry or anxiety.  My daughter Mackenzie and I were having a conversation the other morning and I tried to share with her what’s been brewing inside me on this subject.

Mackenzie and I were in the kitchen and over cooking breakfast she told me about an awful nightmare she had.  In her dream, her little brother had been hurt and she couldn’t help him.  Mackenzie being the amazing big sister she is (12 years older than her little bro) and the kind soul she is, felt shaken deeply by the dream.  I could identify.  I felt her pain.  When Mackenzie was small, sometimes feelings of anxiety would overwhelm me and I couldn’t leave her or let her go with someone else because I was afraid she’d be hurt.  I lived in fear of car accidents or broken bones or kidnapping.  Sometimes I still do.  But you know what??

None of that has ever happened.

Ya’ll I’ve worried myself sick over stuff that’s NEVER HAPPENED.

Now some horrible stuff HAS happened to me, but I noticed as I considered this that I never worried about any of the stuff that actually occurred.  They always came on without warning as tragedies tend to do, and I had no inkling that I needed to be afraid those things would happen.   I was never scared that my ex-husband would leave me for another woman, or that my superhero daddy might have a terrible stroke, or that a hurricane might turn my life upside down, or that one of my darling friends might get cancer. When those horrors DID occur, you know what?  We got through. We’re getting through. God sustained us, provided for us, healed us, drew us closer together.  And it’s all right.  There has been sufficient grace for every awful moment in my life so far.

This proves two things:  One, I’m absolutely terrible at predicting the future.  Sorry if you were hoping I’d hang a neon sign on my door and open for business.  It’s not looking good.  And two, God is very good at being God and I need not attempt to do His job for Him.

The absence of worry!!

The absence of worry!!

So why do I waste my time with worry and anxiety?  I was sharing with Mackenzie after her nightmare that even though life can and likely WILL hand me some terrible things, I’m often haunted by fears of things that most likely won’t occur.  Why spend time worrying and entertaining anxious thoughts of things that probably WON’T happen?  I’ve got to trust God to get me through the bad stuff that does happen, but I can’t predict what that stuff will be, so why take away from the joy of what IS by trying to be clairvoyant about potential pain?  Ya’ll, I can BREATHE… quit braking on the passenger side, and enjoy the ride.

This is not to say that anxiety or worry won’t come knocking.  Sometimes I get overwhelmed, blindsided by a fear or a sudden horrific thought.  But it occurs to me that I don’t have to entertain the thoughts.  I don’t have to sit in them or let them take over.  I can go back to trust, back to grace.  I can shift my focus to something joyful.  I can fight back with joy, embrace the grace that has been extended to me, and be grateful for the wonderful things in my life.

They’re there, you know.  The wonderful things.  The fairies far outnumber the monsters in my world.

So how do you do it?  How do you fight the fears that threaten you?  How do you control the temptation to worry wastefully?

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Fighting Back, Guns Blazin’!

Done any life-changing reading lately?  I have.

Fight Back With Joy by the lovely Mrs. Margaret Feinberg reduced me to a puddle.  It ate my lunch.  Blew my mind.

I loved it.

Joy is the prize.  The cheese.  The coveted jewel of every life, no matter what race, class, or religion.  We all want it, we all NEED it, but few of us master it or REALLY live lives marinated in joy or defined by joy.  Who wouldn’t want a joyful life?

I certainly do.  Or I SAY I do.  And yet, so many days I choose to fight my battles with irritability, anxiety, nervous energy.  I fight with caffeine, chocolate, or macaroni and cheese.  I fight with closed-fisted anger, or seething sarcasm.  I fight with eloquent arguments. (If you don’t think I can make a good argument, just ask my husband.)  Sometimes I don’t fight, but I retreat under the covers or hide behind a busy schedule or zone out on social media.

But what if I fought with joy?  What if joy were more than an elusive state of happiness and well being?  What if it were more than a fleeting feeling I get when everything goes my way?  What if, instead of letting joy slip away when I’m faced with a battle, I picked it up and FOUGHT, using it as my weapon?  What if I ran into the battlefield of life, screaming like a banshee, with the sword of JOY glinting in the sun?  What if JOY was the weapon with which I slay the dragon of stress, slice up the monster of pain?  What if joy were what I slide back into the sheath as I stand over the slain giant of loss, foot propped on its chest like a winner?  And what if, in learning to use joy as my weapon to fight life’s battles, I ended up with a life FULL of joy?

morethanwhimsyThat’s what Margaret’s book suggests and what, in fact, she decided to do when she received a devastating diagnosis of cancer.  Fight Back With Joy is the account of her training in the weaponry of joy, and if you’re interested in learning how to wield joy as a weapon it’s the place to begin.  I’ve enjoyed Margaret’s work for a long time, and was saddened to see her diagnosis when she shared it with her readers.  She’s been to hell and back but the product is a book that challenged me in the kind of deep, meaningful, more-than-churchspeak-cliche’s-I’ve-heard-a thousand-times way I was starving for.

I’ve got a nephew who shoots sporting clays professionally.  He started as a kid with an old beat up shotgun and a knack for shooting, but he got good.  Really good.  And along the way he’s amassed quite the collection of guns.  A hundred year old gun that belonged to our great grandfather.  A brand new state of the art gun that is worth more than a small car.  He’s got all KINDS of guns because he’s GREAT at using them.  If we think of joy as a weapon, and start fighting back our demons with it, I’ll bet we’d end up with quite the arsenal in our proverbial weapons case.

I read Fight Back With Joy in a few short days, mostly on my lunch breaks.  I read with tears rolling down my cheeks and with resolve growing in my gut.  I needed to hear it, needed to know it.  The last post I wrote, I was headed into the new year, struggling with fear of the unknown.  Enter Fight Back With Joy and my perspective has shifted.  I’m still a lil scared.  What if that other shoe DOES drop?  What if…?  I don’t even know.

What I DO know is that I don’t have to sit back in fear.  I have a weapon.  More than just a salve for my wounds, or a bandage for my broken heart, joy is a WEAPON I can use to guard my life.  I can USE it.  Pick it up, wave it around, practice with it, FIGHT with it.  It’s a strategy that puts me on the offense.  I ain’t no helpless lil’ thang out here just waiting for the next horror to take me down.  I’m a woman, a warrior, with joy as my defiance against a hopeless, sad existence.

Ya’ll.  I love this.  I love the idea of defying the difficulties of life with one of the fruits of God’s Holy Spirit:  Joy.  I love the thought of choosing to celebrate, practice, seek out and create joy as a way to avoid giving in to the sorrow and despair so prevalent in our world.  I gotta admit, I’ve got some target practice to do.  But I’m ready to get to it.  I’m ready to tackle life with my joy guns blazin’!  How about you?

You can get Fight Back With Joy on Amazon or Barnes and Noble.  Go.  Get it.  Read it.  Or get some of your tribe together and ya’ll study it.   Tell me what you think!!

 

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Resolution

It’s a new year!  And I’m kinda scared…

Just telling the truth.

I’m having a hard time being positive.  Do you ever feel like that?  Like you’re waiting for the other shoe to drop?  Like you know everything’s good but are ever looking for whatever might lurk ahead?  Like you can’t fully appreciate the beauty of now because you let imagined and real fears steal the moment?

Just me, huh?  :)

I’ve been thinking about resolutions and wanting to make some and yet have felt kind of paralyzed by the what-if’s of 2015.  It’s a new year.  A new slate.  Another gift.  And yet what if if holds things that hurt?  This is so depressing isn’t it???

This morning I cried while telling my husband how I feel like I should be past this.  I feel like it’s a rookie faith mistake and like God deserves better from someone He’s brought so far.  I mean at some point, faith comes outside the Sunday School and enters the everyday choices of a believer’s life.  That’s when the real adventure is.  I’m not a rookie.  I’ve been following Jesus a long time. So what do I do?

Here’s what:

1)  Reflect on where I’ve been with God.  See, God and I have been some bad places already and He was enough.  He will be enough no matter what the future brings.  I have His impeccable track record to go by.

2)  Release my grip.  Even in the face of fear, I can make a choice to open my clenched emotional fist and let go of my expectations, good and bad.  I can choose to trust Romans 8:28 and believe the truth of it.

3)  Run toward my life.  Once I’ve made a choice to trust God, I am free to embrace life and not resist it.  I don’t need to back up, or even walk timidly forward.  I can RUN right into my great big overwhelming life.

Fear happens.  Sometimes the feeling is more intense for me than others.  I think it’s not the presence of fear, but how we deal with it that makes the difference.   So even though I feel like a big chicken, I am not going to BECOME a chicken.  Chickens aren’t really notorious for joyous living, ya know?  True believers on the other hand… well, they ARE.  So I’m gonna go ahead and resolve away, alright??  Alright.

2015 Resolutions:

* Make some basic doctor appointments and dental appointments, (Another fear to overcome)  and keep working toward a healthier life by continuing my exercise and continuing to practice balance in my diet.

* Do something I’m not sure I can do.

*  Laugh more.

*  Unplug one night each week.

*  Take a family vacation.

So there they are, out there for the world to see.  My resolutions for the year 2015.  Bring it on!!

 

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Pig Lips

Today was a Monday after an insane weekend.  In. Sane.

Friday evening started the weekend with a bang when a friend who was babysitting our kids needed to leave early because of her little girl’s fever.  And vomit.  Nothing like coming home to vomit on a Friday night, huh?  We were worried for our little friend and I fought the knot that forms in every mama’s gut when she braces herself for the possible onslaught of contagious illness.  I worried too much.  Anyway, during the night our little friend’s fever kept going up and by Saturday she was admitted to the hospital with nothing contagious it turns out, but no less scary.

Hair Color Crazy

Hair Color Crazy

Saturday started with a long awaited haircut to which I dragged my babysitterless boys.  I threatened and promised punishment and reward for their good behavior at the salon.  They were good.  Exceptionally so, actually.  Still a mama can’t really relax when she knows what danger lurks nearby, what thin ice she’s on when she brings young boys to fancy salons and expects them to be quiet, not fight, and not break anything.  When paying the going rate these days for a trendy cut and color, I frankly was sad not to get to relax and fully enjoy the salon experience.  Still, I was desperate for a haircut and completely without a sitter so I pressed on and got it done, grabbing an extra kid (our little sick friend’s brother) on the way home.  Into the rest of Saturday I some how crammed voting, steak dinner at our house with friends, and dropping off and picking up my daughter from a party at City Park, along with dropping off a jacket to my friend at the hospital. (Think multiple trips from one end of New Orleans to the other, honey.)

Sunday morning was a trip to my friend’s house to feed and potty her dogs, then to WinnDixie for coffee (how do I let myself run out of that?) and other stuff needed.  Then house church, then cooking and trying to make the house halfway ready for Mackenzie’s SEVENTEENTH birthday party.  (Breakdown is scheduled for later over the fact that my girl is SEVENTEEN.)

Birthday Shenanigans

Birthday Shenanigans

You know what else I got at Winn Dixie?  Her cake.  (I type this with red-faced shame.)  I got my culinary school student, pastry professional daughter a Winn Dixie cake for her birthday.  Ugh, I so wanted her to have something wonderful and special but time and life ran away from me and she got a grocery store premade, picked up on the morning of her birthday.  The kind they keep in the case for losers who don’t order their cakes ahead of time.  (I’ll be sure to mention that in my mother of the year award acceptance speech…  he he.)

We partied, did dog duty again, hospital again and fell in bed Sunday exhausted.  Monday dawned and I felt yucky, didn’t go exercise, ran into every imaginable obstacle getting my extra kid to school and getting myself to work.  There was dog poop involved and well… I can’t do dog poop.  I have a thing.  Anyway, by the time I got to work, I was overdue for a good cry.  Way overdue.  No big deal you might think, but I’ve written before about how we really count on our weekends for rest and recharge. I’ve let myself get away from such frantically paced weekends.  I’ve not been training for the marathon of crazy that was this weekend.  I felt overwhelmed.  Completely overwhelmed.  So much joy and worry and laughter and huge milestones and frustrations and blessing all in such a short time.

The day wore on and, being Monday, didn’t go easy on me but brought its usual challenges at work.  Then… it happened.

Somebody offered me a bite of pig lip.  Seriously.  As pretty as you please, someone walked up to me, held out the pig lip and said as they chewed enthusiastically “You want a bite of my pig lips?”

And with that wonderfully weird statement, my heart let go of the worries and gave in to the fun.  The tension was broken with an absurd statement that set me free to embrace the totally bizarre and just GO WITH IT.

I know what you’re wondering and no.  I didn’t accept the offer of the pig lip.  But I DID get the blessing of a wacky moment that ushered humor and laughter and silliness into my day.

Those pig lips were my breakthrough. (Can I get a witness?)

All the way home I giggled about the pig lips and realized all over again that I’ve got to laugh.  I’ve got to embrace joy.  I’ve got to refuse to get so bogged down in the dailies that I miss the funny, wonderful, wild, random moments that bring comic relief to life.

It was a reminder I needed today.  Also how many times in life does a girl get to write about pig lips???  Seizing the day, my friends!

How do you like the new color?

How do you like the new color?

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Give it a Rest

Happy First Sunday of Advent!!

As this Christmas season begins, I have one objective:  To “Give it a Rest!”

Ya’ll know what I mean.  I’ve lost 20 pounds but I want to go just one more size down.  I’m doing great in my career, but well… I’m bored sometimes.  I’ve got projects and lists and school things to accomplish with the kids.  There’s controversy and politics.  There are points to be made and cases to be argued. I need to get a bigger savings account, a different haircut, a pedicure for heaven’s sake.  I need a more perfect marriage, need to push harder, need to think more creatively.  I need to write another freakin’ book already!!!

Ugh!  Give it a rest!!!  What I have is enough.  Who I love is enough.  He Who Loved Me First is enough.

It’s time.  Emmanuel is calling me to peace.  It’s time to enjoy, time to love, time to revel, time to cherish, time to laugh.

It’s Christmas, ya’ll!  The Child is born for us.  For me.

Let’s give the running and pushing and stressing a rest.  Let’s simply unwrap the Gift, shall we?

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Distracted

Do you ever feel fuzzy?  Distracted?  I do!  My mind is SO full of things.  Thoughts are whizzing this way and that.  My great big wonderful life brings tons of items to my to-do list.

My family about to enter the crowd at the PoBoy Festival!

My family about to enter the crowd at the PoBoy Festival!  Look behind them you can see the sea of people!

It’s like standing in a huge crowd.  A PoBoy Festival, for example.

There are so many voices going on around that you can’t hear anything, or all you hear is the hum of the crowd, or if you strain to eavesdrop you might hear the one conversation of the person next to you.  I think this creates that fuzzy, distracted feeling and that tendency to focus (or not focus) on something else entirely.   Crowds can be overwhelming, but usually they’re there because something is WONDERFUL.  (Hello, fried green tomato, bacon and remoulade poboy!!)

Caleb drowning out the crowd!!

Caleb drowning out the crowd!!

It’s tough to deal with a crowd, but hiding from it means hiding from my life.  Not acceptable.   No crowd, no poboy if you know what I mean. I usually hide away from the crowd through mindless activity (like social media trolling) that lessens the crowd noise but doesn’t really do anything to thin the crowd at all.

This is a huge problem for me.  I love my big ol’ crazy life.  All of it!  Sometimes it can just be overwhelming and I tend to zone out rather than deal with the tidal wave.   It happens before I know it, and then I’ll “wake up” to half a day gone, or a deadline missed, or just feeling like I can’t enjoy my life.

You’ve heard the old saying “How do you eat an elephant?  (or a POBOY?) One bite at a time!”  In order to keep from getting helium balloon head and floating away from my life, I’ve got to employ the elephant eating philosophy.

Here are a few elephant bites that help bring me out of a fog:

 

1)  Find out what I’m about.  The crowd of voices in my head stems from all the wonderful things I’ve willingly brought into my life, but some voices come from other things too.  I’ve got to identify the things I love, what I’m about, where I want to go.  When I know that, I can tell the unwanted voices to Shut. It.   So what am I about??  My faith, my family, my friends, my career, and some side interests like good books, good music, good writing, and good food.  Throw in one more dash of feminine adventure just for me and that’s it. These things are my main things.  These are the voices I need to hear.  If it doesn’t come from one of these categories… then shut it.  For me, this would include multi-level marketing (learned that the hard way), overseas mission trips, knitting my own sweaters, and learning to sew.  All awesome things, but none that fit in with my life at this time.

Transitioning home to these darlings is fun!!

Transitioning home to these darlings is fun!!

2)  Make appointments.  Yes.  I make appointments with myself.  Nowhere near as much as I should, but I do it.  I use my phone alarm to remind me of these appointments.  We were visiting with my mom and dad recently and my phone alarm went off at 8am while we were eating breakfast.  Caleb said “Nana, it’s time for English!”  My mom asked what he was talking about and I explained that I use my alarm sounds to remind me when to move to the next thing.  Sometimes that little noise brings me out of the fog and gets me back on track.    I don’t want to be a drone dependent upon my smartphone to direct me.  I see the phone as my secretary.  My personal assistant who sounds off to remind me what we’ve got going today.  If only it could pour me coffee and rub my shoulders too!

3)  Re-evaluate.  Every so often I’ve got to take inventory of what I’m doing and evaluate whether it is effective.  Sometimes as we change, kids grow, life morphs and strategies that used to work don’t fit so well anymore.  Lately the routine of waking the kids up after my shower isn’t working well.  I’ve had trouble getting the kids fed and started on schoolwork on time.  So we’re trying a new strategy where they are responsible for waking up on their own and getting to the table.   At 16 and 11, they’re big enough to begin learning to get themselves up, and it saves a step for me in the morning.

 

The hubs and me at work!

The hubs and me at work!

4)  Learn to transition.  Every morning on my way into work, I enter the house through a back door and walk down a long hallway toward the time clock.  I use that hallway as my transition.  I take a deep breath.  I let go of what we did or didn’t get done that morning at home and transition to business mode.   I’m learning to give what I’ve got while I can, be entirely present, and then when it’s time to move on I can let go and move on knowing I’ll be back to that task again tomorrow.  On the way out, guess what?  Same hall.  Deep breath.  Work is over and time to transition to mom again.  I find the transition at the end of the day to be more difficult than the beginning.  Often I walk in my front door and greet my family still grinding my teeth over the work day.  I want to learn to more effectively shake off the work day and fully embrace wife and mom once again.

5)  Re-fuel.  It’s important to take intentional breaks.  Last weekend we had a little getaway.  No school.  No work.  All fun.  It was

Takin' a break at the BEACH!!  My favorite place to refuel!

Takin’ a break at the BEACH!! My favorite place to refuel!

awesome!  I try to use my lunch break each day as a rest time.  I usually bring my kindle and read something I’m enjoying or something encouraging.  I take more deep breaths.  I sit in the quietest, most private spot available.  I can’t be “on” all the time or I’ll find myself totally “off.”

It’s so easy when we have lives crammed full of…. well… LIFE, to become overwhelmed.  It’s easy to slip off into a fog of distraction because there’s just too much going on.  I just don’t want to settle for fogged up, fuzzed out, life on autopilot.  These are ways I’m trying to keep myself engaged and in tune, so that I can really live, really love, really embrace the life I have.

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Weekend Time Warp

I’m typing this on a Sunday afternoon at my kitchen table.  My four year old is playing quietly and my husband is stretched out on the couch watching the Food Network and HGTV alternately.  My big kids are out playing with my nephew.  The Saints won today.  House church was crowded but lovely and the dishwasher is whisking away the last of the breakfast mess.  All is well….  very well.

My husband working hard, earning a weekend rest!!

My husband working hard, earning a weekend rest!!

Two weekends ago, however, things weren’t quite so calm.  We catered a 100th birthday party on Saturday and then delivered food to a baby shower on Sunday, then I hosted a kickoff event Sunday afternoon for National Assisted Living Week, my busiest work week of the year.  That Sunday began a jam-packed week of special events, designed to bring attention to assisted living and get the public out to the home where I work.  It’s a high pressure time for me, and since my husband, our chef, is one of the most special parts of the home where we work, his food plays a key role which creates a pretty intense week for him, too.  Fast forward through the week to Friday and see me leaving work, dissolving into a puddle of tears as soon as I closed my car door.

I headed home looking forward to a weekend more than I had in a long time, and then I realized something:  I HAD SKIPPED THE WEEKEND BEFORE!!!  No wonder I was a basket case! We worked our biggest week of the year after working a solid weekend with no break.  I was caught in a no-weekend time warp!! Not good.  I then realized that it’s rare for us to overdo on a weekend anymore.  We just don’t DO busy weekends!  Busy weeks? Oh yes.  But busy weekends…. uh, no.

Over the past year since taking on the task of schooling my kids and working full time, I’ve developed a weekend “routine” of sorts.  I didn’t realize until assisted living week just how much our weekends recharge us as a family.  Here are a few things we do (or don’t do):

1)  We rest.  My first thought when I typed that was “Duh…. Everybody rests on the weekends!”  But do they?  I’m not sure.

When I hear other moms talking, I often hear lists of sports activities, rehearsals, recitals, church activities and general busy-ness that fill the weekends.  Sometimes it makes me feel weird… weird because we don’t get up on Saturday mornings and go to baseball games, football games, or church work days.  Ya’ll, on Saturday mornings we sleep in.  At least as much as any 4 year old child will allow, which means 7:30 or 8:00.  Even when my little one comes knocking on my bedroom door on Saturday mornings, I can usually get him a small snack and drink and get at least another hour of relative quiet out of him.  When everyone starts stirring around, I usually make a “treat” breakfast of something we don’t normally have time to cook during the week.  Then, we chill out some more.  We might go to the farmer’s market and pick up a veggie haul for the week, we might stop in at our local Chic-fil-a and enjoy a nice late lunch while our little one plays.  It’s not unusual for us to spend Saturday afternoon visiting with friends or just all together in the house but doing our own things like reading, watching movies, polishing our nails (at least Mackenzie and me) or playing outside.

2)  We reflect.  Again, the kneejerk reaction of “Duh… most churchgoin’ people reflect on Sundays.”  But again… do they?

There were many years that my weekend church activities were so numerous and all encompassing that they gave me no time to actually commune with God.  Heh…  My favorite day was Monday, partly due to the fresh start of a new week but mostly due to getting a rest from the intensity of my weekends!

Sunday mornings around here now are quiet.  We sleep in again.  Then I get up slowly and get started on house church breakfast.  The kids pitch in and help if there are any last minute things that need to be put away before everyone arrives.  About 10am, the front door starts to open and everyone trickles in.  Yes, I make breakfast for everyone (average of 10 to 12 people) but even so, my oven and coffee pot are the only things that get remotely overworked.  Breakfast is an easy meal to pull together.  I do biscuits most weeks, because I ENJOY IT and by now, I can get a few dozen biscuits in the oven as fast as you can open a can of “whop” biscuits.  Biscuits work for me because they’re flexible and forgiving.  They can be made with a variety of different fats and liquid and flours so they don’t always necessitate a trip to the store.  There are some weeks when someone will bring donuts, or bagels, or something that means I don’t cook.  We keep it simple but we also really value the act of breaking bread together.

Once church is over, the rest of the afternoon is usually spent relaxing and preparing.  I’ve learned that planning my menu and getting some school stuff together on Sunday afternoons makes the week easier for me.   I’m also discovering that the hours of unhurried, quiet activity give me time to think, pray, and reflect.

3)  We revel.  Hehe…  Of course we do!  We live in New Orleans!

Caleb resting up!!

Caleb resting up!!

Seriously, on weekends we play.  I play.  To play means to do fun stuff you like.  I define this for you because I once forgot that definition.  The kids do stuff with friends, play games, ride bikes and actually enjoy their toys.  I read books, watch my favorite shows, give myself a mani-pedi, go on a date with my hubby.  During certain… ahem… seasons of the year, playing might involve Mardi Gras parades, football games, or festivals of pretty much any or every kind.  New Orleans is the kind of place where the fun can overwhelm you.  There’s too much fun and not enough time!!!  To live in this town and forget how to play is a travesty and yet… it happens.  If it can happen here… it can happen anywhere.

The time warp weekend made me proud because it made me see that we are catching on to “no.”  We’ve systematically said no to things and created a weekly oasis for ourselves and I’m so glad we have.  I see now more than ever how much we need it.  Every once in a while things happen and a lost weekend can’t be avoided.  In the case of the recent time warp I wish I would have prepared better and planned better.  I would have done extra meal planning and shopping, maybe tried to give myself a “mini-weekend” one evening.  I could’ve used a little extra emotional padding to make up for the lack of R, R, and R.

The fact is that if we don’t guard them, every weekend will turn into a time warp weekend.  Perhaps to those sitting in stands by 8am on Saturday morning, those shuffling kids from one birthday party to the next, those running from rehearsal to Bible study to committee meeting, our weekends are lame.  Maybe boring.  Maybe our old fashioned weekends are a time warp of their own.

I guess some may see it that way.  But I don’t think looking into my husband’s or my children’s eyes is lame.  I rather enjoy a laugh with a friend without having to hurry.  I relish those extra snuggles in bed, those sounds of unstructured child’s play, those slow, savored cups of coffee and bites of breakfast.  I can hear myself think, hear God speak, and see past the crazy rush of life.  For me, looking forward to the weekend has taken on a whole new meaning over the last year.

So what are your weekends like?  How do you recharge?

 

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Stepfamily Step-Up

If you’d like to turn your life upside down, tornado style, try a second marriage.  Seriously.  If you’re looking for a wild ride, marry again.  For serious thrill seekers, add kids.  Statistics tell us that second and third marriages are very risky.  I gotta tell ya, we have learned this first hand and it’s true.

We’ve had our share of failures.  Ugly ones.  But we’ve stumbled upon a little success here and there and I wanted to share a specific strategy that’s working for us.

Our StepSensational Family

Our StepSensational Family

Our family has a total of 4 kids.  One, my husband’s grown son.  Two and three, my daughter and son from my first marriage.  Fourth, our child together, one of life’s little surprises, haha.  When Dwayne and I married, I already had a rhythm of life going with my two kids.  He already had a bachelor style thing going since his son is grown.  It was challenging to try to mix the two.  Then we threw a baby like a grenade into the mix.  The guilt I feel over the pain my kids have been through, the tight schedule we keep, the vast differences in our parenting philosophies… are you feeling motion sickness yet?

Anyway… one of the biggest things we have going for us is our “want-to.”  We both WANT to make this work.  My husband is so willing and enthusiastic about helping me and the kids.  One of our biggest frustrations came from the differences in our expectations for the kids.  Since my husband is off earlier than I, he has the kids for several hours in the afternoons on his own.  He expected the kids to take on some chores and responsibilities.  I agree with that.  But often I’d come home to unhappy faces and a disagreement would ensue.  I felt he was expecting too much.  He felt the kids were only responsive when I asked them to do things.  I felt stuck in the middle, wanting my kids to be happy and feeling they were good kids, and wanting my husband to be happy and feeling respected, and who in the world was looking out for how mommy was feeling????

We sat down as a family and aired out our expectations.  We came up with a list of responsibilities.  We put down a lot of detail, from what time we get up in the morning to who does what chores.  We listed consequences in writing.  We all signed our family document and we posted it on the wall.  From that night on, we agreed we would all refer to our family contract.  The kids’ chore assignments are on there.  We  no longer ask more than once or remind.  Everyone knows what to do because it’s listed on the wall.  If it’s not done, the consequences are also listed.  No more guesswork.  No more he said they said.  I can’t tell you how effective this has been for us and how peacemaking.

1)  The kids love it.  They’ve never said this aloud, but I can tell.  They rose to the challenge of having a more grown up style of responsibility.  They are relieved to know they won’t be nagged or begged.  They don’t have to wonder what will make us happy.  I’m so proud of how my kids have followed through with this agreement.  The responsibility is on them.  If they choose not to do the chore, they’ve chosen their own consequence.  I’ve found they know how to make good choices.

2)  My husband loves it.  He doesn’t have to explain to me or try to get me to enforce a rule.  Either the job is done or it isn’t, and the resulting action is in writing.  He’s no longer the bad guy, no longer the one who has to try to enforce the chores since the kids make that choice for themselves.

3)  I love it!  I don’t have to feel stuck between making my kids and my husband happy when it comes to household chores.  I no longer come home to conflict about who’s doing or not doing chores.

This one agreement has done more to bring about family harmony than anything else we’ve tried.  We are blessed to be dealing with just regular family stuff, no serious behavioral issues or special needs.  I’m no expert, and I hope this doesn’t seem too simplistic, but I thought I’d share what has worked for us in the hope that the idea might also help some of the rest of you who are in the step-family storm chasing life.

So you step-people out there… what are your great ideas?

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A Social Butterfly on Organization

Nobody has ever accused me of being organized.  There is stuff, like trash, in the bottom of my purse from months ago.  I forget my share of appointments and yesterday I found an orange crayon in the back pocket of my jeans… while I was at work.  My success in career is due to love of people and relationships, not paperwork and calculations.

I’ve discovered, to my dismay, that in order to accomplish what I want to, I’ve GOT to have some level of organization and planning.   If I had my way, I’d fly along through life from one coffee date to another, looking people in the eyes, laughing, sharing, talking and having a grand old time.  I’d wear cute aprons every day while baking biscuits in my self cleaning kitchen for my adorable children and interesting friends.  There would BE no behind the scenes.

Yeah… dream world, I know.  Life takes at least a basic few strategies to keep things running.  All you organized types are like “Duh…” but hey, I’ve learned a few things the hard way.  Here’s my organization and planning for butterflies.  Social ones, you know.

1)  Make stuff the night before.  Specifically coffee, a plan for wardrobe, and any miscellaneous items required by your calendar.  Ya’ll, I had to replace my coffee pot, and I wasn’t picky.  My main requirement?  Programmable.  Every night, no matter how tired I am, I set my darling programmable coffee pot.  Every morning after exercise, it rewards me with the smell of fresh coffee as I walk back in the door.  I pour a cup and head upstairs to get in the shower. (What?  You don’t drink coffee in the shower?  Pssht.  Yes you do.)  Then, I head to my room where I’ve set out or at least planned what I’m going to wear.  The precious, precious minutes this gives me every morning are peace.  Peace when I would otherwise be measuring coffee grounds, pouring water, digging for shoes, and trying to find the dress I want in the dark.  Peace before I wake my children and pass the point of no return into the fray of our busy days.  I see this not as organization, because organization doesn’t matter to me, but as a treat to myself.  I give myself this gift and it feels like a warm bubble bath to my soul, not another task to be completed.

Menu

Our Menu and Grocery List in its place on the fridge

2)  Make a menu, and a grocery list while you’re at it.  I’ve written in detail about our grocery strategy.  We’re probably a little more involved in this than most because we have a chef and a culinary student in the house.  Still.  We are too busy to stand around every night wondering what to eat, and too busy to waste our lives wandering up and down the grocery aisles, falling for every end cap display ripoff and bright, shiny package.  And we are too predisposed to diabetes and heart disease to eat fast food every night.  (In case you didn’t know, fast food is ANY chain restaurant.  Any.)  We make a weekly menu at some point on the weekends that gets us through the following weekend, making use of what we pick up at the farmer’s market and what we have in the pantry and fridge.  While we’re jotting down our menu, we also list items we need to pick up at the store if there are any.  We make it a family affair and we start to have fun and look forward to what we’ll be making that week.  My husband usually stops at the grocery on his way home.  Chefs love grocery stores, and we can take advantage of the slow time of day at the store.

3)  Empty your car of trash when you get gas and stuff when you get out.  This is so cheesy, and I know you of the organized species are laughing,  but it works for me.  There was a time when stuff would be piled in my car and one big clean out would take forever.  I once was rear ended, totaling my car and the trunk wouldn’t reopen.  I lost a basketball goal, two large bags of mardi gras beads, a pair of shoes, several of the kids toys and some important paperwork.  I somehow, probably thanks to Flylady, got in the habit of grabbing a couple of pieces of trash every time I leave the car, and of using the time at the gas pump to also make use of the trash can next to the pump.  According to my husband’s standards, (think military precision) my car still isn’t clean, but there’s nothing growing in it, and I can find everything I need, and if I get rear ended and can’t open the trunk, I’m cool.  It may not look freshly detailed all the time, but it functions and there are no projectiles. I can pick up somebody on the fly for a lunch or coffee date and I’m not embarrassed about the pile of garbage beneath their feet.

4)  Run your appliances.  Every day.  For so many years I went easy on my appliances.  As if I could hurt their feelings or ask too much of them.  Not anymore.  I make those things WORK for me.  Our washing machine and dryer work seven days per week. We find that one load every day keeps us ahead of the laundry avalanche that five people can produce.  It works but the trick is to do it every day.  There was a time when my laundry was a ROOM of shame full with waist high piles.  Sometimes to catch up I’d spend a day at a laundromat.  NO FUN!  One load every day and NO MORE wasted days trying to burrow out from under laundry overwhelm.  Our dishwasher pulls double shifts all the time.  It runs every night and sometimes again in the afternoon.  I’ve already told you about my coffee pot.   My phone reminders work hard to tell us when it’s time to move to the next subject, time for me to get to an appointment, and what’s coming up tomorrow.  My crock pot slaves all day or sometimes all night.  It’s like having a butler and a maid.  If you’ve got those workhorses, USE those babies!

5)  Delegate.  To your kids.  Our daughter, 16, takes care of the laundry (one load per day start to folded), sweeps and mops the kitchen.  Our son, 11, does the dishes and takes out the trash.  Our 4 year old can make his bed, pick up toys, help wipe things, and put away his laundry.  This accomplishes several things.  It makes mom and dad’s evenings WAY less stressful.  It gives us ALL more time to play on the weekends.  And it teaches my kids basic skills.  I won’t be releasing children into the wild who cannot care for their own households.  More on this philosophy later.

A Sunday Morning Breakfast, biscuits and gravy

A Sunday Morning Breakfast, biscuits and gravy

6)  If people offer to help you, let them.  Every Sunday morning church meets at my home.  Every Sunday morning I make breakfast for everyone who attends.  This usually means at least two pots of coffee and one extra dishwasher load.  It’s not unusual for someone to arrive for church, grab some cups and start pouring coffee out of my kitchen.  Or after we’ve finished, someone else often loads the dirty dishes in my dishwasher or wraps up the leftovers.  Sometimes they take out the trash.  If someone loves me enough to offer his or her help, I say yes if possible.  That way we have more time to spend together rather than me alone in the kitchen.  I’m learning to be too busy being a happy woman to be a super woman.

There you have them.  The top tricks of a seasoned plate spinner.  These are hard won lessons, the results of a messy mom’s war wounds.  Now all you out there with the gift of organization… give me YOUR best tricks.

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Friday Feeling

Me at Ultimate Change

Me at Ultimate Change

There’s a feeling I lost.  One I forgot how to feel for a while.  The busyness of life and the feeling of overwhelm can sometimes… well… overwhelm other feelings.  Back in late February, before my birthday, I started exercising at The Ultimate Change.  One of the many benefits of regular exercise is one I didn’t expect:  The Feeling Of Accomplishment!  Every morning the class starts, and yeah, somewhere about halfway through I’m thinking I can’t do anymore or sweat any more or whatever.  Encouragement is yelled out from the front of the class “Push a little more!  You can do it!” and I somehow get through.  Before I know it, the cool down starts and a giddy feeling sneaks up on me.  I did it!  It’s over!  I feel great, want to laugh out loud, and can’t help the smile I get.  I’m actually a little bit hooked now.

Some people call this runner’s high.  I don’t even know because I would not call myself a runner by any stretch. (See what I did there?)  I think it’s a little more than that because I’ve noticed I can cultivate that feeling at other times.  At the end of a work day.  At the end of a project I dread.  At the end of the week.  More than runner’s high, I like to call it Friday Feeling.  What I’m discovering is that Friday Feeling pops up all over the place.  Most of the time I’ve just ignored it.

But lately, I’ve decided to maximize Friday Feeling.  By maximize, I mean stop.  Just stop and let myself feel the giddy feeling of “I did it!  It’s over! Yay!!!”  I guess most of the last few years I’ve let good accomplishments slip by with little more than “What next?”  By neglecting to celebrate, I cheat myself out of so much of life’s joy.

I’m doing amazing things.  So are you!  We’re raising kids, putting ideas into practice, finishing books, cleaning bathrooms, scoring great deals on toilet paper, finding the guts to try something new.  Little accomplishments happen every day and they’re miracles.  So outside the 26 inches I’ve lost (FRIDAY FEELING!!) I’ve gained a way of  recognizing and celebrating the gift of life.  Somebody Else did this, too.

“And God saw everything He had made, and behold, it was very good.”  Genesis 1:31

“..fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”  Hebrews 12:2

So God did this.  God celebrated the good things.  He celebrates the good things.

I’ve spent a lot of years letting perfectionism take for granted the wonderful-ness in life.  Living like Friday never comes.  Ignoring the cool reasons to celebrate because I forgot how to appreciate things, or I’m moving too fast to have time to bask in the goodness.  I’m thinking, however, if God places this on priority… perhaps I should, too.

It’s Friday, y’all!  Time to take a deep breath, a sigh of relief, a little cheer of “I did it!”  What’s giving you Friday Feeling today?

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