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Tuesday, December 10, 2019

The Christmas Perfectionist Must Go

Last year I realized that I am a Christmas Perfectionist.  I'm a recovering perfectionist in the majority of my life, but I still struggle with the desire to create a Christmas fantasy and it gets harder every year.  I want to give gifts with meaning, create memories that last, see all the family members, create a wonderland in our home and have time to slowly sip cocoa and decorate sugar cookies.  All this while still working, volunteering and attempting to cook and clean.  Clearly, it's not possible to do all the things.

This year, I'm being more intentional about enjoying the moments.  I've used the phrase "We'll just see what we can do" many times and let go the things that don't fit our schedule (or budget, or priorities).

Every year I feel the frenzy and begin to spiral into "should" and "must" and feeling like I have no choice.  The past few years I have felt more able to push those feelings into their place and love what IS and enjoy moments.  It gets easier with practice.  In case you find yourself slip-sliding into demands that are really too much, try centering your priorities with these questions:

Do I really want to do this?  Related: Am I participating because someone expects me to?  because I feel guilty if I don't? 

What will the activity or gift cost?  Is it worth it?  Related: Is it costing too much peace or mental energy today?

Who is counting on me to be at peace today?  What will help me get to that state of mind?  Related: How can I be gentle to myself in the season of busy?

When I say "yes," what am I saying "no" to?  Does that reflect my true priorities?  Related: How do I determine what is important?

When the schedule/weather/baking/gifts/shopping/etc. aren't the way I would like, where will I find my satisfaction?  Related: Are you letting the mood of others determine your own feelings?

So, if you can't afford the ideal gift or you don't like all the travel - take control of the things in your power to make the season the best one yet.  Stay focused on the greater good and let the momentary disruptions slide.  If you want to spend time with family, recognize that you may have to travel or say no to other things.  You get to decide how to "Do" your holiday season.

More Christmas Thoughts:

My first year as a Single Mom at Christmas (That was a tough one)

My Evolving Ideas About Holidays After Divorce

When You're Apart From Your Children at the Holidays (Christmas morning is quieter)
A Quiet Christmas
And They're Off

December has Some Dark Days

Prepare Him Room (The Real Meaning of Christmas)

Modern Family Holiday Helps

I do hope you are Christmasing with Joy this season!

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

It's Time for a List - Right?

I mean, Santa's making his, so I'm making one, too!  Here's a short list of what is on my mind this week.  There is seriously no order to this one:

1. We have had a really good year and every single person in our family seems a bit more settled and content - our Thanksgiving was filled with true gratitude. 

2. It seems like there is no middle ground between rest and action.  After two days of quiet when our kids were with their other families, everyone came home and the holiday hustle was strong! 

3. Christmas shopping is fun to me and I'm already wrapping up my list - yay!

4. I'm not a fan of cold weather, but I do like sweaters.  In December, I want to wear red every single day.

5. Speaking of red, I love it and Christmas doesn't feel the same without red decor.  I know white and neutral is all the fashion, but give me all things red.

6. If you're giving today, please consider this organization - Mercy House.  Their Fair Trade Friday box is wonderful, too!

7. Are you sending Christmas cards this year?  I hope to get mine out by the end of the week.  I send about 20 each year to family that live far away.  I think it's sad that we get to see family so rarely.

8. School is tough, but even moreso through this season where we are already trying to fit in more.  Necessary struggles, I guess.

9. The late Thanksgiving and mid-week Christmas Day leave us "missing" a weekend of holiday fun...something is gonna have to give, but we will cram in the joy wherever we can. 

10.  I really love my husband.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

The Sweet Side-Effect of Gratitude

I enjoy looking at home design images: Instagram, Pinterest even blogs.  HGTV gives me lots of before and after "fixers" to get inspired and my ideas just grow and grow.  It's easy for me to become dissatisfied and only see my own space as a giant project that is currently "less-than."

Like many of us during the Thanksgiving season, I am more intentional about practicing gratitude.  What I'm learning is that the side-effect of gratitude is contentment.  Contentment is such a rarity in our culture that feeds us the desire for more and fuels materialism. Being satisfied is a quality that we have to strive for because it will not come naturally.

"the state of being happy and satisfied : the state of being content." 
noun. con·​tent·​ment | \ kən-ˈtent-mənt \ (merriam-webster's)

Satisfied. Content. Joy.  These are the qualities which are the fruit of Gratitude.

The second effect I see is in my family.  They pickup on the thankfulness, too, and learn to take note of the good things we already enjoy more than the commercialism that ramps up this time of year.  I see more laughter and less hustle so we can simply enjoy ourselves with contentment in the moment.

Oftentimes, we have to turn from what we wish for and accept what we have.  Learning to be satisfied is a discipline that we can practice with intention.  The action and emphasis is on the turning.  We have power to decide what we consume via social media and to turn from the never-ending buffet of more.

Do you find contentment in the gifts you've already been given?  How can we model that for our little ones, teens and even grown children?

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

What to Do When it All Goes Wrong - Do you Trust God's Way to Fulfill Your Dreams?

This photo was taken on the day my divorce became final in 2010.
I don't know what caused your world to fall apart, for me it was infidelity and eventually divorce.  I was blindsided by the earthquake which forever shifted the landscape of my life.  For many days, I couldn't see beyond the great divide of before and after.

As I forced myself through the daily routines, all I could see was the gash that ruined the life I had planned.  The crevice between was was supposed to be and what actually was.  Even as I began to accept the infidelity, I was still writing my own outcome and so the aftershocks of additional betrayals and divorce rocked my security and wrenched away all that I thought would be mine.

More than a dozen years have passed since those first cracks began to emerge and I can now see that what was lost was a necessary removal.  The dreams I dreamed were not wrong, I just didn't trust the way God would choose to fulfill them.  I hadn't yet fully surrendered to whatever He would ask of me.

Here is what I would tell myself while still standing on swaying ground, freshly absorbing the shock of a life in crumbles.

Grieve, but don't become consumed with "what if..."
This was a big one for me.  Even as I experienced that my current state of life had been far from healthy or even normal, I longed to return to what was familiar.  I had to work to live in the truth of my reality versus what I wanted things to be like.  Acceptance isn't a one time event when a person has been living in denial for a very long time.

Release the future you designed (God doesn't owe me...)
Of course I would have never told you that God owed me anything, but I lived with that mindset in my expectations of a life with certain benefits. Even when accepting loss, I felt like God "owed" me an explanation - a reason for my pain. Being stripped of identity as wife and minister forced me to consider whether I would serve God regardless of the outcome.  Too often we serve Him to get what we want.  It's humbling to admit and this thought pattern needs to change.

Look for the gifts you didn't know you needed.
It's easier to be the answer to someone's prayer than to be they needy one, isn't it?  However, being truly needy revealed unknown sources of help and the true gift of community.  Rather than judgement, I was met with love, acceptance and support.  For a solid month, women of my church helped with childcare as I transitioned into working more hours.  They brought casseroles and salads and fun games to love on my children.  I was loaned a vehicle, had my utility bill paid and so many more ways God provided when I truly couldn't have know my need would be so great.  I spent so much of my life in control and this was the only way I learned to let go and really allow God to supply.

Allow the new story to take root in your heart.
This is the good part...but it takes wandering through a great deal of loss to get to this point. As you begin to accept that the life you had been living isn't going to be the life you have moving forward, you can suddenly be open to a whole new world of possibility.  For years my stability was based on my position, my possessions and my partner but now I began to allow Christ to define me.  I learned to be satisfied with very little and to imagine a new future, unknown but with great hope.  Let your blank slate become a launching pad for a new adventure.

There is so much more to say about each of these steps and we often circle back through from one to another.  Once you've endured the kind of life change that forever shifts your trajectory, you can choose to get stuck in regret or to acknowledge and learn from your experience.  I encourage you to do the hard work of letting go of your past dreams and allowing God to unfold your story in His way.

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Make the Most of the Days (When Your Kids are Gone)

These cuties are gone for the week.
One of the challenges of divorce and co-parenting with an ex is that sometimes your children are gone for extended periods of time while traveling with their other parent.  If you are centering your family life around your children, their absence will be devastating and that should be a red flag to shift your perspective.

In any marriage, the husband-wife relationship must be the priority.  In second marriages, it's harder make that true because the children existed prior to the relationship and there is more history which creates a tighter bond.  I've witnessed marriages fail because one spouse cannot put the other above their child.

For me, I have to remember that it isn't either/or.  It's possible and healthy to have both.  So, those times my kiddos are vacationing with their dad become prime opportunities to relax and enjoy my husband.  With intention, the extended holidays where my children are with their dad are islands of connection in the busy schedule for my husband and me.

I know it stinks to wave goodbye while your children go to enjoy a vacation with their other parent, but take this time to really invest in your relationship with your husband. You and he are the foundation for your family.
  • Plan some downtime and relax without demands.
  • Cook his favorite meals.
  • Wear something new in the bedroom or just on the sofa (or simply pull out something you have cared to wear for a while).
  • Be his girlfriend and remember how you engaged with him while you were dating.
  • Make a simple date.
  • Book an evening with adult friends.
If you're like us, between careers and children, it's easy for our relationship to get leftovers.  That might keep you afloat, but nobody is excited about leftovers.  The secret sauce of second marriages is that you often have some time alone while kids are with their other parent.  Seize that opportunity!

Even the most ardent love needs connection to be sustainable. Don't allow your husband to become the last person on your list.  Yes, kids are depending on you and yet he is, too.

Thursday, August 22, 2019

Notes on the Nine to Five

I have worked for the same company for more than fourteen years.  What began has a temporary, part time gig morphed into something much more substantial and beneficial.

This summer I accepted a position elsewhere and it was a fabulous opportunity.  There was possibility to expand, to lead, to learn.  I was nervous about the change and yet so excited to do something new after many years of the same.  It would open doors to a different future path.

And then I withdrew my acceptance of that fabulous job.

When I first approached my current employer, he said I should "Go for it" and agreed it was a great opportunity.  He said go, with his blessing.  Then a week later, he asked me to reconsider, to accept more responsibility and compensation at my current job.  The thing that put me over the top was the commute.  The new position would include a considerable commute and less of the flexibility / authority that I have earned after so many years at my current job.

From what I understand, it's rare to remain with a company more than ten years.  I guess I'll buck that trend and keep up with the loyalty I've given and received.  I'm thinking it will be a while before another opportunity worth investigating comes so my work here will continue.  It does keep life more simple and that is always a benefit in my world.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

A Summer Like No Other

Summer is my favorite rhythm for our family.  I love the casual flow of schedules and lesser activities.  I like extended time together at the beach, the pool and even to the mountains.  Bedtimes are relaxed and mornings are unrushed.  It's nice.

Yet, we didn't quite achieve the summer-bliss vibe this year.  I have one who took drivers ed with drop offs and pick ups at awkward times - plus the same guy joined the football team, with conditioning at 7 am!  We tackled some home projects including the rearranging of bedroom assignments and painting, hauling furniture and organizing that comes with those changes.  Both Mr. Wonderful and me experienced unexpected career opportunities that required mental and logistical twisting to explore.  We both decided to stay with our present companies.

We had a week of togetherness at the beach which was fantastic.  We had a visit from my parents that I'm still treasuring.  We had a great summer.  It was just a bit different, and indicative of the stage of parenting where we are.

School has started and I no longer have any kiddos in elementary.  The middle school years have proven challenging, but so far we are off to a positive start.  High school is exciting with friendships, football games, youth group and more.  I'm enjoying connecting with my children as they mature.

I notice the flowers are completing their annual cycle.  The evening sun sets a bit earlier.  The leaves on the patio that drop are dry and brown, some in the trees already have hints of color.  Fall won't arrive for a while, but the shift has come.  The rush is real.

How was your summer?  Do you look forward to the routines of fall?  Is there a shift for your family?

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Dorrell T. Baird

Even if you didn't know my grandpa personally, you would know of his love for the Bible and of his silly humor - he was a forerunner of the dad joke generation.

Upon his passing into heaven last month, I learned more and heard more about his life than I had in a long while.  It was wonderful to gather as a family, with many I hadn't seen in more than a decade, and to celebrate his life.

Obituary for Dorrell T. Baird

The veterans ceremony was meaningful and honored both he and my grandma. The words shared by his children were weighted with the value of his heritage.  The gathering of everyone present was a testimony of a life well lived. 

My sweet family at the memorial ceremony.

Four generations - My grandma, mother, self and daughter. 

My firstborn and Grandma.

We are the grandchildren - and don't get to be together very often. 

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Why The College Admissions Scandal Didn't Shock Me

Parenting brings out the strongest feelings in most of us and we will do just about anything to see our children succeed.  Helicopter and Snowplow parenting is common in our society even though studies demonstrate these practices aren't actually good for our kids.  But for most in our culture, personal gain is more valuable than the common good.  Sometimes, we might feel shame for self-promotion, but the parent who does everything possible to promote and benefit his or her child is commended.

We abandon struggling schools to move to more prestigious districts or enjoy the privilege of home schooling.  We choose the club team over the school team.  We teach equality yet enjoy the vast benefits of our own upbringing and the best our money allows.  We always seek what seems best of our own, often at the cost of the greater common community.

Personally, I have struggled to find the balance between enabling and empowering my child.  We are in a 'struggling' school zone known to be less-than-elite.  It often seems that anyone who is able sends their child to a private school or moves away once they reach middle school and beyond.  I can't say I haven't looked for alternatives myself.  I have experienced and witnessed how parents will do anything they feel will benefit their own child - even at great cost to themselves and others.

Higher education already feels so very discriminatory based on your financial resources and personal connections.  Honestly, I thought money could get you into any school long before these allegations came forward.
  • A parent will go to great measures for what he or she perceives is best for their own child.  
  • Unlimited resources open doors that aren't available to everyone.  
These two concepts made me genuinely surprised that the college admissions scandal was such big news.  I wish I was surprised by the scandal, but I already assumed such behavior was taking place.  I didn't even consider that faked test scores and false athletic endeavors would be needed.

How can we respond as parents?

We need to reinforce the truth that there isn't one formula for success.  What happens in education is defined by our family values, individual student strengths and goals.

Character is more indicative for life-success than a resume.  We can teach our children that success isn't determined by college acceptance - Life continues well beyond that benchmark and traits such as integrity, peace, family, community contribution and the ability to work hard are traits to be admired. 

I wasn't shocked and even understand the drive to give our children all we can.  I hope our bond and connections with our children provide the greater source of strength and advantage than attending specific schools and attaining certain careers. 

Friday, March 15, 2019

A New Season of Blended Life

All of life is full of change and over time I've learned to expect the transitions and roll with them much better than I did in the past.  Still, some are even more monumental than others.  My oldest step daughter began her first full time job in a city many miles away.  We had her back for six months after college graduation and got accustomed to having her near.

Transitions are hard and knowing this helps tamp down the panic that I sometimes when realities are shifting and I'm tempted to manage others' emotions.. When I anticipate and allow for sad days and uncomfortable feelings, I'm able to move through them with less resistance and be steady anchor for others who are feeling the loss.  At times, I've been so driven to avoid pain that I have fallen into denial for myself or those I love.  Without intending, I minimize their ability to process and move through their feelings by crowding them out with fixes.  I can think of many time I have done this.

Through previous changes we must allow time to adjust to the new way things will be.  Such is true with our most recent transition, as well.  Mr. Wonderful has adjusted to talking with his daughter by phone or text each day.  It isn't as ideal as face to face conversation, but it honors the relationship they have cultivated for a lifetime.

Change makes me feel unsteady.  I used to panic and become filled with anxiety, often making poor decisions in my desire to return to what is comfortable.  I felt shame for being disoriented and projected that onto those I loved when they were adjusting to changes themselves.  Now, I intentionally make room for my loved ones to feel the change in our lives. Sure, I get impatient and still want to avoid the struggle, but after a lifetime of change I think I'm accepting it much better.  I welcome the idea that it takes time for my heart to process the changes.

The freedom not to rush through feelings of loss and transition is a gift to give myself and those I love.  Like spring, we are slowly unfolding to a new normal and all at once we recognize that a shift has happened - we are okay with things the way they are now.

I notice it happening just in time for another change that I see in the not-so-distant future.  I trust the Lord is already working in our hearts to prepare us.  Some changes are big and some are small.  All require grace.

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

New Year - Same Me!

It's a new year, but I'm not miraculously different because the calendar changed.  I'm going to keep up with some things I like and evaluate how change the things I don't.  As always, my real reset comes with my birthday which happens in February.

It's hard to label a year good or bad because when looking back there have been both in every year that I have lived.  I suppose simply having the chance to experience another year is the good thing and blessing in itself.  Mostly, 2018 is year I will remember with fondness.

Here are a few thoughts to remind myself as I take on another year, although I usually wait till February for my actual goals.

What is working?
Grocery online ordering and pickup has actually changed my life.

Stashing cash for short term goals is keeping me from spending what I have allocated elsewhere.  I love knowing the cash is there for bigger expenses that I know are coming.

Therapy when things get challenging has helped me know I'm okay.  It gives me a place to voice the darker things that I sometimes want to deny and yet know there is a way through them.

More intentional time off work including family vacation, visits to family who live far away, girlfriend time and days off coinciding with school breaks.  I feel like I'm maximizing the time I do have, even though it never feels like enough.

What is not working?
Extreme drive-times with three kiddos at three different schools.  I have attempted a car pool, but nothing has worked.  I don't know the solution, but I need to be in the car for fewer hours each day.

Often I stress over things that I cannot control: other peoples' emotions, decisions and consequences.  I'm working to let these things go and channel that angst into prayer, learning what I can from it, then refocusing my attention.

Overconsumption of screen time is another thing NOT working and I'm being intentional about

Something old, Something new, Something borrowed...
Something old that I still love: Ponytails
Something new I will try this year: Strength Training
Borrowing from my sister, Relationships over Rules.
Something blue: Need new jeans

I'll be thinking of specific ways to keep these priorities in the next year.

What I'm looking forward to in 2019:
A big birthday: Mr. Wonderful turns 5-0!  We hope to take a trip together to celebrate.

My firstborn will get his driving permit and begin the right of passage of learning to drive.  Oh my.

My youngest will end elementary school and with it a whole season of my life seems to pass.  I'll never be mother to littles again.  Middle School seems so big.

Our oldest will be off on her own in a new city and I hope to take all three of mine for a visit.