Getting Rid Of The Old Tapes

In the eighties, we used to have our cassette tapes and once we had a favorite song, we would rewind it over and over again until we knew the words by heart.  There are songs to this day that come on the XM station and NOBODY better touch the dial because they are playing my song.

We also have tapes in our heads. There are phrases we say or have been told by others over and over again in our lives that we play in our minds.  Mine were not good.  They were not good at all.  It is amazing how words can shred your entire life apart. Here are some:

  • “You are crazy.”
  • “You did it on purpose.”
  • “What is wrong with you?”
  • “You are fat.”
  • “You are a bitch. A crazy bitch.”
  • “You can’t get anything right.”

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The Bible talks about renewing your mind and I recently had a conversation with a former student about what this looks like and what it entails.  Nobody talks about this, they just tell you to do it.  It is a long and complicated process and maybe this explanation can help you.

Learning is very complicated.  Every teacher knows this. There is learning that you are born with which is instinctive and teaches you naturally about the world around you.  There is also conditioned learning.  Conditioned learning is what we are taught from others about the outside world and who we are.  It is our processes, skills, concepts, and habits.

When I faced adversity, pain, or anything challenging I have always regressed to my younger self and the things I thought to be true.  You are not good.  You are not valued.  You cannot do it.  Just quit.  There have been many points in my life where these thoughts have won.  There have also been many points in my life where I have overcome these thoughts to prove myself and others wrong.  In those moments, I win.  Success then begins to unravel the fact that those voices are not always truthful.

Breaking addiction, unhealthy habits, and detrimental thoughts can leave our lives in ashes.  Unlearning these behaviors and voices takes time, effort, and commitment.  It does not happen in an instant.  Unlearning can take your entire life.  Unlearning can mean that you appear selfish to others because you no longer participate in their deception.  Unlearning can mean pulling back from the things you know to figure out what is real and what has been manipulated to serve the purpose of others.  Unlearning is not valued because it takes energy that not everyone sees.  Unlearning means that you make room for healthier ideas and thoughts.

I like to think of unlearning as how we paint a new room.  We often have to get rid of the old wallpaper, paint, or dirt before we can begin.  The ridding of the old takes more time than the painting of the new.  Painting beauty with ashes means you may spend a lot of your time in the ashes.  In the ashes is where you begin to learn what is real and who you really are.

As a mom and woman, words are very powerful in our girl’s lives and our lives as well.  I talk to women and girls all of the time.  I meet with them one on one usually to be an ear or a person that can connect to some of the pain that they have experienced.  The common thread in many of our lives is the battle in our mind and our expectations of how everything should be.  War is raged there with many a woman in our minds.  We do not show it, but it is there on a daily basis.

At 44, I need an upgrade.  The tapes no longer serve their purpose to me.  I have been diligently working on this upgrade.  This process is messy and time consuming.  I am examining all of the ongoing conversations in my head that have shaped my life and the relationships from which they came.  Some are good.  Some are not.  I do not think those tapes will ever go away, but I am listening to new tapes…slowly…on a USB drive.  I am listening to the words that breathe life and not death.

“Nik…the sun will come up tomorrow, what will you do with it? ~from my dad”

“Walk through the pain.  Through the pain you become stronger. ~me”

“Your mess is your message. ~unknown”

“…but they who wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength: they shall mount up with wings like eagles…~ Isaiah 40:31”

I write the words now.  As I raise 2 daughters, I want truth and love to be known.  We are getting there.  Destructive thoughts come from destructive relationships, even the relationship we have with ourselves.  I can promote healthy relationships but they will have to find their words.  They will need to find them in their experiences, perceptions, and relationship with God. I hope I can help.  I can model the process but I must watch them work through this process and their own pain.  I want them to write their own words and their own song before the age of 40.

Oh listen…what was that?  They are playing my new song….turn it up!  It is time to jam!!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How Respect Saved My Marriage

When you get married, you bring your normal with you.  He has a normal.  You have a normal.  You have to find a new normal together.  This is part of the marriage journey and it is hard and challenging.  Both of you have to be willing to give, grow, and listen.  This is not a blog about my marriage being perfect.  This is not a blog about how you can have a great marriage in 10 easy steps.  It is about me and how I added value to MY marriage.  I am putting it out there in case it helps someone.  This is not to send people on a guilt trip. The intent is to be honest and real.

Six years ago, John and I were in our marriage up to our ears.  I was a principal helping to run an organization of over 300 students and 30 employees.  John owns a small business.  We were both stressed out to the max and we had a nine-year-old and a seven-year-old.  We were okay.  We were fine.  Except when I got home, I never took my leadership hat off.

One night it came to a tipping point when John said, “Nik, you are not the principal of this house.”

“What?”

“You treat me like I am one of your students.  I am your husband.”

Ouch.  OUCH.  OUCH!

“Do you think I do not respect you?”

“No.  I do not.”

OOOOUUUCCHHH!!!

Of course I did what any woman would do.  I took it to my girlfriend and hoped she would make it better.

“He says I do not respect him.”

“Do you?”

“Yes.”

“How do you show it?”

“Ummm….I do the laundry. I cook.  I am busy.  My job never ends.  Then there are the kids.  I am so tired.”

“How do you show it?”

BIG PAUSE.  HUGE PAUSE.  Did I show him that I respect him?

“I don’t.”

There comes a point in time when the truth shines in your face so bright that it actually hurts your eyes.  We shield our eyes from it because it is so bright.  It hurts to look at it.  The longer we look at the light, our eyes begin to adjust and we can see it for what it is.  That is what happened to me.

I cannot change anyone but myself.  I knew I had to do something and it started with me.

I wanted a biblical marriage.  God calls the husband to love his wife as he loves himself and the wife must respect her husband.   My husband is not perfect, but he is easy to respect. My pride stopped me from doing it.  I like to be in charge.  I like to be in control.

The goal wasn’t to fix my husband.  The goal wasn’t to save my marriage.  The goal was to honor God.  I wanted to be more like Christ and in order to do that, it started with my own heart. The first thing I did was pray for my husband even when I didn’t like him.  I then had to examine my heart and my motives to grow myself.

Pride vs. Humility

I had to surrender to the constant battle of pride vs. humility.  Pride was winning and I wasn’t even sure what humility looked like.  Since I was a goal setter and I always start small, I decided to humble myself in small ways.  Since I always have to have the last word, I started there.  I just chose to not say some of the things I was thinking. I would truly pray, “Lord, help me to keep my mouth shut and look for the good.”   Eventually, over a LONG period of time, the critical spirit began to evaporate.  (notice I didn’t say it happened quickly or it is completely gone.)

Do not keep records of wrongs.

I was the master of this.  I could store up everything he said, did, and didn’t do for years.  I would then unleash it on him when we argued.  That was a step up from the critical spirit.  It is now an important rule in our house from 1 Corinthians 13:4-8.  Love does not keep a record of wrongs.  Neither does respect.

I built him up instead of tearing him down.

Once you get yourself in a hole, it is easy to stay there.  You become so negative and gritchy.  That was me.  I was the poster child for this.  Seeing the negative is easy, looking for the good in your spouse is harder especially when life is weighing on you like a boulder.  That is when I would pray, “Lord, help me to see the good.  I can’t see the good, but you can.”  Slowly, I did.  I even got to the point where I started flirting with my husband again.  That was and IS REALLY FUN!

I would text him, “Good morning you sexy beast.”

And today, I sent him this:

“Roses are red.  Foxes are clever.  I like your butt.  Let me touch it forever.”

Yeah….we have become that couple that makes our kids sick.  It has been quite the journey getting here.

Finally, my truthful friend gave me a challenge.  Look him in the eye and tell him you respect him, then see what he does.

I will not give you the details on that.  But, it was such a great response.

One of my top 10 movies that I love is “50 First Dates”.  I love this movie because every day, he has to show her what she means to him because her short term memory is gone.  To me, every day, I need to show my husband what he means to me. (sometimes I nail it…sometimes I fail it)  I need to put as much in our marriage bank that I can because WHEN your vows are tested over a course of time, you need to have some cushion and memories in the bank.  When John couldn’t get out of bed, I dipped into the investment of my marriage the last 6 years, let alone the 17 years.  I had to because it was harder than I ever thought it could be.  It still is.

Respect changed my marriage.  So did humility, forgiveness, and the quest to be more like Jesus.  Good marriages do not just happen.  John’s response to my effort was equal.  He began to show me that he loved me the way God calls him to and that fueled the growth.  We were willing to be honest and real.  It took consistency, time, work, and acceptance of flaws that just are. (This is called grace.)  I am thankful, so thankful, that he accepts me as the beautiful mess that I will always be and we continue to grow one small respectful step at a time.

Raising Emotionally Strong Girls

Raising emotionally strong girls is an ongoing process.  We are not there yet.  Not at all.  I do not have all the answers, but I have used several strategies in the classroom, my principal’s office, and my home that have helped girls grow emotionally.  These strategies are not always celebrated in our “child first society”, but they are effective in a loving environment.  Growing strong girls is not easy, but life isn’t easy.  We need to prepare them to be able to respond to what life throws at them and we need to be patient with the messy process.

Just because I can, doesn’t mean I will.

My girls were really “lucky” to have their mom as the principal.  I had a key that opened every door in the building.  Anytime they forgot something we rushed back to school so they could get it.  NO….SORRY….THAT DIDN’T HAPPEN.  They could use the key once during the school year.  I think they used it twice over a course of years.  Just because I can, doesn’t mean I will.

When one daughter in fifth grade chose to wait until the last minute to complete a project the night before, I stayed up with her and helped her finish.  NO…SORRY…THAT DIDN’T HAPPEN EITHER.  I went to bed.  I had a job, she had hers.  She got a C.  She learned more lessons that night about life than if I would have helped her.  Your lack of planning does not constitute an emergency on my part.  Just because I can, doesn’t mean I will.

I could rush in and save my daughters most of the time, but I do not.  I let them struggle.  The struggle helps the lessons we learn to stick.

Are you being a problem solver?

“Hey Mom!  I can’t figure out this problem!”

“How have you tried to solve it?”

“I haven’t.”

“Come back when you have tried it two different ways.”

I am not lazy.  I can help them after I have seen an effort on their part of solving the problem.  I do this a couple ways.  When they were younger, I would give them a couple ways they could solve a problem and then they could choose which way.  As they grew older, I would ask them how they solved the problem before coming to me.  This was with homework, each other, social situations, etc. and now, as they are older, they usually tell me the problem and how they are going to attempt to solve the problem.

A conversation when they tattled on each other would look like this:

“Mom, Grace will not give me a turn.”

“Mom, but she…”

“Girls, would you like to figure out how to solve this or do you want me to solve this?  If I solve this, I will take the toy and nobody will be allowed to play with it for a long time.  If you solve the problem, you can still play with it.  Here are some ways that you can solve it.”  And I would give them options.  Now, at 13 and 15, I will simply ask, “Would you like me to step in?” and their answer is usually, “No.”

As a professional that has worked with children through college, I can see that problem-solving skills are very important at every age level.  We, as parents, have to give them opportunities to be problem solvers in all situations at home and school.  As they get better at it, their confidence grows in this skill area.  There is always a time that you may need to step in, but we should allow them the opportunity to work through it first. I never get upset when they have tried to solve it and it fails.   I love complimenting their creative problem-solving skills.  You will often here our girls say, “Hey!  I was trying to be a problem solver.” Even if the fire trucks show up.

Give them the space and grace to grow.

I have a daughter that has struggled with anxiety since she was eight.  It is a fine line to allow her to struggle, give her the tools to deal with it, and the opportunities to overcome it.  It is not easy.  I get anxiety through it because I hate seeing my daughters hurt or struggle.  I have learned that the struggle teaches them so much more than me trying to fix everything.  In my heart, I hate to watch it, but because she has struggled, she has so much empathy for others and she has learned so many valuable tools to deal with it.

Recently, she had to make a decision about saying yes to be on a team or not.  She was obsessing over all of the possibilities socially, academically, etc. and then she said to me, “I think I may be overthinking this!  I am just going to say yes and see what happens!”  Yay!!!   She didn’t have paralysis of analysis.  She recognized it, worked it out, and made a decision!  GROWTH!!!!!!

We have a tendency to suffocate our children.  I can be guilty of this.  I have learned that giving them enough space to make decisions, independence to try new things, and welcoming arms to fail into is an amazing growth opportunity.

Allow them to feel pain and disappointment and help them process it.

My husband didn’t make Little League his first year.  I sat the bench my entire freshman year in softball.  I actually had a real splinter in my butt because I couldn’t sit still on the bench.  Those moments fueled a fire in us to get better.

Being left out is okay.  My daughter was not invited to many parties in elementary/middle school.  The kids would tell her because her mom was the principal and I might not approve.  Or maybe they didn’t like her.  We really do not know.  Many tears were shed, but she learned many lessons through that.  She learned what a real friend is and her value isn’t based on the acceptance of her peers.  This was a VERY hard, but valuable lesson.

Small and big disappointments help us grow.  Low grade on a test?  Not making a team? Not playing a position you want?  This is life.  We have to let them experience this.

I see parents on a daily basis orchestrating their kids’ lives so that there is constant success.  Everyone is an all-star.  Everyone gets a prize.  Everyone makes the team.  Parents make excuses.  Parents tell their kids how great they are and that they are the best.  What does this do?  This creates a trap of complacency in our kids.  We tell them, “You are the exception!  You are great!”  This helps our kids slide into the habits of excuse making and doing just enough to get by.

When my daughters do not make a team or a show, I tell them to get better.  We have a pity party with chocolate and I listen to their disappointments and frustrations.  They cry.  They sulk.  Then, I say, “How will you get better?  What is your plan?”  Disappointment and failure prepare them for life and make them resilient.  They need practice working through this with me before they go into the real world.

There have been so many situations where I see adults, including me, just wanting to tell kids what to do because it is fast and easy.  However, the process of learning is so much more complex than that.  Parenting is truly being our child’s first teacher in more areas than academic.  Their emotional growth depends on our responses, opportunities to grow them, and the way we view success.   I do not view success as reaching a certain goal.  I view success as hard work, decision making, good risk taking, failure, and learning.   In the long run, this creates young adults that realize that the world doesn’t revolve around them, creative problem solvers that exceed expectations, and confidence in what they are created to be.  Sit back, mom and dad, and allow your child to truly grow.  The long-term benefits will outweigh the short-term struggle.

 

 

How I Am Raising Girls To Love Their Strong Bodies

This isn’t a lecture to all moms.  This is written from a woman that suffered from an eating disorder, body dysmorphia, and anxiety.  I now have two girls to raise to be healthier than I ever was.  I cannot prevent anything, but I can give them tools to see themselves in a different light than I ever did.  Since children do not come with a manual, I have learned much through failure and I have compiled successful things that we have done to grow our girls to see their bodies as strong.   We are not finished yet, but we are on the right track.

When I was in second grade, I looked down at my thighs and I thought they were fat.  When I had girls I knew I was going to have to be proactive in this area as the media, society, and moms have a strong influence on young girls’ body images.  As a mom, I have to model good habits.  I have to be growing in this area as well.  They need to see what the process looks like of loving our bodies at every stage.

Before Puberty:

  • I did not get magazines that came to the house.
  • I limited TV, commercials, and ads. TV also included the Disney channel until we could watch it together and then I pointed out the way they portrayed girls.
  • They played with American Girls, not Barbies. Barbie is just unrealistic.
  • I never went on a diet, talked about diet, or even complained about my body out loud.
  • I did not give food as a reward or when they were bored.
  • They ate what we ate at dinner. I was not a short order cook.
  • We ate goldfish, waffles, and lunch meat.
  • We also ate chicken, fish, eggs, and whatever John killed while hunting.
  • We rarely did fast food except for Chic Fil A…I think they put crack in their chicken.
  • We ate dinner together every night and never in front of the TV.
  • We celebrated what our bodies did and their growth.

During Puberty:

  • We talked about how girls will gain about 20-25% of their body weight during this time.
  • When they gained or grew, we did not say much, just went and bought things that fit nicely.
  • One grew first and is now gaining. One gained and is now growing.  This was really, really, hard.
  • Since they were so different, we shopped separately for them.
  • We looked at how every person’s body is different and that is okay. Be okay where you are now. This is hard, but we have to keep trying.
  • We did physical things together. We had fun doing it.
  • We do not always eat our feelings, but sometimes chocolate is the best. This is a term we say while we laugh.  We do understand the power of chocolate.  We know chocolate can help some things…sometimes you just shove chocolate at them and walk away.  This is how we survive puberty.
  • We squat. We lift.  We get really excited about the barbell numbers going up.
  • We do not compare.
  • We eat doughnuts…just not every day.
  • We do not weigh ourselves. Scales and jean sizes do not matter.
  • I show them how women’s clothes vary depending on size and cut. We talk about how stupid it is if we let a designer make us feel bad because we are strong.
  • We have learned to dress the body we have with class.
  • I model how our bodies are in constant transformation depending what kind of training we do, what we are asking our bodies to do and they are starting to see that and celebrate it.
  • I count my macros and they see me at the end of the day usually trying to figure out how to eat more.
  • We do not overeat….except when we eat pizza and ice cream. I always finish mine and theirs.
  • We are learning to listen to our bodies.
  • I have one daughter that eats like a horse. One that does not.  It took years for them to appreciate the differences.  I think we are getting there.
  • We have good days and bad days. It is what it is.
  • We look for the good things we like about ourselves. Eyes and hair we have going for us.  We MAY be related to Sasquatch.
  • We pop pimples. This makes us laugh and we laugh at the weird things our bodies do.  WE REALLY CELEBRATE ALL THE WEIRD THINGS….and all the things that happen during puberty and menopause.  Seriously, just think about that….
  • We also talk about sex, and sex, and more sex. I answer every question they have no matter what.  This has helped them see their bodies as a gift that it is. (These discussions should be videotaped…they are quite…comical and informative.)

I have a 15 year old and a 13 year old and my time is going quick.  We say that we are “wonderfully and fearfully” made.  When we say that, we need to show them the process of loving their bodies no matter where they are in the process of growing, changing, and developing.   We do that by showing them how WE (as moms) love our bodies.  If they can learn that at an early age, the foundation can help to carry them through seeing their body as a tool to accomplish things.  It needs to be taken care of and treated well, just like their hearts.  And as moms, we are just the people to lead them through it by the use of modeling, wisdom, honesty, and laughter….lots and lots of laughter.

 

The Fix Is Never Quick

When John turned 50, he wanted to compete in a Spartan race in Las Vegas.  He told me that it would require  an 8+ mile run.  You never know until you get there.  I heard 8 miles.  (This part is important.)

It was a beautiful day in the middle of a desert.  Gravel hills were everywhere and 20+ obstacles were riddled throughout the terrain.

This Spartan race resembles a great image of what our lives have been like since November of 2014.   We have been faced with John losing his eyesight, headaches, spinal fluid that would not drain, treatments, tests, and in the end, a conclusion that what he has was very rare.  They found blood clots in his brain that caused intracranial hypertension.  The solution wasn’t a quick dose of medicine and you will be better in 6 weeks. (that is what we wanted) This journey has been ongoing for two years with different obstacles every few months.

We are both very intense people, but approach things completely different.  When we came to an obstacle, he just put his head down and did it.  I, on the other hand, looked at the obstacle and in my head thought, “Nope. Yep. Nope. You have to do this.  There he goes.  Uhhhh…here I go.”  My worst one was in the mud.  There were barbed wires on the top and hills of rocks throughout the obstacle just to make it harder.  I remember seeing him standing at the end waiting for me and I thought, “I must keep going.”

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In the past two years, there have been months that I felt like we were crawling through the mud.  Slowly and cautiously, we lived one minute at a time.  We lived waiting on doctor’s appointments, tests, watching symptoms, and responding to symptoms.  Our world slowed down to a pace that wasn’t recognizable.  We would plow through an obstacle, catch our breath, only to find another obstacle as we turned the corner.  I remember seeing him lying in bed and thinking, “I must keep going.”

Each obstacle seems to teach me things that have similar themes:

I do not want to be busy.

I realized that I have spent most of my life being so busy doing things to make myself feel important, that I forgot what was important.  My family and close friends are important.  I need to serve them well.  I always liked serving others more because I got recognition and a pat on my back.  Now, I want to serve my family and friends and I do not expect anything in return.

Every day is a gift whether it is spent in bed or outside. Treasure it.

It is not “if” something happens, but “when” something happens.  You will be forced to look at life completely different when you realize your life will never be the same.  I have always been the one saying, “Let’s go!  Let’s go!” and now I find myself loving the slower pace.  When he has a good day, we celebrate.  When he has a bad day, we just relax and do nothing.  We do not fear that we are missing out.  We are savoring every minute.

When you live in the “unknown”, you must surrender your control.

We realized quickly that we had to learn to wait…not just days or weeks, but months that have turned into years.  The healing process cannot be rushed.  The details of the process matter.  It was not easy at first, John and I are both very good at being in control.  We now know that we are not in control of anything, EXCEPT our response.  We had to wait on doctor’s appointments, tests, results, and healing.   We learned how to wait with grace, a smile, and complete peace.  It is a life changing place to be.

When we were racing in Las Vegas, I thought the race was 8 miles.  I like a definite beginning and end (because you know…control).  When we arrived at the six mile mark, I thought, “Okay.  I can do anything for 2 miles.”  I often get through tough workouts or moments in life by saying, “Okay, Nik, you can do anything for ________”.  John had to be the one to point out the sign in front of me that said:

3 MILES TO YOUR FREE BEER

That meant that the race was 9 miles!!!!   My response was not lady like or gracious.  John had to push me on because running in gravel was really not my thing….well any  running isn’t my thing.

We went to Hopkins this week.  We had been in a holding pattern in decreasing his medicine for four months because the blood clots were not dissolving.  We can begin that again.  But, once the medicine is complete, there will be more to do.  IT WAS JUST LIKE THE SPARTAN RACE!!!!! WHAT????

“…let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” Hebrews 12:1

Each and every one of us has a race marked out in front of us.  Our races are different and so are our struggles.  Yours may not be sickness, but all the obstacles matter.   That doesn’t make any of our races any less important.  The important part to learn is that we need to strip off the things that weigh us down.  For us, there have been so many things we have had to let go of in this process.  For me, pride and control were two big sin areas.  These things hide nicely between our good works and obligations, but they are there.  For you, it may be something else.

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We are unclear where our finish line might be and we are okay with that.  The fix has never been quick. The finish line isn’t as important as we thought.  We know we will finish well and our endurance will be strong.  Our eyes are on Jesus and learning to be more like Him….one obstacle at a time.