Finishing Well

I ran a marathon.  Once.  It was a bucket list item that has been checked off and it will never happen again.  One reason is because I am not really a runner.  I tried to be for a long time but I run more like a giant….”Fe-Fi-Fo-Fum” with very heavy feet.  Another reason is a tap dancer passed me.  When a tap dancer passes you at mile 19 uphill, you look for another way to find your inner athlete.   However, the marathon reminds me so much of the school year and as an educator and parent, I must be honest, I am ready for the finish line.

At the beginning of the year, just like the miles in a marathon, the days and possibilities are laid out in front of you.  Your goals are set, the excitement is contagious, and the energy of everyone involved is apparent.  At the beginning of the race, people are running extra miles just to get warmed up. (I am not sure why one would do this since you have 26.2 miles to get warmed up….but here again…I am not a runner.)  Teachers have their rooms prepared, the floors are shiny from the hard word of the maintenance department, and all the students have their new supplies.

Then there is May.  There is a point in the race that is called “THE WALL”.  This is the place where you want to sit down on the curb, take your shoes off, and begin throwing them at people.  In the race of the school year, every educator, parent, and child feels this way at least once if not many times in the month of May. The teachers have a to-do list that will never end on top of all of the end of the year items.  The students can’t even find their school supplies and nobody is spending any money on them now.  And the attitudes of EVERYONE involved can be an emotional roller coaster in itself.  The parents have even questioned if it is necessary to go to school the month of May because really, beyond field trips, field day, celebrations, etc…let’s just raise your hand if we should end it in April.  Overwhelmed is an understatement.

In the race of the school year, the Bowers family is limping…no crawling to the finish line.  We have hit the wall.  We have a saying in our house.  “The Bowers girls do not quit.”  Weeelllllll…. I am raising my hand because I have thought about quitting May and school several times in the past week.   Even though we might want to, we do not quit.  We finish well.  What does that look like?  You take every ounce of your mental and physical energy and you not only do what is expected, but you do it well.

The month of May is almost over.  ALMOST.  I see the end on my calendar but the events that have to transpire for school to be over is overwhelming.  May is the most bittersweet time of the year.  It means another year that our kids are older.  The older your kids get means there are many lasts, too.  Chapters are ending and we get a brief pause before the next chapter.  As if we just blinked, the hand that held yours walking into kindergarten is now waving goodbye as they pull out of the driveway.

The juggling of the bittersweet can cause havoc if you are a perfectionist. I feel like this but I should feel this.  I can’t do anymore but I have to do more.  It is a never ending cycle.

I have to force myself to sit and be still.  To linger.  To listen.  To enjoy.  To breathe.  To let go.  In the craziness of life, my attitude seems to be copied in our house full of girls and lately, my attitude has been horrible.  If my sarcasm is normally a 10 then when I am tired and stressed, my coping mechanism takes my sarcasm (and everyone with it) to a 15.  The problem with that is that it does not solve the stress, it adds to it.

We were at Hopkins last week and I was reminded once again how valuable every day is.  I have been angry and anxious, stressed and rushed.  The way that I have responded to everyone has been less than stellar.  My eye rolls per minute could set world records I am sure.

I came home, sat on our back deck and looked at this.

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God painted me a reminder that He finishes well.  I am expected to finish well.  The girls and John need me to finish well.

During the marathon, I hit “THE WALL” at mile 23.  I wanted to quit but knew that I couldn’t.  There is that part of me that always fights for that last mile, that last rep, the last moments to finish well.  There is a coping mechanism that I have learned in life.  The storm passes.  The hard part eventually ends.  The girls and I have a saying, “You can do anything for ___________.”  A month, a day, an hour.  You can do it.  Finish well.

Our girls are growing quickly.  We have 3 summers until my oldest goes to college.  I am not going to waste it being rushed and stressed.  I am not going to be anxious.  I might be tired and frustrated at times but it will not stop me from finishing well.  I have complete control over my responses.

The end of any moment gives you a time for reflection.  What have you learned?  How have you grown?  These questions I ask myself daily even if the day has not been wonderful.  I can always reflect and learn.  And if I am blessed, I get to take what I learned today and use it tomorrow.

Our days are really numbered.  The doctors always remind us that they still do not know what the future holds for us and can’t make any promises. Every day in our house is really a gift.  I can only take one day at a time.  No matter what emotions have caused chaos in the Bowers house, we finish well.  Have I loved everyone in my house as well as I could and do they know it? If they do, then I have finished well….not perfectly, but good enough.

Just do one day at a time.

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Just do now.

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Just finish well.

 

Anger Is Sad’s Bodyguard

I love the renovation shows on HGTV.  I love seeing the process and the big reveal.  I like demolition day when they get out the sledgehammers, destroy walls and rip down everything to expose the studs and foundation.  I like to see the homeowners’ reactions when they realize that there are more problems under the walls than they originally anticipated and it is going to take longer to complete and more money.  That is when things get interesting.

That is exactly what has happened to me in my forties.  I have been under a renovation.  It is one that I did not ask for but was thrown into.  I am trying to swim instead of sink.   I usually write once I have things figured out but I do not have it figured out right now and that is okay.

My dad died at the time we were trying to figure out what was wrong with John.  At the time, John could barely stand up and his sight was questionable.  At the time, I went into auto pilot.  I took care of John and the girls.  I worked.  I worried.  I did the next thing in a fog.  I felt like I was climbing a gravel mountain trying to gain my footing but sliding down more than I climbed.  People would see us and comment, “Wow.  You are so strong.”  They had no idea.

I thought I knew what grief was but little did I know.  When the doctor told us that the blood clots would never go away and we would need to deal with this the rest of our lives, I got mad.  Adding to the fact that I never grieved my father, the walls began to fall down.

One day, I stopped the fake smile, looked up and said, “I can’t do this anymore.”  I wasn’t fine.  I wasn’t strong.  I wasn’t anything but pissed and it SCARED me.  The intensity of the anger consumed me physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.  I was mad at the big things and the little things.  I was mad that people would say, “He looks so good, so glad he is doing better.”  I wanted to scream, “No, this sucks.  It is hard.  Just because someone looks good doesn’t mean s**t!”  I would see older men with suspenders like my dad and cry.  My heart hurt so much because it was broken.  I felt like I lost my two favorite men.

Anger has a way of consuming you and when not expressed and dealt with appropriately can take hold of your heart.  Also, the good girl in me tells myself, “You shouldn’t be angry.  This is wrong.  Get it together.”  Heaven forbid I feel any emotion.  That is a lie that many people believe and I refuse to act on anymore.

Just like the exposed wood and wires in a wall, our emotions can look very ugly. The surges of anger are real.  How I deal with the anger is the most important.  I went to counseling.   I also have a handful of friends that I confide in that I call “Friends In a Pocket”.  They do not judge.  They listen.  They let me vent and help me find the good in the anger most of the times through laughter.  I also stay away from people if I can.  It is not their fault and when I am out in public, I do not say much.  It is better that way.

I have found an outlet for my anger.  For me, it is lifting heavy weight.  I mean REALLY heavy weight.  I take my anger out on a barbell.  I push through the heaviness to rise up and that illustrates the reality of the messy process of grieving.  Once the anger is felt and processed it reveals what is really there….a deep and profound sadness.

Anger is sad’s bodyguard.

There is something happens when your raw emotions are exposed.  A raw vulnerability is revealed and something deep inside you changes and you will never be the same.  Death, sickness, divorce, or friendships that brought about great love when gone will leave a huge hole that will forever change you.  This change reveals true friendship, true character, and flaws that need to be worked on within yourself.

Anger gives you energy.  Sadness depletes you.  Anger helps you to get things done.  Sadness makes you want to stay in bed.   Anger pushes you through.  Sadness helps you retreat.  Both emotions are needed and necessary to grieve what once was and what may never be again.  Anger and sadness are part of the process.

As Christians, we feel that these feelings are something we should not feel.  However, I have learned that they are necessary and crucial to navigating the fallen world we live in.  I find myself drawn to the book of Psalms.  The book in the middle of the Bible that truly expresses the groans and pains of humanity.  It also expresses the worship and gratitude. The psalmists expressed every emotion and did not mince their words.  I love how those confessions brought forth a deeper relationship with God. Feeling pain is part of the journey and helps us appreciate the rise from struggle when it happens.

Life is filled with doubts, fears, angst, and despair.  Life is also filled with joy, hope, perseverance, and celebration.  Anger helps me persevere.  Anger helps me process my sadness.  Anger helps me grieve.

I am not ready for the great reveal.  My walls and studs are still exposed right now.  This remodeling project of myself is a bigger project than I realized.  I do not have a timeline of completion and I never will.  I will be taking the time to fix and mend the broken parts during this renovation so that my foundation is stronger than before.  My anger is the sledgehammer that reveals the deeper emotions of love that has been lost, changed, and renewed.  God often goes underground to grow us.  I need to remember the work God has already done in me.  I need to trust His faithfulness and accept the beauty of the process.  I readily admit that I am a work in progress.  I also realize that sometimes life is worth groaning about and I must be patient as I look for the fresh reserve to be able to paint beauty with the ashes again.

 

 

When You Are Stuck….

Last year, we began letting Grace drive the jet-ski a little bit.  We did this for several reasons, but the main one is that she is a spaz and needs all of the experience possible of handling bigger machinery without the risk of death.  As we changed positions and she took the driver’s seat, I said, “Do you see those birds standing in the water?  Do not go over there…it is too shallow.”  She replied, “Got it Mom!”  Five minutes later, we were in the sand, beside the birds, spitting out sand from the engine….we were stuck.

I love using this incident to convey the illustration of when we get stuck in life.  There are so many emotions that you go through when you are stuck.  Your mind races, you get frustrated, and you may panic.  There are also things that need to happen as you unstick yourself.

Don’t panic, you are not helpless.

When I was stuck on the sandbar with 2 fourteen-year-old girls, I could not panic.  I was the adult.  I had to remain calm, cool and collected while on the inside, I was thinking, “Crap!  What if we die out here?  We are in a freaking swamp and this could end up like Gilligan’s Island with no professor, just 2 teenagers!!!!”  I then looked around at where I was and began to devise a plan.  Also, I MAY have been stuck before and I got myself unstuck with time, patience, and work.

Do something.

“Alright girls.  Get off and start pushing.” I said.

“But….we can’t.  Jellyfish.”

“GET.OFF.AND.PUSH!!!” I demanded with gritted teeth and they did.

Despite their irrational fear of jellyfish, they pushed.

We kept pushing and pushing only to find more sand. Life is like that so many times.  We push and push and we feel like we are not getting anywhere so we give up.  We can’t.  Every push forward no matter how small is progress.

Find your sense of humor….do not lose your sense of humor. Especially when it gets worse before it gets better.

As we pushed in the sandy water that was up to our calves, we suddenly sunk in sand that went up to our armpits.  Screams!  Big Screams and all the curse words in my head…only in my head…because obviously quicksand is a real thing and I was the adult so I had to keep my s**t together.

As we were stuck in the quicksand, the jet ski came into deeper water and it began floating away.   I had two options.  To laugh or cry.  I laughed. (I have a tendency to laugh in the worst situations.)  We laughed as we continued to push emerging from the water like 3 swamp monsters giggling.  And after all the fear and screams, I was the only one that got stung by a jellyfish.  Laughing makes most situations lighter.  It has a tendency to take a load off even if it is temporary.

I know this illustration is superficial compared to the tragedies and incidents of life that can leave us stuck.  Death.  Sickness.  Divorce.  Financial Strain. Family. Kids. Work.  It isn’t always a big event, it can be a slow build-up of many things.  I talk to women often and there are so many times we are paralyzed with fear because we are stuck and we do not want anyone to know.  We cover it up with a smile, a wave, and an “I’m fine.”

No matter how stuck you are, you have to keep moving forward.  Sometimes you are moving really, really slow. So slow, you do not feel that you are getting anywhere.  Small movements add up to big movements.  Small movements make a life and produce growth.  Slowly, not quickly, the glue that has you stuck begins to loosen.  When things loosen, you find yourself in better water where you can navigate again and set yourself back on course.  When you look back on that stuck moment, no matter how much time it took to move through, it makes you stronger not because you didn’t sink but because you were the active part of becoming unstuck.

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What Can Your Body Do?

I survived bathing suit shopping with my teenagers.  Let us pause for a moment of silence and ponder why they do not sell wine in fitting rooms for moms.  For years I have been taking them both shopping separately because they are both so different.  One grew tall before she grew out and the other grew out before she became taller.  My thinking this year was that everyone is the same size and at a good place mentally so this should be easier.

I was wrong.  Very wrong.  We left sullen, grouchy, tired, and I was just sad.

How is it that when women look at themselves in the mirror, we feel such self-hatred?  No matter the progress that we make, it is never enough.  IT IS NEVER ENOUGH.

We constantly hear:

  • Low carb? No carb?  More carbs?  Paleo?  Gluten free?
  • In six weeks you can look like this if you do this.
  • Try this drink.
  • Put this in your coffee.
  • Eat eggs. Don’t eat eggs.
  • Do cardio.
  • Lift weights.
  • Eat this. Do not eat that.
  • That food is bad. That food is good.
  • I cheated.

And we will do almost ANYTHING if we think it will work and work fast.

Soooooooo…..everybody should look the same?  Everybody should do the same thing.

I am not buying it anymore.  I quit this craziness.  I have been in the process of quitting this craziness for 27 years because that is how long it takes me to grow.  I am always in the slow lane of progress and I am really okay with that.

I would like to offer a solution for you. THIS IS NOT A SOLUTION YOU WILL SEE ON A MAGAZINE COVER. It is a different way of thinking to help you in your process of self-acceptance right where you are now.  Let’s turn the focus from the numbers and what we look like to the question I ask myself every morning:

WHAT CAN YOUR BODY DO?

I believe our bodies are fearfully and wonderfully made.  I believe that we are more than the number on a freaking scale and a pair of jeans.  We were created to do amazing things with our bodies and our minds.  Why do we not celebrate what we can do?

I began this conversation last year with our girls and I will continue to refocus them when caught up in the superficiality of their looks.  I, too, am just as guilty AND I REALIZE IT.  Once you realize it, you have to look at how you can change it.  Soooo…

WHAT CAN YOUR BODY DO?

  • I can get out of bed in the morning.
  • I can walk down the steps pain-free.
  • I can play ball with my crazy dog.
  • I can do “the worm” when I dance.
  • I can pull weeds and mulch my yard.
  • I can change all the light bulbs in my house.
  • I can do push-ups and pull-ups.
  • I skateboard.
  • I surf.
  • I can jump on a trampoline and sometimes not pee my pants.
  • I can jump rope and sometimes not pee my pants.
  • I can squat both my daughters at the same time.
  • I can also wrestle them to the ground. (Yes, we do that for fun….don’t ask.)
  • I can walk on my hands.
  • I can run but I do not like to do it.
  • I can move better now than I did 5 years ago.
  • I can swim.
  • I can jump off cliffs.
  • I had two beautiful girls when I was told that I would never have children.
  • I have recovered from an eating disorder.
  • My digestive system is finally on track and has made great strides.
  • My migraines have improved.

This is what I celebrate.  We have two ways to always look at our life…what we have or what we do not have.  What we do not have can push us and motivate us but it can also debilitate us.  I am always forced to change the way I think before I set goals and begin working to get there.

While I am raising two girls, I pray that they will not have an eating disorder.  It is one of my biggest fears.  And yes, it could happen.  Easily.  I am pushing against the current of society, social media, and my past to help create healthy thought patterns.  However, it is their process that they have to do.  Only they can do this.  It is one of the realities of letting them grow up and realizing they need to own their thoughts because our thoughts become actions.

So here is one of my speeches or “Motivational Moments”…

“Ladies, look at you.  Really look at yourself.  You are beautiful.  That beauty shines from the inside.  And as we look in the mirror do you see all the possibilities that you can do?  One of you is made for a completely different purpose than the other.  So why compare?  Grace, you were made to run.  In order to do that you need strong legs with muscles.  In order to compete and do what is asked of you, you are going to need to be physically strong in all areas, mentally and physically.  Look at how far you have come already.  Look at what your body can do!!!  Caroline, you sing.  You need a completely different skill set and training.  Why would you expect to be anything like your sister?  You will need to train your talents differently.  Will you need to be strong?  Yes, but for different reasons. You will need to be able to sing and dance at the same time.  You will need lung capacity and different training.  GO and DO YOUR THING.  YOUR THING.  Go and use the body and talents you have been given to accomplish your purpose.  You are just getting started.  BUT ALWAYS….ALWAYS…celebrate what your body can do for you every day.  Feed it well.  Celebrate how you can move.  Celebrate the small things it does that we take for granted and the big things, too.  You are so much more than your reflection.  You are more than the number on that tag.  You were created for something amazing.  Go do it.”

Daughter:  It is really hard.

Me: I know.  If I could prevent you from going down my path, I would.  But it is your journey.  I just want the words you say to yourself to be the ones that pull you together not unravel you more.

And just like each of us, they have to work through their insecurities, anxieties, and comparisons to celebrate what their bodies can do.

WHAT CAN YOUR BODY DO?

 

 

 

 

This is 45.

45 is knowing the value of life and death.

It is knowing till death do us part and in sickness and health can and will happen.

It is watching your daughters grow up to be young women that can think for themselves.

45 is growing a 2-inch chin hair overnight.

It is knowing that you are good enough for where you are right now.

It is looking in the mirror and seeing the woman you are and the woman you are growing into.

It is forgiving yourself.

It is drenching your PJ’s in the middle of the night because HOT FLASHES are from the inner depths of your soul.

45 is for real friendships that show up.

It is being scared and brave simultaneously.

It is a smaller and more intimate circle of friends.

It is saying no.  Simply no.

It is spontaneous lunches.

45 is planning 3 months out to see your friends because our kids are busy and we are driving them.

It is knowing you are going to have wrinkles but deciding if they are going to be frown lines or laugh lines.

45 is not needing to explain yourself.

It is setting boundaries in relationships, work, and commitments.

It is deep conversations and tears.

45 is knowing you color outside the lines and owning it.

It is walking away from toxicity whether it is family or friends.

It is for doing hard things in all areas of your life.

It is listening to your gut when you know someone is bats**t crazy and running away from the situation.

It is knowing your character flaws and working on them.

It is questioning everything you were told to believe and looking for the truth.

45 is finding gray hair everywhere.

It is a time to stop fake compliments, superficiality, and small talk.

It is knowing you are not fine and being able to say it.

It is enjoying your own company.

45 is giving yourself time and grace to grow.

It is staying in your lane and living the life YOU have been given.

It is gradually releasing responsibility to your children and watching them grow and fail through it.

45 is your kids knowing you are having sex and not worrying about them knowing it anymore.

It is a time to finally heal some wounds.

It is using discernment with how you spend your time.

It is fixing the things that are broken instead of getting something new.

It is knowing that tomorrow is NEVER guaranteed.

45 is for eating carbs and fat.  It is eating to support the lifestyle you lead.

It is cheering younger women on.

It is laughing so hard you pee your pants.

It is knowing that your life sucks and is great all at the same time.

Ready or not….45 is coming.  I like what I am becoming slowly.  This is 45.

 

 

 

My Kid Is Not Great

 

I thought it was bad when I was 16 and was learning to teach swim lessons.  A parent said to me after their child refused to sit on the wall, swim, or stay at the pool, “We never say no to our child.  It is not a nice word.”

I thought it was bad when I was asked to change a grade from an F to a D during my first year of teaching because we didn’t give “F”’s even though the child did nothing.

I thought it was bad when a sophomore got her feelings hurt when I was coaching volleyball when I said, “They do not pay me enough to shag your volleyballs….hustle.”  The parent said I was OBVIOUSLY in it for the money.

But no…it has become worse.  Much worse.  Look around…do we really think this behavior is acceptable?  Parents…we are to blame.

We Reward Mediocrity

I cannot tell you how many times parents came into my office when I was a principal and told me how smart their child is because they can download an app.  No.  Your child is not smart because they can push buttons…so just stop.

Yay!  You did a chore. Reward.  Yay!  You were well behaved.  Reward.  Yay!  You participated.  Reward.

We are limiting our kids because we reward everything.  What happened to knowing you did your best just because it was expected?  What happened to internal motivation?

There Isn’t Any Delay of Gratification

There is nothing to look forward to or aspire to in childhood.  Kids get to do everything now.  All stars in minor league?  Yep.  Three teams of all stars?  Yep.  Eighth grade formal…let’s act like it is prom.  Kindergarten graduation?  Let’s dress them in robes and celebrate that they know their letters!

We have bought into the idea that kids have to have everything now and when they do, why would they have to work for it?  If you get to experience everything, what do you get to day dream about or work towards?

Kids Lie…Stop Believing Everything They Say

Kids will do whatever it takes to get out of trouble and work.  Be aware that your child is VERY capable of lying.  It is not always the other person. Kids are manipulative.  Very manipulative.

The World Does Not Revolve Around You

In the big bad world of adults…

  • You get your feelings hurt.
  • You do things that are not fun. Most of your day is not fun.
  • You do things that are gross.
  • You do things that require work with nobody giving you a sticker…it is just your job…so you do it.
  • Nothing is free.
  • You are responsible for you.  Don’t blame others.
  • Own your mistakes.
  • Fail forward.
  • Life is boring and mundane.
  • Details matter.
  • You have to finish your job.
  • You are not in control.
  • There are MANY THINGS YOU DO NOT KNOW!!!
  • You have to start at the bottom. Every single time.

What are we doing now to prepare our kids for this?  There shouldn’t be a new flash at the age of 23 because that is what is happening and they do not have ANY COPING skills to deal with this.

And here is the BIG NEWS FLASH:

STOP EXPECTING SCHOOLS TO DO THIS!!!!!  IT IS YOUR JOB AS A PARENT!!!!!!! 

My kids are not great.  They are average.  They have talents and they have AT TIMES been big fish in small ponds.  Not anymore.  Both girls know that anyone can be a middle school super star, but work ethic, hustle, and personal responsibility get you where you need to be in life.  AND…there is always someone better working just as hard.

Scenario 1:

Daughter: “Mom…I do not understand my Math.”

Me: ”I wasn’t in class.  That is your job.  I have my degrees and I got them by myself.   How can you figure it out?” (Besides she has passed me with math.)

Daughter: “It is hard.  I can’t do this… The teacher…. I am not good at this….”  Insert sobs, kicking of feet, etc.

Me: “Pity Parties are fine for about 20 minutes MAX.  Then, get over yourself and be a problem solver.  Let me know how it goes.”

Drops mic.

She gets on Kahn Academy…..teaches herself….does not get F.

Scenario 2:

Daughter at 12: “I want to play midfield.  I do not want to play defense.”

Me: “Play defense. You do not get to choose where you play.  Learn to play defense the best. You are not consistent as a midfielder.  You have to work harder and get better.”

Daughter crying: “But, it is hard.  I deserve to be a mid fielder.”

Me: “No. No you do not.  You are not the coach.  Play where you are put.  Complaining isn’t going to make you better, working hard is, so suck it up and stop being a pussy (yes, I said that, notice mom of the year trophy doesn’t exist).  You do not get your way just because you want it.  AND EVEN WHEN YOU WORK AT IT DOESN’T MEAN SOMEONE IS NOT BETTER THAN YOU!!!”

I hope I am not the only mom having these conversations.  I know people are doing it better than me and more articulate.  After working with kids from the ages of 3-Early 30’s over the course of 20 years, I can guarantee one thing…..my kids will not be spoiled brats.  I love them too much to allow that.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

Being Overwhelmed: Laundry and Life

I hate laundry.  It never ever ends.  In the event that I get caught up, everyone puts their clothes down that they wore that day and the vicious cycle begins again.  I have a laundry chute and that can be a very bad thing.  I close the door of the chute and pretend that laundry is not happening.  I can do this over a busy week.  I ignore it, do other things, and then I hear, “Hey mom!  The clothes are pouring out of the laundry chute upstairs!”  I then have to open the door and it falls down on top of me.  I become so OVERWHELMED.  I do not know where to start and a feeling of anxiety takes root.  I then just pick out the emergency pieces that are necessary and continue to ignore it because it is just too hard.

Life can be that way in all areas.  Our feelings, work load, relationships, and sin can all accumulate over time.  I call it the snowball effect.

I’m okay… I’m okay…I’m not okay.

This is one area that I have been growing in my life.  Since I am a pleaser, I am fine.  I can handle it.  I am good.  Until I am not.  This happens most when I suppress large emotions over time and then I will explode over something small.  When we were first married, poor John never knew what hit him.  It was such a transition.  We both were learning to live with one another and it was challenging.   Plus, I was the master of keeping records of wrongs, so when I exploded, things came up from 3 months before.

Strong emotions last 25 minutes.  Ride the wave.  Respond.

In the peak of adolescence, the girls and I tested my theory that strong emotions last 25-30 minutes.  Instead of asking one another to suck it up, we would just say what it was.  “I am really mad right now.”  “My heart hurts.” Once we owned them, we would cry, go run, do the thing that helps us cope and process.  We then might talk about it or we would move on.  But, we responded, we recognized it, and we dealt with it.  Stuffing feelings only result in larger feelings of that variety over time.

Whether the wave is a good one or a bad one, it eventually reaches the shore.

Little things turn into big things.  Good or bad.

Doing the little things can be hard.  We would rather do the things that we get recognition for instead of the things that nobody sees.  The little things are hard because they are monotonous.  (practice, dishes, laundry, cleaning, studying, etc.)  The little things are where we exercise our minds, faith, and bodies.  We enjoy the harvest, but sometimes we do not enjoying taking care of the crop.  We discount the importance of the little things in daily life.

When I first became a Christian, the people mentoring me gave me a huge list of rules.  I could not wear shorts.  I could not swim with mixed company.  I could not…   And for someone that struggles with perfectionism, I quickly became overwhelmed with it.

But, I learned that God slowly changes the little things in me.  He convicts me of things a little at a time. Over time, my life is changed for the better.  The little things make the big things happen.

This is a quote from Randy Alcorn that I love:

                                                      Sow a thought, reap an action.

                                                      Sow an action, reap a habit.

                                                      Sow a habit, reap a character.

                                                      Sow a character, reap a destiny.

I have lived most of my life overwhelmed.  I am learning to enjoy doing the little things.  I TRY to do a load of laundry a day from start to finish.  Just one.  I was standing in my laundry room a couple of months ago holding up a pair of teenage girl underwear and thinking, “Why can’t they be wearing Curious George underwear still? Where did time go?” And after I had my moment of strong emotion, I celebrated that the girls are still home and that we still have a little more time.

I also keep my laundry chute door open and let the clothes just fall into the basket. I do not close it and pretend it isn’t there.  I can’t hide it.  I have decided that it is time to not just air out my dirty laundry, but process it and move on.  I have it.  You have it.  It is time to deal with it one load at a time.