52

 

 

 

 

 

I cried last night. (Actually, this entry was composed a couple of weeks ago now but you get the idea.)

 

Yes, that’s right.  For those of you who know me, this is a rare occasion.  I’d like to say it was because of some precious moment with my children or some alarmingly tragic event but, alas, it was not.

 

It was more about coming to terms with truth.  While sitting at my dining room table, the window reflected back a reality that brought me to tears. I walked upstairs and weighed myself after this visual revelation and discovered the naked (sorry for the visual) truth: 207 pounds.

 

Not okay.

 

It seems so trite to say that I am that shallow but perhaps I am.  I am in mourning for a lost person – the one hiding under the extra 52 pounds.   I don’t look like myself anymore and I know why:  I have neglected and indulged in indecent proportions and I am reaping what I have sown.  Perhaps it is tragic, after all.

 

The last time I cried was when my 9-year-old daughter, Gwyneth, crossed the finish line for her 5K run in the top thirty of her 1000 girl heat.  I was overwhelmed with pride.  Now, I am overwhelmed with shame.  I couldn’t have run that distance with her and I want to be able to next year at this time.

 

 

In the past, I have found that truth is like that: a bit of a slap in the face.  It’s a wake up call to reality and you can’t pretend it away. That number is the truth and it is staring me in the face:  207.

 

And, as if the reflection and the scale were not enough, the facts were made abundantly clear when I started my afternoon shopping for clothes.  Ugh.  I hate shopping, even at the best of times (and sizes).  I’d rather live inside my head – in thoughts, and music and creative ideas – but, alas, God saw fit for me to live in this body and it must be clothed.

 

Brace yourselves: I specifically went to shop for active wear and bathing suits!  Talk about an exercise in discouragement.  I mean, couldn’t I just have another baby?  That seems far less painful! (Just kidding kids, it is far more painful, don’t be fooled.)

 

However, this issue isn’t about baby fat, though I would like to justify my overeating and blame my four little monkeys for it.  It isn’t about stress, though 10 months of full-time teaching, taking care of 4 kids and a complete home renovation is enough to put anyone over the edge. It isn’t about other health concerns, either.  All my excuses and justifications don’t amount to anything substantial other than a higher dress size.

 

Simply put, it is about disobedience:  I know what I ought to do but I do not do it.

 

There is no magic formula to weight loss or health, despite millions of articles and books and programs that want you to believe otherwise.  This is all there is to it:  eat less, move more.  The trick is to actually eat less and move more.  That is what I must do.

 

Here’s the bottom line:  I have a self-discipline problem.  I do need to figure out how to live in this body after all.  And I need to do it in a way that honours God to maintain any spiritual integrity.

 

So, I am giving myself a specific goal:  52 pounds in 52 weeks.  And you, my dear readers (Jason, Loreli, Mom), are going to keep me accountable.

 

This is the long view.  The next year is about getting my body back.  With no additional parties destined to inhabit it ever again, it is time to feel okay in my own skin.

 

#40×40 Manifesto

Last year, I spent most of my – precious little – reflection time working on a Sanity Manifesto to identify key aspects of my life that need attention and focus. (I recently used Wordle.net to create a lovely visual collage of it.  Incidently, if anyone knows how to get a downloadable digital copy of these lovely word clouds, please share your wisdom in the comments below. Suggestions for other fun apps or websites that will create such things are also most welcome.)

As part of my #40×40 project, I’m adding 10 more statements of intention to the 30 I previously crafted to create my #40×40 Manifesto.  Here are the next 9 to bring me to a grand total of 39.

I’m saving #40 to see how the Spirit moves in the next year.

1. No guilt in life no fear in death.  The truth is, I live under the weight of false guilt and irrational fear far too much of the time. I’m learning that God has a different plan for how I ought to live as His beloved child:  forgiven and free of fear. This is the power of Christ in me.

2. For such a time as this. This is Queen Esther’s version of “bloom where you are planted”.  Sometimes I forget that the positions and roles I have are at the centre of divinely ordained spheres of influence.   Sometimes – though God doesn’t need me to accomplish His purposes – He gives me the privilege of bringing His voice into the conversation and the opportunity to be a part of his Divine Conspiracy.

3. Take it off the table.  I have been exploring the importance of abstinence disciplines (fasting, solitude, silence, simplicity, frugality) as they are often neglected in the Christian life.  For the sake of growth and margin, I am learning that it is liberating to take things off the table, to abstain from certain things – even if it is just for a time – to jolt me from my complacency.  For example, for Lent this year, I am fasting from bread and wine and, recently, I have been contemplating what I can do – or NOT do – to break the hold that consumerism has on me. More on that in subsequent posts, I suspect.

4. Opt out to buy in. I’m learning that releasing some things I am holding onto too tightly will allow me to open my arms again to embrace the things that really matter. Instead of being worried about missing out, I’m opting out of lesser things to buy into joy.  #jomo

5. There are no perfect decisions. Lisa Terkeurst’s, The Best Yes, has offered some timely wisdom in my life of analysis paralysis and people-pleasing. I am learning to make “wise decisions in the midst of endless demands”, as her subtitle encourages. I’m learning that sometimes I just need to choose and not be worried about it being the perfect choice because “not making a decision is actually a decision.  It is the decision to stay the same.”

6. Live like an overcomer.  I often live defeated, as if I have no choice about my behaviour.  I don’t feel much like a new creation.   However, when I succumb to this temptation, I am believing a lie.  We have been promised that old things have passed away and that the power of the Holy Spirit is within us to give us hope.    So I do NOT need to live as a slave to my weaknesses, I’m more than a conqueror.  Lord, give me strength to live the overcomer life.

7.  Work the slight edge. I believe I have dangerously underestimated the impact of small steps in the wrong direction. Though it may seem like those little choices don’t add up in the short-term, in the long-term small increments add up to large outcomes in the direction of your choices.  As my friend Bob Wiley would say, “if you’re baby-stepping, you’re doing the work!” The slight edge offers encouragement to those of us who might be afraid we are incapable of making big changes because the big decisions seem overwhelming.

8.  Be thrifty. There are many good reasons to shop at second-hand or consignment stores, not the least of which involve the stewardship of environmental and financial resources and the lessening of one’s slavery footprint.  (I am saddened by the estimate of how many slaves work to support my lifestyle and I want this to change.  Determine your own footprint by answering the survey here.)  Most of my house is furnished and decorated with free or thrifted hand-me-downs (or salvaged items on their way to the dump).  With very few exceptions, my living room is decorated with someone else’s cast off items and I find it quite warm and inviting, don’t you? The truth is,  I don’t have to spend what I often think I have to spend and I want to remember that new is overrated.    

9.  65, stay alive. At Queen’s, we had this slogan to remind us to keep our priorities in check and not let school work steal our lives away; as long as we maintained a 65% average, we could stay in our programs and on track, academically.  Giving 110% is basic over-spending in the energy department and it is not a sustainable plan if I want my relationships to have priority.  Andy Stanley’s small but mighty book, Choosing to Cheat: Who Wins When Family and Work Collide?, offers important wisdom to those of us who need to learn to cheat properly. Work is not the place to spend myself.  65% is reasonable.  65% is good.  65% is enough.

So, those are the updates as I head into my 40th year.

Can you relate? Any suggestions for my 40th intention?  What are some of the statements that you would include on your manifesto?  

#40×40

On March 1, 1976, Kiss released their single Shout it out Loud while The Four Seasons topped the billboard charts with their catchy tune, What a Night.  Coincidence?  I think not.  Clearly both hits were proclaiming my arrival to the planet.

Readers, this bit of trivia means that I turn 39 and enter my 40th year of this blessed life, tomorrow.  I realize that this shocking news to most of you since I don’t look a day over 38 but, it’s true: the big 4-0 is only 12 short months away.

In order to approach this milestone birthday with the right a better frame of mind, I’m deciding to go with “personal project” rather than “pity party”. I think that embracing this looming date as the impetus for some needed changes sets a tone of anticipation rather than dread.   I’m preparing to enter the second half of my life with increased strength, clarity and focus and am setting some goals to help move me in that direction.  (As an aside, for inspiration about living #clearbraveandstrong follow Cathie’s blog here.)

My #40×40 goals:

1. #Publish40: Publish 40 blog posts by my 40th birthday.  I find that I begin many posts and then get distracted and never quite get around to hitting that daunting “publish” button.  This is my year to go public and form a better habit for my writing by floating at least 40 ideas into cyberspace.

2. #Lose40: Lose 40 pounds by my 40th birthday.  I have always struggled with over-indulgence and have written about it before.  I have set goals and failed (207 is still a sad reality) but I’m choosing to set a new goal and not give up.  Hitting 40 as a healthier and stronger person is a POSSIBLE and hopeful prospect.

3. #Thank40: Offer specific and personal thanks to 40 people by my 40th birthday. There are certainly more than 40, but I feel the need to acknowledge at least 40 who have significantly impacted me on my journey so far with a sincere word or token of appreciation.

4. #Read40: Identify the titles on my Essential 40 Bookshelf by my 40th birthday.  I have read many books – far more than 40 – but reflecting and narrowing the list down to the 40 that have changed me profoundly over my lifetime is an inspiring endeavour for a book nerd like me.

5. #Live40: Add 10 points to my 30 for Sanity Manifesto to create my #40×40 Manifesto. I have realized the motivational power of setting a vision for my life and I want to continue to live according to my 40 intentions.  Because, as Annie Dillard explains, “how we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.”

So, there you have it, folks:  5 goals to motivate me in my 40th year.

Do I have any teammates for this #40×40 plan?  Cheerleaders?

Comment below with your advice or experience related to turning 40.  How did/will you approach this milestone birthday? 

Just for fun, a few trivia highlights from 1976:   Apple Computer was formed by Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak,  Happy Days was the most popular TV show, Rocky took home the Oscar for best film, and the Montreal Canadiens won the Stanley Cup.

30 for Sanity Manifesto

I recently challenged my “moms monthly” group to develop a personal manifesto to capture their intentions for living, particularly because, as moms, it is so easy to lose sight of our hopes and dreams amidst the chaos of a busy life that struggles to find work-life balance.  I have used manifestos in a variety of ways as a classroom teacher (and often do workshops in my classes to help in the creative process) but I rarely take the time to reflect and package my own thoughts in this way, though I believe very strongly in their value.  Having a visible reminder in your home that summarizes your thoughts about how you wish to live can help to orient you to carry out your intentions in day-to-day living.

Although my blog version does not look like the lovely side panel of a Lululemon bag, AnnVoskamp’s 25 for Sanity Manifesto is the inspiration for my decision to revisit this concept.  That woman is so wise and, well, inspirational!

 

Perhaps, I can get some sort of creative designer to make my manifesto look like this:

but, until then, we’ll all have to settle for this lesser words-only version:

My 30 for Sanity Manifesto (in no particular order):

 

  1. Fashion a home sanctuary.  I’m not the greatest at caring about physical spaces as I live mostly in my head (scary, I know); however, space does impact well-being and I have come to understand that an organized, simplified and tidy home can help to bring calm to the mind.  The peace may be an illusion but external chaos certainly doesn’t help internal chaos.  Keeping my space clear helps to clear my head space.  #WWAVD? (What would Ann Voskamp do?)
  2. The interruption is the opportunity. I’m notoriously bad for becoming irritated by interruptions to my best laid plans.  Choosing to see the change of plan as a divine appointment is something I am mindfully working on at work and home.
  3. Take it bird by bird. Anne Lamott’s brilliant book  reminds writers – and all people, really – to take life in manageable steps.  Whenever I begin to muse about anything beyond the next step I instantly feel overwhelmed.  Wisdom: Do the next right thing. Repeat.
  4. Embrace freedom.  Though I am ashamed to admit it, many of my choices and decisions are a result of fear.  It seriously needs to stop as it is a defeated and deflated way of living. Daily, I’m going to claim the promise that perfect Love drives out all fear.
  5. Share.  When our family accepted a sermon challenge to develop a “family mission statement” we agreed on this simple but meaningful word.  We are committed to share all that we have been given – hospitality, resources, insight – because that is what it means to be a Covey.
  6. Let it go.  (Don’t worry this is NOT an allusion to Frozen; please stay with me.) “Hello, my name is Sarah Covey and  I am a control-freak and a security junkie.” If I could join a 12-step program to recover from either of these addictions, I would.  Because it would provide a PLAN. I’m obsessed with plans.  Have you ever noticed, though, that plans often change?  I need to let go of my compulsion to have everything fall into place as I had orchestrated or expected and hold my plans loosely.  Letting my agenda go for the sake of something better seems much more fulfilling.  See #2.
  7. Give presence as a present.  I am easily distracted and struggle to focus on one thing at a time but I have learned that multitasking sabotages relationships by undermining the authentic connection that can come from active listening and attentiveness in the moment.  This undivided attention may be one of the best gifts I can offer my loved ones.
  8. Pray first, think later. I tend to make my requests known to every other person in my life before praying.  Better to pause and start with the Big Guy so that my thoughts are formed in the context of spiritual strength and wisdom instead of human weakness and stupidity.
  9. Book daily stillness appointments.  For some time, I have been committed to Sabbath-keeping but it is not enough to only rest once a week if every other day is a flurry of activity.  There have to be moments in each day where I can pause, be quiet, and catch my breath.  Thinking a gentle reminder on my cell phone for some adaptation of the Seven Sacred Pauses is going to help promote this daily discipline.
  10. Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow.  This classic hymn lyric has been a daily mantra, reminding me to trust in the One whose joy IS my strength.
  11. Nourish with the right bread.  I’m a stress eater and I need to be a stress reader.  I desire to be the person who goes to the Word to be nourished by the Bread of Life instead of trying – always unsuccessfully – to satisfy my hunger with Lays Potato Chips.
  12. Seek ways to touch a soul through the touch of a hand. When you don’t know what to say or do, resort to snuggle therapy. Physical touch has healing power.  I know this to be true.  Sometimes a loving touch can transcend words and render them unnecessary.
  13. Let nature nurture. Being surrounded my nature instantly calms my anxious heart and allows me to return to a life-giving rhythm.  A long walk on the beach, a quiet moment on a park bench, or a cup of tea beside a glassy lake does restore my soul.
  14. Play music. Making a joyful noise helps to lift my spirits and channel my emotions.  Listening to music can set – or change – the tone of a room with very little effort.  Impromptu dance parties are always a good idea – and they tend to work better with a soundtrack.
  15. Cultivate creativity. Find ways to express myself creatively – through music, art, crafts, writing, decorating etc.  I really think that” it is not how creative I am but how I am creative” (to adapt a common phrase), given that I am a child of the Creator.  I need to make space for that aspect of God’s image in my life.
  16. Match time and energy to priorities.  I’m pretty adept at managing my time but I’m not so great at managing my energy.  I need to pace myself so that I retain some of my get-up-and-go for my family.  Though they are my priority, they tend to have their time with me at the end of a long work day when I am depleted and weary.  Saving some energy and/or sharing high-energy times with them when I can is a way to communicate how important they are to me.
  17. Moisturizing matters. This may seem like a rather trivial intention but I am the worst person for letting my very sensitive skin become parched.  A little ritual of moisturizing with a rich cream is a mini-luxury that I really can’t afford to forgo.  Baby steps, though.  My facial care regimen needs a total overhaul but that is an adventure I’m not ready to face (pun intended).
  18. Let restlessness give way to rest. When I find myself striving and itching to do, sometimes the best thing is to stop and release the struggle and the full mind to the rest of God.  This can be extremely liberating for my Type-A compulsive tendencies. Slowly, I am learning to let go of the need to accomplish something and to embrace the art of being.  Unplugging from the noise in my mind and in the world can be a soul-enriching experience, right?
  19. Consider the value.  It is not uncommon for me to spend money without thinking and this poor stewardship is disheartening.  If I simply pause to consider whether a particular purchase is truly worth it I would avoid a lot of impulsive spending in the name of retail therapy.
  20. Let words and The Word sink into the soul. Clearly, I am a lover of language but, like many things in life, less is often more.  Rather than skimming words, I want to savour them, to let them sink deep into my soul and change me.  I want the words to become a part of who I am.
  21. Leave work at work. I have been able to set better boundaries over the years in terms of physically carrying work home but I’m always in a battle for my head space.  Choosing to disengage from my professional life and to reengage with my personal life is essential to the healthy balance I am trying to achieve.
  22. Choose gratitude to frame the day. It is easy to recall my day in light of complaints and problems but I’m convinced that the antidote is noticing the good and giving thanks.  This orientation to daily blessings diffuses the power that a negative outlook can have over our souls.  (Again, it’s what Ann Voskamp would do!)
  23. Speak and spread kindness. Actions can speak louder than words but what I say matters, too.  Random acts and words of kindness can go a long way in a world that can be cruel and inconsiderate.  I try to model kindness because it is possibly the most important character trait that I wish my kids to emulate.
  24. Always kiss each other goodnight. This saying is on a plaque in my bedroom and it reminds me to make my marriage a priority. I am blessed to have each day end in the arms of my best friend and I never want to take that love for granted.
  25. Make best intentions a reality. I have these little instincts and inklings that I can’t explain that compel me to be in touch with a friend or to reach out to someone in need in some way.  I have never regretted following through with those promptings but I have felt that  ignoring or putting off responding to that inner voice has resulted in a missed opportunity to make a significant difference in someone’s day.  I resolve to put my love into action.
  26. Meet perceived needs. All of us are needy but we may not be aware of deeper soul-needs because we are blocked by the tangible needs in our lives.  Someone may ultimately need a restored relationship with Jesus but s/he may only be able to see the need to resolve conflict in a personal relationship.  If I can help meet the need on the radar of the person in my sphere of influence, meeting that need will provide the opportunity to continue to speak about deeper truths.  Like the saying (attributed to St. Francis of Assisi) goes, “preach the gospel and, if necessary, use words”.
  27. Seek first to understand, then to be understood.  Another clever Covey suggested that this is one of the habits of highly successful people.  I think about it in these terms:  when you enter a room do your words and actions communicate, “here I am” or “there you are”?  I want to be a “there you are” person who considers others first.
  28. Eat less, move more. My first formal manifesto was created as a result of my intention to live a healthier life.  The specifics are here and they still hold true.  This expression makes it feel manageable though, so I cling to it’s simplicity.
  29. Eat a frog before breakfast.  This principle has been popularized in the business world but is solid advice for managing daily tasks and avoiding procrastination:  get the thing that you are most dreading out of the way first thing and your day can only get better!
  30. Blog it. Maybe I won’t always want to post my entries for the masses but processing my joys and challenges “on paper” is cathartic, creative, and clarifying.  Reflecting and writing is time well spent.

 

So, what intentions might make your top thirty?  Have you ever considered creating a manifesto?  If so, what prevents you from following through?  Leave your comments below – I love to hear from you!

Covey, Jason Covey: a birthday tribute to my man

Tomorrow is my husband’s  birthday and I thought I would seize the  opportunity to proclaim his greatness to the world.

Note possible ulterior motive: I’m hoping this post may convince him to finally read my blog!

Here are 36 reasons that I love Jason, in honour of his 36th birthday:

1.  He looks like James Bond when he wears a suit.

2.  He laughs at all my jokes but he never at me.

3.  He is steadfast and level-headed.

4.  He takes his time and will not be rushed.

5.  He offers the single most memorable line in an evening full of conversation.

6.  He listens and remembers.

7.  He doesn’t succumb to the unrealistic expectations and idiotic opinions of others.

8.  He looks at me and he sees me.

9.  He is a respectful and respected professional that does his work with excellence.

10.  He opens our home to any number of vagabonds, including, but not limited to, former students, moms groups, and close family.

11.  He sees all his flaws as a place to start rather than a depressing end.

12.  He reads classic fiction – for fun – and he reads to our children.

13.  He tracks the paperwork and finances for our household on an Excel spreadsheet because I asked him to.  God bless him.

14.  He trouble-shoots technology problems and is patient enough to persevere until he finds a solution.

15.  He is an amazing athlete, playing all sports with ease (an ability I envy because I do not possess it).

16.  He helps around the house with menial chores like garbage, dishes, and laundry.

17.  He commutes every day so I don’t have to.

18.  He respects my profession.

19.  He tells me to relax, to sit awhile, and to let the rest of the “to-do” list go.

20.  He snuggled and continues to snuggle our babies.

21.  He gets his hair cut with a proper stylist.

22.  He cares about how he presents himself to the world:  with style and integrity.

23.  He will pick up diapers and feminine products on his way home from work without complaining.

24.  He keeps my bed warm every night.

25.  He strives to understand and meet my needs.

26.  He champions me in my secret ambitions.

27.  He listens to my lengthy and repetitive rants about delinquent teenagers at work, frustrating kids at home, and my mother.

28.  He cherishes his heritage and seeks to honour it in our home.

29.  He makes time for frequent dates and plans mini-break weekends.

30.  He draws me a bath, rubs my feet, and/or pours me a cup of tea (or a glass of wine) when I am weary.

31.  He trusts and values my opinion as an equal partner.

32. He DJs and participates fully in our Living Room Dance Parties.

33.  He reads his Bible daily with his morning cup of coffee.

34.  He will watch episodes of Gilmore Girls, Downton Abbey, and Parenthood.

35.  He tolerates my fits of hysteria that often end in tears or uncontrollable laughter.

36.  He is fiercely loyal and committed to his family.

                                                                         And…he reads my blog!

Happy Birthday, honey!  I hope you feel loved today and every day.

The Top Ten Reasons to Love Gwyneth

So, my baby girl just turned 10 and I thought it was the perfect time for a top 10 list.  The last time I wrote about her was when she was two.  A tribute is long overdue!

If you love Gwyneth, feel free to add your thoughts to the comments below!

I love Gwyneth for…

10. Her vibrant smile and freckled nose (and red hair, of course)!

9. Her delight over a good book.

8. Her willingness to try new things, especially foods.

7. Her creative script-writing, song-writing and flair for story-telling.

6. Her contagious laughter and silliness.

5. Her thoughtful gestures and kindness to others.

4. Her ability to animate any anecdote.

3. Her integrity and commitment to what is right.

2. Her sincerity when speaking to and about others.

1. Her strength of character and her authenticity.

Me and my girl
Me and my girl

Happy Birthday, G-Jane!  I love you to the moon and back.

What to do When you Hit the Wall

Stone-walling. That’s the recurring tactic of my son, Wes. When something is bothering him, he withdraws and shuts down. Completely. It’s a rather disturbing version of the silent treatment, though often with tears. Despite my constant cajoling for him to “use his words”, this little man has trouble articulating what is wrong and this big mama has trouble penetrating the silence. Frustrating combo.

You may have read about our sharing journals in my other post. Just last night, Wesley wrote “snuggle me pleeeeese, mom!” (large enough to fill a page) and drew a page full of tears to accentuate the need he was feeling. He ripped the pages out of his journal, snuck out of bed to sit on the stairs, and passed them to his father (who found him there) to give to me.

Insert teary eyes and a quick leap from the chair to his rescue here.

We headed to my bed for some Snuggle Therapy and, once we had a few laughs, his sadness had dissipated significantly and he fell asleep feeling loved.

Thank God.

All’s well that ends well. Or is it?

He is the kid who says ” you never listen to me” but he really means that I don’t understand him. And, the truth is, I don’t. But I want to. So, like most moms, I struggle to find ways to access his personality and understand his needs; but, it is a perplexing task to say the least. And it is so easy to feel defeated.

Intense, withdrawn, cerebral, compassionate, sneaky, tender-hearted, active, funny, introverted and slightly melancholy – that’s my Wesley. He fluctuates between moments of sincere concern and patience with his siblings and flat-out punches to the face. Always retreating and hiding to cope with his guilt (like most humans). He is amazingly complex and, seemingly, so out of reach?

On days that I seem to be a particular failure as his mom, I have to remind myself that I am the mom God wanted him to have. This combo was meant to be! Oh, boy! That means that I am what he needs, or at least I can learn to be, right?

So, here’s what I’m learning about hitting the wall, Wesley-style:

1. Snuggle first, talk later. Physical affection breaks through that tough exterior like nothing else. In this case, a hug is worth a thousand words.

2. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. If I can give him my undivided attention as often as possible in any given day, I will minimize the risk of intense outbursts; or, at the very least, lessen their severity and duration.

3. Understand the reasons, but don’t make them excuses. A lack of sleep, a sugary diet, a tough day, or an overload of people will all trigger Wes’s emotional upheaval. If I know that one (or any combination) of these factors is at play, I can chalk his difficulties up to the source and address the root of the problem as part of the solution.

4. Don’t give up. It is so important that I work through the discouragement of misunderstanding and keep trying to “get” my kid. It would be so easy some days just to default to Daddy, but that’s a bit of a cop-out. He needs to know that I will keep trying, despite the difficulties and that Jason and I are both in his corner.

5. Embrace the morning. The fact that each new day presents an opportunity to do something differently is such a gift of grace. What happened today does not have to determine tomorrow’s agenda. As Anne of Green Gables would say, “tomorrow is fresh with no mistakes in it.” Together, Wesley and I are learning this truth.

Photo

That’s my boy, on our breakfast date. The morning after.

Ah yes. New mercies.

Do you have a Wesley in your clan? What do you do when you hit the wall?

You Can Lead this Horse to Water…

So, I wrote a blog in the summer about my absolute resolution to lose weight.  I also put a plan in place to do this and called it my Healthy Temple Manifesto.

Interestingly, it was another reflection in my window that revealed what a terrible failure I have been at keeping these promises to myself.

It is so discouraging to see how little self-control I have.  I feel like I succumb to any or all justifications for indulging:  stress, comfort, entertainment, joy, celebration, proximity, you name it and I’ll eat to that! And now it is the holidays – potentially the hardest of all seasons to weather when you struggle with eating!  Sugar cookies, anyone?  An edible treat made solely of sugar, flour, and butter can be delicious, but not nutritious. As it turns out, you can lead this horse to water but she might only drink it after eating an appetizer or two.

My son asked me the other night, “how much weight have you lost?”  He notices my stones (which are now reunited in the original jar –  looking rather forlorn, I must say). In a way, I appreciate the accountability he offers me; however, no one really likes that kind of reality check any more than a post-Christmas Visa bill, do they? Sadly, I had to tell him that the weight I lost has been found again.  Somehow it has returned to its owner.  And although there may be many reasons (or justifications), there are no excuses.

This is discouraging to say the least; actually, it’s embarrassing.

I need to go back and read  follow my own advice.  I don’t really need a New Year’s Resolution (I’ve got my fair share of old ones);  I need a new year of resolve.

Anybody with me?

 

 

Marathon Days

I had one of those parenting days where things seemed to be caught in a negative vortex that was spiraling out of control. Staying home all day with four kids at this stage of life, I should probably assume that any day has the potential for disaster! Every parent knows how the demands and pressures of caring for even one kid can totally drain you physically and emotionally. (Perhaps that is why our fourth child, Fraser, has the nickname, “Frazzle”!)  Also, if you are a parent, you know about the phenomenon that occurs as children feed off your emotions:  bad day for mom breeds bad day for kids and the vicious cycle continues.

From getting slapped in the face by my 4-year-old to playing judge and jury for each victim of sibling rivalry to burning my banana muffins to my husband texting to say he was going to be late (and he was supposed to BBQ for dinner!), the day just seemed to go from hard to harder.   And the common factor in the day seemed to be the propensity for multiple kids (and mom) to melt down simultaneously in a cacophony of whining, screaming and crying (or some combination thereof) with very little reprieve in between tantrums.  (Many of you moms are nodding your heads right now in a “been there, done that” solidarity, right?).

It was a marathon today that lasted at least 10 hours and truly, who wants to run that long? Isn’t the average marathon time like, 41/2 hours?  I must confess, I am not proud of my performance today.  Certainly not a personal best. But I am hoping that some reflection will help me to prepare for the next big race.  Lord knows, it could be this afternoon!

After reflecting (read: complaining, whining, venting, walking, and praying),  I have come to some conclusions about how I might have navigated the ups and downs of the terrain today with more grace and stamina.  Thought I might write it down to remind me to learn from my mistakes.

A 12-Step Survival Guide for Marathon Days:

  1. Breathe.  Do you ever notice how shallow your breathing gets when stress and anxiety build?  It’s staggering, really, that we could practically forget to breathe.  We all know the take-a-deep-breath-and-count-to-ten wisdom.  Well, there is something to that, cliché or not.  A simple pause to breathe deeply before reacting to the chaos swirling about can go a long way to prevent unnecessary casualties.
  2. Pray.  I was listening to Jars of Clay’s, Dan Haseltine, croon “I need thee every hour” as I drove this morning and I was reminded that I need to demonstrate my dependence on God through unceasing prayer as I go about my day.  If you want to tie step one and two together, try breath prayer.  My current favourite mantra:  Lord, give me strength.
  3. Solicit help.  There is no shame in realizing your own limitations.  Sometimes a call to a friend that will simply listen and validate your experience goes a long way.  Maybe you can farm a kid or two off to a neighbour for a much-needed breather.  Text or call someone who could provide an objective perspective on the day and/or a new parenting approach to try.
  4.  Diffuse the situation.   I texted my husband mid-day to solicit some needed support and encouragement and he advised me to counter all the whining with cuddles.  So, out of desperation, I tried “snuggle therapy”: I literally set a timer and forced my kids to cuddle me (and each other) for no less than five full minutes.  It definitely did not ultimately prevent further breakdowns but it diffused the anger in the moment and helped to deal with the crisis in a loving way for all of us.  Plus, there will come a time when my boys will not want to snuggle with their mom so I’m milking it for all it’s worth at this stage!
  5. Change the scenery.  I did not do this today, but I sincerely think getting out for a walk or a drive would have been a welcome distraction in the midst of the chaos.  Just to pick up and leave without a plan is difficult for me.  I am the kind of person that plans my spontaneity.  However, there is some freedom in knowing that you can retreat to nature or a friend’s house or an ice cream shop to mix things up for everyone.
  6. Let go of my agenda. I am a list maker but I have terribly unrealistic to-do lists.  I know I need to adjust my expectations for any given day and be realistic about what I can actually accomplish in one day.  Part of my stress comes from the imposition of this agenda on myself and my kids and I need to be flexible and more able to respond to the day as it comes, letting tasks go as often as necessary.
  7. Count my blessings. Gratitude fixes many attitudes, mine especially.  I should have asked the kids at lunch what I did at dinner:  help me to remember what I am thankful for.  Philippians 4:8 reminds mothers that, “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”  Today I was thankful for iPhone pictures,  snuggle therapy, the fact that I labelled and developed a storage system  in the boys’ room (yes, that makes an organization freak like me quite happy), and the phone conversations I had with two good friends,
  8. Be consistent.  Today I committed the unpardonable sin as a parent:  I threatened a consequence with no real intention of following through.  The older kids had planned to go to the local library for a movie in the afternoon and I told them that they would not be able to go if they did not shape up;  but, the truth is, I needed them to go!  Empty threats are no good.  I should have said nothing or found another way to deal with the situation that would actually work.   (A side thought:  It seems that my kids are all struggling with tone lately, whether it is whining or screaming or sassing, so I am thinking of this new technique:  temporarily steal the buzzer from our Taboo board game and place it in the centre of the dining room table for easy access.  Every time a tone emerges I will instantaneously “buzz” that kid to remind them that the tone is in fact taboo!  Too extreme?)
  9. Apologize and forgive.  We have a rule in our home that when there is some sort of offence perpetrated by one party to another it must be “made right” before anything else can happen.  This consists of apologizing verbally to the victim (specifically, naming and owning the offense) and then receiving forgiveness from the victim (asking them not to do it again). So, on this type of day,  I spent a significant amount of time asking my kids to take responsibility for their poor behaviour so I couldn’t very well gloss over my inappropriate tone and remarks and expect to have any integrity left.  I had to humble myself and model this process of reconciliation and had to ask for forgiveness from the kids for the specific things that I had done that were angry and unkind.
  10. Tell myself the truth. Sometimes I can be so caught up in processing a day’s events from the wrong perspective entirely that I fail to recognize the lies in my self talk.  I can believe all sorts of things in a frenzied moment that have nothing to do with reality or logic and everything to do with emotion.  Jesus reminds us of the freedom that is found in knowing the truth (John 8:32).  Instead of getting caught up in the guilty suspicion that I am a bad mother and that I have scarred my kids for life, I should tell myself that there is a bigger picture that a sovereign God has under control.  That truth frees me to relinquish control and to renew my dependence on Him.
  11. Embrace a clean slate.  I always loved the advice that Miss Shirley gives to Anne (of Green Gables):  “tomorrow is always fresh with no mistakes in it”.  If you know anything about this fictional character, she had a penchant for getting into mischief and often needed second chances.  That’s what I need too, sometimes, maybe even as much as Anne.  It is just one day, after all, and “Mama said there would be days like this”.  I need to cut myself some slack as a mom and surrender to the promise that God’s mercies are new every morning (Lamentations 3:19-26).
  12. Don’t move to Australia!  A temporary escape is one thing, but a total overhaul is too much.  In Bill Murray’s classic comedy movie, What About Bob?, the main character takes a “vacation from his problems”.  I think that is sound psychological advice.  If I can give myself permission to retreat from my problems, even for 10 minutes, I might be able to go back and face them with a new perspective.  Although they will not magically disappear as a result of my mini mind break, I might be able to frame the day more reasonably.  And, according to Judith Viorst’s book, everybody has bad days, “even in Australia”!