Build Character

Life continues to be stressful and ever changing.  My Facebook feed has been filled with so much sadness following our governor’s announcement yesterday that school is officially closed for the remainder of the year. My heart breaks for all of my teacher friends who are struggling with this decision.  I know that they all invest so much into their students and are hurting knowing that they won’t be able to see their smiling faces in their classroom again.  They are worried about their students and are spending hours a day trying to find ways to still teach them from home.  I know many students are also struggling with this decision.  For some, school is their only safe place.  It is the only place where they feel secure and loved.  For others, there is worry about not being able to see their friends.  High school seniors are crushed that their final year is not turning out the way they have dreamed for so long.  I can only imagine what it would be like for my students with special needs had something like this happened when I was still teaching.  So many of them thrive with the structure and discipline of school in ways they aren’t able to at home.  My heart goes out to all of the parents of students with special needs who will have an even greater challenge.  It won’t be a simple fix of getting materials online for them.  Distance learning is not going to cover what they really need.  It just doesn’t work that way.  I also feel for all the other parents who are having to figure all of this out. Trying to balance work, childcare, and homeschooling is very daunting task.  Many will truly struggles and are feeling overwhelmed. No one is alone in this! 

The fear of the unknown for teachers, students, and parents may feel like it is more than some can bear.  I am here to tell you that this is not something that is going to make or break any of us.  Yes, it is going to be tough, but it isn’t what truly matters in this world right now.  Life will go on, and the safety and health of all is much more important right now than school.  It is not going to traumatize the kids. The school system will figure out ways to catch them up and move them along.  Teachers will step up in ways never thought possible with creative solutions. Parents will make it work the best they can. We will all be okay.  What is important is our response to all of this as adults (teachers and parents).  The children will be okay if their parents and teachers are okay.  Be patient and give yourself some grace.  No one is expecting parents to suddenly become expert teachers or teachers to have all of the answers right away. The kids aren’t going to remember the hardships that we all faced during this time years from now.  That is not what is going to stand out in their minds.  They are going to remember the fun that they had at home with their families.  They are going to remember all of the board games that are being played, the puzzles being put together, the art projects they have made, the teachers who read stories to them through their computers, the coaches who are had virtual practices so they can all still connect with their teams, the school buses delivering them meals, the groceries they left on their neighbor’s doorstep, and so many more wonderful moments of love and laughter.  That is what is most important.  That is the greatest kind of education that we can give our kids.  

There is strength in togetherness, there is strength in kindness, and there is strength in families.  All of that strength is what it going to carry us through to the other side.  Instead of worrying about how your kids are going to be educated or how to make homeschool work, spend time giving them the best education of all.  Show them that family matters by spending time together.  Teach them that love, above all else, matters most. Tell them that you love them over and over again.  Teach them kindness and compassion by showing them how to help those in need.  Teach them to look out for their loved ones.  Show them how to be flexible by just simply going with the flow.  Teach them responsibility by giving them chores.  Have cooking lessons or show them how to fold laundry or change a tire.  Teach them persistence by not letting them give up even in hard times. Increase their confidence by offering meaningful praise. Teach them to know and love God.  Be present in their lives.  Simply talk to each other. There is no greater education you can give them than building their character.   The math, English, science, and history will come eventually. Use this time now to grow them into amazing little people. We have really been given a rare gift. The gift of time. Use it wisely. It is all going to be okay.  I promise. We will get through this. How you respond is the key to getting through it successfully. Respond with love and grace. You’ve got this!

Anchored,

Look for the Good

It has been 6 days since school was abruptly canceled and life as we know it changed.  We were notified last night that the school closure has been extended to April 10 with the understanding that it is likely going to be longer than that.  They are saying that they anticipate schools being closed for another 6-12 weeks.  We have been told that teachers are preparing for distance learning but so far have gotten no guidance of what to do with our kids other than a few websites we can use as reinforcement.  As a former teacher, I cannot imagine what teachers are feeling right now.  It is a tough situation full of uncertainties.  As a parent, I am extremely worried what all of these means for our kids.  It is hard to imagine that this is our life in 2020.  It is like something out of a movie.  I keep thinking of the movie Outbreak with Dustin Hoffman, Rene Russo, and Morgan Freeman. I know that everyone is scared of the unknown and what this all means.  I am scared too. You know it is bad when they tell you not to come to church!  I am so thankful for technology and the fact that we can watch church online and connect with others that way.

As of yesterday, practice has been canceled for both of my children. The gymnastics season has been officially canceled and has, therefore, come to an abrupt end.  The cheer season is on hold as they are attempting to postpone competitions rather than cancel them.  However, I feel like it is only a matter of time before it is all canceled as well.  This all means that we really are putting a halt on our lives.  We are literally staying home all day like much of the country now.  I am already starting to feel a little claustrophobic, and it has only been 3 days since I have left the house.   I am a homebody by nature, but this is extreme even for me. I guess it is because it is such a contrast from our normal go, go, go life.  We don’t know what to do with ourselves and all the free time we have.  It is almost like we are all in withdrawal from what has been our crazy busy life for so long.  The change is drastic and a little unnerving, but it is also freeing at the same time. I feel like this is God’s way of telling us all that we need to slow down and take time to spend with our families.  I think that maybe he felt like he needed to do something drastic to make us see what we were doing to ourselves. It has already had a huge impact on my family. My kids have played OUTSIDE together for the first time in years. They are getting to do things that they normally never have time for with school and practice.  Their bodies are getting a chance to rest and recuperate.  I am cooking meals for our family daily, which also hasn’t been done in years.  We usually aren’t home long enough for me to really cook.  I even tried out a new recipe last night that was a hit. My husband and I are spending time actually talking to each other and hanging out together instead of our usual passing of each other as we rush to the next thing. My oldest and my husband are even working to teach our dog a new trick.  It is a totally new life…one that wasn’t planned but is a positive change. I am choosing to focus on the positive impact this has had on my family. 

The media is reporting all of the negatives from the spread of this virus including the hoarding of toilet paper and food. That is not the whole story, though. Even from all of the chaos and uncertainty, so much good has come from all of this already.  The school system’s first priority was finding a way to provide breakfast and lunch to ALL students who need it regardless if they receive free and reduced lunch or not.  Communities are rallying around each other and offering support.  I’ve seen coaches from all over posting workouts online for athletes to tune into. Teachers and administrators are posting videos of them reading picture books.  Families that already homeschool their children are giving tips and sharing their schedules to help those families that have no clue how to structure their children’s days.  Other teachers are offering help to parents who may not understand the material they now have been given to teach.   Neighbors are purchasing grocery items for those that are unable to get out and are leaving them on their doorsteps.  I could go on and on.  I wish the media covered all of the good.  I am proud of my friends, family, and fellow community members that I have seen step up and go above and beyond.  

While these times are uncertain and scary, try to look for the good in it all because there is so much good happening all around us.  Use this time to slow down and stop and smell the roses.  Spend quality time with the ones you love. Support those around you that may need it and look out for your fellow neighbor.  Be the good!  Know that God is in control of it all, and he will lead us down the right path.  Be ready to follow it wherever it may lead you. 

Anchored,

Get in the Boat!

This past Sunday our pastor preached a sermon entitled “Step of Faith.” He used a story from John 4 where a royal official came to Jesus and begged him to heal his dying son.  The man was determined to bring Jesus to his home to perform a miracle. Instead of going with the man, Jesus told him to go and his son would be healed.  The official did not hesitate. He followed Jesus’s command to leave.  Upon his return home, the official learned that his son had been healed at the exact moment that Jesus said he would.  This story is all about faith.  The man had faith that Jesus could perform a miracle, and he had faith that Jesus’s word was truth. The man’s faith brought healing.  His pleas were answered. It is about faith in the unseen and faith in the unknown.  We should all have that kind of faith…the kind of faith that knows no end.  What happens when our faith doesn’t lead us down the path we wanted, though? What if it doesn’t make sense? The man could have had faith that Jesus would heal his son, but Jesus could have said no. It happens all the time.  Sometimes our prayers feel unanswered or aren’t answered in the way we wanted.  Sometimes, God doesn’t perform the miracle we asked for.  How do you continue to have faith then? One of the points that the pastor made was that faith is trusting that God is God and God is good even when we can’t reconcile it.  It is having faith even when things don’t work out.  While I know this is the truth, it is easy to let disappointment cause you to lose faith sometimes.  When asking God for something and there is not a visible answer to your prayer, we often become discouraged, disappointed, and even angry.  I cannot count the number of times that I have prayed about something or asked God for something, and it felt like he wasn’t listening.  I have asked God to open doors and none were opened.  I’ve asked for healing and none came.    Sometimes there is only silence, and I don’t understand why.  Those are the times when I can start to lose faith, but in reality, those are the times when I should rely on my faith the most.  Those are the times when faith is most important because God is in control even when we don’t know how or why.  He is listening, and he knows best.  He has a plan and his plan sometimes doesn’t line up with mine. That is hard to accept, but I have to remind myself that he knows things that I don’t know.  He may not give me the answer I want, or he may lead me down a path I don’t want to be on or even knew existed.  Sometimes, he may push me in a direction that is hard.  I may even be forced to weather a storm. Instead of fighting against it, I have to have faith that he is in control and knows what he is doing.  It has to be his will and not mine.  

This was a lesson that I needed to be reminded of. I have been discouraged recently about some “unanswered prayers,” and I needed the reminder that I have to have faith in the bigger picture.  While I may not get the answers I want right now, I know that my prayers are not really going unanswered.  I have faith that God is answering them in his own way and in his own time, and his timing is perfect.  It may not be the answers that I am looking for, but an answer will come. He will lead me where I am meant to go.  I also have to be open to the answer even if I don’t like it or is hard.  I have to look for doors that are opening and be willing to walk through them.  I don’t want to miss the door.  It is really more than just having faith.  It is also about walking in faith.  That means that I am still moving forward even when I don’t get the answer I want.  It also means that I keep trying and don’t give up when I get knocked down.  I get back up and keep pushing through.  Jesus stands just outside of our comfort zone.  We have to be willing to step outside with him.  We have to have faith. 

It reminds me of a story I once heard.  A man’s house was beginning to flood. A car came by and offered him an escape.  The man said, “No, thank you. God will take care of me.” As the water continued to rise, he moved to the roof of his house. Someone on a jet ski came by and offered him an escape.  Again, the man said, “No, thank you. God will provide for me.”  The water rose to the man’s waist.  A third person came by in a boat and offered him an escape.  The same answer was given. “No, thank you. God will help me.” Sadly, the man drowned.  When he entered the gates of heaven, the man asked God why he let him die and did not provide for him.  God answered, “I sent you a car, a boat, and a jet ski!” 

The man had incredible faith that God would provide for him, but God did not provide the answer he was looking for.  The man thought God would stop the water from rising and was not open to the alternatives.  He thought that God didn’t answer his prayers, but that was not true.  He just answered it in a different way.  The man had faith, but he wasn’t walking in faith.  He didn’t get in the car, the jet ski, or the boat.  God does answer our prayers.  We have to not only have faith in whatever those answers are, but we also must keep walking in that faith even when we don’t like it, or it wasn’t what we expected.  We have to get in the boat! 

Anchored,

Mood Barometer

It is quite the gloomy day here this morning.  We woke up to a cloudy sky and rain this morning.  It has been unusually warm over the past few days.  In fact, we have had a relatively warm winter despite the early predictions of lots of snow from all the meteorologist this year.  Looking outside, I feel like it should be cold out there, but it really isn’t that cold.  I don’t know about you, but gloomy, rainy days really hinder my motivation.  I don’t know why.  It’s not like I am planning to be outside or that I can’t do my job in this kind of weather.  I’m inside all day so it really shouldn’t make a difference what the weather is outside, but it does.  For some reason it puts me in a lazy mood. Some people will say that rainy weather puts them in a sad or bad mood.  It doesn’t do that for me. It just makes me lazy.  I want to do nothing other than curl up under a blanket and read a book with a warm cup of hot chocolate.  Of course, I have too much to do to actually take advantage of that feeling, but it doesn’t keep me from strongly desiring it.  

It is really interesting to me how much the weather outside can affect your mood, especially for me.  I am not an outdoorsy person at all.  In fact, I could go as far as saying that I really have no desire to hang outside ever.  I am totally a homebody and prefer to be inside hands down over being outside no matter what the weather or what season it is. I love fall and all the gorgeous colors and the cool crisp air, but I don’t want to be outside in it for any length of time.  I am perfectly fine enjoying the colors from inside my car or my house. I also love watching snow falling in the winter, but I have no desire to be outside in it.  In contrast, I despise the heat of the summer.  I would rather be freezing cold than burning hot any day of the week, which is why I am not a huge beach person.  Because of my preference of being indoors, it is so crazy to me that the weather can change how I am feeling.  

My husband talks about living in Florida when we retire. He mainly likes the idea of no sales tax, but he likes the weather too.  I however have told him that there is no way I want to live in Florida.  It is way too hot for me.  I cannot handle hot weather at Christmas either.  That just doesn’t work for me.  Whenever I tell my husband that I don’t want to live in Florida because of the heat, he suggests that we live there in the fall and winter when it isn’t as hot and that we live someone further north during the spring and summer.  I am not a fan of that plan either.  Plus, I really enjoy the changing of the seasons. I need 4 seasons in my life.  Fall is my absolute favorite and there is no real fall in Florida. Why would I want to live there in the fall and winter when there really is no true fall or winter there?  I honestly prefer living where we are now where there really are 4 distinct seasons and where there isn’t unbearable heat all summer long. My husband also really loves the state of Washington.  I have never been there myself, but I know that I couldn’t live there either because of all the rain.  I would feel like a lazy bum all the time.  The point is, the weather and seasons affect my mood, and I need to live in a place that offers the least amount of unlikeable weather for me.  I have to be immersed in weather that makes me feel productive and sparks happy emotions for the majority of the year. Of course, I know that there is no perfect place that has my ideal weather 24/7, by why not live where it is ideal at least 80% off the time?  

Here is the barometer for my mood…

I would love to know how the weather and seasons affect your mood and if that has an impact on where you live.

Anchored and Feeling Lazy,

Holding Back

Usually when I sit down to write on Tuesdays, it is typically about something going on in my life at the moment, something that I am struggling with, or something that I have learned about myself.  There are so many things that I want to write about today, but I can’t. It just isn’t the right time to share.  I don’t know if there ever will be a right time, but I know that now isn’t it.  It is hard to hold back, though.  Writing this blog has sort of become therapy for me.  It has been a way for me to get out my emotions and talk things through in my head. I’m taking things that I struggle with and putting them out there on display for the whole world to see which forces me to take a deep look into myself.  No one is talking back to me and giving me any advice like a real therapist would, but somehow it helps me to put it out there.  It helps me to figure things out on my own.  It allows me the opportunity to put my flaws and struggles on paper where I can examine them closely and figure out how to change it or make it better. Writing it out helps me to control my emotions and keep them in check.   It provides me with a way to improve who I am as a person on my own. Self-reflection is difficult for most people.  It is hard for me, but somehow this blog allows me to do it in a way that is therapeutic. I have done more self-reflection in the past 16 months writing this blog than I have done in my whole life.  I am working hard to change my mindset, change how I view things, and discover who I am at the core of my being so that I can be the best version of myself. Whether there are people out there that read my words or not, isn’t really what is important to me.  I am on a journey of self-discovery and that journey is mine alone.  If no one reads it, it doesn’t matter because it helped me to write it and that is what is most important for me.  My prayer is always that someone somewhere that reads my story will be encouraged or at least feel like they aren’t alone, but it’s ok if that never happens. 

Today I am holding back the emotions I am feeling and the things that are going on right now that are affecting me because other people are involved besides just me.  I want nothing more than to get my emotions out on paper so that I can process it all and deal with how I am feeling.  I am on a rollercoaster of emotions, and I just can’t share it all right now. My daughter has some big decisions coming up, and I don’t want my emotions or feelings to have a negative impact on those decisions. These are things that she has to decide on her own. Let me reassure you that it is nothing bad or horrible. It is just something that is happening in her life right now that is unexpected and challenging, and I am struggling with it almost as much as she is. It is a part of parenting, and we all know that parenting is hard.  Knowing the right thing to do or the right way to respond is hard when it is affecting you emotionally as well.  It is critical for me not to react with my emotions, but that is so hard to do.  I have heard many times that it is important that we RESPOND and not REACT.  A reaction is typically sudden, based on emotion, and not thought through carefully.  In contrast, a response is more thought out and carefully chosen. It is really difficult to not automatically react to the situation, but I have to figure out the right way to respond in order to help my child make the best decisions for her. That is why I am longing to write it all out. Writing my feelings helps me to respond and not react. Unfortunately, I have to hold back for now and keep my emotions in check some other way.  All I can do in this moment is pray about it and try my best to support her in whatever way I can without influencing her in one way or another. Hopefully one day I will be able to get it all out on paper and be able to make some sense of how I am feeling. Who knew that I would come to rely so heavily on my “therapist”?

Anchored,

Running on Fumes

Is there another word for extreme fatigue besides exhaustion? Exhaustion doesn’t quite cover the feeling I have right now.  I am definitely feeling more than exhaustion.  I can’t really think of a better word, though, because my brain isn’t firing on all cylinders. That’s only one part of it. I have a foggy brain; but I also have a headache, body aches, puffy eyes, scratchy voice (which I always have when I’m overly tired), and a feeling like I could sleep for days.  No, I am not sick or coming down with anything.  I am just completely worn out, exhausted, drained, weary, fatigued, spent, and whatever other word you can come up with. I am all of it.  I knew this was coming, yet there was no way to prepare for it.  It comes this time every year to some extent, but this year seems to be worse than usual.  As soon as we rang in the new year, life got crazy. We have something happening every weekend for 10 straight weeks. We have one weekend off near the end of March and then we go for 3 more weeks.   We have only made it through 4 of those 13 weeks and I already don’t know how I am going to make it the rest of the way through.  We even have 4 events this weekend alone.  There are no days off. There is no break, and the light at the end of the tunnel is very dim.  I know that we signed up for this and that we knew what we were getting into, but that doesn’t make it any easier on my body or my mind.  It is a full-time job just trying to keep up with it all.  

My intent with this is not really to complain.  I promise it’s not. It is merely to state the facts of how I am feeling because I know there are many of you out there that know the exact feeling I have right now.  You are worn down to your core. You don’t think you can take another step forward.  It’s called being a mom.  It is doing everything that you can for your kids and family to the detriment of yourself. You are running out of gas and there are no gas stations for hundreds of miles to fill you up. You just keep running on fumes, praying that you don’t get stranded.  I know you have all been there at one time or another.  Some of you are there with me right now.  Sadly, there is no advice I can give you except to keep pushing through.  Keep your foot on the gas but coast every chance you get to conserve fuel.  If you can schedule a 20-minute power nap in your day somewhere, do it.  If you have 5 minutes free, shut yourself in the bathroom (or closet like me) and just focus on breathing.   If your friend invites you for coffee but you have dishes or laundry to do, leave it and go.  It will still be there when you get back.  Try to eat healthy and drink plenty of water, but if you need to run through that fast food drive-thru line so you don’t have to cook one night, do it.  It’s ok.  I tell you this like it is all easy to do when I know that it isn’t, but I do know that you have to find bits of fuel somewhere along the way. If you don’t, you will eventually run out of gas, and none of us can afford for that to happen.  You have to conserve where you can and find a gas station every few miles even if you just get a gallon at a time. Find ways to take time for yourself and fuel up. You can do it!

Anchored,

How Much Is Enough?

My husband and I, and probably a lot of parents, constantly feel like we are walking the fine line of having super high expectations for our kids and putting too much pressure on them.  It is that old question of how much is too much.  You expect a lot from your kids because you want them to grow and learn life lessons that will help them reach their full potential. However, sometimes those high expectations can feel like extreme pressure on your kids and can cause problems with self-confidence and can lead to anxiety or even rebellion. It is really hard to know when it is too much until it is too late.  You hear all the time these days that kids are under too much pressure.  Some parents are pushing their kids to the limit and forcing them to work hard even when they don’t want to. Those parents are the ones who believe that winning is the only way and expect their kids to be perfect. They may constantly talk about all the negative things about their children and lose sight of the positives. For example, you may put a lot of emphasis on grades with your children and expect them to make straight A’s and take the hardest classes. After all, that is important if you want to get into a good college these days, right?  You can stress this to your kids over and over again and maybe give negative consequences for a performance of less than what you expect of them. You may constantly check their grades and fuss at them when they aren’t up to your standards. This could lead to your child having a lot of anxiety about grades.  They could stay up all hours of the night doing schoolwork and make themselves sick over tests, which is not really your desired effect.  On the other end, it could cause them to rebel against you where they never turn in classwork and never study so that their grades plummet.   Putting too much pressure can cause your child’s mental health to be in danger.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, there is also the dilemma of not having enough expectations of your children.  In this day and age, you often hear that parents aren’t putting enough pressure on their kids and that they are just letting them get by with mediocre performance. Those are often the parents that feel you should let kids be kids and figure life out on their own.  They don’t think that winning or being on top is important and, therefore, don’t push their kids to be better. This could cause kids to underperform and not reach their potential at all.  In the grades example, this type of parent may never ask if their kids have homework or make sure that they do it.  There may be no consequence or word spoken if their child fails a test. If you aren’t showing them that they should value things like grades, they are not really going to care if they get A’s or F’s.   They aren’t going to learn the value of working hard to achieve something.  

Whether you are or are not putting pressure on your children about grades, sports, behavior, or whatever else, it is hard to know the right thing to do.  Is either way right or wrong? I really think that you have to find a balance somewhere in the middle.  I do think that having high expectations for your kids is a good thing for the most part.  You just want what is best for them and it gives them something to strive for. Some pressure and expectations are good and are an important part of parenting, but it is also important to remember to let them figure some things out on their own sometimes. Being perfect all the time isn’t realistic and can cause all kinds of problems in the long run.  It really is a fine line between too much and too little, and it truly depends on each individual child. Some children handle pressure better than others.  My own children handle pressure differently.  There were many years that my youngest rebelled against any kind of pressure where my oldest thrived on it.  Now things have sort of shifted.  My oldest now crumbles under a lot of pressure, and my youngest handles pressure in certain situations really well. We are constantly juggling it all, and we are learning every day when to back off and when to press on.  

Thankfully, I think my husband and I balance each other out.  There are things that I think are really important and push hard on, and he doesn’t push as much on those things and vice versa.  We are able to tell each other when we think the other is being too harsh and talk it through.  Do I think we always do it right? No, I certainly don’t.  There have been many occasions when I think we have both failed and maybe pushed too hard, and we saw negative consequences in our kids. Then there are also those times when I don’t think we pushed enough, and our kids didn’t get to where they needed to be.  I’ve said this a million times, but parenting is hard.  There is no handbook on parenting that can possibly cover every situation or personality. It really is trial and error with more times than not ending in error.  I can’t tell you whether you need to put more or less pressure and expectations on your children. That is something I don’t know the answer to because I am still trying to figure it out myself.  All I know is that you have to find the right balance and that the scale is always tipping in one direction or another.  

Anchored,

The Clock is my Lifeline

Between snow days, weekends, holidays, teacher workdays, our Bahamas trip, and competition travel, my kids have only been to school 17 out of the last 52 days.  Isn’t that nuts? They were out yesterday for the MLK holiday and they are out today for a teacher workday. All of these days off are driving me insane.  Don’t get me wrong, I love my kids and I love when they are home for the most part.  However, the thing that makes me crazy is the fact that my daily routine is totally interrupted when they aren’t in school.  I like order, routine, and structure; and I don’t get that when they don’t go to school.  Every day they aren’t in school is different, and it just throws me completely off.  I feel like I am not as productive, and I don’t get things done. You would think that things would be more relaxed when they are home because I am not rushing around trying to get them where they need to be, but that isn’t the case.  Not being in my regular routine is the opposite of relaxing for me.  It causes me stress.  I am certainly not a “go with the flow” kind of person. I like things planned out. I guess it is all related to my OCD/type-A personality.  I thrive on routine and that is what my brain needs to function properly.  

On normal school days, I have a strict routine that I follow.  I have every minute scheduled and accounted for. It starts the moment I wake up and ends when I go to bed at night.  The time that they are at school is the only time that I have to work out, shower, write my blog post, and work my Trades of Hope business. It is also when I schedule appointments for myself and shop for groceries and do other household errands.  All of those things just don’t get done efficiently when the girls are home, and it drives me nuts.  They distract me from the tasks I have to do.  I don’t have time to do all of those things other than while they are at school because from the moment that they are picked up each afternoon we are going 100 miles a minute.  Therefore, everything that I have to do has to be done between the hours of 9:00 AM and 2:45 PM while they are both in school. Let me tell you, that 5 hours and 45 minutes goes by so fast. If I am not disciplined with my schedule and routine during that block of time, things just don’t get done because there is no other time available. Between 7:00 and 9:00 AM, I am getting them up and ready, packing lunches, and driving them to school. That time slot is not available for anything else.  Then once 2:45 hits, there is no more time in the day for me to do stuff.   I spend every weekday from 2:45 until at least 5:00 in my car, and sometimes it is later than that.  That time is spent either sitting in the school carpool lines or driving back and forth to practices.  It’s crazy to think about how much of my time is spent in the car each day.  After everyone is dropped off, I have to somehow figure out when and how everyone is going to eat dinner.  There are many days that I don’t even have time to cook dinner before I have to be off to the next thing.   When I say that my days are jam packed, I am not kidding.  There are so many moving parts to each day and without structure, discipline, and organization, I am a mess. Basically, I live and breathe by the clock.  I seriously have preset alarms that go off all day long to keep me on track and on task.  Yes, I know that sounds crazy, but it works for me and it is how I function best.   When that carefully laid structure gets demolished by a change to the routine, I start to fall apart.  It really does have a domino effect on my day.  The point is that I need my kids to go to school consistently in order for me to function.  We don’t need any more snow days or holidays because I need my sanity back! 

Anchored,

The Beast

I have seriously been staring at this screen for over an hour with my mind wandering a million different places.  I am so distracted today.  I guess I have a lot on my mind, and I am having trouble sticking to one topic in my brain.  I am thinking about things I have to do, a friend that I need to pray for who is struggling, and so many other random things.  It is like popcorn popping in my brain and every second a new thought pops in my head.  I wonder if that is what it is like for both my girls with ADHD struggling to stay on one topic at a time.  Sometimes on days like today, I wonder if they got it from me.  I feel like this happens around this time every year, though.  Life gets crazy busy and hectic during the winter months with competition season in full swing.  There is just so much to keep up with.  I have this constant feeling that I am forgetting about something important.  I try really hard to keep everything straight in my calendar, but I still worry that I will miss something.    I tell myself that it won’t be long until both girls are gone, and I will miss all this chaos.  When I am in the midst of it, though, I just want it to crawl into a hole and sleep until the season is over.  It’s a lot. 

It is times like this when I am distracted and stressed out that my anxiety kicks in.  Whenever I am stressed and have a lot going on like I do right now, I tend to take everything and elevate it to an emergency level when, in fact, it is something small and inconsequential. I get so wrapped up in whatever I am worried about, that I can’t focus on anything else. I think it has been getting so much worse as I get older. My husband tells me all the time that I am blowing things way out of proportion and that I worry about things for nothing. I know that he is right, but I don’t know how to stop my brain from automatically going to that high level of anxiety.  Once it is all over, I can usually see that I was stressing for no reason, but I just can’t seem to see that when I am in the midst of it.  I go into panic mode when something pops up that is out of my control or that throws a wrench into my plans.  I don’t like wrenches.  They cause too much chaos and make me feel like I am losing control.  I like control.  I thrive on control. I like to know what is coming and when, and I need it to all happen with no hiccups.  I don’t handle it well when things aren’t in my control.  I guess that is just part of my severely type-A personality.  I wish I could take a step back and breathe. I wish that I didn’t let those little hiccups get the best of me.  I try so hard to stop and refocus when I get all worked up, but I am not always successful.  I let things eat away at me.  It is something that I have struggled with my whole life.  No matter how many books I read, how many times someone tells me it will all work out, or how many times I try to settle my thoughts, I just cannot seem to stop the anxiety from creeping in.  I am thankful that my anxiety is not debilitating like it is for so many people, and it doesn’t get to the point that I can’t function.  It just adds extra stress to my life that I don’t need.  It probably gives me a few more grey hairs too! 

Why am I telling you all of this? I am telling you this so that you know that I am not perfect. I have struggles just like everyone else.  I am telling you this so that you know that you aren’t alone.  I am a work in progress, and sometimes I have bad days.  I am learning how to release the tension and let things go.  It isn’t easy, but I know that for my long-term health, I have to find ways to reduce the stress and anxiety that I bring on myself.  Prayer and meditation are things that I am trying to be more consistent about because those things tend to bring me peace.  Making lists, prioritizing, and checking things off also really helps me.  It allows me to see that I am making progress and makes me feel good about myself.  I think it is important to take the time to figure out what works for you to keep anxiety at bay.  Some people do Yoga to release stress and anxiety. Some run. Some close themselves off and take a moment to breathe and reset alone.  Some even turn to friends to help relieve stress.  Whatever works for you is what you have to figure out.  Just know that you aren’t alone, and you aren’t crazy.  

Anchored,

Relentless

Can you believe that we are already a week into a new year and a new decade?  As I am sure most of us do at the start of a new year, I have been doing a lot of thinking about the past year and what I want out of my life for this new year.  I shared with you last year that I am not really one to make new year resolutions.  I just don’t think that they are ever very effective for me. I tend to have all of these grand ideas and plans of things I want to accomplish and am so gung hoe for them.  Then by February or March, it has all fizzled out because life just took over.  Resolutions just aren’t meaningful enough for me.  I decided last year to try something new.  I decided to choose a word that I wanted to be a representation for my year.  It was to be something that I focused on all year and it was something that I wanted to improve about my life. Just thinking about that word and reminding myself of it on a daily basis was supposed to have an impact on every decision I made throughout the year and really impact how I lived my life.  I wasn’t sure how it was really going to play out throughout the year or if it would fizzle out within a month or two like past resolutions had, but I was determined to give it a solid go.  As I have shared many times since starting this blog, I have been on the road of self-discovery over the past 2 years and have really been putting in a lot of work into what I want out of life and the kind of person I want to be and the example I want to be for my kids.  All of that went into my choice of word for 2019.  I thought long and hard about it and one word kept coming up over and over.  That word was JOY, and an idea began to take shape.  I realized that joy was something that had been sorely lacking in my life for a long time.  I didn’t feel joy.  I think I had really forgotten what real joy actually felt like.   I decided that choosing joy in every circumstance in my life was something that I desperately needed. I had gotten to the point where everything in my life was a chore.  I was always negative and didn’t do anything with any sense of joy.  It was time for a change.  I began to believe that if I chose joy in all circumstances, my life would begin to make sense and I would begin to experience true happiness again. I set out for 2019 to be the year that I chose joy above all else. Now, I will tell you that I didn’t always choose joy 100% of the time.  There were times that I got knocked down and needed to remind myself of my goal.  However, I truly believe that my life is better and much more joyful than it has been in a very long time. Having that reminder to choose joy staring me in the face every day, really did have a positive impact on my life.  There were some really hard things that happened in 2019 that could have could have turned my life upside down and really broken me had I not chosen to rise above them and chose joy.  I chose joy in the difficult times and in the sad times, and that alone made the biggest impact.  Did I shout joy from the rooftops? No, I did not.  This was something internal for me.  It was a mindset that I had to work on.  People weren’t aware of the battle going on inside of me to fight the negative and put joy at the forefront of my mind, but it wasn’t about anyone else but me.  It wasn’t easy and sometimes I failed, but choosing joy in all circumstances is something that I will continue to do for the rest of my life. 

Now 2020 is here and it is time for me to choose a new word to focus on this year.  I have really put a lot of thought into this year’s word.  It actually came to me on the 10-hour drive from South Carolina back home after Christmas.  I do a lot of thinking and praying when I am on long drives.  It was just my oldest and me in the car, and she pretty much puts in ear buds and doesn’t speak the whole time. Needless to say, it gave me a lot of quiet time.  I had put on the music that I have downloaded on my phone partly because I was tired of changing stations every hour or so when we lost the one we were listening too and partly because I think better with music for some reason.  I have a lot of contemporary Christian music on my phone that I like to listen to when I want to get the in the right frame of mind.  Anyway, I was throwing a lot of words around in my head, but nothing was really sticking.  I was trying to find something to represent what I wanted this year to look like for me.  Then this song came on that I have heard a million times.  It is by a guy that used to be the worship leader at one of our old churches.  The song is entitled, “Relentless.” It talks about how God’s love for us is relentless, endless, never changing, and unstoppable.  It got me doing a lot of thinking about that.

It was like a brick hit me upside the head, and I instantly knew that my word for 2020 was going to be RELENTLESS.  It was like God placed the word right there at my feet.  That word truly encompasses what I want for my life this year.  I want to be relentless just like God is in his love for us. I want to be relentless in all I do.  I want to be so focused that nothing can stop me.    I want to be RELENTLESS IN LOVE—love for my family, my friends, and every person I come across. I want to be RELENTLESS IN FAITH—ever growing in my relationship with Christ.  I want to be RELENTLESS IN WORK—fighting for injustice and making a global impact with the work I do with Trades of Hope. I want to be RELENTLESS IN DREAMS—doing everything in my power to make all of my dreams come true. I want to be RELENTLESS IN GROWTH—continuing to work on growing and becoming the best version of myself.  I want to be RELENTLESS IN JOY—seeking joy and choosing joy in everything I do.

The Oxford dictionary says that relentless means “oppressively constant; incessant; harsh; inflexible.”  While some may think that relentless can be a negative word, I do not see it that way in this instance.  For me being relentless means that I am not going to give up, and I am not going to stop. Failure is only a bump in the road and not the end.  It means not letting anything stand in the way of achieving my goals and dreams.  It means continuing to push forward until I am victorious. It is an endless pursuit of what I want for my life and the person I want to become. It means putting God first before all other things and letting him guide me through this journey of life in the way he has set it out for me. It is getting up every day with a purpose and doing whatever it takes to fulfill that purpose.  Just like waves crashing on the shore, I am plan to be relentless in my life this year. 

Anchored and Relentless,