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,

Refocus

Today is one of those days when I start to feel overwhelmed by all the things that have to happen in the next week.  There is so much to do and so little time to do it in.  To give you an idea of how overwhelmed I am starting to feel, I am seriously considering not going to my daughter’s high school gymnastics meet tonight so I can get stuff done. That is totally not like me.  I ALWAYS go.  Now, to be honest, she isn’t actually competing tonight so I technically wouldn’t be missing anything. She had a little fall and landed on her head on the beam yesterday, and her coaches are being extra cautious and not letting her compete.  She is totally fine, and I really do appreciate their caution.  Maybe it is a blessing in disguise.  She gets a night off to rest her body, and I can maybe get some things done.  As I have mentioned before, this month marks the start of craziness in our house. It really kicked off last week with the first gymnastics meet on Wednesday.  Then there was an event at the youngest’s school Friday night. I had two vendor events on Saturday as well as my oldest having her gym Christmas party that night. Then the cheer season kicked off with a showcase on Sunday.  Today we have the high school meet, and she has a club meet on Saturday.  Oh, and we have cheer competitions on Saturday and Sunday an hour away. My husband and I will be dividing and conquering.  All of that isn’t really what is causing the overwhelming feeling I am feeling today, though.  What really has me all worked up is that we leave in a week to drive to South Carolina to turn around and fly to the Bahamas the next day for another gymnastics meet.  That’s right, she has a competition in the Bahamas the weekend before Christmas! We fly back to South Carolina on the 23rd for Christmas with the family.  I don’t even want to think about packing for 2 different climates! Don’t get me started on Christmas gifts.  I am not finished, and I don’t know when I have time to finish. 

Remember my post last week about taking the time to stop and remember? I wanted to take time to enjoy the little moments and remember the whole reason for the holiday season.  I talked about not letting the stress and craziness of the season to get to me.  Well, it is getting to me.  I am not following my own advice! <hand to palm> I know that I totally sound like a hypocrite right now. That is the thought I had as soon as I reread the first paragraph of this post.   I am doing the exact thing that I said I didn’t want to do and that I encouraged all of you not to do.  I am being ruled by my to-do list and am totally stressing out.  I am letting it get in the way of living in the moment. The good news is that I have this blog to remind me of what I say; and it forces me to evaluate my thoughts, feelings, and behaviors on a regular basis.  I am certainly a work in progress. Today was a little setback that I almost let take over, but thankfully I just stopped myself.  My husband has been trying out meditation to help with his stress level and he says it is helping.  I just had the thought that maybe I should give it a try to see if it helped me.  I stopped, closed my computer, closed my eyes, and just breathed. I just focused on breathing for a few minutes, and then I consciously let go of the million things running through my head and all of the stress I was feeling. I chose to replace those stressful thoughts with positive thoughts.  Instead of thinking about all of the presents I still needed to buy, I started thinking about the time I would spend with those people I am buying gifts for. My time with them is so much more valuable than the gift I give them. I was reminding myself to remember just like I said I wanted to do last week.  I allowed peace to wash over me as I reminded myself of what is really important.  It actually worked.  As I opened my computer back up to continue typing, I felt completely different.  Just those short 5 minutes I took to stop, breath, and remember was all I needed to get back on track.  I refocused my thinking, and it made all of the difference.  I feel lighter and freer than I did 15 minutes ago. The meditation worked.  It changed the whole focus of my day.  

Now, I don’t know if it will make a difference in my decision to go to the gymnastics meet tonight or not, but it certainly made me feel like a weight has been lifted from my shoulders. I am also not saying that I won’t get those overwhelming feelings again tomorrow or even later today. I am almost 100% certain that I will.  I just know now that when it does happen again, I only need to stop and refocus. Maybe I will write REFOCUS on a note and stick it to my mirror to remind myself every morning to start my day by refocusing my thoughts and feelings to be more positive. Maybe my husband is on to something with this whole meditation thing every morning. If you are feeling overwhelmed especially during the holiday season, give it a try. Try to refocus yourself to the positive things in your life. Refocus and remember.

Anchored,

Remember

As I said yesterday, the holiday season has arrived. We are all busy with decorating, parties, shopping, cleaning, baking, wrapping, traveling, and so much more.  It is easy to get overwhelmed this time of year and lose sight of what is really important.  I know I struggle to keep myself together every year at this time.  We have the addition of competition season for both girls beginning at the same time, which makes things even more complicated.  Those feelings of stress and anxiety begin to creep in for me as soon as Thanksgiving is over, and they can easily get out of control if I am not careful.  I swear that as soon as December 1 hit, I had this sudden feeling of dread and anxiety.  I recognized it right away because it happens every year.  I start to get frantic and am constantly making to-do lists in my head at night and in my phone all day long. As I am typing this, I have stopped 3 times already to add something to my list. To say I am distracted is an understatement.  I worry that I will forget something.  I feel my shoulders tensing and the exhaustion already setting it.  It is crazy.  This is supposed to be the most magical time of the year, but many of us don’t allow ourselves to feel that magic.  Instead we feel the anxiety, stress, and dread.  We let the small, petty things and the hustle and bustle steal that magic. We forget what this season is really about.  It is supposed to be about giving, love, happiness, togetherness, and the miracle of Jesus.  It is not about making the perfect meal, choosing the perfect gift, or how clean your house is; yet that is what we often turn it into. Our priorities are all in the wrong place.  I am totally guilty of this myself.  It is hard to focus on the true meaning of Christmas when you are checking things off a to-do list.  

I was reminded of my need to slow down, stop stressing, and enjoy the little moments this past weekend on two separate occassions.  The first came as we were eating lunch after doing some shopping on Black Friday.  I was stressing over all the presents that we still needed to buy, when I got a picture from my mom of an ornament that belonged to my grandmother who passed away this past summer.  It is an angel with my name engraved on it.  It was the ornament that she always hung at the top of her Christmas tree.  It was why she always referred to me as the angel on top of her tree.  When my parents were going through her things after she passed, that was the one thing that I asked to have.  Unfortunately, at the time, they couldn’t find it.  We thought that it had been lost in the fire that she had last year that destroyed much of her home.  It broke my heart to think that it was lost forever.   When I got the photo from my mom that my aunt had found it, I started to cry right there in the restaurant.  I cannot tell you how much seeing that ornament meant to me. It brought back so many memories.  I am tearing up typing this right now.  It reminded me that life comes to end for all of us at some point and that we need to cherish every minute that we have here on this Earth with the ones we love.  It reminded me that I need to stop stressing about stupid things and just enjoy the magic of the season with the people I love. 

The second incident happened as the girls and I were decorating the tree on Sunday.  Our tree is not one of those that you would find in a magazine.  It doesn’t match.  It is a hodgepodge of ornaments that don’t go together, but it is filled with memories and love.  One thing my husband and I started when we got married was getting a new ornament every time we went on a trip.  It was to be a reminder of a time when we were together and having fun.  This tradition has continued for the almost 20 years we have been married.  The whole family enjoys looking for that one ornament to represent our travels every single time. Our tree is full of not only these ornaments but also of all of the ornaments my kids have made over the years. There are so many with their pictures on them from when they were much younger.  They beg me not to put those on the tree, but I hang them front and center because they are my favorites (as you can see, they moved most of them to the back when I wasn’t looking).  My husband and I also have several ornaments that we hang that are from our childhood. Some are ones that we made as kids or that were given to us or that belonged to our grandparents. Each of the ornaments on our tree means something to us. As we hang each one, we are reminded of a memory…a memory that brought joy.  This year I also added some of our beautiful Trades of Hope ornaments to remind me that there are women out there who are suffering and need a little magic in their lives.  Our tree is truly special to us. 

Going through all of those ornaments while laughing with the girls and looking at the picture of an ornament as old as I am that belonged to my grandmother really reminded me of what Christmas is all about.  It brought the magic back to the forefront of my heart.  I want more moments like that this year.  I want to put my to-do lists to the side and just be present. I want to laugh hard, love hard, and enjoy the time with family and friends.  Most of all, though, I want to remember.  I want to remember Christmases past.  I want to remember the loved ones we have lost.  I want to remember to pray for those women who count on me and my partners to show up for them every day so they can change their lives. I want to remember that Jesus came that Christmas morning long ago to die for my sins. I want to remember the magic of Christmas, and I want to experience it all with those that I love. I encourage you to do the same. Put down the lists, stop fretting over presents and baking, and enjoy the little moments. Those are the memories you will have for a lifetime.

Anchored and Remembering,

Give Thanks

It is the time of year when we start to look back over the past year and think about all of the things that we are grateful for.  Thanksgiving reminds us that we need to stop and appreciate the many blessings in our lives.  Gratitude journals are so popular right now and are designed to make us reflect on all the little things that bless us every single day of the year.  They encourage you to start your day by listing things you are grateful for.  It is supposed to help you have a more grateful heart and a positive attitude. While I think the concept is great and really has an important meaning and lesson, I am sure the majority of the world is not using them consistently.  People very rarely take the time to stop and think about all the things that have blessed them in their lives.  Many will say that they don’t have time for that every day.  Thanksgiving is really the one time of the year when people actually do reflect on the things that they are grateful for.  I guess once a year is better than not at all, but we really should try to express our gratitude more often.  It might bring some change to an otherwise negative world.  I am not using a gratitude journal right now, but I am really trying to focus on all the little things that have make an impact on my life every day, and I know that I am truly blessed to be living this life.  With Thanksgiving just a couple of days away, I thought I would share some of the bigger things that I am thankful for this year. 

I am thankful for my husband.

As always, I am so thankful that God placed him in my life when he did.  It was certainly God’s timing and not mine.  In May we will have been married for 20 years, and it is really hard to believe that it has been that long.  So much has happened in those 20 years, and I feel like we have both done a lot of growing individually and together as a couple, especially this year. It has only strengthened our bond and made us better people.  I am not sure how either of us would survive without the other.  My love for him is unbreakable, and I thank God daily for bringing us together.  

I am thankful for my two beautiful daughters.

My two girls mean the world to me, and I am so thankful that I was chosen to be their mama.  I certainly don’t deserve them. Even though they drive me nuts sometimes, I couldn’t be prouder of the young ladies they are becoming.  I love watching them grow and come into their own. I just wish is happened a little slower. I am blessed beyond belief to get to teach them about life. I love them both to the moon and back.

I am thankful that God has opened my eyes to the injustices of the world.

God hates injustice and calls us to stand up and fight against it.  I never really realized that until I did a Bible study on it earlier this year.  I was totally clueless to the things women around the world faced.  I lived in my little bubble and didn’t think about anything outside of it.  God has truly spoken to me this year and has shown me the horrible things going on around the world and right here in front of me, and he has given me a platform to fight against injustice.  I am so glad that he placed Trades of Hope in my lap when he did. I know that I am now closer to him than I have been in a long time as he is leading me down this path to fight for those who cannot fight for themselves.

I am thankful for my friends.

I am so thankful for all of the friends I have made over my lifetime. There are those who are still close and those I’ve lost touch with.  No matter how close we are now, I feel so blessed to have had all of them in my life. They have picked me up when I was lost and carried me when I couldn’t take a step on my own. They have cheered me on and held my hand through tough days. Each of my friends means the world to me.  I am also grateful for the new people that have come into my life in the last year. Some have truly been a blessing to me and have had a huge impact on my life. 

I am thankful for my family. 

This year, I feel like I have developed an even greater appreciation for all of my family members.  Loosing someone you love makes you realize what a gift life is and how much all of the people in it mean to you. I do not show it or say it enough, but I love each member of my family and am so grateful for their presence and influence on my life. 

I am thankful for strength.

A lot of things have happened in the last few years that could have broken me, but I am so thankful that God gave me the strength to overcome it all.  He was holding me up through a lot of it and his strength became mine.  I can’t imagine my life without my faith.  God is such a huge presence in my life and I don’t know how I could have made it through some of those things without the strength he gives me so freely.

I am thankful for this blog.

I am so thankful that I was able to commit to this blog for over a year now.  It has truly led to a ton of reflection and self-growth for me.  I have been able to find my voice and use it to encourage others.  I cannot even describe how much writing here every day has changed me and blessed me.  Thank you to all of my old and new readers for coming back time and time again to read what this simple little country girl has to say.  Thank you for allowing me to share my heart and my passions with you free from judgement.   

Life has been good to me and God has remained faithful.  There isn’t much more I could ask for than that.  I am thankful for this life I get to live and for all of the people in it. I am truly blessed.  I wish you all the happiest of Thanksgivings this year.  Use it as a time to reflect on what brings you joy and what has impacted your life.  Give thanks and know that you are loved. 

Anchored and Grateful,

Strong-Willed Child

I swear that my youngest child is going to be the death of me. Can someone please tell me how to handle a pre-teen, know-it-all, strong-willed child? Don’t tell me to read a book either, because I’ve tried it and it doesn’t work. Nothing works.  I really believe that her goal in life is to torture me, push every button I have, and fight me over any and everything. I am not sure I am going to make it through her teenage years.  I am not even sure I am going to make it through her pre-teen years.  I have to say that our relationship has come a long way over the last two years, but the relationship remains the most difficult challenge I have ever been faced with.  Nothing I do is ever right or good enough for her.  I swear she would argue to her death with me over something as silly as the sky being blue just because I said it was.  I feel like no matter how hard I try, I can’t seem to win with her. I am really the only one she is combative with, too. It’s like she has this need to make me pay some debt she feels I owe her, or she wants me to feel more miserable than she feels at any given moment. It is so unbelievable to me how both girls came from my body but are so vastly different.  I have such a different relationship with the kid that actually is a hormonal teenager than I do with the pre-teen who hasn’t even entered the hormonal phase yet.  One actually talks to me and tells me things and listens to me (most of the time), while the other one can barely stand to be in the same room with me.  It is so frustrating and heartbreaking at the same time. I wish I knew where I went wrong and the secret for how to fix it. It keeps me up at night, and it consumes my days. It has been this way for as long as I can remember.  As I said, it was worse at one time, but things have improved to some extent, which I am grateful for.  It is just still so hard sometimes.  

I saw a graphic on Pinterest that listed the 10 signs that you have a strong-willed child.  I couldn’t find the source of the graphic but thought the list was pretty good. Below are the 10 characteristics of a strong will child according to that graphic I found. I can check off every single one of these as being a characteristic of my daughter. She is definitely a strong-willed child to the 10th degree.

  1. “They are fiercely stubborn and not afraid to say ‘no’”
  2. “They are bossy and very demanding.”
  3. “ They have strong likes and dislikes.”
  4. “They don’t forget anything and argue like pros.”
  5. “They are energetic and intense.”
  6. “They challenge boundaries.”
  7. “They learn by doing, ask ‘why’ questions.”
  8. “They are fast paced and impatient and don’t listen.”
  9. “They have a strong sense of right and wrong.”
  10. “They are short tempered.”

I know many of my friends would say that one of their kids is certainly more challenging than their other and that one is extremely difficult. We talk about it all the time, and one of us at least is venting about it almost every single day. There is always one kid that pushes us beyond belief. There is always one strong-willed child in the bunch.  Why is that? Why does it seem that we all have to be given one child that challenges us beyond what we think we can handle? That is a question I ask in my prayers a lot.  There has to be a reason, right? There has to be some lesson in it.  Sadly, I don’t think I have learned it yet.  I just keep fighting, keep pushing, and praying that one day things will change.  We all love our kids beyond measure despite how much suffering they put us through. We want what is best for them and want them to grow up to be strong, independent adults.  That is our greatest desire for them and the reason we continue to fight.  I know that I am doing my best to not let it break me, but I can assure you that there are those days when I am not so sure I can continue the fight.  Those are the days that I pray for strength.  I need God’s strength to get me through those difficult days or sometimes weeks, and he comes through every single time. I guess that is the answer to my question at the start of this post. I handle it through prayer. That’s the best defense I’ve got.

Anchored,

Pray for Me!

Ya’ll, please pray for me. Pray for patience, courage, sanity, calm nerves, and strength.  My kid can drive! I cannot believe that I just typed that.  I think I am still in denial that she is growing up.  It was just yesterday that we brought the tiny peanut home from the hospital.  How is it possible that she is old enough to drive? Where has the time gone? I feel like I blinked and missed it all.  I also feel like I am starting to forget all the little moments throughout the years that I wanted to remember forever.  We cram so much in that it is hard to remember it all.  That really makes me so sad, though.  I wish I could remember every single second of her growing into the beautiful young lady who seems to still be growing taller by the minute.  I wish that I had savored it all more.  Maybe then I would remember it.  All of those years that I spent so wrapped up in my job took away so much of my focus on my own children.  As much as I loved my job and working with all those special kids, I do wish it hadn’t taken all that time and energy away from my family.  Don’t get me wrong; I don’t regret my decision to be a working mom or to be a special education teacher.  What I do regret is that I allowed it to take over my life and rob my kids of a stress-free mom for so many years.  If I could go back, I would still be a teacher/working mom, but I definitely would have gone about it differently. I would have taken more time for my family, and I would have tried harder to leave school at school. I wish I knew back then what I know now. I wish I had been as confident and in touch with what I really wanted out of life as I am now.  While I can’t go back in time, I can only move forward and keep striving to be a more present mom, and to make up for time lost. My priorities are definitely in a different place, and I love it.

Anyway, back to the fact that my kids can drive and I need prayers.  Her dad took her to the DMV this past weekend for her sign and knowledge tests.  I refused to go because I knew that I would make her more nervous than she already was. Now she has a learner’s permit and can drive with one of us in the car.  I have told my husband that it is going to be a long while before she does it with me because I can’t handle it.  I get so nervous with just the thought of her behind the wheel.  He is so much more calm and collected than I am. He is going to have to be the one to teach her.  I can’t do it. It scares me so much. I much prefer to be in the back seat while he is the one next to her in the passenger seat.  I try to distract myself so I am not paying attention to how close she is to the curb or that car parked on the side of the road.   Seriously, this is my crazy, ADHD, “true blond” kid who sometimes acts like she is 6 and not 15.  I worry so much that she isn’t mature enough, responsible enough, or even focused enough to be on the road. I don’t know how I am going to ever let her go off in a car without one of us once she gets her regular driver’s license. How do parents do that? I know that I will be a nervous wreck. How do you let go? I already have a problem with control, and I don’t know if I am going to be able to give up control of that.  I have to admit though, she is doing much better than I ever expected, but I am still not ready for this.  Prayers are much appreciated!   

Anchored,