Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Happy With Him

27 Days to a Happy Mom - Day 27!

I am a child of God.  He is my Heavenly Father, and loves me more than anything I can ever imagine.  Because I know that He loves me, I feel love no matter what anyone else is doing.  My sweet husband can have an off day, my children might be seriously grumpy, my neighbors could gossip, my dad could be upset, my brothers could turn on me and everything else could be going wrong... but I know that God still loves me because I am His.

And so are you!

Thanks for tuning in to our 27 Days to a Happy Mom challenge.  Hopefully, you've found a few happy things along the way.  I know I have!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Families Can Be Together Forever

27 Days to a Happy Mom - Day 26

My family brings me so much happiness.  I can't imagine being without them, and the thought of getting to keep them for always...  

That's real joy.

Just for today... treat your family like you'll get to be together forever.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Happy to Be

27 Days to a Happy Mom - Day 25

I am a woman, a wife, a mother, daughter, and sister.  I belong.  And those best and most wonderful relationships will always be mine.  All those vital parts of me will remain, even after this life.

And that makes me happy.

Just for today... answer this for yourself:  who are you really?  And does that make you happy?

Saturday, October 27, 2012

The Graceful Receiver

27 Days to a Happy Mom - Day 24

Several eons ago, my first husband and I found ourselves approaching the holiday season without our normal amount of anticipation.  He had been laid off from his job a few months previous, and was unsuccessfully looking for work.  We were unusually prepared for such a time, with money in the bank and food stored away for the winter to feed our family of chipmunks, but not enough to make us feel comfortable.

A few days before Thanksgiving, I answered a knock on our apartment door.   I found, instead of a caller, a brightly wrapped box containing a frozen turkey and all the trimmings.  I'm a bit embarrassed to admit that I was initially offended.  I didn't want to be someone's charity case.  The anonymous gifts - from different sources - continued through Christmas and into the new year.  There were little gifts for our three little boys, thoughtful surprises for us, plates of goodies, and more and more food.

As I complained about them to my sweet mother, arguing that we really didn't need these offers, she wisely told me to quit it.  She knew that I would much rather be on the giving end of a service, but taught me that in order for anyone to give, there must be a receiver.  I learned that being a graceful receiver is actually much more difficult than being a generous donor.  I worked hard at controlling my pride and allowing others to help.

I hope that now I'm more gracious than I used to be, and that I can continue to learn how to help and how to be helped.  How do you do at getting?  Really.

Just for today... be grateful - and graceful - about being on the receiving side of the service equation.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Spread Sunshine

27 Days to a Happy Mom - Day 23

In high school, we called it "spreading Kool-Aid."  That just made it sound more fun.  But it's one of the easiest ways to help other people:  you just smile.

A long, long time (it seems like half of forever) ago my first husband was in the hospital for surgery in his head.  It was when we found out that he had brain cancer.  Not a happy time.  At all.  It was the hardest thing I had gone through.  Every day brought a challenge just to get out of bed and start moving again.

In profound discouragement, I decided (through no apparent brightness on my own part) that I would fake it.  It was the only way I could slog through the stiff molasses of my worry.  As I took the first step into the hospital every morning, I would paste an incredibly fake smile on my fretful face.  I would smile and nod to the nurses, not daring to actually speak lest my resolve would be ruined.

Every day, for weeks, I pretended to be cheerful.  And I thought it did help me to get through some very painful and difficult times.  It wasn't until much later that my beloved father-in-law told me that he depended on my smiling face to make it through.  He said he could not bear the pain of seeing his son in the hospital bed - until I walked in the room and spread my (fake) sunshine.  I was astonished.  I thought everyone could see that my smile was plastic, my happiness less than genuine.

It didn't matter to him.  He saw the smile, and his heart was comforted.  My pretenses helped us both.  And I am forever grateful for the inspiration I had to try a smile.

Just for today... smile at someone.  Then do it again.  See how many people you can smile at today!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Looking to Help

27 Days to a Happy Mom - Day 22

There are lots of people who could use our help.  We would quickly be crazy (and poor) if we responded to everything we see.  And at the same time, there are others pleading silently for help who we don't see at all.  How do we help?  Where would our energies be best spent?  How do we know who to help?
My brothers and sisters, the Lord's purposes are often accomplished as we pay heed to the guidance of the Spirit.  I believe that the more we act upon the inspiration and impressions which come to us, the more the Lord will entrust to us His errands.  -Thomas S. Monson, October 2012 General Conference
We know how to proceed because He will tell us.  We just need to ask, through prayer, and then listen.  If we feel even a smidgen of a good idea, then do it.  How do we know if it is a prompting or just a good thought on our part?  I've wondered that a lot.  But I've given up wondering.  If it is a thought to do a little bit of good for another person, especially someone I care about, I just do it.  President Monson continues by telling us to "never postpone a prompting."

Ask for an eye to see, and you will find - with the Lord's help - those who most need your help every day.

Just for today... ask, listen, look, then do.  It'll make you feel good!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

I Don't Have To Help

27 Days to a Happy Mom - Day 21

Of all the "just say no" images I looked through, this one was my favorite.  Probably because the "no" is green, symbolically saying to me, "I really don't want to so I'll tell you no, but if you wheedle or press the issue, I'll cave in and say yes anyway."

How many times, as mothers, as women, are we asked to help?  Your supermarket change for a local sick child.  Your patience as a room mother.  Your very limited time for a needy friend.  Your meager talent for the church class.  And you know we ought to.  It would be a sin to turn someone away, wouldn't it?  And we feel guilty for even thinking it.

Let me tell you, ladies, that you can't say yes to everyone.  Plan your schedule, write up your priorities, and see what will work in your life.  Take out a few non-essentials and make room for some service, but you really don't have to cater to everyone.  Not even to your husband.  Or your children.

When you live your life really for you - and not for everyone else - then you have the ability, the space, the happiness to say yes to some.  Take those hands off your steering wheel and you'll be able to help others with their boxes.  And you'll be happy to help.

I'm making cupcakes for cub scouts tomorrow.  I feel good, needed, when I can help out.  But it feels a million times better when I serve because I want to, and not because I feel like I have to or I was guilted into it.  More happy is better.

Just for today... say yes to you so you can say yes to (a few) others.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Helping Makes Happy

27 Days to a Happy Mom - Day 20

Helping other people makes me happy.  It helps most people feel more happy.  I think it has something to do with forgetting our own troubles for a while as we focus on another person.  And the satisfaction we get when someone else feels better.  After all, it was none other than Disney who had a mission statement of simply "Make people happy."

Oprah tells us that research has "consistently found that performing acts of kindness is highly correlated with increased happiness."  University outreach programs tout service's ability to "help us connect with others" - and improves our satisfaction in life.

I wonder if someone will pay me good money to figure that one out?  :-)

Just for today... Find a way to help someone, and especially serve someone with whom you can build or strengthen a relationship.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Give Yourself Credit

27 Days to a Happy Mom - Day 19

Sometimes we think of service as being something that we do for purely altruistic purposes (is there such a thing as pure altruism in real life?) without getting anything back.  In fact, it is somehow a more wonderful service if we don't like it, or if we don't get anything from it.  I maintain that if this was the only way we could do help other people, we would never do it.  Or almost never.

I'm not trying to say that this kind of service doesn't happen at all.  It just comes up when we don't want it to.  Like the exhausted mother who drags herself out of bed for the fourth time in a night when she hears the little one crying - again.  Or our friend who put her heart and soul into starting a school for bilingual children, and then got voted off the board.  After she had invested years of work and all her savings.  Or the queasy-stomached expectant mother who gingerly loads her child's vomit-soaked clothing into the washing machine while trying not to gag.  Or the adult children who end up caring for their aging parents.

We might not want to do this kind of service, but we moms, we do it all.  the.  time.  Give yourself credit.  You do contribute to the good of the world.  You are helping other people.  You are doing service.  And {usually} it feels good - because we do it out of love.

Just for today... think of a few things you have done in service that you might not have counted before.  And give yourself a big pat on the back for it.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Parenting Resources

27 Days to a Happy Mom - Day 18

 Mothering is a hard job.  It taxes your time, your energy, and your brain cells.  That's not necessarily a bad thing.  Anyone who wants to do well in a difficult area needs to spend time, energy, and mental effort.  It's called striving to excel.  And just like any serious athlete, accomplished musician, or upper-level executive, moms need to have and use a good support staff.

I was a young mother when Hillary Clinton delivered her "It Takes a Village to Raise a Child" speech.  I hated it.  I was very offended in the insinuation that I did not know how to raise my own children.  Sixteen years, a few children, and lots of experience later, I understand a bit of what she said.  No, the village does not raise the child.  But it is there to support the parents in their critical roles.

As mothers, do we use our support systems?  They are there, although not as visible as they used to be.  It might have been easier to see our helpers when families lived together in an interconnected web of extended family and long-time neighbors.  Now we have to hunt a bit more, and create our own mother helpers.

We do this by getting to know our neighbors, and making friends with them.  We talk to the kids who come over to plays with ours, and meet their parents.  We become active in neighborhood groups, volunteer in our local school, and talk to other mothers.  We visit with grandmothers - veteran mothers with a wealth of experience - and learn from their wisdom.  We don't roll our eyes when a stranger in the mall gives us a bit of advice about our children.  We show appreciation for the good adults who work with our children: school teachers, church instructors, scout leaders.  We read good parenting books (here's my current favorite and an article on entitlement), scour through online resources, and write our stories down so we can remember what we're learning.

Let's not forget the support we can use in our own homes!  Use your husband as a resource.  He might not be as skilled at dealing with the kids as you are (you've had lots more practice, after all), but he cares for them just as much as you do.  Talk together about how to teach and provide consequences.  And the children themselves ca be a great strength to you.  Teach them to say "thank you" and "please."  Stop and give them a hug - as much for you as for them.  Visit with you older children; get down on the floor with your little ones.  Call your mother (or adopt another one).

You're not alone, Mom.  We're all in this together.  And in our villages (made up of so many homes) we can support and nurture each other.

Just for today... find an experienced mother and ask her about a parenting situation you have.  Make a connection with another mother.  Thank your husband for the help he gives you.

Check in on Monday for "Happy Through Service."  Have a great weekend! 

Friday, October 19, 2012

Share Mom Connections

27 Days to a Happy Mom - Day 17

I was stretching today, and twisted my back.  It wasn't a hard move, but more like something you'd do when you are backing up in the driveway and twist to look behind you so you can make sure you aren't running over a bicycle, a bigwheel, the curb, or random neighbor children.  But the twist was enough to wrench my back out of place.  I laid around all evening.  I made my children fix me dinner.  And then I watched a funny movie.  Really, dinner was an open-several-cans-and-mix affair, and my boys all know their way around the kitchen.  And I hurt enough that I wanted to quit breathing.  Every exhale was a stabbing pain.  And I got to laugh (very gingerly) with all my boys (and the girl).  How fun is that?

But being hobbled with pain made me feel very vulnerable.  It reminds me of other times when I haven't been up on my feet: the birth of a new baby, the death of a close family member, children in the hospital, a difficult pregnancy, moving to a new house... the list could be endless.  And in each of these times, I always knew I had other women I could rely on.

Growing up with four brothers and no sisters, I missed out on playing dress-up and beauty parlor.  But I am so grateful now for the huge support of many sister-friends.  I have neighbors and sisters-in-law and girlfriends who will help if I called.  Likewise, I am more than happy to give them a hand.  Having connections to other women - other mothers - makes this perilous journey of life more bearable, and downright pleasant at times.

We adopted a great-grandmother out of the adorable elderly lady who lived across the street from us.  She let my three little boys play in her lawn sprinklers during the hot summer when we had only dirt in our yard.  I will always feel grateful to the backyard neighbor lady who let my youngsters play with hers when I'd visit the midwives with my fifth pregnancy.  We moved in three months before the baby was due, and I didn't know anyone who could babysit.  I appreciated the lady who lived up the street who would always take a shortcut through my yard as an excuse to visit me and try to get me to come to local activities.  I've never been quite as relieved as I was when my mother traveled a thousand miles to help me manage things when my husband started chemotherapy.

I have a neighbor who lets me borrow books from her extensive library.  A friend who is coming over to help me declutter my craft and half-finished-project stash.  A sister-in-law who keeps me motivated by talking on the phone with me while I clean the kitchen.  A mother-in-law who tells me stories of raising her own children.  Women have pruned my overgrown bushes, let me cry on their shoulders, and cleaned the grout in my icky shower.  They bring meals for my family, relief for my soul, and a lightness to my heart.

I'm lucky to have friends who stuck by me even when I was down and prickly.  I'm lucky to belong to a church with a strong women's organization.  Wherever I go (we moved thirteen times in ten years!), there are always women ready to help and befriend.  I'm lucky to have (due to my own large family and those of both my husbands) fourteen sisters-in-law!

These strong connections with wonderful women and with motherhood are worth maintaining and strengthening.  I will call the gal across the street to arrange a playdate - and a visit - while her military husband is away.  I am taking dinner to a new mother.  I can attend a local book club.  I go to Relief Society - my church's women's group - every week.  I can grin at the mom of an unruly toddler at the grocery checkout line, and lend a hand if I can.  I will call my friend and not always make her call me.  I should invite that new family over for games and ice cream.  I can even read Mormon Mommy Blogs, which are endlessly enjoyable to me.

But the best thing I can do to share motherhood is to connect the joy I feel at being a mom with the next generation.  I want my boys to know that they can have joy with their wives and children as they play with and support them.   I want my daughter to know that she can find fulfillment in raising fine humans and in refining the domestic arts.  I do want my children to know that a family is a wonderful, endearing adventure, with challenges and hellish moments that can make us stronger and more loving.

I have such happiness from being a mom.  It's only natural that I should want to share it.

Just for today... connect with another mom.  Share a joy, or commiserate (or both!)  Show a child that you love being a mother.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Clean Up Your Act

27 Days to a Happy Mom - Day 16

I am not happy when I live in a pig sty.  That's what my mom used to call our house (her house!) when we messed it all up.  A pig sty.  And no one wanted to be there.  Not that my childhood home was all that bad - Mom kept it nice - but it wasn't Lysol clean.  I had a friend whose house was immaculate.  Disinfected doorknobs and carpet all combed the same direction.  That was just as uncomfortable as a mess.

But if you do a little bit of tidy, your house will feel better.  And you will feel more happy.  And so will your family.  I won't tell you how to clean because my way is almost certainly different than your way.  Or your mother's way.  Or your mother-in-law's way.  And that's ok.  Figure out whatever way works best for you, then do it.  And have your little ones help.  And then do just a wee bit more.

But here is how to clean your home in 19 minutes.  Want to fake a clean house?  This is my favorite for keeping the whole house clean and manageable.  Tips and tricks are all over.  You can clean up, and it will be worth it.

Just for today... go shine your sink, make your bed, tidy the floor, and start making habits to keep it that way.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Be There

27 Days to a Happy Mom - Day 15

Sometimes I get all caught up in the "I don't get to do what I want to do" mommy martyrdom.  I'll talk back to myself now.  So quit and make time for some of what you want to do.  And the rest of the time, let yourself enjoy the time with your children.  At the most vital level, children really don't need a whole lot.  They need a standard amount of care-taking, and they want fluff and stuff.  But of you, as their mother, they just want you.  Your time.  Your attention.  Your love.  Your affirmations that they are something really special.

Be there to tuck them into bed, and give them extra kisses.  Thy won't always allow it.

Go to their concerts.  You always dread taking the time, but end up enjoying the music.  And it really doesn't take that long.

Take them to the museum.  Or the park.  Or the library.  Or shopping.  They love going anywhere with you, and it's not as hard as you make it out to be.

Put down what you are doing for just a moment.  Peel your eyes off the computer (better yet, shut it off!), and look at your children.  Make eye contact.  Laugh at the inane joke.  Run outside and see the sunset when they beg you to.  Don't be the "just a minute" mom anymore.

I'm trying to be there more.  and I'm tying to go there more - I'm a such a homebody that going places sometimes bugs me.  But I want to do fun things with my kids.  I want to be a fun mom.  I want to be there when they are happy.  So I even went on a hike with the boys (nearly killed me).  

But they were patient with their old mom, and we made it.  It was an incredible view from the mountain.  And we all had fun.

Just for today... turn off this computer and really be there with your kids.  It's not as hard as you think, doesn't take that much time, and it's kinda nice!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

The Most Important Job

27 Days to a Happy Mom - Day 14

Not long after my first husband died, I dragged myself to a social gathering where one of my favorite artists would be speaking.  I really didn't want to go, and frankly I was afraid to go as a single person.  I'm not great at social things, anyway.  But I mustered up my courage and slunk into a back row seat.  The meeting was wonderful and uplifting, until they announced that there would be goodies in the back.  I can't resist cookies.  As I stood in line to get one, the man in front of me turned around.  I was nearly paralyzed with fear.  I did not want to talk to anyone!  I survived a few sentences of small talk, then he asked me what I did.

What do I do?  What do I do?  I had no idea what to say.  My whole identity of the previous few years had been consumed by caring for my little children and my sick husband.  Now he was gone, and I really didn't know who I was, or what I did.  In my panic, I made the mistake of opening my mouth, and I was astounded at what came out.  I stood there in the cookie line and told a complete stranger all about an entire career I invented on the spot!  He nodded politely, the line moved forward, I got my cookie and ran out.  On the drive home, I laughed until my guts hurt.  I was so ridiculous!  How could I concoct such a story?  How could I lie so badly?

The easy answer is that I didn't know what my job was.  I didn't know how to tell someone what I do all day.  It might look menial to some.  They may think my contributions paltry.  But now I know who I am, and I've learned not to worry about what others may think.  I am a mother.  And that is important.

Some say that motherhood is the most important job.  Others belittle a mother's worth.  Some say that motherhood is not a job, as if we could compare it to something that actually has monetary worth (makes money).  Instead, they claim being a mom is merely a relationship, as if we could strip away all the work and caring and effort it takes to raise a human being.

Actually, someone has done a bit of homework to figure out what it would cost to outsource a few of the jobs I regularly do.  And it adds up to more than $112,000 a year!  I actually feel better about some of my more disliked parenting chores if I think about letting someone else spend those cheerful minutes picking up my energetic kids from school.  Would I rather someone else get my twins through the bath?  Or wait up late for my teens?  No!  I'd want to be there - and that reminds me to be happy.

Besides, I have great job benefits from being a mom.  I have a fabulous commute.  I have job security.  I get to be the boss and determine my own schedule.  Talk about flex hours!  I can sit on the floor, eat food without utensils and take a nap if I want to (and I can make it happen if I really want to).  There is no dress code (although I feel much better when I am a pretty mom).  I have a comfortable work environment, and I get to choose where to set the thermostat.  I am never bored, and have a myriad of opportunities to learn new things.  I love my coworkers, and I can have all the hugs I want without worrying about sexual harassment problems.  And, lucky me, I have a dedicated and understanding partner who helps me as much as I let him.  What a job!

But motherhood is more than a catalog of discrete chores.  It's more than a glorified job title.  It's more than just a relationship or a successful pregnancy. It's a vital role, an amazing opportunity that women get to be at the helm of the most basic units of society.  In my home, I am literally building up my community, my nation, and the world.
"We are living in a great season for all women... You are an essential part of our Heavenly Father's plan for eternal happiness; you are endowed with a divine birthright.  You are the real builders of nations wherever you live, because strong homes of love and peace will bring security to any nation."  -Dieter F. Uchtdorf
Just for today... Make a list of the things you like about being a mom.  Or imagine the amazing contributions your children may make in the world, and grin at your power to change the world!

Monday, October 15, 2012

I Like Being a Mom!

27 Days to a Happy Mom - Day 13

You can get this shirt here

I suppose it might not come as too much of a surprise for me to say that I love motherhood.  I am where I want to be, the mom of my eight children.  I have seven healthy, mostly-happy and mostly-adjusted boys and one sweet, wild-tempered little girl.  I love them all dearly.  And deeply.  And incredibly more than I ever thought I could.
Who wouldn't love being a mom if you got to look like this?  I... well, my Angel looks a bit like this, anyway!

When I was a little girl, I did play with dolls.  And we played "house" a lot with the neighbor kids.  And I caught grasshoppers and climbed trees and read books and rode my bicycle - just like all the other kids on my street.  And my mom was a very important part of my childhood.  She loved me and took care of me and bandaged my skinned knees.  Did I say she loved me?  I knew she did, and I knew that I was important to her.  I saw, through her example, that her role as mother was critical to the happiness of our family.  And I could see that she loved being my mom.

As my younger brothers came along, she taught me how to mother.  I watched her nurse babies (Why are there two breasts, Mom?  One is vanilla, and the other is chocolate, dear.).  I watched her change cloth diapers - and wash and fold them.  I watched her bathe and dress and love my brothers (even when they were pests.).  I learned under her patient tutelage how to clean and care for a home and the people in it.  

I always figured I'd grow up, go to college, get married, and have a family of my own.  If my mom loved it so much, then it must be pretty good.  I was blessed to have her, and I realize that not everyone is as lucky to have such a superb role model.

And now I love, love love my role as mother.  No, I don't love the nasty diapers and cleaning up after stomach flu and late-night homework projects.  My mom wasn't fond of cooking or crafty stuff.  No one is a perfect mom... I'm not sure what a "perfect mom" even is, let alone whether she exists!  But the hugs and slobbery kisses and helping these precious babies grow up to be responsible human beings... it's all worth it.  So worth it!

Eight times, I've been handed a new baby fresh from Heaven.  Eight times I have fallen in love.  And with every week (I won't say every day, because - let's be real - some days just aren't that great.  Some days I focus on the bad parts.), I fall more in love with these kids of mine.  I wouldn't trade them for anything.

I'm their mom.  And I love it!

Just for today... let yourself feel a good amount of satisfaction in just being a mom.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Marriage Bucket List

27 Days to a Happy Mom - Day 12

Last Saturday I wrote about how having hope - something great and happy to look forward to - is one way to help you be happy.  Today it's about having fun things in the future for your and your hunny.  Make a bucket list of all the things you are looking forward to doing together!  It could be like planning out the highlights reel of your marriage together.

When a couple's bucket list first came up, I loved the idea.  When I asked Trent about trying it (wanted to actually do it before I wrote about it, naturally), he was less than enthusiastic.  I had to rethink making a list, and realized that making a couple's list would be somewhat different from one person's.  I learned that making a bucket list together would require honesty and kindness as you bring up your thoughts and respond to his.

Trent was worried about how I would respond to thinking far into the future, since it usually bothers me.  I had to work through and admit some hangups I had.  Slightly uncomfortable, but I think it was good for me - and for us.

We were able to, after a bit, start writing up a bucket list, and it turned out to be kind of fun.  Some of the things I suggested surprised him.  "Camping?  Like tent camping?  With just me?  OK!"  Other items we had talked about early in our courtship, but forgotten, like taking a cooking class.  Others got us both excited, like making our nasty bedroom into an inviting retreat.  Overall, it was an enjoyable exercise in finding things to look forward to.  And it made us happy.

Just for today... Start a bucket list with {not for} your sweetheart.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Blithe and Breezy in the Bedroom

27 Days to a Happy Mom - Day 11

Blithe: joyous, merry, or happy in disposition; glad; cheerful
Breezy: carefree or lighthearted; fresh; sprightly
Bedroom: that place where we bring all our troubles when we are tired

I don't know about you, but I don't walk into my bedroom at night with a come-hither attitude.  Part of that has to do with the cluttery state of the room (where we keep everything that we don't want the twins to get into);  part of it is my physical exhaustion at the end of the day;  and a good part of it is that I've forgotten how to speak bedroom-ese.  But if, following my own advice, I decide that I want to stay married to this man of mine and commit to make it work, then I get to have some happy action in the bedroom as well.

I find that if I'm frustrated or stressed in our relationship, intimacy is the first thing to go.  I just don't feel affectionate when I'm not happy.  But... knowing that my husband loves to be held, and it's good for our relationship as well, I feel that it's ok if I indulge him even if I don't feel like it.  Because {you know it's true} after a while, I do feel like it.  And I fix what makes me not feel like it.  And then we're both happy.

I won't go into any specifics (my kids are reading!), but date night is a good way to rekindle the fire.  Read what USA Today has to say about the National Marriage Project's report on spending regular time together.  Stop by the Dating Divas for lots of fun and creative date ideas.  And - best of all - please read this post and this one at ablogaboutlove for feeling desirable and lovely.

Just for today... work on feeling beautiful - and then share the love!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Cups, Boxes, and the Steering Wheel

27 Days to a Happy Mom - Day 10

I have three little stories to tell - analogies of the way we live our lives.  All credit goes to Craig Berthold, the wise man who taught me these stories and helped me understand them.  The first is about a cup.

I have a cup.  So do you.  We all like our cups to be full;  I'll ask people to fill it for me.  "Please, just pour a little of the good stuff from your cup into mine," I ask, and people usually do.  I especially like it to be filled by those I love.  "Husband, please fill my cup," and he does.  What a good hubby!  "Mom, please fill my cup.  Oh I like that.  Thank you."  "Child, please fill my cup.  You are such a good helper!"  "Husband, I want more.  Please pour more into my cup.  More.  No, more.  More!"  And I get mad when he doesn't.  And I get jealous if he pours into anyone else's cup.  The thing I have to learn is that my cup is full of holes, and it is my job to fix the holes.  And it is not anyone else's responsibility to fill my cup.  I have to take care of my own cup.

The second analogy is similar.  I have my little box of happiness.  I hold my box of feelings and emotions and sometimes it gets very heavy.  Maybe my husband will help me carry my box.  "Oh, that is much easier, thank you.  In fact, why don't you just carry it by yourself?  You are doing such a great job with my box.  I love you for how well you take care of my box."  But what if he puts it down?  I am upset and feel neglected.  And what if he drops my box?  And what if he smashes it all to pieces?  Then what becomes of my feelings? Then I should pick up all the pieces and find some good glue.  Because I am the guardian of my own box.  Others can assist me to feel happy, but it is my own responsibility.  Likewise, I like to help other people with their boxes of happiness.  But it is not my job to carry my husbands box, or the boxes of my children, my parents, my friends, or anyone else.  They may holler if I put their boxes down.  But it is not my responsibility.  Each of us has to take accountability for our own boxes of emotions.  That way, we can be happier and more able to help (but not hold) others.

The third story is that of a steering wheel.  This is my steering wheel (I have an affinity for German automobiles).  It is how I decide to steer my life.  If I want to go left, or right, or not - I can.  But sometimes there are other people who have their hands on my steering wheel.  They want me to drive differently, or go to other places.  Maybe I want to go there - maybe I don't.  Usually, I don't.  I'm a little contrary that way.  But wherever I go, I 'm not really the one in charge, as long as I have all those other hands on my steering wheel.  I think my kids have their hands on my steering wheel.  My parents.  My husband.  The folks at church.  My neighbors.  The ladies at school, my friends, the media ideals of who I should be.  My late husband is still there, too.

So before I can be in control, I have to peel off all these other fingers.  It is difficult.  Some of them have a death grip!  Some of them are very upset about not driving my car.  Others will try to guilt me into leaving them on.  None of them will like it that I'm not taking orders from them anymore.  If I let them and their "stuff" bother me, then I am, in essence, putting their hands on my steering wheel.  And I don't have to.

But this is good for me.  I am strong and independent.  I get to choose what I do.  When I accept and use my own agency to really make the choices - free of anyone else - in my life, I become more ME.  And less everyone else.

And when I am the most ME I can be, I find that I am better, lighter, happier.  I have the ability to fill my husband's cup, assist my children with their boxes, and drive my car happily down the Autobahn.

Just for today... see if one of these analogies might fit in your life.  And take responsibility for your cup, your box, or your steering wheel.  Because when you do, the amazingly wonderful you that is YOU can love your husband (and everyone else) more than ever!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Accentuate the Positive

27 Days to a Happy Mom - Day 9
This song was written by Johnny Mercer in the fall of  1944.  Within a few short months, there were three different versions of this song on the Billboard charts.  Since then , it has been redone a whole pile of times (I'm counting 30) by various groups.  I guess the message just resonates.  We can't always change our circumstances, but we can change how we look at it.

This is so true when we think of our relationships with our spouses (Trent thinks the plural of "spouse" should be "spice").  As much as I want to sometimes, I cannot change my husband.  He will love zucchini no matter how much I protest.  If it bothers me, then I am bothered.  Again:  I am the one who is bothered.  

I can change that by refusing to be annoyed by his (fill-in-the-blank).  I suppose I could throw out all zucchini and ban him from ever bringing it in the house again.  That might solve the immediate vegetable problem.  But then something else will bother me.

There will always be problems.  That's just part of life.  but I can change how I look at it.  My dear husband's idiosyncrasies can forever be getting under my skin, or I can just let them go and love him all the more.  He doesn't have to change a thing in order for me to change my outlook.  I do that all by myself.

That doesn't mean that I am going to be a doormat; a whimper of a woman who only exists to acquiesce to her husband's every whim without a thought of her own.  No!  On the contrary, letting go of my husband's "stuff" will make me stronger.  By letting his stuff bug me, I am letting him control me - control how I feel, how I look at the world, and how I see him.

I can overlook the little "problems:" how he chews his food, or his penchant for a sport I'm not fond of.  I can concentrate on the things that I love about my sweetheart: how he holds me, or his desire to stay awake and listen to what I have to say even though it is late.  As I tell him how great I really think he is (instead of nagging him for what he isn't) he may very well decide he wants to please me more.  And even if he doesn't, I can still be happy.

You've got to spread joy up to the maximum
Bring gloom down to the minimum
Have faith or pandemonium
Liable to walk upon the scene
You've got to accentuate the positive
Eliminate the negative
Latch on to the affirmative
Don't mess with Mr. In-between

Just for today... Find happy things about your spouse to focus on.  Decide to downplay something that has been eating at you.  Don't be lukewarm.  Feel happy!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

So Stay Married

27 Days to a Happy Mom - Day 8

holding hands by Laiyla

Let's see... I am writing this - and presumably you are reading this - all for the pursuit of happiness.  I would like to be more happy and have less depression.  I would like to be more healthy.  I would like to live longer.  I would like to renew and strengthen families - my own family, my extended family, and families in general.  I would like to give my children the best possible chance for success in this life: safety, educational, emotional, social, financial, health, and love.  I would like my children to go on and have healthy relationships and  families of their own.  I would like to have a respect for and protect human life.  I would like my neighborhood to be safe.  I would like my children - and their peers! - to have less substance abuse, crime, and sexually promiscuous behaviors.  I would like my community to have less poverty and dependence on welfare.

Would you like all this, too?  Then marry and stay married.  I know it's not always that simple.  But all these benefits are shown to come to individuals and communities where people mate for life.

Nurturing a marriage relationship is sometimes hard.  Don't all good things require us to grow and sweat sometimes?  Really, it is worth it.

Besides, if I can get and stay happily married, then I will have a regular friend.  I will have a soft place to land.  I will have a trusted confidante.  I will have someone to dance with, to watch movies with, and eat dinner with.  I will have someone to help me figure out a jumbled mess of budgeting, put the kids to bed, and take care of our home.  I will have someone to care of me when I'm not doing well.  I will have someone to scratch that spot I can't reach between my shoulder blades.  I will have someone to laugh with and cry with.

I understand that there are exceptions.  There are some to whom the blessing of marriage just doesn't come.  There are those who suffer in abusive relationships.  My heart breaks for you.  The exceptions, however, do not change the rule. Marriage - a life-long dedication between a man and a woman - is the tried and true best way to live.

And if my sweetheart dies or gets incapacitated or decides to leave me (or I have to leave him), I will be a better lover because of the effort I've put into the relationship.  I will have stronger relationships with others around me.  I will be more prepared to deal with the heartache and loss.  And, if I decide to, I will be more able to attract another person into my life.  I know.  I've been there.

Just for today... chose to be committed to your marriage.  There are so many benefits which astronomically outweigh the challenges.  Really!

dedicated to my late sweetheart and my current one - thank you both for your love!

Monday, October 8, 2012

Why Are You Married, Anyway?

27 Days to a Happy Mom - Day 7

Pretend this is a lovely picture of Trent and me on our wedding day.  I'm a little sick about not being able to post a real picture, but the hard drive where I store all my pictures is currently hooked up to a dead computer.  When I started putting my pictures there, it wasn't dead at all.  In fact, it was the strongest and fastest computer in the house.  I didn't worry too much when the computer started to slow down, but then I was surprised when it up and died.  I thought it would be great forever, I guess.

I hope we pay more attention to our marriage relationships.  When we get married, we have the best, strongest, most exciting relationship ever!  And we think it will stay that way and we'll ride off into the sunset and live happily ever after.  Isn't that what the fairy tales say?  And we are surprised when we wake up in the morning, roll over, and grimace at the man in the bed.  What happened to the glitter and twitterpation?

So why did I marry that guy in the first place?  At some point, I must have been happy with my hubby.  Ecstatic, head-in-the-clouds, madly in love.  That's why we got married.  Rather than wonder what went south, or where the problems started, or point fingers or spill out all our troubles, let's just open our wedding albums and remember the stars and magic of the wedding day.  That was a happy time.
(Found this shot elsewhere.  I hope you don't think I am not happy with this man.  I am!  Most of the time.)

Do you remember what the two of you spent most of your time doing (besides the mushy stuff)?  What were some of the things you planned to do?  Did you dream together?  What did you look forward to?  Do you remember the fluttery-heart feeling you got when you had been apart for a while and then saw him again?  How did you work together?  Was he a good kisser?  What did you giggle to your girlfriends about him?

Just for today... find a picture or two of your marriage.  Think about how much you loved each other and how happy you were.  I hope it makes you smile.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Happiness Through Hope

27 Days to a Happy Mom - Day 6

Boy, I'm hard to live with sometimes.  I get mired down in the diapers or the dishes and I drive myself crazy.  Ultimately, I can never be happy unless I have something real and enduring to be happy about.  I need to have something big, something bigger than me to believe in.  I need something big and happy to hope for - not the laundry to be done, not for the bickering to resolve, not for the weeding to get done.

I hope for a resolution of all life's problems, and for that enduring peace I can only get from giving my troubles to the Lord.  That kind of hope helps me get through the dreary days.  It lifts my heart and gives meaning to my daily chores.

As I organize and prioritize the things in my life, I find that when I am doing the tasks that help me accomplish my biggest goals, I am most happy, regardless of how cheerful or encouraging those individual tasks may or may not be.

And to work it backwards, sacrificing the things we may want a lot now may help us to get the things we really, desperately long for.  Those are our hopes and dreams.  It's no shame to hope that things will get better than what they are now.  Hope helps us to get cheerful in even difficult times.

The Lord has big and awesome things in store for you.  Heaven is real.  You are more than what anyone sees right now.  Your tomorrows can always be brighter than your yesterdays have been.  The things you want, deep down in your heart, can really come true for you.  Keep that hope burning, and let it be a light to guide the things you do today.

Just for today...allow yourself to hope for something truly great and good.  Think about it; savor it; let it settle into your heart and make you smile.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Work on Today

27 Days to a Happy Mom - Day 5

So what can I do today to be happy?  Anything.  Everything.  Take a hot bubble bath.  Smile at a stranger.  Go for a run, or be grateful that you are not going for a run.  Make a gratitude list.  Worship at church services.  Let another car merge on the freeway.  Buy some bling.  Go for a walk in the crisp autumn air.  Dance.  Watch a movie (maybe even a comedy?). Do an anonymous act of service.  Make children laugh hard.  Whistle.  Give an honest compliment.  Read an inspiring book (here are a few of my favorites!).  Jump rope like a little girl.  Have a barbecue.  Go to bed earlier.  Sing out in the shower.  Make a new goal.  Tell a good joke.  Finish a difficult job on your to-do list.  Eat ice cream.  Clean out a closet that has been plaguing you.  Admit a passion.  Go out with a friend you haven't seen for a while.  Paint.  Kiss your sweetheart - for a long time.  Wear an unusual hat in public.  Hug your kids as many times as they will let you.  Breathe deeply.  Watch the sun set or the moon rise.  Give thanks to the Lord.

The list is really endless.  And your list likely looks different than mine.  Whatever makes you happy.  Or whatever makes you feel peaceful or content or satisfied.  That's happy, too.

The most important thing is to just pick something and do it.  When we sit around and feel glum, we end up looking more like Eeyore, and we don't get feeling any better at all.

Don't wait until you feel happy, though.  Don't wait for conditions to be perfect.  They won't be.  Sometimes we feel more happy when we act more happy first.  And by doing good things, we won't have as many excuses to be gloomy.  Even if we don't feel better immediately, we can still contribute to making this world  happier place.

Just for today...  make a happy list (of your own, or steal some of mine).  Then pick one thing and DO IT!

Let Go of the Past

27 Days to a Happy Mom - Day 4

I have procrastinated writing this post until very late at night.  Every time I'd start writing, I either got total writer's block or had too many thoughts.  I even sat in the car and cried for a while.  This is one I struggle with right now.  As my mother would say, "Oh pooh."

Sometimes we aren't happy because we feel like we aren't able to because of all the bad things in our past.  People were mean.  Circumstances were ugly.  We did dumb things.  Loved ones left.  Trusted friends let us down.  And we carry all these things around with us, like rocks in a backpack.  We hate hefting them, but we can't seem to let them go.

We need to let them go.

It's hard.  I know it is very, very hard.  And sometimes the most difficult part lies in the wanting to let them go.  In some backwards way, we feel compelled to carry around our heavy, lumpy backpacks.  We can't set our rocks down because then we'd be letting other people hurt us more.  Or we can't forget what happened.  Or that it's supposed to make me an ok person.  Or that it is our job to always have this bad rock with me.  It's part of me.  It's who I am - the horrible person I am!

No, oh no.  I hate to even write those sentences, because I have identified so strongly with them at times.  But it is so wrong!  You are beautiful!  You don't need to be lugging heavy memories and negative emotions. Not.  At.  All.

It's quite a process to get free from - let go of - all the bad stuff from our past.  The way that works best for me is Craig Berthold's four-step process.  The first step is to recognize, or acknowledge the situation.  This is the imaginary conversation you have with yourself, as if you were talking to the person.  Doris, there was a problem at the book club meeting.

The second step is to admit that you did care about that person.  I was your friend and you were my friend.

The third step is pulling out all the pain, the anger.  It hurts, but don't skip this part!  You were supposed to be my confidante but you told everyone my secrets and laughed about it and that really made me feel awful and embarrassed.  Make sure you get all of the nasty feelings out, but don't get stuck here.  Sometimes we use this hurt as a shield to protect us, or to beat people up with, or to justify our bad feelings.

The fourth step is the freedom - the forgiveness.  We don't know how to do this as well, but it is the most important part.  We bundle up all our pain, give it to our Savior, and quit carrying it around.  As a matter of fact, Doris, you did hurt me, and you can do whatever you want to me, but you can't control how I feel about it.  I'm not going to let this affect me inside anymore.  The other important part of step four is learning from it, gleaning the truths we need to learn to make us better people.  We can't really put our bad things behind us unless we can climb up on our challenges instead of letting them crush us.  We can turn our garbage into wisdom!  Because of this experience, I have learned to be more careful and sensitive.  I may not have learned that without you.  Thank you for the lesson.  And by forgiving you, Doris, I can love you more than ever.  Through this step, you can gain freedom forgiveness, gratitude, wisdom, and empathy.

You can see a video explaining this so much better that I can if you go here.  It's not short, but so worth it!

And by letting go of all those heavy rocks and negative experiences in our past, we can grow into more incredible, more happy people.

Just for today...  try to forgive, learn from it, and love more.