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Monday, May 24, 2010

Confessions of a Recovering Right- Fighter

When I worked at Everything Coffee and Tea, we read a great book called Strengthsfinder. the book encourages you to focus on developing your strengths instead of putting so much energy into your weaknesses. For instance, if you excel in History, and struggle in math, many times, you spend most of your time working on math to get a better grade instead of running with your stregth, History, taking that subject to new heights. How fascinating that we focus so much on our weaknesses only to become mediocre. Couldn't we become great if we focused on what came natural to us?

One of my top five strenths is connectedness, meaning that I can see not only the connection, but the interdependence, between separate groups, cultures, ideas, etc. At first I moaned about this strength, feeling like it was useless in any sort of job. But, in an effort to live regret-free, it has actually come to play in a timely fassion, and has refined me in an unexpected way.

As a passionate thinker, feeler, doer, life can be exhausting. It's a rollercoaster ride of excitment one second and frustration the next. The world, and people for that matter, haven't always been kind to me. Couple that with a passionate person, and voila! You have yourself a right-fighter. The world should be "this way!" "My way!" "Doesn't everyone see how perfectly RIGHT I am? What they are doing is wrong, and I don't understand why they can't see it!" Standing up for my beliefs is a quality I am proud to possess, but one wrong move and I have allowed the worlds problems to be my burden, which is a cross that wasn't meant for me to carry.

In all of my efforts to try and change the world, and make it a place that loves, hopes, believes, works hard, and loves, loves again...I realized that I hadn't made a lot of progress. I used up countless ammounts of energy trying to make the world what I thought it should be. After all, my ideas are perfect! But sure enough, my lack of progress despite my endless devotion has left the world pretty much the same, and me, well...tired.

So where is the encouragment? Anna, please don't leave us hanging! There is hope, right? YES! There is hope. It's realizing our strengths, and running with it in a way that honors people. Honoring people for who they are, and for their life experiences whether right or wrong, is more important than spending time and energy in ways that we weren't meant to. And then I saw the connection. Oh yeah, that strength of mine that I forgot about!

The world all of the sudden came into focus. Are there bad, mean people in the world? Yes. Is it my fault they are like that? No. I am choosing to notice instead of judge. I am learning to first think of how Anna can be better, and less on how the world can be better. I'm realising that I am more like other people than I am different from them. I am asking myself to change before I ask someone else to change.

Focus on the connection between us, our humanity, how all of us smile the same. Don't let disagreements rob you of a happy life. After all, we don't know what others have been through. We only know what we have been through, and I'm grateful for the journey.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

perserverance leads to change

Living with no regret has taken a willingness to let the frustrations and difficulties of life go so that less life is wasted. When we found out that Natalie might have Cystic Fibrosis or some other illness, I immediately wanted to hug her has tightly as I could, and nothing else mattered. It sounds so cliche, and it is, but it's true. I guess that is why it's cliche in the first place! Even the things that seemed so important moments before, like Butler University, my alma mater, going to the final game of the NCAA championship, all of the sudden seemed as important as a microscopic piece of dust on the mantle. All I wanted to do was to hug her and tell her how much I love her, and that I would be there for her no matter how difficult, no matter the cost. We perservered through a week of worry and emotional stress of tending to Natalie, and giving Noah enough attention that he didn't feel ignored or less important. The good news is that Natalie just needs more calories! She has already had a growth spurt, and we are counting down the days for her follow up "weigh- in."

Now, onto other exciting news, Jeremy has accepted a new job with regular business hours. Hallelujah, amen and pass the peanut butter! This has been a prayer for years, to finally have a job out of retail and have some normalcy to our day. The kids will finally be able to see their daddy for dinner; not just bedtime.

What I realized about the timing of all of this, is that a few months back, I had finally accepted our position as "life", and was ready to be creative of how to make our schedule work for our family. Maybe our dinnertime was without dad, but when dad is home, we enjoy family time with him then. So what? Isn't that the joy of the modern american family that it doesn't have to fall into a certain category of normal? Sure, it wasn't my ideal, but I was ready to work with and be grateful for what we had. And then, a random job from left field comes across our path, and Jermey gets the job. Woohoo! Yes! And any other form of exciting exclamation. It will be interesting to see how life changes. An extra 2-3 hours each evening will mean family dinners, and no more dinner at 8:45 at night!
So, this month has been filled with reminders of faith, love, quality time with my favorite people, and how perserverance pays off. I am blessed to have a "no regrets" attitude.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

evaluating my quest

Today is a day to evaluate. To evaluate my performance in living a life with no regrets. It's been about 3 months since I began this "official" journey and blogging about it, and I feel more caring for those around me. I feel refined. Possibly even resplendant.

Each day has brought its own joys, successes and failures. But I will say this; I honestly think I had more successes. It's amazing how focusing on one change in attitude can make such an impact. I know that my...what... two reader's?? Are counting on me! And, more than that, I am counting on myself to make this life, however fleeting it may be, my most wonderful life.

These paragraphs are elusive at best, and I understand if you find yourself wondering if anything concrete has happened in my life in the past 3 months, but I am in a mood that is taking me above the trees looking down- not at eye level.

What I will say is this: I really love living my life through a "no regrets" filter. A God filter. I find myself loving when maybe I wouldn't have loved before. I find myself saying, "They don't owe me anything, and that's OK." Even when my feelings are hurt. I have found that my day-to-day blunders as a housewife are so minimal compared to the absolute joy of being a mother to the two most beautiful and awe-inspiring children I have ever met. To say to myself, it's OK to have people over and to stop apologizing for my house being a mess because I felt it was more important to get on the floor and build blocks with my kids than to do the dishes. I KNOW I won't regret this. Yes, it is stressful when evening comes and I have dishes in the sink, piles of laundry to fold, emails to return, a husband to talk with, and several books left unread on my nightstand. But they won't win.

One thing I have done is give Noah lot's of "special" jobs if there is a task I need to get done. We have one special chore that we do each morning. Cleaning the bathroom, or folding clothes...etc. Noah may knock over my piles of laundry, but was that hour of me folding really wasted? No. Work is never wasted. You can always learn something, and you can use it as a teachable moment for your child. I am not giving up on my special quest to live my life with Noah, Natalie and Jeremy at my side, laughing, crying, talking, giggling, tickling, and other real life things. It is certainly the best place to be.

Monday, February 15, 2010

TA TA, TV

Have you ever wondered what life would be like if you never watched TV? If you didn't even own a TV? Would we sit around and listen to papa play the fiddle after catching up on some reading or knitting? This picture is just what I long for. I'll admit that I would love a throwback to the days of Laura Ingalls- when your family and close friends were all that mattered. When working hard and loving well were enough to fulfill a life, and there wasn't much time for anything else.

Books like "Stargirl" inspire me to live a succulent and meaningful life despite the thoughts and possible judgments of others. The beauty is knowing that this type of life is what will encourage others to do the same after their initial uncomfortable feelings wear off. When they realize that maybe you're onto something better- onto something daring. Big. Beautiful. Maybe even a little wild. WHY NOT?

Part of this life, for Jeremy and I, is to cancel cable. Not that there is anything wrong with it, and it has its place; but the pull to sit down after a long day and turn into two vegetables on the couch watching TV is a real threat for us, and we really feel like someting else could be more valuable to us. Yay for movie night. Yay for NCIS, my favorite show. BUT, isn't that enough? My vote is for something different the other nights of the week. Hold me accountable, will you? Goodbye, Direct TV: it's been average.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Me, Happier: Part 2 (parenting changes)

So, my last blog randomly became about forgiveness when originally I hadn't intended to write on the topic. Today I thought I would continue sharing the reasons that my stress and frustration levels have gone down so much. The theme today is: parenting changes.

Parenitng. The joys. The absolute joys. Truly. This is not sarcasm. I have never meant that phrase sarcasticly, but my frustration level several months ago was high, and I had no sense of what to do to solve the problems for my child. These "problems" included everything from not listening to my directions and agressiveness towards other children. I remember sobbing by 10:00 in the morning because nothing was going right!

So, after reading piles of literature on parenting, I realized why a lot of my trial and error was more error than anything else. OK, I'll admit, I can talk an ear off an elephant, and I suppose this encouraged a few lectures. Lectures to a two year old. How ridiculous! I really thought that my insight would sink in, but in reality it would backfire and he would yell something like, "I will never do lojsdflkjksdnfalkndfkldfa (two year old banter)!" Funny now. Not so much in the moment.

So, what I have realized is parenting is much more about my self discipline than my child. They need a guide to teach them what behavior is acceptable, and what isn't. I have learned to love 'mis'behavior, because I have the opportunity to teach them what is right and wrong while the cost is so low. Many parents get in the way with their own agenda, and make their child pay the high price for unacceptable behavior when they're grown up.

I would love to share some of the parenting strategy specifics, but there is SO much rich information, and it all flows so beautifully together. I would highly recommend sprinting to the bookstore or amazon.com and buying "Easy to Love, Difficult to Discipline" by Dr. Becky Baily, and "Love and Logic Magic for Early Childhood" by Dr. Jim and Charles Fay. They have monumentally changed my life forever.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Me, Happier

I was thinking to myself yesterday how much lighter my heart is now than it used to be. In my heart, I truly feel rest. Peace. Joy. Even with a busy toddler and a newborn, I find myself rarely stressed at the end of the day. This is a change. I have always been happy, but I can definitely assure you that the past year has proven itself to be very difficult, and I felt a great burden in my heart- even on a "good day."

This feeling of rest crept up on me, and treated me to a grand realization that life is good. It really is. My circumstances haven't changed- in fact, they are worse in some ways. I am taking an extended maternity leave with no money in the bank after a frank call from God to be "mommy at home." God wasn't kidding when he said that following His call wasn't easy, but it sure brings rest to the soul.

Other contributing factors? Yes. This blog! Knowing I'm living my life without regret gives me peace of spirit. How could it not?

Exercising. A lot. Yes, this is always a great boost of the lovely endorphins in my brain.

Choosing to use simple consequences that speak for themselves instead of yelling at Noah or getting frustrated and overwhelmed.

Today, my story is forgiveness. The mysterious artform that developes all too late for many people. I have had certain ebs and flows in my life where I held to something painful in my heart. Instead of letting it go I allowed it to fester and grow into a small piece of bitterness below a bubbly exterior. If I let the hurt go, I was saying to myself that it didn't hurt, or that it was OK, and to me; it wasn't. I wanted "them" to understand how much "they" hurt me. I wanted to hear, "I'm sorry." And let's face it, I still want to hear, "I'm sorry."

After years- yes, years; I have finally spoken to a few of the people in my life and let them know how I felt. How much I hurt. Not everyone, (not like there are a lot)but sometimes you have to wait for the right moment. Maybe it's because I'm not ready. Maybe they're the one who isn't ready to hear. Regardless, I'm waiting. Wiating for the conversation, but I'm not waiting to let go.

One of my favorite quotes is from Max Lucado, and it has impacted my life tremendously. He says, "God will never call you to give anyone more grace than He has already given you." Wow. Forgiveness doesn't justify anything. It doesn't mean you are admitting fault, or admitting they were right. It just sets you free. That's all. Will the pain or the memory be gone in that instance? No. Sometimes there are layers upon layers of feelings that come out at different times of your life, or when new memories come to mind. But, at that moment, do yourself a great favor and make the choice to forgive them again. Forgive that person for that moment as many times as you need to. Forgive them again and again. And maybe again.

Setting yourself free from the devastating effects of bitterness or anger will promote a new life. A life that isn't free from difficult times, but one that chooses a perspective of joy. A heart that has rest for you, and for those around you. I truly hope that over time, Jeremy will notice that I am happier at the end of the day. That there aren't little bits of yuckiness in my heart that can creep out and bite at the first sign of a crying baby, or a toddler who doesn't feel like listening. That, my heart has a restfulness knowing that I won't regret having held onto something that held me back instead of allowing for a joyful song.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Jeremy Inspire's Me

Jeremy, my most fabulous husband, inspire's me for many reasons, and several of them fall into the category of "no regrets." Jeremy beautifully demonstrates the importance of saying a meaningful goodbye every morning, or anytime he leaves the house without me and the kids. Here is a great example...

It's 7:15 am. Absolutely the last minute Jeremy can leave the house and still make it to work on time. We called for Noah to come say goodbye, but he yells, "No!" Jer gives me a big kiss goodbye, has one foot out the door, and we hear Noah come rushing down the stairs saying, "Daddy, wait! I need hugs and kisses, daddy!!" And here's Jeremy; one foot out the door, late again. Haven't we all been there? Jeremy will always come back inside and give him his full heart, and a great big hug and kiss. Without the feeling of being rushed. He takes in that goodbye and makes Noah feel like his daddy is present in that moment with him. It is a beautiful thing to watch.

I love that my husband doesn't think being to work 25 seconds later than he would be otherwise is somehow more important than his son knowing his daddy loves him. There are so many more moments and truths that Jeremy teaches me about living with no regrets, and I will gladly share more inspiring details in the future...

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Noticing

I have recently come across the idea of noticing in a few parenting books. It means realizing what your child likes, and instead of making a judgment statement to them, such as, "I love it when you color pretty pictures," or, "I love how well you dance," you should say, "Wow, I have noticed that you like to draw pictures for daddy, " or, "I've noticed how much you love to dance!" A subtlety, sure; but a significant one. One that makes a huge difference on the self esteem of a child. A child who has the freedom to grow up and be what they always dreamed of- not what they think would make some else- especially their parents- happy.

Today as I drove home, it was just beginning to snow, and there was a driver behind me who was clearly wanting to speed past. I started to get slightly irritated since the weather didn't provide clear driving conditions, and I had two babies in the backseat. Before allowing myself to further indulge my feeling to get over and give him a clear and direct point to the innocent children in the back seat and a furrowed brow, I thought of the idea of noticing.

What I noticed was that this man was in a hurry. Period. Ok. Got it. I'll move over for you. What's the problem with that? Am I really going to waste a single moment on some less-than-intelligent (woops, a judgment!) man that feels the need to get somewhere 30 seconds faster than I do? OK, so I won't get upset. I won't judge him. I won't waste time. I'll simply notice. Notice he is in a hurry.

This little idea has such dramatic implications on the happiness, the peace, and the extra moments I'll own thinking of something brighter. It goes beyond road rage. It can be used anytime someone talks about something they enjoy, something they dislike- it's a way to know someone and their values without judging that they are different than you.  This is the most freeing thought process, and is, in my experience, the easiest way to get away from judging others!  In the end I will be glad knowing that I didn't allow the anger and frustration over someone else's value system to rob me.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Why this blog?

Despite my love hate relationship with New Year's resolutions, I decided to make one. Living with no regrets. It's that simple. It's always been on my heart, but today, as I was on the eliptical machine (where I get many of my enlightening ideas), I decided to make it official. What would happen if I consciously thought how I would feel about each decision I make as if I were an 80-year-old woman looking back? Will this decision make my life more or less meaningful in the long run? What am I afraid of? What keeps me from being my true self, or living life to its true abundance? These are questions that I ask myself now, but I am charging myself to never let these questions slip by because it is easier to believe in the moment that NCIS is more important to my life experience. What is that?



Living without regret is such old news I can't believe I am actually blogging on the subject; but I am tired of hearing the regrets of the 60, 70 or 80 year-old, then thinking to myself, "so true- I'll keep that in mind in my life" and then forget a day later. OK, my life isn't boring or meaningless, but I am sure I am missing out on many opportunities to add beauty, meaning, and love to my life because of the distractions and monotony in each day. It's as if there are a few momentous, fabulous, knock-me-out moments that are strung together by many days of ordinary.


Does each day have to be a special occasion? No! It's in the small moments even more than the big ones. It's spending time with my kids and impressing in my memory their warmth and smiles- it's kissing Jeremy goodbye and really taking that moment to say "I love you" and it not being something to check off of a list. I want my attitude to say, 'I am really present in this moment with you." I have this fleating chance to be everything I was created for, and I could easily waste it on TV, laziness, or dreaming too much of the future and missing out on what is in front of me.


I remember in college a friend asked me to play at an open mic at this great place in Indianapolis called The Music Mill. My heart was POUNDING, and I didn't think I could do it. This is coming from someone who has performed many times. But not MY music. Not something so close to me that I was terrified of being judged. That was one of those moments where I thought, "If I miss this opportunity, will I regret it when I am 80?" I knew the answer was yes; so, I did it! I played 5 original songs with just my voice and a keyboard, and it was a stand-out moment for me in my life- and not just because people actually liked it! I could have easily missed that opportunity, but I chose to put aside fears of what others thought of me and fulfilled a dream.


So, this year, and hopefully for the rest of my life, I will take the charge to live in the best way I know how so that I can look back at my life with a deep smile from within instead of a sigh. I would love to hear your story, and I hope mine inspires you to find your best life!