Archives for August 2014

Eating Frogs and Procrastination

Hello, my name is Merrily and I’m a procrastinator.  (View my post on procrastination here.)

“Eat a live frog every morning, and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.” —Mark Twain

I’m starting off with #1 in the above book One Bite at a Time.  The basic idea is that if you do the worst thing on your plate first thing in the morning, the rest of the day is a cake walk. So if your least favorite chore is doing the dishes, and it’s one of the items on your to-do list for the day, then tackle it first.

I hate having a messy kitchen.  When my kitchen is clean, I’m happy.  So you’d think my kitchen would be clean all the time…since it brings me such happiness.

But here’s how my kitchen looks right at this moment and a majority of the time:

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Not only do I have clean dishes piled up on the right of the sink….by I have pots and pans waiting to be hand washed.

I love having a clean kitchen, but I hate doing the dishes.  Why?  I don’t know.  You’d think since it brings such joy to walk in and smell and see clean things…I’d be in there constantly..  But I’m not.  Now, I’ll give myself a little break.  I work full time.  I have a husband who works full time.  In my household:  29 year old step son currently knee deep in the middle of chemo for lymphoma, my 10 year old daughter with a learning disability (short term memory deficiency) and  my 2 1/2 year old grandson.  So there’s 5 of us.  One is very ill.  One is needing a ton of help with homework every day.  And one is 2 years old.  So I usually get my kitchen spotless every other day, but it only lasts about 2 hours…or the next meal…before it looks like the above.

I do get my daughter to help with the dishes, but many times she is helping with the 2 year old.  Or doing homework.  But I procrastinate on the dishes.  And the silly thing is…it’s only takes me about 15-20 minutes to actually clean the kitchen…so what’s my deal?

So this week…my frog is cleaning the kitchen.  First thing.  Before I start any other chore or work duty.  I’m going to see how that goes this week.

Are you wondering how last week went?  I got up at 5:30 am every morning.  I got dressed.  I drank my coffee…read in my devotional. Enjoyed a wonderful hour with my daughter before walking out to the bus stop to visit with the other moms.  (Something I love doing!)  The thought of waking up so early terrified me.  But in reality, it was wonderful!!!  Yes, I’m a little more tired at night…  But what am I missing?  I don’t watch television when I crawl into bed.  I go to sleep.  Hmm….not a real loss there.  And I’m getting to spend more time in the morning, getting things done!  I feel so prepared for the day.  I’m in for another week.  And this week’s frog will be cleaning up the kitchen as soon as I get in from the bus stop!

Oh…and by the way….I finished with this blog post…and cleaned my kitchen. (TOOK 20 MINUTES!) Here’s what it should look like…and yes, it makes me HAPPY!

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What’s your frog?

New School Year Brings New Habits: Simplify = Happiness

First day of school at the bus stop

First day of school at the bus stop

I ran into one of my neighborhood moms last week at the grocery store.  She expressed what I think we all are feeling right now.  Great excitement for the kids to start back to school.  For our neighborhood, that day is today.

My friend was complaining about how much weight she had gained over the summer.  Vacations and travel had ruined her diet.  Sleep habits were completely ruined.  Her house was a wreck.  As she walked away, she said something that rang through my head all weekend…”Monday I’m going to start something!”

I kept thinking….what is that something?  How do you start “something” unless you really know what it is… (My old mantra:  You can’t shoot a target you can’t see!)

So over the weekend I decided to write down on paper the easy things that school forces my family back into.

1.  Go to bed at 8:30 each night.

That was it.  Sleep habits will return to normal.  I really couldn’t think of what else school forces us back into.

So I decided to write a list of things I wanted to change.  The list was long.  Too long to start in just one day.  That would be complete culture shock for me and my family. But the first and most significant was getting up 30 minutes before the kid(s) so that I could enjoy my coffee and have quiet time.  That means getting up at 5:30 am.  In the 27 years that I’ve been raising kids, I’ve never done that.  Am I crazy?  Could I keep that up? The encouraging thing is….I’ve never worked out like I have been the last 2 years…so maybe this can be another major change in my life.  But today I got out of bed at 5:30 am.

Here’s some habits that I’ve maintained over the summer and will continue into the new school year.

1.  Workout 4-5 days per week.(Crossfit925)
2.  Eat Whole30 (I’m on day 25) (Whole30.com & It starts with Food.) (I’m blogging about my health journey  @ MerrilyBrown.com.)

I got a little overwhelmed when I started writing out my list of everything I wanted to change, improve or renew.  So overwhelmed I almost deleted this blog post.

Luckily I came across these tips from author Leo Babauta from his e-book 52 Changes.

1.  One Change at a Time. Just one. Don’t make several at once, because then they’ll all fail.

2. Small Changes Only. Don’t try to run 30 minutes if you haven’t been running. Just do 2 minutes. Small changes are more likely to stick.

3. Enjoy the Change. If you don’t enjoy it, it’s not worth doing. And it won’t stick anyway.

4. Iterate. If a change fails, figure out why, and improve the method. Or pick another change.

5. Pick a trigger. A trigger is something already ingrained in your routine that you use to anchor a new change. For example, go for a walk (the new habit) right after drinking coffee in the morning (the trigger).

I’m starting this week out with getting up earlier.  And I succeeded on day one.  I’m pretty excited!

Next week I’m going to start using the suggestions in One Bite at a Time: 52 Projects for Making Life Simpler.  I’ll be blogging about my progress.

Who wants to join me?  Will you get up 30 minutes prior to the kiddos?  (Or let me know if you already do this and how it’s helped!)

Have a great first day of school!

Feeling Left Out.

I struggle with being left out.

leftout

Examples:

When I was young, my very social parents would frequently have company over and they would always ask my brother to play the accordion for them.  I played the guitar and cello.  No one ever asked me to play for them.  Now granted, Bobby was very good at the accordion and was very entertaining.  My guitar and cello not so.  But as a child I didn’t really understand that.  I would sit and watch while the adults oohed and awed over my older brother.  I really can’t say I was jealous.  But I felt left out.

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I grew up in Oregon, but all my cousins lived in Texas.  Our family vacations consisted of a four day drive to drive to Texas.  Out of the Mann Family, my brother and I were the only cousins who didn’t live in Texas.  I used to take a lot of ribbing…being the “city kin.”  I think my cousins would be horrified if they really knew how bad it made me feel…to not be one of them.

I clearly remember a time when my parents discovered that their group of friends were getting together for cards, only they were accidentally not invited.  I felt SO BAD for them.  I’m pretty sure I went to my room and cried.  (And it wasn’t even me who was left out!)

You’d think that becoming an adult would change that, right?  Well…  A couple of years ago while I was on staff at our church, there was a meeting for the full-time staff, to go over changes in the insurance.  Since I was part-time and paying for the insurance out of my own pocket, I knew I wasn’t supposed to be at the meeting.  My husband understood differently.  He said I was to go to the meeting because it was for any staff on insurance.  As I’m sitting in this meeting, it’s pretty clear it wasn’t intended for me.  About 20 minutes in, the head pastor motioned through the window at me, waving me to step outside.  He was very nice about it.  He confirmed that I wasn’t really a part of this insurance meeting.  I went back in and grabbed my purse and drove home.  In tears.

Okay last example… My oldest step son and wife just welcomed their first baby into their lives.  I stayed home to take care of my kiddos so my husband and Nanny (my husband’s ex-wife) could go to the hospital to see the new grand-baby.  It was 2 days later that I was able to go see the precious baby Hays.  When I discovered that I wasn’t listed on the hospital visitation list of grandparents, I fought back tears.  All of the other grandparents were listed…even step grandparents.  I just swallowed hard and waited patiently for someone…anyone to make sure I could visit the new baby.

Sounds like I have some pretty deep issues…

One counselor had once suggested that because I’m adopted, I have a strong desire to be “a part of the group.”  I disagreed.  Being adopted had nothing to do with it. Being adopted at birth and always knowing that I was adopted, made me feel special, made me feel chosen.  My parents worked very hard at making sure I felt loved and accepted.  As a matter of fact, I have always felt I was the favorite child.  (Sorry Bobby…I am the favorite child!)

You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book (Ps. 56:8, NLT).

What’s that really mean?  God never wastes a hurt.  In fact, painful lessons can turn into precious gems.  When you go through a pain or a hurt, God won’t waste it.

My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness (2 Cor. 12:9).

What I’ve discovered is that my struggles of “feeling left out” is really a weakness that God is using for his glory.  Meaning, because I HATE the feeling of being left out, I work very hard to make sure those around me always feel included and never left out.

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I raised two wonderful boys that were my step-sons.  It was my mission to make sure they felt loved and included.  I’m knee deep in raising my second round of children.  Maddie is 10 and Garrison is 2 1/2.  This makes 5 kids I’ve raised, but only given birth to one.  My heart is equipped to love all my kids equally….with all my heart…and on mission to make them feel loved and accepted.

But it doesn’t stop with raising kids.  God has gifted me with the spirit of hospitality.  I strive to make sure that anyone who walks into my home feel welcome and loved.  You’d think that would be a challenge when it’s your ex-husband and new wife walking through your door. (Which recently happened at my daughter’s rehearsal dinner hosted in my home.) But it wasn’t a challenge at all.  What was once a weakness, God has turned it around to use as a blessing.  I no longer feel like an outsider, even when it’s my ex-husband walking through the door.  My energy is placed into making others feel included…including my ex-husband.

So what’s your weakness?  I’m pretty confident in saying that God knows your struggle.  And I’m pretty confident in saying he will use it….and it’ll be great!

Here’s the book that’s helped me:

 

 

Chasing After Happiness or Running from Hopelessness?

The recent death of Robin Williams has stunned the world. (Me included)  Such talent.  Such laugher.  Such life.  But hidden behind the gigantic grin was a human being struggling to survive.

I don’t claim to know much about clinical depression or bi-polar disorder.  I grew up with a brother who struggled with depression.  My mother also battled a depression/anxiety disorder.  What I do know is, depression is not a “I feel sorry for myself” state of mind.  Depression is a physical disorder.  You can’t talk a depressed person out of feeling bad.  It’s like when I broke my arm as a child.  I couldn’t talk myself out of the bone being broken.  No matter how many people came up to me and told me they loved me and that my arm was fine, it wasn’t.  The bone was fractured.  And it wouldn’t heal on it’s own.  Mental disorders are much like that.

A simpler time.

A simpler time.

My mother went through therapy for two years.  Hour long sessions every week of talking it out to a professional didn’t do much good.  It was the right medicine correcting the chemicals in her brain that turned my mother back into a normal functioning happy woman.

What I do understand is hopelessness.

And I’m pretty sure Robin Williams battle with depression left him hopeless.

I’ve never struggled with depression.  But I’ve struggled with hopelessness.  A feeling that there’s no future.  A feeling that I’ve messed up so bad that nothing could ever make it right.

I’ve made some pretty bad decisions based on hopelessness.  Yes, I felt so hopeless at one point that I even contemplated suicide.  It wasn’t so much of a “I can’t stand this pain.”  It was a “everyone would be better off without me” mentality.

You would think it would be visible, this hopeless state of mind.  But it wasn’t for me.  No one knew how I felt.  I put on a happy face.  I was good at making sure everyone around me thought I was bubbly and vivacious.  I refused to holler out for help.

When I packed up my 12 year old daughter and left a marriage of 15 years, I felt as if I was bound in a tight bandage and I was suffocating.  I couldn’t breath. No one around me knew what I was feeling.  My entire family and close friends were shocked that I would “do such a thing.”  They all assumed I had lost my marbles and was running off with another man.

That wasn’t the case.

What no one knows, I wanted to die.

Had it not been for my precious 12 year old daughter…

I ran away.  In order to….survive.

I didn’t really want to talk about my hopelessness to anyone.  No one would understand.  So I kept it inside.  Bottled up.  The good news is…I immediately got into a great church.  I surrounded myself with some fabulous women.  I got into a bible study.  I started counseling.

After about three months of getting my relationship with God back in tact, I had made the decision to return home to my husband.  It was Christmas.  What better gift than to announce to my family that I was returning home.  What greeted me at the time was divorce papers.  And there was no convincing him of taking me back.

Did hopelessness set back in?  No.  The difference now was my faith was much stronger.  My hope was now in Christ and his plans for my life.

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. (Jeremiah 29:11)

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I have been divorced for over 12 years.  I remarried a wonderful Christian man.  My 12 year old daughter is now 24 and recently married the man of her dreams.  My husband and I adopted his biological granddaughter.   Maddie is now 10 years old.  Ten months ago my step son and his baby boy moved in with us.  I am now raising my 5th child.  Garrison is 2 1/2 years old.  I have never struggled with depression.  I have struggled with hopelessness.  The broken pieces of Merrily have been put back together into something whole.  I give all credit to God for being the master who holds the glue, waiting to put back everything into a masterpiece of his creation.

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 Here’s one of the books that helped me:

Going after peace not war…

Holly & Garrett's sendoff

Holly & Garrett’s sendoff

Fifteen years ago I was the mother of three children, and married to a fairly passive pessimist. I lived a hit-or-miss lifestyle. (Meaning I lived without much intentionality. I acted on how I felt, when I felt it, without much regard to consequences.) Because of the constant conflict of an optimist living with a pessimist, I walked around from episode to episode of frustration. When frustration or disappointment would arise, here’s the steps I took to process the emotions:

  • Immediately express my feelings.
  • Continue to express my feelings until I felt relieved of frustration.
  • Chronically recall my frustration and remind those involved of my disappointment and feelings.
  • Forgive only when I couldn’t remember what frustrated me, or forgive only when some new frustration replaces the old.

So how’d that work out for me? I became divorced after 15 years of marriage. Was how I dealt with my frustrations the cause of my divorce? Well, no. But I can assure you it didn’t help either.

Living an Intentional Lifestyle instead of a Hit-or-Miss Lifestyle

 

frustrated momSwim season is over but there was a day in June when I had to have our daughter at her swim meet before 7 am. Yes…7 am on a Saturday morning in the middle of June! Not exactly easy, but somehow grace was abounding, because we were on time. Leaving this early left my husband (who is time challenged) to get to the meet on his own. Time challenged means he is notoriously late. He’s been that way as long as I’ve known him. I know it. I’ve lived with it for over 10 years. And yes, it’s a source of aggravation for me.

The meet started at 8:30 am. Maddie’s first event would be a little before 9:00 am. Since parking is awful at our pool, Randy need to ride his bike. I told him to leave by 8:30 so he wouldn’t miss her first event.

Well, as you can imagine, he missed her first event. And yes, I was extremely disappointed.

Here’s my natural reaction.

  • Be upset and ruin my morning.
  • As my husband arrives, show my frustration
  • Scold my husband in an attempt to relieve my frustration.

Yes, I was looking to not feel bad. Who wants to be angry? (Well some people thrive on it…I’m not one.) Some people choose to be angry, and that anger draws out past frustrations that didn’t get resolved–like my repeated frustration that my husband is chronically late.

Sometimes it’s hard not to get angry…especially when it involves my children. When it comes to my children, I am literally a Momma Bear, protecting her cubs.

So here’s how my hit-or-miss lifestyle would cope: My husband arrives, I greet him with a frown. Since it’s crowded, my scolding is public. His reaction is public. I don’t feel better. He’s obviously already aware that he’s late and feeling disappointed, but his reaction will be an immediate defensive response. Result: we both have a miserable time at the swim meet, the rest of the day will be strained. Our connection as a married couple has taken a huge hit.

So is it worth it? No!

Here’s how a loving and kind wife, who chases after peace could handle it.

  • Recognize my anger. Sometimes just acknowledging your frustration diffuses the emotion.
  • Determine the root of the anger. Is it really that awful, or is it a reaction to an underlying issue? If it is an underlying issue, a public swim meet is not the venue to discuss the problem. And discussing it in anger will not produce any positive results.
  • Determine if my anger is justified. If it is, then wait for a better time to discuss. “Walk away” and wait till you can discuss without emotions being intense.
  • Determine your outcome. What is it you want? An apology? Knowing he’s aware of his problem and promises to do better? An acknowledgement that he messed up? Once you know what outcome you want, rationally figure out the best way to get that outcome. A public and emotional confrontation is not an effective tool.
  • Ask yourself if your attitude will make your day better or worse?
  • Ask yourself if you are seeking peace?
  • Is it really worth losing my joy over this issue?
  • Anger and frustration is a choice. Sometime it sneaks up on you, but it’s still a choice to continue in a state of anger.

If you struggle with anger and feel unable to diffuse it, there are deeper issues going on. Are you trying to punish your mate with your anger? Let God take control of teaching your spouse. Pray for God to help him with his issues.

So what did I do? By delaying my reaction, I realized it wasn’t that big of a deal and I didn’t have to do anything. He was more than on time for her next meet. And my connection to my wonderful husband stayed intact.