Confessions of an addicted multi-tasker…How to simplify in the age of distraction.

I’ve always been proud that I’m a great multi-tasker.  I believe that God made moms with this fabulous ability of being focused on multiple tasks at one time.

Take for instance when my daughter Holly was a baby.  With a small baby girl on one hip, I could cook for a family of five, help my son Wesley build a model of the King Ranch, help my other son Clayton with algebra homework, and fold a load of laundry…all at the same time.  That was a normal 5:00 pm ritual for me.  And I breezed through it effortlessly.  And daily…

When I was in College I took a course on business management skills.  The final exam was an office simulation.  We were systematically given multiple tasks to fulfill.   Business reports to analyze and type (on electric typewriters.)  A filing cabinet to organize and label.  An event to plan.  All tasks had to be completed within one hour.  During the hour, we also had to handle walk-in tasks (sort of like a receptionist) and answer the phone. We were given so many tasks, that it was basically impossible to finish everything. (Think Kobayashi Maru from Star Trek: The Wrath of Kahn) I remember watching the student before me walk out of the simulator frazzled and in tears.  I felt pretty good when I walked out of mine.  Three days later my professor called me into his office.  He said that no other student in the history of his teaching carer had ever finished the amount of tasks correctly and in such high quality.  I was a natural.  I had no idea my great talent would also be my greatest curse.

addicted to multi-taskingFast forward 30 years.  I’m addicted to multi-tasking.  I can’t sit and watch a movie…without some other task or activity. I usually have a computer or iPad on my lap.   Unless it’s eating…  TV combined with eating is dangerous for me.  Mindless eating and watching TV creates for much over-eating and over indulgence.

My computer is another place that my excessive multi-tasking has taken over.  I have about 20 programs running at once.   While I’m working away on writing, my mail messenger sends an audible alert… I click over to see what email has come in.  Then back to work.  Then a Facebook notification shows up in the top right hand corner of my screen….I pop over to see who responded to my latest post.  My phone is next to me….and I get not only several texts, but notifications that my coach has posted a new tweet.  I stop to read the tweets.

Then I hear the buzzer in the background….my last load of laundry is dry.  So I rush out to hang up my husband’s shirts so they won’t wrinkle.  I sit back down to write some more and notice the mail man dive by.  I grab my mailbox key and head out the door.

Am I ADD? I don’t think so.  But I do believe that I’ve become addicted to doing multiple activities at once.

Are we in the age of information or the age of distraction?  I’m clearly easily distracted.  We have an endless supply of reading, unlimited shopping, chatting, gossip, news, and on and on… And a constant bombardment of notifications…  HELP!!!

In my trek to simplicity, I realized I had to do something beyond cleaning up my closet and my desk.  I needed to slow down and simplify my daily routines and habits.

Why?  Because multi-tasking can be a weakness.  It is exhausting.  It allows you to do many things at a lesser quality.  Being pulled in many directions is not a pace that can be sustained over a lifetime.

So here’s some steps I’m taking to overcome my multi-tasking addiction:

  1. Become a single-tasker. (Single-tasking is the process of limiting distractions and creating opportunity to successfully invest into one task at a time.)
  2. Discern the difference between distractions and purpose.
  3. Unplug (Being connected via phone and electronic devices keep me from fully engaging in others or my tasks.)

What are some practical steps I’m taking?

  1. I’ve unsubscribed to email newsletters.  Instead I subscribe to the blog and add it to my blog reader.  (Used to be Google Reader…but now use Feedly)  Now I only read blogs and newsletters at one sitting…with my ipad away from my desk.
  2. I’ve turned off most of my twitter notifications.  (Except for my kids)
  3. Check Email only three times per day.  I check it once in the morning before I start work.  I check it after lunch, and then around 4, when I take about an hour to respond to any emails from the day.  The rest of the time, my email program is closed and I don’t receive any notifications.  I turned off notifications on my phone as well.  No sounds alert me when an email arrives.
  4. Set up a DO NOT DISTURB on my iPhone.  From 8 pm until 8 am I don’t receive any phone calls or texts.  I do have a favorites list, that allows my favorites to call during the DND times.  Or if someone calls twice in a 2 minute time span, it sends the call through.
  5. When I’m spending time with my children or my husband, I turn my phone on silent.  I am TRYING not to read any texts or answer calls when I’m devoting time to someone else.  (Not answering a phone call is a HUGE improvement for me.)  Before we became so connected via cell phones, I was more connected in person.

As with any addiction, breaking away from multi-tasking is difficult.  As I wrote this blog, I thought about checking Facebook about a dozen times.  I even thought about checking to see if my newest client had emailed me back…  It’s all habits and I’m learning, slowly but surely, to focus.

A Happiness Guide for Pessimists

I am not a pessimist, but I was raised by a pessimist father.  And anyone who knows me, knows that I absolutely adore my father.  So when I talk about pessimists, it’s with much love.

Many people have asked how it is possible that I grew up an optimist.  I believe it was during the early days of my teenage years that the influence of a Godly man pointed me in the right direction.  My high school youth pastor lead me to a relationship with God and that by reading God’s word (the bible) and hanging out with other Godly kids, I naturally became an optimist.

I’ve received comments from readers who say that it’s easy to be an optimist when I haven’t ever faced hardships or devastation.  Does fire, divorce, physical spousal abuse, or infidelity count?  Trust me, I’ve had plenty to cause me to be a pessimist…

After my divorce 10 years ago, a close friend said that everyone was shocked that my marriage of 15 years had ended.  No one had a clue that I was unhappy.  Well, I wasn’t unhappy.  Okay, maybe there was a time that I was…but I was so miserable being unhappy that I decided to change that and be happy no matter the circumstances.  And I did.  I fought like crazy.  I was going to be happy.  I didn’t change my circumstances, I just changed my attitude, which changed my perspective.

Who really wants to be unhappy?

Happiness guide for pessimistsI kind of think that many pessimists believe that they can’t change their negative habits.  My ex-husband (also a pessimist) said that my happiness and enthusiasm was false.  Really?  Why, because I didn’t enjoy sitting around talking about how bad things are?  I didn’t enjoy “drama?”  I didn’t enjoy complaining?  I didn’t enjoy being around people complained non-stop…?  I believe that you can go out and fix a fence and be filled with joy as you do it.  You can make it fun.

If you are a pessimist, I have good news for you.  You can break free.  Your attitude is a choice.  Your perspective on life and circumstances does dictate your level of happiness.  And best of all, God never intended for any of us to live in a state of unhappiness.

From the bible:  (The Voice)

Psalm 4:7  You have filled me with joy, and happiness has risen in my heart, great delight and unrivaled joy, even more than when bread abounds and wine flows freely.

 Proverbs 29:18  Where there is no vision from God, the people run wild, but those who adhere to God’s instruction know genuine happiness.

John 13:17  If you know these things, and if you put them into practice, you will find happiness.

Okay, now that we know that God intends for his people to experience happiness and joy, how can we break the pessimist habit?

  • Think, act, talk, and conduct your self like the person you want to become.

 I clearly remember the night that I stood over the stove, cooking spaghetti for my husband and 3 kids.  I was on the phone with my best friend Rhonda.  I was grumbling about how tired I was of cooking for a family that didn’t appreciate what I do for them.  My husband walked in, and I snarled at him.  Rhonda said something profound to me that night.  I wish I could remember what it was.  All I know is, I made a decision that night to change my attitude and start being cheerful and happy.  I didn’t want to be that unhappy person, snipping at my children, frowning at my husband, complaining to my friends.  That’s when I decided to act, talk, and be the person I wanted to become.  A happy person, that people enjoyed being around.  A person my kids wanted to be with.  A cheerful and loving wife, that my husband wanted to be with.  (Unfortunately, my husband didn’t enjoy being around a cheerful wife.)

  •  Place a high value on people.

 My favorite thing in life is to encourage others.  Some say it’s “my gift.”  I don’t believe it’s a gift.  I think that when you help people, look for the best in them, try to bring out their positive qualities, genuine joy is the result.

  •  Look for something positive in every situation.

 When I lost everything in an apartment fire in the mid 80s, I could have sat and cried for days.  Instead, I looked at the outpour of love from a community of people I didn’t even know.  I was overwhelmed at the showering of gifts and clothing.  I was so much better off in terms of physical belongings after the fire than before.

  •  Choose to rid yourself negative character flaws.

 Three behaviors that I view as character flaws are:  impatience, being critical, being self absorbed.  Get rid of those, and you’ll see a huge improvement in your level of happiness.

  •  Say something positive in every conversation.

 Compliment, praise, acknowledge, bolster, raise up, and reward.

  •  Remove negative words from your vocabulary.

Negatives:

I can’t
If only
I don’t think
I don’t have the time
Maybe
I’m afraid
I don’t believe

Replace with Positives:

I can
I will
I know
I will make the time
Absolutely!
I’m confident
I’m sure

Start with little things, like changing your vocabulary or appreciating little things.  If you can to learn to appreciate them and be grateful for them, you’ll appreciate the big things as well as everything inbetween.

 I’ll end with a quote from John Wooden:

 “Things turn out best for people who make the best of the way things turn out.”

Journey to Minimalism: Internal Clutter must be FIRST.

prioritylistSo it’s been a couple of months since I turned the corner on making major changes in my life. Not sure I like the word minimalism, though. It sounds like I want to live in a tent, without electricity. While I do love to camp, my lifestyle changes feel more dramatic on the inside rather than dramatic on the outside.

What made me want to change my life? This summer we didn’t take a family vacation. Busy schedules and budget restrictions kept us close to home. My 8 year old daughter suggested we just go to a hotel for a couple of nights. The idea sounded wonderful to me. But then I thought, why does that sound so good? My home should be more comfortable, with a pool nearby, a large screen tv, reliable internet… As I thought about the appeal of going to a hotel, I realized what sounded attractive was being somewhere I didn’t have piles of stuff dragging me down. That pile of mail on my kitchen counter. The pile of laundry needing to be washed. The pile of magazines overflowing on my desk. The pile of photos waiting to be put into photo albums. The pile of clothes in of my closet that slow me down as I look for favorite clothes to wear. Hotel life seemed simple, un-cluttered, and free of distractions. So I thought…how can i have that at home?

Then I read a transformational book by Joshua Becker called Simplify. And then I started reading his blog BecomingMinimalist.com I wanted a life more intentional. I wanted less stress. I wanted more contentment. At age 49, I felt a lightbulb turn on inside my head.

The external changes that I’ve made so far are few but significant:

  • Removed over half of the items in my closet and gave to the needy.
  • Did not renew some of my magazine subscriptions that came up for renewal.
  • Removed items in my kitchen that hadn’t been used in the last 2 years and that held no sentimental value.
  • Had a garage sale that helped me get rid of extra bedding and unused household items.
  • Started exercising consistently 5 times per week at CrossFit.
  • I still feel like I’m surrounded by clutter, but I’m encouraged. It’s a huge first step for me and I feel significantly lighter. I’m learning to let go of things, where I used to cling to things for who knows what reason. Hanging on to stuff because I might need it later was like an anchor to me. And not an anchor to keep me steady. An anchor that was pulling me down to the bottom of an ocean. Yes, I still have sentimental items like my grandmother’s cookie jar, or funky shawl my mother crocheted for me. But that vga cable for a computuer monitor I no longer have? It’s in the give away box. Friends, that’s huge for me…

But I assure you, I had to make some internal changes to be able to start on the external.

While at a dinner party a few weeks ago I learned that one of my neighbors was receiving chemo for breast cancer. I was so sad to learn this as she has a child the same age as my youngest. But even more intriguing was the news that when this neighbor woman learned the news of cancer, she bought a new Range Rover. Of course this is speculation that she bought the vehicle as a result of discovering her new battle. It may just be a coincidence. But what does remain is that many people who face a critical challenge do react in different ways.

When discussing the news with my close knit group of neighbors, one of my dear friends sitting at the table said “That’ll be me! If I find out I have cancer, I’m getting a new fancy car!” We all laughed and most agreed. As I sat there I pictured myself facing a potentially deadly disease…

I softly stated “Not me. There’s a whole lot more things more important to me than a fancy car. I think I’d be spending as much time as possible with my family.” It got quiet around the table. Then almost as if on cue, practically in unison, the group agreed they’d be doing things with their kids and their spouses. The shiny new car just didn’t seem very important when facing death.

A few years ago one woman from our close group of neighbors battled against cancer…twice. We all rallied around her, bringing her soup, hats for her bald head, candles, books. We all pitched in to help with the kids. She survived cancer for a second time to come out a changed woman. None of us faced the sickness or struggle, so we don’t have a perspective that she has. None of us are even close to understand what she went through. But we were all extremely shocked when once in remission, she packed up her things and left her husband and two young children. I won’t dare judge, because I too once packed up a few belongings and my 12 year old daughter and left a marriage of 15 years. I was harshly judged and ridiculed. I would never want to face that torment ever again. But when the heat gets turned on, impurities rise to the top. It’s not a pretty sight to see the imperfections pooling at the surface. Our inside values become revealed. We make decisions or changes when our perspective on longevity changes.

I think if I were to receive news of a disease that could kill me, the first thing I’d do is hop in my car to go see my son Clayton. I would hug him so tight and remind him of my unrelenting love. Next I would seek out my ex-husband and tell him I’m sorry. Then after a trip to see my parents, I’d cling to my daughters Holly and Maddie and my wonderful husband Randy, spending as much time as possible…building memories.

I think that we all have a tendency to collect treasures here on earth. Whether it be a nice home, nice clothes, expensive cars, fine jewelry. I was so excited when I purchased my first luxury car. I loved my beautiful house on the hill in the million dollar neighborhood. My idea of a good time was shopping. During the latest economic crash, a few things have changed. I no longer drive a Lexus. I’m driving a car with 275,000 miles, and a few dents and scratches reveal its age. It’s gone through 3 college kids in our family. We now live in a modest rental home.

At first I really struggled with the downgrades. It’s obvious I was chasing happiness with a home, a car, and pretty clothes. What happens when you base your happiness or your identity on material goods or a successful career and it all comes tumbling down in ruin?

The financial mess in the auto industry left my good friend and neighbor Lance without a job. He was upside down on the mortgage on his house. His entire identity was tied into his career and his ability to provide for his family. What did Lance do? He shot himself in the head and left behind his sweet wife and beautiful son….left them alone without a husband or dad. He chose death over his family.

I’d rather live in a shack and have no car than live without my family. Working myself to death so that I can drive the latest and greatest doesn’t make much sense anymore. What good is an expensive car if I don’t have time to see my kids. The smell of new leather doesn’t smell as nice as my children’s hug. Not that some people don’t get to have both…. But given the choice, I choose my family. If you were told you would die in 6 months, what would you do?

Here’s my list:

  • impact as many people I can
  • seek forgiveness of those I hurt
  • get rid of my junk so my kids and husband doesn’t have to
  • love on my kids
  • love on my parents
  • love on my husband
  • I wouldn’t buy a car. I wouldn’t put in a pool. I think the above needs to be my priority list regardless do how long I live.

I believe that putting a short term perspective on your life helps you refine your priorities. Once your priorities are refined, things that used to matter, seems less significant. I want to remove the unnecessary from my life to make room for the important. I don’t want to be distracted by things that really don’t matter. I want to stop being so busy, so I don’t miss building memories with my family.

So if this is minimalism…I’m in.

Top 10 ways to have a hotel Lifestyle at Home via Minimalism

hotelWe didn’t get to take a real family vacation last summer. We did do some fun things…one day at the water park…one day at Six Flags. But when my daughter said, “lets go somewhere where we can stay in a hotel room” my heart leapt with excitement at the thought. It actually sounded wonderful to me.

I toyed with the thought of booking us a couple nights at one of the area resorts or down on the beautiful San Antonio River Walk. But then I thought about what it would cost to stay in a local hotel for two nights and my frugal side said no. But it got me thinking.

Why does it sound so appealing? What makes a hotel room stay desirable with so much less stress? Here’s my top 10 reasons:

  • No clutter.
  • No stacks of mail to be sorted.
  • No piles of laundry needing to be folded or put away.
  • Only bare essentials in the bathroom.
  • Bare minimum of clothing to choose from.
  • No piles of toys.
  • No numerous electronic distractions.
  • No dishes piling up to be washed.
  • No unfinished projects.
  • No recorded televisions shows to watch
  • So is it possible to have a “Hotel Experience” at home? I like to think so. I started to tackle the above list, to create a relaxing-stress-free environment at home.

1. Remove the clutter.

Grab 3 large garbage bags. The first is for things that you must keep and just need to be put away. One garbage bag is for giving away. The last garbage bag is for throwing away. Start with an easy room. I started with my bedroom. I gave my self 10 minutes to find things in my room that could go in one of my three bags. For example, on my dresser is a pile of un-matched socks. Some of them have been there for over 2 years. It’s great that I have one spot for un-matched socks to go, but seriously, after awhile, those socks just need to be thrown out. So into the trash bag they went. After 10 minutes, take the give-away bag out to your car, so that you can drop them off the next time you go out. Throw the trash bag in the trash. Now spend the next 10 minutes putting away everything in the bag. If you don’t have a place for it, you either need to create a place for it, or give it away. In 20 minutes time, you have come much closer to the “hotel” environment in your room. A great website to help you with clutter is Slow Your Home.

2. The Mail

This is probably the hardest thing of all for me. So much so, that I avoid going to the mailbox because I don’t want the piles to clutter up my desk. One of the first things I did was unsubscribe to all my magazines. We have the internet now. If I want to look up recipes, I usually do that online. I don’t need a pile of cooking magazines to inspire me. Junk mail gets tossed immediately. So do the catalogues. Again….the same catalogues are all online…. Another major mail reducer is signing up for paperless bills. Every monthly bill I used to get via US mail now comes via email. Water, Electric, cable, and phone are all now paperless. I only use a debit card, so I don’t get credit card bills, but those are even available online instead of through the mail. Every day I go to the mailbox when I have time to go ahead and sort through the mail. Then I immediately tackle the stack, and put them where the mail needs to go. Mostly the trash. What bills to end up slipping in, get put in my tray nearest my chair. I have to clear out the tray at the end of every day. If it’s a bill that needs to be paid in 2 weeks, I either schedule it online, or I write out the check and prepare it for mailing. I still it back in the tray so that I can touch it every day…and not forget to mail. Here’s some simple tips to help from Home Your Way.

3. The laundry

I read a tip online from The Streesed Mom that has worked out for me. Do one load of laundry every day. It’s not the washing and drying that is hard on me. It’s the folding and putting away. But when it’s a very small job that takes me about 10 minutes per day to do, I don’t mind. Some days I don’t have much in the dirty clothes. So I do a load of towels. Or I wash table linens. I don’t do laundry on saturday or Sundays.

4. The Bathroom

Here I am the worst of hoarders. I know what I need to do. But I haven’t quite gotten all the way there yet. One cool thing I did do was buy an over the door (clear) shoe organizer. Instead of shoes, I have organized all the different medicines so they are easy to find. I used to have them in baskets, which made for quite a chore when digging for immodium. I still need to spend an hour or two throwing away everything else that is in my closet. I have expired meds, old hair care products, make-up samples, and who knows what else that is clogging up my shelves. I’ll update you when that closet is tackled! Here’s a great post from Miss Minimalist.

5. The Clothing Closet

My daughter moved home from college a couple of weeks ago. I had been storing all my off season clothes in her walk-in closet. Now I don’t have a backup closet. So in order to easily put away everything, I had to do some minimizing. So I got rid of everything that was too big. I have been dropping in sizes since I started crossfit 8 months ago. And I know that I won’t go back up! (That’s my plan!) Now there is a section of clothes that I can’t fit into yet. But here’s the deal…will I actually want to wear them when I get down to that size? They’re really not in style anymore. And it’s not like I go into the office every day, so having 6-7 dressy blazers is not very realistic to have. So out they go. Go to Simplify101.com for more help on your closet.

6. The Toys

When I went through and removed all the extra toys that were cluttering up the bedroom and home, I noticed that my daughter enjoyed her existing toys so much more. Having a cluttered playroom with too many toys is not very enjoyable. It creates an emotional upheaval on trying to decide what to play with. It also creates turmoil when the friends come over, and they all want to play with something different. Before we minimized the toys, every day after the friends would leave, we were left with a huge mess. Now that we’ve narrowed down the toys, it’s much more manageable. We basically have Barbies and Legos. Oh…and the stuffed animals. Legos stay in one bin that has wheels and slides under the bed. The barbies and accessories fit in to bins that fit into the pretty pink cube. Stuffed animals are on the shelf. Christmas came, and we stayed within the guidelines of barbies or legos. I heard no complaints on Christmas morning… Read this blog on living with less toys from Becoming Minimalist.

7. The Electronics.

This Christmas was my first Christmas that I didn’t buy or received anything electronic. No computers, no iphones, no ipads, no ipods… I didn’t realize it until after Christmas was over. Not that we don’t all have that, but we didn’t upgrade to the bigger, better, and faster. We did get a chess board from my parents. I thought…why don’t I just get the app for the ipad to play chess. It’s no much nicer to see my daughter sitting on the floor with her friend playing with real chess pieces instead of hovered over the ipad. Not sure why yet….but I like it. Christmas day was great, because we could all talk and play together, instead of each of us escaping into our own little electronic world. People interaction is so much more fulfilling and lasting.

8. The Kitchen

Another area I’m still trying to conquer. Christmas vacation was not good for me, because I got out of my daily habits. I try to have my kitchen cleaned by the end of the day and I start the dishwasher when I go to bed. In the morning as I get my daughter off to school, I unload the dishwasher and then it’s ready for everyone to load their own dishes throughout the day. Somehow this has not happened in the last 2 weeks. So I need to come up with a holiday strategy for next year. (or summer!) Get more help here for kitchen organization.

9. The Projects

I had a large cylinder of poker sayings rolled up and stashed in the corner of my office for several years. I had planned to create some art for my wall. I finally woke up and realized I was never going to do it, nor would I actually like it hanging in my house. So I gave it away to a dear friend, who hosts poker 5 days a week. And she loves it. I have come to realize, that if I haven’t touched a project in 6 months, I need it to be gone.

10. Media

There is a certain stress to having hours and hours of shows to watch on your dvr. At least if your a hoarder like me, I even hoard recorded media. And finding a place to store a dvd collection is no longer an issue with me as well. What dvds I did own, I removed from the case and placed into a notebook that had pages that held the disk. Much easier to store than stacked up on a shelf. I no longer buy dvds. With the emergence of Netflix and Amazon prime, there is movie and tv shows available. If there’s a movie that I feel we must own, then I purchase it through amazon video on demand. It’s stored on a server somewhere, and available for me to watch on any internet device. I had a copy of Wizard of Oz on VHS. I gave away the copy and purchased the digital version on Amazon. I downloaded a copy to my ipad for the plane. I can also view it on my tv through my roku box. I love digital copies. Same with music. And pictures. I had my daughter’s bag of disposable cameras developed, but not printed. They gave me digital copies instead of prints. I am a work in progress for sure. But the idea of having a peaceful, no-stress environment is so appealing to me! Is it for you? Read this blog to find out why to watch less television from Becoming Minimalist.

 

Great Links to help you in your quest to make your home a relaxed, stress-free place:

Slow Your Home
Fly Lady
Becoming Minimalist
Zen Habits

Weeds in Your Marriage Garden? Tips for Both Husbands and Wives

WeedsWe built this cute little rock garden a little over a month ago. The grass had died and the area was looking pretty shabby.
So we planted a few Holly bushes and covered the dirt with landscape rock. It looked pretty good for a couple of weeks. Not sure what I was thinking, but I imagined this little rock garden with a few plants would do just fine without much attention.

I walked by it every day, but somehow didn’t see the weeds starting to come up, or that one of the Holly bushes started to look pretty distressed.

Then one day I got word that out of town company was coming. So I walked outside and looked at my rock garden with new eyes. Some how in the last few weeks, weeds had pretty much taken over the rock garden and one of the Holly bushes was near death.

I enlisted my 8 year old daughter and her neighbor friend to come help me pull weeds. Between the three of us, we pulled and pulled and pulled the pesky weeds. It was quite a job! Especially mid day in August in South Texas…in 98 degree heat. Luckily, it was a small area. The problem was, I didn’t see the weeds when they were young and tender, when they would have been easy to pull out and destroy. Instead, the weeds ended up choking out one of my Holly bushes, and laying deep roots in my garden. Yes, we have pulled out the weeds where we can’t see them from the top, but I know we didn’t get all the deep rooted weeds. That’s going to take even more work.

I have areas like that in my life too. Areas that I see every day, but don’t notice the change taking place. I don’t recognize the weeds growing up around my heart.

This past weekend I was at a family reunion in which my ex-husband is also in attendance.  We were married for 15 years. When we married 25 years ago, I really thought that my happy ever after had been found. My husband was a dairy farmer and we lived in a remote rural community. I poured my entire heart and soul into this new family of mine. Nothing seemed more important to me than being a wife and a mom. Three years into the marriage I gave birth to my precious daughter Holly. Life seemed perfect. That is until weeds started growing. But they were weeds that didn’t seem significant. I didn’t notice them until they were deeply rooted and eventually choked the life out of our marriage.

Here’s a list of weeds that can start growing in the garden of “marriage.”

  • You keep score on who does what
  • You start blaming your spouse…for anything.
  • You use stern and scolding language when speaking to your spouse. We need to talk to our spouses more kindly than we talk to others.
  • Your best friend is someone other than your spouse.Your best friend is someone you talk to every day. You tell them just about everything. You share your heart.  This best friend should be your spouse.
  • You are keeping secrets from your spouse.  Nothing add more tension or anxiety than keeping a secret, or worse, telling a lie.
  • Your social activities are separated.

Message to Husbands: (These are tips to stay connected to your wife.  That should be a top priority.)

  • If you do end up helping around the house, do it as a gift to your wife, not a message that she’s not doing a good job or that’s she’s a slob.
  • Take time everyday to talk and listen to your wife.  Don’t use that time as giving her a  to-do list, a time of correcting or scolding, or a session of grilling her to see if she’s doing everything right.  When she opens up to you, don’t try to fix things.  Be an encourager, validator, or admirer.
  • If you want to be intimate, don’t whine.  Don’t blame her for a lack of frequency.  Wives and Moms spend a majority of their life taking care of others.  They want to take care of you too.  Don’t feel sorry for yourself if she’s struggling with that juggling act.  Take action and do something that makes her feel loved.  You’d be amazed at how successful a hug and a declaration of pride and love can be.  Being mad or disappointed, or even a innocent comment like “I’m so lonely” can completely ruin your connection that leads to intimacy.  Do you really want your wife to be intimate out of obligation and duty, or would you rather her response be desire?
  • Be interested in things she finds interesting, even if you aren’t.  She likes cooking shows?  Sit with her and watch it without complaining.  Try to take an interest.  She likes to roller skate?  Go along side on foot or a bike.  The fact that you are being interested in what she’s interested in will create a strong connection.
  • Find something that you both like and do it together.
  • Remember that if you snap or snarl at her, it could take her days to recover, even if you do apologize.

Message to wives:

  • Quit nagging.  If you want your husband to do something, find a different way to get it other than nagging.
  • Lose the guilt trip method.  Having your husband respond out of guilt removes all the joy.
  • An argument is not the time to get your point made.  He won’t hear it.  If he’s already agitated, you enforcing your point won’t get him to see your side.  Wait until he’s calmed down and approach it at a different time, where you can calmly express your point of view.
  • Your husband needs (or craves) your respect.  Make sure every action and word shouts “I’m proud of you!”  “I’m your biggest fan!”
  • Sometimes your husband gets cranky.  Just walk away.  Don’t try to fix it.  Let them process without your words adding to the crankiness.
  • Work hard towards making your husband be your best friend.  If you are spending more time talking and sharing your heart to your girl friends, it robs your husband of that role.
  • Lose the defensiveness.
  • Work towards team work.  Some things he’s good at, some things he’s not.  Accept that.  You may have to be the one who cuts the grass or gets the oil changed on the car.  He may be a great cook.  Let him do what he’s good at.  Don’t criticise him if doesn’t seem to excel at a traditional manly role.

My mistakes:

I’m thriving in my current marriage.  Unfortunately I made all the above mistakes and more in my last marriage that lasted 15 years.

As an optimist, I struggled with feeling down.  So when I was unhappy, I made sure he knew it.  Perhaps that’s why he spent his free time elsewhere instead of with me and the family.  I nagged. I criticised.  I barked loudly.  I didn’t try to control my discontent.

I can’t imagine doing that now.  Perhaps it’s because I’m in a much better place spiritually.  When I divorced 10 years ago, I had to go through some very difficult times to get me to the place I am today.  When I finally surrendered to becoming the woman God wants me to be, I had to shed quite a few bad habits.  My habits included secrets, self-centered attitudes, laziness, materialistic desires, and low self-esteem.  God has been steadily working out these imperfections.  I know that as I grow, there are more things that have to be pruned.

I’m such a different person today than I was 10 years ago.  And I know that in 10 years, I’ll be even better.  I’m better today and trusting God to perfect in me what he started over 30 years ago when I gave my heart to God.