Tuesday, August 30, 2011

An Hour of Thanks

It is so easy to complain.  Perhaps it's even fun to complain sometimes.  Who are we kidding? It's fun to complain MOST of the time.  We complain about dinner, salespeople, your family, your friends, the weather, our phone service, traffic, pain, discomfort, but basically we complain about a world that isn't out to make us happy!

But today try being thankful for just an hour.  At least we have dinner, money to consider buying anything,  a family at all, a few people that actually tolerate us, an earth that has changing seasons, the ability to carry around a device that can communicate with others anywhere in the world, cars to take us places, life, awareness but mostly at least we have the opportunity to try harder and make the world a better place!

Join us for Gratituesday at Heavenly Homemakers!

Monday, August 29, 2011

Four Ways to Improve Your Days

(as seen on Productive Parenting Blog)

You've probably heard the list of things to consider when a baby cries - are they hungry, sleepy, wet, bored, etc.? Well, if you find yourself or someone you love needing an attitude adjustment, picking fights, or just being extra negative, you'd be surprised at how easy it can be to improve upon.

SLEEP - I don't care who you are, how old you are, or what kind of a personality you have, if you're tired and not getting enough sleep, you are probably not the best version of yourself. Sleep for 7 hours or more and then try it all again. Emotions won't run quite as high, and the world is suddenly not such a bad place.

FOOD - This one is two-fold. #1 How long has it been since you/they have eaten anything? If it has been more than 2-3 hours, it's possible things would be better with food. #2 Have you had anything raw and fresh today? If not, at least eat an apple or something to perk everything up. What you eat and how often you eat can change how you feel, react and behave. It might be inconvenient, but it's true.

PLUMBING - And, yes, this is related to the food one. We might not enjoy discussing it (and we won't at length), but if your internal plumbing isn't working, life isn't as nice as it could be. Just sayin'...

BOREDOM - How long has it been since you've left the house, the computer, taken a walk, sweat a little, talked to someone, looked at something beautiful? It all takes a toll. Exercise, doing something outdoors and just generally doing something productive can boost everything!

I've been sleep-deprived this week. Late nights, stress, and trying to keep up with everything has just caught up with me. And yes, it has changed my personality a bit - into the worst version of myself. Cranky, combative, negative, weepy - yeah you name it and I've been guilty of it this week.

But guess what? Except for a 10-minute interruption at about 3:30 am, I slept for 7 whole hours last night! After just doing that, I feel so much happier! I like my husband more, my motivation is back and I can handle so much more! I'm not suggesting it can solve all your problems, but some days it might.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Trust Issues

I have trust issues.  I tried to think of another, more clever way of starting this post, but that's really the only place to start.  Even though Randy has proven time and time again that he wants good things for me, too often I don't trust him to fill my needs.  Instead, I assume (first BIG mistake) that he won't and then complain (which sometimes looks like nagging or throwing a fit, second BIG mistake) to him, usually before I've given him a realistic chance to even try.  

Even though the last time I was told "I don't want to be friends with you" or "Please don't come with us because we don't want you around" was when I was 12 years old, I think, I still expect that people are thinking it and just may say it to my face one day.  I get nervous talking to people a lot and often talk myself OUT of talking in the first place.  Or, because I'm nervous, I say something goofy or bizarre and then hate myself for the rest of the evening in expectation that others are disliking me.  There are so many great people I've encountered in my life that, to this day, I REALLY wish I were closer with, but I've not honored the friendship enough, mostly because of my own fears and they've certainly found more loyal friendships.

Even though God has blessed me richly in so many things and answered my fervent prayers in so many ways (far better than I intended when I asked), I still (very often) refuse to go to Him with things and even more refuse to trust that He really will work it out.  Instead, I worry, bicker within myself, try to control, control, control and then emotionally throw myself on the floor boo-hooing about everything being too much.  I know, it's pretty ridiculous.

So, I have trust issues.  And you know what I find so precious, amazing and shaming to me at the same time?  (So far) My son doesn't seem to have an untrusting bone in his body.  It's beautiful.  He's like his dad, in that, he takes first encounters to gather information, but once he's taken it all in, he's all smiles and friendly.  Today, I am trying to be teachable about trust.  Without trust, life is a very ugly picture.  I know it because somedays that is the only picture I see and it's ugly!  This great picture from my brother's wedding warms my soul and reminds me to trust, if no one else, God.  He's pulling the wagon so we can trust we'll get where we need to be!
Don't forget about the Lily Pad Couture Giveaway! Even if you couldn't use straps or crayon roll, I bet you know someone who could.  They are great gifts! And please remember to leave a comment on this blog for every entry so that I can count you!  

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Good Deals and a Giveaway!

Guess what came to town? A Natural Grocers store recently opened in Norman (on Main St. between 24th and Berry), bringing a healthy competition to Dodson's and standard grocery stores.  I've not been there myself yet, but I hear their organic produce is extensive, great looking and cheap! I'll head over there next week and will definitely keep you posted.

Parents, if you buy diapers, wipes, or anything child related pretty regularly, consider Amazon's Mom program.  Members automatically receive 15% off and if you also sign up for their 'Subscribe' option (which automatically sends your products every 1, 2, 3 or 6 months) you receive another 15%.  And for the first year, members of the subscribe are promoted to Prime Shipping (free basically).  We've been using it all summer and has worked really well AND saved us money! 

Finally, I would like to introduce you to Lily Pad Couture and our first giveaway! The owner is a stay-at-home mom with a creative flair and a talent for sewing.  She has all kinds of cute things for sale, like pillow case dresses, hair bows, reusable snack/sandwich bags, teething necklaces and more in all kinds of great fabrics.  Here are a few pictures:

This week (until September 1st) Lily Pad Couture is giving away the choice of a crayon roll or car seat straps to one of my readers. AND if you mention this blog when you order something from her, she'll give you 15% off!

Ways To Enter:
You can enter multiple times, but remember to leave me a separate comment/message for every entry so no one will be overlooked!
1. Visit Lily Pad Couture, take a look around, and leave me a comment with your favorite product or product suggestions.
2. Subscribe to Finding the Write Balance by RSS Feed or 'Like' it on Facebook.
3. Share about this giveaway through your blog or Facebook!

And I must share with you my son's new favorite sleeping position.  We always put him down on his back, but this week EVERY morning (and usually long before then) he moves into this position.  It doesn't look comfy at all, but he's been pretty consistent with sleeping through the night, so I'm not complaining!

Monday, August 22, 2011

The Power of Success & Change

Nothing changes your opinion of a friend so surely as success - yours or his.

Franklin P. JonesSaturday Evening Post, November 29, 1953
School is in session for many by now, with lots of first days being extra special - Kindergarten, High School, & College.  These are often the very beginnings of things really changing in and around them.  We start to look at ourselves and others in a new light.  And special days like that don't stop happening just because you finish school either.  New jobs, promotions, new houses, weight-loss, new relationships - all these kinds of things significantly change our lives.  But how do they change our friendships and our opinions of other people?

I know we don't like to admit it much, but it is very hard to not compare yourself to people around you.  So, if you're like me, you do it.  You shouldn't and on good days you try not to, but you still feel intimidated around the better looking people and relaxed around those who haven't quite got it as together as you do, right? Since it happens so easily and it can usually be hidden from the rest of the world, it's natural to rationalize that the split-second comparison isn't hurting anyone.  

What happens when you or someone else, a friend, experiences one of the things listed above?  Doesn't that shift the balances a bit in your comparing?  Now, someone is making MORE money than you or now you lost a lot of weight and look BETTER than them.  Or the one that hit me the hardest when I was single was when a friend (or perhaps half a dozen!) would find a boyfriend and be married before I could say the word jealous.  Regardless of the end of the spectrum you're on, this phenomenon starts to put distance between you and this friend. Success in our lives has the potential to change us and our relationships.

So, what? If you struggle with this like I do, then we need to face a few facts.  If we are taking comfort in being better than someone or resenting someone else being better, we're not loving them.  Plain and simple.  Besides the fact that we're supposed to love even our enemies as Christians, when we call someone a friend that should mean something far greater than 'liking' a few of their pictures on facebook and putting on a fake smile to hide your judgement or resentment.  

I have a difficult time communicating with those that I care about, especially when it isn't in writing, just ask my husband! And I use others as rulers all the time! So, I am especially talking to myself today.  I suspect that when I purposely engage these friendships and invest a little bit more, instead of just viewing from afar and deciding who is better, I'll find my resentment or judgement will dissolve into care and concern.  Changes and success are everywhere and friendships often get the boot first.  What are some ways that you care for friends, even when you don't have much time to invest?

On a different note, there have been a few changes (for the better I hope) around here and if you have any questions or suggestions, please let me know! Also, this website now has a facebook page where I will be sharing more relevant thoughts, tips and links.  My hope is to separate my personal facebook a bit more than it has been in the past.  So, if you'd like to stay up with my writing and ideas, like Finding the Write Balance on facebook.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

A Strong-Willed Secret

A popular post from the archives:

For those who are not strong-willed or have never dealt with a strong-willed child, you may not know what I'm talking about.  And if that is the case with you, be thankful.  Now those of you familiar with a strong-willed personality, here are a few confessions.

The 'will' that is so strong, at least in myself, is often misdirected because of my emotions. Reason gets blinded by the fierceness of how I feel at the moment of conflict. Instead of being a 'never quit' kind of will, it results in an escalating kind that desperately seeks the soothing of the emotional desire.  In other words, I tend to not stop until I get my way, which isn't a noble victory usually.

As any mother will tell you, the hormones flooding your body after giving birth can be overwhelming once the initial excitement dies down.  Adding hormones to an already emotional person can be destructive and especially difficult on those close by (like a spouse).  Adjusting to Jude has been pretty easy, but my dealings with myself have gotten a little out of hand.  The perfectionistic streak took hold pretty quickly, wanting to 'master' the new rhythm of having a baby in the house before I start teaching piano again in a few weeks.  Long story short, I was driving Randy crazy!

This last week Randy was sick and a man of even fewer words than normal.  Once he finally felt better this weekend, he let me know a few things.  Now, these conversations were not enjoyable by either one of us, least of all me.  I DESPISE being told what I'm doing wrong.  He called me on some emotional games I was playing and childish reactions that I wasn't and shouldn't be proud of.  This didn't just happen once either.  At least 2 or 3 different conversations over the course of 2 days were had.  Why am I even talking about this?

Even though my strong-will is like a tornado sometimes, when I have limits there is an amazing calm that replaces the storm.  The presence of rules and boundaries that are enforced and I am held to gives me peace.  As a result, I had a fabulous day yesterday and have already accomplished (with joy) so much today! Randy created and consistently enforced standards for my behavior (reactions, etc.) and even though it wasn't a fun experience for either of us, it has had amazing results.

Everybody's different, but from the heart of a very strong-willed child, let me tell you: Consistency, structure, limits, and boundaries brings peace, joy and security.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

An Era's End

This blog is definitely in transition and under construction so just ignore the mess.  However, until I have a little more time to complete it all, I will indulge myself with a few personal musings.

My little brother is getting married this weekend and it's a little sad.  Hannah is great and great for him, so we're all super happy about that.  The sad part, to me, is that I remember when that kid was born.  My other brother was married 3 months after I did, so the marrying isn't really the issue.  As long as Stephen was still left being single, doing kid-like things, the death of my childhood wasn't complete.  With him permanently stepping into adulthood, all the loose ends will be tied up. That, I think, is where my sadness comes from - purely selfish of course!

Because I was 6 & 8 years old when the boys were born, I lived a dual life sometimes.  When we wanted to, we were kids together and when I was feeling responsible and bossy, I felt like their parent and treated them like my kids.  The last part is definitely what NOT to do if you have an older girl, but nonetheless, it was my experience.  Now, my heart gets confused sometimes and doesn't know how to feel.  I am sad for all the cahoots that we stirred up, the experiences we shared, and the marching of time that consisted of nothing heavy, burdensome or complicated.   I'm sad that it's really gone and that everything is so different now.

BUT, I'm so happy for Stephen that he's found Hannah and I know that they are a good match and will work hard for each other.  I'm happy for our family because now we're all (sort of) in the same boat and its a fun place to be.  I LOVE being a mom, an aunt and get excited at the thought of more children and what all that entails.  They bring a new era of childhood that I get to view from a different chair.

As I complete this little personal therapy session, I will then scurry around packing and preparing to travel to Kansas City.  So, this is my only pause for sadness or reflection because the rest is going to be fun and celebration.  If you are traveling this weekend, our family appreciates the sacrifices you're making to celebrate with us.  If you're not, please pray for the rest of us! :)

Congratulations, Stephen & Hannah!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Will You Help Me?

For as long as I can remember I've always wanted to write in some form or fashion.  And for the last several years I've really wanted to write professionally.  It's not a goal that I can pursue full-force right now, but I've found a few ways (like this blog) to work slowly toward that goal.

Right now I'm planning to overhaul this blog and make it more professional oriented and better connected to the writing/publishing possibilities.  The very first thing I would like to do is focus the content and potentially rename the blog.  I write about whatever I feel like most of the time and it is certainly random at best.  Here is where you can help me, if you're willing.  I've created a little poll to see which area might be more interesting to readers.  So, if you have 10 seconds, would you take this little poll? :)

I'm definitely looking for all kinds of feedback, so if you have suggestions or critiques, feel free to leave a comment or email me.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Guilt and Expectation as Weapons

"Lack of preparation on your part does not constitute an emergency on mine."

Have you ever heard that quote before? For some reason I have this image of Garfield (the cat) in an office setting with that quote around it.  I've always associated that idea with office relationships.  Doing your job in a timely manner was important so that other people would have time to do their job (with your work).  But let's be honest here.  At most jobs, lack of preparation isn't ignored for very long, thus you're less likely to slack off in that area of your life.  But, in our relationships at home, with old friends or just people you don't think will mind, how often do we expect others to take up our slack when when we didn't bother to prepare adequately?

Let me push a little bit deeper.  How often do you expect your family/friends to help you/do things for you/etc., and get offended or hurt when they don't or initially say they don't want to?  Isn't it easy to throw in some "I don't ask very much from  you" or "Fine.  I'll just do it myself" that is littered with guilt and obligation?  Maybe its just me, but its SO easy to throw that guilt around.  The way I see things in that very moment is that 'I didn't mean to be so behind - These are all good things to do - I just need some help, why won't you help me?'  Yes, I really do expect/hope that you'll drop everything for me because I'm having an 'emergency'.

But here's the main reason I've been thinking about this at all lately.  God has given us freewill because he wants us to love and serve him out of our own hearts.  Not out of obligation, not out of forced guilt or begrudging feelings.  And don't we want that from others too?  Who wants all the help in the world from people who secretly resent you and badmouth you because you don't really give them any options but to serve you? Maybe other people are different, but the act of service (whatever it might be) is worthless to me if all that is motivating it is guilt, obligation and avoidance (they'd rather just give me what I want so I'll leave them alone).

Let's bring it all together.
1) Preparation is such a healthy, good thing when you utilize it.  When we slack off, take on more than we can handle, etc., that is not everyone else's fault or problem.  For my sake, let me say that again.  It is not my husband/family/friends/neighbors' fault that I am panicking, that I slept in, that I agreed to more than I could physically do or did not plan ahead.
2) It isn't bad to ask for help in these situations, but bad to expect/demand help and not give a genuine option to say no.  This, especially when it happens over and over, breeds resentment and negativity aimed directly at you.
3) Take a cue from God and realize that love-driven acts are worth a million-times more than guilt and obligation driven ones. Feeling guilt alone isn't a bad thing either - its a measuring stick for our conscience usually.  It's when guilt is used as a weapon that it starts treading on ground it was never intended for.
4)We are all responsible for ourselves - in the day of judgement, in our daily lives as adults, in everything.  My feelings are my responsibility to address.  Me feeling bad for any reason doesn't automatically obligate action on anyone else's part.  It's really great when it happens like that, but there is no obligation and I shouldn't expect there to be one.

I'm bad about focusing in on something someone did that I didn't like or didn't think was fair.  Then I start blaming it for all kinds of things.  Well, if you hadn't 'mistreated' me, then I wouldn't be so upset, I would be happier, I would be a better this and then I wouldn't have said that snippy thing then, yada yada yada.  This weekend, maybe you're off work and going to be around your family or the entire OKC population at the new outlet mall that's opening.  Think about how you are interacting with everyone.  Are you expecting or blaming things on everyone or are you taking responsibility for your actions (or lack thereof) in all things?  Let's pray for each other that we'll leave all the baggage at the door.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

What's it Worth?

When I was pregnant with Jude, one of my greatest fears was that he wouldn't breath right away after his birth.  I had no reason to believe he should have breathing problems, I just knew that sometimes it took them a bit to start.  That kind of anticipation, the thought of it, killed me! Thankfully, the Lord blessed him with very healthy lungs and he breathed immediately.

This morning, like many mornings, I peeked into his crib while he was sleeping, just to watch his little chest rise and fall.  His lungs are so little and it is so amazing to me that they just keeping doing what they do.  We know how fragile that little body is and how just the slightest damage to anything can totally change the terrain.  Every time I peer in and he's sucking away at that pacifier or those lungs are bringing him air, I thank God for this precious little soul he's given me and then I hold my breath for a moment.  Am I giving Jude what he is owed, in his joyful innocence?  Not what I feel like giving him or what's left over after I've gotten caught up in the rest of the world, but what I owe him by choosing to bring him into this world?

It's so easy for me to allow my worries, my self esteem issues, my selfish desires to impact my moods, behavior and outlook on life.  I don't want Jude to have to deal with all of that.  He shouldn't have to.  I do understand that children can't and shouldn't be the continual center of everything.  That's not really what I'm talking about.  There is just a whole host of gifts I can give my son that will only be given by purposeful action on my part.

-Trust and knowledge that his parents love each other and are deeply committed to their life together
-A knowledge of God that is true, strong and not distorted by my/our personal baggage.
-Opportunities to explore the world, time to play in all kinds of backdrops.

Perhaps I'm stepping on a soapbox by now and should gracefully bow out. I just know that some things are worth not having as much money, not fulfilling all the 'dreams' of my youth, less than perfect housekeeping, cutting out the time-wasters and staying committed to some things, even when other people might criticize.  And for me, Jude is totally worth all of that and more.

Take some time today to think about what is worth the most to you.  And then look to see if all other areas of your life are appropriately serving it/them.  If I don't work at it, my life serves selfish, futile desires to fulfill expectations (real and imagined) of the infamous 'THEY' - not God, not even usually the people I care about and care about me.  And THEY are not worth the effort, no matter what magazines, media or my own fears might try to tell me.

Monday, August 1, 2011

This isn't a Vacuum

Nowadays, we hear about scientific studies as often as we hear the weather report and everyday it seems like "they" are recommending something new.  As a new parent, you are extra aware of such things because everyone shares their 'knowledge'.  Everything from what we eat, how we medicate, how we parent to weight-loss, relationships and finance - no matter what subject we're talking about, it's probably been studied and there are probably conclusions somewhere telling us how to live.

The trouble is, we don't live in a vacuum like many of the test subjects we hear about in the evening news. Now, I'm not knocking research because we all know that much is still being gained by some of the work being done.  My concern is how we adapt to or apply this information.  Too often we hear a one liner like, "Experts now say that balancing an apple on your nose for 3 minutes before bed can reduce your risk of dying from a dog bite" and then start working on balancing apples, expecting vicious dogs to flee rapidly.  This is a silly example (on purpose), but we do this so much.

In our daily lives their are so many factors at play, that narrowing things down to a one-liner is just not reasonable.  There are so many things that experts cannot account for or anticipate that what they should really say, "In a boring, perfect world, experts now say...  Think about all of those drug commercials - that's why the disclaimer is longer than the commercial half the time.  Only under specific circumstances will this thing work.

Here's what I'm really getting at: How are your expectations of others or of circumstances driving you and your actions?  Don't we expect others to be perfect and when they aren't we judge, maybe belittle (even if only in our mind), and label them as a lost cause for good? And sure, in an ideal world where children behave perfectly, traffic is never a nuisance and self-esteem is never a problem, then this person should behave 'perfectly'.  But leaders still have arguments with their spouses, injuries still happen, and moms get tired of saying no, even when it is for the child's best interest.  We don't live in a vacuum where this one idea or issue never is influenced by anything else in our life.  People do get their feelings hurt and overreact.  Stress often weakens good judgement.  And everything you hear isn't necessarily true.

Happy August, where school begins anew, summer extends its stay and we're one month closer to the end of 2011.  This week think about your expectations of others and then apply that standard to yourself to see if you can live up to it.  If not, maybe we should work a little bit harder to help rather than criticize.