Archive | April, 2015

When Your Best Isn’t Good Enough

14 Apr

Yesterday was an awesome day, mostly. Laundry and housework were finished early. I cleared out a cabinet that has been driving me nuts. I made a grocery run and got dinner in the slow cooker early. I ran to my youngest child’s favorite bakery to get him some treats for his birthday today. The day was going really well, and then five o’clock happened. My husband sent me a text that he was still at work, which is odd because he goes in early so he can be home by five. After another hour and fifteen minutes with no contact, I sent my husband a text asking if he had left yet. He didn’t answer. A few minutes later, I called him. He answered and said he was on his way, but as we talked, it was apparent that he was still at work. Since we had been holding dinner for over an hour, we decided to start without him. He joined us mid-meal, and I figured all was well again.

After dinner, we have been walking lately to get our bodies back into a shape other than round, so when I asked if he was ready to walk, I was surprised that he said he needed to go to his brother’s garage to notarize something and put his car on the computer to figure out why his check engine light had gone on. I rode along, thinking we could walk afterward, maybe around the garage’s neighborhood for a change of scenery, but by the time we finished, it was starting to sprinkle rain so we headed for the rec center to walk inside.

From the moment we stepped on the track, nothing seemed to go right in our conversation. We have never been a couple to fight but we just couldn’t seem to come to an agreement on anything. It was frustrating, and then my husband said something about being yanked into a meeting at five o’clock that was should have lasted ten minutes but lasted over an hour. I could tell by the tone of his voice he was frustrated and angry, but instead of thinking he might be angry with the people who called the meeting. I thought he was upset with me for interrupting, twice. I felt horrible. Then, I remembered that he had stayed up late the night before because he was downloading some software for me. I had gone to bed because I had to be up at 5:30 to take our youngest to school early. I had deserted him while he stayed up late for me. If he hadn’t, maybe he would have been in a better mood and the late meeting wouldn’t have been such a burden to him. Once again, I had messed up. I had pushed for something I wanted and someone was burdened because of it. I was such a selfish brat to ask him to do that. When will I learn?

At that point, the conversation stopped because I couldn’t speak, unless I wanted to cry in public, and I didn’t want to cry in public. I felt like a horrible person not to see his pain and frustration. I felt like a failure as a wife, again. I came home, showered, wrote my husband a letter of apology saying how sorry I was for being such a disappointment, and I went to bed after a big cry. It was a horrible way to end an evening, but it felt like the right way to end it because no amount of talking at that point could atone for what I had done. I know this story is melodramatic, but bear with me because this one took me by surprise and the perspective from it is amazing.

This morning, I found a letter from my husband. He thought I was angry with him because we couldn’t agree on things. He apologized for being in a bad mood. He apologized for things that aren’t even an issue for me. I almost laughed at how similar his letter was to mine, and then I remembered something. Sometimes memories can seem so random and at first, this one did. I remembered driving home from a volleyball practice or game with my mom and brother when I was in junior high. My brother and I were fussing about something, and my mom asked us to stop. We didn’t. Suddenly, she pulled over to the side of the road, looked at us and said our grandfather had suffered a heart attack and had not made it. Her father was dead, and we were fighting over something stupid. I never felt more ashamed in my life. Here was my mom in her moment of greatest sorrow, and my brother and I were fighting. That was a turning point in my life. It was a time I took on a huge amount of guilt for causing someone else pain, someone I loved dearly. I couldn’t take it back, and I couldn’t change it. I could only try harder to be a better person. Unfortunately, what I thought was being a better person wasn’t healthy for me.

From that point on, I always put the other person’s feelings ahead of mine. Even if I defended myself, deep down I always questioned if what I did wrong. I never felt completely right again, and I didn’t realize that until this morning. What I also realized this morning is this. My mom lashed out in anger because she was in pain of her own that had nothing to do with me. Yelling at my brother and me was a way of deflecting her pain into anger, which always feels more powerful than despair and mourning. Back in my early teens, I couldn’t see that. Was it fair? I don’t know, but now that I understand it, I can forgive us all and move on. I didn’t know about her pain, or I would have reacted differently. After talking with my husband this morning, I found out about some of his frustrations about a new assignment he’s about to take on. I think those frustrations were never directed at me, but I took them on because of my past, and in a strange way, our disagreement yesterday was a huge blessing. It took me back to a time when a bad pattern was created. It let me look at that incredibly powerful moment in my life with new, mature eyes that could forgive my teen self and my mom with compassion and grace. Hopefully, it will also allow me to move forward with a new and better sense of life and others’ pain. If so, I have received a huge gift through the work frustrations of my husband. How crazy is that?

I cannot imagine not taking on the burden of someone else’s pain, but I’m ready to try. I have a hard time imagining myself not feeling guilty when I don’t notice someone else’s pain and they blurt it out in the form of anger, but I’m excited about the opportunity to show compassion to them instead of taking on the guilt of not knowing. I feel lighter and wiser and ready for the day, and best of all; I get to fall in love with the man of my dreams all over again. Yes, that’s mushy, but that’s who I am. I am grateful. I am different than I was yesterday, and I am loved, and some days, that is more than good enough. Thanks for being you and have a great day.

Doing the Important Work First

9 Apr

I have an online mentor that I’ve been following for about a month named Darren Hardy. He’s geared mostly toward business, so not everything he espouses relates to me, but something he talked about this week went straight to my heart. He told the story of how his mom left right after he was born because she never wanted children. Darren’s dad was left to care for him and refused to give him up, even when Darren’s grandmother showed up on his doorstep to take him home with her. Darren’s grandmother, who was terrified to fly, had gotten on an airplane to come get him and was the most important person in Darren’s dad’s life up to that point, so refusing to give Darren to her was a huge statement about his commitment to his son. They moved to Hawaii where his father was a college football coach, and they were living a great life. Unfortunately, a few years after they moved, Darren’s grandmother died and his grandfather didn’t take her passing well. Within a short time, it was apparent that without help, Darren’s grandfather wasn’t going to make it, so Darren’s dad quit his great job and moved back to the states to care for his father. It was not easy because college football coaching jobs in their area were sparse. They got by but it was difficult, until he was finally offered a coaching job two states away. When Darren’s father asked his father about moving, the reply was, “do what you have to do.” Darren’s father called the school back and over a speaker phone with several people listening, he declined the position and received an ovation because he chose family over career, a decision he never regretted.

I needed to hear that story this week. I have been struggling with a similar decision of whether to pursue a career on a more full time basis. It seems that every time I make progress in one area or another, one of my children needs me and the progress is either forgotten or just gets put aside. Hearing Darren’s story made me realize that as much as I might want something different; my family still needs them to be there for them on a daily basis. More importantly, I realized this morning, that my situation isn’t keeping me from anything. Instead, I have an incredible opportunity in front of me. You see, when my youngest was born I was incredibly disorganized and struggled with keeping up with laundry and housework. I was a fun mom, but I am not born organized like some folks, so keeping up with everything got overwhelming quickly when I had a child with extraordinary needs. I searched out and found Flylady and the house has gotten better every year since. I have not always been as consistent as I would like, but even when I slide, I now have a place to start and a way to get back to better. I know now that my son’s medical condition was an opportunity for me to grow and to learn new life skills for myself as well as my family.

Today, I realize I am seeing that kind of opportunity again. My son needs to develop additional life skills to be successful in high school and beyond. School came easy for me because I loved it. I would occasionally get a bad grade, usually on a long term project, because I didn’t understand how to use my time well and would wait until the last moment to get the project completed. Funny that no one ever taught us how to manage our time, they just expected it. School came easy for my husband too, so to have a child who really doesn’t care about school and how well he does is foreign for us. It is, however, similar to the struggle my mom and I had over keeping my room clean. My mother is born organized. Her home has always been neat as a pin, except for my room when I still lived with her. I never understood the point of cleaning my room. I was ok with the mess. It really didn’t bother me, and rather than fighting with me, my mom just let it go until she couldn’t stand it and then she would make me clean. I hated it and so did she, but because we didn’t understand each other, it was difficult to make progress. Although the situations are similar, one thing is different. I understand my son because he is just like me, and as of this morning, I figured out that helping him will help us both.

I realized this morning that I am doing the very thing that I am trying to change in my son. I hate admitting that but it’s true. I want my son to do better in school. He wants to do better in school, but he isn’t doing the work to make that happen. I want to lose weight, but I’m not doing the work to make that happen. He knows that doing better quality work on his homework and studying daily will raise his grades but he plays video games instead. I know that eating lower carb, better quality food and exercising daily will reduce my weight but I eat potatoes and grains and sit in front of a screen far more than I need to. The same thing goes for the many unfinished or un-started projects around the house. Consistent effort, even if it is small and applied over time, will make a difference. It is time to change for both of us. It is time that we commit to being better, and until I do the things I need to do, how do I expect my son to do it? It’s a sobering thought, but it’s also a hopeful one because I know I need help. I almost always do better when I feel like I’m part of a group or a team. I worked with others, albeit online, to get my home in order. I get much more accomplished when my family pitches in, even for a little bit. This past weekend, my boys each spent less than an hour helping us to prepare for our Easter party on Sunday. We accomplished as much in an hour together than I could have accomplished all day by myself. It amazes me every time. I think my son and I can be that support system for each other.

I’ve always said I could conquer the world if I had a secretary or a personal assistant to take care of all of the details of life for me. I’ve thought that when my son goes to college, I will be doing just that for him so that he can keep his life on track. Like his mother, he has great potential and intent that sometimes goes awry. I recently spoke with two wealthy men with ADHD. Both of them struggle with organization, but both of them have incredible assistants that keep them on track and they both are able to run multiple businesses and travel the world having the life of their dreams. That is what I hope for my son. That is what I hope for all of my sons; that they will be incredibly successful, that they enjoy every day and that they will give to those who need it most. It occurred to me today that I can definitely step it up in that department myself. That way, I can coach my son instead of criticize. We can cheer each other on instead of avoiding each other. We can develop a plan for success instead of failing a little bit every day. I like the idea of it, and I am hoping he will too. More than that, I’m hoping it will help us both reach a level of success we’ve never seen before and it will be so much better that we’ve done it together.

So, like Darren’s dad, I’m choosing my family. I will still blog and broadcast my radio show. I’ll continue to research other career paths, but I’ll also tackle all of those projects I’ve been meaning to get to. I’ll be more accountable for my health and well-being, and I will hopefully be teaching the traits I pray my children will develop. It may not be easy, but I’m sure it will be easier than fussing with one another over grades and homework and video games for the next three years of high school. My hope is that we will both come out of this feeling empowered, strong and successful and that we can carry that forward for the rest of our lives, just like Darren’s dad.

It isn’t fun to look at the areas of our lives that need improving and act upon them, but when we do, we not only improve our lives. We also improve the lives around us; at least that’s been my experience, so I’m starting today. I’ll keep you informed on the progress, and before you know it, I’ll be watching this one graduate and contemplating that full time writing career again. It can wait and so can I because I have more important work to finish first, and I am blessed to have this work to do. Thanks for being you and have a great day.

Playing to Your Strengths

2 Apr

To listen along, click the link:

Yesterday a friend was talking about having a meeting with her son’s school to discuss some issues he’s having at school. There is a good chance that her son is exhibiting signs of ADHD, which my friend and one of her other sons have already been diagnosed with. Like any mom in this situation, she is conflicted. She knows her son needs help, but it’s so difficult to hear that your babies “aren’t good enough” just as they are. I know this anguish because for the first five years of my son’s life, we were focused on keeping him healthy. He was born with a rare pituitary disorder that affects his entire adrenal system. He is lucky in some ways because his version of the disorder is mild. I moderate a Facebook page of parents who have children with his disorder and many of them are so much more fragile than he is. When he was diagnosed, there was very little information about his condition because only 1 child in 10 million was born with it and the vast majority of children were born with the more severe version of it, so even among the rare, he was rare. It was a terrifying time because we were told that the flu, a broken bone or even chicken pox were life threatening for him, but we were not parents to shield our child from every aspect of life. We kept him away from huge crowds like baseball games for the first couple of years but still attended and hosted family events with 40+ people. We knew we could only protect him so much, so we did what we could and exposed him to the outside world a little bit at a time. From the time he was three, his doctor started calling him “the rock star”. I didn’t understand why until I began moderating the Facebook page and realized how sickly some of the kids were. My son has been taken to the hospital in an emergency situation only a few times because of his condition; once when he was a year old because he developed a strider when we were staying at the Opryland hotel in Nashville. For those who don’t know about that hotel, it is beautiful and elegant and has an extraordinary indoor botanical garden. It is large enough that you can take a boat through it. It is one of the few times in my life I have stayed in a hotel that luxurious, but something in the botanical garden triggered breathing issues with my son, and we ended up in Vanderbilt’s Children’s Hospital overnight in a breathing tent. I say we because my son wouldn’t lie down unless I was next to him in the tent, so we both got to sleep in the moisture, or we tried to sleep anyway. Apparently, news of a rare condition spreads fast in a teaching hospital. We were visited by dozens of doctors, interns and residents who were all very polite and kind, but who were interested in seeing my son and how he was reacting to his treatment and medication. By morning, my son was fine and we headed home.

We’ve had two other trips to the emergency room with my youngest, once for an illness that lasted a few days when he had to have a large dose of his emergency medication and IV fluids and once because his brother hit him with a bat. Long story short, one was swinging where he shouldn’t have been and neither was paying attention to his surroundings. Fortunately, every time he has been ok. Because so much of his condition is out of our control, we focused on what we could. We created routines so that he took his medication on time every day. We began to eat healthier. We made sure that he got adequate sleep. I got my home cleaned up and learned how to mostly stay on top of things. This wasn’t something that came easily to me, but I knew my son was worth it. What I didn’t know was how much that helped the ADHD I didn’t even know existed yet. So what does this have to do with playing to your strengths? Well, I’ll tell you.

One of the biggest challenges in my life has been being unconventional. I was the girl who was bossy. I was the girl who got angry when smart girls acted dumb around guys. I always felt equal to men in brain power, despite my emotional nature, and I always believed in truth and justice. I rarely come down on one side or the other of any argument, not because I don’t have opinions, but because I refuse to subscribe to any one way of thinking unilaterally. It has gotten me in a lot of trouble over the years, but I believe I give people perspective even when that perspective makes them uncomfortable. In that vein, we never allow our children to blame others for their situation in life. It is quite a challenge sometimes to teach that and to live it, but when I don’t live that way, I suffer, sometimes, quite a bit.

Last month was filled with suffering for me. I truly gave the power of my happiness over to others who really had no interest in making me happy, not because they are mean, which they were sometimes, but because I forgot who I was. I forgot that I have control over my life choices, and before you all send notes and letters, I realize we often have no control over our circumstances, but I truly believe we have much more control over our choices than we give ourselves credit for. For me, most of the winter months are challenging after the holidays. This year, we had the added challenge of crazy weather and lots of testing for my boys. In the entire quarter of school, we did not have a single normal week. It showed. I struggled to gain my footing. My youngest struggled in school. I had days I could barely make it through and yes, I know it was probably depression, and it was probably brought on by the season, but it wasn’t severe enough to seek treatment. I did what I could and hung on for dear life some days, but spring came as it always does, and although it was a struggle to get through the winter, we did. Now it’s my favorite time of year and something occurred to me. I have always been so productive in the spring and summer, and that’s probably why I love those seasons so much. I feel alive and connected to everyone and everything. In the autumn and winter, I feel cut off. I feel sequestered, and for someone who loves to be around people, that if very difficult. Summers are about the kids being home, spending time with friends and family and enjoying life. Winters are about hunkering down and riding out the storms. I understand why my friends who are less people oriented and more task oriented love those times of year. I also realize why I detest them so much, but this year, I have a plan.

My plan is to work to my strengths. I know I’ll have more energy to accomplish things for the next five to six months, and that’s what I plan to do. So many organizational systems tell you to take the summer off and come back to things in the fall, but when I do that, nothing happens. Well, something does happen but it’s not pretty. I get angry and belligerent when the temperature and leaves start dropping. I begin to feel trapped. I know what’s coming and even though I hate the way I feel, I have such a hard time shaking it. This year, I realize the blessing that spring and summer are for me. I can remember a few summers when my children were younger that I would get most of my housework done before my kids got up and then we would spend 15 minutes together tidying up, working in the yard or finishing up some household project. My kids learned how to cut grass quickly, to wash walls and baseboards, to clean out a drawer or a shelf in their closet in record time so we could move on with the day. We made progress nearly every day and when school came, although we were sad to see the summer end, we were ready. We dove into sports and academic schedules and didn’t worry about the extras. We focused differently, and we had the time of our lives. I didn’t do it intentionally, but it worked wonderfully. As the years passed and the boys started having activities in the summer that kept us from the things we used to do, we got away from that and everything suffered. I quit making them help on a daily basis. Unfortunately, because they weren’t helping, I stopped making progress in many areas too. That didn’t help any of us, especially when school came around, and we realized we had wasted yet another summer. We blamed it on finances. We blamed it on schedules. We should have looked deeper and known we were the ones to blame.

This past week, I have renewed my faith in the power of 15 minutes. I have renewed my faith in the ability of my family to make a significant amount of progress in a small amount of time. My sons and husband have been asked to spend 15 minutes per day for the past week or so to help with prepping for Easter around here. The results are extraordinary, and as much as my husband didn’t believe we could do it with such short increments of time, we did. I am more relaxed than I’ve ever been three days before we host 40+ people for Easter. We have made incredible strides and even if we have to put in a little extra time for the next few days, we truly are in a better place than we have ever been before and although we know the house and the day will not be perfect, it will be good enough. The floors will be clean, not with a toothbrush and hours of scrubbing, but with a vacuum and a mop. The food will be delicious, not because we spent hours preparing or tons of money, but because it will be made with love. We will spend some time but not all of our time getting ready for our guests over the next three days. Some of us work better alone and some work better with someone, so we will allow whatever works best for each person. We may or may not be ready when the first guests arrive but it won’t matter because our family loves to pitch in and help. It’s a strength I am proud to have and one I will no longer hesitate to ask for from those I love.

I intend to translate that to helping my son with ADHD get through the 4th quarter of school as well. Last quarter his counselor and I put several things into place to help him work more independently and it did not go very well, especially in his executive function areas. Unfortunately, several of his teachers are more focused on that than his ability to understand the material. He gets As and Bs on tests but neglects to turn in homework. He struggles with the ridiculous binders he is supposed to keep and has repeated failed while being on a 504 plan for organization. I struggle between being frustrated with him for not asking for help with his documented disability and being angry at the school for grading him on it. The way I’ve put it to the teachers is that they wouldn’t grade a student who was legally blind for their ability to read from the board. Why do they think that it’s ok to grade my son on something he has a legal document saying is a disability for him? I’m tired of the struggle, so I will be devising a plan for him. We will be spending 15 minutes per day when he comes home from school figuring out homework for the day and putting things into his binders. He has five of them by the way, all with different parameters. I will be asking that he get help in school with these blasted things and that all requirements for the binders be put onto the teachers’ websites so that the students can access them. I’m good at asking. It will require that I be more organized which I have come to love as a challenge. It will require that I do work at a time when I am not usually as productive, the afternoon, but it will also provide a way for my son to have assistance in the areas he is challenged so that he can work in his strengths of learning. I call that a win-win and I love win-win situations.

During this next week, enjoy whatever holiday you may celebrate. It is a holiday time for so many, including Christians, Jews, Hindus, Muslims and even Pagans. Enjoy the lunar eclipse if it is clear enough for you to see it tomorrow night and I’ll see you next week. Thanks for being you and have a great day!

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