Words for Wednesday | What’s Underneath the Surface

My favorite childhood book!

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle sits at the top of the list of my all time favorite books!  
I remember first checking the book out at my elementary school library and staying up waypast my bedtime unable to put it down. 

With school starting back up I decided to reread it again and came upon this quote:

People are more than just the way they look.”  -Madeleine L’Engle, A Wrinkle in Time


A wonderful truth for a middle schooler to read and absorb and yet it remains true for this middle ageish adult as well.  

People are more than the way they look. And as our kids begin their classes and meet new classmates we encourage them to make new friends, to see beyond the way a kid looks.  

Just like our kids, we are meeting new fellow parents at parent information meetings such as sports, PTA, and meet your teacher. Are we also making new friends and looking beyond the exterior?

If I’m honest, I categorize and judge  fellow parents too…the crossfit stay at home mom, the stressed out executive, the car pool mom who’s in charge of everything…and I put up my wall,  my defenses and rest easy in my smug judgment of others.

This quote nudges me to remember that people are more than just  the way they look and extend a warm smile, an offer of grace and or friendship as we weather all the beginning of school year meetings and endless paperwork to sign. 

Have you caught yourself judging other parents?  Do you reread favorite books too?  What about this quote challenges you today?  I’d love to keep the conversation going!  Join me in the comments!

How to Not Freak Out the First Semester of College

How to Not Freak Out the First Semester of College

Epictetus, you’ve said a mouthful!

Remember when I wrote about empty nest here back in August? Well, if you’re on a similar journey, it’s about this time in your student’s first college semester where their stress may teeter over into feelings of being overwhelmed. 

This may be the first time your freshman has experienced a difficult class, professor, 100 percent freedom and/or the real possibility of making their first bad grade. 

 If any of the above is true for your student, then it’s doubly true for you. You’ve been through college!  You’re a fountain of knowledge and wisdom! They may share the fun and mundane stuff but what about the nitty gritty?  

Your questions echo into the wasteland. Last year you had access to everything. And now…crickets.  Why won’t he call?  Is she fitting in? Why won’t he tell me his grades?  Is she making it to class?  What is going on?!? I want to make it better!!!!

Recently, I sat through a parents’ meeting on how to help your student cope through their first college semester. I actually think it was therapy for the adults, though. I looked around the room and thought to myself, I’m not the only one taking notes for myself, right?  And, as a firm believer that sharing is caring, here are my notes to help any of y’all out there on the verge. 

1. Freaking out at this point in the first semester is normal.

I was so happy to hear this strangely comforting statement.  We’re normal. This freak out is to be expected.   What we do with the freak out is the key.

2. Stress is normal, but being overwhelmed is not.  Many think once the paper’s written, exam given or project turned in, their stress evaporates.  However, anxiety can actually stack and not dissipate after the end.  This stacking of anxiety creates the feeling of being overwhelmed. Ugh, right?!  

How does one get rid of the growing anxiety?

The best way is The Big 5:

  1. Adequate sleep
  2. Eating healthy 
  3. Cardio exercise 30 minutes 3x week
  4. Hygiene
  5. Thinking Well of Ourselves

So after the freak out, take a walk or run. Get some sleep!  Give yourself a break…I didn’t get an A on this test but it’s not the end of the world. I can make an appointment to talk to the professor, study for the next test smarter, and know I’ve given my best effort. 

This advice is not just for your student, right? #amIrightoramIright

What to Do with Not Being Kind to Yourself

Honestly, a whole post could be devoted to this subject alone. Oprah has made millions off of it. 

    If your student is having negative thoughts/feelings about themselves or dealing with the expectations of others, good chance he or she isn’t thinking well of themselves. 

    College, while exciting, will expose students to their limitations.  Your student may have graduated first in his class, but is struggling in college calculus. Or your daughter may have been the It girl at her high school and now finds she didnt get a bid to her top pick of sorority. 

    Out of this meeting the most important thing I heard was you can’t make your student successful if he or she is resistant to help. 

    You cannot control your student. 

    Your job, as your student’s parent, is to offer your student a different perspective on a stressful event. 

    “People are disturbed not by things, but by the views which they take of them.”     Epictetus

    You can offer helpful strategies (talking to the professor, actually studying for the test instead of going to the mixer, reading the assigned chapters in the syllabus, etc.  Getting a C on this test will not keep you out of grad school) but that is all you can do. 

    Until your student’s perspective changes over the stressful event, they will not ask for help. They may describe their situation but until they help themselves, you cannot force them. 

    College is a learning experience for parents too then. For years we may have been under the mistaken belief that we could be the hero in our child’s life, having power over all harmful situations.  

    Epictetus, a Stoic philosopher in the first century,  realized that humans have no control over external things. Humans can only control their own thoughts, emotions and choices. 

    So, be there for your student. Listen to your student. Challenge your student’s views of the troubling event. Offer strategies and people who can help. And then pray your student wants the help that’s available. 

      I’m learning so much now about how my own parents had to watch me make some mistakes. They listened, they challenged my all or nothing thinking and they offered strategies and those who could help.  But they had to watch me go through some stuff.  

      I know I’ve just scratched the surface here. I would love to hear feedback from y’all how your student’s semester is going and strategies that are working for you!  Let’s keep the coversation going in the comments!

      On Being the Adult, Experiencing Empty Nest & Strategies to Thrive

      On Being the Adult, Experiencing Empty Nest & Strategies to Thrive

      Last week we hit a new milestone.    

      A new adventure awaits!
       

      We loaded the minivan and moved my stepdaughter into the dorm.  Even after a week, I can’t even begin to write the words of how that day, the whole experience felt; but, if you’ve already passed this milestone, you know.

      We are now practically empty nesters. A quick Google search for empty nester always mentions freedom!  Celebrate it!  

      Serendiptiously, I had binged Gretchen Rubin’s Happier podcasts while flying back from Belgium and one her quotes lept into my brain:

      “Secret of Adulthood:  Make sure the things we do to make ourselves feel better don’t make us feel worse.” -Gretchen Rubin

      Admittedly, when you’re an adult, there’s lots of things that can make you feel better in the moment but later on will definitely make you feel worse. 

      During the college’s move in weekend, my husband stop by the grocery store near the campus and commented to the checkout cashier that soon the students would be back. The cashier agreed and commented, “This week, it will be all the moms coming through buying ice cream because they’ve left their babies at school!”

      Hmmm…many of us adults seek comfort in food, staying up too late or other vices and eventually pay the price.  

      Empty nest isn’t an excuse to be careless.  It’s time to be the adult. 

      As if this quote didn’t wake me up to the pitfalls of extra time on my hands, we also got the message from the school!

      We went to the parent meeting and this was one of the handouts: 

      Nothing like facing reality head on!
       

      Sitting there in the college’s auditorium, flipping through this homesickness brochure, I quickly realized that although it was meant to be a resource for the parents… a roadmap on monitoring their student’s homesickness, I realized it was also for the parents on how to navigate their   homesickness away from their student. 

      Contained within the trifold paper, the seasoned counseling professor had this gem Pillars of Good Health. Again, written for the parent monitoring their student but also good advice for the parents as well.  

      Here are the Pillars of Good Health:

      • Proper Sleep 8-10 hours a night
      • Exercise At least 3 times per week
      • Eating Small healthy meals more often
      • Thinking Correctly Positive self-esteem
      • Proper Hygiene Use those showers…brush those teeth!

      Given hygiene is normally not a problem for adults, the rest of the list looks like pretty sound advice.  How often do adults follow the first 4 pillars of good health?  

      This new season motivates me to get more sleep, exercise more, and thoughtfully plan healthy meals.

      Empty nest can also bring about negative emotions as well.  Parents can fall into depression or even lose their sense of purpose because she was Living. For/Through. The. Child. 

      Adults need to self manage their own health.

      I’ve been flying some lately and was reminded of the safety instruction to place the oxygen mask on yourself first before assisting others.  

      Perspective is everything!

      Self care combats against depression or loss of purpose.Heck, self care is needed for every parent of kids out there, whether at home or at college! 

      Practicing self care is blogged about almost daily, but how many of us in real life actually practice it?
      Of course, I must take care of myself first. But when my agenda is interrupted by a phone call to pick up a child because the plans have changed, self care pretty much gets shoved aside. 

      Empty nest is the perfect time to begin the habit of self care. And guess what?  I’m actually doing it because I do have that extra time in my days to take care of myself!

      Intentionally, I finally drew that Epsom salt bath (after buying the salts over a year ago)!  My husband and I biked the entire Mammoth Cave bike trail!  We are getting 8-10 hours of sleep now! Yippee!! 

      If your nest isn’t at the empty stage yet but the kids are headed back to school, I feel you too. 

      Embrace the new {school} routine.

       Sit down with pen and paper and analyze how your day/week is divided up.  Use Gretchin Rubin’s quote as a jumping off point. Ask yourself “are these activities making myself/my spouse/my child feel better or feel worse?”  Eliminate one activity that makes you feel worse. If you are in the mix, with no empty nest in sight, also eliminate one activity that makes your spouse/kid feel worse. 

      Review the 5 Pillars of Health and honestly ask yourself how you can improve in at least one area and one concrete step towards that improvement. 

      Above all, give yourself some grace. Nobody’s life is lived perfectly, so embrace the messiness and let go of your outcomes of what it all is supposed to look like! 

      I’d love to hear your strategies in coping/thriving through empty nest!  Comment below and let’s keep the conversation going!

        Words for Wednesday | All That Glisters

          
        Apparently, Shakespeare said it first, and best when he penned:

        All that glisters is not gold.

        Modern language has changed the saying to “All that glitters is not gold.”  But I prefer Shakespeare’s word glisters.

        To my ears, glister spoken sounds like a very close cousin to blister.  And, within the confines of the expression, shiny sparkly things can sometimes be blisters on the soul. 

        Because we desire gold. Gold as in the Golden Rule, the highest standard, the symbol of excellence, purity and highest good.   Our soul longs for that perfect form of justice, love, mercy, goodness, purity, beauty and excellence. Our highest ideal.

        Although we know that we cannot obtain this highest ideal here on Earth, we do know that God has set that desire in our hearts and has created and given us glimpses of the Golden Ideal. 

        Besides the usual glisters that capture our eye-money, fame, beauty, and power-there’s another, more dangerous form of glister that captures us as well. 

        There are Glisters who live amongst us. Those who temporarily blind us with their sparkles and beauty, their radiant goodness, their morality above reproach, their par excellence. 

        And they sparkle and glister, but their heart, their soul, is not gold.  When they finally reveal their true inner self and true motives, they become a blister on our soul, a reminder that we can be fooled for a season. 

        Fair warning has been given as Shakespeare’s quote continues in his play The Merchant of Venice.

        All that glisters is not gold; 
        Often have you heard that told;
        Many a man his life has sold
        But my outside to behold:
        Gilded tombs do worms enfold
        Has you been as wise as bold,

        Even though these people might create a blister upon your soul…painful, annoying, and uncomfortable; the great thing about blisters is that they pop…and disappear. For good.  And your soul, once tender and vulnerable to deceptive “golden” boys/girls is now calloused and toughened to those who would try and capitalize on your tender spots. 

        And so, my prayer for myself as I discover the Glisters in my life, is that I may be a dull piece of pottery on the exterior, but hold priceless treasure on the inside for the glory of my Father. 

        Have you discovered Glisters in your life?  How did you move on and become a hidden treasure in a jar of clay?

        Words for Wednesday|Your Actions

        The 26 poses…number 5 is a doozy!

        I love to practice Hot Yoga. I have now been practicing Hot Yoga over 2 years.  Can I do all 26 poses perfectly? No.  That’s what I love about it. Even after you’ve mastered Triangle or the deceptively easy looking Half Moon pose you can always go deeper, move towards an advancement of the pose or slightly shift your weight or focus and get a whole new level of strength. 

        The world sees your actions, not your intentions.

        At the beginning of each class, we lie and rest quietly on our yoga mats relaxing and adjusting to the heat.  (Yes, it’s super hot…hot as Hades sometimes). But, the heat also relaxes me and frequently I fall asleep. 

        Next, the class teacher comes in and greets us as we stand to do begin the opening breathing exercise together. 

        One teacher always says to us this:

        The world sees your actions, not your intentions. 

        She then asks us each to set our intentions for the class. My intentions are to try every pose and do my best. 

        But the quote always stays with me…because my yoga teacher and my fellow class members can see that by my actions I don’t always do every pose and not always my best. 

        There’s the conflict for humanity. Our intentions most always do not match up with our actions. Or, when we do act, others misinterpret our intentions. 

        I have lived through both predicaments. 

        First…My intentions are good, pure and noble…but the actions fall short to others and their expectations. People pleasing will get you in this mess. The solution, stand firm in your intention and resulting action and if those around you are unhappy, too bad. 

        Second, I perform a kind, unselfish act and the “world” misinterprets my intentions.  You cannot control others’ agendas. If someone wishes to paint you mean, ineffective, a monster, etc to deflect from their own shortcomings,  then that’s what they will do. Some people may choose to believe and others will not. The solution I have found is silence. The Truth always comes out and will expose the Haters. 

        That is why I take comfort that although the world judges us by our actions, God weighs our heart, He knows our intentions.   

        This morning spend time with God. Let Him examine your heart, know your intentions.  Even better, ask God for wisdom in the action to take and wait and listen for God’s answer.  

        Are you tired of your actions not matching up with your intentions?  Are you frustrated that others misinterpret your intentions?  Talk to God about it. 

        Words for Wednesday|Martin Short

        Book review of Martin Short’s memoir, “I Must Say”

        “I think loss can fuel how you lead your whole life.” – Martin Short 

        I checked out Martin Short’s memoir from my local library recently because I think his crazy characters are genius!  You may remember him from Father of the Bride series as the wedding coordinator, or his wacky characters on SNL, or SCTV.  You either adore Martin’s humor or you don’t. Surprisingly, Martin’s turn as a heartless attorney in Damages  was compelling. He could have quite the career in dramatic roles.  I hope he takes more dramatic roles. 

        Martin Short is unrelentingly upbeat, the antithesis of the depressed morose comic. Maybe because he’s Canadian or maybe because of he’s seriously level headed but Martin’s memoir is fascinating even if he never made it in acting because of the losses he’s experienced throughout his life. 

        Martin Short knows about loss.  The youngest of 5 in an Irish Catholic family, Martin lost his mom to breast cancer at age 17.  In a decade where breast cancer was a death sentence, Martin’s mom willed herself to live with the cancer for 5 years. Two months later, a close older brother was killed in a car accident.  By the time Martin turned 20, his father died too.

        No one would have blamed Martin if he gave up. But those deaths ignited in him a feeling of confidence and transforming him to be bullet proof…two much needed characteristics when diving in to acting.   Martin acknowledges his steely confidence when writing (paraphrasing) once you lose your parents, that’s your worst day, the worst thing that can happen to you.  Nothing else can ever touch it. 

        Martin Short broke into show biz in Toronto’s production of Godspell. He was part of a gang of Canadian actors who made it big in the US…Gilda Radner, Paul Shaffer, Eugene Levy, John Candy, And Andrea Martin to name a few.  While in the Godspell cast,   Martin met and later married his wife Nancy.  

        To help cope and motivate himself through dry spells/insecurities in the acting career, Martin devised a systematic life template whereby he grades himself weekly.  His agent implored him to go on Oprah with it because he could strike gold and make loads of money off it.  He explains it in his book, and I think his agent was on to something!  

        Here are Martin Short’s 9 Categories:

        1. Self
        2. Immediate Family
        3. Original Family
        4. Friends
        5. Money
        6. Career
        7. Creativity 
        8. Discipline
        9. Lifestyle

        It’s too much to explain here, because there’s a color code and number to determine the weekly grade. I immediately thought of Benjamin Franklin’s  13 Virtues where Ben daily evaluated his developing character/habits.   The bottom line for Martin, (for example) even if I’m making money (Grade A) but am being a lousy brother (Grade F) then I’m not being “successful”.  Martin uses the 9 Categories to improve his life and motivate him in the weak areas. 

        Funny that I’m only getting to this obvious point, but Martin’s book is witty and laugh out funny at times. He also sprinkles between chapters “Moments with …..” a monologue with one of his wacky characters (Ed Brimley, Jackie Rogers, Jr. Etc)

        Martin recently lost his beloved wife Nancy to ovarian cancer in  2010 after 30 years of marriage.  After her death, he gave his youngest the advice that had worked for him:

        Henry , I know it seems unimaginable tonight but you are being empowered tonight.  You are being given something that is horrible,  but it is also a life lesson. This will make you stronger. This will make you more determined. You’ll be in you office somewhere someday and some pompous a**hole will say something to you.  And you’ll supposedly be upset and you’ll supposedly be fearful of your boss’s reaction. But  then you’ll think, ‘This is gravy.  This is fine. I couldn’t care less about this pr*ck. I’m not upset now. I was upset the night my mother died.'”

        And that is why you should read Martin Short’s memoir…because he has walked through fire that has fueled his life. 

        Have you gone through a loss which fueled how you now lead your life?  Comment below!

        Words for Wednesday: 4 Traits Great Moms Possess

         

        Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she smiles at the future. -Proverbs 31:25

        Mother’s Day arrives this Sunday and I am so fortunate to be able to celebrate it with my Mama!  Mothers should be celebrated and honored every day because the majority of moms are loving, self sacrificing and the heart of a family. 

        While I don’t have children of my own, I am a stepmom. Believe me, this role isn’t the same as a mother’s and I am no replacement!  But, as a stepmom, I have experiences which give me insight to motherhood and my own sweet Mama!

        Here’s what I’ve learned so far:

        1. A mom encourages her child by speaking Truth into the child’s life. Many of today’s moms seem to encourage their child with superlatives, flattery, and throwaway compliments and call that encouragement. While complimenting your child can be encouraging, a steady diet of compliments will rot them, just like sweets. True encouragement challenges a child by offering Truth as the  guiding star in the daily life learning moments. Believe me, I totally get how much easier it would be to flatter and be besties instead of encouraging them in Truth.  I’m not saying that one is mean, hurtful or brutally blunt; instead, strive to offer Truth in stories, examples and question/dialogue.  My own Mama has spoken many Truths to encouragement via this method. 
        2. A mom presents a united front and never undermines the dad.  In many families this destructive undermining of the dad’s role and relationship with his children happens. I first recognized this imbalance while I was still in grade school. Although my parents were and remain a united front with their children, I had several friends whose moms kept things from the dad and “protected” the child by having “secrets” between child and mom but Dad was clueless. A child needs the balance of both their dad’s input as well as a mom’s input in their development. Great moms don’t  gatekeep the relationship between father and child. 
        3. Moms must be a dispenser of God’s Grace and Mercy.  Now that stepchildren are a part of my life, I daily am reminded how much my own Mama sacrificed her own agenda, needs and life to meet the needs of 4 kids. When I feel less than gracious at left behind messes, ingratitudes and slights, God reminds me of those times during my own childhood I acted the same towards my sweet Mama.  Grace and Mercy are much more than theological concepts, they’re channels of God’s love in action…love with mud boots on. It’s messy and hardwork but as my Mama has told me…you’ll never regret showing others grace and mercy. (She actually says there’s always one more thing you don’t know about someone, meaning reserve judgment).
        4. Pray for your child daily and point her to God. My Mama prays for me daily and I feel the power of her prayers.  I pray for my step kids daily as well because I know that is the best act of service I could ever do for each of them. For many years I lived  in other cities far from my parents.  My Mama was always only a phone call away.  When I called her with problems she would listen and comfort but that was never the end of our conversation. Before she hung up, my Mama always would point me to God, whether with Scripture or encouraging me to talk to God.  My Mama knows she can provide earthly comfort, but God provides His complete comfort and peace way beyond a mother’s ability. Sadly, too many moms won’t allow God to have the final say in their child’s life trusting God to take care of their child. 

        Whether you have a close or distant relationship with your mom, I hope these 4 traits encourage you if you’re a mom or your own mom possesses them. 

        What would add to my list?  What are your thoughts about moms and mothering?  Comment below so we can continue the conversation!

            Words for Wednesday:  Winston Churchill

              

              

            Sometimes our best is not enough.  We have to do what is required.  -Winston Churchill

            Besides being so loveably charming and endlessly quotable, Winston Churchill was Britian’s stalwart Prime Minister who lead his country and the Allied Forces to victory, defeating Germany in 1945. 

            Only two months later; however, Churchill’s Conservative party and his leadership were ousted from Parliment.  So goes political and world achievements!

            Considered by many to be the statesman on the 20th century, Churchill, nicknamed the “English Bulldog” rallied the English people and even Roosevelt to push forward through the grueling years of WWII. 

            I love this Churchill quote spoken during those WWII days. The British people resolved not to give in, to not be defeated by Hitler when all other European countries did. Churchill’s quote challenges the mindset the mentality of “I gave it my best shot”.  Churchill demanded from the British troops and people to do what is required…stand united, defy the enemy and continue to stand firm even when it doesn’t look like a “win”.

            So, in the spirit of Churchill and his words…what will you do today that is required but beyond your ability?  Whether it’s fighting injustice in your community, state or in the world or fighting for your marriage, your kids, or your own personal goals…will you do what is required?

            Let me know what’s challenging you today in the comments below.

            Words for Wednesday-Savor by Shauna Niequist

            If you haven’t read any of Shauna Niequist’s books, you should; especially, if you appreciate someone who is real about faith and their love of food!

            Savor  is Shauna’s newest book and her second book that combines writing and recipes (a winning combination!).  Her previous book, Bread and Wine was the first to combine delicious words for your soul as well as for your stomach!

            Savor is a 365 day devotional that gets real in that short one page format. Today’s quote comes from one of Shauna’s devotions from last week.

            …there is something past the heartbreak, just past despair; and that thing is beautiful.

            And I offer her words for you today.  If you are going through horrible pain, heartbreak and despair…the journey is rough but one day you will look back and see the beautiful; how God can redeem that injury, that injustice, that trauma that happened to you in your life, if you give it to Him.

            I’m old enough to have weathered several injuries, heartaches and injustices in my life and I can testify to all that God has made every one of those injuries beautiful and though it took longer than I desired, He has done it every time and will do it for you as well.

            Rest easy, talk to your Father and trust that in time beauty will emerge!

            You can order Shauna’s newest book here.

             

             

            Words for Wednesday-Margaret Thatcher, A Majority of One

            Did you know March is Women’s History Month?! I could barely contain my excitement as all my passions collide for today’s post…history, strong women and amazing quotes!  Yes, my geeky history major/government minor/quote loving self is doing the happy dance right now!! I’m so excited to feature one of the strongest political leaders of the 20th Century…Margaret Thatcher!

            Photo Credit: <a href=”https://www.flickr.com/photos/93372366@N02/8652792454/”>FotoFight.me</a> via <a href=”http://compfight.com”>Compfight</a> <a href=”https://www.flickr.com/help/general/#147″>cc</a>

             

            Doesn’t she look fab in her Prime Minister hardhat with pearls?!

            Margaret Thatcher served as Great Britian’s Prime Minister for 11 years from 1979-1990.   Nicknamed “Iron Lady” Thatcher was no joke. Besides being a consummate political leader, she also happened to be a research chemist and barrister before either of those professions were female friendly.  She served as Prime Minister longer than any other PM in the 20th Century.

            Along with her weekly meetings with QEII (Queen Elizabeth II) she was PM through 3 US presidents  (Carter, Reagan, Bush), getting along famously with President Reagan.

            If it’s me against 48, I feel sorry for the 48.” Margaret Thatcher (when out-voted at a world conference)

            This quote pretty much sums up Margaret Thatcher’s suffer no fools approach. Her approach to life is so refreshing to me, considering how much she accomplished in an era where women truly did not have anyone goading them to have a career outside the home.

            So, if someone in your life is opposing you and your goals…whether personal or business, I hope the Iron Lady’s quote encourages you to keep your chin up, ignore the haters and walk forward toward your goal and your conviction that you are doing the right thing!  Rest easy that even if you find yourself in a majority of one…you are in good company!

            What words have gotten you through a tough spot?  Share in the comments below.