So I’m…a mom

“Mamas worry about everything all year. Mamas worry more at Christmas time.”

(Disclaimer…I know there are lots of daddies that show up as well, but only having experience of a mama, I speak from that. If you are a daddy and this applies to you, share it with your daddy friends.)

My son surprised me. He likes to do this. He said he wasn’t coming home for Christmas and I have been cursing the Army for a month for keeping both my boys from me. Thursday morning the doorbell rang and there he was, with his wife and kids, and I was totally confused. I was thrilled, but so confused. He showed up and all my sadness was gone. Those sweet baby kisses came, and I forgot all the days I had cried over them not coming home.

This post is for all you mamas who are especially busy this time of year. All of you who feel mommy guilt for not getting it all done. The ones worrying about not getting every teacher a gift, and decorating cookies with the kids like Pinterest. For all of you who are lucky to get all the gifts wrapped, let alone put bows and tags on them. For all of you that worry your kid will be scarred for life because you didn’t watch Christmas movies in matching jammies and write letters to Santa.

You worry about getting the presents they want, making the money work, getting to the programs at school and church. You go to the store with toddlers and babies to buy gifts, because finding a babysitter costs too much. You have to remember a million things, and then your second grader says they need a reindeer headband the next morning at school.

Mamas worry about everything all year. Mamas worry more at Christmas time. So many celebrations, so many places to take the kids and get them off their schedules. So many opportunities to feed into our mama insecurities.  I know. I was you. I remember.

You’ve never heard what I’m going to say. I’m going to tell you what Christmas is about. It’s about God showing up. It’s about God saying “I’m coming to you.” and then showing up. That tiny baby in the manger was God, choosing to be human, choosing to depend on humans for his life, choosing to experience all we humans experience, because of his love for us. He’s a great father.

Mamas, hear what I’m saying to you. Kids know who shows up. They know who is there every single day, listening, reading their favorite book for the 36th time, feeding them, taking them places, kissing boo-boos and healing broken hearts. Laughing and celebrating and having impromptu dance parties. They may be disappointed Christmas day if they don’t get the toy on the top of the list, but you show up every day, and that makes all the difference.  You show up. You’re a great mama. You show up, out of your love for your children, just like God.

Be kind to yourself this season. Give yourself credit for showing up the other 364 days, and don’t put so much pressure on yourself to make this one day perfect. Because it won’t be. Do what you can, and enjoy the time with your family. My 85 year old mom tells me often “The days go slow, but the years go fast. Enjoy your moments.” Merry Christmas mama❤

Be kind, be grateful, be courageous,

Jules

 

So I’m healing…

It’s been awhile since I’ve posted. I’ve been healing and celebrating and saying goodbye and hello and goodbye again. It’s been a year of hurricanes, not only in my country, but in my life. A category 5 that wiped me out and I’m rebuilding.

My father died this year. Whew…that’s still so hard to say. My dad was the best. I learned about God from my dad. Not just words, but what a father is, and what a father does, and how a father makes you feel. I learned about family from my dad. I learned a lot of other things from him as well, how to ride a horse, how to change a tire, how to …………. fill in the blank. My love of flying, of cars, of city lights at night, of chocolate ice cream…all from him. My ridiculous sense of confidence in new situations, my generous spirit, my compassion, my patient nature…all from him. He was (still hard to use past tense) the best father.

So this summer, my hurricane season, went something like this: My oldest son graduated from basic and we made a few trips to Georgia so he could see his wife and kids. He was starting Airborne training and would be there a few months more. Dad was ill often. I made the 2 hour trip to my parents’ house several times, sometimes staying a day, sometimes staying a few days depending on how he was and what Mom needed.  At one 19441758_10155482791693739_1128828333922711115_opoint he was in the hospital and I had been there a few days without my husband, my oldest daughter called and said she was heading to the hospital to have g’baby number 8. I told Dad and he sent me off with a kiss. I sped home, picked up my husband and got to the hospital in time to kiss those sweet, new baby cheeks.

Dad was not doing well and I headed back up there. That was pretty much the story for the month of June. My dad was moved to the nursing home.  July 4, he gave up. The storm hit with full force. I thought I had prepared, I thought I had boarded the windows and hunkered down, but I was wrong.  The deepest, greatest sadness I’ve ever felt came, and settled on me like a heavy, wet wool blanket. My protection was my husband, my children, my siblings, my mom, the house of family that my dad had worked so hard to build stood strong. We had a public visitation, and over 300 people came to pay their respects to my family. I had friends drive several hours to show up for me, and it meant the world.  We planned a private family funeral for a few weeks later.

 

The Sunday of the funeral came, and our giant family celebrated the life of my father. Every single person spoke of my dad’s great love of his family. That Friday, g’babyHaven number 9 was born. Her daddy was able to get leave from the Army and come home for 10 days to hold his precious new daughter.  As excited as I was, I was torn to my core with grief that my dad would never see this great granddaughter that he had been so excited to meet. I left the hospital crying uncontrollably and couldn’t go back that day. The 10 days flew by and we had to tell our son goodbye again. He was broken leaving his wife and 3 children, again.

In September, my husband and I went to Florida for a week. We stayed in the same hotel on the beach that my parents had stayed at for the last 20 years. We invited my mom to come with us, to rest and heal, but she understandably wasn’t ready to leave home.  It was wonderful to sit on the same beach watching sunsets that I knew my parents had sat on so many times. The peace in the eye of the hurricane.

We then said goodbye to our youngest son as he headed to across the world for deployment until June 2018. His wife and 2 year old moved in with us as she would be having their second daughter in a month or so. At the same time, we moved our older son’s wife and three kids across the country to finally live together again after 10 long months of separation. Again, a hurricane of sadness and happiness swirling and blowing together.

22769642_1317678038343022_4388228918228156563_oOctober 17 g’baby number 10 was born. Her daddy made it home the next night and got to spend 10 days kissing his girls. But, alas the 10 days were up and we again told him goodbye until June of next year. My heart broke watching my son leave his family.

My hurricane season brought devastation. My life has been altered in ways it will never recover from. My hurricane season brought life. Three new babies that have helped heal my heart and brought so much joy to us all. My hurricane season brought goodbyes that I didn’t want to say. Goodbye to my sons, goodbye to my dad. My hurricane season brought sadness. Watching helplessly as my mom grieves her husband of 67 years. Watching my brothers and my sister grieve their dad. Watching my children and grandchildren learn to accept that their time with their grandfather is over. My heart breaks for them all.

Here’s the thing: My dad lives on in every act of kindness that I see my kids do for each other. He lives on in every phone call I make to my mom and my siblings. He lives in every story my siblings tell and every memory I share with my grandkids. My dad lives on in photographs that show him being there for all of us. He lives in the faces of my brothers and phrases we all use. My hurricane season was chaos, but the aftermath is full of love, and the house my dad built stands strong.

Be kind, be grateful, be courageous,

Jules 

 

So I’m a work in progress…

The more I work on my identity, the better I am at my roles.

There are things I do well, things I do poorly and things I just do. Generally the things I do well are things I spend time working on, although there are some things we all do well without trying much. Oftentimes the things I do poorly are things I’m not really into or want to get better at. I like playing tennis, but I’m the girl on the court hitting the ball like a softball and knocking it out of the fence. This makes my partner (Big Daddy) rather frustrated. If I really wanted to get better at tennis, I could. I could practice and watch videos and spend time on the court.

I found this quote by Francis Chan the other day, “Our greatest fear should not be of failure but of succeeding at things in life that don’t really matter.” Let that soak in. What are you trying to succeed at? What are you putting your time and effort into? What’s worth it to you to spend time on the court for?

imageI’m a wife, mom, grandma, daughter, sister, aunt, friend, therapist…see where I’m going with this? I have a number of roles. You do, too. My roles aren’t my identity. All of my roles could change. My identity is who I am at my core, independent of my roles. The more I work on my identity, the better I am at my roles. I love validation from my family that I’m good at my roles. Validation from my friends that I’m a good friend. Validation from my bosses and co-workers and clients that I’m a good therapist. We all enjoy external validation from others.

For me, what really matters is about my identity. Here’s what I want to succeed at: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, gentleness and self-control. The Bible calls these the “fruits of the spirit”. These are the things I want to succeed at. These are choices I make every day, over and over, because it’s the kind of person I want to be (identity). I spend time on the court working on these attributes because it’s what matters to me,  not for external validation. When I see myself succeeding in these areas the internal validation affirms my identity and who I am independent of my roles.

I’m not perfect at any of this. Some days I completely miss the mark in some areas. imageBut, I’ve learned not to beat myself up about it. I just tell myself “I’m a work in progress.” and keep aiming in the direction I want to go. “Our greatest fear should not be of failure, but of succeeding at things in life that don’t really matter.” What matters to you? What do you want to spend time on the court for?

Be kind, be grateful, be courageous,

Jules

 

So I’m freaking out…

Superman left for boot camp January 17. I’ve heard from him a couple of times while he was in reception, but I know from last year when Bear went to boot camp, that now I won’t hear from him again until I get a letter. Every day I check the mail, telling myself not to expect anything, but in my mommy heart I can’t help it. I hope there is a letter. At times my mind gets the best of me and I find myself imagining all kinds of not so pleasant scenarios that my army boy might be finding himself in. If I let my emotions take control, I could get pretty worked up. If I take control of my emotions, I control the fear and anxiety and it doesn’t have any power.

“But Jules, I can’t control my fear, it takes over and I can’t do anything about it!” I hear ya. I’ve felt that way. I’ve been in that same state of fear and anxiety. I’ve had anxiety attacks. I get it. Then I learned that I can control it! So can you!  Sound ridiculous? Read on…

solutionAnxiety is a state of fear. Fear is an emotion. Our emotions are controlled by a couple of things. 1. Our thoughts and words. Let’s say every time you get in your car you get anxious. First identify what you are afraid of and what your thoughts are. Then exchange those fearful/negative thoughts for empowering/positive thoughts. Write your new thoughts on post it notes and put them on the dash of the car. “I’m capable.” “I’m a safe driver.” “I can do this.” Every time you have a fearful thought, replace it by reading/speaking/thinking an empowering thought. The cool thing is you don’t even have to believe it! You are simply creating a new neuropathway in your brain, and eventually the empowering thought will become your default.

2. Our body. What is the first sign in your body that you are getting anxious? Maybe your heart or breathing speeds up. Maybe you clench your jaw. Maybe your hands get tingly. Whatever it is notice it. As soon as you feel the first sign, try a grounding technique using your senses. Find something to see, hear, smell, touch and taste. Rub your jeans with your hands, focus on a something you can see, what can you hear, taste something strong like peppermint or cinnamon gum, hold an ice cube, smell some lotion or oil. Using your senses will help bring you into the present moment and calm your body. Take a few deep breaths and use your empowering thoughts.

There are a couple of other good tools I will give you for anxiety attacks. 1. Ask yourself anxiety“What’s the worst that will happen?” Often the worst that our emotional brain has us thinking, isn’t so bad once we say it out loud. Once we hear it spoken we realize that we can deal with it. 2. Use 1-100 thinking. Ask yourself “1-100 how likely is my fear to actually happen today?” Often our logical brain helps us realize that it’s not too likely, and it can help decrease your fear and let it go. If it is likely to happen, make a plan and take control of what you can control.

I’m not saying it’s easy. I’m not saying it doesn’t take hard work and practice. I’m just saying that it’s possible. I’d love to talk to you more about controlling your anxiety. Contact me for an appointment in the Kansas City area.

Be kind, be grateful, be courageous,

Jules

 

 

So I’m visual…

If our motivation relies on others we create an unstable environment for our efforts.

I have a habit of starting workout plans and not finishing. Starting better eating habits and not finishing. Starting antibiotics and not finishing…(stay with me I’m making a point). Once I start to see results I quit. I get lazy. I start skipping workouts, cheating with chocolate and cherry coke, quit taking antibiotics. I’ve tried all kinds of motivations. If I lose x pounds, I’ll get a massage. If I eat well for x number of weeks I’ll eat an entire dark chocolate cake…not really, but you get the idea. But those things didn’t motivate me.

Recently, I saw a Facebook post by my niece Katie that inspired me. Katie is trying to drink 64 oz of water every day. She had a picture of a long paper chain hanging in her house. She explained that each day she meets her goal she adds a link. If she misses a day, she has to remove the entire link and start over! This was interesting to me. Removing one link, or not adding a new one wouldn’t motivate me, but tearing down the entire chain, that seemed like punishment. Especially as the chain grew longer and longer.

imageI want to workout every day. So I worked out and started my chain.  It felt fantastic! A visual reward for my dedication. My chain grew each day and I was motivated. I worked out at 10:30 pm one night because I didn’t want to have to pull down the whole thing! Every time I walked into my pantry I saw my chain and felt pride in all those links! Then it happened…

I got home from work one evening and I was tired. I ate dinner, hung out with Big Daddy and kept saying, “I still need to work out tonight.” We imagewatched some TV and went to bed. I woke up the next morning and immediately realized that I didn’t work out the day before. I tried making excuses to myself, I tried to justify, I thought about giving myself a “pass” for my first miss, but eventually I knew I had to accept the consequences and start over.  I went to my chain and took it all down. It was now a visual reminder of my failure. But this pain was the exact reason I knew that this chain is going to work for me. This simple visual is powerful enough to motivate me to succeed.

Everyone has something that motivates them. What is it for you? Would Katie’s chain do it? Money? Satisfaction of a job well done? Affirmation from others? Admiration from others? Cupcakes? It’s important to know. If our motivation relies on others (external motivation) we create an unstable environment for our efforts. If others don’t give us what we want, our efforts stop. If we are internally motivated, positive feedback from others is just icing on the cake. (I’m mentioning cake a lot, aren’t I?) Leave me a comment and let me know what motivates you!

Be kind, be grateful, be courageous,

Jules

 

 

 

So I’m out of control…

“When you start trying to control everything…it’s an impossible task, so just don’t. “

It’s New Year’s Eve. Time to reflect on 2016. Mine was CRAZY and nothing at all like I expected it would be. FEBRUARY: our landlord of two years, came to us and said he was selling our house and we could move out or buy it. If we were moving out we had 30 days to find a new place and move.What?! We wanted to buy the house but weren’t going to be ready to in 30 days. MARCH: Daughter #1 (Punkin) got fb_img_1458090662712engaged last December and was planning a September wedding. They decided that a big, expensive party wasn’t what they wanted and got married in March in Estes Park with just parents and siblings. So fun! APRIL: Son #2 (Bear) made the decision to go into the Army and wanted to get married before he left. We planned a 13138762_10209116795573878_3370804543157192044_nbackyard wedding in three weeks and it was beautiful! MAY: I became seriously ill with a blood clot in my lung. Then they found more. Lots and lots of them. I spent a week in the hospital and over a month before I went back to work.I still have six months left of medication for it. JUNE: Bear left for Basic Training. Communication only by letters until graduation in August. That was hard on all of us. JULY: Max, the wonderdog, came to live with us. AUGUST: Bear graduated from Basic Training and our whole family was able to go and celebrate with him. We saw him a couple of days and he headed to Medic Training in San Antonio until December. SEPTEMBER: We FINALLY bought the house after negotiations all 14457380_10154581512523739_8607037622581315025_nsummer. Son #1 (Superman) made the decision to go into the Army and wanted to get married before he left. We planned another backyard wedding in three weeks and it was beautiful! OCTOBER: We found out that Punkin and her husband are expecting next summer! We made a trip to San Antonio to see Bear, with his wife and daughter so he could be with the baby on her birthday. NOVEMBER: Big Daddy and I went to Las Vegas for a few days and RELAXED. DECEMBER: We found out that Superman and his wife are expecting a baby next summer! We made a trip to San Antonio for Bear’s graduation and got to BRING HIM HOME!!! For the first time in 26 weeks we had the whole family together for Family Night and then for Christmas. Bear’s family just moved this week to their first station and of all the Army bases in the world it’s only 2 1/2 hours away! I’m so grateful! The head gasket went out in my Jeep and 1382150_691969637479946_604125459_nwe had to go buy a new car, but it’s AWESOME! In JANUARY Superman will be leaving for Basic and we will go back to writing letters and missing our boy. (Daughter #2 (Fancy) got married 3 years ago but since I’m showing wedding pics this is hers…

2016 Summary: 3 weddings, two pregnancy announcements, 2 sons joined the Army, got a new dog, bought a house, bought a new car, a serious illness and a quick trip to Las Vegas. Talk about unexpected events. We had absolutely zero idea that ANY of those things were going to happen. Life can’t be planned. You can make a plan, but if you hold determinedly to it and can’t roll with the reality, you’re going to make yourself miserable (and probably everyone around you). All you can control are your own attitudes, actions, thoughts and words. That’s enough for most of us to take on. When you start trying to control everything else, and others in your life, you are going to be met with frustration and disappointment because it’s an impossible task, so just don’t.

Something I do every year, and with all my clients, is a handout that I call Intentional Living. It’s a simple 5 question worksheet that helps you make a plan for YOURSELF for the next year. You can only control yourself, so make a plan. Here’s the five questions:

  1. Choose a single word to represent you this year.
  2. Choose a phrase that is your overarching theme.
  3. What will be different for you at the end of 2017?
  4. What is one challenge that is standing in your way?
  5. What are you committed to doing to make it your best year yet?

Take some time and write these out with your answers. Keep it on your phone, post it on your fridge, put it somewhere you can see it often to help you stay on track. It will give you a framework on which to make decisions for the year. Clients love looking back at the end of the year and seeing how they have lived out their plan, despite all the unexpected dodgeballs life threw at them. What’s your plan? I’d love for you to leave me your word or phrase in the comments!

I hope for each of you, that 2017 brings you love, laughter and beautiful memories!

Jules

 

 

 

So I’m into recycling…

“We choose easy over effort too often.”

When we lived in the city I was provided with a big blue box to put all my recycling in, and someone came and took it each week. It made me feel like I was doing something good. I have no idea where they took it or what they did with it, but I felt like I was contributing to the greater good of humanity by recycling. Now I live in the country. No one gave me a blue box. To recycle I have to take it into town. I don’t feel like humanity has missed my contribution. Now it all gets burned in the trash barrel. (please don’t write me and tell me if that’s bad).

pw-waste_blueboxMy granddaughter #1 (g’baby 1) is 8. She loves upcycling. She will take nearly any piece of trash you give her and make something creative out of it. She’s pretty great at it. I’m sure TLC will give her a show any day now. I have friends that can make terrible looking furniture into beautiful things. Why throw something out if you can keep it and make it into something wonderful? (Disclaimer: Obviously some things need to be thrown out. Some relationships are toxic and need to be burned.)

Unfortunately though, we sometimes burn our relationships when we could recycle them. Sometimes we are in a relationship that isn’t working. Someone has wronged us, we have wronged someone else, we are stuck in a cycle of unhealthy communication, we are just tired of arguing, pride gets in the way of asking forgiveness or admitting wrong doing, etc. Sound familiar? Do you burn it or recycle?

I once worked with a couple that was in relationship hell. They fought, he shut down, she got louder, he had an affair, there were a lot of problems. They wanted to recycle the relationship. They both were committed. They worked hard. Both of them needed to make changes. Both of them needed new tools in their tool box. Both of them needed to put things in the blue box to get rid of. But, both of them wanted to make their marriage something wonderful. And you know what? They did. They are in a mutually satisfying marriage today, and hold one another in high regard. Because they did the work. They recycled when they could have burned it. They recycled their terrible looking relationship into something wonderful.

We live in a disposable society. I know someone that throws away Christmas lights every year because lights are cheap to replace, and they don’t want to untangle the ones from the past year. When my tribe of nearly 20 comes for family night every couple of weeks, I buy paper plates instead of washing so many dishes. We choose easy over effort too often.

The holidays can spotlight relationships with those that we choose to distance ourselves from the rest of the year. What relationships are worth your effort? One with your parents? Your siblings? Your spouse? Your best friend? Any of your friends? When do you recycle and choose effort over easy disposal? Only you can answer that. But at least consider before burning.

Be kind, be grateful, be courageous,

Jules

 

 

So I’m traditional…

“Instead of a bat, I’m trying to use a rolling pin…”

My family has Christmas traditions. For 29 years, since Big Daddy and I were married, we sleep under the tree the night we decorate it, to symbolize that family is our greatest gift. (Not actually UNDER the tree, but that’s a funny visual!) As our family grew, we all six slept under the tree.  Now it’s just back to the two of us. Growing up, I had the same breakfast every Christmas of my life, and my kids have grown up having that same breakfast. Last year, we moved our family Christmas celebration to Christmas Eve, and at the insistence of my kids, for dinner we still have Christmas breakfast. My tree is covered in ornaments collected over the last 29 years. I still do stockings for my grown kids. I take goodie plates to my neighbors. I like tradition. But sometimes we have to change them or let them go.

Sometimes we have unknown traditions. Unhealthy traditions that we need to stop passing down. Traditions of sweeping conflict under the rug and  never resolving issues, traditions of arguing at full volume, traditions of proving your point at any cost. We get our tools for life from our models. This could be parents, grandparents, friends, and/or others that have had an impact on us. We observe and learn without even realizing it. A teenage client said to me, “I have no idea how normal families interact with each other.” She said that she had no models in her life of relationships where people can disagree peacefully, can argue fairly or were effective at conflict resolution.  Her parents are giving her tools, but they aren’t the best tools for the job.

imageI’m the queen of improvisation. If I can’t find a hammer, I use the heel of my shoe, a book or the side of a pair of pliers. Am I the only one? When I don’t have the right tool, I start trying out all kinds of things to see if they are effective. This is what we do emotionally as well. If we don’t have the right tool, we start trying out all kinds of things to see if it’s effective. If we need conflict resolution, we probably try the tool we have first.  For example if we always saw one of our parents shut down during an argument we do that, but if that doesn’t work we then start grabbing other things like anger or manipulation or dominance to see if they are effective.

Recently someone told me that she was on the toilet and realized there was no toilet paper. She asked her 2 year old to get her a roll. The little one came back first with a roll of paper towels. Her mom showed her the toilet paper roll and asked her to try again. This time she brought back a stack of napkins. All in the ballpark. All will get the job done, but not the best tool for the job.  I do that sometimes. I get in the ballpark, but instead of a bat I’m trying to use a rolling pin to hit the ball. It might hit the ball, but not as effectively as a bat would.

Here’s my question: What tools are you passing down to those you impact? and What tools/traditions do you need to get rid of and replace with something new?  When you gather with your tribe this holiday season, notice your emotional traditions. Are they effective? If not, stop. Make a change. Start a new tradition that can have an impact on generations. Actually, I know my daughters have both used shoes for hammers…maybe there is still hope for the G’babies.

Be kind, be grateful, be courageous.

Jules

So I’m new at this…

“Authenticity is scary isn’t it?”

And so it begins. A blog from a small town girl that lives in the city, an introverted and extroverted woman who loves parties and needs time to herself, a woman who is full of confidence one moment and full of insecurities the next. Someone that wants more than anything to have the heart of Jesus and yet is enticed by my simple, human, selfish desires. I’m happy at home with my dog and mud boots, but equally love a beautiful dress and heels. I’m a contradiction. I’m okay with that.

1580461128-half-empty-half-full-signTwice in my life something I’ve heard or read has changed me. First, years ago, I read this quote, “Be kinder than necessary for everyone you meet is fighting some kind of battle.” That changed the way I interacted with every person I met from that moment on. Secondly, I was having a conversation with my friend Rose in Uganda about the glass appearing half full or half empty. My dear Rose, who has experienced trauma you cannot imagine, said to me, “I’m thankful to have a cup and something to drink.” That changed me from that moment on. Gratitude became my focus and I’ve found it’s the answer to most of my troubles.

Many of my clients say that they wish they could call me in the middle of the week and just get an encouraging word, an inspiring thought, a caring ear. This blog is my way of doing just that. Words from my heart to yours. Words that I hope will make you think, make you laugh, make you consider changes. Words that might give you hope and courage and even healing.

I’ll do my best to be authentic. Authenticity is scary isn’t it? It makes us vulnerable to others. I’m learning to be comfortable in vulnerability. I’m learning to be okay with others not agreeing with me, or not being pleased with me. I’m learning it’s okay to be scared because that means I’m trying to do something really brave. I’m learning all the time. Did you ever notice that the more you learn, the more you realize what you don’t know? There is so much I don’t know. But, I do know some really helpful, wonderful things that I want to share.

Maybe someday, someone will say “I once read something that changed me.” and it will be something I shared. That’s pretty cool. Maybe I’ll never know. I don’t need to know. I’m just going to share from my heart and pray it is something that someone needed to hear. God can’t use you if you do nothing.

Be kind, be grateful, be courageous.

Jules