“You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.” – C. S. Lewis
I love a good quote. And this quote illustrates that I’m not too old to embrace my new goals and dreams! Keep reading to find out why I started this blog! Especially since I NEVER thought I’d have a blog. Like ever.
I started writing this blog post in July 2020 but never finished it. Here’s my attempt at finishing all the thoughts swirling around my head regarding this topic. And there’s so much to be said that I’m doing it in parts.
In case you’ve never read my writing before, I need to tell you some things. I’ve been on a beautiful and difficult self-love journey for the past six years. It all started with decluttering and recognizing that I don’t need to fill up my space, be it physical, social, emotional or spiritual. Filling up all the space was taking away MY space and I started to create boundaries in my life, as a result. Boy, was that hard for me for many reasons, but especially for someone who was a people pleaser! I’m a recovering people-pleaser now and I’ve found strength in knowing that the more I love myself, the less I seek external validation from others. But that is essentially why I have been a people-pleaser. I wanted to do and be enough for them. But it only filled me up short term. It was never enough. (Never, never…now you’re wishing you were watching The Greatest Showman, aren’t you?) I’ll write more about this at another time.
After my mom died unexpectedly in January 2018, my self-love journey was accelerated. I was dealt a hand that I did not expect nor want, but it was still my hand. So, I tried to give myself all the space I needed to feel, to remember the good and bad, to grieve and to heal. Some well- meaning people would try to tell me how to feel or how to ‘get over it’. But it’s not anyone else’s journey is it? No one grieves the same way, so why do we try and tell people to grieve like us? I can’t get over my grief, the gaping hole that was left in me when my mom died. I can’t get over it, but I can move forward with it. And I am. I feel I am honouring my beautiful mother by letting myself feel it all, give it space, deal with it and heal along the way.
I’ve come to realize that sometimes I don’t give my children space to feel all the things. Sometimes I don’t acknowledge their feelings as much as I should. I think as parents we all do it. We forget that our kids have big emotions and need help to process them. I had a session with my therapist (official title is a Child Life Specialist, but I unofficially declare her title as Healer.). Before this session, one of my kids was having big emotions because his sister was invited to go to a friend’s house, but he was not. I tried to console him. He wasn’t having it. I eventually tried to tell him he should be happy for his sister because she hasn’t had the opportunity to go to this friend’s house often. I was half tempted to arrange to have a playdate for him just so he wasn’t so sad and disappointed. I mentioned this incident to my therapist and she gave me some insights that really got me thinking. She said things like:
“It’s okay to let kids grieve the loss of not getting the toy or experience. As parents, it’s usually our first instinct to rescue our kids or logic/guilt them out of it.”
I had never considered that I was not letting my kids grieve over these (little to me) things. It’s big to them, and I should give them the space they need to feel those big emotions. No amount of reasoning, guilting or (gulp) even shaming them will change the fact that they need to process it. My therapist gave me prompts that I could use instead of what I was defaulting to. Prompts that would aid me in connecting with my children. I could approach conversations with my kids in a more validating and questioning way. For example:
“That is hard (or disappointing, sad etc.).”
“I wonder how you’ll manage that?”
“I wonder what would happen if…”
“I wonder why…”
Coming alongside our children helps them navigate the feelings of disappointment, anger, frustration, sadness, all the way to the feelings associated with deep tragedy. Sometimes I project my own values, experiences, or desired end goals onto my kids. It can become too convenient to just tell my kids how they should feel, respond and behave. Sometimes I lean towards more of a dictatorship when it comes to parenting. When that happens, we all lose out on the questioning and learning process. My kids lose out in coming to their own conclusions. They lose out on learning that they are capable problem solvers.
I was raised in a time where you were sent to your room when if you cried, pitched a fit, questioned authority and the list goes on. I’m sure most of us were. As a result, I learned to bottle my feelings up and didn’t really know how to effectively let them out. I’ve had to learn that as an adult. It’s hard to break those deep-rooted habits and tendencies. I am working on recognizing that my thoughts and feelings are not wrong and neither are other peoples’. It’s okay to cry, feel it all and question things.
In 2019, one our of favourite families had invited us to celebrate the baptism of their daughter. We were all gussied up and ready to go. Miraculously, we even arrived early. The church parking lot was empty when we arrived and I was baffled. As it turned out, we were extremely early-a whole week early! Lachlan, 3 at the time, was so disappointed. He cried and cried and couldn’t understand why we didn’t get to go to the baptism. I love that he was disappointed because it showed that he cared about that family and the baptism. Now, I don’t remember the outcome of his big emotions, but I just remember thinking he was too stinking cute with his broken heart and bowtie. I just had to take a photo. I hope I gave him the space he needed to grieve that disappointment.
I have another favourite family who is going through some unimaginable trials right now. Someone gifted them the book, “When Sadness Is At Your Door” by Eva Eland and they showed it to me. This book is beautiful and profound. It taught me some powerful insights in such a simple way. The illustrations are beautiful, too. I immediately bought a copy. If you are looking to add to your library, you won’t regret it.
There’s not a lot of text, so I’d like to share it with you. (The illustrations add SO much, but I know if I wait to take photos of the book, this post may never be published. Haha!)
“Sometimes Sadness arrives unexpectedly.
It follows you around…
…and sits so close to you, you can hardly breathe.
You can try to hide it,
But it feels like you’ve become Sadness yourself.
Try not to be afraid of Sadness. Give it a name.
Listen to it. Ask where it comes from and what it needs. If you don’t understand each other, just sit still together and be quiet for a while.
Find something that you both enjoy, like drawing…
Listening to music or drinking hot chocolate.
Maybe Sadness doesn’t like to stay inside. Try letting it out sometimes.
Go for a walk through the trees. You can listen to their sounds together.
Maybe all it wants to know is that it is welcome.
And to sleep, knowing it is not alone.
When you wake up, it might be gone.
Don’t worry-today is a new day.”
Did this book make you feel things? I gets me good every time. And it never gets old. (But this pandemic is getting old. And so am I. I have an abundance of silver hairs to prove it. And I refuse to dye my hair at this point. I feel like I’ve earned every silver strand and I am proud of it.)
I made this post on social media in January 2021 and feel that this further illustrates the power of “I wonder”:
“Recently, I was saying a family prayer and I asked for our hearts to become softer. And as I said that, the word ‘gentle’ came to mind. So, I prayed for that, too. Instantly, I pictured baby Max, my nephew who was born last year. (He is perfection and we are all obsessed. Instead of playing, my kids would rather take turns holding and reading to him. It’s the sweetest.)
As I pictured baby Max, I also pictured my kids holding him, loving on him and being so sweet, soft and gentle. And I had some questions come to mind. After the prayer, I asked my kids, “Would any of us raise our voice at Max? Would we ever be physically rough with him? Would we try to hurt him with our words or actions?” The answer was unanimous. NO!!! We wouldn’t. We couldn’t imagine being like that to him or any other baby!!!
My next question was, “I wonder what would happen if we were as gentle with each other as we are with Max?” It really made us all think about it. My mind didn’t stop there and another question came to me. “I wonder what would happen if we were more gentle with ourselves?”
Last year was the first time I felt impressed with a “word”. It was reset. And it was exactly what I needed. And for this year, I can’t even tell you how much I needed this specific divine guidance to have gentle as my word. It’s like God knows exactly what Jacquie Fleming needs. Weird how that works. I know being gentler will make a huge difference, especially coming from the year we just said goodbye to. I’m a lot of things, but I don’t think gentle is one of them. Here we goooooo!!!
P.S. Do you have words or themes for the year? If so, I’d love to hear yours.”
I have a lot of gratitude in my heart for all the nuggets I’ve been learning along the way. And I hope my life will continue to be filled with all kinds of wonder and expansion. I’m grateful for the ability to learn and grow and change. I am especially grateful for those people who I learn from and grow with. Sometimes I’m a bit of a slow learner, and I keep making the same mistakes repeatedly. I get frustrated with myself and I’m so grateful for a family that forgives me repeatedly. I’m grateful I’m getting better at forgiving and being gentler with myself and others. I’m grateful that I’m finally recognizing what I need and figuring out that I’m important too. I’m starting to take up all the space I need. I’m worth the investment. And so are you!!!! And I can’t leave off how eternally grateful I am for a God who gives me second, third, fourth, fifth and thousandth chances. He encourages us take all the space we need.
We all tend to have strong beliefs, notions or opinions about things. Or even people. But sometimes we change our minds. It might be due to maturation and life experiences, our quest for learning and healing, the season we are in, just because it’s the right thing to do/divine inspiration. Sometimes I feel almost hypocritical when I change my mind. I shouldn’t feel that way, though, because life is fluid and always changing. Life gives us so many opportunities to learn and grow. Doesn’t it make sense that we are fluid and always learning, growing and changing, too? If we stay stagnant, that’s on us. I think it makes sense, but why does it sometimes feel like I’m eating crow if I change my mind?I will say this again for whoever needs to hear it: it’s okay to change your mind. (Me. It’s me who needed to hear it.)
*Edit: Oopsie daisy!!! I forgot that I wrote this previously and didn’t end up including it in yesterday’s blog post. I feel I needed to share this, too. Especially since it references Julia Roberts. Haha!
My kids were building with wooden blocks one day. Bennett told Evie he was building something and then he changed his mind once the finished product looked like something else. Evie thought he lied because he didn’t do what he said he would. It was a good opportunity to talk about how changing your mind isn’t the same as lying.
I have sometimes wondered if I am a hypocrite because I have felt strongly about some things in the past and no longer feel that same way now. Does that make me a hypocrite? No! What it makes me is human. (But I am obviously a hypocrite sometimes.) We are fluid, always changing. Well, hopefully we achieve balance in how we change and who we allow to influence us to make changes. We don’t want to be like Julia Robert’s character on Runaway Bride. Remember how she always changed what her favourite eggs were based on who she was dating? She didn’t know for herself, so she changed her preference to her newest fiancé’s preference.
I would like to share a few examples of my mind-changing ways.
I remember when I once thought boys had cooties and were gross. I also thought mushrooms and tomatoes were ‘bisgusting’, as my kids used to say. I have changed my mind since then, on all fronts. I married Keegan, and he does not have cooties, and is the farthest thing from gross. I am drooling thinking about a tender steak with sauteed mushrooms, and a perfectly toasted BLT.
I can recall countless stories of people from my church sharing the same story; boy meets girl, boy takes girl on a few dates, boy and girl get engaged. (Side example: I used to think the traditional-style of boy proposing to girl was the thing to do. Who is to say that is the only way? As the morbid idiom goes, there’s more than one way to skin a cat. My kids will tell you all about how it’s perfectly normal for men or women to propose.) To be honest, I was a bit judgey about the whole super short courtship and engagement trend. Well, I ate a big ol’ slice of humble pie because I knew I loved Keegan before we even started dating. It wasn’t puppy love, either. Or lust. Don’t get me wrong, there were lustful feelings, but the love was real and right. But because of my strong beliefs, okay…judgements, I didn’t want a short courtship. We dated for about 10 months by the time we were married. (In the culture I grew up in, that is a long time. Haha!) In humbled hindsight, I truly wish we would’ve just got married quickly and not drawn it all out. I’m really sorry if you felt judged by me. I was a real cotton-headed ninny muggins, and I am so glad I changed my mind about it now. No judgement coming from me. I now understand how you could love someone in such a short time. When it’s right, it’s right, especially when God is involved in the process.
Traditions. When I think of that word, I immediately hear Tevye from Fiddler on the Roof belting out the song, “Tradition!” Sometimes we automatically do things because of the deep-rooted tradition of it all. It’s okay to change your mind on these things, too. I just spoke with a friend who broke tradition this year and ordered Chinese food for their Canadian Thanksgiving. Lightning didn’t strike with the lack of turkey, stuffing and all the fixings. Everyone loved it!!! In fact, my friend told me this is going to be their new tradition! My husband and I have only made one turkey dinner in our 14 years of marriage. I was dog-tired (a little foreshadowing for you) after the preparation, cooking, hosting and cleaning. Even though we loved gathering family together, it was exhausting. I have a new appreciation for all the effort and work that goes into it. And I think if I was in charge of Thanksgiving dinner every year, I’d opt for Chinese food, too. Genius idea, really. As long as there was still pie involved.
When Keegan and I were pregnant with our first full-term pregnancy, we went to a prenatal class. Co-sleeping was discouraged, so we decided against it. We both planned to have our baby girl sleep in her own room, in her own crib. That sure didn’t happen with her. Or for baby number 2 or 3. We became co-sleepers, and we (mostly) loved it! I breastfed and it was more convenient to have the baby with me in bed. That helped me get more sleep. One time, Evie had a fever seizure in our bed. It was so scary. Everything was fine after, but we were so grateful we were with her. Co-sleeping helped both me and Keegan with having a peace of mind. (If he wasn’t on board, we wouldn’t have been co-sleepers.) We had lots of quality time and so many tender moments together as a family as a result, and I will never regret that. I know co-sleeping is not for everyone, but it worked for us. I’m so grateful we changed our minds.
When we first meet someone, I think it’s natural to draw conclusions about him or her. In general, I tend to get positive first impressions of people. Sometimes, however, I have been ‘rubbed the wrong way’. It makes me so happy when I meet that same person later on, and changes are made to that first impression! What often helps instigate change in this situation is putting in the time. Everyone has a story and sometimes the chapters in their story have made them build up walls. Putting in time, helps you see through the chinks, and you get a glimpse of who they really are! I’m sure I have rubbed people wrong. I use humour as a defense mechanism, I’m a silence-filler and I’m sure I’m too ‘big’ for some people upon the first time meeting me. Insert awkward laugh. I’m a recovering people pleaser and it hurts when people don’t like me at first. I should carry around a business card that says something like, “Give me another chance. I’ll grow on you like fungus.”
In our little family, we do not own any video game consoles. Our kids do not play video games at home, but they do enjoy playing at other people’s houses. We don’t give our kids much screen time, either. Will it always be this way? I hope so, but at some point, we may have to reevaluate our kids’ ages, stages and interests. We might change our mind. And if we do, that’s okay.
I have two very recent mind-changing experiences. One is in regards to homeschooling, and the other is having a pet. For the record, I NEVER wanted to homeschool my kids. And I NEVER wanted to own a dog post-kids.
I love learning. I love teaching. I love connecting with people. I love kids. I love creating. I always have, and I suspect I always will. It seemed only natural that I would become a certified teacher. I loved the class setting. I loved all my students and busted my butt to help them feel safe and welcome, to learn, grow, believe in themselves, and to take risks. I loved going to school as a student, and I continued to love it as a teacher. I kind of expected people to feel the same way about school. Naive, I know. When I was a teacher, but before I had kids, I had some (uninformed) opinions about homeschooling. I thought homeschooling was odd. I just didn’t get it. I loved school so much and had a positive experience, that I assumed most parents would want their kids in public school. Confession: I may have even generalized homeschooled kids as being socially awkward and a bit on the weird side. I had heard other people talk like that, too, and had met a few odd ducks who fit that mold. In other words, I had no real data to back it up, but I generalized. After I had kids, I was humbled. I changed my tune and realized that parents have insights into their children that no one else does, and that fuels their decisions to make. I still didn’t get the whole homeschool thing, but I got the whole parents-know-best thing. And I respected that. Did it mean that I ever wanted to homeschool my kids? That’s a negatory, my good buddy! Negatory with a capital N!
My kids love school. Covid school was hard on them. And on me. As soon as it was announced this summer that school was back on, the kids couldn’t wait to go school supply shopping! They were thrilled to be going back to school! They had amazing teachers who I trusted and respected. We went school supply shopping as soon as our local pharmacy was fully stocked up. The kids were so excited, that they labelled everything and put it all in their backpacks. Even their Kleenex boxes. And to be honest, I was thrilled that I was going to have two mornings a week to myself. Even though I had mixed emotions that my baby would be in preschool, his excitement trumped my mourning.
So, imagine my surprise when mid-August, I felt a Divine Nudge to homeschool for the 2020/21 school year. Say what???? Why? Who, what, where, when, why and HOW? I had the skills and I didn’t work outside of the home, but did I have the patience? What about the alone time I was supposed to get because I had paid my dues? I had a taste of Covid school for over 3 months and didn’t want to do that again. No sir! Keegan, had mentioned homeschooling years ago, but I shut that down real quick. I didn’t want to. And I trusted our school division, and the terrific staff at our schools! I wanted to shut this prompting down real quick, too. I battled it for a bit, but between talking to God and my husband, I realized I could do it. With God, all things are possible. And I realized homeschooling wouldn’t be like Covid school. Even though I felt peace with this decision, I still had a million questions. Through talking with friends and family, I felt a surge of courage and support. I could do this. We could do this. And the kids will thrive! Did I feel judged? Yep. Did I have bouts of insecurity? Yep. Do my kids mainly play with each other? Indeed, but we make sure to socialize with other families! Do I get lots of time by myself? Nope, but we are finding our groove and I am finding ways to get what I need.
Homeschooling is not without its challenges, but the kids and I are loving it. There is so much to say about all of the positives we are seeing. And I need to say something to all the homeschool moms out there that I never ‘got’: we are only a month and a half in, and I’m just a newbie, but I am starting to get it now. I don’t know what the next year will look like, but for this year, I am all in. Thank you to all the homeschool pioneers who were so brave to do something with very little resources available and/or support from the public. Thank you for paving the way! I know that it was not without sacrifice. Also, I am sorry for being close-minded about it before. I feel like you are Sam I Am, homeschool is green eggs and ham and I am the grumpy close-minded dude refusing to try it. He finally got a taste and so did I! We both like the green eggs and ham!
I will share more about our homeschool adventure on another blog post. Stay tuned!
Man’s best friend. We consistently had a dog in my growing up years and I’ll never forget them, or their names: Muffy, Binky, Lassie and Shelby. I adored each and every one! (We had cats, too, but this isn’t about them, regardless of what they think. Haha!) I was what you’d call a ‘pet person’ when I was younger. As an adult, though, I just didn’t want to be a pet owner. Keegan felt the same way. We knew it was a big responsibility and didn’t want that on top of our other responsibilities (work, community, church callings etc.). And we didn’t think it was fair to be away all day long. Then we had kids, and definitely did not want a pet. Keeping humans alive and happy was enough for us! Plus, we didn’t want the mess. Having a pet, other than a fish (and even then, no thanks), was not in the cards.
While the kids were trick-or-treating last year (2019), I got the strongest impression that our family was supposed to get a puppy. I immediately told Keegan. He had a look of shock on his face, and then told me he had the exact same thought at the exact same time. Insert awkward laugh and shifty eyes here. Did I mention that our daughter has a phobia of dogs? We have been taking her to our doctor of natural medicine, as well as for talk therapy, and there is progress, but it still is a very real issue. We did not want a puppy, but that prompting was one we couldn’t ignore. Within a few months of that prompting, our kids met and fell in love with their cousins’ puppy. Then a few months after that, they fell in love with one of our dearest friend’s puppy. Our kids started asking if we could get a puppy. The phobia was still there for Evie, but we were thrilled with the baby steps made. The prompting from Halloween night was definitely still on our minds, but we weren’t ready to take action. In April of 2020, that prompting came again, so we took action. (I don’t even know who I am anymore.)We got on a waiting list to get a female poodle!!! Once our puppy was born, we let the cat out of the bag. The kids were thrilled when we finally told them! And we decided to name our puppy Libby, which was going to be Lachlan’s name if he was a girl.
Fast forward to October 2020. We picked our Libby girl up!!! (Check out our breeder, Justine, if you’re in the market for a poodle! She’s wonderful.) Libby was so darn cute, calm and snuggly! We were so excited to have her join our family! The honeymoon phase abruptly ended though. Evie’s phobia was wreaking havoc on her. Bennett was having allergic reactions to a “hypoallergenic” dog. Lachlan was scared of her, too, and I had often had to carry him around so she couldn’t get him. Libby was so hyper and bitey and unpredictable. I couldn’t turn my back without her peeing and pooping somewhere in the house. She was a stage five clinger with me, which is equal parts adorable and annoying. She was up throughout the night and whimpered and barked all night, despite the fact her kennel is in our room. I felt like I had a newborn baby again. The only difference is that my nipples weren’t hurting. Haha! I expected things to be challenging with a puppy, but I was not expecting all of this. It gets better every day, but oh my goodness!!!! It feels like life will never be the same again. And there are so many resources out there on how to train your puppy, that it has made me question myself at every turn. That’s overwhelming, too. I ended up reaching out to Evelyn with Perfect Pooches for some in-home puppy training. Evelyn is amazing, and just what we needed. We are glad we changed our minds on the whole pet thing. We don’t regret getting our Libby Lou and we love her so much already. (That doesn’t mean I don’t occasionally dream of our pre-puppy life.)
Mary had a little lamb…I get such a kick out of this picture!
Pardon my short story long. I just had so much to say on this whole mind-changing business. If you read this far, congratulations!!! You win something! You win this reminder: it’s okay to change your mind.
Going to see a therapist used to be taboo. That is no longer the case and I am forever grateful for that. Well, maybe it might still be, but it doesn’t play a role in my decision making like it may have in the past. I’ve learned to honour that we don’t have to figure things out on our own. Part of my wellness journey has been embracing different forms of therapy. I’ve done talk therapy, tapping, energy and spiritual work. I’ve also been going to see Daryn, a doctor of natural medicine. Each form of therapy has been so beneficial. Therapy has changed over the years and I think we can all find a good fit with all the options available! (You don’t want to/can’t leave your house? You don’t have to. All of these forms of therapy are flexible! And you don’t even need to put on pants.)
I have felt unburdened and empowered as a result of therapy. Have I felt uncomfortable and extremely vulnerable? Did I sometimes want to quit? Yes, yes and yes, but the journey to self love and self improvement has been worth it. The journey is ongoing, and will never end, but I feel freer than I can remember. I feel like I am not only peeling my layers, but I am shedding them, too. The toxic thoughts, limiting beliefs, the hurt, the unhealthy. I have shed many cleansing and releasing tears. (And I have also released a lot of mucous. This photo was taken after one tapping session. I let so much go!)
Please email me if you want any contact information for the people who have been instrumental in helping me on my journey to wellness.
I could write about many enlightening experiences from my different therapies, but I want to focus on one experience, in particular. It was during a session with Daryn that I learned something that has changed my life. I’m not saying this flippantly, either. Daryn shared something he learned while visiting a ward (church congregation) in Calgary. The gist of it was that the good thoughts that pop into your head, ones that urge you to follow through and take action, are called “first impressions”. Maybe you have an initial thought to reach out to someone you don’t know super well. Or maybe right before you’re leaving the house to run a quick errand with your kids, you have a thought to take water bottles and snacks with you. Often following a good thought, you may get another thought; one that discourages or discounts the first thought. It causes you to doubt yourself. That is what you would call a “second impression”. So, that thought to reach out to someone you don’t know super well has you questioning yourself and has you assuming the person would think you’re a weirdo. And the thought to take water bottles and snacks? You want to push that thought away, rationalizing that you’ll only be gone for 20 minutes.
I had never really heard of these conflicting thoughts as being called a first or second impression, but it makes complete sense. Don’t you just love being given the words that can perfectly sum things up? Giving them words helps create a deeper meaning, yet helps simplify, too. First and second impressions can be seen as a good thought being potentially thwarted by our self-doubt and insecurities. Or you can think of it as a prompting from God, through the Holy Ghost, being potentially thwarted by Satan’s desire to stop the goodness from happening. Either way, I am seeing through a different lens. That person who you thought to reach out to? You questioned the doubt and followed through. The card you mailed made her feel remembered. She felt seen. She felt loved. In fact, she had said a specific prayer to feel Heavenly Father’s love. Your simple act helped remind her that He is mindful of her. That nudge you felt to grab water bottles and snacks? You decided to grab them, even though you were anxious to get going. You were delighted you brought them because your preparation allowed for a spontaneous playdate at the park! (Both of these examples really happened to me.)
I am a believer that good things come from God. God is good! So good! And first impressions come from Him, no matter how big or small. Satan is the opposite. He thrives in our self-doubt, our guilt and in our insecurities. I have tried to become more astute at recognizing that second impressions come from Satan’s influence. He doesn’t want us to connect with one another. He doesn’t want us to be instruments in the Lord’s hands. He doesn’t want us to have joy. He wants us to be miserable like him. And Satan is sneaky. He tries to bring us down by the littlest actions. I am trying harder than ever to recognize those attempts. The more you do it, the easier it becomes. It just takes practice and patience with yourself.
‘Practice makes perfect’, has been replaced somewhere along the line with ‘practice makes progress’. I like that much better. I know I am not perfect, but I am making progress with recognizing when I am prompted by the Holy Ghost. The more I listen, the easier it becomes. But make no mistake; I still listen to the ‘second impression’. Case in point. I am a creature of habit. For example, I almost always put our laundry baskets by our bed. Notice I said almost always? One day, I put our laundry basket in a different location; against the wall between our bedroom door and our bathroom door. I had a thought to move that basket to the usual place, but I ignored that thought. I was woken up early the next morning to a loud noise followed by “OUCH!” and maybe a substitute swear or two. Keegan was getting ready to go to work. It was dark out. He wasn’t expecting the laundry basket to be where it was and he walked right into it. Did I mention that we have wire laundry baskets? He stubbed his toes so hard! What a way to wake up. If I would’ve followed that first impression, I could’ve toe-tally prevented that from happening.
On a previous blog post, I shared my chicken pot pie story. If you don’t want to read it, I’ll sum it up. After my mom died, I had a craving for chicken pot pie. I wasn’t up to making food, so I knew my craving would not be satisfied. Within a day of each other, two friends brought by chicken pot pies. What a beautiful reminder that I was loved. That God was mindful of me, even when I was so angry at him. These two women followed through with the impression to bring me a chicken pot pie. God used them as instruments in His hands. I will forever cherish this memory.
I have something else to share that I will forever cherish. My friend, who we shall call Jess, texted and reached out to me about two years after my mom passed away. This beautiful friend told me that the day after my mom died, she had the strongest feeling to bring me a chicken pot pie. She told me she second guessed herself, though, thinking that the prompting must’ve been wrong. She questioned her cooking abilities. Jess knew that I had plenty of people bringing tasty food, and thought I wouldn’t actually want a meal from her. So, she didn’t bring the chicken pot pie over. Months after my mom died, I wrote and shared my chicken pot pie story and she read it. Even though Jess regretted not following through with the prompting, she embraced this as a learning experience. She told me she is now able to better recognize and follow through with those ‘first impressions.’ Jess’ text meant so much to me because it was another reminder that Heavenly Father is mindful of me. He sent a chicken pot pie prompting to three people! He will send you those angels, or He will send you a message, one way or another.
One message I was sent didn’t make sense. The kids had been sleeping soundly for a few hours and I was laying in bed about to fall asleep. I had an impression to go check on the kids. I didn’t want to because Keegan had just checked on them a while before. And I was so cozy in my comfy bed. The air purifier was drowning out noise and lulling me to sleep. I was tired and my knees hurt. But, I decided to listen to the prompting anyway. On my way up the stairs, I heard a beeping sound. I couldn’t hear it from my room because of the white noise from the purifier. Upon investigating, the beeping was coming from the deep freeze in the basement. The freezer door wasn’t shut all the way and the temperatures were rising. I think Heavenly Father knew that there was a chance I’d ignore a prompting about the freezer, but I would not ignore a prompting about my kids. He cared enough about the repercussions that a freezer full of thawed Costco groceries would bring. It’s so humbling that God is so intricately woven into our lives.
I have another story to share. This one is extremely hard to talk about, but I’ll be brave.
I was packing up our rental house so we could move boxes into our new home. I was in a rush to get my kids out the door so my mom could watch them while I worked. Earlier that day, I had moved all of my household cleaners to my pantry so I could pack them together. I had a thought to move my cleaners to a higher shelf, but I dismissed I because I was going to pack them up after my kids were gone. I felt that it was just one extra and unnecessary step for me.
I gathered the kids so we could go to my mom’s, and had just finished putting Lachlan in his carseat when I heard the most alarming sound come from Bennett. I can’t even describe it. It was a shocked, scared and painful cry that I don’t think I’ll ever forget. Bennett had grabbed the oven cleaner and sprayed it on himself. I think he wanted to squeeze the handle, as all kids love to do, but he had pointed the nozzle at his face. The oven cleaner got in his mouth and all over his face. I have never been so scared in my life. I rushed him across the street to the hospital. The staff were so efficient and amazing.
I was dealing with some huge emotions. Mine, not Bennett’s. He was a champ through it all. He just snuggled with me and let the nurses and doctor do their thing. He even managed to smile and be his sweet, darling self. Meanwhile, I was spiralling. I had no idea how much cleaner he ingested. I had no idea if he was going to be okay. I had no idea what damage the toxic cleaner caused to my sweet two-year old’s body. All I did know was that I didn’t heed the thought to move the cleaner. All I know is that I could’ve prevented this from happening. I have never felt that kind of guilt before.
Fast forward almost 4 years. I am happy to say that Bennett is now six years old and thriving. There seems to be no lasting effects on Bennett, either physically or emotionally. I am forever grateful for the hospital staff. They helped Bennett and were so good to him. They helped me, too. I was spiralling and felt that I was the worst mom in the world. I had a sweet nurse share her own ‘worst mom’ story. She didn’t need to do that, but she did. And I really needed to hear it. Angels come in many forms. My family’s angel was wearing scrubs that day.
Another angel in my family’s life comes in the form of a professional baker. Through the years, we have formed a relationship with the owners of Grandma’s Oven. They are truly heaven sent. If you know them, you know exactly what I’m talking about. After my mom died, we found out Evie was allergic to eggs and was lactose intolerant. That was really hard on her, as so many things have eggs in them. That also meant she couldn’t have any amazing baked goods from Grandma’s Oven. One day, out of nowhere, we got a knock on the door. There, holding two pans of egg-free cinnamon buns, was the Grandma of all grandmas. She fiddled around with egg-free cinnamon bun recipes and made Evie her own batch. She told me, “I needed to do this for Evie because her grandma would’ve done it if she were here.”
Never has a pan of cinnamon buns tasted so delicious. This was another chicken pot pie moment for my family.
I am so grateful to have learned more about what kind of impressions we receive. I am also grateful for all the times I can recall where I have been a recipient of people’s first impressions. I want to be the kind of person who recognizes and follows through. We really never know the impact that our words or deeds might have! I want to remember that recognizing the promptings takes practice, and to give myself grace when I forget to listen to the still small voice. Practice makes progress, not perfect.
I’ve had lots of thoughts and emotions over the past four months. I have made progress in some ways, become stagnant in others. I’ve experienced inspiration and also discouragement. I’ve had faith but I’ve also experienced fear. I’ve thought and felt so many things! I have definitely felt the extremes. We are living history as I type. Isn’t that a bit weird to think about?
At the very beginning of this global pandemic, I had the impression that I should start a family gratitude journal. Writing words down is a powerful thing. I have been keeping a gratitude journal for myself and it has changed me. And our family practices nightly gratitude sharing before the kids go to bed (I was inspired by Brene Brown.). That practice has changed our family. We used to just share our gratitude aloud, but since the impression to keep a family gratitude journal, we started one! I love that we will have this journal to refer to in the future. We will be able to remember that life was good, even through the craziness of the Covid-19 pandemic.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge other things, too. These past four months have been a lot to process. I have made some social media posts throughout and thought I should compile and document them here, and add some extra thoughts, too!
POST #1: Words matter to me. They’re my predominant love language. (What is yours? I’m so curious! Also, I’ve never read the actual book. I really should. ) Words matter and I have felt of their influence. And I have influenced others with my words. They can be a beautiful gift! But, also not.
Case in point: While student teaching in Edmonton, a 6 year old asked me why my arms were so hairy. I had never once thought of my arms as being overly hairy. I really internalized that and allowed myself to become insecure about it. So insecure, that I had a friend wax my arms! I still remember the girl’s name. Lily.
I have a gummy smile. It’s always been an insecurity of mine. In high school, one of my good friends and I were cruising and he smiled really big. I laughed and said something like, “We could never have kids. They wouldn’t stand a chance. They’d be all gums.” My words influenced him. I was the little 6 year old girl. He was me. Instead of waxing, he had dental surgery. I am a total b-hole.
I’m making strides to not let negative words have power over me. That’s a hard habit to break. I care what people think. (Recovering people-pleaser, right here!) I’m trying to edit what I let in. I’m trying to edit what comes out of my mouth, too. Words matter, yes. But we have the power over what we let in and let out. In the movie Labyrinth, Sarah yelled to Jareth the Goblin King, “You have no power over me!!!!!” This is a good reminder. I don’t know if you need this reminder, but I felt like I should share it.
P.S. I still find Jareth the Goblin King attractive. P.P.S. I always have movie quotes/SNL quotes/lyrics swimming in my head. I’ll never edit that out!
POST #2: (My family thrives with routine! Not just my kids, but me too!)
Anyone else have an astronomical food bill!!? And found some extra insulation around your midsection? Hahah! Our new hobby has become snacking. I’m pretty sure the Spirit prompted me to come to the following conclusion and I feel I need to share it.
Before the new day starts, the kids and I will pack our snacks in our lunch kits. I set a guideline of what to pack and they choose what goes in. Once the contents of the lunch kit are done, no more snacks! This doesn’t include meals, just snacks. We need some boundaries. Hahah!
So, we packed up our lunch kits tonight, but fridge foods stay in the fridge until the morning. Then we will add ice packs. The kids were so excited to do this, especially Lachlan. Also, I found some hand sanitizer attached to the straps, so I’m excited about that. (Hand sanitizer and yeast are the new toilet paper.) Tomorrow is our first day with this new routine. I think it will help us.
POST #3: A friend sent me this pancake meme and I died. The truth of the matter is that I’m guilty of being an a hole, too. I can also be a friggin’ delight, and so can my kids. We have more good days than bad, BUT COME ON!!!!
Let me share a few examples (there are many more, believe me):
•I’m happy and feel that it is such a blessing to be with my kids all day. But at times, I am DONE and feel a little trapped and burdened. •I feel like we are in goodish hands when it comes to our government. But at times, I question it all and think, “Trust no one. Not even Bill Gates.” •I’m happy to see everyone’s success and productivity that is shared on social media. (I’m talking about you Go Clean inspiration, sourdough starters and Zoom exercise classes.) •But at times, I feel very inadequate and kind of resent all the success that I’m not experiencing. •I love myself and feel like I’ve got this. But also at times, I feel like a fatty fatty two by four and am barely holding it together. •I feel I’m pretty good at having conversations with people and connecting with them. But at times, I’m so awko taco that I feel like I don’t know how to even act in public anymore. (When asking a worker about the biggest package they offer, I started giggling. “Biggest package! Sorry, I have the sense of humour of a 12 year old boy!” And then I giggled some more. What in tarnation, Jacquie? Seriously. I mean…seriously. )
Nothing about this situation is normal. We’ve got nothing to compare it to, either. Brené Brown has a podcast about FFT’s, (Friggin’ First Times). As usual, she helped me see things differently. If you need a little somethin’ somethin’ to help you, here you go. She drops the real F Bomb, by the way. My substitute swearing is just priming the pump for you.
Anyway, thanks for reading this far. If you haven’t, then maybe go eat one of those pancakes.
POST #4: (I have read a LOT of books over the past 4 months.)
I love history. I love learning. I love to read. I love hearing people’s stories. And I love love. So, it makes sense that I love me a good historical Christian romance novel. I get to read a good wholesome book with a happy ending, and I get to learn along the way. It’s perfect.
Speaking of perfect? The use of old timey language in these type of books. I think it’s time to reintroduce the language into our vocabulary. I’ve been keeping notes of the words or phrases that stand out to me. (Nerd Alert!)
Since I’ve resorted to substitute swearing and such these past three months (I blame you Corona for the “such”), it’s only appropriate for me to share “blazes” with you. Blazes is a euphemism for hell, usually in phrases. Blue is added to intensify.
For example: How the blazes…? It’s hot as blue blazes! What in blue blazes…? It’s all gone to blazes! I’m working this into my daily vocabulary. Haha!
POST #5: Do you remember that time I was concerned that I might have contracted Covid-19 because my throat was so sore? And then upon reflection, I realized my throat was sore because I yelled so dang loud at my kids?
In May, Bennett lovingly gave me this picture. A picture he drew of me. I was equal parts humoured and horrified. Hahaha! He really nailed the split ends and my big emotions. (There’s nothing normal about what we are experiencing, and there may have been wailing and gnashing of teeth at times.)
During the past threeish months, I’ve said and done things I’m not proud of. (I recall telling one of my kids to “get a life”. What’s next? Am I going to respond with “I know you are but what am I?”) I’m so grateful my kids forgive me. I am grateful that life won’t always be like this. We are making the best of it, but life seems so heavy sometimes.
Speaking of heavy, do you remember the movie The Crow? (I watched it in the 90’s and loved it. Looking back, it’s a super dark movie and I can’t believe I watched it so many times when I was a teenybopper. ) There’s a phrase that has stayed with me for almost 26 years. “It can’t rain all the time.” That’s even the title of a song in the movie’s soundtrack. Things are literally and figuratively raining down on us right now. I needed this reminder, and maybe so do you. (At the time of this post on social media, it was raining nonstop.)
It can’t rain all the time.
POST #6: You know when house flies get into that annoyingly sluggish stage? It’s the same stage when they also get extra clingy and are always lurking near your head. (Why do you keep landing on my nose, and buzzing in my ear, little fly? I don’t want your poop encrusted legs touching me, thanks. And why do you insist on repeatedly flying into the mirrors or windows? I know you can see outside, but there’s a barrier stopping you. Like, get a clue, fly.) A little while ago, I was chatting with a friend in my front entryway. The type of fly I described above made an appearance. It was trapped inside, but wanted outside. It kept flying right into the window pane in our door. Repeatedly. The effort and outcome were the same each time. The dang fly just kept buzzing and bumping. To get a different result, one must make a change, but the fly never figured that out. (I’m pretty sure that fly was on my window ledge, belly up, the next day. I guess it did change something. It moved to the neighbouring window. Hahah!) As I watched the stubborn fly, I had an epiphany. SOMETIMES I AM LIKE THAT FLY!!! I know what I want, I try to get there, but I can’t quite make it happen. I don’t get the end result I want, but I don’t make any changes. I keep thinking and doing the same things. I keep hitting the same proverbial window, but I keep expecting different results. Talk about frustrating! A belief that has been widely embraced by people from far and wide is that changing your behaviour changes your results. I used to think this was true. Another belief that has been floating around the universe is all about mindset shifts. The belief that changing your thoughts is what actually changes your results. It’s all about changing your mindset, shifting that paradigm. I’ve dabbled a bit in this. In December of 2019, I started to embrace all things Bob Proctor and mindset shifts! I was soaking it all up! And then…COVID. That’s when I became more like the fly. I’m so grateful for the fly epiphany, because I needed another kickstart. I really needed to be reminded just how powerful our minds are!!! Here’s a little taste of Bob Proctor (@proctorgallagher on Instagram):
1. Thinking creates an image.
2. The image stirs emotions.
3. Emotions cause action.
4. Action sets up a reaction.
When you’re thinking about what you want, rather than your current results, the reaction (see Step 4) creates new and improved results.
Then, you can start the process all over again by looking at the new result, adapting to the changes that have occurred, and thinking about what you want next.
That way, your life just keeps getting better and better! “
Bob gets it.
I got a little off track for a bit. I have been surviving. I want to make a few adjustments to get back on track. I want to start thriving! Who doesn’t want their life to keep getting better and better? PIC OF FLY AND BOB QUOTE
I have been all over the place. I’ve found the good, the bad, the funny, the sad, the encouraging and the discouraging through all of this. And that’s okay. We are learning how to navigate something there is no manual for. We are all in this together, even though we may feel far apart. I’m learning that fear is the root of the negative things I have been feeling; the anger, doubt, the comparisons and the anxiety. I’m learning to lean more to the Lord. I’m learning more about His gift of grace. I am learning that I am not alone in this.
I want to talk about the word journey, and I’m not talking about the rock band. I’m talking about taking a trip “without regard to the amount of time it takes.” (Miriam-Webster Dictionary)
Years ago, a young man spoke at church. He was getting ready to serve a two-year mission. Let’s call him Elder Cook. Elder Cook was an amazing athlete. He was very passionate about the importance of working hard to achieve goals and also being part of a team. He displayed a team ring he had, with the initials ETP on it. He explained that the initials stood for Enjoy The Process. Elder Cook’s coach believed strongly in this motto and helped the whole team see the value of it, too. His coach emphasized the importance of being present through the whole journey, and not just at the end goal, such as winning a championship game. This future missionary went on to make some gospel connections of our eternal journey and how we should enjoy the process! I loved his message. Too often I rush through things to just get them done, instead of embracing ETP! (I’m not discounting being a “finisher”. There’s great value in finishing and accomplishing goals. I’m just saying that there can be more to it than that. I want to be an “embracer and finisher”.)
I feel like sometimes I am so focused on my starting point and final destination/end goal that I pay less attention to the journey along the way. Or sometimes I am comparing myself or my situation to other people and to their successes. I then tend to place unrealistic expectations on myself. Or sometimes I’m just on autopilot mode, doing things because I should, out of habit, not because I’m taking the time to find joy in it.
How many times have I made a goal but sabotaged myself with my unrealistic expectations? Or how often do I get caught up in the comparison game? More often than I care to admit. (I wrote a blog post about expectations here if you want to take a gander.)
I had a pretty simple but powerful experience that illustrated what can happen when I’m on autopilot mode. When I’m only focused on the end goal and not on the journey. I had twin toothbrushes in the shower: one for brushing my teeth and one for scrubbing/cleaning the shower. They were on different shelves, so the distinction was pretty clear. (But still. Rookie mistake, Jacquie.) Maybe you can guess what happened? I wasn’t thinking and grabbed the scrubber toothbrush and brushed my teeth with it. It was a low point for me. It was disgusting on so many levels. If you’re wondering what Comet Cleaner with Bleach tastes like, take it straight from the horses mouth; it should leave your bathroom looking squeaky clean, not your teeth. (Gagging sounds were heard in abundance.)
It seems that I need continual reminders that we all have to begin at our OWN starting point. And our journey doesn’t look like other people’s journey. Our final destination doesn’t have to be the same, either. The comparison game is not fun and no one wins. So why do I keep playing the game? It’s not so I can pass GO and collect $200. I never come away victorious. It’s because I’m a slow learner. More on this later.
At church, pre-Covid, my bishop made mention of something that has stayed with me. He said that if you really wanted to climb to the top of Mount Everest, you couldn’t bypass the climb and have a helicopter just drop you off on the top. Your body couldn’t handle it for a multitude of reasons.
You must start at the bottom and make your ascent, acclimating as you go. And there are camps along the way for you to regroup, rest and reevaluate. (I’m simplifying what is actually needed to climb Mount Everest, of course, but you get my gist.)
Isn’t this life? It’s so applicable to many things. This is like our testimonies, our self-love journey, our relationships, our knowledge/experience and so on. We have to start somewhere!
Lately, it seems I’ve been comparing myself more than usual. I’ve made such progress on this front, but it’s like I just went backwards. Talk about frustrating! Sometimes I pay too much attention to the people farther ahead of me on Testimony Mountain, Relationship Mountain, Knowledge Mountain, Homemaking Mountain, Family Adventure Mountain etc. That leaves me feeling so discouraged. Sometimes I’m impatient with myself. Sometimes I’m even jealous and resentful of others who are farther up the mountain than I am. And sometimes? Sometimes I wish I could just get dropped off at the top of the mountain and skip the whole climb.
But, like a young Miley Cyrus once said:
Ain’t about how fast I get there
Ain’t about what’s waiting on the other side
It’s the climb.
Now that both the song and Miley’s throaty voice are stuck in my head, I’m thinking about how much I learn between my starting point and end destination. I’m thinking about the little gains I make and the beauty I see as I’m hiking along. I’m thinking about the relationship I’m building with myself and others along the way.
I have recently implemented quiet/alone time into our family’s daily schedule. My kids initially felt like it was a time out. I explained to them that this time alone wasn’t a punishment, it was an opportunity! We discussed how important it is to be comfortable with ourselves and be our own best friend. I told them that when I was in university, I didn’t like to do things on my own. So, I challenged myself to go shopping alone. Then, I went to a movie by myself. Little by little I did more on my own. I eventually ate at a restaurant by myself. That was more than a little awkward, but I did it! I look forward to time by myself now. It really is a gift! It didn’t start out that way, but because I worked at it little by little, and I enjoyed the process, I achieved my goal!
Just today I was talking to my kids about the best part of LEGO for them. It isn’t the finished product; it’s using their imaginations and creating together. It’s the climb, Baby! Not to say there’s not a sense of accomplishment at the end, because there is! Accomplishing a goal you made can do wonderful things to your confidence, sense of accomplishment and self-love.
I know we can’t expect results when we are not putting in the effort. You gotta pay your dues! (Like when I see a friend and her husband on a spontaneous date because their oldest kid is now old enough to babysit the younger kids. Finding babysitters is a tricky thing right now, so a small part of me gets jealous. Okay, a big part gets jealous. However, I haven’t paid my dues, yet. Evie is 9 and we will get there! Eventually.)
Another thing I need constant reminders of? The gift of grace. Sometimes I’m going to take two steps forward and two steps back (please tell me you get that musical reference) and feel like I’m not getting anywhere. And that’s okay. I can’t be on all the time. I’m not a dang light switch at 7-11. Rest is important. It’s okay to just be. One of my friends said that we are human beings, not human doings. I loved that!!! And I needed to hear it again.
Short story long, I just needed to get some thoughts out. I needed to remind myself about lessons I’ve learned and need to keep relearning. I love learning, but sometimes I feel that I’m such a slow learner. And I can be too hard on myself. This is when I need reminding about grace. What a beautiful gift it is. It’s a gift we receive even if we don’t deserve it!
So, here’s to being any kind of learner, fast or slow. Here’s to setting goals, enjoying the process and giving ourselves grace along the way!
When Keegan and I were freshly married, we were asked to teach primary-aged kids in our ward. (We belong to this church, if you want to read more about wards.) There was one boy who was a little unpredictable and he took off, running out of the room. I stayed with the rest of the class while Keegan went to search for the boy. Let’s call him Donald, shall we?
After Keegan’s search within the church hallways was
fruitless, he thought to check in the washroom. Sure enough, Donald was there.
He was perched on top of the toilet, taking a break from everything. When
Keegan attempted to talk to Donald, Donald would flush the toilet, drowning out
Keegan’s voice. Keegan’s attempt in communicating resulted in continual
flushing. Eventually, Donald came down from his perch and joined the class once
more. (This was a stressful situation,
but it ended up becoming a favourite memory. I thought I was so clever to download
a toilet flushing app on my phone. When Keegan would say things I didn’t want
to hear, I’d open the app and flush the toilet. Hahaha! Looking back, I realize
how bizarre it was that I could find a toilet flushing app. But really. Why was
that app even developed?)
When I recently recalled this experience, it had me laughing, but also got me thinking. This experience has helped me make some real life connections, and I feel I need to share those connections with you.
Why did Donald keep flushing the toilet? The noise of the
flushing water drowned out Keegan’s voice. The noise muted the message Keegan
was trying to convey. I have realized that I flush the toilet, so to speak,
when I don’t want to hear the message. Or
maybe I’d be open to the message, but the noise of the toilet is too successful
at keeping me too distracted to hear it.
Be it an intentional choice of mine or not, that noise drowns out things I should be hearing.
According to the Cambridge Dictionary, the definition of
noise is, “a sound or sounds, especially when it is unwanted, unpleasant, or
loud.” And the definition of distraction is, “something that prevents someone
from giving their attention to something else.” I feel that these two things work
together to hinder me.
When I invite in too many distractions, I unintentionally mute the Holy Ghost. I can’t hear Him through the noise. Simplifying my life through decluttering and de-owning has helped decrease the physical noise in my life. I’ve tried to become unbusy and prioritize my schedule. (I know, I know. I’m using buzz words. And I’m okay with that for now. However, looking back a year from now, I may annoy myself.) The COVID-19 Quarantine has definitely quieted my schedule. That has been a perk of this new normal.
Something else I’ve been working on is being a better editor of what I let in to my home/mind. I wouldn’t let a squatter trespass and move in with me. So, why would I let limiting beliefs or negativity or toxicity take up space in my mind? I am a recovering negative self-talker and this has been hard for me. I’d literally have zero friends left if I talked to them the way I have talked to myself. Talk about noise. That kind of negativity definitely flushed the toilet, stopping me from hearing the truth. I’m of infinite worth, regardless of my short-comings. I want to shout from the rooftops that YOU ARE, TOO!!!!
Sometimes too much of a good thing could be making noise, like binge-listening to podcasts. I’m speaking from personal experience. Podcasts can be so informational and inspiring. However, if in order to binge-listen to a whole bunch of episodes, you need to ignore all the things, (I’m talking to you, kids…please forgive me) then maybe it’s too much. There’s a well known talk given by Dallin H. Oaks called Good, Better, Best found here. The concept is simple, but so powerful. Not everything can be the most important thing. There are so many good things, but we probably should prioritize them. Dallin H Oaks said, “We have to forego some good things in order to choose others that are better or best.”
I have too much of a good thing in my life and my family will tell you what it is. They would tell you that my biggest distraction is my phone. My phone isn’t the problem, though. There are lots of good, better, best things that can come as a result of my phone. I’m the problem. I would deny it when Keegan would say anything about my phone usage. Or I’d have excuses when my kids would ask why I’m “on my phone again.” And I would get defensive. Actually, I still do make excuses and get defensive. Sure, I have tried to be more purposeful with my time. I’ve tried setting boundaries. In some ways I’m much improved, but it’s still a problem.
It was a real eye-opening experience when I tracked one of my mornings a few months ago. (Kendra Hennessy is my new favourite and she challenged me to do this. She’s huge on routine, mindset and cleaning.) I wrote down everything that I did for a few hours. I was absolutely shocked with the results. Seeing tangible evidence written down showed me that my biggest distraction that morning was my phone. My morning was filled with many start and stops. I’d have a strong start to my morning, like tidying the house after breakfast. I’d tidy but also take breaks to change the music I was listening to. Or check texts. Or google how long it takes to hard boil eggs in the instant pot (for some reason I never remember the time). Or to check the weather app.
I continued to do some other things, too, like study the scriptures. There are amazing online resources out there to up the ante on my scripture study, so I chose to go on my phone for this. But after a while, I’d get a notification for something and I’d go down the rabbit hole. I’d get distracted and check Facebook. Then I’d text someone. Then I’d check IMDb to see how tall Sigourney Weaver is. Eventually, I’d go back to my scripture study, but I was not efficient and I surely wasn’t effective.
There are so many uses for my phone. One of the uses is to read ebooks or listen to audiobooks. Thank goodness for the free apps I have access to, especially since the library is closed. Thank you Libby and Hoopla! (Fun fact: if Lachlan was a girl, I wanted to name him Libby. I wanted D as a middle name, after my amazing Grandma Dora.) I love to read. Sometimes I sacrifice my sleep in order to read. Sometimes I sacrifice quality time with my kids in order to read. Sure, I’m hanging out by them when I read, but I’m not very present. Reading is better than lots of things. Reading is essential in my life, but I allow it to take over. I’m sometimes an all or nothing kind of girl.
Because our laptop broke, I’ve been using my phone for everything. Regardless, I can’t keep denying the obvious. I am still on my phone more often than I need to be. And that’s a fact. Confession: Facebook isn’t my kryptonite anymore, sending and watching Marco Polo videos is. Now, don’t get me wrong. Nothing is evil about using Facebook or Marco Polo. Both apps are instrumental in helping us stay connected with each other. During this isolating time we are living, it’s even more important to connect.
Although I’m working on setting boundaries and being more intentional with my phone usage, the message I’m sending to my family is clear. My phone is a priority. (If I get a notification, one of kids automatically delivers it to me. “Mom, your phone got a text!”) What if I talked to my phone the way I sometimes talked to my kids? What if I told my phone “In a minute”or “I’m just in the middle of something and then I can give you my attention” or “No, not right now” or “Maybe later” or “Can’t you see I’m busy?” when I got a notification? This really has me thinking.
By now, you might be thinking, “Okay, Jacquie. We get it.
You have a phone addiction.” Please stay with me, though.
My phone has become way too accessible for me. And I’m way too accessible for my phone. Somewhere along the line, I’ve become no
different than Pavlov’s dog. Instead of salivating when the bell rings, I drop
everything to check my phone when it rings or dings. I’m drowning out the good
noise around me. How am I supposed to feel the Spirit amidst those
The fascinating thing to me is that this blog post took on a life of its own. I was only going to briefly touch on my phone. I had so much more to say. I’m thinking I was guided to make a written confession of sorts. I’ve said these things out loud before, but seeing the words in written form has had an impact on me. I have a problem. I know the solution isn’t to throw my phone away. That just isn’t feasible. The solution isn’t to set screen time limits. It’s a great option, but I can easily dismiss those notifications. I think the solution for right now is to leave my phone in a different area than where I physically am. And I need to put it on airplane mode. (Why haven’t I thought about that before? So simple!) When the time is appropriate, I will access my phone. I need to figure out what is appropriate, but this is a start.
With all this talk of noise and distraction, I’d be remiss if I didn’t give Satan some credit. I remember hearing the quote, “If Satan can’t make you bad, he’ll make you busy.” He wants us so busy and so distracted that we drown out that still small voice. He doesn’t want us to feel connected to God through the Spirit. I’m so glad I’ve been working on hearing the Spirit more, because He guided me to write this blog post and to truly reflect on it. Uninviting the Spirit opens up an unofficial invitation to Satan. But I don’t want him to be a squatter in my home. Like the shirt says that I’ve seen around, “Not today Satan”. Not today.
I’m dying to know. How are you flushing the toilet? Are you drowning out any good messages? What is the biggest noise in your life? What is your biggest distraction? How are you combatting these tendencies? We have a pretty unique opportunity right now during our isolation. We have time to identify our biggest distractions and then take action!
I was taught an acronym for the the Five Stages of Grief during health class in junior high. I’ve never forgotten the five stages: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance. I used to think the stages were linear and you went through them in order. Little did I know that grief would be so MESSY! There’s nothing linear about it.
I noticed that I did experience something linear, though. And I didn’t experience it until January 2nd, 2018. (This date still remains the worst day of my life. To read more about the beginning days of losing my mom, read Chicken Pot Pie for the Soul.) My linear way of thinking has become my newly created timeline of reference. My newest way of gauging when things have happened in my life is to say, “before my mom died” or “after my mom died”. That’s truly how I keep track of recent life events.
There is more to address when it comes to timelines, more specifically, my Facebook timeline. Writing and sharing about my “after my mom died” journey on Facebook helped me so much. It helped me in my grieving and healing process. It also helped me share the goodness of my mom. I was reminded to do more and be more. My mom was inspiring. (Or should I say is inspiring? I never know what tense to use. She’s not gone, she’s just not here.)
I recently felt strongly impressed to go through my Facebook profile and take screenshots of all my “after my mom died” posts. I felt impressed to share them on this platform. I know we all grieve and heal in our own way, but my hope is that sharing my personal journey can help even just one person. Maybe this blog post will help others who may be going through the same things as me. Maybe it can help people to understand what grief might be like for others, especially if they haven’t experienced death of a loved one yet.
For the first few months after my mom died, I consistently made posts about her and how I was navigating my new normal without her. Looking back, I’m so glad I shared my process, but I regret leaving out a lot of the anger I felt. I am glad I included some angry posts, but those posts weren’t an accurate portrayal of the full range of anger I actually felt. Why do we do that? Why do we try to protect others from our authentic journey? Is it out of fear? Are we worried how people might view us? Does it make us look weak? Is it because we feel we are betraying the one we lost?
(Deep breath.) I will be mapping out my screenshots from my Facebook timeline and filling in the blanks along the way. This has taken a lot from me emotionally, but knowing I need to share it gives me strength.
(I feel I must preface this, though. I had so much love and goodness in my life, amidst my devastation. The good outweighed the bad, for sure. Anger did not take over my life, but it was absolutely present.)
My world was turned upside down and I was obviously devastated. Sadness was alive and well, but anger became very real to me. Here’s a a response to a friend who was asking how I was holding up. WARNING: I swear here. And talk about boobs. I’m not even sorry, either. It further illustrates my anger and how erratic my emotions were.
I remember feeling the prayers of others. It was almost tangible. There’s no way we could have done what we needed to do in such a short time without those prayers. I’m so grateful for those prayers.
I remember at some point I started HATING the phrases, “she’s in a better place” or “sorry for your loss” or “let me know what I can do”. And that’s all I heard during the meet and greet before the funeral. One minute I was feeling the love and support of others, and then the next I was irritated by everything and everyone. (I’m sure I was super fun to live with during this time.)
Do you know what else I started to hate? Flowers! I understand that you should have some sort of floral arrangements at the funeral, but my goodness!!!! The cost of flowers for a funeral is astronomical. (Don’t get me started on the cost of funerals. Hiway robbery!) My cousins rallied around us and pitched in money for floral arrangements for the funeral. That was beyond touching. They knew we were dealing with too much, and they saved the day! It seems that giving flowers when someone dies is the norm. After my mom died, my table was filled with flowers that people gifted me. I definitely felt loved. I felt remembered. What beautiful emotional gifts. The flowers themselves are beautiful, too. However, when those flowers started to die, I started to feel angry. Those flowers died, just like my mom!!! I was experiencing abandonment issues, all over the place. (I decided I won’t give flowers anymore. From here on out, I will food, give gift cards, or something that is meaningful and helpful. I definitely won’t give something that will die! )
*Edit: This was my own personal experience with death flowers. Flowers are a lovely gift. I received flowers for Mother’s Day because a friend wanted me to know she remembered. That was so meaningful. I don’t hate flowers in general. Just death flowers. I am not saying you shouldn’t give flowers. However, if you are now questioning what to do after someone dies? Food is always a good thing to provide. Gift cards to local restaurants. Even monetary help to pay for funeral costs. I’m definitely going to share the wonderful ways people served me and my family in part 2. Spoiler alert. Friends rallied around me and my siblings and paid for house cleaners to come to my mom’s house. That was an amazing gift. I still get wet eyes thinking about it.
As I continued in my grieving process, I made more posts about how sad I was. I also included how happy I was that my mom was so intricately woven into our lives. I celebrated her. I tried to be more like her. I shared memories of her with my children. My mom was a phenomenal human being. She did not have an easy life. Like ever. And she was the Little Engine That Could. She did not give up. My mom did have struggles, both physical and mental. She suffered at the hands of others. Somehow, she came out of that with such love in her heart. It emanated from her. And I could only see the good in her. I had zero negative memories. Between my own happy memories and all the stories people shared with me, my mom was slowly but surely launched into sainthood.
My grieving continued, and my anger continued. I was angry at those people who ever “did my mom wrong”. I was angry at Heavenly Father for taking her much too soon. My mom was only 61 years old. I was angry at other people who had mothers who were alive and well but weren’t treating them right. I was angry at myself for all those times I was such a brat to my mom. Slowly but surely, I started to remember things about my mom. The not-so-good-things. Those rose coloured glasses I was wearing broke. I became angry at my mom. I felt like I was betraying her by questioning my memories, though. I felt so conflicted. I hated that I was angry at her, but that didn’t change the fact that I was. I was angry at my extended family. I was angry at the doctors. I was just so ANGRY. I remember I shared some of that anger on Facebook and then promptly deleted it. I wish I could remember what I said.
Anger aside, I need to mention once again how amazing people were during our early stages of this new normal without my mom. People came out of the woodwork and it was absolutely beautiful. People would share Grandma Margi stories. There is such healing in remembering and sharing. I’ll be forever grateful for the love that came pouring in for those first few weeks after my mom died. But people eventually move on. And people stop praying for you. That’s just natural. And that’s okay. But guess what? You can’t move on. You don’t get over it. How can you? There is a void in your life that cannot ever be filled. How can it? I will always need my mom. I will always miss my mom. I will always feel a part of me missing. I feel like people generally expect you to move on and get over it after a while.
One day, I happened to see this video on grief from BBC Stories: Like Minds, episode 12. I’ve never heard grief broken down this way. It was beyond perfect. If you don’t want to watch the whole episode, watch from 1:38 to 2:41. I found this explanation to be so profound, validating and encouraging. “You don’t move on or get over it. You just learn to have it as part of your life.”And that’s what I’m doing. Losing my mom is a part of my life. And will always be.
I have tried to paint an accurate picture of my stages of grief. (I can’t address everything in one post. I’ll delve until more in part 2.) I don’t think I really experienced denial or bargaining, but I definitely experienced anger and depression. The anger in me has mostly dissipated. It still comes out, but not the the extent it did before. I think it’s safe to say I’m now in the acceptance stage. It’s a peaceful place to be. I know that I couldn’t have got to that place without the anger and depression I felt.
Decorating our Christmas tree definitely triggered many moments of tears and sadness. My mom adored Christmas. Holidays without her are so hard. This Christmas, I noticed that another emotion was tag teaming my sadness, and it was happiness. I felt both at the same time! I will forever be grateful for all of my wonderful memories and traditions associated with my mom. I’m so grateful for Christmas decorations from my mom that will be reminders of her every Christmas season.
January 2nd is coming up. It’ll mark two years since my mom died. I’ve come a long way in my grieving and healing. One thing I’ve done for myself is let myself feel it all. That’s truly been a gift. It’s helped me process and heal. I’ve always gone for counselling. What a gift that has been. Do I still have moments? Of course. But now I’m having moments instead of days.
My mom is never far from my mind, but I feel like I have given myself permission to not be sad all the time. Being happy is not betraying my mother’s importance in my life. It’s honouring her. And I know she’d want that.
I don’t want there to be any false pretenses about my
healing journey that I’ve been on these past few years. I haven’t done this on my own. Like at all. Sure, I soul searched and dug deep, and I
recognized the need to rip off the bandaids and truly clean out my wounds once
and for all. But for that last part, I
needed outside help. I knew I for sure needed God in this process, because
without Him, how could I heal and make real changes? I also knew I needed to
take it one step further: I needed professional help. Husbands, friends, and family
are amazing to talk to and gain perspective from. Don’t get me wrong, because I
need those wonderful people in my life. But I needed someone who was a trained
professional. Someone who would have courage to call a spade a spade. Sometimes family and friends don’t feel they
can tell you when you’re out of line or need a kick in the pants. A
professional can, and in a professional way. I needed a neutral place, one of
zero judgement or strings attached. I needed wisdom and truth. I needed to feel
I was blessed to get an appointment with a very busy family
medical doctor/therapist. Let’s call him Dr. Smith. He’s pretty hard to get in
to see, but I squeaked on in! (I feel like that’s just me. Somehow I always end
up worming my way into people’s lives. Haha!) After my first appointment, I
wanted to quit. Ripping off bandaids and cleaning out deep wounds sucked. And
it HURT! My husband encouraged me and reminded me that this is what I wanted.
And that I shouldn’t give up. I’m extremely glad I listened to him, because
let’s face it, I can be a brat and do the opposite of listening.
I told Dr Smith how there are people I know and love who
have at times withdrawn and closed themselves off from relationships. I never
understood why, but after pondering it, I questioned if I should just quit and
withdraw. It’s my tendency to put a lot of effort into my relationships (inside
and outside of my own family) and how I sometimes feel like it’s not
reciprocated. I will end up hurt or disappointed because I feel that my friends
and family don’t care about me and my family like I do about them. I feel like sometimes it’s one-sided. If I
don’t make the effort and reach out or plan things, then my kids and I lose
out. I told my therapist that maybe I should just focus on my own little family
and kind of pump the brakes with everyone else. It’s safer that way, isn’t it?
In response to the tangent I went off on, Dr Smith calmly asked me, “How many
ways are there to do the dishes?” I didn’t know what in tarnation he was
talking about. And what in tarnation did that have to do with my tangent?
Dr Smith answered for me because he saw my deer in the
headlights look. He said that are two ways to do the dishes. He told me that I
could “do the dishes” out of guilt, anger, hurt, retaliation or frustration. I
could mutter under my breath that my family is always making messes and that I
ALWAYS have to clean up after them. I could do it begrudgingly and resent my
family for not helping. Or, I could see it as an opportunity to bless and serve
my family. Doing the dishes is giving my family a gift. It’s giving my love.
I loved this analogy.
I work well with analogies and in this instance, this analogy could be literal.
How do you actually do the dishes? This helped me rethink how I bless my family
with keeping my house clean and free of “noise”. I don’t love doing the actual
dishes, but I do love how the end result of a clean kitchen positively effects
To take it further than the literal question, he had me thinking about my motives of withdrawing. Would I be withdrawing out of hurt and disappointment? Would I do it to punish other people? Or would I be pumping the brakes out of a healthy desire to regroup (hello expectations!) and reprioritize what truly matters? I had to think of what was best for us! My own little family truly matters most, but I can get a little distracted at times. This was a perfect reminder for me.
This analogy also helped me think of my “why”. Why am I
saying yes to so many things? Is it out of obligation or guilt? Or is it
because I genuinely want to say yes?
I had an epiphany one day that goes along with this analogy. I must give a little back story first. My husband and I have very different languages of love. (Fun fact: I’ve never actually read the book The 5 Love Languages cover to cover, but I want/need to!) I’m more of a Words of Affirmation and Physical Touch kind of girl. Keegan is more of an Acts of Service and Quality Time Together kind of guy. We tend to give our love in the way we want to receive. This can cause complications. And it has. I communicate my love to Keegan in the way that’s meaningful to me, but unfortunately not as meaningful to him. And vice versa. Sometimes, I’ve focused on what I’m not getting, instead of focusing on what’s in front of me. Keegan wasn’t always telling me he loved me with his words, but he absolutely showed me with his actions.
One day, as I looked around our house, something hit me hard. I saw evidence of Keegan’s love EVERYWHERE! It was a real humbling experience for me! I was able to see through a different lens. I saw that Keegan truly serves me and our family and it was humbling. He’s a finishing carpenter, and he did the finishing work on our house. Literally, I could see his love everywhere. I looked at the garbage can that was put outside for the garbage truck to pick up. He takes it out every Wednesday. I looked at our manicured lawn (or was it a shoveled driveway? I can’t remember because weather is crazy here.) I saw my van parked in the garage. Keegan makes sure the garage is cleared out on my side so I can park inside. Meanwhile, he parks outside and contends with rain or snowy and icy windows to clear off. I saw our full fridge and pantry and recognized that Keegan was the reason I could keep our family fed. The list goes on. He does so much for me and my family. I just needed to open my eyes a little more to see it in a different light. I try to show gratitude, but this taught me something different.
When the magnitude of Keegan’s love and service hit me, I
got pretty emotional. I texted him, and said, “You do love me so much.
Sometimes I don’t see all the ways you show me you love me. I’m trying way
harder to recognize it. And I’m seeing it everywhere. You’re kind of obsessed
with me.” (I actually searched our text history for this quote. It’s kind of weird
to quote myself.)
I’m telling you, this was paramount in our relationship!!!
It completely changed how I was being filled up. Because I could finally
recognize Keegan’s love language, I could feel how much he loves me. Keegan has
always been so devoted to me. It took me many moons to see it. Heck, even in
his dreams he’s devoted to me. (In real life I’m devoted, but not in my dreams.
Insert shifty eyes and awkward laugh.)
Fast forward. I look for ways I can show Keegan I love him,
in his love language. Sure, I still give words of affirmation and affection,
but I’m trying more than ever to SHOW him. I’m trying to teach our kids that,
too. For Father’s Day this year, their present to their dad was decluttering
their toys. Then I helped them sell their toys. With that money, they took him
out for ice cream. Now that was meaningful to Keegan.
I am forever grateful for God’s help along the way. I was
able to give my burdens to Him. There’s so much more I could say about that and
all the tender mercies. For the time being, I’ll add my gratitude for how He
helped me recognize the need to go to a therapist. I’m forever grateful for Dr
Smith and his insights. I’m grateful that he called a spade a spade and
wouldn’t let me get away with an easy out. The decision to seek out
professional help is sometimes not supported by family members, for whatever
reason. I’m forever grateful for a
husband who supported and encouraged me to see Dr Smith.
I know that it’s okay to not be okay. After my mom died, my
world was shattered. I wasn’t okay. But I took time to feel everything I needed
to. I didn’t rush through my stages of grief. (Have I mentioned that anger was
a stage I lingered at for a while?) I didn’t suppress anything. And after that,
I was able to take charge of my healing and seek spiritual, physical, emotional
and mental help. I’m forever grateful for that. Nuggets I’ve learned along the
way, like the two ways to do the dishes, have truly given me a chance to change.
The ability to change is a true gift.
I’ve been on my journey to minimalism for the past five years. There’s so much I have learned, through trial and error. There’s also so much I have learned through the amazing people who have shared their insights with me. (I’m talking to you Marie Kondo and Allie Casazza.) We each have our own version of what minimalism means. We are motivated by different things, but I think the end result is the same. We want a simpler life. We want to have peace and unity in our homes and lives. We want to live with more intentionality, less fluff.
I need to preface by saying I am not claiming to be an
expert at decluttering, de-owning, purging, minimalism, simplifying and living
intentionally. My life has its stressful moments and I still get overwhelmed.
With that being said, my life is far less stressful and overwhelming because
I’ve let go of a lot of things, physically and emotionally. I’ve learned to
simplify. I’m even learning to say no. I’m learning to break my habit of being
a people pleaser. I’m learning to focus more of my time and energy on my family
and our home. I used to give so much of myself to so many different people and so
many things, but now I’m becoming more un-busy. I’m getting healthier
physically, emotionally and spiritually. This minimalism thing seeps into ALL
areas. It’s quite fascinating. Above
all, I’ve been filled with hope. I now know I don’t have to be stuck in
survival mode. I can thrive in life! I can live an abundant life. And if I can
make these changes, believe me when I say that you can, too!
Now to the real me in the past. I feel I must shed some
light on my deep-rooted need for “stuff”. As you read, I hope you can see why I
NEEDED minimalism in my life.
My mom was raised by two parents who lived through wartime
in Germany. As a result, my mom came from a generation who saved everything and
wasted nothing. Everyone had to have that mindset to survive. Times changed,
but people didn’t seem to change with it, in that regard. I remember my grandma
washing out plastic bread bags and hanging them on her clothesline to dry. Closets were filled with clothing, even in the
spare rooms. You didn’t get rid of things that didn’t fit. You kept them
because they might fit some day. And you definitely didn’t throw things away if
you could fix them. (This is something our generation doesn’t know much about.
If there’s a hole in a sock, you throw it out. You don’t darn it. To us, darn
is a substitute swear.) Second hand shopping and buying things for a rainy day
were normal. You didn’t need it now, but you might need it at some point. If it
was cheap, extra points for you. There were closets upon closets filled with
linens. And pantries filled with non perishables. Fridges and freezers, because
there were multiples, were filled with food. My mom was definitely influenced
by those tendencies. I’m not saying these tendencies are bad or wrong. I’m just
saying it’s a lot of stuff.
Growing up in our home, we had a lot of stuff. We had an excess of many things and it even transferred into décor. It was obvious that my mom loved to be prepared for a rainy day. And it was obvious that she loved to craft and decorate. Our walls and side tables were covered with her handiwork. I grew up with decor, pillows and blankets in every nook and cranny. To me, all that stuff translated into love and coziness. Stuff was comfort. Stuff was normal. I do want to mention that our house wasn’t unclean or gross. I loved being home. Our home was my safe place. It just had a lot of stuff. And I loved it.
My parents divorced when I was younger. Because of that hardship
in our lives, my mom wanted to ease our burdens as much as possible. As a
result, I wasn’t raised doing a ton of chores. I knew how to do the basic
chores, but I had very little cooking and cleaning know-how. My room was always
a mess but I would claim that I knew where everything was. I would always
counter that my mess was kept to my domain and didn’t bother me so it shouldn’t
bother anyone else. Closing the door solved that issue.
I was very sentimental and attached to things. I kept all my
old school agendas. I kept tickets and trinkets and everything in between. I only recently pitched most of my notes from
high school friends and boyfriends. They were very entertaining to read. And I
loved how the notes were folded so cleverly. That was how we passed notes in
the “olden days”. I kept photos even if they cropped out people’s heads or were blurry. I even kept a heart shaped rock a
boy gave me in grade three. I kept everything!
I am embarrassed to share this example, but it’ll help drive
the point home, I think. I grew up in a cul-de-sac where we were always playing
with the neighbours. If we weren’t playing outside, we were inside playing at
each other’s houses. And we all had pets. They became the neighbourhood pets. A
cul-de-sac memory came to me as my boys were getting a haircut last month. The
hair that was getting swept up triggered a memory to when I was probably 10
years old. Our neighbour’s dog, Shadow,
was shedding his winter coat, so I brushed his fur. There was SO much fur that
came off of him. I thought it was wasteful to just throw it away. So guess what
I did? I scooped up the fur. I sewed a pillow case. (I wanted to be crafty like
my mom.) Then I proceeded to stuff the pillow case with Shadow’s fur. Yep. And
I kept it for a long time in my room. Ew. Does this help illustrate what I was
coming up against as an adult?
To further illustrate my deep-rooted need for stuff, I need
to mention shopping. My mom was the queen of retail therapy. I later learned
that shopping was an addiction for her. I can relate. My addiction was more
specific to sale shopping. I was a
sale-a-holic, not a shop-a-holic. I
loved getting a good deal. I’d almost panic when there was sale. How do I
choose what to buy? I usually couldn’t narrow it down. What would end up
happening is I’d spend money on multiple items, even if I only needed one. One
shirt for $9.99? I’ll take one of each colour. It was just too good of a deal to pass up. Or
so I justified. (Now I’d rather spend full price on one shirt that I love
instead of buying four shirts that I just liked, because they were on sale. And
after I washed the cheap shirts they’d turn all boxy and unflattering. Just
call me SpongeBob Square Shirt.)
Now let me take you to Medicine Hat, to my husband’s growing
up years. Keegan was a minimalist by nature who wasn’t attached to his belongings.
He was not sentimental at all. Stuff was noise to him and he’d purge his room
regularly. Also, he and his siblings were
taught early on how to deep clean, garden, can, cook, and do laundry. Keegan’s
Fast forward to marriage. Can you see where I’m going with
this? We came from two very different
backgrounds. He was innately a minimalist. I was NOT. I never saw a problem
with my tendencies. It’s not like I was a slob. Our house looked nice-ish and
clean-ish. Having clutter spots around the house was normal to me. But Keegan
did see a problem with my tendencies. It caused a lot of issues between us and
it did not help that I was a sale-a-holic. (Have I ever mentioned that I got
married and started my first year of teaching in August 2006? Yeah, I don’t
recommend two huge life changes at once.)
When I accepted my first teaching position, I basically had
zero resources. And I stepped into an empty classroom. Empty except for desks
and whiteboards. It was an odd feeling. I worked to fill the shelves. I ended
up photocopying other teachers’ binders (copyright infringements…forgive me),
and buying new resources, manipulatives, baskets and bins to organize students’
work. I also bought so many books for my class library. Why didn’t I use the
school’s library or public library? Because I wanted to own ALL the books. I
would also buy odds and ends for classroom management. All of these things
quickly filled up the empty classroom. Heaven forbid I leave a bulletin board
alone. I filled those up, too. Over the
years, colleagues gave me their hand-me-downs, bless their generous souls. I
started to buy things at garage sales, too. I was prepared to teach any
elementary grade level. One year, the
teacher who taught before me left me everything. Absolutely everything. It was
blessing and a curse. I had so much stuff. I brought school stuff home with me,
too. The problem was that I didn’t get rid of anything to make room for it.
My actions were causing stress to my husband. He thought we
had too much. He didn’t like the way our house felt. It wasn’t a haven for him.
Or a place of refuge. I thought he just
needed a chill pill. I felt easily stressed and overwhelmed, but I didn’t see
my patterns. Keegan did. He could see
the direct link between our stuff and my stress. (He should be an analyst or a profiler.
He is so good at noticing patterns.)
One Christmas, I had asked for the gift of a professional
organizer. My wish was granted. It was
great and I loved how things looked. Problem was, organized clutter is still
clutter. It didn’t help long term because I didn’t work on my mindset. Keegan even built an enclosed storage room
onto our carport. It was awesome! We had so much space and so many empty
shelves! Guess what happened? Yep, I filled those shelves up. I had bins filled
with seasonal decor, teaching resources, clothes for my kids, clothes I wanted
to fit in. Bins for rainy days. I rarely
went through the bins. And I rarely used the stuff in storage.
Evie and Bennett would be given darling hand-me-downs from
my sisters. The only thing was, I also had clothes that were given as gifts or
that I purchased. That all just added to the amount of little people clothing I
already had. Laundry got out of control. I always felt behind. Always. The
funny thing was, they didn’t wear a fraction of the clothing. But yet, their
drawers and closets were full. And there was such easy access to pull items out
and make a mess. It didn’t even register that I could give some of the clothes away.
I was of the mindset that you kept what people gave you. (I’ll discuss this in
One day, just like Ace of Base, I saw the sign. I kept
seeing people share Marie Kondo’s book on social media, The Life-Changing Magic
of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing. Longest title
ever. I bought the book and wanted to embrace the simple principles. I ended up
purging SO much stuff. It felt amazing! I even made some cash from having
online garage sales. Our house felt so
refreshed and it became a haven inside. (I still hadn’t really downsized our
storage room. The amount of Rubbermaid bins I had was insane. I don’t want to
even think about how much money I’ve invested in the bins over the years.) Our
house sold within fifteen minutes of it being unofficially listed. I’m sure the
clutter-free environment had a huge role to play in that.
We wanted to build a house, so when we sold our house, we moved into a rental. During our move, a friend who helped unload our belongings said he needed to go home and apologize to his wife. He had told her at one time that she had too much storage. Then he came and saw our stuff. I made his wife look like a minimalist. Haha!
We moved and time passed. Bad news. I wasn’t cured. Slowly
but surely I brought more stuff into our home. My deeply rooted tendencies came
out to play. For example, I remember one of my friend’s moms had an estate
sale. She had kept all her kids’ toys and they were in mintage (mint +
vintage…did I make a new word?) condition. Cabbage Patch dolls with homemade
clothes, bassinet and blankets. Check. Fisher price mini stovetop. Check. Crib
toys. Check. Pull toys. Check. Strawberry Shortcake dolls. Check. I’m sure
there was more, but I can’t remember. I was so excited to buy so many things
for my kids. By kids, I mean myself. Looking back, I realize I bought all of
those sentimental things for myself. My kids barely played with any of it. They
had too many toys, in general. Most of the toys weren’t regularly played with.
One day, Keegan expressed in a different way how my
lifestyle was affecting him. I decided to listen and not take offence, like I
usually did. I said a prayer that I could see it through his eyes. And I did. I
saw with clarity that my hard working husband would come home from a long day.
He’d come home so excited to see me and our three kids. And then the second he
walked through our door, he felt bombarded. He didn’t feel like he could relax.
Our house was not a haven for him.
That was the kick in the pants I needed. And to begin with,
I did my big purge for him. Eventually, I took ownership and felt the
motivation and desire to do it for me too. Because I learned that I wanted the
same things as Keegan. It’s just that I didn’t have the awareness or the
vocabulary to put into words what I was actually struggling with.
To sum it all up, stuff was taking over my life. I had too
much stuff. It contributed to my stress and overwhelm. It contributed to the
lack of unity and peace in my home. It caused issues in my marriage. It took me
a very long time to recognize it as such. I’ll share that story in part two.
I’m trying hard to be open about this all. I just wanted to
paint the picture of what I was up against.
Writing this all down has been eye opening to me. My hope is that is can
open some more eyes. We are drowning in stuff. Like Madonna said, “You know that
we are living in a material world”and I want out of this rat race. I want calm.
I want simple. I want peace.
When I took one of my children for counselling, something
magical happened that I was not expecting. We each had our own counsellor. (It
meant that for a while, I had two therapists. Double or nothing. It was a
gift.) This counsellor, whose official title is Child Life Specialist, had a
way about her. She was insightful, wise, professional, funny, safe, relatable
and completely nonjudgmental. I truly felt like she was my cheerleader. It felt
so natural to be honest and vulnerable with her. She helped me more than she
probably knows. Her official title should be changed to Life-Changer.
I know not everyone can go see her, so I feel the
responsibility to share her powerful wisdom. The gist of it is this: when we
are missing information, our brain fills in the blanks, making up a story. The
story isn’t necessarily accurate, but our brain sticks with it. Our perception becomes
Wow! This was paramount! So powerful. It caused me to reflect my “stories”. What is actually true? What is made up? This has helped me question my narrative and seek for the truth. It’s helped me talk myself down from that proverbial ledge.
Dang technology is the root of many of my stories and it
shouldn’t be. I should have the skills to call a person on the phone or see
them in person in order to ask a question. Instead, I resort to the convenient
text or Facebook message. Sometimes even the lack of punctuation causes me to
fill in the blanks. If I wrote some meaningful text and the only response is
“yep” or “okay” without an exclamation mark, period or even an emoji, I question
if the person is upset with me.
I can recall a time
when I reached out to a friend through text. (This was our main avenue for
communication and she was usually so prompt with responding.) I never received
a response. I thought maybe there was a tech problem, so I reached out via
Facebook Messenger with the same content as the text. The message was time
stamped as “read”. Still no response. I felt slighted. I felt dismissed. As
days passed and I still didn’t get a response, I filled in the blanks. I
convinced myself she was mad at me. I went through every possible scenario of
WHY she would be mad at me. I couldn’t think of one. Then, I remembered another
similar story. The difference was this other friend who slighted me was friends
with someone who not only unfriended me on Facebook for reasons unbeknownst to
me, but then went as far to block me. (That hurt.) Both of these incidences had
me thinking that something was fundamentally wrong with me. That there must be
a group of women who talk about me and now they all hate me. I then started to
feel insecure. Does everyone just tolerate me, at best? I started to question
my social skills. I started to question my personality. I totally went down the
rabbit hole of self-doubt and shame.
Guess what happened? The friend eventually reached out to
me, apologizing profusely for not responding sooner. Her kids were on her phone
and happened to open Facebook Messenger, marking my message as read. She never
got the text, either. Boy was I relieved! This friend was not the Vice
President of the We Hate Jacquie Club.
Honestly, I despise the feelings that follow when I go down
the paranoid and suspicious path. Whenever I hear the word suspicious, it makes
me think of Elvis’ song Suspicious Minds. (The first time I saw Dwight Yoakam’s
music video of Suspicious Minds, I was ‘caught in a trap’. I couldn’t stop
looking at Dwight in his cowboy hat and tight jeans. Maybe this is when my
bizarre crushes started? Oh, wait. Nope. My first bizarre crush was David Bowie
as Jareth the Goblin King in the movie Labyrinth. That’s for a for another
I can now identify a bit better when my brain is filling in
the blanks. It doesn’t make the stories less real, but now I have tools to
shorten the movie into a trailer. No more extended versions for me!
I was taught by my Child Life Specialist to ask myself
Is this true? How do you know it’s true? Is it absolutely
true? Be a detective. Where’s the evidence?
So, was there evidence of a We Hate Jacquie Club? No. That
was just paranoia. Are there some people who aren’t my biggest fans? I’m sure
there are. Does this diminish my value or worth? No one has that power, unless I
give it to them. I am a recovering people-pleaser, and I have definitely handed
over the power to others. I’m aware of it now and I’m trying to shift my
mindset. (If you are a Labyrinth fan, you’ll remember when Sarah yells to
Jareth, “YOU HAVE NO POWER OVER ME!” This is what I need to keep telling
This leads me to daily affirmations. I have embraced these personal positive repetitions. Because of this, I view myself differently. I’ve changed the way I speak to myself. Sure, I felt awkward to begin with. It felt very Stuart Smalley from Saturday Night Live. I am here to tell you that positive self-talk is effective!
For a while, I practiced power poses. I should start it up again. If you aren’t sure what the H I’m talking about, and you have 21 minutes, watch Amy Cuddy’s Ted Talk. There are so many things we can do to help ourselves. We live in a remarkable and open-minded time!
The other things I learned while seeing my Child Life Specialist all have to do with helping ourselves. She told me, “If you need that compliment, give it to yourself.” So let’s say I wrote a blog post where crickets chirped, and I wasn’t ever validated by anyone. I can validate myself!!! I can look no further than myself! (For the record, I definitely have validation-seeking tendencies, but that’s for another blog post.) I was also told that I have the ability to filter out negativity. I can use my voice. And I will be heard, even if it’s only heard by me. The language I was given for this is, “No. I’m not letting that in.” So so simple, yet so so powerful and effective.
The cool thing is, I don’t feel overwhelmed with what I need
to change. I used to feel so bogged down with ALL I had to to. I have a long
way to go, but I’m filled with such hope!
I’m the little engine that could and I think I can keep making
these positive changes. No, I KNOW I can. And you can, too. Believe me when I
say that if I can change, anyone can change! You’re the little engine that