Categories
Anger Healing Humour Loss

My Grieving Process Part 1: A Serving of DABDA With Extra Anger on the Side!

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.)

I couldn’t make a post the day of. I just couldn’t. I know that word got around town about the death of my mom. For the most part, people were so genuine in their concern. However, I knew there were a few nosy people who just wanted to know the “deets”. That made me angry.
Lachlan was only one year old when my mom died. I felt so robbed for him. When I was going through the contents of my mom’s purse, Lachlan saw her photo ID he said, “Gamma”, and my heart broke. He would not have the opportunity to know his sweet Grandma Margi. Yet, I was happy that he was able to communicate his recognition. It’s possible to feel the extreme emotions at the same time.

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 was all over the place!!!!
No caption needed. ❤️
The four of us pulled off a funeral. I know that it was not possible for us to do what we had to do without heavenly help. There’s no way. I’m forever grateful for that help. The funeral was beautiful. We honoured our mom. We were so grateful for all the love and support and help. It’s still surreal that we were able to make ALL the necessary preparations for our mom’s estate and funeral and in such a short period of time. All the while trying to grieve and mourn with our own families. (There were many times I got angry and thought it wasn’t fair that her KIDS had to take care of everything. We are the KIDS! Why wasn’t her family taking care of it all? They’re the ADULTS! Then I remembered that we are also adults.❤️ See? Anger.)

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.

I didn’t think the world was ready for my anger, so I deleted my post.
Never followed through with deleting this post. Hahahah! I definitely went through a phase of saying “suck it”.
“Extra spazzy” is right! I was highly irritable. I even irritated myself.
Such a feeling of being robbed!!! Also, I felt such regret that I didn’t get more photos, videos and hand written letters from my mom for my kids.
Once again, no caption needed. 😂

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.

Categories
Healing Humour Mindset

Two Ways To Do the Dishes

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 safe.

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?

I wasn’t able to find a stock photo of dishes in the sink, so I went through my camera roll. I had to include this photo of little Lachlan “helping” me do the dishes. Cutest and most delightful baby in all the land. I miss this stage, but also don’t. He was such a menace. Haha! Also, I love my logo from @wyndy.design. Check her out. Kira is incredibly talented! I used to be her Young Women’s leader when I was first married (a youth leader for our church) and I used to babysit her husband. How’s that for feeling old?

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 my family.  

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.

My beautiful little family. I was getting my church bag and locking up the van when I saw this. My eyes got wet. How blessed am I to have these four? I keep this as my wallpaper on my phone to have a constant reminder of how blessed I am.

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.

Categories
Minimalism

My Journey to Minimalism Part 1: Stuff

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.

I could’ve been the character in Robert Munsch’s book.

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 mom made the curtains, quilt, pillows, and wall hangings. Every room and wall in our house had her handiwork displayed. And I loved it. This is me and my best friend in my sister’s room! (We each had our own room colour. Mine was green. And I loved that my room was unlike anyone else’s.)

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.

This is how I was asked to grad. I don’t think my room was destroyed by the asker. I think I actually left it in this condition. (Insert awkward laugh)

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 got skills!

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 part two.)

These are some of Evie’s baby and toddler clothes I gave away. Just some.

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!

Drink it all in. That’s from the enclosed storage room.

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.

The toy room in our rental. Toys weren’t limited to being in the toy room. We also had toys in the living room and the kids’ rooms. Toys for days!

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.

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Healing Mindset

Fill In the Blanks

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 our reality.

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 post.)

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 questions:

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 myself.)

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 could, too!

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Great Expectations

I hope this badly photoshopped photo doesn’t detract from the message I’m sharing. 😂

The other night I indulged on some Tostitos and nacho cheese from a can. I couldn’t help but reminisce. In junior high and high school, I played basketball and volleyball. On our way home from tournaments or away games, we’d always stop and go to 7-11 for snacks. I usually didn’t have money to buy those coveted snacks. Paper bag lunches or bust for me. Sometimes my teammates would come back with tortilla chips drenched in nacho cheese. You know the kind? The kind where the chips would gets soggy from the warm cheese sauce. I remember getting to sample those deliciously saturated chips and wishing I could have a container to call my own. I eventually did. And they didn’t disappoint.

Well, fast forward 20 years. I took my son to a PJ Masks live performance. We each picked out some things at the concession. The first thing I was drawn to was the tortilla chips with nacho cheese. I was taken back to my sports playing days. To the days of belonging to a team and feeling part of something. Something as simple as nachos and cheese could make me feel so many happy things. I was looking forward to digging in. I was anticipating the juxtaposition of crunchy outer chips to the inner soft, saturated cheesy chips. I had built up my expectations only to be disappointed. The chips were stale. The cheese was cold. (It makes me think of Encino Man’s “the cheese is old and moldy”.) The sauce to chip ratio was super chintzy. In other words, NO SOGGY CHIPS.

Expectations. I’ve struggled with this for most of my life without even recognizing it as such. I have placed expectations on many things, only to be disappointed in some way. I have placed high and unrealistic expectations on myself. I have also put those high expectations onto other people and things/situations.

I have a few more stories to illustrate high and unrealistic expectations I’ve placed on others. Picture this. Keegan and I didn’t have children for the first four and a half years of our marriage. However, each and every Mother’s Day of our childless years, I’d end up so disappointed that Keegan did NOT celebrate me on Mother’s Day. My mom always celebrated me and my sisters on Mother’s Day. I thought this was to be expected that Keegan should too. I felt so ripped off because I WOULD be the mother to his children one day and he obviously SHOULD celebrate for this reason. How insensitive he was.

I have so many more stories like this. I’d end up hurt and disappointed and Keegan would end up frustrated and left feeling undervalued. It wasn’t the best situation. We couldn’t thrive as a couple with the looming cloud of unattainable ideals hanging over our heads. Sure, I have calmed down, matured and grown as a person in general. But I still have had a tendency towards high expectations. I’ve only started to acknowledge my unrealistic expectations within the past few years. This Alcoholics Anonymous quote is pretty hard hitting: “Expectations are premeditated resentments”. I have never considered this before, but it’s absolutely true. Now that I’m becoming more aware, I realize I really don’t like feeling resentment. It’s a poison that spreads to many other areas in my life.

Sometimes, okay, often times, I just expect people to be and think like me. “…but I have a newsflash for you, Walter Cronkite… you aren’t.” We are not all the same. This is a hard thing for me to learn. These expectations can leave me hurt, disappointed and feeling insecure. It leaves me doubting myself big time.

I am going to add one more story to further illustrate my expectations. I grew up with my mom serving people in our community. She’d serve with her time, her skills and her love. It was kind of routine to watch her take dinner to families who needed some extra love. I couldn’t help but continue this service. It was part of me. And it makes me so happy. I know I can’t help in the big ways, but I sure can pray and take food over to someone who needs it. Am I a great cook? I get by. (You’ll notice that this is not a food blog.) Does my family enjoy what I make? Yes. Am I insecure about taking dinner over to others? Absolutely.

Now, that doesn’t sound like having expectations, right? Just keep reading and you’ll see. I’m a thanker. In fact, I’m an over-thanker. (I’m often an over-apologizer, too, and that’s for another day.) Because of this, I have kind of expected others to be that same way. When you do things for others, you shouldn’t have expectations at all. You did what you felt you needed/wanted to do and that should be thanks enough. For me, it wasn’t. If I wasn’t thanked after the meal had been eaten, I was left thinking dinner was disgusting. Or bisgusting, as my three year old used to say. I’ve learned now that l shouldn’t rely on others to make me feel validated. No one can fill that void, except God and myself.

I’m trying harder than ever to be more mindful. To reflect and have more self-awareness. I’m trying to let go of these tendencies and look for the good. Having gratitude changes everything. It’s the antidote for almost anything negative. Oh, and counselling helped, too. I needed a neutral person who would help me see unhealthy patterns. Sometimes it hurt, but I needed that proverbial kick in the pants. I learned that I have been projecting myself and my issues onto others. I would feel like no matter what I’d do, it’d never be good enough. I have unrealistic expectations on myself, so I project that onto other people and situations/things. Perfect segue to expectations I place on myself. I feel like this needs to be another blog post, though. (I’ll link it once it’s written.)

So here’s to mindfulness! Here’s to keeping our expectations in check! Like one of my favourite bloggers out there says, “We are action-taking, problem-solving women!” (Allie Casazza has been instrumental in my journey, in so many ways. Stay tuned for my minimalism post.) We can figure this out and make changes. We can! Here’s to being content and recognizing that we are all enough. Here’s to dealing with our issues! It’s our time to thrive.

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Read the Room! Becoming More Self-Aware

One evening, we had people over for dinner. I had set up all the food buffet-style on the island, but we hadn’t yet asked for everyone to gather to say a blessing on the food. No one was sitting down at the table or at the island. We were all visiting on the couches. Yet, one of my kids started going to town and chowing down on the food. I was annoyed and frustrated. I blurted out a little loudly, “Read the room!!!!”

My kids didn’t know what it meant, so I had to explain it. “Read the room means to look all around you. You can figure things out based on that. Are other people sitting down at the table and island? Are other people eating? NOPE!” This is just one example of teaching my kids how to pick up on social cues.

Read the room is now one of my favourite things to say. It’s applicable to many situations. So, I am going to ask you this: do you read the room regularly? Are you self-aware? I’m aware of the need to be self-aware. Haha! I’m trying. I fail sometimes. Recently, during church, I sat near a friend and we visited off and on during sacrament meeting. By visiting, I also mean laughing. My husband kept giving me side-eye, trying to get me to see that a reverent sacrament meeting wasn’t the most appropriate venue for a gab session. I did not read the room. (And I am not good at whispering. My whisper is other people’s inside voice. 🙈) But I do succeed sometimes, like when I can tell I’m talking too much so I stop and give space for the other people to also add to the conversation.

It’s fascinating to watch people at buffets or pot lucks. Some people are not self-aware. They aren’t aware of the many people behind them who haven’t dished up yet, and they go to town, piling their plates up. To that, I want to yell, “READ THE ROOM, BUDDY!”

I remember talking to my therapist about the struggles I had with an individual. He asked me if I knew what a shadow personality was. I didn’t. He went on to explain that often the things that irritate us the most in other people are a reflection of some quality we dislike in ourselves. Boom.

My mom loved people and genuinely loved getting to know them. She also genuinely loved talking. We called my mom a walking encyclopedia because she knew a lot of information. It was a blessing and a curse. She wasn’t always able to read the room. She’d still be talking as people would be side stepping to get to their vehicle, or moving closer to the door to make their escape. My momma loved to talk. (What I wouldn’t give to hear her tell me random information. What I wouldn’t give to hear her go off on long winded tangents about all the celebrity gossip. My mom had a vested interest in certain celebrity relationships. I remember she left my sister a message on the phone, saying how devastating the news was that Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman were breaking up. Man, I miss that mother of mine. It is funny how the quirks that sometimes annoy you are the ones you miss the most.) This tendency of my mom’s would irritate me sometimes. But now, I’m trying to look deeper in my irritation, to be more aware of this shadow personality business. Looking back, maybe I’m irritated by this tendency in ME!

Self-reflection is a good thing, but I do think we can take things too far and question everything. I’m not saying to do that. Moderation in all things!

So friends, I’m writing this all to give me accountability. I’m also wanting to share these epiphanies I had. Maybe it’s something you needed to hear. ❤️ It’s nice to know we are not alone. So to everyone, including myself, I say…RTR. Read the room!

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What Matters More?: Whose Opinions Truly Count

I remember when my kids were 6, 2 and 1. Getting in the van to go anywhere was a struggle and a stressful time. Kids who hate being buckled up is something that will send parents to the brink of insanity. By parents, I mean specifically Jacquie Fleming.

I remember losing it and yelling at my children, while buckling my toddler up with a little more force than necessary. Because of my frustrations with their lack of cooperation, I became a bit of a mom-ster. (Side bar: When I taught kindergarten, we were learning the letter M. The kids needed to draw a picture of something that started with the letter we learned. I saw one picture and asked my student if he drew a monster. He said that he was drawing his mom. Gulp. I learned to ask questions instead of guessing. For the record, she was a bit of a monster to deal with. I came up with the word mom-ster from that encounter. I thought I was so clever. Turns out, other people are just as clever, but I digress.)

All of a sudden it hit me that if my neighbours were outside, they’d be able to see me spazzing on my kids. And they’d judge me or change their opinion of me. I felt so embarrassed. I feared what they might think of me.

After the intensity of that situation passed, I had the realization that some people DID hear me. Heavenly Father and Jesus heard me. My kids heard me. I felt an overwhelming sense of sorrow at that moment. I realized I was more worried about what my neighbours thought about me than what those who matter most to me thought.

I couldn’t help but think of the lyrics to a special primary song, If The Savior Stood Beside Me. Sometimes the simplicity of children’s songs are the most powerful.

1. If the Savior stood beside me,

would I do the things I do?

Would I think of His commandments,

and try harder to be true?

Would I follow His example?

Would I live more righteously

if I could see the Savior standing nigh,

watching over me?

2. If the Savior stood beside me,

would I say the things I say?

Would my words be true and kind

if He was never far away?

Would I try to share the gospel?

Would I speak more rev’rently

if I could see the Savior standing nigh,

watching over me?

3. He is always near me,

though I do not see Him there,

And because He loves me dearly,

I am in His watchful care.

So I’ll be the kind of person

that I know I’d like to be

if I could see the Savior standing nigh,

watching over me.

(Words and music by Sally DeFord)

Well, I was able to quickly answer the questions posed within the song. I wouldn’t dream of speaking and acting in that way if He was standing near me. This experience has taught me so much. I should care way more about what my sweet family thinks and what Heavenly Father and Jesus think over what the “public” thinks. It was a powerful moment for me. It’s the fear of man versus the fear of God conflict. Sometimes it’s so hard to keep my perspective in check.

I’m so grateful that I can recall primary songs to help remind me of sweet and simple truths.
When I sing primary songs with my children, my own testimony is strengthened. These songs also help me learn alongside my kids in a way that is so meaningful. I love music, in general, but there’s something so special about gospel songs written for kids. My kids are so special. I am working hard at remembering that, even in the midst of my frustrations.

I’m trying to consistently take “holy pauses” before I react, and I have to tell you. I’m way less of a spaz. I’m trying to be intentional with what I invite in our home. That includes feelings. When I yell or overreact, I invite less-than-good feelings. I’m working on it. I’m getting better at it. Having this photo in our living room is an amazing reminder.

I’m so grateful for this beautiful lesson taught to me about what matters more.

(Love Is Spoken Here is another primary song that I love. Here’s a link to the full collection of primary songs if you wanted to have a look-see.)

Update: I just recently had another experience that reminded me about what matters more. This was my Instagram post from December 27th:

Image from Pixabay

I took the kids to see Frozen 2 today. What a delightful experience to share with my kids and my niece!

While sitting in the darkened theatre with my popcorn. (With a combo of butter, dill pickle AND white cheddar seasoning. Magical.) I had a “Read the Room” moment.

The second I sat down with my popcorn, I SHOVELLED the popcorn in my mouth. There were no manners. No regard for how I looked or sounded as I repeated to hoover the popcorn. Lachlan was sitting on my lap and I kept dropping popcorn on him. He didn’t care because he was so happy gorging on his popcorn, too. I looked around and this uncivilized way of eating popcorn was everywhere. It wasn’t just me and my family. This was happening all over the theatre. I’d never eat like this with the light on. But in the dark? You betcha. You feel unnoticed. Anonymous almost. Anything goes.

I pondered this phenomenon a bit more. When we don’t think people see us, how do we act? (I saw a guy pick at his butt today, when he thought no one was watching.) How do we speak? (I’ve been swearing under my breath lately at the kids. They don’t hear it.)

This got me thinking on a more spiritual level. Someone always sees us, no matter the lighting. We are not anonymous. We don’t go unnoticed. What we do and say DO matter.

Anyway, just some thoughts from moi. The things that make you go hmmm. 🍿

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Old Yeller

Now, I’m not talking about the beautiful and tragic story of a boy and his dog. I’m talking about me and my struggle with yelling. Somewhere along my parenthood journey, I became a yeller. Not a screamer, but a voice-raiser that escalates to a yeller. It’s not something I set out to become, but yet, here I am.

(I LOVED this movie growing up. And I LOVE badly photoshopped photos. I think I’m 37 going on 13. Haha!)

I have always considered myself a happy and loving person. I certainly never identified myself as an angry person. When I became a mother for the first time, I felt like a different person. The joy and responsibility that came with motherhood definitely changed me in good ways. My heart was capable of such love. I was a nurturer by nature, and my desire to be a good mom was there. There were moments when I’d look at Evie, our first child, and I’d feel so overwhelmed with love. How did we even live life before the incredible blessing of being her parents? How did we know true happiness and love before then?

Evie was my sidekick and came with me everywhere. Going back to work and leaving her was extremely difficult. When I came home from work, I was still able to give Evie my best. We made our time together count.

When Evie was three and a half, we had our second child, Bennett. It was an adjustment in so many ways, but we were so happy. However, it was after having two kids that I started to yell. Things escalated when I had Lachlan, our third child. Where did all this anger come from? Like for real? Irritation and annoyance? Yes, that was definitely in me. But the anger? I didn’t know I had it in me.

It was hard for my husband to hear me react out of anger. He’s a pretty calm person and rarely has raised his voice at our children. We were talking about my tendency and we came up with me being an Old Yeller. We took things to the next level and came up with new yelling names. We were able to turn a concern into something fun. Just call me Sarah Michelle Yell•er, Boris Yell•tsin, Yell•anie Griffith, Yell•y Clarkson, or Ang•Yell•a Lansbury. (I even made a Facebook post about this and my friends added to the list. I have some funny friends. Please feel free to add to the list! Pure entertainment!)

This has been one of the biggest things I’ve tried to work on. My anger, not my clever yelling name list. I’ve taken parenting classes, talked openly with family and friends, prayed, watched videos, and read articles. I’d do well for a bit and then default to yelling. I was so disappointed in myself. I felt like I could never change. One day, I saw something in my newsfeed about angry parents (Facebook listens to my conversations, I’m convinced. Let me just readjust my tinfoil hat.). I prefer to borrow books from the library now, since my big purge of belongings. So, I was on my library’s app and searched for the author. I didn’t find her, but I randomly found this, and it spoke to me:
Triggers
Exchanging parents’ angry reactions for gentle biblical responses
Written by Amber Lia and Wendy Speake

Read this description and maybe you’ll be touched like I was.
“Do you believe your struggle with anger stems from the wrong behavior you see displayed in your children? The knee-jerk reactions and blow-ups you’re facing are often a result of a bigger set of “triggers.” Some of these are external, like a child’s disobedience, backtalk, or selective hearing, while others are internal, like an overflowing schedule, sleep-deprivation, or perhaps your own painful experiences from childhood.

Triggers: Exchanging Parent’s Angry Reactions for Gentle Biblical Responses examines common parenting issues that cause us to explode inappropriately at our children. Moving beyond simple parenting tips on how to change your child’s behavior, authors Amber Lia and Wendy Speake offer biblical insight and practical tools to equip and encourage you on the journey away from anger-filled reactions toward gentle, biblical responses.”

Guys. This was my answer. Why hadn’t I thought to include God even more in this particular struggle? I know it wasn’t a coincidence that I found this book. I NEEDED it in my life. I borrowed it from the library as an audiobook first. I was so touched by the content that I bought the physical book. I also bought the accompanying study guide. I was able to dig deep and I was able to make changes.

I still sometimes default to anger and yelling, but I now have tools to correct myself. I’m pretty good at apologizing to my kids now. I am able to give myself grace more than ever. And I definitely rely on the Lord more.

I have a lot to say on this blog, but I felt pulled towards writing about this. Maybe because I’ve felt my anger bubbling up recently. I noticed I’ve been defaulting to “loud talking”. Maybe I need this refresher more than any of you do. My husband and I have felt so strongly to have peace and unity in our home. One of our biggest desires is for our home to truly be a haven. This reminder is going to help me be the catalyst in our home towards achieving our goal of peace and unity. As we all know, if momma ain’t happy ain’t nobody happy. As women, we truly have power to set the tone of our home. I’ve been a little off-key lately, but I will work on my pitch.

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Missing My Babies

I’m already crying. What I’m about to say is very near and dear to me, but I feel strongly I need to share.

I had miscarriages for my first and third pregnancies. Nothing could have prepared me for the devastation that would ensue. I felt like I did something wrong. I remember thinking that I shouldn’t have lifted that heavy box or gone to Zumba class. I blamed myself for losing my babies. Feeling that responsibility was crippling. I felt like something was wrong with my body. I felt betrayed. I felt like I let Keegan down. I’ve mourned the loss of my two babies who I never got to meet, hold, smell, or sing lullabies to. I’ve mourned the life we had planned with them in it. I’ve mourned not being able to watch them grow up. There are two ‘future families’ I didn’t get to know and love and be a grandma to. My heart has been shattered with the loss of it all.

Anger also became real to me. I teetered on the edge of bitterness. I was angry at Heavenly Father. I was angry at all the happy families with young kids. I was angry at pregnant women. I was especially angry seeing posts on Facebook with pregnancy or birth announcements. I knew deep down that I shouldn’t be angry at all of these people, but I felt it nonetheless. I remember having a break down after reading someone’s post on Facebook complaining about being pregnant. What I wouldn’t give to have morning sickness, discomfort and lack of sleep all for the purpose of having a baby!!!

Each month after both miscarriages, I’d have such hope to be pregnant again. I remember reliving all the loss, pain and disappointment of my miscarriages when I would have my period. Having children is a righteous desire. Why was it so hard??? And why were there so many unwanted pregnancies and/or sucky parents in this world? Sometimes I’d get swallowed up in emotions and the what if’s. When I finally was pregnant again, I was SO paranoid. Every time I had any kind of dischargey feeling, my heart would drop to my stomach. Was it a sign of miscarriage? I had anxiety every time I went to the bathroom. I was riddled with fear before I’d wipe. I was so afraid of seeing blood.

I remember hearing the phrases, “You’ll have others” or “Something was wrong with the baby, so it’s a blessing it didn’t survive”. People would try to comfort me by telling me 1 in 4 pregnancies end in miscarriage. Those people were right, but they were also wrong. I just needed hugs, love, empathy and probably food. Food is always a helpful thing. Everyone grieves differently. Some want solitude and some want to be surrounded by people. The universal thing everyone needs/wants is food. (I had so many people bring food after my mom died. It was amazing. Some friends even brought me a basket filled with paper plates, cutlery, fruits and munchies. That was genius.)

I know people often times don’t know what to say when tragedy strikes. I’m sure I’ve said the wrong thing. If you don’t know what to say? Be honest and tell the person that you don’t know what to say. Mourn with them. Listen to them if they are ready to talk. Share your story of loss, if they’re ready to listen.

(After my mom died, I loathed hearing “I’m sorry for your loss” and “She’s in a better place”. One of my friends who suffered a great loss said he hated hearing, “If there’s anything I can do…”. He had the best response. He asked someone if he could have their car because they did said “anything”. I’ve found that if you feel like you should do something, go for it. Just do it. Those in mourning probably won’t ever reach out to ask for help. They’re just trying to survive.)

I also became so sensitive when people would ask when Keegan and I would start a family. Or when we’d have our next baby. (What I really wanted to do was answer with Nunya. Nunya business. I would’ve added a damn in there too.) I know people are well-meaning. I’ve been that person, but I’ve learned now to generally not ask people that extremely personal question. Newsflash: it really isn’t anyone’s business! Miscarriages and infertility and timing affect this. And what if you don’t want to have children of your own? It’s really none of our business, regardless of how much we care about our family and friends. I remember going to church and one of my past school teachers asked me when I was due, because I had some signs showing. What that teacher didn’t know is that I had JUST miscarried. I sobbed while sitting on the pew. Keegan was so sweet and tried to comfort me. I think I eventually had to leave the building. That question was such a trigger.

One thing I failed to realize throughout this all was that my husband was also grieving. I was so caught up in my own grief because it happened to me. But, Keegan suffered a loss. It happened to him too. He lost those babies too. It was different for him than it was for me, but it was so hard on him just the same. It was also hard for him to feel helpless when my body was weak and when my heart was broken. It was especially hard for him when I was transported in an ambulance due to extreme blood loss.

When I opened up to family and friends, that’s when healing happened. And that healing was then accelerated once I worked things out with Heavenly Father. I was amazed at how many people have experienced miscarriage and infertility. I’m so thankful for people sharing their story with me. There’s strength in sharing. Healing takes place with sharing. Let’s be better at sharing our story.

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Chicken Pot Pie for the Soul

On New Year’s Eve, 2017, I had the thought that 2018 was going to be my year. I even said it out loud to anyone who would listen. That thought was soon obliterated. January 2nd, 2018 goes down as the worst day of my life.

I received news I had never considered I’d hear. My brother-in-law called me to tell me that we lost my mom. It didn’t register with me at all. I actually thought my mom was lost. I even giggled envisioning her walking around town, disoriented and in her muumuu and winter boots. But devastatingly enough, that wasn’t what he meant. It was an out-of-body experience once I absorbed what was said to me. I let out noises I didn’t know I was capable of making. I dropped to my knees and felt absolutely shattered. I felt so blindsided, so betrayed. We did not expect this at all. Yes, her health wasn’t the best it had been, but we thought we had years left with her. My mom would always tell me that she was a tough ol’ broad. That always gave me reassurance she’d be around for a long time. My mom was invincible to me.

My beautiful mother was only 61. I was only 35. My husband and I had a 6, 3 and 1 year old. This wasn’t right. This made no sense. How? Why? WHY? When my kids would cry for me or ask for me, I would cry and say that I understood. I just wanted my mom. Moms make everything better. We will always need our moms. It’s a fact, regardless of how old you are or how dysfunctional your family might be. To say I was absolutely devastated and broken was an understatement. I felt so robbed. I was too young to lose my mom. She was my cheerleader. She was my safe place. She was a source of love, support, strength and laughter. I felt that my children were so robbed. My kids were too young to lose a grandparent. My little one year old, Lachlan, will have no memories of his Grandma Margi. I felt sorrow, regret and guilt for not having more pictures of the kids with their grandma, especially Lachlan. I felt ripped off knowing I only had one video of her. ONE! (Guilt is a real part of grief, by the way.) I just always thought I’d have more time.

My beautiful momma!

It was all just too much. I felt so much. I even felt anger towards my Heavenly Father. I felt abandoned. I felt so very alone. Did I mention I felt anger? (Anger is also SUCH a real part of grief.)

For the first few days after my mom died, I would wake up in the middle of the night. I would wake up and then the realization would hit that my nightmare was actually my reality. I couldn’t fall back asleep. One particular morning, I woke up at 3 and couldn’t fall back asleep, so I looked on my phone, hoping to distract myself from my new reality. A cooking video came on my Facebook newsfeed. As soon as I saw butter melting in a pot, I was committed to view the finished product. It was comfort food in all its glory: chicken pot pie. I thought to myself how amazing it would be to eat some chicken pot pie. I certainly was in no position to make any food for my family other than pouring milk into a bowl full of cereal. Eating chicken pot pie was not in my future, or so I thought.

Within one day of each other, two friends brought me chicken pot pies. Not one, but two! Soup, lasagna, casseroles, pizzas and the like are typically the comfort food people will bring over when there is a celebration or tragedy. Chicken pot pie certainly hasn’t been on the list. This wasn’t a coincidence. It was a divine influence. I broke down and cried. I was incredibly touched. And it reaffirmed to me that God was mindful of me and loved me. It showed me that He cared about me in all ways, even my insignificant desire for chicken pot pie. I needed this reminder so much. I was also reminded that He didn’t withhold love from me because I was angry with Him. I didn’t feel abandoned. I felt completely loved.

I’m forever grateful for those two friends who recognized and followed a prompting to bring me a chicken pot pie. They ministered to me in ways they couldn’t imagine. They helped me feel my Heavenly Father’s unconditional love when I needed to feel it the most. Their actions helped strengthen my own testimony of God’s love.

Remember that song by Alabama called Angels Among Us? That song is so powerful and beautiful. The chorus gets me every time.

“Oh I believe there are, angels among us
Sent down to us, from somewhere up above
They come to you and me, in our darkest hours
To show us how to live, to teach us how to give
To guide us with the light of love.”

I know firsthand that there are angels among us, both heavenly and earthly. This is one example, of many, where I’ve felt Heavenly Father’s love through other people. I’ve been blessed with that healing power of love. Because of this, I am trying harder than ever to pass that love along.

I’m trying to not shrug off those seemingly random thoughts. They are not random. They are promptings from the Holy Ghost. I am trying to recognize and follow through with those promptings. They might be the answer that someone struggling needs. I’m trying to not let my own insecurities or doubt get in the way of ministering. I’m certainly glad my earthly angels followed through.

Whether you have a feeling to take a chicken pot pie over, write a heartfelt card, or go grocery shopping for someone who doesn’t want to leave their house and face the world, PLEASE follow through with that feeling. I’m a recipient of all three, and more. I’m here to tell you that it has made a huge difference in my healing and grieving process. We shouldn’t downplay the difference we can make. We should be more like the Nike slogan and Just Do It.