"Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good. His love endures forever."
Someone new has come to live in my house. This resident hides under the beds and jumps out to bite my feet when I walk by. She has chewed holes in the living room carpet and shredded the kitchen rugs. She ripped a Hillary Clinton doll to pieces within minutes.
I think it is my job to teach her about good behavior -- how to sit quietly and remember that socks are not snacks; but the truth is, her only job is to teach me a few things.
So far I have learned:
Blessings often arrive disguised as messes. When I dumped a quart container of buttermilk on the kitchen counter and floor, she didn't complain about the milk dripping onto her head and running into her eyes. She enjoyed the unexpected windfall fate had delivered and quickly took advantage of the situation. I could be more aware and appreciate the unanticipated gifts that often fall into my path.
Opportunities often appear disguised as obstacles. The first time she tried to leap onto the sofa cushions, she bounced off and hit the coffee table. After repeated attempts to scale the couch summit, she scrambled to the top and was rewarded with a soft, comfortable resting spot and a better vantage point for viewing the room. I need to remember that success may be preceded by several falls; but if we keep returning and trying, eventually we jump high enough to reach our goals.
Learning usually looks like playing. Every morning walk is an exuberant chase after falling leaves and a noisy crashing through the crunching drifts. She enjoys exploring this colorful, loud, and aromatic world. I am realizing it is alright to slow down, notice the changing seasons, and enjoy the glow of the early rising sun. I am recognizing that I need to make more time to have fun, enjoy new experiences, and see wonder in the world; because life is short, and children (and puppies) grow up fast.
What are you learning from the residents in your home? What lessons have they shared with you?
Because I had some minor surgery yesterday, I've planned a few days off to focus on activities that are comforting and relaxing. It's nice to be reminded sometimes that life is about more than work and recognition. My plans for the coming week include:
How do you spend any time you have for relaxing? What are your thoughts as we remember 9/11 this weekend?
Somehow I always got the cart with the squealing wheel. I wrestled it through the twists and turns of the grocery store, throwing in rattling boxes of macaroni and cheese, rubbery hot dogs, chicken nuggets, whole milk, white bread, peanut butter, giant slabs of frozen pizza, and pastel-colored breakfast cereal in enormous plastic bags.
At the last aisle of the store, I stopped and turned around. The final aisle was the forbidden zone, a foreign and mysterious territory, a place I thought was off-limits to poor moms like me.
The produce aisle.
We can't afford it, I told myself. We won't eat it, and it will all go bad anyway. Fresh produce is for people with money. I maneuvered the cart toward the checkout lane.
Looking back, I know my daughter and I were very blessed. We never went hungry. Though we lived for many years on one minimum-wage income, we always had enough to eat, and for that I am very grateful.
But I have wondered what I could have done differently to feed my daughter more nutritiously on the resources we had.
"It's not all or nothing," says Meg, a Health Coach for the Dr. Sears L.E.A.N. lifestyle and nutrition program. Meg encourages moms to make small changes, small shifts in thinking about the way we feed our families.
"You can't change the way you eat all at once, or it won't be sustainable," Meg explains. She says small changes are less shocking to a family's habits and finances.
Meg offers a few small steps moms can take to provide more nutritious food for their families.
"Do what works for your family," Meg continues. "Realize this season of life is not forever, and do the best you can with what you have. Your family will benefit."
The Dr. Sears Wellness Institute offers lifestyle, exercise, and nutrition information and support. The website provides a blog about health and nutrition, pages of recipes and shopping tips, and the opportunity to become a certified Health Coach like Meg. In future posts Meg will share an explanation of Dr. Sears' Traffic Light Foods and guidance on how to read nutrition labels.
My family and financial situation have changed since the days I avoided the produce aisle. More importantly, my old attitude of "We can't afford it" has changed to: We can afford it. We deserve it, and I want to be healthy.
Now the produce aisle is my first stop in the grocery store. I buy bags of apples, oranges, and little baby carrots. I choose Romaine lettuce with sunflower seeds, dried cranberries, and raspberry vinaigrette dressing. We like cauliflower roasted in olive oil and sweet potatoes baked with real butter.
But somehow I still get the cart with the screeching wheel.
What has been your experience in the grocery store? How do you find nutritious alternatives for your family?
I put up my hair; stepped into my swimsuit and flip-flops; collected sunscreen, sunglasses, and a water bottle.
Together we walked downstairs and across the courtyard to the pool area. We found the gate chained.
The weather was perfect, warm, but not scorching. My daughter had taken a vacation day off work so we could spend the afternoon hanging out by the pool. The lounge chairs beckoned, promising peace, relaxation, and conversation; but that gate was chained.
We called the complex office. "Only a couple of hours," we were told. "Maintenance is adjusting the chlorine levels. The pool will reopen soon."
So we waited, frustrated, annoyed, irritated. We walked repeatedly up and down the concrete steps to check on the poolman's progress.
The gate remained chained.
We ate lunch, then checked the gate. We ate ice cream, then checked the gate. We drove to the massive aquatic center across town, then decided against paying to sit beside the crowded pool when we had a beautiful, free pool back at the complex. We drove home and checked the gate. Still chained.
We sat on the couch in the cool living room and watched a few episodes of Brain Games until the rain started. We didn't spend a minute by the pool or gain a degree on our tans.
I am grateful because I spent an afternoon with my daughter. We ate burgers and ice cream. We laughed about the silliness of walking back and forth to check on the padlocked gate. We shrieked over the dead mouse we found in the parking lot. We learned from Brain Games that compassionate feelings are shared and generated by compassionate actions. And we enjoyed the peace, relaxation, and conversation we had planned, but in the comfort of an air-conditioned living room.
I am grateful for every day I spend in the company of the people I love. I appreciate every moment I have with them, whether in clear skies or rain, sun or shadow.
What are your plans this summer afternoon? What will you do if your plans suddenly change?
Sometimes moms need reminders to slow down, relax, and enjoy the time we have with our youngsters. Years pass quickly, and now is the time to make memories and build relationships with the most important people in our lives.
Play on the floor.
Children will remember the time we spend engaged with them at their eye level. When we sit down and make them the focus of our attention for a little while, they know they are important in our eyes.
Picnic in the park.
Special memories are made of simple times. A sandwich served on a paper plate under a shady tree can be enough to create a lasting and treasured memory of time spent together.
Read together every night.
Whether we read the same book repeatedly, or explore a variety of titles borrowed free from the library, what matters to children are the feelings of being held and loved.
Walk and talk.
Every day is an opportunity to notice our environment and discuss what we see. Children learn by exploring the world around them; and adults have fun seeing flowers, birds, trees, and bugs from a child's perspective.
Let kids help.
The smallest children can help bake cookies or fold laundry. Letting children help with making beds or putting away toys builds their sense of initiative and capability.
Say "please," "thank you," and "I love you" often.
Children need to hear positive language too. When we use words that nurture and encourage, we teach children to behave and communicate positively.
Listen to what they say.
Adults are often surprised by the level of insight and understanding children can express. When we pay careful attention, we can be amazed at what our children share.
A few words of prayer every day have a powerful impact on our well-being. It is important to express our thanks for all we have and share our concerns for whatever we need.
We have so many reasons to be thankful! We are blessed with love, strength, and laughter. We need to remember to appreciate all we have and to express our gratefulness.
Remember moms are important.
Every child's favorite people are his or her parents. We are important influences on the lives of our children. Children will value the relationships we nurture with them.
How do you enjoy spending time with your children? What do your want your kids to remember about your special times together?
Remember you are blessed!
At the edge of the parking lot, the women pitched rocks. The rocks arched up and over the fence, then dropped into the high grass of the empty lot on the other side.
The women threw the rocks to symbolize discarding the concerns that burdened them. I duplicated the activity at home to help get some clarity of my own.
Find two rocks and a permanent marker.
Check driveways, parks and flower beds for rocks. I found two rocks beside the sidewalk outside my front door. I found the marker in my desk drawer.
On the first rock:
Write a word describing a trait you like about yourself. I wrote "compassion" because I care about sharing the life stories of the single moms I know.
On the second rock:
Write a word describing a trait you want to let go. I wrote "anger" because for years I have carried resentment and anger about experiences in my past.
Keep the first rock as a reminder of the quality you want to encourage and preserve.
Take the second rock outside and throw it away. Pitch it into a field, a pond, a lake, a sewer grate.
Be careful not to hit people, windows, or passing cars.
Pray and ask God to help you release the burden you threw away with the second rock. Express your gratitude for the blessing you named on the first rock.
Walk away feeling lighter because some of the weight that was holding you back has now been left behind.
Everyone has a burden they want to throw away. Everyone has positive characteristics to be admired. Sometimes remembering the positive helps us forget the negative entirely.
Post a comment about your rock-throwing experience. What did you write on your rocks? How did you feel after throwing one away? How will you honor the quality you want to keep?