Walking the Road Less Traveled

The Path to Finding Family Success

The Path Less Traveled

Recently, I’ve been reading a book called No Excuses! The Power of Self-Discipline by Brian Tracy. At the end of each chapter, there are Action Exercises—basically a fancy way of saying answer these questions. But, the questions are hard and I’m a teacher. I know a difficult question when I see it! 

They’re not hard like quantum physics, but the questions call for deep introspection and you know what happens with difficult questions? Nothing. We ignore them. We make excuses like, “Let me think about that some more and I’ll get back to you later.” Many times we don’t even try. We give up way too soon.

So as an educator, I hate to admit it, but I got to the very first question in chapter one and I said to myself, “Wow, that’s a hard question. I’ll skip this one and go on to question number 2. Hmm, how about question 3?” I went through all seven questions and decided I’d read some more of the book and then go back and answer the questions.

Let me tell you. I’m on chapter 4 and I haven’t answered one, single, solitary question. I’m 21 questions behind!

Why?

Because in the words of Brian Tracy, we “take the path of least resistance in search for immediate gratification.” And I totally proved this true. I didn’t want to do the hard work. I wanted the knowledge without actually applying the information.

We all tend to do the same. We want the info without the effort, the knowledge without the struggle and the reward without the payment. What we want is the easy way.

Yet, the easy way will never get you what you desire in life, not in business, not in your health, and most definitely not in your relationships.

Every day our lives are affected by divorce or the break up of a family because we want the easy way. The way where hurt doesn’t affect us, where we don’t have to sacrifice, and where we get without giving. Selfishness is the equivalent of the path of least resistance.

If we are going to have lasting relationships, we must recognize our tendency to seek the fun life, the difficulty-free zone. We have to get past laziness and invest in the ones who matter most.

Our relationships require dedication. They require commitment. All in. For the long-haul. No easy pass. Relationships are tough and you must be equally tough if you’re going to survive.

However, our families should do more than survive. We should thrive.

After all, you put in the hard work to reap something. That something is what you decide you want from your family. It’s answering the hard question that Brian asks, “If your family life were ideal, what would it look like, and what one discipline would help you the most to make it a reality?”

Why is a business book asking this question?

Two reasons.

First, he asks the question because if you don’t have a foundation of what you want, you won’t do the hard work to get it. We ask introspective questions to guide our behavior. We must know what our goal is—what we’re working for. Without this answer, we will take the path of least resistance every time.

Second, Brian starts off the book this way because you can’t be truly successful outside your home, if you’re not successful in your home. Home is the foundation that you, your spouse and children build their life on. What happens at home affects everyone and it’s impossible to leave your personal life at home.

If we want to have successful families, we must answer the hard questions and then get to the even harder work—living out the commitment.

Consistent effort will produce the effect you desire. Are you guaranteed success? Of course not. There are no perfect scenarios in life. It’s all a risk. But if you consistently work, you will reap the reward.

In No Excuses, Brian explains that “by acting with character and in harmony with your highest values, you put your entire life (internally and externally) into an upward spiral.” There will be rewards along the path to keep you motivated, knowing your effort is worth it.

Put your family on a positive track towards success. Answer the tough questions, know what you’re working for, commit to the long-haul, and you will find the reward of a strong, successful family. Stay the course. We’re in it together.

The Love of a Mother

In One Word- Sacrifice

Mother's Day

In loving memory of Roberta Ann White- August 12, 1945 to September 27, 1995

 

Mother’s Day is bitter sweet for me. Smiles and tears play tug-of-war with my mind and emotions as I remember the woman who gave life and motivation to me.

My mom was the female version of the Renaissance Man. Wife, mom of 5, housekeeper, cook, chauffeur, but this is common for most moms, right? This is where the truly amazing part begins.

Without even a high school education, my mom, along side my dad, built a successful paving company. Paving many miles of road in the fierce Texas heat, most would think a woman couldn’t handle this kind of physically demanding work, but my mom was not most women. She shoveled base material, ran a roller and drove a dump truck, while managing to hold many tempers in check in order to get the job done. To no one’s surprise, mom was the financial brains of the operation, maintaining the payroll, paying the bills, and most importantly, collecting past due payments. One of my grandest childhood memories is a statement made by a local CPA who trained my mom. He bragged “this woman would be dangerous if she had a degree.”

Only he didn’t know how dangerous she was—at home, that is. A secret he may not have know, but one all my friends were well aware of. She was the disciplinarian of the family. Like a 6th sense, she knew intuitively if you had done something wrong. And, she was not the easy parent who let you off the hook in a few days or a week. If you were grounded, you would serve your entire allotted time. No early release program at our house.

Looking back though, her discipline, determination, and shear grit made me who I am today. Not a day goes by that I don’t think of her. I remember how she’d come home exhausted, covered in rock dust. At the time, I didn’t understand the depth of her sacrifice for us. I would give anything to wrap my arms around her and say thank you. But deep down inside, my heart understands that she didn’t do it for the thank you or anyone’s accolades. She did it out of love—the love of a mom wanting the best for her children and doing whatever it takes to care for her family.

P.S. After a shower and just a dab of make-up, my mom was a knock-out!

What I learned about Politics at the Beauty Shop

Small, Average, & Great Minds

What I Learned about Politics at the Beauty Shop

Trying to obey, I kept one foot on the floor and the other on the front bar of the chair. Spinning in the chair—definitely forbidden. Slight movement, almost indistinguishable to my Mom, kept me in good graces.

Rarely, did we get our hair cut or attend when Mom got her hair done. So sitting in the empty pump-me-up chair next to my Mom’s hairstylist, Marilyn, was about a 9.5 on this 8 year old’s excitement scale. And this day, I was the recipient of a new hair-do.

Positioned behind the back wall, Marilyn guided me to the shampoo station. Draping me in a cape, she snapped the neck closed. Propped up on a booster seat, I leaned back into the bowl. That’s when I saw it, the sign about small, average, and great minds.

There’s quite a bit of controversy concerning the originator of the old saying, but for me it came from the beauty shop.

“Great minds discuss ideas, average minds discuss events, small minds discuss people.”

Fascinated by the sign, I was even more amazed that it hung in the beauty shop—where there was no lack of gossip. A useful reminder, but rarely followed.

The pattern still current today. We talk a good game. We have kindness campaigns, anti-bully education, and child abuse awareness. But, our actions communicate a different set of beliefs than what we espouse or champion.

As we are in the thick of election season, we see hostile memes denigrating not a political party or a specific policy, but a person. We’ve fallen into the nastiness of destroying a person’s character because we don’t agree politically. Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram overflow with half-true statements. Copy and paste appears to be our current political discussion.

We are desperately missing the goal. The goal should be to learn for ourselves and then discuss political ideas, not discuss or destroy people. We forego our responsibility as an active government participant, learning first hand about foreign, domestic and economic policy, to become a passive believer of Internet propaganda. We withdraw from becoming a Great Mind to accept the role of a Small Mind.

The challenge is to learn about the issues, not to read only one source. Learn both sides of the story so we can intelligently debate the topic. We must become an active member of our government.

I’m guilty of not learning. Our lives are busy and we give our responsibility of education to the nightly news. We sit on the side lines criticizing those who are brave enough to enter the arena, instead of actively participating in the political process.

Make the decision to become a Great Mind. Know the facts. Discuss the ideas. Battle the concept, not the person. Leave small minds behind.

“It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.”

-Aristotle

For the Sake of Fitting In

The challenge of standing up when others can't

Fitting in is Important.

I’ll never forget the words or more so the guilt.

“Bonnie Sue’s germs no returns,” yelled a snotty-nosed kid slapping me on the arm. Seemingly every eye on the playground stared disgustingly at me.

Ooooo, you have Bonnie Sue’s germs. Yuck! Look, she has Bonnie Sue’s germs.

I can still remember the look on Bonnie’s face. A beat down despondent young girl in a tattered blue dress with white polkadots. She watched as the other’s taunted me to indulge in their game.

As the jeering of the popular kids increased, I couldn’t be the one left with Bonnie’s germs. I needed freedom from the heat and pressure of being linked with Bonnie, so I joined the chase—running down the next unaware kid on the playground and relinquishing the unwanted germs.

Today, I think what a horrible experience going to school must have been for Bonnie. For me, I wasn’t a popular kid, but neither was I considered one of Bonnie’s club. As the middle child of a large working-class family, I remember the days of hand-me-down clothing, the lack of money for school clothes, and the pain of kids ridiculing my lack of fashion sense; but never did I feel the humiliation of Bonnie.

Often I wonder what happened to Bonnie. She moved and I stayed. As I still live in the town of my growing-up, I pass the playground where this torturous event took place. I’m reminded that even a good kid like myself can turn into a bully. What I wouldn’t do to go back and make up for my dreadful lack of courage and character that day.

People say schools are different now and I agree. But what I know to be the same is our ability to fall victim to peer pressure and to sacrifice our morals for the sake of fitting in. One in four children report being bullied or cyberbullied according to an April 2015 report by the Department of Education. As parents, we can’t assume that our child will never engage in name-calling or maligning another child’s character. We must understand that children want to fit in and it may be at the expense of another child’s pain. Empower your children with a plan to deny peer pressure. Give them words to say and actions to take when confronted with the uncomfortable position of choosing to fit in or stand up. Bullying doesn’t have to win. We can be a part of the solution to overcoming this epidemic.

Not the Worst Advice Ever

But definitely not a highlight moment of my parenting skills

She will seek your guidance

Digging blindly through what suspiciously appears to be an endless cavern of holding capacity, I muddle through my purse scooping each object out of the way to finally find the ringing just before it ends. Meredith, my first born is calling.

Hey chickie-baby! What’s up?

I pride myself with upbeat phone greetings.

How was your lunch date?

Oh mom, I think Nathan is a great guy, just not my guy. He asked me if I want to go to a cool archery range on Saturday. What do I do? I don’t want to lead him on, but I don’t want to hurt his feelings either.

Mere, you’re really asking the wrong person about this. I hate uncomfortable situations or hurting someones feelings. Saving face is my motto. Sadly, I let a guy call me by my older sister’s name for years because I didn’t want to make him feel stupid.

MOM, I don’t know what to do. How do I get out of this without hurting him?

Okay, you have only a few weeks of school left before you come home for the summer. Go to the archery place and then casually tell him that you are transferring to another school, so you’re not interested in a long distance relationship. Better yet, tell him that he reminds you of your brother. There, quandary solved.

But that still means I have to go on another date with him.

Well do you like him as a friend? If so, just think of it as enjoying a fun event with one of your guy friends.

Okay, I guess I can do that.

Looking back, this was not my best parenting advice. I was passing on my own insecurities to my daughter. Why was Nathan’s emotional status more important than my daughters? Why would I suggest putting her dread aside and suffering through the date?

This is the pattern of my growing-up years. The chosen method of control and parenting I experienced—heaping amounts of guilt and shame until I succumb to the needs of my parents.  I’m amazed at how easy I fall to the power of shame—the fear of unworthiness from the removal of approval or love.

Once I realized what I had done, I called Meredith and told her she should never feel obligated to go on a date. I told her that her feelings are important and valid, not to live afraid to do what is right by yourself. Don’t lose yourself because you’re afraid of disappointing someone.

Reflecting on our talk, I realized how old behavior patterns bury deep down, lurking for the moment to spring into life. Like the persistent weed that grows through the mightiest of structures, we are all susceptible to cracking under the pressure of engrained beliefs.

The road of shame is a pathway I don’t want to travel, but one to be aware of. Poor patterns of unhealthy behavior don’t end over night, but thank goodness for the ability to see our mistakes, right the bad advice and spur greater change in all of us.

Tough Subjects: Making the Choice to Talk

Fighting through the fear

Tough subjects, they cause a “duck and cover” response. Where can I go? Where can I hide? How can I avoid the unwanted discomfort? Some topics just give us the heebee-geebees!

Tough Subjects

Think back to “The Talk.” Maybe you were forced to finally answer your child’s questions about sex since Little Johnny at school explained the anatomical form of procreation. Or, contemplate the awkward embarrassment of learning about the birds and bees from your parent, sibling, or friend. Certain conversations send chills up and down our spine.

And for most of us, we will do anything to avoid the distress of difficult topics.

I wish I could say the sex talk would be our most difficult conversation in life. But, that is a fairy-tale. If we are part of a family, we will have many more grueling subjects to confront…or not.

We grapple with choice everyday. Will we discuss the hardships of life or avoid them as if they don’t exist? Will we pretend the problem doesn’t exist? Will we hide in secrecy?Will we duck our heads in the sand saying it doesn’t affect me? The truth is our actions affect every person within the family.

Difficult topics surround us—bullying at school, drug and alcohol abuse, teenage sex, marital infidelity, mental illness, sexual abuse. If we want healthy families, we must learn to talk about real issues in a respectful manner.

Personally, I’ve seen the consequences of not facing reality and shoving difficulty under the rug. Eventually, the rug has no more room and the affects of the problem lay strewn around the room. You can see the problem in your children, your marriage, and in the mirror.

The temporary feelings of discomfort are nothing to the permanent affects of avoidance. Love those around you enough to confront the difficulty. Choose their life over your embarrassment or fear. Talk through the tough subjects and find a greater reward—a healthy, balanced, proactive family.

Ever feel like Super Mom or Super Dad?

Managing your Red Cape without the Hype

Have you ever felt like Super Mom or Dad? You’re the go-to person.

Super family

You have all the answers, the magic cure.  Your loved ones not only seek your advice, but eagerly apply it to the situation. You stop dilemmas in their tracks with your uncanny skills. Problems bow humbly as you sweep them out of the way. Donning your bright red super hero cape, you stand on the mountain top. You’re a force to be reckoned with—powerfully steadfast and brilliantly perceptive.

But then, the unthinkable happens. In one quick moment, you’re un-caped. Your super-human powers seem to dissolve like cotton-candy on the back seat of the car.

You’ve made a mistake. Not just any mistake—a noticeable mistake.

Nothing de-thrones Super Mom or Dad like a terrible slip, blunder, or faux pas in front of others. Does the family now see me as human? Do they know I’m not perfect? Suddenly, the rush of embarrassment pushes me off my prideful mountain.

For me, my mistake was huge and embarrassingly destructive to my ego. After frustratingly teaching my son to parallel park, I placed gasoline in my diesel engine car. (I have a diesel car and gasoline car if you’re wondering how).

The expert driving teacher, who at times lost patience with the inexperienced driver, now appeared unschooled in the basics of fueling a vehicle. Pride quickly turned to fear, embarrassment, and regret.

With enough diesel left to drive home safely, shame heated my face as I explained the error of my ways to my husband. Not knowing how he would react, I braced myself.

“Oh, why did this have to happen in front of the kids? Of all the stupid things I’ve done, this is the worst!” my accusatory mind rambled.

However my mind acted, my husband did the opposite. Calmly without accusation, he responded, “We’ll fix it. Don’t worry.”

“What? How? Are you sure?”

He lovely assured, “Everything will be okay.”

And thanks to YouTube, my husband’s amazing fix-it skills, my children’s apprenticing, and $50 in auto parts, the car drives like the day we got it!

Flushing 17 gallons of gasoline from the car was no easy task. It took a couple of days of repair. However, my enormous ego drained instantaneously. I no longer claimed Queen of the Hill anymore. I fell hard and fast, tearing off my red super hero cape.

It’s easy to get puffed up from all your successes—to see how important you are or how much others need you. It’s easy to lose sight of your faults and failures. To see the speck in your brother’s eye and not the plank in your own. What I learned is that I make mistakes and I need help just as much as anyone else.

Mistakes don’t have to knock you or me off the mountain and we don’t have to give up our super hero cape. We just need to leave room for others on the mountain as well as allow others the opportunity to wear their red cape too.

Real super heroes model humility. They admit their mistakes and receive help as well as give help. Now go head put your cape on and join me on the mountain. We have a lot of super hero work to do!

Do Distractions Get the Best of You?

Learn how to give your best to the ones you love-

“Hey! Me talking to you,” shouts my never-stop-moving four year old.

Who knew he could pat my leg so hard. The pain fine tuning his voice in my ears. “Oh, yes honey, I’m listening.” For a few seconds, I’m his. Focused on the fascinating description of his favorite Power Ranger. Then, it happens. I stare straight at the love of my life, move my head up and down in total agreement, and vocalize affirming sounds such as uh huh, yet not grasp one single word. My body completely present. My mind and attention a hundred miles away.

family using technology

But hey, we all need some down time…right? Down time is good. Relaxation is great.

Psuedo-listening…bad! It can really damage your relationships.

Think about this. Who are the most important people in your life? Your spouse. Your children. Your parents. Charlie the Chihuahua or Captain Kitty—manning the couch over there. Aren’t they responsible for supporting you on a daily basis, encouraging you when the world outside gets a little too rough, and ultimately loving you unconditionally. Then, why can we give our full attention to the boss at work, the best friend planning a night out, or our ever-present cell phones connecting us to endless amounts of quasi-important information? At times, it can be so easy to half-way listen or completely ignore those we love most.

But why? Why do we do this? We certainly don’t mean to.

Many times it’s because life has us spinning. There are so many pulls on our attention. Work commitments, children activities, church responsibilities, social engagements, and a list of honey-do’s growing by leaps and bounds every day. Add in the desire to multi-task. Get more things done so we can do more. We cook supper while answering work emails. Shop online for school clothes while doing laundry. Watch Netflix in bed when we should be sleeping. Play Words With Friends as we eat dinner out. Scroll through Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook while waiting in the dentist office. Update our LinkedIn account so the world knows we’re available to move up the ladder. Moving, thinking, doing. Compound our constant motion with the unending growth of technology and it’s a wonder that all Americans aren’t diagnosed with electronic-induced Attention Deficit Disorder.

We are spinning ourselves into a comatose state of being—where listening becomes a mindless, haphazard activity. The message our loved ones receive is that they aren’t valuable enough to listen to and we know that is not true. But our actions, when we allow our time to be controlled by the unimportant, promote disengagement. The loss of down time means we take valuable family time and we check out, zone out, miss out. We miss out on talking as we eat dinner. We miss out on the verbal clues of what’s important to our spouse and children. We miss out on the purposeful action of giving one’s time to the other. In the U.S., we say time is money. Well, time is also love.

It’s with your time that you say “I care about you. You are valuable to me.” It’s with our time that we build the strong, healthy family we desire.

Life slips by too quickly. My four year old fire ball is now a tall, good-looking, still verbal fifteen year old. His use of words still at times overwhelms me after a long day of work. Determining to engage and listen to our family and friends does not come easy. Easy is mindless drifting. Showing love takes discipline. The discipline of turning off the cell phone at dinner, unplugging from social media, or letting work go for a little while. Let’s consider what is truly important and manage our time wisely. Spend your time where you will reap enormous benefits. Put active listening at the top of your to-do list and send the message “You are Valuable!”

Listen…Do You Hear It?

Listen….do you hear it? That is the sound of peace and quiet (at least at my house). Spring Break has come and gone. Wonderful as it was to have no schedule. It is almost more wonderful that the kids are back to school and my husband back to work. And I have time to work in silence, glorious silence! The only sound is the whistling of the bird outside my window and the occasional car passing.

Don’t get me wrong. The time I spend with my family is cherished. It is time we can never get back. We should use every moment making memories and creating strong relationships. Yet, we all should have time to ourselves. Time to rejuvenate and replenish our soul.

As a mom, I’m greeted with “hey, I need earrings to go with my prom dress by Saturday or when do you think you will get me signed up for driver’s ed?” Or this statement that I think will throw me over to the dark-side if I hear it from one of my children one more time…”Do you know what would be fun today?” That is code for I really want to do this mom and I will try to make it sound appealing to you too. And yes for a moment you do want to yell “have you ever wondered what might be fun for me or you know I do have important things to get done!” But then guilt begins to speak, “You will only have these beauties for a little while.” You acknowledge in your mind that Guilt is right. I’ll only have these darlings for a few short years and I want to make the best of them. So you respond, “Sure, honey, what would be fun to do today?”

Well the kids had their fun last week and I enjoyed every minute of it (somewhere in my mind I’m wondering if that statement is true or just the correct thing to say). Anyway, it is my time. It is your time to enjoy the silence of the house for a few hours each day. We all have work and many obligations, but for a little bit today, do something that brings you joy. Listen to the bird sing a perfect melody just for you. Take a walk or write a hand-written note of thanks. Unplug. Re-energize. Be selfish with your time for a few minutes. Smile, laugh, and rejoice that in a few hours the silence will be awash with sounds of children and husband asking, “What’s for dinner?”

Is Insanity Winning?

If I asked you today, “Describe the condition of your home to me, right now.” Would your answer resemble something like this? My house looks like a bomb went off inside. Dirty dishes fill the sink. Laundry is still in the dryer. You can’t see the floor of my children’s bedrooms and I don’t know when life will slow down long enough for me to get it clean.

Portrait of scared baby against crazy mother with pan on head

Portrait of scared baby against crazy mother with pan on head

One theme runs throughout every family. We are busy. The alarm rings at 6 am. We hit the floor. Shower, dress, and wake up kids. Pull children out of bed. Dress them, even if their eyes are still shut. Prop the little beauties at the kitchen bar for some cereal, while lunches are tucked into backpacks. You think, “Do I have what I need for the day? Will we make it to the car without a melt down or forgetting anything?” Glimpses of your peaceful life before spouse and children play on your mind’s screen as you question, “Why did I do this?”

Well you did it because life was not complete alone. You did it because blessings come from experiencing life together. We create bonds of support, express limitless love, and establish foundations of stability within the family. Yet sometimes, family life seems unmanageable, like the busyness of life is more in control than we are. And sometimes, that is true, but it doesn’t have to win.

So, how do we take back control from the chaos of life. We live on purpose. We set limits and re-establish our priorities. I don’t think any of you, nor myself, would say, “I like being gone every night of the week due to work, kid’s activities, volunteer commitments, or church activities.” It is important for us to understand that the winner in life is not the person with the most activities or commitments. There is no glory in being overcommitted, stressed, and burdened down. The winner in life is the person who sets boundaries and protects their home life.

Our homes need to be a refuge from the chaos of life. Think about it. When life gets tough, where do you want to run? We want to go home to the peace and safety of family. We want a comfortable and inviting environment to recharge and reconnect. So, how do we take back our life from the chaos? How do we create the home life that we desire?

The following consists of 7 easy steps I take to regain my peace of mind and love of home:

  1. Take a few moments to breathe. Breathe slowly and deeply.  Let your mind rest.
  2. Free yourself from perfectionism. Stop competing with whoever or whatever.
  3. Ask what can I remove from my list of obligations today? What is not necessary and stealing life from me and my family?
  4. Evaluate where you spend your time. Do your activities align with what you want for your family?
  5. Openly talk to your spouse, children or extended-family about removing excess stress.
  6. Agree on a renewed vision of what your family life will look like.
  7. Most importantly, enjoy dinner together at home, sitting at the table without the noise of the television or the distraction of cell phones.

Let me know your thoughts and share with me what works for you…