Tuesday, March 12, 2013

The Importance of Habits

Ever since January 1, at "New Year's Resolution" time, I've been mulling over the interrelation between goals and habits.  It seems to me that goals, even when a person is highly motivated, rarely come to fruition unless habits are cultivated that consistently move a person in the direction of his goals or dreams.

For example, I have had the habit of doing about ten minutes of flexibility exercises every morning ever since I was about fifteen years old.  It has become such a habit that I  do it when I am on the road, in a hotel or even in a stranger's house.  When I absolutely can't do it, like just after surgery last month, I have an internal breakdown, sort of like Mr. Monk or Sheldon Cooper, except I can control the external part.  When people ask me what my "secret" is...why I seem a lot younger than I actually am, I give these flexibility exercises almost complete credit..in addition to God's blessings and good genes!

In the summertime, I also have developed a habit of going running (or, in my case, walking fast while bouncing up and down)...In the summer, this has become such a habit that it is a rare day that passes without my getting exercise.  However, when the summer passes, and there isn't enough light to run early in the morning, my habit has to shift.  Every year, I vow that I will continue to run sometime in the afternoon, but that has always turned out to be too vague.  "Sometime in the afternoon" doesn't become a habit and I typically put on a good ten pounds over the winter as a result of not following through.

Similarly, concerning healthy eating, I have a habit of eating a nutritious breakfast of cereal and fruit, having a mid-morning snack of granola and/or yogurt, and eating a light, healthy lunch of soup or salad.  Then, starting about 3:00, I rampage through the kitchen eating every thing isn't nailed down.

Why do I do this?  Why do I sabotage everything else I do that is healthy for me by continuing this behavior?  It is because our supper hour has become unpredictable, for reasons having to do with my husband's work, and sometimes my own work interferes, too.  Without a clear-cut supper hour, I haven't been able to establish a healthy afternoon snacking ritual...hence the uncontrolled eating between 3 and supper.

This blog is another example. When I first started, I decided to form a habit of writing it once a week when I first get up on Sundays.  I did this for awhile, but it hadn't been long enough to really create a habit.  Then one Sunday I was on the road...and another Sunday we had company over...and another Sunday I decided I needed to get out and garden...you get the picture.  At some point, my weekly blog has apparently become a bi-yearly blog.   So the question now is,  will my motivation be high enough to re-create a habit that will lead to regularity?  Or will this be the last one you see for another six months?

Frankly, I don't know!  What I do know is that goals are very important in order to keep your life moving in the direction you want it to go.  They are important for adults and they are just as important for your teenagers as they move towards their adult lives.  I discuss this quite a bit in a couple of my cds, and urge parents to think through (and write down) their goals for their children in the following areas:  values, habits, attitudes, skills, talents, and knowledge.  As the kids get old enough to set their own goals, the homeschooling process should become more and more a collaborative effort.

However, as I repeatedly teach myself through my own actions,  goals have little chance of being achieved unless a plan is created and habits are developed that will consistently provide the mechanism for reaching those goals.  So whether your goal is healthy eating, weight control, preparing for a career, getting out of debt, or purchasing your first house (remember, I am a realtor now...heh,heh)...make sure you create the habits you need to reach your dreams!

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Setting Our Own Agenda, Learning to Say No

Recently I've been spending a lot more time with younger homeschooling families and observing the way the moms conduct their business, and interact with their kids.  It has been a joy to get to spend time with the children and the younger homeschooling moms, but one thing has stood out for me while watching them go about their daily lives.

Homeschooling moms have a really hard time saying, "No".

The world tends to look at these mothers and see someone who has a lot of time to kill, since they are "just" staying at home all day with the kids.

Their church tends to think that they have lots of time to devote to ministerial duties.

Their homeschooling groups and co-ops tend to think they have time to coordinate, plan, and teach classes for other kids, "since they are going to be there, anyway".

Their neighbors and friends tend to think they have time to babysit a few extra kids and/or run some extra errands, because "they don't have a job"...

I've met some moms who have successfully fended off all these extra requests, and other moms who just can't seem to say, "No", and mean it.  Part of our problem is that we have all internalized this idea that we are Christian women, who have to put everybody else's concerns ahead of our own...to be of service to all that we encounter.

But our first level of ministry has to be our own family!

No matter what stage of life a woman is in, she has to be able to set her own agenda, and say, "This is all I have time to do.  Sorry, but my cup already runneth over...."   This is hard to do when the church secretary "just needs one little favor", or the neighbor down the street "can't pick up her child today at school."  It takes practice.  If you have trouble, stand in front of your mirror and pretend you are a two year old.  "No....No....No....NOOOOOOOO!"

It is still important to maintain my own agenda at this point in my life.  In one week, I leave for England for my daughter's wedding.  I decided several weeks ago that the week prior to the trip, I was not going to work at my appraisal job, and warned my supervisor in plenty of time.

Yesterday, I  spent over an hour on the phone with him.  Apparently, if I don't accept at least two appraisals this month, he will go out of business!  I like my supervisor, but I must say, he is a master manipulator. He told me that it was likely that he wouldn't have any work for me when I get back if I didn't help him this week.  He asked me, "Does it really take you a week to do your laundry?"  (After all, laundry is the only thing I have to accomplish this week....to prepare for a two week trip out of the country, including a wedding and a backpacking trip to Scotland..really?.)

He said to me, "It must be nice to have the luxury to not have to work"....(how many times did I hear that one while I was homeschooling!),  and then followed it up with, "Do you really need to have a vacation in order to prepare for your vacation".

Luckily, I have learned this lesson.  MY AGENDA.  MY DECISION.  Is there a time for flexibility?  Yes, of course.  But it is MY DECISION when to be flexible!!!  So I listened politely, commiserated with him about his problems with the business, and then said, once again, NO.  I will not do any appraisals this week.  I am getting ready for my daughter's wedding!

Remember, you can't be any good to anyone else if you get yourself all out of whack!  And always, always, always, your first ministry is to your own family.  Don't let anything, even church work or outside ministry, stop you from taking good care of yourself and your kids.  And learn to say, politely and firmly, "NO."

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Re-Inventing Ourselves

It is 6:23 a.m on a Sunday morning.  If all has gone well with her travels, my daughter, Laura, is standing on English soil, beginning her new life.  In two months she will be marrying a British citizen, and is planning on establishing dual citizenship.

Only those of you who are mothers can imagine how or why I am feeling so empty and alone right now.  After all, my daughter is happy!  She is exactly where she wants and needs to be.

For some reason, which I've never exactly been able to analyze, most of my very best friends over the years have been men, rather than women.  At this point, turning to one of these good friends would be completely pointless.  All I would get would be odd looks and platitudes..."But she is 25 years old.  Why would you even want to live together anymore?  She's doing what she is supposed to be doing."

And my personal favorite, "Now that all your children are grown up, you're free to do whatever you want to do."

Except what I really want to do is still be a homeschooling mother.

I've often said in my workshops that homeschooling moms have to be careful to avoid setting themselves up for the worst empty nest syndrome in the world.  I followed all my own advice over the years, preparing myself, getting credentials so I could have meaningful work and ministry to do, but I never realized exactly how hard all of this was going to be.

However, as hard as all of this has been for me, I think it is ten times harder for my husband.  There is something inherently tough in women, that makes us flexible and able to re-invent ourselves from time to time.  The mere fact that we allow ourselves to feel our emotions also helps us to deal with them.  Yes, there are tears streaming down my cheeks as I'm writing this.  But at the same time, I'm feeling Laura's joy at reuniting with her  beloved Rich.

And I know that I will find a way to re-invent myself, because that's what we women do.  In my husband's mind, I know that he feels like he has just lost his daughter.  He simply can't suddenly envision himself as a world traveller. Men just have a harder time with these kinds of shifts.

On the other hand, I know that I will now simply have my world expanded.  I've never liked flying that much, and I especially don't like flying over large oceans, but now my fears will have to be put to rest, because I simply can't sit here in the United States and never see my own daughter.  Men tend to say, "There just isn't any money for a plane ticket."  Women tend to say, " I don't care what I have to do, or sell, or change in my life....my child needs me to come over there once in awhile and so I will find the money."

In the unlikely scenario there are actually any men reading this blog, this flexibility is something you really need to work on.  And it wouldn't hurt some of you to learn how to cry once in awhile!

But I know most of you reading this are women...and you understand exactly what I'm feeling like this morning...or you will someday, if you haven't already gotten to this point in your life.

So, once again, it is time to reinvent myself.  A lot of you are younger moms....and you have only recently re-invented yourselves into your image of a homeschooling mother...a few of my readers are much younger, recent graduates of homeschooling programs, who are just now re-inventing yourselves as adults, with responsible jobs, and homes.  You know how important it is to be flexible and able to go with the flow.

Anyway, here I am world...I'm now a homeschooling mom emeritus.  A real estate professional who needs to make some serious money.. The head of a homeschooling community, who needs to find the time to minister and reach out to share with younger moms.  A gardener and "putterer about the house" who needs to find the time to get lost in projects without little children around to distract me.  A runner and serious hiker  who needs to prepare for a trip on the Appalachian trail.  A mountain biker.  A world traveller, who will finally get to see Europe, using my new British relatives as a stopping-off point.  And hopefully, someday in the not-too-distant future, a grandmother.

Even though, right now, every one of those things has a bit of a hollow ring, I know that I will grow to enjoy this time of my life.  Transitions are the hardest, as those of you who have gone through childbirth can attest to.  And the worst part of all of this is I can't even call my mom to talk to her about it, because she died four years ago.  So now I'm the mom...the one my grown up children will call for help and encouragement...and I'd better get my act back together pretty quickly, because I desperately want to be the counselor, and not the counselee

So, my favorite quote once comes back into play...from an old Amish woman..."do ye now next thing"...and we are the only ones who can figure out what that means for each of us.  For me, right now,  it means, "feed the dogs"...because a woman's work is never done, even when her children leave home!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Returning to Tybee Island

Hi...I'm writing this morning from Savannah, GA, one of my favorite places to visit.  We're down here (Roy, me, and our daughter Laura, who is about to get married and move to England), for a mini-break.  In a few minutes we'll be headed to Tybee Island, to see the lighthouse (again!) and go to the beach for the rest of the day.

This reminds me of a weekend we once spent here as part of our "Georgia History Adventures" programs for ARCHERS.  Back when we had the resource center in Kennesaw, GA, this was one of our most popular programs. We met once a month to learn about Georgia history and prep for the field trip of the month, and then went together to some Georgia historical site  Of course, being Georgia, a lot of them were Civil War-related, but Savannah is known as the birthplace of Georgia. Naturally, the Indians might take exception with that, but this is where Oglethorpe established the colony of Georgia and there are many historical sites here, as well as a history museum, walking tours, carriage rides, and riverboat tours.  Since those mostly cost a lot of money, we just usually walk around the squares ourselves.  Today is the  birthday of Juliette Gordon Low, the founder of Girl Scouts, and her home is here, so there will be a gadzillion girl scouts all over Savannah, which is partly why we're going to Tybee Island today!

One of my many dreams for ARCHERS is to own a house down here on Tybee, where homeschoolers can rent a place for cheap to have vacations.  Many some day we'll have a whole string of vacation cabins for you all to enjoy!

In the meantime, consider starting your own version of "(Your State) history adventures.  One of my upcoming columns in The Old Schoolhouse magazine is about incorporating excitement into your studies of history. I think it will be in the April issue.

Gotta go find some seashells and a new dolphin windchime for my front porch. Hope you are all having a great Sunday!

Sunday, February 26, 2012

How to Start Your Day

This morning, the first thing I did, which is my custom, was to read a little bit of something inspirational. The book that I picked up this time is "The Power of Positive Living" by Norman Vincent Peale. (This is not the one he is best known for, "The Power of Positive Thinking".) This one he wrote nearer the end of his long life, and it is filled with what I would term "old fashioned common sense".

One of the things he was talking about was his recollection of the days during the Great Depression, when everyone was walking around New York City being fearful and filled with anxiety and depression of a more personal nature.  He mentioned how some of the "gloom and doom" people were saying that the United States would never rise again.

Since I just blogged about some of the economic problems we are likely to be facing in the near future, I felt that this time I wanted to focus more on the positive thinking solutions we all need to be focusing on.

After finishing my morning's reading, I went on to the next item, which was letting the dogs out to do their thing.  While doing that, I have formed that habit of  remaining outside, swinging my arms a bit, and taking deep breaths to get my circulation going for the day and breathe in some fresh air and encouragement. Some mornings I have a beautiful sunrise to greet me. Other times it may be a little gray, but there is always fresh air and the sound of birds (and barking).

The last time I was in Portland to visit my daughter, there was an Asian man in the park doing his morning "slow" exercises in the Oriental tradition.  One of them was circling his arms. It looked like he was "pumping himself up" for the day, and that is what started me doing something similar in the out-of-doors in the mornings.

This morning, I spontaneously began saying some things while I was consciously breathing in and out to replenish my fresh air.  I guess I figured I might as well replenish my attitude at the same time.

"I'm breathing in faith, I'm breathing out fear....I'm breathing in enthusiasm, I'm breathing out discouragement....I'm breathing in health, I'm breathing out disease...I'm breathing in power, I'm breathing out inadequacy."  It quickly became an exercise in thinking of opposites."

I know that most of you who read my blogs are mothers.  When the children are little it is hard to remember to take time to replenish your own inner strengths.  But you've got to remember that if you don't have power, or faith, or health, it is much harder to send your children out into the world each morning (or to start the day together, if you are homeschoolers) with the right attitude.

In my cd, "How to Avoid Being a Mommy Martyr", I talk about the importance of attending to your own needs.  When you have unmet needs yourself, it is almost impossible to meet the needs of your children, or anyone else for that matter.  In workshops, I've often stated that the mother's real role is being the emotional heart of the family.

When your husband comes in a little out of sorts, or the kids are having an argument, I've found that if the mother remains calm, everything eventually settles back down. However, when it is the mother who is just a little crazed, it doesn't matter what the general mood of the family is, because everything will start going down hill.

So I encourage all you moms out there to consider how you are beginning your day.  Are you making the time for a little quiet time? A little inspirational and/or Bible reading?  A few minutes for prayer? A time for some exercise or a little fresh air outside?  You are not being selfish by taking the time to fill up your own reserves of health and power....you need them to make the rest of your day productive and happy!

It's not even 8:00 this morning and I've already had my inspirational reading, done my exercises, breathed in some fresh air and written this blog.  Now I can go make some breakfast and greet our overnight guests. The only thing that would have been different back when I was homeschooling is that I would have had a baby nursing while I was writing this, and I would have told my older kids a few times to go back to their rooms and I'd let them know when I was ready to deal with them.  Just because you are a mom doesn't mean you have to be a mommy martyr! 

Have a great day, today and every day!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Blame Our Educational System, not Obama

Today I was watching the Weather Channel, and they were talking about the rising prices of gas.  One of the meteorologists asked, somewhat bewildered, "Why are all the prices for gas and food going up?" (I raised my hand, but nobody called on me.)

People have been trying to blame the rise in food costs on the weather, which is partly responsible...But the old "supply and demand" paradigm is failing people when it comes to gas prices because it appears to some that the demand for gas is decreasing, (which isn't true on an international level), yet the price is going up.

It really is so simple.  The U.S. has been printing money like it is going out of style.  There isn't enough room here to talk about why that is.  It isn't Obama's fault, although his administration certainly hasn't helped the situation. Yet very few people seem to realize the gravity of the situation.

There are basically four things that could be done right now in this country. The first is to declare a Year of Jubilee like the Bible tells us to do.  That would solve everything, but it isn't going to happen unless we have a massive revival first.  (A year of Jubilee would wipe out all debt across the board, thereby stopping the exponential curve in its tracks and fixing everything. God knew the exponential curve would lead to economic chaos every few generations, so that is undoubtedly why he gave us this command).

The second possibility would be to allow the U.S. to default on its loans, which would likely lead to economic and social chaos. The powers that be won't ever agree to that, in my opinion.  The third is to begin confiscating private wealth and go completely socialist.  The current adminstration would probably like to do that, but, again, it would create chaos, and possibly lead to revolution, so, again, not likely.  The fourth is to  keep printing money to cover the explosive debt.  This is what is being done.

This always always always always leads to hyperinflation.  We are starting to see it in the grocery stores and at the gas pumps, but this is only the beginning.  Remember the early 80s, with 15% interest on mortgages and cds?  That was tame compared to what is coming.  This is not an opinion, it is fact.  Economic laws will always prevail, unless God's laws (i.e. the year of Jubilee, in this case) are substituted.

Anyway, my main point is this.  Be sure to include economic education and education in personal finance in your homeschooling efforts....the lack of that in the school system has lead to complete economic illiteracy, not just among the populace, but also in most of our elected officials and even in their advisors.   Almost every problem I see in this country is the result of poor education and general illiteracy in the majority of the population (and even some homeschoolers).

Whatever the results of the elections will be this fall, this problem is not going to go away simply because a different group of people takes charge.  One of the ways you can recognize economic illiteracy is when people point their fingers at one man or one party, and say, "They are the ones responsible"...No.  Economic laws are responsible. Failure to listen to God is responsible. Failure to observe the time of Jubilee is responsible.  We are all responsible, because for too many years Christians and other responsible citizens refused to recognize the slide downwards that our education system was taking. Either that, or they recognized it and ignored/complained about it without taking action.

Most of you are the exceptions.  However, please don't take "relaxed" (being relaxed and family-oriented) to mean "don't educate your children"....Without a return to cultural and economic and political literacy in this country, we are going to go the way of the Roman Empire, the Greek Empire, the British Empire, and every other one that has risen to great heights, only to slide into oblivion.

This post isn't meant to frighten....except maybe to jolt people into realizing everybody better start learning and noticing what is going on, because knowledge is the first step to power!  If you want to know where to start, on a personal level, I know of no better place to begin than to read some of Dave Ramsey's work.  (Not a paid ad....:) Then, if you don't know what the heck an exponential curve is or what I'm talking about, exercise your research skills and learn about it!

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Children Learn Best in a Natural Environment

As many of you know, I work as a real estate appraiser now that my children are grown.  The other day I went to a house where there were two primary-aged little boys. They had just come off the school bus at the end of a long day.  When I first arrived, they were following me around the house, expressing curiosity about what I was doing, asking questions about my camera, and answering questions that the mother didn't know the answer to!  In short, they were inquisitive, intelligent, and engaging little people.

After a few minutes, they were told to sit down and do their homework. It quickly became apparent that the younger one, who was in first grade, was a struggling reader.  The process was difficult, and the feedback he was receiving was clearly making him believe he was less than adequate for the task.

This was on one of those rare winter days down south when it was almost 70 degrees and sunny outdoors. The outside was beckoning to the boys, but they still had to do their sit-down work, even after hours and hours of sitting and being quiet in the schoolroom.

Later in the week, I went to IKEA with my daughter and purposely sat down near the children's play area to eat my lunch.  Next to us, there was a table with a family of young children, who were being forced to sit still and eat their food.  They were squirming and misbehaving.  In front of us, there was a little girl, maybe three years old, who was happily playing in the children's play area while her parents sat a few tables away watching her.  I doubt she was in any danger of starving to death, and the parents were able to enjoy a happy lunch hour while she played, having fun in her own element.

Both of this instances just reminded me that I absolutely love to observe and/or work with young children when they are in their element, and I absolutely hate working with young children when they are out of their element, as is the case in almost every classroom situation.

I hope those of you who are homeschooling make the most of your opportunities to let the children learn outdoors when possible.  Even indoor work can be done in a more conducive environment.  A small reading area, with a comfortable big pillow in a sunny corner, makes a small child much more likely to enjoy curling up with a book than he would be sitting at a school desk. 

Little children love to learn. They just hate sitting still in a contrived atmosphere and being made to sit for hours doing work that engages their minds but keeps their bodies in a straitjacket.

We used to take our books to the park sometimes. I remember sitting by a stream reading Thornton Burgess stories to the kids about Grandfather Frog while sitting by the frog pond at Red Top Mountain State Park. 

I just feel sorry for kids who aren't allowed to be kids.