Have You Been Kicked on a Bad Day?

What do you do when you’re feeling hurt? Do you call a friend? Do you eat some chocolate? Do you say a prayer, read the Bible, go for a run? What is it that takes you from a place of pain to a place of joy?


I imagine the answer is different for everyone. I know at some point I’ve done all of those things to combat the feelings that come with being kicked on a bad day. But I’m reading Rising Strong, by Brené Brown and I’m hearing her say something that I’m not sure how to do. She talks about leaning into the hurt and the pain rather than shrinking from it. Being curious about why we’re feeling the way we are. Then she talks about really wrestling with how we feel and taking a hard look at the story we’re making up about our struggles.


She says people who rise strong after a fall are willing to rumble with their stories. And by “rumble” she means “…they get honest about the stories they’ve made up about their struggles and they are willing to revisit, challenge and reality-check these narratives as they dig into topics such as boundaries, shame, blame, resentment, heartbreak, generosity, and forgiveness.”


That’s a mouthful. But it’s interesting to me. Rather than hide from the feelings…or bury them, she says to feel them and then challenge them. How much of our frustrations are due to a narrative we’re telling ourselves that’s full of assumptions rather than facts?


For example, you walk into the store and down the aisle you notice someone you haven’t seen in a few years. Suddenly you feel a little sick to your stomach, remembering the last time you spoke had been a bit of a heated discussion and you never really resolved it. At one point, you notice this person look at you and then look away in disgust, turning her cart around and moving the opposite direction. Now you’re hurt and ticked off. She can’t even say hello? What is that?


You carry this with you all day, building a whole narrative in your head as to what she’s thinking and why she’s angry with you and how unjust it is. You snap at your kids because you’re rehearsing in your head what you will say to this woman next time you see her. You go to bed and toss and turn because you’re running your last conversation with her over and over in your head.


Now the same situation from the other woman’s perspective: She needed to get dinner supplies. She’s in the bread aisle when she realizes she forgot to grab the ground beef and it’s all the way on the other end of the store. She rolls her eyes at herself, whirls around, and heads back the way she’s just come to grab the ground beef.


That’s it. That’s what really happened. (Well, I mean, this is a fictional example so it didn’t really happen…but you get the idea.)


I guarantee this kind of thing happens all the time. We spend a lot of time assuming things that have little basis in fact. So I love that Brown challenges us to “revisit, challenge and reality-check these narratives…” We can build up a story in our minds to epic proportions, consuming so much energy on anger, hurt and frustration, leaving no energy left to actually deal with our reality. I’m so guilty of this. I never would have thought that I would be. I’m not the type to assume someone is mad at me, in general. But I can look back over the last several years and see times where I’ve built a whole narrative in my head around a situation that was way more rooted in my insecurities than it was in the actual facts of the situation.


However, that’s not to say there aren’t times when we are dealing with real stuff. When someone has intentionally or unintentionally hurt us and it’s painful. When someone kicks you, it hurts. Whether they meant to or not…makes little difference. And letting someone tell you not to feel the pain isn’t the answer. Brené Brown would say to lean into that pain. Be curious about why you feel the way you do and be deliberate in how you respond.


She says, “It doesn’t matter whether we are ready for an emotional adventure—hurt happens. And it happens to every single one of us. Without exception. The only decision we get to make is what role we’ll play in our lives. Do we want to write the story or do we want to hand that power over to someone else? Choosing to write our story means getting uncomfortable; it’s choosing courage over comfort.”


I’m still wrestling with how to do what she’s talking about. But that last paragraph really resonates with me. I don’t want others to write my story. I don’t want to be passive. I want to write the next page and the next, not hand the pen to someone else.


So I’m learning how to distinguish between a story I’ve built up around a non-event and the real pain of being mistreated. And I’m going to continue to work on rumbling with my feelings and not allowing myself to shut down or disengage. When you’ve held your hand out and it’s been slapped, the natural reaction is to stick your hands in your pockets and tell yourself the story that nothing good happens when you put your hand out. But if that’s where the story ends, you’ll never receive any of the gifts that people want to put in your hands either.


If you close yourself to the bad, you’ll close yourself to the good. Let’s choose courage over comfort. Continue to risk because without it, there is no reward. Continue to be open to pain so you can still feel joy. And of course, good friends; chocolate; prayer; a run…all those can help too.


*Quotes from Rising Strong by Brené Brown. 

Photo credit: 
Danny Huizinga on Creative Commons

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IMHO. That was one of those “text speak” words that I had to look up after seeing it over and over on Facebook and having no clue what it meant. Most of them I could figure out when I first noticed them:

  • LOL= Laughing out loud (although, I’ve heard it said that it should really read LQTM…Laughing quietly to myself…because that’s really what you’re doing most of the time that you type LOL).
  • BTW= By the way
  • BRB= Be right back
  • OMG= Oh my gosh/god (depending on your convictions)
  • IDK= I don’t know
  • OMW= On my way

You get the idea. But IMHO stumped me. (as did SMH…shaking my head). IMHO means In my humble opinion (thank you Google, you’re my BFF). Often it’s thrown in at the end of a rant or someone’s explanation of how they feel on any particular subject. (I think it’s kind of a funny statement because rarely when I’ve seen it used did the user sound very humble.)


But anyway, I digress. I’ve been thinking about my opinion today. I am trying to figure out exactly what I think about a sticky situation someone brought up, and I was stressing a little. Because I’m not sure what I think but I know it’s not what I’m “supposed” to think. Not what I’ve been told to think my whole life.


And I was getting a little frustrated. Because while I believe it is admirable to really know why you believe what you believe, I get a strong sense that thinking too much about what you’ve been raised to think, pushing on some edges, makes others uncomfortable. But I can’t not think about things. I want to know why I believe what I believe. Whether it’s in regards to politics, religion, raising kids, whatever.


But after a few minutes of mulling over things, I got really excited because I realized something that is so freeing; I don’t have to tell anyone my opinion about anything, if I don’t want to. I know that may sound obvious. I’m sure a few of you are saying, “Duh.” But it was kind of revolutionary for me. I’ve always thought that I should be an open book. It’s the way I’m wired—a people pleaser, at heart. But after some awkward conversations lately I’m coming to realize that I don’t have to share my thoughts about anything unless I feel safe doing so.


I know. It’s really an odd stance for a blogger to take. I mean, what is a blog like this if it’s not my opinions? You’re right. It is odd. (It’s also why I’ve written almost nothing in six months.) But I mean…I am a writer. I’m writing a book about parenting a strong willed child, for goodness sake. Obviously, I’ll be sharing my opinions. So, I’m not saying I’ll never give my opinion. I’m simply saying that I’ve realized I get to choose what I share and what I don’t and just because someone wants to pin me down to a position, doesn’t mean I have to let them. I can still have a great relationship with someone even if they don’t know what I think about all the “hot topics.”

It was quite freeing for me to realize that I can choose to keep:

  • What I think about God between me and Him.
  • What I think about politics between me and the voting machine.
  • What I think about raising kids between me and my husband.
  • What I think about the weather…well that it SUCKS. (See, I don’t mind sharing some of my opinions ;))


I may be the only person in the world who never realized I had a right to keep my thoughts to myself. But probably, someone out there reading this also needed “permission” to think for themselves and not let anyone push them into doing otherwise. So there it is.

That’s the truth.



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Tell Your Face

Twelve and Ten. In this shot, I had asked them to cross their arms. Ha!

Last night at Sixteen’s volleyball game, two different moms told me that my boys (Ten and Twelve):

  1. Were so cute
  2. Were so well behaved and always seemed happy
  3. Got along really well

I’m still laughing.

One out of three aint bad; they are cute.

Perception is such a funny thing. The way we think we are perceived and they way we are actually perceived can be so far apart. I remember when I used to lead worship at the women’s Bible study at my church. One night there was a woman in the audience who had a scowl on her face the whole time. I mean, if I had been a newbie I would have been totally freaked out.

But then afterward, she sought me out to tell me how much she enjoyed the worship music and how it touched her heart. I smiled and thanked her, but inside I was wondering if I should mention that she might want to tell her face how she was feeling!

So, back to my boys. They actually are good kids and they do get along pretty well in public. But at home? It’s pretty much World War Three.

Every. Single. Day.

Which means I walk around feeling stressed out by their behavior, trying to figure out what I’m doing wrong and how I can fix it. So, when two people make comments about my boys that are so far from the perception I have, I take a step back and evaluate. They really are pretty good kids. They drive me crazy and they don’t get along. Except when they do. Like at volleyball games. I think maybe I should take what I can get and give them a little credit, ya know?

And then I wonder…am I doing the same thing to myself? Am I walking around stressed out by all my flops and failures that no one else really sees? Am I constantly trying to figure out what I’m doing wrong and how can I fix it? Probably. It’s a quiet and subtle voice, so it’s easy to just let it play on in the background all day without realizing it. But I’m sure it affects the face I’m wearing. I’m sure it colors how I see the people around me.

I’m not going to beat myself up over it. Because that would be a lesson in missing the point. I’m just going to start listening a little more to some of the other comments in the conversation. I’ve been reading through Jesus’s words this week. The Red Letters. And in those red letter sections, I’ve seen some pretty cool comments about how valuable I am and how much God loves me.

And you know what? He says the same thing about you. He probably even thinks you’re cute.

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Three Paths In the Woods…


“Would you like what’s behind door number one, door number two or door number three?” Those famous words are from the old television show, “Let’s Make a Deal!”


I’m feeling a bit like a contestant on that show, these days. With Bill looking for a new job, we have been considering lots of possibilities. Some would keep us here in Buffalo and some would mean a move south. Some would mean continuing in the restaurant business, others would mean a career change. Some would have me continuing in real estate (which I’m really enjoying), others would have me working in our own restaurant (which I would also enjoy). So many options. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m thankful for options. The alternative is very scary. So, I’m truly glad we have choices.


The problem is the way I’m wired. I don’t shop at places like TJ Maxx—or even the mall—for a reason. Too many options…too much going on. I can’t concentrate. Just let me do a search on Amazon and click a couple of buttons and I’m done. No fuss. No muss.


That’s the way I feel about the options before us. I kind of wish I could just put it all into a search bar and Amazon would show me the best options, all with reviews and stars to help us make the decision.


The other day I was letting myself get all stressed about it. I was fretting and worrying…what if we make the wrong choice? What if we screw up our kids lives? What if the sky falls? I was saying a prayer about it and I kind of felt like God was telling me to calm down. To realize that whatever we choose, He’s going to be with us.


The next day, my friends, Heather and Thera, came from Rochester to visit. And as we were talking about all this stuff, Heather told me an interesting story. She said she was struggling with the same feelings…what choice do I make? Do I go down path A or path B? Door number two or three? And as she was mulling it all over she had the thought, “What if the way we view choices is all mixed up? What if it’s not always a right or wrong choice?” As she closed her eyes, soaking up the sun from her patio, she asked God to give her an illustration to help her understand. And this is what she saw in her mind:


You’re standing before a forest and there are three paths in front of you. Each leads off into the distance and bends so you can only see the first part of the path. You ask yourself, “Which one is the right one?” But then suddenly, your perspective shifts and you are looking at the forest from above. You can see each pathway leading in but rather than seeing where they all lead (as you would expect), once they bend, all that you can see is white space. And that’s when you hear God say, “Whatever path you choose, we will create the rest of it together. It’s your choice.”



Wow. That was so helpful to me. I needed that perspective shift.


It reminds me of when I’m writing a book. I have in mind some of the things that I want my characters to experience and I know where I want them to end up. But I don’t have every scene planned out. Sometimes, as I’m writing, they do something that I didn’t plan for and the story takes an unexpected turn. From there, I keep writing and I will make sure they hit the points I need them to hit, but the pathways to those points aren’t set in stone.


What if our lives are like that? What if God has certain things He wants us to experience but the pathways are up to us to choose and then He will write our story from whichever path we are on?


I mean, think about it. If it’s all planned out ahead of time, and we make one wrong turn, is the whole plan shot? No, He adjusts with us. He works with us to reach where we need to be. Otherwise, the idea of free will is kind of watered down.


So am I saying, “Do whatever you want. God will work with you whatever you do.” Eh, not exactly. There are some obvious right and wrong decisions. If there are moral choices involved, well then we already have a road map for those, right? Do not murder. Do not steal…etc. (Even then, though, God will be with us if we screw up.) But when it’s not a moral decision—when it’s not cut and dry—maybe we just make the best choice we can and count on God to create that new pathway with us?


My church has been doing a series on “Life Verse.” The first time our pastor mentioned it, I knew what my life verse was. Proverbs 3:5-6. The verse that I’ve known since I was a young teenager that has comforted me many times. I think I have a new understanding of it today:


“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight.”


It doesn’t say He will make sure you pick the right path. It says He will make your paths straight. So I don’t have to understand it all ahead of time. I don’t have to have it all figured out. I just have to take it a day at a time and when it comes time to make a decision as to whether we move or stay, I can take comfort knowing that whichever path we choose, God’s gonna be on it with us, whichever way it bends.

And the same goes for you…


Photo Credit: Anyjazz63 & James Wheeler on Creative Commons (click the pics for links)

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Medication is not Evil (or) Why I take Drugs

Hey friends…this is a pretty personal subject for me. The post is a bit longer than I like, but I just couldn’t tell the story with fewer words. If you have a family member or friend who struggles with depression, anxiety, Bi-polar disorder, ADHD or any other mental health issue or disorder, please read, for their sake. They need your understanding and support…


Avenue G

When I was a little girl, my mom had sinus headaches. Lots. Of. Sinus. Headaches. I remember most days, my younger siblings came home from school asking, “Where’s mom?” The answer was always the same: “She’s lying down. She has a sinus headache.” Well, many years (and Sudafeds) later, she discovered what she actually had was a case of chronic migraines. (Which I inherited…faaabulous).

Anyway, the interesting thing about it is the way she was diagnosed. I’m sure there are many ways to diagnose migraines, but I remember her saying the doctor had her come to his office when she was experiencing a severe headache. He told her he was going to give her a medication and if it stopped the headache, it was a migraine. If it didn’t, it wasn’t a migraine. So, she took the medicine and, lo and behold, the headache stopped.

Pretty simple test, don’t ya think? That always stuck with me for some reason. And the other day, when I was pondering something a family friend had said, it came back to me. We were talking about how his wife has been struggling with health issues. He said she feels like she’s an old woman in her thirties. She has several health issues that are causing her fatigue and pain. Then he said she just can’t seem to feel good enough to do anything about it. He said if he could give her anything for a day, it would be a day without pain. (What a sweet thought!)

Then, as I asked more questions, it sounded to me like she was quite depressed, and had been for some time (takes one to know one and I’ve been one). He agreed that she was depressed, so I asked him if she’d considered talking to her doctor about an anti-depressant. If she felt better, she might exercise…lose weight…be in less pain, etc. He replied, “Yeah, actually, she asked me recently if I thought she should go on medication. I told her she could if she wants…but that it’s really just a band-aid.”

When he said that, I felt something snap inside me like an over-stretched rubber band. I took a deep breath so I wouldn’t snap at him; It wasn’t his fault he’d hit a sore spot.

See, I once felt the same way, that anti-depressants were just a band-aid. I thought, “If you take meds, you’re not really addressing the problem, you’re just masking it.” As a woman of faith, I thought maybe you weren’t relying on God enough, if you needed medication to handle life. I thought all those judgmental, ignorant things…until I went through a clinical depression.

That was fourteen years ago and while I’m happy to share that journey with you, starting back at the beginning will make this long story even longer. So, you can click here to read about “How a Happy-Clappy Girl Ended up in a Clinical Depression.” However, today’s story starts in 2012.

That was a very tough year for me. I went through some personal upheaval at the same time my husband was going through some really stressful things at work and for both of us, the extreme stress lasted many months. And by the spring of 2013, I was in a very bad place.

In 12 months, I had gained almost 30 pounds (food = medication). I was emotionally spent. Physically exhausted. And I felt like a complete failure because I couldn’t seem to make any headway in the areas of my life that I wanted to fix: Healthy eating, weight, exercise, self-discipline of any kind, clearing the clutter, keeping my home clean, training my kids to do the same, etc.

I finally admitted to myself that I was indeed quite depressed and I needed to do something about it. I saw my doctor and explained what was happening and he suggested a medication called Wellbutrin. Well, let me tell you……it was exactly what I needed. Remember the migraine test? If the medication worked, it was a migraine. I’m not kidding, this stuff worked so well for me that within the first two weeks, I lost ten pounds, de-cluttered my entire main floor and felt better than I had in years.

photo cred:  Schjelderup

And within four months, I’d lost 35 lbs and felt more in control of my life than I ever had. So, when that family friend said he told his wife that medication was just a band-aid, I politely said, “With all due respect, you’re so wrong. Medication may be exactly what she needs to make the positive choices in her life that will create a lasting change.”

I should clarify that I don’t believe that medication is always the answer, nor do I believe that it is the only answer. BUT, it shouldn’t be ruled out because people have a misconception that depression is something you just need to “get over.” For some, it is just a short season due to stress or trauma. But for many people, it’s actually a brain chemistry issue and it can be helped with medication that addresses that chemistry issue.

Why is there such a stigma about taking medication? (Especially in faith circles!) If you have diabetes, you take insulin. If you have asthma, you use an inhaler. You don’t say, “I think this insulin is just a band-aid.” Or, “Well, I think I’ll just try and pray through this asthma attack.”

My husband said something very perceptive, when I told him about the band-aid comment. He said, “It’s more like a bandage. And sometimes a bandage can be the difference between life and death, like when you’re bleeding out.” I love it when he’s profound.

He’s right. A bandage stops the flow of blood, preserving life. It then gives the wound time to heal without it getting infected, causing the whole body to fall ill. If medication is that kind of “band-aid,” why would anyone refuse to consider it?

When I’ve told people I’m on medication, many people reply in hushed tones, “Me too!” But I have had other people say things along these lines: “So many more people are on anti-depressants these days. Why is depression diagnosed so much more than it used to be? They can’t all be actual cases of depression. I don’t think medication is the answer.” Some have even suggested, “Maybe you should look into other ways of dealing with your symptoms.”

Well let’s go back to the diabetes example. If your sister was diagnosed with diabetes, would you say, “So many more people are on insulin these days. Why is diabetes diagnosed so much more than it used to be? They can’t all be actual cases of diabetes. I don’t think insulin is the answer. Maybe you should look into other ways of dealing with your symptoms.”

Of course not. Because medical issues are acceptable but mental health issues are still a taboo subject. In mainstream America, it’s a rare thing for someone to be told they should pray more and not take medication for their high blood pressure, diabetes, asthma, arthritis, or allergies.

But God forbid (kinda literally) if you should need to medicate your child for ADHD, if your wife needs bi-polar medication or if you need an anti-depressant or anti-anxiety medication. If you or a family member is diagnosed with any of those, you will likely keep it quiet. Because there is a pervasive feeling that taking medications for those things means that you are failing as a Christian, a mom, a husband, etc. You’re not praying enough or walking in enough faith. Or in some circles, you must be hiding some kind of “secret sin” and that’s why God is not helping you feel better.

Well, I’m sorry, but I just have to say I think that’s a load of crap. This topic gets me a little riled because I’ve seen so many friends and family members needlessly struggle for years under a cloud of depression or the fears of anxiety. I’ve seen children struggle with sitting through six hours of school with ADHD, barely able to contain themselves, always feeling like there’s something wrong with them.

Medication is not the only answer but it can help! And people should feel free to explore all options, rather than excluding the thing that may help most because they don’t want to use a “band-aid.”

I wanted to speak out about this because I think it’s a discussion that needs to happen. I don’t claim to have all the answers or know what is best for each situation. I just want to be someone who removes the shame label for those who take medication for a mental health issue.

You’ve probably heard the story of the young guy who prayed and asked God to save him from a flood. He saw the flood waters rising past the level of his front door and he said, “Please save me, Lord!”

Before long, a woman came by with a paddle boat and yelled for the man to swim over and get in. He told her thanks, but God was gonna save him.

Soon, the water had him taking refuge on his second floor and again, a boat came by. This time an older gentlemen pulled up to a window with a speed boat. “Jump in!” he shouted. But the young man said thanks, but God was gonna save him.

Finally, he had to crawl out onto his roof and soon a helicopter came by and offered rescue. He again said thanks, but no thanks.

Within the hour, the young man was standing before God, on the other side and he said, “God, I believed in you. I asked you to rescue me! Why didn’t you?”

God said, “What are you talking about. I sent three people to get you!”

God’s answers don’t always come in the packages we expect. So yes, I take drugs. The anti-depressant/ADD kind. And I am so thankful to God for providing a rescue for me, so that I can be more myself. A better wife, mom and friend.

And…the comment section is open for discussion. Ready…set…go!

(…and if you haven’t had enough reading yet, you can read the rest of my depression story here.)


photo credits from Creative Commons.

Headache picture: Avenue G
Medication picture: Schjelderup

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It’s spring! (Obviously, not literally)


I’m wondering what is in store for this new year. I’m anticipating. Almost on pins and needles. I’m excited because I know I am in a new place, about to embark on new adventures and I have no idea what all of this will look like. So even though the control freak side of me wants to have charts and pictures and spreadsheets, I can let go of that and say, “Bring on the adventure, God!” 

afterlight I’m coming out of a very long winter. And I don’t mean the blizzard kind that has swirled around Buffalo and much of the country this first week of the new year. No, I mean the emotional, spiritual kind. The kind that has had me questioning everything I ever believed and spending so much time confused and sad. The kind that had broken relationships and a broken heart. The kind that had me pulling the covers up over my head, not wanting to think about anything, anymore. That kind of winter. It’s a pretty crappy place, really. But I can still say I’m thankful for it. 


I’m thankful because I feel more real than I have in a very long time. I feel hopeful about what God has in store for me. I feel free to doubt and question and learn and rest. I am in awe of a God who loves me no matter how many questions I ask him. 


My son, Eleven, (no, not his real name. If you’re new to my blog, I call my kids by their ages. Just go with it.) As I was saying, Eleven is a question asker. He pretty much talks non-stop. It was cute when he was three. Now? It drives me freaking ahem…not so much. (I do love him dearly, though. Even when I have thoughts of duck taping his mouth for five minutes of peace, I still find him adorable.) Okay, no need to call CPS. I wouldn’t actually duck tape his mouth shut, sheesh! But I have offered him money to be quiet for a whole five minutes. Let’s just say, his piggy bank has never grown from this challenge. 


Back to my point, Eleven’s questions are limitless and sometimes, this can become annoying. His baseball coach of three years, gave him a three question limit per game. I thought that was brilliant and fully supported it. But all of this is to say that I’m glad God doesn’t give me that three question limit. 


There was a time that I would have done fine with the limit. I didn’t ask many questions. I just did what I was told. Accepted status quo. Cuz I’m a good obedient girl and I want everyone to like me. If questions came to mind, I put my figurative fingers in my figurative ears and said, “Nanananana…I can’t hear you.”


But one of the best things I’ve learned in this chilly, snowy winter is how to ask questions. I think God likes it. He’s up for the challenge and I just have to learn to be comfortable in the uncertain time between the asking and the answering. He’s not much of a texter (my favorite language). Sometimes he takes a reeeeaaaalllllyyyy long time to answer. It’s okay. I’ll just ask some more questions while I’m waiting. 😉


So, back to the beginning…I’m really excited. I think spring is here (sorry that’s not physically true…it’s awfully cold out there right now!). I can’t give you exact reasons for why I think spring is here. It’s more of a feeling than a fact. But it’s a lot of little things adding up to a new outlook, a new plan and a new me. Actually, not a new me, just a new emerging of who I really am…who God has created me to be. Not the girl who worries about what people think or the girl who prefers not to rock the boat in case people don’t like her for it. Not the girl who crawls back into bed because it’s easier than facing the day. Not the girl who lets other people’s opinions have way too much real estate in her mind. No, that girl is boring and I don’t like her. You all don’t see her much cuz she keeps herself well hidden. But she and I have spent way too much time together. I’m done hanging out with her. There is no place for her in the springtime. 


So, there you have it. What’s up with me. I will get more specific and more concrete over time. I’ll share with you what’s new, what’s upcoming, what I’m learning, etc. over the course of the next few months. For now, I just wanted to let y’all know that I’m excited for this new year!


How bout you, my friend? What kind of season are you in? What are you heading toward in 2014?

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Picture Perfect Holidays?

Hello there! Many of you know I’ve been spending most of my writing time on my second novel. Almost at 100,000 words (around 300 pages)! But that doesn’t leave me much time for writing blog posts. Then, throw in the busy holidays..and, yeah. Not really happening. So, I thought I’d repost some of my past ones. Hope this one is helpful for your holiday gatherings 🙂


Disclaimer: The alternate title for this post was “Disney Lies.” But I didn’t want to be accused of being a Disney hater. I’m really not. I love Disney, but I think you’ll get where I’m going in a minute so stick with me:

You’ve probably all seen the advertisements for Disney. But I’ll set the stage for you, anyway. Sweet tinkly music plays as parents tip-toe into their wee cherubs’ room to surprise them with a Disney vacation. Said cherubs awaken with smiles on their faces, leaping for joy at the news.

Cut to the Magic Kingdom. There are no lines or crowds and parents look on happily as their children, with stars in their eyes, meet Mickey, Minnie, Donald & Goofy. There is no whining, crying, arguing. Just pure bliss & happiness with a good measure of gratitude implied. Picture perfect vacation. Yeah. Right. No lines? Grateful children? Ha!

Okay, here’s another one for you. A commercial for Family Game Night:

Two adults, two teens and two kids are gathered around a table. There’s an overflowing popcorn bowl on the table and everyone is laughing. Game play is fast-paced and no one is arguing over who’s turn it is. No one is getting mad because they’re losing. And no one is crying because he can’t keep up with his older siblings. Once again we see pure bliss and happiness. Uh-huh.

You can replay this type of scene from a myriad of commercials. For everything from baking Pillsbury cupcakes together to going out to dinner as a family. Everyone is always so happy. So content. And without realizing it we buy the goods. Not the actual goods. Not the cake mix or the board games but we buy the lie that we can have the “ideal” vacation, game night, dinner out or bonding experience.

The truth is, there’s no such thing as the perfect vacation or holiday meal. And when we set our expectations so high, reality hits like a tsunami. Now, I’m not saying we can’t have great times with our families. But I think we sabotage ourselves with unrealistic expectations. I’ll give you an example from my experience.

As I mentioned in a previous blog, we recently had the opportunity to go on a Disney Cruise for a fraction of the cost. We’d been saving for our first big family vacation anyway so this was a perfect fit. And while the kids had an absolute blast, Bill and I decided by day two that we wouldn’t do a family vacation again any time soon. Like in the next five years or ten years. Haha.

You see, “Eight” and “Ten” can’t stand each other and “Fifteen” and “Seventeen” aren’t exactly peacemakers, even though they try. We have a pecking order. Seventeen tends to parent Fifteen who bosses Ten and then all of them try to parent poor Eight. He doesn’t appreciate that and he’s not the type to kick the cat, so he just yells a lot. At home, I’ve often thought I should wear black and white stripes and a whistle.

Independently, they are truly fabulous kids. Every one of them. But put them together in a room and they can all turn in to petty, easily-offended, argumentative, prideful brats. (Nope…not gonna sugar-coat it…although I will say that Seventeen has matured incredibly over the past few years, so I know there is a light at the end of the tunnel.)

Our hope for this vacation was that they would be distracted by all the awesome things to do on the ship and they would take a break from arguing with each other. WRONG. Cuz wherever you go, there you are. It went something like this:

Me: “Kids, isn’t this awesome? Look at this gorgeous ship!”

Eight and Ten: “I want to push the elevator button!” “No, I want to.” “You pushed it at the hotel.” “No I didn’t!! You did!!” Etc. Etc. Etc. [Insert pushing and shoving.]

Fifteen and Seventeen: “You guys are ridiculous. What’s wrong with you?? Blah, blah, blah.”

Me and Bill: “Seriously?”

Yeah, that was how most of the week went when we were together. And because we subconsciously built up expectations of the “perfect vacation” in our heads, when our kids acted like they always do, we got frustrated. Quickly.

And it got me thinking…we do this with so many things! How many times have you decided to take your kids out to dinner or the movies only to have them bickering over stupid things making you wish you’d hired a sitter?

Now, at Christmas time, I’m struck by how we do this with holidays…all the time. We have this idyllic, Christmas carol picture in our minds. “It’s the most wonderful time of the year…”

So when family members fight, or the present we wanted to purchase is sold out, or Uncle George drinks too much eggnog again…we wonder what’s wrong with us, with our family. Why can’t we have the perfect holiday like everyone else? But there’s the lie. We all have frustrations and struggles. There is no perfect. As a matter of fact, often the holidays are the most horrible time of the year for people who have lost loved ones or are just feeling alone. All of the hype about the perfect Christmas gift, meal, _________ (fill in the blank) often magnifies the stresses of life.

But we can have great times together. I’m convinced we just need to adjust our expectations. When we place such high expectations on our family members, they are bound to fall short of those expectations, as are we! Then no one is happy because frustration and disappointment live in that space between our expectations and our reality.

Yet, if we expect them to have their bad moments and we are prepared ahead of time to offer grace, the outcomes can be very different. I’m not being a scrooge nor am I advocating a negative, “glass-half-empty” approach to life. I’m simply reminding myself and encouraging you to give some extra grace to your loved ones as well as the strangers you’re standing in line with at Target this season.

Expect more crowds, traffic, bad weather, arguing children…all in a realistic, not pessimistic way. And then you will be pleasantly surprised when a stranger lets you merge into traffic or your children actually make it through a round of Uno without arguing.

I’ve been quoting the following proverb to my kids for years so I was thrilled to hear Seventeen quote it on the cruise, at one point, when Eight and Ten were being easily offended by each other:

“Good sense makes one slow to anger,
and it is his glory to overlook an offense.”

Proverbs 19:11

Amen to that. Wishing you a Merry Christmas as you adjust your expectations and enjoy your reality!



(Originally published Dec. 21, 2012)


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