3.30.2015

Lucky Mrs. Hen - Lucky Mrs. ME!

Richard Scarry's A Story A Day 365 Stories and RhymesWhen I was growing up there was a book in our church library that I loved to check out.  It had 365 short stories and poems, and my favorite one was Lucky Mrs. Hen (page 77).  I had even copied down the end of the story on a postcard, and practically memorized it. 

The story starts off with a dark rain storm.  Mrs. Hen decides to clean her house, while the neighbors just stare out the window and lament the rain, having wanted to work in the garden.     

But little Mrs. Hen put on her apron and cleaned her house.  When every corner was spick and span, she did her baking, clucking happily to herself.  Then she made doughnuts.  Just as she was sprinkling them with sugar, the rain stopped and pop! out came the sun!   
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“Just in time,” clucked Mrs. Hen.  “I’ll wash windows.”  She did. And she cut her grass and planted her garden.  Then, since the day was so beautiful, she packed a picnic basket.  

Then I recall that she asked all of her neighbors to go on a picnic, but each one said that the bright sunshine made their homes look so dirty that they had to clean them after weeding, and they couldn’t just go gallivanting off any time they felt like it.  They sounded very snippy, but she didn’t notice.

The story ends…She waved good-by, and without a care in the world she went off to have her picnic in the beautiful, sun-shiney, springtime woods.

Back then I couldn’t see that doing your work first thing instead of moping could later result in “being lucky” by freeing up your time to do what you wanted.  Of course I would clean my house if it rained, I thought.  I’d love to.   Today I can see the wisdom more than ever.  How long did I go without doing the basic morning work because, “I didn’t feel like it”? 

Little girls love to “keep house.”  It is naturally ingrained, unless someone important in their life diminishes its value – either an overwhelmed (or sometimes lazy) mother who hasn’t yet learned how to properly keep house, or someone who, not seeing the blessing in a wife who keeps house, demeans it.  Often little girls enjoy making the beds, dusting, setting the table, etc. if they are allowed to let their imagination run while doing it, and not be micro-managed, bossed around, or have their work redone.  I can remember doing these things and thinking that when I grew up I wanted to be a maid! (Hmmm, in some ways I am.)  But that is the power of little girls – home-keeping is such fun that they think it will always be so. 

I also remember going off to school and looking longingly back at my home in the morning sunshine.  I wanted to be in the kitchen with the sunlight pouring on the counters, baking.  I love sunlight shining in a mixing bowl.  I even wanted to hang laundry on the line, like our neighbor.  I wanted to make sure all the beds were made and the house picked up and dusted.  I wanted to cook and bake, but once I arrived home from school, the sunlight had shifted out of the house to the backyard, so I typically played out there, unless it was too hot, and then I stayed inside and read.  We played with friends from 3:00 to 6:00, dinner was at 6:30, and homework was begun at 7:00.  How I would have loved to have been homeschooled.  I would have learned to keep house while I was naturally interested in it, instead of having it demeaned while in school. 

Of course, little girls aren’t dealing with bills, deep cleaning, feeding real babies on little sleep, and cooking.  It gets a lot harder as we grow up.  Unfortunately, many women who do not keep their own house, but hire it out, still live with the fantasy that it is easy, and therefore demeaning.  When they decide to have children and come home to reality, they get the biggest shock.  Keeping one’s house clean and organized, along with cooking and caring for self, husband and children, while making ends meet on one income, really is a full-time endeavor. 

When I finally woke up to the fact that working for myself and my family was infinitely more pleasurable than working for others who reaped the benefits of my labor, that it is easier to cut expenses than earn income, and much more fun to stay home and do whatever I pleased whenever I wanted to, I also had to learn the hard way how to actually take care of my home, my child and my husband, and that all the excuses were gone. 

Keeping house was supposed to be so easy….so why was it so hard?  Reality is much more difficult than the fantasy our culture imparts.  However, there is great news!  Once you have decluttered your house, your life, and your thinking, once you have routines and have learned to cook nutritious food every day (I’m still working on this one), and once you know what cleaning methods work best for you and your family, life starts to really hum. 

Every day taking care of your family and home becomes more enjoyable (even while learning), and you can really live in the moment and focus on the pleasures of each day.  Now, when the sunlight peeps into my kitchen, my son and I have a picnic breakfast or lunch on the floor in the patch of sunlight.

You can use the dark, stormy days of raising little ones to your advantage so that pop! out on the other side comes Lucky Mrs. You.  You’ll be the one driving off with your husband and children to the sun-shiney, springtime woods as your neighbors bemoan their ill fortune, jealous how you, a simple house wife, can go gallivanting off whenever you feel like it, because, “she doesn’t work, you know.”

3.23.2015

I held the key to my own happiness

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You can alter your life by altering your attitude.  ~Unknown

I embraced my situation in life on April 3, 2000.  I found a support group for a problem in my life that filled me with fear.  I took baby steps in ending the reign of my clutter (I believe I was one of FlyLady’s first 100 people).  I was also one of Rhonda Britten’s (of Starting Over fame) first clients.  I acknowledged myself for the many baby steps I was taking in several directions and my self-confidence grew.  I began to visualize how I really wanted my daily life to be. 

It was indeed a journey and I had many instances of confusion deciphering, “What am I committed to?  How do I act?  Where do I spend my time?  What do I want out of life?”  Yet because I was now consciously searching, writing and taking notes, spending an hour a day in prayer, devotion and learning, I had many key instances of clarity, vision, and discovering who I really was, what I wanted from my life, and the realization that I was my only solution (with God's leading).  Only I could choose what I wanted.  Only I could limit myself and live in fear.  Only I could take conscious steps in deciding how I wanted to change my life.  I held the key to my own happiness.
First you make your decisions, then your decisions make you.  ~Howard Hendricks


I put down on paper my five-year goals and I finally realized that if that was really what I wanted then I’d better start taking those first baby steps in getting there!  I wanted a house, a career (an income), two kids, healthy husband, church family. 

I began attending a church and went there two years before I realized I needed a more intimate church family – 400 was too many, so I changed to a smaller 100 person church and was much happier.

I didn’t think I’d be able to buy a home, but I started a dream box of clippings and pictures and began to clean up my bad credit.  I closed all but two credit card accounts.  I settled my outstanding debts.  I wrote and cleared off late payments.  I paid down my debts.  I began living within my income.  I took a free real estate class on buying a home.  I began budgeting.  I finally read Your Money or Your Life to the end of the book and completed many of the steps.  I stopped buying junk trinkets.  I cut back on all extras.  I read 40 books from the library on budgeting, living and housing.  I did the truly scary things like calling a mortgage broker and getting pre-qualified.  Calling a realtor and getting rejected as his client! (He said he didn't have any homes in my price range.)  Calling another one…

I put my t.v. in the closet until I was “unaddicted.”  I canceled my newspaper – it was too time consuming, depressing and irrelevant – interesting, but it didn’t move me any closer to my dreams!  It wasted my time and it was negative.   (Don’t put 2nd things 1st!  ~Unknown)

I also cancelled most of my magazine subscriptions for the same reasons, especially the beauty and home ones.  They filled me with discontent of myself and my apartment.  I found myself coveting things that were not on my NEEDs list.  I remembered the old saying, “Only one life, twill soon be past.  Only what’s done for Christ will last.”  I looked at everything in my life and asked, “Does this really matter?”


I don’t think much of a man who is not wiser today than he was yesterday. ~Abraham Lincoln

3.16.2015

If you wait for perfect conditions, you will never get anything done

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We always think we are going to get our life together after the wedding, when we have a better job, after the baby is born,  when the child goes to school, when we get a raise, a dependable car, a bigger home, better organized, finish college, lose ten pounds...

Alfred D. Souza said, "For a long time it had seemed to me that life was about to begin - real life.  But there was always some obstacle in the way, something to be gotten through first, some unfinished business...then life would begin.  At last it dawned on me that these obstacles were my life."

Instead of being surprised by hardships, I've come to expect them.  When I have a great day, I rejoice!

I've recently learned three things:
1)  To accept and bless my present circumstances - there is no better time to be happy than right now!  I have finally accepted the silliest things that bothered me in the past.  I have blessed my small house.  I went through each room and found something to be thankful about.  When I fold laundry, I thank God that I have laundry to fold - it means that I have people in my house whom I love and who love me.  

2) To give thanks, instead of complaints, to God.  I remember an article by Bill Yount that said prayer without thanksgiving is like mailing a package without postage.   (I don't know who Mr. Yount is, but I googled "thanksgiving is postage" and his article came up.  http://www.tidenstecken.se/enreturn.htm).

This mental image of our prayers having postage has never left me.  Phil. 4:6,7 states, "Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God, and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus."  My gratitude helps me to focus on what is right in front of me and be content, and not just launch into my worries and requests.

3.  To get going!  There are some things that I have prepared for and prepared for but never did.  There are half-finished projects that don't matter, and are being booted out the door.  There were organizations whose purpose I no longer could see the benefit of and I got out.  I pray for the courage to live the life God wants me to live, to give up activities that are not beneficial in the long run of my life, and to feel grateful for the life God has given me, obstacles and all.

So get going - call that friend, read that book, declutter, try a new recipe, change your mind, budget, do the thing you've been dreading, make that difficult phone call, begin to pay off that credit card, mentor a neighbor's child if you don't have your own, act as if you are grateful to be alive, accept your circumstances, scatter joy.  Accept whatever is in your life that needs accepting.  Say it out loud.  Whatever you complain about, reverse it.  Find a reason to accept it.


If you wait for perfect conditions, you will never get anything done.  Ecclesiastes 11:4 (Today's English Version)

3.09.2015

Life - In Order



I love to do things in order – everything simply turns out better!  Our God is a God of order! 

He tells us that when we seek his Kingdom first, our other concerns will fall into order.  “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.”  Matthew 6:33

Your home can be a place of order, but FIRST it needs to be a place of WORSHIP.  Silence, or reading in the sunlight and listening to the everyday sounds of a child playing, or a dishwasher humming, is relaxing and well-worth turning off the radio, computer and t.v. to attain.  Singing a cappella, or with a CD, is a way to bring worship into your home.  You don’t need to practice yoga and sit in silence, emptying your mind, to find serenity.

In fact, as Christians, we are called to FILL our minds with Scripture.  When we have questions for God, He often will answer us through memorized Scripture.  And if you haven’t memorized any – or rarely read your Bible – well, you might not hear as clearly as those who have.  He will often call Scripture to a person’s mind for advice on how to deal with a problem.

My new favorite version of the Bible is NLT - The Daily Walk Bible.  BUT!  You can ignore the dates on which to read the chapters!  This is just a guideline to read it in one year - 6 days a week with a catch-up and devotional day!  However, you do not have to complete the readings in one year.  JUST BEGIN TODAY.  The date you read it doesn’t matter – it just matters that you DO read it!

When I worked full-time I read my Bible in the car during lunch.  After my son’s birth, I tried mornings.  It did not work for me.   Around his first birthday, we began each day by reading him Bible stories (The Rhyming Bible , then The Young Learner’s Bible Story Book for preschoolers, and then, Devotions for the Children’s Hour by Kenneth Taylor.  Some like Catherine Vos' The Child's Story Bible but our favorite is the 10 volume set The Bible Story from “Uncle Arthur” Maxwell, along with his Bedtime Story books. 


While we often read from a variety of versions, my favorite for studying has been The International Inductive Study Bible because of the incredibly wide margins!  I love to write in my Bible.  I write the date I read verses or chapters.  I also write notes about what I’ve learned.  My notes have been very helpful in helping me connect material.  

Reading the Bible daily – for 5 minutes, or 15 minutes – or 1 chapter – or 4 chapters – helps us to live a conscious* life.  We don’t have to do it perfectly!  We just have to DO it.  Satan will want you to feel behind – that’s why you can ignore the dates – you are not behind!

Let God speak to you and fill your mind as you read.  Satan wants you to give up, forget, or fall asleep

YOU need to pray and charge through and read 5 minutes a day.  If you get stuck – do 3 minutes!  Once you start, you’ll see the benefits and keep going.  Begin today!  Find your time.  Don’t try and be perfect.   

Remember that the Amish purposefully put in a few imperfect stitches into every quilt they make to remind themselves that only ONE was perfect – and it isn’t them.  It isn’t us, either, so don’t try and read the Bible perfectly!  Just begin.  Today.  Print, get it ready.  Find your time.

*con·scious (from Dictionary.com)  adjective

1. aware of one's own existence, sensations, thoughts, surroundings, etc.

2. fully aware of or sensitive to something
3. having the mental faculties fully active
4. known to oneself; felt
5. aware of what one is doing

To read posts on organization, go here.
(This article has been updated and reposted because the original file became corrupted.)

3.06.2015

Consider BEFORE


Content makes poor men rich; discontent makes rich men poor. ~ Ben Franklin

It occurred to me that my last post, “An Overheard Conversation”, may have sounded flippant to some.  I did not mean it to be.  My coworker’s remark (paraphrased), “Mothers should really consider these things before they work and put their children in daycare” was truly an “ah-ha” moment for me.  It was the moment in my life when I resolved to not work when I had children. 

She said, “Consider before.  She implied that her mother didn’t.  Her mother, she shared with me, did not have to work at all.  Her dad made plenty.  Her mother wanted to work, and her daughter felt that she came second…or third.  Her mother especially did not have to work 12-13 hour days!  But her mother reveled in her work.  She was highly paid and loved what she did.  Her daughter felt her mother loved work more than she loved being with her.  Her words, not mine.  My coworker carried a grudge against her mother, under the surface of their relationship. 

Please hear my heart.  Her words helped me to “consider before.  And I found out years later my coworker chose differently from her mother.  Perhaps she has gone back to work now that her child would be in school.  I don’t know.  My message was simply – “Consider carefully what the ramifications may be to your relationship with your child before you choose to put them in daycare or school with after care.”

I am NOT speaking to single mothers who must work.  I’m pretty sure your children “get it” that you must work to eat.

I am speaking to the many mothers who say they have to work when it is SO OBVIOUS that they don’t.

If you are married, your mortgage is over $3,000/month, you drive a luxury car, you have maid service, and your kids are in private school (even when you live in a great area!), then mom, YOU don’t have to work!  So stop saying you do!  You have many ways to cut expenses.  If you WANT to work, that is fine.  But to say you "have to" is ridiculous and insulting to women who really have to.

Maybe it is just where I live, but I know quite a few mothers whose DH’s earn enough to pay 3 of the 4 above, but she works to provide for that 4th item, such as $900/month preschool (for EACH child).  Or for the exotic vacations.   And I am not thinking of just 1 mother, but quite a few.  She doesn’t HAVE TO work.  She thinks she does because of her striving.  Sometimes she claims she is quite impoverished.  She has more than most, yet wants more, because others around her have even more (or pretend to).  
The solution is so simple for these women (IF they really want to quit).  Be content with what you have.  Stop hanging out with people who claim to live story-book lives, living in mini-mansions.  Scale down.  Because you are trading your kids for houses.  For views.  For clothes.  For vacations.  For self-esteem in “helping” others (but not your own kids – someone else helps them). 

The women I am thinking of are married, and their husband can provide sooooo many luxuries – the BMW, the private school, the maid service – the but $7,000/month mortgage?  Well, that needs to be scaled down.  So she keeps working to pay for that mortgage.  She’s traded a great lifestyle and being at home with her kids to paying off the dream house mortgage. 

Others bought their dream home in the 1990’s, and so they can afford the house, the maid and the BMW, but not the school.  Yet she can’t live without her kids going to that prep school.  Did you ever ask your kids – private school or mom at home? 

I drop by my old office, child in tow, every year to have lunch with my ex-boss.  So I’ve kept in touch with many of my old coworkers.  So far, I’ve had 8 e-mail me, call me, and cry on my shoulder that they worked making “good” money because their (now ex) DH’s couldn’t bring enough in.  He couldn’t provide the luxury they craved.  But now her kids have grown up, her DH has left her for another, younger woman who was satisfied with what he could provide, and all she has is her large home, her luxury car, a fabulous closet, her scrapbook of exotic vacations, and her cat.   You may think I’m exaggerating or thinking of only 1 woman.  No.  Eight confirmed, and many more are headed down that road.

And then there are another 8 women who are still married, but their kids are grown and gone, and they have confessed to me that it hasn’t been worth it!  They see me with my child and they say they wish they could do it over!  They willingly missed out being home with their child for their house!  It is too late and they cannot go back. 

I tell them to begin now.  Begin to be that Christian mother you set out to be.
The first thing you must do is call or write each of your children and ask their forgiveness.  Ask them what their grudges are.  WRITE IT DOWN as they speak.  Then ask forgiveness for specific items and pray with them to remove any bitterness over these hurts.

One mother did this and won one of her two children back.  The other has yet to forgive.  This mom chose Prada, clothes and jewelry over her children.  Her (now ex) DH provided a really nice home, car, private school…but she still wanted more.  Discontent.  Unsatisfied.  Both children have rejected her lifestyle and are home with her grandchildren.  She is trying to make amends by being a better grandma, but she is rarely invited over.  She regrets her covetousness.  “How much I’ve missed,” were her words.

Another woman I told needed to start now to be the mother she should have been, had one blissful year of closeness with her 20 year old before she was killed in an accident.  She has many regrets…but at least she knows her daughter had forgiven her.

Another woman, when I told her to trust God and stay home with her toddlers (after she told me "I wish I could stay home") told me it was impossible.  When I reminded her that nothing is impossible with God’s help, she smiled and now avoids me.   But the other woman who was in the church nursery where this discussion took place, called me and thanked me for giving her “permission” to just be at home with her 3 kids and not have to juggle school to become a nurse.  She’s since read my 2 favorite books, Finding My Way Home and There is No Place Like Home.

A woman down the street asked me why I stayed home since I only had 1 child.  Puzzled, I asked her why only having one would make a difference.  She said if she had 2 or 3, daycare costs would prohibit her from working, but only one….   But it is not about daycare costs.  It’s about providing a home for the child you bore.  Her husband agreed and she got to stay home for several years.  She needed “permission” – because her extended family told her to work.

One last story.  Right after the overheard conversation incident, I had lunch with a pregnant coworker.  She mentioned she was only taking 4 months off.  I asked her, “Why only four?  Why come back at all?”  Her DH provided a lovely home for her and her drive was insane – 60 minutes each way.  “Benefits. Bonuses.”  So she came back.  And cried at her desk looking at baby’s picture, and gave her notice.  She quit, and yet she was soon able to buy her dream house, because this woman needs no sleep and opened an office in her home.  When her second child turned 3 I was invited to the party.  She told me it was because of our conversation she was home and didn’t miss out on her children growing up.  She only takes on as much work as she wants.  From her home.  Where her kids are.

So again, the purpose of my last post was that “Mothers should really think about these things beforehand.”  That was my point.  Really think it through.  Finding My Way Home has a great checklist to help. 

My coworker’s comment helped me to think it through beforehand.  I looked around me and didn’t like what I saw.  I chose differently.  You may be one of the women who say they are better mothers when they work.  Just so long as you’ve thought it through, I’m fine with you working.

But, I can hear the majority of you saying, we aren’t living in luxury! We don’t have a large home, we don’t drive luxury cars, our kids are in public school, we don’t have maid service, and we don’t even go on vacations! There is no way we could make it on my husband’s income, but I WANT to be home!  What do I do?   That is what my next post will be about.

Pioneering conservationist John Muir once stated he was richer than railroad magnate EH Harriman.  When asked how that could be, Muir noted, "I have all the money I want, and he hasn't."  A great attitude to have.  Contentment.