Celebrate Family. Celebrate Life.

Andy and Jack. Summer 2009

Andy and Jack. Summer 2009

I spent a lot of time yesterday discussing the Tebow Superbowl Ad. Maybe it was the hormones. Maybe it was because Josh was working OT again. Maybe it was because I had a long day and didn’t have the energy to do much else besides sit with the computer. Maybe someone will benefit from what I had to say. Whatever the reason, I stand behind what I said. The thing that bothers me is I spent too much time reacting in frustration instead of talking about what’s really important. I spent too much time feeding into the drama and not enough time elaborating on the intended theme of the ad, Celebrate family. Celebrate life.

Both children and family are huge blessings and most definitely huge reason for celebration. Ask any woman who is desperately trying to conceive a child. Children are not burdens and I don’t know when they became such in the eyes of our society. Children are a gift. Children may mean you take one less vacation or you make decisions regarding your career or you closet that you wouldn’t have made before having them, but since when are we afraid to sacrifice for something worthwhile? Unlike what Ms. Gettelman said, this is not “losing your future.”

Children bless and enhance your life in the way that no career, vacation or shopping spree ever could. Having a family is the most fulfilling decision you can ever make. Yes, you will have hard days…a lot of them. There used to be a time when we understood that anything worth having was worth fighting for. What happened to us? Now, we want everything handed to us in the most convenient fashion as quickly as possible. I don’t know who set us up to expect that, but they did us a great disservice. As Dacia Wiegandt often says,

“The reason most people fail instead of succeed is that they trade what they want most for what they want at the moment.”

What do you want most in life? If children and family is on your list, I highly recommend you stop putting it off until you reach a certain point in your career, until your bank account reaches a certain balance, or until whatever else you’re waiting for. First of all, even when you reach those goals, something new will pop up. Like Joanne Bertalan always reminds me, “there’s a new devil at every level.” Looking into the future, you can’t truly comprehend or predict what your life will be like when you reach goal x, y or z. Secondly, once you have a child, your priorities will probably shift anyway. Why waste so much time building a life that you may or may not want once you are fortunate enough to have a family of your own? Again, this is not “loosing your future.” This is maturing and seeing the world from a whole new perspective.

I speak from experience when I tell you that when you openly and lovingly accept a child or children, you will be provided for. It may not be in the fashion you initially expect, but you and your family will have every need met. See what we are told in Matthew 6: 25-34:

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat (or drink), or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?

Look at the birds in the sky; they do not sow or reap, they gather nothing into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are not you more important than they?

Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself.”

Can any of you by worrying add a single moment to your life-span?

Why are you anxious about clothes? Learn from the way the wild flowers grow. They do not work or spin.

But I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was clothed like one of them.

If God so clothes the grass of the field, which grows today and is thrown into the oven tomorrow, will he not much more provide for you, O you of little faith?

So do not worry and say, ‘What are we to eat?’ or ‘What are we to drink?’ or ‘What are we to wear?’

All these things the pagans seek. Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.

But seek first the kingdom (of God) and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides.

Andy's Birth Day. December 2005.

Andy’s Birth Day. December 2005.

I can tell you, God is faithful to His word. One could say I found myself in a “crisis pregnancy.” At the very least it was unexpected, unplanned and inconvenient. And believe me, more than one person suggested I “terminate” it. I am so grateful that I was raised to know better and received enough emotional support from those around me to keep from feeling forced into that decision. Let me note, when I say support, I don’t mean the people around me were thrilled or even happy. I lost a lot of “friends” over the decision to carry my child to term and raise him myself. But let me tell you, neither he nor I wanted for anything during that pregnancy or even now. God provided us with everything we needed.

People I’ve never met sent me hand-me-downs. My grandmother bought us a stroller. Some friends threw me a shower. A woman at church made me this awesome basket of stuff she knew I would have never thought to buy in advance like a thermometer, diaper rash cream and gas drops. Josh was offered a new job, albeit not the job we “wanted” nor one he liked, but the one that provided us with enough income to support our little family. I had everything I needed to take care of that baby because I trusted in the Lord. Actually, that is a huge overstatement. At that point in my life the best I could do was say “Ok, I’m having this baby. Please help us.” My definition of trusting in the Lord has definitely matured since then, but God provided for us anyway.

I can assure you no other “accomplishment” in this life compares with being handed your child for the first time in the delivery room. No other “success” compares with watching your child achieve a new skill or make a good decision on his own. No other “recognition” feels as good as little arms around your neck and a little voice telling you “Mama, I love you so much!” Children are a great gift, the most rewarding “job” that has ever existed. It’s so sad to see the way our country throws them away and devalues them to nothing more than a burden.

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Digging Deeper with Allison LaMarr

Allison LaMarr is one of my favorite motivational speakers. She writes a weekly blog, Digging Deeper, and I have learned so much from her! Despite the fact that we’ve never met, she is one of my mentors and has made a huge impact on who I am as a person. I don’t intend to use my blog to just copy and paste other people’s thoughts and ideas, but in this instance, I couldn’t help myself! This is exactly what I was trying to accomplish with my New Year Resolutions and much more eloquently said. I hope you enjoy her as much as I do. If you click the link at the bottom, you can register to have her blog delivered to your inbox every Wednesday. It’s totally legit, no spam or anything. I seriously want to be just like Allison when I grow up!
January 6, 2010
2010: The Hero Within
Happy New Year, my friends!  I’d like to personally thank you for carving out a few moments to dig deeper with me each week. This is our chance to dig a little deeper into life on a weekly basis…to stop for just a few moments amidst all the hustle and bustle to take a deep breath and make sure that our perspective is clear, our priorities are in order, and our mindset is healthy.  Whether you are a working professional, a full-time parent, or an aspiring dreamer, the objective of our weekly discussions is to help empower you to wage war on mediocrity and achieve a life of daily excellence!

The launch of a brand new decade has no doubt caused us all to stop and consider the crazy phenomenon of the passage of time.  What were you doing a decade ago?  Where were you a decade ago?  Who were you a decade ago? A decade = 10 years = 120 months = 520 weeks = 3,650 days = 87,600 hours = 5,256,000 minutes = 315,360,000 seconds.  This New Year’s Eve as James and I sat on the couch in our pajamas watching Dick Clark and Ryan Seacrest host the Times Square happenings, we couldn’t help but laugh at how different our celebration was 10 years ago.  Not three feet away on a bookshelf stood a framed picture to commemorate the moment.  I was a senior in college, we were 6 months from being married, and we were all dressed up in a roomful of friends, wearing party hats, dancing and singing along at the top of our lungs to Prince’s famous words, “Tonight We’re G onna Party Like It’s 1999”, with silver metallic numbers “2000” decorating the entire room. 10 years ago, the future was bright, the world was at our fingertips, and we didn’t have a care in the world.

Now, we’ve got a house payment, a toddler, and a closet full of clothes that used to fit.  Yes, we partied our way into 2000…and we yawned our way into 2010.  But the funny thing is, I wouldn’t go back and trade it for the world.  As I watched my son sleeping on the monitor and my husband “tweeting” his New Year wishes, there wasn’t a place I’d rather be.  If we could rewind and do things differently, I think we would all make different choices, based on the lessons we’ve learned.  I’ve made more stupid mistakes than I can count, and some of them cost me dearly – both financially and emotionally. Some of my mistakes hurt other people, and some of my mistakes I’m still paying for.  Of course, we can’t go back, but we can choose to move forward. We all have a clean slate before us, beginning in 2010.  What will you ch oose to write on yours?

This is so much bigger than the cliché of annual resolutions that are forgotten by Valentine’s Day.  It’s about a deep-seated desire to continually change and grow into our potential, into our purpose, into the person God created us to be.  The challenge, of course, is that becoming that person depends on our choices.  We must make the proactive choices that defy human nature.  Remember, human nature isn’t on our side. Human nature is lazy, apathetic, narcissistic, naïve, and always takes the path of least resistance.  Human nature’s inclination is to do as little as possible to get what we want. So, to combat and overcome those internal inclinations, we must be aware of and alert to the fact that living in response to our feelings and emotions will lead us straight to destruction.  I have rarely felt like getting off the couch or turning off the TV.  I have rarely felt like getting up at 5 AM or passing on chips and queso. I have rarely felt like lacing up my running shoes or making one more business call.  I have rarely felt like saying “no” to the stores and stores of beautiful clothes, shoes, and purses that call my name from the mall.

Gosh, when you stop and think about it, it would practically take a hero to make those kind of iron-strength choices every day.  But, guess what?  That’s exactly what you can be.  A practical hero.  An everyday hero.  A hero within.  Sound silly?  Of course it does! But wouldn’t you feel more inclined to make the right decisions if you were running around with a red cape and super powers?  So, throw on the cape – at least at home – and step into that power of potential that already lies within you.

Last week, James and I conducted our third Annual Review.  (For more details on conducting your own Annual Review, see the 12/24/08 edition of the Digging Deeper archives.)   There were two things about this particular session that stood out to me. First of all, heading into a brand new decade caused me to go back and analyze what I want to change from the past one.  Of the past 10 years, if I had to give a painfully honest assessment, I would say that I lived four of them proactively and six of them reactively.  The sad – and shocking – piece of that revelation to me was that I easily thought that at least two more of those reactive years were proactive while I was living them.  But, from a hindsight perspective, the results of those years speak for themselves.  It really is sho cking to see how blind we can be to our own naïveté and apathy.  And, the second thing of note that struck me during our Annual Review was the insight that tracking can provide.  Because we had now conducted this session for three years in a row, we were able to go back and document our performance against our plans in 2007, 2008, and 2009.  We were able to see patterns and trends of poor decisions along with wiser ones.  And we were able to learn from those patterns and trends as we head into 2010.

As we looked back at our past three years of documented goals and activity, it was rewarding to look at our progress and humbling to study our errors.   But, the thing that stands out to me most about the past decade is the wonder of Father Time. We’ve all ticked through the past 5.2 million minutes, and God willing, we’ll tick through at least that many more.  So, when this decade winds to an end, what story do you want yours to tell?  As those seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, and years tick by, a few of them will be momentous and noteworthy.  But most of them will be humdrum and forgettable. And believe it or not, it’s those most forgettable days that define an everyday hero.  It’s the most humdrum hours that separate a victory from a loss.  Because in those un-notable moments, we either get swept away by the current of human nature – or we don’t.

The past decade may have been horrific, fabulous, or just so-so for you. You may desire a complete turnaround in this new season.  Or, perhaps you just want to keep building on your progress from the past. To create different results, we must approach our situation differently.  Whether you need a quantum leap or just incremental improvement, your future results depend on how you handle you.  How you handle yourself today, and how you handle yourself tomorrow, and the day after that. There’s no magic formula or magic pill.  The cape may give you confidence, but the hero is already there.  You hold the power of change, but you must turn the key daily to unleash that power.  Ignore the naysayers, and stop playing that broken record of past defeats and unkept promises to yourself in your head.  My prayer for all of us this year is Deuteronomy 33:25.  May God work such steadfastness of mind in you that “the bolts of your gates will be iron and bronze, and your strength will equal your days”.


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New Beginnings

sunny beginningsWhen I was younger, one of my favorite times of the year was back to school or the beginning of a new semester. I relished shopping for school supplies, often coordinating my pens and folders by color or theme, and the potential for success that lay before me. I made similar resolutions each time usually related to organization, time management, and procrastination (or more specifically, not procrastinating). I absolutely adore new beginnings of any kind. Naturally, celebrating New Years and making new year resolutions is something I really enjoy.

This year I put a lot of thought into what my resolution would be. I’m not really a fan of the generic goals like lose weight, get finances in order, get healthy, etc. All of those are great, but they basically predetermine your failure. They’re just too generic. There’s nothing measurable or concrete about them. Yet, I kept coming back to the same generic statement. I just want to be a better person. I’ve been hovering around this thought for a little over a year, but haven’t done much about it. Why? My guess would be because it’s too generic and I never formulated an action plan. So, to make my new year resolution, I decided to break down this concept of being a better person. If it goes well, perhaps I’ll continue expanding and elaborating on the same theme each year. For now, year one of becoming a better person, here’s what I’ve come up with.

I took a look at my life and picked out the major pieces that define who I am as a person. After all, how could I improve who I “am” if I don’t know who I am to begin with. I came up with these subheadings to “me”: spiritual, personal, wife, mother, entrepreneur, friend. I ultimately decided to sufficiently improve me, I would make a small, daily goal for each of these categories. In effect, instead of making one broad resolution, I’ve made several small daily resolutions.

  1. I will pray the Rosary each day. (This will probably require getting up a little earlier so I have the time to myself.)
  2. I will read the chapter in Proverbs that corresponds to the day of the month. For example, today is the second so I read chapter 2. Following my chapter I will play a round of “Bible Roulette” to allow the Lord to speak to me/learn a little more about the Bible.
  3. I will read at least one chapter of something I enjoy each day. (This one kind of stresses me out. I have no idea when I’m going to sit down and read for pleasure, plus I’m really bad about not taking time out for me, but I think this will be a much-needed daily “recharge” time for me.)
  4. I will greet Josh with a smile and a kiss and tell him I’m glad he’s home each day. (This sounds obvious but after several years of marriage and dealing with kids all day, Josh doesn’t usually get the welcome he deserves when he walks in the door.)
  5. I will spend individual quality time with each boy each day. (Research shows that just 15 minutes of quality one-on-one time with a child does wonders.)
  6. I will do one proactive activity for my business each day. (I’m not focusing so much on building new business right now, since the baby will be here before we know it. However, I definitely don’t want to lose all my momentum in the meantime, so this is what I’m starting with.)
  7. Each day, I will attempt to brighten one person’s day.

So those are my 7 daily goals. I got a new planner (the kind with both a monthly and a daily view) to help me track my goals. Each day, as I complete each goal, I will write the corresponding number in my planner. This will allow me to see which goals I’m struggling with and help me get back on the proverbial horse after I fall off. For me, tracking it the most important part of goal setting. It’s really easy to set goals, but sticking with them and eventually achieving them all comes down to the tracking. I think I’ll also report my progress here in my blog, since its important to have some accountability. It’s much to easy to make excuses to myself, but if I have to tell someone else what a slacker I’ve been, I’m much more likely to stay focused.

It takes 21 day to form a habit, so if I find I’ve accomplished (accomplished meaning successfully made it a true daily activity…like eating) one of these goals, I may replace it. I may also modify these goals as needed. My tracking sheets will speak for themselves.  But, for now, this is my plan to become a slightly better person this year.

Here’s to a great 2010!

And What Are You Doing to Resolve This?

fix itSo often these days, as I sit and listen to my friends complain about their problems, whether they be personal, financial, work-related, whatever, I just want to scream, “STOP!” I just feel like if these people would spend even a fraction of the time they spend complaining praying about the issue at hand, they would feel so much better, have so much more direction, and not get so overwhelmed by petty things. I don’t say that to be mean. Of course, I have no problem being a sounding board for my friends. It’s not healthy to keep things bottled up. But, when they have the same problems week after week, month after month, it just gets a little ridiculous. Prayer aside, I want to ask them, “What are you doing to resolve this issue?” But I’ve learned that response doesn’t go over very well. I just can’t stand to sit, trapped, listening to a never-ending “woe is me” rant that has absolutely no direction…and that I’ll inevitably be hearing again in just a matter of days or weeks. (Brace yourself for the smug sarcasm that follows.)

“So, Frank, you feel like your life has no direction and you’re not where you expected to be by your late 20s? Well, what are you doing to resolve that?” Frank (who doesn’t exist, by the way) would look at me like I had two heads. Why on earth would he make an attempt to seek out direction in his life when he could just spend every night of his life going to the same bar he’s been going to for years or getting stoned with a bunch of people who also have no direction in life.

“Julie (still not a real person), you’re frustrated because none of the guys you date take you seriously? What are you doing to resolve that?” Again, I’m talking like a crazy person. How could the fact that she dresses like a slut and is incapable of spending an evening sober possibly have anything to do with the type of men she’s attracting? Surely wealthy men with advanced educations and fast growing careers are just dying to get into a relationship and consider spending their life with someone who is advertising herself to be a shallow, insecure, freak who will do anything you want on the first night you meet her. “No, Suzie, I can’t imagine why he didn’t invite you to his office party. Oh, you found out he took his girlfriend. Yeah, I guess he used you.”

“Wow, Hannah (In case you haven’t caught on, none of these characters actually exist.), you’re really stressed out about how much debt you’re in and it’s starting to get hard to make your minimum payments? What are you doing to resolve this?” I’ll let my readers guess. Do you think Hannah has cut up her credit cards and is avoiding the mall to prevent impulse buys? Of course she’s not! In fact, she just bought 3 new pairs of shoes today. It really helps her to shop when she’s stressed out, you know.

My favorite Scrubs quote ever came from the end of an episode when JD was mentally pondering the lessons learned in said episode. He mused, “I always assumed growing up happened automatically as you got older, but it’s really something you have to choose to do.” I swear I got up and did a happy dance. :) I couldn’t believe how simple yet profound that statement was. JD (or more accurately his writers) hit that nail right on the head! If only I could teach all my friends this same lesson. Unfortunately, I think most of my friends, like me, want to learn all their lessons the hard way. They don’t want to benefit from the wisdom I’ve gained by growing up faster, they want to continue wandering aimlessly hoping that all the answers will fall on their laps and all the right doors will magically open for them.

I’ve got news for anyone that will listen. NOTHING will EVER magically fall into your lap. If you want something, you’ve got to work for it. And, just wanting “something” and “working” aren’t enough. You have to know what you want and work specifically for it . A very wise woman I know often says “the only difference between a dream and a goal is an action plan.” She is so right. To achieve anything, you must be working on purpose. Define what you want, break it down into smaller goals, then daily goals. Every day, make a list of things to do to get closer to that goal. In fact, make that list at night before you go to bed. Then,when you wake up the next morning, you know exactly what you need to accomplish. Every minute of every day, ask yourself, “Is what I’m doing right now getting me closer to where I want to be?” Write that phrase down and post in in places that trip you up: by the computer, over the tv, on the fridge. I think humans have an inner drive to succeed; in my faith based opinion it’s the desire to become everything that God intends for us to be. I don’t think it’s possible for us to be truly happy when we’re not living, working, and playing up to our full potential.

Too often, I watch my friends allow themselves to be bogged down by situations that don’t make them happy. These situations are usually easier or less scary than what they could or should be out in the world doing, so they just stick with them. As a result, every day, they get a little more unhappy, a little more discontent, and a little more down on themselves. That’s why I just want to shake them and scream, “STOP!” I want them to realize that they are not victims of life or circumstance. I want them to understand that they are in whatever situation they are in because they choose to stay there. Absolutely no one can give their lives meaning except for them. I personally think they need to reach up to the Lord and ask what direction they should take with their lives. At the very least, they need to get honest with themselves about what they want and how to realistically achieve it. If only they would hear that from me…