change: the new normal

changeToday I was driving with my teenage son in the car.  This kid.  I love this kid.  He has faced some pretty tough situations the past year and a half.  The things he has faced have changed him.  And for a year and a half I think I’ve been trying to bring back a part of him that has changed.

Before his first run-in with major adversity, he was really outgoing.  His dad and I have always said, “he can literally make a friend ANYWHERE!”  He is an only child but that never kept him from finding someone to play with on the playground.  He easily made friends wherever he went.

But now?  After?  He’s not the same.

We took him to counseling and each time we went I found myself saying “he just isn’t the same.”  And now that I look back, I was hoping she could help us “fix him” and bring back his old self.

Fast forward to today in the car.  We had music on but we weren’t talking.  Not because we were upset with each other, but because this is his new normal.  He doesn’t talk much in the car.  For some reason I said, “Do you know the difference between an introvert and an extrovert?”  And he said, “Yeah, dad and I are introverts and you’re an extrovert.”

I almost forgot to breathe when he said that.   I was thinking “no honey, you’re an EXTROVERT.  Remember all those times on the playground? at the mall? in the store? in school?”  But no.  He self-identified as an introvert.  I couldn’t believe what I was hearing!

He’s not the same.
My extrovert is gone!

You know how the female brain works, right?  In the time it took to drive exactly one exit at approximately 70mph – I had a full-blown therapy session.  In my head.  Without saying a word.

I can’t believe he just said that!
Well, why is it so hard to believe?  He’s different now.
Yeah, but he was always the kid who could make a friend no matter what.
I can’t believe how much his struggles have changed him.
It makes me sad that he has changed so much.
But wait … remember when you got sick, Ann?  You changed, too.

And there it was.  There was the teachable moment the Lord was trying to show me.

Change.  It happens.
And honestly?  It’s normal.
And … it’s usually good.

I felt like the Lord was saying, “Ann, you are constantly playing tug-of-war with me.  I try to show you new things and you get excited – and then you tug and tug and want to go back to the way things were.  If you stay the same, I can’t use you in the ways I have planned.”

Y’all, I could have wrecked our truck right then and there.  Or at least pulled over and breathed deeply into a paper bag.

I often read books about improving myself and changing – but often times, I just don’t want to.  Change is hard.  Sometimes it’s too hard.

But it’s true, I’ve changed.  I’m not the same person I was 5 years ago, and truthfully I can see signs of change from even just 3 months ago.  Some of the changes that have happened within me took so much work.  I worked hard to change:

  • thoughts that reeked with negativity
  • poor self-care habits
  • zero personal schedule boundaries
  • a mouth that loved gossip because it made me feel better about myself
  • a weak private life with the Lord
  • complaints about my husband

Why would I be sad about changing those things?  I shouldn’t be!  I should be celebrating a change in every single one of those things.  But the vehicle that brought me to those changes was a chronic illness.  My son’s vehicle has been physical pain and mental anguish.  And one of his changes is that he’s now an introvert.

I don’t know what your vehicle is or what change is on the horizon, but my encouragement to you is to embrace it.   Change is normal and it will happen again and again in our lives.  Aren’t you glad you’re not your 13-year-old self?  Or even your 20-year-old self?

I have learned solid leadership skills from some incredible leaders around me – but putting them into action required change.  I have lost weight and I exercise my body – but getting into a rhythm of good habits required change.  I have grown in my personal relationship with the Lord – but setting aside time to be in the Word required change.

Even though change has become my new normal, it was hard for me to accept the change that has happened within my son. And isn’t it interesting that HE has made peace with it but I hadn’t?

When I dropped him off I hugged him a little too tight.  “Ugh, mom!  You’re hurting my cheek!” he fussed.  Someday (when he’s not a teenager and he again values my thoughts and opinions) I will tell him about the time his words helped me appreciate the changes the Lord allowed within him – just like I’ve grown to appreciate the changes the Lord has allowed in me.

I love the story the Lord is writing in him.  And I love that I can learn from anyone, even a teenager.

… but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. – Romans 5:3-4

what she said

There are very few topics that get me so riled up that I should be placed in a padded room until I can calm down.  But this topic… this is one of them.  This is a hot button for me.  This topic is our local police.

I get very frustrated with people who think ALL police are bad because 1% of the police population are corrupt.  It makes me clench my teeth as I type this.  My husband hasn’t ever asked me to stop freaking out about this topic because he knows I’m passionate about it., but he did send me a link to this well written blog post.  I would love for you to read it.

I don’t care which side of the blue line you are on, please read what is in my heart that this woman has written so well.

Just a Cop

My prayer is that it will open your eyes to the things officers see and do that many of us would never dream of doing, nor sign up to do.  I don’t expect you to write a thank you letter to your local police department (tho that would completely rock), I don’t expect you to put them on a pedestal, and I don’t expect you to understand what it’s like to be in their shoes (because even I don’t understand that fully).  I would just hope that it would broaden your understanding of what our precious United States might be like without them.

And Father forgive me for my outrage yesterday.  I pray that MY heart is open to seeing both sides to every story before I form my opinions – in every situation.  I welcome your comments – no matter on which side of the blue line you stand.

Santa is a stalker

It’s that’s time of year again —

Middle School Carpool

#middleschoolcarpool
 

Kid 1: Sometimes when I fart my mom says it sounds wet — but it really ISN’T — it just SOUNDS that way.

Kid 2: That song, “Let It Go” is really about someone who has to go to the bathroom really bad!

(three kids break out in song and laughter)

Kid 1: I think Santa is a stalker.  I mean think about it “he sees you when you’re sleeping, he knows when you’re awake, he knows if you’ve been bad or good….” I mean really … that’s CREEPY!

ROARING laughter over Santa being a stalker. R-O-A-R-I-N-G, I tell you.

But the good news for me is that it was only a 1-window afternoon.  Just a tiny bit of stink.  That’s miracle territory considering it was 97 degrees when I picked them up. Thank you Jesus that we didn’t have to experience a “wet fart.”  God help me.

Disclaimer: Contrary to popular belief, the wet fart kid was not mine.

on the outside, looking in

Last weekend my little family of three went on a get-away trip to San Antonio.  We had a great time and made an effort to keep our phones put away except for a few snapshots here and there.   We didn’t even verbalize set phone-rules, we just wanted to be sure we enjoyed each other more than we enjoyed our technology.

Here are things we noticed:

  • our conversation was focused on us, not on what we saw on Facebook
  • our kiddo thrives on adventure – even if it means taking a different path than we did to get to the same place
  • we actually had productive conversations about our parenting goals and family goals
  • we laughed.  a lot.
  • we didn’t miss our phones

Here is what we noticed at other tables in restaurants:

  • the people dining hardly looked at each other
  • heads hardly ever looked up from phones when servers brought their meals
  • phones were still in one hand while eating with the other
  • often the only conversation that occurred was in reference to someone showing a picture on his/her phone
  • KIDS are glued to tablets and phones

I remember my husband saying, “I’m glad that’s not us – I’m glad we don’t have our phones out.”
And I remember thinking, “Today.  I’m glad we had the willpower to put them away today.”

 

This video impacts me every single time I watch it and it reminds me to have a healthy respect for my phone.  There is a time and a place to use your phone.  Exercise some willpower and learn the difference.

It’s hard.  It’s SO hard to create a healthy distance from technology when it’s everywhere AND when almost everyone in our circles is using it as well.  Our kids are growing up in this new environment, and it’s our responsibility to set good examples for them.

With a smartphone it’s hard NOT to:

  • answer that work email so you can show that you’re a team player
  • text a friend with something funny your kid just said instead of laughing with your family
  • look up that web address immediately after seeing it advertised
  • check the weather/traffic … over and over again
  • post the family picture you just took on Facebook/Instagram/Twitter and so on
  • play a game instead of sitting idle for 5 minutes while you wait in line
  • check Facebook. again. and again. and again. and again.
  • post a great quote on Twitter instead of really enjoying and soaking in that book

iphone

Several weeks ago, my friend Lauren posted this link on Facebook – I know, the irony of it all, but stay with me here.  It’s basically a challenge to see how long you can go without picking up your phone and here’s the gem of it all… the minutes ticking by while your phone sits idle, is rewarded to people who don’t have phones.  In fact, they don’t even have water.   Read more here, and take the challenge.

Do some good to yourself, your family, your boundaries, and to total strangers who can’t ever repay you.

Grace Avenue UMC – Frisco

This post is for the ladies from Grace Avenue MOPs.

I am still giggling that my entire talk today was about technology and you didn’t get to see ANY of the pictures and video clips that I had pulled together for you — because of an issue with technology.  God is so funny — and so smart!  Because I feel that He showed up stronger WITHOUT the technology than He might have otherwise.

SO — here are the things I wish I could have shown you while I spoke to you this morning:

Horrible habits are hard to break:
MjAxMy04YjYyNDk1YmE1OTAwOWVj.png

Technology that I wish existed:

My son’s favorite commerical (notice at the end he has his phone on the table during dinner —– REALLY?!?!)

 

Painful Reality:

Because it’s kinda funny:

moses1.gif

Sigh… way to go, Mark Twain:

nosmiles2.jpg

Don’t be THIS mom:

bubblewrapped-kids-636.jpg

Experience UNPLUGGED ADVENTURE with your kids:

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In Summary:

10 Steps to becoming a cool TechNO-mom

Tomorrow I am speaking to a group of moms about the dangers and joys of technology in our lives.  I’ve shared my Candy Crush addiction issues before, and I’ve shared my pledge not to text and drive.  Today I have to be honest and say, “I’ve screwed up.  Again.”

Dude.  It’s HARD to keep good boundaries with technology.  It. Is. Everywhere.  I can’t even go buy toilet paper at Wal-Mart without a screen waking up and sharing a commercial about how much softer the new blah blah blah brand is and if I wave my hand below the screen I will receive a coupon for $1.00 off.  SHHHHHH!  I’m ON THE PHONE while I’m shopping.   Sorry, is that annoying?

I’m also on the phone while I’m cooking.  I’m checking Facebook while I’m waiting for my meeting.  My phone alerts me that my troops are ready for battle while I’m IN the meeting —- well, I just let the cat out of the bag with that one.

My husband and I are trying out a unique and probably frowned upon method of hovering in a less helicopter fashion.  We both play Clash of Clans now, and so does our son.  And we have our own clan.  No, you can’t join it unless we know you in person and we have had an actual conversation with you.  See what we did there?  We are giving our son the freedom to have this game that has group messaging capabilities but we are IN the game with him.  So if something fishy is goin’ down, we’ll be the first to smell it.

Our son is 11 and he doesn’t fully understand how big and scary the world can be within these “fake” micro-worlds of online games.  But we do.  So we go there with him.  He gave out too much information in the first clan we were in and mom and dad might have gone a little ape….schmidt.  We deleted the game on all devices, we panicked, we had conversations, we fretted… and then we realized — WAIT — this isn’t teaching him anything helpful!  So we all got back in the game, but it’s different this time.

What are we to do as moms and dads to keep this whole technology thing under control?  We have smart phones, ipads, tablets, computers, laptops, netflix, dvd’s, cable TV, DVR, XBox, PlayStation, Wii, and who knows what else….   How do we find a balance? It doesn’t matter how “smart” the device is, it’s only as intelligent as the user.

Step 1: Let your kids have screen time in moderation.

I recently read an article written by a doctor who said that NO kids under the age of 12 should have any screen time.  None.  Zip.  Zero.  Zilch.  Kill me now, just go ahead and torture me.  If I told my 11 year old son that I was taking away ALL screens for the next year until he turns 12 it would be an all out war zone in our house.  And honestly, the very next thing he would say (after the moaning, wailing, and tearing of the “sackcloth”) is — “But we use screens ALL THE TIME at school!”

You got it kid.  You sure do.

This is the world in which our kids are growing up.  This is their new norm.  It was NOT the norm for us as kids, and some (like me) still struggle to figure out how to use it wisely.  But if I don’t figure it out soon, I’m setting my son up for failure.

I’m going to give him screen time.  Period.  Some days I will totally use it as a baby sitter – which is wrong and horrible and you can leave me nasty comments if you want to — but I’m being honest.   But for the most part, screen time will be in moderation.

We tried setting up a hard and fast “one hour a day” rule.  That didn’t work out so well because if I got busy cooking dinner or on a work phone call or whatever, the hour turned into 70 minutes… and then 90… and then why are we even keeping track anymore?

Then we tried saying “you can either play on screens before dinner or after dinner – but not both.”  And that didn’t work out so well either because some days were basketball days, some days we were at the grocery store, some we didn’t even eat until 7:30 and so on.

So now, our rule is “yes, you can go play on screens until I say it’s time to turn them off.”  Doesn’t that sound silly?  Guess what?  For OUR family, this method has worked the best.  And there is no longer any danger of tearing of the sackcloth.

Start the conversation with your spouse and your kids.  What does “moderation” look like in your house?  How will you implement that?  Just note that “family time” does not consist of your entire family being on their screens in the same room at the same time.

I would love to know what is and what is NOT working at your house — be honest — judging isn’t my department so you don’t have to worry about that!

middle school carpool #2

Fun Drink Friday  is my way of shaking things up a bit and giving the boys something fun to remember — ok no.  Really, this is all about me making sure I’m cooler than Brady’s mom.  That’s all this is.

Gavin: Ms. Ann?  Are we getting Fun Drink Friday today?
Me: YES!  We will go to Sonic and then I will stop at the fabric store to go get a SINGLE cut of fabric so I can finish this quilt for a customer.

— silence —

William: You guys are SO lucky you don’t have to go to fabric stores with your moms!
Gavin: You’re so lucky you don’t have a sister because clothes shopping takes forEVER with a sister.
Brady: No, guys. Know what’s the worst? Shopping with your mom AND your grandmother!
Collectively: Awwwwww YEAH! That IS the worst!

—————-

Me (in the fabric store while checking out and eating a Hershey kiss): I have 4 boys in the car out there.  How much you want to bet that by the time I get back out to the car someone will be crying, hurt, or angry?
Employee: Here, have another Hershey kiss.