yearofbeautiful

Developing a family narrative (#yearofbeautiful idea)


Part of my #yearofbeautiful is to strengthen my connection with others. I’ve been thinking today about my connections within my own family and came across this article from The New York Times: “The Stories that Bind Us”.

Here’s the bathroom break version of the article: If you want to create strong, lasting family relationships, develop a strong, lasting family narrative.

That was a short bathroom break.

You are faster than my husband and my four-year old son in the bathroom. *Grin*

Teasing aside…

What IS a family narrative and how do you create it?

Family strain could create dark narratives: money, arguments, name calling, loss, etc. Maybe your family strain is because you made jokes about how long it takes somebody to poop and you posted it for all of the internet to read. Seriously. That’s rude. Don’t do that. Keep poop time-frames personal, people.

I read something in a Reader’s Digest years ago. I was sitting in the bathroom but I won’t tell you WHAT I was doing or for HOW long. Let’s just say that what I read was a simple, short paragraph about how kids are more resilient when they know the story of their family. My memory instantly took me to the basement of my Grumma Campbell’s house where the walls were brown and wood, the carpet was dark, the couches lining the walls also dark, and we were crowded down there with cousins, aunts, and uncles, listening to Grumma tell the history of one of our ancestors. I hope it was either Aquila Nebeker or Christopher Columbus Kearl. They have such great names.

Is that part of my family narrative? Where I come from? Men like Aquila and Christopher? And does it matter that I don’t know the stories of my husband’s ancestors? Or even their names, really?

From the NYTimes article, here are some of the questions that might make up part of your family narrative (none of them are about pooping so take note):

  1. Do you know where your grandparents grew up?
  2. Do you know where your mom and dad went to high school?
  3. Do you know where your parents met?
  4. Do you know an illness or something really terrible that happened in your family?
  5. Do you know the story of your birth?

I wonder: can my four-year old answer any of these questions? I asked him.

Do you know where Grandma Alicia grew up? “No. Where’d she grow up? In Texas, mom?”

Do you know where Grandmere grew up? “In Salt Lake?”

Do you know where Dad and I went to high school? “In Salt Lake? And then did Dad go in Texas? So did I guess it?”

Do you know where Dad and I met? “Um, at the temple? At Dad’s house?”

Do you know about an illness that happened in our family? “What’s an illness? No. I don’t. Did Grumma Campbell get sick? Her heart stopped pumping.”

Do you know what happened when you were born? “I came out of your tummy.”

According to the article, if kids know these types of things about their families, it’s the “best single predictor of children’s emotional health and happiness.”

How do you teach your kid to have a strong “intergenerational self”?

Have you done any of the following (which are suggestions from the article):

  1. Create a family mission statement identifying core values
  2. Build up identity through communal activities
  3. Create hokey family traditions
  4. Tell positive stories about your family
  5. Create, refine and retell the story of your family’s positive moments and your ability to bounce back from the difficult ones

And if you’ve done #3, I want to know what it is!

3 new things I’ve learned to live authentically


live-authentically

The second item on my #yearofbeautiful list is to live authentically.

Something that I did for that was for a life coach session with the fabulous Julie de Azevedo Hanks. I have an entire page of thoughts and notes from Skyping with her. If you want your own page of notes, I think you should chat with her, too. We had an excellent hour. From all of it, there is a gem that I would like to share with you.

Also, my session sparked conversations with both a good neighbor of mine and also my husband. I have something to share with you from each of those, as well. Ready? Here my three things I have to help me live authentically. As a mom and as a woman.

Do something every day where you feel alive

This came from Julie.

Kids need to see you alive.

I spend a lot of energy caring for my kids. It feels exhausting day in and day out. I lose myself in their demands. I often forget to do something so that ME, MOM, THE MOTHER, feels alive, in FRONT OF THEM. My kids notice when I’m frustrated, exhausted, running low, or short-tempered. So, of course, it makes sense that they will notice when I am feeling happy, accomplished, and ALIVE.

What do you love to do? What are you good at?

By answering those questions, you can make a good list of things to do where you kids can see you alive. My list includes writing, doodling, and playing the piano.

You create their world

This came from Nathan.

So many days it feels mundane to make meals and snacks, clean up after meals and snacks, go through the routine of trying to keep naptimes consistent, struggle through the bedtime routines, and do all of the in-between things like potty training, cleaning up ALL THE TOYS, and consistently discovering new walls, furniture, or lamp shades with Sharpie on them.

This matters, though. My kids feel safe. They feel secure.

Kids that don’t have stability in their lives are forced to live in survival mode. Nathan has seen this a lot working at many of the schools he’s been in. When kids live that way their brain is on hyper alert, their world is a scary place, and they cannot thrive.

At the end of MY  day, I may not feel like I’ve realized any quantifiable accomplishments, but if I’m able to step back and see the day-to-day stability and predictability through the eyes of my toddler and preschooler, then I can see the environment I am creating for them wherein they can be well-nourished.

Your service models the life of our Savior

This came from my neighbor, Nora.

On the morning of my life coaching session, I told her about how I was really looking forward to my appointment and what kinds of things I might talk about it. She told me that she really wanted to hear how it went and I said, deal. Later that day, she emailed me with some of her thoughts. One of these was on how similar the role of a mom is to the life of Jesus Christ. I had not thought of this before. Or at least, not in a concrete way, so reading her thoughts was a big a-ha moment for me.

The Savior cares of each one of us.

I care for each one of my children.

He fed the 5000.

I feed my family.

He washed the feet of His disciples.

I wash hands, faces, snotty noses, and bathe my children.

He healed the sick.

Just last week, I was up in the night with sick kids, holding them, giving them medicine, and praying for their health.

He taught constantly.

I teach my kids constantly.

He gave His life for each one of us.

In a small way, I give my life as I sacrifice my sleep, time, and energy.

So this month, I feel I am doing better at living authentically because I better understand my divine role as a mom, how I’m creating a safe and nurturing world for my kids, and that it is important for them to see me doing things that make me feel alive.

So what things would you put on your “I’m Alive!” list?

The meaningful work of being a mom


meaningful-mom-job

Now hiring: no pay, no quarterly bonus, no promotion, work long hours, no vacations, and difficult working conditions (cleaning the poop out of cloth diapers, yes!). Who would apply for such a job? And yet.

And yet, in spite of the conditions, I chose to be a mom.

And yet, I chose to have a second kid.

And yet, I chose to quit my career and stay home.

And yet, I still choose to be home after doing this for over a year.

And yet, I choose to put my babe in cloth diapers. Because poop.

What makes The Mom a meaningful job?

In my search for ways to be more authentic, I read an article from MIT, “What makes work meaningful — or meaningless” (sorry for the paywall). They came up with five unexpected features of meaningful work after interviewing 135 people in 10 different occupations. When you think of your job (or jobs), do they hit all the right feels for you in these five areas: self-transcendent, poignant, episodic, reflective, personal. Let’s discuss these in list style. Because lists.

  1. Self-Transcendent: Do you feel that your work matters to others more just to yourself?

Being The Mom requires massive amounts of unselfishness. Amounts I didn’t have before and it took time for me to learn to make enough. My kids need The Mom. I try to show them they are loved. I tried to teach them values so they will make a positive impact on our community. If I do good work, I make a big impact on my kids and on how they treat others.

  1. Poignant: Does your work affect you both painfully and deeply?

As The Mom, I am overwhelmed by the array of emotions I experience every single day. When I’m in a moment of negative emotions, I obviously don’t feel appreciative. But turns out, if all I ever experienced was positive experiences, that would steal the rich and challenging times from me. I need those. The experience of fighting through these times creates a sense of meaningfulness.

  1. Episodic: Does your work sometimes feel meaningful, but many times not?

Being The Mom is the most episodic job I’ve ever had. There is nothing emotionally steady about it. It’s not even keel. Not monotonous. Many times, I can only describe it as The Struggle. Meaningful feelings don’t exist for me in those moments. Instead, I feel exasperated and in need of a break. But the ups, man, those are pretty incredible, right? They just come and go. And sometimes, it doesn’t feel like there’s been anything meaningful for days or weeks or maybe months (like the months and months where Gabbi cried from 6pm-midnight, with brief spouts of quiet when we lulled her into scanty sleep). I may work for years and years to try and teach my kids kindness before I finally see one of them take the initiative to reach out to the injured kid in a group. I can’t force them to want to be kind. I can’t force meaningful moments to happen.

  1. Reflective: Do you realize that you’ve experienced meaningful moments after the fact?

It’s often not until we look back on experiences that we realize they were meaningful, so states MIT. So in this area, as The Mom, I am missing out on something that would help me in my job (because I clearly need to add another area of responsibility to my job description!); I am forgetting to reflect on my day. Sometimes I do it, a little bit, when I tell Nathan about some of the things that happened while he was at work. I accompany this with flipping through my phone to show him any pictures or videos I took at the time. But this is only brief reflection. I should improve in this area. Suggestions? When we did chores as kids, my parents would often have us look back at the difference we made when we were done and it was rewarding to see the weeded garden, the clean bedroom, or the folded clothes. Reflecting on The Mom work is more abstract. How do you find time to retrospect on your Mom work?

  1. Personal: Does your work matter to more than just you, but also to the important people in your life?

Yes. It matters to me that what I do matters to the people closest to me. So I think, in this area, I’d like to improve on how I recognize the other parents in my life and the work that they do because I know how much it affects me when somebody tells me, with specificity, about the times that I done good. It’s more than stating: “you’re a good mom.” That’s nice. Now add a phrase full of something meaningful. I’m going to work on this. And I can probably tell myself these things because I want to FEEL more competent.

I’m The Mom. I do things. I do transcendent things. I rock.

Motherhood might smother your authentic self


authentic-momMotherhood can be the overpowering job title that defines you. It’s constantly demanding: breakfast, naptime, middle of the night, when you need to take a poop. Children don’t let you clock out. You have to force yourself to step outside of the role, to take a break, to ask for help and focus on yourself. That’s hard to do.

So at times, I’ve lost myself in motherhood, but not in a good way. Not because I’m enveloped in the smell of a newborn and the rest of the world melts away. Not because I cherish the little hugs from my polite little preschooler. I’ve lost myself in motherhood from exhaustion and sleep deprivation, lack of patience after answering “why?” after “why?” after “why?”, or anxiety from a baby who won’t nap and won’t stop crying. I’ve lost myself in motherhood because I lose track of my personal hopes and dreams.

Motherhood is beautiful, but there’s more to me than raising two small kids.

One of my goals this year is to make it a point to live authentically. I’m on a mission, right now, to figure out HOW.

Any suggestions?

I’ve been asking the internet and I’m on a search for some good books. One book in particular, I’m going to revisit, and that’s Brené Brown’s Daring Greatly: “Because true belonging only happens when we present our authentic, imperfect selves to the world, our sense of belonging can never be greater than our level of self-acceptance.”

Okay. Authenticity ties into self-acceptance.

Which is another goal this year: FEELING more competent at what I do. My goal isn’t to BE more competent. It’s to FEEL more competent. And that comes back to how I talk to myself.

I’m curious: what do you call yourself when you talk to yourself?

I call myself Larrie.

I don’t know why. I can’t remember when it started. Obviously, not prior to high school, since that’s when my nickname was born (thanks, Jarv). For some reason, when I talk to myself (usually in my head), it’s in the third-person and I talk to Larrie.

I’m typically upset with Larrie. I’m telling her that she’s not competent. I’m reminding her of her mistakes. I’m verbally berating her. Poor Larrie.

Be nice to Larrie.

Larrie is beautiful.

This month:

  1. I will be nice to Larrie.
  2. I will also reread Daring Greatly.
  3. I will research how to live authentically.

Living authentically and feeling competent = beautiful. #yearofbeautiful yo.

If you happen to have any good articles on this, please, send them my way!

#yearofbeautiful


I want to be more positive. I want to be less critical. I want to be more content. I want to be less envious. I want to be more giving, less self-centered, more present, less distracted, happier, and someone I would want to be around. So I’m dubbing this my year of beautiful.
I thought about this while washing dishes the other night. I do have a concern and it’s that I’ll come off like the “perfect little Pinterest mom” who seriously is seriously so blessed. If I’m constantly posting the beautiful things I find, I’m constantly bombarding you with So. Much. OMGawsh. Amazing!

I hope I don’t.

My life is not perfect. I know. And I mean, I KNOW. I’m my worst critic. If being critical was a talent, I’d be in the running for America’s Best. I mean, I can still tell you about my last basketball game, senior year of high school, state playoffs, and I can describe the specific turnover I had just before the half court line and the time I didn’t box out and my player had an offensive rebound and scored. I remember my mistakes.

And I know I’m overly critical of others. This, obviously, is not conducive to flowing relationships. Bad Larrie.

So this year, I will focus on what is beautiful. For me, I expect the learning curve to be steep. I’m really going to try, though. So watch out for my excessive use of my hashtag. Or join in, if you feel so inclined. It is more fun to do things in groups, anyway.

To start my Year of Beautiful, these are my three goals (coming from the self-determination theory if you’ve heard of it):

  1. I will FEEL more competent at what I do
  2. I will live authentically
  3. I will strengthen my connection with others

What a beautiful list. Why thanks!