The Number One Thing You Must Do To Have A Successful Year

Today is the Feast of St. Stephen in the Christian year (tomorrow is the Feast for my Orthodox Christian readers), and I think it holds great significance for those of us looking ahead to 2019.  Even if you are not Christian, stop and hear me out for a minute.

St. Stephen was one of the first of seven deacons the original apostles ordained to take care of the poor in Jerusalem. His life was one of service to others. He was the first one to be martyred for his work, and we know his face was “like the face of an angel” as he stood before his accusers and the people.

So, you might be asking, what does this have to do with me and 2019?

Well, because the simple truth is YOU are an influencer.  This term is thrown around a lot, you see it on You Tube Videos and Instragram account descrpitions – “I am an influencer!”  And rightfully so, as  far as social media goes.  But as a human being, and especially as a parent, we are all influencers!

St. Stephen was an influencer above all as the first archdeacon to help the poor.  However, we can all be influencers.  We all can work to influence, support, nourish, and help the people we come into contact with. If we listen hard enough,  we  can discern what work we need to accomplish for the service of humanity.

I have some BIGGER dreams for this year, now that I am feeling healthier finally.  I want to influence 50,000 people in supporting vibrant, compassionate, developmental parenting and education.  I want to think about refreshing my skills in medicine and healing now that my children are 17,14,and 9, which will definitely require a lot of work on my part since I have been out of the game.  I want to be the healthiest I have ever been. We are going to have an epic year with family and friends making connections and having fun and adventures.  It is going to be a great year in parenting and homeschooling our children toward also being influencers that help others. And in order to do this all of this, one thing has to happen first.

We have to believe that we are more than our past mistakes, or the past we think was foisted upon us that was debilitating and wrong. We have to FORGIVE. Forgive ourselves, forgive our parents and whatever they did or didn’t do, forgive the people that we think wronged us, and move forward.  Forgiving doesn’t mean we condone what that person did or even what we did, but we move forward knowing that now is the time to do better, to let go of bitterness, to overcome layers of shame and anger, and to become what we are called to be and called to be doing. Time by itself doesn’t fix things; as I get older I see people holding on to things that happened in their teens and early 20s and are now in their 50s. This has to be an active process!

There is a confession we make in the Episcopal Church that makes me think of this process:

Most merciful God,
we confess that we have sinned against you
in thought, word, and deed,
by what we have done,
and by what we have left undone.
We have not loved you with our whole heart;
we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves.
We are truly sorry and we humbly repent.
For the sake of your Son Jesus Christ,
have mercy on us and forgive us;
that we may delight in your will,
and walk in your ways,
to the glory of your Name. Amen.

On this second day of Christmas, I  know I have the BEST readers ever!  I really  want to hear from you and how you forgave!   How did you free yourself from “what you have done and what you have left undone?”  Tell me how you threw off layers of despair, depression, anxiety, anger, and rage.  Tell me how you are an influencer in your family or outside your family!

This is going to be a fantastic year!

Many blessings,

Carrie

 

Celebrating Christmastide

Christmastide is almost upon us, and I am looking forward to the twelve days of Christmastide and the wonderful Holy Nights that are the wonderful, introspective times of peering within for moving forward. It’s a beautiful time of year!

Freya Jaffke, in her wonderful book, “Celebrating the Festivals With Children”, writes:

During the twelve or thirteen Holy Nights that follow Christmas, the events of Christmas continue to resonate; and it is a lovely custom for children if candles are lit each day, with singing, music making and perhaps a reading.  This period is set apart from the rest of the year, and can be a time when we gather our strength for the year ahead.  Nothing urgent needs to be done, and we can really take time for things.  Children are deeply satisfied if mother or father sits down beside them with some craftwork, or perhaps join in a game now and then.  In contrast to the summer when we like going outdoors, we feel very comfortable at home in the warmth – apart from winter walks and the fun of snow when it comes.

Here is a small guide toward helping families enjoy each day of Christmastide, and I do so hope you will leave your favorite traditions in the comment box as well!

Monday, December 24th – Since the Feast of the Nativity truly begins on Christmas Eve, attending liturgy is a priority for this night! In the hustle and bustle that can often accompany this day before Christmas, making time for quiet prayer is a powerful example of showing our children that God is with us should we choose to acknowledge Him, find Him, adore Him. God is with us, and with His smallest creatures. In Scandinavian countries, it is traditional to put sheaves of wheat for the birds. Children will enjoy taking time on this day to decorate an outside tree for the birds by stringing popcorn or making the traditional pine cone bird feeder of peanut butter rolled in birdseed.

 

Tuesday, December 25th– Christmas Day, the first of the twelve holy days, is a wonderful time to take an afternoon walk and see God’s creation, and also to read from The Gospel of Saint Luke. Old-fashioned board games are another suggestion for celebrating the Christmas afternoon in family togetherness. Another suggestion that some Christian families have tried with success is to spread gift-giving throughout the twelve days of Christmas so that not every gift is opened on Christmas morning.

 

Wednesday, December 26th The Feast of St. Stephen – Love is the spirit of Christmas. This day is the Feast of Saint Stephen , one of the first deacons of the Church to serve the poor. Perhaps today you and your children could bring small baked treats to your neighbors, or another act of kindness and love for those in your area. Good King Wencelas is also associated with this day; perhaps you know the famous carol about him and there is also a picture book about him called “Wencelas: The Eternal Christmas Story” by Geraldine McCraughrean that children may enjoy.  This is also marked as “Boxing Day” in the UK and other countries, and you can see a full description of that here:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boxing_Day

 

Thursday, December 27th– The Feast of St. John –  This is sometimes associated with the blessing of wine.  You can see more about this day here:  http://www.fisheaters.com/customschristmas4.html

 

Friday, December 28th– The Feast of the Holy Innocents. This is a lovely day to let your smallest child be the “King” for the day, and a wonderful day to bless your children with a special ceremony.

 

Saturday, December 29th –  is The Feast of St. Thomas Becket  in the Anglican Church and also in the Roman Catholic Church. You can see more about this feast day here:  http://www.fisheaters.com/customschristmasx.html

 

Sunday, December 30this a very quiet day on the Church calendar; perhaps this is the day to write thank you’s for Christmas gifts and to take another walk or hike to look at God’s beautiful world.

 

Monday, December 31st– this is, of course, New Year’s Eve. New Year’s Eve actually has no relationship to Christmastide since the beginning of the New Year in the (Western) Christian calendar actually begins with the First Sunday in Advent or September 1st in the Eastern Christian calendar! However, this can be a wonderful day of receiving friends and hospitality. Perhaps you could plan a special party, playdate or tea for your children and their friends on this day!  My favorite activity is listed in the book “All Year Round”.  Those of you who have this book may remember this activity, where small walnut shell halves are filled with beeswax and floated in a tub lined with tin foil and greenery and there can be small “islands” of desires, dreams, wishes for the New Year.  Just lovely!

 

Tuesday, January 1stThe Feast of the Holy Name of Jesus – according to Jewish tradition, this would be the day of the naming and circumcision of Jesus Our Lord and Savior. In English tradition, it is also a day to remember godparents. Children would often visit the home of their godparents to be blessed and receive a gift! Perhaps this is a day your children could talk to their godparents and deepen that relationship.

 

Wednesday, January 2nd – The website Full Homely Divinity, a resource for Anglican parish life, recognizes that the Feast of St. Basil is celebrated on January 1st in the Orthodox Church, so they recommend making the traditional vassilopita on this day, which traditionally has a coin baked into it for one lucky person to find and have good luck in the new year. Here is a recipe: http://www.lerios.org/recipes/vassilopita.php

 

Thursday, January 3rd– Today is a wonderful day to again gather friends and family and hike, play board games and sing Christmas carols! What carols does everyone know in your family?

 

Friday, January 4thThis is a day to read Christmas books; there are several by Tomie dePaola that are exceptionally good!

 

Saturday , January 5th– Twelfth Night, the last night of the Twelve Days of Christmas and marking the transition to the beginning of the season of Epiphany! We often recognize not only the gifts brought by the Wise Men on this day in the Western Church, but also the Baptism of Jesus and the significance of water, but also the first miracle of Jesus performed when he changed water into wine.

Bonfires of the Christmas greenery and Twelfth Night Cakes are typical on this day; perhaps this would be a good day to sing the carol “The Twelve Days of Christmas”!  Many times a special cake is baked; a Twelfth Night Cake!

 

Sunday, January 6th – The Feast of Epiphany –Epiphany is a festival of The Baptism of Jesus in the Orthodox Church and called Theophany; in the Western Church we often call it “Three Kings Day” and mark the Wise Men. The night before Three Kings Day is Twelfth Night, and is a time of joy and festivity marked in many different ways in different countries . In Scandinavia, “Star Singers” move from house to house, led by a large and festive star on a stick and in Russia, children are putting out shoes for Babouschka and waiting for gifts. Italian children are waiting for Old Befana and gifts as well. There are many wonderful traditions from other countries to explore; in many countries Epiphany and not Christmas is the main time of gift giving!

There is a traditional house blessing often done on this day that acknowledges the Three Kings, and the eating of a King’s Cake is traditional. You can find details about this under the Epiphany tab on the Full Homely Divinity website.  I also have past posts about Epiphany on this blog.

For those of  you interested in the idea of the Holy Nights as elucidated by Rudolf Steiner, there is much to say, and I am by far not an expert on Steiner’s indications for the Twelve Holy Nights.  I refer you to this document about the Holy Nights as a good source often shared in anthroposophic communities.

Blessings and love,

Carrie

 

The Good, The Beautiful, The True

On this third Sunday in Advent, I was contemplating the thought that may our homes be places of the good, the beautiful, the true.  There is plenty of gritty reality and ugly in the world.  There is plenty of gray.  What the world needs is more good, more beautiful, more true.

Goodness can come in many forms:

Smiles and hugs

Warm words

Gratitude

Wonderful role models

A warm stable relationship between the adults in the household

Helping others

Watching nature and being in nature

The beautiful:

Watching nature and being in nature

Having an ordered home with points of beauty that stimulate all the senses

Wonderful literature

Creating art and appreciating art and handmade items

A rhythm that provides warmth and strength

A spiritual practice that brings beauty

Loving others and ourselves

The true:

The essential things that make us human – our emotions, and how to handle those emotions

Loving others and ourselves

Acceptance

Kindness

Hard work

Responsibility

Integrity

 

I would love to hear your good, beautiful, and true.  If you are looking for ideas for this third week of Advent, try this back post.  This is a wonderful week to observe our animal friends, tell stories about animals, and make treats for birds, cats and dogs, and our farm friends.

Many blessings this week; I hope your holiday season is peaceful.

Carrie

 

 

 

Self-Care Sunday: Getting Real

So, one of the books I have been reading lately is “Girl, Wash Your Face: Stop Believing The Lies About Who You Are So You Can Become Who You Are Meant To Be”  by Rachel Hollis.  In Chapter Two, entitled, “The Lie: I’ll Start Tomorrow,”  the author writes that when we care about commitments, we do it when we said we would do it.  She takes this scenario and talks about if you had a friend that constantly flaked ou on you, and never showed up when you made plans, or this friend started something new constantly but never followed through…well, you probably wouldn’t respect this person very much.

And yet, how often do we do this to ourselves?  How often are we the first one to break our own promises to ourselves?

Yes, I promised myself I would go run today but the day is nuts and everyone needs me.

Yes, I promised myself I wouldn’t eat crazy around the holidays but there is so much good food and I am kind of stressed.

Yes, I promised myself I would get together with that friend just for adult-only coffee but now everything is so busy.

Yes, I promised myself I would start inner work and would meditate and pray but I just can’t get up early and do that and then there is no time.

Yes, I started exercising but I did it three days in a row and I can’t just continue.

This also applies to homeschooling.  How many times have you said:

I don’t have time to plan.

I don’t have time to learn how to do that art stuff.

I don’t have time to be home and do all these little cooking and craft things for my Early Years children.

I can’t teach high school subjects.

I can’t teach mulitple children.

Accountability is a hard thing.  Get a friend or your partner to be your accountability partner.  Put your goals into writing. Set those simple subgoals and do them each day without fail.  If it gets rough and you want to bail on yourself, call your accountability partner.

Show your children that you have discipline too.  How can we expect our children to follow through and not be lazy when we never show them one personal goal that we have set and met?  Older children love nothing more than cheering on their parents to accomplish great things!

But most of all, learn how to go through your roadblocks and keep going.  Nearly everyone can start something, (or say they are going to start something!)  but very few can finish it.  In order to do this, you will need to SLOW DOWN on your outside commitments.  Your own inner commitments come first, your family life at home comes next, and then whatever outside crazy there is.

And you might be saying, but Carrie, you don’t know my life.

Maybe not, but I sure know mine.  Having teenagers in the house is the busiest season of all.  Busier than the tiny stage.  More emotionally draining.  Planning on all levels is a MUST.  If I don’t plan, I won’t make it.  If I don’t set realistic goals and  write it down, block out the time daily, talk to my accountability partner, and get going, it will never happen for me.

If you want to share what you are working on for you, please comment in the box below. Let’s all support each other! I will be cheering you on, and can’t wait to see you meet your goal!

Blessings and love,

Carrie

 

Why Did We Think Parenting Would Be Easy?

Parenting is hard.  Some ages are harder than others.

It is messy.

It brings up triggers and baggage.

It brings up woundedness.

It can bring out our best side, but also our worst side.

It brings up differences with our significant other and magnifies them.

It is hard.

I think parenting is all of those things.  Why did we think parenting was going to be easy?

I think the more that we can acknowledge that things are different from when we grew up, but that development in and of itself is not different, is where we can start to heal and find the beautiful in the messy.  Finding that each child is an individual, but that development also takes a fairly predictable course can be comforting and exhilirating and helpful.  All at the same time.

I have posts about EVERY age from birth all the way through age 16 on this blog under the “Development” header.  You can find a lot of support there in those back posts. While I do not write as much regarding each specific age anymore, those posts are there for you.

Hang in there, parents.

Find the beautiful in the messy.

Find the beautiful in being a human being and in raising one.

Find the common ground with your significant other.

Find the lovely in the hard and the smooth inside all of those rough edges.

It is messy. Some children and personalities are honestly harder than others.  It is okay.   It is parenting.

Blessings, and love,

Carrie

 

Raising Children With Integrity

It seems to me there is an epidemic right now in American society of narcissitic males in my age group.  I have heard from many women dealing with this, and it is very sad how this is affecting families.  (If you are unsure what this is, try this article; it is a personality disorder that begins very early in life, cannot be diagnosed until adulthood, and is very difficult to treat).  Somehow, though, I started making the leap from narcissism to  – well, what makes a good human being?  How do I want my son or daughter to act in a relationship when they have their own families?   These traits, of course, are not exactly opposite narcissism another since narcissism is a psychological order and I am talking in generalities about raising children who can function in relationships.

However, I think much of this boils down to integrity.  I have seen so many relationships ripped apart by not just self-centeredness (which is different from narcissism) but by a complete lack of integrity; public lives are not at all the same as what is going on in private; the partner and family are not first.  I think what is most difficult about this is the model it sets for children; children generally know something is going on when things don’t match up.

So in order to teach integrity, one must live in integrity.  What does this mean?

I think it means several things:

Merging your personal and private lives.  Don’t act in such a way or be into things in your private life that you would be completely embarrassed and upset if your children found out.  Be consistent across the arenas and roles of your life.  That is part of having a moral character.  Having a conscious and understanding of what you are doing when it is vastly different from one role to another helps you correct this and stop.

Believe in people, help people, build people up. If you live in a family  with other people, it is not just about you.  Self-centeredness is not a good trait on the job or in the family.  We expect adolescents to be self-centered, not forty-year-olds.  Be equitable and fair in how you deal with people and teach your children to do the same.

Be accountable – apologize first, admit when you are wrong, try to make amends. Love people enough to build bridges with those you can (and I am not talking about toxic relationships here.  For these people, I think it is important for our children to see us as we model boundaries).   Hold your children accountable in how they treat you, other members of the family, themselves, and in relationships outside the home.  Accountability in relationships and respect in relationships go hand in hand.

Follow through – If your word means anything, you will follow through on what you say and what you believe and your children will do the same.

Be honest and loyal, and teach your children not just how to not be a bully, but how to empathize with people and feel what they are feeling.  Part of integrity requires emotional intelligence, and again, thinking about others and being a good communicator. Relationships sometimes dissolve, not over bullying, but over one party not being able to read the other and respond to that.    Teaching children how to deal with conflict in a productive manner is so important.

Believe in the positive; look for the helpers and  any good things in the tragedies of the world.

Blessings,
Carrie

Vibrant Life! (Or, Get Out Of Your Own Way!)

I have been talking to so many people lately who are experiencing tremendous growth.  They are building businesses, creating new loving relationships, experiencing an increased level of intimacy with their partners and children and more!  It is very exciting, and so inspiring!

Yet, there is a certain group of people I hear from.  For lack of a better word, they are stuck.  I understand stuck; I had a fairly fallow period last year where I felt stuck for awhile.  However, sometimes stuck can mean  years  in something that is like a never-ending cycle that the person  can’t  seem get out of.  Of course, bad things can always, always happen to good people!  However, we always have a chance for growth in how we respond, and by being open we are to change and growth.  And I have found in talking with mothers and spouses and young adults, that this cycle often has identifiable patterns, if only one could see them.

We can always ask ourselves, “What area of my life am I “stuck” in right now?”  We can look for substantial patterns by reviewing our own biography – where were our major life events, and when?  Were the big things external or internal?  Was I  a mover and a shaker or did things just happen passively to me?    What were my reactions to things?  My reaction to stressful things?

Identifying that we are stuck, (and I think most of us have been there at one point or another, again,  I know I have!)  is only part of the battle.  The other part of it is DOING something about it. And this is where I find most people have trouble.  Because whether or not they want to admit it, there is some kind of pay-off to being stuck in the same patterns and cycles over and over.  Maybe it is easier to withdraw rather than stand up.  Maybe it is easier to not choose intimacy and vulnerability.  Sometimes just being comfortable and not having to risk anything is enough of a pay-off.  Sometimes being rigid is protective.  I don’t know what the pay-off is for any particular reason; that is something that they must discover within themselves.

If we can identify patterns in our life, where we are stuck, and what our pay-off is, I think then we have a chance at changing.  And in order to change, we have to be more open and more flexible than ever before.  Some people are just not flexible or ready for growth. This step can take time. Sometimes this step can take the help of a really good counselor or other mental health care professional.  Because if we are willing to grow, then we can think in the possibilities and in the positive mindset of growth.  The most amazing things can and do happen!

Once we are open and ready for change, we can set goals, and then break those goals down.  We may  have to think in the smallest of steps.  For example, what one step could I take today toward this goal that is now broken down into smaller steps?  What are the few things I can do each day to make that one step happen?    Realistically, what do I need to make the smallest of steps happen? Do I need support from a friend? Therapy?  More money coming in?  To free up time?  To change my priorities?  To put myself out into the world in a vulnerable position and accept that?

Don’t be stuck; get out of your own way and make your beautiful life happen.  You have it in you!  The possibilities are before you. ❤

Blessings and love,
Carrie

Special thanks to my good friends S. and N. for many discussions on this topic!!