To Live with Intention

How much better would life be for everyone if we held ourselves accountable for our actions, yet weren’t so quick to judge others? What if everyone talked about their problems; solved them – stood up for themselves, stood up for their children, stood up for others (and others’ children). Why are we so quick to blame others for our own issues? Why are we so quick to put someone else down to make ourselves look better? If you hold yourself accountable for your actions, you may save someone else from suffering, from severe anguish. Why are we intentionally hurting other people?

I recently had a situation where I felt it necessary to speak up for one of my children. I despise confrontation and literally avoid it when possible. This has often been misconstrued as a weakness, but I feel like I’m trying to be the bigger person by not arguing when not essential. I was shaking; I was anxious. I presented my situation respectfully while the other person became overly defensive. The whole time I wondered if I was out of line and I realized later that no, I was not. I’m allowed to speak up for myself (or in this particular case, my child). I’m allowed to be upset. I’m allowed to initiate conversation (respectfully). Would it have avoided an argument had I remained silent? Of course. But should I be able to express when I’m upset with someone (or about a situation) without judgement or confrontation? Yes. Yes, I should (and so should you).

I am an adult. There are so many qualities you develop as an adult; as you’re learning and growing; adapting and changing over the years. I thank some really amazing professors for encouraging my analytical thinking skills, but regardless, we {pretty much} all have an ability to analytically think about situations. One of my worst personal characteristics has always been that I often over-analyze which gives me severe anxiety. “Did that text come out right?,“ Did my comment get taken out of context?,” “Did I do that wrong?,” etc. I will be thinking of something long after someone else has forgotten about it. My dad calls it “dwelling.” I don’t dwell intentionally, it’s just part of my personality.

Accountability. Another thing we {should} develop as we age. I’m the first to say “I messed up, I’m sorry.” I don’t blame others for my own shortcomings, I own up to them. If I hurt your feelings, I’m CERTAIN it was unintentional and I probably missed the cue while I was overanalyzing something else I {or someone else} did. But, if you are willing to call me out on it, I’m willing to talk about it. Let’s fix this.

I’m a fixer. I want to “fix” everyone that hurts, every broken situation. Again, a quality that has its downsides. Maybe you posted on social media about your bad day. You go to bed and while you’re sleeping, I am probably laying in bed thinking about how I can help you. While helping others is a positive quality, it also causes me anxiety (I worry way too much).

Unfortunately, these qualities make for some confidence and self-esteem issues. I’ve struggled with these issues for years (and years). When I do something wrong, I forget all of the times I did something right. Dwelling. I am my own worst critic.

Being a parent changes these characteristics slightly. I speak up for my children {when I often don’t speak up for myself}. I know they need an advocate – I have even been known to speak up for your children (you might not ever even know about it). I teach my children to stand up for themselves (and others when necessary), but if they feel like they can’t, they know their mom or dad will help them. That’s our biggest job, afterall. Making sure they have what they need to grow – emotionally, physically and even spiritually.

None of this means that I’m discounting that other people try their hardest to be their best selves. Some people just fall short and that may not even be their fault (or intentional). But in our minds (and in our hearts), we KNOW when we are lying, judging, and/or being hateful – so why is it happening, and with such frequency? It is not at all difficult to say, “I was wrong” or “you are right!” – three little words, that’s all.

I just keep thinking how much easier life would be if we could coexist with intention; live life with intention. How many broken hearts we could avoid breaking in the first place, or help those whose hearts are broken already. Stand up when we know something is wrong, yet not be afraid to admit when we are wrong. We are all guilty of making mistakes, it’s how we respond to those mistakes that defines our character.

© 2019 Lauren Johnson; http://livingthroughherlegacy.com

Today is the youngest you will ever be

“Well, I can cross THAT off my bucket list!” – 4-year-old Kendall as she finished her cherry Popsicle

You may already be familiar with bucket lists, and might even have one. For those of you who are not, a bucket list is a comprehensive collection of activities and/or achievements you would like to accomplish in your lifetime.

My mom always kept her bucket list current, constantly crossing off completed items and replacing them with new ones. One day, she handed me a canary yellow legal pad and pencil, and said “write your bucket list.” Put on the spot like that, I couldn’t come up with a full list on my own. She, Andrew and Maci helped me complete an entire page in a matter of minutes.

I found that list recently and really thought extensively about the irony of an unfinished bucket list. In fact, there was nothing on that particular list that I could cross off. I in no way feel like I’m not “living” and accomplishing things, but I want to make more of an effort to do some of the things specifically on my list.

This past weekend, we were able to cross off “Take the girls to Disney.” It was not a fully magical experience the entire time as there is a lot of waiting, walking and people; however, there were a lot of really happy and exciting moments and we created many memories we can always cherish. Ideally, we will go again when they are both older and spend more time than a long weekend, but if we never make it again – we have been there, we have done it, and we were together.

One of my favorite parts of trips like this one, is the unexpected. I may have been able to cross something off of my bucket list, but while constructing the list there is no way to prepare for the unknown. For example, Collins is very shy around strangers and sometimes even people she knows well. I did not expect her to get too excited about meeting princesses and riding rides. She really opened up on this trip. Ariel is her favorite Disney Princess and you could literally see the excitement in her eyes when she first saw her. She hugged Ariel three times, and later even sat on Merida’s lap! She was still a little shy at the end of the trip when she and Kendall met Shaquille O’Neal (Shaq) in the airport, but she got close enough for a picture with him, too (I had to throw that in there, I was more excited for them than they were – meeting Ariel trumped meeting Shaq in their eyes, of course).

I was inspired by our trip to update my bucket list and found some interesting resources to do so. I still have my paper copy, right on top of my legal pad, but technology offers some interesting options for creating bucket lists as well. I created a “Bucket List” board on Pinterest, allowing me to add ideas as I come across them (especially since I rarely carry my legal pad with me).

Additionally, there are already prepared bucket lists available online. If you’re not really sure where to start in creating one, or you want to add to an existing one, this could be a helpful tool. I like the prepared lists for a more short-term approach. I searched for “Winter Bucket List” online, and found an abundance of fun, new ideas to do with our family.

Whether or not you actually have a bucket list written down, there are always goals you’re working towards and things you would like to do. Life is short (relatively speaking) and time is valuable. Now is as good a time as any, start crossing off your bucket list!

“I don’t want to get to the end of my life and find that I lived just the length of it. I want to have lived the width of it as well.” – Diane Ackerman

© 2018 Lauren Johnson; http://livingthroughherlegacy.com

Summer days

It’s 85 degrees today (which doesn’t sound too bad), but it’s a hot and humid Midwest heat so it feels like a solid 200 degrees. I get off of work early throughout the week now so that I can spend more time with my kiddos for the summer. Owning my own business has its perks; I can take the girls with me to work and I can customize my hours.

I never went to daycare when I was younger, and none of our children ever have either. My mom stayed at home with me and I feel like spending my days with her exclusively, benefitted me in countless ways. I was able to read and write by the age of four; I had plenty of one-on-one time with the smartest, most beautiful woman I knew (my biggest supporter – my greatest fan); and always had a best friend.

Having one income, my mom always did an amazing job of budgeting for special outings, but most of the time, she was creative and modest with our activities. I feel like a lot of that is lost in families today – it is no longer difficult to drive to a local pool or water park, museum or trampoline park. We don’t have to be creative as parents, someone else has already taken care of that for us.

I asked the girls (before we even left for work this morning), what should we do this afternoon? My youngest said “the museum,” my oldest said “the pool,” I said “fishing.” In the last couple of weeks, we have done the splash park twice; the local movie theater for a free morning showing of “Despicable Me 3,” our local library for Summer Reading Club and a mini-horse presentation; Lunchables and popsicles atop a blanket on the beach at a nearby lake; several special swimming days with my step-daughter, step-son and their mom; and an evening movie date to see “The Incredibles 2.” Yesterday, we played at the park located near our home. I realized, today, that we needed to be more creative with our afternoon. Don’t get me wrong, we have had an amazing couple of weeks, but we all needed something “different” today.

I decide that we can fill up the blow up kiddie pool on the backyard (man, I miss our full-size pool – algae took over last year while on vacation and we had to throw it away. Sigh.), mommy can get some sun, the girls can stay cool. I get in my swimsuit and head outside to get this pool party started, only to discover a hole in the side (it’s an inflatable pool, approximately 6’ in diameter). I head back inside to find the repair kit I recently tucked away in the junk drawer. I repair said hole. I search, extensively and thoroughly, for that handy air compressor pump my husband just purchased. It’s not in the garage, or the shed, or on the deck, or in the driveway, or under the deck, or in the back of my car. Defeatedly, I determine that the pool is NOT going to happen. What now?

*Cue a flashback to jumping through a sprinkler in my childhood backyard. *

I hook it up, wondering if the girls will even find it exciting in comparison, and watch in amazement as the girls instantly ran through the water, giggling and laughing uncontrollably at themselves and each other. Both of them hugging me with their cold, wet little bodies before running back through the water. I joined in, adding to the endless giggles, all of us running and jumping hand-in-hand across the yard.

These moments are the ones I live for, the ones that make every day worth getting up for. The giggles and the smiles, holding hands and a having a genuinely great time. I often consider how my mom felt staying home with me; I imagine those days were some of the best days of both of our lives. I’m extremely grateful to spend these summer days with all four of our kiddos as I desperately hold on to the present, fearing the future, and envying the past.

© 2018 Lauren Johnson; http://livingthroughherlegacy.com

Jumping hurdles

She fell up the stairs and scraped her knee. It wasn’t her first fall and it won’t be her last. It was, however, her first fall in front of her friends. She was embarrassed and I was instantly brought to tears. I felt bad for her, knowing she was embarrassed.

We had an emotional morning. A lot of them are that way lately. Part of it is that she is tired, part of it is her gaining her independence. She will no longer wear any clothing I help to pick out, even if we picked it out together the night before. My little girl that is so loving and so big hearted has started using the word “hate”. She “hates” that shirt, she “hates” school, some days, she “hates” me. That one stung the most, of course. If only her little four-year-old heart knew what she was saying to me, she would know how badly it hurts.

But that’s it, she’s four. She is learning and absorbing her surroundings like a sponge. We don’t use the word “hate” at our house. Ever. In fact, there are very few things that I could even say I hate. I mean, I could say that I hate that Kendall uses the word “hate”, but I try to verbally express myself in other ways. I try to convince Kendall to communicate honestly, but without negative consequences. “You don’t hate the shirt, you would like a different one better.”

Use “princess words” my mom used to say. I have tried to explain the difference between being pretty on the inside, not just on the outside. I wish I could wave my magic wand and know that neither of my girls will ever experience the heartache of malevolence, but more so, I hope they are never the ones to provoke others with this pain. It will never be acceptable to be the “mean girl.”

So what do you do to stop this behavior? Do I spank her, promoting hitting as a viable option, or punishment, for expressing your feelings? Do I yell, so that she now thinks yelling is an acceptable way to express yourself? Do I give in, teaching that if you yell loud and long enough, you will eventually get your way? I don’t really know the right answer to this question I have had such difficulty grappling with.

What I do know is that as I empathetically felt the pang of Kendall’s fall, with all of her witnesses, I realized just how resilient she truly is. Her teacher put a Doc Mcstuffins bandaid on her knee, instantly making her war wound worth bragging about. She proudly showed her friends her knee, automatically limping when they didn’t show enough solicitude.

I learned from watching her today. As we experience an obstacle (such as that pesky stair step that jumps right in our way), overcoming it only makes us stronger. I will inevitably hit a plethora of roadblocks with the girls, but we love each other and undoubtedly, we will successfully conquer them all.

“If you expect life to be easy, challenges will seem difficult. If you accept that challenges may occur, life will be easier.”

– Rob Liano

© 2018 Lauren Johnson; http://livingthroughherlegacy.com