Two weeks in a row for the blog!
(Drops the mic(keyboard) and walks away)
(Comes back to make sure the keyboard is ok.)
(Enjoys her unseen dramatics and begins using said keyboard again.)

Ok, so this may be a little too early to declare victory over my new years resolutions – but I have definitely hit the ground running this year and it feels fantastic!

Over the last couple of years I’ve ‘kind of’ picked a word for my new year. I’ve seen other’s do it and I like the idea – kind of an overarching guide for what you want the coming year to represent or achieve. I’ve never really resonated strongly with my word in the past. This year is different. This year my word picked me. The moment my mind thought to start to wonder around what my word should be I began shouting at myself, “SIMPLICITY’. And there was no arguing with myself.

My word for 2015 is Simplicity.
sim·plic·i·ty
the quality or condition of being easy to understand or do.
the quality or condition of being plain or natural.
a thing that is plain, natural, or easy to understand.

Just reading the definition brings me peace.

I think, looking back – well, I can’t recall what my actual word was for 2014 – but in hindsight I would say: Complexity. So it makes sense that my life is calling out for balance. I need it. In 2014 my health was complex, my work was complex, my life was complex.

But what, exactly, does Simplicity mean beyond the zen quality of it’s dictionary definition? I’m sure it varies from person to person, but for me I am going to focus on simplifying in a few key areas.

My home: I will own my things – my things will not own me.

Since my father’s passing two years ago I have basically not been in my basement. We moved so much stuff in during a very rushed process of clearing out his home and I’ve just been unable to work through all the things. At the same time, I feel all of it. I feel the boxes that need to be reviewed. I feel the disorganization. Without ever even going to see it – I feel it, every day. And over that same time period, I realize now, that I stopped dealing with a lot of things around the house. Clutter, not chaos but clutter, began accumulating. We are no where near a hoarder’s episode, but again, for me, it is a weight. A burden that I can feel even if I can’t always name it.

So I pledge to simplify home by laying my little mittens on every single thing we posess in 2015 and make a decision – do we love it? do we use it? From there we will decide to keep, donate/sell, trash. So far I have done this with both kids rooms, both entry way closets, and our master closet. We thrown away over four industrial size bags full of junk and we have at least two full bins to be donated or sold. It feels wonderful and it’s just beginning!

My work: I will establish systems to increase my productivity and make good use of my time by simplifying!

This, for me, means no more paper. I have a great task management app that I used for a while and then let go by the wayside. I ended the year clearing out my inbox and re-organizing my task management software to be ready for the new year. I’m also keeping an eye out for things that I do that really are not my strengths or not part of my responsibilities. I think this will help immensely as I begin to simplify.

My health: I prayerfully request that my health is much more simple in 2015.

For what I can control – I will eat healthy whole foods. As a major kick start I am doing a Whole 30 – 30 days of whole foods. This also excludes all dairy, legumes, grains, and sugars (except for fruit). Already, just 3 days in, the nausea that I have been dealing with for over a month is gone. Completely. I am finally beginning to realize that my body is changing and just because I used to be able to eat whatever I wanted, I can no longer do so. I am going to make peace with that and I’m going to eat simple meals made of real food. I will also exercise on a regular basis – it’s not a negotiatiable endeavor for me, I must maintain my health!

My family: Well, somebody’s got to go…four is just too many! JUST KIDDING!

When I think of simplicity for me, Greg, and the kids I just see us spending time together at home. More time playing games, building things, making things. Time just building on our relationships. We will do one extracurricular activity with each little in the spring and I know that will be busy, but also fun.
For family outside our home – I would like to have more spontaneous dinners and fun evenings just enjoying one another. I want to spend time with our parents.

My marriage: Simplify my marriage… you know I just need to chill.

I told Greg the other day that I feel like I’ve kind of adopted some persona of a beleaguered wife. It’s almost like I forget to be truly present and instead I start from a place of being annoyed or anxious or frustrated – regardless of whether I actually feel any of those things. The reality is that I need to get back to the fun and silly person that I was when we married. Before we had children, before the children got old enough to fight. Life really is not as complicated as we make it and our attitudes are the results of choices we make. I’ve let the complexity of 2014 turn me into a bit of a shrew. So, public admission and apology here babe – it’s on the interwebs forever – 2015 will find me much more chill.

So that’s all I have for now. 2015 – The Year of Simplicity.

Oh! And writing in my blog every week – because this is how I simplify all the thoughts that run rampant in my head!

Do you have a word for 2015? Resolutions? Tips for simplifying things? I’d love to hear what you are planning for 2015!

Sometimes I am really satisfied with my progress in photography.
Sometimes I see another fantastic photographer and I consider selling my gear.
Sometimes I'm really satisfied with my writing.
Sometimes I read what someone else writes and I am so profoundly moved that I promise to never write again.
Sometimes I am exactly the mom, wife, and friend I hope to be.
Sometimes I wonder why anyone spends a moment of time with me.
At all times I am working to remember
every beautiful image,
every moving piece written,
every touching engagement with someone,
is a victory.
And they are not all my personal victories.
And this does not diminish me.
Another's talent increases me, and any feeling other than that increase is a lie.
____________________________________________________________________________________
Comparison is death – no matter what side you come out on.
The world needs your contribution.
No limits. No comparisons. I root for your victory.
Your victory raises us all – and your victory is in the effort.
Never stop.

 

 

 

 

The note says: I love you Casee, From Grace.

Writing is powerful stuff. Grace learned to write and read in kindergarten. (Which is crazy by the way, I learned how to color and not cry all day in kindergarten. When did they figure out that kids were ready for this stuff at five?!? I digress.)

Grace learned to write in Kindergarten and all summer we have found little sticky notes in her room, stuck to her windows and walls. Sometimes we have even been the recipients of these little notes. I’m always struck a little dumb when I find them. It seems like all the wisdom in the world has been boiled down onto a little bitty sticky note. The ability to take what you feel and show the whole world. What an amazing power she has. At five.

When we find these notes, I imgaine how they came to be. I see her gathering up her supplies, and then hunched over the paper trying to decide what to write. Paper and pencil in hand, she sits poised to make her inside thoughts known to the outside world, the only question is what to say. I see her furrowed brow and pursed mouth. It’s hard to decide sometimes. She gazes around her room until finally her eyes rest on Casey. Her heart swells up and she knows exactly what she wants to say.

Gracie & Casey, 2013

I imagine her smile as she decides what to write to her sweet and faithful friend. I see her thinking through how to spell each word. Confidently sounding out each one and making it fit on the oh so small paper. I’m sure when she is finished she has a huge grin. Then she lets Casey read it and they decide together where to keep it. I can just see them looking up at it smiling, and Gracie patiently reading it to her buddy.

When she sees that Greg or I have spotted her note, she has this look of pride that makes me melt. Her smile yells – I did that! And I know that feeling. I remember that feeling. I want to both preserve and protect that in her, and simultaneously revive and breath life back into my own feelings of accomplishment and pride.

Her simple expression of her feelings, her pride in writing it out all on her own, and her excitement at us having discovered this note of love – all these things make me thank God that I get to parent her and her brother. I’m so grateful for this amazing circle of life that reminds us of joy and laughter. They remind me to marvel not only at the world, but at my part in it.

It is so very easy to get bogged down in the mess of each day. Am I good enough? Do they like me? Should I have tried that? Why did I say that? I should be doing x instead of y. I’m wasting my time. I’m wasting my life.

None of that is true. It’s all just liar’s in our head holding us back and using our own fears against us. We are capable of anything. We can re-invent. We can improve. We can relax. We can enjoy. We can create.

Here’s the recipe:

Gather your supplies – in this case, your pencil and your sticky note.

Sit down and think. Listen to your heart.

Create what is in your heart.

What will you create this week? Because the possibilities are without limit.

 

 

By now many of you have seen a few Facebook posts about CAbi and I thought I would take the time tonight to explain a bit about what is going on. I've been asked if I'm changing jobs? No. I've been asked if I'm going to drive everyone crazy? No. Well, no more than usual. I've been asked what CAbi is exactly and why haven't we heard of it before? Beautiful clothes, and I've no idea. But those answers are short and incomplete. I'm going to try and elaborate a bit tonight.

A few months ago a friend from Indiana reached out to see if I might be interested in doing a little something on the side. My first reaction was: No – I haven't enough 'side' to do something on. But, I tempered that because I'm trying to say yes more often to new things. I figure I might get to the end of my life tired – but not lamenting all the times I said no. I realize this is different than what we are told to do – we are told to learn to say no and to not over-extend. I get that, I agree with that, but that is different than the no's I'm avoiding.

As women, we have to learn to say no to things that are just an obligation and are outside of our life plan. I support learning to say no and set boundaries and not be taken advantage of. That's all good things.

When I say I'm trying to stop saying no, I'm talking about those things I say no to because I'm not an expert. I'm going to stop saying no when my gut reaction is 'that's not me' or 'I could never do that'. I'm trying to learn to stop saying no based on self-imposed limits that I've never tested.

So when my friend asked If I would be interested in being a consultant for CAbi I gave her a firm… maybe. Progress! Then I did what I do – I researched the company, I looked into the business model, I asked her to come have a show at my house. And she did, because what's a nine hour drive between friends, right?

So she came, with 100+ pieces of clothing and gave us a New York Buyer-style mini fashion review of the line and then we got to try everything on. I'm the first to admit that I am not a shopper but this was actually fun! Everyone was trying stuff on and giving recommendations to one another – and most of the gals didn't even know each other before that night. The fun sold me. My maybe turned into a yes.

There are really three compelling reasons that I've decided to throw caution and fear to the wind and give this a try:

For starters, I need clothes and I know that quality clothes make me confident. After so many years of working from home, coupled with the creation of my two wonderful littles, my wardrobe has taken a beating. This was highlighted as I headed out to the CAbi training weekend in Denver – I felt so insecure. Carrying more weight than I would like and very little in my closet that would fit me, I almost decided to stay home and call it a big mistake. But I called some of my closest girlfriends and they encouraged me to keep driving to the airport. That evening I was able to go shopping and pick up some of the past season’s CAbi clothing. It was a great chance to see several years worth of design and after falling in love with just about every piece, I found something to wear the next day (and the next). The next morning I got ready, put on my new clothes, and I was amazed at how I felt. I appeared to have lost a few pounds and I felt like I could walk into the conference with confidence. Have you ever done that – put on a killer piece of clothing and felt like a new woman? So I realized that when CAbi says it's not about the clothes – they are right! It's about feeling confident and powerful.

The second point that attracted me is the social aspect of the sales model. I’ve worked from home since I moved back to Missouri. I love that I'm able to do so. I love the opportunities my company has given me, but it is isolating to move to a new area and not have exposure to people through work. So the opportunity to connect with a variety of women in a fun and social atmosphere was really compelling. There are many ways to connect with women, but not many that will open up the opportunity to connect with such a diverse range of women. I cannot explain how much I am looking forward to building a network of women from all ages and stages in life. I know that these relationships will begin in fashion, but expand to so much more.

And finally, the flexibility of the selling model and the structure of the business allows me to create a part time business that fits in with my full time career and family. CAbi has a saying: First things first. They truly believe that our families come first and they have built a company for women, by women to support that goal. I get to make this what I need it to be for me and my family.

So with Greg's support, I signed up and I'm really excited!

And petrified.

If I could ask something of you it is these three things – some of you can only do one and some might do all three – all are equally appreciated (#1 especially):

1. Please cover this in prayer. I truly feel like I’ve been led into this adventure. I’ve already met several women of incredible faith through this process and I believe that if I will be obedient, in spite of my fears, God will use this in some way I do not see right now.

2. Check out the clothes! A CAbi experience is a incredibly fun girls night. This is a great opportunity to just get familiar with the CAbi brand if you haven’t heard of us before (I had not), and getting to actually try the clothes on and get your girlfriends opinion is so much fun! I come with a rack of clothes with a wide range of sizes – every piece from the fall line is on the rack.

Bonus – the clothes are beautiful and really are for everyone. At the training event there were consultants from 25 to 65+, and they all were wearing CAbi, just put together in a variety of ways – and they all looked fabulous and on trend.

3. Reach out if this consultant thing sounds interesting. CAbi is expanding into area’s that they haven’t been in as much – and this is one of them. They limit the number of consultants within a zip code range and they will only open up a position if the area is not already covered. I met an incredibly diverse group of women at the training and some had been waiting for 2 years for a spot to open up in their area. I love that CAbi sets those limits.

If you want to check out the fall line go to www.julieaustin.cabionline.com! There is a link to watch the Fall Fashion Show that took place in Denver during the training – it was so much fun!

I’ve waited to write about this until we made it through the process and now I’m so excited to share with you the amazing experience our family has had over the last few months!

Sometime last year I was sharing with another mom the frustrations of raise 3 year-olds. 3 year-olds are amazing beams of light shedding amazing light on your life that can instantly, and rapidly, transform into lasers boring into the depths of your brain, and then back to beams of light illuminating the beauty of the simplest things, then back to death rays, then back to light….you get it.

I don’t think that Elijah was any more challenging than many other 3 year olds. And after describing our situation to a professional she agreed that he fell well within the ‘normal’ range for 3 year old behavior. The rub there is that ‘normal’ includes the whole beam of radiance, death ray, beam of radiance cycle – that is NORMAL behavior. Not comforting.

In any case, we happen to have a few professional child specialists in our circle of close friends and family and one of them mentioned that there was a great program available at Burrell Health Center here in Springfield – a parenting class of sorts for your family. I admit my first gut reaction was, “I don’t need no parenting class.” (My grammar takes a back seat when I feel threatened.) But over the next few weeks/months our spiral of joy and agony continued, and one day having exhausted every good and bad parenting tool I had at my disposal I thought, “You know what? I REALLY need a parenting class!”

Actually – it was the weekend after Christmas and we were on our way to see my family when a tantrum ensued that ended in me threathening to cancel…yes, I did, I threatened to cancel Christmas. Once the entire car got quiet, I got my phone out and dialed Burrell and made our first appointment. It was a relief.

It was a relief because it’s hard to parent and admitting that and asking for help, rather than making me feel like a failure, made me feel like a parent. Like a grown parent who realizes that there are streams of research and case studies available on how to parent and it is not a failure to say, “Yes, please. I’ll take a listen to that.” And so we did.

When we first met our sweet counselor she gave us the standard professional introduction explaining that if she bumps into us at WalMart she won’t really acknowledge that she knows us, you know, so we aren’t embarrassed. To which I replied that she could hug me and yell, “How’s the parenting going? Are the exercises we talked about helping?” Because, in all likelihood, if this works out, I’d be blogging about it. No shame. That’s my mantra. I need help and I’m not afraid to admit it.

And then the work began. It was really easy at first, and it made no difference at all – but that’s how it’s designed. We started out by just intentionally building our relationship with our little ones. We intentionally made time to play, and we stopped giving orders all the time, and it all just felt crazy. At first I thought I had fell down the rabbit hole and was in some toddler wonderland. I felt this way because we started out making sure that Elijah had a lot of control. But a humbling thing happened in this process. We realized that we had lost a bit of our joy over the last year or so. We had gotten so pre-occupied with Parenting that we had lost some of the joys of parenting. It’s kind of hard to explain. We always loved our kids. We have always had lots of snuggles and laughter, but we had also gotten into a habit of expecting misbehavior. That makes me so sad to write, but it’s true. And the first part of the parenting classes was a sweet gentle revealing of that skew in our thinking. Through play and praise, the exercises we were given just broke us all open. It reminded Greg and I what amazing kids we have, and it showed the kids how fun we can be.

And in the midst of this beautiful brokenness and illuminating reminders, we still had the death ray, beam of light, death ray, beam of light thing at play. So it was bad. We had been broken open and fell even more madly in love… with a tyrant. Please, we begged, please tell us there is hope. And there was. There was phase two.

The second phase is where you start teaching the tyrant precious child that life is even better if you do the things you’re asked to do. Now during play time we started giving directions to follow, and then having a praise party with hugs and high fives with each compliant response. You would have been terribly confused to see how much praise was heaped onto our children when they handed us the block we had asked for. We were terribly confused, but we were trusting the process.

After a while of practicing giving direction, we started giving directions that had to be followed in real life, and the praise parties felt more genuine – because it really IS like Christmas when your toddler is asked to put on his shoes and he then PUTS ON HIS SHOES. Christmas, 4th of July, and all the birthdays – so good.

Another beautiful awakening happened to us during this phase of the process. We realized that we were also a bit tyrannical. We learned to taper our demands and to give more choices. We were able to better appreciate how frustrating it is to be three and have so many things dictated to you. So humbling.

Soon after we started the second phase, we introduced the only discipline tool we use now. Time out and the time out room. 3 minutes in time out no matter what. If you can’t stay in time out, you go to the time out room for one minute (a bathroom at our house), then back to time out chair and around that goes round and round until 3 mintues in the chair occurs. And we are ‘always’ zen during this process. No reaction, no emotion. (I’m still working on the zen portion of this.)

It was bad. It was so bad. For like 3 weeks it was horribly bad… and then it was good. Once he realized this was it, he stopped going to the time out room, just did his three minutes and then did whatever he’d been asked to do. Not always – but most of the time. And then after another 3-4 weeks or so – he stopped going to time out. He still goes sometimes and we have a few bad days in a row on occasion, but mostly he does what we ask him to do. And we remember to praise him and then he wants to do more of it. It’s like an anti-vicious cycle of good feelings around here. It’s miraculous.

And tomorrow, we expect we are going to graduate. We will be done, and we will walk out of that office with a load of new tools and techniques. Elijah is so much happier now and has a level of self confidence that he didn’t have before. Greg and I are so much happier and we have a level of self confidence in our parenting that we didn’t have before, and Grace is happier because of all of the above.

I’m so glad we took the time to do this. I’m so thankful. Greg and I have different parenting styles – most people do – and this really helped us get on the same page, use the same language, and have the same expectations. That synchronicity has helped Elijah and Grace know what to expect regardless of which one of us is doing the disciplining and direction giving.

If you find yourself reading this and thinking that you are so glad you never needed anything like this…well, I would have felt that way too if I’d only had Miss Grace. Some kids are just more compliant natured than others – congratulations on the lottery if you have more than one of those :). On the other hand, some kids are a bit more strong willed – still incredibly awesome, but they need a different type of parenting. So if you are reading this and thinking that it sounds interesting and maybe your house could use some of that, I totally recommend you go talk with someone. The methodology we were instructed in is called PCIT – and there is so much more to it than I am qualified to explain, but this is at least a layman’s review of the process.

One final note….if you see me out and about and one or more of my children are having a total meltdown in public – it’s not a commentary on the effectiveness of our help. They’re kids and this isn’t a magic fix – but we are pretty certain it’ll happen less often, and we have some ideas about what to do when it does, and that’s pretty much priceless.

 

 

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