Sunday Prep Plan

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Monday morning, waking up late, pizza boxes on the kitchen counter, out of milk, he won’t get out of bed, and she can’t find her tuba mouthpiece to practice for the concert the very same night I have promised to go shoe shopping with the other one.  Someone starts moaning, another starts panicking, and parent starts shouting.  Been there?  Me too, all too often.  Monday mornings can really suck for single parents. 

 Busy parents need a system that allows us to standardize routines.  This tip has taken me too long to figure out, so I hope you can take advantage of it sooner than I have.  

Have a set list of tasks to do on Sundays to be ready for the week:

1. Meal plan and grocery shop for the week (don’t shop without the plan).

2. Have the laundry washed and folded. I actually try to get this done by Friday so that weekends are free days.  I do no more than 2 loads a day (and often do none), but I tend to do it when I am brain dead and numb (before 5 am or after 8 pm, and bring a bribe with me) to preserve neurons for interactions.  At any rate, have your portion of that chore finished by Sunday night (anyone over 16-years old does their own laundry).

3. Pick up the living room and clear off the dining room table for dinner on Sunday night (Gretchen Rubin says every night, and I am working on that one).

4. Have bills in line for payment if not paid already.  I paper clip the envelopes to the bill and keep stamps at my office to make it easy to fill and mail envelopes from there.  I read mail at home nearly every night, and it all goes either in the recycle, the payment pile, or in a slot to reply/do later.  Ideally, I would deal with it immediately when I open it- and I am working up to that.  Sunday nights, have the paper pile thinned down in a small box (the bigger the box, the bigger my paper pile. Go figure).

5. Dinner together in a relaxed format to talk and laugh over things and share highlights of last week and plans for this week.  Sometimes we have breakfast out instead.

6. Calendars synced so that the choir concert and PT conferences are on the radar.  I need lead time for evening activities, and he needs some warning about locating/ironing his tux shirt for the concert.

7. Kitchen cleaned up.  This can take me hours sometimes, I have no idea why. Please tell me.

Of course I mess up and sometimes end up at the grocery store on Tuesday nights at 9 pm , wandering the frozen pizza isle with bills stuffed in my purse to read at the stoplight.  But if we could do this Sunday Prep Plan consistently, that won’t happen as often, and Monday morning arrives with everyone perhaps not happy, but at least a little more prepared.

  

Transitioning to a Meal Plan for the Unplanned Time

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 Transitions are hard for me, and I don’t like moving quickly from one thing to the next. After 5 pm, my brain is usually limping on fewer neurons than I need to multi-task.  So the afternoon transition to home and dinner from quiet work is tough.  Remember when they called it “the witching hour” when our kids were toddlers?  That 4-6:30 pm timeframe is rough!  I feel (and look) like a dehydrated frog, gasping for some air, brain befuddled, and lost in a totally new world (my own home, invaded by hungry and grumpy teenagers). If I had unlimited funds, I would hire a chef to prepare each meal and have it deliciously on the table at 6 pm each night.  … to arrive home to a healthy fresh meal all laid out for me.  (Of course, in this fanatsy, no one whines that we are “having chicken again?”, “broccoli is not their favorite”, and “the milk tastes funny”)

Instead, I do the next best/cheapest thing- I have a meal plan.  Ugh, I hate feeling pushed and routinized.  I really don’t like feeling in any way like a robot, and I hate taking orders, but…  When I have a plan for the next 5 nights of dinners, I find I can come home from work in a daze, able to follow my own directions, while also checking in emotionally with my teenagers.  One of them tells me everything that is going on, with no prompt from me, and I love that. The other, I have to do a little more observing  and listening to the ocean’s undercurrents to check in on his day, more deductive reasoning and open-ended questions. But I am up to it, because my hands are on auto-pilot. 

The meal plan gives me the flexibility to listen and observe while also getting healthy food on the table quickly, and actually enjoy the process! The dinner plan has to be easy, so home made lasagne is not an option, and salad in a bag thrown on the table for all of us to make while sitting is perfectly respectable, especially if hard boiled eggs are thrown in too.

Amazingly, I got this dinner plan concept from Dave Ramsey.com as well as mint.com to save money on groceries!  Woo hoo!  So it is a double bonus.

And, as my friend Liz pointed out “Some nights Anne, you just need to eat tuna out of a can to keep the whole kit and caboodle together”.  So I do giving myself a huge break when kids are not home for dinner.  I eat a bag of popcorn and a glass of orange juice and call it balanced.

Fresh20.com is my favorite meal plan.  It calls for fresh ingredients efficiently organized into a shopping list, and it gives me a list of items to do on Sundays to prep for the week (which I always plan to do, but never quite get around to, my loss!).  The website will give you a free week to try it out.  And, if you want to string a few weeks together to try it out, you can sign up for the vegetarian one week, the gluten free the next week, and the classic the follwoing, and so on, until you have tried all of their sample meal plans!  $10 a month.

Next tip- Sunday Prep Day (not my favorite, but it does bring me more peace of mind)

Hang in there, Baby, Friday is coming!

Did We Chop Off A Leg?!?

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The tadpole boy-man has grown since that post a few years ago. He graduated from high school, got accepted to college (out of state), was hired for a summer job, and has left home for the summer.

That is a lot of change for his Mama-Frog… tears well up and throat clogs just typing this post.

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As a Mom, we want our children to make their way in the world, to get out into the world, and to make a positive difference in the world. But wow, this is a rough one. For me. I have to work very hard to remind myself that “This is good. He is doing the right thing. This separation might actually be what I have been preparing him for all of these years”.

That takes a lot of self-talk, to remind (me), remind (me again), and provide him with encouragement, not cling…

Day 16 Be Present: Inner Peace and Finding the Love from Within

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Day 16 Be Present: Inner Peace and Finding the Love from Within

I have a funny (as in not helpful) habit of finding myself unloveable when difficulty arises. If my laundry has stacked up/the kitchen is gross, I bounced a check, I made a mistake at work, or I lost my cool with a kid, I turn that on myself, and feel unloveable, and then unloving is close behind. What is that about?

We think we have to be perfect to be lovable? And then, my silly brain goes from feeling unloveable to unloving, because if the world doesn’t love me, then by God, I will beat the world to the punch and be the first to un-love. Then Snarky Anne comes out to protect herself against an unloving world.

WHAT?!? That logic is more than flawed, it is a circle jerk backward approach. And self-fulfilling. If I think the world is going to push me down, then I shove first. I think I am not alone. Do you do this too?

What if, instead, we decided to love first? Would it help us to notice the love around us? Leave our opinions about ourselves and our lovability out of the equation and extend love regardless of our vision of ourselves.

Action Item for today:
-Say hello to the garbage man
-Smile and look the cashier in the eyes; ask how they are doing with sincerity
-Thank the police officer for being kind about giving us the traffic ticket rather than a power freak dude (?!)
-Laugh loudly at the joke someone tells
-Quietly listen to the kid’s complaints about the teacher rather than telling them to buck up and do it anyway (this is hard for me)

In short, find ways to be a blessing to others. Everyone has a big sign around their neck, wanting love. Let’s get out of our own shoes and be the one to give it to them. See what happens. And notice if we feel more love? (More on that tomorrow)

I have a great daily blogspot with a video for you to watch- very short:
http://www.darrendaily.com/make-love-all-day/

Here is the video:
https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=oHv6vTKD6lg&feature=youtu.be

Day 15 Be Present: Sore Jaws, Offering It Up, and Trusting

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Holding on to anger, resentment and hurt only gives you tense muscles, a head ache, and a sore jaw from clenching your teeth. Forgiveness gives you back the laughter and lightness in your life.
-Joan Lunden

Isn’t that a nice little nutshell of wisdom? We forgive and then get on the road to “laughter and lightness”. But–If only she hadn’t done THAT, I could forgive her. If only it hadn’t meant THIS, I could forgive him. If only… oops. There I go again, thinking my situation is special, and nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen. Nobody could understand it, and nobody would expect me to forgive if they REALLY knew what happened and how awful it really was.

Oh- do you feel that way, too? I thought it was just me that had unforgiveable people in my life. Huh…

The quote from Joan Lunden sounds so trite. It really can’t be that easy.

But it is easy. And yet, it is the work of our lives to trust often enough to forgive, and forgive again, and then forgive some more. So is the problem forgiving, or trusting?

The only way I know how to forgive is to hand the person and their deed up to God. I have to get very visual about it, and generally use these steps when the thought of them or their deeds occurs to me: 1) I see the person in my cupped hands, and lift them up to God, while on my knees. 2) Then I have to put them in my cupped hands and lift my hands up to God, and shove them up into clouds. 3) Then I have to put them in a quilt, and see God picking them up. 4) Then I wrap them really tightly in a quilt, and I throw them like a football up to God. 5) Then I lock them in a rocket launcher and light a fuse to launch them up to God. 6) Then I… you get the idea.

I have to do it over and over, lifting them, sending them, blasting them. Every time I think of them, hand them over.

Eventually, I get to a point where I can just say “I forgive you” in my mind when the thought of them or their offense comes to mind.

And I am finally getting free to lightness and laughter.

The nutshell of forgiveness is that it is all predicated on a trust that God is there, and she can and is handling that offensive person and me with more love, care, and wisdom than I could ever know.

Through countless hours of silence, solitude, soul searching, and prayer, I learned that the act of trust is an utterly ruthless act.
-Brennan Manning, Ruthless Trust

Day 14 Be Present: Habits, Trust, Surrender

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Day 14 Be Present: Habits, Trust, Surrender

A word on habits again- we are trying to find and keep inner peace amidst a very busy and often (usually?) unpeaceful world. It is hard work to stay peaceful inside with all of the outer world beeping and ringing and driving for attention. When we add our inner world (that voice that gives unsolicited commentary on unmet expectations and unmet goals) to the outer beeping world, the push and pull makes it difficult to finish a task.

“Should I answer the email flashing from my sister or feed the crying cat? The dryer is beeping at me, should I put more in, or unload the dishwasher? I need to pay that medical bill online, but there is a work report that hasn’t been read yet, and I could bill that time. Oh my God, the teenager is still out with my car on slippery roads and didn’t text that she arrived yet.”

Then add in the inner (voice? heart? or zombie monotony?) beeping of missing my aging parents this holiday, weird feeling that my out of town out of touch sister in law is upset with me, and how the Hell did it get to be 2015 already? I thought this graduation year for my teen was a loooooong ways away.

It makes it hard to walk a straight line. Sometimes, this monkey voice makes me loop around in my own house, or office (sometimes I even drive in circles, confused about what my errand priorities are). Anne Lamotte calls them drunken monkeys in our minds. I like that analogy- who needs to listen to a chimpanzee hopped up on vodka? Michael Singer says “If you watch carefully, it’s just trying to find a comfortable place to rest.” Ahhh, it is ok to rest, little voice.

We can only do one thing at a time.
We can only listen to one voice at a time.
We can only walk one direction at a time.
We can only focus on one habit at a time.

One.

We take one concept at a time. Eat this elephant one bite at a time.

This voyage to inner peace is a deep sea voyage- we just go down one step at a time: one step, one habit at a time. The rest has to be ok waiting.

So we take one big breath and choose one topic to deal with and find peace with. We surrender the others. Surrendering the unworked/handing it up to God/blessing it in place is equally as important as the work we do. As we take that one step deeper into the ocean, we let the other stuff wait.

Take it one wave at a time, sweet fishy.

Affirmation: Ahhhh, rest little voice. One wave at a time, sweet fishy.

Day 13 Be Present: Forgiveness and The Prisoner

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Day 13 Be Present: Forgiveness and The Prisoner

To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.
-Lewis B. Smedes

We can all be prisoners of our own anger, resentment, and stubborn resistance to forgiveness. Nobody knows how hard we have it. Nobody knows how difficult it is. Nobody is there in the middle of the night, when the fears, anger, resentment, and the anxiety are in bed with us. They wrap around us like strangling blankets, encasing us in the darkness. By morning, all we can do is get up and struggle to our day. “They did this to us. They made it awful. If only they hadn’t done_______, everything would be fine.”

Forgiving does not erase the bitter past. A healed memory is not a deleted memory. Instead, forgiving what we cannot forget creates a new way to remember. We change the memory of our past into a hope for our future.
-Lewis B. Swedes

What if we remember it differently? What if we forgive them, forgive ourselves, and what if we see ourselves (that prisoner), who really did a kick-ass job taking care of themselves and their loved ones in the face of difficulties. What if we change that memory into 1) letting the other person off the hook and 2) give ourselves some doses of awesome sauce?

What does that leave us with then?