LIFE CLEANSE: OUTLINE

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“Motivation is a fire from within. If someone else tries to light that fire under you, chances are it will burn very briefly.” Stephen R. Covey

So do you remember a while back, well it would have been at the beginning of the year when I posted we were going on a beach trip and then I was coming back to start my 2014 LIFE CLEANSE?

Did you see my post right after about our crazy stressful trip that, although full of mercy and learning, left me a bit frazzled?

Here’s the deal, I was originally planning a 90-DAY LIFE CLEANSE. Yep, whole thing start to finish from January through March.

Well, here it is April and I’m just now getting to the next Phase!

At first I was kind of getting down on myself, which was definitely not helping the process, and then I thought to myself, “Come on Meg! Who put a time limit on this thing anyway?! You did! Nobody else is imposing these time restrictions! You silly thing, just keep working on improving, stop with the crazy/impossible expectations!”

So, here I am. I went back to the original 2014 LIFE CLEANSE title to relieve my personal anxiety on the subject. Plans are more motivating to me when they have a title;) Also, I’ve taken a more “Move on when you’re ready” approach to reaching the next phase.

Each Phase of my plan has a Section that I can work on exclusively or in connection with the other two sections. Also, each section tries to focus on a different aspect of my being (ie: spiritual, mental, emotional, physical, etc.)

Here’s my ORIGINAL plan:

Phase 1: Renew, Revitalize, Reflect

Renew: This is meant to be a more Spiritual and Emotional Section of Improvement. Spiritually I want to Repent and Forgive (mostly myself), moving forward, as if I was starting life anew. Emotionally I want to leave Discouragement and Self-doubt behind and move forward with Hope and Courage.

Revitalize: This is a more Physical Section of Improvement. For myself, I know I need to focus more on self-care, especially rest. Sleep, breaks, and focusing more on where I’m “letting myself go” physically. It’s impossible to fill everyone’s bucket from my empty one. Also, in my surroundings, to make myself more efficient and productive I’m organizing, downsizing, and deep cleaning my home. This “spring-cleaning” is always very refreshing for me.

Reflect: This is a Mental, although touching on the Emotional and Spiritual Improvement Sections as well. This will of course require Heavenly help, my knees will get a workout With this Section I want to focus on three main questions: What do I really need to change in my life ? What is/are the root(s) of what is holding me back from this change? What changes can I make that will make change in my family?

Phase 2: Study, Strengthen, Synthesize

Study: A mostly Spiritual Section, a need to focus more on the quality of my study rather than quantity. I’ve been going through the motions lately and don’t feel the invigoration of learning and inspiration as strongly as I once did. I mostly want to focus on my study of Scripture, being “IN” my prayers and not just habitual monologues, and the topics that I have pondered on during my time of Reflection in Phase 1.

Strengthen: In this Physical focused Section I was to hone my routines/habits. Making sure I “Put first things first” (Stephen Covey), namely my study and self-care. Also, taking a literal interpretation of the section, I want to focus more on changing my exercise routine to include more strength training. I’m finding I can do my daily Mommy tasks when my body is in better condition.

Synthesize: This will be mostly a Mental Section. I want to focus on how I can use the emotional, spiritual, mental, and physical aspects of my being to work together more efficiently and productively. I believe this will mean paying more attention to timing, and highs and lows of the day/week/etc. For this section I will focus more on receiving guidance through prayer, and daily planning, using a long-term vision. Also I plan to write the things I’m discovering about myself so that I can forecast what, when, and how to do tasks/activities.

Phase 3: Clarify, Cleanse, Create

Clarify: This will be a Mental and probably Emotional Section. At this point in the process I am hoping I can define what really are the roots of my personal vices. The idea being, to kill the problem from the source.

Cleanse: A Physical Section that will focus mostly on food cleansing. Omitting some foods and adding others to cleanse my body of toxins and hopefully find a good food balance that will lessen the “build-up” in the future.

Create: Another Mental, Spiritual and Emotional Section mix. Now that I have found the roots, I want to create a “game-plan” of how I can use my virtues to eliminate the vices. This will probably be an ongoing process but I’m thinking that the earlier Phases will help me get rid of distraction and focus on the things that will empower me to make real change.

Another thing I noticed after I started working was that the Phases kind of overlap. Right now I’m still working on Revitalize from Phase 1, and I’m learning that Renew is something that needs to happen more regularly…. but I’ve moved on to all three Phases in Phase 2, albeit slowly;).

I’m hoping this makes sense. Sometimes my ideas only make sense to me;)
I’ll be posting and hopefully vlogging some of what I’ve been learning in this process of Cleansing my life. My main goal is to find the main roots of change in my life that need to be made. I realize that some may take a life-time to change but I think that the identifying and concentrating on specifics will help me progress more successfully.

Have It All

Image                                             I am so blessed to already “Have It All”

“ My husband and I have been married for 42 years. We never had much (in the way of material things). My husband made minimum wage when we got married and it increased up to 15% as the years passed. We never had a car. We never went to a restaurant. But I never regret my decision to stay home and be a wife and mother. We enjoyed coming home and preparing our meals together. We would go for walks in the park and just enjoy each other’s company. We were happy, our children were happy and I was there whenever they needed me.”

I could feel the tears well up in my eyes as this gentle, smiling woman stood up behind me in our women’s congregation at church to share her experience. She was petite, her clothes were faded and would be considered “out of style”, her face and hands wore the marks of someone that had worked hard and long her entire life. When I thought about raising a family on ONE MEXICAN minimum wage income I hung my head in admiration and a bit of shame. This woman’s contentment and peace radiated from her being and she stood up to share with us, and remind us, what we, as women, came to this earth to do.

The messages that bombard us on a daily basis are often overwhelming, sometimes downright nauseating.

Women should be equal with men, have a career that “fulfills” them, be able to come and go as they please, we travel to exotic locations, we look like a photo-shopped model at all times, we are completely up to date on all social media news, we have a delightful blog that oozes with wisdom and cuteness, our homes immaculate and beautifully decorated, our yards manicured, our gardens from which we home can all of our produce  is free of weeds, our children (2 of course, one boy, one girl) clean and neatly dressed in the latest styles, our meals perfectly balanced and prepared on time, our laundry ironed, folded and put away neatly by color and season(there are no dirty piles of course!), our budget balanced, our investments thriving, our cars (at least one for work and one for family) are washed and waxed and sitting in the spotless garage, we are involved in every sport and extracurricular  activity available, we attend and participate in all local political meetings, on the weekends we are volunteering at the animal shelter or food bank, on Sundays we’re at church, we teach Sunday School as well as facilitate other ecclesiastical meetings, a constant smile on our face and pleasant word on our lips….oh, and didn’t I mention, we’re writing a book….;)

The over-riding theme is that we can “HAVE IT ALL”. If we want it, we can have it, come and get it.

What I’m worried about is that it seems less and less women are worrying about what “IT ALL” really is, and where these messages are coming from. I find myself getting on to the treadmill of trends every so often myself. Sometimes I have to have a near breakdown before I realize I’ve forgotten my purpose.

Thus far, there have been two periods of time in my life where my desire to “HAVE IT ALL” nearly destroyed me.

The first time was as a pre-teen, going on teenager. My idea at the time of “IT ALL” was very much influenced by my passion for dancing. Unfortunately, I gave into the idea that I needed to be a certain way in order to succeed in the world of dance.

Long story short, my obsessive desires and thus behaviors led me very nearly to my death bed. Instead of fulfillment I felt emptiness and self-hatred.

Finding solace in the scriptures and prayer I remember when the sudden and forceful message came to me that I was not here on earth to be “fulfilling” myself, but to be a wife and mother. I remember the feeling that my future children were counting on me to be the mother that they deserve and I could not do that on the road I had taken. Fortunately, my ever faithful family and friends helped and supported me as I back-tracked and got on the right road.

The second time I felt myself getting horribly off track was during my last pregnancy.

As any wife and mother I have many responsibilities. Choosing to Homeschool adds another obligation, along with our extracurricular activities. I am very involved in our church and helping with our family business. Plus for me, pregnancy is hard work! 😉

Instead of pacing myself and setting priorities I started giving into the ideas of the world, of how I needed to be, what I needed to do, and how I was supposed to manage everything.

Where I ended up was one day having a complete melt-down, becoming a completely hellish beast to my family and finally driving off into the country-side, barely being able to see through the constant flow of my tears. I felt completely out of control, like I didn’t even know myself anymore.

Once again I turned to the scriptures and prayer and I felt the answers come. I slowed down. I prioritized and focused, and my patient husband and family road the bumpy road with me as I got back on the right road.

For me, the right road is focusing on the family. I believe women were put here on earth to nurture and guide their families towards Christ. The family is not a trophy nor a hobby, it is the whole purpose of life. We are here as families to return to God as a whole family.

Women are the hearth-makers, with whatever circumstances we are given we can make our house a home. Women set the mood of the home. The husband is the head, we are the neck. We prepare, love, teach, guide, listen, help and nurture. This is our sacred responsibility; this is why we are here.

So, am I against careers, cleanliness, cash, and calisthenics? No, of course not. Nor any of the other wonderful and engaging things this wonderful world has to offer. I just have to remind myself that just because it’s good doesn’t mean its best. And what’s good, or even best, for another may not be the best for me. I have to remind myself what my first priority always must be.

Because when it comes down to it, when all is said and done… if I can look back and see that my husband and family were well-cared for and happy.  If I can say that I did my very best to lead and guide them towards Christ, then that is “IT ALL”, for me.

Serve Up Some Sweetness!

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When planning my homeschool activities I look at my entire day as a learning experience. Then I try to divide the day into blocks of time. Some time will be used for formal learning, some time for discovery learning, some for personal projects and development, some for family projects and development and some for service. There are days when I have activities planned for each category and other times that I disperse them throughout the week to try to create a good balance.

At this point in our families life and also because of our living circumstances (ie: safety and cultural issues) I sometimes struggle to create experiences in which to teach my children service outside of our own family service to each other.

My desire is to have them look for ways they can serve in their daily lives (ie: help their family with daily tasks and/or the elderly and/or busy moms and/or neighbors) by simply looking around and seeing ways they can be kind. But I also would like to purposely create opportunities to serve. To do this can be tricky with young children, especially to keep them interested. Image

One way that we have created service opportunities is by using holidays to share treats! Not only do the children always enjoy either making them with me or inviting friends over as we did today, but since they created the goodies themselves they seem to take added enjoyment in sharing them with other people.

For Valentine’s day we like to choose a family to “heart attack” (tape paper hearts with fun messages all over their front door, along with a treat). We try to pick someone that we think needs a friend or encouragement or just needs to know they are loved. Image

This year we invited a few friends to join us in decorating one plate of cupcakes for our own families and one to give away. The kids had a blast and were very excited to choose which one of their special creations they were going to give away! Here’s hoping that along with the inordinate amount of sugar they consumed (yes, that would be my son eating a handful of sprinkles!) they also learned that service can be sweet!

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I am an Avocado

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I love avocadoes. They’re one of those amazing foods that not only taste amazing but are amazing for you as well.

Anyway, for some reason as I was slicing some avocado today to put in my tunafish for lunch I started reflecting on the humble fruit (yes, fruit…I’ll admit I had to look it up!)

It’s somewhat pear shaped, a little wrinkly and rough on the outside, maybe not a beauty to behold, but when you open it, it’s lovely and incredibly useful and versatile. Then the thought came to me, “I am an avocado!” Right down to the firm but soft feeling and nearly 25% fat (Although I do hope to chisel that down as I’m losing my “baby fat”)….O.K. so maybe I’m not green, the comparison doesn’t hold true to the end, but you get the idea.

This idea struck me with intrigue. So then I started thinking about the tree of avocado. What can I learn?

Well, I’m not a botanist but I have noticed several things after observing the avocado tree. I’ve noticed that avocadoes do well in the sun. Well, that makes sense. I too, thrive and prosper when I am in constant contact with the Son. When I try to follow in my Savior’s footsteps and learn and study His teachings, every aspect of my life is not only more fruitful, but I also feel a greater sense of peace and joy from the “fruit of my labors”.

Another observation was that when the avocado tree gets too many avocadoes on one branch the weight will cause negative effects. Depending on the amount and weight of the avocadoes the branch can bend to the point of not receiving proper nutrition from the tree or even break off or die. I’ve noticed a similar effect in my life. When I pile on too many obligations, responsibilities and expectations I lose time and drive to nourish my spirit and body. I start to focus more on the doing and going and external worldly pressures become my god/idol. This always leads to a negative effect, from a general feeling of “under the weather” to a downright abysmal depression. Sometimes it is essential to “thin the herd” so to speak as we prioritize and  decide what we really HAVE to do.

My last comparison originated from the structure of the tree itself. I noticed that every part of the tree was essential for the avocado to reach its’ full purpose and potential. The roots, the trunk, the branches, the leaves…all played an important and necessary role in the avocadoes life. This made me reflect on what my roots and tree are made of and how I can make them an ever present part of my life.

We talk about “our roots” all the time in referring to our ancestral heritage. Why is this so important? I’ve pondered this a lot of late as I’ve thought about how to teach my children about their dual heritage (my husband being from Africa and I from the United States). Having this knowledge helps them not only understand their parents and extended family but also themselves.

I also think about heritage in a spiritual sense. I believe we are literally spirit children of God and as such we have certain potentials and also expectations. I think that knowing about and experiencing your heritage helps you understand who you are. If you don’t know where you came from or who you are how can you decide where you are going?

Then comes the trunk, well I would consider that our family that we grew up in. It is what has supported us throughout our lives and “holds us up” in a very real sense. But I would also consider the trunk as our faith. This is what gets us through the hard times and the stronger it is the better we do in the storms of life.

Our branches are what are connected to us the most closely, our family that we have created with our spouse. They are with us through thick and thin, rich and poor, sickness and health. They see the worst and best of us and know us probably better than the family we grew up in. Without them we would be nothing.

I also think of this branch relationship as our personal relationship with God. He truly knows us better than anyone else and He connects us to the trunk and roots and brings all types of nourishment to us. Without Him we truly would be nothing.

It’s amazing the things we can learn and what we can learn them from. Have you learned anything interesting lately?

Homeschooling: Before You Begin…..

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Here are THREE  of our BIGGEST reasons for Homeschooling!

Congratulations! You’ve decided to take the journey into the homeschooling world. This may seem like a daunting task at first so let me reassure you that once you’ve made the decision to homeschool, one of the biggest tasks is already out of the way! Now let’s explore a few other items of business that will help you be all ready for the first day of school….at home!

Although not completely essential to a successful school year, I feel it is important to record one’s “Whys” for making a decision. In other words, why did you choose to homeschool? I recorded my “Whys” in my journal, but you could just as easily type it up, write it up, or note it down. This simply helps you to stay focused on your purpose for homeschooling and helps convince you again when you’re just having “one of THOSE days”. If you like, or if it helps you, post your own “Whys” up where you see it often and can be reminded of the bigger picture.

After the “Whys” there is always a “What”. Now, “WHAT are you going to do about it?” The first thing to do is to brainstorm (again, best if we write it down for future reminders) on the questions, “What is an education?” or “What is your educational philosophy?” Make a list or write up what YOU (and your spouse) think is the “best” way for your family to learn. Maybe you can label it with a term such as “Classical”, “Unschooling”, “Eclectic”, etc. Or maybe you’ll end up like our family, where you have some ideas but you know your “way” will evolve and you’ll end up with your own “label”. Think about what subjects YOU think are important for your children to learn, as well as what subjects they enjoy or have a talent in.

The next question to ask yourself would be “What do I want them to learn?” Another way to put it is “What is your goal?” Homeschooling is more than just learning 1+1=2 and how to read. Homeschooling is a lifestyle; it encompasses every aspect of life. So you’ll want to consider “What kind of people do I want my children to be?” as well as specific subject courses you think are important. Now, of course, any teaching and training given does not guarantee your desired result, but thankfully the Lord is in charge and if we seek His will and strive our best we are assured that our diligence will be rewarded in the end (Proverbs 22:6).

Finally we come to the “How” of homeschooling. We know why we are doing it and what we want to accomplish…now, exactly “How in the world am I going to do this?” This is curriculum choice time. Curriculum choices are many and there is at least one out there for every type of “School” of learning. YOUR choice will best be made after you’ve considered carefully the above questions of “Why” and “What” as well as pondering over the specific needs, desires, abilities and perhaps even struggles that each teacher and student in YOUR school will be facing. You’ll want to consider especially your parenting style and discipline techniques as this will play an important role in the way you conduct YOUR school.

This is a very individual decision and I know for myself the task was so intimidating at first that I simply went to making up my own curriculum. As more children and responsibilities came along however I realized that to keep a balanced life I would need to make some choices. So at this point I’ve chosen a Phonics/Reading Program, a Math Program, and a History text that I pick and choose from and supplement with what I feel OUR school needs are. The other subjects ( Science, Geography, Art, Music, Etc) I still create myself but I feel as the years go by I will most likely switch over to pre-written curricula for them as well.

Another “How” that will be particularly helpful is to make a schedule. When will you do your schooling… morning, afternoon, evening, or a combination? Will you do Monday through Friday, just a 3-4 day week or only on weekends? Or will you have more of a “rhythm” that you follow according to the children’s needs and desires? How often will you have vacations, breaks, and field trips? Will you do reading and math every day and choose one day for each of the other subjects or will you work on one subject at a time or will you go with what the child(ren) like(s) the best? Also, as mentioned before, since this a lifestyle you’re choosing, you may want to consider scheduling your cleaning, cooking, secretarial work, errands, appointments, extracurricular and church activities, other service commitments, and any other obligations or responsibilities into your plan so that you will feel more confident and being able to accomplish all of your tasks and goals in general. Remember that you don’t want to over schedule yourself or the children either…weigh the pros and cons and consider your “Whys” and priorities…then learn this very helpful phrase, “I would love to do that, but not right now.”

The last of the “How” category would be to organize yourself. Get all of your school materials together and find the best way for YOUR family to create order. Will you have a separate school room or will your dining room or family room double as a school room? Or will your method use the entire house? Will you keep all of the books and materials you will use for school in one room/place or will you have art activities in a more “mess friendly” area like a cupboard in the kitchen, and all school books/curriculum materials in a “cleaner” area, such as the room you will be doing most of your learning in. Even if you are doing something more laid back and “child-led” like “Unschooling”, I would still suggest that in order to make things run more smoothly, that one consider the materials the children will be using and make them easily accessible and as “kid-friendly” as possible so that there is less mess and frustration and more learning taking place.

Homeschooling is a journey, one that grows and evolves. You may, like I did, start out with a certain idea about education, and then as you get into the process realize that the needs of your students will not be met and their potential not grasped with that idea. Do not feel bad or that you’re a failure if you find that half-way through, you need to switch curricula or revamp your teaching methods or that you will need more or less breaks. People grow and change so it only makes since that our way of educating would do the same. The most important thing is to remember Why you are doing this and that you are not alone in the journey. Enjoy!