I Stopped Trying

 

Fresh starts, new days, cold mornings, dark nights, difficulty waking up, lack of discipline, dry itchy skin, unshaven legs, dirty snow…all things that remind me of January.

I don’t particularly like this month.

Trying to remember to change the last digit of the date for the first three weeks.

Trying to fit into clothes that should fit but don’t (thanks turkey and ham).

Trying to maintain routine by getting up early when the darkness and cold beg me to stay under my cozy down comforter, safe and warm.

Trying.

But what if I stopped trying?

Stopped trying ON MY OWN.

Stopped making resolutions and started making desperate requests.

If there is anything I’ve learned from the year 2015 it’s that I am not in control.

Most goals and plans I’ve made this year have failed or led to different results than I planned for.

I resolved 2015 would be the year to buy a house. 

We looked at many homes in 2015, but God closed each door gently behind us and shook his head. Not this one. Not that one. Not this one. It was emotionally draining and physically exhausting. I don’t know how many hours we spent looking only to decide to stay put.

While a few  of those doors were painful to see close, we can see his provision in that now and couldn’t be more grateful that he directed us not to buy a home this year.

 

I resolved 2015 would be the year we bought a larger SUV.

After our summer vacation,  I proposed that 5 hour trip should be the last road trip in our small ( very gas efficient and reliable) Toyota RAV4. So began the search for a larger SUV… until we borrowed my sister-in-law’s mini van for a short road trip and the comfort factor won us over.

We purchased a Nissan Quest last month and are still a little surprised to see it in our garage.  I’m going to be honest…  I am TOTALLY EMBRACING mini van life.  The comfort, the space, the many large windows, bells and whistles and it’s capacity to be filled with kiddos.

I resolved 2015 would be the year we added to our family.

We prayed that God would give us a child in 2015. God answered our prayer and for three months I carried our beloved Avery Arlin. Avery means “comfort/counsel” and Arlin means “promise.” On November 6th, 2015 we said goodbye to that precious life. We know we are being held and comforted by the God of all comfort and believe in the promise that we will someday hold Avery in a place where there are no more tears. We are thankful for his short life and for the way it has forever impacted ours.

We are thankful for God’s provision for us. For what he has and has not allowed. 

Each painful memory holds as much joy as it does grief because I see my heavenly father right beside each disappointment allowing it with a greater knowledge of the hope that is coming.  And as I sit here completely out of control  and without a plan for the new year, I think it might be the first time I have said and believed, “It is well with my soul.”

 Because everything doesn’t have to be perfect to find peace. 

“When we are careful to instantly let go of all needless worries and restless thoughts (that is, self-centered thoughts rather than loving, outgoing ones) then we shall find ourselves on plateaus of peace even in the midst of the straight and narrow. We shall find ourselves walking in the freedom and innocent peace of the children of God, not lacking wholesome relationships either toward God or man.” –Fenelon, Let Go

So give yourself up to His plans this year. Allow yourself to be led where he wants to lead you and enjoy a year rich with peace, contentment and true relationships. I promise you that if you let him lead you there, He will.

Climb on-

❤ autumn

 

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Upheld

baby 2.1 I woke up to find the contents of a packet I’d never imagined receiving poured out on the floor with used kleenex scattered about: a reminder that what I hoped was a nightmare was a very real yesterday.

“His mercies are new …” I tried to say.

“Rejoice when you face trials and tribulations…”

But I couldn’t breath to finish either sentence.

I tried to find anger hoping maybe by now I’d stepped into the next stage of grief, one step closer to the end of the huge ache I can’t explain, but I’m not mad. I’m just sad in the saddest way.

The sweet little life we’d  hoped to announce in these coming weeks is gone, over night.

Four weeks ago, urged by my grandma to make sure I wasn’t describing  pregnancy symptoms while I insisted that my TSH levels needed to be checked,I took a pregnancy test. After being disappointed a few times, I really didn’t feel ready to take it but we decided I would. I was distracted before I could look at the result so John broke the news after stumbling upon a clear blue “Pregnant” test result waiting in the  bathroom as I was putting Afton to bed.

We’d both hoped, prayed, waited and now wondered how we’d ever keep such good news a secret, especially from sweet Afton, who prays daily for a baby brother.

The next morning, Afton asked me if God had put a baby in my tummy. I told her that he had and her reaction was priceless. Wide eyed she gasped and said, “In YOUR tummy? Our baby? Can I see!?”

It was everything and more that I could have hoped to see in her sweet face. Better than Christmas. Better than a puppy or a popsicle. Pure delight. God had answered her prayer and she knew it.

The coming weeks I felt great, other than easily distracted, forgetful and tired. Every pregnancy symptom that came was exciting. Symptoms I was never excited about in my first pregnancy were reasons for celebration this time. We were so “ready.”

Then other symptoms came. The ones I never had with Afton. I moved my ultra sound up a few days to make sure everything was ok. And it appeared that it was. I watched the screen hopeful and immediately saw the flicker of a beating heart. I listened to multiple professionals tell me how good a sign that was. I left the hospital that morning with a desire to have a renewed hope and comfort but it never came. Only more questions and reasons to phone people on-call.

The next day I sat in the same rooms where I heard the heartbeat the first time and saw an active little body wiggling on the screen, but this time there were none of those things.

I knew the U/S tech couldn’t tell me anything, so I watched the screen myself and when I didn’t see what I hoped I would, tears ran down my face and I tried to breath. She didn’t have to say anything.  She rubbed my tummy, handed me the kleenex and said over and over, “I’m so sorry. I’m so, so sorry. I know that’s not what you wanted to see.”

I sat in a dark room waiting for the procedural phone call to confirm what I already knew to be true.  I was handed a packet of information with the words, miscarriage, grief and loss, and support groups riddled throughout. A packet I would have never expected to receive.

But it happened. And there is no rhyme or reason.

“Nothing you could have done…. For reasons we don’t understand…”

When I found out that I was pregnant with Afton, I was surprised because she was conceived unexpectedly and by the world’s standards, we weren’t “ready”. As scary as it was, it was comforting, because we knew without a shadow of a doubt, that God decided we were and that he had given her to us on HIS time table.

With this little one, I was more than “ready”. I was “ready” months ago. . Yet in the strangest way, it’s comforting to know that this baby’s life was on God’s time table too. I felt His peace in a very real and strong way as I lay there alone with a stranger, searching for life.

“Do not fear for I am with you. Do not be dismayed for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10

I know that not everyone who has miscarried talks about it. I’m not sure I’m ready to either, but I do know that  if I were to continue through today as if nothing had happened yesterday, I would not be honoring the precious life I carried for 2 months. I would not get to share with you the joy of finding out we had, for a short time, a second child.

It truly is the hardest story I’ve had to tell but it’s one that I believe God is carrying us through.

And if I wasn’t excited enough about the promise of heaven, I really am now!

Climb on-

❤ autumn

15 You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion,
    as I was woven together in the dark of the womb.
16 You saw me before I was born.
    Every day of my life was recorded in your book.
Every moment was laid out
    before a single day had passed.

17 How precious are your thoughts about me,[b] O God.
    They cannot be numbered!
18 I can’t even count them;
    they outnumber the grains of sand!
And when I wake up,
    you are still with me!

Psalm 119:15-18

Just Love (Part 1)

I’m learning so much about my little 2 year old these days. I’m learning about how she learns, how she loves and how …she’s two. My chiropractor asked me how her ears have been (she struggled with ear infections most of last winter). I replied,

“Well you could take a peek at her ears. She has been awfully cranky lately so maybe her ears are bothering her? Or maybe she’s just two.”

We both laughed and she offered a story of her 5 year old having a huge tantrum in a public place. I cherish those vulnerable moments when mommies trust each other enough to say, ” This is hard but we’re all in this together.” Those judgement free zones have the power to push us through the “trying two’s” of life.  I know not to call them terrible because there is so much good to balance it out!

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One thing I’ve been learning about Afton is that it seems her top love language is touch.  She hugs people that need love and she holds nothing back. We often have to remind her not to squeeze so hard! I admire that about her and I wish I was brave enough to reach out to people the way she does, with no inhibition at all.  When she sees someone who looks like they are (in her words) having a “rough time,” she doesn’t think twice about rubbing their back or holding their hand.

Touch is not one of my top love languages. I think I barely speak it. I’m embarrassed to say, I find it inconvenient many times throughout the day when she insists it’s cuddle time, or in the car when she insists that we hold hands with her while she’s in her carseat.  I don’t mind when people hug me, but I’m not usually the one to initiate them.  If you’re sitting too close, or hug me more than once, I notice. I’m not saying it bothers me, I’m just keenly aware in a way that those of you who speak “touch” probably aren’t.

To give you some perspective,  the students in my small group, and incidentally their entire class,  could tell you  a story of John and I early in our relationship having a DTR over why he took my hand while we were watching a movie. My line, “What were your intentions?!” is their favorite part to dramatically quote.

Poor guy didn’t know what hit him. I don’t think he really even noticed we were holding hands. Because he’s like Afton. His arms and his hands are an extension of his heart that is full of Jesus’ love. Afton, in her childlike state is unaware of social cues in a beautiful way. She reaches out to people that need loving on- adults and children alike. She loves on people that need it, without anyway of understanding how and why.  She squeezes the daylights out of the people she loves to see. We have to tell her not to squeeze her friends so hard!

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Holding hands and rubbing backs and loving on people through touch is second nature to her. She doesn’t worry about the relationship with the person, fear of an awkward hug or a refusal (though, who really could refuse),  and I want to be more like that.

I want to be someone that sees the hurting person and isn’t too self-conscious to touch their shoulder and ask how they’re really doing. I want to be someone that hugs people tight not fearing the awkwardness of them being the first to let go. In my head, that’s what I picture when I think of loving others like Jesus did.

But when I’m confronted with the need, I barely use words to show love, let alone the body that’s made in the image of God. The age old question in regards to the self-conscious one’s question…”What do I do with these [arms]?” is answered here:

” And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.’ The second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ No other commandment is greater than these.” Mark 12:30-31

Here’s what I’m wrestling with: How often does my own self-consciousness (read: the act of being more conscious of self than others) cause me to disobey the greatest commandment: love?

Love is more than hugs from a two year old, but it’s also more than a feeling or state of being “in.” It is, described in the Bible, as patient, kind, not self-seeking,  and not easily angered ( 1 Cor. 13:4-8). It is described as a Man laying down his life for His friends (John 15:13). It is unbridled and selfless, like my Afton’s way of showing it.

I have a feeling that this is only a small piece of what Jesus meant when he said, “unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18: 1-5)

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Yosemite

The thing about writing is that it’s hard. I get the same thrill from writing that I do from running because I use the same excuses- I don’t have time, it’s not top priority, and it will take too long. But with both I always feel so much better when I push through.

This week I’ve resolved to write at least one post or finish one draft. I am childless for 5 days on a trip with my hubby and friends to Yosemite. We have the couples perfect get-a-way cabin that screams “couples only, no toddlers” every where you turn and I’m currently sitting poolside watching the moon fade into the blue sky above the California hills as I type.

Friendships are a a beautiful thing. There are really only a handful of people I think I could vacation with and thankfully our friends are top on that list. We’ve marveled often that we’re actually “doing this” and we are having an incredible time. Our first day and night we spent driving, flying and driving. The boys ran a tight schedule in order to get us all to Yosemite at 7am to summit Half Dome. Side note: I’m told that many Minnesotans have never heard of Half Dome, so please take a moment to familiarize yourselves with what I’m referring to so you understand the prideful tone I’m speaking in 😉 .

When the possibility of climbing Half Dome was briefly mentioned last Sunday, our friend Aaron prefaced the climb with, something like, “If you have upper arm strength and aren’t stupid, you’ll be fine. The only people that die are being stupid.”

Up until that point, I had not considered death as a possible outcome. I quickly calculated the odds of the four of us surviving- Aaron, who is training for the iron man, Kendra who just completed her first marathon, John the Incredible Hulk (your welcome, sweetie), or Autumn, the mom. Hmm…  who do you think will be the first to go?

I decided in that moment that whatever they were climbing, I would climb. I regretted that after I googled “summiting half dome” the night before and just a few minutes before I put on my gloves and grabbed on to the cables.

I repeated the following mantras over and over as I climbed:

“You can do this. You’re doing it. You got this.”

“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

“With my God I can scale a wall.”

“Oh my God, Oh God, Oh God, help me.”

“Oh Sh*#”

….pretty much in that order. Oh me of little faith. After coming down the face of Half Dome, on the seven mile hike back down the mountain, Kendra and I shared these thoughts with each other. I did not share the last mantra, but she piped up and said, “I think there were a couple of ‘Oh Sh*#$ in there too.”

I replied, “Oh, you heard that?” only to find out that she was referring to herself. We laughed a lot about that and I resolved  that I’m glad to be friends with someone who would probably call me out on that, but from whom I could take it because I know she’s human too. I said that  again after I watched her try not to face plant next to the hot tub  when we were exploring  the rental cabin in the dark. I love that she laughs at herself. If she didn’t, I would have felt like a terrible person and questioned her sense of humor 😉 (By the way, she’s fine. I asked several times before I laughed really loud).

I also realized how much I appreciated Aaron’s complete honesty as he described the hike to us last Sunday. After we climbed down he said, “I didn’t want to scare you out of doing it last week, but I wanted you to know what it was like so that when you did, you would really be proud of the fact that you did it. It’s a big deal.” I think if Aaron was a coach this would be his style: “It’s going to suck. You’re going to feel like you’re going to die but then you won’t and you’ll be so glad.”

I really resonate with that kind of coaching because I KNOW what to expect and I am affirmed that I can and will do it.

So far, 2015 has not been the easiest year, but it’s been one of overcoming obstacles. I’ve seen my family (extended, church and immediate) struggle through storms. Half way through the year (last week), I am realizing that many of the mountains we’ve been summiting are starting to get a little bit less steep. We’re starting to realize we can do it- with God- and that we ARE doing it.

One of the drafts I’ve started in the last few months  is about my sweet Grandpa B. Grandpa died at the beginning of June, just months after Grandma in January. We will be celebrating both of their lives in Door County this summer and missing them always for the rest of our lives and especially while at the lake.

Grandpa seemed, to me, to decline quickly. He never seemed old in spirit, just in stature to someone who didn’t know him. Even on his death bed, as I looked at him, his hands looked the same, young, strong, smart, even, though I can’t explain why they looked that way. Maybe his athletic watch and his wedding ring and grandma’s too. Holding his hands in those last hours was like watching  a snapshot of his life up to then. All his great accomplishments, the tender moments where he cared for us with his hands, the moments I remember him holding grandma’s hands.

I was struck with the reality I’m always trying to avoid: Life is fleeting. Life is but a breath. Even his life- which to many was long- didn’t seem long in the truest sense of the word.

Upon being asked if he needed anything during those last days, he replied “A new body.” My dad smiled when he heard this and rejoiced because he had been sharing with him parts of the book called “Heaven” by Randy Alcorn. Dad and Mom  gave a copy  to all of us when Grandma died.

It’s a big book folks. A really big book. I love to read, but that book intimidated me for two reasons:

1) I fear what I don’t understand or can’t see (which is why I googled the half dome and probably shouldn’t have), and 2) I don’t like the book of Revelation, because…it’s scary. There you have it. I went to bible college,  graduated with a double major of Communications and BIBLE, but have yet to read the entire book of Revelation because “it’s scary.”

So here I am, reading this book on vacation because Grandpa was looking forward to a new body.

This brings me back to Aaron’s coaching: “It’s gonna suck,…but you’ll do it.”

Heaven is coming and so is the new earth. I’ve been trying to wrap my head around what heaven would like look, but based on this book (which is based on the Bible and specifically the book of Revelation), it will be similar to what we know and enjoy about earth now, but so much better because it will be without the long lasting effects of sin. God will restore the earth to what it was like in the beginning before sin entered the world. He will redeem, restore and reclaim his people. But, in the meantime, we wait and, we suffer because earth in the present is still marred by sin, pain and death.

This part is going to suck….

18“If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. 19If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. 20Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’b If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. 21They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the one who sent me. 22If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not be guilty of sin; but now they have no excuse for their sin. 23Whoever hates me hates my Father as well. 24If I had not done among them the works no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin. As it is, they have seen, and yet they have hated both me and my Father. 25But this is to fulfill what is written in their Law: ‘They hated me without reason.’c” , John 15:18-25

…but we’ll get through it. And we’ll be glad we didn’t quit.

33“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” – John 16:33

Climb on, beloved.

❤ Autumn

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This is our home- come on in. Don’t mind the mess in my heart.

Letters to Afton

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Guys..my house is a disaster. There is laundry on the floor, the contents of a backpack and diaper bag poured over the floor to make room for another adventure, random items in random places, toys to trip over, and messes waiting to be cleaned up. The good news is, the clothes on the floor are clean and waiting to be folded, the toys represent the fact that I have a creative daughter who plays very well on her own and there are dishes in the dishwasher, representing the fact that I’ve begun the cleaning process. This is our home. One of my mentors-actually a few of them- have encouraged me to be ok with this. No, they haven’t encouraged me to be a pig and let my house go, but to minister through the daily chores, to let people in, to let discipleship happen over coffee and folded laundry and…

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‘Til Death Do Us Part

On Thursday morning we packed up our family and everything but the kitchen sink and left for Wisconsin to see my baby brother get married. It was the most beautiful wedding I have ever witnessed. Missy and Garrett are so obviously in love and happy and thankful to be together. They kept thanking everyone for being there and I’m sure I wasn’t the only one who felt honored to share in their special day. cwvDm9asA_Lw9YsGTQNy8vWrdsA cwvDm9asA3Lw9at2wfl5esWDJp4 cwvDm9asA3Lw9at2wfl5esWDJp4-1 cwvDm9asA3Lw9at2wfl5esWDJp4-2 cwvDm9asA3Lw9at2wfl5esWDJp4-3 cwvDm9asA3Lw9at2wfl5esWDJp4-4

 

 

More photos to come!

This weekend I also  lost my beautiful Grandma B. Grandma lived far away most of my childhood, but moved to the midwest after my wedding about 4 years ago. I began to know her and have a very different relationship with her as an adult and as a mother in the past two years that I have had the joy of living close by.

The main memories I have of Grandma B. during my childhood were at the Lake. Stories of “rellies” (relatives) and potlucks and campfires and ghost in the graveyard and in the early days going to get water from the pump fill my head as I look at this picture of our family cottage.

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No matter what time our family  had arrived the night before, I was always the first one up. I would come down the stairs from the loft and find Grandma humming in the kitchen fixing something like toast. She would say something like, “Good morning dearest!” and give me a big hug and a big kiss and ask if I wanted some. 🙂 Grandma was so happy at the lake. She would talk about her plans for the day and ask me when I was going to go for my first “dip” (in the lake).

Throughout the years, Grandma was a gracious host as I delighted in sharing the lake in all it’s glory (it seriously is the most wonderful place on earth to me) with my closest friends. She would say “Isn’t it wonderful” and roll her eyes if they didn’t respond with the enthusiasm that she and I possessed. (Only one person did!)

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Grandma was the only person who understood when I cried every year when it was time to go home. She would say “It will be here next year.”  I can honestly hear her voice saying that in a sweet, gentle, singsongy way.

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It will be there next year, but she won’t. My memories and love of the lake are built around it’s beauty and my love for the land, but more so around the people that introduced me to it and helped me make sweet memories there. As years have gone by, I’ve been saddened with news of cousins and aunt’s and uncles that wouldn’t be there any more and I’ve thought,” I don’t know if I could stand to be here without Grandma.”

The last time I was at the lake with Grandma was  six years ago. She was “aging” according to others, but she was spunky as ever. I was entering my last year of college and John had just graduated. He was meeting me there after his internship in Milwaukee.

Grandma kept asking me when we were getting married and I kept telling her we weren’t even engaged! She kept insisting that I was thinking way to much about it and if I loved him we should call ourselves engaged and get married.

To Grandma (and my) deep delight, John had plans to propose. He sent me, my mom and my two grandma’s out for a shopping trip. Jackson, my brother’s leader dog came too and I chauffeured  them around the bay in the back seat of my jimmy while they commented the whole time that I was too young to drive.

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We stopped first at “Drink Coffee” in Sister Bay and Jackson licked crumbs off the floor while we drank coffee and laughed and talked. It is a perfect memory.

When we arrived back at the cottage, I was instructed to get ready for a date.  Since John had been fishing all day, I assumed this was to make up for ditching me to hang out with my brother, which happened from time to time.

He took me to Al Johnson’s because he wanted to see the goats on the roof and it was crowded as always. We ate with butts all around us and laughed about it the whole time.

He drove us back to the lake and we started hiking up the cliffs to my favorite spot overlooking the bay. There were roses waiting at the top, two wine glasses and a guitar. I was hopelessly class-less when he asked as I was ugly crying and shaking out of pure joy and excitement but thankfully he didn’t change his mind.

We ran down the bluff as fast as we could to go tell everyone. I insisted he go back for his things later. When we arrived, my parents had gone somewhere and the only people there were my Grandma B. and dear Aunt Sigrid. We burst in the door and I tried to wait until my parents were there to say anything, but I couldn’t hide the sparkle from Aunt Sig.

As soon as the cat was out of the bag Grandma ran around in a funny little panic looking for the dinner bell so she could ring for my dad and mom to tell them “The kid’s are engaged!”

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She rang that funny bell as she called out across the bay at 10pm, “Brule, Lisa! The kid’s are engaged!”

. Somehow everyone but my parents managed to hear the news. They came back a half hour later and were scolded several times for “running off” when the “kid’s were engaged,” despite the excuse that they didn’t know! 🙂

Once everyone was in their rightful spots, Grandma settled down to tell us the story of her engagement. The way she told the story was that they were at a restaurant talking about their future and how old they were getting and how she wanted kids eventually and he said, “Well, should we get married?”

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And she said,” Well, sure!” And that was that.

That’s the way she told it.

And they were for 58 years.

“‘Til death do us part…”

My last visit with the two of them was delightful. We laughed and talked about Afton, and Garrett and Missy and the wedding. They forgave me for not bringing Afton with me when I told them that I had an afternoon to myself and I just wanted to spend it with them.

This coming Monday I realized I have the day off and I’ve already paid for child care. The first thing that came to mind was that I could go see Grandma. I’m guessing this is the first of many moments when that pain in my gut reminds me that those days have come to an end. So tonight I decided to recall the wonderful times we’ve had and the many laughs we’ve shared because that’s as close as I’ll get to a visit with Grandma. She would have liked that and I can almost hear her laugh about the way she rang that dinner bell. 🙂

Don’t [potty] Train Cold Turkey

Afton turned 20 months today and decided earlier this week it was time to use the toilet. The best advice I’ve received about potty training is to take your time and go at your child’s pace. Baby steps.

I’m taking this advice to heart when it comes to balance in my own life. Too often I neglect the goals I’ve set in place and I backslide. I would never give up on Afton if she had an accident because it’s to be expected at this stage of the game, but I, on the other hand, throw in the towel on my goals when I slip up.

It’s all about baby steps and taking one day at a time. There are always going to be excuses that are readily available for why you can’t do something but if you consciously make an effort to try, you will find out that you’re capable of more than you gave yourself credit for! You owe it to yourself to try.

I’m not of the mentality (nor do I have the stamina) to ditch diapers cold turkey. They’re there, and so is the carpet, etc. There is no logical reason to toss them out at this point. We are working up to that goal in a realistic manner.

This is why I don’t do New Year’s resolutions. Resolution sounds like you just do it. Nike does, but I don’t. Everyone is different. If you’re like me, go ahead and start getting your feet wet. Make a goal to do a little more than you did the day before. Set goals, yes, but make them easy to achieve in the reality of your time frame.

Don’t [potty] train cold turkey.