Our Stories Shape Our Lives!!

by Mary Ann on July 2, 2015

images (1)Stories shape our lives! I am talking about the stories we tell ourselves about other people, their motives, our children, what happens to us and so forth. These stories are written by what we think, our thoughts in pictures. I am a believer in this by experience, not theory.

In my one on one mentoring I often remind a parent that they have control over how something it is going to feel and look based on the story they tell themselves. I want to illustrate what I mean by sharing an example with you.

A few years ago, at the county fair, my husband bought a stove top grill. He was so anxious to try it out. The next day was Sunday, and we had church meetings that would take all morning. Following church we had a very important wedding reception. A DO NOT MISS event!

Knowing my husband well, I said, “Don, you won’t be able to grill chicken tomorrow after church; it will take too long. We need to come home, eat something quick, and get to the reception.” I know he heard me because he was looking at me and nodding his head. Does this sound familiar so far?

The next day, as I slipped into my last meeting, I noticed that Don was nowhere to be seen. I knew immediately what had happened. He was skipping out to go home and grill that chicken!

Sure enough, as I walked into the house, there he was grilling, sorta. The chicken was still totally raw. He had seasoned it and gotten everything ready. Then he had to heat up the grill, and he was just putting it on when I walked in. Ok, so you probably know what was running through my mind. “He never listens to me” or “He doesn’t care a fig about what I say” (interpretation – He doesn’t love me!). Needless to say, we got to the reception as they were taking the cloths from the tables.

I have had tons of experience with this idea that we shape our experience and how we are going to feel based on the pain thoughtsstory we tell ourselves. So I took control of my story and put it on hold until I could get more facts. That evening I asked my husband, “Don, yesterday I mentioned that there wouldn’t be enough time to grill chicken. I can only see two reasons that you might have gone ahead. One, you didn’t listen to what I said or two you don’t care what I said. However, I know you, and you aren’t insensitive and you do care abut my feelings, so I am wondering what the third option might be.” (There is always a third option.)

He looked at me in total sincerity and said, “Well I just thought I could do it if I came home early.” I knew at that moment what he said was true. He did think he could do it, and he was surprised when he couldn’t. By taking control of my story I saved us a lot of hurt feelings, maybe even a big fight and more importantly, the erroneous idea that he doesn’t love me, hear me or care, which would continue to color all of our future interactions.

When we control our thoughts, then our stories are better, and our results are happier.

In my next blog, I am going to give you an even better and much funnier example. So stay tuned!

Have you had experience with this idea of taking control of your thoughts and the inevitable story they create? How does using this information look in your family?

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Good Read for Summer! The Ravenous Gown

by Mary Ann on June 26, 2015

Grimm's Fairy TalesI LOVE fairy tales! I know that in today’s world there are some parents who do not like them for one reason or another. But as a child I loved them!! I read them voraciously from as early as 7 or 8. I read Hans Christian Anderson and The Brothers Grimm, and some of their stuff was pretty Grimm. : ) I read Arabian Nights, Alice in Wonderland, and Aesop’s Fables.

My grandmother would frequently get upset with me because when I read I really did go away into another world. She would come up behind me and holler (because she had been trying to get my attention for a while) and I wouldn’t even hear her. I really loved reading and I really loved fairy tales.

Recently I ran across a book of new fairy tales written by Steffani Raff, called The Ravenous Gown. It is full of 15 fairy tales about real beauty, real life and true principles. Some are serious and some are funny. They were a very fun read and I think that kids, especially girls, of all ages, if they love fairy tales, will love this book. Parents and children alike will fall in love with how Raff’s artfully crafts fairy tales that allow us to see the beauty that is in us all.

It is summer time. That is a time for lying on the lawn, as the sun begins to set, and reading; kids alone and kids with kids-reading-poetry1their parents. Summer is really for reading. So why not get lost in a book with courageous princesses, gallant knights and unlikely heroines and heroes. Reading as a family is an amazing way to connect, relax and learn. When we read to our children we help them learn to love reading, just as I did, and we help them become independent learners.

Let me share some gems from a few of my favorites:

The second story in the book, The Magic Mirror, was worth reading for the final sentence alone. “And they all lived as happily as they allowed themselves to be.” And isn’t that something we want to teach our children, that they have power in their own lives, for good or bad, by the choices they make in how they think and feel.

The Ravenous GownAnd then there is the re-write of a very famous story, Cinderella – Sort Of. Even as a girl, and one who loved fairy tales, I got tired of all the heroines being beautiful and perfect. Where were the real girls, living real lives, making real mistakes, who triumphed anyway? Right here in this refreshing story you will find one.

And finally, The Princess Who Could Fly. By showing people how to “see” differently she brought peace and joy to her kingdom.

Check out The Ravenous Gown because I think you are really going to like this book.

The Ravenous Gown is available on Amazon.com and Barnes and Nobles online, as well as on their website.

PS. I am not getting paid to tell you about this book, I just happen to think it was a very enjoyable read. : )

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Family Matters: 4 Pool Games for Having Fun as a Family

If my two kids, my husband, and I could live in the swimming pool during the summer, I think we would. I’ve always been an avid swimmer and that’s something I’ve definitely passed on to my kids. And while I definitely enjoy seeing my kids have a blast splashing around with their friends, my most cherished moments each summer are the times we spend playing in the pool as a family, just the four us.

We always try to carve out time each week for family bonding in the pool. Here are a few activities that my kids, my husband, and I love.

Underwater Telephone – In this game, stand in a circle. The starting person comes up with a word or phrase. They go underwater with the person next to them and tell that person the word/phrase. Then that person goes underwater and tells the person beside them the word/phrase and so on. It’s a great way to teach the importance of clear communication. I also like to use it as an opportunity to reiterate pool safety rules. If you’d like to do the same, this comprehensive guide on swimming safety features many rules you can use during the game.

Piranha Ball – AquaMobileSwim.com offers this game using a beach ball. It’s a great shallow end game to play if anyone in your family is still getting comfortable with being in the water or isn’t a strong swimmer. Stand in a circle holding hands and put the beach ball in the center. The object is not to let the beach ball touch you. If it does, you’re out.

Water Relays – Split the family into teams. Then, swim relay races using different strokes. These races provide wonderful opportunities for your kids to work on their swim strokes. They’re also great lessons in teamwork and sportsmanship.

Marco Polo – I’m sure you’re already familiar with this classic. If not Yucatan-Holidays.com explains how it works. The players spread out in the pool. One player closes their eyes. They say, “Marco” and the other players respond with “Polo.” The “Marco” player, then, tries to tag the other players out by finding them through this call and response. If you’re feeling really bold, turn it into a history lesson for your kids by teaching them about the real Marco Polo.

The summer is a great time for some fun in the sun. But don’t let it pass you by without working in some family bonding.


Patricia SarmientoPatricia Sarmiento is a health and fitness blogger. A former high school and college athlete, she loves writing about how to live a happy, healthy lifestyle and other health-related topics. She makes fitness a focus in her everyday life. She lives with her family in Maryland.

You can read her other articles on the value of spending time at the pool as a family here and here.


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Choose To Let Go Of Suffering

by Mary Ann on May 14, 2015

I have a friend who is very dissatisfied with parts of her life. She is filled with disappointment, dissatisfaction, resentment and frustration. Some of her struggles are the same as mine and so I have shared with her how I have learned to be happy, despite the fact that life and people can be disappointing. Recently she said, “Well, you are just settling.” I thought about that and here is what is actually true – I am choosing to let go of suffering. I am choosing to be happy by choosing how I will respond to my circumstances.


Embracing Serenity

I love the Serenity Prayer by Reinhold Niebuhr. It hung in my childhood home for many years and I read it often. I didn’t understand it then but I do now.

The philosopher W.W. Bartley juxtaposes Niebuhr’s prayer with a Mother Goose rhyme (1695) expressing a similar sentiment:

For every ailment under the sun
There is a remedy, or there is none;
If there be one, try to find it;
If there be none, never mind it.

Serenity is the state of being calm, peaceful, and untroubled. How often have you longed for that state of mind? Did you know it is a choice and not the result of your circumstances?

Making the Choice to Let Go of Suffering!

My marriage has been a good one. I love my husband and he loves me. But there were things that caused me to feel resentment, frustration, dissatisfaction and disappointment. Sometimes I really suffered. I would hold on to those moments of suffering and bring them out whenever I needed to remind myself why I wasn’t as happy as I wanted to be.

As I got older and wiser I wanted to “see” what was happening or had happened, differently. One day while driving to an appointment I had this thought come into my mind – “You have suffered by choice”. I was stunned. What in the Heck did that mean?

So I asked, out loud. “Heavenly Father, I don’t get that at all. Show me what that looks like”; and He did. I had a memory come clearly into my mind. I could see my husband’s actions and mine and I saw that I was choosing to suffer. Yikes. I began from that moment to go back into my memory bank, to all the places where I had felt hurt, disappointed, etc. and examine them through this new lens. It became clear to me that I had chosen to suffer when I could have chosen happiness instead. My response to what was happening made all the difference.

41w90sLe8DL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Not long ago I read an amazing book, This Is Not the Story You Think It Is…: A Season of Unlikely Happiness by Laura Munson She went on a journey in letting go of resentment, frustration, and disappointment. She chose a path of happiness, in the most difficult time of her life. It confirmed what I had learned for myself, that we can choose happiness even when we are sure we are being wronged. (WARNING: This book does use the F word, a lot)

What Does Letting Go of Suffering Look Like?

Let me share some mundane examples of choosing to let go of suffering.

All my life I have wanted a bed with beautiful bed pillows. It wasn’t possible for me to have this in my family of origin for many reasons. When I was newly married it wasn’t a real option either. However, I did come to a place where I could have them. But, my husband doesn’t want to move a big pillow to take a nap, rest after work or when he goes to bed. He just can’t see the point. Mostly, he isn’t aware whether they are on the bed or not. He doesn’t see them. They aren’t even part of his thinking.

It has been a huge irritation to me for quite a few years. I always get up earlier than Don. He will make the bed but IMG_0437never puts the bed pillows on. When I come into the room I put them on and when I come in next his has been removed so that he can rest or nap. As I look at the gap where the bed pillow should be I feel resentment and frustration build up. It is disappointing!!! If he loved me he would put those pillows on the bed, right! Grrrr. You all know exactly how this feels!

So here is what I decided to do. I decided to stop suffering. When I get up in the morning, while Don is still sleeping, I make my side of the bed and I put my wonderfully beautiful bed pillow in place. When Don gets up he makes his side of the bed and his bed pillow stays propped against the wall. Every time I walk into the bedroom now I feel happy. There is the bed pillow I always wanted right where I want it, on my side of the bed. I know that some of you are saying to yourselves, “How tacky is that. She is settling!” I get it, but I have decided not to suffer. I am in control of my response. I am happy with my bed pillow and it feels great!

IMG_0442I have also always wanted beautiful towels in the bathroom that never get used. They just hang there and look beautiful. Raising 7 children and growing up the oldest of nine, you know that there were NEVER unused towels in the bathroom. So when all our children left home I thought “Now is the time”. Wrong! My husband just can’t understand the idea of unused towels in the bathroom or taking the extra steps to use the hook on the bathroom door. Here is how our one bathroom towel rack looks, one used towel, unfolded, drying. Very convenient and very “not decorative”! I have to say this caused no small amount of disappointment and frustration for a long time. I resented the fact that I couldn’t have what I wanted because my husband stood in my way! When I went into the bathroom I would see that towel rack with its unfolded towel and remember that I never got nice decorative towels and then I would feel disappointment and frustration. I wasn’t happy!

When I decided to stop suffering this is what I did. I bought a small shelf which I put IMG_0441in my bathroom. I tri-fold the towels and keep them color coordinated and it looks terrific. When I am in the bathroom doing whatever, I look at the towel rack and it feels so nice. It is perfect. I don’t mind Don’s unfolded towel or the fact that my color coordinated towels aren’t hanging up. What I see when I go into the bathroom is that I have this orderly, beautiful rack of towels. It feels satisfying to me.

Will You Let The Thieves of Joy Into Your Home?

Bed pillows and bath towels are not very important. But this principle of choosing happiness, of choosing to let go of suffering, of changing what you can and accepting with grace what you can’t, works in things that do matter. It comes up over and over in my mentoring. Disappointment, resentment, dissatisfaction, and frustration are the thieves of joy! You can let these thieves into your home or not. It is your choice.

816dOlxU5qL._SL1500_I have given you some examples of the mundane. But I have used this knowledge in the vitally important. I have healed my feelings about old wrongs, embarrassing moments, out and out rudeness and unkindness, out of sorts relationships, and even abuse. One of my favorite books, as a 16 year old, was by Victor Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning. It has multiple lessons in its pages but one of the biggest is that you have a choice in every circumstance. It all comes down to your response. There are two quotes that I can still remember now, almost 50 years later -

“When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.” and “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”

Taking responsibility for our own happiness is wonderfully empowering. When we know that we are in control of our own happiness then we are able to choose our response. We can act and not be acted upon! I can fight with my husband over bed pillows and towels or not. I can feel resentment and disappointment every time I go into the bedroom/bathroom or not. It is up to me. And frankly, I choose to take responsibility for my response, I choose to let go of suffering!

What is your experience with this principle? I’d really like to know.


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