Friday, March 29, 2013

Ever After Is a LONG Time...

James Hutchings is joining us today from Galesburg Illinois. He is the father of four boys and married to the love of his life or in other words, "the woman who tolerates him." He is a professor of Music but music isn't his life, family is his life. Here is what he has to say...

Ever after is a long time.

really long time.

It’s longer than the last week of school, longer than your dentist appointment, longer than the Oscars. Yeah, that’s pretty long. In fact, it’s so long that it’s almost impossible to understand on a day to day basis because, as people, we are just too busy with today to worry about tomorrow, the next day or (gulp!) FOREVER. It might be hardest to remember when it comes to our families, you know, those people we spend the most time with every single day of our lives. It’s hard to think about ever after when we are organizing school lunches, dropping off children, planning for work, sanding down the wheels of pinewood derby cars, letting the dogs out, grocery shopping, serving in church and community, arranging play dates, teaching that poking your brother in the eye is wrong, and ignoring toddler tantrums despite the way they put you on edge like you are the one being poked in the eye. Then, when all that settles, you make lunch and start planning the afternoon. 

Most days, these are the things that keep us from worrying too much about the ever after. I mean, who has time to reflect on fifty, sixty, seventy years or more when all of this is going on? Some days I believe it is this chaos that keeps us from just throwing our breakfast all over the dining room and screaming maniacally because THE PRESSURE OF FOREVER IS JUST TOO MUCH! In addition, I think that wearing ourselves out in good works, especially to our families, might be precisely the reason we are alive.

Every now and again, though, it’s important to stop and remember that today is just one day; this week is just one week; this month will be over when the next one starts. Earlier this week, a dear friend of mine confided to me that she had made decisions that had consequences she was not expecting—permanent consequences. She was scared, felt alone, ashamed and could not see how her life would ever be what she wanted it to be. Because the days were so dark, she could not enjoy that long-range perspective that most of us, in our busy lives, neglect to recognize or simply take for granted. All of us will have a time when a family member or other loved one (or two or three) comes to us and cannot see their way out of what seems an impenetrably dark day, week, month, or year. In these moments, we need not be casualties of war but warriors wounded in battle who will heal and rise stronger than before. The promise of ever after, especially with our families, is that while the battles may never stop, neither will the victories.

Ever After is a long time, and you know what? That’s a good thing. 

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Happily Ever Afters Don’t Just Happen

Happily ever afters don’t just happen; they must be made. There will be unforeseen bends and bumps. No marriage or family is free from exhaustion, financial struggle, argument, disappointment, tragedy, or heartache. We all have mornings when we wake up and wonder, “Who is this person I married, and what have I gotten myself into?” Maybe things in your family are good but could be better.  Maybe you feel like your family is broken or maybe you think they are so annoying you can’t stand to be with them. Maybe you’re depressed, or you always feel exhausted. There are numerous difficulties and detours on the road to ever after. Whatever your personal situation, the good news is there are things we can all do to make the burden lighter, and to have a stronger, happier family.

Everyone’s picture of happily ever after is different. My happily ever after is doing dishes with my husband and simply being happy to do it, sliding down a mountain on my bum and ripping a hole in my pants while my husband laughs at me because I’m too scared to walk down. It is watching my kids splash in the pool, their deep, carefree laughs filling the air. It is waking up Christmas morning to a house full of balloons, or lying on my husband’s shoulder feeling safe and protected. It is the joy that engulfs me when my family knows I love them, and the peace that comes from knowing how much they love me.  This is not the ever after I imagined years ago, as the satin folds of my white sparkling princess dress twirled around me and I was lost in my husband’s brown eyes. Nor is it what I imagined during our short honeymoon bliss. This is better because this is real. Find your vision of ever after and live it; you may be surprised to find the journey is the part you love the most.

Monday, March 25, 2013

This Is Really Hard!

(Excerpt chap. 1)

As the pace of life quickened, our waistlines began to expand, our hairlines began to recede, and the stress of life began to creep in. As our children joined our lives, our bed became the communal sleep fortress for our children and we forgot what it was like to have a solid night of rest. We would blow a kiss and holler an ‘I love you’ as we passed through the portal of our home.  There seemed to be a constant time lapse between us and we could never land ourselves in the same place at the same time. My happily ever after was quickly transforming into a heap of work, and I found myself thinking, “This is not what I signed up for—this is not how I pictured happily ever after.”  Then I realized, maybe this is what I signed up for and I just don’t know how to make my ever after happy. I began to wonder, if perhaps it is possible to have a happily ever after, even when my white picket fence is broken, my ‘beautiful’ lawn is dead, and my children are less than angelic.

This unexpected realization of hope was not without precedent in my life.  Similarly, as I had prepared to go to college, I had been smothered with warnings: “It is so hard,” “don’t give up,” or “you can do it.”  I, of course, was all confidence and not the least bit worried. As my first finals approached, in my sleep-deprived state, the stress of school tumbled down onto me and I quickly realized my previous visions of an easy and blissful college experience were flawed. I had then thought to myself, “This is really hard.”  The same is true in marriage and family life. Nothing can prepare us for such a lengthy road of dedication; the only way to experience and understand family life is to live it.

When I spoke to my baby sister two months after her marriage, she told me about an exceptionally discouraging argument she had with her husband. In desperation she had burst out, “I don’t know how to be married!”  This couple had spent months preparing for marriage. They had discussed every family life topic they could conjure up; they had taken marriage preparation classes, and they had seen each other in just about every circumstance imaginable. They had received solicited and not so solicited advice and tried to listen, but still they felt unprepared. The happiest couples I know, many whom have been married ten, twenty, and thirty or more years still have moments when they just don’t know what to do, and they find themselves saying, “this is really hard!

Friday, March 22, 2013

Cleaning and Scrubbing Can Wait 'till Tomorrow

I'm excited to introduce Cherise Cooper.  She has one sweet baby girl and another expected any day now. She is a fantastic mother and great school teacher. She is beautifully honest about life and so great to be around! Here she is...

All growing up, my Mom had a cross stitched quote above the family piano. It reads, "Cleaning and scrubbing can wait 'til tomorrow, for babies grow up, we've learned to our sorrow, so quiet down cobwebs and dust go to sleep. I'm rocking my baby for babies don't keep."

When I was pregnant with my first child, my Dad offered this cross stitch to me. I framed it and put in my baby's room straight across from my rocking chair so that it is easy to read. Each day my life seems consumed with the minimal duties of keeping up with dishes, laundry, cooking, and cleaning. With the extra time I can squeeze in, I choose to fill it with budgeting, serving in my church, and small projects here and there. However, in reflection at the end of the day, what really are the most important things I do each day? What do i always look back on, grateful that I did?

It is always playing with my daughter. I'm due to have my 2nd baby in just 3 weeks and she is only 15 months old. These 15 months have gone by so quickly. Each day I feel like it is one of our last together as just her and I. So, now as I read that quote I try and make going on walks, playing at the park, hide and go seek and playing "house" as the most important things I do each day. It's so fun to see her interact with me and see her smile and hear her laugh as we spend quality time together. At nap time, it is so easy and tempting to pop my daughter's pacifier in and quickly put her in bed. However, I'm really trying to soak in the moment of holding her for at least just a minute while rocking and singing to her. I know that it won't be much long that she'll be to grown up for that. There is nothing like the feeling of your child's small body snuggled upon your shoulder
It is in these experiences, that I am truly living my life. 

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

If It's Important To Them I't's Important To Me

(Excerpt chap. 4)

I love it when my husband helps me with my creative projects, and he loves it when I go fishing with him. Neither of us loves the other’s hobby, but we love each other. We love making each other happy and we love being together. In order to show our loved ones that what is important to them is important to us, we must actually know what is important to them. I know it is important to my four-year-old to read her stories. I know it is important to listen to my nine-year-old and help her with creative projects. If we want to know what is important to our loved ones, it is important to pay attention, listen, and inquire. Sometimes, that means we have to stop doing what we are doing and refocus our attention on our family. There is no togetherness in families that are always doing their own thing separate from one another.

James, my brother and father of four boys, says, “I’m not a scouter. I haven’t been one since I was ten years old, and I actually have a great treasure trove of negative experiences, emotions, and memories to draw on to remind me why I don’t love scouting. Unfortunately, I’m the lucky father of four boys, and the ones who have experienced it love it. They love camping, hiking, biking, building, gaming, campfire-ing, and scouting in all its forms. I’ve slowly come to realize that while scouting can be great by itself, it’s much more effective, exciting, and enjoyable when boys can do it with their dads. In fact, only a handful of the scouts in the boys’ den even get that opportunity, coming mostly from single or uninvolved-parent homes, so I want to make sure my boys don’t miss out on the great joy that can come by doing these things together. I’ve attended meetings, helped them build, tolerated den leaders, stood up to misinformed authorities, gone to day camp three years in a row (so far) and had general great memories with my sons. I still don’t like the scouting, particularly, and I probably never will, but my sons will, and I'll be next to them while they do.”

It is exciting when someone is interested in you, your hobbies, and your passions. It is even better when that someone who is interested is someone you love.  Don’t blow off your family’s concerns or joys just because they seem unimportant to you. They are important to them. Life is made up of thousands of seemingly menial things that make up who we are, who we become, and what we believe. Our attitude toward the important things in our loved ones’ lives determines whether or not they feel loved and supported by us. 

Tune in with us Friday for a great guest post by Cherise Cooper!

Monday, March 18, 2013

Spending Our Time on What's Important

(Excerpt chap. 4)

With one arm holding the phone, I rushed around the kitchen wiping off counters, stacking dishes in the dishwasher, and browning meat for dinner. I was talking with my mom about financial woes, injuries, the deadline for this book, doctor visits, and new school clothes, when she pointed out to me, “When you get to be my age, you look back on your life and realize that so much of what you thought was a big deal, didn’t really matter at all.”

The wisest people in my life are always telling me to take pictures, write down the funny things your kids say, spend more time with your kids, go on dates, have more sex, or take a vacation. No one ever tells me to have a cleaner house, worry more about finances, or buy the kids more new clothes because they know in the end those things are just not a big deal and that they are not what create happily ever afters.

Friday, March 15, 2013

What's There To Complain About

Here it is as promised! Our first guest blog. I'm excited to introduce Lynne Workman Hutchings, mother of five, Grandmother of 15. She is an avid reader, a very talented musician, gifted in numerous ways, a self motivator, and a positive role model. She really is this amazing! Here is what she has to say. . .

I’ve noticed something lately, about people, in general.  We complain.  A lot.  We complain about the government. We complain about health care. We complain about our jobs, or lack thereof.  We complain about our spouses.  We complain about our children.  We complain about the shape of our bodies, we complain about the pain in our bodies. We complain about the food we eat.  We complain about terrorists, we complain about airport security.  We complain about the cost of fuel, really about the cost of everything.  We spend a lot of time complaining.

Years ago, not too long after I got married, my Dad gave me a book.  The first line of this book was:  “Life is difficult.”  Then the author spent the rest of the book explaining about the misconceptions we have of life.  Somehow, someone has indoctrinated us to believe that we shouldn’t have troubles, or challenges, or pain in our lives.  I have not, in my 57 years found that to be the case.  I have learned that working through the challenges and trials and pain in my life has made me what I am.

Admittedly, there have been times in my life that I thought I may never get through.  There have been times of disappointment and pain and I have learned that all this is temporary.  I have also learned a few things that make all the challenges easier.

#1.  Count your blessings

In my experience, concentrating on the great blessings of my life makes my problems seem very minor.  Things as simple as a comfortable bed to sleep in, a warm shower, a laughing baby, a spouse who holds me when I’m sad, or rubs my legs when they hurt, children who call me and still want to visit me.  My blessings far outweigh my challenges.

#2.  Be of service to others

Giving of myself to others is a sure way to take my mind off of me and put it on someone else.  It always makes me count my blessings when I see the challenges of others.

#3.  Decide to be happy and content

Some days are just hard.  Sometimes weeks and months and even years are just hard.  But hard is relative.  I have found that if I decide that my life is fine, my life is fine and I can be content.

#4.  Work hard and continue to work hard

Nothing produces nothing.  And something always produces something.  If I am anxiously engaged in trying to better my life, it always gets better.

Life really is not easy, but life is wonderful!

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

The Dream of Ever After

(another excerpt from chap. 3)

I can’t count the numerous times I have deceived myself by saying or thinking, “I have given up everything for my spouse and children.” One particularly pathetic day, as I was moping over the hefty sacrifices I had made to have a family, I had an epiphany. In a life changing moment, I realized I didn’t give up everything; I simply made the choice to let one dream go in pursuit of a better dream, a dream I wanted more. That dream was my family. I realized that if I had not had my children, I would have been lonely and longing for children. If I had pursued a master’s degree or my dream career, I would be in major debt, missing my unborn children. I realized that day that I was definitely on the greener side of the mountain. We can’t possibly chase every exciting pathway we find. We have to choose, and I’m guessing that, like me, you chose to pursue the dream of happily ever after. So instead of dwelling on our old and still unfulfilled dreams of sanity, exciting careers, freedom, travel, and so forth, we should work on making our current dream, the dream we chose, sensational.


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Monday, March 11, 2013

Your Real Life With Your Real Family

(exerpt from chap. 3)
Every now and then, when I am feeling down, overwhelmed, unaccomplished, or ignored, deceptive thoughts lurk in my mind: things like, “I should have waited longer to get married,” or “I could have earned my Masters degree and had a thrilling career,” or even “I would have such an easier life if I had decided not to have kids.” This self talk sounds just as sad and detrimental as it really is. It is so easy to convince ourselves that another life choice would have made our ever after so much happier. When we indulge this type of thinking, we are succumbing to pure deception. No one is happy with everything in his or her life all the time. We are not missing out on a secret key to happiness that others discovered long ago. In fact, can you name one person you know that is one hundred percent happy one hundred percent of the time? 

Although we might want to see all the possible ever afters and alternate endings, it is impossible for us to see what doesn’t exist. In reality, there is no “what if.” You already made the choice to get on the ride, get married, and begin a family based on the information and feelings you had at the time. It is easy to see “superior paths” in retrospect, but how do you know those “superior paths” are really any better? Sometimes, we create alternate realities and lifestyles in our minds that are so much more appealing than the one we have. It is like crafting a whole new life in a video game, where your normally slightly heavy body is able to be trim and sexy, your penny-pinching self can live in a mansion, your kids can be educated at the finest schools, and your husband can do everything on your honey-do list. Whether we make up this alternate life in a game or in our minds, it is not real; it is a deception. Look at who you really are and what you really have, then choose to make your real life with your real family really wonderful.
In an effort to make my blog more interactive I have organized weekly blog topics with a weekly challenge to go along with it. We will also be having some guest bloggers.  I would love for you to share your experiences and stories so that we can all gleen from your wisdom.  Please feel free to leave your comments, we love them all! If you are interested I also invite you to contact me at to share a guest blog with us.