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Ink Slingers Mary Beth

Jumping Off the Complain Train

Sometimes, I’m a willing passenger. But most of the time, I promote myself all the way up to chief engineer.

I’m talking about the Complain Train that I frequently find myself on. Let me tell you, last night I was definitely the chief engineer, taking the lead and steering my complain train all over the place, not stopping for anything or anybody, spewing complaints left and right.

How I relish my role as engineer of the Complain Train! Look out world—like it or not, this train is coming through! I say. Complaining makes me feel validated. And heard. And it gives me an opportunity to let off some steam, much like the Seinfeld episode where Frank Costanza establishes a holiday (“Festivus”) where one of the main activities is the “Airing of Grievances,” (i.e. “I got a lotta problems with you people, and now you’re going to hear about it!”).

Except the Complain Train is a train bound for nowhere (isn’t that a song?). It has no triumphant ending, no satisfying resolution. There’s no pulling into a station with a great sigh of relief and feeling of accomplishment. The Complain Train is nothing but an unproductive, herky-jerky, never-ending ride through Frustrationville, Crabby Corners and Waste-of-Time Town. It’s a fruitless journey.

And that doesn’t take into consideration what this harmful habit does to the state of my soul.

Because Sistas, here’s the truth about complaining: It steals my joy. It brings down the people around me. And it does absolutely nothing to change my circumstances. In fact, verbally flinging all that unhappiness into the atmosphere “boomerangs” the words right back into my brain and magnifies them even more. When we complain, the problems often become bigger, not smaller, especially when we aren’t really in the mood to look for solutions to those problems. Sound familiar? **raises hand**

I don’t purposely summon the Complain Train. I don’t seek it out or buy tickets in advance. It just seems to show up and I simply hop on with no hesitation. I don’t even think about it, I just get on and go. Not good.

I need to figure out how to permanently derail this train. What better time than the start of a new year, right?

In 2018, I hereby resolve to:

  • Pray to be more mindful of what triggers my complaints. When I become more aware of the situations (and people?) that compel me to climb aboard the Complain Train, I can pause and reframe the situation in a more objective (and at the same time probably a more merciful) manner. If my pet peeve is standing in a long checkout line, I can put myself in the shoes of the unfortunate cashier who is not in charge of staffing but who probably wishes she was. “Poor me” soon becomes “Oh, that poor thing!
  • Pray to speak only positive, encouraging words about people and to people. This can cut down on both complaining and its close cousin, gossip.
  • Practice counting my blessings and developing a habit of deep gratitude that simply overwhelms any impulse to complain.
  • Pray for others more often and more fervently. By focusing on the intentions of others, I am less likely to shine a spotlight on my own concerns.
  • Serve others less fortunate than I am. It’s a fact that on days when I get to serve as a hospice volunteer, I do not find myself anywhere near the Complain Train.
  • If I truly need to vent, I can choose to use my prayer journal to outline the problem and prayerfully seek the solution. Jesus is big enough to handle my complaints and loves me enough not to keep me wallowing there.
  • Just flat-out hold my tongue. Like my mom used to say, “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all!” And, more powerfully, as St. John of the Cross instructs us: “Whenever anything disagreeable or displeasing happens to you, remember Christ crucified and be silent.” Boom.

Goodbye, Complain Train. This passenger is ready to disembark and hang up my chief engineer hat for good. Or better yet, maybe I’ll look for a Mercy and Forgiveness Train—All Aboard!

 

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Domestic Church Erika D Homeschool Ink Slingers Raising Saints

10 Ways to Find Joy in Our {Catholic} Homeschool

It was the third week of Advent. My shoes were uncomfortable, my skirt did not fit right, my veil kept falling off and even the cushion on the kneeler beneath me felt bumpy. I looked up and shot my two sons one of those disapproving look and looked up at my husband and frowned. Tears swelled up in my eyes so I shut them quickly and created a dam for them with my eyelids. First tear rolled down. It was useless, I was sad. My thoughts raced. I opened my prayer book and something feel from it, a paper? a book mark?  And there it was, the answer to my frustration but I couldn’t really see, so I left it on the tile floor and closed my eyes to pray, “Dear Lord, what is wrong with me? Why am always so upset, bothered and angry? Why is it that my children do not listen? Why do they hate school so much?” My mind raced. I was going to THAT place again and Communion was coming up…I was feeling so sorry for myself, again.

How did I lose my joy?

Then I felt my four year old crawling over my legs to get to the other side of me.  Which annoyed me, of course.  But when I opened my eyes and wiped the tears away, I see his little hand reaching out to me, handing me a paper that had the answer to my frustrations.

34884-The-Joy-Of-The-Lord

I came to the realization that Joy does not simply happen to us. We must choose joy and keep choosing it daily! I spent the last two weeks working on finding my joy. I have to be honest: I felt lost.  So I turned to prayer, I asked for prayers and I begged God to help me, to guide me.  As I type this, tomorrow marks the end of the first week back to school after this discovery and after two weeks off of school on Christmas break. It was the most successful week in the entire six years we have been home educating.

Did I get upset at a child not doing what they were supposed to be doing? I sure did.  Did I loose my temper? No, there was no need. A quick redirection and back on task we were. But this only happened first thing in the morning. So, what happened? How did I find my joy? How did my children learn to love homeschooling again?

Well the week didn’t exactly start off with a happy note, but I was expecting this so I did not let it shake me. I was standing on firm ground with my husband on the same page as me, God my by side, my guardian angel helping me stay on task, and Our Blessed Mother holding my heart each time it felt like it would break. I was not going to allow anything, nor anyone steal my joy. Not even this journal entry written by my nine year old son:

"Today is our first day back to school after our Christmas break!!! Which I loath!!! Now I "have to" go back to school."
“Today is our first day back to school after our Christmas break!!! Which I loath!!! Now I “have to” go back to school.”

 

So what did I do to find my joy in out homeschool?  I came up and tried these ten simple things and guess what?  THEY WORKED!

1.) RULES AND SCHEDULE.

Review your house and school rules.   If you do not have rules established yet, this is the time to do it.  Go over the schedule and stick to it. Don’t have a schedule, make one!  Even if you hate schedules like I do, do it.  Trust me, you will thank me for it later.  Having a schedule helps you have a focal point for the day.  Even if it is as simple as this:

8AM Eat Breakfast
9AM Start School
12PM Eat Lunch
1PM Afternoon School
5PM Eat Lunch

2) NEW BOOKS.

Get new read aloud books for the children and also get a new book for yourself.  This year we got each child a book on a saint and then a book or set of books from a series for independent reading as Christmas presents.  We read during quiet time after lunch and also at bed time.

3) FREE PLAY.

Allow for more free play time.  Play is so underrated and children learn so much from just playing.  We got the children some horses, and a set of royal families and my eldest son made a castle for them.  This is what they love to play with the most right now.  I actually sat down and listened to them play today, they were reenacting scenes from books we have read…sweet!

4) TEACH ART.

Don’t teach Art?  Time to start!  Teaching Art adds spice to your school day! There are so many things available online for free for Art, there is no need to spend a lot of money on expensive programs!  This week I taught the color wheel and how to mix colors to make new colors.  Keep is simple and fun!

5) HANDS ON LEARNING.

Do hands on things like painting or sewing because crafts make this kind of learning possible.  Children remember more when they do things. I would love to add wood working to these tasks, but the weather will have to cooperate for this.  There is so much we can do from home.  I also planning on field trips to local museums that have hands on attractions.

6) TEACH MUSIC.

Don’t know anything about music?  Me neither but I can honestly say we are a music loving family.  Anyone can put a CD on and just sing!  Listen to music while you school and even in between schooling. Once they have learned a new song, record them!  Send them to relatives to see or if you are on social media, share it with friends!

7) LAUGH.

Introduce laughter into your day.  Read funny stories, tell jokes or read funny jokes!  My eldest son found this one comedian who is pretty good and funny, we listen to him all the time, in the car and in between school and supper.  My eldest was dictating spelling words and making up sentences with some of these jokes, we were in stitches!

8)  JOURNAL to TRANSITION.

While you are preparing breakfast, have them sitting at the kitchen table journaling already.  Journaling helps transition into the school day. Journaling is really simple to do, at first it is not so easy as the children have to get accustomed to doing it.  I wrote a whole article on this which you can read. Journaling also helps you see if your children are happy or not… (see journal entry above)

9) NEW WAYS to do OLD THINGS.

Find new ways to teach basic subjects.  There is a plethora of ideas available online.  Make a lap book, create a mini book, etc., so many other ways to learn than just a textbook or a workbook!

10) REST, READ, RELAX & PRAY

Last but not least, rest, read, and relax.  Mothers work so hard at home and school and we need to take care of outselves.  We need rest, we also need to feed our souls with good spiritual reading.  We also need to relax, the more I am on social media the more I realize we are so stressed about being on task and time and, and, comparing ourselves to others just kills joy.  Do not do this to yourself.  If something does not happen today, there is always tomorrow. Always, always, always turn to prayer when things are not going right.

How do you find joy in your homeschool day?  Here is my successful week in a slide show: