Purposeful Living

Four Reasons People Avoid Counseling (And Why They Don't Hold Up)

( image credit here)

I went back to counseling recently. I’m not seeking therapeutic help because some severe addiction plagues me. I’m not going because I’m a serial adulterer or because I’m facing an epic marital crisis.

The main reason I’m attending is because sometimes, when I’m stressed or tired or when the sky is cloudy, I lack the self-control necessary to hold my tongue. Instead of responding to my husband and six children, I sometimes react harshly to them, thereby making an already trying familial situation even more difficult.

Meeting with someone who helps me create strategies to combat this personal weakness has already had positive effects. CEO’s come up with business plans all the time to improve their financial performance. Since I’m the co-CEO of the Duggan Corporation, it can’t hurt to create a performance plan of my own.

I’ve noticed some Catholics are weary of counseling and for good reason. It would not be helpful, for instance, if a counselor suggested I get on the birth control pill and quit homeschooling as the  solution to the stress I experience in family life. I’ve already discerned that the birth control pill and full time school won’t really solve my problems, but coping skills for emotional volatility actually will. I don’t want to have to defend my faith or my lifestyle to someone who doesn’t understand. Even if I did quit having babies and put all my kids in school, I’m still going to struggle with my temper. I need some tricks and tips to help me manage myself in challenging life situations, not quick fixes. 

Read the rest at Aleteia.

Why I Will Never Say To Another Parent "Little Kid, Little Problems, Big Kid, Big Problems"

Sam Cooke wasn't lying when he sang, "A Change Is Gonna Come."

Sometimes I'll look over at Meaghan as she is diapering Edward's bottom or baking cookies (her favorite afternoon activity) and I'm blown away at her maturity.  Lately, she'll relay a funny story about something one of the little kids did and the ease she possesses as she tells the tale makes me think she's one of my peers.  When she rolls her eyes and waves her hand dramatically to emphasize her point, she conveys a type of sophistication I didn't know was possible for a girl her age.

 I know this is a very mom thing to say, but Meaghan is a beautiful girl.  She's got legs up to her eyeballs and freckles sprinkled all over her fair skin.  She has started curling her stick straight,  blond hair before school in the morning and I've noticed--all of a sudden--she's stashing some of my personal care items in her room.

Last week, I decided to bring Meaghan with me to meet my new niece, Eliza, and on the way home she said, "Eliza is a doll, mom."

Then she looked over me with a big question mark written all over her face and said, "Do you think she looks like a Murphy?"

I squelched a giggle and felt my mom heart swoon.

My girl, Meaghan?  She's a delight.

I have to confess...I'm


I enjoy her so much.

No one told me about this sweet spot of parenting.

Sure, there were plenty of old ladies who wagged their finger at me, while I unloaded groceries in the check out line, as they they declared, 

"Little kids, little problems, big kids,



But no stranger--not once--has said, "Lucky you!  You get the esteemed honor and privilege of watching these kids grow." 

No one--not once--has said, "You get to see the gifts that have been given to your children and you get to watch them figure out to use them.  You are in for the ride of your life.  Lucky you, my friend!  Lucky



For a long time, I've been parenting little kids--babies and toddlers.  Little people who melt my heart with their abundant cute quotient.

But now?

All of a sudden, I'm noticing the evolving interests of my older children and the way they carry themselves and interact with me like they are mini-adults.

Meaghan loves to bake and she reads cookbooks in her spare time.  She wrote a paper this year about three things she wants to accomplish in her lifetime and one of the goals she wrote was to open a bakery named

The Happy Place


I love the mere idea of

The Happy Place

and I love Meaghan.

Meaghan makes jewelry in her spare time and is constantly devouring YouTube videos to help her with her creations.  She and I can have a conversation about an important topic and she has her own thoughts and opinions about the issue at hand.

I love to see the way her mind works and I love who she is.

Don't misunderstand me.  I'm not in denial:  I can see that this era of parenting is going to bring challenges.  I mean,


, the adolescent mood swings are nothing to scoff at.  I also know as these kids grow, I'm going to have to watch them make bad choices and I know it will pain my heart to see the flesh of my flesh, bone of my bone

, sin.

But I refuse to believe that parenting teenagers will be all misery because parenting for me, while it has always been hard and ego crushing, has


been a joy.  

Amidst the pain of parenting, I have always experienced the sweet. 

Yes, there will be hard times with these kids; I've already seen them.  But watching my children grow into adults is not going to be only heartache.  I will get to experience the good stuff too:  

I get to see the development of their sense of humor, their quick wit, and their silliness.

I get to observe their minds at work, how hard they work at school and at home, how diligently they try to be good people and do the right thing.

I get to see they kindness they demonstrate to their siblings and to me, the books they love to read and talk about and the joy with which they embrace life.

Watching all of these things remind me that the teenage years are not going to be all about

Trying To Get By Because These Kids Are Ruining Me.

I get the privilege of watching them become who they are and that is not a burden:  it's an honor.

I can't wait.

So I promise right here and right now to never warn a young mom struggling to keep her head above water with the multiple kids charged in her care and hanging off her grocery cart,

"Just wait, it gets



That's not a true statement!

When I see that young mom, overwhelmed and fumbling, I plan on grabbing her hand, looking her in the eye and saying,



!  You get the pleasure of watching these kids grow. 

You get to help your kids develop their gifts and you get to watch them change the world. 

You are in for the ride of your life.  Lucky you, my friend!  Lucky



Forty Ways Not To Lose Summer

Elizabeth Foss posted Forty Ways To Keep Summer From Slipping Away last week and I loved reading her summer goals.  For the last week or so, I've thought about how I want our summer to look, so I decided to follow her lead and write out my own Summer goals for our family and me. 

1.  Even though I can sleep in because school is out, I'll continue to rise at 5:00 am for my coffee and prayer time.  This really is the best time of my day.  A friend asked me recently how I get up so early and I told her not to be too impressed.  I'm wired for early mornings.  In college, when everyone arrived to the library for late night study sessions, I was usually packing my things to go home.  I'd much rather get up at 3 am than stay up until 3 am.  It's weird, I know.

2.  Continue to write every morning from 6 to 7 am.  Work on being detached when I'm interrupted by needy children.

3.  Continue to exercise three to four times a week.  Vary the routine with both exercise DVDs, walking, and running.  Involve the kids as much as possible.  (Side note:  I just started the Jillian Michael's videos.  Wow.)

4.  Read good books.  Our great books club is slated to read The Aeneid this Summer and I have to confess, I'm not at all excited about it.  I realize how uneducated that is to admit, but it's true.  I'm going to have to supplement my reading list with some other books I really want to tackle to keep myself motivated.

5.  Have the kids keep a list of all their Summer reading.  Maybe create a friendly competition and offer a date night with mom and dad to the winner?

6.  Take pictures with either my real camera or my iPhone everyday. 

7.  Take the kids to the swimming pool or the lake at least once a week or more.

8.  Prepare dinner on the grill as much as I can.

9.  Host several outdoor family movie nights.  (We hosted one last summer and invited our friends and it was so much fun.)

10.   Read a few picture books to my little kids everyday.

11.  Institute thirty minutes of required reading everyday.

12.  Blow bubbles and color with sidewalk chalk.

13.  Take a long weekend trip to Florida with my girlfriends.

14.  Teach an iPhone photography class to elementary and middle school students.

15.  Persevere on that writing project.  Don't listen to negative Nellies (also known as my thoughts).  Keep going.  Have confidence.

16.  Blog more.

17.  Hire a babysitter every week and leave the house for five hours by myself.  (This one I've already planned and organized and I'm so happy about it.)

18.  Help my kids make their summer bucket lists.  Try to help them fulfill their goals.

19.  Plan one on one dates with one of my six children once a week.

20.  Ensure everyone hits Confession at least once every two weeks.

21.  Invite kids over to my house and let them play in the hose.

22.  Try not to complain about my messy house.  Try not to get angry about it, either.

23.  Keep most of our time unstructured.

24.  Help John plan a weekend away for himself with one of his college friends.  Don't complain about his impending absence in the few days before he goes.

25.  Plan at least one date night a month and surprise John.

26.  Take the kids to baseball games.

27.  Build a fire and make s'mores outside.

28.  Take the kids berry and peach picking.

29.  Make fruit pies.

30.  Eat watermelon outside.

31.  Plan play dates with my girlfriends.  Let the kids run around like wild minions and come home dirty and worn out.

32.  Make art with my girls.

33.  Let the kids sleep in their tents outside.

34.  Make a day trip to the beach.

35.  Sit in the sun.

36. Go over the finer points of the birds and the bees with Patrick and Meaghan.  I'm not looking forward to this one, but it's necessary.  The older kids--all of a sudden--are in a new season.  WHAT THE HECK???

37.  Take the kids swimming and Deedo's and Papa's pool.

38.  Visit with my sister the Sister.

39.  Hire a swim instructor that will actually teach Christopher and Camille how to swim.  The swim instructor doesn't have to be "nice" but he or she must be effective. The last two years of swim lessons have been a waste.

40.  Go easy on myself.  Relax my standards.  Chill out.  Remind myself everyday the kids are going to be fine.

Anything I'm forgetting?  Share your ideas with me!  I'm all over it!

The Artist's Way Is Anything But Silly

Once I was at the park when a mom announced that her husband used to be a writer.

"He wrote for years before we got married," she confessed, "but now we have kids and I told him to put that silliness away."

I almost choked on my tongue so astounded was I at this woman's flippant disregard for her husband's creative life.

I've been reading

Julia Cameron's The Artist's Way

, a spiritual self-help guide for the creative who needs to get back in touch with his or her artistic side.  The first sentence of her book encapsulates the heart of why I was so put off by my acquaintance's commentary.

Cameron says, "

Art is a spiritual transaction.


Yes, yes it is.

Whatever art we chose to create, God works through us.  The creative desires He instills in us are in fact a part of His


.  For this woman to announce that her husband had no business cultivating his art was not only wrong, it also denied a part of him he was quite possibly supposed to nurture.

In my own life, the space (as scattered and as haphazard as it is) I create to make art is sacred and if someone I loved every told me to "put my silliness away," I daresay it would kill me.

Yesterday, after we finished school, I sent everyone outside. 

I'm feeling the end of the school year (and all the end of the year craziness) deep in my bones.

The dedication and energy and time it takes to homeschool this gaggle of energetic children is awesome.  Next week, when we close up our school shop,  I think I will be celebrating louder than all of these kids I educate.

So it was with great weariness that I ventured into the great outdoors yesterday afternoon, after we cleared away books and supplies and stray papers.

I buckled the baby into his stroller and I set myself to walking.  Some of the older kids pulled out a game of chess, some of the others pulled out their art supplies, and Christopher got busy building Lego castles. We stayed outside all afternoon with the soft wind whipping and tousling our hair and our skin soaking up the much needed Vitamin D. I felt content and happy as I strolled and noticed the kids felt the same way as they engaged in their own pursuits.

I can sometimes be hard on myself as a mom.  I think about all the things I don't do right, the mistakes I make with my kids, and how I lose my patience so easily.  

My perfectionism often terrorizes me in my vocation to motherhood.  

But as I walked the perimeter of our property yesterday,  I realized that while I do make many mistakes, there is one thing I know I'm doing well.

I'm giving my children the gift of time, time to play, to figure out what it is they


to do.  

I'm giving them time to make messes and to create and to discover who they are and what artistic endeavors God has planned for them. 

And although the world may tell them to quit "wasting time" because they must be productive and successful, I will never respond in that manner.

Unlike the woman at the park who chastised her husband all those years ago, I will


tell my children to put their "silliness" away for that "silliness" is where these children of mine will meet God.