Monday, April 21, 2014



The power to influence or direct people's behavior or the course of events.
synonyms: sway, power, authority, command, dominance, government, mastery, leadership, rule, influence, supremacy, 

Determine the behavior or supervise the running of.
synonyms: be in charge of, run, manage, direct, administer, head, preside over, supervise, superintend, steer.

I'm sitting here this morning on our last day of vacation thinking about this word. I think control is a bit like money, no matter how much you have, you always want more. But the reality of it all is that no matter how much we plan, no matter how much we think about the nitty gritty details of life, things just happen beyond our control. 

At the beginning of this Lenten season, I came across a group on my Facebook newsfeed called 40 bags in 40 days. The goal of the group is to declutter your house during lent; to give up the clutter, if you will, by donating things that you don't use anymore or simply throwing them away. 

I loved this idea. I am one for to-do lists. I get satisfaction in crossing things off the list and tackling the next item right away to get that one crossed off. I wouldn't define myself as a control freak. I have been in other people's houses that no matter the time of day or the day of the week, their houses are always picked up and pristine. That is not my house. It can get pretty messy at times. The worst time of day is when the kids come home from school and the shoes get kicked off and the backpacks get dropped and the sweatshirts are hanging over the banister and the empty juice boxes are left on the counter and oh, those little wrappers for the straws are ALL! OVER! MY! HOUSE! One day, my kids will all be gone and I will still find those little clear straw wrappers in my couch and behind tables and under rugs. Then you add soccer bags and basketball bags and dance bags. But to keep this happy chaos of a life under "control" I do like to have a plan. So I thought this was a good motivator. 40 bags, 40 messes, 40 tasks that needed my attention. I started off strong. I was motivated. I had big messes and little messes around the house. I was still in the middle of painting Ryan's room. All of his stuff was in my room. Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project, says that outer order produces inner calm. I believe that. Whenever I'm surrounded by clutter, I can feel myself getting irritable, my patience declines, I am not at my best.

But then Shannon got sick, and the tasks did not get tackled, Ryan room came to a stand still, he continued to sleep on the couch, and his stuff was all over the floor in my room. Things happen beyond our control.

The other day I was sitting on the beach and there is this immense, vast sky all around me. The beach is one of those places that you get to see so much sky. There are no obstructions of your view, there is only sea and sky in front of you and I find it to be a great place to think. And as I was sitting and thinking and taking in my surroundings, my thoughts start to feel like the book If You Give a Mouse a Cookie.  I noticed that there were no planes in the sky. This reminded me of the days that followed 9/11 when the skies were blue and there were no planes flying for days. This reminded me of all those air traffic controllers that day and how they were able to land thousands of planes in a matter of hours safely. This is one job I wouldn't even want on a good day. The responsibility of thousands of lives in their hands each day to get all those planes off the ground and then back down again is overwhelming to think about. And then this reminded me again of the idea of "control" and how moms are like air traffic controllers. We have to be paying attention all the time. We cannot let down our guard for a moment. We may have a schedule of who's flying in at what time from soccer and who's flying out for basketball and who has a connecting flight from one activity to another and who is flying on a different airline than mine because they got a flight with another mama. The control tower never closes, it is always open. Most days go smoothly. My kids fly in and out and everything is uneventful. But then there are those days that there are mechanical failures; my car needing to be brought in for a second time because it wasn't fixed the first time right before we were traveling 1000+ miles. Or planes that need to land because of a medical emergency; Shannon getting mono. And sometimes there are weather emergencies.

As a mom, I try to set a good example for my children to balance what we can control with planning but also be prepared for the unexpected. Life always gives us things that we didn't plan for, sometimes they are big things, and sometimes they are small things like a change in the weather.

After many hours of planning this trip, researching places to go, trying to figure out our budget and what we could afford, we decided on Seaside, Florida. We've never been here. But we were looking for clear blue waters and warm temperatures. We even looked up the water temperatures for April and found that it was on average a few degrees higher than the Atlantic coast of Florida. 

But it has been a chilly week in Florida. Don't get me wrong, the kids got in the water, we sat on the beach, I read my book, the boys threw the football around, fun was had…but they wanted it to be warmer.

Social media can be used for good, but it can also be bad. Sometimes too much information of what other people are doing can put us in a funk. We start to compare. We had one cold day that we really couldn't go in the water. We still had fun. The kids went rock wall climbing, did a laser tag game, and ran around in blow-up balloons like hamsters. But my kids had there phones in their hands and were telling me of all the places their friends were on break that were so much warmer than where we were. "Mom, (insert friend's name) says its 85 degrees in (everyplace not Seaside)."

Control…we can only control so much in our lives, but we need to be grateful for the things that we have. This is a lesson as an adult that I am constantly aware of as I try to be a good example for my children. At one point, a number of members of my family were sitting on the couch, googling all the other places that were warmer than where we were. While they were doing this though, they were missing out on where they were…we aren't at home, where it is colder, we are in a beautiful house right on the beach with magnificent water to see out any window you look through. They are not living in the moment! 

I was upset by this, after all the preparation and planning to come on this trip, in that moment, I felt that they were ungrateful for the things that they had, but I also thought, all I can do is be the best example to them and hope that with each event, each incident, or happening in our lives, it will eventually sink in that we can plan for some things, but it is how we handle the unexpected things, the things that can throw you off, that that is when our true character shines through. As much as I cannot control the weather, I cannot control how my children feel. Or can I? Control…the power to influence or direct people's behavior. Moms are definitely controller tower operators, I just need to remember to be a positive influence. Most of the time we have sunny, uneventful days that run smoothly and all the planes land safely at the end of the day, but it is those bad weather days that truly test our skills as moms. 

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