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Learning to Set the Bar LOW - Collage Friday


 I am a classic over achiever.   Add to this the fact that I'm also Type A, and you can imagine that sometimes I can't keep up the pace of everything I WANT to do.   

This past week I've had several things happen that have all served to show me I need to lighten up on myself, others, and just set the bar much LOWER in general.

Writing this post is therapeutic and a bit painful, too.  


I try to keep up with so much:  homeschool, giving piano lessons, my blogging business (and yes - it has turned into a business), church commitments, and a myriad of other little obligations.  

My collage above represents some random things about me from this past week:   a quiet, peaceful walk where I really did some serious thinking; my love affair with coffee, my contemplation of my feet (well, really just me taking a picture of my favorite flip flops while I was waiting in the doctor's office), and one of my favorite quotes by John Holt.  

Today I wanted to share with you a little more of my heart and a little less of the nitty gritty of our homeschool.   While I love talking about homeschool, sometimes I use that to hide from larger issues in my life.

Something I don't talk about much is my struggle with chronic back pain.  (I have shared it here one time that I can recall.) I have never shared much about it because I have NEVER wanted to be perceived as a whiner - and in my life I have always been able to push through difficulties.    Recently, not so much.  

Long story short - after a difficult abdominal surgery three years ago I developed horrendous back pain during the recovery period.   It has been diagnosed as a herniated disc, but nothing has seemed to help.   It is debilitating on some days, and on other days it just makes me grumpy and short.   I have pain from the minute I wake up until the minute I go to bed, and I don't like to talk about it because I don't want to give that pain power over me or my family - I also don't want to be perceived as a complainer.

For the past year I have pushed it to the back of my mind, but on Monday I saw a new doctor that gave me a glimmer of hope.   For starters I told him how hard this was for me because I was always perfectly healthy for the first 37 years of my life.   I also told him about my worry of being perceived as a whiner.  He looked me straight in the eye and said, "I BELIEVE YOU.  I know being in pain is terribly difficult and I want to do everything I can to help you get out of pain."  

I was fighting back tears because just sharing my struggle was so therapeutic.  You see, not many people other than my husband and maybe one or two friends really know how much I hurt on a daily basis.   

While I'm cautiously optimistic about a diagnosis of "arthritis in the low back joints" and a possible treatment that is non surgical, I also know that this pain has been placed in my path to teach me several things:

I cannot hide my struggles.

 I used to think sharing struggles was a sign of weakness... but I am learning (and it was placed RIGHT IN FRONT OF ME in a devotion I read Monday morning) that as Christians we need to share our struggles so we can share one anothers' burdens.


 I need to lighten up on myself and others!

 I have such expectations for myself and high expectations of others that most of the time I wind up disappointed... disappointed in myself and in others.   I need to lower the bar and realize that we are all flawed and that in admitting weakness there is actually great strength.


God sees me all the time.  He knows my every thought.

 I'm currently reading The God Who Sees You (another thing placed in my path by God this week) and wow is it a good book.   I cannot hide from God - even if I ignore my daily pain, or ignore the need to spend more time taking care of myself.


Those were my big revelations this week.   We did have a very good homeschooling week - I leveled with my kids and told them I just can't do as much.... they were very sweet and helpful.   Now, I need to put my money where my mouth is.   

On to our homeschool collages:


Grant is my MATH KID.  He loves all things numbers.  He's also very athletic.   After a morning of waiting for his sister during her math class and then suffering through shopping we came home and had some scooter races.  He wrote down his times and his sister's times and then averaged them to see who had the lowest time.   I considered this math -- we talked about tenths of seconds and what they meant; we learned how to average.  After they had scooter races they hopped on their bikes and did the same thing.  I love it.


We've been reading a lot.  I have encouraged my kids to "Get Rich Reading" - I'm rewarding them for reading books.   I made a free printable for those that like Homegrown Learners on Facebook to log books and explain how our system works.  (My favorite book report form was created by my friend, Jimmie.) I did have one negative comment from a reader about paying kids to read.  All I can say is this:  I prefaced it all by saying that you can use play money and rewards or you can use real money.  We are choosing to use real money... just because my kids don't get paid for chores.  I feel that they deserve some spending money, and this reading program is working.   Different things work for different people.  

Grant and I began reading Something Greater than God - the story of Eric Liddell.   It's a fabulous book.   Our read-aloud for both children is The Happy Hollisters.   What a charming book this is, too.  

Random bits from the week:

  • I don't think we can live without our membership to Notebooking Pages.  It is SO WORTH the money!  There are notebooking pages for everything you can imagine!  
  • Saxon Math is a God-send.  Really, it is.  
  • We jumped back into The Story of The World - we always love these lessons. I offered a few tips for using SOTW.  
  • The Storybook of Science is a gem of a science resource.
  • Heritage History is my favorite new found resource this week.   If you are interested in ordering any of their living books for your e-reader, you can use the discount code MARYHOME to help you out!
  • I have a couple of friends who sent children to college this week.  I'm praying for them, because I know they are going to miss them so much.  
  • I'm ready to be at the Beech Retreat.  Is it January yet??


Whew.   I know there was a lot of information in this post.  I've had a lot on my mind and heart this week.   I enjoy writing these collage posts each Thursday evening.   It's a special time for me to sit and reflect on our week.

Won't you join me?

If you want to link, please be sure your post contains lots of photos of your week.  Please be sure to text link to this post or grab the Collage Friday button.  Then, please visit someone else in the linky to show support and gain ideas!   



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Reader Comments (23)

Mary you are absolutely NOT a whiner or complainer! I am glad that you found a doctor who understands and is giving you hope...that is wonderful! I am also glad that you realize that it's OK to slow down and take care of yourself...that is an important and difficult lesson to learn. On top of it all, you've had a good homeschool week! Yay! :)

August 17, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSusan

You are NOT a complainer. It is so important for all of us to share our concerns and needs so that others may help us. It builds COMMUNITY! I understand where you are coming from however. As I type, I am sitting in Ronald McDonald House waiting to take my oldest into the hospital soon. It appears his pacemaker is close to the end of it's life. I tend to not tell people how much we are affected by the constant needs of our children's multiple special issues. I am afraid that people will think that I am exaggerating or seeking attention. I am praying for you Mary. I am sure it is hard to live and do all that you do with chronic pain. I do hope that your new doctor makes a huge difference for you. If they send us home, I will put my collage up tomorrow.
Blessings, Dawn

August 17, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDawn

Mary, I have suffered from chronic pain and I know how much energy it takes to just get past it every day, so much so that you don't even know that you are blocking it just to get the little things done like tie your own shoes and make your own bed. I have found some relief at this point and every day that I am relatively pain free I am grateful. I don't talk about it either in real life because honestly I think no one wants to hear my response when they ask me how I am doing. I just say "fine" and move on.

Just wanted you to know that I read your post and can sympathize. Let's hope your new doctor can help you get over the serious pain. Hugs.

August 17, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterBarb-Harmony Art Mom

How brave you are. I'd never consider you a whiner and I am so grateful you have found a doctor to help!! It is a daily thing isn't it? Daily leaning on Him for our strength. (I struggle with arthritis and am currently coming off a year of prednisone. But you know what? It's the thorn in my side that keeps me praying and daily depending on HIM). Thanks for always encouraging Mary! What a rich homeschool you have - love all the books you share this week. But I especially like your YOU collage :)

August 17, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterTricia

Aw, Mary, you are definitely NOT a whiner! In fact, you see very chipper and high energy and spirited and optimistic! I will be praying for you this morning that you will soon get relief!

August 17, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAmy @ Hope Is the Word

For the record, nobody will perceive you as a whiner. I pray the new doctor is able to help you and give you some overdue relief. Thank you for being brave and opening your heart to us. I know it isn't easy but we appreciate it! Blessings this weekend.

August 17, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterCarrie

Love your post. I have back pain too due to scoliosisits very bad in my neck and causes headaches. I hope they figure out the cause and a good treatment for you. I was uninsured for about 3 yrs so I havent had any treatment and have been struggling and like you I dont talk about it and just keep chugging along. Good news is I just got insurance again so now maybe I can go see a Chiropractor again. I see nothing wrong with rewarding kids for reading I do it with Gwyn and it eeally encouragedher to learn to read. I figure in the grown up world we get paid to preform and do jobs...isn't it pretty much the same thing for kids with reading, chores, etc? So jealous you have notebooking pages membership. Its on my list when cash frees up.

August 17, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKathy Balman

Whining and complaining is when you whine and complain and want everyone else to do it for you. You are not asking that. It is never wrong to explain your problems so people can lift up prayers to God. You are doing a great job. I am so happy you found a doctor who says he can help.

August 17, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRachel E.

Oh Mary, I'm sorry that you suffer so much! I have the same issues. I'll pray for your pain to go away!

August 17, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSylvia Phillips

love Jimmies book report pages too! Keep pressing friend - dig deep into Him and press on. I know when I share my struggles - God can use them for others. Nothing good grows in the dark.

p.s. I FINALLY made an actual collage! =)

August 17, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterstef layton

Well looking at the comments I hope you see that NOBODY perceives you as a whiner! You never even mention it. I am so glad that you found a doctor that may offer some help. Praying for you and your pain Mary.

Love the way your week looks as far as homeschooling! I will check out the book report form. I saw our "Happy Hollisters" the other day when I was cleaning out bookcases. That was such a simpler time it seems... Have a wonderful weekend Mary!

August 17, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKaren

The scooter races sound like fun, great idea to average the times! My kids have been playing "Olympics" outside and having similar races. I'm sorry your back has been causing you so much pain, but I'm really glad you have found a doctor that may be able to get to the bottom of what is going on. Back pain isn't fun. Just keep on keeping on, you are in my prayers! Oh and we love the Happy Hollisters :) Have a great weekend!

August 17, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJen

Mary, I could never perceive you as a whiner! I am adding you to my prayer journal and praying you will find some relief soon. I have had back pain before and I can't imagine having it 24/7.

Regarding your reading program - whatever works!

Have a great weekend!

August 17, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMary

Back pain is very difficult - praying your new treatment alleviates the pain.
I love how math can be incorporated into real life - and averaging times - great idea!
Gee, just yesterday, I was contemplating how much to give my kids for extra history books they read...hmmm never really thought of it as a bribe, but more of a reward. We don't pay for chores, but when the children do something beyond their normal required, they do get paid. I was thinking along those lines for their reading.

August 17, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDorie

I do pray that you can get some relief! I understand not wanting be a whiner- that is a good thing, but it is good to share struggles as well. I like that math lesson!! I "pay" my kids to regular reading lessons- honestly. The system we are using to remediate my sons' dyslexia is painfully tedious (to me as well). One ticket is awarded for each segment of the lesson. When enough tickets are earned, my boys can purchase an item from "mom's store". All's fair in love and war... and school! ;)

August 17, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLaurie

I'm so glad to hear that you found a doctor who listens to you and may have an acceptable solution for your pain. I pray that you find relief soon!

Thanks for the Heritage History recommendations. I read your post earlier this week and now Heritage History is on my short list for NEXT year already. :-)

We really like Saxon Math too. Amber has only ever used Saxon, first in parochial school and now at home. I hope it keeps working for you too.

August 17, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterChristy

I'm sorry to hear about your back pain ~ we know what it's like around here though ~ my hubby fell off a roof (21 ft) 3 yrs ago and suffers from extreme back pain as well. He does most of the schooling Tues-Thurs, but often the little one ends up coming with me to work because he just is unable to function.

I hope that your doctor is able to help you manage the pain. Keep us posted!

August 17, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterPatty @ Coming Up Roses

Hi! Any suggestions for collage-making computer program? I'm not finding where I can make them!

Just wanted to encourage you with the following verse:

Therefore we do not lose heart.
Though outwardly we are wasting away,
yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.

(2 Corinthians 4:16)

Yes, sadly, are bodies are wasting away, but thankfully that is not the most important part of who we are! And from what I can tell about you, your insides are in MARVELOUS shape, daaaaaarling!!!

Be encouraged!

August 18, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterWonder Mom

I'm amazed at how much you do while struggling with chronic pain, you'll be in my prayers.

Great collages--we use that book report form from Jimmie, too!

August 18, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterHeidi @ Home Schoolroom

I'm so sorry about your pain! ((((hugs)))) and prayers

I have just found your blog and joined up!

August 18, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMelissa

A beautiful and honest post, Mary.
Prayers for relief and comfort for you!
P.S. You are NOT a whiner.

August 18, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJenn

We pay our kids for reading too. They get 2 cents per page for each COMPLETED book read. If they don't finish, they do not get paid. They like it, and since I ha e a couple kids who aren't booking, it helps. Our 21 year old made us go broke though, and we had to stop paying him by the page and start just buying him the next book in the series instead! I say use what ever the incentives are that work!

August 19, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDawn @ The Momma Knows

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