Habits: the Good & the Bad

Habit [NOUN]: A settled or regular tendency or practice, especially one that is hard to give up.

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Habits.

We all have them. Some are good, others are bad.

A couple of mine? I pick at my lips and stay up waaay too late.

One of my sons never, ever, ever closes drawers. And my other son is a dirty clothes artist–aka, he leaves his school clothes in rather artistic piles… always on his bedroom floor.

❤ (But on the flip side, one of them gives warm, fuzzy hugs regularly and the other reads whatever and whenever he can.) ❤

Often, we agonize over breaking bad habits.

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Recently my younger son stumbled into our bedroom at 2am. He’s eleven, so unless he or his brother are sick, they’re tucked in their beds between 9:30pm and 7am.

If you’re close to me, you know that I’m 95% human and 5% beast. My beast mode kicks in between midnight and 7am. No joke, my sister had to {carefully} wake me up on Christmas morning when we were kids. I do not do mornings unless provoked and/or coerced.

Anyway, Chase stumbles into our bedroom at 2am. “Can I sleep with you guys?”

“Grfghrgrlk?” We’ve never been big on the boys sleeping with us. As babies they did occasionally, and during illness as toddlers, but overall we keep our bed ours.

He tries his dad, who thankfully remains human in the deep, dark hours of the night. “Can I sleep in here?”

“Did you have a bad dream?”

“No, I just want to sleep in here.”

My wonderful human husband climbs out of bed, guides Chase back to his bedroom (which he shares with our older son), and lays down with him for several minutes. Thankfully Chase remains asleep and the night continues as normal.

Until the next night.

And the next night.

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“Waking up at 2am has become a habit.” I mention gently on the third day. He nods in understanding. He didn’t want to wake up, but couldn’t help it anymore.

At bedtime on the fourth evening, I asked about bad dreams again. None, he reassured me. We prayed and they got an extra long back scratch. Just as my hubby and I walked out, Chase unraveled from his blanket cocoon.

“Can you lay the clock down? It’s too bright and when I wake up it reminds me that I’m sleeping.”

Ah. The proverbial lightbulb flashed on.

A few days earlier, I purchased a small silver alarm clock for the boys’ room. Huge green letters filled the screen so that Cole could see it on his bookshelf, from his bed (his eyesight isn’t great, and he takes his glasses off at night).

So I laid the clock on its back, and sure enough, Chase slept through the night. And again the next night.

The bad habit was broken.

The situation got me thinking about habits. Bad ones, and good ones.

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NaNoWriMo 2017 has begun.

For those who don’t know, it’s a write-a-thon set during the month of November. “National Novel Writing Month.” Thousands of writers across the country (world?) pound out 50,000 words of a story by November 30th. You don’t have to finish the story, just the 50k words.

Some make it, some don’t. The point is to Write. Every. Single. Day.

I enjoy the camaraderie on social media and the internal & external incentive to get words on a page. NaNoWriMo always readjusts the good habit of writing every day.

{NO EDITING ALLOWED}

If you’re on this NaNoWriMo journey, best wishes on adjusting to this new, good habit. Figure out what helps you write better and faster (plotting beforehand, writing at night when your house is silent, consuming nine cups of coffee & an entire bag of M & M’s, etc…)

Then write. Because writers write.

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YOU. CAN. DO. THIS!

 

 

 

 

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Count Up: Pushups & Pitchwars

 

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I dropped to the hallway floor with a grunt, my hands clutching carpet.

“Can you do ten?” Cole hovers over me, taller than the day before. My teenager won’t stop growing, and he’s a workout fiend knocking out twenty-five pushups without breaking a sweat.

I, however, sit sadly just on the right side of forty. And while I did many a push-up in my swimming days and have tried to stay in decent shape since, I don’t expect to keep up with my fit thirteen-year old.

“Yes, I can do ten.” Gulp.

I get into pushup position, hands flat, fingers spread and toes flexed. No knee pushups here. (Which is why I only do ten at a time.)

And so it begins. “One.”

I lower then raise my arms again. This is only two?

“One.” Cole calls out.

“What!? That was two.”

I lower my arms and raise them again, blood pounding in my temples. “Three!”

“One.” Giggles explode above me. Chase appears, a smiley blonde alongside his brown-haired brother.

I’m a boy mom—teasing is a given. But this? This is certainly torture.

I lower again, nearly kissing the carpet, then straighten wobbly arms supporting a body growing heavier by the second. “Four!”

“One!” Chase runs off, cackling.

I mumble something about making their own dinner then drop for my fifth pushup. “Five.”

“One.” Cole doesn’t grin very often, and as I look up, I can’t help grinning back despite my indignation at their poor counting skills.

“No, not one! That was five.”

He shrugs, nodding. “Okay, I’ll count right.”

So I begin again, or is it finish? Either way, the last five pushups prove ten times easier once he counts up. But on the last one, my arms betray me as a shuddering laugh takes over. That number–one–still resonates in my mind even though Cole’s not counting incorrectly.

I dissolve into a chuckling lump of limp mom muscles on the floor.

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It reminded me how much our encouragement toward others matters. How much we’re needed to count up.

***

During the month of August, I participated in a contest on Twitter called Pitchwars. Pitchwars includes a group of amazingly helpful published authors (mentors). Each mentor author reads dozens of entries, eventually choosing one to champion and prepare for an agent panel in November (along with keeping up with their own writing career).

It’s an incredible opportunity to meet and connect with writers in the same genre (I entered my middle grade story) and secure valuable feedback on your (submitted) story.

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I was thrilled when the author I submitted to asked for my full manuscript. Even though I wasn’t ultimately the writer she chose to mentor, it was an exciting three weeks of interacting and connecting, sharing about our stories, and meeting up with new critique partners—I have three now!

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After the initial sting of disappointment at not being chosen, I realized what I appreciated most was the community of Pitchwars–the positive words, funny GIFs & jokes exchanged, and especially the encouragement sprayed around like New Year’s confetti.

I’m reminded of James chapter three, about the power of the tongue and the strength of our words (spoken or typed) to bolster–or break down–others. “Even so the tongue is a little member and boasts great things. See how great a forest a little fire kindles!” (3:5)

Our tongues can start forest fires of gossip or send waves of much-needed encouragement.

Be an encourager. Count up.

“And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another…” (Eph. 4:32)