Tag Archives: challenges

Shifting My Perspective

Property of Kristin Giuliani

September was an exhausting month. It was enlightening and beautiful. It was tedious and draining. I was challenged and stretched and asked to step out of my comfort zone. And I somehow feel simultaneously refreshed and depleted. I have a sense that I just closed a chapter in my life and am stepping into a new one. Although it’s early, I think this new chapter will be defined by unique perspectives – shifting out of autopilot and being willing to look at everything that defines me in a completely different way. I am redefining my work, how I use my skills, and how I spend my time. I can feel it. Change is coming.

 Property of Kristin Giuliani

I am someone who thrives on change – external change. I like to be a participant in changing locations, changing weather, changing activities, changing routines.

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However, I am realizing that it’s a lot less fun when I have to initiate the change by changing something internal first. And the clear message of September is that I can start a new, exciting chapter in my life, BUT, not by first changing my circumstances. I have to change how I see my circumstances first, and look at the same old mundane things in a new way.

Property of Kristin Giuliani
That is infinitely less exciting and infinitely more challenging for me.  And even though that is the entire point of this blog, internal change in the absence of external change is hard, and I’m lazy. And unlike my sister, I still haven’t quite mastered the art of being disciplined.

Property of Kristin Giuliani
After spilling out some deep, soul-searching posts this past month, I feel myself at a bit of a loss this week.

Property of Kristin Giuliani
I am an introspective, internal-processing introvert, and much like I reach my saturation point with people, I also arrive at a point where my external words have run out. I’m sure as this new chapter inches forward, the words will come. But for now, they are hibernating.


So instead, as I step into October, I thought I could share the essence of what I feel I need to be doing through images.


You know, trying to see dishes, laundry, and onion chopping (and the tears they inevitably produce) as art rather than drudgery.

Maybe using my camera to look at my life from a different perspective will help me begin the internal shift.

Then maybe I can see the art hiding in the process of internal change, too.

And embrace it as the exciting journey toward the external change I crave.

Property of Kristin Giuliani

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I Am Lazy

When I was in 6th grade, I was asked to play on an all-star basketball team in my hometown.

Okay, is everyone done laughing?

Granted, it’s a small town, so it’s not like I was selected from among thousands of other talented youth. But, ALL the other girls were good. Some even went on to play in college. And the coach’s son was famous for being one of the few South Dakotans able to slam dunk. So it was a pretty big deal.

We won the 6th grade interstate tourney that year.

Property of Kristin GiulianiYes, I still have the trophy, mostly because it was the only sports trophy I ever won. But partly because I’m still not sure why I was selected for the team. Sure, I was fast and a very aggressive defensive player, but I could NOT make a basket. I think I made around 3% of my shots. I certainly couldn’t hit a 3 pointer (AIR BALL!). My best bet was a layup, although I got called for traveling almost every time. And dribbling? Let’s just say I looked a lot like Stanley from The Office.

I did not play basketball after that year. You see, I tried to practice shooting and dribbling. But it was hard. I was not naturally good at those things. So I just stopped practicing. By the end of the season, I barely played and when I did, no one passed me the ball anymore. I could see the writing on the wall. So I quit.

 Fast forward 23 years. This August, I had finally figured out some health issues, and was feeling awesome for the first time in years. On a whim, I signed up for a 10K called the Chocoholic Frolic. Now, I should mention that I had not run in…hmmm…5 years? Oh, and I am not a runner. Not only am I not a runner, but I hate running. I keep trying to like running because it’s free and I can do it with my children in tow. But I have never been able to run much more than 2 miles. Slowly. Hating every second of it. Running was always hard, I was always slow, and I always felt like I was going to puke. So I would quit. Because I am just not a runner.

So, obviously, the next logical step for me was to sign up for a 10K. Thank you, ADHD. Sigh.

But there I was. I had already paid my $60 entrance fee. I had already told all my friends (who looked at me in awkward silence with blank stares, waiting for me to chuckle and say, “just kidding!”). So I had to figure out how to run 6.2 miles in 3 months.

Pride is apparently a powerful motivator. Since I do not like to fail, I sucked it up and started running. Guess what I realized? It’s not that my genetic makeup makes it impossible for me to be a runner. I’m just lazy.

Don’t get me wrong. I do quality work and do work hard. But, I have noticed a pattern. If something doesn’t come easy to me, and it is not required for a job or absolutely essential at that moment, then I will quit. Even if it’s the best way, or would be fun, or will save time, work and strife down the road. Looking back, I’m a little embarrassed to see that I have spent my life meticulously surrounding myself only with activities that play to my natural talents so that I don’t have to do things I am not good at and don’t like.

I certainly believe it is necessary and responsible to discover, use and share your natural gifts and talents. And I certainly think that it is essential to know when to say no and quit things that drain and distract. However, I am talking about an underdeveloped sense of discipline – the ability to work hard and see something through to the end, even if it is not essential. Because it is best. Because it is right. Because it sets a good example. Because in it there is beauty, importance, eternal value and joy. Because eventually, something challenging will  be essential and there will be no established pattern of discipline.

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I am now faced with the reality that most of what I have to do each day are things for which I have no natural talent (cooking, cleaning and organizing), and consequently have never bothered to learn. So, I do the bare minimum to get by. I have blamed it on just being so busy for years. But if I’m really honest with myself, I know it’s because I just don’t want to work at it. I become immobilized by how naturally inept I am at all of them. I don’t know where to start. There are so many and they are never done and I get so discouraged. At those moments, I feel like I’m drowning in a sea of all things common. It’s hard not to sigh enviously at Laura attending her glamorous Opera Ball.

While picking away burrs on my recent retreat, I did a lot of soul searching about this.  I didn’t really know how to start to un-lazify myself and how to stay motivated to work on all those things each day that are so hard for me. Then, it hit me.

Running.

While it’s still hard, I’m still slow, and I still feel like puking, in the last few weeks I have been surprised to discover myself actually looking forward to running (what the what?!?). Apparently, I’ve started to unknowingly learn some discipline. So I came up with a few parallels to apply to my day-to-day laziness.

  1. Start with short, easy runs. I’m starting to tackle just a few things at a time. Thoroughly organizing just my clothes. Sitting down with the girls daily to play scales on the piano. Having theme dinners for each night of the week (Monday-slow cooker night, Tuesday-taco night, Wednesday-smoothie night, etc.) to make meal planning easier.property of Kristin Giuliani
  2. Have a training buddy. I have enlisted Nick, the master chef, to help me plan meals and to divide up the tasks that will fit best into his new, chaotic schedule. I have a standing (mostly) daily text date with a friend who has similar struggles to share scriptural insights, encouragement, frustrations, and chuckles.
  3. Take time to properly warm up, cool down and stretch. This is the hardest for me to logistically implement, but I know I need time alone to NOT do chores, to read, reflect and pray at the beginning and the end of the day. It’s a work in progress to figure out the right wake up and bed times, but I’m slowly getting there.
  4. Have realistic expectations. Just like I will never run a marathon, I will never be great at keeping a consistent routine, or having a pottery-barn-like organized house. And because of who I am, and because I like to see results right away, working through challenging, unending tasks will probably always be a struggle. And that’s ok.
  5. Find encouraging advice. I know that this looks different for everyone, but I have discovered a few great resources that encouragingly convict and help me to practically move forward by paring down to the essentials. I don’t read many blogs, but my core three are The Art of Simple (home life), Simple Homeschool (not just homeschool; parenting & creating a rich home environment), and Mel’s Kitchen Cafe (awesome, easy homemade recipes). I also plan to reread a challenging book by Elisabeth Elliot on being disciplined.
  6. Know when to rest. When it gets extra uncomfortable, I’m learning when I need to power through and when I need to stop and rest to avoid burnout.
  7. Make it fabulous and reward myself. It seems that having a trip to Minnesota for a chocolate filled end goal with friends has helped me to see running in a more fabulous light and has helped me to make it over the I-can’t-do-this hump. Not sure what this will look like in my daily life yet, but I know this results person needs something to work toward. Girls’ Night Out? Date Nights? Trip to Chicago to watch an opera? Homemakers’ Chocoholic Frolic, anyone?

The 10K is November 8. I still haven’t run more than 4 miles. Progress is slow, but I’m getting there. I’ll let you know what happens.

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The Burr Queen


I have spent the last 42 hours at beautiful, peaceful Our Lady of the Mississippi Abbey in northeastern Iowa. I have walked, slept, prayed, read, sketched, and avoided nearly all human contact. Aside from a few texts to check in, I have used my phone exclusively as a camera. It has been the perfect birthday gift for this extreme introvert from my awesome husband.

I feel refreshed, rested, and renewed.

And a tad bit rattled.

The silent, undistracted peace has made me realize that I have unknowingly become The Burr Queen.


A few weeks ago, we went camping with some wonderful family friends. Our 6 kids, who are collectively louder than 8 overcrowded preschools, had a blast. They ran around, created tin foil instruments, had a parade, explored and got lots of bumps and bruises tripping over guy-lines. They also ran through burrs.

All of the kids had a handful of burrs stuck to pants, socks and sleeves. But as we were getting changed for bed, I realized that one shirt was completely covered in burrs. When I questioned the owner, she told me:

I put them there, as decoration. I wanted to be The Burr Queen.

I sighed, trying not to be irritated. How could she not see what an unnecessary mess she was making! So much extra work!

Together we spent the better part of an hour removing all those tiny little burrs.


As I come to the end of my time of silence and reflection, I am ashamed to realize that I have been doing the same thing. Adding burrs to my life, slapping them on without thinking. In the midst of my life, I am proud of my burred-bedecked garments. I keep finding more to stick into the empty spaces. I think they are adding value, that they help make me happier, more successful, more peaceful, more productive, a better mom or friend or wife or Christian. Because I listen when our society says that survival mode is inevitable, that busyness is a sign of success. That burrs are a necessary part of life.

But in the end, when I have a chance to step back and look at myself without distraction, I can see they are just burrs. They snag the fabric, hide in seams, get snarled in hair, and sometimes are pushed so deep, that little pieces get left permanently behind.

The tricky thing is, burrs aren’t bad. They just don’t belong on my clothes. They belong in the ground, producing green plants and beautiful flowers.


This trip has made me realilze that it is nearly impossible for me to identify burrs while in the midst of my life. Because I am so impulsive, so easily distracted, so exhausted by human interaction, I just get caught up in and worn down by daily life. I grab at whatever is closest, whatever seems good, or whatever has worked in the past without really examining what I am doing. And what was a green sprout or blooming flower for me before, has become a burr without my even realizing it.

So I have begun the arduous process of finding and removing the burrs and putting them where they belong.

I had a lovely, inspiring conversation with Sister Carol yesterday, learning about her life and reflecting a bit on my time. She said:

It sounds like you need to make this type of retreat a regular occurrence.

Yes. I do.