Living Up To Your Commitment

The 12 Week Year
The 12 Week Year

Recently I’ve been reading The 12 Week Year by Brian P. Moran and Michael Lennington. Nearly every page has some amazing nugget of inspiration. One of the lines about commitment hit me hard this morning. According to the authors, “A commitment is a personal promise. Keeping your promises to others builds trust and strong relationships, and keeping promises to yourself builds character, esteem and success.” (pg 50). I realized I am great at keeping my commitments to others. I often fail at keeping promises to myself.

You see, I signed up for a blogging course back in February or March. The course has twelve units, and I thought I could easily finish them by the conference. I am on the second unit; yes, Unit 2 of 12. My initial plan was to complete one unit per week, although the creator of the program suggests at least one week and preferably one month per unit. I miserably failed my commitment to myself. As I’m writing this, I have five weeks to prepare for a blogging conference in Portland, Oregon associated with this course. When I land in Portland, I want to feel like I belong there as a professional blogger, not that I’ve failed yet again to reach a desired goal.

A lifetime commitment

On the flip side, my son got married on August 5th. It was a beautiful and stunning wedding and reception with a rehearsal dinner for 75. It was a busy and fun filled weekend, and my son and his wife truly got the wedding of their dreams. The commitment to give them the best possible day was certainly fulfilled. The ceremony was beautiful. The bride was stunning, as were her bridesmaids. The groomsmen were handsome and well behaved. The reception was fun and the happy couple were adored and loved on all evening. Mission accomplished and commitment fulfilled in every way.

Changes on the Horizon

Now I have five weeks to do what I initially planned to do in five months. Who knows what I’ll accomplish, but the deadline is looming, and maybe, just maybe I can shift the energy I put into the wedding into this blog. Maybe I can evolve into the blogger, writer and eventually the speaker I dream of becoming. Maybe I can commit to writing and improving the blog and taking care of myself in the process. Maybe I can learn to live up to the commitments I make to myself as well as I live up to the commitments I make to others. It will be a new experience, but it’s one I’m willing to try. With any luck, that will mean a much better experience for all those who read and enjoy the blog. And perhaps that’s the greatest commitment of all, to make life better for myself while making life better for others. I can’t think of a better way to live, so hang on; it’s bound to be an interesting ride.

Commitments to constant improvement
Website and blog improvements coming soon

As always, thanks for being you and have a great day. If you’ve enjoyed this, share this post and subscribe to get all blog posts and extras sent directly to your inbox by entering your email into the subscribe box on this page. Follow me on Facebook and Twitter and if you would like to read more, check out my books 101 Parenting Tips, Everyday Heroes of Motherhood and Happiest Holidays.

Why I Love Positive Accountability and How to find your own Accountability Partners

How to find your accountability tribe
New thumbnail with updated colors thanks to an accountability group.

I am a born collaborator, team player and family member.  I love people working together to make wonderful things happen which is probably why my life improved through marriage and having children.  My husband and I bonded over cooking together.  I organized my home and life with the help of some online friends and my children,  15 minutes at a time.  When my husband and I started working on our finances together, we paid off $36,000 of credit card debt in a little over two years and helped finance six years of college with approximately six more to go.  I love being a collaborator because I love the mutual accountability, but it wasn’t always this way.

Some of my favorite accountability partners are in this photo
One of my favorite events and collaborations each year, Easter at my house

 

Not Always a Blessing

For most of my life, I thought being a person who works better with others was a terrible character flaw.   Every report card said I did good work but spent too much time socializing.  Every job listing asked for someone detail oriented who worked independently.  I worked some of those jobs and hated them.  If you know me, that probably doesn’t surprise you one bit, because if you know me, you know I love people and I love talking with them.  A few of my friends and relatives even comment about how funny it is to watch me float from group to group at a gathering, talking with everyone and including as many people as I can in conversation.  Is it any wonder I thrive with accountability partners?

The value of collaboration and accountability
Collaboration can speed up success like nothing else.

 

Together Everyone Achieves More

Currently, I work with six groups on different projects.  I still have my home organization accountability friends.  I have several accountability groups for blogging and for a creative group.  Each group energizes me and helps me focus on what I want out of my life because let’s face it, it’s so easy to escape into the TV, tablet or phone screen and forget to dream and fulfill those dreams.  These accountability partners point me in the direction of my dreams and inspire me to live better every day.  Some I met in person after connecting online and we are friends.  Some I still dream of meeting and some may remain treasured names on a screen.

What if you could have accountability partners all over the world?
Inspiration can come from anywhere. The more we learn about one another, the more alike we realize we are.

 

It Takes More Than a Village

What amazes me is how I found kindred spirits all over the world.  I have online friends all over the US, in Canada, Europe, the Philippines, Australia and even the Middle East.  We share struggles about keeping houses organized, creative angst and triumphs, business challenges and successes, and we realize that we are much more alike than different, which is a much bigger gift than we ever expected to get from a bootcamp, an online chat group or a blogging accountability group.  It makes the world smaller and less scary, and I think we need much more of that.

Searching for your tribe and accountability partners
Looking for your tribe

Finding Your Accountability  Tribes

So how do you find these groups?  Just Google it, because they’re everywhere.  I’ve always said there are more good people in this world than bad, and every accountability group I belong to proves that over and over again.  Nearly all of them post guidelines and expectations of their members and most include kindness and respect.  They require it of all members.  In a time where so many hurl ugliness through the internet, it’s refreshing to find people who still focus on creating joy, success and beauty.  It’s even more refreshing that we don’t tolerate each other’s differences, we accept them.  People in other parts of the world understand the United States a little better because they communicate with me and others in the group who view things differently.  I understand the influence of the United States in the rest of the world.  It is a sacred journey to embrace the world and listen to what they long to say.  It is more sacred to hear and understand, and perhaps that is the greatest gift of all from these accountability groups.  They hold me accountable for my home, my blog and my creativity, but they expand the view of what I’m truly accountable for.  I know I am a member of a much larger community called the human race.  When we are accountable for how we treat one another, regardless of how the other treats us, true accountability reigns supreme and people change the world. 

Are You Ready?

What do you want to change in your life?  How can you be more accountable and quit blaming others?  It takes courage to be accountable and to stop blaming others even if it is their fault.  You build strength the day you let that go and put personal accountability first in your life.  If you need an extra shot of inspiration, let Sara Bareilles inspire you to be Brave and accountable and the best version of you possible.  It’s magical and beautiful, and I hope you dive in and enjoy the ride.  After you practice for a while, it gets easier.   You live bigger than you ever dreamed.  When you live the accountable life for a while, let me know how it goes.  As always, thanks for being you and have a great day.

 

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Peaceful mountain repose

What I Learned About Life from my Fathers’ Deaths

I’ve been thinking about death lately, not because I’m morbid or depressed but simply because of my life circumstances.  Recently an 18-year-old from our area died in a car accident on the morning of his last day of high school, a 40 something son of a family friend died from cancer, a concert was bombed in Manchester England, and I outlived my father.  Maybe it’s more accurate to say that I’ve been thinking about life because of those circumstances and, I’m aware that grief is very personal, so I’m not telling anyone how they should grieve.  What I am sharing here is how I deal with grief, and the perspective I’ve developed over the years.  I’ve wanted to write about this subject for a while, and I’ve avoided it for fear of backlash, but here’s the thing; death is a part of life and unless we deal with it, it will absolutely overwhelm us when it happens so here are a few things I’ve learned.

 

My dad with the last two loves of his life
My dad and my oldest sons at my dad’s last birthday party.

Cancer can be a gift

 Before you get offended by this statement, hear me out.  I know people are uncomfortable when I say cancer can be a gift.  I never want anyone to suffer with any disease, especially cancer, but in my case it was a gift.  My dad and I didn’t get along from the time I was twelve until just before he passed.  My dad did the best he could as a dad, but when I was young, his best wasn’t good enough, at least for me.  He and I had different views on everything.  He called me a women’s libber, and it wasn’t a compliment.  I thought he was stubborn and inflexible.  It wasn’t until my oldest son was born that I saw the best my dad could offer.  He loved my son more than I ever imagined he could, and I watched their relationship grow over the three years he and my son were in each other’s’ lives.  He only loved my second son for three weeks, but he packed a lifetime of love into those three weeks.  In both cases, he learned to be present with them and surround them with love in a way I never felt he was present with or loved me because he was too busy trying to provide what he thought we needed rather than what we actually needed.  During his six weeks in hospice, my dad and I talked about how we had drifted apart and forgave each other for slights and insults and bad behavior from sides.  He suffered, a lot, but we also healed, a lot, and when he left this earth, I released him with love and more than a few tears of gratitude for the moments that may never have come without knowing the end was near and taking the time to do something about it.

 

Peaceful mountain repose
My dad at peace on a mountain in Colorado

Celebrating a life is better than mourning a death

 My dad turned 54 years old the month he died.  He didn’t retire and live the life of his dreams.  He feared leaving the safety of his stressful corporate job that I believe contributed to his short life.  He was a database guru who developed a computer tracking database for one of the largest corporations in the US and was grossly underpaid to do it.  He wanted to do more with his life, but he didn’t.  The one thing he did do was travel.  My dad was happiest when he traveled.  Maybe that’s why I love to travel so much.  My dad made it to 49 of the 50 United States, and although he never visited Hawaii, he was so proud of how much of the United States he saw and how much of it he showed his kids.  Every time I go on vacation I think about my dad and some of the things I do that he would enjoy doing with us, and because I am a person of faith, I believe he does from afar.  We try new foods like he encouraged us to do.  We talk to people, locals and other travelers because we learned so much from them as children.  We enjoy the stops on the way as much as the destination because we’re on vacation from the time we leave until the time we return.  These were the best of times for my family when I was growing up, and they are the stories my children tell as well.  And I prefer to focus on that rather than the 60 hour work weeks and stressed out man who worked them just so he could travel a few weeks every year.

 

Dad and his older siblings
My dad and his older siblings who have all outlived him by at least 20 years.

Life is short no matter how long you live

 This one is a biggie for me right now.  This is the one that keeps me blogging and writing and pushing forward to follow my dreams of writing and travel.  You see, my dad thought he had much more time than he did on this planet.  He waited for retirement to enjoy his life, and he never got there.  He was qualified to do much more exciting and better paid work, but he feared leaving the “safety” of a company he worked for all of his 32 working years as a college graduate.  For a while, I worked where he did, and I met several people who knew my dad.  Not one of them ever said he was a great engineer or database programmer, but several of them took college level computer programming courses from him and told me what a great teacher he was.  My dad loved to teach and wanted to be a teacher at one time, but his parents told him there was more money in engineering so that’s what he did, and he spent a lifetime trying to find joy in that.  Teaching after hours helped him do that, and he could have been a great college professor making so much more money and having so much more fun, but he didn’t because he was afraid to make the jump

 Occasionally you know someone who does live life fully and leaves this life with no regrets.  It’s a beautiful thing when you do and my father in law was one of those people.  My father in law passed from cancer the same year as my dad.  He was first diagnosed 5 years earlier and decided to retire as early as he could.  He played golf, traveled a bit, spent time with his family and enjoyed every day as much as he could.  When he was on the verge of passing, he told us that he felt sorry for us because he was going to “win” no matter what happened.  As a man of faith, he truly believed that when he passed he would be in a better place, and if by some miracle he got to stay, he would be with the family who loved him.  On the night he passed, surrounded by family who sat with him until the end, he looked up at the ceiling and said (and I paraphrase here), “You’re all so beautiful.  I can hardly take it all in.”  Within moments, he was gone, and that story began to change how I view death and life.  I realized the best way to come to terms with death is to fully live while you’re alive, and that means different things to different people.  For my father, it took getting cancer and knowing the end was near.  For my father in law, it started much earlier as he lived each day fully and mostly joyfully for all the years I knew him.  Each one taught me so much about life and so much about death, and as we approach Father’s Day, I cannot think of any better way to honor them both than to say, “Thanks Dad!”

If you’ve enjoyed this, share this post and subscribe to get all blog posts and extras sent directly to your inbox by entering your email into the subscribe box on this page.  Follow me on Facebook and Twitter and if you would like to read more, check out my books 101 Parenting Tips, Everyday Heroes of Motherhood and Happiest Holidays.

Magic Menu Planning Tips

“Mom, what’s for dinner?” 

Warn, yummy family meal

Nearly every mom I know dreads that question.  I’ve been making family meals for over two decades and occasionally I still dread that question.  When I was a young mom, there were always women who looked like they had everything together.  I felt like there had to be secrets to what they did.  I’ve since found out that no mom has everything together, but there are secrets to being more successful, and one of them is meal planning.  However, I learned some kitchen magic through a wonderful thing called menu planning.  Menu planning saves my wallet, my time and most importantly, my sanity on a regular basis and it’s easier than you think.

It all adds upKnow your focus

What’s most important?  For most people the budget is the most important issue.  Food bills can ruin a budget, especially when eating out is your “go to” meal.  Don’t get me wrong, I love to eat out, but in most cases, you can make food much cheaper than you can buy it already made.  Budget is always my primary focus, but I also account for convenience and the fact that I avoid grain based carbs for health reasons.  If you’re meal planning on a budget, you can decide how much you want to spend per month, per week and even per meal.

Decide where to shop 

This is a big decision.  Some people prefer to shop in one place only to save time.  Some shoppers prefer patronizing local businesses.  Bargain hunters will shop at more than one store to get the best prices.  Those looking to get the most out of the grocery budget shop at several stores to get the best bargains and save the most money.  Knowledgeable shoppers learn how to find the best bargains by learning about the stores in their area.  For example, in my area, Walmart has the best prices on the middle of the grocery store, like paper towels, peanut butter, canned goods and bagels.  Kroger is the closest and most convenient store for me and they have great produce and bulk items like organic nuts and seeds.  Meijer has great prices on both, but it isn’t worth my time anymore to drive 8 miles when other stores are only a mile or so from my house.  Trader Joe’s has some of my favorite specialty items, and Fresh Market has $2.99 Tuesday when their excellent ground chuck and chicken breast are $2.99 per pound.  All of these factors help me meal plan within budget, and I work trips to each store into my weekly plan to streamline my week and use my time well.

Binder for holding coupons and circulars Coupons and circulars

Some people love coupons.  Others hate them.  Some people love looking at the circulars to find bargains.  Some throw them away or recycle them immediately (I’m hoping they recycle).  Although some dinosaurs like me still like to have paper coupons, I am enjoying using electronic coupons more and more.  There are several apps for coupons, but I leave that expertise to others.  I clip coupons from my weekly circulars and the Sunday paper.  I add coupons to my Kroger shopper card on a regular basis, and I read the paper circulars every week to help me make my grocery list because I walk into the store knowing what the special and sales are, and I have a plan to take advantage of them the best I can.  This is where the meat of meal planning takes place for me.  Because of circulars, which you are online if you don’t get them at your home, you know which items are on sale and how to get the best value for your menu planning dollar.  This is where menu planning really happens for me.  I decide which proteins I will buy, which vegetables and which additional items I might need to make the recipes I am thinking of making.

Making the menu plan A written menu plan keeps you acountable

My plan starts every week by asking my family if there is any meal that sounds appealing to them.  If they don’t have any suggestions, I search the circulars.  For example, this week at my local Kroger, roast is on sale.  The temperatures are on the cooler side this week and a roast is an easy meal to prepare.  To make a roast, I use carrots, onions, celery, potatoes, beef broth, garlic and a sprinkle of dried thyme.  I checked my supplies and added the meat, carrots, onions and beef broth to the grocery list because I had the rest of the ingredients.  The best part about a roast is leftovers.  My husband shredded the leftover meat and enjoyed shredded beef barbecue sandwiches for lunch this week too.  I use the leftover vegetables and stock to make soup. 

Do you have a family calendar?  If you do, it is your best resource for meal planning.  If not, get one.  Meal planning around a busy life makes so much sense because it’s when we are the busiest that it helps to feed our family and ourselves the healthiest meals.  Slow cooker meals are a menu planning blessing on days when you know you’ll be home late or your family members will be eating at different times.  Sure, it’s ok to drive through now and then, but you’ll look like a hero when you have a nice hot meal at home too.

Ipad grocery list
Ipads work wonderfully for a digital list

Make a list

Having a list at the grocery is a game changer for those on a budget.  When you have a list, you know exactly what to buy.  Without a list, you wonder as you wander the aisles and pick up whatever catches your attention.  That’s how budgets get busted and you end up with five bottles of soy sauce.  Thank goodness they don’t expire.  Having a list made the biggest difference in my quest to keep my grocery bills in check.  To make things even easier, I have paper on our refrigerator and my family knows to write items we want or need on the list.  Although I have a paper list on the fridge for others to write on, when I go to the grocery I usually use a digital list that I can delete as I go.  This makes it easier to have several lists for the various stores I frequent. 

Keep a running total

Have you ever stood at the checkout and nearly cried when the cashier announced your total, even after coupons and deals?  I certainly have, and that is not a fun moment.  To keep that to a minimum, I now keep a running total of what I spend as I delete items off my digital list, and I rarely experience grocery sticker shock anymore.

 Shopping is done.  Now what?

Here are my best tips and tricks for following through on your menu plan.  First, post your plan where everyone can see it.  For years I bought groceries with a plan in my head that never quite came to fruition.  I would forget to take meat out of the freezer or forget what I planned for the day and before I knew it, I had unidentifiable perishables in my fridge.  Post the menu and it holds you accountable as well as reminds you of what you purchased and what you plan to do with it.  Prepare as much as you can ahead of time.  Cooked pasta will keep for at least a week.  Root vegetables other than potatoes keep for a few days after being cut up for a recipe.  Salad keeps longer if you open the bag and put a paper towel in it.  Celery stays crunchy for several days wrapped in foil rather than plastic.  Canned and frozen vegetables work in recipes that call for fresh, although I suggest using fresh whenever possible.  Get your family involved in the prep as much as you can, and finally, enjoy the menu planning process as much as you can.  It may sound like a lot of work, but I assure you that the time you invest pays huge dividends.  Before you know it, you’ll have more money to spend, more time to enjoy your family and most important, you’ll have an answer to the age old question, “Mom!  What’s for dinner?”

 To learn more

If you are in the Greater Cincinnati area and would like to learn more, join me Saturday May 13th from 2-4pm at the Erlanger branch of the Kenton County library for their “How to Adult” fair.  I’ll be sharing more meal planning tips and giving away a list of Go To meals with recipes.  As always, if you’ve enjoyed reading this, please share it and join in the fun by subscribing to the blog and following us on Facebook and Twitter.  Thanks for being you and have a great day!

The 30 Day “All In” Challenge

Me when confronted with tech challenges

 

Do you ever have a moment when you just hate yourself?  I’m taking a course to improve my blog, and I’m confronting some things I hate about myself right now.  I hate that I’m tech challenged.  I hate feeling stupid.  I hate being afraid that the writing career I want so badly might not happen.  I hate that I’ve written three books and still don’t feel like a writer.  I hate that I’ve been blogging for seven years, and it’s still just a hobby.  I hate that I set a goal to launch a new blog on May 1st and I don’t feel ready to do that.  Most of all, I hate that feeling like this makes me want to run to the pantry and eat every chip, pretzel and salty, crunchy snack so I don’t have to feel like this anymore, at least until I get on the scale in the morning.  It’s amazing how bad we can make ourselves feel sometimes.

 

Stock photo because I don’t know any perfect women.

What I want is to be one of those women who appear to be incredibly put together; thin, beautiful, fit, excellent at their profession, amazing mothers and adored by friends, family and co-workers.   They are women who seem to have it all, and I want to be one of them.  Instead, I’m an overweight mother of three almost grown children who is struggling to make blogging a career, keep up with my home and family and keep my sanity at the same time.  You know, this could turn into quite the pity party if I let it, and for a little while I did because sometimes we need to vent.  We need to let our insecurities bubble up, so we can confront them and find out what is true and what story we’re replaying to keep us stuck in garbage thinking mode.  I don’t know about you, but I detest garbage thinking mode and the self-sabotaging it can lead to.

 

Chips don’t judge. They don’t help with tech issues either.

So, here’s what I did.  I got some chips out of the pantry and reminded myself that I could eat them if I choose, or I could remember that my son’s wedding is in three and a half months and choose to let the chips go unopened, which I did.  I remembered the spiritual workbook journey I started this week; the one I’ve done two other times and how amazed I was when I looked at the goals I set two and four years ago and how many we achieved.  Because I’m a person of faith, I thought if the Divine brings me to a challenge, there’s most certainly a way through it, and that way is rarely a straight path.  Most importantly, I reminded myself that those women I aspire to be like may have challenges of their own I know nothing about, and even if they don’t, their life lessons are not mine, so it’s best to leave them alone because my journey is not near as bad as garbage thinking mode wants me to think it is.

Combining tech and old school and constantly learning.

While I’m not near as tech savvy as I want to be, I have contacts that are quite tech savvy and are willing to help when I need them.  I have a clear enough voice that I have written three books and several blog posts that can help me create valuable content for my readers.  I have friends and family that love me, sometimes more than I love myself.  And I’m currently taking a blog course that is challenging me to face my insecurities so that I can be a more successful writer.  When I started this blog post, I thought I hated myself.  What I’ve come to learn is that I don’t hate myself.  Rather, I’ve been given multiple ways to improve myself through this challenging course, but it was easier to hate myself and those successful people rather than face the challenge of learning and growing.  So, I’ve issued a 30 day challenge to myself, and I’m inviting you to join me.  We all have things in our life that, if we did them, would empower us to live better.  Maybe you have a closet to clean out.  Maybe you have stacks of paper to file or shred.  Maybe you have photos to organize, a garage to clean out, a garden to plan and plant or a book to write.  Whatever it is, you know if you follow through you will be thrilled to accomplish it and a huge weight would disappear from your life.  I have several areas I would like to improve; one current and one future blog, a body to get more fit, photos to organize and a garden to plant.  There are more, but that will happen in another challenge.

Years of pictures waiting to be organized

I learned about this challenge from Lucrecer Braxton at a social media seminar by Dooley Media.  Lucrecer said that if you will go “all in” for 30 days, you will amaze yourself with what you can create and how you can grow in those 30 days.  She admitted it wouldn’t be easy, but assured us it would definitely be worth it, so I’m counting on that and diving in.  Where could you be in 30 days?  I invite you to find out.  Even if you spend a mere fifteen minutes per day, in 30 days you will have invested over seven hours into improving your life, and I am willing to bet you will feel very good about yourself.  If you follow Where Karen Goes on Facebook, I’ll post about progress there and will update with blog posts too.  Are you willing to join me and see how much you can accomplish in 30 days?  Are you willing to try even if there are days that you might miss?  Are you willing to change your life for a minimum of fifteen minutes per day?  I am, and would love to have you join me to go “all in” for the next 30 days.  Leave a comment to share how you will challenge yourself, and as always, thanks for being you and have a great day. 

 

This could be a metaphor for my writing career too.

 

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The Theme and Inspiration of the Day

This week I’ve been participating in an online productivity course, and while I knew several of the steps and strategies, I gained a few new goodies for my own productivity journey.  I’ve been a goal setter for some time.  I use affirmations; I know some people scoff at them, but they help me so I use them, scoff away!  I’ve had all manner of successes and failures, and know there is so much more to learn.  One of the best things I learned in this course is about having a theme and inspiration for each day.  While that may sound silly to some people, it was a revelation to me.  The other thing that was a revelation was breaking down what your day is worth depending upon the income you would like to generate.  Holy cow!  That will get you thinking.

 

Look at it this way (and I am trusting the math of the course here):  If you want to make $100,000 with weekends off and six weeks of vacation, and who doesn’t want that, each day of the 231 days of the year that you work is worth $432.90 or $54.11 per hour.  Whoa!  As a stay at home mom, I haven’t been paid an hourly wage in over two decades.  To think of my time as being worth over $50 per hour is eye opening, and while it might take some time to break a few old habits, it makes watching TV and wasting time other ways look much less appealing.  This week has been about finishing this course before I head out of town for a few days but still having time to spend with my family and getting our home in order.  I know my family can take care of themselves, but I love coming home to clean towels and sheets and a kitchen table without piles, so it’s a gift to me more than it is my family. 

 

If you follow this blog regularly, you know I’m also involved in a creativity boot camp this month, so every day has a built in theme while that is going on, and it amazes me how the boot camp changes my perspective each and every time I participate.  I begin to see possibilities everywhere to be more creative.  At some point in each boot camp, I’m inspired to cook.  This boot camp, I’ve tried several new recipes that have been a hit with my family, the jambalaya pasta, not so much.  I’ve made yogurt and bread from the leftover whey of the yogurt making process, and we are only nine days in.  Fortunately or unfortunately for my family, I’ll be gone for a bit, so the crazed cooking will subside for a while.  I’ve given myself a pedicure for my trip and used a new lavender polish which is out of my nail color comfort zone, and I’ve written a piece of flash fiction that I could not and would not have written before joining these boot camps.  Each boot camp pushes me further creatively and gives me new perspective from the new and seasoned participants, and that is where I find the joy.

 

Both the productivity course and the boot camps change my perspective, and I think we all need that from time to time.  Sometimes it’s informative and creative like the things I’m participating in right now.  Sometimes it shifts your perceptions like some of my upcoming travel will most assuredly do.  Sometimes it breaks you wide open like a friend of mine who is mourning the passing of a loved one and is realizing how much more compassionate she will be toward others in the future who lose a loved one.  Hopefully it inspires you to stop, take a breath and reset yourself regardless, and maybe, just maybe, you’ll stop and smell the roses or just admire the daffodils and crocus or make a loaf of bread.

Homemade rolls made from the leftover whey of the homemade ygourt

 

So where are you stuck right now?  What seems old and mundane?  Is it your routine?  Are you in a rut?  Find a book, a course or someone to talk to that can inject some new life into your old ways.  Find a mentor, a new church to attend, go dancing or eat a cuisine you’ve never tried before.  It doesn’t have to be big, just different, and you may find yourself with a new perspective, a new theme and some new inspiration in your own life.  Give it a try and let me know how it goes.

 

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Going All In For Lent

March 2017 coming in like a lion

This has been an interesting week, and we’re only halfway through.  Over the weekend, we found out our youngest son, who has been struggling in school has slipped further.  Monday brought a meeting that challenged those of us who write, blog and do video to go “all in” for our profession and see where that takes us.  Tuesday was a lovely Fat Tuesday lunch with my sister in law and mini celebration with my family, which brings us to today.  Today begins a new month, a creativity bootcamp and Lent.  For me, this is like the holy trinity of new energy.  I love each of these events for the promise of positive energy and a clean slate of sorts, so of course I woke up with a headache.  I decided to sleep in, which is rare for me, but about 30 minutes later the thunder, lightning and hail jolted me awake, and I knew there was no going back to sleep.  Luckily the headache was gone, so I sat down and began to organize myself to go all in creatively for the two week bootcamp and beyond when my husband texted me that there was some water in one corner of the basement but not to worry about it.  Being the type that likes to see things for myself, I headed down to take a look and found water in all four corners of the basement, and I felt so defeated in that moment, I nearly gave up on the day, the bootcamp and my writing career.  I know, it sounds dramatic, but I wanted this day to be perfect and so far, it looked like the Divine was telling me in no uncertain terms that the drudgery of life was going to be the focus rather than the joy of creating.  This is not good for a person who lives to create.

 

Hail on my north facing covered porch

You see, I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was 12, and I am a writer.  I wanted to write and publish books and I have, but I’ve never made a career out of writing.  I’ve made a career out of being a wife and mother and household manager, and I’ve loved it, but something else is calling to me now.  I still want to be all those things, and while many are longing to wrap up their paid careers, I’m looking to dive into mine, but every time I make a commitment to move forward, I feel like something drags me back, whether it’s my son needing help with his academics, the basement flooding or even keeping up with the housework, something always seems to be pulling me away from the writing.  This morning I was nearly ready to give up, but the pictures that go with this post tell the story of today and illustrate the stories we sometimes see and don’t understand as well as the ones we tell ourselves that might not be as true as we think they are.  Follow along and see what you think.

 

The first picture in this post shows the torrential downpour of the storm that jolted me awake.  The second and third are the hail on my porch, and I couldn’t bring myself to take pictures of the water in my basement.  I got pretty wound up in my pity party and was ready to throw in the proverbial towel for the creativity bootcamp even though it hadn’t started yet.  Fortunately, I have this amazing husband that talks me off the edge in these situations.  He reminded me that my writing is important, not financially yet, but to my overall well-being, “so write,” he said.  It wasn’t his permission that I needed.  It was his perspective.  I was willing to throw away the things that give me joy to face my perceived obligations, which would have made my mood worse and the stumbling blocks look bigger than they were.  It’s just a little water, and it’s an inconvenience, so there it stays until the fans in the basement help dry it up.

 

The second set of pictures involves my breakfast.  In the creativity bootcamp, we are supposed to create every day and share with the group.  I figured that even if I couldn’t get something written, I could create a beautiful breakfast plate for myself on this meatless Ash Wednesday.  I know the breakfast is a bit unconventional, but if you know me, that’s no surprise, and I am proud of the meal I created.  I am more proud that I managed to add a bit of parsley to ramp up the visual appeal, a little thing, but creatively it means growth in my photography skills.  I framed the plate and placemat to look as beautiful as I could and snapped the picture.  I like the way it turned out, but the best part happened when I sat down to eat.  I started laughing because while I’m happy with the beautiful breakfast picture, it’s part of a larger story of the mess on my kitchen table and the chaos in my life.  It doesn’t tell the story of my life.  It tells the story of an intentionally created breakfast, and it’s a tiny piece of my life, but if you only looked at that plate, you might think everything in my life was perfectly peachy and it isn’t, so I decided to show the whole scene, and I am proud of that as well because social media can be such a mind trip that only shows the breakfast plate rather than the whole table, and we don’t even get a glimpse of the basement.  This is how some people live their lives as well.  They put on the perfect façade and won’t let anyone see the messes.  Others parade the messes and forget to look for the perfection, when in truth, most of us, not all, are somewhere in between.  So, here I sit, writing a blog post instead of cleaning my basement, taking a shower, cleaning my house or even going to the grocery for some much needed supplies (we’re using the travel shampoo bottles y’all).  We made it through this morning’s storms, and as I was writing, the sun came out and I stopped to take a picture of the beautiful blue sky, with the fallen limbs and the neighbor’s work truck cropped out.

 

I’m figuring out that going “all in” for March, creativity bootcamp and Lent isn’t about doing anything perfectly.  It’s about doing the things that matter most and figuring out exactly what matters most in any given minute.  I’m reminded of the Zig Ziglar quote that if you keep doing what you’ve been doing, you’ll keep getting what you’ve been getting, so I’m doing things differently this month. I’ll be creating every day and posting as much as I can, and if I’m not perfect, I’ll forgive myself, but I’ll also hold myself to making my best effort every day and seeing where that will take me.  While that may not make sense to some, I know it will make perfect sense to my fellow creatives.  If you’ve enjoyed this post, please share it with your friends, follow the Facebook pages or join me on Twitter or Instagram, and as always, thanks for being you and have a great day.

When You Hate February

For most of my adult life I’ve hated the month of February.  I don’t use the word hate often because there is very little in this life I hate, but I really have hated  this month with the possible exception of Valentine’s Day.  Why?  I used to think it was because of the weather, the part of the country I lived in. anything but my own biology, until I found out about SAD (seasonal affective disorder).  It used to be quite frustrating to feel the downward spiral and not know what to do about it.  I could feel the sadness and depression coming, and it felt like there wasn’t a thing I could do about it other than hang on for dear life until spring came.  Spring seemed to be the magic elixir for all my ills, so I learned to hate the times I felt like my emotions and mental health were out of my control aka February.  In March things always took a turn for the better because we celebrated two of my sons’ birthdays, we had basketball tournaments which got the adrenaline pumping and there’s March madness.  For this basketball loving mom, it was exactly what I needed to pull me out of my yearly funk.

 

As the years have passed, I learned that there are several ways to cope with the downward spiral and occasionally avoid it all together.  Before I had children, I nearly always vacationed in February where it was sunny and warm.  Those trips did wonders to ward off the seasonal blues and carry me through to spring.  After the kids came and started school, the February vacations stopped and the blues got worse, then I found out about vitamin D.  Apparently, those of us who live in the northern hemisphere tend to be deficient in that particular vitamin, and some call it sunshine in a bottle so I tried it.  It helped.  Then I upped the dose, and it helped more.  February became bearable, and I was so very grateful.

My light box sitting on my kitchen table

 

 

A couple of years ago, I learned about light therapy and how sitting in front of a full spectrum light could help with SAD, and thanks to the greatest husband ever, I got a full spectrum light box as a Christmas gift.  Now I understand that some women would be insulted by a gift like that because they told me they would, but I was delighted.  To me, that meant that my husband not only believed that what I experienced was real, he was willing to do what he could to help me, and he did help me.  I use that light box nearly every day in February, especially when the days of gray and dreariness seem to go on without end.  That box along with yoga, meditation and everything else I’ve mentioned not only make the month bearable, they make it possible for me to shine.

Two of these books are the result of That Curious Love of Green’s Creativity Bootcamps

 

Last year during February, I felt good enough to take part in a creativity bootcamp which boosted my spirits even more.  I didn’t finish the manuscript I was working on but in addition to writing, I colored, sketched and painted, things I hadn’t done since I was a child.  Truth be told, most of it looked pretty childish but it stretched my creative muscles and brought me great joy.  I actually enjoyed February.  Yay!

This year there is no creativity bootcamp, and over the past couple of weeks, I could feel the downward spiral coming.  Add a little family drama, and it is amazing how quickly the darkness can descend, but I learned something from last year’s bootcamp.  I learned the value of having something to do that engages me in a different way than I’m used to.  This month, I began a 60 day spiritual journaling journey.  Each day presents a new question to ponder that is designed to help you think about your life and where you would like it to go.  It feels like a perfect winter activity and reminds me that while the weather looks dim and the plants may look dead, there is still so much activity going on underneath the surface just waiting for spring.  I feel that way too.  I’m writing more than I have in a while, but most of it will never be published because it’s personal and only for me.  When the funk lifts, I know there will be a burst of activity and it will be beautiful, exactly like the spring flowers I love so much.  It keeps me going and helps me to be gentle with myself on the days that life seems more difficult, and it gets me through to days like today that are brilliantly sunny even though it’s snowy, cold and windy.

 

 For those of you that struggle this time of year, I encourage you to find your own place of joy.  If you’re a physical person, exercise a bit longer.  Go dancing or walk at the mall if the weather’s bad.  If you’re an emotional person, watch a few feel good movies where the good guys/girls win, or if you’re a Disney lover like me, watch any of their movies and remember the first time you watched them.  If you’re a spiritual person, find a new path to explore and see what new revelations come to you.  Bake for someone.  Send a thinking of you note to a friend.  The options are endless, and occasionally take a day to do nothing if you need the rest.  Taking a day of rest is still the most difficult for me.  I’m a doer and mover, and it’s my nature to push through whatever is bothering me, but sometimes the best response is to rest, to allow yourself a day of downtime even if you have a million things on your to-do list, especially if that to-do list is getting longer and your list of accomplishments is getting shorter.  Give yourself a “me” day and you might find that the next day you’ve found the person you’ve been looking for.  Even if you don’t, you might feel better just from the break.  In any case, it is my privilege to share what I write with you, and I thank you for reading.  I also than you for being you and wish you a great day.

Kitchen Tables and Colonoscopies

 

It happened again.  The pattern repeated itself, and I found myself with a cluttered kitchen table once more.  I wasn’t sure what to write about last week because there is so much going through my mind; parenting, my journey to better health, where I want to go with my writing, keeping up with the house, the economy, the inauguration, how angry the world seems to be about our political situation.  As a writer, there is no lack of subject matter, and I wonder if this table theme has been overdone, but I also wonder how many people have a pattern like this in their own lives, a recurring pile or mess that signals the need to address something beyond the mess.

 

I first wrote about my kitchen table five years ago last week.  I posted a picture of my beautifully clean table with a lovely bamboo plant on it and seeing that picture makes me smile.  The picture above is a picture of what my table looked like as of a week ago, not a pretty site, but seeing the memory helped me decide the direction of that day and several after.  When I finally dove into the pile that had been building over several days, I knew it would be more than just a clearing of the decks physically.  It always has been and this mess was no exception.

 

Last week I found out our former high school principal died.  He was involved in a terrible car accident that left him with spinal cord damage and paralysis.  While in the hospital, they found a malignant tumor on his kidney and removed the kidney.  He died of complications from the surgery leaving a wife and eight children with no husband/father.  This was a kind man, a good man, and I struggle when kind and good people suffer so greatly.  It also gives me great pause when a father leaves a family behind, and a woman is left to raise her children alone, and since my own father was dying of kidney cancer when he was my age, it strikes an even deeper chord.  Even more poignant for me was facing my first age related procedure this week, the dreaded colonoscopy.  To say I was on edge would be putting it mildly, but I have a history of colon cancer in my family.  My grandmother died of colon cancer.  She also suffered a severe depression after my grandfather died and barely left the house for a couple of years.  She even told my mom, after reading an article on how the state of our mind is connected to the state of our health, she thought her depression might have contributed to her getting cancer.   So, I’m dealing with some personal demons on the subject of mortality and how I want to live what’s left of my life, not that I’m planning to leave anytime soon, but who knows when that is?

 

I think everyone wants to live a life that matters, but I think what matters is different for everyone.  Anyone who knows me is aware that being the best wife and mother I can be tops my list.  This year, I’ll be adding mother-in-law to that list, and I have a great role model to follow for that.  I only hope that I can be as wonderful to my future daughter in loves (yes, that’s what I call them) as my mother in law has been to me.  I have also made having a nice home a priority.  I’ve never been a fan of housework, but I see the blessing of having a home that is clean and tidy.  I think better and sleep better when the house isn’t in chaos, which may be why I’m struggling right now (that damned table again), and then there’s the writing.

 

There was a day I hesitated to call myself a writer because I wasn’t making a living from it, and now that makes me laugh.  I’ve written three books, one about parenting, one about motherhood and one about the holidays.  I love those books, and I am proud of them because each one was a triumph in some way.  I also love blogging because I think many of us go through similar situations and knowing how someone else deals with life can help us deal with things better as well. Writing also focuses my wandering mind because when I write, I let the muse take over and see where the words take me.  I know that may sound strange to others who don’t write, but I liken it to being “in the zone” for an athlete, in the creative flow for an artist or getting lost in a book for those who read.  I love the feeling of it and sometimes I am as surprised as anyone where it leads.  This past week it led to my kitchen table, a task I was sure would be done in a day, but is still lingering a week later.

 

I spent several days going through paperwork and facing things.  I called to make appointments.  I wrote checks.  I did holiday follow up and pushed through procrastination.  I also faced real fear about the procedure that was approaching and what the doctor might find.  My head knows that I live a healthier life than my grandmother and father, but my imagination can get the best of me.  I don’t fear death, although how my family suffered through cancer is seared into my memory.  But I have so much more living to do, and this is the part of mortality that I’ve learned to use to my advantage.  Because I know that life can throw you a curve ball at any moment, I’ve learned to say “the heck with it” and follow my dreams, but that journey isn’t a smooth, straight path.  It is windy, steep and curvy with underbrush of all kinds.  It’s paperwork and bills to pay and fear of being sick, but it’s also transatlantic video chats and collaborations with people who make my heart sing.  It’s progress rather than perfection.  It’s living each day with as much meaning as you can.  It’s letting the almost clear table be good enough.  It’s sharing the struggle in a week late blog post, and it’s encouraging everyone to see that every obstacle can lead you to your next best place.  For me, that was getting a clean bill of health, brainstorming for my next book and finishing this post.  None of it changes the world at large, but it changes my corner of it and inspires me to keep chasing my dreams.  Trust me, it’s a great way to live, and I hope you’ll join me by chasing your own dreams, whatever they might be and as always, thanks for being you and have a great day.

 

Carrie Fisher, Badassery and 2017

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know that Carrie Fisher passed this week at the age of 60.  The best tribute I saw talked about how her character in the Star Wars franchise evolved from a princess who lost her family and her entire planet into a general who lost her brother who disappeared, her son to the dark side and her husband to patricide, yet she still did what was right in every situation.  In her real life, she was no less of a warrior.  She stepped out of the shadow of her very famous mother and risked offending everyone in Hollywood by showing the darker side of her life growing up.  In essence, she unmasked one of the darlings of Hollywood as a less than perfect mother and human being.  As if that wasn’t enough, she admitted and talked candidly about her mental illness when it was hugely unpopular to do so and still kept her razor sharp wit and sense of humor through all of it.  In every sense of the word, Carrie Fisher was a badass woman who lived life on her own terms, and it wasn’t until she died that I knew she did most of it scared.

 

I’ve told several people, and I’ve written on occasion about how magical it was for me turning 50.  I know people have read the quotes about not caring what others think of them, and those quotes often come off as nasty or bitter, but at 50 I began to understand them on a different level.  It wasn’t that I cared less about anyone when I turned 50.  I honestly began to care more about people.  Somehow, though, I  began to care less about what people thought of me and how they perceived me, and I began to care more about how I felt about the way I lived.  I still wanted to be a great mom and wife, but the desire to be a better citizen of the world took hold too.  I had volunteered most of my adult life in my children’s schools and while it was fulfilling, there seemed to be something more calling to me.  I knew I couldn’t end homelessness, but because I was driving by homeless people regularly, I began to carry bags of supplies that could provide a bit of comfort.  I cannot stop child abuse, child hunger or childhood disease, but I can treat every child as if they matter, because they do.  My greatest thrill on Christmas Eve this year was when one of my great nieces who had never even given me a hug climbed in my lap because I told her she could take pictures with my camera, my rather expensive camera.  She and her sister spent the next ten minutes taking silly pictures, some of which I’m sharing here.  They didn’t want to leave when their mom said it was time to go and only agreed when I promised I would see them soon, and I would bring my camera with me.

 
Most of the people who read my blog know I’ve published a few books.  I am proud of each of them in a different way; the first because I actually wrote it, the second because motherhood has been my passion and the third because it has set me on a journey I love living nearly every day.  I am learning and growing as much now as I have at any time in my life, and I’ve learned to do it scared.  I was out of the workforce for over two decades and others know so much more about technology than I do.  I’ve written all my life but never knew if I was any good because no one in my family thought writing was much of a career so I mostly kept it to myself.  I’m overweight.  I have paralysis on my face from Bell’s palsy.  One of these things is enough to scare me.  All of them can be downright terrifying, but there is so much fuel for my fire as well.  You see, my father died at age 54, and three of my grandparents died at age 65 or younger.  I live a much healthier life than any of them, but it’s a reminder that time may be short, so why waste it?  I have friends and family who have life threatening medical conditions who could be fine one day and gone the next, kind of like Carrie Fisher, so I do my best to spend as little time complaining as possible.  Instead I do what I can to make the planet a better place through the words I put on a page and actions I put into the world.

 

Photo credit tripadvisor.com
I think one of the greatest gifts a person can receive is the understanding of how incredibly important and unimportant each of us is.  As a parent to a small child, you are someone’s world.  That child could not survive without you or someone like you to raise it.  If you’re a nursing mother, your body is so incredible that your breastmilk changes as the needs of your baby changes.  In your little part of the world, you are nearly indispensable, but go on a cruise or fly over the ocean and you realize an hour or two after you lose sight of land how small and insignificant you are in the giant tapestry of life.  It doesn’t mean you’re unimportant, not at all.  The Mona Lisa would not be the same painting if even one brush stroke was different, but one brush stroke does not make the Mona Lisa.  It’s a conundrum for sure, but here’s something that isn’t a conundrum for me – our time on this Earth is limited.  None of us knows the day or time we will be leaving this life, and I want to be one who lives fully.

 

So as this year of 2016, the one many never want to speak of again, winds down, I do not mourn the passing of Carrie Fisher.  I celebrate the kickass life that she led.  I intend to carry her spirit forward and be as brave and determined as I can be and honor her in every way that I can.  I’ll do it scared.  I’ll do it to the best of my ability.  I’ll do it without excuse because if a mentally ill, abused child can grow up to be the icon for a generation of women, what is my excuse?  Sail upon the stars Princess Leia.  Lead on General Organa. Come along dear reader and do the thing that you desire most.  Take the leap to the better life you secretly want to live.  Write the book.  Take the trip.  Go for the new job, or just love everybody the best you can.  Start little if you must, but start and then keep going.   Let’s do this thing we call 2017 and may the force be with us all.  As always, thanks for being you and have a great day.