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.
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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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.
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 Facebookpages or join me on Twitter or Instagram, and as always, thanks for being you and have a great day.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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, Ibegan 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.
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.
Inspiration can come from the most interesting places.This week I was inspired to live better by an article about dying.This was an article in the New York Times Magazine about a man who runs a small hospice in San Francisco and wants to change the way we go about dying.This is when I love the internet.I live in the Midwest, and I’m reading an article from a New York City newspaper about a man in San Francisco.This would not happen for me without the internet.I wouldn’t have looked for something like this, but here’s the kicker, it was posted by a Facebook friend of mine who lives in Australia.How amazingly cool is that?So what’s the big deal about an article called One Man’s Quest to Change the Way We Die?The big deal is that every article you read about the dying seems to say one thing.The biggest regrets of the dying are the moments they missed to truly live.The dying get very clear very quickly about what is important, and if they have time, they learn to live every moment as fully as they can.This article is no exception.It tells the story of BJ Miller, a doctor and triple amputee, who founded Zen Hospice that helps people live their last days the best they can.It also tells the story of a young man who travels through Zen Hospice and how the staff helps him live every on of his last days.It was all interesting, but at the end of the article I read a sentence that gave me chills and made the hair on the back of my neck stand up.It basically said that when people know they are dying, they often get very good at keeping what is meaningful to them and letting go of the rest.I don’t know about you but that hits me right between the eyes.
How many times do we fret over things that do not matter in the grand scheme of life?I have worried about bad hair days, badly prepared dinners, whether someone likes me or that stupid thing I said.I’ve worried about paying a bill, how clean my house is, how other people feel about my children, my marriage and my life, and you know what?None of it matters.None of it is meaningful, and I’m learning to let it go.At another time in my life, this might not have been so profound, but this year, I will turn 54, the age my dad was when he died.Now, I’m not planning to die anytime soon, but reaching the age that one of your parents died gives you pause.It hints at your mortality, and if you’re lucky, it gives you courage especially if you have watched someone leave this world that lived much less than they could.There is so much I could say about my dad’s passing, and I’ve shared before that his cancer was a gift to both of us.It gave us time to talk and to heal from years of anger and hurt, and when he passed, we were at peace, but there was so much of his life he forgot to live, and it has helped me to follow my dreams of writing, blogging, traveling and spending as much time with my children as possible.It has helped me live without regret on many levels and keep reaching for more.
So what would your life look like if you focused on what was meaningful and let the rest go?If you have a family, can you see having a meal together, doing laundry or cleaning as sacred work?If not, can you find a way to get that done so you can do something more meaningful to you?In my case, it means the TV is off more which gives me time to write, connect with others and just be.I am still working on getting enough rest, but I’ve recently brought yoga back into my life, and it has helped me so much.My meaningful life looks pretty much like this:I spend time journaling and getting myself centered and spiritually prepared each morning after sending my family off to school and work.I spend an hour or so taking care of our home, practicing yoga and planning my day.On days that I’m home that usually means some extra effort on writing and taking care of our space.On days I have commitments outside the house, that usually means adding some errands to my day.Afternoons are for connecting with my youngest and getting him squared away academically and otherwise and for making dinner.Evenings are the area that have changed the most for me lately because they’ve gone from being wasted hours in front of the TV to an opportunity to make progress on something that improves our lives in some way.We have small and large projects that never seem to get accomplished and this year we have a plan to make that happen, not by spending hours, but by spending a few minutes daily and weekly making a difference.We have no lofty ideas of spending our evening hours doing major projects every night because we understand burnout, but we can commit to 15 minutes to make a difference by installing a showerhead, putting up a blind or two or decluttering the office.I love the saying that people overestimate what they can do in a day and underestimate what they can do in a year.We are setting our sights on a year and seeing where that leads.
Consistency is a beautiful thing, but for most of us, a missed day or two can derail everything. I know this from my own experience.It’s so easy to give up and so hard to get back to it sometimes.I know people who have worked out for over 365 days in a row and that impresses me, but what impresses me more is the video I saw of a man named Arthur who was a paratrooper in Desert Storm and as a result of his injuries and weight gain couldn’t walk without assistance. He accepted his fate until he found a yoga instructor who helped him get healthy with yoga.I don’t know if Arthur did yoga every day.That wasn’t the point. What was impressive was that Arthur couldn’t even stand unaided at the beginning, but he decided to see how far he could go at his own pace and he amazed himself and everyone around him.That’s how I want my life to be.No matter where I start, I want to keep moving forward and keep making a positive difference as much as I can.Right now that positive difference if focused more on my family and myself, but that time focused on my family will be over soon.My boys will grow up and have families of their own, and my husband assures me that he will be happy to become my assistant when I make more money than he does so he can retire from his current job and we can travel the world together.
There is one more thing that I think is imperative to create a meaningful life and letting the rest go, and that is having a dream or maybe even more than one to keep you going.I have accomplished some of my dreams and some are still out there waiting.I’ve written books, but there are more books to write.I’ve traveled but there is more to see.I’ve worked at a job I love but there is more work and more fun to be had.This year, a group of creative folks I admire are planning to meet in Ireland in October.I want to go very much.If I make it there, I desperately want to make a trip over to England to meet with some folks I’ve been online friends with for a very long time.To get there I need to save a substantial amount of money, but it’s amazing what I can say no to when I ask if it’s worth giving up Ireland to have this item.It isn’t about earning it.It’s about what is meaningful to my life and travel has always been meaningful for me.Learning about others’ lifestyles and seeing new cultures is a joy for me.Sometimes it makes me uncomfortable because I learn how others perceive our nation or even my part of the nation in a negative way, but it also gives me the opportunity to share a different side of what people think they know and learn from them at the same time.In this time of turmoil, I find that type of bridge building to be our greatest hope. I love that all of these thoughts about living come from an article about dying. I love that a man who nearly lost his life uses his gifts to help those who are dying. I mostly love that because of him and the article, I will find more meaning in my life, and I will be able to let the meaningless things go. That, to me, is an amazing way to live. I hope you are inspired to find meaning in your life. I hope you can let go of those things that have no meaning to you. I hope you live well every day of your life and as always, I thank you for being you and wish you a great day.
Sometimes you sit down at the keyboard, and the words just flow.Sometimes you sit down, and you feel like you are fighting for every idea.Sometimes, you plan all day to sit down to write your blog post ahead of time, and every time you do sit, something else takes your attention, or you finally sit down to write and it’s all a bunch of crap.That’s what happened to me this week.It’s my first blog post of the year, so I want it to be good.Ok, I want them all to be good, but there’s something about the first one that feels like it sets the tone for the year.We have a tradition in our marriage that my husband and I have dinner together on or around New Year’s Eve every year.The purpose of the dinner is to talk about the year that has passed and to set our intentions and direction for the next year.It includes discussions about finances, our health, our children and our home among other things.Some things require lists, like the items each of us would like to address with our home.This weekend that will include new weather stripping for our storm doors, new blinds in the office and a new showerhead in our main bathroom.Those things are mundane and yet they will each improve our lives in some way.We also talk about more fun things like travel, our son’s upcoming wedding, another son’s plans to co-op out of state and our youngest being a senior in high school in the fall.It gives us perspective and direction to have these dinners, and sometime shortly after that, we have a family meeting and talk about things with our children as well.We find that if the kids know we are saving for a trip, they are often more likely to remind us to save our money, even when we are looking to buy something for them.It’s pretty cool when the family is all heading the same direction and working toward the same goals, intentions or shared wants.
One of the most powerful life lessons I’ve learned is defining what you want.Now, I know people think they know what they want, but they tend to get a bit muddled in the process of figuring it out.The first thing that gets them muddled is focusing on what they don’t want.How many times have you heard a parent tell a child to stop running?When we tell someone to stop doing something, that person has to think of the undesired behavior before they can think of the desired behavior.What do you really want?You want your child to walk, so tell then to do that.Yes, you may still have to tell them dozens of times, but you turn them toward the desired behavior instead of the undesired.The same goes for how you talk to yourself.How many times have you made a list, only to beat yourself up mentally and emotionally because you didn’t complete it?How many times have you called yourself stupid or lazy or referred to yourself as an idiot either silently or out loud?Whose voice is that?Whose words are those?Listen to small children.They never talk about themselves that way.Someone has to teach them that, and if you can learn to belittle yourself, you can also learn to build yourself up.How does it feel to think about complimenting yourself and building yourself up?I first started doing this with an exercise that called for looking at yourself in the mirror and saying “I love you” to your reflection.I had never heard of anything so ridiculous in my life.I wondered what kind of egomaniac does such a thing?I couldn’t do it, but I could look at myself and criticize every little thing that I thought was wrong with me.I could criticize my physical features, who I thought I was and how stupid the exercise seemed.Isn’t it interesting how easily the negativity came and how difficult it was to simply say I loved myself?It seemed so wrong somehow, so I just smiled at myself instead and it helped.Not long after that, I read a quote by Marianne Williamson that said, “Our deepest fear is not that we’re inadequate.Our deepest fear is that we’re powerful beyond all measure.”It made me laugh because I had been told most of my life that I was too much for most people, so I had spent years toning myself down.That quote changed my life, not in that form, but when I read the rest of it, which I’ve included here.
It blew me away that I could actually shine and be proud of it.It empowered me to become who I am today, to blog, to write books and even to love who I am.You see, so many of us have learned to dismiss our talents and gifts instead of celebrating them, especially if we’re creative.We make something or write something and someone compliments us and we point out every way we could have done it better.Better yet, we say it was easier than they think or anyone could do it.Do you know what you do when you respond this way?You insult the person who complimented you.You insult yourself, and if you believe in a higher power, you insult the higher power and the talent bestowed upon you.One of the most difficult things I ever learned was to learn to say thank you when someone told me my work touched them in some way.The irony is that I write to share my perspective about life because what I look for every day is a way to live better, yet when people had their own epiphany, I would deflect their appreciation.How ridiculous is that?Please understand that I am not some egomaniac that thinks I have all the answers, but in the realm of gifts, writing happens to be one of mine.I write every day, and I am so very grateful for this particular gift but learning to accept praise for it was a struggle until I got clear about what I wanted from my writing, especially as it relates to the quote above.Who am I to belittle this gift and play small with it?So, I stopped.I decided that I would write books because I was inspired to do so.I would write blog posts about life and what I’ve learned.I would create Facebook pages that hopefully inspire people to live a little better every day and know that they aren’t alone when they don’t, and it has been revolutionary.
My writing has helped me meet people online and in person from around the country and around the world who have enriched my perspective in many ways.I haven’t seen the financial success that some writers and bloggers have, but I have been rewarded in so many meaningful ways that I am awestruck with the magnitude of it, and this year has even more in store.This year I will be traveling to meet some kindred spirits in the US and hopefully abroad.I will travel and write and spend time with people I have come to care about deeply.This, to me, is an incredible life, but there is more than these tangible blessings.When I was younger, I was a jealous person.Whenever someone got something I wanted, I could not be happy for them.I could only wish for my own success, and I’m sure that I was less than gracious at times.I’m not proud of that because it robbed us both of joy, but when I learned to celebrate my own life and gifts, I learned to appreciate the lives and gifts of others and to find real happiness in their success even if they got something I wanted.To me, the real power of Marianne Williamson’s quote is that allowing ourselves to be everything we are born to be empowers and encourages others to do the same.How amazing is that?
Earlier this week, a swastika was painted on a sign at a rabbinical school in my city. I thought about sharing a picture of it, but I refuse to give it any more power than it already has. As you can imagine, there were many reactions, but the one that disturbs me the most is the one that blamed the act on the current political situation in my country because this isn’t a new thing.Racism exists everywhere and has existed for thousands of years.Fear exists everywhere and has existed for even longer, but here’s what happened in my hometown.People took a stand against what happened.People called the school to ask what they could do to help, not just people who were Jewish, but even schoolchildren who lived near the school who were of other faiths.The outpouring of positive was much bigger than the act of hate, and children helped lead the way.I don’t know about you, but this is the world I want to live in.These are the people I want to know more about.This is the news I want to read and share with the world; a bad thing happened and this is how people responded.We have made the news about all the bad that happens in our communities and around the world.Yes, there are bad things, but there are so many working to overcome those things.What if we highlight them and instead of inducing fear and panic, we begin to nurture empowerment, innovation and inspiration?That’s the news I want to see.It’s the news I seek and know is out there, and it’s the world I want to help nurture.
I hope this year, you allow yourself to shine and look for the light in others.I hope you do what you can to make the world a better place and empower others to do the same.I hope you complain less and create more.I hope you judge less and love more.I hope you fear less and live more, and if you do or know anyone else who does, I want to know about it, so please share.Comment on the blog post.Send me a message on Facebook or post on my Where Karen Goes page.Let’s make this the year that we decide we want better and find ways to make it happen.As always, thanks for being you and have a great day.
Update: Four years later, the only things that have changed are the ones concerning my children, unless you count the three books I’ve published and the reborn blog, which I do. My oldest is living in his first post college apartment with his fiancée. My middle will begin his first co-op job in January, and my youngest will be driving soon. As the sun sets on 2016, I still look at life pretty much the same way and hope I always will.
A Quick Look Back at 2012
There’s nothing like New Year’s Eve to inspire you to wax nostalgic over the past year’s events, and this year has been a doozy. For me, this has been a year of great change, great perspective shift and great blessings. I’ve weathered some of the changes better than others, but all in all, it’s been one heck of a good year.
The biggest change this year was in the area of motherhood for me. My oldest child graduated from high school and left to go away to college. Although he wouldn’t want me to say it, he reminds me a lot of myself at that age. He is doing well at college and finding his way to adulthood with little to no drama. He likes who he is and that is no small feat for a teenage male. My youngest child also entered junior high, so my days of parenting elementary aged children is over. I watch my nieces and nephews in the throes of raising infants, toddlers and elementary aged children and know it will be over quicker than they imagine. I enjoyed those days, and I look back with very few regrets, and that is a beautiful thing. The other big change for me was starting this blog. I was inspired by the father of a classmate of my oldest son who began a blog as he discovered he had cancer. He only lived a few months after his diagnosis, but his impact on my life is ever lasting. I began writing again, not just for myself, but for the public to read, and the joy I get from writing and sharing and learning is something I will continue to thank him for the rest of my life.
My change in perspective was the result of a dedication to spiritual growth this year. The process has been interesting, and for the first time in my life, I understand wisdom. I’ve always been a person who prized knowledge, and I still do, but now I understand that wisdom is so much more important than knowledge and when you have both, the result is pure bliss. I live and love better because of wisdom and I am grateful for the lessons I have learned and can teach because of this journey. The biggest shift was realizing that the life I have, although it’s far from perfect, is perfect for me.
Then there are the blessings. They are too many to count but there are a few worth sharing. We found out that our youngest child is one of the healthiest children in the city who has his life threatening medical condition. The term his doctor used was “rock star”. Who could ask for more than that? We were given a wonderful gift from a friend that blessed each of us. The friend wishes for the gift and the giver to remain anonymous, and I respect that, but I feel the need to publicly acknowledge that kindness because it was life altering and affirmed the goodness of humankind for us all. We are paying it forward in every way we can. There is also one more blessing that may sound strange to some, but it has been such a force for me that I have to talk about it and that is the internet. Because of the internet, I can share my thoughts and connect through this blog. Because of the internet and Facebook, I have connected with friends from my past and family across the country, and I’ve “met” people from around the world who care about and support each other in ways I never thought possible. Because of the internet, I have found positive and inspirational sites that have inspired me to become a better person. I know there is a lot of ugly and destructive material out there, but for me, the internet is a connection to what is best in this world, and I am blessed every day by its existence. There are many more people, events and things that have blessed my life this year, but there aren’t enough words to cover them all. Let’s just say, “My cup runneth over.”
I know that the “cup” is usually a metaphor, but in our home, we actually have blessing cups that my children made as part of their religious education. They made them just before they made their first communion. They are a symbol in the Catholic religion of the Holy Grail, the cup of Christ. Many children make them and never think about them again. In our home, we get them out a couple of times per year and fill them with chocolate milk, juice or water. We take turns going around the table to count our blessings. We also pray for blessings for others in our lives who may be struggling. It’s a small way to give back that gives us great pleasure.
So as we wind down the year and look to the next, I am grateful that the spirit and the internet have brought us into each other’s lives. I am grateful for words and the talent I’ve been given to use them. I’m grateful for my family, my friends and my life, and my wish for you is that your cup runneth over like mine so that we can bless others with our overflow. And if you’re lifting a glass at midnight tonight, I hope you’ll take a few seconds to not only be thankful for your own blessings, but also to pass a few on to those who need it. It’s a great way to end and begin a year. Thanks for being you and have a great day!
Tis the morning of Christmas, sort of, in my part of the world, and I’ve been debating whether or not to publish a post today. I say “sort of” because we’re having our Christmas celebration with my brother this evening because he heads back to his home in Florida tomorrow. Then we have a Christmas Eve celebration with my husband’s family, all 60-80 of them, on Christmas Eve for which we cook and bake and do massive preparation, not because we have to but because we choose to. We make beef barbecue, meatballs in sauce, little sausages in sauce, three kinds of cheeseballs and nearly 100 dozen cookies. My husband and I love to cook, so we’re happy to do this as a gift to my sister in law who hosts our family on Christmas Eve and her husband’s family on Christmas Day. Our Christmas Day will be different since we’re waiting to celebrate with our immediate family until December 27th because my oldest will be away on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. We will host a brunch for our mothers and have been invited two other places to share in the joy of the day, and we will go, with more goodies in hand. Did I mention that we like to cook? So, it’s busy in Bemmesland, but it’s mostly filled with joy, and that’s why I decided to post.
This has not been our easiest holiday season. Because of the release of Happiest Holidays, I did not do as much pre-planning as usual. We traveled to Florida for our son’s last Disney trip with his high school marching band, and we traveled this past weekend for my oldest son’s college graduation. I wasn’t as consistent as usual, and it’s showing because I’m usually ready by today, and this year I’m not. I have moments of overwhelm I haven’t felt in years, but the blessing in that is knowing that this holiday is not about whether my house is spotless, my food is perfect or even if I have all the right gifts. With one son who is moving to another city and who will be getting married next year, another son who plans to work away from home for the last quarter of the year and a third son, my baby, who will be graduating from high school in a year and a half, this holiday season is about enjoying each of them as much as I can and letting the rest be what it is. It doesn’t matter that the lights went out on the top third of the tree or that there are no wrapped gifts underneath. What does matter is spending time with the ones I love and hoping that other years when the calendar isn’t quite so busy, we’ll have time to get a tree that lights up fully and presents that are wrapped more than a few hours before they’re opened.
Today, we’ll be having a late dinner because my kids want to go to see Rogue One as a family. I thought about staying home and getting more accomplished, but then I thought about what I want their memories of this Christmas to be. I want them to be great memories of experiences we share and spending time together, not mom skipping out on the fun to do her work. I wonder how many times I’ve done that over the years, opted out of the fun because of self-imposed “shoulds” or “have tos” or “needs”. I caught myself doing that this morning. I should stay home and get the house in order. I should wrap more gifts. I should do some training for an upcoming job. If I choose any of those, what message am I sending to my family? I’m saying that a spotless home means more than time with them. I’m saying that the appearance of having it all together is more important that having memories with them. I would be doing the opposite of how I feel about the season and my family and how I want to live my life. So, again, why am I spending time on this blog post? I’m doing this to remind myself in years to come that I made the decisions that align with who I want to be, and maybe to inspire others to do the same.
It’s currently 11:30am in my part of the world and I have to be ready at 2:30pm. I will have this blog published by noon and will then have a quick lunch. I’ll take a shower and have my family help me with laundry, running the vacuum and clearing the tables. I’ll have my husband help me start the ham, and we will pre-fill the pans with water that the vegetables will cook in after we come home. I will finish the loaf of bread that is in the bread maker now and make another batch of dough if time allows, and I will go to see this movie with my family and enjoy every minute. If I remember, I’ll take a picture and post it to the Happiest Holidays Facebook page. If not, I’ll just enjoy the moment and will catch up with you all next week.
My wish for you this holiday season is to have the season you wish for yourself. Whether it’s joy or peace or contentment, I hope you get as much of it as you want. For me, it’s a mix of joy and fun and enjoying my friends and family because every moment means something to me, even sitting in a dark theater with those I love best. Happy Solstice. Happy Holidays. Merry Christmas. Happy Chanukah, and as always, thanks for being you and have a great day.
So, I had been without my own bed since the week after Thanksgiving. My husband and I were gifted a soft sided waterbed the week my youngest child was born sixteen and a half years ago, and it decided to spring a leak right after Thanksgiving. While looking for king sized mattresses, we found out that a sleep number bed was only a few hundred more dollars, so we opted for that. The catch was that we would have to wait two weeks because those beds are made when you order them. In the meantime, we have been sleeping in our oldest son’s bedroom. Fortunately, we bought our older two sons new queen sized beds last year, so while we were not in our own room, we had a better than decent bed to sleep in. Yesterday, our new bed was delivered and last night, we were back in our own room. I was so happy until our ceiling fan began to make a strange noise. It was difficult to go to sleep, and it was difficult to stay asleep, and I woke up tense and slightly irritated that my first night in my new bed wasn’t what I had hoped it would be. There was a time I would have groused about that inconvenience all day, but today I’m different. Today, I realize what a blessing it is to even have a bed. Today I know what a privilege it is to feel safe in my home. Today I am aware of what a joy it is to have a home at all. These are the things that keep me humble and incredibly appreciative of all I have.
When I was pregnant with my youngest child I spent eight weeks in the hospital before he was born by emergency cesarean section. He then spent five weeks in the hospital afterward before we could bring him home, and during that time I learned a lot about stress. I learned that it doesn’t matter whether it’s a new or expectant mom who is worrying about her baby, a mother worrying about wedding plans or a teenager worrying about a pimple on Prom night, the stress is still the same. The other thing I began to learn was that the more we stress over things outside of our control, the more miserable we become. The more we learn to let go of those things beyond our control, the happier we will be. I couldn’t change the fact that my son was born with a medical condition. I could, however, learn as much as possible about his condition and how to help him, so I did. This was before Google had all the answers to our questions but after the internet became the place to start looking for answers. I looked and learned and took care of my child the best I possibly could. I laugh now when I think about everyone saying, “See, I told you he would be fine” because even though they looked at him and saw a healthy albeit tiny baby, I knew how vulnerable his health was, and because of that, how vulnerable my husband and I were to possibly losing a child. My life became an exercise in learning to manage that stress, which I did for the most part, but who wants that life?
It took years, but at some point, I finally let go of it all. I realized that no matter what I did, the unthinkable could still happen, so I stopped thinking about that and started thinking about how to have the best life we could have every day. I learned to breathe, especially when the moments came that made me want to hold my breath, the days when he was sick and I prayed he would keep his medicine down long enough that I didn’t have to take him to the hospital. I learned to remind myself to let my shoulders fall away from my ears, to relax my neck and shoulder muscles and to release my stomach muscles as well. In the moment that I did that, I could live in faith rather than fear. I could focus on getting my boy healthy rather than how scared I was that he was sick, and it worked more often than not. It’s why, when I’m standing in line, I do my best to send positive energy to everyone near me, especially the mom with the child melting down, especially the older woman who doesn’t understand why the Apple people can’t hack her email and fix her phone without any documentation that the phone is hers, especially the Apple employee who is telling the woman for the fifth or sixth time that to do that without the proper documentation would be illegal. It doesn’t always work for them, but it certainly helps me.
The other thing that took years to get passed and sometimes I still have issues with is my own expectations. I used to envision the perfect life, the perfect holiday, the perfect day, and when I did that, I was always disappointed. Even now, I sometimes have such high expectations of what I can do in a day that I disappoint myself on a regular basis, but I started doing something to change that. In the past, I would check off my to-do list as the day went on and write a new one the next day in my planner. Now, I write my list on a clean sheet of paper and check off the items I work on and enter only my accomplishments in my planner. While that may sound counterproductive or perhaps childish, I’ve found that listing my accomplishments helps me to stay positively focused. The other day, the day my bed was delivered, I felt like I was behind all day and wasn’t accomplishing anything. As I began to write down what I had done that day, I realized I was being incredibly hard on myself. I had done five loads of laundry, helped the bed installers with whatever they needed, made a trip to the bed store to buy the mattress cover that I needed because the one I purchased elsewhere wouldn’t work. I placed an online order that took over an hour to create. I made chicken parmesan and took a call that might result in part time work for me. I cleaned the bathrooms, picked my son up from school and helped put my bedroom back together as well. I ironed a king sized bed skirt for heaven’s sake, using starch! That not productive day was pretty darned productive when I took a step back and looked at it through a different lens, and not the one that included all the things I hadn’t done on my list.
I think the holidays are probably the worst time for expectations because there are so many variables and so many things can change. I have to admit I dove into the holidays this year with expectations of my own. I expected this to be the last Thanksgiving I would spend with my three boys at my sister in law’s house, something we’ve done all but one of the past twenty three years. It has always been one of my favorite times, and I planned to savor every minute of it. Unfortunately, my youngest son got sick and had to stay home from our Thanksgiving celebration, so my expectation of our last Thanksgiving before my son gets married next summer was dashed. I also thought I would have one more Christmas holiday with my son before his wedding, but it turns out that he and his fiancée are traveling to her hometown for him to visit with her family. I have to tell you that one was hard to take because Christmas is a big deal for me, but I knew once he was married things would probably change. I wasn’t prepared for them to change quite yet, but they did, so now there’s a new plan, and that’s the final piece of the emotional stress puzzle for me, adaptability. With three boys and a husband whose work schedule often includes overtime and sometimes includes travel, I’ve had to learn to be adaptable. It isn’t always easy and sometimes it takes me a day or two to regain my balance, but I always do. Even with this blog post, I started with one idea yesterday, and it changed today as I did four hours of paperwork and had little time to finish it the way I would have liked, but that’s life, especially during the holidays. I ebb and flow the best I can, especially on days that feel like I’m on a roller coaster in a blizzard, and I do my best to enjoy the ride because stressing over it doesn’t do me or anyone else any good.
I read an article recently from a mother to a daughter regarding the changes that are taking place in my country. The article asked everyone to focus on the “most respectful interpretation” in every situation. I thought that was a brilliant statement, and I’ve written it down to remind myself to do that very thing every day. It is what has kept me from getting into political debates, judgment of others and much eye rolling. It is a quality we could use much more of in this world from everyone, including me. It’s how I plan to get through the rest of the holiday season and beyond and it helps me feel peace in a sometimes chaotic world. I know all is not right in the world. I understand all is not right in my country, my city or even in my home, but when I can be at peace, only then can I help right the wrongs in any of those places. I’m not always there, but even when I’m not, it is the place I’m always heading back to. I wish you all peace as we head into the last days of this holiday season. I wish you adaptability. I especially wish you the most respectful interpretation of whatever situation you’re in, and as always, thanks for being you and have a great day.