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.

 

If you enjoyed this post, please share it and follow us on Instagram and Twitter @WhereKarenGoes, subscribe to the blog at WhereKarenGoes or join our Facebook pages Where Karen Goes and Happiest Holidays and look for our Happiest Holidays blog coming soon!  As always, thanks for being you and have 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.

 

Finding Meaning and Letting Go

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.

A Quick Look Back Revisited

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!

Christmas Choices

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.

Pirouetting through the Holidays

When I was young, I took ballet and was not very good.  Ballet, tap and jazz never felt natural to me and after struggling for several years, I finally gave up.  I couldn’t even do a proper pirouette because I never seemed to be able to find my spot each time I turned my head.  For those who are unfamiliar with how to do a proper pirouette, as you rise onto your toes, you find a spot on the wall or in the room on which to focus.  You keep your head as still as possible as your body turns, and when your head must turn, you turn as quickly as possible and refocus on your spot.  If you cannot pirouette properly, you cannot become a great dancer.  I couldn’t and didn’t.  It turned out to be a good thing because I never had the figure to become that type of dancer anyway.  Instead, I learned to love dancing with my friends, and that was good enough for me. 

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For those who celebrate something this month, we are in full on holiday mode.  This month can be exciting, overwhelming, fun filled, discouraging, tender and enraging, sometimes within a few days, hours or even minutes.  As a “go with the flow” kind of woman, I used to find this season to be the highest of the highs and the lowest of the lows as I let the events of the day determine how I lived and felt.  As the big days got closer, I would feel like I was on a stormy sea of emotions, and the tiniest slight would feel like the biggest snub.  A suggestion to change something I had planned could feel like a soul crushing criticism, and some days it felt like I couldn’t do anything right.  Then I learned something profound.  I learned that we do not see the world as it is.  We see the world as we are.  If we are angry and scared, we will see the world as an angry and scary place.  If we are kind and loving, we’ll see the world as kind and loving.  I also learned that we have more choice in that matter than we care to acknowledge in most cases, and that was a game changer for me.  That meant that I could have the type of holiday I wanted rather than the one that was dished out to me, and I wanted a peaceful, joyful and loving holiday more than anything.  The question was how to get it.  Actually, the first question was what would help me have that peaceful, joyful and loving holiday I longed for.  Turns out, it started in my own home.

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I love having a clean and organized home, especially during the holidays.  I spent over a decade learning how to get my home in order; now I spend less than an hour per day maintaining it.  Fatigue has often gotten in the way of a joyful holiday season, especially when I was the queen of late nights and early mornings.  I found I could be productive on Monday and Tuesday, but as the week wore on, I would spend more and more time on the couch and more and more time thinking I was an absolute failure as a mom, wife and human being.  It was amazing how an extra half hour of sleep per night helped cure that.  When I wasn’t sleeping enough, I couldn’t understand why my daily todo list seemed insurmountable or the sofa seemed irresistible.  A mere thirty minutes of extra sleep per night made all the difference.  How did I manage to get to bed thirty minutes earlier?  I turned my TV off at 9pm.  It sounds so simple, but it was more difficult than I thought in the beginning.  I was amazed at the amount of mindless TV I watched.  Years ago we figured out that having TV on in the morning was disastrous to our morning routine.  It amazes me that it took two more decades to realize the same thing about our evening routine.  The computer is another issue.  I love social media.  I have contacts all over the world because of it, but the allure of catching up often got in the way of being productive, so I’ve made a deal with myself.  The computer/iPad/smart phone are put on hold until most if not all of the morning home blessings, meditation and writing are complete, and they get one final check in the evening after the TV is off, then it’s off to finish the evening routine and head to bed.  I also make sure that a load of laundry is done per day and the results are miraculous .  Life began to fall into place.  Life gets easier.  I get happier, and I find the inclination to write and live better in every way.  I know how trite that sounds, but those habits changed everything for this previously undisciplined woman. 

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You know, I used to hate the word discipline, probably because I didn’t have any and it always seems like a horrible way to live, but I learned something about discipline.  When I was a young parent, I heard that punishment is something you do to your child.  Discipline is something you do for them.  When I learned to discipline myself to do the few things I just mentioned, I completely understood that concept for the first time.  I realized the gift that discipline can be, and how, without discipline, we constantly punish ourselves for not being able to be who we want to be.  It can either be a vicious or victorious cycle, and I shoot for victory every time.  Do I miss the mark now and then?  Yes.  Do I lose the spot as I pirouette through life and the holidays?  Occasionally, but the daily habits of taking care of me, my family and my life are what constitute my spot on the wall, and every time I refocus there, the rest takes care of itself and that will always be good enough for me.

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Do you have a holiday challenge you would like help with?  Please comment on this post or send me a message on our Where Karen Goes Facebook page, and we’ll see what we can do to help.  Need holiday help with everything?  There’s still time to get your printed or Kindle copy of Happiest Holidays, Your guide to a budget friendly, peaceful and fun holiday season.  It includes several tips and recipes to make your holiday season the best it can be.  And that, I hope, is good enough for you.  Thanks for being you and have a great day.

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Do Better December 2016

10403387_10153084432873366_5861144938281823701_nFor those who have followed me for a while, you know that I dedicate December to doing the best I can in every area of my life, and I challenge others to do the same.  In the past, I have done this as a way to consciously counteract my tendency to get caught up in the drama of the holidays and forget who I want to be and how I want to live.  It also helps me overcome the procrastination and perfectionism this holiday season can bring.  With that in mind, I have been putting off the initial blog post for Where Karen Goes for some time now, and today seems like the perfect day to overcome the procrastination and perfectionism that has kept me from launching into this new adventure in my life.  Part of the hesitation is that I finally decided that writing and blogging is the profession I’ve want to follow, but I know I have so much to learn, not so much about the writing because I’ve been doing that for decades.  The fear comes from being out of the workforce for so long and worrying about my business ignorance.

The more I learn, the more I realize how little I know about the technology that fuels others’ success.  People who are the ages of my children astound me with what they think of as common knowledge, and I find it to be overwhelming at times.  In addition to the technology is the idea that you have to be in a niche to be successful.  I don’t feel like I fall into a niche.  I am married.  I am a mom of nearly all adult children.  I love food.  I love travel.  I love my family.  I have experience with ADHD both personally and as a parent. I have experience with a child and a spouse with medical needs beyond the norm.  I am creative.  I am a writer, author and blogger, and the thought of writing about just one of those things feels awful.  The one theme that does seem to run through everything I write is perspective.  It’s the one thing I’m always looking for, in all situations.  I savor the ones that bring me joy and strive to learn from and find the blessings in the ones that challenge me.  One of my favorite quotes is that change is inevitable but growth is optional, and I opt for growth whenever I can.

I believe in the goodness of human beings, but I understand that “good” is a very personal term.  I know what intolerance looks like from inside and out, and I am living testament of how people can change and be understanding and even loving toward people who don’t share their views.  I am not perfect, nor do I strive to be, although that pesky perfectionism does sneak into my life at times.  My goal is to be the best version of myself possible, to love as much as I can and to have as much fun as possible along the way.  I am not a fan of living each day as if it is your last because if I did that, I would never do laundry, clean my home or let my children or husband leave the house again.  Instead, I strive to live each day that if it were my last, I would leave a legacy of love and laughter with those I love most. 

I enjoy giving and receiving hugs.  I tell people I love them, and I mean it.  I believe in redemption and forgiveness and living as much as possible without regret.  I am a person of faith who honors those of different faiths because I believe there is more than one path to grace.  That doesn’t always jive with my own faith, but my faith also says not to judge others, so I do my best not to.  I am a woman.  I am white.  I am American, but most importantly, I am a global citizen.  I will rise up against injustice when I see it, but I’ve also learned, you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar, and I have never seen anyone change their mind when someone screams at them that they are wrong, stupid, ignorant or” less than” in any way.   Like most people, I am a mix of things I really like about myself and things I am striving to change.  It’s been one heck of a journey so far, and one I’m looking forward to continuing for a long time to come. So here we are on December 1st, 2016 as we dive into Do Better December.  My life is good but could be better.  I have challenges, but they could be worse, and I’ll share how I overcome some of those challenges as December goes on.  My days as a full time parent are ending soon, and my life as a writer and blogger is just beginning.  While some people feel like their life is over when they hit 50, 40 or some other random birthday, I feel like mine is gearing up for another amazing chapter.  I’ve loved my life as a full time parent, but I’m excited about the wonderful things ahead.  In the next month, my first child will graduate from college.  In the next year, I gain a new daughter in love, and I say a big WOOHOO to having another female in the family.  In the next two years, all of my children will have graduated high school, and God willing, within six years, all of my children will have college degrees and will be living on their own.  That’s me in a very big nutshell.  You may not know where the next adventure will be, but you can bet it will be interesting and filled with perspective.  In the meantime, thanks for joining me on the journey.  Thanks for being you and have a great day.

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