Recently I’ve been reading The 12 Week Year by Brian P. Moran and Michael Lennington. Nearly every page has some amazing nugget of inspiration. One of the lines about commitment hit me hard this morning. According to the authors, “A commitment is a personal promise. Keeping your promises to others builds trust and strong relationships, and keeping promises to yourself builds character, esteem and success.” (pg 50). I realized I am great at keeping my commitments to others. I often fail at keeping promises to myself.
You see, I signed up for a blogging course back in February or March. The course has twelve units, and I thought I could easily finish them by the conference. I am on the second unit; yes, Unit 2 of 12. My initial plan was to complete one unit per week, although the creator of the program suggests at least one week and preferably one month per unit. I miserably failed my commitment to myself. As I’m writing this, I have five weeks to prepare for a blogging conference in Portland, Oregon associated with this course. When I land in Portland, I want to feel like I belong there as a professional blogger, not that I’ve failed yet again to reach a desired goal.
On the flip side, my son got married on August 5th. It was a beautiful and stunning wedding and reception with a rehearsal dinner for 75. It was a busy and fun filled weekend, and my son and his wife truly got the wedding of their dreams. The commitment to give them the best possible day was certainly fulfilled. The ceremony was beautiful. The bride was stunning, as were her bridesmaids. The groomsmen were handsome and well behaved. The reception was fun and the happy couple were adored and loved on all evening. Mission accomplished and commitment fulfilled in every way.
Changes on the Horizon
Now I have five weeks to do what I initially planned to do in five months. Who knows what I’ll accomplish, but the deadline is looming, and maybe, just maybe I can shift the energy I put into the wedding into this blog. Maybe I can evolve into the blogger, writer and eventually the speaker I dream of becoming. Maybe I can commit to writing and improving the blog and taking care of myself in the process. Maybe I can learn to live up to the commitments I make to myself as well as I live up to the commitments I make to others. It will be a new experience, but it’s one I’m willing to try. With any luck, that will mean a much better experience for all those who read and enjoy the blog. And perhaps that’s the greatest commitment of all, to make life better for myself while making life better for others. I can’t think of a better way to live, so hang on; it’s bound to be an interesting ride.
I am a born collaborator, team player and family member.I love people working together to make wonderful things happen which is probably why my life improved through marriage and having children.My husband and I bonded over cooking together.I organized my home and life with the help of some online friends and my children, 15 minutes at a time.When my husband and I started working on our finances together, we paid off $36,000 of credit card debt in a little over two years and helped finance six years of college with approximately six more to go.I love being a collaborator because I love the mutual accountability, but it wasn’t always this way.
Not Always a Blessing
For most of my life, I thought being a person who works better with others was a terrible character flaw.Every report card said I did good work but spent too much time socializing.Every job listing asked for someone detail oriented who worked independently.I worked some of those jobs and hated them.If you know me, that probably doesn’t surprise you one bit, because if you know me, you know I love people and I love talking with them.A few of my friends and relatives even comment about how funny it is to watch me float from group to group at a gathering, talking with everyone and including as many people as I can in conversation.Is it any wonder I thrive with accountability partners?
Together Everyone Achieves More
Currently, I work with six groups on different projects.I still have my home organization accountability friends.I have several accountability groups for blogging and for a creative group.Each group energizes me and helps me focus on what I want out of my life because let’s face it, it’s so easy to escape into the TV, tablet or phone screen and forget to dream and fulfill those dreams.These accountability partners point me in the direction of my dreams and inspire me to live better every day.Some I met in person after connecting online and we are friends.Some I still dream of meeting and some may remain treasured names on a screen.
It Takes More Than a Village
What amazes me is how I found kindred spirits all over the world.I have online friends all over the US, in Canada, Europe, the Philippines, Australia and even the Middle East.We share struggles about keeping houses organized, creative angst and triumphs, business challenges and successes, and we realize that we are much more alike than different, which is a much bigger gift than we ever expected to get from a bootcamp, an online chat group or a blogging accountability group.It makes the world smaller and less scary, and I think we need much more of that.
Finding Your Accountability Tribes
So how do you find these groups?Just Google it, because they’re everywhere.I’ve always said there are more good people in this world than bad, and every accountability group I belong to proves that over and over again.Nearly all of them post guidelines and expectations of their members and most include kindness and respect. They require it of all members.In a time where so many hurl ugliness through the internet, it’s refreshing to find people who still focus on creating joy, success and beauty.It’s even more refreshing that we don’t tolerate each other’s differences, we accept them. People in other parts of the world understand the United States a little better because they communicate with me and others in the group who view things differently.I understand the influence of the United States in the rest of the world. It is a sacred journey to embrace the world and listen to what they long to say. It is more sacred to hear and understand, and perhaps that is the greatest gift of all from these accountability groups.They hold me accountable for my home, my blog and my creativity, but they expand the view of what I’m truly accountable for. I know I am a member of a much larger community called the human race. When we are accountable for how we treat one another, regardless of how the other treats us, true accountability reigns supreme and people change the world.
Are You Ready?
What do you want to change in your life? How can you be more accountable and quit blaming others? It takes courage to be accountable and to stop blaming others even if it is their fault. You build strength the day you let that go and put personal accountability first in your life. If you need an extra shot of inspiration, let Sara Bareilles inspire you to be Brave and accountable and the best version of you possible. It’s magical and beautiful, and I hope you dive in and enjoy the ride. After you practice for a while, it gets easier. You live bigger than you ever dreamed. When you live the accountable life for a while, let me know how it goes. As always, thanks for being you and have a great day.
I’ve been thinking about death lately, not because I’m morbid or depressed but simply because of my life circumstances.Recently an 18-year-old from our area died in a car accident on the morning of his last day of high school, a 40 something son of a family friend died from cancer, a concert was bombed in Manchester England, and I outlived my father.Maybe it’s more accurate to say that I’ve been thinking about life because of those circumstances and, I’m aware that grief is very personal, so I’m not telling anyone how they should grieve.What I am sharing here is how I deal with grief, and the perspective I’ve developed over the years.I’ve wanted to write about this subject for a while, and I’ve avoided it for fear of backlash, but here’s the thing; death is a part of life and unless we deal with it, it will absolutely overwhelm us when it happens so here are a few things I’ve learned.
Cancer can be a gift
Before you get offended by this statement, hear me out. I know people are uncomfortable when I say cancer can be a gift. I never want anyone to suffer with any disease, especially cancer, but in my case it was a gift.My dad and I didn’t get along from the time I was twelve until just before he passed.My dad did the best he could as a dad, but when I was young, his best wasn’t good enough, at least for me.He and I had different views on everything.He called me a women’s libber, and it wasn’t a compliment.I thought he was stubborn and inflexible.It wasn’t until my oldest son was born that I saw the best my dad could offer.He loved my son more than I ever imagined he could, and I watched their relationship grow over the three years he and my son were in each other’s’ lives.He only loved my second son for three weeks, but he packed a lifetime of love into those three weeks.In both cases, he learned to be present with them and surround them with love in a way I never felt he was present with or loved me because he was too busy trying to provide what he thought we needed rather than what we actually needed.During his six weeks in hospice, my dad and I talked about how we had drifted apart and forgave each other for slights and insults and bad behavior from sides.He suffered, a lot, but we also healed, a lot, and when he left this earth, I released him with love and more than a few tears of gratitude for the moments that may never have come without knowing the end was near and taking the time to do something about it.
Celebrating a life is better than mourning a death
My dad turned 54 years old the month he died.He didn’t retire and live the life of his dreams.He feared leaving the safety of his stressful corporate job that I believe contributed to his short life.He was a database guru who developed a computer tracking database for one of the largest corporations in the US and was grossly underpaid to do it.He wanted to do more with his life, but he didn’t.The one thing he did do was travel.My dad was happiest when he traveled.Maybe that’s why I love to travel so much.My dad made it to 49 of the 50 United States, and although he never visited Hawaii, he was so proud of how much of the United States he saw and how much of it he showed his kids.Every time I go on vacation I think about my dad and some of the things I do that he would enjoy doing with us, and because I am a person of faith, I believe he does from afar.We try new foods like he encouraged us to do.We talk to people, locals and other travelers because we learned so much from them as children.We enjoy the stops on the way as much as the destination because we’re on vacation from the time we leave until the time we return.These were the best of times for my family when I was growing up, and they are the stories my children tell as well.And I prefer to focus on that rather than the 60 hour work weeks and stressed out man who worked them just so he could travel a few weeks every year.
Life is short no matter how long you live
This one is a biggie for me right now.This is the one that keeps me blogging and writing and pushing forward to follow my dreams of writing and travel.You see, my dad thought he had much more time than he did on this planet.He waited for retirement to enjoy his life, and he never got there.He was qualified to do much more exciting and better paid work, but he feared leaving the “safety” of a company he worked for all of his 32 working years as a college graduate.For a while, I worked where he did, and I met several people who knew my dad.Not one of them ever said he was a great engineer or database programmer, but several of them took college level computer programming courses from him and told me what a great teacher he was.My dad loved to teach and wanted to be a teacher at one time, but his parents told him there was more money in engineering so that’s what he did, and he spent a lifetime trying to find joy in that.Teaching after hours helped him do that, and he could have been a great college professor making so much more money and having so much more fun, but he didn’t because he was afraid to make the jump
Occasionally you know someone who does live life fully and leaves this life with no regrets. It’s a beautiful thing when you do and my father in law was one of those people. My father in law passed from cancer the same year as my dad.He was first diagnosed 5 years earlier and decided to retire as early as he could.He played golf, traveled a bit, spent time with his family and enjoyed every day as much as he could.When he was on the verge of passing, he told us that he felt sorry for us because he was going to “win” no matter what happened.As a man of faith, he truly believed that when he passed he would be in a better place, and if by some miracle he got to stay, he would be with the family who loved him.On the night he passed, surrounded by family who sat with him until the end, he looked up at the ceiling and said (and I paraphrase here), “You’re all so beautiful.I can hardly take it all in.”Within moments, he was gone, and that story began to change how I view death and life.I realized the best way to come to terms with death is to fully live while you’re alive, and that means different things to different people.For my father, it took getting cancer and knowing the end was near.For my father in law, it started much earlier as he lived each day fully and mostly joyfully for all the years I knew him.Each one taught me so much about life and so much about death, and as we approach Father’s Day, I cannot think of any better way to honor them both than to say, “Thanks Dad!”
Nearly every mom I know dreads that question.I’ve been making family meals for over two decades and occasionally I still dread that question.When I was a young mom, there were always women who looked like they had everything together.I felt like there had to be secrets to what they did.I’ve since found out that no mom has everything together, but there are secrets to being more successful, and one of them is meal planning.However, I learned some kitchen magic through a wonderful thing called menu planning.Menu planning saves my wallet, my time and most importantly, my sanity on a regular basis and it’s easier than you think.
Know your focus
What’s most important?For most people the budget is the most important issue.Food bills can ruin a budget, especially when eating out is your “go to” meal.Don’t get me wrong, I love to eat out, but in most cases, you can make food much cheaper than you can buy it already made.Budget is always my primary focus, but I also account for convenience and the fact that I avoid grain based carbs for health reasons.If you’re meal planning on a budget, you can decide how much you want to spend per month, per week and even per meal.
Decide where to shop
This is a big decision.Some people prefer to shop in one place only to save time.Some shoppers prefer patronizing local businesses.Bargain hunters will shop at more than one store to get the best prices.Those looking to get the most out of the grocery budget shop at several stores to get the best bargains and save the most money.Knowledgeable shoppers learn how to find the best bargains by learning about the stores in their area.For example, in my area, Walmart has the best prices on the middle of the grocery store, like paper towels, peanut butter, canned goods and bagels.Kroger is the closest and most convenient store for me and they have great produce and bulk items like organic nuts and seeds.Meijer has great prices on both, but it isn’t worth my time anymore to drive 8 miles when other stores are only a mile or so from my house.Trader Joe’s has some of my favorite specialty items, and Fresh Market has $2.99 Tuesday when their excellent ground chuck and chicken breast are $2.99 per pound.All of these factors help me meal plan within budget, and I work trips to each store into my weekly plan to streamline my week and use my time well.
Coupons and circulars
Some people love coupons.Others hate them.Some people love looking at the circulars to find bargains.Some throw them away or recycle them immediately (I’m hoping they recycle).Although some dinosaurs like me still like to have paper coupons, I am enjoying using electronic coupons more and more.There are several apps for coupons, but I leave that expertise to others.I clip coupons from my weekly circulars and the Sunday paper.I add coupons to my Kroger shopper card on a regular basis, and I read the paper circulars every week to help me make my grocery list because I walk into the store knowing what the special and sales are, and I have a plan to take advantage of them the best I can.This is where the meat of meal planning takes place for me.Because of circulars, which you are online if you don’t get them at your home, you know which items are on sale and how to get the best value for your menu planning dollar.This is where menu planning really happens for me.I decide which proteins I will buy, which vegetables and which additional items I might need to make the recipes I am thinking of making.
Making the menu plan
My plan starts every week by asking my family if there is any meal that sounds appealing to them.If they don’t have any suggestions, I search the circulars.For example, this week at my local Kroger, roast is on sale.The temperatures are on the cooler side this week and a roast is an easy meal to prepare.To make a roast, I use carrots, onions, celery, potatoes, beef broth, garlic and a sprinkle of dried thyme.I checked my supplies and added the meat, carrots, onions and beef broth to the grocery list because I had the rest of the ingredients.The best part about a roast is leftovers.My husband shredded the leftover meat and enjoyed shredded beef barbecue sandwiches for lunch this week too.I use the leftover vegetables and stock to make soup.
Do you have a family calendar?If you do, it is your best resource for meal planning.If not, get one.Meal planning around a busy life makes so much sense because it’s when we are the busiest that it helps to feed our family and ourselves the healthiest meals.Slow cooker meals are a menu planning blessing on days when you know you’ll be home late or your family members will be eating at different times.Sure, it’s ok to drive through now and then, but you’ll look like a hero when you have a nice hot meal at home too.
Make a list
Having a list at the grocery is a game changer for those on a budget.When you have a list, you know exactly what to buy.Without a list, you wonder as you wander the aisles and pick up whatever catches your attention.That’s how budgets get busted and you end up with five bottles of soy sauce.Thank goodness they don’t expire.Having a list made the biggest difference in my quest to keep my grocery bills in check.To make things even easier, I have paper on our refrigerator and my family knows to write items we want or need on the list.Although I have a paper list on the fridge for others to write on, when I go to the grocery I usually use a digital list that I can delete as I go.This makes it easier to have several lists for the various stores I frequent.
Keep a running total
Have you ever stood at the checkout and nearly cried when the cashier announced your total, even after coupons and deals?I certainly have, and that is not a fun moment.To keep that to a minimum, I now keep a running total of what I spend as I delete items off my digital list, and I rarely experience grocery sticker shock anymore.
Shopping is done.Now what?
Here are my best tips and tricks for following through on your menu plan.First, post your plan where everyone can see it.For years I bought groceries with a plan in my head that never quite came to fruition.I would forget to take meat out of the freezer or forget what I planned for the day and before I knew it, I had unidentifiable perishables in my fridge.Post the menu and it holds you accountable as well as reminds you of what you purchased and what you plan to do with it.Prepare as much as you can ahead of time.Cooked pasta will keep for at least a week.Root vegetables other than potatoes keep for a few days after being cut up for a recipe.Salad keeps longer if you open the bag and put a paper towel in it.Celery stays crunchy for several days wrapped in foil rather than plastic.Canned and frozen vegetables work in recipes that call for fresh, although I suggest using fresh whenever possible.Get your family involved in the prep as much as you can, and finally, enjoy the menu planning process as much as you can.It may sound like a lot of work, but I assure you that the time you invest pays huge dividends.Before you know it, you’ll have more money to spend, more time to enjoy your family and most important, you’ll have an answer to the age old question, “Mom!What’s for dinner?”
To learn more
If you are in the Greater Cincinnati area and would like to learn more, join me Saturday May 13th from 2-4pm at the Erlanger branch of the Kenton County library for their “How to Adult” fair.I’ll be sharing more meal planning tips and giving away a list of Go To meals with recipes.As always, if you’ve enjoyed reading this, please share it and join in the fun by subscribing to the blog and following us on Facebook and Twitter.Thanks for being you and have a great day!
Do you ever have a moment when you just hate yourself?I’m taking a course to improve my blog, and I’m confronting some things I hate about myself right now.I hate that I’m tech challenged.I hate feeling stupid.I hate being afraid that the writing career I want so badly might not happen.I hate that I’ve written three books and still don’t feel like a writer.I hate that I’ve been blogging for seven years, and it’s still just a hobby.I hate that I set a goal to launch a new blog on May 1st and I don’t feel ready to do that.Most of all, I hate that feeling like this makes me want to run to the pantry and eat every chip, pretzel and salty, crunchy snack so I don’t have to feel like this anymore, at least until I get on the scale in the morning.It’s amazing how bad we can make ourselves feel sometimes.
What I want is to be one of those women who appear to be incredibly put together; thin, beautiful, fit, excellent at their profession, amazing mothers and adored by friends, family and co-workers.They are women who seem to have it all, and I want to be one of them.Instead, I’m an overweight mother of three almost grown children who is struggling to make blogging a career, keep up with my home and family and keep my sanity at the same time.You know, this could turn into quite the pity party if I let it, and for a little while I did because sometimes we need to vent.We need to let our insecurities bubble up, so we can confront them and find out what is true and what story we’re replaying to keep us stuck in garbage thinking mode.I don’t know about you, but I detest garbage thinking mode and the self-sabotaging it can lead to.
So, here’s what I did.I got some chips out of the pantry and reminded myself that I could eat them if I choose, or I could remember that my son’s wedding is in three and a half months and choose to let the chips go unopened, which I did.I remembered the spiritual workbook journey I started this week; the one I’ve done two other times and how amazed I was when I looked at the goals I set two and four years ago and how many we achieved.Because I’m a person of faith, I thought if the Divine brings me to a challenge, there’s most certainly a way through it, and that way is rarely a straight path.Most importantly, I reminded myself that those women I aspire to be like may have challenges of their own I know nothing about, and even if they don’t, their life lessons are not mine, so it’s best to leave them alone because my journey is not near as bad as garbage thinking mode wants me to think it is.
While I’m not near as tech savvy as I want to be, I have contacts that are quite tech savvy and are willing to help when I need them.I have a clear enough voice that I have written three books and several blog posts that can help me create valuable content for my readers.I have friends and family that love me, sometimes more than I love myself.And I’m currently taking a blog course that is challenging me to face my insecurities so that I can be a more successful writer.When I started this blog post, I thought I hated myself.What I’ve come to learn is that I don’t hate myself.Rather, I’ve been given multiple ways to improve myself through this challenging course, but it was easier to hate myself and those successful people rather than face the challenge of learning and growing. So, I’ve issued a 30 day challenge to myself, and I’m inviting you to join me.We all have things in our life that, if we did them, would empower us to live better.Maybe you have a closet to clean out.Maybe you have stacks of paper to file or shred.Maybe you have photos to organize, a garage to clean out, a garden to plan and plant or a book to write.Whatever it is, you know if you follow through you will be thrilled to accomplish it and a huge weight would disappear from your life.I have several areas I would like to improve; one current and one future blog, a body to get more fit, photos to organize and a garden to plant.There are more, but that will happen in another challenge.
I learned about this challenge from Lucrecer Braxton at a social media seminar by Dooley Media.Lucrecer said that if you will go “all in” for 30 days, you will amaze yourself with what you can create and how you can grow in those 30 days.She admitted it wouldn’t be easy, but assured us it would definitely be worth it, so I’m counting on that and diving in.Where could you be in 30 days?I invite you to find out.Even if you spend a mere fifteen minutes per day, in 30 days you will have invested over seven hours into improving your life, and I am willing to bet you will feel very good about yourself.If you follow Where Karen Goes on Facebook, I’ll post about progress there and will update with blog posts too.Are you willing to join me and see how much you can accomplish in 30 days?Are you willing to try even if there are days that you might miss?Are you willing to change your life for a minimum of fifteen minutes per day?I am, and would love to have you join me to go “all in” for the next 30 days.Leave a comment to share how you will challenge yourself, and as always, thanks for being you and have a great day.
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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.
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.