Archive | January, 2015

Squandered Talent and Wasted Time

29 Jan

To listen along, click here:

For those who read my blog post from Monday, I quoted something I read that really affected me. It contained a sentence that is still rattling around in my brain. That sentence talked about squandering our talent being diabolical and wasting our time being equal to selling our soul. I don’t know why those two thoughts have stuck in my awareness, but they have and it is amazing how much more focused and thoughtful that has made me this week.

Isn’t it amazing how a quote or a thought can do that? Sometimes you hear just the right thing at just the right time, and your perspective shifts enough to get you moving, get you moving faster or get you moving in the right direction. Sometimes it even does all three. I’ve said before that I know what to do to improve my life but sometimes knowing isn’t quite enough to get you going or keep you going when fatigue or something that seems more interesting or fun comes along. This morning is a perfect example. Although this has been a very good week for me, I haven’t been getting as much sleep as my body would like. After tracking my activities over the past few years, lack of sleep is probably the number one reason my productivity usually peaks on Tuesday and wanes for the rest of the week. I should get more sleep. I intend to get more sleep, but something keeps popping up to keep that from happening. I could blame it on the TV or teenagers that prefer to talk after 9pm rather than before or some other circumstance in my life, but the truth is that I make the choice to stay up later than I should which then becomes an excuse for why I fall short on my goals and dreams. I’m tired. I’m exhausted. I don’t feel well, because, guess what, you don’t feel well when you don’t sleep well. How ridiculous is it that we keep doing the things that keep us from our greatest joy?

I’ve listened to motivational speakers and read self-help books for years. I know the tricks. I know the processes. I know all of the things I “should” be doing and yet, I’ve not done them as consistently as I would like. In addition to fatigue, I could blame ADHD. I’ve not been diagnosed, but one of my children has and the more I’ve learned about it over the past seven years, the more I understand that I am the tree my ADHD apple fell from. Referring to this morning again, I got on the computer to look something up. Thirty minutes later, I forgot why I logged on to the computer in the first place and got sucked into looking at email and Facebook. Now, I don’t condemn either of those activities. Email is a great way to send and receive information. Facebook is a great way to connect with people, but for me to even think about looking at my computer before I’ve gotten my morning routines knocked out is a recipe for disaster. I can lose hours of my day and wind up cranky because I’ve wasted yet another opportunity to move forward in my life in a positive way.

As many of you know, I spent some time in Florida with a dear friend of mine last week. We have known each other for a very long time and had a great time, but I learned so much from her last week too. We were walking one day, and I don’t remember what we were even talking about, but I told her I didn’t begrudge her any of her lifestyle or her success because I know how hard she and her husband have worked for it. Her reaction was very interesting because I could see how much she appreciated what I had said. I guess when you’re wealthy so many people think you’re lucky. They think somehow you just sailed right into your wealth. My friend has worked since she was fourteen years old. She put herself through college and has risen through a male dominated profession to own her own company and be in great demand for her expertise. In her business, because she works with several government agencies in the health field, she has deadlines she must meet and had to work while we were in Florida, and it was a chance to see how dedicated she is to what she does. Those deadlines motivated her to get the client and her staff moving to create the reports the government required. It was amazing how focused she was, but she put the work away at night and sometimes during the day to focus elsewhere, and that’s where I learned so much from her. I found out that my friend, who I thought was always naturally thin, worked out with a trainer at home. She has to pay the trainer whether she shows up at 6am or not, so she’s motivated to get out of bed because apparently the trainer isn’t cheap. To keep up some kind of physical routine while I was there, we walked after every meal. It gave us time to talk, move our bodies and for her to clear her head for a while before she dove back into work. It was a great lesson in using positive pressure to keep up her physical routine while visiting with a friend and getting work done at the same time. Talk about multi-tasking!

The interesting thing is that I knew going into the trip that my friend would have to work. I worried about being bored, but what I learned was worth every moment I was there. I saw my friend balance work and play and have success with both. Whether she felt it or not, I saw no guilt that she should be spending time with me when she was working or she should be working while we were walking or having fun. It was a great few days, and it changed how I approached my days when I returned, and then I read the quote about squandering our talent and wasting our time, and it seemed to confirm everything I was thinking. It was energizing and exciting, and then I got sick. Are you kidding me? I had spent this wonderful time learning and becoming inspired to do all sorts of wonderful things and I was sick? Well wasn’t that a fine “how do you do”.

Have you ever set a goal and everything seems to get in the way of you accomplishing it? Have you ever set one, and it felt like the stars aligned to make it happen almost as soon as you designed it in your head? I have had both happen, and experts on goals have very different ideas about what to do in those instances. Some experts will tell you that if you encounter obstacles, you are on the right path because achieving goals is hard work and you need to muscle your way through, and that works really well for some people. They almost need to overcome to feel a true sense of accomplishment. Other experts, though, will tell you that when you find the path or goal that is truly meant for you, things line up. Opportunities arise, seemingly out of nowhere. The very people you need to help you just appear in your life. With my first book, that is what happened. My husband and I were sitting on a highway that was closed because of an accident. We started brainstorming and before the hour that we sat on that highway was up, we had the bones of the book finished. It was amazing and almost seemed too easy, and that’s what seems to happen with the second type of goal. You start thinking that it is too easy and the fear monster creeps up and whispers in your ear that something that easy cannot possibly be worthy. You must have missed something. It cannot be that easy. Success cannot come so simply. We are so conditioned to think we have to work hard for anything to be worthwhile, that when success comes without pain, we create drama and pain in our head. Ick!

You know what? Being a loving and fun mom came easy for me. Being a good household manager did not. I could make up songs, cook healthy dinners that my family liked and find fun activities to do with little effort. We went to the zoo, the amusement park and hung out with cousins regularly, but I struggled to keep our home picked up and the laundry caught up. When I learned I had a people orientation rather than a task orientation, my life began to make sense. You see, I could get so much done with just a little bit of help. I remember thinking that I would love to have a friend that would come over to my house one or two days per week and help me clean and then I could go over to her house and help her do the same. Then I thought about what a freak I must be not to be able to clean my home by myself and that there must be something wrong with me for sure. Ironically, not long after that I found FlyLady, who taught me that I was not alone in the struggle to keep my house clean and the FlyLady chat room which was designed to bring together women who struggled with housework like I did. We would work in whatever chunks of time worked for us and report our successes back to the group for a pat on the back. It was the most positive experience I had ever had cleaning my home, and I have become friends with several of the women from there. It never felt like drudgery to do my housework when I was working “with” those women, and I finally got what I had always wanted, a home that I could welcome people into without embarrassment and apologies about the condition. If you are a naturally organized person, you may not understand that, but if you are anything like me, you’ll know what a gift that felt like.

So here’s what I have figured out about goals and dreams. Those who are task oriented seem to respond best to overcoming obstacles and those who are people oriented seem to respond to having their life align with their goals. Neither is better or worse unless we judge it to be so. I remember some of my family members running a vacuum every day when their children were younger. They truly seemed to enjoy the act of vacuuming, even though they did it every day. Even the idea of that to me is abhorrent, although I do clean my floors most days. Instead of dragging out my vacuum, I have a smaller, cordless vacuum that I use to zip around my floors in about 5 minutes. It has a dusting cloth on it which picks up extra dust from my lovely hardwood and tile floors and gets the job done for me. We both end up with clean floors, and we’re both happy.

Remember when I told you I was feeling ill? Well, during that time, I let myself rest. I napped and ate healthy and though I was worried that maybe my next book wasn’t the goal I should be pursuing, the words and ideas for that book started flowing like mad. I jotted down ideas and looked at pieces I had written before and figured out that it was actually going to be possible to get what I needed to create the book I wanted to create. It was amazing how quickly the illness, that could have been my excuse for not completing the book, became the catalyst for me to actually finish the book. So, whether you have made some New Year’s resolutions or you don’t believe in them at all, what if you pick a goal, just one goal to work on for the next 66 days, which is the countdown to Easter that we’re doing on the Better Living Facebook page. What if you apply your talents to something worthwhile and invest your time in improving your life and/or the lives around you? How could your world and the world around you change in the next 66 days? That is my challenge to you to use your talents and time to achieve a goal whichever way works for you and make the world a better place. Report back and let us know how it goes, and as always, thanks for being you and have a great day.

Honor and Surrender

26 Jan

I have a manuscript that I am supposed to finish by the end of the week so I can use a publishing package I purchased before its expiration date. I had great plans of how I would accomplish that task. I always have great plans, but those plans rarely go as I imagine them. This week is no exception.

Yesterday while at the grocery, I started to feel off kilter. When we got home, my husband and I put the groceries away, and I headed for the sofa and a blanket and stayed there until dinnertime. I felt well enough to eat and thought maybe I just needed a nap, but by 10pm I was exhausted and headed for bed. I got up at 5:30 this morning feeling great so I took a shower to wash away the yuck of the previous day. I thought I had beaten the bug. Halfway through helping my boys get out the door, the bug let me know it was still hanging on. After my boys headed to school, I sat down to meditate and write a bit and felt better. A couple of hours later, I have realized how this day needs to go so that I can feel better. I have things I would like to do, but I know if I’m on my feet for more than five or ten minutes I start to feel bad, so I’ll only be on my feet for five or ten minutes. I am surrendering to what is and honoring the fact that my body needs rest and pampering today.

So many people try to deny when they don’t feel well or decide to push through and be tough. On occasion, that works, but on occasion, that can also cost you your life. Jim Henson died from the flu that turned into pneumonia because he refused to rest and get treatment for a very treatable ailment. He was a genius and talent we lost all too soon because he didn’t honor and take care of the body he was given. I was the same way at one time. I smoked. I had breakfasts of Cheetos and Diet Coke. I ate out at least once per day and usually fast food. I ate more than my share of ramen noodles, and now I’m paying the price. I am overweight and under exercised because exercise hurts, not in a sore muscle way, but in a hurts my joints for days kind of way. I’m working on it. I eat lower carb and add veggies wherever I can to keep the nutrition level up. On days like yesterday when I started feeling bad, I realize what a blessing that is because I had homemade chicken broth to sip on when my body needed something healthy but wasn’t ready for solid food. I am also a great believer in the power of garlic as well. Garlic is known as nature’s antibiotic, and when I feel some illness coming on, I peel a small clove of garlic and take it like a pill before bedtime. I do that for a few days and in most instances, I’m good as new. By the way, I am not a doctor, nutritionist or licensed healthcare practitioner, so this is not medical advice for anyone else. I just know it works for me.

As you get older, what works for you changes. When I was young, eating junk food didn’t seem to be a problem. Now that I’m older, it packs on the pounds like crazy. Bread and other gluten heavy foods make me feel bloated and cranky. High carb foods raise my blood sugar. It’s very interesting to see how my body reacts to garbage food, and it isn’t pretty. I eat in more than out to limit temptation because even though I know what works, when warm, fresh bread is set in front of you, it’s difficult for me to pass when everyone else is enjoying themselves. The same is true when I don’t feel well. When I was young, I could easily ignore the issue, and it would usually go away. I thought I was tough and maybe I was, but I’ve watched so many people I know ignore the signs of illness or push themselves to the point of exhaustion without honoring their body’s needs. They think it’s noble, and maybe it is, but I’ve seen so many of those same people have to stop and take care of their body when something more serious manifests that they can’t ignore, and in my family, that has often meant cancer. My grandfather died of liver cancer. My grandmother died of colon cancer. My father died of kidney cancer, and I’ve been told that means I am at higher risk for all of them. What the doctors don’t take into account is the toxic fumes my grandfather may have inhaled while burning doors painted with lead based paints, the depression my grandmother experienced after the death of my grandfather or the poor nutrition of my father. None of them drank water regularly. My grandfather made his own wine. My grandmother was a lover of regular coke and my father consumed a two liter bottle of Diet Pepsi per day. I drink water and tea. Although my grandfather and father both had gardens, there was also plenty of junk food around. In our house, we purchased a five pound can of potato chips per week. Yikes! We didn’t know how bad that was for us at the time, but we do now.

So what does this have to do with today? I don’t know if my dad and grandparents knew how to honor their bodies with nutritional food that enhances life rather than detracts from it, but I do. I do know that my father figured he would die young and would die of cancer and he was right. I choose differently today by drinking water, eating healthy food for me and allowing my body to rest and recuperate as it needs to. I’ve seen what happens when you ignore your body’s needs for too long, and I would prefer a little rest today that a lot of rest and treatment later. I know it’s not the way most people handle their body and their health, but it is the way that I honor mine. Maybe I’m lucky that I only have to do that once or twice a year or maybe that’s why I only have to do it once or twice a year. It doesn’t really matter which one it might be because today I surrender to what is and do the best I can. I wish you good health, and hope you stay well, but if you happen to feel the bug coming on, I wish you the grace of surrender for healing your body and your spirit. So, from my sofa and under my blanket, thanks for being you and have a great day.

The Spiritual Wink, Nudge and Kick in the Pants

24 Jan

A few weeks ago, a dear friend of mine asked if I would like to spend a few days with her at her condo in Florida. Being the despiser of winter that I am, I said yes. As it got closer to the day to go, I thought of a thousand reasons I shouldn’t go, but my husband assured me he and my boys would be fine and that I could use the R&R. My friend has her own business and had to work during the day so I figured I would work as well. I saw myself writing for hours and crafting my next book, a book on motherhood I’ve been itching to write. The night before I left I was so excited to dive into the book and soak in the warm weather.

I arrived on Sunday and it was warm and beautiful. I put on shorts and we walked. It felt good to be in the Sunshine state, and I was soaking up the best it had to offer. I didn’t worry about the writing because it was Sunday and I had three more days to make progress. I managed to walk 12, 500 steps but didn’t write a single word. The next day was just as beautiful. As my friend worked, I looked at social media and dove into email. I have so many emails, and I feel more and more behind as the number rises. I felt the need to purge in a big way, so I did. I dove into the emails, and it took three days, but I edited them to fewer than 600 for the first time in years. Yes, I have many more to delete and process, but I deleted more than half of the original number so I’m happy with it for now and the plan is to continue what I started until I have fewer than 100 emails total. It may sound like a small thing, but it’s a big thing for me. Oh, and I still didn’t write anything regarding the book.

While I was walking around the area, I started to take pictures of some of the houses for sale. There were big ones and small ones and multi-unit ones, and as I looked at them, I started to think about what I would like to do if I had a second home in Florida, and I came up with some amazing hopes and dreams. Not only would I want to be able to have my family visit whenever we wish, but I would also like to do something for moms. Actually, the something would be an in depth weekend, just for moms. I have a million ideas of what I would like the weekend to look like, but now how do I make it happen? It was a fun exercise in dreaming about making the world a better place, and I was having a blast building dreams I couldn’t have imagined a few years ago, but I was also questioning if the dream was realistic or even something to aspire to. It seemed nearly impossible that considering where I am now that I could create a mom weekend, but that’s when “it” happened. “It” was a phone call between my friend and her husband. My friend and I both talk to our husbands multiple times per day, but we rarely put them on speaker phone. For this particular call, my friends’ husband wanted to video chat with her and since I was in the room, I couldn’t help but hear what he was saying. He was talking about something he read about dream building and how this man went to somewhere luxurious, where he felt prosperous, and he set goals and dreamed about what he would like to be, have and do. My friend said, “Let’s go” and that is the last of their conversation I heard because I felt like the Divine had picked that moment and that man to show me my dreams were possible. It’s difficult to explain, but it felt like God was talking to me through my friend and her husband. I was sitting in a luxurious place. I was feeling awesome and hopeful and prosperous in friendship and in life. I am not ashamed to admit that I wept for joy at the confirmation and was ready to go home with a new dream.

The next night, one of my cousins shared an article titled How to Commit to a Creative Life by Kevin Ashton. I enjoy articles that talk about creativity; at least I usually enjoy them. This one needled at me and was making me very uncomfortable because of the truth I knew the article was telling. Then I read a passage that just went straight to my heart and soul. It was an incredibly direct, in your face spiritual moment. It’s was a moment that made me want to cry “Uncle” because I knew the Divine was speaking to me again, not in a frightening way, but in a firm way that let me know that I had a decision to make. It was the confirmation of the confirmation of the phone call between my friend and her husband. It was one paragraph in the article that felt like it had been written just for me. It spoke to me and challenged me, and as frightened as I am to make the leap I want to make; I’m more frightened to fall short of what I think I’m supposed to do on this earth and disappoint the Creator I believe gave me gifts to make it possible. The paragraph may not mean near as much to you as it did to me but read along anyway:

“The commitment has a high price: we must devote ourselves almost entirely to our creative goal. We must say no to distraction when we want to say yes. We must work when we do not know what to do. We must return to our creation every day without excuse. We must continue when we fail. If any devil is involved, he is not the one demanding commitment. Whatever your higher power, whether God, Allah, Jehovah, Buddha, or the greater good of humanity, this is whom you serve when you commit to a life of creation. What is diabolical is squandering your talents. We sell our soul when we waste our time. We drive neither ourselves nor our world forward if we choose idling over inventing.”

Wow. Squandering your talent is diabolical and wasting time is selling your soul. That is about as straightforward as it gets. So I got a nudge to write another book about motherhood. I went to Florida and all sorts of interesting ideas began to pop up about how I can help moms, get to spend time in Florida and maybe even make money in the process. You know, they say that God works in mysterious ways, and with the way things have gone for me this week, I would have to agree. I think sometimes we have to get away from our routines and our regular life to see our lives more clearly. I had that privilege this week. I was able to step away from the daily needs and wants of my life now and feel the call of my life in the future. It may be a near, mid-range or long range future but there’s a vision and a direction and it’s very exciting to think about. It’s also a little terrifying because what I want to do requires a huge leap of faith. It requires that I tune out the distractions and focus on the important tasks before me. It requires that I tune out all that is noise and focus on the path that was created for my personal success. I’m not looking to make millions, although that would be nice. I’m looking to be of service, to mentor and to coach those who would like to make their lives better. It requires that I be better and do better so I can teach better.

It requires that I think differently and live my life differently and give up activities that add nothing to my day. It’s something I’ve aspired to for years and I’m feeling like I’m almost there. I’m almost ready to take the leap, write and record the words and launch whatever I need to launch to fulfill the dream and walk on the path that the Divine has inspired. I pray I can do it justice. I pray this is truly the path. It feels like it is and there is so much good that can grow from it. It feels like what I should be doing right now, not for anyone else, but for my peace of mind and for the one who created me. I’m afraid I might fail. I’m just as scared I’ll succeed. I’m most frightened that all the confirmations I’m seeing isn’t from the Divine but my own feeble attempt to understand something that might not be a message for me at all, but I think that’s more of a cop out than an actual fear. That would be a convenient way for me to put what happened in a box and hide it away, but running from it might be the most diabolical thing in the world, to ignore a message you just know is from the Divine. It makes me feel exposed because now I feel like I have to put myself out there like never before. I have to be bold and brave and turn toward the wind even if I want to hide behind the trees. I have to live the bigger life I’m being called to live and it doesn’t look like anyone else’s life. I like what it looks like. I actually love what it looks like, but it requires so much of me.

I worry that I won’t be a good mom if I’m helping other moms be better. I remember the phrase, if God brings to it, He will bring you through it. I guess it’s time to make the leap and see what happens, so this weekend, I’ll be figuring out how to do what I need to do and keep my house from falling down around my ears. I’ll let you all know how that works out, and hopefully it will work better than I think it will because it’s the Divine plan, so why wouldn’t it work, right? Honestly, I can think of a million ways it won’t work. I can only think of one way it will work and that is with Divine intervention, protection and guidance. If I’m wrong, I’m sure it will fall in like a house of cards on a windy day. If I’m right, my Divine inspiration could help so many. It’s a chance I’m so afraid to take, but it’s one I feel like I have to take. Isn’t it amazing that a peace filled few days in Florida could cause all of that? Well it did, and I have no idea where it will all lead.

Every day I tell myself that life is good and it’s getting better, and most days I’m correct. We have food to eat and a roof over our heads and joy in our hearts. It’s a good place to be and a place I would like to help others get to and beyond, but I need to turn off the noise of life and dive in. Do you have a dream like that; one that could change the world or just change your world? How about you join me and we make the world a better place together? What if we shut out the noise and do what we were born to do? What if we take a deep breath and ask the Divine to guide us along the way? It may not be perfect, but for me it feels right and that makes it good enough. I challenge you to make it happen. I challenge you to ask for help and guidance. I pray we can all make our lives and the lives of those we encounter better. Let’s create a movement and live better every day. Doesn’t that sound amazing? It does to me. Take the leap and join me and let me know how it goes. I love being here and missed you all last week. Thanks for being you and have a great day.

Did I Mention I was Tired?

13 Jan

Did I Mention I was Tired?.

Did I Mention I was Tired?

13 Jan

Today was going to be my day to stay at home and get things done. I have no commitments outside the house, and I have been waiting for a day like this for weeks. Everyone is back to school or work, although it’s exam week for my younger two. The National Championship for college football is over for this year, and my favorite team is the winner, although I was up much later than I am used to. March madness is nearly two months away. It’s time to hunker down and make some serious progress in several areas of my life. So many are dropping off of their New Year’s resolutions, and I feel like I’m just getting to mine, but today was the day; only it wasn’t.

It wasn’t the day I cleaned the house top to bottom, walked 10 miles and organized our finances. It wasn’t the day I de-cluttered the basement, listed everything on Craigslist or Ebay and cooked dinners for ourselves and all of our sick friends. It wasn’t even the day I got all my routines done. Instead, it was the morning that my son sent a text asking if I could bring a notebook and binder to school so that he didn’t fail those grades. It was the day I had to schlep myself out and be the good mom. It was the day to show for my son, again. At first, I was not doing the supermom thing with a supermom attitude. I was ticked because my plan was ruined. I was even more ticked because the more I looked the more clutter I found that probably belonged in a notebook or two or three; notebooks we had already spent hours trying to organize. I felt the martyr rise up in me as once again I was being called up to save the day, and I was doing it because that’s what I do, but I wasn’t being who I wanted to be. I was just being tired and maybe cranky.

I want to be the mom my kids can count on to help them out in a pinch; not enabling them to be dependent, but helping them to be successful. I want to be kind and loving and supportive while teaching my children to do the same. This morning I was being judgmental and angry and acting like a martyr, not toward anyone, but in my head. It was an epic rant about how no one appreciates me or values my time. I was self-righteous and indignant, plus I’m tired and it’s cold and I’m tired. I was up watching the game until after midnight. Did I mention I’m tired? I don’t like feeling this way. I much prefer to be a face people love rather than dread to see coming or a name they smile instead of roll their eyes when they see it on their phone. I knew in that state I was a blessing to no one, even myself. I needed something to change, and it did.

I sat down to write a blog post because it always helps me to sort out my problems and my attitude. I started writing and by the time I was 500 words in, I could feel myself starting to relax, but relaxing brought its own set of issues. Thank goodness I was sitting on the sofa while I was typing because I fell asleep at the keyboard, twice. Did I mention I was tired? After the second time, I started worrying about dropping my laptop so I set it down and allowed my head to rest back on the sofa cushion. Forty five minutes later one of my boys came bounding down the stairs and woke me up. He was ready to do a task I had asked him to help me with, and I was ready to face the day with a different attitude.

I am ready to look at my blessings again instead of my challenges. I am ready to be aware that I have enough to eat, a roof over my head and a family that loves me. Why does it sometimes feel like an ongoing battle to remember these things? I am grateful that, although it may be cold outside, the sun is shining and that is a rare thing during the winter in my part of the world. I am grateful also that I already have dinner planned and only need to heat it to feed my family. I watched a video today of a refugee camp in Syria of a young man who only wants a few things. He wants to eat. He wants a safe place to sleep, and he wants to see his dad. Who am I to complain about life when I look at someone in that situation? Yes, I have challenges, and I lose patience with them now and then, but I am aware that I am spoiled. Isn’t it amazing that we have a billion dollar industry in this country dedicated to losing weight when people around the world and in our own country are starving? A friend of mine who plays an online video game with older adults around the world told me something. In her group, there is a man from India who is well off. He said that every night, they give their left over food to the poor. I think that is a wonderful thing to do. We have restaurants here that waste tons of food every day, not because they don’t want to help, but they’re terrified someone will get sick and sue them. We allow people to starve because our legal system is such that if someone did sue them, the restaurant would probably lose, and that is a shame. It makes us fearful of helping our fellow human beings rather than open to it. Why risk losing your business over a few meals? It’s sad, really, but I digress, as usual.

Now, I’ve had a nap. My dinner is ready to cook. I still need a shower because I had the privilege of working out today, and my youngest son and I are about to donate some items that no longer serve our home. Even the idea that we have so much that we can give much of it away without ever feeling its loss is astounding to me. This is what many call an “aha” moment. I am changed. I am more aware, and because of that, I am a better person, not better than anyone else, just better. It’s what I hope to be every day, just better. Today it came from the luxury of a nap when I was tired and cranky and from the plea of a young man halfway around the world for food. The opportunities for gratitude are everywhere. The agents of change are everywhere. All we need to do is look and see. Today I see, and I am so appreciative of the view. It may not be the view I dream of, but it is a fine view in the grand scheme of things. I am so blessed. So, I challenge you if you’re feeling out of balance to find something to be grateful for. Look for the blessing in your situation. If you’re sick, be grateful for the ability to rest or to have someone take care of you. Be grateful that you have a home to rest and be taken care of in. Be grateful for running water, indoor plumbing or maybe even windows in your home that keep out the weather and allow you to look on the abundance in the world. Find something, anything, to be grateful for and allow yourself to be just a little bit better too. Thanks for being you and have a great day.

January 8th 2014 The 88 Day Countdown

8 Jan

January 8th 2014 The 88 Day Countdown.

January 8th 2014 The 88 Day Countdown

8 Jan
Kitchen Table Before

Kitchen Table Before

Kitchen Table After

Kitchen Table After

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Yesterday I began a countdown on the Better Living Daily Facebook page. I’ve done this before in other groups, and something about a countdown just energizes me. I don’t know if knowing there is a time limit or definite end helps me to focus, or if it’s the way a countdown feels like a game that appeals to me, but I’ve done it before, and it definitely helps. This particular countdown is to Easter Sunday, a holiday that I host for 40-60 people. To give you the quick math, my husband is the baby of nine children, all of whom still live in town. From there we have 29 grandchildren, and ours are the youngest three, and the grandchildren range in age from 14 to 47. Then we have the great grandchildren, who now outnumber the grandchildren. By the way, only one grandchild, who is single with no children, lives out of town. Everyone else is here, so if you add it up, we’ve got 9+29+43 plus my mom and anyone else who might tag along, which gives us over 80 but we know a few won’t show, so we count on sixty and enjoy the ride.

The biggest challenge is finding places for everyone to spread out. We have a nice home, and if the weather is nice, we have a long driveway and two porches for people to hang out. If it’s chilly or rainy, we have a few more challenges, so it helps my attitude and sense of peace if the basement is clear in case we have people, mainly children, needing to land there. It also helps to have my office clear because that is where all of the treasures for the Easter Egg hunts are stored. I have a lovely journal that I made to keep track of how much food and drink to buy, when to start collecting ice and even all of the little things I do like putting a disposable table cloth over the drink table so we can just throw it away. Remember, there are over 40 great grandchildren, and we learned years ago to put the drink table outside and just not worry about the spills. We have the day pretty much down, but there is definitely some prep work I would like to do before the big day, and since this is the time of year people seem to stay indoors more, it’s a great time to make some household magic.

Some of that magic will come from purchases, like new pantry doors and maybe a new sofa, if I save well. Some of that magic will come from elbow grease, like repairing and repainting my kitchen chairs and getting rid of the clutter. If you walked in my house, you really don’t see much clutter. Most of it is tucked away. It’s not the kind of clutter you haul out in a dumpster. It’s the kind that you decide just how much sentimental value it has and just how much you want more space. I’m leaning more and more toward space. Yesterday I started where I always do with my kitchen table. There is something almost magical about that space. When it is clear, I feel like I can conquer the world. When it’s filled with clutter, it feels almost hard to breathe. Maybe that’s because, when my kitchen table is covered, it means I’ve been procrastinating. Almost every piece of paper or item has a “to-do” item associated with it that I’ve been putting off either because I want to talk to someone in my family about it; I think it will require more time than I have, or I just don’t want to deal with it. Most of the time, it’s probably the last one. Today it took a couple of hours because there were bills to pay, papers to file and items to find a home for. I even read a magazine so I could recycle it instead of adding it to my already overwhelming list of unread periodicals. The only things left now are the napkins that belong there, the label maker I want to learn how to use and my sunshine in a box, a lamp my husband bought me to help me keep my mood up this winter. So far, the mood is staying lifted, and I’ll keep you informed as the winter wears on. The table looks great. If you would like to see it, the before and after pictures are on the Better Living Daily Facebook page and hopefully will be attached to the blog post I’ll be posting after the show. It was the logical place to start and I feel great about it.

The other great thing about a countdown is the accountability it inspires. When you commit to something like a countdown, especially if you dare to post your “before” picture, you feel an obligation to follow through. You know people are looking for the “after” picture, and not that you should do the work to please others, but you can use that pressure to help you move forward in a positive way. My greatest joy is to see and read about others’ successes when they spend just 15 minutes making a difference in their lives, and they can see and feel their own success. String that along for a few days and to some, it feels like a miracle. I know because I felt that way. On my own, I would never make consistent progress for more than a day or two, but when I was working in tandem with others, I would make twice the progress in half the time, and there is so much empowerment in making progress, whatever the task might be. One of the people I worked with online wrote the better part of her novel 45 minutes at a time. I have read about people clearing out pantries, bathrooms and basements. I have worked in my yard or vegetable garden, and because I hate weeding, it is such joy to not only make the progress but also to have a time that I can actually quit, whether I am finished or not. Countdowns help me to parcel out the work over time so that I prevent burnout. I learn to be ok with progress and let go of perfectionism, and letting go of perfectionism is a beautiful thing.

I believe that perfectionism is what keeps most of us from living a much better life. We think we are too old, too young or too fat. We are not educated enough, pretty enough or smart enough. I know some of those thoughts hold me back. One of my goals is to speak to groups of women to encourage them to think differently and know their value. Another is to publish another book, and I realized that a publishing package I bought at a discount in October is set to expire at the end of this month. I have the material for my next book, but I haven’t begun writing yet. I guess it’s time to start that too. If I’m on a roll, I write about 1.000 words per hour, sometimes more. To have a decent book to publish, that would mean writing 1,000 words per day, each day of this month to have a 20,000 word book. Last month with Do Better December, I probably averaged 1,000 words per day each weekday and then took the weekends off, while I was preparing for Christmas. Writing a blog is so much different than writing a book, but I detest wasting money, especially the amount of money I spent on this publishing package, so it’s time to get to it. I have to tell you that it scares the bejesus out of me to put that out there, but I also know that announcing it publicly will again help me to push forward. There will be obstacles and challenges, but the possible rewards are so much greater, I’m willing to give it a go.

So what does giving it a go mean? For me, it means less TV. I hate to admit it, but TV is my biggest mind numbing escape from reality. When I don’t want to deal with life, I turn it on and watch reruns of shows I love and the time just slips away. Before I know it, it is dinner time or bed time, and I’ve wasted more hours than I care to count. I’m not saying that anyone needs to do what I do, but I will be much more conscious of turning the TV on because when it goes on, productivity generally stops. Now and then I can make it work with something that doesn’t take a great deal of mental focus. Those times, I play a game we call commercial roulette in our house. Every time a commercial break comes on, I, or we if my family is pitching in, get up off the couch and do something for two minutes or until the show comes back on. Last night, I cleaned up the kitchen during the breaks in a one hour show. I put food away, loaded and started the dishwasher, wiped down the stove, counters and kitchen table, and hand washed a couple of items. The kitchen looked great and all I missed were a bunch of commercials.

There are some other screens that will require less time as well. I have a few games loaded on my phone, and I spend a fair amount of time on social media. Some of it is beneficial, but some of it is to hide from doing the things I know would improve my life, like de-cluttering. I have asked myself so many times why I procrastinate about that and in addition to the perfectionism, I’ve discovered something else. As we begin to de-clutter, we unearth other issues; not just physical ones like home repairs that need attention, but emotional ones that we’ve ignored or covered over or allowed to be buried under mounds of stuff. I watch shows like Hoarders and My 600 Pound Life, and it becomes so apparent to me; those with the most pain cover it up with whatever works for them. Some people bury themselves under things. Some people build a shield of flesh and fat. Some people are wrapped in an angry and bold façade, and some lose themselves in hobbies or volunteering or taking care of others.

One of the most amazing things a mentor said to me was that it is easier to fix the world than to focus on fixing and healing ourselves, but that fixing and healing ourselves is the greater spiritual path. I’ve been on that spiritual path for a long time. Yes, I am, by nature, a fixer. If you present a problem, I will be looking for a solution even if you say you don’t want one. A friend shared a quote by Teddy Roosevelt the other day that said that presenting a problem without presenting a solution was called whining. I would agree with that, unless you are presenting the problem because you need input to find your solution, in which case I would say, “Bring it on” and let me help you find a solution that gives you joy.

So, as we move into this new year of 2015, I hope you’ll join us on the countdown to Easter. I hope you’ll find a reason big enough to make this your best year so far. If you uncover some pain along the way, I hope you find a healthy way to release it and be at peace, but most of all I hope you continue on the journey to being the best you possible so that you can share your gifts with the world. I am blessed to share your journey in whatever ways we intersect. As always, thanks for being you and have a great day, week, month and year.

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