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The Up and Down Weekend

24 Mar

To listen along, click here: http://tobtr.com/s/8558331

I’m about to write something I rarely write or even think. This weekend sucked; well, parts of it did. All three of my boys, at two different colleges and one still in high school, had the weekend off for spring break, although one was on his way back to campus from Florida and could only stay for a night or two, but having my boys home at the same time is always a treat. I was invited to a shower, and I hadn’t seen most of the people there for years so it was a great time to catch up. I had dinner with some of my high school friends, two of whom I hadn’t spent time with in about five years. It should have been one of my best weekends in a long time, and in some ways it was, but in other ways, it was the worst weekend I had been through because my husband and I are out of sync. It hurts to type that, but it’s true. It happens now and then and we both hate it, but I’ve learned that we can come through it stronger when we both let go of what we think should have happened and move on with a new plan and a renewed spirit. The monkey wrench in the works this week is that I’m preparing for Easter and he’s out of town. We can’t look each other in the eye and hold hands and hug it out like we usually do. What we’re left with is email and texts and phone calls that can only happen after work because he is on site and can’t just casually disappear for an hour at lunch. I’ve been grousing about is all day in my head, and I have been to some pretty ugly and dark corners. Part of me wants to forgive everything and just go on pretending everything will be fine, but the wiser part of me knows that we need to talk this one out because if we just let it slide, it will keep happening until we address the real issues. What are the real issues? I think that depends on which one of us you talk to. From his perspective, he feels like he is trying to do everything that he can to make me happy. He just wants me to tell him what to do, and he will do it. He assures me that as I come close to finishing my next book and creating a coaching program that he and the boys will step up and do whatever needs to be done, and I am hopeful that they will do exactly what he promises, until Saturday happened.

Admittedly, I made most of the mess that I left in the kitchen, but my husband assured me that he would take care of the dishes. I also left a load of whites in the dryer and asked him to get them out, and he assured me he would take care of that as well. He also had planned to work in the basement because Easter is early, and we host 40-60 people, and if it’s cold and rainy, we need somewhere to put everyone, including the basement. I’ve been asking since December for my guys to clean up the basement. I’ve done pretty much as much as I can on my own and need their input and muscle to get the rest of the basement usable and safe for younger children. All four of my guys are wood workers and we have a decent set of power tools and machines to make their projects easier. Did I mention I’ve been asking since December for 15 minutes per week? On Saturday, it wasn’t finished, not even close, and I had done most of it. My husband had golf plans on Sunday and was leaving town on Monday, not returning until Wednesday, after garbage had been picked up for the week. Doesn’t sound like a big deal but since we fill the garbage can on Easter Sunday, its best if we don’t fill it beforehand. So, on Saturday evening, when I got home, there were clean dishes in the dishwasher, but the table was still a mess with dirty ones. The laundry was out of the dryer but was still in the basket unfolded, and the basement was still far from being finished. I was hurt. I was angry, and I felt betrayed.

That might sound like a strong reaction to one day, but as I thought about it, I realized it was the symptom of a much bigger issue between my husband and me. When I wrote my first book, we both had to face so many fears. What should have taken a few months ended up taking two years. This time it’s taken me a much shorter time to finish a book, but I’m also creating a coaching course to go along with the book. It’s a much bigger endeavor, and it requires so much more of my time and effort. I am in a constant battle of what needs my attention most: my home, my family or my work. I have worked for twenty years to have a family and home I’m proud of, but I am feeling called to do this work. My family is very encouraging and tells me often that they will be happy to step up, but we’ve gotten into an unhealthy pattern. I ask, and they ignore me until I scream, yell or become so angry, they look at me like I’m a lunatic and figure they better comply before I go completely mental. I’ve been aware of it for years with my children, and for the most part, we’ve gotten passed it. I actually tell them that I would really appreciate it if they would comply before I turn into a raving lunatic, and they get the message. It isn’t threatening; it’s just a realization that doing what’s being asked is easier on all of us, especially since I take great steps to give an appropriate amount of time to do the task and make the task reasonable. If it doesn’t happen, though, at some point you have to call the person out or do it yourself. That’s when things went wrong for us this weekend. I called my husband out when we were both tired and under-slept, so neither of us was in a reasonable mood, the evening ended badly, and the next day didn’t go well either. Now, he’s hundreds of miles away.

This morning I read a blog post of a fellow mom blogger, and it’s amazing how reading someone else’s perspective can change yours. Her blog post, Nest Stress, http://shalavee.com/nest-stress/ got to me in a strange way. When I read her post, I realized we were having our own version of nest stress, and we have to be careful not to knock over the rocking nest. It has rocked before and it will probably rock again, but right now we’re trying to steady the wobble so we can enjoy this week of spring break and get ready for Easter with less and less stress. That was goal three months ago and is still the goal today; make progress and enjoy the process as much as possible. Today my kids pitched in, on order from their dad. We made progress. I don’t know how much they enjoyed it, but I think they’re proud of what we accomplished. I’m slowly on the mend from this weekend and I hope my husband is too. I wish he was here so we could work this out. I wish it wasn’t so exhausting. I wish I had a magic wand that could make it all happen without effort, but it’s bringing clarity to so many things that I may yet find a blessing and a miracle somewhere in the mess. My husband has apologized by email. I haven’t yet replied because this blog post will be my reply. I’ll get his input, and perhaps post a follow up before I even post the original. Perhaps this blog post will never see the light of day other than in his inbox, but I felt compelled to write about it to process my own anger and frustration and figure out the next best steps to take. I want to finish the book. I want to make my family proud. I want my family to step up, and I want us all to have the best spring break and Easter possible. As an eternal optimist, I believe that can happen, and being that it’s Holy Week, I can think of no better time for a miracle. So that’s what’s happening in my corner of the world. I hope your weekend was better than mine, and I hope we all have an amazing Easter weekend however we choose to celebrate or not.

Postscript – The hubs and I talked and more importantly, we listened. Isn’t rainbows and unicorns, but it’s better, much better. We are moving forward with a better understanding of each other, where we think our lives are headed and what got us out of sync in the first place. I am grateful for a man who is willing to listen and to talk and for a blog post that helped me get passed my own nest stress. Thanks for being you and have a great day!

Not What I Intended

4 Dec

To listen along, click here: http://tobtr.com/s/8116615
Tis the season to feel overwhelm and as much as I love this season, I am not immune to the overwhelm myself. It used to be just the gift buying and keeping up with the activity that challenged me. Now that I have grown to a place of financial comfort, I have a new challenge. I find myself questioning what is appropriate to give to my family and what is my obligation to my community and the world at large? We live in an incredibly affluent area where the median income is over $100,000. Living in an area like that can tend to give you a skewed view of the world, especially when your children have friends who are making three and four times what you make. They can see themselves as deprived when you know differently. Life can become a constant reminder of what you lack instead of the amazing privileges you have. Adding to that is having many wealthy friends of color, so understanding the nature of the world can be a challenge. We do know others, however, that have much more challenging lives, which keeps things in perspective most of the time.

I’ve mentioned this before, but I got a huge wake-up call earlier this year when I read an article about a local school in which every child lived under the poverty line. Most shared a toothbrush and only owned one pair of underwear. Some had never had a bed and others lived without even a single pair of socks. This is only ten miles from my home and I was completely unaware. In that same article, I found out that my city has the second highest percentage of children living in poverty next to Detroit Michigan. That article changed me. That article made me understand for the first time in my life that poverty for children has nothing to do with choice. It made me understand that sometimes school is the safest place for a child and the only place they feel love. It made me also realize that I live in an unbelievably giving city that overwhelmed the school with its generosity. They had hoped that people would reach out to their school and help the families. They were unprepared for the 19 beds, the mountains of underwear and socks and the incredible amount of money that was donated. They were unprepared for the meal and treat donations and the pledges from civic groups to make sure that when school started this year that every child would have all the supplies they needed. The city responded and life is better for those children, but there is so much more to do. Other children live in poverty. People are homeless. As much as I want my children to have an amazing holiday season, this tugs at my soul, so I’ve decided to compromise.

I still want to provide my family with a Christmas to remember, and I will. We will have presents and meals and family time galore, but when I make a treat tray for the schools, like I do every year, I’ll make extras to share with the homeless I see on our travels through the city. I know it isn’t enough, but I also know it makes a difference to look them in the eye and see them and let them know someone is thinking about them. I’ll still make my Christmas Prep list, which I’ll share on the Better Living Daily Facebook page, but when you look at that file, you’ll see that every week includes the list item to make time for peace. Isn’t it interesting that the season of peace is sometimes the season we seem to lose our ability to find that peaceful place? Here are a few things I’ve learned over the years. Everything we do is a choice. We may not always like the choices, but in every situation, we choose to react or respond. Understanding that changed my life because I no longer feel obligated to do anything. I do it because I choose to. I send Christmas cards because I love getting them. I sometimes send them after Christmas because life gets too hectic, and I would rather take my time or add holiday pictures. I’ve been known to send a Happy New Year card instead just because it’s easier. I have figured out that the holidays are much happier when I pay for them in advance rather than after the fact. Learning to put aside a little money each month makes the holidays much less stressful. Here’s a hint. Start now for next year. If you get a year-end bonus, put at least part of it in a savings account that you don’t touch until November of next year. Adding even ten dollars a month will give you over $100 additional in the account. Do you get a tax refund? Put at least 10% of it into the holiday account. As the account grows, so will your excitement for the season. This is truly one of the greatest gifts we have given ourselves these past few years. Think carefully about what you want this season to be. Do you want it to be fun and social? Do you want it to be quiet and peaceful? Choose your actions accordingly. I happen to be someone who loves a fun and festive holiday season. My philosophy is the more the merrier and there’s always room for one more. I know others who are looking for a more quiet, peaceful season and are choosing differently. Each choice is valid and will be what brings each of us joy, and isn’t that the point?

You know, when I think about what to write and talk about each week, I rarely have a definitive subject in mind until I sit down at the keyboard. Most of the time, I don’t even feel like the author of what I write which may be why I have such an aversion to editing. The words come from getting out of my own way and letting the muse, the Divine or whatever you want to call it take over. Sometimes I get humor. Sometimes I get serious subjects, but I always end up getting some perspective I never really thought about before. Life can be that way when you are open to the Divine leading your life rather than trying to wrestle it to the ground yourself. I feel like I actually have a much better life because instead of wanting things to happen in a certain way, I focus more on how I want to feel and be in this world. I ask myself what I want, not in terms of how everything should play out, but in how I want to feel. At night, I always want to feel peaceful and loving as I drift off to sleep. I bless all those I love and all those who need and want love and ask for protection for all. When I wake, I am grateful for another day and ask to fulfill my Divine purpose in the best way possible. It doesn’t always mean a perfect day. In fact, it rarely means a perfect day, but it puts my mind and spirit on a path to make it an extraordinary day regardless of what happens because I am focused on doing my best and doing my best will be the focus for the next few weeks as we head into Christmas and the new year.

Speaking of Christmas, I want to let you in on a little secret. I live in a part of the world that is politically correct in their speech and diverse in their religion and ethnic background. Never once has anyone ever been offended by my wishing them a Merry Christmas or even by my giving them a Christmas present, and I have done both. I am not offended that all of my children learned to play the dreidel game and sing the dreidel song. I am not offended that my children have witnessed their Muslim friends sit through lunch or even play soccer during Ramadan and refuse even a sip of water or morsel of food. I am not offended that my children know what Diwali is and when it is celebrated. I’m not even offended that some of my children’s friends not only don’t believe in my God or my traditions, but are critical of them. From our Jewish friends, our children have learned about persecution, practical faith and giving. From our Muslim friends, our children have learned about commitment, perseverance and devotion. From our Hindu friends, our children have learned dedication, hard work and always doing your best. From out atheist friends, our children have learned critical thinking and to question why we believe as we do. Hopefully, the friends of my children have learned acceptance and love from my children. I have often said that the world could learn a few lessons from the children of our school district, and it is my hope and prayer that as my children go into this world as adults that they share their understanding and promote peace wherever they go.

So here we are again, somewhere I did not intend to go, but went anyway. I hope you got a nugget of perspective and perhaps a nugget of hope. I believe in perspective. I believe in love, and I believe when we stop being angry with each other and blaming each other, we will finally be able to walk in peace. I love you all more than you know, and I wish you the best holiday season you’ve ever had. Thanks for being you and have a great day.

Searching for Holiday Happiness

5 Nov

To listen along click here: http://tobtr.com/s/8051113

I know talking about the holidays makes some people’s skin crawl. So many are dreading what’s to come, but they are coming whether we want them to or not. Thanksgiving in the US is a mere three weeks away. There will be challenges. We will all have them. Some easily rise to the challenge. Some whine through the challenge and some run from it. The irony is that if we whine or run from the challenge, nothing changes. We will be faced with the same type of challenge over and over until we figure it out. Have you ever noticed that? I think that is especially true during the holidays. We have this idea of the perfect holiday season, and then we look at our finances, our home or our relationships and realize the perfection we imagine might be beyond our reach, and that sends us spiraling downward. None of us is without challenge, but how we approach the challenge can be the difference between a holiday season of peace and joy and one of stress and angst.

Let me start by saying that I am a failure; at least I could look at it that way. Last month, I joined a creativity bootcamp with the idea of finishing and publishing a book about getting through the holidays. It was going to be a step by step guide to help those who need it. This is the second time I attempted to write this book, and I failed to finish it. Am I a failure? I’m sure some would say yes, but in truth, the vision for the book got bigger, so it has been postponed again. I actually have several ideas for books rolling around in my head and on several pieces of paper. I also have ideas for webinars, speaking engagements and future radio shows. Very often it feels like there aren’t enough hours in the day because “real life” gets in the way, but real life is what I’ve chosen for now. I made a commitment to being a mom and with ADHD to deal with in my son and myself, some days it’s all I can handle, so for now, the book is on hold; perhaps next year.

If we’re willing to look, the greatest gifts, though, from the challenges we face show up as compassion and gratitude later on. We can look at what we’ve faced and then look at others in moments of challenge with grace. That doesn’t mean you have to dive down in the suffering and be at one with it. I would even suggest that commiserating with someone’s challenge only helps to keep them there. It provides no solution. Unfortunately, many would rather wallow in the challenge than look for the solution. They don’t want help. They want to justify their suffering. They aren’t ready to move on from their suffering to be joyful, and I think that’s sad, because when you focus on the suffering, you keep away the joy. That is the personification of misery loving company. I have felt the blues during the holidays. I have looked into the abyss, but I have learned from it. I have learned that I never want to pull anyone into that abyss with me but retreating can often make the spiral go deeper and longer than ever. We continue to ask what’s wrong with me. We tell ourselves that we should be grateful, but we focus on the problem when the most important question to ask is what you can do to get out of the dark place. The holiday blues are not inevitable or maybe they are, but they can be a short stop on the journey instead of somewhere you unpack and roll around in the muck. You can rise above them to have an incredible holiday season. In hopes of helping those who would like it, I have created a list of ten things to improve your mood before you slide into the abyss this holiday season. There are many more, but this is definitely a start:

1. Take care of yourself. Take a shower. Dress in nice clothes even if you have nowhere to go. Paint your nails or put on makeup if that helps you feel better. Eat healthy food and drink plenty of water. These are simple things that can start to bring you out of a funk.

2. Meditate. It has been said that when you pray, you speak to the Divine. When you meditate, the Divine speaks to you. If you’re new to meditation, I would suggest finding a guided meditation on YouTube. Meditation changed my life and it can change yours too.

3. Breathe and become aware of your body. As you breathe, consciously relax your forehead, your shoulders, your spine and your stomach. Releasing tension like this is incredibly calming and can help you slide right into the meditation experience mentioned above.

4. Listen to music that brings you joy. If you’re not sure what that music is, think of movies you like and look for the soundtrack. It can be especially fun if the movies are from your childhood.

5. Do something for someone else. Rake your neighbor’s leaves when they’re at work. Bake cupcakes for the neighborhood kids. Put $20 in an envelope and anonymously drop it into a needy family’s mailbox. Make soup for a sick friend. Don’t have a sick friend? Make soup and freeze if for when you have a sick friend. Send a gift card to someone who needs a pick me up. Write a thank you note to someone who positively affected your life. I could do an entire blog post just on random acts of kindness, and I assure you, when you do a kindness for someone who cannot pay you back, you receive as much as you give.

6. Open yourself to receiving. In our culture, we have this idea that we must give more than we receive, and it is wearing us out and killing us. We have this saying that it is better to give than to receive, but if we aren’t willing to receive, how can anyone give? Think of it this way, why are you the only person that should be allowed into Heaven? If you don’t give others the opportunity to give, you keep them from becoming their best selves. Nothing is sadder to me than a person who says they don’t want to burden their friends with their problems. What the heck are friends for? They are there to lift you out of the muck and to deny them that hurts both of you. Stop it! Be willing to be vulnerable and sad and frustrated so others know they are not alone and so both of you can find out that people care. They really, really care. This concept changed so much for me. Start with a compliment. The next time someone compliments you resist the urge to negate the compliment. If someone compliments you on how you look, thank them and tell them how nice it is of them to say. Leave it at that or repay the compliment with one of your own. If someone compliments your talent, say thank you and tell them you’re glad they enjoyed it. Don’t talk about all of the flaws or mistakes you see. Let that person help you be joyful and inspire you to be grateful for the compliment. People like to make others feel good. Let them!

7. Indulge in a healthy guilty pleasure. Love popcorn? Pop some. Love sappy, chick flicks? Watch one. Love being creative? Paint, write, create. Give yourself a short time out to do something that brings you joy. Some days you may have to do several little things. Some days it may be one big thing, but find joy in every day. If you are a parent of young children, watch them sleep for two minutes. Listen to them breathe. When my boys were little, nothing brought me more joy than rocking my children to sleep at night because I was given the gift of watching them drift off to wherever boys go to dream, of listening to their peaceful breathing and of just holding that moment of peace. If you’re children are away at college like mine, you can go sit in their room and remember the best of times with them. If you don’t have children, pull out an old photo album and look through your own wonderful memories. The possibilities of finding precious moments in your past are endless.

8. “Be the change you want to see in the world.” This quote by Gandhi has been running through my mind for the past several months, and I think it is magical. If you want the world to be a kinder place, be a kinder person and guess what? The world is a kinder place because of you. If you want the world to be filled with love, be a more loving person, and you have made your own wish come true. I think this goes hand in hand with treating your neighbor as you would like to be treated, and the best part is that you don’t need anyone else to change to make you happy because you are being the change instead. Right now, I want more love, peace and kindness in the world, which is plenty to keep me busy for now.

9. Stop being offended and stop taking things personally. This is one I am still working on. Yesterday someone wrote something on Facebook that offended me. Imagine that. It was a response to something I said, and I couldn’t help but wonder if it was a veiled insult to the kind of person I am. You see, I am generally a happy, go lucky person. I believe that there is more good in this world than bad. I believe in the intrinsic goodness of human beings. I believe we are born filled with love and must be taught and conditioned to be fearful and filled with hate. When you believe that and let people know it, they have some interesting responses. The first and most insulting is that I am stupid and uninformed. The other thing people seem to think about me because I am positive and happy is that I have no problems. Honestly, this is where I started today’s post/ radio show idea, and why I decided to write this list.

10. Live differently. If you don’t like your life, change it or change you. What if you or a family member had a very real chance of not making it through the day? Would you continue to act the way you do or think the way you do? If not, be the person you would be if you knew your time was limited because guess what? It is. Put the petty crap aside and get to living and loving better. You will still have issues but your molehills of cluttered garages, toast crumbs in the butter and piles of laundry stay molehills instead of blowing up into huge, stupid mountains. It’s interesting to think that your mountains might be someone else’s molehills. Are your mountains really mountains? I remember holiday seasons when I barely had enough money to buy gifts for my children. They may have been the most creative times I ever had finding gifts that would bring them joy and keep our family afloat financially. Perhaps the greatest thing I ever heard was that Jesus only got three gifts, why do your children need any more than that? A sobering thought indeed. Take the focus off of what you think you need to do and put the focus on who you want to be and the way you want the season to feel. You will approach everything differently. You will clean up your home to have a peaceful space. You will buy gifts to bless others instead of just checking names off of a list. I hope it will help you find peace, joy, love and grace every day of this season. Will there still be issues? Of course. Will people still get under your skin? Probably, but it isn’t about them. It’s about you having your best season ever. That’s what I wish for you not only for the next eight weeks, but for the rest of your life.
Thanks for being you and have a great day.

All Paths Lead Through the Kitchen Table

29 Oct

To listen along, click here: http://tobtr.com/s/8034231

There is nothing quite like the joy of a spiritual breakthrough for me, and I got a great one this morning. I have been in a slump creatively for a few days now. I know that may not sound like a big deal to most people; what are a few days? Well, in my case, the book I’m working on is about holiday prep and includes Thanksgiving, so if It isn’t published in the next week or so, I’ll be editing the Thanksgiving part out or waiting another year to publish, neither of which appeals to me, especially since I attempted this last year and didn’t make it. Who wants to fail to publish the same book two years in a row? Ick! As my mood began to sink, my kitchen table began to pile up as it seems to do, so this morning I decided to dive into the mess on the table to see what happened, and it only took about 15 minutes for the epiphany to come. Once again the mess on my kitchen table seemed to be part of the problem when it was actually the gateway to the solution. I once heard a story from life coach Cheryl Richardson about someone who had a terrible time getting rid of some paper clutter. Her advice to this person was to sit and quietly ask, “Why are you still here?” Of course, the person felt like an idiot at first and all of the mind-chatter of because you’re lazy, disorganized and incompetent started cropping up, just as she said it would, but she instructed the student to take a deep breath, let that go and keep asking until a different answer popped up. Eventually, the answer was that a book was waiting to be written from the many notes scattered among the piles. The person had never written a book, but as they began to sit with the idea, they knew that to be the truth, so they began to sift through the piles, keeping only the information that would be pertinent to the book and the piles disappeared. I think that’s how my kitchen table works. It’s almost like it’s some kind of vortex, and I just need to remember that those piles that pop up are ultimately for my own good.

Some days I forget how good my life is, usually when I get caught up in someone else’s life. I forget the incredible blessings I have upon my life because I get mired down in the struggles of others’ lives and it can hold me back from living. That also happened this week. On Monday, two of my youngest son’s classmates went missing. These girls are 15 and 16 and they walked out of school and got into a car with a supposed 20 year old they met online. I got derailed emotionally even after the girls were found since the story going around is that they just wanted to have fun and never come home. When I first found that out I was angry and felt really stupid for even sharing the post that they were missing. But you know what? Even if one of my kids did something like this, I would appreciate every parent who tried to help find them, no matter what the outcome. I guess blessings come in all kinds of packages if you look hard enough.

So after a couple of emotional days and a few piles on the table, I found my mojo again this morning. I began writing and the words began to flow. I even turned my computer on early to get my radio show notes written up so I could cruise the rest of the morning, and I was moving along. Then I got a phone call. A friend who watches her nephew with extraordinary medical needs called and needed help with a fussy toddler who needed his dressing changed and wasn’t cooperating. As I was going to get my jacket, I started to chuckle and looked up as I often do and said, “I guess you’re showing me where my commitments really are,” and I confirmed, yet again, something I’ve known for a very long time. People matter to me and they will always come first. I drove over to my friend’s house and distracted the little man while my friend attended to his medical needs. I probably could have told my friend I had a radio show to do, a school pickup to do, plans for the evening, and she would have understood. She’s a busy mom like me, but I would have known that I violated my priorities, and that would have only served to send me down a path I don’t like going down. I would have ended up angry about something totally unrelated and possibly said something unkind or insensitive to someone who didn’t deserve it. I think that’s where most angry outbursts come from anyway. It seldom has anything to do with the incident at hand. It has to do with feelings of violation that have bubbled under the surface for a long time and for some reason, we think it is noble to stuff that all down and that our negative feelings should not be expressed. I think that’s where the crazy in our society comes from. We’re taught to suppress anything negative and that the façade of perfect is what we need to project. We don’t let ourselves get too close to anyone for fear that they may find out who we are or that we struggle or that we need help. We are taught to be self-reliant and independent, and as Leo Buscalia says, “that’s why we’re all dying of loneliness.”

This week I have struggled. I am attending an online creativity bootcamp that I’m supposed to submit daily some creative thing I’ve done. This week, getting through each day without a meltdown has seemed like a triumph. I have fallen into bed exhausted from nothing but emotion running wild and I’ve submitted nothing. The guilt of that was adding to the spiral of negativity, but again, the table clearing saved me. I don’t owe these people anything. I don’t even know most of them, although I’m coming to love many of them as I learn their stories and the kindred spirits I have all over the globe. I owe me. I owe it to myself to live my best life and be gentle when the valleys come. I owe it to myself to keep releasing the old crap that bubbles up when I feel these spiritual epiphanies so that I can live a more authentic and unique life. I owe it to myself to focus as much as I can on my own life, knowing that my priorities will always include those I care about. I am and always will be people oriented, but I’ve also learned a great secret. For a little while at a time, I can be task oriented. For bits and pieces of my day, I can focus long enough to take care of my home without making it my life’s work. I can get laundry accomplished because it really doesn’t take more than about 15 minutes of my day for each load. Don’t believe me? Time it and see how much time you spend sorting, switching, folding and hanging. A full load for me takes between 10 and 15 minutes. I can even focus on writing a book for 15 minutes at a time and make great progress, and although I can talk forever about nothing, I can even write down notes for a radio show and blog post so that my words have some sense of flow instead of just a bunch or rambling, and those who would rather read the words than listen to them can do just that because remember, it’s all about the people.

Speaking of people, one of the ways I’ve inspired myself is to focus on who I could help with the upcoming book. I know of a few and one in particular who asked me to write this book to help her. I am happy to do that but I wanted to do more, and I have found it. I don’t know who it will be yet, but a portion of the profits of this book will go to help a family in need. I know there are so many who need, and it’s difficult to choose sometimes who you would like to help, but I’ve reached out to someone and if they give permission, I will be donating to them. If not, I have a few others lined up to ask as well, and I know there are several worthy causes out there, so someone will benefit, and I’ll let you know who when the final decision is made.

The march of the holidays has in some ways already begun. Halloween is only two days away. Thanksgiving in the US is five weeks from today, and Christmas is a mere 8 weeks and one day away. For those who celebrate all of them, it is an exciting and sometimes stressful time, but what if we all decided to make them more significant than stressful? What if we keep our eyes and our hearts on the things that bring us joy in every moment? Yes, some of us have extraordinary obstacles, but many of us have mountains made of molehills. We stress over things that we agree to that violate our priorities and subject us to people, places and things that take our joy rather than give it. I have a niece that did that a few years ago. She was recently married and trying to please everyone on both sides of her family. My husband’s family gathers together two times per year, Christmas Eve at my sister in law’s house and Easter at my house. Her new husband’s family gathers much more often, but they had a tradition of staying out of town on Christmas Eve at a relative’s home. She opted to go with her husband and was miserable, but unlike many others, after being miserable, she decided she wouldn’t be doing it again. She decided that she wanted her children to share in the joy of being around the pandemonium that is Christmas Eve with our family. We have four generations and anywhere from 40-80 people, depending on everyone’s plans. It is the only time we see some of the family, but it is a huge bonding experience for us all. Our niece opted for that, and she is so much happier because of it. Believe me, I know what it means to compromise for the holidays. We altered everything about our holidays when I married my husband because it was so much easier to alter the plans of four people than the 35 that were in my husband’s family at the time. We found ways we could both be happy, and when our children came along, we altered things even more. Being flexible is a gift you give, not only to those around you but also to yourself.
So what am I saying? I’m saying that stuff happens. We have ups and downs. We forget our priorities, but that’s part of the journey, and when we remember that and realize the bend in the road and the mountains and molehills are all part of the process, we can get back to the smooth, higher ground faster. Hopefully you have a real life and/or online community that help you remember that, and if you don’t, find one. They exist. I promise, because I’ve found two, and I’m doing my best to create another. Until next time, thanks for being you and have a great day.

Rediscovering Peace and Harmony

22 Sep

Yesterday I was feeling out of sorts. I had just spent the weekend with those I love most and several of them had left our home. I love having them here, but I tend to do a few things differently when they’re here. I eat more than I should. I eat foods that aren’t healthy for my body. I stay up too late, and I get emotional when it’s time for everyone to leave. The day after everyone is gone feel like I have an emotional hangover. My body hurts. My brain is fuzzy, and I have no motivation to do anything. I spend so much time preparing for everyone’s arrival and having fun while they’re here, but I never give a thought about when they leave, and it throws me off track nearly every time. Yesterday I did manage to straighten up my home and even clean my shower, but it felt like a monumental effort to just make it through the day.

This morning, I got on social media much earlier than I usually do. I was still reeling and feeling disconnected and emotional. My body still hurt. I was still tired even after getting adequate sleep. I was still unmotivated and sent up a little prayer for help. The answers came fast and furious, perhaps because I was looking for them. Everything I read or listened to seemed to point me toward the terms peace and harmony. Just reading those words and thinking about them started a shift in my mind and my body. Have you ever read something that changed your physiology on the spot? Reading the word harmony did that for me today. I could feel my body start to relax as I released the tension I’ve been carrying around. I could feel my attitude about the day and several situations in my life begin to transform. The idea of living in harmony with life took hold and I began to think about what it would be like to live in harmony with life for the next 85 days and beyond.

If you check the calendar, 85 days from now is December 16th. On my Better Living Daily Facebook page, I am counting down to that day. Why December 16th? Well, that’s the day that all of my family members will be finished with school and work until after Christmas. That’s the day that I’m hoping to have all of my shopping, wrapping and pre-cooking finished so that I can relax and enjoy the holidays as much as the rest of my family. The thought of living those 85 days in peace and harmony rather than in stress and angst is truly exciting. Although I am truly more of a go with the flow kind of girl, I have learned over the past couple of decades that if I have a plan to get to where I want to go, I get there faster and with less stress. At one time in my life, I was the girl that pulled the all nighters because I put off writing papers and studying for exams until the last minute. I was the mom wrapping presents at 2am that would be unwrapped four hours later on Christmas Day. I would be late to parties because I had to stop on the way to buy the birthday card. Ok, I still do that one on occasion, but I’ve learned that planning and working ahead avoid so much stress, and I am determined to do that this year for the holidays. I know it drives some people batty to even talk about Christmas before Halloween, but for my own sanity, I need to start thinking about it. From Financial Peace University by Dave Ramsey, I’ve learned to plan ahead financially and already have money saved for gifts and other holiday purchases. Through FlyLady, I’ve learned to take care of my home and plan my decorating and baking schedules. From Saving Dinner, I’ve learned to plan menus for Thanksgiving and Christmas and even the days before and after so I’m not scrambling to feed my family on the days immediately before and after the holidays. All of these programs have helped me to have a more peaceful end to each year, but harmony is something different. Harmony goes beyond peace for me. Harmony is what allows me to smile when that relative offers a back handed insult in the form of a question, like, “Do you think you really need that piece of pumpkin pie?” Harmony is what allows me to sit amongst the chaos of 60+ people and revel in the joy of a day spent with family. Harmony is understanding that no matter what anyone else’s situation is, I don’t have to feel guilty about my many blessings. On the flip side, though, harmony is also realizing that when I feel like whining because my life isn’t going as planned, it could be much worse. Right now, I know a couple who is trying to get their toddler stabilized to travel halfway around the country to have open heart surgery for the second time. Nothing in my life compares to that. Sunday, when I was feeling all weepy about my children all leaving to go back to college, I remembered a friend whose daughter will not be coming home at all. If that doesn’t adjust your attitude, nothing will. Is it weird that I can find harmony because of someone else’s struggle? Perhaps, but for me, I imagine myself telling that person my troubles and thinking about their response; because I remember being the mom with a sick baby in the hospital listening to others complain about their healthy baby waking up several times through the night. I wanted to shake them and ask them if they had any idea what a gift they had to be able to have their baby at home with them. I didn’t, but I certainly wanted to. I wasn’t at peace. I didn’t feel harmonious at that moment, but eventually I did make peace with my son’s medical condition and fifteen years later, his doctor calls him the rock star because we’ve worked hard to keep him healthy all of these years.

In the past, this is a challenging time of year for me. I am not a fan of autumn because I know winter is coming and I will be more confined and the grey cold is on its way. Before I had children in school, I always took vacations in September or October and again in February or March to beat the winter blues. Now that my children are older, I have been blessed to take a few days in January the past few years and spend them with one of my favorite people on the planet in the warmth of Florida. It restores my soul in more ways than I can tell you to walk along the beach and observe the peace and harmony of nature and hang out with one of the most positive people I know. Last year, though, as autumn and winter approached, I could feel the irritation rising, especially since I have so many friends who seem to enjoy the falling leaves and temperatures. Their joy became my sorrow. Their celebrations deepened my mourning. It was awful. This year, I decided that enough is enough. This year I want to embrace the seasons rather than resist them because what is the use of resisting something that you cannot change? After years of fighting it, I am looking to find a blessing in every day. I have decided to do a countdown on the Facebook page to help me pass the time in a more productive, peaceful and harmonious manner. It may not work perfectly, but I imagine it will work much better than my past methods of grumbling and turning my nose up at the joy of others. Believing in a higher power, I think that is what the higher power would want as well, so here I go. I will remind myself often that peace is a choice. I will, as much as possible, be in harmony with all that is, and where there is disharmony, I will know that there is room for growth and change. It may not be perfect, but perfection isn’t the goal because peace and harmony are so much more interesting. Thanks for taking the time to read this. Thanks for being you and have a great day.

Playing to Your Strengths

2 Apr

To listen along, click the link: http://tobtr.com/7491479

Yesterday a friend was talking about having a meeting with her son’s school to discuss some issues he’s having at school. There is a good chance that her son is exhibiting signs of ADHD, which my friend and one of her other sons have already been diagnosed with. Like any mom in this situation, she is conflicted. She knows her son needs help, but it’s so difficult to hear that your babies “aren’t good enough” just as they are. I know this anguish because for the first five years of my son’s life, we were focused on keeping him healthy. He was born with a rare pituitary disorder that affects his entire adrenal system. He is lucky in some ways because his version of the disorder is mild. I moderate a Facebook page of parents who have children with his disorder and many of them are so much more fragile than he is. When he was diagnosed, there was very little information about his condition because only 1 child in 10 million was born with it and the vast majority of children were born with the more severe version of it, so even among the rare, he was rare. It was a terrifying time because we were told that the flu, a broken bone or even chicken pox were life threatening for him, but we were not parents to shield our child from every aspect of life. We kept him away from huge crowds like baseball games for the first couple of years but still attended and hosted family events with 40+ people. We knew we could only protect him so much, so we did what we could and exposed him to the outside world a little bit at a time. From the time he was three, his doctor started calling him “the rock star”. I didn’t understand why until I began moderating the Facebook page and realized how sickly some of the kids were. My son has been taken to the hospital in an emergency situation only a few times because of his condition; once when he was a year old because he developed a strider when we were staying at the Opryland hotel in Nashville. For those who don’t know about that hotel, it is beautiful and elegant and has an extraordinary indoor botanical garden. It is large enough that you can take a boat through it. It is one of the few times in my life I have stayed in a hotel that luxurious, but something in the botanical garden triggered breathing issues with my son, and we ended up in Vanderbilt’s Children’s Hospital overnight in a breathing tent. I say we because my son wouldn’t lie down unless I was next to him in the tent, so we both got to sleep in the moisture, or we tried to sleep anyway. Apparently, news of a rare condition spreads fast in a teaching hospital. We were visited by dozens of doctors, interns and residents who were all very polite and kind, but who were interested in seeing my son and how he was reacting to his treatment and medication. By morning, my son was fine and we headed home.

We’ve had two other trips to the emergency room with my youngest, once for an illness that lasted a few days when he had to have a large dose of his emergency medication and IV fluids and once because his brother hit him with a bat. Long story short, one was swinging where he shouldn’t have been and neither was paying attention to his surroundings. Fortunately, every time he has been ok. Because so much of his condition is out of our control, we focused on what we could. We created routines so that he took his medication on time every day. We began to eat healthier. We made sure that he got adequate sleep. I got my home cleaned up and learned how to mostly stay on top of things. This wasn’t something that came easily to me, but I knew my son was worth it. What I didn’t know was how much that helped the ADHD I didn’t even know existed yet. So what does this have to do with playing to your strengths? Well, I’ll tell you.

One of the biggest challenges in my life has been being unconventional. I was the girl who was bossy. I was the girl who got angry when smart girls acted dumb around guys. I always felt equal to men in brain power, despite my emotional nature, and I always believed in truth and justice. I rarely come down on one side or the other of any argument, not because I don’t have opinions, but because I refuse to subscribe to any one way of thinking unilaterally. It has gotten me in a lot of trouble over the years, but I believe I give people perspective even when that perspective makes them uncomfortable. In that vein, we never allow our children to blame others for their situation in life. It is quite a challenge sometimes to teach that and to live it, but when I don’t live that way, I suffer, sometimes, quite a bit.

Last month was filled with suffering for me. I truly gave the power of my happiness over to others who really had no interest in making me happy, not because they are mean, which they were sometimes, but because I forgot who I was. I forgot that I have control over my life choices, and before you all send notes and letters, I realize we often have no control over our circumstances, but I truly believe we have much more control over our choices than we give ourselves credit for. For me, most of the winter months are challenging after the holidays. This year, we had the added challenge of crazy weather and lots of testing for my boys. In the entire quarter of school, we did not have a single normal week. It showed. I struggled to gain my footing. My youngest struggled in school. I had days I could barely make it through and yes, I know it was probably depression, and it was probably brought on by the season, but it wasn’t severe enough to seek treatment. I did what I could and hung on for dear life some days, but spring came as it always does, and although it was a struggle to get through the winter, we did. Now it’s my favorite time of year and something occurred to me. I have always been so productive in the spring and summer, and that’s probably why I love those seasons so much. I feel alive and connected to everyone and everything. In the autumn and winter, I feel cut off. I feel sequestered, and for someone who loves to be around people, that if very difficult. Summers are about the kids being home, spending time with friends and family and enjoying life. Winters are about hunkering down and riding out the storms. I understand why my friends who are less people oriented and more task oriented love those times of year. I also realize why I detest them so much, but this year, I have a plan.

My plan is to work to my strengths. I know I’ll have more energy to accomplish things for the next five to six months, and that’s what I plan to do. So many organizational systems tell you to take the summer off and come back to things in the fall, but when I do that, nothing happens. Well, something does happen but it’s not pretty. I get angry and belligerent when the temperature and leaves start dropping. I begin to feel trapped. I know what’s coming and even though I hate the way I feel, I have such a hard time shaking it. This year, I realize the blessing that spring and summer are for me. I can remember a few summers when my children were younger that I would get most of my housework done before my kids got up and then we would spend 15 minutes together tidying up, working in the yard or finishing up some household project. My kids learned how to cut grass quickly, to wash walls and baseboards, to clean out a drawer or a shelf in their closet in record time so we could move on with the day. We made progress nearly every day and when school came, although we were sad to see the summer end, we were ready. We dove into sports and academic schedules and didn’t worry about the extras. We focused differently, and we had the time of our lives. I didn’t do it intentionally, but it worked wonderfully. As the years passed and the boys started having activities in the summer that kept us from the things we used to do, we got away from that and everything suffered. I quit making them help on a daily basis. Unfortunately, because they weren’t helping, I stopped making progress in many areas too. That didn’t help any of us, especially when school came around, and we realized we had wasted yet another summer. We blamed it on finances. We blamed it on schedules. We should have looked deeper and known we were the ones to blame.

This past week, I have renewed my faith in the power of 15 minutes. I have renewed my faith in the ability of my family to make a significant amount of progress in a small amount of time. My sons and husband have been asked to spend 15 minutes per day for the past week or so to help with prepping for Easter around here. The results are extraordinary, and as much as my husband didn’t believe we could do it with such short increments of time, we did. I am more relaxed than I’ve ever been three days before we host 40+ people for Easter. We have made incredible strides and even if we have to put in a little extra time for the next few days, we truly are in a better place than we have ever been before and although we know the house and the day will not be perfect, it will be good enough. The floors will be clean, not with a toothbrush and hours of scrubbing, but with a vacuum and a mop. The food will be delicious, not because we spent hours preparing or tons of money, but because it will be made with love. We will spend some time but not all of our time getting ready for our guests over the next three days. Some of us work better alone and some work better with someone, so we will allow whatever works best for each person. We may or may not be ready when the first guests arrive but it won’t matter because our family loves to pitch in and help. It’s a strength I am proud to have and one I will no longer hesitate to ask for from those I love.

I intend to translate that to helping my son with ADHD get through the 4th quarter of school as well. Last quarter his counselor and I put several things into place to help him work more independently and it did not go very well, especially in his executive function areas. Unfortunately, several of his teachers are more focused on that than his ability to understand the material. He gets As and Bs on tests but neglects to turn in homework. He struggles with the ridiculous binders he is supposed to keep and has repeated failed while being on a 504 plan for organization. I struggle between being frustrated with him for not asking for help with his documented disability and being angry at the school for grading him on it. The way I’ve put it to the teachers is that they wouldn’t grade a student who was legally blind for their ability to read from the board. Why do they think that it’s ok to grade my son on something he has a legal document saying is a disability for him? I’m tired of the struggle, so I will be devising a plan for him. We will be spending 15 minutes per day when he comes home from school figuring out homework for the day and putting things into his binders. He has five of them by the way, all with different parameters. I will be asking that he get help in school with these blasted things and that all requirements for the binders be put onto the teachers’ websites so that the students can access them. I’m good at asking. It will require that I be more organized which I have come to love as a challenge. It will require that I do work at a time when I am not usually as productive, the afternoon, but it will also provide a way for my son to have assistance in the areas he is challenged so that he can work in his strengths of learning. I call that a win-win and I love win-win situations.

During this next week, enjoy whatever holiday you may celebrate. It is a holiday time for so many, including Christians, Jews, Hindus, Muslims and even Pagans. Enjoy the lunar eclipse if it is clear enough for you to see it tomorrow night and I’ll see you next week. Thanks for being you and have a great day!

Do Better December 31st 2014 Well Here We Are

31 Dec

Do Better December 31st 2014 Well Here We Are.

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