Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Are We There Yet?

I don't know if it is Spring Fever, Senioritis (the high school kind), Cabin Fever, March Madness, or a combination of all of the above, but I'm ready for a vacation!!!  The longer...the better!

Every year about this time we start thinking about breaking out of the normal routine and hitting the road, the beach, or the sky.  In fact the more I try and stay focused, the more I want to daydream about my perfect escape.

A few years ago I gave a few brief words of advice (which you can find here) about getting ready to leave. Right now I don't want to think about preparation (shocking, I know!) I just want to think about relaxing.

So to all the adults out there who are ready for a change of pace, I say, dream away!  Vacations are just around the corner, and fun is about to be had!

Monday, April 22, 2013

Things That Go Boom

Last week we had an unexpected and horrific example of things that go boom.  The bombings during the Boston Marathon were a brutal reminder that the world we live in isn't the world we want to live in.  Now the two known suspects are either dead or in custody.  As a nation we are left with a lot of questions and very few answers.  Honestly, I doubt we will ever have enough answers to satisfy us. 

I had a counselor who once told me my biggest problem was trying to make sense out of things that just don't make sense.  I spent so much energy trying to understand things that I was never going to understand that I drove myself crazy.  When others act in ways that stretch past our fundamental knowledge of human nature, compassion and decency, we have a hard time fitting their actions into our brain's framework.  This tragedy may fall into that category.

I'm sure we will have a lot of information that comes out in the next few days and weeks.  This information will attempt to explain motive, means and opprotunity.  Somehow I doubt any of that information will really cause us to understand why they did it.  While we can hear the words and know their meanings, we will not comprehend how it all equals justification for harming others.

We are now faced with a challenge.  We have a choice to make.  We can focus on what was done, or what we need to do now.  We can swarm the media with names, faces and intimate details of the bomber's activities, or we can focus on the healing and growing we need to do as a nation.  These moments of intense national pain are also moments of intense national unity.  We can use that unity to make our society stronger and better able to address the concerns of our residents before they resort to violence.

I wish I could say this type of behavior was rare, but it seems to be on the news a lot lately.  We are seeing people with knives, guns and bombs do terrible things to make a point.  For some reason our culture hears violence louder than love.  We react to aggression instead of kindness.  We focus on pain and tragedy before generosity and tenderness.

I believe it is time for us to turn off the nightly "bad news" and look for the good we can find in our communities.  We need to form bonds with our neighbors, learn to serve others in our towns, and contribute our skills to local schools.  We need to use these wake-up calls so offensively offered to us as a motivation to pay more attention to our children, our families, and our communities.

Instead of seeing these bombs as an end point, let us use them as a starting point.  Let us use them to make our world better.  Wouldn't it be great if the bombs that gave us "Boston Strong" were the same bombs that gave us "America Strong?"

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Losing Nana

This week I lost my Nana.  I've always wondered why we use the term "lose" when someone dies.  While she may not be hanging out at my house for Thanksgiving anymore, there are so many parts of her that are still here.  These are just a few things I know we have not lost:
Faye Lorraine
  1. My Nana was a survivor.  She lived through the Great Depression, she lost a parent when she was young, she sent her brother off to war, and she raised two daughters through hard times.  Her ability to keep going taught me a lot, and that has not been lost.
  2. My Nana was childlike.  I don't think I've ever met a person easier to pull a prank on than my Nana.  The list of crazy things we did to her was pretty long.  There were the classics, like short sheeting the bed, or saran wrapping the toilet, but there were also the more elaborate jokes.  I will never forget the wide eyed look she would get when you told her a complete and utter fib. Once we told her there were giant lizards that lived in Arizona (which is true) and that she needed to watch her small dogs to make sure they didn't bite or lick the frogs because they were poisonous (also true).  Then we bought a large porcelain frog, meant to be a yard ornament, and put it on the bottom of the swimming pool in her backyard.  The water refracted the light, making the 14" frog look like a 36" frog.  When she looked out her window later that day she screamed bloody murder because the giant frog was coming to eat her dogs.  What made the prank even funnier was that we had forgotten we put the frog there, and were equally scared until we remembered what we had done.  I think it took her a week to forgive us, but truth be known, she loved every minute of it!  That childlike excitement and glee has not been lost.
  3. My Nana was a little nutty.  I remember her singing slightly risque songs, making off color jokes, and offering bizarre solutions to situations at every turn.  She was a card shark and a lover of Swedish meatballs.  She always dressed well, and was worried about wrinkles.  She dyed her hair fire engine red and drove a car with a license plate 'Wild One."  I don't know if age had eliminated her inhibitions, or if she had always been a fire cracker.  I learned how to be myself, even if I was a little nutty and crazy, from my Nana, and that won't be lost.
  4. My Nana valued education.  I remember her telling me from a very young age that I needed to go to college and get a good education.  I also remember knowing it wasn't an option.  While she had not attended college, her daughters did, and I knew I would too.  When I headed off to school she delivered boxes of towels, dishes and linens so I could start my new life.  I knew she was proud of me and that I needed to get an engineering degree as much for her as for me.  My appreciation of the value of education will not be lost.
  5. My Nana had perspective.  A lot of hard things happened to my Nana and I spent many hours as a child listening to her stories.  When I would ask her why such a thing would happen, she would simply reply, "That's just the way it was."  Sometimes she got angry about things that had happened, and that was not a pretty sight, but most of the time she would explain why it didn't matter anymore and then crack a joke.  Her ability to move on taught me a lot about how to handle life, and that won't be lost.
I will be the first to tell you my Nana was flawed.  In fact, if I sat down and thought about it, I'm sure I could wax poetical on her flaws for many hours.  In the end, however, all those flaws will be lost.  No one will remember those things.  Maybe we don't want to, or maybe her flaws really aren't that important.

The most important thing I will never lose is her love.  I knew my Nana always loved me.  Through every day, every prank, every game of cards, every late night chat, and every heartfelt conversation, my Nana loved me.   I won't forget that, and I'll never lose it.

So once again, I wonder why we refer to death as losing someone.  She is not lost.  She never will be.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Motivational Monday #82 - Getting to Know My Multiple Personalities

I have always wanted to have a clone...or five...to get everything done.  If there were more of me, I could assign one whole person to do nothing but get enough sleep and read mindless fiction.  Another person could be responsible for cooking and cleaning, making me look like the Martha Stewart of home management.  I could have an entirely different person be the patient and loving caretaker of my children, while another person doted completely on my spouse and entertained.  I would need another person to run my business effectively, and yet one more to finish all the volunteer work I somehow find myself in the middle of.  I think my last clone would be responsible for the spiritual and grounded aspect of my life that I so deperatley need.

Okay, so I need 7 of me.  In a pinch I could probably do with 5.  That's not too much to ask, is it?  Ooh, if I had 5-7 of me, does that mean I get 5-7 times more vacation days? (Like moms ever get vacation days!)

Honestly, I realize that I need to either cut back, or do a better job of delegating.  To that end, I feel I must better get to know each of my personalities before I can really figure out how to best meet their needs.

  1. The Sleeper/Reader - This is the personality that takes care of my basic need to recharge.  Do you notice this is the first personality I listed?  I think I perpetually walk around tired, and not just physically, but mentally too.  Knowing that I would get all the sleep and recharging I need on a daily basis makes me smile.  This personality is a keeper!
  2. The Housekeeper - This personality is probably the easiest to delegate.  I mean really, why did I have children if not to have them help me run the "homestead?"  While I may have to sacrifice perfection when it comes to dusting and vacuuming, I can have the kiddos take over many of the basic household chores.  If I want to be honest, I really should be doing this, as they will never learn if I don't teach them.  As for cooking, maybe I have a young chef in the making.  I won't know if I never let them try.
  3. The Caretaker - I struggle with this one.  It seems to absorb so much of my life.  While I am capable of getting everyone where they need to be, I can't promise I will have a smile on my face while I do it.  Being patient and kind takes more brain power than I care to admit.  As I can't really delegate this one, I guess I will have to reduce my mental load in other areas to accommodate it.
  4. The Doting Spouse - I don't put as much time here as I should.  Don't get me wrong, I have no intention of waiting by the back door with my husband's slippers and newspaper in hand while wearing heels and pearls, but I guess I should do more than holler "hey" when he walks in after a long day.  Apparently this personality needs a little more focus.  I wonder what would happen if my Caretaker clone babysat while my  Doting Spouse self went on a real date...did the world just tip on its axis?
  5. The Business Woman - If I had 40 hours a week to devote to Prepared Binder, I could rule the world.  Well, maybe not the world, maybe just rule my office.  Honestly, I have always had big plans, but big plans take time to develop, and contrary to popular opinion, you can't put things on the back burner and expect them to continue cooking.  Having a dedicated business clone would heat this project up and help bring all my goals into reality.
  6. The Volunteer - Between volunteering to coach my daughter's Odyssey of the Mind team, chairing the book fair, and helping out with the PTO, not to mention being involved at church and with support organizations surrounding my child's special needs, I could be a full time volunteer with no problem.  If I knew my house was clean, my kids were fed and happy, that I was being recharged daily and that my spouse was well cared for, I could really enjoy my time helping others.  Service is important.  Serving others when your own responsibilities are neglected can either help you clarify what you really need to do, or pull you away from where you need to be.  Balance is important.  I think this clone will be very busy!
  7. The Spiritual Giant - I have already noticed I put this last on the list.  Being spiritual does not always mean religious, it can also mean being very in tune with yourself.  It takes time, patience, practice and a little silence to get to a spiritual place.  Learning about yourself, your beliefs, and the activities that ground you can take a lifetime.  It requires daily input and course correction.  Some days I realize my finely tuned spiritual self could really help me take control of all my other selves, but then I get overwhelmed by the whole thing and play the "if I can't see it, it must not exist" peek-a-boo game that infants play so well.  Given the freedom to only work on this, I am sure I would be kinder, more patient and have a better perspective on so many things.  For now, it just doesn't get as much attention as I know I should give it.
Okay, so now we have all been introduced to my multiple personalities.   I think we just saved me hours of therapy...giggle.  I actually do feel better now that I see how many ways I am pulled.  Honestly, if I think about it, I can overlap many of these tasks and find balance in between.  Besides, having 7 clones would become a management nightmare!  I can only imagine what the shower schedule would look like...

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Under Pressure - 5 Ways to Find a Relief Valve Before an Explosion

It was a dark and stormy night, and as I sat there typing, I heard the sounds of footsteps in my attic.  I thought about screaming...but didn't want to scare the beejeezus out of the repairman. 

If truth be told, it was actually a bright and sunny day, and I never considered screaming, (but that really didn't make an interesting introduction).  The footsteps I heard were from the A/C guys installing a duct system to equalize the pressure in my house.  Who knew my house was under pressure?  But, I should have guessed...

Anyone who knows me will tell you I frequently walk around under pressure.  The tasks I am responsible for sometimes (read: most times) overwhelm even my best efforts.  As I fall more behind and end up doing less than my best, I start to build up pressure from stress.

Anyone who knows me will also tell you it isn't pretty when I blow up.  It is a run for cover, shield your eyes, protect the innocent, and sign up for therapy kind of moment.  I have made grown men cry, and that isn't an exaggeration.  The pressure from stress is not a good thing for me, but then again, I doubt many people really enjoy it.

As I sit here listening to the pressure equalizing work being done overhead, I realize I need to install a similar relief system on my life.  I need a way for areas of high pressure to be vented off and areas of low pressure to be combined into my daily productivity.  I need to bring down the extremes and become more functional in the middle.

What I really need is a clone.  But I am afraid that is a subject for another post...

Thinking about installing a pressure equalizing system is all well and good, but how to go about it is a tougher nut to crack.  Here are a few of my ideas.  I'm curious to know if you have any other suggestions.
  1. Do Something Calm to Balance Something Stressful.  I wish I could do this in a 1:1 ratio, but let's be honest, I would have to move to a beach hut and hire someone to convince my kids to clean their rooms if I wanted to only do one stressful thing for ever calm thing I could do.  Right now, in my life, getting my kids to bathe is a stressful event.  I think a 1:5 ratio may make more sense.  One calming activity for every 5 stressful things may work a bit better.  Somedays it may be 1:10, or 1:3, but I have to start somewhere!
  2. Chill on the Caring.  Don't get me wrong, I don't plan to tune out life, but maybe tune out little things.  I really hate watching other people make lame choices, but as I cannot be in charge of correcting every lame decision I need to back off the amount of attention I give it.  Getting all riled up over things I have no control over does nothing but increase my stress and my pressure level.  If I want to improve my equalization, I need to let other people own their personal choices.
  3. Smile and Laugh.  It is amazing how quickly laughing can relieve pressure.  One good laugh can set all sorts of things right.  When my kids dump chips on the floor, I can either giggle or get angry.  The same chip is on the floor, but I will either be stressed or not.  I must practice impromptu laughing.
  4. Delegate.  This one must be obvious, but I will explain it anyway.  I am not Super Woman.  No matter how many times I show up at the grocery store in shiny boots and a cape, I really don't have super powers.  I need to stop acting like I do!  Only taking on the tasks I have the time and brain power to handle is a good thing, but getting help when I need it is even better.  Nothing builds up stress faster than being given a problem I can't solve.  Asking for help is a quick pressure release valve that everyone should know how to access.
  5. Say No.  I have posted about this concept before, and I have been laughed at before too.  Saying no in the first place really eliminates the need to delegate later.  I am getting better.  My calendar is clearing up, and my ability to be calm is returning.  "No," really is a beautiful word.
Okay, so there is my quick and dirty list of ways to equalize the pressure in my life.  I want to hear from you.  How do you restore the balance?

Monday, March 18, 2013

Motivational Monday #81 - Routines Are The Spice Of Life

Some people say variety is the spice of life, but I have to say sometimes variety makes things a little too spicy for me.   I am a person of routine.  I thrive on routine...really, I do.  I like to do my laundry on certain days, and do my chores in a certain order.  I always brush my hair before my teeth, and I wear specific socks to sleep in.  I just like the routine.

I'm afraid I just heard a few of you yawn.  I know routine can seem really boring, and for some people, it is.  For me, routines allow me to check items off my to do list in the most efficient manner, leaving more time for fun.  Routines help me stay on top of things and eliminate as many "emergencies" as possible.

For the record, I am not a fan of emergencies!

If you saw my weekly to do list you would either gasp or laugh.  Either way, you would think I am crazy.  Just because you are right, doesn't mean I don't get a lot done every week.  Let's be realistic, I own a business, I volunteer at the school, I parent one special needs child and another high energy one, I take care of my home, and I even throw in a little time to be a wife to my amazing hubby.  Who wouldn't need a routine to complete their to do list?

The key to having routines is for those routines to help streamline the process instead of complicating it.  A good example is that I schedule grocery shopping trips every two weeks when I will already be out and about at other appointments.  This forces me to plan ahead, figure out a meal plan, buy groceries and cook the food I bought.  This saves me the time of multiple trips to the store, the expense of last minute fast food, and the panic of not knowing what is for dinner.  Overall, making my shopping part of a routine smooths the path of food for two weeks at a time.  To me, that is a bonus.

So what things make it into your routine?  Here are a few of mine:
  1. Laundry - I split it up so that I never feel attached to the laundry room very long.  Knowing what days I wash things keeps the kids from whining about if their favorite shirt is clean yet.  Always a fan of reduced whining!
  2. Shopping - As mentioned, shopping every few weeks saves time, money and daily planning.  The more time I stay out of the store, the less tempted I am to buy myself sweets, and the happier my waistline is. BONUS!
  3. Blogging - I try and blog once a week, on Mondays.  If that doesn't happen, then I cut myself a break and blog when I can.  Having the routine smooths the process, but being flexible keeps away the guilt.
  4. Cleaning - I know what parts of my house I clean on each day.  If I want to be really honest, I know which parts of the house I assign my kids to clean each day.  Knowing what is getting cleaned and when allows me to ignore the items not assigned to that day.  Not feeling the pressure to clean all of the house every day gives me permission to relax every now and then.
  5. Personal Development - Right now I am taking piano lessons for the first time in my life.  By putting practice time into my routine I make sure it is a priority.  I have to admit, I really look forward to each day's practice time as a moment for just myself.  Making "take care of me" time a part of the daily routine keeps my needs met, makes me a happier person, and thus makes my whole life a lot happier.
So what routines do you have?  Do you find they are intentional habits, or just accidentally the way you do things?  Do you find value in your routines? I really am curious, so let me know!

Friday, March 15, 2013

Sliding Into Grown Up Fun

Ahhhh, the joys of childhood...  Today my children played on a slip 'n slide for the first time.  For those of you unfamiliar with this childhood torture device, it is a long sheet of plastic that you place on the grass and hook up to a hose to wet it down.  You then get a running start and throw your body down the line of plastic and glide through the water, grass chunks and eventually mud, all the while squealing in delight.
Now in an effort to be honest, I must admit I had a similar slip 'n slide when I was a kid.  Even though I am wildly allergic to grass, and wet grass is even worse, I spent hours launching my body down the slide in the hot summer sun.

As my husband and I watched our kids getting soaked and laughing as they splashed in the muddy grass, I realized some fun loses its luster as we age.  The idea of repeatedly throwing myself on the wet ground in the hopes that I will slide sounds more like torture than enjoyment.  Don't tell my kids, but I may have winced a few times as I watched them play.

Kids seem to find fun in the most interesting places.  An empty cardboard box is an exciting castle to defend from dragons, a shoe box is a treasure chest for pirate's gold, and a blanket can easily be mistaken for am awesome fort in the living room.  For a child, these are new adventures just waiting to happen.  For an adult, it can easily be seen as one more mess to clean up.

So here's the rub, kids have more fun that we do, but we need more fun than we're having.  How exactly do we go about enjoying cardboard box castles, blanket tents and plastic water slides?

Maybe we don't.   Maybe we find new things to enjoy.  Maybe we learn how to smile and giggle at the moments we have every day.  I have to admit when I accidentally showered myself with the faucet while doing dishes this morning, I grinned.  When I realized my hair was standing on end, I laughed, and when I saw how happy my kids were as they slid through the water, I giggled.

Boxes, blankets and slides are normal and readily accessible items for a child.  They find joy in what they have around them.  As adults, we need to do the same thing.  We need to find smiles, giggles and laughter in our daily activities.  We don't need to throw ourselves on the wet ground to be happy, but we do need to find the joy in our surroundings.

So go ahead, you can do it.  Find something to smile about today!