Friday, December 24, 2010

Frantic Friday #9 - Peace, Joy, and Contentment

My kids and I were watching the NORAD Santa Tracker together this morning, and as we "watched," Santa flew over the Philippines and delivered millions of gifts.  My kids are so excited that Santa has already left the north pole and is on his way.

Today is a day of baking, cleaning and enjoying each other before the craziness of the holidays throws things into overdrive tomorrow. It is the calm before the storm if you will.

I hope your weekend is filled with peace and joy, whatever holiday you celebrate. May your tummies be full and your hearts content.


Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays from Prepared Binder.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Holding My Breath

This is the time of year I find myself holding my breath. The holidays are almost done, and in a few short days everything will be packed back up and put away.  My house will be clean, my routine will be restored, and my life will return to normal.

As a kid my least favorite day of the year was December 26.  It was just so depressing.  There was an entire year until I could celebrate Christmas again.  Now as an adult, I find the day to be inviting and relaxing.  I look forward to the calm after the storm.

You may wonder what this has to do with my main topic, (which I know I sometimes forget...), organization.  For me, the holidays are an overload of organization.  I start the planning in October, I start the shopping in November, and then I decorate and finish up in December.  That is a lot of organization for one event on one day.

I am sure I could find a way to simplify, in fact I should simplify, but my brain will always go through the exercise of thinking it through, planning it out and implementing a strategy.  I know myself well enough to know it will always be the same.

This year I am committed to enjoying things no matter how they turn out. (Did I mention I am making BBQ for X-mas dinner this year?) After it is all over I will take a deep breath and get back to my regularly scheduled programming.  I may even take a week off from organizing...who knows?

Friday, December 17, 2010

Frantic Friday #8 - How Many Days Left? Aack!

Today is the Friday before Christmas. (I don't count next Friday because it is Christmas Eve, and as far as I am concerned, that is also Christmas.)  Today is the traditional day for women to look at the calendar and freak out. Men of course will wait until Christmas Eve to freak out.

The following things will occur to us:
  1. We are still missing presents.
  2. We have not mailed all the Christmas cards. Please Note: We have mailed the first batch of cards, it is the second group, the cards that go to the unexpected people who sent us cards, that we haven't sent out.
  3. We have no idea what we are serving for Christmas Dinner.
  4. We have not wrapped a single gift.
  5. The house is a mess.
  6. We only have X days until the Mother In Law arrives.
  7. We are stressed.
  8. The kids will be home from school for 2 weeks. Please Note: Depending on the age of your children, this is either a good or a bad thing.
  9. We haven't finished the homemade gifts we planned to give out.
  10. We are NOT ready for the holidays.
If you made it through that list and have not felt your heart tighten and your breathing shallow, then I congratulate you on a job well done.  For most of us, this list is far too close to home.

So this week is the traditional "Don't Sleep Until You Have It Finished" week.  By next week you will see an army of sleep deprived people walking around after their attempts to "deck the halls" has left them grumpy and exhausted.

What advice do I have, you might ask? It is the same advice I gave in the last blog...simplify!  Figure out what is important, what you can realistically do, and pace yourself.  This holiday will happen whether or not you are ready, and whether or not you are stressed. Your choice.

Happy Holidays!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The December Crazies - Symptoms and Cure

Every year when the weather turns cold, multiple illnesses reemerge in the general population. In addition to generic cold and flu viruses, there are a myriad of social ailments which resurface. The focus of today's discussion is the December Crazies.

The December Crazies can be defined by the following symptoms:
  1. Crazed look in the eyes
  2. Total lack of manners
  3. Frantic grabbing of items off the shelves in stores
  4. No awareness of others around them, unless to express annoyance
  5. Disdain for the caroling bell ringers at the doors of stores
This condition is usually temporary, brought on by increased stress and impending visits from relatives.  Complications to the December Crazies include permanent annoyance at other human life and maxed out credit cards.

To avoid the December Crazies it is important to do the following:
  1. Take things into perspective.  The perfect gift really isn't that big of a deal.
  2. Avoid human contact when you are stressed and ready to yell at others.  This may require long periods of time alone.
  3. Get adequate sleep, which may require you to forgo the usual decking of the halls.
  4. Schedule only what you can actually accomplish.  This includes parties.
  5. Watch calming holiday movies in lieu of frantically completing an assortment of homemade presents and goodies.
When the month of December has passed it is important to not feel shame for your December Crazies. Acknowledging the problem is the first step towards resolution.  While the memory of the ailment is fresh in your mind, take these steps to prevent its re-occurrence:
  1. Apologize to injured friends and relatives. 
  2. Finish consuming holiday treats to eliminate further visual representations of the December Crazies. 
  3. Pack away decorations, gift boxes and holiday cheer.
  4. Carefully and quickly pay all bills to avoid the January Heart Attack. (see discussion of January Heart Attack in future post)
  5. Return to normal life activities.
Remember, knowledge is power, and the December Crazies is a preventable condition.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Motivational Monday #29 - Getting It All Done (Or Not)

Every year about this time I realize the lists I make may just take over my life.  With halls to be decked and carols to be fa-la-la-la-la'ed, my time is spoken for from mid November until it all gets put away in January.  It is as if 2 months of my life have been consumed by a giant to-do list.

Just for the record, I want my life back.

Please don't misunderstand, I generally love lists.  They help me keep track of things and I am more efficient when I have a plan.  Unfortunately, during the holidays, lists become long scary monsters with oodles of items which repopulate themselves every time you mark something off.

If you take a quick look at my list you will find many silly items which could be put off for another time.  As an example, I finished two quilts for presents last week, then I promptly started another blanket.  I was thinking I might as well do it while the machine was out, but who am I kidding?  I was just avoiding the other things on my list!

Today I ran around to multiple stores to make sure I had all the odds and ends dealt with so I could relax next week. Once again, who am I kidding?  The odds and ends will never be complete...never.

Sometimes I think this season should be renamed "The Odds and Ends" season, as we are consistently stressing over the small details to make everything perfect.

So how do you get it all done if the to-do list is overwhelming and the odds and ends never go away?


Here are a few suggestions:
  1. Identify Priorities - For you it may be traditional activities, presents, the meal or maybe just a few days of relaxation.  For others it is the religious component or the symbolism.  Identify what is non negotiable for your season.
  2. Identify What You Will NOT Do - There are some traditions which are not worthy of repeating.  As an example, I will never again shop on Christmas Eve.  I will not stand in long lines to have a picture with Santa, and I will not have a big meal at noon.  Given those parameters, I know that I have to plan so those things don't happen.
  3. Identify "Down" Time - Your entire life can not be (and should not be) about the holidays.  Figure out when you will be a "normal" person and participate in activities you find relaxing and/or invigorating.  Too much time spent on the to-do list or in trying to deck the halls will leave you a very grumpy scrooge.
  4. Don't Overdo It - Every year millions of people spend more money than they have, over schedule themselves, and in the end become super stressed about the holidays. If you are miserable, you are not having a good time.  I know that sounds obvious, but so many of us torture ourselves in the name of being happy.  hmmm. Not a good idea.
So the answer to the question, "How do I get it all done?" is simply:  Don't.  Just don't.  Do what is important, what you have time to do, and what brings the most joy.  Ignore the stuff you hate, eliminate the traditions that make you cringe, and revise your list to include only that which is realistic. After all, 'Tis the Season to cut back...falalalala...lalalala!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Responsibility - Or Lack Thereof - Re-Visiting High School

Every so often I have a spare moment to reflect, and recently I realized how different my responsibility level is now that I am an adult. I remember thinking I was the most responsible kid on the planet when I was in high school.  Now I just laugh.

I'm sure you have heard at least one person in your life talk about going back to high school to do it all over again.  I don't know if I could.  While it was not the most socially pleasant time in my life, I think the hardest part would be the lack of responsibility I would have.  I'm not sure once you have responsibility you can easily give it up again.

I think I would feel "off" if I didn't have kids to take care of, a home to maintain and bills to pay.  Much of my identity is wrapped up in what I am responsible for each day. I'm not sure I would be comfortable thinking about only myself and not those I need to care for. (Once again, not a comment a teenager would make!)

One thing I would enjoy about redoing high school is the perspective I now have. For some reason who shares my locker is not the drama it once was. I also do not care who sits with whom at lunch, or who is taking whom to the dance.  In the long run it really doesn't matter.

Another thing that would be better is the homework.  I remember thinking it was so hard, and so much effort.  I really wanted to do other things.  If homework was my only responsibility other than cleaning up my room I think I would now give it a lot more attention.  Looking back, I was surrounded by many amazing teachers who had knowledge I was too naive to take advantage of.

During all of these musings I realized the things I would enjoy now about high school all stem from my current understanding of responsibility.  Responsibility gives perspective, and perspective changes priorities.  While the road to more responsibility can be tough, and perspective can be a hard won creation, I find the priorities I have now show how far I have come in life.

In a few years, I am sure my priorities will have changed again and I will see more personal growth.


They say you can't go back, and I think they may be right.  It is impossible to unlearn what you know.  It is impossible to undo the growth you have experienced.  It is also impossible to un-feel the responsibility you have earned.  And who wants to go back anyway?  I have already climbed that hill.  Now it is time to climb the mountain ahead.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Motivational Monday #28 - Deck the Halls With Organization

December can be a crazy time.  Even if you don't celebrate the holidays, the extra hustle and bustle in the stores can create a frenzied pace for almost 6 weeks.

After the carols have died down, the yummy food has been eaten, and the family has gone home, it will be time to get back to real life.  Real life, unlike holiday time life, has a lot more to do with going through the routines of daily existence.  We have to pay bills, take care of daily chores like dishes and laundry, go to work, plan regular activities, and take care of the unexpected events that come our way.

While it is tempting to spend the entire holiday season in a blur of festivities, it really makes sense to use this time to prepare for our "real" life starting January 2.  Often we see family and can collect information we would need in an emergency.  We have the chance to sit down with loved ones and talk, so it makes sense to make plans for the future. We also receive year end statements with account numbers, contact information and balances. Using these resources can be a valuable asset for planning ahead.

So please enjoy the beautiful lights and the scrumptious food this season.  Enjoy the family and friends, as well as the charity and warmth that marks this time of year.

When you have finished your traditions of food and family, go ahead and start a new tradition.  Talk with your family, update your family plan, organize your records and be ready for the new year.  Maybe this year your organization will be done before January 1, and you can have a brand new resolution!

Friday, December 3, 2010

Frantic Friday #7 - Is it December Already???

You may be wondering if I fell off the planet, as I have only posted once this week.  No I have not fallen off the planet, I have however been given a healthy dose of December.

Once again you may be scratching your head and wondering how I could be in over my head when it is only the third of the month. If I am cooked already on the third, I will be really overdone by the actual holidays.

Here is my excuse, December snuck up on me.  It jumped out from behind a bookcase and yelled "Surprise!!!!" It so frightened me that it took a few days to really grasp the meaning. Wow!  I have only a few weeks to pull off the memory laden season I remember with glee from my childhood.

As I contemplated the packages, the decorations, the food and the festivities, I realized I have no energy to pull it off.  Even worse, if I try, I will be the biggest Scrooge out there, so here is my plan.

I have decided to do what I can, and forget the rest.  Simple traditions are in, complicated extras are out. The meal will be simple, the celebration humble.  I will do use my energy to be happy and enjoy the magic of the season.  I will not expend energy on drama and fluff.

So raise your right hand and promise to remember why December was magical as a child.  It wasn't the shopping or the merry making.  It was the twinkling lights, the extra caring, the attention given to those who needed help, and the smiles we saw on other children's faces.

In answer to my original question, yes, December is here.  I now have an opprotunity to enjoy the small stuff, because the big stuff won't make me happy anyway.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Motivational Monday #27 - The Diamond Tiara

This year I decided to spend less time running around and more time with my family.  The quickest way to free up some time was to buy the gifts I liked online. So that is what I did.

There is something fantastic about clicking a button and knowing I marked a "to-do" off my list, someone earned an income, and someone else will be pleasantly surprised.  I wish everything I did had such a lovely domino effect.

This year we are faced with an interesting economic situation.  The housing market is still depressed, job are hard to find in many areas and normal holiday extravagance is somewhat limited.

I suggest you combine the ease of shopping online with the joy of giving a practical gift.  No one really wants reindeer sweaters or electric socks. And while diamond tiaras are fabulous to look at in catalogs, I have never met a single person who wears one.

This year do practical and smart.  This year, do Prepared Binder.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Frantic Friday #6 - Where Am I Supposed to Be?

Keeping track of my own life is hard enough, but keeping track of my whole family can be tough.  I know many people have this same issue, and I have seen many solutions for the problem.

For most people, a master calendar works wonders.  In my house, I am the master calendar keeper and I choose to keep an electronic calendar.

One of the best parts of an electronic calendar system is that I can send meeting requests for dates and times to other people. For example, when my husband has to be home early, I send him a request telling him what time he needs to leave. When he accepts the meeting onto his calendar his time is blocked out and he sees it every time he looks at his calendar. Viola! No more, "I didn't know!" in our family.

Not everyone has access to this feature, so I would suggest finding a system that works for you.  It may take time to get used to the concept of keeping everything on one calendar, and it may take some time to organize it, but I promise it will be worth it.

Just because I am nuts, I color code the things we are doing.  I have a color for my activities and each member of the family.  I have a color for doctor appointments and travel time to and from events. At a glance I can see what types of things are going on and plan my day to make it happen.

With the new year coming up, take the time to find a new calendar system. Put the effort into making it work for you, and maybe, just maybe you will find yourself a little less frantic in the coming year.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Worthy Causes - A Rare Conversation

Every so often I am motivated to talk about a worthy cause.  Today is one of those days.

In our world of "causes" there are many people trying to get our attention and in many cases, get our money. Today I would talk to you about a cause that does not need your money, just your vote.

Every month Pepsi does a popular vote to decide where to give over 1 million in charitable donations.  Categories are set up and organizations are vetted to determine who is on the list to be voted for. For the month of November there are many worthy groups.

One of those groups is the Childhood and Adolescent Bipolar Foundation (CABF).  This organization is in the $250k category and is attempting to gain enough votes to be in the top two slots so they can receive the prize money.

Why would I bring up such a scary topic?  Why would I mention the exceptionally un-PC concept of mental illness? Why would I tell you about a group that helps kids and their families living with bipolar disorder and depression?

I mention it because it is a topic with great personal meaning.  I have known some amazing people who struggle every day to keep their kids safe and happy while battling a disorder which is poorly understood and lightly researched. These families do everything they can to help their wonderful children succeed, but the lack of understanding from family doctors and local educators creates stumbling blocks at every turn.

These families need help, and that is where you can help.

CABF is in the running to win the money needed to increase education and expand its support services.  All they need is your vote.  While you may have no interest in this subject, and you won't hurt my feelings if that is the case, I appreciate the time it has taken you to read this.

You may know someone who is affected by depression and mental illness.  You may know someone who has committed suicide after being depressed. You may know children who are smart, but have a limited ability to function in regular school settings.  You may also have compassion for their families.

Please take the time to follow the links at the bottom of this post.  The vote only runs until the end of November.  You may vote via facebook (after loading an app) you may also vote via the Pepsi site directly.  If you want you can also text your vote.  You may vote each of the three ways each day for the rest of the month.

How often are we given the chance to determine how donations are used without donating ourselves? How often do we get a voice in big corporation spending? How often are we presented with the chance to change the lives of thousands of kids and their families?  Please vote so you can do each of those things.

At the beginning of this post I mentioned that every so often I feel the need to talk about a worthy cause.  Today was that day, but I doubt it will happen very often.  Thanks for listening. I appreciate it.

Ways to Vote:

Vote Online: Go to http://www.refresheverything.com/CABFhelpsmorekids . This will take you to the CABF Pepsi online voting page. Click "Vote for this Idea". Register once and then you are all set.
Vote on Facebook: http://tiny.cc/cabfhelpsmorekids. The first time you vote via Facebook, you'll be asked for permission to access your information. Click "Allow". This will take you to the Pepsi Refresh Vote & Share application. You will see CABF's project below the search bar. Click "Vote for this Idea". (After you vote, be sure to click "share this idea" to encourage your friends to vote for us on Facebook. Do this every time you vote!) Note: If you don't see our project, or if you receive an error, search for "CABF".
Text your Vote: Text 104174 to PEPSI (73774) (Normal text rates apply).

 

Monday, November 22, 2010

Motivational Monday #26 - Thanksgiving Motivation

It is hard to be motivated when you are tied to the railroad tracks waiting for an oncoming train. While you might argue I should be motivated to get off the tracks, that is not an option and I must embrace the train...or in this case the impending holiday season.

If you are noticing the lateness of my post, then you will know exactly what the rest of the week will be like. In fact, you will know what the rest of my holiday season will be like.  It will be crazy and I will be running just to stay caught up with what I should have done already.

Have I depressed you yet?

On this Motivational Monday, I would suggest we each find joy in the doing, and not the finishing.

Today I spent and entire day with friends.  I laughed, I joked, I giggled, and then I laughed some more.  At no time did I do laundry, plan meals for the holidays, or even try and organize anything.  I just enjoyed the moment. 

In the end, I am positive I accomplished more than I ever have before.  What a great day!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Trials

When people talk about trials I am always amazed by the difference in perspectives.  For some people trials are categorized as painful, trying and destructive.  For others, trials are described as learning opprotunities, stepping stones to greater understanding, or increased perspective.

I guess trials are all of theses things and more.

Some trials are unexpected and difficult to navigate, but others may be categorized by nothing other than lack of planning.  If you know you will be in a car with a child for hours, pack activities, or your patience will be tried as they whine and complain.  If you are moving, pack your essentials with you, or you may find yourself without toilet paper and underwear. If you are heading out on a long day of errands, get gas, or expect to sit by the side of the road.

Now obviously there are many trials that don't fall into the "plan ahead" category, nor is it possible to plan for every trial that does. But in a world where so many things are out of my control, I choose to take control of that which I can.

For that reason I plan, and for that reason I prepare. Someday it will matter, and someday my preparation will pay off...trust me, I planned for it.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Motivational Monday #25 - The Swing of Things

My family took advantage of a few days of wonderful weather and went on vacation.  While the car trip is always long, the vacation was nice and the kids had a wonderful time. 

Now we are back.

As much as I love arriving home after a trip, with the promise of my own pillow just ahead of me, I do not like the process of getting back into the swing of things. Unpacking, starting laundry, cleaning out the furry thing I forgot in the refrigerator...you know the drill.

When we break routine and do something different, be it relaxing or not, we eventually have to get back to our regularly scheduled programming...and thus our regular lives.

However, getting back into things can be fun at times.  I have to admit I enjoyed seeing how much my garden had grown since I left.  I also was excited to see the mail that had arrived and the packages that had been delivered.  I was not as excited to dig into the hundreds of emails, most of which were junk.

One interesting side effect of a few days away was that I noticed the things I do that have no purpose.  There are tasks I complete, routines I follow, and yes, I admit it, a few habits I have, that serve no real purpose and are time suckers.  Ahhhh, the perspective of vacation.

Anyway, it does not take a vacation to take a fresh look at things.  You can use Monday as an excuse to look at things with new eyes and jump back into your life with renewed gusto.  For that matter, Tuesday is a good excuse to do the same thing...

Monday, November 8, 2010

Motivational Monday #24 - Get Involved

Every day we are presented with numerous choices and opportunities. Some of these decisions lead to good results, and others...well, not so much.

One of the decisions I made in my life was to be involved with the things I care about. So I participate with my children's school and volunteer time with kids.  I lend a hand at church, and I spend time with friends and family.  I also look for causes that mean something to me and donate my talents to further their mission.

Don't think I am trying to tell you I am a saint, because I am not.  I just realized a long time ago that no man is an island, and if I want to feel connected to the world around me I need to participate in the world around me.

As this is a Motivational Monday post, I want you to think about what it is you feel connected to.  Is it the kids, or a charity?  Is it a church or a community group?  Whatever it is, figure out how to help the organizations you love.  Not all support comes in the form of writing a check.  Most support comes from donating time and talents.  Sometimes stuffing envelopes, or answering phones is more valuable than your money.  Working with kids, or even just being a warm body at the door can be a valuable contribution.

Figure out where you want to place your energy and go do it.  Getting involved will take your mind off of your life for a little while and put it on the lives of those you serve. It will expand how you think and will put a lot of things into perspective.

Go and do. You'll love it!

Friday, November 5, 2010

Frantic Friday #5 - Let It Go

I have noticed something interesting.  With the downturn in the economy and the belt tightening we all seem to be doing, I don't want extra stuff around me.  I don't want extra toys on the floor or shoved in bins.  I don't want clothes that don't fit, or appliances I don't use.  I don't want to see books I don't read or nick knacks I don't like.

My tolerance for extra "stuff" is about gone.  In fact, I think it is gone.

So what to do?  The obvious options are:
  1. Throw it out
  2. Sell it
  3. Give it away
Throwing things out is hard for me.  I'm always sure someone can use it, but some things really are trash and prying my fingers off is really good for the soul.

Selling stuff takes work, but that work can turn into extra Christmas or grocery money.  I have half of my garage piled up at this moment for a yard sale.  Who knows what type of person will want my stuff, but hopefully someone will.

The last option is donation.  There are agencies all over town who want and need donations to further their causes.  Many of those groups will even come pick up your stuff, which of course makes it the easiest and most tax friendly option. Just make sure you get a receipt.

Anyway, lighten your load, purge your excess and deplete you junk pile.  It is a great way to feel better, have more space, and possibly increase the size of your wallet.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Eating Elephants

When I was a teenager I remember my dad asking me how I would eat an elephant.  I think I made a face at him and decided he really was loony.  Then he offered these sage words, "One bite at a time, of course." 

As trite as this expression may be, it really is true.  Eating an elephant, or in my case, cleaning the garage, really is a "one bite at a time" sort of thing. (A back hoe wouldn't hurt either.)

Very often we get caught up in what is overwhelming about a situation and can't see beyond the big elephant foot in our way.  We forget that as intimidating as the elephant is, he is afraid of something as small as a mouse. 

Every big problem/mess has a solution, but nothing will be accomplished if we are paralyzed by fear.  Taking the first bite can be the hardest part of the solution.

So go out there and eat an elephant.  I know you can do it.  And after you have, you will be so proud of yourself.  (If not a slight bit bloated...)

Monday, November 1, 2010

Motivational Monday #23 - It's That Time Again

It is officially November, and in the land of commercialism, that means Holiday Shopping.  In all fairness, this blog is obviously tied to a commercial website, and we do have a lot of purchases made at this time of year.  We know that this is a popular time of year to give gifts, and gift giving is a wonderful reason to go shopping.

That said, I find it funny that so many people are willing to purchase products to help others be prepared and organized, but are afraid to get prepared themselves. It is almost like they want to live vicariously through someone else's preparation.  I have never seen that work, but I guess there is always a first time.

So there you have it, my annual guilt trip.  It was short and sweet.  I hope that is the only guilt you experience this year.

Soon you will start perusing web sites and scouring catalogs looking for the perfect holiday treats for friends and family.  I suggest that you also take the time to think about yourself and your family.  I understand if the holidays are crazy and you will have no time to fill out Prepared Binder right now.

That is what New Year's Resolutions are for...

Friday, October 29, 2010

Frantic Friday #4 - Lazy Mommies

I had a friend recently tell me a lazy mother cleans her own house.

I promise I do not feel lazy when I am on my hands and knees scrubbing.  I do not feel like a couch potato while I am doing laundry.  And I certainly do not feel like a slacker when I am decluterring the kid's rooms. 

So what exactly did she mean?

As I have often found out, it is easier to clean myself that to have my kids "help" in the process.  It is much harder to teach cleaning than to just do it.

This week I decided to teach my kids to clean. Honestly, I was amazed.  It took 2 days, but bathroom were cleaned, toilets were sanitized, furniture was dusted, floors were swept, mopped and vacuumed.  Sidewalks and driveways were swept, bedrooms were picked up, clothes were put in the laundry, bed were stripped and made.

I may have heard a choir of angels singing through the event.

While it was not quick, and I am sure it will be equally slow the next time, I realized I have 2 little helpers who are capable, and I am raising adults, not children. While they are slow and inaccurate, they will learn and eventually I will have a clean house.  I got an extra workout in the process, but I may just have found my new favorite helpers in the process.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

External Motivation - KeepThings Moving

Motivation can be a hard thing to come by. Some days being motivated is just more than I can deal with.

Then something happens.  Think of it as instant perspective.  Someone gets sick.  Someone is in an accident.  Someone dies.  All of a sudden you are motivated by what others did not do.

Here is the problem with motivation.  It is fleeting.  You can feel motivated right now, and completely at a loss 5 minutes later.

Mood changes motivation, urgency changes motivation, heck, the chance to go to bed early changes motivation.

The key, or so I have been told, is to stay motivated.  Great athletes have coaches who motivate them and keep them on track.  Scientists and engineers have deadlines and people they are accountable to. Teachers have students and parents who constantly see what they are teaching.

What do you have?  Are you accountable to anyone?  Do you have to check in and take stock of where you are and what you have done?  Would your projects still be undone if you had to tell someone about your progress? 

When it comes to preparation, it is easy to lose sight of the goal and flounder in the "I'll get it done later" mentality.  May I suggest a little motivation may be in store, a little accountability to keep you on track?  Find a friend and do this together.  Check in to see where you are, and encourage each other.  In the end, you will have accomplished more and you will have helped a friend do the same.

Motivation can be a beautiful thing.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Motivational Monday #22 - Eat Your Vegetables!!!

Tonight my son and I had an age old argument..."But I don't want to eat my vegetables, I don't like them!"  And I replied with the age old mommy response, "You don't get anything else until you eat them..."

As I was cleaning up after dinner I thought about why it is I told my child to eat what he didn't want.  Other than I am gunning for meanest mommy of the year award, what was I trying to teach him?  After a little thought on the subject I decided the important lesson in the vegetables was to use what you have before wanting/needing/acquiring more.

The old phrase, "use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without," really is a disappearing concept.  In our world of newer, better, faster, we often dispose of what we have to move on to the next thing before we have used the last thing.  Always wanting what we don't have is a dangerous row to hoe.

So while I may have told my child to eat his delicious vegetables, what I really meant was, use what you have before you ask for more. 

Another phrase comes to mind here, "waste not, want not."  Gee, you would think our grandmas sat around coming up with sage advice or something.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Frantic Friday #3 - Really?

Some days I find myself running around and getting a ton of stuff done.  Other days I don't.  When I look back at those days when I "accomplished" a lot, I have to wonder one thing...I did that intentionally?  Really?

Have you ever spent a day doing everything on your checklist, I mean absolutely everything?  How do you feel when you are done?  What do you remember of your day?  My guess is you don't remember much of your day, or much of what was even on the list.

Today I spent the day sitting on the couch with my little one watching a movie.  I got absolutely zilch accomplished in my house for almost 2 hours.  My dishes are still stacked, my laundry has not been started, and my bed was unmade.  On the flip side, I snuggled, I cuddled and I giggled.

All in all, I had a very productive day.  And if you ask me why I think that, I will respond with, "Really?"

Monday, October 18, 2010

Motivational Monday #21 - Experiment - Even if Snot is What You Get

Today I tried to do something new.  It did not go well, but before I get into the gory details, let me tell you I have learned a lot about what NOT to do.

If you may remember, I posted a lengthy celebration blog about when I finally learned how to make the perfect cinnamon rolls.  Please don't be disappointed that I don't include a recipe, it was more a journey about making good things when you substitute out the bad and put in the good.

Lately my family has found out we need to eliminate gluten/casein/eggs/soy from our diet.  I am sure a few of you just gasped as you realized I will be eating rice and beans for the rest of my life.

Partly because I am stubborn, and partly because I am hungry, tonight I attempted zucchini bread without wheat flour or eggs.  I wish I could tell you it was amazing, but it turned out smelling wonderful and being a perfect replica of zucchini snot.  Yep, snot.  Apparently I have not mastered the knack of baking with xanthan gum yet.

So I was a little disappointed, and by a little, I mean my kids cried and my husband and I laughed our backsides off about the disaster.  My kitchen is trashed and I have 2 perfect loaves of zucchini flavored snot.  I wonder if this is how the "Every Flavor Beans" in Harry Potter were imagined by the author.

I have two options at this point (of course this is after the obvious, get rid of the snot loaves step).  I can either declare we will never eat zucchini bread again, or get this right.  I may have substituted a few too many things out of the recipe.  I may have overdone it with the xanthan gum, and I may have, just maybe, had a few too many expectations of the result.

So now I will try again.  I will attempt a different recipe with a few less substitutions.  I will bake when the kids are not around to smell the possibilities, when I may have once again created snot. I will find success.  I will learn how to make bread.  I will add variety to my diet, and I will learn a new skill.

Because if I don't, you will see a lot of rice and beans at my house....sigh.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Frantic Friday #2 - The Crusade Against Visual Clutter

A while back I had a professional organizer come to my home and office to take a look around.  While my house was clean, she told me I had way too much visual clutter.  I was a little taken aback, the things in my house are the things I use and need ready at hand.

She patiently told me that we can tire ourselves out just by having too much to look at, and a room should not be so overwhelming to the eyes that we don't even want to go in there.

I started a crusade that very day to get rid of visual clutter.  While I can't tell you I have accomplished my mission yet, I am doing much better.  But a crusade against visual clutter can be an overwhelming task and Frantic Friday posts are really about one simple thing you can do to make your world a little calmer. So I am going to suggest one easy step.

Find one room and get rid of the visual clutter in that one space.  Pick a place you go to unwind, which for me was my bedroom. Get rid of piles and knickknacks.  Clear off surfaces such as dressers and nightstands.  Eliminate anything out of place and unwanted.  Create a visual space with not much to look at.

You may wonder if I am asking you to take down all your pictures and get rid of your granddaughter's artwork taped to the wall. My answer is that it really depends.  If your artwork is hung in a visually calming manner, as in straight, with coordinating frames, and grouped in logical patterns, then my all means leave it.  If it is haphazard, not well thought out and a little overwhelming to look at, then I suggest you thin it out.

Once you have cleared up the space, make the bed, put away the dirty clothes, dust, vacuum and open the blinds.  I know the space may feel a little bare, but give it a few days.  You will realize how calm you feel when there isn't much to look at.  I find myself heading to my room when I feel overwhelmed and need a little peace.

As a fringe benefit, I find myself resistant to buying decorating items for my home.  Unless I have a specific need for matching picture frames or such, I don't want to add to the visual clutter of my house. This means I save money...and that is always a nice thing!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

An Ounce of Prevention...

We have all heard our moms say wise things.  There was something about not crying over spilled milk, something about the golden rule and maybe even a little something about what goes around comes around.  I am convinced mom's are handed a book of trite expressions when they leave the hospital.

The one I remember distinctly is the one about an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.  So true...so true.

So while you are wondering what to prevent, think about what you least want to cure.  With so many options, I am sure you will come up with something.  Maybe funeral wishes, or life insurance is on your list.  Maybe having a will or trust drawn up, or custody arrangements made for your children will top your list.

Whatever it is, remember now is easier than later.  Really.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Motivational Monday #20 - Preparing the Least of These Things

Very often we look at preparation as the big stuff, and don't get me wrong, the big stuff is important.  Having food, shelter, money and a plan is essential to emergency preparedness.

Sometimes, however, it is time to look at the least of these things, in other words, the small details.

Let's start with food.  While as a whole, food is a big deal, the details of the food are also important.  Do you have food storage you can eat?  Do you know how to cook it?  Does your digestive system know what to do with it?  Has it expired?  Do you know when it will expire?  Can you transport it?  Do you know what is the most important part to take with you?

Now onto shelter. Do you have portable shelter?  Do you know how to use it?  If it is a tent, do you know how to put it up, how to stake it down, and do you have the correct tools stored with the tent?  If it is a mobile home or trailer, do you have fuel, do you have tools and do you have a map with acceptable locations to stop and sleep?

Money is one of those things we have at our fingertips everyday.  With credit cards, ATM machines and paypal accounts, few of us carry much cash.  In an emergency, cash may very well be king.  Do you have any at home? Have you calculated how much you need to get your family to safety?  Have you doubled that amount to account for emergency prices? Do you have it in small bills, as the standard $20 may be more than you want to pay for a good or service in an emergency when change is scarce.

A plan is an important part of the process, but how detailed is your plan?  Do you know what road you would take to evacuate in each direction? Do you have supplies identified and purchased?  Do you know first aid and CPR? Do you have supplies for pets?  Do you know what neighbors will need your help? Do you have a way to contact loved ones? Do you have your information ready to travel with you?

I think I may have just overwhelmed you, but that was not my intent.  You have heard the term, "the devil is in the details." Well, I would put forth that really the saying should be, "Peace of Mind is in the Details."

After getting your basics roughed in, it is time to look at the details one by one.  Hopefully you will never need to use those details, but how wonderful it will feel to be prepared!

Friday, September 24, 2010

Frantic Friday #1 - The Paper Pile

As promised, here is a short, not so amazing, but hopefully very helpful idea to help keep your home organized.

I think everyone has at least one paper pile in their home.  Most people probably have many.  A few years ago I hired a professional organizer and here is what she told me: You are too organized!

I did giggle a little bit, but she was right.  I had so many steps involved to be organized that I was constantly in the middle of it.

My paper pile is a stack of stuff I need to deal with some other time.  Unfortunately all sorts of important stuff gets mixed in with the junk.  My organizer's solution? Make it simple.  Now I have a short basket on the counter where I come in the house. I can dump the mail in this basket to deal with later.  On the counter by the files I have two boxes.  One fits a regular paper size, the other is slightly smaller.  The big one gets bills I have paid, the smaller one is for receipts.  I no longer file each bill by type.  Now they all go in the box.  This makes them in order by month and I can find what I need, if I need it.

I have to admit, being less organized can have its benefits.  In this case the benefit is that I actually do it.  Amazing!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Who Was That Masked Man?

Today just disappeared. A masked man just ran through my house, snatched my time and took off with it. I didn't get half of what I needed to do accomplished. My house is a mess, my kids are fighting, homework is not done and dinner is mac and cheese.

Who was that masked man?

In a word, life. Yep, life took off with my good intentions. It took off with my to do list and then it absconded with my progress. I am left right where I started except I am a day older an slightly more frazzled.

I am not a fan of the masked man. Just say'n.

I am guessing I am not the only person who has been a victim of the masked time thief. I bet he travels the world doing the same thing to people all over. With as many hours as he has stolen, my guess is he will live forever and never have to stop.

grrr. Have I mentioned I am not a fan?

So here is what I am going to do, I am going to start a series of quick ways to get organized. Nothing fancy, just small and simple things you can do to get and stay organized.

This is my attempt to steal my time back from the time thief. So there.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Motivational Monday #19 - We Have Hit 200!

It is true, we have hit our 200th blog entry.  Now I know you have read each and every one...but if you didn't, I have included links to a few of my favorites below:


The things I have learned from this blog are as follows:
  1. Thinking about being prepared all the time can be exhausting.
  2. Thinking about being prepared does not actually make you prepared, even if you are exhausted.
  3. Being prepared can be as easy or as hard as you make it.
  4. A lot of people are afraid of getting prepared.
  5. Many people wish they had been prepared.
  6. As the world becomes more uncertain, people become more concerned, and thus want to prepare for that which concerns them.
  7. A lot of information can fit into 200 blogs.
  8. I didn't know I had 200 blogs worth of things to say.
  9. You may still think I don't have 200 blogs worth of meaningful stuff to say.
I think it is only fitting the 200th blog happens on a Motivational Monday.  It is very motivating to know I have accomplished a lot thus far, and will continue to accomplish more.  So here are a few of those links I was talking about... 

Motivational Monday #1 - The Safe Place

My Grandmother's Greased Squirrel

Adding a New Roof on Our Lives

My Life in the Junk Drawer

Thank you for hanging around for 200 blogs.  I hope we can enjoy many more together!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Now What?

In the last few posts we have identified possible emergencies, we have started making plans and we have identified resources to help us with out planning.  The next logical step is to put the plan into action.

If your plan calls for you to pack a tent and sleep in the woods (it could happen...) then you should own a tent and know how to put it up.  I promise you do not want to take a brand new tent off the shelf and take it out of the bag for the first time in the dark without any idea how it goes together.  So do that in your backyard as a fun family activity long before you have a need.

If your plan calls for a telephone chain to keep your family informed, then have a dry run.  Make a game out of it and use the "chain of command" to gather clues for a family activity.

If your plan includes the assumption a family member is injured and/or not home, practice that when they are away for the afternoon.

If you have an evacuation plan (and you should) take the time to evacuate.  Drive to a local park and unpack what you took.  Find out if you really could survive the night.  If not, figure out what was missed and how you prevent that from happening again.

Once you have evaluated your plans, go back and see where you need improvement.  Don't think that just because you tested the plan 10 years ago you are fine today.  Schools have fire drills once a month.  They don't do this because they think it would be fun to stand in the snow while the building is cleared.  They do this to make sure every person knows exactly what to do and won't panic when they hear the alarm.

Set a schedule to review your plans and update them where needed.  Make sure your legal documents are current.  This means you need to review wills and trusts along with financial plans.  How many times do we have to hear of families with wills that don't include all of their children before we remember to review and amend ours appropriately?

So the answer to "What's Next?" is easy, just keep it going.  Things change, circumstances change, and rats eat your tent.  Keep on top of it, at least once a year, and you will not only feel more secure, you will be ready to go camping at a moment's notice. (No, the Hilton doesn't count!)

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Look For Resources

The good news about emergencies is that people have been having them forever, so most of them are supported by at least one organization.  There are government agencies, non-profit organizations and insurance companies who all spend a lot of time and resources surrounding emergencies.

Locate those organizations in your area who deal with emergencies and contact them for a current and local list of resources.  You do not have to re-invent the wheel, it has been done for you.  Your police station should have a copy of the area's evacuation plan and disaster plan.  The Red Cross has multiple online preparedness guides and you can contact your local chapter to see if there are any area specific emergency plans in place.

Track down your insurance agent and find out the procedure for getting funds in case of fire, flood, or other damage to your home and/or vehicle.  Knowing how things work will smooth the process down the road.  Many insurance companies also have packets of information to help you in those situations and it may benefit you to have a copy of those documents in your Prepared Binder for use during a crisis.

You may also want to contact your city/county/state disaster response teams and ask what the regional plan is.  You want to know what their expected response time is and what services the government will try and provide.  While I would not suggest relying on any services from any organization to reach you or your family in less than 3 days, having an idea of what the plan is will help you prepare your family for any gaps.

After identifying your resources, take the time to plan out your family strategy for each type of emergency.  Put together a list of actions to take and who should be responsible for each section.

Identifying your resources is a great way to clarify your family emergency plans.  Using the help established and knowing what services you will need to provide yourself will strengthen your preparation and smooth the situation when in crisis. Remember, an ounce of preparation is worth more than a pound of panic and fear.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Motivational Monday #18 - Make the Time

How often have you said to yourself, "I wish I could: read more; spend more time with my friends; learn a new language; take a class; learn a new skill; travel to Europe; hike that mountain; or volunteer, but I just don't have the time?"

I find that time is my excuse for a lot of things. In fact I can use time as a good reason why my house is messy, why my projects are not finished and why I am exhausted.  It all comes down to not having enough time. (Don't you love a good catch all excuse??)

Truth be told, you have exactly the same number of hours in the day as every other person on the planet and you can choose what to do with each and every one of them. In all fairness, there are some things you must do, like eat and sleep.  There are other things you should do, like bathe.  After that, the world is your oyster.

I'm sure I just heard a protest.  "But I have to work," I just heard from the back row.  Yes, it is true, you may need to work in order to pay bills, but that is your choice.  You choose where you work, what industry you work in and you choose how much money you want to earn with the type of job you select.

After you have slept, eaten, bathed and taken care of your J-O-B, you have at least a few hours left to your discretion.  If you have kids, there is a good likelihood that "discretionary time" is packed with kid stuff, but don't despair, somewhere in there is time to accomplish the stuff of your dreams.

There have been countless women and men over the centuries who have done amazing things.  They have contributed to science and the arts.  They have broken records and set new expectations for greatness. They have given us stories of hope and adventure. They have inspired us.

The thing is, they had the exact same number of hours in the day as you and I do.  So I think it comes down to use of time.  How do you spend yours?

Time is a lot like currency in that you spend it and it is gone.  We are taught to budget money, but few of us are taught to budget time.

I have heard that you spend your time where your priorities are.  I guess that means you need to look at your priorities if you want to find time to accomplish greatness.

So wake up earlier, go to bed later, multitask, eliminate fluff, streamline necessities, and carve out time to fulfill your dreams.  The time is there, you just need to find it.  Go on, you can do it.  I will meet you at the top of the mountain in Europe while speaking another language and reading a book while spending time with my friends...

Friday, September 10, 2010

Once Identified - Start a Plan For Your Emergencies

In the last post we looked at the types of emergencies we can face. I gave a list of 11 items I could easily think of as a starting point for you to devise your own list.  Using that list I want to start working on a plan.

Looking over the list, I see some logical groupings to help get the planning process going.
Loss:
  • House Fire
  • Theft
  • Car Accident
Medical:
  • Car Accident
  • Medical Emergency
  • Lengthy Illness
Natural Disaster:
  • Hurricane
  • Flood
  • Tornado
  • Ice Storm
  • Wildfire
  • Optional or Mandatory Evacuation
When dealing with loss, the most important thing to have is documentation.  From talking with countless people who have lost homes, the feeling of helplessness is what causes the most emotional trauma.  Having the ability to quickly identify what has been lost helps you regain your feelings of control.  Insurance companies want proof of what you owned. By documenting what you have it is easier to go through the process of replacement, or at least compensation.

Documentation can come in the form of receipts (make a copy, as receipt paper is designed to fade over time) or evidence of ownership.  Take pictures of expensive or collector items with serial numbers shown if applicable.  Store those photos off site.  Many insurance agents will keep a CD of your pictures in their files if you ask them.

Dealing with medical emergencies can also be an issue of documentation, but this time you need histories, medication lists and contact information. You need legal documents signed and witnessed before a person is incapacitated. You also need to know a person's wishes to assist in making appropriate choices.

Natural disasters may require survival skills and supplies.  You need to know ahead of time what you will do if you are trapped in your home or if you have to leave it.  You need to know where your supplies are and how to use them. (If you are storing canned food, make sure you have a manual can opener!) You also need to be familiar with emergency services in your area.

As we look at this topic more, we will discuss each individual topic in greater detail. Having a plan means more than identifying the dangers and potential emergencies, it means knowing what to do about them.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

What Are Your Potential Emergencies?

When it is time to talk about emergency preparedness people get nervous.  I understand no one wants to borrow trouble, but there is a fine line between "thinking happy thoughts" and ignoring the potential for problems.  Given the choice, I want to be prepared.

In order to prepare, you need to know what you are preparing for.  So today we are going to make a list.  Obviously I don't live where you do, so you will need to expand the list for your area and circumstances.


List of possible emergencies:
  1. House Fire
  2. Theft
  3. Car Accident
  4. Medical Emergency
  5. Lengthy Illness
  6. Hurricane
  7. Flood
  8. Tornado
  9. Ice Storm
  10. Wildfire
  11. Optional or Mandatory Evacuation
I have to admit, looking at this list does not make me want to sing a happy tune, in fact, it is downright scary.  That said, each of these items can have an actionable plan to smooth over the craziness of the situation.

When identifying the plan, it is important to know who you are planning for. If you are single, then the plan is all about you.  If you are married, have kids, have roommates, are responsible for a parent or grandparent, or have pets, the plan may get a little more complicated.

In the days to follow we will talk about making a plan and what you need to consider.  Of course, all of these plans require paperwork, and as a shameless pitch, I will remind you Prepared Binder is an easy and organized way to get all of the paperwork you need ready to go.

So tune in next time when we talk about the items on the list.  Hopefully you will never need to use these plans, but you will feel better knowing you have them. Oh, and if you have any generic plans you would like to share, hit the comments section and tell us all about them!

Friday, September 3, 2010

Date Night - A Chance to Remember What is Important

Every so often it is good to do something light hearted and fun.  For me, that is date night, the night for which kids stay home, parents go out, and stress levels get reset.

I have heard marriage "experts" talk about the need to have a date night with your spouse for years.  I used to be good at it, but over the years the craziness of our lives boarded up the doors and wouldn't let us out.

Last night that changed.

As I sat there with my sweetie I realized how much we needed the time to be adults, not just parents.  We needed the time to talk and laugh without breaking up a fight, telling someone to chew with their mouth closed or to get to the potty before it is an emergency...

I think many of us forget about taking care of ourselves.  We get caught up in our daily routines and just keep going.  While I am a fan of routine, too much routine can be bad. Having a break can help reset our minds and give us a fresh perspective on many important things.

Resetting ourselves can also motivate us to finish what we started, preparedness, for example. How many of us start out with good intentions, but get sidetracked by the routines of our lives?  Don't worry, it isn't just you, it is most of us.

So find a way to get a change of perspective, to renew yourself and recommit to the things that are important.  You will find satisfaction not only in the break from routine, but also in your increased desire to finish what you have started.  For me, I am off to clean out my office, a project worthy of another date night.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Responsibility and National Emergency Preparedness Month

To paraphrase a great quote, "Some people are born responsible, and others have responsibility thrust upon them..."

I remember the day I realized I was a mom and no one was going to do that for me.  I was sleep deprived, emotionally drained and overwhelmed.  At that moment I realized I was in this for the long haul.  I had definitely had responsibility thrust upon me.  I hear parenting can do that.

One of the responsibilities I have, besides raising kids, cleaning house, preparing food and driving taxi service for the kids, is to prepare them for emergencies.  Things like knowing their phone number, their address and their parent's names can be the difference between safety and crisis. The last I checked, averting crisis to the best of my ability is also a responsibility I have.

Responsibility can come in many forms, but when it comes to emergency preparedness we each have a responsibility to ourselves and those we hold dear. You have heard the phrase, "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure..." well it is true and important to remember.

September is National Emergency Preparedness Month.  As a nation we remember September 11, and vow to never experience the trauma again.  While most of us cannot personally change foreign policy or direct armies, we can prepare ourselves and families.  We can learn important skills such as first aid and we can establish a family disaster plan. We can record our plans and practice them until each family member knows what to do.

We can take responsibility for our preparedness, and we should.

So take the time this month, while you are reminded frequently, to prepare your family.  If you are overwhelmed, then start small, but do something. Being responsible for your own welfare and safety is an important step towards overall preparedness.

Just remember, you can choose to be responsible now or you can have responsibility thrust upon you later.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Motivational Monday #17 - Little Moments Make Memories

Memories are a strange thing.  It is hard to set out to make a memory.  You can try, and maybe succeed, but chances are the memories slip in unexpectedly.

Think back, what do you remember in your life?  Was it big moments or silly little things you never planned? I have a few cherished memories, and none of them were planned, they were all spur of the moment silliness.

Tonight we played cards with the kids.  This was a little risky because not everyone is old enough to grasp the concept of the game Uno.  As we played we started to giggle, and even chortle.  By the end we were cracking jokes, heckling each other and guffawing.  After an hour of play we had no winner, but almost every card was in my hand.  We ended the game by seeing who had the fewest cards, and declared the youngest the winner.

I realized in the middle of the game that I will remember this evening in my favorite moments catalog.  It will be stored away and cherished.

As today falls into the Motivational Monday category, today I challenge you to think about those moments in your life.  Find things to cherish.  It could be a silly activity, or an unplanned surprise.  It could be a stolen moment or long awaited reunion.  Either way, take the time to think about it.

Friday, August 27, 2010

The Keeper of the Information

If you have been reading this blog for a while you will know we think Prepared Binder is important for a lot of reasons.  Not only is it great in cases of evacuation, emergency and death, it is also vital when the "keeper of the information" in the home is out of commission.

This week I was reminded of how important that can be.

I have a dear friend who suddenly and unexplainable fell ill.  Her husband was out of town and her children were home with her when they had to call the paramedics to get her immediate medical treatment.  She is now in ICU and the family is scrambling to take care of her while they keep things going at home.

To her credit, my friend had a book with everything in it.  When she left for the hospital her friends opened the book and started making calls.  Family was notified, appointments were canceled, neighbors were contacted for support.  A plan went into action and the right people were at the right place at the right time.

So what would have happened without that information? Who would have contacted her husband?  Who would have had her insurance information or medical history? How many things would have been different?

I know most of us don't think about sudden medical disasters, but really, when have you had a planned medical disaster?  Having your information ready to go is a kindness for those taking care of you.

Once again, write it down, tell people where it is, and be prepared.  Don't make a bad situation worse from a lack of information.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

"Dressing Up" To Appreciate The Things Around Us

Have you ever seen a group of girls dressed up in princess gear and matching shoes?  The simple act of putting on different clothes transforms them into royalty from a land of magic.

Unfortunately, most adults don't get the same results. At some point the magical optimism of youth gives way to the realities of life, and glass slippers mean pinched toes, not handsome princes.

When we lose that charmed outlook on life we also lose the possibilities and wonder that come with it.  Have you ever watched a sunrise after a night of crisis? Have you even been struck by the beauty of something you have ignored before? 

Appreciation for that which is around us can be a hard thing.  Lives get busy, routines become boring and the status quo becomes reality.  Few of us take the time to "dress up" and imagine things in a different way. 

The question becomes, what are we missing? What have we overlooked or under appreciated? Are we not seeing the possibilities in our careers, our relationships or our personal growth? 

You will not catch me walking around in my mother's clothes and shoes anymore,  (which is a good thing, I have been taller than her since 4th grade...) but you will catch me imagining ways my life can be different.  I don't long for far away places, I just compare my current activities with the things I know I could be doing instead.

You have heard of "fake it until you make it," but how many of us change our behaviors to suit the person we want to be?  How many of us have tea with the queen while wearing a ball gown instead of PB&J with the kids while in our PJ's? How many of us act as if we are on the road to success instead of on the road to the grocery store?

Take the time to watch children lost in the land of pretend.  Enjoy their happiness and feel the freedom of their excitement. Remember what the world felt like when it was a place of endless opportunities, and then remember who you were when you were full of optimism.  Who will you be today, a princess, a business woman, a calm and collected mom (just as much of a myth as frog princes...) or an amazing volunteer?  Dress yourself up and appreciate everything your life has to offer!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Motivational Monday #16 - Climb Every Mountain

Over the weekend we took the kids to a not-so-local state park to commune with nature. Now I hurt.  Yes, it is true, I ache in places I forgot I had.  Add to the hiking/rock climbing adventure the fact I got hit in the face with a chair as well, and you can imagine I am a little banged up.

You may be wondering what is so motivational about me aching all over. So glad you asked.

The only way I will stop aching anytime soon is if I get up off my tush and keep moving.  Working the kinks out is the best way to feel better, and ironically, be in better shape to do it all again. (The hiking, not the chair in the face thing.)

Often when we flex our organization muscles we get the same pain I currently have from hiking.  It is hard to purge unneeded items and rearrange what was once a perfectly good mess.  When finished however, you will find a much leaner, meaner organized being, one ready to take on the next project with ease.

So climb that mountain of stuff to organize.  Flex your unused muscles. Just don't get hit in the face with a chair.  That hurts.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Muppets and Other Bonding Tricks

I don't really know what is going on with me lately, but I seem to feel the need to introduce my kids to movies I loved as a child. I had the chance to take my kids to a Muppet movie in the theater, and I couldn't wait to initiate them into the craziness.  You may remember I wrote a post about the Muppets some time back, and yes, I love them just as much now as I did then.

There is something about a group of furry puppets that puts everything into perspective. (That is a sentence I never thought I would write.)

As we sat in a darkened theater with popcorn and sodas, my kids and I laughed, gasped and giggled as Gonzo tried to find his family in "Muppets in Space." We were inspired by Kermit's true friendship and horrified by Piggy's selfishness. We understood Gonzo's need to belong and how hard it is to be different.

As we left the theater, I noticed that my kids and I were talking about something we enjoyed together.  We had a bonding moment.  If I hadn't liked the Muppets before, I would have loved them at that point.

Bonding with our kids is an issue as old as time.  I am sure parents thousands of years ago tried to figure out how to relate to their kids the same way we do today. Having a way to meet them halfway (okay, even 10% of the way) is an important part of being a family.  Sometimes it can take a Muppet to get that far. Sometimes it can take a lot of Muppets.

As my kids age, I doubt it will be this easy, but I hope we always find a common place to meet up.  Maybe it will be sports, maybe art, maybe music.  (Who am I kidding?  Turn that down already!!) In order for us to stay a strong unit we will need all the common ground we can get.

So if you see me in a ton of nostalgic movies, or sitting at a peewee game, or listening to my kid's ipod, just remember, common ground can be found in the oddest places.  Feeling like you belong to a family can take a lot of work and a leap of faith. Just ask Gonzo.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Karate Kid - What is Your Rule #1?

This last week I decided to introduce my son to Karate Kid, the original movie.  He absolutely loved it, and in fact has informed me he wants to grow up to be Mr. Miyagi.

In the second movie they travel to Okinawa and in the Miyagi family dojo there are two rules written on the wall.  Rule #1 is: Karate is only for defense.  Rule #2 is: Quickly learn rule #1.

While we all chuckled, it seems in life many times rule #2 is to refer to what you already learned in rule #1. For example, when I was growing up my dad would tell us rule #1 was "education is your job." When I would forget rule #1 and get too busy to keep good grades, my dad would refer me to rule #2, which was always "see rule #1."

You would think we would be smart enough creatures to remember simple rules, but as Danielson learned over and over, Mr Miyagi was right. When in doubt, see rule #1.

So this begs the question, what is written on the walls of your home?  What rules do you live by?  When in doubt, what is rule #1?

I have seen families who put together a mission statement and a motto.  I have always wanted one.  Sometimes I am afraid our family motto would be a little too pathetic to write on the wall.  Something like, "Always late and fighting" or "We will argue until we are right" just doesn't have the same ring as "Karate is only for defense."  Maybe we can work on that a bit.

I think I would like something more sage sounding on my walls.  Maybe "Kindness is not an option, it is a requirement" or "Forgive first." Then again, I don't want people to snicker when they walk in my home.

So for now I will work on the Rule #1 in my life.  If and when I figure it out, I will let you know. If you have any ideas, I would love to hear them!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Motivational Monday #15 - Finding Happiness

"Happiness is the consequence of personal effort."

I have been reading "Eat Pray Love" by Elizabeth Gilbert and that sentence stopped me in my tracks. It made me think and it made me squirm a little. I'm not sure how much personal effort I put into the act of happiness.

If you think about it, most of society is based on "more." More stuff, more house, more vacations, more friends, more money, thus more work. In my experience, happiness is vary rarely found in the word more.  It might be found in "contentment" or "peace" or "balance," but I have never seen it in "more."

So how do we seek out happiness?  How do we put in personal effort to find and keep happiness?  What is happiness really in our lives?

Today is a Motivational Monday, and thus my goal is to motivate. Today what I want to motivate you to do is think about that first statement. How much effort do you put into happiness, not entertainment or frivolity, but happiness.  Then determine if it is enough.

We may not all be able to spend a year soul searching and traveling the world to find happiness, but we can all look within. The last I checked, that didn't require a passport.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Exactly Where is the Truth?

I like truth.  Truth is simple.  This is a house, this is a car, this is a chair.  All statements of fact, and thus truth.

The problem comes in when there is no fact, only perception. Things like, we are happy, everything is fine, and we are doing great, are only as true as the perception of the one speaking.

We all have different perspectives.  We see situations through the eyes of our past experiences.  The older we are, the more experiences we have and the deeper (or more rigid) our perspectives may be.

When we perceive a situation to be one way, in our minds those thoughts become fact.  The person next to us may have a different perception, and thus a different set of facts.

No one is wrong, just different.

When it comes to preparation we all have different perceptions of what is needed and how much to prepare.  I wish I could tell you there is a clear line, but the line is in a different place for everyone.

So where exactly is the truth?  It is somewhere between your perception and that of the guy down the street.  It is there, only enhanced by your life experience.  As you can imagine, many wars have been fought, arguments had and frustrations demonstrated because "truth" didn't match up between neighbors.

Today is your chance to look at things with a new perspective and appreciate other people's truths.  You might be amazed by what you find.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Learning From Those Around You

School is back in session in our neck of the woods. A new school year means new school supplies, new classrooms and new friends. It also means a lot of new learning.

I have been listening to my teacher friends chatter about this upcoming year and what they are doing to prepare.  I know that classrooms have been cleaned, desks arranged, bulletin boards designed, text books distributed and lesson plans reviewed.  From a teacher's perspective things are ready to go.

As I think back to my days in school I recognize the talents of many teachers.  I remember the lessons they taught and the tests I took, but the biggest things I learned were not in books, but in the jungle of people around me.

In elementary school I learned about playground etiquette.  I learned how to be part of a group, and I learned how to share. 

In middle school I learned about image and the importance of "fitting in." I learned that people look at the outside before they determine the value of the inside and that P.E. locker rooms are embarrassing for just about everyone.

In high school I learned about responsibility.  I learned how to contribute to projects bigger than myself. (Can we say drama department?) I also learned not to stare at the couple declaring their love near their lockers, or notice when a tearful girl lamented her last breakup.  I learned that everyone is trying to be unique, just like everyone else.

Somewhere in the middle of that I learned about world history, math, science and literature.  I gained a love of European royalty and physics problems. I delved into classic novels and tore my hair out in calculus. I was immersed in the process of collecting knowledge.

As I look back on all of it, I realize the education we receive as children is as much influenced by our teachers as it is the people around us.  I will never forget the kids who teased me, or the girls who I played with at recess. I will shudder every time I think about the "popular kids" teasing those of us who were not. I will smile when I think about my first invitation to a dance and giggle when I think about how long it took me to get ready.

While we are kids we soak up information everywhere we go, but at some point we seem to stop.  I realized recently that I don't notice the information around me in quite the same way I did before. I don't learn lessons from the human interactions around me and I don't apply new ideas to my life the way I did before. I am not idealistic the way I was before.  (I think I may have just turned into my parents! Ahhhh!)

I have to admit I am glad to not be so young anymore.  It was exhausting to absorb so much information all the time.  On the other hand, I am saddened that I have stopped growing the way I did then.  I have stopped speaking about my future with excitement and wonder.  I have stopped dreaming of being the first rocket scientist to write a novel in space. I have diverted my attention to the daily tasks to be completed and removed it from the goals to be acheived.

I would suggest, that while most of us are no longer sitting in a classroom involved in formal learning anymore, we are all surrounded by new information and lessons that must be learned.  We interact with humans everyday and we may or may not be learning what we need to from them.

Hopefully you are not listening to emotional locker confessions anymore, but you are likely observing the way people treat each other and the integrity they display.  You see what their priorities are and how they value their lives.  You witness their actions and motives all the time.

I would put forth that learning from those around us is one of the most important educational tools we have. We may not sit at a desk and take notes, but the opprotunity to learn is there.  Learning from others who have gone before, and those who are in the middle of it right now is invaluable.

So dust off those thinking caps and open your eyes.  Decide to enrich your life with the information you see all around you.  Trust yourself enough to ignore the bad and absorb the good. Expand your thoughts by challenging yourself to see things through another person's perspective.

Not only will your days be more interesting, you may just recapture a little spark of youthful hope and excitement.