Friday, January 29, 2010

How My Sister Ate My Barbie and Turned into My Best Friend

Today I would like to tell you about my sister.  I have to admit when she was born I was not a fan.  I was the only child in the family for 5 years until she was born.  I had the adoring love of all the grandparents and aunts until she arrived.  To make matters worse my mom had a hard pregnancy, putting her in bed for 3 months.  When my sister made her way into the world she was dubbed the "miracle baby."  Ugh!

Things went downhill from there.  She cried, she pooped, she had to be held all the time and she was boring.  No one quite explained that new babies were not nearly as fun as my standard doll.  Even though she was much more functional no one would let me play with her.  Apparently carrying her around by the foot was frowned upon. (No I didn't do that, but I thought about it I'm sure, and I'm also sure someone stopped me.) 

As she got older she chewed the feet off my barbie dolls.  Yes you heard that right, my sister and not the dog ate my barbies.  She destroyed other things too, like the time my mom made her a Cookie Monster birthday cake with blue frosting when she was taking a nap.  When she got up from her nap she climbed up on the table and put her face directly into the cake before my mom could even get a picture of her with it.  (On the up side, her face was blue for days. hehe)

As we grew up she wanted to tag along.  My mom usually agreed, and being a mom now I understand why.  Once my sister was pushed off a slide by my friend and I had to send my mom down the street to say I would never play with the friend again.  (Just because I thought she was a pest didn't mean my friends could be mean to her...after all I had a duty to protect her.)

As I got old enough to date she thought boys had cooties.  Well, they do, but you aren't supposed to tell them that when they come to the door.  Dating is awkward enough without "help" from a sister with a silly grin on her face.  Eventually she was the one to ask my future husband embarrassing questions.  The funny thing is I knew if he could handle her my family wouldn't bother him at all.

All of a sudden a funny thing happened.  We became friends.  I don't know if becoming adults made it happen or if the number of things we understood about each other overcame the differences.  One day we were sisters, the next day we were friends. 

No one can play a game against us as a team, we win every time (ask my husband).  We can finish each other's sentences. We don't even have to tell the whole joke before we start laughing.  We load a dishwasher the same way.  We clean a house in the same order.  We order the same crazy food at a restaurant.  We play card games together while watching chick flicks and eating the same comfort foods.  (Can I help it that spagettios with franks are a family tradition?)

I know a lot of people are close with their families.  I know a lot of people are not.  I never expected the pesky little sister who tormented me to turn out to be a friend, a really good friend.

I am sure I could offer some advice about finding ways to love your family, but I won't.  I don't know how we ended up where we are, but I am glad we did.  It was worth the barbie feet, the scared off dates, the lost playmates and all the other silly things that happened.  It is wonderful to have a person who knows you from the beginning, someone who knows why you laugh the way you do, why you cry at kleenex commercials and why you eat spagettios when sad.

Thanks sis.

P.S. I am sure she could write an extended list of things I did to torment her over the years.  I am also sure it would be a frightening list.  Good thing this is my blog...I might have to hide under a chair after we hear her version...

Thursday, January 28, 2010

The Frog in the Pool - And Other Ways to Love Your Grandmother

Earlier this week I told a funny story about my grandmother and a squirrel.  While I can't really top that story for its hilarity, I thought I would give you another grandparent story.  This one is about the way we love. 

I have many grandparents, at one time I had 11 living grandparents, although I am down to 6 at the moment.  Most of my life I had 5.  One of my grandmothers is a gem.  One of her most charming aspects is her childlike faith in people and their honesty.  I have to admit we used that to our advantage more than once.

My grandfather is a practical joker and the stunts he has pulled over the years could fill volumes.  If you forget the simple pranks like saran wrapping the toilet, short sheeting the bed and other summer camp type pranks you could still go on for hours.

One time he convinced my grandmother to wait home all day for the sidewalk inspector.  He even left her with money to bribe the inspector if he found a problem with their sidewalk...the one in the backyard.  She spent all day worried about bribing a public official and had worked herself into a quite a mess by the time he got home from work to tell her it was a joke.

I promise the list of pranks was long, and most of them were directed at her.

When I was a teenager my grandparents moved into a house in Arizona with a pool.  My grandfather and I went to the store to find things like floating mats, umbrellas and other pool items.  When we passed the garden department we saw a giant porcelain frog.  I looked at him, he looked at me, and we knew our next prank was in play...and it was going to be a good one.

We smuggled the frog into the back yard and slipped it down to the bottom of the pool.  We placed it where it could be seen by anyone who passed by.  We got out, dried off and went about our day.  By that evening no one had seen the frog and we had forgotten all about it.

Later that night my grandmother was standing in the kitchen doing the dishes when we heard a shriek and a gasp.  We ran to the kitchen to make sure she was all right. (Of course we had forgotten about the frog.) There she stood, clutching her chest and pointing out the window.  We took one look and collapsed laughing.  The frog, which was a good 24 inches long to begin with looked about 5 feet wide when he was at the bottom of the pool.  She was sure there was some sort of Arizona desert monster in her pool.  We couldn't convince her otherwise until we got back in the pool, dove to the bottom and pulled it up for everyone to see.

If I had been my grandmother I would have been angry.  In fact I would have been very angry the whole family had been laughing at my expense.  I think the frog would have met an early demise.  Instead she laughed and laughed.  The frog sat by the side of the pool as a yard ornament for the rest of the time they lived there.

Now I said this blog was about the way we love.  You may be wondering how torturing a poor woman was demonstrating love.  Well, it probably wasn't.  The demonstration came from my grandmother.  She always giggled and laughed it off.  She might shake her finger and give you "the eye" but she always laughed.  She loved us even when we tortured her.  She loved the fact we bonded over practical jokes.  She even retells the stories now.

So how do we take my grandmother's example and use it?  How do we love those who torment us?  That is an amazing question. I wish I knew her secret.  Part of it is her ability to see the good in others, part of it is her willingness to remember we love her, pool frog and all.

I hope we remember those around us love us, even when their actions, intentional or not, seem to hurt us.  We can make the choice to laugh or the choice to be hurt.  My grandmother laughed, she forgave us, and we moved on.  Now don't get me wrong, she could get mad when it was needed, but she never stayed that way forever.

When choosing to love others we are choosing to love all their craziness as well.  As hard as that may be it is better than not loving at all.  (I sound so philosophical here.)

The next time someone drops a practical joke in your lap, or blurts out an insensitive comment or finds a way make your day difficult, remember to smile, brush it off and walk away.  It isn't really important in the long run, but more importantly, if you laugh now it will be an amazing story down the road...just ask the frog.

Editor's Note:  After polling multiple family members there is a possibility the sidewalk inspector prank was really a light switch inspector prank.  There is also questions as to if there was an intended bribe.  There is the possibility both pranks were pulled.  As I said, he was good.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Anger - Is Appreciation the Answer?

Anger.  Just the word can change your emotions.

How do you deal with anger?  What makes you angry?  How do you get over it?

I am sure I just opened a can of worms a mile deep, but hear me out.  How we deal with anger can tell us a lot about who we are, where we come from and where we will end up.

I was told once that anger is a secondary emotion.  It almost always covers up another emotion we aren't ready to deal with.  For me it can be shame, hurt, embarrassment, betrayal, you get the feeling I am angry a lot?

Being angry is rarely productive.  (I say rarely because I am still hoping my kids will cleans their rooms to avoid me being angry.  It hasn't happened yet, but I am open to the possibility...)  Just because it isn't productive doesn't mean we don't use anger all the time.

I can think of lots of ways I use anger, but mostly it is to express extreme emotion to another person.  How sad is that?  I am a fairly intelligent woman who has lots of skills and talents and I choose to express myself to others through anger.  What is that all about?

I am hoping you have no idea what I am talking about.  I hope you have never solved a problem by raising your voice or stomping your feet.  I am confident you have never called someone a name when you were cut off in traffic.  I am fairly sure you only think nice thoughts about people who hurt you.  In fact you are likely aghast at the very idea of anger.

For those few of you who know what I am talking about I want you to remember there is a better way.  We react the way we were taught to react.  We don't think about it, we just do it.  If you don't like it, stop.

Yeah, I heard that guffaw.  Stopping oncoming anger is a lot like asking a train politely to stop barreling down the tracks.  It needs a ton of forewarning to stop.

Here is a suggestion I have found works for me.  (Don't laugh, I an baring my soul here.) When I see someone who regularly gets on my nerves and I know from experience I will get angry with them I try and see the good.  I repeat in my head things like, 'Bobby does XXX because he is my friend," or "Suzy did this because she likes me."  At first I have to find the small stuff, I mean the really small stuff, but as I become aware of what others are doing for me I find it much harder to be angry.  I also realize how much I need to appreciate them.  It is rather hard to be mad at someone you appreciate.

So there you have it, my two cents on anger.  I think a lot of it comes from a lack of appreciation.  You don't feel appreciated, so you get mad.  The odd part is you probably aren't appreciating the other person either.  So give it a try.  Learn to appreciate others every day.  As you start to think it you will start to verbalize it and you will feel happier.  That person may still be annoying, but chances are you will not be as angry. 

And that is a good thing.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

100 Blogs and Counting

Guess what?  This is it, the 100th episode of my blog.  By this time you are either stunned by my brilliant sense of humor or bewildered at the topics I choose to discuss.  I admit it could be both...

As I look back on this rather short period of time, I mean I only started this last fall, I realize I have enjoyed the process.  I also realize it has been a lot of hard work.

I started this blog to tell you about my product, Prepared Binder - Home Edition.  I still hope you check it out, even buy a copy or two.

Now my focus has changed a little.  I enjoy giving insights into my crazy life and my eccentric set of skills, but more importantly I enjoy letting people know they are not alone when they do crazy things or get angry, or catch themselves in awkward situations.  While being prepared is still my main focus, it is also just a part of who we are.

I am am mom, an entrepreneur, a wife, a volunteer, a crazy woman, a daughter, a sister, a short order cook, a taxi driver, an engineer, an appliance repairman, a plumbing expert, a quilter, a mess maker, an organizational nut, a project starter, a not always project finisher...well the list is pretty long.

Bringing who I am to this blog has been fun.  (I promise my therapist enjoys the fruits of my labors as well.)  My hope is that reading my slightly neurotic comments will help you feel quite normal.  When you are overwhelmed by life you will know you are not alone.  When you dig yourself into a hole you will know I am in the same hole, but I likely have a bigger shovel.

As I head into my next 100 blogs I want you to know I will strive to be just as crazy, just as funny and just as random as I have been to this point.  I may mix some serious stuff in with my bizarre observations on life, but seriousness is a part of all of this, isn't it?

Anyway, thanks for being around to read my blog.  I watch the numbers daily and I know that at least one person out there reads my thoughts daily.  Thanks...and I hope to hear from you soon!

Monday, January 25, 2010

My Grandmother's Greased Squirrel

My grandmother was an amazing woman.  She had a quick laugh, a quick wit and was quick to give a hug.  She was never too busy to play and had the best pie on the planet.

I remember once when my grandmother decided to teach a squirrel a lesson.  She had a lovely back yard with tall trees and a bird feeder on a pole.  She enjoyed sitting in her sewing room and watching the birds.  The only problem was she also had a squirrel who enjoyed the bird feeder.  The squirrel would get a running start and leap onto the pole.  He would then scurry up the pole and swing onto the bird feeder and devour the seed.  Boy, that made my grandmother mad.

After a lot of thought and consideration, and I think a little conference with my grandfather, she got a mischievous grin on her face and asked me to follow her out back.  When we arrived outside I saw she had a large tub of Crisco and a paper towel.  We proceeded to grease the pole until it had a thick coating of white from top to bottom.  We then ran back to the house and waited with our eyes just above the level of the window.

We didn't have to wait long for the squirrel to come back.  He took a bored look around and not seeing anyone he backed up to make a run up the pole.  We held our breath as he picked up speed and leapt through the air.  He hit the pole as expected, but instead of scurrying up as usual, he slid down the pole with his little arms wrapped around, holding on for dear life.  When his backside hit the leaf covered ground he tipped backwards and revealed a Crisco covered squirrel.  He was coated from his tail all the way to his nose.  He fell over in a stunned manner and rolled right into the fallen leaves.  Then instead of being a stunned greased squirrel he was now a stunned leaf covered greased squirrel.  He was not happy.

Any surprise he had at sliding down the pole was quickly replaced by disgust as this spunky squirrel tried to shake off leaves.  He walked around the yard in wobbly little circles shaking his arms and legs.  He would succeed in getting few leaves off and then put the foot down to be re-coated in more leaves.  The more he moved around the more the Crisco spread and after a while every inch of him was covered.  To really appreciate this you must imagine a little leaf pile with eyes walking around the backyard with a disgusted look on his face.  I'm not really sure how we knew the squirrel was disgusted, but we knew.

Maybe it wasn't nice to laugh at this poor squirrel but my grandmother and I hooted.  I don't mean we laughed politely, we laughed hard.  I remember tears or mirth in her eyes.  We had to sit down we were laughing so hard.  My grandfather even came in to see what was going on.  We laughed and laughed as that silly squirrel ran around the yard coated head to toe in dried leaves. (In fact I am giggling just remembering it now.)

Now before you think my grandmother had achieved victory so easily I must tell you the squirrel did not give up.  He tried to jump the pole again, with the same result I might ad.  Then he decided an aerial approach was better and tried to climb a tree and drop down onto the bird feeder.  This failed as well.  It appeared he was just a little too heavy when coated with leaves and the tree branches bent to the ground just before he reached the feeder.  You do have to give him points for persistence however, because he kept us in fits of laughter for almost 30 minutes.

This squirrel experience taught me a few things...first of which is don't steal birdseed from my grandmother's birds...she gets revenge.  The most important lesson it taught me is actually something much simpler.  She taught me to take time to play.  I am sure she was doing something else that day.  I doubt she had laid in bed waiting for the opprotunity to grease a squirrel.  The funny thing is I don't remember anything about that day, or even that trip to visit my grandparents.  Even now the greased squirrel activity it is one of my favorite childhood memories.

I wonder what my kids will remember 25 years from now.  Will they remember the clean house, the sparking kitchen, the folded laundry and the tidy bathroom?  My guess is they will never have a single memory of the state of my housekeeping.  They will remember the times we chased each other around the house pretending to be Jedi or the time they stripped down to painting smocks to finger paint on the kitchen floor.  They may remember the games of Frisbee golf in the cul-de-sac or the forts we made out of blankets.  They will not remember food I made for lunch or the amazing dinner for the in-laws.

It is up to me to create "greased squirrel" memories for my kids.  It is what they will cherish down the road. 

This week will mark my grandmother's 83rd birthday...well it would have if she hadn't died a little over 25 years ago.  I will always miss her and the fun she had in life.  I wish my kids could have met her and eaten her pie.  I wish they could have learned to sew in her craft room and played games all over the living room floor.  I wish she had been around to see me grow up and to know just how important her little moments of impromptu fun were to me.  The best I can do now is pass the fun down to my kids.  We may not live around any squirrels, but I am always on the lookout anyway.

Thanks Grandma.

P.S. The squirrel did not appear to be greatly harmed by the Crisco incident as he was back at it the next day and for many weeks after that.  I don't think he ever made it back on the bird feeder again, but he sure tried.  Poor squirrel.  He probably still wonders what happened...

Friday, January 22, 2010

Loving the Here and Now

Do you love your "right now?"  Not your, "Someday," or your "When this project is over?"  Do you really love the place you are right now?

I think I just saw a few of you spit soda out your nose laughing at me.  As I sit in my office surrounded by unfinished projects and half completed thoughts I wonder if I even like my "right now" let alone love it.

You may wonder why I picked this silly little topic.  If you are a mother of young children and are surrounded with runny noses, smelly diapers and sleepless nights I doubt you are reveling in the experience.  (Warning: I have been told I will look back on these days with fondness.  I have not figured out how being puked on at 2 am will ever evoke fond memories, but I am going on faith here.)

The answer as to why is simple.  I find myself thinking I will be happy/content/relaxed/more in control later.  I think this quite often in fact.  If you think you don't do the same thing I have a question.  When was the last time you looked at your calendar and said, "I will be happy when this nasty/busy week is over?" Ha! I caught you!

So what does it take to be happy now?  How do I enjoy telling my kids a million times to brush their teeth and stay in their room at bedtime?  How do I walk away feeling enjoyment in situations I find crazy and out of control?  Hmmm?

I have the sinking feeling that you are looking over your shoulder for the solution just like I am.  While there are plenty of people who can give me perspective now they are past the time of their life they disliked, few people in the thick of things have a clue.

I laugh at the option of "cutting back."  What would you like me to cut back on, laundry or dinner?  I smirk at those who think I should just "let it go."  Go where, the loony bin?  I am in a period of my life I find stretching my comfort zone.  Anyone who hasn't exercised lately can tell you stretching can hurt...a lot.  I want to love where I am, I just wish "where I am" included a beach and a nap.

So I throw this out to you, how do you love where you are?  How do you revel in the excitement of life, even when the excitement is not what you had hoped for?  How do you start loving the here and now and not the distant future?  I want to know, so pipe up, contribute, and type a comment. I am waiting...

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Finding the Positive - Feeling More Loved

I have a friend who is always telling me how her husband is amazing.  I have met him, and he seems like a nice guy, but amazing? Honestly I wasn't sure it was possible to be as great as she reports him to be.

When I thought about it a little more I realized she is always saying things like, "He did (fill in the blank with amazing action) because he loves me."  She recognizes and speaks this truth to everyone she meets.  She acknowledges his actions come from love.  In fact, I would not be surprised to hear her say, "He took out the trash because he loves me."

When was the last time you took a long look at the people around you and itemized the things they do because they love you?  When was the last time you verbalized those thoughts?

In the day to day monotony of life I know things can get a little routine.  We get out of bed in the morning and trudge through our day, happy to make it to the end where our fluffy pillow awaits. When someone picks up their clothes off the floor we are just relieved we don't have to do it.  I doubt we frequently take the time to look at the action and say, "He picked up his clothes because he loves me and knows I don't have the time today."  We more likely are thinking something along the lines of, "Wow! I am glad he finally noticed what a slob he is!"

As I thought more about my friend I noticed how much she adores her husband.  I compared her to other friends I have who don't see their spouses the same way.  The difference was amazing.  The people who take the time to recognize the efforts made are much happier than those who don't.

What impressed me from this little data gathering exercise is that the husbands are probably not that different.  I have met them all and they are nice guys.  They are funny/well groomed/polite and all seem to be great dads.  So why do some women see them as amazing and others see them as, well, not so amazing?

You may have heard the phrase, "Have and Attitude of Gratitude."  I think that is the difference.  The women who recognized their husbands actions as expressions of love felt more loved.  Those who didn't, didn't.  The husband's actions didn't change, just the way the wife felt.

Let's think about this for a moment.  I can choose to acknowledge things as expressions of love, and thus feel more loved, or I can ignore expressions of love and feel less loved.  This should not be a hard choice.

(By the way guys, this works both ways.)

I pledge as of today to see the things people do all around me as expressions of love and compassion.  I will attempt to verbalize these good deeds whenever possible.  I will stop viewing ordinary acts as unimpressive.  I will force myself to see good intentions in everyday actions.  I will chose to feel loved.

I think I feel more loved already.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

You Don't Know What You Don't Know

One of my favorite phrases is: "You don't know what you don't know."  It is amazing how many situations this phase can accommodate.  It can be a great excuse when you flub up, but it can also be the reason your best laid plans don't work.

As the year is new and we are attempting to better ourselves and our homes I would like to suggest we work on "what we don't know."  For me the arena of "don't know" is huge and I love it when I am able to shrink it ever so slightly.

One area of concern for many people is the world of finance.  With the economy doing what it has been doing for the last few years there are many people afraid and confused about the "right" way to handle their money.  With questions surrounding retirement accounts, college funds, interest rates, market fluctuations and a number of other unfamiliar topics, a person can be very timid when it comes to properly handling their finances.

Here is my suggestion, go find out what you don't know.  Use this time when you have a ton of unanswered questions to get educated.  Expand your understanding of what is going on around you.  Take a class at the local community college.  Watch a financial news program once a week.  Check out a book from the library now and again.

It doesn't take much to expand your knowledge, but lots of people are so afraid of asking questions they decide it is better to be ignorant.

Now I am going to suggest a really scary idea.  Go see a financial professional.  Ask questions, and get a plan from someone who understands the market and your goals.  Please note: I did not say invest all your money with a financial professional.  I did not tell you to buy into big portfolios or investments you don't understand.  I did tell you to find someone who knows what they are talking about and get a firm grasp of your goals.

It is my experience that many people are wary of financial planners.  In some cases you should be, but in most cases a reputable financial planner is a great idea.  Their job is to know about a confusing market and explain it to you in plain terms.  They are also there to help you define your goals and find ways to reach them.  They can be your partner, because they know what you don't know.

Now you really don't have to follow my advise.  You can be a financial whiz even if you never meet a financial planner.  You can have wonderful goals and well defined plans to accomplish everything, however most people need a place to start.

If you don't know where you are going it is doubtful you will get there.  I had the chance to take a financial planning class years ago and as part of the class I had the chance to sit down with a certified planner.  It was very nice to find out I was on the right track.  He gave me a few suggestions and I went on my way.  He would have liked it if I had invested money with him, but what he had to offer wasn't what I wanted to buy.  I gained knowledge and a direction, and he gained a reference.

I understand if I just scared you with this suggestion.  Taking the bull by the horns isn't the way many people do it.  So find what works for you.  Start with a book, take a class, watch a show.  However you do it, make it your goal to shrink what you don't know.  You will be glad you did.

P.S. I do not suggest ever investing money without first understanding the investment, researching the company and being in a position to tie up your funds for an extended period of time.  Make sure you are comfortable with whatever you do.  You earned the money with hard work, make sure you put the same hard work in when finding out how to make your money work for you.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Control Freak - The Sad Tale of Me

Tonight I learned an unfortunate thing about myself.  I hate it when I learn things about myself, especially when they aren't good.  Whoever said ignorance is bliss obviously had me in mind.

Tonight I learned that I am such a control freak I can't even let other people be the ones to make a mistake.  If a mistake is going to be made, I want to do it.  Yep, me, not you.  I need to make the mistake, it is almost visceral.

You may wonder how I found such a bizarre thing out.  I mean really, who just happens to have an epiphany about something as random as that?  (Me, obviously...)

Here is the sad story.  I am currently working on a few projects for my house.  Some are decorating related, others are functional, some are just plain time killers.  Today I found a mistake.  The hard part is I didn't make the mistake, someone else did.  Then I found another mistake, and another, and another.  I made all of the "another" mistakes.  While bummed about the last mistakes, and some of them were pretty big, I was able to get frustrated and then get over it.  Some I could fix, others I could not, but I moved on.  The mistake I didn't make is driving me nuts.

Yep, you heard me, the mistake I didn't make is the one I am obsessing over.  After wondering why I was so worked up I realized it was because I had no control over the mistake.  I didn't plan for it, I didn't implement it, and I didn't feel bad when I discovered it.  Someone else did, and that someone wasn't me.

(This is the moment for which you shake your head and realize I am the saddest case you have ever known, or even read about.  Don't worry, I agree.)

So I was told about the mistake and it wasn't a big deal at the time...until I thought about it.  Wow! Now please note I love the person who made the mistake.  I think this person is amazing and I would walk over hot coals for them.  In fact, this mistake will only ever be known by me.  No one else will ever know, or even care.  That said, knowing things aren't perfect is driving me nuts.

Remember how I said I am a control freak? Well perfection is what I expect of myself and when I fall short I know exactly why, I re-evaluate my procedure are try again.  When someone else makes a mistake I have no ability to adjust things for next time.  I know I can't change others, and there is only so much I can do to avoid the same problem in the future.

Knowing there is a problem I can't fix is insanely hard for me.  Oh, wait, I think I just had another epiphany writing that down.

So here I sit, a perfect control freak, just waiting for another situation to control... You know, it is a good thing I am not trying to get a date, I am sure I just scared 2/3 of the population of earth with that last statement.  Well, I better go and call my therapist, I'm sure I need some couch time for this one.

(I really hope someone out there can relate to my sorry self.  If so, let me know.  I need friends here...)

Friday, January 15, 2010


Blogging is an unusual experience.  It is somewhere between a diary and a soap box.  While it is easy to share personal ideas and thoughts it is also easy to get carried away speaking to an unknown and unseeing audience. 

I have been at this blog for over 4 months, not very long in the immortal world of blogging, but enough time to know people are listening.  I get comments from people I have not met and enjoy seeing ideas from a new perspective.  For those of you who have commented, thanks, I appreciate it.

I will be coming up on my 100th blog soon and I am startled by the things we have discussed in that time.  If you take a look at the bottom right of my blog you will see a list of topics.  You can also look for past blogs and see what you have missed. 

One again thanks for taking this journey with me. I am enjoying it.

Thursday, January 14, 2010


Today is a simple blog.  I don't have a lot to say on the matter, but I want to say something.

Many people have died in Haiti this week.  The 7.0 earthquake centered just outside of Port-au-Prince has collapsed buildings, destroyed homes and devastated many of the 2 million people who live there.  It is now expected thousands, if not tens of thousands of people have died.  There are still people calling out for help under the rubble and they are being rescued as fast as possible.  Multiple countries have offered aid and supplies are beginning to arrive from around the world.

I have heard discussion revolving around if the United States should help the Haitian people while we can not even pay our own bills. I have heard people ask if it is really our problem to solve.

I hope other countries did not ask that question when Katrina hit.  I hope compassion is not measured by how much we have in our pockets.

While I agree we must take care of our own house before taking care of others, there is a time for which the needs of others outweigh our own.  For a few days, hopefully longer, I hope we can see beyond the problems in our own backyard and look to our neighbors.  There are people suffering and we have the ability to help.  While we can not and should not try to solve all of the problems in Haiti, I hope our humanity allows us to comfort those in need in comfort and mourn with those who mourn.

When the disasters of this world hit we are given a rare opprotunity to forget what divides us and remember what unites us. We are all children, siblings, parents and friends.  We understand loss, we understand pain.  Moments like this highlight our willingness and ability to be united in purpose. 

Here's hoping we can let our compassion shine through.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The Heirloom Spoon and Other Profound Thoughts

Once upon a time there was a spoon.  It was not a magical spoon, but it was an important spoon.  This spoon had traveled great distances and been with the same family for generations.  This was no ordinary spoon, this was the spoon to eat breakfast, and thus it held great power...

Okay, so maybe I exaggerated the story of the spoon a bit much, but we all have an item like that somewhere in our house.  It is something given to us by someone special.  It can be old or new, but it holds sentimental value for us.

I was discussing this amazing heirloom spoon with my friend today and I stumbled upon a deep thought. Before I tell you this deep thought I want you to know that I don't have family heirlooms, my husband does, but I don't. My friend was surprised I had nothing from my family and I interrupted her to let her know I do have stuff from my family.  The difference is I have junk, not heirlooms.  So here is the deep thought...

The difference between heirlooms and junk is the significance and emotional attachment we add to each item.  Just think about it, you can have two equally old items sitting in front of you, one with great worth and one destined for the dust bin. It all depends on emotional worth.

Now I would like you to think about your house.  How much space is taken up by true heirlooms and how much is filled with junk?  The junk may be useful or even pretty, but at the end of the day if it disappeared you would not really care.

I know it is the time to make and even try and keep New Year's Resolutions (aka goals) so I wonder how many of you are looking around the house and seeing your heirlooms/junk and feeling a little overwhelmed.  Clearing out belongings can create a visceral pain. It is hard to get rid of things which you purchased, or things your made, or things you were given. Things help identify us.  They probably shouldn't, but they do.

For some people, getting rid of belongings is a little like getting rid of a chunk of their identity.  They believe on some level the item defines them and by removing it they remove part of themselves.  To this I say "Hogwash!"

Years ago my grandmother's house burnt down.  Most of her belongings were lost.  Sentimental items right down to the professionally decorated Christmas tree were lost.  Photos were destroyed, mementos were reduced to ash and furniture was non existent.  On the up side, she didn't have an ounce of clutter when she moved back in.

The amazing part is she doesn't miss what was lost.  She was able to keep her mother's jewelry, as it was on the opposite side of the house and not much more mattered to her.  Her identity did not burn.  She was still the same quirky and fun loving grandma, even without her stuff.

I am not suggesting you burn your house down, but look at it through the eyes of a person who has lost everything.  What do you want to save?  What is most precious to you?  Is it an heirloom or is it junk? If you lost it tomorrow would it change your life?

We may not all have heirloom spoons like my friend, but we all have heirloom items in our lives.  Identify what they are and consider reducing the junk all around it.  It would be a shame if the spoon got lost somewhere in the midst of the junk in your life.  Just say'n.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

You Are Not The Center Of The Universe - Or "Best Laid Plans"

"The Best Laid Plans..." That phrase sounds like the introduction to a horror flick.  It is something the narrator would say right before he is trapped in a stalled car in the middle of the forest during a rain storm and mud slide.

For the last two weeks I have had some "best laid plans."  If you remember back to around Thanksgiving time I was researching a washer and dryer.  We finally found one we liked and decided to take advantage of a sale.  We purchased the units and scheduled a delivery date.  Here is where you add the ominous music and the voice over states, "Laura was excited to get her new appliances, and could hardly wait to wash her first load...the installation guys were scheduled, the laundry room was cleaned out...but the best laid plans..."

You may ask what went wrong.  I would answer with, "What didn't go wrong?" We have had 3 washers delivered and the second dryer will be installed this Friday...we hope.

This little experience has started me wondering about plans and why we make them.  Remember I am the Planning Queen, but really, why in the world do I attempt to plan things for which I have no control?

The trick is we think we have control over much more than we do.  The universe has a nasty little habit of reminding us we are all small gnats to swat around the cosmos.  I had control over the date the washer and dryer were delivered but I had no control over the damage, or the late delivery on the replacement, or the damage to the replacement, or the fact that the dryer is get the picture.

It is a hard lesson to learn, that we are not in charge of the universe.  While it seems obvious, I mean no one really thinks they are in charge of the universe, it is a lesson few have learned.  If you doubt me, think about the people who yell and scream at the ticket counter in the airport when their flight is weather delayed.  The lady at the counter didn't do it to you, but you are still angry that the earth needed moisture and disrupted your plans!!!

I see people mad at traffic because they are going slower than they planned.  I see agitated people in the grocery store line.  I see distraught parents whose children haven't won the big game.  I see angry faces when an election goes the other way.  You get the idea...

I am hoping I have convinced you that you are not the center of the universe and that no one is required to do things your way.  (Trust me when I tell you I am trying to audition for "Master of the Universe" but so far I haven't got in touch with the casting director.)  If we believe this fact to be true we need to look at why we get so mad when things don't go our way.

At this time we are back to plans.  I heard a great quote once. "Life is what happens when we are busy making other plans." And as a culture we get angry when our plans don't work out as expected.

My suggestion? Let it go.  (To all of the friends and family who just hit the floor laughing I say this...I am working on it.)  I have spent a lot of time being upset about foiled plans.  After many hours on angst I have determined there was no point.

Am I asking you to stop planning?  Absolutely not.  I am telling you to plan it out, make arrangements to make it the best possible and be okay with what happens.  You may not like it, you may need to fix it, but expend your energy on what is next, not what you can't change.

So now I am waiting for my dryer to be replaced, and I am excited to tell you I only have 4 more days to go.  I am optimistic I will get an appliance which works, but if not, we will try again.  Eventually I will either have a working dryer or a news clothes line in my yard.  Either way my clothes will be dry.  Here's hoping I get the dryer because I really like it when my best laid plans work out.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Lack of Motivation on a Monday...grrr

For those of you who know me, I am about to say something astounding.  I don't have anything to say.  It's true. 

When I sit down to write these blogs I usually have a long list of ideas to help we along the way.  For those of you who are loyal readers, you know my own life brings out profound (and not so profound) thoughts 5 times a week.

This morning when I got up there was nothing, just nothing I wanted to talk about.  In cases where I need a jump start I troll the news feeds to see what there is to comment on.  Today's news was dry.  I don't care if Simon Cowell is a judge on American Idol.  I'm not impressed by box office returns.  The financials and ethics of Irish parliament members and their spouses does not bear comment.  We all know about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and we know the economy has not recovered.  Many of us are living in freezing temperatures, (although I am not one such person,) and we know the snow and ice are causing problems.  Jay Leno and his current job situation is immaterial and what happened over the weekend on the police blotter is only mildly different from last week.

So how is it I have hit the "ho hums" so early in the year?  I have an entire year ahead of me, scheduled with great projects and entertaining goals.  Why am I stagnant at this moment?

I am stagnant because I am standing at the bottom of the hill looking up at the mountain above me.  I see the climb and I am a bit overwhelmed.  There is so much to do, so much that needs to be done.  Somewhere in the middle of the "have to's" are a few "want to's" and a ton of "should's."  It can be a bit overwhelming.

Last week I did an entire series on goal setting, and I don't want you to think I don't believe what I said, because I do.  The problem is feeling overwhelmed.  Right now the list of what I need to accomplish has outstretched my desire to feel motivated.  Not good.

I am aware many people feel overwhelmed.  It has happened to me in the past and I know it will happen again.  The crazy part is I don't have anything that can be filed in "crisis mode" pile.  I am just plugging along, doing my normal stuff, and feeling overwhelmed.

So here is my logical list of stuff to do.  I am not motivated enough to take my own advice yet, but it is good advice none the less.

1) Start with the stuff you CAN do. I am sure this sounds obvious, but when the list gets longer than your current motivation you need to start with what you can do quickly and easily.  Don't laugh when I say start with a shower.  It is simple, it is something you need to do anyway and you will be able to mark it off your list.

2) Determine if you are simply overwhelmed or if you are depressed as well.  Often feelings of being overwhelmed arrive with feelings of depression.  I usually find my lack of motivation to be couched in a general desire to go to bed and pull the covers over my head.  In these cases I try to work on my mood before attempting my to do list.

3) Act "as if" you were motivated until you get the important stuff done.  Sometimes the reality is you have to get things done, even if you just don't care.  Going through the motions is not a great long term solution, but it can get you from point A to point B in a pinch.  Try looking at small milestones until you can cross the "have to's" off the list.

4) Re-group.  Reevaluate the to do list and see what it is you are feeling the most overwhelmed by.  You have options in most circumstances.  You might be able to get help.  You might be able to reduce the effort needed. You may be able to shift other items on the list to free up more time.  Or you may just have to dig in and get that nasty thing off your list.  Either way, figure it out and confront it head on.

5) Remember this feeling of unmotivated mush will pass.  I know it may be hard to believe, but your motivation will return.  You will feel better and you will conquer the world another day.  It may be in your best interest to give yourself a break right now and hunker down a little later.

Okay, there you have it, my guide to get over the lack of motivation we all feel when overwhelmed.  You may have noted I started this long winded article by saying I had nothing to say.  I still don't, but apparently I can find a lot of words to not say it with.

If you have ever felt this lack of motivation, post a comment and help us all feel better.  There is sweet solace in knowing we are not alone.  Oh, by the way, Happy Monday....grrr.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Why the Muppets Outlived the Avocado

What makes some things classics and other things obsolete?  I don't know anyone who wants a burnt orange couch or avocado green refrigerator anymore, do you?  So why are some things "retro" and other things just plain nasty?

In case you were wondering, I do have too much time on my hands...

No really, I started thinking about this when I saw an article about the Muppets on the news today.  They have been hanging around since the 1970's, just like burnt orange and avocado appliances.  The Muppets are a cool icon of childhood gone by while shag carpet and velour couches are just bad jokes.

How do these things happen?  Who decides what will stand the test of time and what will not? Why did the Muppets make the cut?

In the spirit of full disclosure, I am a HUGE Muppet fan.  My dad did an amazing Swedish Chef imitation and I bonded with Beaker from the beginning.  One of my earliest childhood memories is laying on the floor with my dad watching the Muppets on our small remote-less TV set.  My dad would laugh at the two men in the balcony and we would all chuckle at Piggy's attempts to capture Kermit.  We sang along to the John Denver Christmas special and cherished the other stars who appeared alongside our favorite puppets.  It was a magical experience for me as a child.

Maybe that is the answer.  I don't have warm and fuzzy memories of shag carpet, velour couches or burnt orange appliances.  They were fashion pieces which left us with no more than a mental shudder.  The Muppets were "real." They had lives, struggles, personalities, ambitions and faults.  They were all of us, and still are.

Lately the Muppets have made a splash on YouTube and have appeared in other media outlets.  A new generation is excited by them all over again.  I hope my kids find Fozzy the Bear as lovable as I do and Animal as entertaining. I hope they get to laugh at "Pigs in Space" or enjoy the piano playing Rolf the Dog.

What I want most for my kids is the wonderful family memories of watching a fun program while spending time with the ones we love.  My dad may never throw fish or go nuts on a drum set, but he will always be my favorite Muppet.

I for one am really glad the Muppets outlived the avocado.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Steps 4 and 5 - Set a Date and Be Accountable

Do you make goals that drag on for decades?  I do.  I have one which is going on 4 years right now.  I can't even explain the guilt I feel every time I think about it, and yet it still isn't finished.  You think I would get on the ball, but alas, it drags on and on...

We have talked about goals for the last few days and there has been a lot of advice thrown around.  We talked about figuring out what needs to be changed and why you want to change it.  We talked about defining the steps to accomplish your goals. Now it is time to talk about assigning yourself a schedule and adding some accountability.

Having steps outlined to complete a goal is only exciting if you have a deadline to complete those steps.  For example, I could want to be a pilot, and I may determine I need to go to flight school, but if I never enroll in flight school I haven't accomplished much.

Another example is organization.  How many times have you decided to clean out the junk drawer?  How many times have you put it off? How many times have you looked at the junk drawer and thought, "Gee, I really should get to that," and then promptly ignored it?  (Don't look over your shoulder, I am talking to you...yes, you.)

So how do you pick a deadline?  Sometimes the answer is obvious. "I must clean the bathroom before my mother-in-law arrives."  I have a clear and exact deadline.  (By a raise of hands, who here hasn't run in to clean the bathroom just as the mother-in-law is arriving? hmmm?) 

Sometimes the deadlines are not as obvious.  "I will finish this quilt before my child leaves for college... in 15 years." That deadline may not be as satisfying. Or, maybe your deadline is crisis based, "I will fill out my Prepared Binder before there is an emergency." (Not like you know when that is going to happen.) 

If your deadline has the words "after things calm down" in the definition there is a high likelihood you will never finish that goal. There is a high likelihood you will never even start that goal.

Pick a time, maybe even give it a date and stick to it.  While I understand life tends to get in the way of the best laid plans, it is better to adjust the schedule than to never of had one.

Once you have that schedule and you are committed to it you need to be accountable.  For some people it is enough to just say they will do it.  Others need someone to check up on them.  Weight Watchers and similar groups make their money by holding people accountable to their goals. Figure out what works for you and take care of it.  Knowing you will finish the goal because someone else is rooting for you can be an amazing motivator.

There you have it, a plan to make and achieve goals in 2010. As we have previously noted, the steps are:

1) Figure out what you want to change.
2) Determine why you want to change it.
3) Determine the steps to make change happen.
4) Assign a time to complete this goal.
5) Find accountability for your goal. 

So go forth and set goals.  Then go forth and achieve them.  I would be excited if you told me a few of your current goals and how you are doing. It is always nice to enjoy the successes of others.  Happy New Year!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Step 3 - Planning Success One Step at a Time

Goals, you either love them or hate them.  Some people flourish when they have a goal to accomplish while other people wither.  Who knows why this is the case, but it seems to hold true.

Now is the time to make a little confession.  I don't like goals which force me to change.  I want to change because I want to change, not because some goal is telling me to. (Yes, this makes little to no sense, but it is true.  Apparently I have a little teenage rebellion left inside trying to get out.) With this in mind I try and set my goals so I don't feel controlled by them. I want goals that help me become "more" and don't confine me to be "less."

I find one of the most important aspects of goal setting is the steps I take to get there.  Nothing is as overwhelming as a huge goal looming overhead with no obvious way to achieve it.  I immediately feel intimidated, question my own sanity for attempting to complete the task and then wonder why I set the goal in the first place.  The kiss of death comes knocking when I feel controlled by the goal.  I always rebel, and well, that goal is history.

A few days ago I talked about the steps to setting goals.  Yesterday I talked about figuring out what you want to change and why.  Today I want to talk about the steps of the goal. 

Setting the goal is not enough.  If you are serious you must plan a way to get there. I mentioned before that a goal without a plan is just a wish.  I add now that wishing is a passive act.  "I wish I had a million dollars," or "I wish I was thin," or "I wish I had more friends," isn't going to change anything.  If you want a million dollars find a way to earn it.  (As a disclaimer, I do not endorse robbing a bank or any other form of illegal or illicit activity to reach this goal.  I just wanted to be clear about that 'cause I know what you were thinking...)

Start with the small and obvious steps.  If you want to be thin start by looking at your existing habits. 
Do you exercise?
Do you eat portions the right size for your body?
Do you have support from your family and friends?
Do you have an emotional need you are filling with food? 

When you understand where you are starting you will have a solid list of steps to take.  In this case, you may need to find an exercise program you are comfortable with and learn how to eat correct portions.  Maybe a personal trainer and a nutrition class are the first steps to becoming thin. After that you may need to find a support group or maybe even a counselor.  All of these things are vital steps to reaching your goal.

If you don't plan out your steps you are likely to fail for no other reason than distraction.  Without a plan your goal is a loose and floating idea, a wish.  For example, if being organized is the goal, you need a plan to get there. Have you ever started going through the junk drawer, determined to get rid of all the junk?  Half way through you see a picture of your friend and realize you haven't spoken in months.  You pick up the phone, give her a call and WHAM, you forget all about the junk drawer.  When the call is over you see a big pile of stuff on the counter, think, "I finish that later," then shove everything back in the drawer and walk away.

The plan didn't have enough steps and you got distracted.  Don't feel bad, it happens to all of us and we all hate it when we realize we got sidetracked.  If your plan had included throwing away the trash, filing the important papers and identifying the things to take care of later, you would have put that picture in the "later" box and finished the drawer before picking up the phone.

Now is the time to look at the goals you identified and visit the reasons you want those goals.  When you have the vision firmly in your brain it is time to plan out the steps.  Make them clear and defined, but realistic enough to accomplish.  Taking this time is worth it, so sit down and figure it out.  We all want to be successful and this is how to make it happen.

Next we will look at time management.  Even the best goals will never be finished if we work on them "tomorrow."  So spend today working on your plan. You will be glad you did.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Steps 1 and 2 - Soul Searching Your Way To a Better Goal

Setting goals at the beginning of each New Year is a time honored tradition.  I'm not sure why January 1 is any different than December 31, but I don't know anybody who schedules their resolutions on the 31st.

Yesterday I talked about setting goals I talked about the differences between resolutions and goals and the specifics behind setting a goal.  Today I want to talk a little bit more about the details of goal setting. In particular I want to talk about figuring out what you want to change and why.

Everyone has something that bothers them. If I started to tell you my list you would either roll your eyes or laugh out loud.  My pet peeves are a little odd, just like me.  One thing I do have in common with most of you is clutter, and today I am going to talk about clutter.

Clutter is the name given to the evil odds and ends which congregate around your house and take up space.  Some clutter is important, most is not.  Clutter is usually just important enough not to throw away, but not important enough to have a place it belongs.  In reality most piles of clutter could be tossed in the trash except for the one important item buried somewhere in the middle of the pile.

Organization is at the top of many resolution lists next to dieting and exercise.  The problem is people make it a wish and not a goal.  "I wish I was more organized" does not actually make your clutter disappear.

If you have identified clutter removal or organization as your goal, (and who hasn't at least once in their life?) I suggest you be a little more specific.  Is there one room, or one type of clutter you want to eliminate?  Figure out exactly what you want to change.  While you may be tempted to take on the whole house, don't.  I mean it, don't.  Start with one pile or one drawer.

Before starting this goal, determine why you want the change.  This is an important step most people forget.  You must know why the change is needed or wanted.  Have you ever started a diet and a few weeks in you wonder why it is you aren't eating that nummy slice of cake? If you don't know why you are making a change you will not succeed, and why should you if there is no point?

If clutter is your goal I would suggest pinpointing the problems the clutter creates, the feelings you have about clutter and the reason the clutter exists.  I know soul searching may not have been on the New Year's resolution list, but it is a very important part of the process.  You wouldn't have clutter if you didn't get something out of it.  What is that something?

Once you figure it out you will be on to the next phases of goal making, and guess what, we will talk more about that tomorrow. Until then, start the soul searching, it will help you define a better goal...I promise.

Monday, January 4, 2010

5 Steps to Setting Goals in 2010

Welcome 2010!  It is in fact January of a brand spank'n new year and hopefully you have been as excited to make resolutions as I have.  You have no idea how lucky you are. I haven't made any resolutions.  Nope, not one.  I do have a few goals to work towards, but no resolutions.

I am sure you are wondering what the difference is.  Most people would consider them the same.  In my book they aren't.  Resolutions are things we plan to do, usually in the new year.  For example, "I resolve to eat better," or "I will walk the dog every day."  These things are worthy ideas, but have no plan.  A goal has a plan.  For example, "I will take a class in February at the local community college to learn to eat better." Another example is, "I will walk the dog after dinner every night with my friend Bob."

Goals are specific enough that we have the chance to really do something about them. Resolutions are pie in the sky ideas, goals have a way to achieve them.

So today I would like to help you set a goal.  It won't be too painful, I won't call your mom or spouse to tell them your dark secrets.  I just want you to find one thing to work on.

Steps to setting a goal:
1) Figure out what you want to change.
2) Determine why you want to change it.
3) Determine the steps to make change happen.
4) Assign a time to complete this goal.
5) Find accountability for your goal. 

When I set a goal the first step is always figuring out the one thing that isn't working for me in my life.  (All right, smarty pants, of course there are multiple things that aren't working in my life, but I just pick one at a time.)  I look at the thing which makes me uncomfortable and decide to either let it stay "as-is" or change it.  So the first step is to identify what you want to change.

The next step is to think about why you want to change it.  If you are changing things because someone else thinks it would be a good idea or because you think it is probably/likely/maybe a good idea, you are doomed. Change comes from desire. I'll admit it can also come from freak experiences and outside influences, but not usually, and not when setting goals. When you are working on the goal you need to know why you are putting in the hard work.  So come up with your "why."

Determine the steps involved with the goal.  Do you need to gather more information? Then sign up for a class.  Do you need help? Then get a trainer.  Do you need equipment? Then make a plan for getting it.

I heard someone once say a goal without a plan is just a wish.  Things like, "Gee I wish I was thinner," or "Gee, I wish I was rich," are not going to get you very far.  Give your goal teeth, and create a plan.

The next part of goal making is to assign a time to the plan.  You will take the class in January, you will walk the dog after dinner daily, you will monitor your calories in a notebook after each meal starting get the idea.  I heard a great quote once, "The road to hell is paved with perfect intentions."  If you don't have a specific time to complete your plan it will only ever be an intention, and worse yet, it will be an intention you feel guilty about when you don't do it.

The last part of goal making is accountability.  We all need it, but the form it takes can be different for everyone.  Some people tell a friend or spouse.  Some write it down and post it on the mirror to see each day.  Some people blog about it, or otherwise put it out to the universe.  I don't like to do those things, for me they create expectations from others and guilt if I don't finish the goal.  I like to plan out my goals and make myself the accountable party by adding it to my calendar.  For me, if it is on my calendar it will get done.

So to recap, goals are good, make some.  Get moving, you can do it!

In the blogs you will see over the next few days/weeks you will see some ideas about organizational goals.  If you have any questions or topics you would like me to blog about, let me know.  I may not know the answer but I will do my best to help you out.