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.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Motivational Monday #14 - The Bottom of the Cliff

Being prepared is one of those things we know we should do, but don't. Starting on the road to preparedness is like being at the bottom of a cliff, staring straight up. It is overwhelming and scary. Focusing on the top is like looking at an untouchable star. We feel unlikely to get there anytime soon and no way to start the process.

There are many ways to prepare. There are “roughing it” skills to learn, there are medical trainings to obtain, there are supplies to store and there are contingency plans to rehearse. Somewhere in the middle of that chaos there is the paperwork.

Paperwork has become a truth of our lives. We have government documentation, medical records, insurance cards, legal papers and other important and vital information. Each of us has a treasure trove of data we keep somewhere “safe.” The problem is this: during an emergency we will not think about where we put each individual item. Our adrenaline will be pumping, our time will be short and our needs will be many.

Having a single place for all of your paperwork will allow you the “grab and go” option. You will feel secure knowing you have everything when you need it.

Take a look at Prepared Binder - Home Edition and then reconsider that cliff. Did it just get a little more manageable?

Friday, August 6, 2010

Being Prepared is a Lot Like Doing Dishes - Just More Rewarding

I have a little confession.  I HATE dishes.  Well, it isn't the dishes I hate so much, it is cleaning the dishes.  I have never met a task which seems so futile, a chore so boring or a labor so unappreciated.

Dishes seem to fall from the sky and litter my counter, my table and occasionally my nightstand.  They crawl all over my house and deposit themselves in inconvenient locations where I do not find them until they are dried and akin to sandpaper.  Did I mention I hate dishes?

Even after I spend an inordinate amount of time rounding up all the dishes, scrubbing them and placing them lovingly back in the cupboard, I find more have sneaked out and cluttered my house again.  It is an unending cycle that can drive a girl mad...mad I tell you.

Sorry about that little rant.  I am sure most of you also have a task in your life that seems futile.  Something you do regularly and gets undone just as regularly. Those tasks seem to be unending, and very discouraging.

So why do we do it?  Why do we repeat the same task over and over?  What is the point?

Dishes are fairly obvious. If I want to eat, I need to cook.  If I want to cook, I need dishes to cook on.  For me, doing dishes is a matter of survival, and nothing more.

Unfortunately there are many tasks that don't seem quite as vital to survival that need to be accomplished as well. The mundane things like picking up toys, cleaning up the house and making the beds won't save the planet, but I do them anyway.

For some, planning ahead is on the list of tasks that need to be done, but seem to have little reward.  If you are prepared and you never have a crisis, then you have wasted your effort, right?


Planning ahead is a big deal, but unlike dishes, which happen over and over again, a good plan doesn't have to be messed with often.  Taking the time to prepare well to begin with will help you for a long time.  Knowing how to build a shelter, how to start a safe fire, and how to cook food, is a lifelong skill you only need to brush up on periodically.  Having your paperwork organized and ready for unexpected events can be a big task, but once done only needs to be updated when things change. Having an emergency plan in place and practiced gives your family a sense of security, and that is valuable all the time.

We have the choice to look at preparedness as a horrible task to be avoided at all costs, but we can also choose to see it as a way to make our family safer and a little more secure.  I do dishes to eat, and I prepare to feel secure. I may not wake up excited to do dishes, but I know preparation will pay off, and I will be glad I did it.

Now, who is coming over to help me scrub pans?

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Be Self Sufficient - Don't Outsource Your Life

Yesterday I spent the afternoon sewing.  I even attempted to teach my kids to sew.  It was a little weird, I must admit, to be doing that which my mother and grandmother had done before me. As I explained how the sewing machine worked to my youngsters, I remembered my grandmother lovingly telling me the same thing. I will be honest and tell you my grandmother was a lot more loving than I was. oops.

After the project was finished my kids were each the proud owners of a tote bag for their treasures.  These bags will never win any design awards or be considered the most brilliant invention of the year, but they are exactly what my kids wanted and fit exactly the treasures they want to carry.

You may be wondering why I didn't just buy two small bags for the same purpose.  Well, I could of, and I have in the past, but I wanted to teach my kids to sew.  I wanted them to have that skill.

As I was sitting at the sewing machine, long after my kids had lost interest and gone off to play, I realized there are many skills we have outsourced since our grandparent's generation.  Not only do we not sew, we don't cook from scratch, we don't build our own homes, we don't grow our own crops, we don't work on our own equipment, nor do we care for our own livestock.  We may be one of the first generations with fewer skills than our grandparents.  How odd.

I know a few of you are wondering why it matters.  Technology has come far enough that many tasks have become obsolete. It is cheaper to buy clothes than to make them.  It is easier and cleaner to buy meat at the store than to raise it ourselves. It is more practical to have someone else work on our car than to tinker with it ourselves.  In short, it is easier for someone else to know how to do most everything.

As a culture we have become specialized.  We learn one task well and ignore the others, assuming we will pay someone else to do what they specialize in.  While this has been the case for hundreds if not thousands of years, our generation has taken it a bit to the extreme.

Most of us, me included, are very short on knowledge when it comes to basic survival skills.  I'm sure I could start a fire if needed, but could I find a way to feed my family if I wasn't given the resources of the grocery store? Do I know how to provide shelter?  Can I make clothing?  Can I preserve the food I have now for later use?  Do I know how to maintain my car, change its oil, or change a tire? Can I do basic stuff like read a map if my gps doesn't work?

The list of things we should know, and probably don't, is getting bigger with every generation.  In my opinion, being prepared means having a working knowledge of how to survive, and even thrive, without luxuries. I think that can be a tough thing to "sell" to our kids when they have convenience at their fingertips.

Before you get worried, I do not advocate doing everything for yourself.  Brain surgery, for example, is better left to the experts.  Where possible however, it seems like a good idea to learn the skills you need to provide food, shelter and water to yourself and family.  From there, it is a good idea to develop skills to stretch household goods and replace/repair new items as needed.

You will not see me wearing a floor length skirt and bonnet any time soon, but I do think my pioneer ancestors had a few points in their favor.  Being self sufficient, as it relates to taking care of yourself and family, is a good idea. Having a working knowledge of tasks like cooking, sewing and basic construction can be the difference between success and failure during an emergency.

So here I go, I am on a quest to fill in knowledge where I am currently lacking. I want to be confident I can take care of my family and outsource because I choose to, not because I have to.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Motivational Monday #13 - Small Things Staying Small

I think this world is made up of two things. (Well at least for the purposes of this blog.) There are the small things, and the big things.  Big things are things we see on the news.  They include world peace (which we have stopped talking about during the last 9 years of war...), world hunger, the national debt, health care, immigration, education funding, the crime rate, and what the latest celebrity ate for lunch.

It seems to me that most of us can't do much about the big things.

Then there are small things.  This category includes your job, your grocery list, your household to do list, your family gatherings and your friendly outings.

The small things are well under our control.

Now before I get a ton of frustrated email, I know each of us can help with the big things, but the big things are not directly under our control.  We are a part of them, but they are bigger than we are.

So the real question is, what do you do about the small things in life?  In my experience, it is hard to keep even the small things in perspective.  They become all consuming and overwhelming without much effort on our part at all.

Most of my day is spent on the small things.  If you look at my to do list you will find it is not very exciting.  I clean a lot of bathrooms, I scrub a lot of counters and I fix a lot of meals.  This doesn't seem like too much on the surface, but after a while my field of vision narrows until those bathrooms and counters are all I can see. It doesn't take long for me to be overwhelmed by what started out as a small thing.

So how do I keep the small things in perspective?  How do I give the appropriate amount of concern to the activities in my life?  How do you?

That is a grand question.  I wish I had an amazing answer for you.  In my life the small things take over all the time.  Maybe you have a better method of control?

The motivation for today is to be aware of the small things in your life.  After becoming aware of them, take stock of their importance.  Do you give the things in your life the correct level of attention?  Do you focus on the important items and keep perspective?

Once you have taken an inventory it will be easier to put things back where they belong.  As for me, I promise to give the bathrooms and the counters only the attention they deserve, and nothing more.  Today they will be small things.