Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Remembering a Life

Every so often we are given the chance to remember a life.  Usually that opprotunity is given upon death when emotions are raw and feelings are more intense.

This week I have been given the chance to remember a life, and I wanted to share with you what I learned.
  1. Regrets can last a long time. Decisions are made and forgotten every day of our lives.  Some decisions are more important than others, and some decisions, while simple, may have lasting effects. When things do not turn out the way we envisioned we may have regrets, and those regrets can take on a life of their own. Don't let regrets steal your happiness.
  2. Everyone shows love in their own way. I have heard it said that we show love in the same way we wish to be loved.  If that is true, everything from a warm cooked meal to unsolicited advice can be considered love. Accepting love from those around us can be hard, but worth it.
  3. It is important to live life when given the chance.  Often we put off until tomorrow what we can not envision ourselves doing today.  Dreams are put on hold, what ifs are given excessive weight and stagnation becomes the rule. We may not have as many tomorrows as we thought.
  4. Change is constant. In one lifetime so many things change. Technology advances, laws are rewritten and discoveries are made.  Holding onto the past can have its benefits and its drawbacks.  While things may seem simpler in years gone by, the future holds many exciting prospects. A death grip on the past will make it harder to embrace the future.
  5. Good people come in all shapes and sizes.  What makes a person good cannot be defined by one action or one moment. Good people can do crazy things. Good people can be annoying, frustrating and disagreeable. Good people can also be well intentioned, heartfelt and sincere. Sometimes good people are not recognized in the moment, but everyone has the potential to be "good people."
I am sure I could find many more lessons as I remember the life of my grandfather.  I know I could think of hundreds of funny stories, and dozens of tender moments.  I doubt I will ever fully comprehend the effect he has had on my life, but I am grateful for his love and guidance.  I will always cherish my time with him, and will miss him now that he is gone. While he may have been a stubborn old man, he was the best stubborn old man a girl could ask for in a grandfather.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Motivational Monday #38 - Love Now

Very often we put off until tomorrow what we should be doing today.  Today's Motivational Monday post will be short and sweet. Love Now.  Don't wait for tomorrow.

Very often things get in our way.  Life happens, as the saying goes.

As hard as it may be to build relationships, as much energy as it may take, it is worth it.

I know that often life seems an endless sea of tomorrows.  We prioritize everything, and sometimes leave for tomorrow what we feel overwhelmed by today.

Prioritize your relationships.  Prioritize those you love. It is important. Even if it is hard, love now.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Frantic Friday #15 - 5 Steps to Organize Life

Some days things just seem to fall apart faster than you can put them back together. Schedules change, commitments shift, and expectations increase.  On days like those I tend to hide under my covers and beg for a do over.

To bad do overs don't happen very often!

Instead of hiding, here are a few simple tips that can help you survive the shifting mosaic we call life.
  1. Look at your calendar and see where you are already committed.  Basic laws of physics tell us we can't be in two places at the same time. Identify where you have to be before you fit in where you would like to be.
  2. Clearly identify the outside expectations you are aware of. For example, "I am responsible for bringing cupcakes to the school party an noon."
  3. Clearly identify personal expectations.  For example, "I will get my hair cut before we leave on vacation Friday." (Did you notice my wishful thinking there?  Maybe if I go get a haircut I can convince the universe to send me on vacation too...)
  4. Schedule goals.  As we all know, goals are just dreams until they are on the schedule.  Make sure you are identifying time to complete goals, or the endless commitments you handle each week will turn into mindless monotony.  Progress is a good thing.
  5. Develop an intimate knowledge of the word NO.  Go ahead, say it with me, "I'm sorry.  I can't help you with the school fundraiser, I have previous commitments." Or better yet, "I appreciate all of the hard work you are putting into this project. I wish my schedule would allow me to help, but I'm learning not to overextend myself."
By using these simple, but effective tools, you can make the best use of your time, fulfill commitments, and decline activities which don't meet your goals or expectations. We all have craziness descend into our lives every now and then.   It is up to us to enforce clear boundaries and tackle our schedules with clear intent.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Heading Into Assisted Living

Assisted Living. Those two little words have a lot of emotions involved with them.  For some, assisted living means the chance to have their own space but still receive the care they need.  For others it is the end of their lives as they know it.  For families, assisted living can be an answer to medical needs, or it can be a symbol of failure to care for your family member. 

Not all assisted living facilities are created equal, which means their cost, their services, and their amenities differ far and wide. Some facilities are meant to only house residents with basic needs, while others transition into full skilled nursing centers.  Some facilities are mini resorts, while others feel old, run down and crowded.

Choosing an assisted living complex can be a tough choice.  You have to take into consideration budget, services, insurance, and proximity to loved ones.  Very few people have selected a facility before they need to live there, so time can also be a consideration.

As a company, Prepared Binder places a high value on preparedness.  However, we recognize some things are easier to prepare for than others.  When our emotions get involved we tend to push reality aside and ignore the details we need to arrange. Very few of us eagerly look forward to the time when we can no longer live on our own. We don't relish the idea of our basic needs being handed off to strangers.  It may feel a little demoralizing.

With that knowledge we also need to look at reality.  As they say, only two things are certain, death and taxes.  The part we are concerned with is what happens before death. Having a plan for assisted living makes sense for a few reasons.
  1. You need to know where you are going to live. You wouldn't want to move across the country without knowing where you were going to stay, yet so many people are forced to select an assisted living facility during an unexpected medical situation.  Very often they have never toured local facilities and have no idea what options there are. Knowing where you are going to live is an important part of feeling in control of your life when your medical needs change.
  2. Your family wants what is best for you...but they may not know what that is.  I can only imagine how many grown children are called to their aging parent's bedside and asked to make arrangements for their continued care. There are a lot of questions to be answered.  Finances, insurance, expectations and practical details all need to be taken into consideration when selecting a facility to live in.  These details are something you know yourself, but your children may not. If you want to end up where you will be happiest, make the choice yourself.
  3. You may have legal details to deal with.  Depending on how your estate is arranged, you may need to transfer funds, identify beneficiaries, or dispose of property.  If you plan to move out of state you may need to append your will or trust.  While most of this can be done when needed, having a grasp on how your decisions affect your estate will greatly simplify matters down the road.
So take the time to think this through.  Take stock of your finances and determine which facility is right for you.  Hopefully you will not need this type of care for a good long while, but if you do, at least you will be prepared.

    Monday, March 21, 2011

    Motivational Monday # 37 - Monkeys Throwing Poo

    Today I had an argument with my son. It was not an earth shattering fight, just the time honored morning brouhaha. I told him to get out of bed and he didn't do it. Then I got him out of bed and he climbed back in. We did this for half an hour and by the time I got him out the door I was frustrated, tired and angry. Trying to explain to my husband how I felt, I not so calmly explained that I felt like a monkey throwing poo. (He laughed out loud and said I needed to write a blog with that title, so here it is...)

    If you ever have the opportunity to watch the monkeys at the zoo long enough, you may just see them pick up some poo and throw it. I'm sure scientists have figured out exactly why this happens, but I have always thought the monkeys found a perfect way to express themselves. Some days I would like nothing more than to throw some poo and be done with it!

    Then again, throwing poo doesn't really accomplish anything other than making a mess.  I have it on pretty good authority that it won't solve any problems, resolve any issues, or better any situations. At the end of the day, it is just poo.

    So why is it that some days our actions can be boiled down to throwing poo?  These are the days that are full body contact craziness.  We start the day running and struggling for everything we try to do, and nothing works the way we expect.  To make matters worse, we end up arguing with someone and nothing gets accomplished there either.  Why is it we have days where we feel the need to act like monkeys?

    Here is where I say, "Who knows?"  I wish I had profound insight, but as my morning (and the remainder of the day if truth be told) clearly shows, I end up acting like a monkey myself. Even though I have no idea how I arrive at this behavior, I seem to be talented getting there.

    I thought about giving a few tips on how to avoid your inner monkey, but I just don't have anything witty or clever to say...  Suffice it to say I am working to contain my monkey traits.  Who knows, next week I may just be a baboon!

    Friday, March 18, 2011

    Frantic Friday #14 - The Sickies

    We have had yet another week of sickness in the house.  You would think I was used to it by now...but I'm not.  You would think I had a plan for it...but I don't.

    I am not a fan of sick people in my house.  Don't get me wrong, I love them all dearly, but after a while I am ready for a change.  If you saw my house you would laugh.  It is piled with laundry, stacked with dishes and drowning in toys.

    When someone in the family is sick it feels like everything changes priority.  While that seems natural, some things just can't fall by the wayside for too long. My suggestion is to pick a few important tasks and leave the rest for when health returns.  If I had to pick my important tasks, I would select:
    1. Keep the kitchen picked up.  I get so depressed when the kitchen is buried under a ton of dishes.  For some reason the dishes multiply faster when there are sick people around.  There is the practical reason to keep the kitchen clean, namely to eliminate the extra germs, but really, for me, it is the one place in the house that seems normal.
    2. Do minimal laundry.  I am in the "wait until you are almost naked" camp when it comes to laundry when we have sickies in the house.  Taking care of someone who is sick can be draining.  Then again, looking at piles of undone laundry can be draining. So if you decide to hold off, hide the laundry.  Yep hide it.  No use looking at an undone task.
    3. Go grocery shopping only when starving. I say this because surveys show the two places people have no qualms about going when ill are the doctor's office and grocery store/pharmacy.  That means there are even more germs there, and if you are already sick, the likelihood you will pick up something else is high. (Okay, here I am being honest again, please stay home so I don't have to collect more germs the next time I have to go to the store...) Really, shopping for food when ill is the pits.  If you have a healthy person to send, that's great!
    4. Enjoy the PJ's.  When we have sick people at home it is more likely that everyone will spend a day or two in their PJ's.  While doing this on a regular basis is not likely a good idea, a few days of down time can do everyone some good.  If you have younger kids, PJ's can also remind them we are having a quieter day. (I'm all for quiet days!)
    5. Keep track of deadlines.  I know this one sounds like a bummer, but when sick, it is easy to forget things you do all the time.  If you have a meeting, remember to reschedule it.  If you have a commitment, find someone else to fill it. If you have bills that are due, remember to pay them. You will be a lot happier once you are healthy if you don't drop your deadlines while sick.
    6. Know your limits.  This last tip is important.  If you have a sick family member, know when to call the doctor, know when to find outside activities for the kids, and know when to get out of the house yourself.  Getting a little alone time can be vital to being a good caretaker. Just know when it is time to cry uncle.
    So here is my new "sickie in the house" plan. Do you have any additions?  I would love to hear them!

    Wednesday, March 16, 2011

    Someday is Today...or Maybe Tomorrow

    Last week I blogged about "the wayside" and all the stuff that gets left there.  I pointed out that often our dreams get left while we wait for "Someday."

    Why can't Someday be today?  At the very least, someday needs to be on the calendar.

    I have a dream for my family.  It may sound outlandish, but here it is: I want to spend 4-6 weeks in England, Scotland and Ireland traveling with the entire family.  I want to stay in little villages and ride the BritRail from town to town. I want to see castles and experience history.  I want to pop over to Ireland and soak in the color green.  I want to see the Scottish Highlands and stare out onto the North Sea. I want to wander in the Tower of London and pamper myself in Bath.  I want my children to see where history happened.  I want them to see the sights and taste the flavor of our ancestral roots.  (And I want them to like it!)

    I think this could easily fall into the "Someday" category, but I stubbornly refuse to let it.  This dream has a date on the calendar. We will go during the summer of 2017.  That gives me six years to make it happen.  This means planning, lots of planning!  I need to start by acquiring the funds.  Then I need to convince my spouse to save up his vacation time. After that I need buy in from the kids and a sensible travel route. We will need clothes that travel well, entertainment that is very portable, and enough memory cards to take pictures every 20 seconds for a month.

    I admit this is ambitions.  I also admit that I could easily find insurmountable problems in every step of this process.  This trip is almost begging to be put back in the world of "Someday." Almost.

    So how do we keep our dreams a part of our reality and out of the clutches of "Someday?"  I think there are a few things we can do.
    1. Put dreams on the calendar.  If you know when it is going to happen you can work towards it.
    2. Identify steps to fulfill your dream. I know I need a lot of cash.  The trip will never happen any other cash I will acquire.
    3. Identify road blocks.  I have a long list of food sensitivities, so traveling can be tough.  By planning ahead and learning about the culture, we will be able to travel easily and eat well too.
    4. Identify fears.  I think sometimes our dreams get put on hold because we are afraid of something.  Sometimes we are afraid of failure, other times we are afraid of our dreams not living up to our expectations. No matter what your fears are, identify them and face them.  The act of facing and overcoming your fears may be the most impressive part of achieving your dreams.
    5. Act "As If."  I speak of my trip as if it is a done deal.  We ARE going to visit Scotland.  I AM going to show my kids the castles in the Highlands.  I try not to say "if."  That just doesn't sound very confident.
    Now that you know how to pull your dreams out of "Someday," you need to figure out what your dreams are.  Don't be afraid...I know your dreams are out there somewhere. So take a minute, get comfy, and start thinking.  Dreams don't have to require travel or money.  Dreams can involve developing talents or experiencing new things.  Dreams can be overcoming fears or improving relationships. No matter what your dream is, you deserve to live it.

    So I am off to work on my Scotland dream.  I am going to search couch cushions and sell lemonade on the corner. I am going to clip coupons and wear last year's flip flops.  Someday is not today for me, but it could just be tomorrow...and I can't wait!

    Monday, March 14, 2011

    Motivational Monday #36 - Do It Now

    Today I was reminded of how fast things can change.  So today's Motivational Monday will be short and sweet.

    Get Prepared.  Do It Now.  You never know when things will change dramatically. There may be an earthquake, a tsunami, an impending nuclear meltdown, or maybe just a bad fall and a broken hip.

    I remember someone telling me to treat each new day as a gift and not a right. I would have to agree.  Let's remember how blessed we are, and take time to prepare for what we cannot see coming.

    Get Prepared. Do It Now.

    (I will get off my soapbox now...)

    Friday, March 11, 2011

    Frantic Friday #13 - Spring Break

    Spring Break season is upon us, and where I live, this means a very hot week of having kids at home with nothing to do.  The pool is not yet warm, the zoo is too hot, and the local museums are overrun with daycare related field trips.

    What is a parent to do?

    I suggest hiding, maybe under a rock, or in a bag. Even better, hide in the laundry.  Your kids will never look for you there!

    If hiding isn't a possibility, here are a few tips to help you on the way.
    1. Enjoy the non school day calm.  For at least the first few minutes of every day, you have less stress, as you are not trying to get kids out the door to school. Enjoy the change.  You may even want to splurge and shut off the alarms.
    2. Teach a new skill to the kids.  This is a great time to teach them how to garden, or how to cook.  Family bonding time is a lot better when there is ample time to spend.  Knowing you have to fit "bonding" in between the bus and karate lessons really can take the joy out of it.
    3. Catch up with friends.  Now is a good time to see old friends and play. Spend time with people you don't see often.
    4. Go to the library.  Libraries are a good place to sit and enjoy.  I have to admit that during the school year library visits are more of a tactical strike.  I get in, I get out.  I have even been known to put books on hold so they are waiting for me on one shelf where I can grab and go. My kids love to read books, so the library is a great hangout.
    5. Take pictures.  I realized last week that I have been slowing down on the picture taking opprotunities.  People may wonder if we all fell off the planet, if measured by the lack of digital proof we existed. I think it is high time I documented our existence.
    So go forth and enjoy Spring Break.  It may be cold where you are, or you may not be able to get away.  Take the opprotunity to enjoy the break in routine. Enjoy your family. And don't worry, it will all be over in a week!

    Wednesday, March 9, 2011

    The Wayside

    After finishing my last project I realized many things in my life have fallen by the wayside.  But then I thought, "where exactly is the wayside and what collects there?"

    If my life is any gauge, the wayside must be littered with good intentions and great opprotunities, not to mention some frivolous time wasters and bad habits.

    So I ask again, where is the wayside, what exactly falls by the wayside, and how do I get it back from the wayside?

    I firmly believe "the wayside" is where "somebody else" lives and works with "other people" while they wait for "someday."  I mean let's think about it...  How many times have you heard phrases like, "Someday I will go on that trip?" or "Other people get to do stuff like that, not me." or even better, "Somebody else will take care of that?"  It seems all of these thoughts imply hopes and dreams put by the wayside. Thus I prove my point.

    So let's identify Somebody Else.  Who is Somebody Else? I am guessing he/she is an amazing person with talents I am too afraid to develop.  He/she can play the piano while baking a cake, balancing on a ball, juggling a fish, reading a book, being a good parent, and that is not all, no that is not all.  Somebody Else also takes care of all of the things I don't want to do myself, such as clean up messes, fight for beliefs I am afraid to stand up for, defend the weak and defenseless and last but not least, go on a diet.

    In short, Somebody Else is the person who does the things I am afraid to do.

    Who are Other People?  What makes them different than me? I think Other People are people who have thoughts and dreams I don't understand, or opprotunities I can't grab for myself.  Other people do things I don't feel worthy of, don't feel I deserve, or (horror) I don't agree with.  We speak of Other People with either reverence, or with disdain.  Other People are different than us.  They represent all we wish we had, or are glad we are not.

    In short, Other People have the things we don't have or don't want.

    When is Someday? Is it listed on the calendar? Can I plan for it or expect the day off to commemorate it? I think Someday is that magical time when Other People do things we want to do.  Someday is when we take the trip around the world. Someday is when we are financially secure.  Someday is when the kids are grown and the house is paid off.  Someday is when we slow down and smell the roses.  Someday is when all the current problems disappear and we can relax. I am sure Somebody Else is living in Someday right now, but not me.

    In short, Someday is the future time when all our dreams come true.

    The wayside seems to be a bit crowded.  If all of those Other People are there with Somebody Else, and they are living the dreams of, I am missing out.

    I think the real question is how do we pull our dreams out of the abyss known as "the wayside" and get them back into our lives?  I am fine leaving my habits by the wayside, but I would rather keep my dreams and goals.  While I am happy for the Other People who do exciting things, I would rather it be me.

    In coming weeks we will delve into keeping hold of our dreams and overcoming the trap of Someday.  Until then I will start digging through the "wayside" to see if I can find a few things I dropped, things like a clean house and folded laundry. sigh

    Monday, March 7, 2011

    Motivational Monday #35 - The End of the Road - The Beginning of the Journey

    I know I have been missing for quite a while now.  Sorry about that!  I previously mentioned the genealogy project I have been working on, and I finished it!  Yes indeed, I put everything on the back burner and just got it done.

    When complete, the finished book is amazing (if I do say so myself...) but the amazing part is not the work I did, but the things I learned in the process.

    In no particular order, here are some things I learned...
    1. Everyone has highs and lows.  After researching the members of the family I realized each and every one of them had some pretty hard things happen.  Some lost babies, some were betrayed by those they loved, some lost homes and land.  Each of them also had great moments of celebration.
    2. I have many traits in common with those who have gone before me.  This is good and bad, but still true.  I am inventive like my Great Grandpa Tom, but I am also stubborn like his mother Sallie.
    3.  I need to practice being content. For example, as I learned about their lives and all they did, I realized I waste energy on things that will not bring me happiness.  If they could be happy living in a two room wood frame home when they had nine people sleeping there every night, then my spacious home is more than enough and I need to be content, (read thrilled) to be so blessed.
    4. "Character flaws" are not always permanent. I was surprised to see how the people in my family changed over time.  Some of them started out with real problems and ended up making a real difference in the lives of others.  Just because they were dealt a bad hand, did not mean their life was a complete loss.
    5. A good beginning was no guarantee of a good finish.  In contrast to the last idea, some of my relatives started out strong and made really bad choices along the way.  They had to get up everyday and make choices about their life.  Some just did better than others.
    6. Bad things happen to good people.  Things out of their control happened to almost each and every one of them.  How they handled it really determined a lot about the way their life went.
    7. There is joy in family.  While we all have a parent/aunt/cousin/grandparent/in-law that we dislike, the bonds of family and the support we can offer is an amazing gift.  You do not have to be obsessive, but knowing you have a support network who knows you, that is priceless.
    8. Memories are not always fact, but they do shape lives.  After listening to many stories retold by different family members, I realized there is no truth, only perception.  The view of the storyteller made all the difference in the story. What was a tragedy to one, was moment of guilt for another.  What was a success for one was a let down for another. How we look at things defines our memories, not always what happened.
    9. Time continues.  I am sure there are moments in every person's life that they would like to hold onto forever.  In the same vein, I am sure there are moments we would like to move past as quickly as possible.  No matter your view, time will pass.  They say the only constant is change.  I saw this time and again with my family.
    10. Choices have consequences, and those consequences can ripple through time.  I was amazed at how simple little decisions changed the course of history for so many people.  Intended or otherwise, decisions made by family members changed how things happened, and those changes affected my life, generations down. I am grateful for many of the consequences, not so much for others.
    Now that the project is finished and I have had the chance to reflect on what I learned, I am really glad I took the opprotunity to get to know my ancestors.  I am also glad I dug deep enough to learn lessons from their lives.

    I need to take what I learned and move forward.  I have reached the end of the road when related to this project, but now I must begin the journey of my life. Knowing where I came from and how my life was changed by their actions gives me a lot to think about.  As I look at my children, I wonder how my actions will change things for me.

    (Wow, that was a lot to think about on a Monday!)