Monday, December 17, 2012

Sandy Hook and Mental Illness - What Will Change?

Some amazing people died on Friday.  Most of them probably didn't know they were amazing.  They thought they were normal people doing normal things.  They were going through their regular lives and learning what they could.  The children were enjoying the change of the season and the holiday vibes in the air.  The adults were doing much the same, but probably with a slightly more hurried approach.

And then it happened.  Their lives ended and their families lives changed forever.  For most of us, a little something changed too.

Right now we are hearing a lot of political posturing.  Gun laws will be introduced, and viciously fought within the hallowed halls of our government.  Security will be reviewed and changed within our schools.  People will feel a little less secure in the world, but eventually we will heal.

I have also heard a lot about the shooter's mental status and his possible diagnosis.  I have heard rumblings of fear and distrust for those with mental illness.  I have also heard pleas for understanding from families of those with mental illness.

Mental illness is a strange beast.  Unlike other illnesses, society mainly believes that people choose this as an option.  They give advice like "buck up" or "choose to be happy" and expect people to just get better.  People would never tell a diabetic to think happy insulin thoughts, but apparently it is sound advice for those with mental illness.

At the very base, mental illness is the inability to make and/or process the correct chemicals in the brain.  The theories on why this happens are vast, but definitive answers still elude us.  Those who suffer from mental illness do not literally have what it takes to be happy/sad/calm/socially appropriate/(enter adjective here).  They want to be "normal," but often the behaviors associated with these chemical differences make that impossible.

In case you are wondering, mental illness is not a result of bad parenting, a lapse of religious practice, television, video games, low IQ, or lack of love.  It is a medical condition that changes how their bodies make and use specific chemicals to regulate the brain, and the resulting side effects alter mood and behavior.  They didn't do this to themselves, they didn't ask for it, and they certainly can't "snap out of it."

For some reason society looks at mental illness as a personal failing.  I can't imagine society thinking leukemia was a personal flaw, but mental illness is viewed by many as the end result of a weak person unable to learn to be normal.  I'm not sure how we got there, but we did, and now we are suffering the consequences.

Mental illness is a subject I know far too much about.  This is neither the time nor the place for me to list all the things about mental illness I wish I never needed to know, but trust me, the list is long.  For children, there is almost no research and very few answers.  Critics say mental illness in children is just an excuse for parents to medicate away bad parenting choices.  For a few sad cases that may be true, but I can tell you that for the vast majority of parents, treatment and medication of any kind is a decision made only after all other options have been exhausted.

People wonder about this young man who committed such a horrible crime.  They immediately jump to mental illness as the reason.  I will agree that there was some seriously disturbed thinking involved with his choices, but my fear is that we will connect the concept of mental illness to mass murder, when in fact that is a significantly erroneous view.

Are there mentally ill patients who are violent? Of course.  Are there non mentally ill people who are violent?  Of course.  The numbers show that mentally ill people are more often the victims than the perpetrators of violence. For some reason that fact doesn't change the perception. 

Mental illness impacts the lives of millions of people and their families every day.  I bet you would be hard pressed to not think of one person you know who suffers from depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, schizophrenia, or autism, just to name a few diagnoses. (Before you yell about the last one, there are brain chemistry components to autism as well, so it does fit the definition used here.)  Each of these individuals have families that love them and these disorders impact their lives as well.  This adds up to millions of people suffering.

You can make this better.  If you are young and inclined, you could go into child psychiatry or psychiatric research.  We need caregivers and we need researchers.  If you are wealthy or well connected, you could help start or fund research.  If you are friends with those impacted, you can offer your support and spend the time needed to really be there for them.  If you are a family member, you can speak up and tell people about the disorders your family deals with.  You can make your reality more readily accessible to society.  If you are dealing with mental illness yourself, you can tell your story.  You can share your thoughts and your feelings.  You can give insight into your life and experience.  You can normalize your struggles. 

Sandy Hook is a disaster that has changed us.  What those changes are, and how long will they last still remain to be seen.  As we bandy about theories about mental illness, I suggest we consider one thing, mental illness has been a shameful topic for as long as history has kept records.  It will continue to be shameful as long as we chose to be ashamed.  On behalf of my loved ones who stand up to this challenge every day, I will not be ashamed.

Mental illness is a medical condition and not a commentary on self worth.  I pledge to do my part to find answers, and I pledge to make a difference.

I hope you can do the same.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Motivational Monday #75 - The Truth Doesn't Have to Hurt

I remember my mother telling me that it isn't what you say, but how you say it that matters.  I always wondered about that advice.  I mean, really, some things are bad, no matter how they are framed.  For example, "You are ugly," is no worse than "Um, no, uhhh, I think you look fine."  "Your breath stinks," is no better than, "Wow! You need a mint!" 

Sometimes it doesn't matter how the thought is conveyed, the message is the same..."This isn't going to be nice, but the truth is...."

Many of us are good at sugar coating the truth.  Things like, "That dress is a lovely shade of armadillo gray," or "I am so glad you could spend the last seven hours telling me all about your pet aardvark" are thinly veiled attempts at saying, AAAACK, What was that!?!?!?!

When it comes to telling the flat and blunt truth, many of us are a little squeamish. It feels reprehensible to tell people that we don't value the same things, and isn't that what it is really about?  If we loved aardvarks as much as our friend, those seven hours would have flown right by!

So, in an attempt to be kind, we pretend to value our friend's thoughts/ideas/hobbies/tastes/preferences as much as our own.  And there is the rub.  Is it lying, or is it kindness?

My kids are in the stage where they want my joyous approval of everything they do.  And by everything, I mean everything.  It is a common occurrence in my house to approve hair brushing, toilet flushing, banana mushing.  After a while I am so overwhelmed by rubber stamping the activities going on around me that I want to slap a dumb grin on my face and start giggling to myself.  (Not a good look for me, I might add.)

My rational brain wants to tell them the truth.  I want to tell them that their hair still resembles a rat's nest, that they have to hold the toilet handle all the way down to finish a flush, and that mashed bananas are not really a form of art.  My maternal side tells me to encourage them and be positive.  Have I ever mentioned my maternal side is annoying?

To be blunt, or not to be blunt, that is the question.  Well, actually, it is not the question.  I think the real question is do we think it is fair to crush the happiness of others by flatly imposing our views on them?  Maybe mushed bananas are art.  (For the record, I doubt it, but I could be wrong...)

Telling someone they are ugly is me deciding I know what beauty looks like, and that they don't measure up.  So, they might be beautiful, or they might not be, I'm not really qualified to know.  The same thing goes for most opinion based statements. 

So the next time someone asks you to honestly tell them what you think, remember that your reality is no better than theirs, and you can decide whether or not the truth has to hurt.  Chances are, there are plenty of truths that are kind.  So maybe my mother was right, it's not what you say, but how you say it that matters. Maybe that armadillo gray is just perfect!

Monday, December 3, 2012

Motivational Monday #74 - Sock Monkeys

Today my post will be a little more off the wall than usual.  (See that?  I just admitted my posts are off the wall, and not a single one of you contradicted me...) 

Today I am going to talk about the pros and cons of Sock Monkeys.  I bet you didn't know there are pros and cons, but there are...I promise.

First, a little back story.  This weekend my 'delightful' son was being a punk.  He was arguing, fighting, teasing and being genuinely disagreeable.  In a moment of exasperation I picked up the closest stuffed animal, which just happened to be a Sock Monkey, and declared that I was tired of having a mean child, and was henceforth adopting Sock Monkey as my loving and adorable firstborn.  The look of shock on my son's face was priceless. 

I then proceeded to itemize the virtues of having Sock Monkey be my child.  Here are a few of my favorites.
  1. Sock Monkey never yells at me.
  2. Sock monkey never calls his sister names.
  3. Sock Monkey never tells me the food I made was nasty.
  4. Sock Monkey always sits quietly and waits his turn.
  5. Sock Monkey always listens when others speak.
  6. Sock Monkey never messes up the house.
  7. Sock Monkey never drinks the end of the milk.
  8. Sock Monkey never lies.
  9. Sock Monkey never leaves wet towels on the floor.
  10. Sock Monkey never 'forgets' to do his homework.
Now in all fairness, Sock Monkey also has a few faults.  Namely:
  1. Sock Monkey never says please or thank you.
  2. Sock Monkey never cleans his room.
  3. Sock Monkey never answers when I ask him a question.
  4. Sock Monkey never tells me he enjoyed his meal.
  5. Sock Monkey never takes a shower.
  6. Sock Monkey never brushes his teeth.
  7. Sock Monkey never plans to leave home.
  8. Sock Monkey never practices the piano.
  9. Sock Monkey never feeds the dog.
  10. Sock Monkey never plans to get a job.
So as you can see, adopting Sock Monkey is not without its own set of problems.

My son isn't quite sure if we are serious about replacing him with Sock Monkey or not.  We have him mildly concerned, and the evil mom that I am, I am enjoying it.  In an attempt to be kinder than Sock Monkey, he gave me a compliment which is admittedly something Sock Monkey isn't very good at.

I guess my point is this, everything has two sides, even Sock Monkeys.  We don't always get exactly what we want, and that is true of Sock Monkeys and children.  If we want the cuddly and adorable side, we also have to take the grumpy and whiny side.  Right now I am doing my best to find the good parts of all my kids, including the newly adopted Sock Monkey.  Here's hoping I don't find out the Monkey snores!

Monday, November 26, 2012

Motivational Monday #73 - Being Thankful is So Last Thursday!

I saw a picture on Facebook last week that said something about the Untied States being the only place where we have an entire holiday to be thankful for that which we have, and then we wake up early the next morning to race around like crazy people to buy all the things we don't have.  Good point.  In fact, the news reported this morning that the average shopper spent more than $430 on Black Friday alone.  Wow!

So now it is cyber Monday, and they are expecting record breaking sales.  While that is fabulous for the economy, and economists everywhere say this is a sign we are pulling out of a recession, I have to wonder if it is anything more than people just being tired of feeling scared to spend money.

I remember living in Texas in the 1980's.  The economy there was scary.  People were losing their jobs daily.  Even as a child I can remember the tension that filled our home.  We didn't spend any money we didn't have to.  There were no frivolous expenses and big ticket items were put on hold indefinitely.  While I know things have been far worse in the past, it was still a hard time, mainly because of the uncertainty. 

Now we are facing this "fiscal cliff" and no one seems to have an idea what that really means.  People have been scared to spend money for about five years now, and they are getting tired of it.  Economic uncertainty is the norm for an entire group of young people who have headed out into the work force, and they don't see that as a reason to worry.

So what do we do?  We spend!  Last week we celebrated family and friends, and took time to be thankful for the good things in our lives.  This week we throw ourselves head first into spending money and decking the halls.  I can't say I am immune to this tradition, if I am being honest I will tell you my shopping started weeks ago.  For some, this time of year is all about finding the best deals.  For others it is the thrill of the hunt.  Still others find comfort in the annual tradition.

For me, buying gifts is about taking the time to think about the people I care about and determine what small object will put a smile on their face.  I think about what I can do to help them or entertain them.  I am a practical girl by nature, and Christmastime is no exception. I find gifts they can use.

Guess what?  Here is my annual shameless plug.  Prepared Binder is a wonderful way to give your family members something useful, something they may not think about on their own.  It is your chance to show them you are thinking about them and the things that could make their lives easier.  It is a practical gift, and one that can benefit their lives.  The best news is that they will use it more than a reindeer sweater, and they will enjoy it more than a fruitcake.  So go take a look.  If you buy this week, you can use code FB2012 for a 20% discount.  (Offer ends December 2, 2012) 

Enjoy your Cyber Monday, and may your shopping be fruitful, your deals be amazing, and your wallet be plump!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Motivational Monday #72 - Prepare Every Yummy Thing

Today is the day I start cooking for Thanksgiving.  Yep, days ahead.  I make the goodies and prep the tasty treats.  From here on out it will be a smorgasbord or yummy smells and giggles of delight.  You may or may not see me with crumbs on my chin after I consume a metric ton of cranberry tarts.

You might wonder why I get started so early, but then again you may already know I am nuts!  Actually, I start now so that I may enjoy my time on Turkey Day itself.  If everything is prepped and ready to go, I have a better chance of enjoying the company of my guests and the mellow vibe of the season.

So there you go, preparation isn't just for emergency preparedness, it is for turkeys too.

I do hope this week is calm and productive for each of you.  May your turkey be juicy, your pies be flavorful, and your clean up minimal!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 5, 2012

Motivational Monday #71 - The Change in the Weather

Every year about this time we see a change in the weather.  For those in the north east, they saw a HUGE change last week in the form of super storm Sandy.  It looks like they will now have to face a lovely nor'easter coming to freeze up all the water in their homes and dump snow on people who still don't have electricity.  Gotta love the onset of winter weather!

Here in the desert we are experiencing a less dramatic cooling trend.  Today will be in the 90's, but by Saturday we will be a cool, bring out the snow parkas, 63 degrees.  I am already dusting off my electric socks to make sure I don't freeze in my bed.  (What can I say, I have been a desert rat for a long time now!)

It seems like every year at this time people start discussing the weather.  It is either warmer than they can ever remember, or the coldest/wettest/nastiest winter on record.  It doesn't seem like there is much in between.  Even though we all have these same conversations each year, we keep on having them regardless of what this year's weather really happens to be.  It is as if the conversation itself is a time honored tradition on par with summer BBQ and Monday Night Football.

After years of listening to different versions of this conversation, I am struck by one interesting fact.  People tend to still be surprised by the weather.  I have to admit this is a little confusing.  When it snows, they are surprised.  When it doesn't snow, they are surprised.  When it rains, they are surprised.  When it doesn't rain, they are surprised.  As far as I can tell, the earth has had weather as long as it has existed, thus as long as human kind has existed...yet we are still surprised!

So here are a few spoiler alerts:
  1. It is cold in the winter.  This may in fact mean snow and all manner of icy icky-ness.  You may be required to use chains on your tires or stoke a real fire to stay warm.  You may lose power.  You may be trapped in your home.  You may have to shovel snow.  It happens.
  2. It may not be super cold this winter.  You may not get the snow you expected, and that may be a problem for the snow pack the crops rely on.  The ski resorts may not open on time.  It happens.
  3. It may be dry this winter.  There is the possibility that you may not get the rain you need this winter.  You may be worried about wildfires later in the season.  You may be concerned about reservoir and water table levels.  ( I bet you guessed it...) It happens!
Yep, indeed, these are just a few of the conversations we have each year, but it all comes down to not being able to control the weather, and thus needing to be prepared for whatever happens. Farmers have to plan for early and late freezes.  Cities have to plan for low water levels.  The travel industry has to plan for fewer winter vacationers when the snow is late.

How do you plan?  What do you do to make sure you have what you need to weather the storm, or the lack thereof?  How do you make sure you are ready?

This happens more than we would like to admit.  As much as we talk about it, we tend to forget how often our friends, family and neighbors are impacted by the weather.  I remember the ice storms a few years back which had tens of thousands displaced.  Now we have the fallout from super storm Sandy ahead of a large winter storm.  Who can forget the huge wildfires we have seen in the west, or the drought throughout large areas of the country?

Having a weather plan does not make you an extremist.  Knowing how you are going to take care of your family during extreme weather just makes good sense.  Mother Nature doesn't always send us a tidy memo with explicit instructions, so we need to make sure our plans are broad and flexible.

So there you go, the Motivation you need this Monday.  It really is time to get a plan.  Take that plan and put it into action.  You will feel better when you do.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Motivational Monday #70 - The Storm is Coming!

I woke up this morning to the local news telling me hundreds of thousands of people had evacuated.  Pictures showed train stations and airports empty.  Power was already out in some areas, they are expecting water surges of eleven feet, and the storm is still a few hundred miles off the coast.

I think it is safe to say this will be a bad day for a lot of people...

Every time I see a big evacuation like this I wonder how well these people are prepared.  Of course it is my business (literally) to think about it, but I also wonder from a warm fuzzy human aspect as well.  It must be scary to pick up and depart your home, not knowing what you will find when you get back.  A home is where your comfort zone is.  It is familiar and safe.  To leave your home because it isn't safe anymore must be emotionally difficult.

When evacuations are ordered I also think about logistics.  I wonder where people will go, how they will travel, and what they will take with them.  I worry a little bit that they will find themselves away from home and family and without the things they need.  I am concerned that in their haste they will walk away without the basics.  These thought are not unfounded, as history has shown us time and again that people leave without the things they need.

It is a fact that in moments of crisis, stress or uncomfortable decisions, people's normal thinking patterns change.  I know of a woman who was asked to leave her home because of wildfires.  Her husband packed the kids, food, clothes and the family pictures.  She packed her makeup.  She wasn't a shallow woman, in fact quite the opposite, but when it came down to it, she froze.

Obviously I think a family's documentation is important, but there are so many other "essentials" that need to be included in an evacuation plan.  Here are a few of my top items.
  1. Living things - This includes family, pets and neighbors that may need assistance.
  2. Things to Sustain Life - This includes food, water, medication and cash.  It also includes clothes, blankets and medical supplies.  It may also include fuel and camping supplies, depending on the situation.
  3. Things to Simplify Life - This includes things like identification, financial and insurance information, evacuation plans and contact lists.
  4. Things to Make Life Pleasant - This includes activities, electronics (and chargers), games, books, and creature comforts.  It also include sentimental items such as family pictures and heirlooms.
So what would you put on your list to take?  Do you have a formal list made?  Do you have 72 hour kits already in place? What have you done to prepare?

Most of us will never have a nasty hurricane forcing us to evacuate, but with floods, wildfires, ice storms and earthquakes, just to name a few natural disasters, many of us live in areas that require preparation.  So go pick one thing, and get started.  There is no time like now.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Motivational Monday #69 - My Clean House *giggle*

Today I cleaned my house.  Who am I kidding?  I attempted to clean my house, and only succeeded in putting a dent in the project.  Short of having a housecleaning fairy, I want to know who really has all of their house clean at the same time.  A fully clean house may either be the 8th wonder of the world...or an empty theater set, but not a real home!

I think many of us have "Clean the House" projects on our lists.  They are items that can never really be accomplished, but are an endless journey of little progress and major setbacks.

Being prepared is the same.  It can never be "finished" and is always changing.  The preparation we need when single is different than when we are married, which is different than when we have young children, which is not the same as older children.  Being an empty nester is different even still.  I remember Anna Nicole Smith leaving her entire estate to a son who died before her, and nothing to the brand new daughter she had.  Obviously she had taken the time to prepare, but she didn't update her plan.  Oops.

So, as this is a Motivational Monday, and I just depressed you, I will attempt to add a little motivation.

Start where you are.  Pick one thing.  Prepare your financials, or your legal paperwork, or your funeral wishes, or your 72 hour kit, or your food supply.  Whatever you do, don't try and do it all today!  For the same reason you can't clean the whole house, you can't prepare your whole life for emergencies in one sitting.

So get up, get going, and get something done.  You can do it!  (How is that for motivation?  Should I offer to give you a locker room butt smack as I head you off into battle?)

Monday, October 15, 2012

Motivational Monday #68 - What Am I Doing Again?

Do you ever have that crazy feeling like you have forgotten what you are doing?  It is the sensation you get when half way through a task you realize you have no idea what the original purpose of the task was. 

Sometimes I get this feeling when doing the laundry or washing dishes, I mean really, what is the purpose of those nasty tasks?  I also get this feeling when I am knee deep in a closet clean out project and years of belongings that once nicely fit (read: stuffed) into my closet are now all over the room.  It is at the moment I find the once useful, but now broken/corroded/dated/ugly "wonder appliance" that I realize I have a few urgent questions:
  1. What is this thing?
  2. Why did I buy it?
  3. Why did I keep it?
  4. What do I do with it now? and most importantly...
  5. Why in the world did I drag it out of my closet?
Yep, about then I have no idea what I was doing.

I think many of us feel this way about preparation.  We start out with a fabulous "pie in the sky" type of plan.  We say to ourselves, "Self, it is time to get prepared," but we don't give ourselves any specific goals.  It is kind of like saying, "I am going to organize my closet."  What does that actually mean?  Does it mean I am going to get rid of things that don't fit, or does it mean I am going to arrange all of the things I hate into nice even groups?

When organizing ourselves, it is important to have clear goals.  Your goals should be simple and have only a few steps.  Here are a few examples of organizational goals.
  1. Today I will gather all of the extra blankets and put them on the empty shelf in the guest closet to make sure we have enough blankets when guests visit.
  2. This month I will put the paid bills in the top drawer of my desk so that I can start a budget next month.
  3. This week I will buy twice the normal amount of dry goods so that I can increase my food storage.
  4. Today I will call the doctor and ask for a copy of my medical chart to include in my personal medical record.
  5. This week I will make sure to recycle all "junk mail" before I put it on the counter to reduce clutter.
Do you see how simple and well defined each goal is?  Each statement gives a time the goal will happen, and lets you know the intended outcome.

In contrast, here are some of the goals I think most of us make.
  1. Clean out the garage.
  2. Clean the closet.
  3. Get organized.
  4. Go back to school.
  5. Spend more time on myself.
  6. Cook healthier meals.
  7. Spend more time with family.
Do you see the difference?  The statements on the second list have no time frame, and no goal. They are abstract ideas, and you will quickly find yourself lost in the middle, asking yourself, "What am I doing again?"

My humble suggestion is that you break things down.  I tend to get lost in the task of dishes.  I can't tell you the number of times I will just walk away from a fairly dirty kitchen because I am overwhelmed and feel like I will never get the task done.  I found that if I tell myself I will go in and just unload the dishwasher, so that I can have a place to put dirty dishes later, I will get that done fairly quickly.  Then when later happens I realize I can put the dirties straight into the washer without stacking them on the counter.  Wow!  What a difference!

Once I identified a realistic goal, and the outcome I intended, the task was completed.  You may laugh that I get lost in the dishes, but I'm sure you have a task just like it.  Try breaking it down the way I did and see what happens.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Motivational Monday #67 - The Older I Get

Sometimes I have deep thoughts.  Other times I don't.  Sometimes I am just glad to string sentences together.  Let's be honest, this 'ole grey mare just ain't what she used to be!  I may not be ancient, but the older I get:
  1. The More I Realize I Don't Know
  2. The More I Forget
You can see where this is going...nowhere good!

How is it that when we were teenagers we completely believed we understood the world?  How is it we thought our parents were dinosaurs and our grandparents were remnants of an archeological dig? How exactly did we figure it "all" out?

Honestly, I think this falls under the category of "You Don't Know What You Don't Know."

As I have aged and become a parent, I have realized a few things:
  1. My parents may just have known what they were talking about.
  2. My grandparents were a bevy of untapped knowledge.
  3. I had NO idea what I was talking about as a teenager.
  4. Life can not be figured out by age 17.
  5. Rice Crispy treats are yummy at any age.
So where has this strange collection of random information left us?  The older we get, the more we know we do not know, and the more we know we have forgotten.  While this may sound depressing, it is actually good news!  If we still have our wits about us enough to realize this, that means we still have time to take action.

I used to think I could remember every detail of my life.  Now I realize most days I can't remember what I had for breakfast.  The best solution for this faulty (read: normal) brain of mine is to write things down.  There are so many things that need to be documented, but honestly I only have time and energy for so many of them.

For now, I choose to document personal details.  This includes vital statistics, medical information, and insurance.  This way, if my brain takes a leave of absence I will have this information all ready to go.  Someday I will move on to bigger things, like my financials...but let's be honest, it is only Monday, and I have a whole week to get that motivated!

So here is the plug.  Prepared Binder is a great way to organize and record your person information.  It is simple, concise and ready to use.  Obviously I like it, or I wouldn't have created it.  I'm sure there are other ways to organize your information, but I am partial to this one.  Take a second and give it a look.

Okay, enough Motivation for this Monday....I am off to eat Rice Crispy treats!  While I'm gone, try reading a few of our past posts.  Sometimes I'm almost brilliant!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Motivational Monday #66 - Mountains We Climb

I would like to tell you I took a mental day (err, week/month/season) since my last post, but what I really did was much simpler.  I focused on myself and my family.

The holidays are tough for me.  I think I have mentioned I have a special needs child.  While that can add a lot of spice to family life, it can also be a real challenge.  The holiday season should just be renamed "The Season that Messes with Schedules." Between parties, late nights, gifts, relatives, big meals at odd hours and endless festive music and jingle bells, things can get dicey.

I'm sure I'm not alone in that feeling.  Many parenting blogs talk about the same thing, except they do it with a lot more humor and grace.  I'll just tell you it is hard.  What I think is interesting however, is that the holidays are a prime time for all the little things that we deal with each day to grow into huge problems.  As parents we quickly learn that if we aren't "good" with our personal mountains and obstacles, we bleed over into our kid's peace and the whole household spirals into chaos.

Every one of us has a mountain in our lives.  We likely have a whole bunch of hills surrounding that mountain as well. Each and every day we get up, strap on our lederhosen and start up the slopes.  Some days we head out with great energy and purpose.  Other days we scoot on our backsides a few inches and call it good.  If you are like me, you have probably rolled down the hill a few times too.

Since December I have been identifying the mountains and hills I need to climb, and more importantly, the ones I don't.  I have cleaned out closets and drawers.  I have donated and disposed of numberless boxes and bags.  I have reduced, reused, and recycled in every room.  I have eliminated and purged.  I have chopped down hills and smoothed out slopes.  I have in essence leveled the playing field a bit.

Why, you might ask, did I decide to break into a crazy cleaning fest right at the holidays?  Well, I've always been a little crazy, but besides that, I needed less.  A lot less.  You've heard the phase, you can't see the forest for the trees?  Well, I could barely see the trees for the trees.  In order to asses what was important, I needed to have less of everything.

Less is more.  Who knew?  Once I started getting rid of things, I realized just how much I own that I don't want or need.  After it was gone I could look around my space and see just how much I appreciated what I have left. I could feel at peace.

Now I think we have established that I am an organizational nut, however I'm not sure if I have recently mentioned I don't believe organization is all in boxes and binders and systems.  I think organization is also in heart, mind and spirit.  You have to feel like you know what is going on in your life and be content.  If you are constantly harried, frazzled and in chaos, it doesn't matter that your spice drawer is organized alphabetically.

So after all this time of soul searching, here are a few of the revelations I have had:
  • Sometimes my best isn't as good as I had hoped, and that's okay. I am not actually required to do more than I'm able. I don't need to have the nicest/prettiest/coolest anything.  I can give my best effort at that given time, and I'm done.
  • A clean home means I have less to look at, and thus less to stress over.  Now don't go getting ideas that I look like Donna Reed or June Cleaver. I have never in the past, nor will I ever vacuum while wearing heals and pearls. I have just found that putting things away and having clean/clear surfaces makes me calm.  Thus it is an area to spend my effort.
  • Blogging, while a great way to share my thoughts with the unknown universe, isn't essential.  I remember when I first started the blog.  I blogged 5 days a week.  I scoured news feeds and looked for ways to tie in current events to emergency preparedness.  I'm sure the content was fabulous, but I was stressed.  I had images of a thriving blog that led to international acclaim and applause. (Oh wow, was I delusional...hehe.) I craved each new comment and every "like" on facebook. Now I am just glad when I see someone took a peek, and that's okay.
  • I do too much.  For those people reading this who fall into the "friends and family" category, I know you just laughed out loud.  I am always taking on new things, but lately I have not.  I guard my time and my ability to have quiet.  Where once I wanted to be buzzing with activity, now I just want to have peace.
  • My kids are important not solely because I love them, but because they make me a better person.  This may fall into the "what took you so long" category as far as revelations go, but true.  When I am calm and at peace with myself, I really enjoy being with my kids and experiencing life with them.  When I am crazy and stressed it is hard to find joy in their amazement, wonder and awe.

So there you go, that's what I've been up to for the last few months.  I have been organizing my life, simplifying my surroundings and infusing peace and calm into my existence.   What have you been up to?