Thursday, June 16, 2016

Practicing Mindfulness and High School Graduation

“What do you miss?” my father asked recently while on our weekly shopping trip. Having suffered a mild stroke last year, I now take him on his errands, and we occasionally find ourselves having deeper conversations than the price of bread. 
Though the question was random and without context, I knew instantly my answer: 

“I miss the days when I didn’t doubt myself.”

Eighteen years ago, pre-parenthood that is, I was confident and capable and there was logic to most of my days. I trusted myself, my actions, and my destiny.

mindfulness at graduation_son
My son at 3 months old
Then I had a baby, and for lack of a better word, I was "schooled."

I didn’t know how to do anything; the stuff in the books rarely worked; and I lived with the certainty that I was ruining this child’s life, one painful day at a time.

mindfulness at graduation_daughter
My daughter at 3 months old
Joining a mom’s group and drinking lots of wine helped mitigate my self-doubt; watching kids way worse than mine convinced me I was doing something right; and in due time I regained enough confidence to birth a second child.

mindfulness at graduation_graduationday
A very happy occasion. Photo by Dan Liu
Then SUDDENLY, just last week, I watched my son, my first born, graduate high school. 

He wore a cap and a gown, an extraordinarily beautiful smile, and a certain confidence that filled me with pride. His younger sister, equally proud (or perhaps surprised?) congratulated him via Instagram with the simple caption: 

He made it.

mindfulness at graduation_first day
Their last first-day-of-school together
Holy smokes – that was no walk in the park!

Parenting is NOT FOR WIMPS.

From the first diaper change to the first car accident, it’s a never-ending stream of self-doubt.

The toddler years were a blur of footie pajamas, goldfish crackers and 
“Where iS MY BLANKIE!?” 
(Should he even have a blankie? Will sucking his thumb cause a speech impediment?)

Grade school was all about crayons and getting into college. 
(Are these spelling words on the SAT? Did that soccer mishap just blow his chance at a varsity letter?!)

The tween years were an epic battle with social media. 
(Is Instagram ok but Snapchat not? Or is it the other way around?) 

And the teen years – they were every bit as awful as you’ve heard – only worse. 
(Does reading his texts and stalking him on Find My iPhone make me a helicopter parent?)  

mindfulness and graduation_football
He DID earn that varsity letter, despite plenty of mishaps. Photo by Dan Liu
The Uber-Organized Parent

I’m convinced well-organized people suffer the biggest adjustment to parenthood. We think proper planning is the answer to most of life’s conundrums. Show me a checklist and a consistent routine and I’ll show you success! 

But an eight-pounder with a will of its own laughs in the face of order.

Here’s a short list of parenting recommendations that were a complete disaster in my home. It’s not that I don’t recommend these; it’s just that I couldn’t pull them off.

(My) Parenting Fails:

all forms of chore charts, sticker charts and checklists (started and stopped)
summer reading programs (kept trying)
allowance programs accompanied with sound money management (never happened)
limited access to technology (epic failure on this one) 

Where’s the Beef? 

Geez. Looking back on this 18 year reflection, it seems I have some beef with the parenting experience, and my son must be a hot mess. 

But the fact is; he’s lovely. And I’ve loved being his mama. 

mindfulness and graduation_busride
My son enjoying his own moment of mindfulness. Photo by Dan Liu

Enjoy Every Minute

We’re hearing much about mindfulness these days. “Enjoy it while it lasts,” the veteran parents tell the rookies. 

These moments of mindfulness, I think, are the moments of complete ordinary. They are the sacred moments when nothing is happening except everything is happening. They are moments free from judgement and self-doubt.

mindfulness and graduation_beach
Do kids understand mindfulness better than adults? Photo by Dan Liu
Some of my favorite mindfulness moments:

Fussy baby days when I would finally just sit and hold him 
Daily trips to and from school – age three to 17
Late afternoon homework sessions at the kitchen table 
TGIFs on the driveway with scooters, jump ropes and sidewalk chalk
Sitting together on his bedroom floor sorting outgrown clothes
Early mornings fixing breakfast with his country music playlist in the background
Listening to him and his friends laughing while they played video games

Maybe, hopefully, these were the moments when, despite too much screen time and not enough structure and the all-too-often take out dinner, my son developed into a fine young man. 

My father, best known as Pop, and my son. Photo by Dan Liu
 “What do you miss, Pop?”

I asked my father to answer the question, too. He misses his career – rising each morning with purpose and responsibility. Retirement offers plenty of perks, for sure, but it seems like living-in-the-moment is a skill honed over the course of a lifetime. 

I’ve got plenty of parenting moments before me. My younger child is still in high school; and the twenties are the new teens, so it’s not as if my recent graduate is actually an adult. 

Realizing my favorite memories are the everyday ones has given me reason to let go of the doubt and brush up on my mindfulness skills. I’m looking forward to lots more of the regular, ordinary, and status quo.

mindfulness and graduation
Photo by Dan Liu
Congratulations to my blessed son on the occasion of 
his High School Graduation.

 Are you practicing mindfulness, and if so, what does it mean in your life?

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

The things on my list...

I've heard it said that when you love your work, you'll never work a day in your life.
Besides family, friends, and what promises to be an amazing feast - this Thanksgiving eve I am feeling especially thankful for my work with Totally Orderly. Eleven years in, and I 'm still so happy to make a living doing something that brings me such joy.
I am most grateful to my amazing customers, each and every one.  They teach me so much and I will always honor how they invite me into their lives.
Likewise I can't imagine working in this industry without the countless colleagues, mentors and leadership experiences I've enjoyed with the National Association of Professional Organizers.
I'm even feeling grateful for social media, with all its pros and cons, for the myriad ways I can learn and grow with others around the world. But especially for Pinterest - oh geez I love Pinterest!
Our work does not define us, but what a joy it is when we love it.
Today I count my work, my business, and all those involved, among my blessings.
Thank you and Happy Thanksgiving.


Monday, October 5, 2015

Can You Prove You are You? 3 Ways to Protect Your Identity if Disaster Strikes

Imagine a fire, a flood, a tornado taking everything – your home and all of its contents. Imagine your laptop, smart phone, files and wallet - gone, too. Could you recreate your identity? Could you prove you are who you say you are?

Could you prove you are YOU?

Victims of Hurricane Katrina faced this complicated form of “identify theft” when flood waters washed away everything they ever owned, as described in this story.

·         Passports and birth certificates: gone
·         Keys to bank deposit boxes: gone
·         Driver’s licenses, utility bills, credit cards: gone

September was National Preparedness Month and we heard an awful lot about emergency kits and safety plans. Indeed, I wrote about three different kinds of kits here. But perhaps the most important kit of all is the Identity Kit – a collection of all the data needed to rebuild one’s life – should disaster strike.

The Identity Kit

Like any emergency kit, it’s better to have some kind of Identify Kit versus no kind of Identity Kit. Here are three options for safeguarding your important information (a list of vital documents follows):

Old School: take TWO front and back copies of all important cards and documents. Keep one set in a safe location in your home. Make sure you remember where it is and that it’s accessible in an emergency. Secure the other set with a trusted person in another state or city.

Tech All the Way: use spreadsheets, inventory software, or password managers to track account numbers, usernames, and other important data. Upload pictures and photocopies, too. Store everything in the cloud for easy access anywhere.

Diversify: if Old School seems too limited, and Tech All the Way too risky, a combination of paper copies, electronic docs and cloud storage will cover all bases.



Birth Certificates
Marriage Certificate/Divorce Certificate
Social Security Cards
Driver’s Licenses/State Issued ID Cards

Bank Accounts
Credit Card Accounts
Investment Accounts
Securities & Trusts
Last Tax Return
Loan Documents
Outstanding Debts
Safe Deposit Box Key

Mortgage Papers/Deed
Other Properties (rentals, vacation homes)
Car Title(s)
Other Titles (boat, motorcycle, RV)
Inventory of Home Contents


Home Insurance Policy
Car Insurance Policy
Life Insurance Policy

Health Insurance Cards
Medical Records
List of RX Medications


Medical Directives
Powers of Attorney
Business Documents

Phone Numbers (lots of people don’t know these anymore)
Cash (small denominations)
Complete List of Passwords & Logins

Richard Kline said:
Confidence is Preparation.
Everything else is beyond your control.

Emergency Preparedness brings peace of mind.
Build your Emergency Kits.
Make your Emergency Plans.
Everything else is beyond our control.

The following websites have loads of information about disaster preparedness: (a part of FEMA)

Monday, September 28, 2015

Beyond Canned Food and Flashlights | 3 Things You Must Know about Disaster Preparedness

The Pacific Northwest flies under the radar as natural disasters go. We get the occasional wind storm or mudslide, and forest fires are certainly a summertime regular, but tornadoes and hurricanes or weeks of sub-zero temps mostly stay away.

Which is partly why the recent article in The New Yorker entitled The Really Big One by Karen Schulz shook Oregon and Washington residents to their collective core.

An earthquake of absolutely epic proportions is lying in wait just off the coast of the Pacific Northwest.

The Cascadia subduction zone, a fault line where the Juan de Fuca oceanic plate is slowly forcing its way under the North America tectonic plate, is part of the “ring of fire.” Lesser known than the famous San Andreas fault, the Cascadia subduction zone is becoming a household name on the west coast. When these dueling plates give way, and they will, the resulting earthquake could register an astounding 9.3. The tsunami that follows will destroy everything in its path.

From the article: “Our operating assumption is that everything west of Interstate 5 will be toast,” says Kenneth Murphy, who directs FEMA’s Region X, the division responsible for Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Alaska.


FEMA projects:
     ·         13000 deaths
     ·         27000 injuries
     ·         1M displaced people needing shelter
     ·         2.5 M people needing food and water

Survivors will face months if not years of rebuilding.

Planning for this sort of devastation is so overwhelming it seems almost pointless,

and that might be one of the reasons most of us have neither an emergency kit nor an emergency plan.

September is National Preparedness Month and this is the third in a four part series of posts on Emergency Kits. Thus far we’ve talked about the Car Kit and the Under Bed Kit. This week we will focus on the Stay at Home Kit.

 The Stay at Home Kit

We must understand these THREE ESSENTIALS when building our Stay at Home Emergency Kits.


1.       You're On Your Own

When disaster hits, police, fire and medical go to the hardest hit, most highly populated areas. Folks in the suburbs and rural areas may not see emergency help for days.

Be prepared to:
          ·         Dress your own wounds
          ·         Turn off your own gas and water (if necessary)
          ·         Repair your own residence
          ·         Share equipment with neighbors (generators, fire extinguishers,
          ·         Care for children and elderly

2.       It Could Last a Long Time

Utilities, city services, roads and bridges will be restored and repaired in due time, but be prepared to live without creature comforts for more than the standard 72 hours.

The following will serve you well:

               ·         Camping equipment
               ·         Water purification systems
               ·         Solar powered devices
               ·         Dehydrated foods
               ·         Non-local communication contact

3.       Any Kit is Better than No Kit

It’s easy to become overwhelmed with all this planning, but experts assure us any action is better than no action. Start by stashing emergency supplies in one central location, a little at a time. Eventually you will have a well-stocked Stay at Home Kit. Click on the links below for more information about certain items.


  Large Sturdy Bin (wheels are a plus)
  Large Trash Can with Lid (wheels are
  a plus)
  Assorted Bins for Smaller Items
  with Labels

First Aid
  Advanced First Aid Kit
  Bug Repellant
  Prescription Medications
  Pain Relief/Fever Reducer

Shelter & Warmth
    Extra Blankets/Sleeping Bags
    Space Blankets
    Stocking Hat
    Warm Gloves  
    Warm Coat/Rain Coat
    Complete Change of Clothes  
    Shoes & Socks
    Warming Packets

Hands/Feet/Head Protection
   Sturdy Shoes
    Work Gloves
    Hard Hat

   Bottled Water
     (1 gallon/person/day)
    Water Filter System
    Water Containment System
    Hot Water Heater
    Pool/Hot Tub Water (ok for bathing
   or flushing)

   Non-perishable Dry Goods
    Canned Goods
    Dry Milk
    Peanut Butter
    Instant Coffee/Tea
    Powdered Energy Drinks
    Emergency Supply of Food

Important Docs
   ID Documents
    Cash (small denominations)


   All Purpose Tool Kit
   Leatherman Tool/ Pocket
   Knife/Utility Knife
    Wrench (to turn off natural gas)
    Duct Tape
    Dust Masks


  Radio (solar, crank or battery)
   Hard Line Phone
   Mobile Phones



   Head-mounted Flashlights
   Flashlights (solar, crank or battery)
   Lanterns (solar, crank, battery
   or propane)
   Candles (contained)
   Lighter/Waterproof Matches
   Glow Sticks


   Solar Chargers
   Extension Cords

Fire Safety
   Fire Extinguishers
   Each Floor

Food Prep

   Camping Stove & Fuel
   BBQ Grill & Fuel or Charcoal
   Cooking Pot(s)
   Cooking Utensils
   Can Opener
   Plastic Plates, Cups & Eating Utensils

Hygiene &
   Wet Wipes
   Hand Sanitizer
   Antibacterial Dish Soap
   Laundry Soap
   Unscented Bleach
   Paper Towels
   Garbage Bags

Toiletries/Personal Items

   Contact Case & Saline
   Hearing Aid Batteries
   Toilet Paper
   Toothbrush, Toothpaste and Floss
   Cotton Balls & Swabs
   Shampoo & Conditioner
   Body Wash or Soap
   Wash Cloths & Towels
   Razor & Shaving Cream
   Nail File
   Feminine Products

  Formula & Bottles
   Baby Food
   Kid Food/Snacks
   Diapers & Wipes
   Change of Clothes
   Comfort Item
   Books/Activity Books

(have your pet microchipped, if possible)

  Collar with Tags
  Food & Treats
  Toy/Chew Toy

  Playing Cards
  Pen & Paper
  Prayer Items
  Books & Puzzle Books
  Toys & Games
  Crafts & Projects

 It’s impossible to prepare for every sort of disaster, but it IS possible to do something today.

 Talk to your family.

Start making a plan.

Start building your kit. 

Remember: doing something is better than doing nothing!

Come back next week for our final kit: the IDENTITY KIT

By the way, the following websites have loads of information about disaster preparedness: (a part of FEMA)