Wednesday, March 8, 2017

9 Lists to Calm Your Soul

Self-care is the cornerstone of a healthy life.  Of course, we take care of our body with rest, smart foods and plenty of exercise. But what about when it’s our soul that needs soothing? When we’re feeling anxious, overwhelmed, sad or gloomy?

Here’s a collection of healing tools to keep at the ready when you need to care for number one. Gather these lists in a beautiful journal, on a bulletin board, or in your favorite app or excel spreadsheet – and reference them in your time of need.

Listening Lists

The Greek philosopher Epictetus said we have two ears and one mouth to emphasize the wisdom of listening over talking.  Keep a collection of inspiring Ted Talks for those days when you need to hear the wisdom of someone else. Make a playlist of your absolute favorite pick-me-up tunes and crank the volume for an immediate mood changer. And keep an inventory of motivational audio books – they’re the best antidote to road rage and the perfect boredom-buster while completing chores.

Cheer Lists

The ANTs go marching one by one…hoorah! Hoorah! Psychologists call “Automatic Negative Thoughts” ANTs, and sometimes they come marching along to suck our joy.  Exterminate these ANTs with laughter and cheer.  Keep an on-going log of your many accomplishments – indulge in it when you need to be your own cheerleader. A gratitude journal has been widely touted as a key to happiness – keep one and be amazed at how your outlook changes when you focus on abundance over scarcity. And everyone knows laughter is the best medicine, so bookmark an assortment of hilarious YouTube videos to get you through the darkest times.  Here’s the one that leaves me in stitches every time.

Reflection Lists

If you were a John Denver fan like me (fully aware I just dated myself), then you might remember Poems, Prayers and Promises, a song he wrote about reflecting on life. Keep a record of all your favorite poems and prayers for times when your essence needs some nurturing. Favorite quotes from your heroes and mentors are perfect for those reflective times, too.
Assembling lists and inventories might seem the antithesis to soul-calming behavior, but consider it meaningful preparation for those times when your spirit needs some attention.

What are some ways you care for your soul?

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

15 Signs You Might Be a Christmas Fanatic

December is here and, finally, we are fully free to let our Christmas fanatic freak flag fly!

We survived October and all the Facebook posts bemoaning the early stocking of store shelves.

We soared through November and the cries of: “It’s not even Thanksgiving yet!”

And now it’s December, the most wonderful time of the year.

Are you a Christmas fanatic?  Perhaps just a fan?

Here are 15 signs you might be a certifiable Christmas fanatic:

1.       You know your cookie sprinkles. 

2.       You’re annoyed when the stores wait so long to display Christmas product. 

3.       You give your storage boxes a “pat-pat” in the summertime and say:
“See you soon!” 

4.       Your Christmas cookies are too good to eat (you eat them anyway, of course).

5.       Your Christmas Pinterest boards have sub-boards. 

6.       You were secretly offended when someone decided Christmas sweaters were ugly.

7.       You love decorating for Halloween mostly because Christmas is soon to follow. 

8.       You know your blow mold from your blow-up. 

9.       You appreciate an occasional skinny Santa.

10.   Your favorite foods are candy, candy canes, candy corns and syrup (and your favorite movie is “Elf.”)

11.   You’ve embraced colors beyond the red and green.

12.   You and the neighbors debate C9s versus C7s. 

13.   You’re nostalgic for melted popcorn decorations. 

14.   You take hot chocolate very seriously.

15.   You still feel a sense of excitement on Christmas Eve.  

Surely, I could list 100 more ways we Christmas fanatics celebrate the season. 

What’s the most over-the-top way you show off your Christmas spirit? 

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

5 Things to Stuff Besides Your Thanksgiving Turkey...

Stuffing, by far, is what I love most about Thanksgiving. Cornbread stuffing, sausage stuffing, stuffing covered in gravy – I love it all. Family, too, of course, and turkey and all the other trimmings, but stuffing…it’s just so incredibly good!

In recognition of the time-honored tradition of stuffing the Thanksgiving turkey, here are five more things to stuff to make your holiday season extra special.

1.       Stuff the Fridge with Healthy Snacks – every nutritionist I know keeps easy-to-grab portions of healthy snacks ready to go at all times. With a solid month of parties and cookies and constant temptations ahead of us, stuff your refrigerator with freshly washed fruits, cut up vegetables, small portions of healthy soups, and heart-healthy protein sources like hard-boiled eggs. Un-stuff the refrigerator of expired foods, sugary sodas and overly-processed treats. For more inspiration on food prep, visit my friend Nicole’s Blog.

Quality time at its finest: my dad helping my son season the turkey, circa 2003

2.       Stuff your Calendar Intentionally – productive people make time for that which is important. Make sure exercise, family time, fun traditions, and plenty of downtime feature prominently in your holiday schedule or your time will slip away with the demands of daily minutia.  Un-stuff your calendar by batching your errands, saying “no” to unnecessary meetings, and delaying anything that can wait until the new year.

3.       Stuff a Donation Box – take a walk through your house and fill a box or two, maybe even the trunk of your car, with clothes, toys, books and kitchen gadgets. Un-stuff your cupboards and drawers before the baking begins, and imagine how good it will feel to un-stuff your closets before the holiday guests arrive.

4.       Stuff the Recycling Bin – make room for holiday d├ęcor by ruthlessly purging those paper piles. Recycle the magazines and catalogs you aren’t going to read and shred the documents that don’t back up your taxes. While you’re at it, un-stuff your computer and mobile devices of old emails, texts and excess Apps. 

5.       Stuff your Gratitude Jar – if you’ve read anything about mindfulness, you know how important it is to have a thankful heart. If you’ve neglected to keep a gratitude journal, it’s not too late. Stuff a page or notebook or even a jar with all the blessings of 2016. Keep going. Prepare yourself: this act can dramatically un-stuff your heart of negative and hopeless feelings.

My goddaughter helps with Thanksgiving Dinner, circa 2013

Apparently, we aren’t supposed to stuff our turkeys anymore. Food safety experts say it increases the risk of food poisoning, plus it just looks better and tastes better when cooked separately, in my opinion. I fully intend to stuff myself with at least two healthy helpings of stuffing this week. But I like this idea of stuffing and un-stuffing a few other areas of my life, too, especially that gratitude jar – I have many, many blessings for which to be thankful. How about you? 

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.