Saturday, March 29, 2014

The 5 Biggest Lessons I've Learned in the Past 5 Years

 Some of the most wonderful and most terrible things that have ever happened to me have been in the past 60 months. In some seasons of life you float along and in other seasons you explode with change. It has been intense to say the least. It has been scary, exciting, and pulsating with potential. It has also been productive. Enlightening. Empowering. Here's what I've learned.

Things happen when you are ready.  Some of the good things that have happened I wouldn't have fully appreciated if they had happened sooner. And the worst thing, I would have just been so ill equipped to handle. We sometimes think that if we'd known things sooner some pain might have been averted. In reality, a spirit and mind that haven't come into their own yet would not recover as well or as fully. Everyone wants their big opportunity right now. The universe knows that you aren't ready yet. Keep learning and growing. At the exact moment you are prepared change will come. Be warned: things may get worse before they get better. Embrace that lesson. Keep reading, learning, and thinking on your way to success.

People come into your life when you need them.  Unbelievably so. I wouldn't have made it through without someone I met completely by chance, who introduced a different perspective that was going to be invaluable to me on the hardest days. And a new small group of friends who acted as a support group also appeared out of nowhere just in time. These people came into my life long enough before the bottom fell out for me to know I could trust them with every confidence in the dark moments.

The truth really does set you free. You won't like it. I can just about promise you that. Not at first anyway. Your mind may refuse to accept whatever is happening. The quicker you can move past denial, face reality, and formulate a plan of action, the better off you'll be. In my case, the truth set several people free and changed everything for the better. The problem is that you are pretty sure the initial exposure is going to kill you. Trust me, it won't. You are going to need to speak your own truth too, which is terrifying and liberating.  Being free means saying to the world, "this is who I am."

You should trust your intuition. I can't even begin to explain how I know some things. In Blink, Malcolm Gladwell explains that out brains are constantly putting together clues that our conscious mind doesn't even recognize are there. If you feel like something is very wrong, especially if it isn't normal for you to be worried or upset, go with that. There's likely something there.  On the positive side, if you have a feeling something or someone is going to be important later, then nurture that and don't let it (or them) slip away.

You are going to be okay, no matter what happens. You'll make mistakes. You'll be wrong. You'll be amazing, lucky, strong (wasn't going for the rhyme, maybe after this I'll write a bad country song). When you fail you'll learn something. When you win you'll learn. When you don't think you can keep going, you will and you'll learn how powerful you are when you have to be. It isn't ever going to be perfect. But you can take all the good and bad and get better every day.

That constant growing and traveling forward on the path to the wiser, better you is the point, after all.

What have you learned in the last 5 years?

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

3 Fast Candle Recycling Projects

Who hasn't stood over the trash can or recycling bin with a jar candle that has burned to the bottom and felt a pang of guilt as you tossed it? Here's a great way to keep the jar and let the guilt go.

1. Purchase a better quality candle that will burn cleanly and completely to the bottom. This does half the work for you.

2. In a pan of water (a couple of inches is enough) melt the wax and pour it out onto some newspaper or any other paper in your recycling bin. If you are feeling ambitious and crafty gather some pine cones to dip in the wax.

3. Pour the melted wax out onto the paper or dip your pinecones into it. Fold the paper up to make a little packet and tie with raffia. Or lay your wax covered pine cones out to dry. You have just used the leftover wax to make great fire starters you can use this summer in your fire pit or next fall in your fireplace.

4. Scrape as much leftover wax off the side of the container as you can.

5. Use boiling water to remove even more wax.

6. Use alcohol to remove the last bits, then polish, remove labels if they haven't already come off.

7. Find a use for your free handy dandy new container.

Here's a set of 3 glass bathroom canisters I found on the internet for $52.99

Mine, looks strikingly similar and cost me nothing.

This project (a twofer if you are making the firestarters) takes about ten to 15 minutes.

Friday, March 21, 2014

7 Things Never to Say to Your Kids

I read a lot of blog posts and tweets by moms who are in the trenches. Parents who are trying to figure out the whole parenting thing and are sure they are Mother Theresa one minute and that mom on the six O'clock news the next. "Oh, putting him in a cage was a bad thing. Well, officer you should have been here, you'd understand." Some days are treacherous like that. You want a freaking nap, or 5 minutes in the bathroom to yourself, or sex without thinking you hear someone crying and then realizing  it's just you because you want to go to sleep and you cannot believe anyone wants one more thing.

Along about middle school age you start wanting a little appreciation and understanding from them and you may say things you shouldn't. As a mother of grown kids I can tell you that you'll get the thank-yous you are so desperate for in a few years, but don't start feeling sorry for yourself and saying stupid things.  

Here's why:

It's not having the effect you think.

You sound like your mother. 

They'll remember it later and resent you for it.

You sound like a martyr and that's not really admirable unless someone is going to burn you at the stake later. Plus, while you are saying these kinds of things they are thinking that's a pretty good idea.

It's just the adult version of whining (and you know how you hate that).

Now that you know the why, here's what not to ever say...EVER:

1. "I sacrificed (fill in the blank) for you." Well, first of all that was your choice. Just own it. And second, your kids don't care. They might grasp that as adults but right now you just sound crazy. And they weren't there and didn't ask you to give up your career, freedom, lifestyle so just move on already.

2. "Someday I won't be around and you'll miss me then." Not if you keep saying crap like this.

3. Any version of "You don't appreciate anything you have." Oh, has someone given them everything and now they don't value hard work or the the satisfaction of paying for things themselves? I wonder who we could blame for that?

4. Anything inappropriate about your personal life. That's what girlfriends are for.

5. Any version of "You never spend any time with me." When the kids are grown it sounds like "You are leaving? You just got here." or "Don't run off" or "We never see you." You know what your adult child is thinking as he heads out the door? "This is why I don't come by more often." Get a life. Read number one on this list and stop whining about how no one visits and go out and do all those things you were so anxious to get to when they were 3.

6. "I'm your mother, it's my job to embarrass you." I've never understood this one. You honestly think a 13 year old needs anyone else to embarrass them?

7.  Things that make you sound superior because social media didn't exist when you were young. "In my day we never would have posted all that stuff on Facebook." Yes you would have. And you'd probably be in jail.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

My Inner 6 Year Old is Feeling Vindicated

This is by far my favorite picture of myself ever. Probably because that's the real me. I was never interested in being the prettiest because in case you haven't noticed the pretty girls aren't all that funny.   I wanted to make everyone laugh and still do even if it means telling you an embarrassing story about myself or looking ridiculous. You can also see how dark my skin is. I loved being outside and still do. I loved animals and being sweaty and dirty. I still do. I loved to draw but not as much as I liked to look at pictures of art in books and hear stories about artists. My Barbie and Ken were always packing their Malibu van to take a trip and I loved maps. And I like to think the bars are symbolic. This would be the age I was when something happened that I still vividly remember and it helped shape the grown up me.

In the evenings after my father finished watching the national and then local news, I could change the channel to PBS where a woman was doing yoga. It was grainy on our color TV and the studio was covered with orange shag carpet. But something about what she was doing appealed to me and I always got down on the floor and tried to do it along with her. One night while I was in a back-bend my mother remarked to my sister "When Michelle grows up she'll probably move to California and be a health nut." Her tone was condescending. As she sat on the sofa smoking a cigarette I remember thinking that I hoped she was right because I didn't want to be like her, overweight and sitting and smoking instead of moving and doing.

Now to be fair, my mother was just a product of her generation in lots of ways. The dangers of smoking were still being hotly debated and the American diet was atrocious. We simply weren't informed the way we are now, and in rural Indiana change was going to be slow in coming.

So the silly girl behind the bars was influenced by the public television yoga lady, Euell Gibbons' Grape Nuts commercial, and Jack LaLanne. Those small inroads into a little girl's life were powerful. I remember exercising in my room in front of my little black and white television along with LaLanne. Those tiny bits of influence struck a chord. My interest and connection to them were clues to a life long interest, health and fitness. As a matter of fact all the interests I can remember having at this time in life are part of my life today.

I do yoga and eat a healthy diet. I try to walk every day. I'm a docent at an art museum. I keep chickens and bees in my garden. My favorite game to play is still "let's pack for a trip." I'm still going to try to make you laugh.  Now that my kids are grown I can look back and see how their 6 year old selves were also pretty good indicators of who they were going to be.

My daughter started sorting things as soon as she could walk and trying to be in charge before she could talk. The very first examples of her handwriting are lists. I would find them everywhere. She literally had shoe-boxes full of them. She saved her money to buy office supplies. She never met a folder she didn't like. Of course she used them to organize her lists. She had lists of her favorite songs, people, potential names for husbands and children and pets(she's a long term planner). A list of cities she'd like to live in. A list of all her lists. Her favorite game was playing school. But in retrospect it was the lists and later labeling everything that were the biggest indicator or her natural strengths. My daughter is a teacher getting her masters degree in education and writes a blog on organization called Organized Charm. She still tells us all what to do.

As a baby my son recognized patterns and designs. His first halting syllables were not to tell me what to do as they were with my daughter but pointing out patterns or shapes to me, trying to tell me about them. As soon as he could hold a crayon he was a doodler. There was no such thing as a math worksheet that didn't come with animals or faces around the edges. His favorite toy was Legos. I finally got tired of finding them all over the house and sold the guest room furniture so he could have a room where he could work on things a long time without having to pick them up. One Christmas he got a Razor scooter and it was the gateway drug to skateboarding. He tried to give skating up in order to fit in at the prep school he went to for high school and it actually led to depression. He picked it back up again in college and is happier than he's been in years. Today, he's a talented artist getting his degree in art history.

Maybe if you are feeling adrift or like you've lost yourself along the way, you should take some time and think about the tiny you. The you that was before the education system molded you, before your parents belittled your innate talents, and life got so busy you forgot to dream. Engage the little version of yourself with uncombed hair and bare feet who had an interest and passion about things that you can't explain.  That original version of yourself might know where you went wrong.

You just might remember who you really are and find your way home to yourself. 

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Spring Cleaning the Back Porch

Bringing back cottage charm...
Southerners love a good revival and we believe nothing is beyond the point of redemption. Even prodigal porches.

The sad story of a back porch in winter is that things tend to collect there. We have evening fires, nearly every night and firewood and our rush to get back inside conspire to make a mess of it. Items not needed in the house end up there as a rest stop on their way to garage sales and charities.

Spring brings the end of fire season and for the first time in months I notice how unfriendly it looks.

Time to reclaim it!

After a thorough sweeping, hosing, and cleaning as well as discarding all the unused items that accumulate there during cold short days, I'm happy to cheer it up again and infuse it with cottage charm. Freshly scrubbed everything and vintage fabrics create a welcoming place to sit and tell you about it!

It once was lost, but now it's found. 

Do you have an overlooked space that could use some attention? The reward is definitely worth the effort! I didn't spend any money on this redo. It was all a matter of cleaning and relocating things from other parts of the house or bringing out things that had been stored away.

 If you have lovely things, you might as well use them. What are you waiting for?

Try rearranging things or putting things together in a way you haven't thought of before. Pinterest is always a good source of inspiration!