Friday, March 27, 2020
Today's post is for the mom or dad who was happily sending their kids off to elementary school every day and now find themselves in the challenging position of being responsible for their child's education while either coping with the stress of not having a job to go to or working from home. I taught both my kids at home from preschool through the 8th grade.
I'm seeing some of your Facebook posts and a few of you are disheartened at home school moms acting like it's no big deal. Let's get that out of the way first. If you had no desire to be your child's sole educator, it's a really big deal. Add to that the fact that you can't take your kids out to do any of the normal things that parents regularly rely on like museums, group activities, sports, or co-ops and the challenge is heightened. Let's throw in the fact that you had no time to prepare or wrap your brain around it. If you are also trying to work from home or figure out how to pay your bills then God bless you.
This feels like a very big deal.
It seemed like fun the first week, right? But I'm guessing this week feels different and now that many schools are saying this is it for the school year, you may be super discouraged and worried that your child's education is going to suffer.
The truth is that this event isn't going to affect your child's ACT score or keep them out of the college they hope to go to. So take a breath. It's going to be fine.
We are having the ultimate teachable moment about being a good citizen of the planet, country, and community. Now is the time to reinforce the idea that when bad things happen people pull together and that good things still happen. Sometimes we have to sacrifice. We can do hard things.
If that was the only lesson your child learned during this time, one of grit and being able to pivot in a crisis, that alone would be a priceless life lesson.
You are probably already instilling the concept that all work is important a lesson we're all learning together.
Point out to your child that mom and dad are learning new skills and new ways to get their work done. This is a great time to show your child that learning and educating yourself is something that never ends. We want to create life long learners. This is a great opportunity.
We want our kids to have positive memories of this time.
If mom or dad are working at home it's going to be a challenge. But here's the thing, please do not try to recreate the school schedule at home. Every family has a different energy level in their home and then every family member has a different personality type. All kids have different learning styles.
Set aside an hour. Yes. ONE hour for formal learning, workbooks, etc. If you and your kids want to do more, of course, do that, but this isn't a time for raising the bar too high.
Parents working from home need to prioritize work, but I would say the sooner in the day that the schoolwork gets completed the easier the day will go. Win the morning and win the day.
You can give them extra screen time (thus making it easier to get your work done) for completing their work early. This probably isn't the time to be too hard on yourself about how much screen time they have. Remember, we're in survival mode here.
Don't be afraid to get creative.
I said one hour for school work that has been sent home, of course, some kids will be completers who feel the need to do it all and others may struggle a lot. Trust your instincts about how much is enough.
Plant some seeds.
Have them act out their favorite story, make sets, costumes, etc. (THEM. Not you) Share. This is a way they can communicate with and entertain older relatives who are stuck at home.
Let them take apart an old appliance if they're old enough.
Teach them to read a map. A new concept if they've only ever seen you use GPS.
Give them a tape measurer and let them measure things to get a sense of the size of things related to a number.
This is a great time to read that classic novel you've always wanted to read but never got around to. Read it aloud to your child. Don't underestimate your child's ability to understand complex sentence structure and unusual vocabulary. They can draw, color, or play with Legos while you read.
Use classic movies for discussion starters. If you have a favorite childhood movie they haven't seen yet. Now's the time!
All the helping activities they could be doing right now, like writing notes to people in nursing homes, or thinking of how they can help people are useful.
Have them journal about what's happening now for the future.
One of our favorite ways to learn was a unit study. This means that everything being learned relates to something that the child chooses to learn about. For example if they are interested in dinosaurs, then all the books, vocabulary, writing activities, geography, etc. would relate to that. Letting them do a deep dive into something they select themselves helps keep their attention longer and makes teaching easier.
Don't forget what they are already learning during this crisis. The importance of good hygiene and a clean environment. There are so many new vocabulary words. There's also the idea of invisible microscopic organisms. It's a great time to talk about where our food comes from and transportation.
This style of learning provides an endless supply of areas of interest and activities that will hold a child's attention and give them a feeling of ownership over their education.
You are more than qualified to do this!
As a parent, you are your child's first teacher. You know them better than anyone and have knowledge of everything they are doing, watching, reading. That information allows you to casually teach vocabulary or geography which you are likely already doing but underestimating the importance of.
Hang in there! You are doing great! Has anyone told you that?
Please feel free to ask questions and I'll do my best to answer them.
Saturday, March 14, 2020
Wow. Y'all. I mean. Wow.
A few years ago I was sitting in a hot tub sailing on a cruise ship off the coast of Scotland with a professor of epidemiology from Brazil and his wife while he outlined the next pandemic, and explained that we are way overdue for one. The picture he painted was dismal. At the time I thought he sounded alarmist but here we are.
This post isn't about things we can't control but the things we can. What we can control right now is what we say, post, like, share, and comment on in real-life interactions and on social media. Now that we are all about to have a lot of time on our hands we're seeing more and more blaming those in charge of decision making. Of course, the president is a favorite target for some but so is the CDC, WHO, the medical establishment, vaccine makers, scientists, capitalism, previous administrations, the media, and the financial sector. Pick who or what people already demonize in their normal lives and that's who or what they're angry at right now.
Guess what. There's going to plenty of time for that. Now is not the time.
There is going to be plenty of time to Monday morning quarterback this event and every decision being made for the next hundred years. And politically there's going to be plenty of time for both sides to slam each other and point out who did what before November. And the elaborate conspiracy theories about what's "really" going on? Those will be conceived forever after.
Now. is. not. the. time.
So what can we do? I have two suggestions.
1. Before you post an article, share, like, comment, or even say anything in real person to person conversation, ask yourself this question:
Is this helping?
If it's a negative news item or anything not from an official source you might ask:
How is this helping?
An intellectually honest adult should be able to tell the difference. Here's a clue: being right doesn't mean you are helping.
Please share funny memes, make fun of our dismal situation, check on people, share hacks you've got, or the best book, movie, or series we can all binge on while we're at home. Share pictures of your clean closets and organized garages! Make some art and share it. Post some old family photos on Facebook. Give us a tour of your garden. Do those projects around the house you've been putting off. Start your novel. Tip the delivery guy extra. You know what helped this week? Videos of people in Italy singing from their balconies while quarantined.
One more thing.
When you see the people in charge trying to make these massive gut-wrenching decisions remind yourself that they are doing the best they can. Even if you don't like them. Even if you normally don't trust them. Even if you can outline all the mistakes that have already been made. Believing those in charge are doing the best they can will make you feel better if nothing else.
Everyone is doing the best they can with the information they have and remember even the people with the most information, don't have all the information.
Now let's all go wash our hands.
Monday, March 2, 2020
I did a dry December. I've had a Fix-it February. I've walked 90 miles in November and written a blog post every day in January. I like little challenges to work on to improve my health or productivity.
So what's March Madness 2020? Doing several challenges at once. Here's what's on the agenda.
1. Zero spending. I probably have enough right? I mean we all do. So this month there won't be any new clothing items (even from Goodwill) or shoes. Nothing new for the house. No new books, or magazines, or makeup or perfume.
2. Use up what I already have. This goes with #1. If I'm not buying anything new I'll be forced to use up what I already own. And looking around I can see I could go a long time without buying any books, makeup, or craft supplies.
3. Finish projects. I have some projects I've been talking about for a couple of years like painting the kitchen cabinets, and redoing a piece of fun art over my stove that got ruined. At the end of the month I should be a lot happier with the house.
4. Cash only. If I do have to purchase anything (like something I need to finish up a project because finishing my house goals is a bigger priority for me than zero spending ) I'll be paying cash for it.
5. Do some things I've been putting off like changing cell phone plans to cut my monthly cost and scheduling a colonoscopy.
6. Not accumulating stuff even if it's free. I'm not downloading any more free books or getting library books (Look at this list, y'all, when am I going to have time to read?) because my Kindle is full of books I haven't opened yet.
7. Organize closets and cabinets.
8. Walk every day. No specific length of time or distance just building the habit again after a rainy winter.
9. No alcohol. Because a dry March just sounds so catchy, right?
10. Zero sugary treats.
If you didn't understand why I was calling it March Madness, now you know! Want to join me? Make a list or just choose a couple of things you want to work on this month. No sitting down to watch TV unless you know exactly what you'll be watching or no drive-through food. Journaling every day or doing a morning stretch. Just pick something and let's get started!
It's almost spring y'all and that's a great time to have a jumpstart if your resolutions bit the dust somewhere in February.
What could we have accomplished 30 days from now?
Tuesday, February 18, 2020
Do you have one room in your house that just doesn't have anything going for it? For me, it was an upstairs bathroom that hasn't gotten much use since the kids left home. Well, except for the cat. His litter box is kept in the bathtub.
When the kids moved out I painted this room white and haven't really bothered with it otherwise for five years.
But you know how it is. Whenever you walk by your problem room you have that nagging feeling you could do something, anything to improve it. It can especially be a problem if it's a room no one sees but you. The cat wasn't complaining.
I decided I wanted to tackle it but then spent several months trying to figure out what to do and finding the time to do it. I finally decided that since no one else really sees it I would do something fun and playful using bright colors. The color palette in the rest of the house is fairly muted and since you can't see this room from anywhere else I decided to do something super whimsical.
All the products needed to complete this project are available locally at Me and Mrs. Jones.
I love blue and white but don't have a good place for that bold choice in the rest of the house so I knew I wanted to go with that combo. I chose the Mediterranean Tile Set stencil from Royal Design Studio. I used Jolie's Gentleman's Blue and Palace White for the pattern.
Stencils are fun but I like taking them one step further to achieve more of a trompe l'oeil effect. I used Jolie's Swedish Grey to paint in grout lines and dealt with the angled ceiling by painting faux broken plaster. Had I chosen a stencil that had an all-over pattern I would have done the ceiling.
This also gave the benefit of breaking up the pattern and giving the eye a break from all the business in such a small space. Plus, remember, whimsical and over the top was my goal.
Since I wanted to break up the pattern I thought a plain white shower curtain with blue tassels would be perfect but when I put it up it looked so...blah.
I was happier with it when I stenciled a simplified pattern on it.
This little side piece that I use for storage and where the cat's food dish is to keep the beagle from getting in it was given a little perk up with new knobs that mimic the tile. Bonus: they were free!
I'm loving having this hidden little happy room tucked away by itself.
This is our forever home so I don't have to worry about judgemental house hunters coming through with their negative comments.
This is the second use for that brick stencil. If you missed the cottage floor then read, How To Stencil a Concrete Floor.
I used to really like the way the exposed plumbing looked under the sink but then the pipe was replaced with plastic.
I painted it with Modern Masters Warm Silver as a temporary fix while I try to decide if I want to skirt the sink or not. At any rate, it's an improvement.
Next, what to hang on the walls? I could have easily left it bare but nope!
The artwork I chose was a postcard I purchased in the Bahamas last summer just for this spot and a charmingly bright and whimsical print by Debi Vincent. My desire to use one of her pieces was a big component in using such bright colors for this room.
Remember trends will change. Doing what you want in the place you call home is always a good choice and will let you be creative while saving money by not changing when your current decor goes out of style.
Monday, February 10, 2020
Every year around this time people start to ask me about my one new thing for the new year. Every year for the past 25 years or so I have taught myself to do one new thing. Read a list of all of them here. Not to become an expert or take a course, but just a deep dive into some useful skill.
This is the year to write a book.
Notice I said, "write a book." Not get published, or make the New York Times Bestseller list, get an agent or a book deal or go on a book tour, That's because just saying that I'm going to write a book is terrifying enough.
Saying you are going to write a book leads to a bazillion questions, none of which even need to be asked at all until the actual work is done. Sometimes we don't do something because we are thinking too far ahead. Thinking of writing a book leads to wondering about how should it be formatted? Could it get published? Should it be an ebook? How do you find a literary agent? What if I wrote a bestseller? What would it be like to be on the Today Show? How do you put a wardrobe together for a book tour?
You see what I mean.
This is part of why we don't start. We jump too far ahead.
I'm actually telling people that this year's goal is to write a terrible book. And in my mind I'm thinking "Just write a crappy first draft." I mean surely I can get that done!
The other thing I considered was an open mic night at a comedy club. I have wanted to do that since I was 10 years old. I remember seeing Buddy Hacket on The Dinah Shore Show (google it, kids) and taking notes about how to be funny.
What kind of weird kid is taking notes while watching daytime talk shows?
I'm guessing it will be the thing for 2021. But dang it! Morse Code is still on my list. What if I'm taken captive and need to blink out a message to the media?
The year is still new! What are your plans for 2020?
Friday, January 31, 2020
Sometimes I get weary of the current terminology of success. Do we need to crush our goals, attack the new year, kill Monday? At the beginning of a new year and a new decade, we all hope to be our best selves but some of us don't need or want the aggressive style of success promoted in business magazines or under #bossbabes on Instagram.
Does everything we love to do need to be a side hustle? If you need to explore this idea read The Value of Living a Creative Life Part 1 and Part 2.
There's more than one definition of success and your version is going to have a lot to do with your personal energy, goals, and priorities. In this series, I'm offering a way to ease into a new year or new season of life with simple activities and quiet ways to contemplate what changes you need to make to live your optimized life your way.
Read Building Your Fresh Start Tool Kit for a helpful list of things to use along the way
Remember, there is no being behind. There is only where you are now. You can do this in any order in any month for a gentle reboot when feeling overwhelmed or out of sorts.
1. How to do a Year-End Retrospective
2. What if You Don't Know What You Want?
3. Start Journaling: Tips and Tricks for the Reluctant Writer
4. Setting an Intention for the Day
5. Using a Vision Board to Achieve Clarity
6. Building Your Fresh Start Tool Kit
7. Coping With FOMO
8. Create Before You Consume
9. Breaking Our Addiction to Busy
10. 5 Creativity Boosts to Try This Weekend
11. Empty Something
12. Fill Something
13. Building Your Morning Routine
14. Mastering Your Morning Mindset
15. How to Use Reframing to Control Negative Thoughts
16. Creating a Bedtime Routine
17. Mastering Your Evening Mindset
18. Tips for Coping with January
19. Take 5 Outside
20. Defining Personal Success
21. News Free Day
22. Getting to Know Yourself
23. Anti-Procrastination Day
24. Use Something Up
25. Shop Your Closet
26. Create a Go-To
27. 10 Minute Cleaning Hack
28. Your Vibe Attracts Your Tribe
29. 5 First Steps
30. God is Proud of You
31. Fresh Start Field Guide
Thursday, January 30, 2020
Several years ago I was going through a very hard time. Maybe you've been there too. When you wonder what the point is of trying so hard. Sitting in a place of darkness wondering if God has forgotten you, or worse abandoned you. I was at a silent Catholic retreat for a weekend because a friend had invited me, and one of the books I'd taken to read was Phillip Yancey's Disappointment With God. I was reading it halfheartedly practically daring God to show me that I wasn't wrong about Him when I read this passage.
"By focusing myopically on what we want God to do on our behalf, we may miss the significance of what he has already done."
Let that sink in.
On the second day after lunch, I returned to my room. I got out the list of verses the nun leading the retreat had given us. I was familiar with them. "Nothing new here." I thought to myself. Wanting to get the most out of the experience however, I opened the Bible in my room and diligently looked up each one. Nothing much jumped out except that part in Psalm 139 about God marking my travels. Was he marking a map with pins? I have some great travel pics pinned on Pinterest. I haven't been on Pinterest this week. I shuffled my papers to look for "How to Deal with Distractions in Prayer."
I went on to the next verse. Psalm 139:5, "You rest your hand upon me."
An image of me standing next to my father on a gravel driveway under a hot summer sun, flooded my mind. He rested his hand on top of my head, then on my shoulder. I thought of the thousands of times I had done that to my own children. I began to think about the meaning of that.
Focus on that for a moment. You are standing with your child having a conversation with another adult and you rest your hand on the shoulder of your son, or the head of your daughter. What does that mean? Why do parents do that?
Because you are proud of them.
Could God be proud of me? Somehow that seemed a foreign concept. Perhaps a result of one too many verses of some hymn relating me to a worm when I was a child. I let that thought come around again. Is God proud of me? If he is it certainly cannot be because of anything I've achieved, or for some glowing example, I've been. Maybe he was saying he was proud of me because I try so hard. Where would the grace be in that? But as I thought about that in relation to my own children, I realized that I didn't love them more when they tried really hard. I kept following that line of thought. Why are parents proud of their children when they are so small they haven't accomplished anything yet? We are incredibly proud of babies! Why?
Because they are ours. Because they belong to us.
This is where the tears began to flow.
I could understand that. I could rest in that. So can you. That God is proud of me just because I belong to him. Proud of you because you do. He sees how hard you are struggling. He knows you are hurt and disappointed. He knows you are tired. He knows you are wondering if you are good enough. But he wants you to know he is resting his hand on you, proud father that he is.
See what kind of love the Father has given us that we should be called the children of God, and so we are... 1 John 3:1
And I shall be a father to you and you will be my sons and daughters says the Lord Almighty. 2 Corinthians 6:18
So at the end of January when most people are already disappointed in themselves for not keep ing all the resolutions they made and for breaking more promises to themselves yet again, I say, take heart. If you followed along with this little challenge you have some small wins and easy victories for building on. And if you didn't do anything you're proud of, remember that you don't have to accomplish anything for God to think you are pretty awesome.
Take that with you into the rest of your year.
Take that with you into the rest of your year.
Wednesday, January 29, 2020
Let's start to wind down our Gentle January with five important first steps to accomplishing anything. Here we go.
1. Don't get overwhelmed by the enormity of the thing you are trying to accomplish, or learn about, or recover from. In the book, the $100 Start-Up, several of the people interviewed said if they had known what all was required to start a business they wouldn't have done it. At the outset sometimes it's best to keep the final goal in mind and not get bogged down in the how-to details.
2. Stop waiting until you have all the information. This one can be paralyzing because when will that be? Never, that's when. Analyzing things to death is a form of resistance. If you don't know about resistance, read The War of Art by Steven Pressfield. You want to have a reasonable amount of information and be able to make informed decisions. But beware information gathering becoming a way of never taking action. You don't need that much action to actually start moving in the right direction.
3. Start. Take actions today that will move you toward your goal. Pick up the phone. Send in the form. Shoot that person the email. Drink the water. Buy the running shoes. Throw out the junk food. Start the book or the blog. Open the account. Clean out the junk drawer. Post your art on Instagram. Buy the supplies. Make the thing.
If you are struggling with creativity read this.
4. Finish. In Elizabeth Gilbert's latest book, Big Magic she says "Done is better than good" and reminds us that the world doesn't really need one more half-finished manuscript in the bottom of a drawer somewhere. It might be that the thing you need to do has been started and abandoned for some reason. Pick it up again. Dust it off. Finish it. If that's too ambitious for where you are right now, then take actions 1-3 to move in the direction of your finish line.
5. Stop being so afraid all the time. This is the real thing, isn't it? So much of it comes down to fear. What will people think? What if it doesn't work? What if I fail? What if everyone finds out I'm a fraud? What if I look silly? What if it changes friendships? Or your marriage? And perhaps the scariest thing of all--what if I succeed? What if? What if? What if?
If we are going to ask that question, let's at least spin it in our favor.
What if it works? What if you find a strong toned body under those extra pounds? What if you find your life's work? Or passion? Or the love of your life? What if you surprise everyone by how fabulous you are? What if you surprise yourself? What if you find out there is power in being vulnerable? What if you become healthier than ever? What if your courage inspires someone else?
If fear is a major issue for you then the book, Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway by Susan Jeffers might be helpful.
Want real change in your life that you can keep going over the months and years? These 5 things are necessary whether you are out to improve your health, renew your mind, or deepen your spiritual life.
And if you want to write the great American novel or take up kickboxing, well, they work for that too.
Tuesday, January 28, 2020
As we ease ourselves into the new year in this gentlest of Januaries let's talk about our social connections. Having a circle of friends is one of the main ways we can stave off depression and angst while improving our disposition and overall health.
Much has been written about the harmful effects of social isolation, but today we are focusing on the how and not so much the why. Specifically, how does our behavior influence our friendships or lack of them and how does our social circle influence us.
Your vibe attracts your tribe. Guess what. You are going to attract the kind of energy and attitudes that you put out. Or as our grandmothers would have said, birds of a feather flock together. Have you ever noticed that the gossips, Debbie downers, and Eyores seem to find each other? Meanwhile, the folks who cheer each other on and raise each other up have also gravitated into a group.
Very simply, you are likely to draw to you people who are attracted to your words, actions, and attitudes. And it works in the reverse as well. It's said that you are an average of the five people you spend the most time with.
Think about your friends and let that sink in.
Our environments are powerful and that includes the people in them. So choose your associations wisely. Is there someone who you notice makes you feel worse after spending time with them? You might want to find ways to limit those interactions. Meanwhile schedule time with people who are uplifting and encouraging. And make sure to foster freindships with people whose qualities you admire.
Monday, January 27, 2020
How many times have you looked around at all that needed to be done, felt overwhelmed, grabbed the remote and headed to Netflix? Sometimes it just seems like we don't have the time or energy to clean up the kitchen or take a walk.
I'm going to let you in on a little secret hack I started using when my kids were young and I still use to trick myself into doing work when I feel like I don't have it in me.
Today we are playing Beat the Clock.
Set your kitchen timer for 10 minutes.
Why not the timer on your phone, you ask? Because we all know that 45 minutes later we'll be looking for properties for sale on Lake Como or watching Australian news bloopers. Picking up your phone is too risky. Kitchen timers only.
Start your timer and run around as fast as you can doing whatever you can see the needs to be done. Did you realize it only takes about 3 minutes to unload the dishwasher? Toss out papers, Swiffer up the dog hair, wipe down the sink, clean the toilet, fill the dog's water bowl, put away anything, not in its place. Hang up your coat, put the shoes you kicked off in the entryway back where they go.
Hurry! When the timer goes off you're done.
Two things have happened: You feel energized and you made some progress. Now you can either sit down and read a book or set your timer again. Knowing there's a ticking clock keeps us focused in a way that an open-ended task does not.
This is a tool for cleaning up your physical space. This is not the time to phone the gas company about your bill or work on your vision board.
We overestimate how long it takes to accomplish the little daily tasks we don't like. Using this trick will show you just how little time some of them take and the payoff for having them done is a feeling of being in control of your surroundings. It's an added bonus that you 're moving as fast as you can.