28 February 2014

The Blessings Of Extended Family

I am curled up in my bed for a few extra minutes this morning. It's raining here in SoCal. I call these Noah's Ark rainstorms. It seems like in LA we have either sprinkles or torrential downpours. There doesn't seem to be much in between. The downpours come in buckets full and flood the streets and make life a good adventure and of course traffic a bigger mess than normal. School drop off at the curb this morning was a trick as the kiddos had to jump over a small river coursing down the storm drains to get to the sidewalk.

I couldn't decide if I should put on peaceful meditative music this morning or peppy happy music. I went with peppy.  In true Scandinavian fashion I lit a bunch of candles around the bedroom. Love that energy perking things up. The trees are really blowing outside. I am happy to have a few minutes of quiet time.

Truth be told I have a thousand things I should be doing. But after a full day yesterday from 6:30 AM right through until 10 PM with no real downtime, this morning is earned and needed. Time to catch my breath. (Agh, just remembered a doctor's appt we have after school today, what a bummer!)

I've been thinking a lot about grown up life this week and how lovely it is to have relationships that expand over decades. We had the chance to spend a day with my cousin, his lovely wife and their three boys this week. It was such a fun day and I was so impressed with their little family. We got talking parenting and I got some great tips from them. I was so impressed when their oldest boy was at our car asking what he could help carry the minute we arrived at the beach. Good kid! It was lovely day and I was so happily reminded of what a great family I have and what good, good people they all are. So blessed and so lucky.

The same day I found out that apparently my sister and I were the only people in the family who didn't get the memo that one of our cousins had headed off to Hawaii with her fiance to get married, just the two of them. So excited for them. It was so darling to read the status updates by her new husband, gushing his affection for her and hopes to make her happy forever, as he posted photos from their wedding. What a sweet moment for them and what a joy for our family to see another so happily married. What a blessing.

Also this week I got a wonderful card and sweet gift from another cousin's wife. She spearheaded the operation, but of course it was from their family. She is a peach, a good egg, every good thing. Again a lovely reminder of the amazing people I have in my family. We are so lucky. It makes me sad that we live so far from all of them. I think of the 10 cousins we are by far the farthest from home base and we are only two states away. But they all get to see each other much more often and enjoy all the good laughs and get the little kids together for fun outings and playtime. A little jealous.

I do appreciate so much how kind my family is to always include us in invites even when they know we are too far away to come for an afternoon event. I hope we can get out for a visit this year, maybe during Spring break or during the summer. Would be good to get back home and see everyone. I haven't been there since Christmas 2012, that's close to the record of the longest I've ever gone without going home. Even though we live far from them, it's so nice that when we do see them it's like no time has passed at all and we so easily just slide into a very comfortable rhythm. Love you extended family. Every little drop of time we get to spend with you is a joy.

image via mca

26 February 2014

Things To Put On My Birthday List

Will you believe I have found yet another gorgeous pair of clogs in the world. These beauties are definitely going on my "happy birthday to me" list which I usually begin compiling about this time of year in advance of my late Spring birthday. These pretty girls are by American Apparel and I couldn't be more in love with the shade of the leather or the shape of the heel. So lovely.

These ladies would look so pretty with a dress or skirt or a great pair of long, skinny jeans. The gorgeous rich shade of that leather for some reason always makes me want a pair of dark jeans, a crisp white cotton tunic and some really fun bohemian jewelry. It's the 70s kid in me for sure.

It's strange that it's time to start thinking about an upcoming birthday again already. I did the math on my birthday, how old I'll be this year and was a little stunned. But whatever the age I am going to be a lot healthier than I was last year for sure, and probably for the past few years, so that is exciting. I'm full of energy and ready for the adventures to come.

The past couple of weeks feel like they have been non-stop. Busy days full of appointments and classes and commitments almost every evening -- plus the Olympics which had us riveted. We're in post-Olympics mourning right now. It's so rare there is something on TV that you can actually watch with your little kids that doesn't make you want to pull out your fingernails. The Olympics were a no-brainer in that regard. I'm glad this is a family tradition. I have very fond memories of watching the Olympics since I was a very little kid. When the Olympics were running all regular routine went out the window. Last night we did a major clean up on the living room, especially around the couch which looked a bit like the underneath the bleachers at a football stadium after a big game. Thanks couch for providing a nest to enjoy the world's games. 

Luckily,we have a lot of fun to pack into the next few weeks. Visiting family and the fun that so happily brings to shake us out of our daily routine is happening now. Love that! In just a couple of weeks we start our family birthday season. A birthday every four weeks until the end of May. Add in Easter, Spring Break, a birthday trip and whatever else will come from out of the blue and we are full fledge into our busy Spring season. It still sneaks up on me, even though I should know well enough to expect it now. But I tend to like our crazy Springs every year because they carry us from Christmas right into summer. Not too bad. I hope there will be a few fun surprises as well.

We'll see what else I can add to my birthday list this year. There never seems to be any shortage of pretty things to find and it's always fun to pick out one or two of them each year. Hope your last few weeks of winter are going well.   

image via American Apparel

24 February 2014

Now Is My Time #8: Push, Push, Push

image via mca

It's Monday morning...again. I didn't sleep well. I am a little bit sick. It was a long weekend. There are always lots of great excuses to do our best to make a Monday morning unpleasant and depressing, right? Well today I did just the opposite and it's a lesson I've been learning and trying to incorporate more into my life.

I have realized that some times when I am so tired, worn out or just plain DONE that I want to (and deserve to) crawl into bed and pull up the covers the very best thing to do is the opposite.  I pushed to do something hard and energetic instead. Rather than getting the bug off to school this morning and then crawling back into the covers for some much deserved rest here's what I did. Last night I set out my gym clothes, filled up my water, got my headphones and weight clips in my bag and had it all ready to go. I set the alarm just five minutes early. This took me less than five minutes but in a foggy morning haze I imagine it could've easily taken me ten or more minutes or disorganized thinking.

I got up this morning, got The Bug's lunch made and her ready for school and I dropped her off a few minutes earlier than normal and went straight to the gym. I did two tough classes then a few minutes on the bike and was home and showered by 10:30am. Great morning. I feel fantastic. Can you imagine how I would feel had I taken a nap instead.

I have been trying to do this every week, instead of resting when that's all my body wants, I have exercised and I feel so much more energetic and full of life when I do that instead of crash and burn. It's amazing the energy you can find once the music gets pumping and the blood starts flowing. You don't get a flushed glow and exercise high from resting unfortunately.

But getting up and pushing yourself first thing in the morning pays off some great benefits. I have known for a long time that I feel great when I get up and do something good for myself first thing in the morning. It allows me to go through my day feeling less selfish about the demands on my time and energy because I gave myself my best very first. I think psychologically that has a big impact on our sense of well-being when we make ourselves the number one priority and take good care of ourselves.

And guess what? When I came home from a great workout I was more conscientious about having a fantastic, healthy breakfast too. Everything in my day was off to a great, inspired start and I wanted to keep that up. After all that is what Now Is My Time is all about: making my well-being my first priority. Getting up and doing that first thing in the morning pays off for the rest of the day physically, emotionally and mentally. I feel good when I treat myself well. I did that today and I am really proud. And that is great inspiration to keep it up!

21 February 2014

What Makes A "Go-To" Friend

I have been thinking a lot lately about the friends I go to in an emergency. I am really bad about asking for help and will go to extreme measures sometimes not to have to ask people to simply help me out. I am trying to learn not to do this, but it's a work in progress. Life has a sneaky way of forcing us to learn lessons we don't immediately grab onto when offered. In my case, life has forced me into situations where I have had to ask for help.

I think about these angels of ours often, the friends I know I can turn to in a crisis. I want to be such a friend too so I have been contemplating what it is about these friends that make them "Go-To" friends. Here are a few things that I think make them the people I know I can turn to and trust when things go south and our family needs emergency help.

1) Go-To friends always make sure you know they are there for you. Our Go-To friends regularly offer their aid. Their continual reminders that they are there for us give me peace that they are really willing to help if they can. The more they remind me the safer I feel asking.

2) Go-To friends speak from their heart. One of our dear church associates gave me a big hug one day while The Man was away on a work trip and said, "I am here anytime if you need me. You just call me. That's ME talking, not the Church." That brought me to tears that he wanted me to know that he wanted to help not just because the church had asked him to watch over our family but because he deeply cared. I would call that guy in an emergency.

3) Go-To friends don't always wait to be told what you need. I had the most lovely experience when sick of watching a friend and neighbor come into our home and do some amazing things while I was lying in bed. Even though I felt awful and was half passed out, I could hear her and see her buzzing around doing exactly what was needed without me having to ask. That was a great blessing. I learned to trust her on a new and deeper level that day. I would not have had this experience if I had not accepted her willing help.

4) Go-To friends check in on you. Several of my Go-To friends will just send an email or text and ask how I and my family are doing and if there is anything they can do to help. They offer opportunities to go for yogurt or for a walk. Some send cards and little gifts in the mail like a bookmark or a little wooden heart. They let you know they are thinking about you and that you matter.

5) Go-To friends ask if they can or just straight out tell you they are going to pray for you. Some ask what they can pray for, others just let you know what they want to talk to God about on your behalf. It does strengthen me to know that others speak to God on our behalf. You can never have too many prayers going skyward.

6) Go-To friends share their experience to encourage you on. It's amazing to me how learning about other's learning experiences helps me in my life. If we were all too embarrassed or private to share our personal journeys we sure would be missing out. Frequently I am reminded of inspiring things friends have shared with me that remind me that I can do what I have to do and that I am not alone.

I think these are terrific characteristics and I really want to be more of these things! I am so grateful for our Go-To friends. They mean the world to me. I know that The Man has a deep gratitude for these people who have watched out for us when he has been away, especially in times of trouble.We carry these angels very close in our hearts.

I tell God how thankful I am for our earthly angels and ask him to bless them and to help them feel the depth of our gratitude. (Not that we don't tell them that ourselves, but I think God has special ways of doing this too.) I would love to hear about your Go-To friends and what traits you see in them that you admire. Leave a note in the comments if you like. I hope you have a great day. Thanks so much for coming by!

PS: Had to add another quality that I think is absolutely essential: LOYALTY. That means not sharing details or opinions about you, your life, your emergency or the state of your private life with anyone. That is critical in a Go-To friend. If a person can't do this, they can't be a friend, let alone a Go-To friend.

20 February 2014

Life Lesson: Quit Resisting Things That Are Good

To say I have been resistant to go to classes at the gym and work out in a group would be an understatement. But guess what, I finally broke down and did it and it's not that bad. In fact, I am enjoying it. As I have been repeatedly told by The Man for the past few years, I do work out harder and get a better workout in class than I would on my own. The class environment has also lead me to work out harder on my own on the days I don't do a class.

That's a win-win situation. So, why was I so hesitant? Oh, well there are all sorts of excuses. I didn't feel great about my body so I didn't really want to publicize it in a group setting. I didn't want to be the new kid on the block who didn't know the class. I didn't want to be pushed by some overzealous teacher. (There's some negative expectation there, right? Assuming I wouldn't like the teachers.) I am sure I could've come up with a lot of other reasons to avoid gym classes too. None of them good ones. I'm embarrassed to put this out there but I'm doing it because I have a sneaky suspicion that there are others like me out there who are resisting a change and opportunity to move forward in their lives for similar excuses or some even more creative ones I haven't even thought of yet.

So in December I finally just gave in and started going to classes with The Man. Two months later I am eagerly trying new classes on a regular basis and I am feeling very comfortable in the classes I have been attending. No longer am I self-conscious. I don't have time to be self-conscious, I'm there to work. No longer am I afraid to walk in and be the one who raises my hand when the teacher asks "Is anyone here for the first time?" I'll even ask other students in the class, before class, for help with the equipment or other tips. this is a stretch for me.

I really enjoy all the individual personalities of each teacher I've encountered. They are all very different and bring their own spunk to the class. They make me laugh and fire me up for the workouts or pull me through when I hit a rough spot as they cheer on the class. Some I like better than others but I like going to the same classes with a variety teachers because you learn different things from each one of them and you get a unique experience even in the same workout.

I was too hardheaded about this for too long. And The Man was right about it all. I'm working out harder on my own and in class. It's fun getting to know all the crazy characters who come to the classes from the bossy/pushy older ladies who are very territorial, to the nice/friendly girl who I think is an actress I've seen on TV or in movies. Instead of being intimidated by the super fit foxes, I'm inspired. I know how they got that way and what I can do to look more that way. Seeing changes in my own body is most inspiring of all.

This is all just a big lesson in the benefits of doing things we resist doing that are good for us. It's so silly really. Why do we humans expend so much energy fighting doing things that will make us happier and better? We're such dummies sometimes. I think this is something we all have to fight every day. So here's a challenge for you -- find out what change you are resisting and figure out why you are resisting it and if it really makes any sense at all to keep resisting it. You might find you could use your energy in a much more productive and fruitful way. I know I am eating humble pie on this one and gladly. It's helping me be more open to finding other areas I am resisting and working on those too.

Image via

19 February 2014

Janery Sale: Pillows, Padded Cases & Pet Bedding

Having once had my own handmade design company, I am a big champion of friends who put their creative eye to work and make gorgeous things. So I have to share some fun news with you about my friend Jane's Etsy shop Janery. She's having a big 50% off sale and if you love great pillow covers, padded cases for sunglasses or iPad/iPad Minis or you have a pet who needs a gorgeous bed you should check it out. Jane's collection is full of the most terrific fabrics like these fun pillow covers.

This is one of her crate beds for dogs. She also makes cat beds. So gorgeous and easily washable too. Jane is very ethically and environmentally conscious and her products reflect her commitment to both in every way which I love.

Jane also makes Catnip Cigar toys in the prettiest colors. I can just imagine a cat would go wild, bouncing around the room for one of these stylish entertainments.

Several years ago from a blog contest, I won one of Jane's sunglasses sweaters. The colors and fabrics are so cool and mine still looks fantastic after years of use. They are great for protecting the glasses and they look much more stylish in the purse than a boring old freebie case. Super great gift for friends too.

To enjoy big savings on all the pretty things over at Janery, here's all the information you need. Take a look and enjoy yourself. There are lots of gorgeous things that will make your life a little prettier. In fact why don't you just consider doing your birthday and holiday gift shopping for 2014 this week with these terrific deals. It's easy to hide Fido's gift in a closet until next Christmas. He'll never know. Happy shopping! 

You can also check out Jane's fantastic blog The Borrowed Abode. She writes about decorating their rented home and her handmade business. She has some fantastic organization and DIY products and seems to always be finding the most fantastic things along the sides of the road. Jealous!

all images via Jane & Janery

17 February 2014

Now Is My Time #7: Love This Life

image via WalMart

It's Monday again already, but this Monday is a holiday so that takes a bit of the edge off, doesn't it. There was actually a moment yesterday when I had forgotten it was a holiday today and had planned an epic day of activities for myself, thinking that The Bug would be at school. I've put that day on hold until Tuesday or Wednesday now. Instead I'll gladly take the holiday.

The campaign Now Is My Time is still charging forward. It's amazing what lessons I am learning each week through conversations I've been having with friends and family. I have also realized a marked difference in the way I think. It's so much easier for me to make myself more of a priority and more automatically think about what I need to do for myself to keep myself well. It's fun to catch myself doing well at this without too much thought. That always put s a smile on my face.

Last week I had the chance to do my Valentine's Day shopping at a pretty little shop. I was looking for something inspirational that I could include in gifts to my family. Then I came upon a three pack of these simple little bracelets. They were a hit with the family and everyone has been wearing them. I let the others choose. The Man chose black, The Bug, as expected, chose pink. So I'm blue. I have been thinking about this phrase a lot. Love This Life.

Love this Life. Every time I look down at it on my wrist I am reminded to love my life exactly as it is today because there is nothing else. This IS my life. With all it's simple joys and at times heartbreaking complications. We don't know how much time we have, what we'll gain or what we'll lose. People always say it goes by in the blink of an eye.

So this is my life. This is all I've got and I should love every bit of it up. It's my life, my gift, what I've been given to make something of here on this earth. It's mine to love, to receive love, to give love and to exemplify love to everyone around me.

14 February 2014

Happy Valentine's Day

I didn't even realize until about 10 am this morning that I hadn't put together a blog post for today. Why you ask? How could I forget something I've been doing for four and a half years now? Well, perhaps it's because I had four hours of sleep and fell asleep on my bed last night with my laptop on my lap trying to finish up classroom Valentine's cards. Sigh. Clearly things didn't go quite as I had planned this week.

Ridiculously, I was already thinking on January 1st about what fun, creative idea we could come up with for a classroom Valentine this year. I knew February 14th would be here in no time. So weeks ago I started researching ideas online. I picked this little idea then much to my chagrin, it blew up all over the internet in the ensuing weeks. So I'm just hoping there aren't ten other kids in the class doing the same thing. Fingers crossed.

I was hoping to buy bracelets, but didn't want to order them and have to pay for shipping or buy them in a huge lot. Then time flew by and I couldn't find what I was looking for in stores. So two nights ago the ugly reality that I was going to be making bracelets hit me upside the head. Thankfully I already had a friendship bracelet kit in my craft supplies so late that night I started cranking out bracelets.

I learned a lot about how to unwind embroidery thread which is notorious for becoming a big knotted mess, and over two nights came up with several strategies to speed things up. This was fantastic because in the beginning it was taking all together tooooo long. I thought I was going to lose it.

I did quite a bit of very late night scrambling to pull these together. I fell asleep at 2 am last night and then thankfully woke up at about 6:15 this morning (long before the every day alarm) and still had to design the card  and put everything together. It was a scramble for the next 90 minutes. Whew! But we made it and were on time to school.

Now to enjoy the rest of the day. We knew we wouldn't all be together much today so last night we had a little Valentine's Day time and we'll have some more fun tonight together. We're all wearing a new wristband with a silver coin on it that says "Love this life."  So today, while we're full of love and loving each other, we're remembering to love the life we have, the time we have, the people we have. It's a good reminder! Happy Valentine's Day!

12 February 2014

Some Days Are Better Than Others

My dear friend EverKelly and I have had some phenomenal talks over the years. Recently she was telling me about an article or book she read on how we should plan our days and weeks with the recognition that we will have some weeks where we feel better and perform better than others. I thought that was such a fantastic thought, so full of generosity for the body and soul - and so real! Yes, it's true that some days we have great energy and some days, for whatever reasons be they biological, or related to events going on in our lives, we will not be at peak performance and output.

It makes perfect sense that when we work in our flow instead of fighting it, life will be better. We can allow ourselves to accomplish more when we up and give ourselves a break on the demands we put on ourselves when we're on the low end of the energy scale.

I have been thinking about this a lot this week. I am at the low end of the energy scale and while things haven't slowed down particularly, I am trying to find myself peacefully in the mindset that if I just keep pushing through, I'll get through this week and feel and perform better next week. I am trying to live in a "let's just keep things nicely stabilized" mindset. I have been up late working every night and up early to attend to family mornings. I've had assignments to complete that I don't exactly love. Things that normally wouldn't phase me have made me upset and I'll admit it, at times a little cuckoo. I have felt very blah and at times really bummed out by this week.

In those moments where things seemed a little heavy, I've meditated, prayed, cleaned something, taken a walk, gone to the gym, read things that inspire and sought out companionship. And you know what, those things have helped for about five minutes, and then I've just pushed on anyway. It's just one of those weeks and I keep pushing through because in the end that is all there is to do. But it's great to know that this week will pass and I will feel more pulled together soon and annoying tasks will end and the days will feel a little sunnier. That makes this week just annoying instead of sad or scary. Just going to keep running knowing that the faster I run the sooner I'll get to the end of it.

What do you when you have a bummer week and how do you get through it? I'd love to hear the way you survive or thrive through a blah (or worse) week.

images by kalanicut

11 February 2014

Spending Gap Cash: Low Boots

After a bit of post-holiday sale success we ended up with a decent amount of Gap Cash to spend this month. Basically if we selected merchandise worth $150, we had $75 in vouchers to cover half the expense. So I definitely wanted to take advantage of that and started planning immediately for what we in fact needed that we could use the vouchers for.

Well, my best laid plans crumbled and I couldn't get what I'd been planning on so on the last day of the Gap Cash days I was scrambling to figure out how to spend the money and actually spend it on things we needed and I wanted to stay to a very tight budget and try to come up with as close to $150 merchandise as possible and not overspend.

Needless to say I spent hours on Gap.com that day doing math to figure it all out. Since we had two vouchers and could only use one per purchase, I also had to smartly group purchases to use the vouchers most efficiently. What a task that became!

I had intended to split the purchases between me and The Man so we knew we'd buy him a bunch of his favorite Gap t-shirts but all of a sudden I had no idea what to get for me. I didn't want to buy any clothes because I'm a bit between sizes right now. I decided to try shoes and ended up having quite a dilemma making a decisions between all the shoes you see here.

We've had a ridiculously gorgeous and warm winter, so I have not been wearing many of my shoes and none of my boots. Some years we have December and January months that are quite cold, in the 30s, 40s with a lot of rain. Not so this year. 

Our spring weather, as I have mentioned so many times, is ususally rather overcast and crummy -- and I know it's coming unfortunately. So I imagine I may still get some good wear out of a pair of boots in the next four months or so. It's already been boot-worthy weather for the past week or so. It's actually been nice to finally pull out my heavier weight jackets, sweaters and tops. I wore a long sleeve shirt layered under a lightweight cotton shirt with a jacket and scarf last week, which was the first time it's been cold enough to do that this winter - and this was for sitting outside at a cafe late in the evening. Very warm winter even during a cold spell.

I've finally accepted that tall boots and Southern California just don't work that well together unless we're in a major cold spell. So low boots can give one the boot look under pants without the overheating legs.

I imagine it could still be cold for a while and since it looks like there are still a few additional weeks of winter to come boots on sale seemed like a fine idea. Here's the lowdown on all these boots which are on sale at Gap.com now.

1. Suede Booties: Love these but decided I probably wouldn't get as much of a chance to wear them because of the heels as much as I love heels. Just not as practical for my lifestyle right now. If I was working in an office, these would have been the choice.

2. Metallic Suede Zip Boots: I've seen these in the store and I like the metallic factor for it's little bit of edginess. These look a lot more glittery gold in person than in the photo. But I decided I might not always want the metallic for every day or a season from now.

3. Lace-up Booties: These are so pretty. Love the color of the suede, love the slightly lug sole and the heel of course. But I have a pair of black boots similar to these and don't wear them as often as I thought I would.

4. Shearling Leather Biking Boot: I finally decided on these. I liked the look and they seemed like boots I could wear for a full day of walking and standing. Plus I liked that they were really basic in a good way so I could pair them up with a lot of looks. They came today and they look like they will be great.

I am really picky about the heel construction on shoes and I really hate that so many shoes pretend to be stacked heels when really the heels are just wrapped in printed paper to look like stacked heels. I'm stunned at how many seemingly quality brands have used this silly look. These boots have a legitimate stack that has a nice rugged feel to it.

I'm looking forward to wearing these and think they will be a great addition to the wardrobe. After my very favorite tan suede clogs finally wore out recently from a lot of long wear and abuse (insert tears here) these seems like a great replacement for every day wear. Glad I got them for half price. I may have to go back and pick up one of the other pairs since the prices seem to have dropped since I made my purchases last week. I'm going to keep my eyes on things.

all images via Gap.com

10 February 2014

Now Is My Time #6: Do Something For You

Focusing on "Now Is My Time" is creating quite an evolutionary change in my life. It seems almost daily I have decisions that I need to make that will help me put myself first in my life or take me away from that goal. Some days I catch myself too late and see that I am not taking good care of myself. Other days I find myself re-evaluating in a moment where I realize I can make a more productive, healthy choice.

Again let me reiterate that when I say put myself first I don't mean being self absorbed and only doing what I want to do at the dismissal of everything else. What I do mean is that I take responsibility for my own health, well-being, growth and protection as my top responsibility in my life. When I am at my best everything else I do in my life is also improved including my relationships and responsibilities.

One of the things I have been working on is choosing to do something for myself when I reach one of those moments in the day where I say "What else do I need to do?" Normally I would choose to do something for the family or the house but that is not always necessary. The work of home and family will never be done, so there is no harm in doing something that will help me.

This often happens in the afternoon when I find I have fifteen or twenty minutes before I have to run to school to pick up The Bug or for that one hour where she has downtime after she comes home from school. These moments often happen around bedtime too. Instead of doing another family or household chore, I try to do something for myself.

That may actually mean cleaning something. Maybe straightening off my desk or the vanity in our bathroom or dusting nightstands. I can straighten my clothes or shoes in my closet. Sometimes I take a few minutes to look at a catalog or magazine that has been patiently waiting on my desk for some attention. It might mean taking time to reply to emails from friends or write a thank you card. In the evenings I might take a few extra minutes to do a grooming activity like a more in depth facial, teeth whitening or deep conditioning my hair. It's nice to see the effects of my few minutes of attention whether that's around my bedroom or on my own sweet face.

My favorite activity of all is doing some meditation. I have to say I am really getting very into my meditation practice. It has become essential to my sense of calm and well-being. It is amazingly comforting to know that I have that connection and that place where I can instantly chill out and find peace. It is like giving myself a really great gift and it doesn't cost a penny.

So now when I have a few minutes of flex time, I am trying to choose me, because 2014, it's my time.

Learn more about my 2014 project Now Is My Time.

07 February 2014

Take Time To Celebrate Your Victories

Yesterday I had the opportunity to take stock of my recent successes. What felt like an otherwise uninspiring, gloomy, overcast day gave me a few minutes to celebrate victories and see how they will play into the big picture of my goals for this year.

My assignment was to make a list of my recent victories. That's an assignment that perhaps we should give ourselves every day. It is so much easier to stare at our flaws, mistakes and low-points. Imagine how different our days would be and how differently we could feel about ourselves and our lives if we celebrated our victories every day.

As I looked at what victories I could celebrate it was easy to come up with a couple. Then as I thought about each one of those, there were more hidden victories within the larger victory. As I talked about these victories I started to feel cheers ebbing up inside my heart. I suddenly felt so happy and wanted to fist pump my hands overhead. I felt energized and encouraged to keep going with my goals and to keep living courageously. I felt more connected with authentic me and that made me feel really happy.

I was struck by how much more I need to do this in my life. How much more we all need to do this. I hear so many of us too quick to confess our failures and allow them to overshadow our strengths and successes. Here's a challenge for you, the next time you have a few minutes to chat with a friend or family member, ask them "So tell me about your victories today." Then share some of yours.

image via mca

06 February 2014

Scary Idea: Cleaning The Kitchen Once A Day

We're trying something pretty terrifying at our house right now. It's a little plan called Clean The Kitchen Just Once A Day. I have to say it's a little unsettling. In order for me to focus more on my goals we're attempting to cut down time eats like fully cleaning the kitchen three times a day after meals.

Now we try to just make sure that the dishwasher is emptied as soon as it is washed. Then everyone can rinse their dishes and put them in the sink neatly or even better put them right into the dishwasher. Everyone is doing a little better at cleaning up after themselves and I have a lot more free time on my hands. This is exciting.

I will say it gets a little frustrating when it does get messy or when other people make dinner and do not clean it up right away, but I'm learning to let go and just let it be a little bit more. Do I want to have a messy kitchen, no way, but it does not have to be sparkling every minute of the day. We rarely have people over and we are all busy so trying to do a little throughout the day and then one big clean up, while something we are still adjusting to, makes a lot of sense for us.

We have a pretty small kitchen and it can get messy fast, but this plan is actually forcing us all to do a better job keeping things up a little more during the day and making sure that dishes are rinsed out immediately, which avoids a lot of sticky, dried on junk to deal with later. While I'd love to spend my day being a clean freak about my house, I have bigger fish to fry. I need time to take care of other mission critical items on my personal goal list and for the family as well.

So for now, it's so far so good. It's not perfect, but things weren't perfect before when the kitchen was usually clean. So it's a trade off (hello, change!) but I think it's a good one for now. I'm curious to know how others handle their daily kitchen clean up. Would our plan drive you completely bonkers or do you have a similar plan to keep the cleanliness up and the workload down?

05 February 2014

Creating Change Can Be Scary

I have been working hard on goals this past month and I have some biggies. One of the things that has come to mind in a powerful way is how change affects us. Change always has two sides to it, the benefit side where we gain new things and the loss side where we have to let go or say goodbye to things we are moving on from that will stay in the past.

It can be exciting to look at all we have to gain from our efforts or participation in change. Sometimes that means literally moving, saying goodbye to people, places or phases of our lives, like college. I think it can far more difficult to say goodbye to parts of ourselves, to our former decisions or choices -- to the way we comfortably liked things in the past. When we choose to change we often focus on the gain but it isn't until we are in the progress of gain that we start to feel a nagging unhappiness with what we've had to say goodbye to.

I think this is the point where the real challenges come in. It's hard to let go of the way we like things that can be holding us back. Those are comfortable habits and places. I have often thought of the metaphor of our lives as sculptors and our job is to carve off all our own  rough spots and become smoother, gentler, kinder people. That is not easy to do when we are fond of our own material make-up, comfortable with it. When we carve off rough spots we fear we'll be more vulnerable or perhaps we won't like how things look once the change is made.

I have been rolling this all around in my head lately. I have two major frustrations with my goals right now. First that despite a great amount of work, my progress is not that noticeable. It's discouraging to put in several hours of work and see no great amount of visual progress. I am learning to look for progress less and instead feel the progress and sense of accomplishment inside myself. I can feel the change and I am proud of the change, so the visible progress does not need to be so important. That helps me keep from getting frustrated when dealing with all my goals.

My second frustration or balancing act that I need to work on is in regards to Now Is My Time. I've opened a bit of a Pandora's box with this one, although I imagine it's just going to take some work and training for me to understand how to work my new muscles. Focusing on myself has opened up some feelings that probably needed to come out a long time ago in my life. But now I have to manage them and I'm not so good at that quite yet. It's like having a blow torch that just turns on out of the blue and suddenly you're battling a fire.

That fire is a good thing if I can use it as a friend, for instance to cook a beautiful dinner. But when it feels more forest fire than campfire, I have to say I've felt a little worried. Thinking about it, I realize this is all new to me in a lot of ways and that I will learn how to manage the flame and use it for good. I started feeling like I was getting a little crazy and then calmed myself down and realized that I was just in new territory. That realization is much more comforting than the fears the situation produced.

It's good to remember that we have been growing and changing our entire lives and we always figure it out in the end. So creating change, even when it feels massive is just a new experience that we're learning. Rather like learning to read. At first the letters and words don't mean anything and feel like a forest of unknowns. But once the basics are understood and we take baby steps forward each day, we soon learn to master the world of books. Change is not to be feared, even though it can bring up scary feelings. I'm trying to focus on the good outcomes I am already enjoying, appreciating support from others, and reminding myself that I will be happier saying goodbye to some ways of being, doing and thinking. We can change. We're actually pros at it, we just forget sometimes.

image via msc

04 February 2014

Make A Family Vision Board

As part of our post deployment transition one of the activities we did was to make a family vision board. What a great activity that was to take us out of thinking in terms of deployment, to be able to put those worries and realities behind us and start thinking about the future.

We sat together with a large stack of magazines and each had a pair of scissors and we all started clipping. Within less than an hour we had a nice stack of pictures to glue to our poster board. We each had a chance to go through our pile and tell what it was about each photo that inspired and excited us for the future. It was really amazing to see how similar some of our dreams were and sometimes how unique each person's photos were to them.

We sat together and arranged all the photos by size and shape to cover the entire surface of our vision board. When we got home we hung it up on the back side of our front door, so that each time we head out into the world we see it and it can remind us of our hopes and dreams for the future. You wouldn't see that in an interior design magazine but it works for us right now.

On our poster are dreams for more time together as a family, travel, adventure, more time with extended family, more calm, more time in nature, more bike rides, more time with friends. It is fun to look at it and remember who picked each photo and why. It's such a great way for us to see who we are as a family, see where we want to go and how we want to live.

All you need to create your own family vision board is a poster board, a stack of magazines, glue sticks and a pair of scissors for each family member who is old enough to wield a pair. It would be a fun family night activity and it could be followed up with another activity where each person makes their own vision board too.

I love vision boards. I love being able to see where I want to go and even better to see what has come into my life that was important to me. I was going through my hopes for 2014 a few days ago and noticed that very unexpectedly one of my hopes had already come to be. I was so surprised. I love how that happens. Putting hopes out there really does create an energy of bringing them to you, sometimes with no more effort needed by you at all. Many times I have put something on a vision board and then someone has just given it to me out of the blue. That always stuns me but there is something about letting the universe know you would like something that starts a chain of events that can be quite surprising.

images by kalanicut

03 February 2014

Now Is My Time #5: Where Have We Let Ourselves Go?

First I have to say that Now Is My Time has been really awesome for the first month. I have a great guide who reminds me every time I veer off into the weeds, "okay now let's focus that on you." Every time I hear that question it brings me back. It's been a great month full of awesome Now Is My Time activities that have encompassed physical and mental health, social time, time in nature, great meditations, creative opportunities and reconnecting with things I love like Barnstorm/Brainstorm sessions with EverKelly. I love her latest post you can check out if you click on the link just back there a few words ago.

Another thing I have reconnected with after a short break is my regular morning ritual. It always seems to disappear over the holidays. It's good to have it back. Inspiration at the beginning of the day always makes me feel more directed throughout the day. I have continued my meditation time which I love. There are so many great ones available online! It should never get boring or repetitive. I have had some lovely time with friends this past month. What a comfort. Even deep conversations with wise people I don't know that well have been a stunning success and built us both up. And thanks awesome angel lady stranger who offered me the tall locker she was just emptying at the gym on Saturday. Our short chat was exactly what I needed to hear!

I have also been really good about accepting help. My kitchen is getting cleaned by people other than me a lot more regularly now. It seems that when my family sees me working hard on my goals and trying to better myself it motivates them to do even more to support me. I love that and am trying to say Thank You a lot to make sure they know how appreciated they are. It's awesome to see them become more awesome too!

One of the things I've been focusing on is rooting out those little places in my life where I've "let myself go." As I thought about that I think that we all have places where we've let ourselves go. That doesn't mean we've stopped wearing make up and doing our hair, but more that there are little areas of ourselves we forgot to keep nurturing. Maybe we get busy with jobs or kids or volunteering, but at some point we forget to love some parts of ourselves.

It might mean we have stopped making ourselves look pretty on the outside, maybe we haven't been taking good care of our hair or our skin or flossing our precious teeth. Maybe we have not been building our souls up with inspiration and strength. Maybe we've been letting other's negativity pull us down, not fortressing ourselves enough against things that wear us down. Maybe we're not eating as healthily as we've like to pretend we are.

I'm keeping my eyes open to finding those little places where I have forgotten to love myself and to finding ways to nurture those areas. Some days that means taking time to cook or bake something fantastic, giving it my full attention and strengthening my skills. It has meant joining in activities I have always professed to not really like, that I actually don't dislike as much as I thought I did. 

It has meant going back and looking at who I am and finding little areas I need to heal and grow, breaking down walls that are holding me back from progress I want to make. Other times it has just meant pulling out our family joke books and laughing more or putting on a episode of House Hunters International while I am making dinner or eating lunch. I have been working hard to take better care of my precious skin, using only the best quality products (bought at a great discount after a little effort).

I made time to whiten my teeth last week, which I hadn't done for a while. This was after having had a sterling reputation for some years for having very white, shiny teeth. When did I let that go? The same things goes for my eyebrows. Once at a former job, women I knew had a conversation with me about how perfectly groomed my eyebrows always were. It freaked me out a little that they were watching me that closely but the real concern here is when did I stop being that girl?

I imagine the quest to find little areas where I've neglected to nourish myself will be ongoing because there is only so much time in a day and a lifetime, but taking the time to focus on me requires that I keep a better mind on myself.

Sometimes we can easily start listing areas of our lives that need nurturing. Other times it may take some excavating to get to the deep places. We can all use a little more nurturing and often times that comes best from ourselves. Can you think of places you'd like to start nurturing? 

image via MCA
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