31 March 2014

Now Is My Time #13: New Prayer Wishes

I've been looking at my old Prayer Wish Jar that has been so special to me over the past few years. You can read all about the history of the Prayer Wish Jar here. I also have a Little Jar With Big Wishes and a 2014 Jar of Wishes too.

The Prayer Wish Jar was a place to write a nightly visualization prayer where I "saw" a challenging and stressful situation resolve and leave our lives. Now that the situation I was visualizing has really come to fruition for the most part and that situation is much less stressful for us, I felt like I was ready to say goodbye to those prayers with gratitude and appreciation that they were answered over time and that those things we prayed for have happened mostly.

So I took a moment to recognize the blessings and then dumped all the pretty prayers written on such colorful, cheerful paper into my trash can. I instagrammed it and you can see it here. Then I gave the old fishbowl a good washing. Ahhh, all clean and ready for new prayer wishes. I think it's time to start Prayer Wishing some great things for our family. I'm thinking about more adventures and some new things we need. Our old prayers were to remove sorrowful situations, my new prayers I want to be all about joyful things to come. Out with the old, in with the new.

I decided to let the bowl sit empty for a while. I liked the look of anticipation it kept giving me as I thought about what would go into that bowl now and what a happy place it would be full of happy wishes written on beautiful strips of paper.

Last week after a frustrating conversation I knew it was time to add a new and powerful wish to the jar. I know how I want this situation to resolve itself and I've put it out there. I even meditated the conversation I want to have when the situation is resolved. So I'm putting it out there with full force and very positive energy.

I cut a bunch of paper strips in lovely spring colors so they are all ready for me. I'm looking forward to starting new thoughts for new things to come. We're ready to say goodbye to a lot from the past few years and ready to open up new adventures. It will be fun to see this jar fill up with happy new wishes for days to come.

27 March 2014

Living In The Middle Of Big Goals

When you begin a long term goal, I think there is always this secret hope that somehow, miraculously, this goal you anticipate will take you a good year or so will magically fall into place on it's own in three or four weeks max.

One thing I have learned this year about myself is that I like to chose or be given a goal or assignment and then find the most expeditious way to complete it. I like to get the "satisfaction of completion" phase happening as quickly as possible. This would explain why I don't enjoy very much long-term projects that can't be quickly accomplished in a few hours time. While I might enjoy doing those things, I just am not drawn to them because of the time they take and the amount of attention to detail they require over a long period of time. This tends to frustrate me a bit or create a massive disinterest at some point.

I have entered into quite a few long-term goals this year. In fact my biggest goals are things that will stretch throughout the year and I don't have any guarantees that they will be able to be completed by the end of the year. So here I am at the end of the first quarter of 2014, having to learn new patience for living in the middle of my big goals.

Have I seen some improvement, progress? Yes absolutely. But I also see all that still needs to be done. I have seen my progress slip and even backslide during certain weeks. That can be incredibly discouraging when you are trying for something that you already know is going to take a long time. There have been moments where I just wanted to throw in the towel when it seemed temporarily that nothing was getting better. Thankfully as I've pushed forward I've seen new improvements, found new approaches that help me continue my progress and most importantly I've developed some staying power, through habit building, to stick with my efforts.

Perhaps that patience and staying power is the most important thing I have to gain, more important than my progress towards the completion of my specific goals. Learning to do things that challenge me in new directions forces me to use and build new muscle where I didn't have it before. Just like that is important when working out the physical body it is important in our soul development too -- and at times both are annoying and irritating.

So here I am in the middle of crossing the wide sea towards my goals. I can't see either coast yet, but I know if I keep rowing I'll get to where I want to go eventually. Staying out here in the middle certainly isn't satisfactory, so more, consistent paddling needs to be done. I will paddle my best today and again tomorrow and the next day and see if I can pull that distant shore in a little closer to my view. Life lessons to learn.

26 March 2014

Learning to Recognize And Manage Our Emotions

After The Man returned from deployment we were very interested in taking advantage of opportunities to help make that transition time, known in military jargon as "Reintegration" as smooth as possible. A lot can go wrong in even the most loving families when a family member has been in a war zone, the family has been separated for a year and with the emotional and physical wear and tear that all those things bring.

One of the things that has been a real focus of our transition training has been to learn to recognize how we feel, identify why and to learn how to get ourselves back to a calm "green" zone if we are feeling stressed or anxious.

One of our assignments was to sit down every night as a family and identify by circling from a list of emotions all the feelings we experienced throughout the day. Each individual had their own list. We learned that emotions are not bad. Sometimes we identify emotions as things we should not be feeling, for example, being mad, scared or frustrated are bad things. Emotions are really just identifiers to help us see there is an issue that needs to be addressed or to recognize that something is good and makes us happy.

The thing that can be problematic is our actions. Trouble can happen when we don't acknowledge our emotions, or we act based on our emotions without thinking through them or trying to positively resolve them. A positive reaction to our emotions would be to recognize and celebrate the happy times in our lives. Positive reactions to unhappy emotions would be to try to understand what we are feeling and then work towards getting to a calm place and resolving our feelings. A bad way to act out on our feelings would be to do something destructive like break our favorite toy, blow up at someone, or make much worse decisions that damages ourselves, our homes or our lives.

Once we started more easily identifying moments when we were scared, silly, happy, mad, frustrated or worried we started talking more about what brought on those emotions and how we worked through the difficult ones. We also learned that in every day we can have many different experiences with our emotions, a broad range of feelings in the same day. We shouldn't just focus on the negative ones as representative of our lives even in hard times. We also can't bury our negative emotions and only acknowledge our positive emotions. Then we do not resolve problems, fears and challenges.

We learned to see and appreciate more the good things in life. We also learned to work through and resolve difficult feelings. We can take a walk, do something that will make us laugh, write about our feelings, do deep breathing exercises, meditate, talk it through with someone or just take a break and do something else for a while until we feel more calm.

I am realizing what a gift it is to children to be able to recognize and act on their feelings. I have seen The Bug really begin to be able to identify her feelings and talk about them more. She has made some impressive progress. How The Man and I wish we'd learned this when we were quite young. No one really talked about these things when we were kids. More often than not people don't learn this until adulthood, if ever. Many adults continue to run amok with their emotions, unable to identify what's happening, why they're acting as they are and what the real story is about what's going on with them. To have a handle on that as a kid is a godsend and I realize it might be the most important thing we can teach our children.

But we can't teach what we don't know and live. So we have to learn it all first. It's pretty interesting what you learn when you start writing down all your feelings every day. For instance, you start to take a closer look at your days when you realize you are circling "Tired" every day. You feel grateful on hard days when you are able to still circle "Happy" or "Silly" and remember the bright spots in your life. You also learn to see where you may overreact to things that really aren't that important. Learning or being reminded to stop and figure out why you're feeling what you're feeling instead of taking it out on every person who comes in contact with you is a great thing. There are a lot of adults who just bash around letting their emotions rain on everyone's parade.

I am so glad that The Man and I are improving our skills in this area and that we have the chance to arm The Bug with these skills so early in her life. Working on emotional management as a family helps us all be more supportive of each other, be more tolerant of other's emotions and allows us all to work through our own emotions with grace, love and acceptance. It's great to be able to recognize another's stress and to be able to remind them how to get back to the calm "green" zone. Knowing that I know how to help The Bug or The Man manage stressful situations through exercises and activities we've learned together is such a comfort. Seeing them be able to use their skills on their own is even more comforting.

I would recommend this process to every individual and family. It can relieve stress in the family and home and for each person individually. It's a great way to help build stronger relationships too. Parents can worry about their children less when they know the kids are armed with an arsenal of tools to help them see the good in life and to get them through difficult experiences and hard times. Life is just plain easier on us when we are able to manage our emotions, appreciate all the good things in our lives and learn how to resolve things that are difficult.

image by kalanicut

25 March 2014

Pin Test #23: Minestrone Olive Garden Style

First let me confess that this photo does not look that appetizing because of the fact that I totally overdid it with the noodles. But in reverence to fair and truthful journalism, I felt like you deserved to see what my soup looked like. Sorry for all the mushy looking beige noodles. The story does get better.

Last week I was in a bind by six one evening with absolutely no idea what to make for dinner and a fridge that held nothing easy to pull together. So I decided to rummage through my Pinterest Board Comfort Foods and see if there was anything I actually had ingredients for in the cupboards.

I found this recipe for Minestrone and I had most of the ingredients. I thought about a quick trip to the store but at rush hour, that could've been a big nightmare to go the six blocks to the store and walking home that far with bags of groceries breathing the exhaust of cars backed up all the way didn't sound too appetizing either. So I played with what I had. The recipe is supposed to be very close to Olive Garden's Minestrone, which I've always liked so I thought it would be a good one to try.

I didn't have zucchini but I substituted it with a stalk of broccoli that wasn't enough to make for a meal on it's own. I cut it up in small chunks. I used canned green beans because that is what I had. Not sure why I had canned green beans in the cupboard because I only cook fresh as a side dish, but they were great to add into a soup. Fresh or frozen would've tasted a little better but again, it worked. The other ingredients I didn't have were fresh parsley and dried thyme. So I checked the conversion rates and used dried parsley and fresh thyme from my patio garden. Fantastic.

I am learning that with my family you cannot have too much broth in a soup. I have been getting regular complaints of not enough broth. So I made the mistake this time of adding too much pasta which soaked up all the broth. I threw in the rest of a box of vegetable broth to thin it out for my grilled cheese dipping family.

I was a little worried about The Bug's interest in a soup that looked like a bunch of vegetables, but I took the time to introduce it to her before dinner when she said the kitchen smelled really good. I told her that her dad and I both really loved it and I thought she might like it to. I gave her a small bowl full and was happy to see by the end of the meal she had eaten up ever bit and liked it. The Man didn't seem super excited at first about Minestrone and I will admit that it doesn't have the most glamorous sounding name. But he finished off two bowls full and commented on how good it was a couple of times.

So I will say this pin test was a hit, a success - except for my overdoing it with the noodles. I should've done about 1/3 of what I put in, but when the noodles weren't cooked yet it didn't look like that much pasta. Funny how when you add a little water to noodles they sure get big! I will have to say, however, that with a large container full of leftover soup in the fridge I have had a hard time trying to get people enthused about eating it again. Leftover soup just never looks that good in the fridge. I guess I'll just have to spring it on them one day when they're really hungry and time is short.

Here's a quick tip on making super delicious grilled cheese sandwiches that I learned from The Man. First let me say I have learned some of my best cooking tips from him. On the inside, use two kinds of cheese. We use cheddar and monterrey jack cheeses. On the outside sprinkle a little bit of garlic salt and kosher salt on the hot butter toasted top side. Just a tiny dash of both makes the flavors pop in an amazing way.

24 March 2014

Now Is My Time #12: Looking Back Inspires Path Ahead

After I went through my big bookcase last week I decided to leave out the large and bulky photo albums from my previous years as a world adventurer. I thought The Bug would like to look through them and I thought it was about time I peeked at them again, it's been a few years.

The Bug looked at them last week and on Friday I had planned a quiet morning after a big week and took some time in my pajama pants, tee shirt and sweater to sit back on the couch and relive some good memories. I found two photos that especially touched me. I think because I remember so clearly how happy I was in these two photos and how good it felt to be out in the world.

This photo was taken on a balcony of a house we stayed at in Tulum, Mexico. A young couple, Roberto and Patricia built this simple concrete circle house right on the beach. On the second story they built two rooms to rent for lodging. The bottom floor was all concrete with windows and the upper floor walls were made of sticks placed vertically in the concrete wall with a big, high palapas roof overhead. The sound of the surf was so loud through those walls that we did not know there was anyone lodging in the room next door until the following day when we ran into the lodger there.

This little house was built nine miles down a crazy, ripped up dirt road. It was quite a journey getting there in a tiny Chevy Pop not built for off-roading. But it was a wonderful place to stay. This was towards the end of our trip so relaxation had totally taken over, tans were set and the stresses of home were, at least temporarily, long forgotten. Mother Nature's influence, the fresh air, sunshine, good food and laid back lifestyle had clearly possessed my soul. A good day. I like remembering myself so happy, at peace and so far from home on such a lovely adventure.

This photo was taken about ten months earlier in Edinburgh, Scotland. I remember feeling so refreshed after climbing Arthur's Seat. The stiff wind made it impossible not to be full of fresh air and clear thoughts. The company was good. The colors of nature were amazing. Even being bundled up in a big sweater, jeans and boots felt good that day. It was a magical life moment in nature for sure.

Finding these photos made me think of my Now Is My Time project for this year. I know that right now is not my best season for world traveling with a kiddo in school and a husband often gone for work. But, I can still have these days close to home. I live in an area rich and ripe for wonderful outdoor activities, great ocean and mountain breezes and year round access to the outdoors.

I want more photos of my sweet face looking so very pleased and relaxed about life! Just looking at these pictures brings a wave of happiness over me. It's one thing to have a physical photo on paper, but to have that photo emblazoned in your soul, where you can carry the look and feel of that moment with you forever is priceless.

I can still plan for future world adventures when the season of my life is a little more adaptable to it. I certainly have a family well-suited for exploration, seasoned travelers and eager adventurers for sure. Our time for world travels will come someday. I took photos of these printed pictures so that I can carry them on my computer and maybe even on my phone. Now that they are digital I can keep them close and always remember who I am, an adventure girl, and as a reminder to keep seeking adventures. Now is my time to feed my adventurous soul and keep her alive and well.

21 March 2014

40 Bags In 40 Days Update: Up, Up And Away

The 40 Bags In 40 Days project, is well under way. You can read all about the details here. The premise of the movement, started by Ann Marie of White House Black Shutters blog, is that during the season of lent participants get rid of one bag of stuff (garbage, recyclables, stuff you don't need, use, want) every day for the 40 days. So that's 40 Bags In 40 Days.

There is a closed group for participants on Facebook that has swelled to almost 22,000 members. That's a lot of people dejunkifying their lives. I love it! The conversations and support that I've seen on that site are amazing. There is so much back up for people who want to take immense steps in their life to quit hoarding and hiding behind piles of stuff and start living again. There is a wide range of participants, some who are quite tidy and just like to clean and get rid of stuff regularly and others who have been buried under stuff in their homes for years. Sharing stories there has helped a lot of group members take greater courage to make changes and take daily steps to improve their lives. It's pretty impressive.

As for me, I don't think I've kept up a bag a day up to this point but over all I'm up to speed. I have about eight grocery bags full of stuff to deliver to the thrift store and have gotten rid of quite a lot of stuff considering what a small place we have. I go through my stuff every year and am still so surprised that I can find things I'm not using or areas that I haven't even realized needed thinning out.

This week I went through my clothes closet and my big bookshelf. I came away with four bags of books to donate and a few bags of clothes and shoes too. I got rid of most of my old travel guides, they're outdated now and I dumped a lot of old business management books too. I am also giving away my paperback dictionary and thesaurus. I have a cell phone and the internet for that. I can't come up with a plausible scenario where I would need either one desperately enough that if the internet weren't available it would be a problem.

I also threw away some shoes that were impossible to fix. My closet has been pretty streamlined for quite a while so it's almost a little too slim right now and I need to invest in some things I really like. Getting rid of stuff that is worn or doesn't fit well makes life a little sweeter.

It's amazing how I continue to find ways to reorganize this place. Wednesday night I compacted down three small boxes in my bathroom into one, got rid of aging, unused products, medicines and supplements. That day I whipped through the big bookcase which took quite a while. I have held onto a few magazines that hold their age pretty well: Real Simple, O The Oprah Magazine and some fun home decor magazines. I have been recirculating them by grabbing one or two when I am heading out of the house. When I have some spare time waiting for appointments, riding in the car or waiting to meet people I enjoy one of my "new to me again" magazines. If I enjoy it I might return it to my small stash and if I feel like it's time for it to go I recycle or donate it when I'm done.

It's been fun to have "fresh again" things to look at and some great articles to reread. It makes me happy not to be getting tons of magazine subscriptions and this has kept me entertained for quite a while with the small supply of magazines I have on hand.  --At this moment I'm looking around my room realizing I have more than I think I do -- hmmm. Okay I'm sizing up my stash realistically it's probably about three file-folder boxes total - not that many and they are stacked neatly in the bottom of the large bookcase and in file boxes in the bedroom, nothing overwhelming. But it might be just the right amount for me not to get too bored and I'm thinning them out all the time.

After I finished up the bookcase, I emptied a basket of the family's magazines. Those went out the door that afternoon to a better home. I also cleaned out the second small square storage ottoman that was used as a toy box. We emptied the other one last week and sorted through all the toys and moved anything we kept to a cupboard in The Bug's room. Hooray, out of the living room. Turns out there was very little of anything of real value in the second ottoman. Lots of paper junk that could be thrown away and small trinkets that could be donated. Most of the toys had been removed to other locations already. I put small fleece blankets that gather in the living room into the two storage cubes and ended up with two empty baskets that had held magazines and the blankets. Now they are stacked together with a few magazines and a big quilt that frequently gets used on the couch in the top one.

Then I tidied up the rest of the room and maybe because it's Spring I wanted to streamline the decor. It's not too cluttered in there on the continuum of home decorating busy-ness but I wanted it to feel even more spacious and simple. So I started by removing a couple of things from the mantle, and went around the room and streamlined all the decor items on the flat surfaces. I arranged two large and two small potted plants on the sides of the fireplace and that really pulled the room together with the very simple mantle decor. It turned the fireplace from wintry and dark to bright, green and Spring-like.

When The Man and The Bug got home Wednesday night they couldn't quite figure out what I'd done that was different. The Man asked if I'd cleaned the carpets. The Bug said she didn't know what I did but she sure liked it. Everyone enjoyed being in the brighter, cheerier, more open living room last night and The Man and The Bug were inspired to do some reorganizing of their own. Things were looking pretty great by the end of the evening.

It's been a great opportunity to gather with this group on FB to accomplish the joyous task of simplifying and downsizing. I'm amazed at the life-changing effect it is having on some of the people in the group. Some have found new courage. Some have found large sums of money. Others have found things they thought were hopelessly gone. Some healed old wounds and let go of emotional baggage. Others have learned they are not alone. Beautiful to have such a movement of positive energy, healing and simplifying of life. If you're interested in joining in the 40 Bags In 40 Days project it's not too late. Still plenty of time to get 40 bags out of the house before Easter.

19 March 2014

Simple Birthday Gift Wrap & Gift Tags

Thought I would share my gift wrap projects for The Bug's birthday this past weekend. The Man and I laughed about how much we wanted to get the gifts wrapped because we were so desperate to dig into her birthday cake that was taunting us in the fridge all afternoon. It was good motivation to get everything done and ready to celebrate.

The cake, by the way, was a family favorite. A very moist yellow cake with chocolate frosting. I think this is The Man's favorite cake but it's become a family favorite and just about the only cake we ever have. We make this cake maybe two or three times a year. I don't know why but for some reason we got in the habit of doing a bundt cake (it might be because it's less work for the often tired baker) and we drizzle the warm chocolate frosting over it. It was so tasty with some vanilla ice cream and big fresh strawberries. Just thinking about it is making my mouth water right now.

Anyway, back to the fat-free, calorie-free conversation about the gift wrap. I scooped up several rolls of this orange, pink and blue striped wrapping paper at a local store that was closing. We had a big grocery store and very run down bunch of shops just a block from us. One of those stores was an electronics/catch all shop that sold all sort of weird stuff new, used and otherwise.

The Man befriended the owner a few years ago and has purchased quite an array of things from him like iPods, a TV, dvd players, toys and a music keyboard. When the shop was closing I found this wrapping paper there for a dollar a roll. I bought out all the rolls he had and got a deal for a couple of bucks. It's my go-to paper right now. My all-time favorite colors together: pink, blue and orange are the three colors I most like to pair together and play around with.

I also made a little gift tag for each gift. We often recycle these and all the raffia I used was recycled from Christmas. It wrapped all the gifts for our family in December and is still in fantastic shape and in all sorts of sizes for future gifts. You know I can't throw a good piece of ribbon away.

It's a little scary but I have learned that I can save and use paper scraps as small as the size of a pencil eraser for many projects. But I have to discipline myself a bit or I would go insane. It is great to have a couple of gallon-size zipper bags full of paper scraps to make gift tags out of. I can whip up a batch within minutes and it's so much fun to play with paper and pattern combos. Here are close ups of three that I made for our little gift stack today.

I hadn't thought about it until right now, but you might be interested to know what exactly is in the wrapped gifts, right? Two neon stripped shirts, a gray cardigan with neon flowers, a navy blue and white striped flower headband, a little "slap" band watch, three Lego people we chose and assembled ourselves at the Lego Outlet, and a Lego Friends lemonade stand kit. You can read more about the rest of our birthday celebration adventure here. Here's a link to our birthday class treat for this year. Keeping our birthday celebration peaceful, happy and hopefully stylish. It was a sweet little party. Can't believe she's eight. Life goes by quickly!

all images by kalanicut

18 March 2014

Pin Test #22: Rosemary Lemon Crock Pot Chicken

Writing this post taught me everything I need to know to make this better next time. As you can see in the pin sample photo above by Food For The Warrior this chicken looks delicious. Well when I make it again, I will tweak a few things differently than I did this time so hopefully my chicken looks just as beautiful and delicious.

I would consider my testing effort here pretty much a fail, with absolutely no fault to the original pinner whatsoever. Any fail was on my part. I had four large chicken breasts in the fridge that I desperately needed to get cooked. I decided to try this recipe because it seemed impossible for me to get time to cook this chicken otherwise. I threw them in the slow cooker first thing Sunday morning and within minutes the kitchen smelled delicious. When we came home from church hours later the entire courtyard of our apartment building smelled delicious. I had high hopes.

We're big fans of garlic and lemon in our household and have grown our own rosemary for years on our patio so this seemed like a slam dunk for us. However when we sat down to eat I found the chicken unappetizing and a little bland. Here's where I think I went wrong. Too much liquid in ratio to chicken. I think I probably should've added only about one cup of liquid or less. I used broth.  I didn't get the crispy top layer but rather pale chicken that looked like it had been boiled. It was very moist but the flavor just didn't jump out at me. The Man and The Bug lunched up on the chicken but I was a little "ho-hum" about it. There was a lot of salt and pepper used on the table. At some point The Bug said she didn't like the taste of lemon on the chicken.

I will say that it was so moist that I knew the leftovers would easily shred to make great tacos or something for a second meal. That night I used one of the chicken breasts to make quickie chicken quesadillas for a late dinner. Cheese and salsa brightened up the taste a good bit.

If I made this recipe again I think I would mince the rosemary and some garlic and add lemon zest to the top of the chicken after rubbing olive oil and salt and pepper on the chicken. I would use a very small amount of liquid but enough to make the chicken very moist. This was a pin test fail to me, just because I didn't feel excited about it at the end. But as far as making good chicken I could make a bunch of meals out of, this definitely worked and got the job done. So not a total loss by any means, but I just didn't like the way I did it.

17 March 2014

Now Is My Time #11: Fun Outings Alone

As part of my Now Is My Time self-care plan for 2014 I have been trying to incorporate a couple fun outings each week to give myself something to look forward to and motivate myself. Every once in a while a girl needs a good thrift store wander and a little TLC. It seems like Fridays are the day that my "Holy smokes I need a pedicure!" alarm goes off. And as we all know Fridays are the busiest, most crowded day at the nail salon. That also is the day when the most annoying people are there yakking away on their cell phones telling long drawn out stories about a guy they've been dating for 20 years who they are still hoping will marry them or other such stories that make you want to risk screwing up your drying polish to go over and take the phone from their hands, disconnect the call then shake them by the shoulders and say, "He is never going to marry you. Move on before you die miserable!!!!" It's also the day gal pals go in together and talk loudly next to you and mothers and daughter snip at each other and argue the entire time they are out on their Mother/daughter day together.  The technicians are in a rush, so you're likely getting an inferior mani/pedi to make it all worse.

So I try to sneak away first thing in the morning on a weekday. Last Thursday I had plans to run off for a much needed hour of relaxation. I went for it and got the shoulder massage and extra hand massage too. I figure it's the least I can get since I am always giving massages to my family to help keep them healthy and well, the chakras spinning in the right direction and the toxins moving out of their bodies.

After a very relaxing hour of TLC I left with much prettier hands and feet - buff the fingernails, paint the toenails is my style. Then I decided to walk across the street to the hated thrift store which shall remain nameless. It had been a while since I'd been in and I must confess that we have gotten some good things, especially kids clothes there over the years. But their prices are still ridiculous and I would never even consider buying a piece of furniture there - overpriced by about 200 percent all the time.

Apparently there must've been a newby on the pricing gun last week because it's stunning that this clock I picked up was not priced higher than the cost of the same item new at Ikea. I found this modern and stylish Piro clock at the potentially under-priced cost of just $2.99. Revenge is mine!

My new clock is hanging to the left of my computer in my work space. It's nice to not have to work so hard to find out what time it is. It's big and bold and right at eye level now. I love simple things and this clock is simple and stylish and that makes it quite perfect for my world. Thanks evil thrift store for not being quite so evil on my visit.

It was so refreshing to come home having let my creative energies stew with each section of goods at the thrift store. Although overpriced I did see a set of great nightstands, which we need - the ones we have are just too small. They were plenty for one single girl but for two readers who both need a lot of light the one's we currently have are just too tiny. We need double or triple the tabletop space. I also saw a great square mid-century side table that I imagined would be so gorgeous painted white. I also came upon a tiny curtain panel that I had absolutely no use for that had the most beautiful printing and embroidery on it. Floral, simple and yet very modern. I do brainstorm uses for interesting things all throughout the store so it's always a good exercise to keep my creativity a little sharper.

I was so happy when I got home and was glad I'd done something for myself. It makes doing the must-do activities so much easier when you've fed your soul. That's my goal for this year and so far, it's changing my life and increasing my feelings of fulfillment, peace, calm and happiness about my life. Those are good things!

image by kalanicut

14 March 2014

Class Birthday Treats & Long Walks

Two quick things to share today. First, wanted to share this year's class birthday treat. The Bug and I talked a good bit about what our treat would be this year. The school has a no birthday cakes policy, which I think is based on the mess, time it takes to serve a cake, class disruption, etc. So most people bring cupcakes, which is probably only slightly less messy. The Bug said the kids seem a little tired of cupcakes.

Last year after talking with her teacher I felt like I needed to do something that didn't require a special trip to the school to deliver it, something she could just take in a small bag with her in the morning. I also wanted it to be something that could be easily handed out without a lot of class disruption and didn't make a big mess. So I decided to make chocolate dipped pretzels and put them in a little bag with a cute tag so if the teacher wanted to hand them out and have the kids take them home or eat them outside they easily could. Here's a peek.

This year again the teacher reminded The Bug about the "No Cake" rule. We were already aware and I had been thinking about doing the same bag idea to minimize mess and perhaps this time use a big cookie, brownie or a few of her favorite candies. Things took a turn for the insane when The Bug said she didn't think chocolate was a good idea because there are kids in her class who don't like chocolate. (What kind of kids are these? Don't like chocolate??? I'm not really sure I want her associating with people like that? Haha, I kid!)

The Bug loves gummi candies so we decided to go with that. We found large bags of gummi bears at Target. Two three pound bags, which cost about sixteen dollars total gave us enough for 30 small bags with some probably just shy of a pound left over. I figured cost-wise this was about half what I spent last year on chocolate covered pretzels -- and a lot less work too. We used paper we already had on hand for the tags and we had plenty of bags left over from last year.

We used a small measuring cup to get even servings in each bag. Then The Bug and I worked together to chose colors and make the tags. Once she was in bed I finished up the tags and put the bags together. Easy breezy while watching Parenthood. I hope they're a hit with the kiddos. Can't go wrong with gummis -- although I'll never understand that. They taste like water and paste to me.

The other thing I wanted to share today was a little lesson I learned yesterday. Because my car is still in the shop, we took a cab to an appointment because we only have 15 minutes between the end of the school day and the appointment time. I though it would be great to walk home since we had the time afterwards.

We stopped and got an ice cream cone, popped in at Target to get the candy  - and picked up a few birthday goodies too and then headed home. We walked across a university campus, past a national cemetery, through a federal building complex, across a park, through a baseball complex and then a few short blocks home. There was plenty to do along the way and I learned a fun lesson.

It's good to take long walks with your kids. You come upon fun things to do, you have a lot of different conversations and have time uninterrupted. We had some great talks, lots of laughs, good hugs and time walking arm in arm. For a while we took turns kicking a pine cone down the sidewalk. Even though we were walking in a our own neighborhood down streets we drive all the time, everything looks different from the sidewalk and conversations are different when you are walking than when you're in the car all the time.

Maybe more importantly parents are less distracted when walking without the responsibilities of driving and we can be more present. The Bug and I were both pretty tired from the day by the time we got home and it was a little past dinner time already. Lucky for us The Man was already whipping up grilled cheese sandwiches for dinner which was wonderful - and he makes a killer grilled cheese. A plate of fresh fruit and grilled cheese and we were in heaven.

Things were pretty quiet around here after that. I think we were all tired. The Man was asleep well before eight. The Bug quietly did her homework then helped me make tags for the candy bags for a while. I finished things up while watching TV and at 11 p.m. I seriously thought it must be early morning by then. I think we're still recovering from the time change and our busy days this week. Looking forward to the weekend. Hope it's a great one for you!

13 March 2014

Balboa & Newport Beach: Birthday Adventure Day

Saturday we set out to celebrate The Bug's birthday. It's actually not quite here yet but we always celebrate on the second weekend of the month. You can read about our early day adventures here. It didn't start out too great and in fact we thought the day might be totally ruined in the first 30 minutes. But we were able to save the day and it turned out to be one of the sweetest days we've ever had. I think there was something nice in the day for everyone and we ended it on a very sweet note.

My goal for our family is that we take full advantage of living on Southern California and adventure out to all the different, super cool areas and activities. One of the adventures on my list was to return to Balboa Island. I went there once in college but literally have no memory of it. I was with a friend, it was nighttime. I've been wanting to get to know Orange County better so Newport was a great place to start. I've been to Newport a few times but I still don't know it well.

I decided we could make a fun day of several layers of activity. I imagined that everyone, but most importantly The Bug, would enjoy a variety of short activities that were things we didn't do frequently. We would take the ferry to Balboa Peninsula, take a boat tour of Newport Harbor, spend some time at the Fun Zone on the rides, take a ride on our bikes along the waterfront and spend some time on the beach. When we weren't able to get our bikes there, that part of my plan was over but we made more than a full day of it anyway.

We parked the car, walked to the Ferry and were able to walk right on. Five minutes later we were getting out tickets on the harbor tour and that sailed just ten minutes later. The tour was broken up into two 45 minute segments so The Man and The Bug went for food while we docked after the first leg of our journey going out of the harbor to where the sea lions gather. We started the second leg of our tour, the harbor area and homes of the rich and famous, with pizza and chicken sandwiches. This was just the beginning of the good eats for the day.

The entire 90 minute tour was really fun and interesting. The tour guide was a lot of fun and it was clear he lived in the area with his very current knowledge of local happenings and social scene The sun was bright, the breeze was lovely and we had the front row seat on the boat. Great view and a fun time together.

From here our day took an interesting and entertaining turn. The Bug wanted to ride the bucking "bull" bullshark at the Fun Zone. However a ticket for one ride was $10. But an entire day's pass was $30. The Man went and bought her a $30 pass thinking if she goes a few extra times and rides the other two rides she'll have made it worth it. Little did we know that we would spend the next three hours with her riding the three rides about 20 times. She was having a blast on the never-ending waterslide, housed within a big inflatable bubble, the bungy cord trampoline and the bucking bullshark Burt.

It was fun to sit in the sun and watch her. Over the course of the afternoon she became an expert at each event. She learned to do backflips on the bungy trampoline, she met other kids and took turns with them on the never ending bubble waterslide and each time she rode bucking Burt she ask for the operator to make Burt buck more wildly than the last time.

The Man and I took turns wandering around a bit while she had the time of her life. Eventually we pulled her away to walk around the island and get something to eat. By almost dinner time we had only traveled a few hundred feet onto the island. It seems The Man's major activity for the day was investigating food options. He was very interested to try the famous local specialty the frozen banana. He also found a spot that made great bacon, egg and cheese croissants and we stopped there for an early dinner snack. They were big so The Bug and I shared one.

As part of my Now Is My Time project, one of my major assignments is self-care. So I felt like it was a good opportunity for me to ask to do one thing that would be special for me on this day too. I asked if we could walk to the pier and watch the sunset from the beach. Beach sunsets are so good for the soul!

When we got to the pier there were dozens of people fishing, even families tag teaming the effort. People were pulling loads of small fish and quickly throwing their lines back in the water. The Bug spent quite a while watching the fishing operations. The sunset as expected was stunning. I have to say that asking for that opportunity and being able to share it with my family made me very happy and gave me a real sense of 

As darkness overtook the island we stopped at the beach playground for a few minutes, then wandered a few shops. Then it was time for a treat. I think we were each very happy with our choices. I got a chocolate/vanilla swirl ice cream cone, The Man got a frozen banana and The Bug went way out and got a big back of cotton candy. We were all in heaven.

You'll laugh when you hear where we went next. Right back to the Fun Zone where The Bug added another 10+ rides to her bungy trampoline and bullshark riding tally. We could not believe she would be so entertained for the entire day there, but she kept going until she had totally run out of energy about the time they were closing at 8 p.m. About the same time The Man appeared with a basket of chicken fingers and hot french fries and a pulled pork sandwich. Holy delicious carnival food Bat Man. Boy did these treats hit the spot about that time of night, just as things were cooling down.

Sounds like a full day, right? But we still had two last hurrahs left. The Bug and her Dad had the cutest daddy-daughter ferris wheel ride and we ended the day off on a lovely little walk and wander along the waterfront homes path. It was so peaceful and quite with the water on one side and being able to enjoy a closer up view of the homes on the other side. There was something special about that walk, we were so happy together, contented, at peace, relaxed and joyful.

After that we headed back to the ferry and made the crossing to our car. The Bug quickly changed into clean, dry, warm clothes and we all got jackets on to warm up a bit before we headed home. It didn't take long before The Bug started exhibiting signs of total kid exhaustion and mentioned that she felt a little queasy. I can't imagine why?! I think we'd mentioned that possibility to her earlier...a few times. Before we even got to the freeway she was completely passed out asleep in the back seat.

While we were on our end of day walk we got the best report on the day we could've hoped for. She said, "Who would want a party and lots of presents when you could have this day instead? I had you guys, a boat ride, Fun Zone, the beach, harbor tour, ferris wheel. This was the best birthday celebration!" That made me so happy and I was glad all the planning and scheming we did in advance and scrambling we did once the car broke down all worked out to still give us the best day we could've given her. The smiles on her face were worth a million bucks.

This day was also great encouragement for me to keep planning fun outings in Southern California. I have another really special one up my sleeve and I'm more encouraged than ever to keep planning these weekend excursions. Can't wait for our next chance.

12 March 2014

Angels Among Us

In our family we've elected that rather than have big birthday parties with lots of kiddies running amok we like to put that same time, energy and money into a special adventure for our birthday girl. She's one hundred percent behind this too which is the only way it would work.

For her third birthday we learned quickly that birthday parties and cost can quickly spin out of control. When we tallied up everything we spent that year it was well over $300 including a birthday bike. But we were appalled. So since then we have simplified a lot but I think our birthday celebrations have become much more memorable.

Saturday was our big birthday celebration day, calendared for some time. I put in quite a few hours researching options and feeling out several of them to see what would work and where the best places to go would be. My goal for our family and for this day was to go somewhere nearby that we had never been before. Having lived in SoCal most of my adult life it's stunning how much I have yet to explore. It's easy to get into a rut of going to the same museums, beaches, parks and amusements.

That morning we got up early, packed up everything we would need, put the bikes on the bike rack (which is no easy feat!) and headed off on our adventure to Orange County. About thirty minutes from home I heard strange noises and suddenly realized that something was very wrong with the car. Within seconds my hazard lights were on and we were limping from the carpool lane across the entire freeway, off the closest off ramp and into a tire shop just off the exit. We thought we had a flat tire which we quickly realized wasn't the case when we had a chance to look. After a half hour wait, the technician at the tire shop came and looked under our car and said the ever dreaded words "Transmission." UGH...

This was the real low point of the day. What would we do with the car? Would it even be worth it to repair the car or would we finally decide to just junk it this time? This is a car that is in fantastic shape for the most part but getting old. We have already put over $1300 in repairs in the past eight months and the transmission has already been replaced once. Was our adventure already over just a few miles from home? How were we going to get home?! Dismal way to start things out.

Then angels began gently flapping their wings around us. Our first miracle was that everyone in our car kept their cool. This was a big day and it was potentially wrecked not to mention the added stress of impending car repairs. We emptied our things out of the car, stacked them nicely in a corner by the building and then The Man and The Bug played ball. The tech at the tire shop went into action. He recommended a shop near by that we could have the car towed to and recommended a way he thought the car might be easily repaired that would render 4x4 driving over but would allow us to keep using the car. Since we never use 4x4 in the city that is a great possibility for use that we never would've known about had he not said something.

Next I was on the phone with the transmission shop. He was so kind. Within minutes he had a tow truck dispatched to us and had given us a great recommendation on a car rental company and a special shop rate his company had with them. While their transmission shop would be closing for the weekend within an hour or so, he promised to lock our car inside one of their garages to protect all three of our bikes strapped and locked on the back. He solved all our problems and concerns in the blink of an eye. Not long after the car was towed away a car rental rep was picking us up in the tire store parking lot and taking us to their office to get us a car. He was very nice to upgrade us and he had us on our way in a few minutes time. Celebration day saved!

Within two hours of our original departure, we were back on the road to our final destination. Things worked out quite perfectly from there when we arrived at Balboa Island, found an easy parking spot near the ferry and walked right onto a ferry waiting there. We got to the peninsula and immediately saw the tour boat operator that would take us on our planned tour around the bay. At the ticket window I asked when the next tour was (hooray, just ten minutes from departure) and a little about the two different tour options. I casually mentioned we were there celebrating our daughter's birthday and our day had almost been wreck by the car breakdown and how very happy I was that we arrived.

I asked him if they had military discounts and he said yes. Then he got a little crinkle of a smile on his face and said, "You know what I'm going to do today? You are going to go for free." Then he handed me three tickets, retail value about $65. The Man and I were both standing there stunned. We graciously and repeatedly thanked him. We could not believe it. People don't do things like that anymore do they??? These days you hear about people being fired for doing something kind like that for guests.

As we walked down the plank to the awaiting boat we just kept looking at each other in awe. We talked about every person we had crossed paths with since the car breakdown. Each and every one had gone above and beyond the call of duty to help us out on this special day. We had thanked each one repeatedly but I hoped deep down in my heart that each one would feel our gratitude in days to come and remember how much their kindness meant to our little family as they helped us save our little adventure for a dear, sweet little girl's birthday. I have been praying since then that each of these people will in some way feel the depth of our appreciation again and again. When I shared this experience with a friend she said, "Well God was really just trying to show off for you, wasn't He." I loved that sentiment. Sure something bad was happening but God surrounded us with angels who took care of everything.

Our day turned out fantastically. It was really special day for our little family. That night we left for home completely exhausted and so happy. I'll share more about it tomorrow. But I had to share about our angels first. I think it's important, in a world where there is so much anger, meanness and hardship for us all to see and know that there are still angels among us who will go out of their way to be kind and more helpful than they even need to be. Thank you to our angel at the tire shop, the transmission shop, the car rental agency and the tour boat ticket office. You will be long remembered.

11 March 2014

A Pin Test #21: Art Supply Caddy

This Pin Test is inspired by several different toilet tissue roll projects on Pinterest. After staring at a disorganized box of all shapes of pens, pencils and art supplies, I thought this was a fantastic idea. I don't know why but once we made these Halloween art projects with toilet paper rolls we ended up continuing to collect toilet paper rolls. So we had a big stack ready for this project.

First, let me share with you the inspiration projects. My favorite is this polkadot version by Capree at Curbly.com. There is also a Goodnight Moon version here. This one is a tiered system, cutting the toilet paper rolls in various heights to accommodate a variety of art supplies.

I used a box from one of the many holiday gifts that arrived at our house in December. I cut the top flaps off with scissors. Then decorated the outside with some pretty paper and a favorite wide ribbon. I apologize the ribbon looks a little weird in the photo. It was still a little wet with glue and I didn't have time to put off photographing it if I was going to get this posted. So lame but this is a real life blog, there's no fancy staff doing photo shoots here. Haha. Real life confessions. I am hoping that it dries and looks a little better.

Next I arranged the toilet tissue cardboard rolls in the box so that they fit tightly but were not so tight that they would crush each other. Then I started sorting out our junk pencil box putting colored pencils together in one roll, plain pencils in another. I also realized I would have a few shorter items, like glue sticks. So using some of the flaps I cut off the box, I cut a strip of cardboard about two inches high and wide enough to roll up and stuff in the bottoms of some of the toilet paper rolls. That way I created a few rolls with only partial depth so that I could put glue sticks, sharpeners and other items in that are between two and three inches tall and would drop to the bottom of the rolls and be impossible to see. Kid scissors fit into these tubes perfectly too, so this system really does work for a wide range of craft/art supplies.

The Bug was excited when I surprised her with this new way to actually be able to see her art supplies without rummaging through a box buried several inches deep with stuff. I can only imagine this will relieve a lot of frustration digging through that box to find things. It's so nice to be able to actually see what was inside that box finally.

Best of all I like that this home organization project didn't cost anything to make. I did not go to an expensive home organization store and spend twenty dollars on a plastic molded organizer. Yay! I already had all the supplies and it only took a few minutes to put together. Being able to DIY it at no cost is a big win. So this is another Pin Test win that I think would work for anyone. Everyone has writing instruments in their house. This way you can actually see them and find them quickly. It's not just for kids.

10 March 2014

Now Is My Time #10: Steadying My Boat

One of the big lessons I've been learning and learning over the past year or so is not to let other people's moods or behavior affect the steadiness of my own boat. It's so easy to allow exposure to someone else's bad mood or rude behavior put us in a bad mood which then spreads to others. Worse yet, is how easy it is to allow another's bad behavior to bring out bad behavior in ourselves. It's like a poison and unfortunately sometimes it totally feels justified when we allow ourselves to indignantly snap back at them.

You know what I'm talking about. You have an unpleasant interaction with someone else and your heart starts pounding, your jaw starts tensing up, your breathing becomes rapid and in your head you are quickly coming up with comment after comment you could spew back. Everything else in life fades away in this moment of crisis and it feels impossible to escape.

I am constantly feeling challenged to take the high ground in my life and to remain true to the person I want to be. I think this is part of the reason and meaning for our lives, to train and challenge ourselves to remain steady when the waves hit us whether that be other people's behavior or other hard times. I was on the beautiful Newport harbor this past weekend (I have stories to tell and will soon). There were boats of every size and variety and it got me thinking about being a steady person in the wake of waves. When one is paddling a kayak or canoe or driving a motorboat there are maneuvers that have to be made to ensure that waves do not capsize your vessel. The way you approach oncoming waves determines whether you'll be sunk by the waves or just lightly and momentarily tossed.

A skilled captain will turn the boat so that the waves have minimal impact rather than allowing the waves to swamp the vessel. I find many opportunities to do this in life too. Part of my Now Is My Time plan has been to focus in on managing myself in challenging situations. When negativity or ugly waves come my way, I want to turn my boat so that I break through the waves effectively and with grace rather than having the waves break over me and soak me. Much easier to deal with some overspray and a couple of bumps than to spend hours bailing out a boat or to find oneself sunk in the middle of a large body of water.

I am learning and getting a little bit better at not letting challenges and challenging people swamp my boat for an hour, a day, a week or more. It's easy to let that happen. But what a waste of our pretty time and life energy. When I experience such a negative energy, I have a few coping strategies I use. Sometimes I just get real about what I can and can't do in the situation. Then I do what I can do and let it go. It's can be tricky to be realistic and self-caring in a situation where others may attempt to guilt us into doing more than we should or need to do. Sometimes we just aren't able to help or we have to find a clear cut definition of what we can do without marginalizing ourselves and our own lives.

Sometimes I meditate and do breathing exercises to calm myself down. I try to address what I can do to assist, where I do or do not belong in the situation and then communicate that clearly and definitively. Other times it may be necessary to remove myself from the situation for a few minutes or even permanently.
I am learning that even when I can't physically remove myself from the situation I can remove myself mentally and emotionally. That might be by reading or doing some other relaxing activity for a few minutes in order to replace the negative energy with something positive. There is just no need to sit in ugliness one moment more than necessary.

The other GREAT challenge in this, at least for me, is to manage my own reactions. Keeping a civil tongue, being patient but straightforward, and maintaining one's own dignity are not always easy, especially when someone else is in your face doing just the opposite. But once we let ourselves down by giving up our own dignity, things can quickly dissolve into far worse interactions. Then we feel bad about ourselves and the situation and the other people involved. But boy, does it take a lot of restraint not to go for the easy strike, the unkind word, or the snarky tone when one is already getting it from another. I think this might be the equivalent of having an abdominal six-pack in the world of self-discipline fitness.

But it's worth it. I am in charge of my own boat, we all are, whether we want to be or not. How we allow others to rock that boat is up to us too. Steadying my boat and my emotional and physical reactions to stressful people or situations is totally under my control but takes a lot of fitness work to get there. I'm working on it now, but of course like all humans have my up and down moments.

What do you do when situations start to bring out your lesser self? Do you have strategies that work for you?

06 March 2014

One Bag: Simplicity One Day At A Time

Today was the first day of the 40 Bags In 40 Days project. I have to tell you there is an incredible private group on Facebook that is super gung ho and supporting each other on this project. Pretty amazing. It's amazing how many people have gone through really tragic circumstances that have led them to have a bit of a clutter problem. I find it amazingly inspiring to people pulling themselves up by the bootstraps in the lives as a result of this project. Just one small bag each day has become a gateway to monumental change and healing in their lives. It's beautiful to see people really stepping up to support each other in this group and creating such a positive energy.

I have gathered three grocery store size bags of thrift store donations from around the house the past couple of weeks. One item is a horrible pair of pants that I thought I loved. I haven't work them for a while, pulled them out and thought "These are the ugliest pants I've ever seen." They immediately went into the thrift store bag.

Monday night I stayed up late reconsidering how I am using our storage space. We have this somewhat ridiculous broom closet next to our ridiculously narrow and deep pantry in the kitchen. I remembered that night that I had built some very simple MDF shelves to fit inside the poorly organized kitchen cupboards at an apartment I lived at a few years ago. I realized for less than twenty dollars I could build three shelves that would fit perfectly in that lame little closet and then use it as extended food storage. The broom, mop and saved plastic bags can be easily moved to the front hall closet a few feet away. Wondering why I didn't think of this before. It's amazing that as organized as I have tried to live in this apartment, I keep finding ways I could use spaces so much more effectively.

I also ordered another over-the-door organizer to put on the door of the front hall closet. I realized it would be a great place to store all the cleaning supplies and laundry things. Bingo. Several shelves cleared and all that stuff out where we can see it and easily find it. Love it.

Last night for my first day of 40 Bags In 40 Days I cleaned out a three-shelf cupboard in the hallway to The Bug's room. I had been keeping small home decorating items, candles, vases, etc. in there. I also had a few of The Man's things I'd stuffed in there last year. I pulled everything out, Then I filled a bag of thrift store donations, put The Man's things together so he can go through them tomorrow and I put the things I am keeping in a box to find a new home for them. I knew it won't take much to find a small place to keep these things. They might fit into the craft dresser I will be cleaning out soon.

Now the three-shelf hall cupboard can store The Bug's toys. So out of sight. I am so happy about that. It will also relieve a lot of clutter in her room and in the living room. We will probably get a few small boxes or baskets to store the toys in inside the cupboard. Tomorrow we are going to go through the toys and thin them out. That is going to be a struggle to get her to let go of anything. Fingers crossed on that.

The other big project I tackled over the weekend was cleaning out my email inbox. I went from 56 pages of emails down to one page. I already had my folders all organized, but at some point I quit keeping up with it on a regular basis. That was exhausting. But now I'm committed not to let it get beyond three pages ever again. Whew.

If any 40 Bags folks visit, say hello in the comments below. Have a great day everyone!

image via mca

04 March 2014

Lent: Join 40 Bags In 40 Days Movement

image via

Okay, just writing about this is getting me excited. Apparently I'm ready to do more reorganization projects. I actually did throw out some stuff this past weekend. It's time to say goodbye to all the paper clutter that comes home from school and other paper that attacks desktops, counters and tables around here.

You may remember last year I did my 30-Day Home Reorganization Challenge. That one month turned into three but I did attack everything on my list and my house looked a lot better. That lasted for a while but now it's time again to wrangle everything back into shape. I am very excited about White House Black Shutters author Ann Marie's inspiration to fill forty bags in forty days with things you don't need. I love this idea and am totally going to jump on board. I love the idea of a bag every day and doing it together with an army of people doing the same.

So I'm going to jump on. Kick off day is tomorrow March 5 and the project extends through Saturday April 19.  Who's with me? Anyone else feeling the Spring Fever for reorganization projects? If you decide to join in let me know. You can follow Ann Marie on Twitter or Facebook and also join the closed Facebook page. If you are looking for other great organization ideas for Spring, check out my Organization Pinterest board.

03 March 2014

Now Is My Time #9: Sitting With Stress

As part of my Now Is My Time plan for this year, I have been working on reducing stress. After several years filled with some pretty big challenges, I am trying to dial down the stress and learn to manage stress better. It can be very easy to get used to existing in a heightened state of stress without realizing it. Slowing down to take our emotional temperature several times during the day or specifically when we start feeling anxious can help us understand what causes our stress and this gives us quiet time to sit and see what we can do to lower our stress and keep our stress levels low in general.

Meditation has been a big part of that effort. It really does help to calm the mind and body and to focus on positive things. Another thing that has helped is to make notes each time I start feeling stressed. You might like to do this too. You can ask yourself these questions:

  • What are you feeling?
    • Anxious, panicked, mad, frustrated, scared, regretful, tearful...?
  • Can you identify the source of your stress?
    • Finances, a relationship, employment, traffic, a bad hair day...?
  • How is it affecting (manifesting itself in) your body?
    • Stomachache, tight shoulders, headache, shaking, muscle twitches...?
  • What is the internal conversation you are having in your head?
    • Are negative messages running amok?
    • How can you turn your mental conversation around to a more positive one?
  • What can you do to help the situation? Is there some action you can take to resolve or improve it?
    • If yes, you can then make plans to take action.
    • If no, you'll need to look for coping skills to help you through it.
Taking time to recognize what I'm feeling and taking actions to help myself through it and beyond it has been incredibly useful over the past month or so. I have a small composition notebook I use to keep track of things. I now find that when I do feel stress, just knowing I can sit down and write about it and figure it out makes feeling stress so much less...well...stressful. I know I have a plan that works to get through it now.

So now when I feel my stomach start to tighten up or I start to feel a little anxious out of the blue, I stop myself, try to figure out what it is I'm feeling and what the source of that feeling is. Then I can work my way through what I can do or what I know is going to happen to work things out.

I'll give you a great example. Today on the drive back from school drop off, I started feeling a wave of anxiousness coming over me. That happens sometimes once the busy "get off to school" portion of the early morning is over and I have my first chance to take a deep breath and face my upcoming day. So I took stock of what's going on that made me feel stressed. I was able to identify three things I was feeling, all very unrelated but all a bit stressful.

Then I thought about what I can do about each of these situations. Two of them are waiting games, I have done everything I need to do and all action is in other people's hands now. I can pray and I can follow up with them but that is about all I can do. I have to just wait and let things work out. In the meantime, I can pray for peace, meditate for faith and trust that all will work out in our best interests.

The third item I have to begin today. It's a little scary only because I have no idea how it will all workout. But I can be prepared mentally, physically and emotionally to do my best and that is all I can do. To accomplish that I am taking some extra time this morning to prepare myself for today's activities. I will meditate, get my thoughts together and as always, say a prayer for peace and that the best will work out.

This only took a minute or less to walk through and I felt better because I felt more control over the situation as far as recognizing it for what it was and what I can do to help the situation and calm myself down. I was also reminded that God is with us in all we do and that he can bless us with peace and the right outcomes for us. That took away the fear and replaced it with more calm and confidence.

Stress doesn't feel nearly as scary when you have an action plan, a simple, calming one to help you through it. So much of what we suffer in life is the stress and fear associated with our life events. The worry is often more damaging to our body and mind than the actual events. Worry is bad for the body, it wears it out, breaks it down and weakens us. Extreme stress or trauma is also a very powerful cause for mental illness. Having a strategy to minimize the damage we do to ourselves with worry is a huge boon to our well-being and our daily happiness. I'm going to go meditate now...and write down this morning's successful walk through a few minutes of stress.

If you are interested in reading more about the Now Is My Time project you can find more posts here. Hope your day is going well. Sending you very best wishes for peace.
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