30 May 2014

A Fav Etsy Shop: Brittany Leigh Handwriting Jewelry

I have been in love with this charming jewelry idea I saw on Pinterest for quite a while. It might be because this handwriting looks incredibly similar to my own grandmother's handwriting...at least as far as I can remember it. It's very likely because this grandma and my grandma both grew up in the same era and were taught the same style of handwriting. Or...it's just an incredibly spooky coincidence...or my grandma had another secret family we don't know about. Ha.

Anyway I love this idea and wanted to share it with you. It the perfect way to carry a little talisman reminder of a loved one who has passed on or some other relationship you want to hold close to you.

You send in a copy of the writing sample and jewelry designer Brittany Isenberg, of Etsy shop Brittany Leigh Jewelry will create your handwriting sample into a piece of wearable art. I love very personal jewelry and this is such a fantastic idea.

Wouldn't this make such a wonderful gift to someone who has lost someone special? What would you have created for your own personalized charm? Who would you want to always hold close to you?

I have a Pinterest board dedicated to meaningful personlized jewelry. You can see it here.

28 May 2014

Passionately Using Spare Time

As part of my Now Is My Time initiative I've been trying to spend more time doing things that inspire me and make me happy. I haven't really blocked out big amounts of time for those things, but more often I've been making use of small moments of "spare" time.

Whenever I have any spare time or know I will be sitting waiting somewhere (like a doctor's office, the car during a long drive, waiting to pick someone up or meet someone, etc.) I try to think of how I can use that time to do something I'm passionate about. It's so easy to just numb out and let those bits and pieces of time slip through our fingers. But when I started adding up those bits of time they became a significant part of my week.

Lately I've been listening to inspiring talks and podcasts while driving. I arrive inspired and better for the time I sat in traffic instead of bitter and frustrated. I carry a small bag of books and a notebook with me when we make long drives and I am riding shotgun. I have a nice time thumbing through books filled with inspiring design photos, enjoy reading a great novel, or sketching out ideas that are floating around in my head. It makes the time go by so quickly -- and keeps me from being a "backseat driver." (Not that I would ever do that...wink.)

When plans get cancelled at the last minute, I think about how I can use that time I had blocked out to feed my passions. When plans changed suddenly a couple of weekends ago, we decided to make Saturday ART DAY and we chose three kinds of art we could do. We had such a great time that we only ended up doing one on Saturday and one on Sunday. We fed our creative souls and had a lot of fun. Such a great escape from normal routines too.

Sometimes I sit down at our keyboard and try to learn a simple song. Playing the piano is so calming to me now. Wish I'd done more with piano lessons growing up. (Every mother in America is saying "I told you so" right now. Sorry I didn't listen.)

Instead of just numbly turning on the TV I look for things that will help me feel and enjoy more the passion of my life. I'm enjoying things I bought for myself more: books, craft supplies, organizational tools, electronics, workout equipment, and all those good things we think we're going to use that can become just meaningless clutter if we don't use them.

I am also much more conscientious about how out family spends our bits and pieces of spare time. I want those moments to be meaningful. I am trying to encourage more time on our bed talking and listening, more thinking about and doing creative things, more local adventures (like our nighttime beach outing last week) and taking advantage of all the events for families in our area. I think this is making our family life a little more memorable.

I am really surprised at how much more I am enjoying life since I started making more deliberate and fulfilling decisions about how I use my time, even in five minute increments. The longer I live the more I continue to see that life's joys are in the in between times, the little moments.

What are your favorite ways to spend small segments of time? I'd love to hear. I am always looking for new ideas and as always learn so much from you.

27 May 2014

Now Is My Time #21: Learning To Ask For Help

As part of Now Is My Time 2014 there is a lot of self-exploration going on. One of the aspects of myself I have been pondering is my unwillingness to ask for help. I'm not sure if it is more because I don't want to put people out or if I don't want to look like I can't keep my stuff together. There's clearly more to discover there. I think sometimes I'm just afraid to feel stupid if I do ask and they can't or are unwilling to help. (Let's be serious though, how many times do people say "No I won't help you" in response to a sincere plea???) I had an experience that I wanted to share with you that taught me a great lesson about asking people for help.

I had been talking with my coach about this issue and specifically one time when I really blew it by not asking for help, even when someone very important was offering it to me, which meant he was going to help me get where I needed to go. But I was too embarrassed to go talk to him, so I didn't do it. Needless to say I am still in some respects paying for that dumb decision.

So after having talked briefly about this with Coach, I was working on a project where I knew it would be very helpful to contact some people "in the know" and get some help to move some paperwork forward with an opportunity I was interested in.

I knew right off the bat that there were people who could easily advise me on how to accomplish my goal. Despite my hesitation I reached out to one of them. She got back to me immediately and we missed our first pass at contact playing phone tag. I knew she was very busy and when I didn't hear back from her again, I wasn't upset in the least.

A day later my sister ended up at the same event as another person who could help me. So I asked her to mention my situation to this other person. My second helper immediately had my sister text me her contact info and asked me to call her in the morning. I was grateful, made a note of her contact info on my desk and then let a day go by.

By now I had finished all the needed paperwork and felt I had covered all my bases. I started to talk myself out of following up with her. I had everything done, there probably wasn't that much she could do for me at this point. So I very subtly started talking myself out of calling her, using very likely the same techniques I've been using for a lifetime.

I didn't want to bother her, she didn't really know me that well, maybe there wasn't really anything she could do, etc. I had also heard it might be too late for me to seek this opportunity I looking at, so there wasn't much point to doing anything more than just getting things in, just in case.

On the second day I had her contact information I sat staring at it on my desk and I remembered the conversation I'd had with my coach and how bad I was about asking for help. Right that moment I decided I was going to do it because I needed the experience, no matter what happened on the other end. I had to push myself through this silliness about not asking or receiving help even when offered.

So I practiced what I was going to say, hoping I could just leave a voicemail...because of course, again I didn't want to bother her by making her actually talk to me. (Seriously, what is wrong with me, haha. I'm so embarrassed at how dumb I can be sometimes. You'll overlook this won't you and still keep reading?)

She picked up right away and when I told her who it was she lit up. We talked for just a few short minutes and in that time she gave me an action plan of all that she was going to do for me including making a call to someone who would know all the details I needed. Super nice and way more than I ever expected.

Her response had "I'm so happy to help and so glad you called!" written all over it. Less than an hour later she was already back to me with follow up information to a contact who could take me to the next level. Wow!

When I contacted Helper #3, I didn't expect to hear much back for a day or two but before the end of the business day I already had a follow up from her in my inbox. The story of asking for help gets even better here. This woman I have never met, who doesn't know me at all went WAY beyond the call of duty and moved a couple small mountains for me and got me through doors that were already closed.

Neither of us knew if it would do any good but it was movement nonetheless. She apologized that there wasn't more she could do for me, but I was just beyond grateful at what big things she had done for me. Blown away.

That night I mailed a thank you card to both these women, knowing that the opportunity probably would not happen, but boy, did I learn a lesson about asking for help and how willing people are to help if you just have the courage to ask. Spurred on my these empowering lessons, I'm trying to do a lot better as asking for help and definitely will continue to remind myself of the regret I've felt when I haven't asked and of how very willing people have been to help if I would just ask.

Having such a successful experience has definitely encouraged me to keep pushing for my goals, but now with the understanding of how many people there are out there who are genuinely willing to help.

image via MCA

23 May 2014

Beach Bonfire: Crossing An Item Off The Bucket List


Had a fun day yesterday. I met a new friend early for a great two hour workout walk on the palisades. We had such a fun time getting to know each other. She is one of those people who comes into a new place and she's reaching out to people getting to know everyone instead of vice versa. She's great.

We had a nice time and she had her yummy baby with her, who is just so cute you can barely stand it. Such a sweetie pie. I mentioned to her that later in the evening we were crossing off a bucket list item, having our first beach bonfire picnic. You might wander why when we go to the beach so often we have never done this. Most beaches in our area do not allow fires, so you have to drive some distance to a beach where you can build a fire. My friend asked where we were doing it and said she'd always wanted to do that. So I said let's cross it off our bucket lists together. Come with us.

She and her husband and baby did come and along with one our very favorite couples we gathered at the beach last night. It was a little hectic getting there with the pre-holiday rush hour traffic but we made it in fine time, got the fire going and started roasting bacon wrapped hot dogs and corn-on-the-cob and set out watermelon, chips, veggies and homemade ranch dressing. It seemed like most of us had had a busy day and were a little tired so the food seemed to taste extra delicious.

We got cozy, had a lot of laughs and had a really nice time. For dessert we had gourmet S'mores with candy bar variations. Super delicious and one of my favorite treats. Even with all the experimenting I came to the realization that I like the original milk chocolate, marshmallow and graham crackers version best. Mmm, yum.

It was the perfect first beach bonfire party and I am quite certain it will not be the last. Now that we have the fixings for beach parties organized I am sure we will keep doing more of it. I have been having thoughts of fun groups of friends we could gather with there for family night activities and fun during the summer.

It was so lovely to spend the evening doing one of those Southern California activities I've always wanted to do. It's all part of my Now Is My Time initiative to really enjoy living in this area and try to see every inch of its fun and beauty. So far this year we've done several of these new adventures and I am so happy about it. It was a great start to the holiday weekend!

Have you crossed anything fun off your bucket list lately? Do you have something you're working towards now? Hope you in the U.S. have a fantastic holiday. Happy weekend to all.

20 May 2014

Nutritious Dinners: Main Course Salads


With all the heat we've been experiencing we've been craving fewer large meals and we've been doing a lot more foraging small snacks throughout the day. I have been avoiding turning on the oven at all costs because we just don't need more heat. So dinners have been a little interesting the past couple of weeks.

I have been wanting to help my family become salad lovers. They eat lots of salad but the idea of salad being the main course on the table just hasn't sat well with them so I haven't done it. After reading a healthy living magazine at the gym while I was cycling as fast as I could and climbing pretend mountains on a treadmill I got really inspired that last night was the night to make it happen. We had a very nice little grocery shop on Saturday night so the fridge is full of yummy stuff that would make a fantastic salad. I schemed it all out on my way home.

When I got home and was immediately asked what was for dinner, I didn't get much enthusiasm when I said Spinach Salad with Chicken. But I tried to up the excitement with the idea of homemade Ranch Dressing, garlic toast and watermelon on the side. Plus, I said we have berries and angel food cake for dessert! Still I kept getting requests from the little one "can we change the menu?" Oh, the adversity.

But I pressed forward anyway. I made a big beautiful salad with spinach, carrots, tomatoes, homegrown green pepper, onion, cranberries and mandarin oranges. I would've loved to have some jicama to add with it. It was a bold array of colors and by the time I put the chicken on top I couldn't wait to dive into it.

By now I had also gotten two thumbs up on the Ranch Dressing even though I wasn't loving it. Too much dill, too much olive oil. But I hoped if I let the flavors meld for a while in the fridge that maybe it would be okay. I'm using Greek yogurt for all my dressings by the way.

While I was making dinner, The Man was on the other side of the kitchen making his super power smoothie. When I say other side of the kitchen, imagine him about six inches away. It's a small galley kitchen. His smoothies are insanely healthy, they now have at least 10 ingredients and they taste good. It's like eating a days worth of vegetables in one 12 ounce glass. Good stuff. I want to start doing one of these for meals, breakfast or lunch. Just waiting in the fridge it makes the whole "what am I going to have for breakfast (or lunch)" much easier.

Once we sat down together at the table, it was covered with delicious, healthy food that was so beautiful, colorful and fresh looking. At this point all commentary on salad for dinner stopped and everyone was just excited to fill their plates with food. We piled salad high, passed around hot garlic bread and watermelon and found the new dressing to taste pretty good on the many kinds of vegetables. Soon everyone was devouring the delicious, flavorful meal. Dinner was amazing because we took hold of nature's bounty and it fed us well.

I think we've crossed over into Saladville and I'm looking forward to a summer full of great fresh fruits and vegetables. I think the family, especially the little one, now realizes that they can trust that I am going to put a delicious meal on the table that they will like. Just because I switch up the menu it is not cause for concern or need to campaign to go back to regular favorites. I am glad I was not swayed by the initial lack of excitement. Now my next job is to come up with a bunch of fun, different salads. I'm excited to take our healthy eating to a new level with a few less carbs and more protein and a lot more vegetables and fruit.

So my question for you is, what fun things do you put on green salads? I need more ideas.

image via MCA

19 May 2014

Now Is My Time #20: Serving Others

One of the goals for reordering my life this year has been to have more time to do more for others outside of our home. As busy and crazy as things have been the past few years I just have not been able to do this as much as I like to. Last week I decided to take some time and put some little treats in the mail for a few friends.

I like to make little festive garlands and we usually have one on our mantle of some sort and there are a couple on bookcases around the house. I make mine from paper and try to find something seasonal and down to earth to whip up. Since Memorial Day and all the fun patriotic holidays are coming up I had the idea to make tiny red, white and blue garlands for friends. I made these quite a bit smaller than the type I usually make which are about four inches long by three inches wide. These were about an inch-and-a-half wide by two inches long. I was really feeling the tiny simplicity of this size.

I spent a couple of hours making them because it took time to figure out what I could do with stuff I already had on hand and I was being regularly interrupted with family stuff. But once I got four made I put one on my own work space and then carefully folded the other three up and put them in envelopes addressed to my three friends.

I made very simple cards out of pink card stock using silver and gold sharpie pens to create crazy geometric designs on the front. This was little nod to the geometric graphics trend that I am so not a part of. I thought I'd try and step into it and just see what it feels like. And it felt okay and was a little fun. I'll never go full bore geometric, but it was fun to play with it.

Inside I just wrote a very quick note saying this was just a little treat for the summer holiday season and wishing them a good week. I mailed them off on Friday night and yesterday I had already from two of the friends with sweet thank yous. So kind of them. I was so happy that they liked them and will enjoy using them.

I've been thinking about a lot of people around me who could probably just use a thumbs up now and again. A little "hey I think you're awesome" or "I see all the hard work you're putting into your family and think you're amazing" or "I hope you know that I see your life is hard right now and I am praying for you."

There is a little family at my church who I barely know who I have been praying for after seeing a few signs that they are having a hard time. My heart hurts for them and I really want God to bless them. I've been praying for them a lot and it got me wondering how often we have people praying for us when we have no idea or may not really even know them. I like that thought. I want to be someone who sees other's needs and includes other in my prayers more.

I love that I have a good friend who tells me what she is going to pray for on my behalf after we talk. She's amazing. This is a season for me to put down some of our old burdens and think more about others and be able to step out a little more and do more for people around me. I've been able to do a few other things in the past few weeks and it feels good....so good.

I can't wait to create my next opportunity to do something small and sweet for someone near me. This is part of my nature, part of who I am and Now Is My Time means that I make sure that the giving part of me is being fed too. Building relationships with others through service was the topic of one of the talks at our church yesterday. I love that concept and I know it's true. 

I feel closer and more loving to others when I serve them. I am enjoying the new and deeper friendships I am making by trying to give, love and serve others. The opportunity to do small acts of service seems to flow back in blessings to me faster than I can finish a project.

16 May 2014

New Art: Our View Of The World


I had to share this new art piece we just acquired a few weeks ago that we are all kinds of excited to frame. I am hoping to get it done in the next few days. It's a map of the world drawn on a restaurant napkin by none other than The Bug.


There are so many things we love about this drawing. First, the story behind it. I had the audacity to go to dinner with The Bug and my parents at a restaurant that did not have coloring materials for kids. This did not sit well, she was highly displeased with our restaurant choice. I wasn't too impressed either in the end, although this place had all the trappings of "this is a little hideaway restaurant that has been around forever that had been loved by generations."


I really should have learned my lesson after this other recent bad experience. Never let a very busy restaurant in a small town fool you into thinking the food is going to be down-home and delicious. It might just be all those people know....and be disgusting. Even the chips and salsa did not impress. I mean seriously that is the one thing you can always depend on at a Mexican restaurant!


Anyway, out of sheer desperation she asked if I had a pen and whipped out her napkin and cranked out this world map at the table in just a few minutes. My parents and I were sitting there a little stunned at how fast and more than reasonably accurate it was. She asked for no help spelling anything so some of the big words are misspelled. She was relaxed and a little distracted and misnamed a few things she does know.


The imperfections only made it better. We fell in love with it and I lovingly protected it all the way home. The next day I went through my frame collection and found a black foam core I could mount it to and a back frame that made it pop. When I had a chance to show it to The Man he loved it too and we were both convinced that this needed to be art in our home.

I get a smile on my face every time I see it.

15 May 2014

Waldorf Inspired Watercolor Painting


I've been wanting to do a post on the watercolor inspiration I have gotten from a very brief amount of study of Waldorf School art instruction. I have a couple of books from there and when I started a children's art program in my home years ago, I used these as my basis for watercolor experimenting.


Lately I've been pulling out my paints and experimenting again with colors at play. I love the color orange as you well know by now and I've enjoyed playing with red and yellow to achieve varying gradients of orange in a variety of ways. In this painting above I lifted different sides of the wet painting to allow the colors to meld together in their own way. It was fun to see it create what looks like a tree-lined path. In the painting at the top of the post, it was very much inspired by the time I was painting, sunset. I love the simplicity and the depths of color I was able to achieve in both.

Stockmar Premium Quality Watercolor Paint Basic Assortment, 6 Colors
image via Amazon

Let me tell you about the paints I use because they are the best watercolors I've ever used and give you a lot of control over intensity of color. They are made by Stockmar and only come in the reds, yellows and blues -- primary colors. This is meant to teach students how to mix and blend more colors but it can be frustrating to someone wanting to make something they would need to add black or white to in order to get the hue they want.

These small tubes are expensive, about $50 for these small six bottles but I bought this pack once and am still using the originals I bought years ago. The paint comes as a concentrated paste so you take some from the tube and dilute it with water to get the consistency you want. Mixing a small amount of paste and water in baby food jars is a great way to keep the paints fresh for a long time. If you refrain from stirring the bottles up when you're painting you can get deep dark colors at the bottom of the jar and lighter, more watery colors at the top of the jar.

image via Amazon

Here is a great book on teaching children watercolor through story telling, moods and seasons. I used this book in my teaching and it works well for kids to awaken their creativity Painting with Children by Brunhild Muller is a great book for beginner watercolor instruction and inspiration. Painting in Waldorf Education by Bruin and Lichthart is all about the use of painting in the Waldorf philosophy.

image via Amazon

My philosophy as a children's art program founder was to inspire children to keep their creative self alive and thriving. Children are very young when they begin to try to mimic others and give up their own ways of expressing their creativity. By the time we're adults we think we have no creative bones in us at all and very often have to be retaught creative thinking that we freely had as children. 

Adults can become very dependent on instructions, visual examples and a teacher's opinion, rather than cranking out art piece after art piece in quick succession with no hesitation like a three or four year old child will do. One of the reasons I like to make so many different things is just to challenge my mind to think in a variety of ways, solving problems and figuring out how things will play together. Lately I've been very conscious of doing a variety of things and I think it's been good for me creatively.

If you're interested in teaching your children to watercolor or to take your own watercolor adventures I would highly recommend these resources. I'm going to keep playing with my colors and see what happens as I keep tearing out fresh pages our of my watercolor paper pad, wetting them down and painting wet on wet. I'll keep sharing what I come up with.

14 May 2014

Taking Time To Make Something

Hi friends. I hope you are well. It's toasty here in SoCal these days...again. We're eating popsicles and light meals. I haven't really made a serious dinner this week because we're just too hot. I can't even imagine turning on the oven this week. Last night I made light tacos and a lot of fruit and veggies. Today again I cut up a bunch of veggies and made a quick Greek yogurt dip and warmed up some leftover sandwiches from Sunday night. Later we had quesadillas and salsa.

It seems like this week has been and will be taken up by a lot of appointments and other commitments. We've had a lot going on lately for everyone in the family. It takes a lot of time and energy for everyone to get off to their appointments and for us to schedule everything around those. Whew. It's a challenge to get much else done when you're just scheduling all these things, let alone getting to them.

I have been trying to take a few minutes here and there to do some creative things and take some breaks. In the past few days I've had a nice walk on the beach, done some meditation, taken a nap or two and made time to make a few little things.

Last night after dinner I pulled out the jewelry making supplies and with The Bug spent about an hour experimenting with things. I first made the gold and green bracelet above which I really like. I wanted to make a few smaller beaded bracelets to go with it, but didn't have quite the right thread. So I made the wood and green bead bracelet that I could put with it or with other beaded bracelets I have. It's nice to have a mix. It's already been two years since I did my first posts on stacking bracelets for summer. There is also a follow up post on DIY stacking bracelets and wrap bracelets from last summer. When it's bare arm season I love having a mix of bracelets to throw on as I head out the door.

Yesterday I also made three small red, white and blue garlands with red and white baker's twine. I put them in the mail to friends, from a small group I belong to, after making three handmade cards to go with them. I was experimenting with pink card stock and a gold and silver sharpie and reaching out of my comfort zone on geometric card designs. But it was fun to try something really different that doesn't totally feel like my style.

Sunday I took an hour or so and did some watercolor painting. I'll share those in a follow up post tomorrow. I am learning how to quickly pull out supplies, make something enjoyable and relaxing and then quickly put everything away. Having things well organized and in proper storage containers really helps. I have a jewelry making drawer and everything is right there. It comes out, I make, it goes back in. Same with the watercolor and paper crafting supplies.

It's good to remember that it doesn't take a lot of time to make a little something enjoyable and usable. I have a couple of new bracelets to throw into the summer mix thanks to a little time tonight. I sent out three little treats that I hope will be well received by friends while taking a break from computer work. While I waited for my family to come home on Sunday night I had time to pain.

Sometimes I make things to relax my mind and get away from the busy-ness of life. Sometimes I make gifts. Other times I use it as a way to collect my thoughts and regroup when I feel like I've lost my focus. I like knowing that I have at close hand supplies to make many different things and that it doesn't take a huge time commitment to step away and be a maker of things for a while. It's another part of me that I need to feed and keep alive. My making inspires me and energizes me. Like a nap, snack or walk around the block, a few minutes of making refreshes and rests the body and mind.

What do you like to make when you need to change gears? Are you able to quickly transition into and out of crafting time? I'd love to hear how you make "making" work for you.

12 May 2014

Now Is My Time #19: Four Month Progress Report


It's been four months since I kicked off Now Is My Time, a personal initiative to focus on taking great care of myself this year and giving myself every opportunity I can to grow and have more joy in life.

It's been a epic year so far. I have learned so much in my exploratory journey. My coach has helped me to see my life through a different lens. I feel much more able to look at my life and see it in new ways that are more helpful to me, more kind to myself and more energizing. I thought I'd share a few things that I have either learned or have come into clearer perspective since I started Now Is My Time 2014.

1. I've recognized that a lot of things I've judged myself harshly for in the past I had no control over. I was carrying around guilt and metaphorical rocks in my backpack about things that weren't my responsibility to make happen or to fix. What a nice relief!

I did the best I could do in the situation, with good intent every time. You never know enough to make perfect decisions and even if you could that doesn't mean everything would always work out the way you want or think it should.

2. I've learned to separate myself from the emotions of some situations in my life, look at them practically and make choices that best serve who I am and my gut instincts. That means that I do what I think is right overall in the situation, not what I think others will want, or something that doesn't serve me as well as everyone else.

3. I am continuing to learn to be diligent about self-care. I have learned that when we are taking care of ourselves conversations about how exhausted we are, how frustrated we are, how busy we are, how we don't have time for ourselves go out the window. God gave us this body and this life to manage. Everything else is external. Our job is to make the most of this creation he gave us stewardship over. When we put others first all the time we greatly disrespect His gift. The health of our body, mind and soul suffers.

For me self-care is about scheduling my time to do things that bring me joy, about feeding my soul and my body a healthy diet, saying no sometimes, drinking enough water, getting enough sleep, and removing myself from situations where I am getting too worn out.

4. I am learning to hone my voice. I used to be a big conflict avoider. Not so much anymore, but this year I feel a new confidence that I have learned how to deal with conflict in an upfront, empowered way that makes me feel comfortable. I have found ways to stop situations I feel are inappropriate, I have rejected commentary that I believe is ill-informed or unhelpful, and I have listened to my own truth before listening to others opinions. I am learning to use my unique voice and take a stand more often, and very importantly, to do it in my own way.

5. I have made a regular habit of taking time for myself. I meditate, I meet with friends, I find quiet alone time, I plan little adventures. I read more, I take time to look at favorite books and magazines, I write. I'm on chapter twenty of a novel I started writing last year that I love. Whether anything comes of it, it's a fantastic journey and I love slipping away for an hour or two into the world of my writing.

And guess what? Taking that time for myself has not caused me to fall down on the job in my duties to home and family and my life. I prioritize better when I know I can do something I love. I am happier when I take care of myself and my family likes me better I think when I am more energized and lively and less tired, pale and rundown.

6. I have become more comfortable in my skin. I am so much more at ease with myself. If things bother me I have learned skills to quickly figure out what the problem is, how I want to proceed in resolving it or how to just let it go. I am more forgiving and accepting of myself. I see more the good things I strive to do every day rather than focusing too much on the wee little things that might not go as smoothly as I'd hoped or that I didn't get quite right. That's a big journey to give yourself real acceptance. But man, does it feel good.

7. Loving myself more allows me to be more generous and understanding of others. I am able to acknowledge that I am doing the best I can and I am doing a lot of really great things. We all are. We all have our weaknesses and challenges in life. When I am kind and gentle with myself I have more of that to extend to those around me. I have more energy to offer acceptance, love and kindness to my fellow human beings. When we are mean and judgmental of ourselves we tend to take that out on other people.

8. I am more relaxed. After several very intense years filled with nearly constant challenges I needed to dial down my stress level. We had been in crisis-mode for so long and I realized I really needed to turn it off or down or something! While life is still full of some pretty big challenges I think my heart rate and anxiety level have plummeted to much healthier levels. I would say it's been a well-rounded attack on that front: exercise, more sleep, better perspective, meditation, etc. It's also been very conscious because I did not want to have my stomach in knots every day. So happy to not feel like that all the time any more.

9. I have more energy. My energy level has gone up so much. I do a lot of things every week. But I also try to be very conscious of my energy. If I'm feeling great I go for it and do all I can that I want to do. If I can feel it's a lower energy week, I let it be just that. I think my friend Kelly for teaching me that it's okay to go with the flow of your body. Life is really fun during the high energy weeks, I sneak in a lot of things that make me happy. When it's a lower energy week, I find it every restorative to slow down, nurture self and rest more.

I'm also sneaking in sleep where and when I can. That may mean I take a nap as soon as I get back from school drop off for a while. Other times I might sneak a nap before dinner time. A rested me is a better, happier me so I think it's also really a gift for my family for me to rest whenever I can and need to.

10. I am enjoying life on a much higher level. I can feel I am more able to enjoy my life because I am doing more things that make a happy life. I am cutting back in areas where I don't need to push, strive or try as hard and putting that energy into places that are of higher priority and make my life and my family's life better. I am embracing self-care and being more present for happy, peaceful moments -- not thinking about what I "need to" or "should" be doing. I know that where I am at is what I should be doing and I try to be in that moment. I am more relaxed, more positive, look sunnier, feel like I have more to offer myself and others, and feel more positive about every day. I like myself and my life a lot more and nothing much has changed externally. Instead it has been internal things, my perspective, how I choose to control the use of my time and my attitude that have so powerfully altered my life. Good stuff.

The year is already one-third over, which is really hard to believe. But as far as I've come in the first four months, I am really excited to see what I'll be able to achieve in the next eight months of my Now Is My Time year. It's clear to me that focusing on my well-being has taken nothing away from any other part of my life. It has only enriched it all. Choosing to make this year my Now Is My Time year has been one of the best decisions I have ever made.

Want to get caught up on the Now Is My Time initiative? Want to join in? It's not too late. You can find all the posts here.

07 May 2014

The Power of "I'm Sorry" & "Maybe We Can Reboot"


Let me introduce you to our very first home grown lemon. It's been five years in the making and we just picked it yesterday. I felt like we needed to have a ceremony when I picked it, but no one else in the family was quite as  excited it as I was. But once I cut that baby open I couldn't keep them away.

The scent was amazing. Hours later I could still smell its sweetness on my hands. We were all inhaling the scent from the rind after I has squeezed all the juice into our lemonade drinks. There was not a seed to be seen in either lemon, nothing but delicious, sweet, tart juice. It was amazing. I thought that lemons would also be a great visual for the today's post. It's all about keeping things from going sour in the home.

I've had some interesting family interactions recently I thought I would share that have been pretty impactful. It's amazing how little things can have a big power over situations staying relatively calm or escalating into worse situations. Sometimes it takes just a little thing to turn a bad start in a much better direction.

First I have to say that I have really seen the power a simple "I'm sorry" can have a big impact in our family. It's human nature for us all to want to be defensive and stand our ground even if it's over something totally not important. Yesterday I got a couple of very simple, "I'm sorry" comments that I really appreciated and that were very meaningful to me. They were over pretty small things but they still meant a lot to me.

It meant that we could slow down a conversation that might be leading to frustration and hurt feelings which could bring actions that would only make things worse. It reminded me just using the phrase "I'm sorry" can be so powerful in so many ways in our home and we probably don't say it enough.

It doesn't mean we're weak or bad or that we should feel awful. Sometimes it means, "Hey I regret what I just said" or "Ooops, that wasn't how I wanted that to go." Little sorry statements said early in a situation can easily make larger, more dramatic "I'm sorry" situations obsolete.

Other times a sorry can just mean, "Man, I'm really sorry that happened to you. You don't deserve that." So often when people are frustrated and complaining I find that the best thing to say it, "I'm sorry that happened to you. I know you're hurting/frustrated/upset, etc." It helps to curb the complaining once they feel they are heard and that someone understands what seems so unfair to them. It reminds them that we all experience frustrations and somehow sets them free to move forward.

Another really power line I somehow magically came up with that worked wonders last week was "Can we reboot?" The morning has started out poorly and I was disappointed in how things were going after high hopes that it was going to be a really good day together. So I decided to step out for a while and before I left I expressed my disappointment in how the day was going so far, the nice things I had hoped for the day and then I asked, "Maybe we can reboot when I get back?"

That stopped the situation in its tracks and turned it around completely. Everyone realized the day wasn't what they wanted either and that they had wanted what I had wanted. Within minutes apologies had been made and we were on our way out to lunch, happy as clams. We all knew what we wanted wasn't what we were having and we realized we could reboot and change it completely. It turned out to be a really lovely day full of all the exact things I had wanted, but without a reboot it wouldn't have been possible.

Sometimes holding the power button down for ten seconds to shut the family machine off is exactly what's needed to reboot the day to a better path. The metaphor of a reboot is something this computer generation can understand. It is non-confrontational and within minutes things can be up and running in a much better way. I am going to keep using that as a term for our family when we need to stop and restart situation. It seems to work wonders.

Managing the emotional temperature of our homes (not to mention ourselves) is a daily, ongoing work. Finding a few little tips and tricks to keep the temperature calm and communication and family interactions positive can make a world of difference. When we create a language that speaks to the way our family works we make life easier for everyone in the family and home a much more pleasant way to be.

Do you have buzz phrases that work wonders at your house? Are there situations you want to try to diffuse?

06 May 2014

Fun Finds At Home Goods For Summer

I'm not sure if I should love The Man more or have his head examined when he takes back a bunch of things he bought at Marshalls and then gives me the gift card with all the funds on it. That was pretty darn nice of him. I'll tell you right now I would never give him my gift cards, lol. I hoard and scheme over how to spend a gift card like nobody's business. Haha. I think he gives them to me because he knows he would lose them and losing good money drives him crazy. I love a good gift card.

Friday I had to run him to the airport and because he was running a little late, there was some question as to whether he'd make his flight. So I told him I would just stay in the neighborhood around the airport for a bit just in case he needed me -- knowing there is a BIG Home Goods & TJMaxx store just a few blocks away. Heehee. The perfect place to wander for a while even if I was in yoga pants, with my hair in a bun and no make up on. At least I have a little sun on my cheeks already this Spring. (I was planning to drop him off and head straight home for a nap after being up most of the night working on a project.) Humorously I ran into a friend who had a newborn who was there in similar attire with no makeup on either so that was comforting.

Anyway, I blew it and didn't have my gift card with me, but I had a good look around while texting back and forth with The Man on his current status several times during the hour. It's been a long time since I shared some favorite Home Goods finds and while it's tough to get a good photo in there sometimes I'm sure you'll get the ideas.

Loved this green and ivory hued mirror. The shell decoration is lovely and I like the variations around the square mirror. I can think of a bunch of places I could use this. It would be really beautiful on a dark wall or in a completely different way in a simple little beach cottage. I noticed while editing this photo that right corners are damaged. I bet there is some kind of easy DIY fix that could be done on those.

These two lamps have beach cottage written all over them. I also think they would be lovely in a 70s style modern ranch home. The glass is just gorgeous. It might even be fun to do a little something to spice up the shades.

This seems like it would be perfect in a Southwestern or farm-inspired home. I think it would fit in so beautifully in the homes I've stayed in in Albuquerque or maybe a mountain cabin. I love the power and prowess this canvas exudes. Big and beautiful.

Now that I think about it, this would be really awesome to have behind a desk in an office, wouldn't it? It exudes that perfect sense of "we're making things happen here," "I'm a beautiful force to be reckoned with" and "don't get in the way of progress."


Sometimes you need a good tall table lamp and this fits the bill perfectly. I love the modern simplicity. It's a good statement piece that doesn't need to have all the attention on itself. Would be so nice on a tablescape layered with a lovely tray maybe, bright green plant(s) or some big shells. Love the flexibility with this beauty.

Nothing about my interior style right now says French or vintage, but I loved the bright green color of this lamp. Somebody needs this...in their vintage-y or French-y home. Grab it.

This photo is so blurry, even with editing. Forgive me and imagine me trying to slyly stand around trying to get the photo while women keep coming and standing right there and I'm feeling rushed and a little on the spot. But this collection of blue pots was so eye-grabbing. I bought one quite similar to the dark blue, white and light blue patterned pot on the top left for the big Jade start our friend gave us a few weeks ago. I'll have to show it to you soon. This collection of pots makes me melt. P.R.E.T.T.Y.

I though this multi-colored pot would be perfect for the lovely 70s ranch style house I carry around in my dreams every day. The house with the high, exposed beams, white walls, floor-to-ceiling windows. It would do quite well with a small tree in it, somewhere near a sofa or chair. The dream house in my head looks quite a lot like this.

So thanks for taking a wander through Home Goods with me. I am never disappointed when I spend a few minutes adventuring there. Oh and to finish my story, The Man did make his flight, thank goodness. I'd say the morning was a Win-Win and my next visit to Home Goods with gift care in hand is going to be awesome.

I have a good idea what I'm going to spend the money on. We need two new pots. I will confess to wrecking a few good pots over the past couple of years thanks to a gas stove that have two settings "6,000 degrees" and "flame just went out." But such is life. Some day I'll have a super awesome gas stove that actually has meaningful temperature settings. But this might be the perfect opportunity to toss out some pans that are in bad shape and get something new. I think that is a go.

05 May 2014

Now Is My Time #18: Turning Failure Into "Good Job You!"


I mentioned in last week's Now Is My Time post that I am removing the word "failure" from my vocabulary. I've been thinking about this word and events that are easy to dump under this heading. It seems to me that so often things we consider failures are really just moments where we were brave and took a big risk and things just weren't meant to work out the way we hoped. We didn't fail. It just didn't happen as we'd hoped. But it doesn't mean we blew it.

Where would we be in life if we were afraid to take risks. We would never have learned to walk because we might fall down, we would never have had the courage to go off to kindergarten or learn to ride a bike. A lot of amazing things have happened because we chose to be brave...and them sometimes we've been brave and things haven't worked out.

It seems we humans need to be able to pin a reason on why things don't work out. Sometimes we just can't do that, especially in situations where other people and their actions and sometimes their baggage influence the situation. Having a few good blanket statements we can turn to for why things didn't work out as we wanted is a way to comfort ourselves. They empower us to move on -- instead of getting stuck in the "failure" equation. The failure equation leads to a lot of over thinking, meanness and blame towards ourselves or others or both, it leads to fear and often an inability to move forward in life.

Here are a few great comfort statements:

It wasn't mean to be right now.
That person could not be there for me in the way I had hoped right now.
There is something better coming.
God knows better than I do what I need right now and going forward.
I am not able to be in that place or be who I need to be for that situation right now and that is okay.
Taking care of my well-being is the best use of my energy right now.
The lessons I have learned are preparing me for future success.

Notice none of those statements include anything resembling the following:

If only I had tried harder it would've been okay
I can't do anything right.
Everything I try fails.
Bad stuff always happens.
I wrecked the best thing that has ever happened to me.
I am a failure as a ____________. (fill in the blank with any title under which you operate: friend, employee, girlfriend, wife, mom, daughter, etc.)

So what do you think, can we throw out failure from our vocabularies and start saying "Good job you!" instead? Can we celebrate our bravery and courage to take risks in our lives and for being brave enough reach for things that seem good. We could all use a little less meanness toward ourselves and a lot more kindness and understanding.

My goal for Now Is My Time this week is to tear up any signs of the word "failure" in my life and start building more signs that say "Good job you!" I'm challenging you today to toss out one thing you've considered an embarrassing failure that haunts you. Turn it around to "Lady/Mister, you were awesome just for having the courage to try!" Let's celebrate our courage.

02 May 2014

Elfa Work Space Update: Three Years Later

I've been working from my work space a lot lately and that had me thinking that it would be a great time to do an update on what has worked and what I've changed in the past three plus years. Can't believe it's been more than three years already.

I also like that though because it also means it's been three-plus years since I was so very, very sick and lost my hearing on one side for several months. I had an infection that used to be very often fatal and it was pretty scary there for a bit. So glad to have that past me, although I still get worried when I get sinus infections or any discomfort in my left ear or in my neck. That was definitely one of the hardest, scariest times I've had in my life. The bitter pill to swallow was having to accept that I am not invincible. Haha. But gladly I took some good life lessons from that time which have guided me since.

While I was recuperating from the illness I started working on a plan to create a work space in my bedroom. Working with an Elfa Designer at The Container Store, we came up with a wall design that would fit my space and still leave room for a chair between the bed and desk. The Elfa Designer was so great to ask me lots of questions about how I used the space and what I wanted to include. I took home an initial drawing and then after some thought and laying it out in the room I came back with a good list of really useful features I wanted my space to have.

I wanted room for magazine file boxes, books, magazines, craft supplies and a TV. Below it I wanted room for a bulletin board, lamps, a printer, my paper cutter and some less visible storage.

I have to say this space has worked out fantastically. It still puts a smile on face (most of the time unless there is too much paper on top of the desk top!) I love the colors I chose, the shelving pattern, and the measurements we worked out for everything have worked extremely well. I've shuffled the books and decor around maybe once of twice a year just to change up what I see everyday. I moved the air purifier to another bookshelf across the room. It sits on a low shelf, quite out of site now and it's no longer right next to the open window. It works out that it sits just below the bed height so it does it's work right where we sleep and spend most of our time in the room.

I also dumped the ribbon boxes which never worked that well. Also gone are the satellite/dvr boxes now that we've said goodbye to pay TV. Oh, and the printer is gone. It was never a great printer and I'm not sure it even lasted two years. Of course it died the day after I put $100 of new ink into it, which meant that I couldn't return the ink and get my money back or get any use of it. Sigh. But I'm in the market for a new printer. It's great to have one close. Right now I'm walking across the house every time I need one because the wireless ain't so great on our other printer either. Printers are just one of those things, like cars that seem to be an endless cost and point of frustration.

I am really glad that I took my time through the planning stages of this project to think about what I really wanted and needed and what would be practical and yet beautiful to me. I think we went through three planned drafts before we finalized things. The Elfa Designer was so great about explaining everything, asking great questions and giving me super smart suggestions.

My work space would not be anywhere near as useful or well organized as it is without his help. I was stunned at how quickly he could do that math and figure out what pieces I needed from big plank shelves to the numbers of screws. I am not somebody who generally goes to splurge on something like this or who uses design services generally but I'm glad I did. I'm glad I made the investment of time and money. I certainly have gotten my monies worth in use. I also purchased this unit during the annual 30% off sale, so that took a big chunk of change off the price.

If you are anything like me, you might be wondering how such a unit fares in earthquake country. I can tell you I have never had a problem. I was a little worried about the contents of the top shelf flying across the room and landing on the bed, but I put a full layer of grippy shelf liner across the entire shelf and now that we've been through some earthquakes I can tell you that nothing is moving up there at all.

Another question you might be wondering about is installation. It really is just one track hung across the ceiling with screws and then everything attaches into slots and hangs off of that track. The Man installed my top track. In the old days I would've just done it, but when there's a man around to help, I'm not going to be a fool and reject his offer for help! This unit is great for a rental because there is very little wall damage and it's at the top of the wall. It will be easy to putty over the holes and repaint so that they aren't noticeable when we leave.

This Elfa work space is also something that I can very easily take with me to a new place. It's so versatile it could work in just about any room in the house - and of course I can add to it with a few newly purchased pieces or reconfigure all of it that I currently own. It's super flexible.

I am looking forward to the day when my work space/writing area isn't right at the foot of my bed to be stared at from my pillow. But while we're housing three very independent and active people's lives in this small apartment I'm so glad and lucky for the space, especially in a rental. This was definitely one of those times in my life where I am so glad I splurged. It really wasn't a splurge at all in the end, it was a super smart, practical purchase that has given me my own work space and a little corner of the apartment to call my own.

Here are a few more details about the work space. Sending you best wishes. Thank you for coming by!

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