Posted in audience participation, connections, know better do better, mindset, thoughtfulness

Conscientiousness and community

My great-aunt apparently drove later in her life than she should have. I never rode in a car with her but I remember overhearing grownups laughing that she was like Mr. Magoo, where she always turned out fine but there was a trail of chaos behind her.

We’re not always aware of the effect we have on others.

When we hold on to trash until we find a trash can, when we snap at people who we perceive as worthy of our judgement and ire, when we tell someone something we admire about them, when we cut people off in traffic … we affect others. Often, we affect more than just the person we’re targeting.

Do you want your ripples to be positive or negative? Assume there is no neutral. (The option of neutral leads to inaction, and inaction nearly always feeds the negative.)

Take a moment and think of something small that someone (known or unknown) did that affected your mood.

My hikes are much less pleasant when there is trash on the trail. The most common trash on the trails I frequent is bags of dog poop: people bag up their dog’s poop and then leave it on the trail. Pack it out. Leave no trace. Something small that affects countless others.

One day at work, I got three compliments on my dress. Each made my day better.

Small things matter. Offer small things to others. People you know. People you don’t know.

Drive thoughtfully. Give praise. Do favors. Clean up after yourself. Turn the volume down. Send a card. Be patient. Live generously.

Posted in about me, audience participation, ebb & flow, gratitude, know better do better, mental health, mindset, motivation

The sun is setting on 2020

It’s easy to see the bad parts of 2020. They’re on the news, they’re in articles, they’re in memes, they’re showing up in expected and unexpected places in our lives.

For the overwhelming majority of us, there were good parts to 2020 as well, even if some of them are double-edged.

For example, both of my fifth grade classes were fantastic—the first time that’s happened since I’ve been in this position. The other edge is that our year got cut short. But the third quarter was still part of 2020 (we all seem to be starting 2020 in March…), and teaching those kids was great.

Even though school was a mess, they were great sixth graders this year.

It seems to me that in some homes, there is a lot of complaining, a lot of gossiping, a lot of seeing negative, expecting to be cheated, swindled, taken advantage of, stolen from. Try to raise ourselves by making others lower.

Other homes are more loving, seeing the good in people, reliving the best parts of their days with each other. (This is not to say that they ignore bad things—that’s just as toxic as focusing on them—just that they don’t marinate.)

My house growing up was definitely negative. Good things spoken of others were few and far between, and every compliment had an asterisk. Most commentary was degrading and judgmental.

And so to some extent, this became my outlook. Judge, put down, roll eyes, cluck tongue. Be aware of our superiority to them.

Little pieces of how this is dysfunctional came into my consciousness over time, and today, I am happy to say that much of the time, I see positivity in many things, I can wonder what in people’s story leads them to where they are, I can give benefit of the doubt.

I am certainly not saintly and still have more negative undercurrent than I’d like, but it’s much better, and I’m much happier. I actively work to make my household one that sees the good.

My life is better with this shift.

Experience combined with introspection have also given me the solid knowledge that challenges are opportunities to grow, and that life-upending challenges are both the hardest and have the biggest payout. Sure, occasionally you win $1,000,000 on the nickel slots, but not often enough to make it a financial plan.

Enter pandemic.

I’ve been frustrated for nine months that we, culturally, are smashing our heads against the proverbial wall, trying to make things as close to “normal” as possible, missing so many opportunities to redesign the systems, to redesign our lives for the better instead of for the “have to.” Especially when our cultural “normal” wasn’t all that great to start with.

So tell me: what was good in 2020? Whether a result of pandemic or not. I’ll go first.

The Kid and I got to spend way more time together than is normally available. We did projects together, learned new things together, ran together, and still had time to do our own things off in our own corners.

Friends who don’t live nearby were part of game night, along with the usual crew. We’re really restricted on what we can play online (do you have any suggestions?), but we always had a good time.

I learned so many new technologies! (Definitely double-edged.) I got to figure out ways to try to engage with kids through the computer.

I took the opportunity to teach bucket drumming. It was so much fun (and so much work to figure out) and something I wouldn’t have done if not for necessity.

Through a weekly Zoom call, I got to talk with a small group of friends every week. It was more than I would have gotten to talk with these lovely ladies in regular real life.

I participated in The Creative’s Workshop, which was truly an amazing experience. I met people from all over the world, got to see other’s work, got feedback on my own work, made friends.

Related but deserving of its own paragraph: I wrote a book. Beginning the process of editing now. It’s been in my head for at least a decade, and now it’s out.

We had a pool put in, just in time for the record number of 110-degree days and 100-degree days. The joy of The Kid—both in watching it be built and in using it—was infectious.

Taking the same walk around the neighborhood and up the canal most days in the spring, I got to see the duck families born and grow.

That’s off the top of my head. I’m sure there’s more, but this is a good start.

So tell me—what was good for you in 2020?

And then tell me—what’s good for you today?

Leave a comment, send me an email. Do it today. Do it again tomorrow. And the next day. What’s good? There’s no avoiding what’s bad—but is marinating in the bad really where you want to live?

Posted in audience participation, exercise, food, gratitude, know better do better, mindset, physical health, thoughtfulness

Full enjoyment can include moderation

Tomorrow (and every day, but for now—tomorrow), I invite you to practice mindfulness.

Mindfulness is a word that has lost meaning because it’s used so much nowadays, but we are not, on the whole, even mediocre at it. Yet.

If you’re enjoying a meal full of your favorite foods tomorrow (or any day), instead of enjoying it by eating more and faster, enjoy it by eating less and slower.

Pay attention to the food while you’re eating it. Most of the time we take a bite, then talk with people at the table and stop noticing the food as it continues to go in.

I’m not saying ignore the people you’re with (which, hopefully, is limited to people in your immediate household this year). Simply: pay attention to the food. Instead of “needing” to gorge because it’s so good!, take time to notice its goodness. Be as aware of the second and third bites as the first.

Consider the possibility of being completely satisfied with the meal without being overfull.

This is completely counter to the culture, where Thanksgiving (and every day, but for now—Thanksgiving) is a celebration of excess. Where we give thanks for what we have and go shopping to have more. Where being overfull and uncomfortable is a badge of honor and being moderate is being a buzzkill.

Maybe the culture has it wrong. Be the change.

P.S. As I’ve preached before: exercise is not punishment for eating. Exercise because it makes you feel good and/or because it’s part of self-care. Eat, in this case, because you enjoy it. (The rest of the time because you want to fuel yourself for maximum energy and health and/or because it’s part of self-care.) They aren’t opposite sides of a scale.

Posted in audience participation, connections, mental health, parenting, socializing, thoughtfulness, tips, vulnerability

School. Virus. Sadness. Self-care. Hope.

Here in Arizona, the governor recently announced that public school buildings are closed for the rest of this school year. (Schools aren’t closed; the buildings are closed.)
Teachers and principals are still working.
I’m sad for all of the kids and teachers and parents who had something in the fourth quarter to look forward to. This is many seniors (remember: not everyone likes high school, so for some, this is a relief) and others moving up a level. Performances, dances, ceremonies, awards. “My last ____” just disappeared.
I’m sad for all the kids who go to school to get structure, to get love, to get consistency who are now looking at five or more months at home (spring break plus fourth quarter plus summer).
I’m sad for all the kids who are now working manual labor to try to help their families make ends meet. (Yes, that includes elementary-aged kids.)
I’m sad for the parents who are stressed out about trying to make their kids do their schoolwork (when really, love and connection and emotional safety are way more important — now and always…though those are different than “do whatever you want; another post for another day).
I’m sad for all of the lost birthday parties and quinceañeras and bar mitzvahs and  playdates and baby showers and weddings.
I’m sad for all of the people whose anxiety has shot up.
I’m sad for all of the people who have lost someone (virus-related or not) and can’t seek comfort in community.
I’m sad for all of the people who are separated from loved ones who are hospitalized (whether because of the virus or not).
I’m sad for all of the people who continue to mingle with others because they are so unwilling to accept their own vulnerability.
Stay in touch with people.
Do things at home that make you feel good.
If cleaning the house is a “should” and creating art is a “want,” create art. There’s enough to do that needs to be done (work for some, dishes, cooking, dishes, keeping other people and animals alive, dishes, laundry, dishes … so many dishes). When you have time outside of the needs, spend time on the wants. The shoulds can get done later.
Truly.
(If cleaning the house feels good, then do it! I know sometimes cleaning is a drag, and every now and then, a cleaning bender is mysteriously inspired. Wait for inspiration. And if you’re never inspired … it’s OK.)
Play.
Create.
Soak up beautiful things.
Take advantage of so many arts being available online (performances, galleries, etc.).
Turn on some music and dance and sing in the living room. (And make a house rule that no one makes fun of anyone else for how they look or sound doing it—emotional safety is important and “harmless teasing” erodes emotional safety.)
Get outside. Not socially, but sun is good for you in a myriad of ways.
Read. (Books, magazines, whatever. We were pounded with what “counts” as reading when we were in school, and it was bullshit. Read whatever interests you.)
Exercise. Go for a walk or a bike ride or do yoga or weightlifting or aerobics in your living room or your yard or on your patio.
Support the people around you and let them support you. We’re in our own little cells now, but we can still reach out and stay connected. Talk on the phone. Talk via video chat. Text. Email. Write letters.
So when it all passes and the fear settles and the anxiety reduces and we can gather again, we have changed the world for the better in the mean time.
In the mean time … stay home.
Posted in about me, audience participation, ebb & flow

How do people do it? Or do they?

One thing I know about myself is that I am somewhat time-disorganized.

I have trouble getting things done without scrambling. I have never successfully implemented a routine. My morning schedule could be considered a routine, I guess, but it’s more “how little time can I use to get done what needs to be done in the morning?”

The result of being a night person with a morning person job. And a kid at an even earlier-start school than the one where I start my day.

What got me thinking about this (this time) is that I haven’t been writing here regularly … or anywhere else. Since I stopped blogging daily, I’ve stopped writing daily. Other things have taken over.

The typical solution is to make a schedule, and in theory, I could do that. But what I want to know, from the people who actually do this, is — how do you take into account things that come up?

For example: I have 4.5 hours today from the time my last class walks out until the time that The Climbing Daddy brings The Kid over for the evening. That’s a good chunk of time.

But in it, I’ll need to do a little bit of work for work (I rarely walk out the door with the kids), I’ll need to drive home, I’ll need to eat lunch.

Because the weekend was full with one-off things, I’ll need to plan dinners for the week and go grocery shopping. Then I’ll need to prep at least today’s dinner, because we have taekwondo at dinner prep time and will be eating close to 7 if it’s all prepped ahead of time.

(Yes, I could schedule a quick-to-make meal, but four out of five week nights have something during the dinner-prep time.)

That accounts for most if not all of that chunk of time.

Once The Kid gets home, there’s not enough time to do all the things I’d like to do with him, so there’s definitely no writing or anything-ing in that block.

Once he’s in bed, I’m working on making a habit of powering down devices, reading for a bit, chatting with The Climbing Daddy for a bit, and going to bed early enough that I don’t feel exhausted all the time. (Except this now reduces or eliminates text-chatting with friends, because “after the kids go to bed” is when we have time to connect.)

OK, so we could back up. Make sure you get the planning and shopping done over the weekend.

Great! But we had stuff going on over the weekend. We had people over Saturday night and needed to prep for that (and got some other chores done in the process that are not ever done on a consistent basis). Sunday, we moved the fish tank from our house to The Kid’s school then went straight to a brunch/play date with a few families from school. The Climbing Daddy and I left early (while The Kid and The Tall Daddy stayed to play more) to go to the Home Show to see if we could get any decent information about our yard from a landscaper. (The answer is no, we couldn’t.)

So which of those things do we skip so that we can get the meal planning and shopping done?

Other things that happen in the afternoons include other errands, appointments (there’s been physical therapy in there twice a week for a while), occasional coffee dates, getting work for work done (Friday, for example, I worked two hours past my last class). Some days exercise needs to happen in that window if it’s going to happen at all. I am still squeezing in photography stuff occasionally (though you might have noticed there were no photos this week—haven’t done anything since last weekend).

So, if you’re one of those people who has a routine and sticks to it easily: how? How do you accommodate the incidental stuff? I could make a schedule and stick to it on the days that I can stick to it, but looking at this week’s calendar, that would be … hang on, checking the calendar … no days. There are no days this week that there’s nothing in that window. (Today is the only day there’s nothing actually scheduled, and shopping and eating well is important, so that time goes to meal-ing first.) None of the things are always happening. And they’re not at the same time, or for the same duration.

I wonder if there are people who work and have kids and have hobbies or side hustles and have social lives and exercise regularly and prepare most of their food at home get it done in a relatively structured manner.

I’m definitely not one of them!

(When I was writing regularly, writing time was all over the place. And I didn’t actually write every day, but there were some days—usually Sundays—where I would write for a long time and then short days just edit. But since the WordPress app has stopped working in a useful way, I have to be at my computer to write/edit/publish, which makes writing here happen less.)

So… where are you on this continuum?