Posted in motivation, tips

If you want to use it, make it accessible

A common bit of eating advice is to make convenient the foods that you actually would like to be eating more of. Produce on the counter or in obvious places in the fridge. Junk food harder to get to, not noticeable as soon as you open the fridge or pantry door (if it’s in the house at all).

It’s true with more than food.

We have three ukuleles here at the house. They were tucked in their cases in a corner in the living room. At The Tall Daddy’s house, there was an electric piano in the office.

Occasionally, we’d pull out the ukes. Every now and then, he’d play the piano.

We just did some rearranging in the living room, and the ukuleles are hanging on the wall now. And we decided to bring over the electric piano.

So now, the instruments are all right in the main thoroughfare in the house. And you know what?

They’re getting played. Not necessarily daily, but substantially more than every now and then.

What do you want more of in your house? Can you make it more easily accessible? (And the flip side: can you make less accessible things you want less of?)

Posted in know better do better, mental health, mindset, parenting, tips

Be careful!

There is no shortage of parenting advice out there. Its quality varies, and its application varies.

I’ve also figured out that many of the pieces that are excellent are applicable to all humans, not just little ones.

Avoid saying “be careful.”

Why?

It’s useless.

Give specifics. What do you actually want them to watch out for?

For example: be careful crossing the street.

Instead: Cross the street at the corner. Remember to look both ways before you cross, wait for cars to go before you go, and walk.

Yeah, that’s a lot of directions. If they don’t have those in place already, maybe they’re not ready to take that one on alone.

Much of the time, when we tell someone to be careful, it’s not because we think they need the reminder but because we’re trying to do something with our own anxiety about their safety.

So instead of telling them to be careful, tell yourself to be calm, give useful directions if needed, and on we go.

Posted in mindset, motivation, tips

The motivating power of having a streak

I am just a few days shy of a year of daily blog posts here.

At the beginning, it was pretty easy, as the beginning often is. Because—exciting!

And then it was less easy. Because—work!

The last few weeks, there have been many days that, were it not for the streak, I wouldn’t have written and posted.

Apply that to you.

If you’re looking to make a habit, find a way to keep track (in a tangible way) of doing it daily. Mark a paper calendar, use an app, whatever.

Eating veggies. Drinking enough water. Getting enough sleep. Taking 15 minutes for yourself in a quiet space. Exercising. Talking to friends. Spending half an hour uninterrupted/distracted with your child. Or your spouse. Reading. Journaling. Making the quilt you’ve never made time for.

Whatever The Thing is that you need to make part of your life. Do it. Just a little bit. Every day. Keep track. Make a streak. Keep the streak alive. You can do it!

Posted in know better do better, marriage, mindset, parenting, socializing, thoughtfulness, tips

And instead of but

When a sentence has two parts—the first part positive and the second part negative—the conjunction makes a big difference in how the complete sentence is received.

“You played that song really well, but this note should be two beats.”

“You played that song really well, and this note should be two beats.”

“You played that song really well. Next time, play this note two beats.”

Those sentences feel different as the receiver.

“But” in the middle negates the first half of the sentence.

“And” in the middle leaves both parts of the sentence intact.

This trick (that is easy to do but and hard to remember) improves message reception in nearly any context: work, spouse, kids, friends, teammates.

Of course—there is a boundary on your responsibility for your message being received as intended. And there’s context. Simply using and instead of but doesn’t change those variables.

Someone who is programmed to reject praise and focus on negative isn’t going to hear the goodness up front, regardless what follows. (That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try.)

Someone whose work is never good enough or who has been pounded with criticism perhaps should be offered only the compliment, with the second half saved for just before the next attempt. (“Remember when you do this to include xyz detail.”)

And, because I have a child who is That Age, I can’t write a post with that many “but”s in it without thinking “chicken butt!”

Posted in cancer, connections, differences, ebb & flow, mindset, socializing, thoughtfulness, tips, vulnerability

Talking to people going through hard things

A friend’s father-in-law is in his final hours. I would not text her right now to complain about … anything.

Thinking about that led me to realize that perhaps people get situations confused. Or just aren’t able to find out what direction to go in other difficult situations.

When I was first diagnosed with cancer, I was inpatient at the hospital, had a seemingly endless string of tests and procedures, one of which landed me in ICU overnight, and was somewhat overwhelmed. But within two weeks, I was home.

Despite being home, cancer treatment often lasts a long time. I was admitted to the hospital in mid-May and finished treatments in mid-January. I’ve known too many people who tally up years of treatment.

Once the initial storm settled, socializing was really important, because I couldn’t do most of the other things I was accustomed to doing.

A relative had gotten a flat tire, and started a conversation with, “Well, I know this is nothing compared to what you’re going through, but …”

And no, it’s not, but in real life, that doesn’t matter. I mean, I wouldn’t complain about what my spouse made for dinner last night to someone who was food insecure, but the people in my social circle are, for the most part, all secure in food, housing, and other basic needs. (Except healthcare. Welcome to America.)

OK, I got off on a tangent there, but what I’m saying is—the majority of my people share similar annoyances, with the occasional life-shaking event.

Is the life-shaking event finite? A death, the onset of serious illness or injury, loss of a job, for example?

If yes, they’re not in a good place for you to bug them with minutiae. (“I was just diagnosed with cancer.” “OMG really? Can you believe I got a flat on my way to work today?”) Choose another friend for that.

If their life-shaking event is chronic (whether permanent or temporary) and the initial blow has passed, then you need to know, in response to a story about the flat you got on the way to work, would they say:

Must be nice to be able to go to work/have a car to get a flat/etc.

or

Oh man! That sucks! Why did it take AAA so long to get there?

And base your decision on that.

If you don’t know, ask.

“Hey, I know you’re going through xyz shitty thing right now, and I wasn’t sure if you wanted to talk about that, if you were looking for conversation just to be kind of light, or if you were looking for just normal conversation.”

Or something like that.

Then people who really need you just to be there and hang out have you there and hanging out (um, maybe not literally), and people who really don’t want to hear about your shit won’t be offended by your insensitivity.