#261 of 365 Ways to live Easier, Happier, & More Productive

We all have countless recollections of mishaps and momentary errors in judgment that are retrospectively funny or immensely satisfying. Sometimes…

Sharing a daily life lesson, tip, or hack; the things that make life easier, happier, and more productive. I hope you’ll follow along and find them helpful too.

#261

Remember when…

This recommendation might sound a bit like the idea of savoring that I presented earlier but it’s a bit different in its goal. The idea here is to recall random shared memories of minor debacles when you are with another person with whom you have some history. Ideally, you’re thinking of a time that you can laugh about now. A time when you had solved a problem, survived a hazard, or preserved through a challenge.

The goal is laughter or at the very least, an appreciation for the lesson learned. It’s an opportunity to review a moment in time from another perspective and share a sense of satisfaction of a previous experience.

‘Remember when we got that flat tire and…’

‘Remember when I left the cake in the oven for an hour…’

‘Remember when we took the wrong bus…’

We all have countless recollections of mishaps and momentary errors in judgment that are retrospectively funny or immensely satisfying. Sometimes, just recalling the collection of awkward moments we shared with another strengthens our appreciation of their role in our life. It’s another type of walk down memory lane that can have you rolling on the floor laughing or being grateful that it is over now.

Pick up the phone today and share a blast from the past with an old friend or randomly bring it up at the dinner table tonight… “Hey honey…”

Remember when…

I love hearing your thoughts and ideas. Please share in the comments below.

#273 of 365 Ways to live Easier, Happier, & More Productive

My children are always intrigued about my childhood and how I spent time before video games and electronics. They find it interesting to imagine…

Sharing a daily life lesson, tip, or hack; the things that make life easier, happier, and more productive. I hope you’ll follow along and find them helpful too.

#273

Write down a favorite childhood memory.

Close your eyes for a minute and allow yourself to go back in time – back to when you were a child. Allow yourself to remember a moment of laughter, of comfort, or fun. What was happening then? Who was there? What were you thinking and feeling? What about that particular memory stands out?

Go ahead and write down the details – the answer to the above questions – for this memory and then do it again, and again.

Take the time to cherish, even savor, each of those memories as you write them. The act of writing will refresh your memory even more (perhaps stimulating additional details). Remembering pleasant times stimulates those pleasure areas in our brain and while they don’t spur the same level of chemicals that the actual even does, there is some dopamine production with the remembering.

Writing down the fun times helps to honor the experiences so that they balance our perspectives more evenly. Our brains are still wired to be noticing everything that is wrong (survival instinct) and so when we take time to reflect on the positives, we appreciate the true balance that typically exists in our overall existence.

If nothing else, writing down these memories captures them for our later reflection or maybe even more importantly, for the people who love us. My children are always intrigued about my childhood and how I spent time before video games and electronics. They find it interesting to imagine how we lived in a time that they’ve only read about or seen represented on television. The world is continuing to change, so capturing this little slice of history may be impactful to all of our future generations. How fun for all when we sit around and remember that time when Granny…

Write down a favorite childhood memory (or two).

I love hearing your thoughts and ideas. Please share in the comments below.

Photo by Andrew Neel on Unsplash

#329 of 365 Ways to live Easier, Happier, & More Productive

Ultimately, writing your story has the potential to provide a great sense of peace that where you are now is the result of a winding road and regardless of the bumps…

Sharing a daily life lesson, tip, or hack; the things that make life easier, happier, and more productive. I hope you’ll follow along and find them helpful too.

#329

Write your story

If your life ended today, would people really have known you? Is there a truth you want told? Is there a perspective you’ve wished to share? What are the messages and ideas that you’d like to have be a permanent part of your story?

Writing your story is not only a great way for future generations to know you but it is a good way for you to put your life into perspective – to see it as a whole; a living, flowing creation.

The most important element derived from writing your story is that it most likely will demonstrate great resilience. Most of us have endured pain, heartache, disappointment, despair, and fear. By describing those times in conjunction with the resolution and emergence into something different, we are able to see the entirety of the cycle instead of staying focused on the more noxious elements.

Your story gives your life a living voice, one that others may connect to, and one with which others may resonate. It may offer hope to others experiencing similar adverse events; showing them how to move toward the other side.

Writing your story allows your voice to be articulated; to have shape. It demonstrates your side, your perspective, your focus; delivering context that has only been available from your view. It allows you to see the connectedness of events, time, and learning in a way that is only available in retrospect.

It may help you to reaffirm  your values. Often when we see our lives from a deep, rich, linear perspective, it validates our choices; affirms our position; cements our belief system. It helps provide clarity of the things we declare as important in our life.

Ultimately, writing your story has the potential to provide a great sense of peace that where you are now is the result of a winding road and regardless of the bumps… it led here. Even if ‘here’ isn’t where you want to be, you’ll likely notice that this isn’t the first difficult challenge you’ve faced and you’ve demonstrated the resources in the past to move through. You may find new energy to persevere.

No time like the present for you to put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard as you begin to…

Write your story.

I love hearing your thoughts and ideas. Please share in the comments below.

#342 of 365 Ways to live Easier, Happier, & More Productive

Browsing really old photographs of family and friends can remind us of people who were central to our youth, perhaps acting a reference for our value system or center of strength.

Sharing a daily life lesson, tip, or hack; the things that make life easier, happier, and more productive. I hope you’ll follow along and find them helpful too.

#342

Photographs

Many of the photos we take these days are digital and hence, stored on our mobile device, in the cloud, or on a hard drive. Photos older than ten or so years are yet undeveloped, in a shoebox under a bed, or tucked into albums buried on the bottom of the bookshelf behind the sofa in the Den. If you’re lucky, someone with much patience and creativity created an album of cherished shots with stamps, paper, stickers and jovial comments.

How often do you peruse these memories?

We take photographs to capture moments that are important to us – in that time. In essence, the photograph enables us to savor the experience; not only in the moment, but at anytime that we revisit the photo. Research tells us that savoring increases psychological well-being.

Browsing really old photographs of family and friends can remind us of people who were central to our youth, perhaps acting a reference for our value system or center of strength. Remembering Grandma via a snapshot of Thanksgiving dinner might elicit memories of family and traditions; recentering our concepts if or when we get sidetracked. Additionally, recalling times of love and belonging or times of pleasure and joy can be soothing and comforting.

Clearly, some of us have prints of people and places that may not evoke pleasant memories. A client recently commented that she discarded any and all photos reminding her of a past relationship. I contend that even those photos have value. Looking back at historical events via snapshots can remind us of how far we’ve come. Another client who hated all photographs of her when she was heavy keeps an album of them now to inspire her to maintain new weight loss.

As I go through old photos, I am reminded of all the amazing friends I’ve had along the way. I may not have kept up with them or know anything about their life currently but looking at the memories stimulates great gratitude for their presence in that time of my life. Those thoughts often evoke smiles and laughter which, motivates feelings of well-being.

At the center of this message is the direction to keep taking photos – but more importantly… look at them frequently. Take time to scroll through your phone or tablet when you need a little pick-me-up. If thoughts of missing someone arises… go with it. Honor the memory, honor the missing, and savor the experience that the photograph captured. Embrace your past and savor the memories in your…

Photographs.

I love hearing your thoughts and ideas. Please share in the comments below.

Photo by @boetter on Foter.com / CC BY

A Letter To Myself Series – Age 10

How many times must we fall before we learn to or decide to change direction? What are the right words to persuade us to change course?

“For in every adult there dwells the child that was, and in every child there lies the adult that will be.” ~ John Connolly

What would happen if you found a letter from your older self? Or your younger self? Like in the movie Back to the Future when Marty wrote to Doc that he was going to get shot so Doc wore a flack jacket (bullet proof vest) to the parking lot where the van of guys with machine guns came screeching through…

Would you listen? We don’t seem to take the advice of our older relatives or friends. Seemingly, each of us needs to learn firsthand – even when something is painful. I know it to be a source of frustration as a mom… watching my children head right into something I know has a high probability of turning out poorly. I only know that from years of experience – personally as well as my large collection of observations … they want to try it their own way. Presumably, due to the tweeks they may have made, it will turn out differently for them. (um..hm) Right.

My kids aren’t any different than any other person. I continue to see this fascinating phenomena in my clients too. It’s sometimes even more interesting when we are learning something that we already learned but think may be different THIS time. I do it too…. How often have I cut myself with a freshly sharpened knife? How many times do I have to shrink a favorite sweater before I learn to pay more attention when I am switching laundry?  How many times must we fall before we learn to or decide to change direction? What are the right words to persuade us to change course? Why are we so stubborn? Is there anyone void of this trait?

I’m beginning a series of letters to my younger self… for personal reflection but also for anyone there – in those years who might want to benefit from a little perspective or as inspiration for you to write your own!

A Letter to My 10-year-old Self

Hey there kiddo,

Wow. You have a great life right now – pretty much perfect don’t you think? Your baby brother is great and don’t sweat it… you’ll be friends forever. Your sister needs you. Be nice. Include her more. These two people will know you longer than anyone else and you will have amazing history together.

Those friends you have are the best! You are making memories that you will have for the rest of your life and that playing you are doing…. It’s so important! It’s great that you are outside so much and using your imagination – kids in the future don’t do that as much. So many of the things that you are doing are things that help you later on. You may want to back off on those marathon Monopoly games though… it eventually spoils your tolerance for the game.

Hey… don’t worry about being poor – it won’t matter when you grow up and the things you don’t have now aren’t all that important. You may want to hold on to that transistor radio; technology changes so fast that it becomes an antique relic more quickly than you can imagine. The fact that you are running around and inventing fun is training you for your future. You are going to use those attributes!

You know that song you learned at girl scout camp? The one about the three bears? You will teach it to your own children and it will become an important part of their childhood… Pay attention to as many of those things as you can. You don’t even know how much you are learning right now; how many of these things you will look back on.

Everyone tells you to be a kid… listen to them! You have so. much. life. in front of you – you have time – go ahead… go play and don’t worry about adults or problems. Try not to compare your body to other girls, your weight doesn’t matter…  people will love you and like you just because you are you, I promise.

Your mom and dad are having a hard time and life may get pretty tough for you in a little while but know this: they are doing the best they can. They are still growing up too and need to learn a lot of lessons. Remember that they both love you and want the best for you but may not know how to show it all the time.

Use your diary more. It’s great that you write down a few things but you will want to remember so much more. Those milestones you’ve already recorded… you’ll read them over and over – committing them to memory. That first kiss story – you’ll tell it over and over again – and laugh. Even though you think NJ is the best boy in the world… there are a lot more. 

The one thing that I want you to know more than anything else is that everything is going to be OK.  Learn to trust…

Love you girl!

What would you say to YOUR 10-year-old self?

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Roadtripping

I didn’t have any phone conversations and I can already feel a bit of relaxation starting to settle into my psyche.

“…you are my rainbow to keep. My eyes will always be watching you; never will I lose sight of you.” ― Vesna M. Bailey

I’m on a road trip. My middle daughter is moving to Los Angeles with a dream of becoming the next Shonda Rhymes. Consequently, we are driving from the east coast to the west so that she can wedge herself into the television industry as quickly as possible. It has been a dream of hers since she was fifteen and she’s worked extremely hard to make this happen. When she pushed the GO button we were all really excited for her but knew immediately that she would be really missed.

I kind of made the assumption that I would be driving with her as I knew her sister and boyfriend were less flexible with their work schedules, plus… I offered to pay for the hotels. And then – for a brief minute I thought that it may make more sense to ship her car out to LA and have her fly… less wear and tear, etc. I looked at all the options but quickly realized that it would be in exchange for an opportunity to spend a weeklong adventure with my daughter who may very well become a California gal. I hung up on the next auto transport person who called me.

Before long we had a roadmap outlined and I realized that almost exactly forty-three years ago (less a week) I made the same trip with my father, aunt, and siblings. I remember parts of that trip extremely well as it was the first time Dad let me drink coffee – and of course, I had to drink it black. It was the first time that I could remember that I had stayed in a motel and when everyone else was asleep, Dad let me sit up front and stay up late talking to him. We had lots of adventures on that trip and as I recall, they were predominately things going wrong so I’m hoping for less ‘adventure’ and more ‘memory making’ on this journey.

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Both Erin and I have made a couple of Facebook posts today about starting the trip – ok., maybe I made more than a couple – but there are people living vicariously through us!! One of the comments was so apropos to us from a woman who knows us well… “Be safe and remember that you still love each other at the end of this!” I had to laugh because out of all my children, she is the one most like me. People have been telling us this for years. It’s our demeanor that makes us the same… We are bossy, confident about what we want, assertive when we are going after it, and stubborn about what we know. We both like to be in control and we each get a certain kind of ‘hangry’ when we need food. Erin may be a little rough around the edges yet but I see my young self in her and know that she will mellow even if it is because the world beat her down a peg or two. Until then, she will fire up any pile of kindling that stands between her and her goals.  Would it be narcissistic at this point to say I admire those attributes? Even so… I am intensely proud of her and feel confident that dropping her into the center of Los Angeles and taking (literally) the next flight home – is an OK thing to do.

In the meantime, we are traveling across the United States in a little car that is the same color as the pavement and even though we have the headlights on, I’m a bit nervous that the thousands of semi-trucks on the highway may think we are nothing more than a reflection of a speed limit sign. It’s good to know that there are logistics systems continuously at work as I imagine that the trucks are mostly full of goods that need to get from one point to another (what else would they be?) but it’s a bit nerve-wracking.

We got through the first day without arguing about anything at all. Yesterday I practiced all day by repeating over and over… “ok Erin” and I used the technique successfully a couple of times today with great success. We have downloaded the audio version of the new Shonda Rhymes book to listen to when we run out of things to say to one another but we didn’t need it today. Actually, it was great to have her to myself for such a long stretch today. For the last year and a half, as she was living at home and working, I didn’t see her much. She worked in the restaurant business and as a bartender so we had vastly different schedules. Mostly, we saw each other in passing and communicated via text message. I got the chance to ‘catch up’ with her a bit today about the things we were ‘thinking’ and ‘feeling’… much deeper topics than ‘please replace the milk you drank’ and ‘can you put away the dishes’.

It’s a funny thing about my children being so independent and adventurous… Frank is living in France… Sara spent a year overseas… Emily is talking about going to Australia to work for a summer after college. It’s easy to think that they are running away, fleeing home and getting as far away as possible although I know- logically – that’s not true. I have to remind myself, though… it’s that I did a good job. They grew up with the confidence to fly and isn’t that what we are supposed to do as parents? Let our children fly? What a mixed bag of blessings it is really. Earlier this week I was reminded of what I always considered a ‘Hippie’ mantra… “If you love something set it free. If it comes back it’s yours. If not, it was never meant to be. (Richard Bach)” I guess there is nothing more fitting about that sentiment than motherhood.

I took the time to specifically be ‘in the moment’ today – I didn’t pull out my laptop or my phone other than to look at maps and ‘check in’ at the various places we stopped. I didn’t have any phone conversations and I can already feel a bit of relaxation starting to settle into my psyche. I may or may not post over the next couple of days as we explore a few places off the main highways (she has a bit of a bucket list) and we are stopping overnight twice to visit with extended family members.

Thanks for reading… thanks for following my journey and please keep letting me know when it is helpful… I love reading those comments!

Remembering Ruthie

She practiced appreciation in a way that we all can learn from.

In loving memory of Ruth Elaine Rought 11/30/1949 – 12/13/2016

He who praises another enriches himself far more than he does the one praised. To praise is an investment in happiness. The poorest human being has something to give that the richest could not buy”. ~ George M. Adams

Today, I am thinking about death and its impact on the living. The day before last, an angel was born of an earthly soul who was my Aunt. My mother’s youngest sister, a vibrant, sassy, stubborn, and gracious woman who was just eleven years my senior. One of my distinct memories of her was when she was pregnant with her first child, I would have been ten I think… she was standing in front of a large laundry basket that was in front of the television and she was ‘allowing me a treat’ to be in the room while ‘Love is a Many Splendid Thing’ – a popular soap opera from the late sixties / early seventies was airing. Back then, things were aired live and you had to watch it – or miss it, there was no in between. Consequently, I was abiding by the instructions of ‘be seen – not heard’.

Ruth drank coffee and smoked cigarettes most every day of her life and my memory of that day includes those smells. I idolized her. She was the big sister that inhabited my fantasies when I was lonely. We were blood sisters. A couple of years earlier, before she was married, she and her friend Tony included me in a ‘swapping of blood’ that we obtained via pinprick. While that may seem gross and quite unhealthy in today’s world, back then, it was a ‘rite of passage’ for me, meaning that I could be in the room while they talked about high school and boys. I, of course – now that I was a blood sister – was sworn to secrecy.

I recall times when she was babysitting us and she would settle us into a booth at a diner located across the street from a gas station where this special guy worked. She would go hang out with him, leaving our waitress with orders to feed us as much as and for as long as we wanted or at least until she returned. We couldn’t see her but we believed that she could see us and she warned us that everyone was watching so we behaved ourselves and waited patiently for her to finish her flirting. Sometimes, she was an ‘overnight’ babysitter and I remember one summer when she stayed with us for a week where she would let us get fudgesicles from the corner market. She would eat two and I wanted to grow up so that I could too.

She and Barry (the boyfriend from the Gas station) eventually got married and Ally and I were her flower girls. I thought she was the most beautiful bride I had ever seen. Her waist was Gone With The Wind small and I envied her petite frame and exotic look most of my life. Uncle Barry was a human teddy bear with a small round belly and a soft smile that enticed you to crawl up into his lap at a moment’s notice. Some of my fondest memories come from the weeks that I would stay with them in the summer. By the time she had several children, I was the perfect babysitter and it was time for karmic balance. My weeks with her entailed changing diapers and folding clothes while she did the other half of the daily chores, some of which included chatting with friends on the extremely long corded telephone while I ran around the yard chasing a bare naked two-year-old.

Ruth and Barry were young lovers and self-proclaimed soul mates. She loved love. She was passionate about him, about her children, family, and her beliefs. She would argue a point – if she believed it – until you were torn and tattered; not to tell you, you were wrong but to be sure you had heard that she thought she was right. I may have learned some of my talent as a result of that exposure. She taught me that I didn’t need a bra until I could hold a pencil under my breast and proceeded to demonstrate her point. By her standard, I was forty when a bra was finally necessary.

I moved away and began my own adult life but each time that I went back to ‘the farm’ to visit my grandparents, Ruth was there, wanting to know everything there was to know. We began to build a friendship that was based less on the big sister image and more as contemporaries. When I brought my son ‘home’ for everyone to meet, her daughter Renee took great interest in him – wanting to help me – picking up where her mom and I had left off.

Ruth moved to Cincinnati where my Dad and Stepmom lived with my little brothers – mom’s sister but family nonetheless. When I would go to visit, we ALL got together and my brothers grew to call her Great-ex-Aunt-Ruthie. She and my step-mom even developed a semblance of a friendship – you couldn’t resist the energy that Ruth extended.

Sadly, in 1990 her husband suddenly and without warning or cause, passed away. I will never forget the phone call. I imagine I was on her list because she had become a member of the ‘widow’ club and she needed console from someone else there. We commiserated together on the woes of widowhood, the pain, and the emptiness. I had remarried by then but she struggled to move away from the depth of heartbreak. For a time she lived life hard, I think to escape the anguish that overshadowed her spirit. She floundered for a while and then headed home to the comfort of what she knew and where she belonged. She returned to the home place and found comfort in being near her parents.

She met a guy – loved – and lost again. Not by death this time but it was equally difficult because the disappointment was deep and razor sharp. She wasn’t ready to cope with being alone and in the midst of that ache, she lost her parents and sister. Her adult life was also – filled with loss.

Her spirit was immensely strong though and she persevered. While I was settling my grandparent’ estate (she lived next door) we would often talk and she believed in positivity. She worked diligently to build upon and emit optimistic perspectives. Everything she knew was being challenged but she persisted and pushed. The stubborn stance that had proven maladaptive in historical moments now provided her courage and tenacity. She fought with a daily dose of affirmation and gratitude. Indeed, she became one of the most gracious women I’ve known – always offering words of praise and encouragement; expressions of hope and confidence.

A year ago, last summer I picked up the phone when she called to say hello. It was a foreboding conversation and I didn’t understand. She was emotional, loving, and supportive – asking for an update on my kids, work, Harlan… there was something in that phone call that sounded like she was saying goodbye but I didn’t question it until later.

Within a couple of days, her daughter Renee called to tell me that Ruth had been hospitalized and she was headed up to the farm. Long story short… Ruth had small cell lung cancer. After stabilizing her and understanding the diagnosis and prognosis better, the decision was made to move her to North Carolina so that she was close to premier medical facilities and family. She underwent treatment and responded well. She used the accumulated emotional resources she had acquired to adjust to this new space, a ‘new normal’ and adapted in an environment extraordinarily different from the rest of her life. It was a new world for her and yet, she captured the hearts of people everywhere she went because gratitude and love oozed from her no matter her condition or position.

November 30th, 2016 was her 67th birthday. I called several times but she didn’t pick up. Finally, I texted Renee and asked if they were together – figuring they might be having a birthday lunch. “I will be in 30 minutes”, Renee replied. “Great – please tell your mom Happy Birthday from me,” I said. “Give her a big hug”.

Through the years, Renee and I had become tremendously close, developing a relationship much more like sisters than cousins – carrying on the tradition of her mother and me– handing down the baton through the generations… “Will do” she texted me back.

I thought I’d try one more time though and with the next phone call, Ruth answered and listened patiently as I sang her my rendition of the ‘Happy Birthday’ song…. “Oh thank you honey, it’s a wonderful day,” she says.

She was full – overflowing really – with exuberance and gratitude for the blessings she had already received and was eagerly awaiting lunch and a short shopping expedition with Renee. She listed several people who had already called, remarking that even RZ had wished her a happy birthday and she was so very pleased. She exhibited, vocally at least, intense satisfaction with how her day started and sounded full of boundless appreciation for my short call, for all of the people who had remembered her.

The next day, for no apparent reason, she fell, collapsed. Over the subsequent twelve days, her body deteriorated to the point that it was no longer supporting her life on its own. Her decision to be removed from life support was honored and she passed peacefully into the space that is not here, into the space where her lover, her parents, and her sister had gone before her. God, how we will miss her.

I have thought about death today. I’ve thought about how much death hurts the living. No matter our beliefs, the idea that someone we love is no longer available to touch or to hear or to listen… it’s a sad thing. We weep for ourselves, for what we want and can’t have. I want to console Renee, Chris, and Julie but there is no consolation for losing your mother. None. I want to say something that is smart, funny, sassy, or profound to eliminate their pain but it doesn’t work; there is nothing to say.

I’ve been writing about life lessons, reasons for living, and what is it – HERE, right now – that I can learn to further my own life’s work. I know that I want to learn gratitude the way that Ruth used it. I want to be grateful – openly grateful – not just in my mind or in my prayer – but with my voice – All. The. Time. Like Ruth. No… she wasn’t perfect and she did occasionally allow her humanness and sorrow to sprout through the cracks but she learned to weed and to let gratitude grow. She practiced appreciation in a way that we all can learn from.

Perhaps Ruth was part of my family so that I could learn more about gratitude – I know about gratitude, I practice gratitude but not like that. I like how she did it. As I look at her life in the way that it crossed and impacted mine, I realize that I can learn from her. Ruth I am grateful for you. I appreciate you. I hope to experience another lifetime with your soul as it was always a gift to me in this one.

HUGS